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Tour

Digressions

8/21/10 – Philadelphia, PA

We wake at a super-secret compound near Bethlehem, PA. The secrets of this super secret compound must remain secretive. But Dear Reader, let me tell you–there is scintillating conversation, there is delicious food, there is laundry, there is a room for each of us, there is a pool. Our spirits are put right. We sleep, we feast, we wander, we swim, we sleep some more, we read the internets, we write the emails, we read the books, we sleep. Oh, and we also film a video for “You’re Alight.”

And then we drive to Philly. Last time out, Philly was our favorite show. A man on the street called our merch man Mike “Rocky”. We inadvertently ate racist cheesesteaks. We danced on tables to the soulful strains of The Boss.

We arrive at North Star Bar and realize we’re not on the show posters. This presents an interesting opportunity for anonymity. We could get up there and play Dokken covers, and perhaps no one would bat an eye.

But then we realize that there are some people there to see us. So we become ourselves and play our hearts out.

The stage is very high, dizzyingly so, and I keep picturing myself falling off of it. It’s an irrational fear, sort of like whenever i walk through a shoplifting detector at a store and expect that it will go off. That somehow I’ve gone crazy, stolen a bunch of merchandise and then had an amnesia attack and so when I’m wrestled to the ground and caught with thousands of dollars of merchandise, I’ll be as surprised as anyone.

Yeah, anyway, I don’t fall off the stage and neither does anyone else.

Afterwards, we hang out and eat the most brilliant snack ever–funnel cake fries. (It’s crushing to see an ad for them at Burger King on the PA Turnpike the next day). Nathan is drinking mezcal, and with each shot, he keeps telling me how he won’t be hung over because it’s such a pure drink. He is cracking us all up, as usual.

We return to the compounds and sleep in our own rooms, a luxury that almost makes me lonely. We’ve melded into a single organism and now I feel like I’m missing three limbs.

Breakfasts of Champions

8/20/10 – Day off

We wake up at 7:30 in order to make our radio session at MIT for Breakfast of Champions. We are running late, so we can’t get coffee beforehand, and oh my god do we need coffee. The campus is beautiful, Jon is terrific, and despite our exhaustion, we have a blast recording 7 acoustic songs and an interview.

We finish up and eat on the MIT campus at some food carts. I sit alone on a park bench and watch the students and professors move around the campus. For the first time in a long time, we can relax. All we need to do is breathe and dream of sleep. Until tomorrow.

Hahvahd Yahd

8/19/10 – Boston, MA

After eating our hard-won pizza a little too fast, we head out for Boston, saying goodbye to Alice. The drive is unevenful, like a good drive should actually be.

We load into the club, Great Scott, which feels so distinctly Boston. It turns out a fairy godfather named Michael has prepurchased 8 drinks for the band and already paid the tip. The bartender tells us this has never happened before. We are thrilled.

It’s another fantastic bill, and I meet some great people. A fan from Portland who’s been trying to catch us for years and Jon Bernhardt, who will be hosting us for a radio session the next morning.

The show is so fun, the crowd so enthusiastic, it tops Brooklyn. It’s a wonderful feeling to think you’d already peaked and then to have something even better happen. Chez our friend The Darkness, I meet two adorable dogs who snuggle me to sleep. Life is good.

TOUR INDEX — Northeast Edition

Consecutive unsuccessful attempts to locate a Taco Bell, despite roadsign signs promising one: 4

Hours waited for pizza at Di Fara, Brooklyn: 1.5

Minutes it took to eat the pizza: 4

Minutes I’ve spent wishing I had more of that pizza: 473

Filthy bathroom floors my purse has sat on: 28.33

Average hours slept per night: 5.5

Number of radio songs to which we have changed the lyrics to incorporate the word “Arby’s”: 172

Forget About It

8/18/10 – Brooklyn, NY

First order of business: replace the burned-out headlight that made last night’s drive to the hotel a harrowing experience. Allow me to eat a little crow: I shit-talk Jiffy Lube mercilessly. I hate how they always try to upsell and generally swindle you, especially if you happen to be female, in which case two giant cartoon dollar signs are superimposed on your breasts. But at this particular Jiffy Lube in Laurel, MD, a nice fellow with a spectacular accent replaces my headlight, fixes the wiring, checks the fluids and tops them all off free of charge.

We get back on the road, and begin a quest for Taco Bell. Alice has told us she’s never had it before, and gnarly as it is, it seems a necessary initiation. However, this proves easier said than done. We keep exiting the freeway, and then driving in circles trying to find Taco Bell. It’s an Alanis Morrisette kind of “irony” (or perhaps we’ve heard the song once too many on this road trip.) Sing in a yarl-core voice: “A million KFCs when all you want is a Taco Bell…”

Finally, we reach Brooklyn. As we’re loading into the club, I see two girls walking towards us. Suddenly, I realize that they’re two very good friends of mine. I am inexplicably shocked, and it makes me tear up. We go eat dinner with more friends, and I can barely keep up with the conversation–it’s at such a different pace than in the car, with its elided phrases and guttural tics.

