This was a tough morning. Leaving the van Ausdal clan is always difficult because they make their home feel so much like our home. So it's always with a tear in our eyes and a tug at our hearts that we leave the everybody-has-their-own-bed-and-lots-of-food security of Cheryl and Mark and head off into the share-a-bed-with-the-member-of-the-band-you've-decided-showered-most-recently reality of life as a touring outfit.
Anyway, we tore ourselves away and headed for Hamtramck (ham-tram-ick for you pronunciation buffs), a part of Detroit. It was a short trip and as we were driving into Detroit we all wondered aloud why people are always bashing this place. I mean, there were some nice buildings, parks etc. It was nice and then.....well, then we hit Hamtramck. Dag. Everyone had said "it's a great little Polish town, with great food and nice people." Hold on one minute. The neighborhood we were playing in was dangerous looking, rundown and the people were not nice at all. It was the kind of place where my question about a bathroom's availability was met with hostility in three consecutive establishments. I mean, what the hell? The people all acted like I was asking to pee on them which, I assure you, I was not. Finally I just got fed up and peed in a parking lot (in broad daylight). It sucked.
Finally we actually got into the club and we were very reassured. The bartenders and sound guy were very cool and actually seemed to care that we were treated with respect. It was novel.
Anyway, this guy Cole Guerra opened the show and had a pretty nice draw. So we were thinking that this might just work out and be a good gig. That seemes to always be our first mistake. Once we took the stage, every single person in the room left. I kid you not. Every single person. I felt like I was watching a dramatic re-enactment of the Book of Exodus.
So, we played for no one and got the hell out of there. Oh well.
We woke up pretty early on this day as we had to play a festival gig in the early afternoon. Now, when I say festival gig you all probably assume it was like Coachella or Reading, with millions of people swarming us while chanting our names, right? Wrong.
This festival show was at 1:30 in the afternoon. That stone cold sucks. I mean, the venue was nice, the other bands were nice, everything was nice. But 1:30 is no time for the rock and roll, especially on a rainy day in Chicago. Approximately no one showed up. Oh well. Anyway, this would have been a sorry enough situtaion had it not been compounded by the fact that we were required to use the house gear, and people, the house gear was rough. So we ended up sounding like a pop metal band who had never sung together before. Arg.
So the gig sucked, but I guess we all thought it was going to and thus weren't too broken up about it. Apres show we ate lunch and then had to decide what to do.
Gordon: We could go vintage clothes shopping or...
Karen: There's a great art exhibit uptown and...
Stephanie (Gordon's cousin, actually another of Karen's friends): There's also a fantastic foreign film playing in....
And so we went bowling again and yet again it rocked. God damn it is bowling fun.
We headed home after that, a worn out bunch. We all ate some more Chinese food and then the group decided to hit the movies. I declined and watched the Cubs game before passing out in front of the TV at about 9:30.
Watch your back Keith Richards, cause there's a new guy in town!
This was a great day, mainly because of two of the patron saints of mediocre indie rock - Cheryl and Mark van Ausdal. Holy good god damn do those people take good care of us, as well as members of the Promise Ring and Sloan.
Anyway, for those of you not in the know, these are the parents of Gordon's lovely better half Karen, and they graciously put us up whenever we're in the Chicago area. Dag.
We arrived in Evanston in the early afternoon and headed to the Loyola radio station to do an on air interview. As usual I hogged the mike and spewed inanities about English literature and Pete's sexual prowess. However the best moment of the interview came when Pete took the mike for himself and did a few minute riff about KISS. It was awesome. Afterwards we played some songs and headed out. All in all, a success.
We were pretty tired and by the time we hit C&M's place we were ready to do just one thing, C-R-A-S-H. And so we did. I hit Karen's bed, but graciously (IMHO) slept on top of the blankets and used my bag for a pillow. Trust me, she didn't want any of my three day without a shower stink any closer than that.
After my beautiful two hour nap, where I'm pretty sure I dreamed about happy kittens and weird monsters, we all devoured some Chinese food and hit the club.
