Show tonight, and a few observations about the English

By the way, the rehearsal space doesn’t have a bathroom. It’s literally just a garage with some carpet and some speakers and stuff. It has a great sound system, and as a room it sounds excellent, but there’s no place to pee. Coffee is the only thing keeping me upright these days and that only wants to ride around so long before it has to go.

Now, there are two Public Toilets down the street and around the corner at Clapham Junction Station. These mechanical public toilets cost 10p to use, but one of them is either broken or it’s permanently occupied, and the other won’t take my 10p coin. I had to slip behind them last night and pee in the bushes. Today, without the cover of darkness, I had to work something else out. There’s a pub even further up the road from the station, but it’s a long walk, we have work to do and by the way, MY LEGS HURT.

Last night, Parker and Daniel were drinking Stella Artois in big 16 oz. cans. There were a couple of empties in the space.

So I peed in one of these empty Stella cans. Not out in front of everyone, mind you. I stood behind the big curtain at the door. Then I went outside and poured the contents into the gutter. I only tell you this because someone happened to walk by while I was out there dumping it. I probably had a look of general distaste on my face, because this wasn’t a task I relished. So, this guy is walking by, sees the can in my hand, the look on my face and that I am pouring it out, so he says “Yah, that stuff is piss, innit?”

Oh, buddy. You don’t know how right you are….

The show tonight was fantastic. The promoter, the club owner, the guy who books the bands and Kim from the label, they were all thrilled with the Low Lows. We had great dynamics, good enthusiasm, and we played very well. All in all, a great show.

Also saw the mighty W.I.Z.- film and video director and a good friend. He enjoyed the Low Lows as well. We went and had a curry and he caught me up on the latest Cockney rhyming slang, all of which is too filthy to mention here.

W.I.Z. got a call while we were sitting in the Kilburn pub, which is where we were eating, and I had the opportunity to people-watch. I saw two guys who looked like old friends, and they were talking. One of them had a big nose. While I was watching, the other guy made some sort of crack about the nose, I think. He grabbed his own noise, then pointed at his buddy’s, then threw his head back and had a laugh.

Bignose wasn’t having any of it, and he made a facial expression I have only ever seen the British use, and it was perfect. With the slightest change of his expression, mostly just a slackening of the jaw muscles, a subtle roll of the eyes, and a slight pursing of the lips, Bignose managed to communicate all of the following:

“Yeah, I got a big nose. Go ahead, you can have some fun at my expense. But you should know how horribly, horribly this disappoints me. I mean, I knew you would say it eventually, but I had hopes that you wouldn’t sink to it. God, sometimes you’re boring.”

All of that was communicated with the mildest tilt of the head, a little downturn at the edges of the mouth, and a brief but beseeching glance around the room to see if anyone less BORING was hanging around looking for someone to talk to. I was stunned by the subtlety and conciseness of the gesture. Pure poise. Must be an English thing.

It’s half past three in the morning, and I am probably babbling from fatigue… but I won’t be falling asleep too soon, since I have discovered that they sell the Lindt super dark chocolate bars here for £1.00. These are the same chocolate bars that sell in the US for $4.00 each.

So, I have to wait for the sugar buzz to wear off.

After the show, I was hanging out after the show and was informed that there were two women there who had come to see the Low Lows, because they were FRIENDS OF JEREMY! (that’s the Low Lows’ regular drummer, for those of you just joining us.) I felt like such a turd… here is a woman and her friend who have traveled out on a weeknight (a worknight!) to see an old friend, only to find that some other guys has not only stole his tambourine, but he’s PLAYING IT behind JEREMY’S BAND. They managed to hide their disappointment well.

Jeremy, if you’re reading this, we tried to be entertaining and gracious hosts. Don’t hate me.

rehearsing under the train

So, after sleeping for three and a half or four hours, we rose and found that Kim had made us some supper. We had a lovely meal and Keef showed up with the van. We motored over to a rehearsal hall underneath Clapham Junction Tube Station. There is a series of arched spaces underneath the old train bridge, and one of these is a damp-smelling rehearsal hall with a drum kit and a PA, an old piano, some amplifiers and an electric tea kettle that doesn’t work.

