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.”

Why won’t you talk about Costa Mesa?

Well, because it was my least favorite show of the tour, thanks for asking. I can explain why, and it has nothing to do with the performances of the band members directly, but what happened to our monitor mix right before we went on…

[UPDATE] I spoke to someone in the Furs organization yesterday and he corrected me- it was not our Aux Monitor mix, it was our entire digital I/O rig, which stands for Input/Output. In civilian speak, that’s EVERYTHING onstage and how it gets to the mixing board and then back to the speakers. So… it’s truly amazing that a show happened at all.[/UPDATE]

Let me quote myself, if I may, from a long letter to the Furs Faithful on their own webboard, Burned Down Days. I was responding to some thoughtful and gentle criticisms leveled by the band’s fans after the Costa Mesa show, and I am quoting a previous comment by a user named “skyler”:

The tour was fantastic and a great opportunity and I wouldn’t change a thing… except… Costa Mesa. And here’s why:

Quote from: skyler on 07/18/07, 01:02 AM
I was at the show tonight and there was someting horribly wrong with the sound. The sound for the Alarm and the Fixx was perfect. During the set up for the Fur’s set, Richard’s microphone didn’t work. Then when the Furs came on, Mar’s microphone didn’t work so you couldn’t hear the sax during Heartbeat. The reason Love My Way was performed during the encore was because the marimba part was playing out of time during the first part of the show and Richard stopped the song visibly upset but he carried on like the professional that he is and gave a great performance for the rest of the show.

Every bit of this is absolutely correct, and you possess a VERY sharp set of ears and eyes, sir ma’am.

Here’s what happened:

After the Fixx finished their set, they struck their equipment, I came up and set up my drums correctly, and people were rushing around getting ready for the Furs set to begin. Somewhere in this hurried set of preparations, someone, no doubt a local crew member trying to be helpful, unplugged the Furs’ auxiliary monitor mix. This killed power to our wireless mics (Richard’s vocal, Mars’ sax) and the minidisk player containing the marimba part for “Love my Way” and our submixes. Our front of house engineer (that’s the person who mixes what the audience hears) saw everything go dead on her board and knew something was wrong. She sprang into action and had to run down to the stage, while we, the band, had no idea that there was a problem. Security saw a woman running towards the stage and tackled her, further delaying her from fixing the problem.

Once she was able to get past them, she was able to plug the mixer back in, but because it is digital, then it defaults to factory settings. She threw a fast approximation of the mix together, rushed back to her station at the FOH mixing board, which was near the back of the 10,000 person crowd, and we started playing. We still had no idea that anything was wrong. In the meantime, Mars started blowing his sax, but his mic was still not in the mix. Our engineer had to leave her station AGAIN, come down and enable the sax mic. I don’t know the technical details of all of this, but what you saw and related her mirrors exactly what was happening.

NOW. By the end of “Heartbeat,” miraculously, our FOH engineer (and I would love to tell you her name and give you her email address so you could say to her “NICE RECOVERY!!!” but I don’t have her permission) had gotten order restored and the set was underway. However, the monitor engineer (this is the guy who is in charge of adjusting what the band hears) was a local guy, and somehow didn’t realize that he absolutely HAD to unmute the Minidisk player in my monitor for me to play “Love my Way” in time. See, in the version of “LmW” that we all know and love, there’s a marimba part that is a crucial part of the song. Now, it’s not feasible financially or logistically, to bring a marimba player on the road for one song. (Ever see a marimba up close? It’s the size of a zebra.) So, the Furs have the marimba part recorded onto a Minidisk, which I stop and start as necessary. (I hate to lift the curtain on this bit of magic and show the strings and wires that hold some of the show together, but I think it’s better if you understand what happened.)

Now, so that the hand can start in unison, there’s an eight count click before the marimba part starts. Some of you who have stood very close to the stage have heard that “tock tock tock tock” at the beginning of that song. This gives me four counts to get the tempo in my head, then four to count the rest of the band in, and Bang!, off we go.

Well, monitor guy was one bong hit past competent, I am guessing. I hit “start” on the track, waited for the “tock tock tock” and heard nothing, then suddenly, the marimba part for “Love my Way” was playing through the main speakers (the ones facing you, the audience). THE CROWD GOES WILD! Everyone on stage froze. I hit “stop,” then turned to face the monitor guy and gave him a look I call “The Big Eyes,” which is International Musician Sign Language for “Um… dude?” I thought, well, certainly by now he knows that he needs to unmute the Minidisk player in my monitor. Make that “two bong hits past competent.” The second try netted the same results as the first. I even tried, lamely, to count everyone in to come in eight bars late and we’ll try to catch up. Richard, wisely vetoed this idea.