The club was fantastic, especially for a suburban club. The stage was good, the sound was good and the people running the show were great. Everyone was great except....the one huge asshole every room needs. This dude was the singer of the band after us and was all bent out of shape because he thought we should have gone after his band. Bands will sometimes do this when they feel like they're king shit of fuck mountain. They feel slighted and will try to alter the schedule to their benefit. The usual tactic is to try to guilt you out of your slot. But we've been doing this a long time, and if you're not the reunited Beatles featuring Jimi Hendrix on guitar we're not switching.
Anywho, our refusal made said dude angry. So as we were setting up (quickly, like we always do) he started hounding the front of the stage, snapping his fingers and clapping his hands while shouting "let's go!" "Come on, let's move!" "What's taking so long?!?!?" etc.
At first we ignored it, but after a while the aforementioned temper of mine flared up. He finally got up in my grille and shouted "Guys, let's go here, you're already late!", at which point I whipped around and screamed "FUCK OFF ALREADY!!!" He backed away at this point, which was good. I am not very strong, but I had a week of tour annoyance built up and I'm pretty sure my blind rage would have carried my through a physical confrontation with Mike Tyson at that point.
Then we played and all was forgotten. Evanston really turned out for us and the show was great. It's so nice to play for appreciative people, especially ones who you care about and whose opinion matters. We all just had a fantastic time.
After the show, we all did our own things. Being pretty antisocial I decided to nurse some diet cokes and watch the show of Mr. Bitchy von Bitchenstein. He was OK, but laced the show liberally with FXA putdowns. Lame, dude, lame.
Finally, it was time for home, a little cold Chinese food and bed. Rock and Roll.
So, after bowling (and yes ladies, your beloved Jordan did win) we picked up the van with it's spanking new tires and headed for Cleveland. A half hour later we were at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. We love this place. They've always treated us really really well and the people there are great. They are also really great at giving you free drinks but, alas, I could not capitalize on that this time around. Life is, of course, terrible.
The tour up until this point had been pretty much without incident, but I'd be lying if I said some tension wasn't building up. I mean, I love these guys, but spending 24 hours a day with anyone gets annoying after a while. And seeing as I'm the designated "angry" guy in the band it always seems like I blow my top first.
Anyway, we were on stage soundchecking and Gordon and Jordan get on me to turn my amp down. Now, in our band no one says what they really mean, as we are all some passive aggressive motherfuckers. So it comes out more as "What if you saved the really loud volume just for the solos, because the solos kick ass and people should hear the distinction" instead of what they really mean "asshole, we can't hear ourselves sing and this isn't the Joe show so turn that shit down!" Regardless, I got angry.
The volume issue has been an issue for a while. I've always felt that I played pretty damn quiet and that G and J just never got where I was coming from since they come from a more nuanced, not "turn it up to 11" school of music, whereas I like to have the speakers vibrate the fillings in my head. Anyway, being pretty damn passive aggressive myself I've always done what I've been asked and secretly stewed when anyone else asked for their instruments or voices to be louder. Communication, my friends, is truly the key to happiness.
But tonight I was feeling fiesty, so I got pissed and yelled a little and then sulked for the rest of the night. I also turned my guitar basically off for the rest of soundcheck in order to be a real diva. Yes, people, I'm about 9 years old at heart.
Finally, it was time to play and there were actually folks there to see us. That snapped me out of it and we rocked. It was actually a pretty durn fine show.
After some meeting and greeting we returned to the econolodge for another night. Everyone was happy by then since the first tour storm had blown over pretty uneventfully. I fell asleep in about thirteen seconds.
So, we awoke on day 7 at the econolodge and hit the Continental Breakfast. And people, this spread was using the term continental in its loosest form. Week old orange juice, nasty stale mini-bagels and imitation Cheerios. Dag.
Anywho, the executive decision was made to seek out alternative food and so we hit a Ruby Tuesday's. If you ever have the chance to got to Ruby Tuesday's....um...don't. Nothing on the menu was a)very appealing or b) less than eight million dollars. I had the $9 club sandwich which was OK, but for $9 it had better do a song and dance routine, am I right? It was just a goddamn turkey sandwich! As bad as that was, 12-Gauge definitely got the worst of it. He had the $10 Salisbury steak, which literally was a small hamburger with a side of three pieces of broccoli. We honestly just laughed at it for five minutes when it was brought to the table.
Oh well. After lunch we had a lot of time to kill and so we brought the van in to get some new tires. The Firestone guy lauded this decision as he said we were just miles away from certain death. Actually, he didn't say that but this entry needed a little spice.
