"Tour" is a bizarre word to use in this context. We did two shows and were away from home for five days. It still ranks as one of my favorite "touring" experiences to date; it was essentially non-stop fun.
We left LA the morning of Friday July 7, destination San Francisco. Rich Lewis came to gather me at my home at about 9:30. I was booking the night's hotel room as he arrived. Until that minute we were planning to squat at friends' abodes in order to save me money, but suddenly I realized what a cheapskate I was being and how much more valuable it would be to drop a few bucks and enjoy the luxury of rented quarters we could claim as all our own. (The lucky winner was the Holiday Lodge on Van Ness. If you stay there ask for room 152; it's basically an apartment with three beds and a kitchenette, which I got for the price of a regular double. It functioned brilliantly as BFD headquarters. But I digress...we still haven't left LA have we.)
From my home it was a quick jaunt in Rich's jaunty red Aerostar to Bryan's place. (A word or two about Rich Lewis: he's spectacular. He's been supplying me with equipment for a few months and taping all our shows, and offered himself to us as driver/de facto road manager for this journey. There'll be more journeys to come.) Bryan had just returned from having his sunglasses repaired when we came to get him. I shudder to consider what a shambles the tour might have become if Bryan hadn't made the time to get his sunglasses repaired.
Gather Toss and our equipage and the road is hit. Toss has to drive separately because he's staying in SF to do some recording with Lyle Workman after our business is through. Toss is, like, the busy maniac boy lately.
We took 101 North. We should have stopped for lunch in Solvaang because it's a cool place to enjoy a fine enjoyable lunch. But I am a fool and I did not treat the Solvaang exit with the required urgency and Rich passed it by and Toss followed and I said we'll take lunch in Solvaang upon our return. And of course we took the 5 home. You know, sometimes life plays cruel tricks. Sometimes the tunnel narrows and you can't open your eyes and you can only dream futilely of true profound meaningful peace, ya know? Anyway we ate at an Applebee's somewhere up the way, can't remember the name of the town but our waitress had really amazingly beautiful eyes that pierced the afternoon gloom, two high french horn notes in perfect harmony, and with really excellent intonation and maybe a little chorusing added, but not too warbly.
Bryan had been riding with Toss to keep the lad company but he jumps in our van at some point along the way because it's hot and Toss refuses to engage the AC. Bryan then sleeps like a Beller in the back seat while Rich and I listen to a procession of CDs ("Mirror Ball" by NY/PJ kicks off road trips very nicely, keep it in mind) and Richly-compiled cassettes of guitar stuff. I begin to learn a lot about Rich, a true guitar fan. He's made the acquaintance of many a notable string-strangler, and was collaborating on some projects with Danny Gatton when the unfortunate occurred. Rich's music-love is inspiring and bodes well for the shows...a cynical crew (even a crew of one) can have a damaging effect on a band, an open, generous crew (even a crew of one) can only help matters. They don't come more open and generous than Mr. Lewis.
(I know I've switched from past to present tense. Let me run with it man, I'm IN THE MOMENT.)
Making reasonable time we arrive at the splendid Holiday Lounge with daylight still our ally. We're shown what was to be our room, then what could be our room and we gleefully nab the could be. Anywhere we park, we are informed, we risk the unwanted removal of the equipment from our gleaming tour vehicle by roving nasties, so we haul as much of it as we can with eight arms in one trip up to the room and cover the rest with a convenient huge black cloth thing. It conceals and is good. We sure make a lot of phone calls at this point, I cash in my bandleader status and proclaim dibs on the hotel room phone. Toss waits for me, impatient BB hauls hisself to the gas station phone 'cross the street. We're all lining up friends and troublemakers for the evening's revelry. Bryan has an interesting situation in the works but I don't believe it's within the parameters of what I personally consider appropriate bandleader behavior to divulge its nature here without his approval. But we are focused on what happens to him this and the following evening. Suffice to say the desired result is not achieved and you, dear reader, may employ your imaginations to fill in the blanks (it's probably more interesting than what actually happened).
The Rendezvous Cafe is a block away and we eat in it. My veg lasagna is not the treat that Bryan's spicy peanut noodle thing is and he eats half of it now and half of it hours later in the room, shoveling it in by hand for want of cutlery. (I believe Rich captured this on video. I hope this is the case.)
My high school friend Gavin is supposed to meet us at the Rendezvous and doesn't. I call home from the cafe pay phone and the phone's off the hook - Jesse's been playing with it again. It's just as well, Viv has come to hate the phone for the amount of time I spend on it (Jesse just thinks it's fascinating, and by the age of one she can already convincingly simulate one side of a phone conversation by taking any convenient facsimile - a cassette case, perhaps, or my wallet - lifting it to her ear and babbling a sentence, waiting for several seconds for a response, babbling again, waiting again, LAUGHING at her imaginary phone-mate's bon mot, waiting, babbling and then proffering the faux-phone to her astonished Dad so he can speak to whomever it is as well, waiting for me to say "do you want to talk to Jesse again?" at which point she reaches out for the "phone", takes it back and babbles etc. - and while she's doing the babbling waiting laughing etc. she effects the PERFECT half-glazed focused-on-a-fixed-point-in-mid-space I'm-on-the-phone expression. I'm sorry if every other kid in the world can do this as well but I just think it's wonderful. Back to our story). Rich and I wait a cultured amount of time for Gavin to arrive while Toss and Bryan purchase alcohol nearby. Then we leave.
