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Tour

Branding

I have created a tagline for tour.

TOUR: IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK.

I understand that the world at large will likely fail to appreciate the wondrous depth and subtlety of this phrase. How it applies on so many levels, speaking both to the observer (As in, where are all the groupies? The blow? The green M&Ms?) and also speaking to the band itself (as in, we were sure that City A would be a mediocre show and City B would be amazing–and we were wrong on both counts.) The line reminds us that we can neither predict or control what transpires on this epic journey, and that like quicksand, fighting the chaos will only make us sink deeper.

Amendments

Editor’s note:
I have missed two major events in my documentation. I feel compelled to address them now.

1) On the way to Austin TX, one Yoshi Nakamoto was pulled over by the Texas State Highway Patrol for driving the unfathomable speed of 85. Yoshi was nonplussed; he got out of the car calmly, radiating the Zen friendliness that is his trademark. The patrolman asked exactly why he was speeding. Yoshi explained that we were a very tired rock band trying to get to a hotel room ASAP. And plus, Texas’ daylight/nighttime dual speedlimits had confused our drummer–California has only a single speed limit. The patrolman was surprised and intrigued by this cultural difference. He then asked Yoshi the name of the band and where we were playing next. Then he let Yoshi off with a warning ticket. As he was released, Yoshi turned to the officer and said, “Yeah, well I’ve got a warning for you: Come to Austin and we’ll rock your ass!”*
*Almost all of this story is true.

2) A poet named Thax approached us at the Mohawk and told us that he has spent the last several years writing poems for his favorite bands and then reading them onstage as an introduction. He had seen us years ago in Chicago and specifically sought us out in Austin to write and perform a poem for us. He read it onstage before we played, and it was beautiful. I watched Thax jam out for the whole show. What an honor.

Stampede!

8/12/10 – Birmingham

In lieu of sleep, I am becoming completely fixated on coffee.

Before we leave Hot Springs, Nathan and I get coffee at a place called the Nut Cellar. As we’re walking in, I say absent mindedly, “I love nuts.” An older gentleman sitting on the sidewalk laughs dirtily.

In the store, a weathered and wiry little guy approaches the counter. He starts talking incoherently in an extremely guttural twang about how he’ll pay the owner back for coffee when he gets his check next week. He’s like the Hot Springs version of Popeye’s Wimpy (“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”). His voice and mannerisms seem totally fictional. If he were in a movie I’d cry, “caricature!” Then, one of the other patrons addresses him, “See you later, Turkey.” It’s clear that he’s not calling him a turkey, but rather than the guy goes by the name Turkey. Which is about as perfect as a nickname could get.

Our drives have been long, and finally, we’ve gotten down to 7 hours. We’re staying with Nick’s best friend from Omaha, Nate and his wife Katie. They live in an old neighborhood like the one we grew up in, and the combination of the screaming of the cicadas in the giant trees and the oppressive humidity makes me so nostalgic.

The club is called The Nick, much to Nick’s delight. The sign out front says, “The Nick Rocks”. Of course, both Nick and I buy tshirts.

I meet a girl at the bar who is bemoaning the ink stain on her tote bag. I am so starved for girliness that I spend five whole minutes telling her how to get the ink out. (I admit I have a laundry fetish.)

Our show is really fun and sort of hilarious. The Nick seems like the place where things could get pretty crazy. All of the people working are super friendly and wryly funny. Twinside plays with us and they make me so happy with their Verbena-like harmonies. Plus, I get to meet the drummer from Verbena, a band I love. The final band is an incredibly tight southern rock band called A Thousand Horses. We praise their showmanship and chops, and then they tell us it’s their first show ever. Uhhh….whoa. I resolve to keep track of these boys.

Chez Slick Willie

8/11/10 – Hot Springs

When we arrive in Hot Springs (Home of Bill Clinton!), we can’t believe how cute it is. We’re playing a club called Maxine’s, which is a former brothel owned but a couple from LA, Kevin and Agnes. They feed us and keep us hydrated, and generally make us feel incredibly welcome. After the show, during which they sit in the front row, Kevin and Agnes tell us they have missed only 2 shows at their club in the last year and a half. So impressive–they obviously really, really care about the music they host.