This, of course, makes everyone onstage furious. There’s nothing like feeling silly in front of a few thousand of your closest friends.

Now, at this point, there are two people who should know what is going on. Me… and monitor guy. No one else has any idea why this isn’t working. Remember, none of us onstage knows about the chaos going on behind the scenes, we just know two things: Mars’ sax was inaudible in “Heartbeat,” and now this.

Richard, once again wisely, elects to move on to “Ghost in You,” so we did, and I will be the first to admit that we played it a little shakily for half of the song, because there was a lot of quantum weirdness going on.

AFTER THAT, i think that the show kicked into high gear and we played well right through the encore, even though we were somewhat shaken. The Furs, to their credit, rose above a series of obstacles that would have stopped many other bands IN THEIR TRACKS, and then put on a great rock show. Full stop. Respect to the Butler brothers, John, Mars and Amanda. The idea of calling a halt to the show never even occurred to them.

Afterwards, talking to our engineer and road manager about what was going on, I was stunned (STUNNED!) at 1. how much had gone wrong in the minutes before the show was supposed to start, and 2. how much they managed to fix before we got onstage. Full credit goes to them for their professionalism and also to the Furs for their indomitable spirit and commitment to great performances.

[…]

I don’t know what the future holds for me and the Furs. I was called at the last minute, and I won’t presume to know if they will ever use me as a drummer ever again, but I wanted to make sure that the record was straight about the last show.

As I said on my blog, “…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.”

So… that’s the long and short of it. It did sort of put a mild damper on post-gig celebrations, but that’s why it’s “Live” and not “Perfect.” I still think it was a strong show, and that the Furs are the most professional outfit I’ve ever worked with, so I left with much love and pride about the tour.

Later, I will talk about the trip home, and all that… LAX, here I come!

This neighborhood seems to so familiar…

After our show in San Diego, we loaded up the bus and headed north towards San Francisco. For my east coast readers who are geographically challenged on West Coat locations, that’s pretty much the longest drive of this tour. I sat with Amanda in the back lounge of the bus for a few minutes once we were under way, thinking “I’ll stay up for a while and hang out and do some reading.” True to form for most of this tour, I was falling asleep before we were outside the city limits, so I went to bunk.

I woke up somewhere in Northern California on the 405. Coffee was already made (Mars usually wakes up before anyone) and I sat watching the tawny brown hills roll by, and the wind farms with their massive whirling propellers. The bus slowed down for no apparent reason and I looked out to see a large white SUV lying on its side in the left lane, surrounded by CHP cars. Ah, California, you don’t change…

We arrived in SF early, parked outside the club and I got out and did some walking around. It took me about half an hour to realize that I had been in this neighborhood before. Ever do that thing where you walk into a place from a new direction, and you think “This all seems familiar, but completely unfamiliar too….”? Then, suddenly, your perspective shifts and it all snaps into place?

In 1991, my band Five-Eight recorded a full-length album in SF at a studio called Brilliant Studios. We were there for a month and a half in a neighborhood where prostitutes and addicts roamed the streets at all hours of the day and night. It turns out that the club we were playing, The Mezzanine, is either in the exact same space as the building-formerly-known-as-Brilliant-Studios, or is less than a block away.

The area has some new buildings, and there have been some attempts at gentrification, but it’s still a really crappy area. While we were in the club doing soundcheck, someone smashed the window on a club employee named Sarah’s car for really NO REASON. They didn’t steal anything, just wanted to break some glass. Ah, city life.

I wandered off for some brunch at a nearby restaurant and then returned for sound check. The club has some pretty deluxe accommodations, including a stone tiled shower, which I availed myself of. Later, I got to visit with my friend Deanne, her massive pitt bull/Great Dane mix named Jumbo, and also checked out her sisters amazing organization Muttville, a place for old dogs who need to be placed with foster owners or just nurtured through the difficult times at the end of their lives. What an amazing thing they’re doing. If you live in Cali, schedule a visit and maybe take an old dog home. If you don’t, send money. Kibble ain’t cheap.

Back in time to discover that Tu Lan had closed for the day, so we went to a taqueria nearby.

