News

Sack, fifth avenue

Blythe, CA to Mesilla, NM–Thurs September 7
The car is sparkling clean and water is beaded up everywhere—on the streets, the hood. Debris covers the pavement. The storm was not exaggerated by our delirium. A black kitten slinks in front of the car as we’re packing up.

Nick has never seen the American Southwest. He keeps gasping and pointing at the purple mountains, at the cacti that he says look like cartoons.

We pause in Tucson because I know a good place to eat—Café Poca Cosa. First, we hit the tourist board for postcards and directions. I’ve never been to a tourist board before. What a concept.

Pulling into Mesilla, we spot an odd shape swinging beneath the tow hitch on the rear of a black pickup. Further examination reveals it to be a ball sack; that’s right, a scrotum, rendered in lifelike pink latex. It jiggles over potholes, sways gently at stop signs.

Our show is fun; I worry we’re too loud for the space, but oh well. Afterwards, we try hard to be party animals. (We’re missing merch man Mike badly at this point—he’d be rallying.) After one beer we notice two side-by-side drain mats—one for Crown Royal and the other for Jager. Memories come flooding back. The place has $2 calls and so everyone keeps staggering to the bar and walking away with Jager, fumes wafting past our noses. This drives us out the door in no time.

I forgot to mention that every person we met in LA was so freaking nice. Our waitress at breakfast, the other people in the gelato line, everyone. I thought LA was supposed to be Sodom and Gomorrah. After meeting even nicer people in Mesilla, I mention to Nick how if you just go about your normal life—traffic and the post office and the DMV–you can start to think people are real assholes. But in truth, the world is full of really, really nice people. It’s humbling.

And maybe this is the squarest tour blog ever written.

Desert Solitaire

Los Angeles to New Mexico–Wednesday September 6

We dawdle like hell getting out of town. First we look for coffee, but then we find food—real food–and decide to eat the known quantity here rather than seek it out the unknown later. Our menu orders hedge against the future, a sort of anticipatory eating. For example, I am in no mood for oatmeal, but it seems relatively healthy, so I grab it, to combat the upcoming white flour carnival. Nick gets all four food groups in the blue plate special—meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and broccoli. I’m pissed.

Then we shop a little. I contemplate a pair of vintage Frye boots, but the store owner makes me try them on one at a time, using a plastic bag as a foot condom. Is this standard in LA? I pass on the boots, due to insufficient data. Nick ogles a pair of Pumas—he’s cheating on the Clarks Wallaby’s due to their hard-to-get routine. LA has been relatively dead since we got here, perhaps due to a post-labor day lull. But we are served up some hard-core traffic on our way out, delaying us even further.

We give up in Blythe, California, much earlier than we hoped. Our required fight starts up, about Nick’s reluctance to keep driving and my inability to drive. We agree on 5:30 as the wake-up time. The hotel room has cable, so we alternate between the preposterous all-star movie Twister, and the newest addition to the Cartoon Network, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

In the middle of the night a gigantic storm rips through and wakes us. The whole building is shaking—out the windows, the rain is blown horizontal by the high winds. We have a term for this sort of epic, apocalyptic environmental behavior, due to our obsession with a particular movie. “War of the Worlds,” Nick croaks, and lays back down.

WE LOVE IT!!!

Los Angeles–Tuesday September 5
We decided to take advantage of our day off by partaking of cultural opportunities. First we hit the La Brea tar pits, with the primary ambition of picking up some sweet postcards. Instead, we get some funny photos of ourselves. That place is in dire need of better merch. I was dying to spend money in there and couldn’t find one thing to buy.

Next we go to LACMA. We have just missed the Hockney exhibit, but we still see some great modern art, and some beautiful older European work. My favorite is the display of 18th century glass. All the Dutch oil still lifes, replete with oysters and cherries and lobsters, are making me starving.

Next we go to the Hammer to check out some stop-motion animation (Nick’s other love.) The guard, who has a New York accent, asks, “Do you need parking validation, or has someone driven you here?” Normally, I might think we looked important or something, but I have a feeling it’s par for the course.

I swear I spot Jim Carrey next to me in traffic, but he catches me looking so I have to look away. A license plate in front of us reads YRU TENZ. The same car’s rear view mirror holds a dream catcher. Yet is a spanking new, black BMW convertible.

I guess I don’t understand LA.

Vietnamese food. Gelato. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Who needs groupies?

Day of labor

SF to LA–Monday September 4

Due to labor day traffic, we spend the entire day in the car.

We pull off at Kettleman City, the halfway point between the two cities. We’ve been waiting for In N Out burger for hours. This place has become legendary in our band lore because last summer, on an identical stop at this very In N Out Burger, Nick was unwittingly teabagged by a clogged and overflowing toilet.

We roll into our friend Deb’s place later than I would like. She has snacks galore, and lots of water, which we are sorely in need of at this point. My urine has resembled Tang for days.