The town is packed full of 1920’s era bath houses made to host people wanting to partake of the hot springs. We stay in a great old spa hotel. Yoshi and I have designs to go get massages and mineral baths the next day, but like most plans on tour, they fall apart.

A Texan Paradise

8/10/10 – Austin

In our Texas hotel room, we wake up one foot away from each other as usual. We’ve all slept horribly. Nick announces that he had Dave Matthews Band’s “What Would You Say” in his head all night. We offer our condolences. I mention that I woke up singing Aerosmith’s “Take Me To the Other Side.” Nathan says his mental soundtrack was the first song on the Harlem record. Yoshi confesses to total radio silence.

We head to Lockhart TX to eat some barbeque, hitting up both Smitty’s and Kreuz to compare and contrast the brisket and hot rings. We agree that Smitty’s wins.

Then, we head to Austin. Oh how we love Austin, even though it is 104 out. We arrive late afternoon, panting from the heat. My friend Andy has kindly donated his entire house to us, complete with a pack of feral cats outside to keep Yoshi the Cat Whisperer happy.

We hydrate, and then rehearse for our Daytrotter session that evening. The recording takes place in a compound set back from the street, engineered by a great fellow named Matt. Nick’s pedals start to act up, my throat gets scratchy, and then I start to hallucinate that I can’t find the key of the song. We finally get three good takes and pack for the club. On the way out, Matt tells Yoshi he’s a great drummer. For about the eightieth time, I thank my lucky stars that I fired myself as drummer.

Loading in the Mohawk, I get excited–it’s a massive sprawling complex but not overly precious. To me, this is one of the hallmarks of Austin as a city: lots of space and time dedicated to having laid-back fun.

The bill is amazing–a band called Stunts, Horse+Donkey (who Nathan totally loses his shit over), and The Carrots, who sings awesome girl group songs and are extremely good looking. The audience is fired up and we have a terrific time both playing and spectating.

At the merch booth, I see a woman named Mikelle who we met last time we were in town–she had driven THREE HOURS to come see us. And she showed up again! I kept introducing her to people: “This is the woman I told you about!”

We’re having such a good time, the club has to kick us out. We go back to our hijacked house and sleep the sleep of people who really need sleep but have had too many beers instead.

Supersize Us

8/9/10

TOUR INDEX – August 8, 2010

Average number of medium-sized servings of french fries consumed per band member at 2AM: 1.25

Consecutive days Bon Jovi’s tour epic “Wanted Dead or Alive” played on radio, reminding us that “sometimes when you’re alone all you do is think”: 2

Inadvertent off-roading incidents: 1

Giant cockroaches spotted outside of Arby’s, Casa Grande, AZ: 5

Birds and Batteries live sets viewed since 11PM yesterday: 3, all well worth it.

Times an hour the car topper keys temporarily vanished: 0.5

Disembodied mannequin heads in the window of Wig-O-Rama, Tucson, AZ: 31 female, 1 green-skinned male

The indices

8/8/10

As today is a day off (already), we are introducing a new feature called the Tour Index. It will be a recurring feature, the frequency of which is impossible to predict at this moment. Regardless, this innovation will change the world.

TOUR INDEX (retroactive) – August 7, 2010

Number of girls at our show a Soda Bar patron named Rob told Yoshi he’d “mentally inseminated” already: 2

Percentage of Eux Autres guest list that vomited between the hours of midnight and one AM: 40%

Number of eggs thrown at band after show: 1

Times Katie Perry / Snoop Dogg’s “California Gurls” came on the car radio: 5

Average length of unicorn puppet shows performed by Heather while filming herself doing so: 42 seconds

Hours of backseat naps Yoshi logged: 5.3

Times the “code of the road” invoked: 8

Camouflage sleeping bags purchased: 1

Vacation Already

8/7/10

Before I even have my coffee, Nick makes fun of me for filming everything on my flipcam. Which I thought I purchased in order to film everything. But evidently, I was supposed to do some sort of art project with it. I keep filming anyway.