While the van was in the shop we went bowling and discovered our new passion. We literally have never had more fun as a band. We were like 6 year olds, inventing challenges for ourselves, dancing after strikes, pouting after missed splits and generally having a damn fine time. Bowling, who knew?
Day the Sixth, Wednesday April 28, Oberlin University
I woke up on this day in a bed with a fidgety Pete. Luckily for me, he was fidgeting not because of any serious ailment but because he was afflicted with the "have to pee boner" and was too lazy to go down to the bathroom. Oh wait, that's absolutely without question the worst possible reason in the world for him to be fidgeting while snuggled up in a small double bed with me. Dag.
Anyway, after that fine how do you do the members of FXA suited up and hit the town with Gordon's cousin (actually Karen's close friend) Jen.
Me: Where are we now, Gordon's cousin Jen?
Jen: Well, I'm actually just Karen's good friend, but we're in Squirrel Hill.
Me: Is that because there are lots of squirrels here?
Jen: I don't know.
Me: Man, they're giving those medical degrees away like candy these days, huh?
For those of you scoring that conversation at home: Sarcasm advantage - Welsh, Actually doing something with their life advantage - Gordon's cousin Jen (actually just Karen's good friend).
Anywho, after some grub we hit the road towards Oberlin. This drive was completely without incident. I really wish we had picked up some blow or three dollar Ohio hookers, but we didn't. We played computer games and listened to Al Franken books on tape. Rock and Roll!
So we got to Oberlin and the gig was cancelled. It was a shitty gig anyway, so we were OK with it. After a halfhearted attempt to get another gig, we decided to take the night off and went into town to eat ice cream. I had mint chocolate chip. It ruled.
Later we put some miles toward Chicago on the old van and finally stopped at an econolodge. We watched baseball and I took a MUCH needed shower.
Now people, remember. If it's this much fun to read about it imagine how much fun it was to live it!
After some tearful goodbyes and many pictures with Palsy Cat and Dog Whose Tummy Must Be Rubbed we packed up the rockmobile and headed to Pittsburgh. The drive was pretty uneventful, but as uneventful drives go it was pretty damn nice. I gotta hand it to Pennsylvania, they have a durn pretty state.
Anyway, we got to Pittsburgh early and hit the club. Faithful readers will remember that I described this particular club as having the nicest backstage area we had ever seen. Faithful readers will also remember that we were grateful for this because somewhere along the way we had all picked up the runs. That is, everyone except Gordon, whose diet consists of carrots, lettuce and purina farms bunny food. Faithful show attendees can laugh at that joke for two reasons: 1) Gordon keeps himself on a strict diet and looks really good and 2) I always look like I've swallowed the buffet at Denny's (which, many times, I have).
Anywho, we all passed what we needed to and then hit the stage. Thankfully, we brought the rock to the three people who were there. It didn't really matter though, it was just great to play really well again. The Erie recharge had done its magic.
Apres show we headed home with Gordon's cousin Jenn, who, I learned later, wasn't really his cousin at all but a good friend of Karen's. Oh well. Who am I, Gore Vidal?
She had just taken her medical boards that day because she has direction in her life and isn't wasting it travelling around in a stale smelling band playing bland power pop songs. Bearing that in mind, it was tremendous of her to put us up, and in style too! There were many places to sleep and I claimed the open bed on the top floor. I felt a little weasely doing this, but I needed some alone time and a place of my own to claim a little....er....um...self satisfaction...ahem. The road is a lonely place folks.
Anyway, I brushed my teeth, grabbed my necessary bedtime supplies and headed for my bed to find...... 12-Gauge, in his underpants and sleep mask, sprawled across the bed checking fantasy baseball scores and scratching his nuts. Um, dag.
It turned out there would be no solitary bed and certainly no self-satisfaction for me on this night. Instead I got a healthy slice of 12-Gauge fart odor and a very cramped double bed sleeping situation.
So, we when we left off we had just been poorly received at our show in Erie. Oh well, screw the haters, you can't win them all. Of course, we actually hadn't really won one in a while and were feeling a little dejected. All we wanted was a nice place to sleep and some TLC. That's where John and Gina came in.