Back to the hotel and the procession of friends commences. Party enhancements are imbibed, Rich video-tapes things to the steadily building annoyance of our Bryan. Friends include Gavin who has arrived, Doug from EMG pickups (he and I discuss a recent job-related development which might have serious impact on our professional relationship - he handles the situation with great aplomb and I'm newly impressed with his demeanor and earnestness), Chandra from Guitar Player (she's responsible for booking the gig in Berkeley. She is, as we say in the trade, a gem), assorted fascinating acquaintances of Bryan and Toss - especially Toss' friend Hector, about whom much more later. The stage whereby all the fun which can possibly be wrenched from this particular location has been so wrenched is reached, and the five-to-ten minute grace period for all room occupants to achieve this realization lapses, and we hit the street which culminates in our arrival at the splendid Club 101. There's pool tables which means a happy Beller. Unfortunately he meets his match with Doug and this rankles him no end; they play several times with the same dire results. (BB's a competitive lad. During our final van descent into SF when we should've been admiring the unique attributes of our new temporary home, we were playing the Beller family driving game whereby one contestant starts at A, the other at Z and you each worm your way through the alphabet via the words which pass by [ie. Arco, Buick, crossing, Drive etc.]. I'd started at Z and BB was busily breezing past L and M and the like when finally Zanker Dr. roared up and made a gift of itself to me, we then met at Q and battled it out for a good long while, Bryan craned his neck and spied a hard-won "quality" and had barely ten seconds to gloat when a nice plump "quality" dropped off a billboard on the left and into my lap. I eventually made to A while Bryan was cursing the lack of Xerox repair shops in the area. This means an unhappy Beller. I eventually took him two out of three for the tour.)
It gets respectably late enough to leave the bar and consider turning in. Walking back to the hotel it suddenly becomes unpleasantly obvious to me that Toss' good buddy Hector is a real, real unpleasant drunk. He is shouting, accosting transients, and when a car backfires nearby he reels from the "gunshot" and sprawls onto the hood of a car which he, in his dementia, thinks is parked on the side of the road but is in fact stopped at a red light. The saint behind the wheel contents her/himself with a peremptory blurt of the car horn, and Hector is peeled off the car. He'd been offering the use of a condo for the following evening in order to save us some expenses and I was considering it, but at this point I don't feel like accepting favors from him. I get him to stand quietly long enough to discuss this with him: "Is there REALLY a condo? Is this a trustworthy offer?" He sort of acknowledges that he is to be trusted, then seconds later a huge sixteen-wheeler pulls up to another stop light and Hector thinks the best thing to do in this situation is to leap up onto the cab, stick his head in the window and scream as loud as he can at the driver. At this point he really should be shot, and I just stand there kind of waiting for that to happen, but Bryan takes it upon himself to physically lift Hector off and down from the truck (Hector's not huge but I guess he's stocky, 'cause Bryan said later he couldn't believe how heavy the guy was). I've had my fill of Hector at this point, the condo is out of the question. Our other guests depart to their separate destinations, Hector comes up to the room with us and sits there unsteadily whilst I glare without speaking. He might be waiting for an invitation to stay (he's surely in no condition to drive) but none is forthcoming. He discreetly slips at the door and, to his great credit, sleeps in his car and drives home in the morning.
In the morning we would really like to find a different place to eat but the Rendezvous Cafe is just too inviting so our pioneering instincts are thwarted by the cry of the needful gut. Our waitress is a punkesque lass who plays trumpet in a local funk band. Of course I try to talk her into playing a trumpet solo on "Uglytown" at the gig that night - of course she will not come. Toss', Rich's and my food rocks but Bryan's omelette does not contain cheese, onions and mushrooms as ordered; ten minutes into the eating portion of the meal our waitress apologetically delivers a side plate of onions and mushrooms, which in fact contains only mushrooms and by which time only a couple of uninviting bites of wizened egg dot Bry's plate anyway. He milks a good ten minutes of grumbling out of this.
(You just love reading about our breakfast, don't you? The Keneally Kredo: Give The People Something Other Than What They Want)
Aaahhh, I'm sick of the sight of these guys so we split up now and I poke around a used record shop. Too many things to buy and I'm trying to keep expenses to a minimum, but a good-condition copy of the recalled version of Neil Young's debut LP (different mix) proves irresistable at twenty-five bucks; at least I limit myself to only that. On the street a car horn plays a goofy, Bunny- Hop-ish 6/8 melody. It sticks in my head, I add new parts, start writing accompaniment and I decide it would make a nice intro to "Draconian Blump", a long instrumental that'll be on the next Keneally album. I need to return to the lodge and write it down; I forgot to bring manuscript paper but the Toss-man has got that dept. dicked.