At Bruar Falls, the line-up is killer–Knight School and the Mad Scene, which our friend Gary has rejoined. The room is full of fun people and we have our best show of the tour so far, which Yoshi and Nathan attribute to the low red lighting.

The next morning, we decide to get Di Fara pizza before heading out for Boston. It’s amazing to watch this operation helmed by a lone older gentleman who removes the pizzas from the oven with bare hands. The wait is epic, but as the tshirt promises, it’s worth it.

Sedentarism

8/17/10 – Arlington, VA

We hightail it to Virginia, with Alice in tow, carving out some time to sightsee in our nation’s capitol. We stand before the White House lawn, walk past the Washington Monument, look in vain for the Lincoln Memorial, and stop by the World War II memorial instead. Then we hit Ben’s Chili Bowl, which is amazing, hung with approximately two hundred pictures of Bill Cosby. I try to buy a tshirt at the official Ben’s gift shop upstairs, but the guy inside won’t open the store, even though it’s seven minutes before closing. He just counts his money on the counter and pretends he is a deaf-mute. I wouldn’t open my store for us either.

We shuffle back to the car full of chili cheese fries and chili dogs. This does not bode well for our show–a couple of months ago, Yoshi ate poutine before a San Diego show and he was so sluggish he fell off his drum stool. (To be fair, this only caused the crowd to yell, “Yosh-i, Yosh-i, Yosh-i!”).

We reach the club, the Galaxy Hut, in Arlington. They’ve got a great back porch to hang out on. An inspiring band called Foul Swoops opens. We play a good set and have fun talking to the bar’s regulars afterwards. We struggle to find a hotel as I realize my glasses prescription is five years old, finally hitting our beds around 3:30. Nick’s pull-out couch slopes dramatically. He looks inverted like a bat as he drifts into sleep. I worry that he’ll wake up with brain damage. But I don’t lose a minute of sleep over it.

Gaining Altitude

8/16/10 – Durham, NC

Somehow, we stay up till 4:30 AM. I know it is late when Nathan says, “Yeah, my mom always had a saying….uh…I can’t remember what it was.”

I am ashamed to admit I can’t recall the last time I was up at 4:30 AM. One reason for this is that I am a morning person. Yes, I belong to the group that many people forcefully define themselves as NOT. As in (spoken in a tone meant to convey derision for infuriatingly nerdy early-risers) “I am so NOT a morning person.” One of my favorite things in the whole world is to wake up at sunrise on a summer day and watch the dew evaporating. When I stay up until 4AM, I miss my favorite part of the day. But in this case, it is worth it.

Our friend Nate has come along to Athens with us, and it’s funny to have an interloper. Like most people who step inside tour, Nate is amazed at how much waiting there is. Waiting for other people. Waiting for the miles to pass. Waiting for the bathroom. Waiting to load in. Waiting to play. Waiting to get paid. The deceptive thing about waiting is that from the outside it appears to be free time. But in fact, it’s as encumbered as time can be. When you’re actually doing something, you have purpose, you have velocity, you can draft other activities into your trajectory. But when you’re waiting, you’re circling, trying not to notice you’re not going anywhere. [Recently, I took a trip to Hawaii. About 45 minutes into the flight, out in the middle of the ocean, the pilot came over the loudspeaker and calmly informed us that the windshield had shattered (shattered!) and that we would be returning to San Francisco immediately. As terrified as I was, I kept it together. Just above San Francisco, the plane was ordered to circle for 90 minutes to burn fuel before landing. And it was the circling that finally broke me–we weren’t returning home. We weren’t leaving home. We weren’t safe. We weren’t dead yet. All I could do was hyperventilate and will the moments away, one after another.] Don’t get me wrong–Nate has been having a great time, as have we. But he can’t help but notice how the large part of our days are devoted not to doing something, not to doing nothing, but to the grey and mealy-textured space in between.

We pack up for Durham, say our goodbyes to Nate and our stellar host Alyssa (who actually sat in a bar on a Sunday morning with us to watch soccer), and go pick up the next passenger, Ms. Alice, who will be accompanying us as far as New York. Alice is from England, and hasn’t seen these regions of the US. We enjoy hearing a new accent delivering new stories and new jokes. Plus I now have someone to exchange lipstick tips with.

We will be playing at a house also known as the Layabout in Durham. It’s a beautiful 1920’s Bungalow with the ceilings painted “haint blue” to keep away ghosts. It’s been ages since we’ve played at a house. All the people there are so nice and enthusiastic. In the kitchen, I start talking about how in the Athens Popfest swag bag, there were hairbands and how i think this is such a mark of women’s progress in music, that the Popfest would include free hairbands. I describe said hairbands and then pull one off my wrist as a visual aid. These two sweet college girls explain to me gently that these aren’t hairbands–they’re a massive bracelet phenomenon called silly bands. I’ve been using them as ponytail holders for days now.

Even after the music is over, everyone hangs out on the porch, talking about records and drinking beer, confident that the neighbors understand that hey, the kids, they need their music. And evidently, they do.