We had a really good rehearsal for four guys who hadn’t slept much in the last four or so days. The rental hall has good sound except for the rumbling of the train going over our heads and the hum through the amps of the electric power that runs the train.

I guess we played for about four hours. Afterwards, Kim showed up and we went back to her place, listened to music and had a snack. I managed to get the missus on iChat and we talked until it was three a.m. here in London. I miss her.

Finally, I passed out and had odd dreams that I was alone in the room and that all of the lights where on. I opened my eyes, the lights were off and everyone else was sleeping.

Today we slept until 10 am, had breakfast at the house and then caught a taxi to the rehearsal hall. We just finished rehearsing- it’s been four hours again. The songs sound excellent, particularly “Disappearer” and “Tigers.” “Disappearer” is so heavy and sad that Parker was joking that we should have a roadie who, instead of handing us fresh guitars or wiping the sweat off of our faces, runs out with a towel and dabs the tears away from our eyes…

We are opening for I Love You But I Have Chosen Darkness tonight. I don’t know anything about this band.

I am going to lie down on the (cold, hard) floor of the rehearsal space and nap for a bit. I will proof this and publish it later…

A Thousand Mile Journey

begins with a 30 mile jog…

My legs aching like they’d been caught in a trash compacter, I wasn’t able to sleep on the flight across the ocean. Then, when we got to Heathrow, we sat on the tarmac within sight of the gate for 45 minutes. (that’s not an exaggeration)

When I finally got through the gate, I got to passport control, and the line stretched about a hundred yards back towards the gate. I stood behind the last guy in line, who I nosily surmised held a Ugandan passport. Some guy pushed up behind me to close that I had to turn sideways to stay in line. This guy started a 40 minute chess game with me, whereupon every time the line moved forward, he tried to position himself so that he could get by me. Yes, the line was interminably long, and didn’t seem to be moving at all, and yes, I understand that no one wants to wait one second longer than necessary, but he wasn’t going to shorten his wait at my expense. Maybe on any other day, at any other time, I would have just let it pass and let him have his 30 second advantage, but I was just Not In The Mood.

I had to step on the cuff of his baggy trousers to keep him from slipping past me when someone finally called “Next!” When he staggered and nearly spun completely around, I slipped past him to the desk. Asshole.

So, 45 minutes on the tarmac, an hour in line at passport control, I was now two hours late to meet the rest of the band and Kim from Monotreme, and I still hadn’t gone through baggage search. I chose the “Nothing to Declare” line and walked into a room where several people were having their luggage rummaged. I held my head up and walked through like I knew what I was doing, across the room and out the door on the other side. No one said a word to me.

Finally found Kim and then we walked a million miles through Heathrow until we got out the top and met the rest of the band. I won’t bore you with any more details.

We had about an hour van ride with “Keef,” our Man With Van here in the UK, to get to Kim’s house, and we were all exhausted. I had slept about five hours in 48.

We found spots on the floor of Kim’s living room. I opened a notebook and wrote myself a note because I knew I was going to wake up completely disoriented and not knowing where I was. The note said “Patrick, Don’t Panic. You’re in the UK with Daniel and Parker. All is well.”

Then, everything went black.

A Thousand Mile Journey

begins with a 30 mile jog…

My legs aching like they’d been caught in a trash compacter, I wasn’t able to sleep on the flight across the ocean. Then, when we got to Heathrow, we sat on the tarmac within sight of the gate for 45 minutes. (that’s not an exaggeration)

When I finally got through the gate, I got to passport control, and the line stretched about a hundred yards back towards the gate. I stood behind the last guy in line, who I nosily surmised held a Ugandan passport. Some guy pushed up behind me to close that I had to turn sideways to stay in line. This guy started a 40 minute chess game with me, whereupon every time the line moved forward, he tried to position himself so that he could get by me. Yes, the line was interminably long, and didn’t seem to be moving at all, and yes, I understand that no one wants to wait one second longer than necessary, but he wasn’t going to shorten his wait at my expense. Maybe on any other day, at any other time, I would have just let it pass and let him have his 30 second advantage, but I was just Not In The Mood.