We struck out for their house with no anticipation of what awaited us. Good holy god damn. They literally live in the Barbie Victorian Dream House. Seriously, they have three stories of beautiful wood paneled heaven. There are secret passageways, monstrous gothic fireplaces, turrets and more knick knacks than you could poke a knick knack at.
We all got our own rooms and before bed I got to take a bath in a six foot long porcelain tub. Dag. I mean, I wish I had pictures. This place is ridonkulous.
Adding to the insanity were J&G's insane pets. They have a beagle who simply insists that you rub her belly. She runs up to you and just falls over. And if you ignore her she gets up and growls at you very menacingly. Needless to say, she got some tummy attention. But far more insane was "Palsy cat." Palsy cat has cerebral palsy and, if you haven't ever seen a cat with cerebral palsy, it is some freaky shit. She has very very very limited control of her movements, so her limbs just spastically shoot off in every direction when she walks and she falls over a lot. Now, when we first saw this cat it scared the shit out of us. We thought she was possessed by the devil and we ran from her like tiny little baby girls. But after a day with her we all wanted to take her home and protect her. Life is weird.
Anyway, our stay in Erie was great and I feel like John and Gina deserve a day of the journal all to themselves, not just because of their beautiful house but because their amazing hospitality came at a time when morale was falling dangerously low. They fed us, bathed us and basically recharged our batteries. You need people like that when you go on tour or you'll literally go insane. Usually those folks are someone's parents, but sometimes it works out that it's a cat with cerebral palsy.
We woke up in Philly in a most peculiar way. Chrissy, the lady of the house we were staying at had to get up at about 8 and was trying soooo hard to be quiet and not disturb us. This is peculiar in its own right since we were clomping around until about three, with the Pete and Gordon Fantasy Baseball Call-In show going another 12 or 15 hours, so courtesy is obviously not our strong suit. Anyway, she is a sweetheart and was really trying to be quieter than a mouse while she descended the stairs. And she succeeded until....well...until she dropped a whole lot of shit down the stairs, shit which then proceeded to bounce off every step, ending up about three feet from my head. Dag. She was really embarassed but what the hell, we had to get up anyway.
So then it was on to Erie. We still needed to replace a couple cords, so we ended up stopping at a mall. I thought it would only take a minute and so I left all my stuff in the car when we headed in. Now here's the lesson of this paragraph: when you are on the road always carry everything you need with you at all times. You're just running in to buy a coke? Bring your stuff. You're stopping for two seconds at a gas station? Bring your stuff. You need open the van door to fart outside? Bring your stuff.
Of course, I didn't bring my stuff and through some miscommunication got separated from the group with no phone, no wallet and no car keys. I figured I would just chill out at the mall entrance and we'd be on our way shortly. Wrong. I waited for about 45 minutes, alternating between being panicked and just plain pissed off. Finally, the boys showed up with smiles on their faces and empty ice cream dishes in their hands. It sucked, since I was definitely in the mood for some moo moo cream. Lesson-Bring your stuff.
The show itself sucked. The club is a bar/pizza parlor and only has live music through the kind efforts of our friends John and Gina. Now, a makeshift club is fine as long as it's not full of makeshift or full bore assholes. Unfortunately this was not the case. John's band opened the night and were very good and actually had a nice crowd. Then we hit the stage. Most of the nice folks left and the room started filling with the crowd for the punk band after us. And if there is one audience we do not do well with, it is the punkers. Add to that that my stupid god damn guitars kept breaking string and going out of tune and you have one miserable night. Oh well, to paraphrase Ringo "you gotta pay your dues if you want to sing the blues, and good lord it don't come easy in Erie PA."
After the show we retired to John and Gina's castle, er, I mean, house. I think I'll talk about that tomorrow because it was insane. Stay tuned...
I have a sad confession to make. Instead of diligently sitting down last night and pounding out a hilarious account of day four of our recent tour I instead went to Foxwoods with Brendo Frendo and played poker. It was fun, but would have been more fun had I not lost my last hand with my queen high straight being bested by some chooch's king high straight. Damn.
Anyway, I came in early to work this morning to write the journal here but, alas, I lent my keys to Ladyfriend Sarah and forgot to get them back. And so I got into my office about ten seconds ago after waiting a half hour for the police to let me in. Damn.