The Mezzanine was packed when I got back to the club. The Alarm were busy bringing The Rock to the faithful. I swear, if there’s any justice in the world, one day it will be possible to walk into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and see Mike Peters’ giant rock and roll heart up there on the wall next to fragments of Pete Townshend’s guitar and chunks of Keith Moon’s waterlogged Rolls Royce.

I didn’t think it was possible, but by the time the Fixx had finished their set, there were MORE people in the club. It was a complete capacity crowd. No more paying customers, no more guests, no more nobody but (god forbid) the Fire Marshall.

We came out and I started playing the intro to “Heartbeat.” Mars began his sax solo and then the whole band came crashing in. Concurrent with this, I felt a rush of warmth over my lower body. I thought… “I don’t think I just pissed myself…” As the song went on, it turned into a burning sensation, heat all over me, and I thought… “Oh, my god… That’s SO HOT…. OH! OH MY GOD!!” The lighting designer had put two spotlights directly behind the drum riser, and they were WAY! TOO! HOT! to be used that close to actual human flesh. By the time we got to the bridge for “Heartbeat,” I was beginning to worry for my safety. I ended up scooting the drum seat as far forward as I could to get away from the heat, but it wasn’t doing much good. By the end of the song, I was pretty certain I had been burned bad enough to leave a lovely red spot.

Once the song ended, I draped a towel over the back of my drum seat, creating a small shade barrier between me and the lights, which lessened my discomfort some, but didn’t mask the burning completely. Other than that, it was my favorite show of the tour. The crowd was really into the show and the sound was fantastic. I don’t know what more I could have asked for.

Afterwards, I said goodnight to my SF friends, climbed back onto the bus, and off we rolled, into the dark.

San Diego is kind of an interesting place

I don’t know why TBogg wasn’t at the show, though.  I emailed him a COUPLE of times… maybe he was at the zoo.  Ah, well.  Maybe he was was ignoring me…

We bused down from Long Beach in the morning.  I was late for the bus call because I got my signals crossed with the tour manager, so everyone ended up waiting for me while I was in the hotel room reading Firedoglake.  I got a little razzing for it from Mars, but it’s all fine.

The drive to San Diego was uneventful and the scenery was lovely.  I sat in the back lounge watching the hills roll by until they gave way to ocean.  Our West Coast bus is even larger than our East Coast bus was, and we set about the process of distributing our stuff and claiming our respective bunks.  My bunk is now officially driver’s side front, top bunk.  I like the fact that there is an outlet next to my head on this bus, so that I can plug in my phone to charge once I crawl up in there.  The clearance on bus bunks is just enough to lie down, so on the last bus, when the outlet was down by my feet, it was REALLY difficult to plug in my phone before going to bed.  The outlet was just a tiny bit too far for me to reach when I was standing next to the bunk because it’s so tall.  It’s the little things…

Arrival is San Diego was fairly noneventful as well. Hot and bright at midmorning, then sound check, then several of us wandered down to the mall and were all reminded that recreational shopping is not really part of the options available to musicians, for the most part. Who spends $100 on a shirt? I did buy a coffee and some Ben and Jerry’s while I was down there, and even that was really expensive.

The show was one of the best yet, with the minor problem of me being unable to see the set list during a complete blackout between songs. Almost started “Heaven” where “Heartbreak Beat” was supposed to be. John saw it coming and called the count to a halt just in time.

After the show I met a large crowd of the Furs’ Faithful. What nice people! Welch, thanks for the photos! My favorite photo from the tour so far is one of Richard and I playing “Dumb Waiters” in Buffalo:

I walked Tricia, our front of house engineer, to the 7-11 after the show so she could get a few things, and man, the streets of downtown San Diego at closing time are a freakin’ ZOO. Glad I don’t have to live with that reality every day.

Once we reboarded the bus, it was time to drive to San Francisco.

I remember that there was a Blues Traveler tour shirt from some years ago with the slogan “While you’re dreaming, we’re driving” on it. So true…

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.

running to catch up

OK! It’s been a whirlwind couple of days, so let me try to bring this weblog up to speed with a quickness:

Point Pleasant in New Jersey is the whole concept and ethos of the Jersey Shore incarnate. I had a blast. The venue was sort of a semi-enclosed stage backing up to a lovely white sand beach. Down south, close to Florida, there’s so much coastline and most of it is developed in ways to prevent the kind of MASSIVE crowds you see on Jersey beaches. It was amazing how tightly packed the humanity was there. Around nightfall, they all went home, put on different shorts and came back for the show.