Panos has tossed himself by the hotel pool when I return; a lion sunning hisself. He looks and sounds very happy. Up in the room Bryan and Rich have returned from a nearby, evidently underwhelming music store ("oh it was REAlly GREAT" drips Bryan) and are intonating Bryan's bass. I scrawl out the "Blump" intro while Rich kindly intonates the Clapton Strat then I start practicing which prompts Rich to goose the dreaded camera into action. I make some calls which Rich tapes as Bryan watches, and to make the video more interesting I attempt to pick up a large hotel room chair, place the seat on my head, set it upright on a bed and stand on my head on top of it all while maintaing a civil phone conversation, but Bryan ruins the effect by bellowing "what the HELL are you doing". He gets on the phone and I man the camera, getting tight closeups of the lattice-work chair-back to see if any distorted images are visible through the holes (I haven't reviewed the video yet so I don't know how successful this gambit was). I train the camera on BB and he - how do I put this discreetly - exposes his ween for my benefit, but through the eyepiece I can't tell if it might be a thumb. Or as the old gag goes "it's kind of like a penis, only smaller."
Toss (who will do something fairly horrific with his own prong within mere hours) joins us in the room, tanned and godly. Bryan is quite the Adonis these days as well, having lost something close to two thousand pounds in the last six days. I, having long lost interest in my much-vaunted exercise regimen (fucking loser that I am) look like Big Boy after a couple of six-packs and unfamiliar with the very concept of a Norelco. It's good to have a couple of sex symbols in the band when you look the way I do. Toss gets his practice pad and furiously taps away, I return to my guitar and thrash away, and Bryan scratches his nards vigorously, all simultaneously on three adjacent beds. This should be a good piece of video - BB observes that you couldn't hope for a more concise depiction of BFD's working methods.
Time to get to Berkeley Square. Stop for gas and Fruitopia and hit the bridge to Berkeley, Rich and I in the van and Bryan and Toss bringing up the rear. It's beautiful little drive. Arriving at the venue I discover the deception which has been perpetrated: The club said soundcheck at 6:00, however that meant for the headline act (which is not us, it's M.I.R.V., a popular local act whose admiration for us was a help in getting us on the bill). This is a drag 'cause we'd told our friends to meet us at the club around 6:45, in other words after soundcheck , so we could all go out to dinner. So our buds arrive (including the very marvelous Lyle Workman) and have to wait around for awhile, which is not so bad 'cause it's a cool bar and there's pool tables, but when Henry Kaiser arrives it's clear that he's not particularly interested in sitting around in this sort of place for too long (when I'd told him a few days earlier where we were playing he exclaimed, Henry Kaiser-like: "Why are you playing there? That's a terrible place! They'll hate you there!" The other thing I knew about the club was that someone had been shot in the men's room not too long ago, so I was dripping with joy about playing there). I tell him to return around 8:00 and he takes off and instantly it's time for our soundcheck, so I have to leave messages on his machine telling him to get back sooner blah blah. I love this kind of stuff. Soundcheck occurs and it sounds magnificent on stage. Tonight could be a good thing.
If memory serves it's Gavin's friend Fred who recommends a nearby Thai place called Siam for dinner, and our sizable party (about fourteen by now) prepares to invade their establishment. During the walk I encounter a couple of stalwart fans from Sacramento who make it to just about all of our California shows and they ask for permission to videotape the night's proceedings, which they receive (Rich Lewis will be doing so as well). I ask them to keep an eye out for Henry at the club and to direct him toward the eating establishment of choice just in case HK hadn't gotten my phone message with the essential data but shortly thereafter the vigilant Mr. Kaiser makes an entrance, along with his friend Danielle and her friend Jason, who was a friend of Bryan and Joe Travers at Berklee and at whose apartment I took part in a very altered jam last year on a day off during a Z tour (it was captured on DAT and included really warped versions of "Jazz Discharge" and "Inca Roads" plus much improvised stuff - 'twas one of those magical musical nights. I'm serious). Turns out Danielle went to Berklee as well. Bryan and I are knocked out by the connections, we're all knocked out by the meal and by the fact that the restaurant didn't flinch at the unexpected arrival of our party, which has swelled to around twenty by now. Much delightfully chaotic conversation. Separate checks are in order and Henry gleefully snatches mine away chortling "I'm going to buy Mike Keneally dinner!". Sadly, Danielle's food contained trace amounts of peanut to which she is allergic, she's in great spirits and not too concerned but both she and Henry know that her condition could worsen at any minute, so they regretfully must take their leave before taking in our performance. They do walk us back to the club, which Rich (of course) videotapes, and at one point he passes by a gaggle of snazzily appointed drug lords one of whom accosts him with the standard "you don't put that camera on ME motherfucker" drollery. I'm completely oblivious to this, happily trotting and conversing along as I am, and I'm stunned when Rich tells me about it later, although the way he made it sound I'd thought they had a platoon's worth of Uzi's trained on him. (Bryan saw the relevant piece of tape later and said it wasn't quite so threatening. Still, it can't have been fun.)
At the club my nephew Bob is there waiting. His mom, my sister Fran, waits back at the local Days Inn (she, an extremely upstanding and religious woman, saw me with FZ at the Beacon Theater in 1988 and was quite thoroughly horrified, to the extent that she had so small concern for the eventual fate of my soul. She now and forever opts not to see me in such a context). Bob is a weekend DJ at the X in Reno, and a Keneally proponent unparalleled. Don't talk to me about nepotism, at this stage I definitely need all the help I can get. On stage is the first act, Stoners With Boners (yeah, it's a good thing Fran's not here), a really spirited rap with live accompaniment band. Bryan says they're the Beastie Boys meet Cypress Hill which nails it. They're great. We're next up, and we set up quickly so we can squeeze in as much playing as possible.