Finally, the lady I work with called in sick and now I have to do two jobs instead of one and my boss is on a tear because he's cranky and old.
In short, there will be no tour diary today because, well, god obviously is against me writing one.
Day the third started out auspiciously enough, with all four members of the band taking full advantage of the barely-there continental breakfast. With our bellies full of terrible coffee and some nasty muffin-esque stuff, we planned our day. We were only a couple hours from Philly, so there was really no rush, but "Do Me Beach" had pretty much worn out its novelty and so we hit the road.
This drive was stone cold uneventful, and featured Pete and I sitting in the back again working diligently at the Incredible Machine while Jordan and Gordon held hands and chanted meditations in the front. In practically no time we were there.
Now, I had never been to the city of brotherly love and I gotta tell ya, my first impression wasn't awesome. The club we were playing was, how do you say?, in a terrible neighborhood. At dinnertime Pete asked me "So, do you want to eat at the burned out crackhouse or down the street at the boarded up pawnshop?" But Gordon's cousin, Bebe, recommended the hole in the wall mexican place behind the blown up city bus, so we went there.
The show itself was blah. There was no one there except for my friend Danielle and Gordon's friend Matt. It was the kind of night where you could see in everyone's eyes that it was Sunday. Oh well, we played well and then hustled the hell out of there.
Matt had told us we could stay with him as a last resort and, well, he was. But he was a good sport and a great host, staying up late to let us in, making up a couple beds and putting mints on each of our pillows.
Jordan and I hit the sack first, but Pete and Gordon decided that it was the perfect time to scream their opinions about fantasy baseball, so no one got any sleep until the MLB twins decided it was time to sleep. Fuckers. Actually, they weren't that loud, but this apartment was like an echo chamber, so each statistic about Lance Berkman was like a nail in my brain. Life is, of course, terrible.
Anyway, finally I fell asleep and that was the day that was.
Day the Second, Saturday April 24th, Dewey Beach, Delaware
After a good first day I was starting to slip into my tour groove. Getting into the tour groove is difficult to explain, but it’s kind of like starting to move in a standard car. At first, you have the clutch in, which in this poorly drawn metaphor will symbolize ordinary life. With the clutch in the car stands still and everything is kosher. But, as you let the clutch out, the transmission, which will symbolize the unpredictability of touring, engages and starts to pull you forward. As you let the clutch out even more the gears of the motor take over and you start to move. Now, moving is fun and exciting. but it can also result in you swerving to avoid a deer and plowing into a telephone pole. That, my friends, is tour.
Anywho, the clutch was feeling about half out as I woke up next to Gordon that morning. (Damn, did that sound weird or what??) We got up, gulped some coffee and slogged our way through the crowded street of New York to the van.
Everything was running smoothly for the next few hours; we were telling jokes, I was offering ample evidence that my body can process pastrami and the sun was shining. I think it was about halfway through New Jersey that we realized a pretty crucial component of our touring rig was gone. Somehow, somebody had either stolen or accidentally taken a bag full of guitar cables and effects pedals. This was the first deer we hit.
Anyway, after furious amounts of calling (to the bands we had played with the night before, the club, our pastors) we arrived at the conclusion that we had no idea what happened. So it was off to the music store.
Somewhat re-equipped we continued on to Dewey Beach or, as the tourists and Gordon call it “Do me beach”. Dag. We arrived, got a hotel room and I hit the sack. It had been about an eight hour drive with many stops and I was beat. This is a lesson to all you who are about to tour – sleep and poop whenever you can! Seriously. If you don’t follow this edict you will find yourself in many unpleasant situations.
After my nap we hit the venue, which was beautiful. It was right on the ocean and had a sort of “ahoy, matey” vibe. We played a good show despite trying to get used to a lot of new equipment and we got the people dancing. A cool ocean breeze, a good sound system, an enthusiastic crowd - what more can you ask?
After the show I walked back to the hotel because I am antisocial. However, the entire band soon returned and said they were going out and I was going with them. After much argument I got dressed again and we went out to paint the town.
I painted about three strokes before I again split for the hotel. I knew that I hadn’t gotten a lot of rest the week before this tour and that if I wanted any chance of not getting sick I needed to take it easy on these early days. And so I did. I ended up watching a show on the Discovery Channel about oil drilling.