TOUR INDEX – Athens Popfest

Number of streetside Zaxby’s chicken sandwiches consumed by band: 11

Enviable vintage tshirts purchased by band: 2

Average per capita decline in french fry consumption: -70%

Completely genuine hugs received from total strangers: 5

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

8/14/10 – Athens Popfest

The soles of my vintage shoes have come apart in the Southern heat, so we spend a few hours vintage shopping in hopes of finding a replacement pair. I now have only sneakers and roper-style cowboy boots (in reference to which an audience member in Arkansas had told me I looked sharp [insert pause] from the knees up). But there are no shoes to be had today.

We have slept til noon, leaving not much space in the day left for gallavanting. We go back to Alyssa’s and relax and wait for load in. I’m very nervous because we will be sharing a bill with Mission of Burma. To calm myself, I try to meditate. Then i try doing little affirmations: “You will be great, you will be great.”

On stage, things are not great. Not great at all. Nick’s pedal cuts out about 90 seconds into the set, leaving us guitarless for half of our first song. I feel the room spin as we all try to telepathically decide whether to stop the song or power through. Yoshi’s kick drum is escaping him, scooting forward a foot or more, making it extremely difficult for him to play. We struggle through the first few songs, shaken by the technical difficulties. But we make it through our set and when we finish, some people in the front row yell for us to play more songs. Of all the shows on our tour, this was the most important to me–and a whole lot went wrong. I take some deep breaths backstage. We all stare at each other, still rattled. This is why drinks were invented. I go get one and resolve to enjoy myself. It works. By the time Mission of Burma take the stage, we are all smiling and singing along. They are amazing, so powerful, and we remember how very lucky we are. Lucky to be here. Lucky to see this. Lucky to have found each other.

Scurrilous Rumors

8/13/10 – Athens Popfest (day off)

We wake in Birmingham in a wonderfully airconditioned house and discover a bag of fresh bagels has been left for us with a note (Thanks, Katie!).

We inexplicably watch Dangerous Minds and hang out with our two new dog friends, Ben and P.G. Then we decide to explore, something we’ve not had much time for on this trip so far, due to very long driving distances. We eat lunch at the Bottle Tree, the other main rock venue in town. Then, Nathan, Yoshi and I go in search of a thrift store. We drive around for an hour trying to find it. Circling, reversing, circling, fumbling with the GPS on the phone. Suddenly, the air conditioner in my car starts blowing hot air–like, hairdryer hot. I check the thermometer. It is 102 degrees outside.

We hit dead end after dead end as sweat pours down us in rivulets. Finally, we abort the mission and head back to Nate’s. Then, we get lost for another half hour trying to find Nate’s. All of the streets seemed to be named almost the same thing, and it takes us some time to notice. 42nd Court. No, wait, 42nd Ave. No, 42nd Place. Hang on, Linwood Rd. No, Linwood Dr. Oh here, Linnwood Way.

We stagger into the house. I frantically find a mechanic and call them. They inform me that it sounds like the compressor, a $1200 repair. Dear Reader, I confess, I had to excuse myself and go sniffle for a bit in private. I pull myself together and we make plans to take the car in to an Athens garage instead.

We caravan to Athens (the air conditioner miraculously starts working about 90 miles into the drive) and meet our friend Alyssa, who is kindly putting us up.

We go to the club and hang out outside for a while. Of course the second Yoshi approaches the front entrance, five people yell out, “Yoshi!” Between Yoshi and Nathan, we rarely go anywhere in the country without running into someone, or ten people, that they know.

Then we see Joe from Poison Control Center, who we briefly toured with when he was playing with Fishboy. Poison Control Center played after us recently in San Francisco and completely blew us off the stage. We had a rough show, and then they came out and did acrobatics, literally.

I ask Joe how their tour is going–I know they’ve been out for at least a couple of months already–and he says they will be out until at least the new year, that their goal is to play 250 shows. My jaw drops. Then he shows me a very bruised spot on his shoulder. He says he had recently broken his collarbone. I asked how it happened and he says, “Actually, it was because someone told me that you used to do handstands onstage.” “What?!?” I scream. “Yeah,” he says, “So I thought if you could do handstands, then I should try to do them–I mean, I have a song where I don’t play bass, so I wanted to do something cool.” He then details how he’d been practicing this move at a rest stop on the way to a gig and he fell over and snapped his collarbone. The most tragic part of the story (um, besides the broken bone part)? The handstand claim was false. I used to play tambourine mid-headstand, but would never, ever attempt a handstand on a crowded stage. Way too dangerous. The lesson here? Gossip hurts.

We go see The Apples in Stereo, who are great. Then we go to an afterparty where a random guy says to me, “Hey, I like your outfit.” “Thanks,” I say, thinking, wow, pop folks really are so freakin nice. He pauses for a second and then explodes: “Now get OUTTA here!” and points to the door. I stare blankly. Then, I decide to use my words, like they taught me in preschool. I tell him that he has hurt my feelings. He sarcastically offers me a Bandaid.

Nonetheless, I adore Athens. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to make this city’s acquaintance.