Back with Music Hates You

I got back to Atlanta on Wednesday, got to bed at two a.m, or so, then was up the next morning and back to the Day Job. Hi, boss! Eight a.m.? No Problem!

After work, I met up with Music Hates You and we went back to Atlanta to play the Drunken Unicorn with Hope and Suicide. It was good to be home- MHY hadn’t done a lot of publicity for the DU show on the outside chance that I might have been delayed coming home and they would have been forced to cancel, so, the show was kind of sparsely attended. The lovely gentlemen of Zoroaster were there, except for Dan, because he never comes to our shows. Dave and Eric from Doomsayer were also there. It felt like a proper homecoming.

I would guess that there were between 7 and 10 thousand people at the Furs’ Costa Mesa show, and there were between 7 and 10 people at the Drunken Unicorn. Oddly, I was totally alright with that. “Become attached to action, not the fruits of action.” It was good, deeply satisfying on a fundamental level, to play with MHY last Thursday. It was nice to peel the lid back and let some “Hell, yeah!” fly out.

There was some of the usual craziness later, only more so. Some things don’t change. I got two hours of sleep and was back at work on Friday. Yep, I am home.

The trip home

After the Costa Mesa Massacre, Tricia and I sat in the back of the bus and talked about everything that went wrong and how frustrating it was for her to try to undo the damage and slip past security at the same time. It’s gotta be tough being a woman and a front of house engineer. I personally saw more than one occasion where some crusty local sound guy, with a ponytail and an extra 150 pounds on him, condescended to her over something like microphone choices. Idiotic, but it’s the way of the rock and roll world. When a guy’s only interactions with women are looking at them in pornography, I suppose it’s a real challenge to deal with a woman who has actual opinions and skills.

We got to the hotel next to LAX and checked all of our gear in with the bell captain. Oddly, the lobby of the hotel was PACKED with young high school aged kids speaking Spanish with a Castillian accent. Or, I should say, thwarming with thudents thpeaking Thpanish. I am guessing they were on some sort of high school trip and their flight had been delayed or canceled. They all still had their luggage and were clearly just waiting on SOMETHING (or… “thomething”…) to happen…

Tricia and I went looking for a convenience store within walking distance…. “Walking,” you say? In LA? Ha ha ha! (Yes, I know…) We actually had to take a taxi to the nearest Ralph’s, where we discovered it was too late in the day for T to get a couple of Boddington’s. Costa Mesa was the crap day that would never end…

When we got back to the hotel, the lobby was still swarming with Madrilenos. I finally got back to my room after some elevator wrangling and I sat on the bed, thinking long and hard about what I could have done different when all the sound went (as Tricia likes to say) pear-shaped. On reflection, I think we all did the best we could.

Years ago, my father came to Athens to see me after learning that my first wife and I were splitting up. I was kind of a mess, and he and I went hiking in the woods to have some time alone. He listened patiently to me as I vented and I was going over all the things I thought I should have maybe done differently, and finally he said “Son, did you do most things the best that you could?” and I could honestly answer that Yes, I had. “Then it’s time to decide that it’s ok and to not waste too much time trying to fix the past.”

With that in mind, the Costa Mesa show now lives on the shelf in my mind marked “Fuck it.”

The next morning, even though I had a later departure time than most of the rest of the band, I decided to go down early and help with check-out in any way I could. Unfortunately, the lobby was STILL thwamped with thudents, so I was unable to buy coffee or breakfast. Without coffee, I was no help. Mostly my contribution to loading up all our gear and getting everyone and their guitars to the airport was standing dumbly ALMOST out of the way. My friend Christopher once remarked that my personality isn’t dependent on having two cups of coffee in the morning, my personality IS two cups of coffee in the morning. Leave that out and you get the Madame Tussaud’s version of Patrick.

Tour manager Bob (who is my personal hero for the tour, btw) procured a bus for us, and we shuttled to LAX, then he checked everyone in at once, sent bags to the right planes and then he and I went to find our own flight (we’re the only two Southerners on the tour, and both were flying into Hartsfield) and some breakfast.

I skipped an EIGHT DOLLAR(!!!) sandwich at Starbucks and we each had a hotdog instead. Ah, the glamourous life.

The flight was uneventful, for which I am thankful, because I don’t much care for flying.

My lovely wife met me at the airport, and we went and had a late, late supper at our favorite Korean place in Atlanta before driving home.

Later, after she had fallen asleep, I found myself sitting up in bed, with my dogs around me and her sleeping peacefully at my side, thinking “Well…….. that was interesting.”