It was hot and loud onstage, and the crowd seemed like it was inches away. I haven’t been so comfortable onstage with the Furs as I was in Jersey. It was much more like a Music Hates You show than any of the other shows we’ve played, so I was totally in my element. The show itself was a little faster and harder than past shows as a result I think. John was playing his guitar like it had blades on it and Tim and I locked in nice and tight. I am really starting to feel the Furs songs in my bones like a good drummer should. The crowd was AMPED, and Richard was bringing the show to them.

We played an abbreviated set to accommodate the city’s fireworks display, so it was a nice, concise, hard-hitting blast of rock and roll. I had a fantastic time and came offstage drenched in sweat and my ears were ringing like two bells. The crowd was like a massive beast with an insatiable appetite. I think that if we’d wanted to, they would have hung from the stage and kept roaring if we played all night.

After the gear was stowed in the trailer, we headed off into the night for Boston, and I fell asleep two or three times in the back lounge before finally giving up and going to bunk.

I woke up on the bus, dropped down out of my top bunk and staggered around looking for coffee and my shoes. When I finally exited the bus, I was facing down the street. I turned around, stretched and looked up and what should appear before my eyes? The giant sign on the back of the right field wall of Fenway Park that announces that it’s the home of the Boston Red Socks! I had been sleeping in the shadow of the Green Monster! The house that Teddy Ballgame built! Awesomeness.

Wandered around Boston a little bit and found some coffee. Wandered back to the bus. It’s interesting how superfluous the drummer is until the gig. Later, I wandered over to the Berklee School of Music and saw the oldest drum shop in America, according to the counter guy there. It was also, oddly, the only store I wandered into in Boston where they weren’t at least mildly rude. I don’t really belong here. I would probably adapt after some years here, but man, the whole “The customer is always an asshole” thing just clashes against my southern sensibilities.

I changed a couple of drum heads at soundcheck and then Hugo showed up. He showed me the college where he teaches. If you happen to live in Boston, you have to see the art show that’s hanging there if you get a chance. I love this guy’s work. He’s got a great eye, and he seems to always find the most interesting angle to shoot his photos from. It’s not the largest show, and I wish there were more photos, but I really feel like Zaltman deserves more exposure.

Hugo and I went and had an amazing meal of sushi at his SECOND favorite sushi place. We went to his favorite place only to discover that they were closed for vacation. RATS! Still, the second favorite place blew anything I have experienced out of the water. Amazing meal, it was…

Hugo’s father is having a little better time of it, but the prognosis isn’t good. I can’t even really fully comprehend what he’s going through. I can’t even think about losing my father without being overwhelmed with sadness. I am glad I was able to fill in for him on this tour, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity.

WELL, on to less depressing topics!!!!

Hugo had to go grab his lovely daughter from the sitter, so he missed the gig itself, which is a shame, since it was another scorcher. I am finally so comfortable with the Furs tunes that I can really DIG IN and knock the hell out of the drums, which is, y’know, what I do best. The Butlers NOTICED, too. We had a real barn burner last night. Some of the tunes like “Dumb Waiters” and “President Gas” slowed down a little bit and swaggered like an angry drunk. I was digging the sort of menacing feel of last night’s gig, and I think the crowd was as well.

Oh, and “Only You and I” felt CATACLYSMIC last night. Fine gig. All of the gigs lately have been high points. I hope that keeps up.

After the show, there was some milling around backstage, and I actually met one of the guys from the band SS Decontrol, which was kind of insane. I used to love those guys back in the day.

Then, back on the bus for the drive to Long Island, and I went to bunk about 4am. Now that I am more comfortable with the tunes, I am really having fun.

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.

with Hugo’s blessing

I spoke with Hugo Burnham yesterday.  For those of you just joining us, he was the drummer who had been picked for this tour before he had to return to the UK for an emergency.  He’s back in the States, now.  He is bearing up, as is his essential nature.  (Hugo doesn’t just have the classic British stiff upper lip, he’s got an iron backbone as well.)
We talked about the ups and downs of my adventure with the Psychedelic Furs and how it’s steadily getting better, and we talked about how fun it would have been for him and the Furs if he’d been able to do this.  I asked him if he wanted, y’know, now that he was back in the States and all, for me to approach the band and say “Hugo is back if you want him.”  He’s such a great drummer and would be such a natural for the Furs.

No, he said.  Too much on his mind, too much on his plate, and he’s glad I am having fun.  So.

They’re stuck with me, I guess.

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.