We start with "Rosemary Girl", an easy song with a long solo to warm up. (My nephew says that at this point some guy in the audience was saying "these guys suck! There's nothing unique about them at all!" Bob was ready to fight, but as the show got progressively odder the fellow evidently didn't have so much to say.) It feels great and the band is 100% happy. We wind through "Lightnin' Roy", "My Dilemma", "Spoon Guy", "Uglytown", "Dolphins", "Performing Miracles", "Day of the Cow 1", "Snowcow" and "Day of the Cow 2". This brings us to the end of our allotted performance time but the club grants us an encore. "Quimby" and "I Can't Stop" it is. We leaned more on "hat" material because the tempos are faster and I thought the chances of the crowd growing restless were pretty good, but there was no cause for concern. The audience was great, we played well and had a fabulous time; this was one of the good ones for sure. I sold a good amount of CDs and T-shirts and didn't take a complete bath financially. (Toss, Bryan and Rich get paid no matter what so every little bit helps.) Thank you, Chandra, for setting this up for us.
Afterwards Toss decides to test his luck with Hector and leaves with him and another buddy. Poor Hector had been trying all night to behave after last night's transgressions, which I acknowledge and praise him for. Sadly, while trying to help Beller with his equipment, he spills some beer on one of Bryan's bass cases and gets hissed at. Toss will later tell me that Hector went off the deep end again that night, screaming and hitting Toss and his friend, and they end up pushing him out of their car while it's still in motion ("we weren't going THAT fast", Toss will later claim defensively). Somehow they all make it back to Hector's condo and Hector passes out on the living room floor, and Toss' friend convinces Toss that some symbolic action must be taken in order to make Hector pay for what he's done. How to put this delicately - Toss' friend slaps Hector in the face with an appendage that a person, unless the circumstances are extremely friendly, would probably rather not be slapped in the face with. Toss refuses to join in this madness, but after an hour of quietly sitting and considering the pros and cons of the gesture decides that it's really all for the best. Then he sits down, gets up and does it again. Apparently Hector awakened during one of the slappings, protested very meekly and returned to blissful unconciousness.
While this merry fun was taking place, Bryan, Rich and myself had joined my nephew and sister in their hotel room for friendly conversation over milk and Lorna Doones. Life on the road: it's different things for different people.
We take our time waking up, standard procedure on any morning following a show. Schedule-wise it's a low-pressure day. All we need to specifically accomplish is a four-hour drive north to Garberville, and we've got all day to do it. Toss is not among us when we awaken around 10:30 or so, he's passed out at Hector's condo having wonderful dreams, and we're planning to meet up with him at Lyle Workman's place in San Rafael around 1:00 PM. Bryan hits the shower first, with enviable vigor. Rich and I straggle in afterward (separately mind you).
The 1:00 meeting time includes the promise of lunch so we don't want to eat too heavily, and forego returning to the Rendezvous to eat the nuclear- looking "things on a croissant" dish that so tantalized us yesterday when we saw it delivered unto another diner in the establishment and made Bryan's thwarted egg dish that much more pitiful. Today we must "eat light" and invade a designer coffee joint called something like the "Polk Ave. Bean Bistro", only the word "Bean" looks more like "Boan" because they use a coffee bean for the "e". Personally I get great emotional fulfillment from eating in a place with the word "boan" in its name even if it isn't really, and this helps my appetite. The three of us order delicate little food items, grab newspaper segments and keep pesky interrelating to a groggy Sunday morn minimum.
Check out of the Holiday Lodge, give them back one less room key than that with which we were entrusted because Toss still has his. All future residents of Rm. 152, watch out! Toss may drunkenly join you in bed on some enchanted evening.
A quick jaunt to San Rafael brings us to Mr. Workman's hideaway paradise. He's got it made; beautiful home, beautiful neighborhood, extremely beautiful wife, fully rocking home studio. I seethe with jealousy (at least I've got the beautiful wife thing going for me). Lyle plays us a bunch of 10-second advertising jingles he's whipped up on spec and it's some of the best and funniest music I've ever heard. I hope he sets up his own Website one day and offers up some of these things as downloadables - they are truly awesome. Toss arrives in the midst of this and he's near-dead on his feet, didn't get to sleep until 7:00 AM, woke up at 10:00, got lost three or four times on his way to Lyle's. In other words he's a prime target for abuse and I exploit him gleefully in this regard.
Everything is within walking distance in San Rafael and we hoof it to a nearby cafe, Toss babbling many entertaining hung-over non sequitirs along the way. Sitting in the patio dining area Rich is interested to view our comely first-day-on-the-job waitress removing a stray particle of food from the face of the young man at the next table (turns out to be her boyfriend, we find out after he leaves, and I ponder just how audible Toss' groans at his girlfriend's physique might have been from his vantage point). Several people at the table order "smoothies" which turn out to be really lame. If I could remember the name of the cafe I'd specifically warn you against them, but I can't, so just don't order a "smoothie" anywhere in San Rafael. My sandwich rocked though.