We arrive at our great friend’s house in Valley Center, California. It’s set back in the hills, surrounded by fruit trees. It looks like Tuscany around here.

It’s only 2 PM and there’s plenty of time for naps and wine, or both.

Our friends Sara and Gabby make a great dinner and we drive to El Cajon for our show. We are the first people at the club and Nirvana is playing on the sound system, which is really encouraging in a weird way, reminding me that music totally matters. Nick and Yoshi and Nathan battle it out on the club’s (free!) Streetfighter game as we wait to take the stage.

We play a great set and make it through a song we’ve never played live–I’m so thrilled that I clap for us and jump up and down. Then, I think to myself that that must be pretty stupid looking. But then I remember that recently in SF, I saw the amazing tambourine player from Candy Claws applauding for her own band after every song, and it was quite an endearing pendulum swing from the indifference some bands project. It says, not only do I totally care if you like us, but hey, I really like us too!

After we load out, we’re standing around in front of the club talking to Birds and Batteries after the show and all of a sudden an egg explodes on our car. There are about 30 people out there with us staring at the egg dripping down my car and muttering things like, whoa, bummer. But I’m actually pretty excited by it; egging is such an anachronism. Our first review of the tour.

We hit a drive-thru on the way back to Valley Center. Nathan, who is always trying to avoid the magnetic pull of meals in paper bags, eats some fries and says, “Hey. This isn’t so bad. I guess I was wrong about fast food.”

As we pull up to the house, we see a baby coyote trotting along in front of our car. He is the size of my pet beagle and he keeps looking back at us worriedly. Our headlights sweep across a hill exploding with scattering rabbits, and we know that as we sleep soundly, nature will be having her way just outside our windows.

Sweetness

8/6/10

We actually make it to Oxnard, California. This is almost enough of a coup to just leave it at that. But we play a really fun show at a bakery as the smell of cupcakes is wafting all around us onstage. This is our sixth show as a four-piece and I can actually feel the click happen as we, somewhere in the middle of the second song, finally become a band. I almost cry.

Great lineup: A band called the Avocados. Our buddies the Tartans. One of those shows that makes you feel lucky to be part of a community of people.

Late night tacos. The best part of playing in Southern California.

We crash out at the Tartans place as Yoshi, Mayburn, and Brian Tartans spin records and sing ten feet from my head. I feel happy, as it reminds me of going to bed during one of our parents’ raucous parties, listening to them laugh and sing as I drift off to sleep.

Here We Go

Welcome to the tour diary of the Eux Autres Summer “Highway to Hella” Tour 2010.

THE PLAYERS:
HEATHER, the author and singer/percussionist/keyboardist
NICHOLAS, the author’s brother, the singer/guitarist, and the superior driver
YOSHI, the drummer, the first person to dare to enter the sibling vortex, an excellent sleeper
NATHAN, the bassist and newest member of the band, lover of thrift stores and fresh produce

An opening salvo: How Not to Leave for a Cross-Country Tour

1) Do not think that you will naturally wake up early without an alarm because you are so anxious
2) Do not drive your dogs to the dog camp all the way in Marin County while having a panic attack and totally bum the front desk woman out in a transaction resembling the family-movie scene that was written solely to illustrate that the absentee parent doesn’t know jackshit about her children’s lives:
Front desk woman: Uh, we don’t need those leashes. Uh, you can take the bowls. But did you bring their beds? Where’s their food?
Me, very feebly, with a drowning expression: Sorry, their dad usually does this.
3) Do not ask your brother why he is still in his pajamas when you arrive to pick him up. This will only cause him to want to kill you.
4) Do not try to ship the album art for the upcoming record the morning that you leave
5) Do not lose the key to the car topper that will hold all of the luggage
6) Do not get stuck inside of your own garage as the automatic door goes on strike for approximately ten harrowing minutes with you and the tour vehicle inside when you’re already 110 minutes late to get the rest of the band.
7) Do not leave your keyboard in the stairwell of your apartment building, causing yet another 45 minute detour on the way out of town