step one: confirm the problem before finding a solution

I knew that when I got to Europe, I was going to need cymbals. Backline companies over there have decided that cymbals are a bad bet, since they’re 1. the part of a drumset most likely to break, and 2. outrageously expensive in the UK. The cymbals I use for Music Hates You are massive, heaaaavy manhole cover-like cymbals. The Low Lows need brighter, lighter, more responsive cymbals that will make a sound when hit by with brushes.

I couldn’t afford to buy a whole other set of cymbals for just one tour, so I set about the process of borrowing cymbals. Funny thing, people weren’t all that keen on loaning me their bronze. Maybe it’s because they’ve seen my cymbal-smashing playing with Music Hates You…. BUT I assure you, The Low Lows are a whole different approach to playing drums.

Still, no offers.

Kim at Monotreme contacted me in the middle of all of this running around and asked if I might looking into buying a set of cymbals for the label while I am still in the States, since, as I mentioned, cymbals are outrageously expensive in the UK. That way, Monotreme will have cymbals for other bands to use when they come over from the US.

I checked Guitar Center’s prices and looked into some other options, but the best, by far, was the deal we could get from this guy:

Nick Amoroso.

Nick supplies backline kits to a lot of drummers in LA, and has a sterling reputation. He also has a private email list he sends out with a bunch of used gear on it which is for sale at very, very good prices. A friend forwarded it to me, I picked out what seemed like the PERFECT set of cymbals for The Low Lows, and then sent all of that info to Kim at Monotreme. She paid Nick and, since time was short, I had him ship everything to my folks’ house in DC.

The box arrived 24 hours later. I love this guy.

My plan was to fashion some sort of duct tape handle and carry the box of cymbals onto the plane, since I am allowed one laptop case and one carryon.

However, when I got in last night and saw the cymbal box that Nick sent, I realized that, with packing materials, it was way, way too big to carry on. I knew that the largest cymbal would be 20″ across, but packing materials and the box added several inches to its width. There was no way I was going to be able to carry it on. I didn’t even open the box to look at the cymbals, I was so tired and concerned… I fell asleep mulling over the issue.

Then, probably because of the cumulative fatigue of yesterday’s five hour flight delay and being exhausted by my general anxiety at flying, I slept deeply and much later than I meant to this morning. I woke up in a panic, realizing that I only had a few hours to go and grab a cymbal bag so I could carry the cymbals on.

I called the nearest music store that I could find in the Yellow Pages, and they said that they had a cymbal bag. We drove over there in the horrible DC traffic which was typically stop and go and crappy. Since we had several things to do today, like pick up our race packets for the marathon tomorrow, the time wasted in traffic was pretty stressful. I mean, the clock was ticking on all the shit that we had to do today…

So, we get to the music store… and… no cymbal bag. It was some a suburban band instrument store and they didn’t know that they didn’t have it until we got there. Typical sort of “Give an answer on the phone, then check to see if the answer was correct later” scenario.

So, they give us terrible TERRIBLE and vague directions to Guitar Center. It takes us an hour to get there in traffic. More stop and go, more crappy. We get there, and I spend precious dollars that I was going to spend in the UK (where EVERYTHING is expensive), and I grab a cymbal bag.

It was nice enough. Kind of cheap, but something that will work. Then we spend an hour hacking our way back across town to my folks’ place, where I open the box full of cymbals for the first time…. and… Nick, saint that he is, has shipped the cymbals with a really nice Zildjian cymbal bag. Honestly, the nicest one I have ever seen.

Is this whole trip going to be like this?

Travel Tip

Hey, kids, if you’re traveling to another country to play music, and you’re gonna get paid for it, you’re gonna need an entry visa and a work permit. The label or tour promoter in that country will probably take care of that stuff for you, because they’re generally cool like that.

However.

YES, however, if you’re going to send them your passport number so that these things can be issued to you, make sure you give them the RIGHT NUMBER. See, if you have an old passport and you have to get a new one, don’t assume that your new passport will have the same number as your old one… BECAUSE IT WON’T.

If you show up at the airline counter with mismatched passport and visa/permit numbers, YOU WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO BOARD THE PLANE.

So, in short, if you’re going to release a record in Europe, see if the label Monotreme UK will do it for you, because Kim Harrison-Lavoie there is SHARP, and she’ll catch that shit while you’re still sitting at your desk at your day job. She might panic a little, and you might panic too, but once you call the British Government’s Panicked Passport and Visa line (900.990.8472 – $2.49 a minute, so talk fast!), you’ll discover that you just need to bring your old passport with you through customs.

Whew.

Make sure you email Kim at the end of the phone call and tell her that it’s ALL GOOD.