Down the street is a music store called The Amazing Banana Moment or something, and within it we cavort for a couple of hours to the dazed disapproval of Toss ("how would you like it if I made you hang around a drum shop for two hours?"). Beller is fully in his element, he's an equipment bug. In truth kicking around guitar shops holds only slightly more allure for me than it does for Toss, but seeing a couple of Epiphone SGs on the wall makes me suddenly hunger for SG ownership and I doodle around on a nice cherry red unit for a while. Lyle plays one of his patented maniac chord sequences into a digital unit of some sort and solos brilliantly on top of it for a while, I try my hand and feel like a deer learning to walk. Beller learns the structure and the two of us flail. I am given five picks by the kindly person who works in the store - who, crazily enough, recognizes Bryan from his shows at Berklee. This small world action is getting weird.
Walking back to Lyle's Bryan hates himself momentarily for not taking the opportunity to loll about in the nearby video arcade during some portion of the last two hours, and I callously forbid him to sample its pleasures now, for the road must be taken. Goodbye to the Workmans (Workmen?) and off we go. Toss has become way too tired to drive and allows Bryan to drive his spectacular little vehicle - in Toss' mind this is a great honor, as far as Bryan's concerned that's a load of rubbish. Toss spends the first part of the drive in his own passenger seat but transfers to the back seat of our van when we stop to gas up. Now Bryan can run the air conditioner in peace, and signal us to pull over and jump out and berate us for not stopping to see the world's largest tree house. Sorry Bry.
Garberville, that thriving, marijuana-financed hub of Humboldt County, captures our love from the moment of arrival. It is small, lush and friendly. We witness a drug deal in the parking lot as we load our stuff into the hotel room, and the room itself is marvelous, with an extra enclosed bedroom for Toss to be hung over in. I instantly regret that we're not spending more time here.
Bryan and I decide to look around and we go for a little walk, with immediate and lasting repercussions.
Bryan and I gleefully take to the street. We want to eat this town alive, absorb it into our veins, have it become us and vice versa, we're just giddily loving all about Garberville. Right by the hotel is a bar called "The Blue Room Lounge". I beg you to think of a better name for a bar. There's a fairly uninspiring looking record store right across the street but I simply love the fact that it's there. It's closed of course, it being after 2:00 PM on a Sunday and all.
Not too far down the street is a movie theatre. A young lady enjoys a cigarette in the open front doorway, enjoying the mingling of cool night air with menthol-filtered slow death. We glimpse the innards of the theatre - rustic wooden heavenlyness. I want to be here for a week. After a little more giddy town absorption we decide to hightail it back to the hotel so we can make the big decision to eat either Italian or Mexican (two adjacent such restaurants are a mere parking lot away from the back of the hotel which houses us; between the hotel and restaurant row is Drug Deal Central).
During the walk back I'm jawing endlessly about some bullshit and Bry spies coming our way a young lady with blonde hair with black hair-ends - comely young punkishness in effect. They look at each other, and again. They pass. Both turn to look again, and again. I remain oblivious during part one of all this furtiveness and finally catch on for the final several glimpses in a series of at least twenty. By this time she is quite a ways behind us and obviously has met up with some friends, at least two of whom are male. Bryan has the intense cosmic dilemma within him now as he decides whether he needs to pursue this matter, pendulumarily stomping back and forth within a four-foot parameter of sidewalk. He breaks out of this imaginary boundary and takes a few more resigned steps hotel-ward before suddenly striding purposefully girl-ward. The boys-her-own-age with whom she's deep in conversation exert a powerful shield and limit Bryan's advance to, once again, the front of the theatre, where Bryan's deductive powers flower..."small town. Everyone knows everyone else. Smoking movie theatre girl will identify for me distant punkish object of indiscriminate hormonal secretions."
Bryan puts forth the question of the hour to smoking theatre girl. Oh, sure. That's Brenna, says she. Pause. Then the theatre girl collapses in hysterics. "I'm sorry", she says, "it was just too funny watching you look back at each other again and again". What a proud moment for our Bryan. A somewhat older young woman now exits the building and enters our orbit as Bryan is asking smoker girl about Brenna's age. "Oh, she's eighteen" proffers the new arrival. "She's single too". Both natives eye us with equal measures suspicion and great, great amusement. Bryan seems to make the call that now is not the time to achieve contact, in a town the size of this there shall have to be further opportunity awaiting, surely simply by being out and about later this evening their paths will cross once again. We thank our informers and head back and Bryan immediately begins to question his instincts. If I wasn't so damn hungry I might question them too but I've got more pressing lusts to be satiated.
Rich is thrilled to hear, upon our return, that the Garberville trawling ritual has already begun. (Rich and I are good faithful married boys, and rely VERY MUCH on the travails of our fellow soldiers to keep us discreetly titillated.) Toss has made useful inroads toward the land of the living and we spend a few minutes deciding whether the Italian or the Mexican establishment is worthy of our patronage. Imagine the bemused expressions on the fronts of our heads when we enter both places of business and find that they are one and the same, two front doors leading to one large restaurant with a kitchen specializing in both genres of cuisine. The "Italian" half of the place has cooler decor than the "Mexican" - old advertising doodads and product packaging from long-gone eras, for which a sucker I am. Some of it's downright inexplicable...a Penzoil ad which encourages you to "Sound Your Z", for instance. After much discussion (during which Rich says, oh, five times that it's an invitation to play the "Shampoo" album before I finally, rudely, inform him that it's "Shampoohorn") we decide that it means fuck-all. Another ad has a cartoon pig advising the reader to get "the milk bank boost" from the product being advertised. Eh? At the Rendezvous Cafe in SF yesterday we were thrilled to find a menu item labelled "bagel with cram cheese"; thus ,"I get the milk bank boost from cram cheese" momentarily is in the running for official tour title but it's just too gangly to achieve wide acceptance. Our waitress in this here Italimex joint is experiencing her first day on the job, as was our San Rafael waitress. Odd to get two in one day. Both did a fine job delivering food to yours truly but left others in our party dissatisfied for some trivial reason or another (once I get my own food I become notoriously disinterested in the problems of others at my table).