Spaceland is a very nice place. The crowd is unusually good-looking. I befriend another band; they are obsessed with 90210 (evidently the entire show is coming out soon on box set!) and tip me off about LA tourist activities and the local roller derby scene.

As we are loading out, a man is selling tamales from a cooler. Score. This will be the first time I haven’t gone to bed ravenous in at least a week. (I was burning the candle at both ends long before we left Portland).

We try to watch VH1 but our eyes won’t stay open.

Still Flyin’

San Francisco–Sunday September 3

Today, Nick’s birthday, no one gets up until 5 PM. Nick informs me that we’re now officially on Motley Crue time.

I keep getting phone calls, giving me fever dreams about being a loser who stays in bed all day. Finally, feeling like a degenerate, I hit redial for the last number, which is local. The person who picks up identifies himself as Michael. We talk for fifteen minutes and then I ask if he’s bringing his wife to our show. “Who?” he says. “I don’t have a wife.” At that moment I realize I am talking to another Michael, one I haven’t spoken to in about seven years. I’m on a roll.

Our show is sloppy. Sloppy, but really fun. The audience is raucous, bordering on harassing. We love it.

Still Flyin is truly incredible. The idea—a fifteen person, indie rock reggae band–sounds intriguing, and comes off brilliantly, mostly due to the fact that they are complete party animals. On stage, some of them can barely stand up, yet the music sounds terrific. The entire audience is smiling and dancing. After the show, we see a girl from the band puking in the alley. Yoshi seems unfazed and tells me blandly that at least one person pukes at every show.

This is the most fun I’ve had in ages.

LOST, the series

Chico to San Francisco–Saturday Sept 2

Jason and Connie have a toy poodle named Honey. She looks like a lamb. In the morning, as usual, I am the first band person to rise. I take Honey for a walk in the woods across from the house. It is surreal: I am in my show clothes, my red lipstick still staining my lips, walking a toy poodle in the woods of Chico, California, in the early morning. Who am I?

We eat the Cap’n Crunch Connie so kindly bought. I opt out of the shower, wanting to get our from under foot ASAP. (I will clean up at a rest area two hours south.) Somehow, Steve and Pixie pull out of the driveway first, with Pixie playing the recorder in the passenger seat.

I am already starving again, so we eat a second breakfast in town. After that we go to a record store and score Nancy Sinatra, Beach Boys, Bee Gees Odessa with velvet record jacket, two Muppet Show posters, and a cassette of Replacements’ Tim, for when the ipod dies.

We get lost in San Francisco, because we always get lost in San Francisco—it’s the rule.

Finally, we arrive at Yoshi’s. Yoshi and his roommate Marjan make living here look so appealing. They have a massive apartment with those awesome curved windows, a spare room, and a healthy dose of fog curling in the air. Tomorrow night, we have a show scheduled with Yoshi’s band, Still Flyin. Since this will be Nick’s birthday, and we will have responsibilities, I declare that we must celebrate in advance. We walk around the Haight looking for Clark’s Wallabys, the shoes I want to get Nick for his birthday, to no avail. We eat burritos instead.

Later, at the bar, I keep buying Nick shots of Jagermeister, cackling as I deliver them. For some reason, Yoshi and I decide drinking Crown Royal at 4AM is a good idea. Decline of Western Civilization Part Two is on the television; it’s a documentary all about hair metal bands who are sure they’re going to make it, they just HAVE to (yet we the viewers know they never will). To stave off the potential larger implications/existential crises the show might trigger, I take another glass of whiskey as a prophylactic.

California Love

Chico–Friday September 1

We try to leave Portland as early as possible, but as usual, we take much longer than expected. Even waking up at the ghastly hour of 6:00 AM (I played a show with Shee Bee Gees the night before) we don’t hit the road until after 10:30. There’s the dog to be dropped off, food to find, the triple checking of our packing list. Last tour, I held on to the idea of eating well, long after I had crossed over into survival mode, but this time we’re honest: it’s Burgerville for breakfast. I contemplate getting an espresso milkshake—asking if they make them this early–but Nick advises against it. All day I will mourn the ghost of this lost milkshake.

We pull into Chico a bit later than we like, but the headlining band is still 2 hours behind us. As long as there’s someone worse off than us. . . I called before we arrived to apologize for our tardiness and Connie, the wife of the show organizer Jason, offered us a place to stay and went so far as to ask what I like for breakfast.

After we play, someone tells us that he’s been listening to “Le Projet Citron” for the last year, never knowing who sang it. He had assumed that we were covering the song live. He says, “You mean YOU wrote that song? No Way!!”

The last band is the single weirdest band I’ve ever seen. In a good way. A woman who goes by Pixie sings and “plays” a lamp hung with windchimes. While accompanied by guitar, she holds her ears and writhes around. It’s spooky, made even spookier by her truly incredible voice.