See, a lesser label might have allowed you to leave that old passport right there in your desk drawer where you tossed it when you got your new one. But not Monotreme, no sir. Imagine for a moment what it would have been like to arrive at the check in counter for British Airways, after all of this- preparation, practices, money and time spent, only to be told to go home…. “Your papers are not in order…” OR worse, if the counter person at BA wasn’t super-sharp, flying all the way to Heathrow, de-planing, only to find yourself turned around at customs and told to go home. Thanks to Kim’s sharp eye, I am still on track to leave DC on Sunday night and arrive in London before the morning tea break.

Bonus behaviors-
call your singer/bandleader and leave minute by minute messages on his voice mail, starting with “OH NOOOOOOOEEESSS!!!!11!!1!!” message.) He’s sleeping it off while you’re at work, anyway. Bastard. He needs that little “HOLY SHIT, NO DRUMMER FOR THE UK TOUR” moment first thing in the morning. Then, your consecutive follow messages (which will eventually culminate in a “Never mind, it’s ALL GOOD” message) will gradually bring him back to earth.

(Hi, Parker. Sorry.)

Then, gentle readers, I had to go home and say goodbye to these faces:

It’s like breaking free from the earth’s gravitational pull, tearing myself away from those two sets of brown eyes. Once escape velocity was reached, We were headed for the airport….

I must confide something to you

I am somewhat apprehensive about this trip I have coming up.

There were years where I left home for stretches of 60 to 90 days all the time. I am suddenly reminded that there’s a particular type of melancholy that descends upon me when I know that I am going to away for so long. Sure, yes, I am going on one hell of an adventure, but I am also leaving my lovely wife, my dogs and my nice little farmhouse behind.

Of course, I don’t expect anyone to understand that. If someone else I knew was going on this tour, I’d say “Button it. Quit complaining.”

Living in the now is hard work, though, and I just hope that nothing at my job explodes or that, y’know, any of the nightmare scenarios I can cook up in my head come to pass.

Also, what sort of idiot runs a marathon he is only marginally prepared for, them immediately jumps on an airplane for another continent? It’s a good thing there aren’t any dragons around, these days. I don’t know that I would be content to just play St. George…. I’d have to do it with lampshade on my head or something… for that extra frisson of “God, how did I get myself into this?” anxiety.

health and travel update

“It’s allergies… don’t go get antibiotics… you’ve just got Fall allergies.”

Please don’t say this to me ever again.  You know who you are.  In less than 48 hours, the antibiotics cleared up my “allergies” almost completely, also arresting the progress of the bronchitis and whatever other nastiness was happening in my chest.  I realize that antibiotics should not be passed out like party favors, etc etc, but when one has been sick for three weeks to a month, it’s time to see what modern medicine can do.
My passport is due here on the 18th or so.
Parker from the Low Lows is calling me saying “Come to New York City, we’re having a blast and we have some down time so you could get in a few practices.”  This is, I believe, what the metaphor of the “Sirens’ Call” was created to describe.   I have so much to do here, and also so little money right now.

I am kinda worried about what incidental expenses are going to be like in the UK.  What with the exchange rate doing what it’s doing in reaction to the Madness of King George.

Let’s see….

Last time I was in London, a meal in a restaurant was averaging about £9.00 GBP (and that was nothing spectacular), and with the current exchange rate that comes to about $17.00 USD for a burger and some beans.  That’s before tip and whatever it cost to get there via train or cab.

Aheh.  Oh, shit.

Well, there’s always the Old Stand-bys.

god, I feel rough

headache, coughing, general malaise. I think I have been working a little too hard. Tried to make an appointment with the doctor today, and he’s out of the office. So is his partner. This kinda sucks. I have heard horror stories about people who were training for marathons and got “the cough” which turned into pneumonia just days after the marathon.

The Low Lows left to do the American leg of their tour today. We had a four hour practice yesterday, after which everyone was exhausted. I hauled my drums back to the house so that I can keep working on the material there while they are traveling. I sat down on the couch “for a few minutes” to check my email and fell asleep for two hours. I managed to burn a pot of beans doing that. Ten meals go into the garbage. In my present finincial condition, that’s not good.

No word yet from Bosphorus about that endorsement deal. Going to call them later.

There has been much discussion about what bags are going to be checked and what are going to be carried on. The Low Lows want to bring a ton of amps and guitars, because they want to leave a cache of equipment with their European label for use the next time they go over. I am flying round trip out of DC post marathon, so the best deal out of Dulles is British Airways. (Yay! Free socks!) The only hangup is that I can only check two and carry-on two bags with BA. Those guys want me to mule a couple of guitars over. I dunno if that’s going to be possible if I am taking a snare and cymbals…

logistics are the worst part of touring before you leave, after you leave it’s lack of rest and finding places to poop. The glamorous life of a rockstar….

::Update:: Sinus infection and bronchitis. I have been prescribed an expectorant, prednisone, an antibiotic and MORE REST.