Finish our meal and hit the hotel room briefly. Moods are altered by various means and the Blue Room Lounge beckons like a blinkin' beacon.
(A brief note: during my August computer hiatus, some details about this tour have undoubtedly run screaming from my head. Apologies if the nature of my documentation seems less detail-intensive.)
Whenever I enter a small bar in a small town, even a town which seems to be teeming with tolerance, I always fleetingly consider the possibility that I might not walk out alive. Walking into the Lounge now with my rowdy long- haired compatriots I again mull this notion, but I take refuge in the mitigating, comfortably mature appearance of Mr. Lewis. In fact it is Rich who will later provide the only moment of tension thanks to his trusty video-cam, which sometimes is not so trusty. In any case, the bar denizens, patrons and bartendress alike, are delightful and kind and put the lie to my distrust and paranoia about such establishments. We drink, and the couple to our left provides information about the radio station where we'll be interviewed in the morning. They encourage us to visit there now, and pop in on Jo Mama, the lesbian DJ (this is how they describe her) who helms a blues program at night. It seems appropriate and we head for KMUD, minus Panos who is finished for the night - it's admirable that he's made it this far.
Bryan, Rich and I walk to the station, Bry keeping his eyes peeled for Brenna leaning seductively against a Corvette, or against anything for that matter. Of course, no such luck. Upon arrival at KMUD we wave at Jo Mama through the control room window which is completely accesible through the parking lot. Strangers waving at her during her shift must be a common occurrence as she lets us into the station without hesitation. Her shift is just finishing, and the next show on the schedule just happens to be "Midnight Mark's Eclectic Music Hour". Killer timing or what? We get his kind invitation to guest on his show immediately, but we need to hoof it back to the hotel to get CDs to play on the air. Back in our room I mention to a sleeping Toss, through his closed door, that we're about to go on the radio if he's interested in joining us. Unsurprisingly, his response is non-existent.
On the way back to KMUD, we wander into the Blue Room Lounge again. This time Rich has his camera running and several denizens immediately cover their face - we've breached local etiquette something fierce. We're informed that wandering around this town at night with a running videocam is not the wisest of actions (you must understand: marijuana is everything around here), but as soon as everyone's convinced that we're not undercover DEA the earlier jovial atmosphere is recaptured. A woman writes out some names for me to read on the air, but in the heat of the moment I will be unable to read her writing and I screw up the dedication. Sorry ma'am.
Back at the station Bryan and I are fitted with "cans" (annoying industry jargon for headphones) and we grin at each other during the minutes leading to our interview - in town for a couple of hours and we've already talked our way onto the radio station for a solid hour of promotion. Midnight Mark has a very laid-back, soothing manner which makes me nostalgic for early '70s FM rock radio. We do a lot of talking, play a lot of songs from the CDs, and at one point Mark makes a dead-on-the-downbeat segue from the end of "Skunk" (on CD) to the beginning of "Yo Mama" (on vinyl) which has me and Beller cheering. We also get an honest-to-God on-the-air reprimand when we entreat the listening audience to assist Bryan in his search for Brenna. Mark is not interested in moderating a dating program, and his genial but sincere scolding is captured on videotape, to my and Beller's lasting gratitude and mirth. The interview is adjudged a success and there is a very happy, Humboldt-county mellowness in the parking lot afterward when Midnight Mark lets one whole side of a Last Poets album (a Keneally request) play uninterrupted on the air and holds court over a session of nostalgic musical reminiscences and local refreshment. At this point my memory gets somewhat clouded. I think we stop back at the bar but I'm not certain. Back in the hotel Bryan and I are in hysterics as I envision a strange melding of "Cops" and "Dukes Of Hazzard"...I can't do justice to the bit in print, and in any case if ever there was a "you had to be there" instance this is it. Eventually our bodies give out and much-needed sleep is achieved. The day was absolutely perfect...or should I say nearly. Still no Brenna, you see.
Somehow I awaken in time to return to KMUD for a 10:00 AM interview, and even to enjoy a sumptuous "Continental" breakfast at the hotel with Rich and purchase batteries at a Radio Shack beforehand. The gentleman presiding over this morning's airwave activity is named Michael as well, I seem to recall (is that correct, Rich Lewis? He's been monitoring this diary and e-mailed me to nail me about "Midnight Mark" - who evidently actually trades under the nom de plume "Cousin Mark". My sincerest apologies). This morning's Radio Keneally event is not quite as freewheeling as that the night before, as is to be expected, but I do get in another Brenna reference on behalf of Bryan - who I assume to be slumbering but I see him on the street after the interview and food plans are laid, as well as plans to reconvene the entire band at KMUD to tape some station ID's. Some time is effectively killed at a delightful used record shop, wherein I purchase "E Pluribus Funk" in its round silver splendor, the first Asylum Choir album and a few other diddlies, as well as talking the proprietor into giving me the white cardboard thing which adorned the original vinyl issue of Santana's "Welcome" album and which is incongruously displayed in the shop's window. Mine! Mine! This sort of thing makes my pulse race.