Outside of the venue I notice they too are in a normal car—theirs an eighties-era Chevy Nova which is smashed in the back. Steve the guitarist says they got rear-ended on the highway. A car was barreling up behind them and Steve tried to pull aside but the car smashed him anyway. Now, two months into a four month tour, they have no way to open the hatchback. They load their heavy gear into the backseat over the folded-down front seat. “Were they drunk?” I ask. “More like on acid,” Steve says. “Or both—drunk and on acid.” Pixie says, “Yeah, that’s like the military.” She pauses. “Just like a lizard.”

We all end up staying at Jason and Connie’s even though Jason and Connie are trying to get to San Francisco early the next day. I am once again reminded of the unreasonableness of this lifestyle. These are hard-working people who just want to take a quick vacation, and yet they are kept up and crowded by four freaks sprawled on their living room floor, overrunning their bathroom, raiding their food. Back at the venue, I had spoken with a woman Renee who had hosted our last show in Chico, at her record store. Recently, she finally closed the store after years of crushing bills. She was spending a couple thousand a month to keep it open. She’d work a day job and then go to the store and host shows until three in the morning, then get up and do it all again. Her subsistence was bulk bags of beans and rice. And she wasn’t complaining—in fact, she’s just resting so she can dive back in. She loves music that much.

Going down the only road I’ve ever known

Thursday, August 31-Portland

Just firing up the ol’ tour blog and getting ready to hit the road tomorrow…and we’ll be chronicling the whole thing for you again. I say “we”, but it will probably mostly be Heather, as it seems to usually work out that way. Hopefully, we’ll see some of you out there!

Leaving on a jet plane

Friday, June 23–NYC

I get to fly home, which is unfair but logistically necessary. The fact is, I am a bit jealous of what the boys will do without me–shocking. I figured I’d be waving and cackling, “Suckers!!!” as they dropped me off at JFK.

My last pre-departure event, marking the threshold between tour and my “real life,” is having lunch with my good friend Valerie. I meet her uptown, at Django, where her brother is executive chef. He styles us with an outrageously decadent four course meal. I really could cry with joy over the food and the company.

We are so grateful for the staggering generosity of all of those who aided and abetted on this tour: Yoshi, Zach T., Mom, Dad, Mikey, Meghan and Jake, Crystal and Mary, Andrew and Claire, Alex, Jeff, Ben, Zach, Val and Andrew, Ellen SBG, and all of our friends and supporters in each city who came out to see us play. And, as always, our #1 booster, Mr. Charlie.

Things I have learned:
1) Freaking out is never the solution.
2) I will forget #1 every time.
3) Nothing is ever entirely good nor bad.
4) Seeing #3 as a relief is the most useful perspective.
5) Money is a trick; it is impossible to put a price on most things that matter—such as hospitality, creativity, support, fun.
6) I trust my brother more than anyone in the world.
7) Having Mike along was a huge blessing, although I think he is crazy for coming.
8) True generosity or kindness (as in #7) is always a bit baffling, but that’s the beauty of it.
9) Most things worth experiencing are totally unreasonable, impossibly inefficient and labor intensive. For example: love, friendship, being in a band.
10) Going on tour is an utterly insane thing to do. See #9.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Over and out.

Love,
Heather
June 23, 2006

I’m going back to New York City, I do believe I’ve had enough

Thursday, June 22–NYC

Have you ever noticed that when you have to pee badly, it gets ten times worse right as the bathroom is in reach? Then the key sticks in the front door lock, just to amplify the panic? That is how I feel.

I’m not sure whether to be distraught that my voice is screwed for our final show (in New York no less) or be grateful that it has lasted this long. I launch a campaign to minimize talking for the whole day, which is boring and makes me feel antisocial, turtle-ish.

We roll out of Philly around one, much later than expected, stung by the US’s defeat against Ghana. This late departure means no tourism in New York, but since I’m trying to minimize both energy and vocal expenditures, it’s probably for the best.

We make a logistical error and end up sitting in a coffee shop for 90 minutes, just hoping one of Nick’s old roommates comes home to let us in their apartment, so we can clean up before the show. I keep whispering to the boys, “We only have to stay alive for four more hours.”

At the club, we find out we’ve been pushed back an hour, which soon becomes two hours. While the boys talk to their friends, I lay in the sweltering car in front of the club. People are leaning on it, smoking, yelling outside the windows, but I’m trying to nap and stay calm, not to talk. I feel like I’m set on a timer and when it goes off, I will collapse like a rag doll. The duration of the timer is mysterious. Thus each delay makes me very nervous.

Finally, it’s time.

Lots of friends come out for us, and even though I have a hard time singing, I don’t care because people are cheering us on. It may not be the best technical show we’ve done—and our set get cuts short by the sound man due to the behind schedule–but it’s the wildest show energy-wise. Afterwards, Nick and I hug and I wonder why we don’t do that after every show. We did it we did it we did it we did it.