A day off in SoCal

Mars, Bob, Tricia and I drove into LA today to go to SIR and check out our rental gear for the West Coast dates. Taylor at SIR walked me upstairs to see my kit for these dates. It’s going to be a really kickass white pearl DW kit, in the sizes I prefer and with a full set of Paiste 2002 cymbals. SWEET.

After Tricia checked her digital mixer and made sure she had all of her outboard gear, we adjourned to Barney’s Beanery and had a surprisingly mediocre meal. I had chorizo and eggs, which was good enough, I suppose, though the chorizo was pretty gristly. Bob’s chicken fried steak was totally average or slightly below, and Trish didn’t have a whole lot of good things to say about her meal. A friend had told me earlier in the day “When you’re in LA, go eat at Poquito Mas! It’s cheap, convenient and really amazing.”

I am also a huge fan of La Versaille… next time I am gonna insist.

OK, but Barney’s is super famous and has been there forever, so we had to give it a shot. We may have just had the wrong cook today, I dunno, but it was much ado about bleh.

After that, and after being stuck in traffic something like ten times (in 90º heat) just trying to run some normal errands, we decided that hanging out in LA was just going to be a drag once everyone escaped from their jobs at 5pm, so we headed back out to Long Beach.

I haven’t done a whole lot since then except to tell Bob the famous five-eight Roman Candle story, update my personal/professional website and listen to Tall Tree 6 ft. Man over the internet.

I think that the drunk guys in the next hotel room have either passed out or gone out to do more drinking, so I may call it a night soon and hope that I am too far gone if/when they get back to be awakened by the sounds of their return.

I probably should have blogged on the flight, but…

I totally got sucked into American History X and then M*A*S*H* (the original Robert Altman film) as they played on the seatback screen in front of me…. but I am already ahead of myself. Let me back up to where I left off.

After Boston, we drove all night to Long Island, got there about dawn. I woke up in the bus and found out that the van was leaving for the hotel and showers in just minutes, so I slammed a cup of coffee, threw a bottle of water into my carryon bag, along with my shaving kit and some clean clothes, then off Mars and I went to the hotel. I was able to shower there and shave for the first time in days. (I wish I could grow a decent beard, but I have no real facial hair to speak of. After three days it looks like I am growing a nice little volunteer fireman mustache, and after a week I just look like a catfish.)

We played in Westbury, NY, which is right smack in the middle of Long Island, I believe. The venue was called the North Fork Theatre, and it was sort of interesting. Built in 1966, apparently, it looks like nothing on the inside so much as some sort of rock and roll flying saucer. It is possible for bands to play there in the round, though we had the seats behind us blocked off. (I have to admit that I was a bit relieved about that. I like the idea of playing in the round in theory, but in practice it would make me a bit uptight…)

The backstage was once again palatial, and the chef, a woman named Wendy, turned out the most amazing meal of the tour! There was a lovely Penne Bolognese, a Chicken/corn tortilla casserole, three amazing desserts, several vegetarian options, some really fine local bread… one of the desserts was a puff pastry stuffed with a mango cream… I’m telling you, it was amazing.

The afternoon was spent, for me, doing some laundry in the venue’s laundrette and later hanging out with Pat Egan from Relapse Records. Pat’s a huge fan of the Alarm, so it was nice to be able to hook him up with a ticket for a good seat to see his boys ROCK Long Island.

The Furs show that night was VERY well played, and Richard did his best to bring the audience into the show, but the North Fork’s stage has a barricade and a thirty foot gap between the band and the audience. Richard leapt over the barricade and tried to engage the audience in the immediacy of the rock and roll spectacle that was unfolding in front of them. Somehow, probably because they were sitting down on comfy seats, they sort of watched and listened… intently, certainly, but there was precious little dancing in the aisles.

After the show, the Butler brothers were having a tete a tete about the crowd, and I realized that the subdued response was a source of some distress to them. I found this very interesting, in that it reassures me of something that I really like about this band (and for Richard especially): Every show counts. It really upsets these guys if the audience seems detached or if the show itself doesn’t go well. I think this speaks very well of their commitment to their fans and their music. It’s good to be part of an organization that really cares. There are plenty of bands who, at this stage of their careers, might turn in some half-assed performances and count on their catalogue of hits to continue to pull crowds. The Furs, fortunately, still want to play great shows.