Toss walks amongst the living again and BFD + Rich return to the station. Michael fills us all in on the seamy underbelly of Humboldt and the station's part in keeping the citizenry informed while maintaining as low a profile as humanly possible...turning down major national profiles etc. (Bryan has since discovered other fascinating things about Garberville and how its fate is tied inexorably to the doings of a certain major rock band whose future is currently in doubt...no further clues shall be offered but it's a tangy little tale.) Some dopey station ID's are taped in a gloriously quaint little studio behind the main building, and Bryan buys a bitchin' KMUD shirt. Michael suggests that we inhabit a specific restaurant for lunch, and I don't regret taking his advice...very fine food, and a very nice embarrassing moment as Toss and Bryan discover that their elaborate conversation about being discovered while wanking is completely within earshot of our demure young waitress. I can't believe they're surprised; neither of them know the meaning of "keep your voice down". (It's also difficult to impart how much of the conversation of we sophisticated, excellent, forward-thinking musicians is occupied by discussions of wanking.) Fun fact!: A young man dining elsewhere on the premises (and whose table a good number of feet away was also vastly entertained by the "secret" discussions of Toss and Bryan) is the offspring of one of the guys who played with Neil Young and the Ducks when they were making surprise appearances in tiny clubs a bunch of years ago. Fun fact!
(OK, this is now officially absurd...it's January '96 now and I'm finishing up a tour diary from half a year ago...but I said I would and with the way things are going today I figure a person's word is about the only thing they have to offer, and if they can't live up to it then they might as well pull their own arms off and sing the collected works of Mariah Carey for all the good they're doing in the world.
Almonds...nature's perfect food. Carlsberg Elephant...nature's perfect drink. These are what I consume as the Tour Diary reaches its perfect end.)
We pack our belongings and leave. Bryan needs to make a phone call to Jim Roberts at Bass Player magazine and schedule a meeting at the GPI offices for the following day so we stop at a bar which has, glory of glories, a pool table; after a draining fifteen minutes on the road we're ready for gaming and refreshments. Within this bar, which I can't remember the name but which for argument's sake I will refer to as THE LEAKIN' AARDVARK, and which has a teeny performance area, is none other than local legend, vocalist Bishop Mayfield (who Rich will refer to as Curtis for the rest of the trip) who, naturally, knows who Brenna is because he's friends with her mom or something (details are hazy. But there is definitely some sort of thread which ties Bishop/Curtis to our sordid Brenna bonanza). The drive to Arcata commences, I man the video camera and do some weird on-the-fly edits with passing streetsigns.
Arcata, like Garberville, is otherwordly, but unlike Garberville's plentiful and welcoming bounty this town seems somehow desolate, forbidding. The main square looks and feels like a college campus, abandoned shortly after a nuclear disaster. Fortunately the town does contain Kevin Hoover, the journalist responsible for our booking here and a man very happy to receive us; we hang at his newspaper's office for a touch before hitting the Jambalaya to determine what is required to make the show occur. For the town contains the Jambalaya and the Jambalaya does not contain an even remotely sufficient P.A. for what we're going to do. We don't carry a P.A. with us you see, we are at the club's mercy and in this instance the club is frigging merciless.
We walk to the home of the guitarist of the opening act (again, details hazy...can't remember the opening act's name - they were good too. I'll check with Beller and Rich) to see about sharing equipment, for some reason it doesn't seem like it's an option on which we should depend. But there's a music store nearby with which Kevin is conversant and within which he is greeted with much familiar enthusiasm. It's determined that they've got what we need but we'll have to meet the proprietor at his home where he keeps what we need in his garage. Understand that we figured we'd be indulging in a leisurely soundcheck at this point followed by a relaxed dinner, then the show...instead it's what, two hours before showtime and we scramble to the homes of nearby gear merchants, "one of this, two of those...we need a mic stand..."
Load in the gear and Bryan is dubbed "sound guy" ie: he gets to hook up the PA and keep the board on his side of the stage, how often do you see a band where the bass player is tweaking the mains while he's playing the gig? This is what lucky Arcatians will see tonight. Curious Arcatians wander in and out as we rehearse, several hard core fans watch disbelievingly, they can't believe we're here...they're not alone.
Kevin shows me a copy of article he did for the paper with Art Tripp, percussionist with the Mothers in the 60s and now plying his trade as a chiropractor in this very county. Rumors are afoot that he will attend tonight's performance, they do not pan out. We walk through the desolate square toward a Chinese restaurant, the lobby of said establishment feels like a location from "Omega Man" and there's maybe four patrons in the place itself. Food isn't bad at all, I eat too much of it, and we all wonder for a bit what precisely we've let ourselves in for. On the way back two girls inside a parked car motion for Bryan to approach them, as he does they tell him to fuck off. OK. It's official. This town sucks dick compared to Garberville and can we be back there again now please.
But back at the club the place is full of patrons digging the opening act, happy to see us, STUNNED to see us...think about it, how many interesting out-of-town bands play here? I stand near Rich as he spies the doorman, a black gentleman in, let's say, his sixties, and decides that this fellow occupies the proper demographic to be a blues fan. Rich tells him about the blues show with the lesbian moderator we'd walked in on the night before.