I had to step on the cuff of his baggy trousers to keep him from slipping past me when someone finally called “Next!” When he staggered and nearly spun completely around, I slipped past him to the desk. Asshole.

So, 45 minutes on the tarmac, an hour in line at passport control, I was now two hours late to meet the rest of the band and Kim from Monotreme, and I still hadn’t gone through baggage search. I chose the “Nothing to Declare” line and walked into a room where several people were having their luggage rummaged. I held my head up and walked through like I knew what I was doing, across the room and out the door on the other side. No one said a word to me.

Finally found Kim and then we walked a million miles through Heathrow until we got out the top and met the rest of the band. I won’t bore you with any more details.

We had about an hour van ride with “Keef,” our Man With Van here in the UK, to get to Kim’s house, and we were all exhausted. I had slept about five hours in 48.

We found spots on the floor of Kim’s living room and I opened a notebook and wrote myself a note because I knew I was going to wake up completely disoriented and not knowing where I was. The note said “Patrick, Don’t Panic. You’re in the UK with Daniel and Parker. All is well.”

Then, everything went black.

The Marathon and after

I have just woke up here in London, and we’re about to run out and practice some for tomorrow night’s show:

Here is an excerpt from a letter I just sent to my step father:

I did run the marathon, and fortunately, I did not die. I saw that guy lying by the road and wondered if he didn’t make it. (Wouldn’t you rather go doing something more fun that running a marathon?)
My legs feel like an orangutan with a hammer got after them, though.

I ran the fastest 20 miles of my life. Unfortunately, the race is a full 10 kilometers longer than that. Once I ran across the 14th St Bridge, the mechanics of my stride fell apart, and my achilles tendon started to really ache, so I ran/walked in (mostly walked). eponymous really set the world on fire and ran a faster marathon than I have ever run.

The plane ride was fortunately uneventful. I really like flying British Airways. They took good care of me. (Gordon L, I have your British Airways socks.) Their business and club class are the classiest going. Of course, I was back in Sardine class, so I didn’t get to enjoy the FULL British Airways experience, but I did get my free socks, eyeshades, hairbrush and all the tea I could drink.

Rode next to a very nice lady from Ghana who was very understanding that I had to get up and stretch my legs every now and then. She had three lovely daughters with her, aged five, seven and ten. They lived in the US, and mama felt like it was time that the girls saw Africa, because they had never been there.

Getting into Heathrow was a huge pain in the ass, though. I will get to that. We’re about to run off and go to practice for tomorrow night’s show.

More later.

-patrick

Race Day

The most anxious morning on the Runner’s Calendar. I was up at 5:50am. Got a nice phone call from the missus. Showered, put a generous coating of Aquaphor on all my parts that might chafe, and taped up the teats. (You’d be amazed how much one’s nipples will bleed in a race if they are allowed to rub against one’s shirt.)

Just had a bowl of oatmeal and a half a cup of coffee.

Next, we go to the train and we’re off.

Wish me luck.

Tomorrow? Gonna be a long day

Up at six a.m. so that eponymous, my father and I can run 26.2 miles. This is my sixth marathon. This is eponymous’s first. He has trained with me all year until the last month, when I got too sick to run for three weeks.

This last month has not been much for training. I am heavier than I want to be for this run. I have not trained by doing my long, long runs (18+ miles). However, I have done this race in even worse shape than I am now… so it’s possible. It won’t be FUN, but it will get done.

Tomorrow is going to be COLD and WINDY here in DC. Not two of my favorite conditions for running a marathon.

Then, I will come home, eat a little something, soak in a hot bath, nap, and then go get on an airplane and fly to London. As I have mentioned before, I am a very uneasy flier. Not so much a Jet Setter as a Jet Wetter.

However, considering that I will have run nearly 30 miles, I bet I will pass out the second we are airborne. I am probably going to take a Tylenol PM or two, too. I need to sleep as much as possible to rest after the ‘thon. I am gonna be a hurtin’ puppy in London if I don’t.

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….