John rushed off after the show, as his lovely wife is having a baby! (I think I can speak about that without jeopardizing the band’s privacy.) The rest of the band took the bus to the Ramada next to JFK to get some rest before the next day’s flight to California. Tricia and I got a bunch of the gear loaded into her room for safekeeping for the night. That was a real trial…

The next day, we loaded out of the hotel, got a shuttle bus to JFK and checked 22 bags of assorted guitars, flight cases full of keyboards, an odd drum here and there, and all of our non-carryon bags. We flew six hours to the Long Beach airport and deplaned at nine pm local time, midnight EST. We were pretty beat. I don’t particularly care for flying. (This will come as no shock to regular readers of this weblog.) Yesterday’s flight wasn’t THAT bad, as flights go- nice big plane, so turbulence was minimized and I had a little screen to stare at to keep my mind from racing.

We checked into our hotel here in Long Beach and today was a fairly relaxed day off.

Shuffle off to…

Buffalo rocked, top to bottom, left to right… Great crowd, great show, I went out with some friends of Mars afterwards and had a great meal in a great bar in a great part of town while a great DJ played all of my new favorite records.

We played some sort of free festival in Gateway Park in Tonawanda, NY, which is just outside Buffalo. There must have been 15 or 16 thousand people watching. The Alarm played before us tonight- I stood by the stage and watched their whole set tonight. Mike Peters told the story of how he was lying in bed trying not to die in a hospital last year, getting ready to do six weeks of chemotherapy and the first email he got telling him to get better was from a guy right here in Buffalo. “This song’s for him, it’s called ‘Never Give In Without a Fight!'”

Nice one.

The Furs’ set was the best of the tour so far. I was nervous as a cat looking out at so many people before we played, but Amanda kept reminding me “Remember, just think of it as us playing in our living room….” Once we settled into the show, i calmed down some, and we just rocked it like we owned it.

The crowd was very enthusiastic and after our encore, we all holed up on the bus for a little while. There were wings from the Anchor Bar, which is where Buffalo wings were invented. I had a few and they were very nice.

Mars and I ended up going out with a bass player friend of his named Kent Weber. Kent is pretty well known in Buffalo and has played thousands of gigs. He took us to a bar in the Allentown neighborhood of Buffalo and we had an amazing late night meal of bread, tapenade, olives, and pressed sandwiches. It was incredible. The bar was the Allen Street Hardware Cafe. While were there, there was a DJ from Chicago spinning classic soul, acid funk and downtempo hip hop. It was a fantastic set, and as a former DJ myself, I was impressed. I will update later with his name, since I grabbed one of his disks, but it’s in the cargo bay of the bus right now.

I also met John Lombardo, one of the founding members of 10,000 Maniacs and now of John and Mary. We talked about his recording at John Keane Studios, where I have made a couple of records and where I was fortunate enough to work on the most recent B-52s record as a drum tech. He liked Athens a lot, as would anyone. We also talked about old movies and the Beatles.

I was deliriously happy, even though I had to keep pounding cups of coffee to stay awake. When Mars and I finally got back to the hotel, it must have been half past three. I happily staggered into my room and fell into bed.

and the hits just keep on coming…

the thread over at the Electrical Audio bbs that I mentioned yesterday continues to provide massive entertainment value for the time invested:

About six weeks ago, at a show, to a friend, I said something like, “you can break my kneecap again if it meant no one ever had to hear the Eagles ever again.”

Two weeks ago, I rebroke the thing.

In the hospital after a very nasty surgery, friend says to me “at least we won’t have to hear the Eagles again.”

Today in the orthopedist’s waiting room, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” played over the PA.

Fuckin’ world.

Thanks for that, anonymous stranger.  There are over 150 pages of these small observations from people’s lives.  Some are truly mundane and not terribly interesting, others are just fascinating.   I have decided to just read it like a book of poetry, take what I like and leave the rest.  I have the time, now, so I may as well.

In other, much more tragic news, my friend Chris just lost one of his dogs, Greta, to some unknown poison.  She was a young dog, a gentle soul- some sort of chow mix, and sweet, sweet, sweet.  I last saw her at the New Years Day celebration at my house, where she happily blended right in with our little dog pack.  Chris, we’re all terribly sorry for you and your sweet wife.  Here is one of my favorite Pablo Neruda poems.  It gave me peace when Buddha passed.

An excerpt:

now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Greta, rest well.

One last entry for the day

this is the transcript of an instant messaging conversation between my wife and me from tonight:

patrick: go sleep, sweetie
patrick: don’t stay awake on my account
patrick: because when you wake up
patrick: I’ll be one day closer to home
lmf: rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Patrick Ferguson: sweetie

Patrick Ferguson: you are either starting a chainsaw

Patrick Ferguson: or you have fallen asleep with your hand on the keyboard.
lmf: fellasleep

lmf: i beeter close this

patrick: yes, sweetie. Close your laptop.

patrick: goodnight, babe.