Rich: You know there's a really good blues radio show on KMUD in Garberville.
Doorman: Oh, yeah?
Rich: Yeah. JO MAMA's the host of the show.
Somehow my entire body actually shrinks to about three inches in size as I await repercussions but thankfully none arrive. Later I explain to Rich how the DJ's name might've been interpreted...we have a good laugh. We also - why mince words? - get destroyed in Rich's van just before showtime. If you saw my eyes in the video...thank goodness the audience is bound and determined to have a good time and my many errors couldn't make less of a difference to them. It is actually a joyful experience, I connect with these people and have a wonderful, wonderful time. If the result is not immortal music that hardly makes a difference...we are of the moment and it's special. Bryan, of course, has both feet firmly on the ground and goes about his business with grim determination, Toss is concerned that his drums are inaudible in the room so he's not experiencing total bliss, but I drive them on and on...we play every song we know, many we don't, a request for "Freeway to Stairbird" comes from the audience and we, somehow, comply. During the second set a sympathetic audience dweller tells me that if I really want to nail this audience we should play a blues. I take him to heart and begin to improvise one. After two times through the changes who should emerge but Bishop Mayfield, strutting like a man who owns the town he hits the stage without asking, receiving or needing permission and starts to sing the blues. We weave in and out of one another's melodies, he touches my cheek in a fatherly, approving fashion, I finish a phrase and touch his as well, to the audience's loud approval. I spend as much of my time during the show on the dance floor as on the stage so patrons can come up while I solo and interact with me...one guy is screaming, jumping, screaming "Frank's in the room!" I play back his screams on the guitar and we speak for a little while that way.
We play for what, four hours and finally our repertoire and energies are spent. Well-wishers wish us well, a guy brings up a ten-or-so-string bass for Bryan to drool on, many questions, many drinks and we're actually paid well. Toss and I are in hang mode but Bryan is anxious to get everything packed and hits high gear, stomping and surveying and packing, not knowing his own strength he thrusts his dolly under his amp rack and, as I view him in slow motion, while attempting to hoist the weighty item toward him applies about 90 times too much pressure ("the force of ten Conans" is the phrase I use at the time) and sends the thing flying. I think he gets the message and calms down a touch.
After the show we are faced with the fact that, since we were crunched for time before the show, we were never able to procure lodging for the evening. As we decide how to deal with this, Toss decides to drive his car back to San Francisco, where he's got a session booked the following day with Lyle. This is an absurdly long drive for this hour after what we've just done but he claims to be up for it, and with many thanks for a job beautifully done Toss departs the BFD tour. After a few more minutes of option-weighing Bryan decides he has been mightily influenced by Toss' resolve and claims to have enough energy to drive for at least four hours towards home. We take him at his word and pile into the van.
An hour and a half later he begs Rich to take the wheel, and Rich, ever faithful, does.
Rich somehow drives through the night and maintains his alertness as Bryan and I snooze. It is a superhuman effort. Bryan, still groggy and sheepish over his manly boasts the night before, takes over for Rich after daylight arrives and I insert Carl Stalling into the CD player, excellent driving music under any circumstances but especially so when staying awake presents a challenge. As Rich sleeps in the back Bryan and I marvel at the music, rewinding and replaying moments of particular hilarity. The famed Beller family alphabet game also helps in our efforts. We stop at a family-type restaurant for breakfast, the waitress is very attractive and effective. My mind is still in a lack of sleep haze.
At some point we arrive at GPI, the offices of Guitar Player, Bass Player and Keyboard magazines. Rich remains comatose in the back and Bryan and I stumble toward the entrance, looking like shit and mumbling total nonsense, dissolving in helpless laughter at our own sorry state. We imitate corpses on the couches in the lobby until Chandra comes out to greet us and lead us into the inner sanctum. Jim Roberts is out of his office so we say howdy to Andy Ellis, I leave a note for James Rotondi and strike up a conversation with editor Joe Gore, who's around for just a couple of days between legs of the PJ Harvey tour which has been his main activity this year, necessitating something of a hiatus from his regular magazine duties. During Joe's and my lengthy conversation Bryan begins to fade very quickly, that is when he's not making awful nasal noises because something in the building is wreaking havoc on the lad's sinuses. He's a real sight, nearly falling over with fatigue and dabbing at his nose repeatedly, unable to participate in the conversation in any way shape or form. But hey it's the music biz, these magazine guys must see this kind of behavior from heroin addicts every day I'll betcha.
Finally Jim returns and Beller gets to see the galleys from the piece about him which will appear in the issue currently under construction. This article will cataclysmic effects upon our relationship with a certain prominent American show business family but this is not the forum to discuss that...email me and I'll tell you about it sometime. We hook up with Chandra and discuss World Wide Webbery and other things before deciding that lunch would work. Stop by the van to check on Rich's condition, dead to the world. Chandra drives us to a place in a Howard Johnson's type vein and we eat well and converse spiritedly.
I believe that to be the last detail of any sort of significance. We say goodbye to GPI, return to the van, Rich awakens and retakes the wheel, I fall asleep in the passenger seat, there are stops for refueling and food and many hours later we're home. The end. Yay it's done it's done. Now for the bloody life story. Nah, I'll do that later. The end. Good night.
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