When I woke up on this morning, I wanted to do one thing and one thing only – not go on tour. I had been tired and melancholy all winter and all I wanted to do was climb back into my bed, hit the lights and sleep for three days. However, I was committed to the trip and even partially packed, so I got myself together and trundled off to work to make a little money before we headed to New York.
Anywho, about halfway to work on the train my Rio Riot sprung to life with the song “Welcome to the Jungle.” Holy good god damn is that song a tune. Within about thirty seconds all I wanted to do was play rock music for the rest of my life. So, one problem solved.
On the way to NYC I realized another problem. I had been very careless in my packing and had forgotten many important items, such as extra shoes, deodorant, any number of stomach medicines, glasses cases, saline solution, guitar strings, guitar picks and adequate amounts of underwear. Dag.
Anyway, despite being underprepared for this trip I found myself having a good time. Pete and I played a bunch of Incredible Machine on our laptops, Jordan crocheted and we got our band morale up with the knowledge that we wouldn’t see our bosses for two weeks.
The show that night itself was pretty blah. We were all tired and the crowd was kind of lame, two factors that when added together usually equal mediocre show.
But after the show super-fan Laurel solved problem #2. She came up to me and gave me an extraordinarily generous gift bag full of all kinds of medicines, soft core porn and toothbrushes. Dag. She’s a champ.
Towards the end of the night I had a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli and then took my bag of goodies and hit the van to relax. I know this probably pissed off some people who had come to see me, but I have a hard time hanging out in crowded bars these days. I tend to get panicky in crowds and have always combated that with excessive drinking. However, I don’t drink anymore, so I’ve found a little quiet time in the van to be my new cure.
We ended the night at our friend Noah’s pad, where I slept on a fold out couch with Gordon. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but Gordon is the best bed partner in the band. He doesn’t snore, doesn’t fidget and weighs about three pounds, so he doesn’t bug you when he gets up to pee.
I know I promised the first installment of the tour diary today, but it's going to have to wait a day. Today I need to talk about Saturday night, which was.....in a word....awesome.
As some of you know, we here in Fooled by April like to support causes. I know that sounds pretty damn cheesy, but we've pitched in a few times to support the causes we believe in, from MS to the Station Fund. Anyway, we also believe in the right for kids to have good slides and swingsets, so Saturday we played a benefit to raise money for the Willard School (a Concord public school) to have, as Jordan might say, a kick-ass playground. The benefit raised over $10,000, got us some new fans and had a few highlights:
-I drank literally about 200 ounces of diet coke and had such a caffeine buzz going that local cokeheads were asking me where I got my stuff
-We played in my friend David's bar, which is in his house and which has a urinal in the bathroom. Dag.
-The Captain Miles band (featuring our host David)opened the show and was down a bass player, so I subbed. I am not good at playing bass, but apparently am good at fooling people, because they said I was good. I was not.
-Peter Wolf of J. Geils fame showed up and sat in with the band for a cover of Love Stinks. Check this out:
-The crowd was insane for the rock and roll. We've said it before, but we are no hipsters. We want you to shake your ass at our shows and these people shook their asses and everything else. We haven't played for such an appreciative audience in a LOOOOOOOOOONG time.
-My little pal Andrew and his cronies put ice down my pants. They will pay. Oh, how they will pay.
What can I tell you? We here in the FXA camp are still recovering from the tour, but rest assured that all the wounds are now almost healed.
I have also been hard at work on the Tour Diary, which will premiere on Monday. And by "hard at work" you loyal readers will know that I mean sitting on my ass dreading the start of a project I promised to do and now have to finish. I am horribly lazy.
In other news, the Somerville rock house has been dying for some wub wub (wiffleball), but Brendo Frendo has been a big Nancy about his supposed sore back. Dag, I hate that guy.
I am back and I am TIRED. Jeeeeesus am I tired. Oh well, that's nothing a day of work won't fix, right? Right???
I will be putting up a full tour report starting on Monday and trust me, it will be some boring ass reading....I mean...captivating entertainment.
Other that that, all that's new is that we got our asses kicked in the rumble. I mean, I thought we played really really well, but we came in last. Dead last. No one came in behind us. We did not place in the top three. Dag.