12:05 AM
lmf has gone offline.

Downtime is good. Downtime is bad.

There’s nothing like downtime on a bus tour. The band is at a hotel in upstate New York near where several of the guys in the Furs live. We’ve got the rest of today and tomorrow before we have to be in Buffalo for our next gig.

We have done laundry. We have had lunch. We have had mid-afternoon snacks. I have washed in the sink the gig shirt I forgot to wash at the laundromat. (It was pretty funky.) I have called my lovely wife. I have called my best friend. I have stared out the window (there’s a really big rabbit out there under a spruce tree and he’s been there eating clover for an hour or so). It is now 7:30. Nap? Supper? Movie?

Days off on bus tours mean a lot of hanging out in one’s hotel room. It’s not terribly interesting, especially if you’re like me and you find tv to be way too manipulative and exploitative. (Manipulative: commercials- “you’re too fat, you’re too short, your armpits stink, your breath stinks, your feet stink, your hair shouldn’t be gray or people will think you’re old…” or you get the same message in a thousand more subtle ways from the shows. Exploitative: reality tv- “look at how FUCKED UP these people are! Aren’t you glad you’re not them?? By the way, YOU’RE TOO FAT! and your life is BORING!”)

This has given me some opportunity to sort of meditate on what boredom IS.  My father always used to tell me that only boring people get bored. An old friend of mine from the rooms used to tell me that boredom was a form of anger. (I am *still* puzzling over that one… Maybe he meant when people announce that they’re bored in relationships? i dunno…) Either way, I am now regretting that I wasn’t more aggressive about buying books yesterday at the Baltimore Harbor Barnes & Noble.

I see now how rock and roll musicians get into trouble. The 19-year-old me would have found a way to do something profoundly stupid with this down time. A day off in a hotel room in a hotel with a pool? No adult supervision? Add drugs and/or alcohol into that mix and shake…. Oh, the horror.

Mostly I have been reading the news and other commentary on the internet and doing some work by checking in at my day job and making sure that nothing’s on fire there. I probably should have slept more, since there are people in the band who are fighting off colds. Your two best antibiotics are sleep and water. I should have been pounding both.

Tonight wasn’t much fun.

Man, tonight was so hard. I really hope the fans didn’t feel it like I did tonight, because it was TOUGH. I was really struggling tonight.

Because of my background in Music Hates You and all of the other punk and hard bands I have played in, when I get a really exciting song in front of me, there’s a temptation to play it way too fast.  I have been fighting my instincts to play a couple of songs at punk rock tempos this tour….  In an attempt to stop “Into You Like A Train” from running away like… well… a runaway train, I made some changes. Tonight I had a click track running in one ear so that I could keep the songs within an acceptable tempo.

BUT… apparently a couple of the click tempos felt too slow for Richard tonight, so he gave me the “pick it up” high sign, so I had to play the song AGAINST the click track in my ear, which was really weird. Imagine that if you can, playing a song while this metronome clicks away in one ear at a completely irrelevant tempo. It’s downright disorienting.
It was impossible to know after that how the song felt to the rest of the band because it feels to ME like I am rushing terribly. Additionally, one of the great things about Richard as a singer (and one of the things that makes him so distinctive) is that his phrasing is very languid and loose. He sings behind the beat. Sometimes he’s actually singing *way* behind the beat, so there’s a temptation to slow down, because it sounds like he’s saying “You’re playing too fast so I am going to sing more slowly to let you know.”
so…
I have the rest of the band in one ear at one tempo, with Richard singing another tempo, and the click track banging out a third tempo in the other ear. I was so disoriented that I anticipated  the breakdown coming back from the guitar solo in “President Gas” and played it too early. This frustrated everyone. After that, I was just struggling to hang on. There were some parts of the gig that went well, but I was mostly just losing my mind. I am probably overthinking this and making it harder for myself, but there was one point tonight where I felt like jumping off of the drum riser and running away.

I haven’t been that uncomfortable onstage since I was a kid playing my first gigs. I felt lost at sea. The rest of the band said that despite the fuckup in President Gas and a little bit of rushing on a couple of songs, it was all-in-all not so bad a gig. The fans seemed to be having a wonderful time, and I guess that’s what matters at the end of the day. Tomorrow is another show in another town and another opportunity to get it right. I really like this band. I hate to disappoint them.

We shall see.