MK/BFD Member Missive Page!
MIKE TYPES TO YOU disguised as a MEMBER MISSIVE
1:34:34 PST (Jesse minus approx. 3 hours and counting)
What a pleasure to front a band full of anecdotally-inclined young gents. I've just perused the sign-off missives of the Dolphins and am tickled maroon by how many amusing events of the tour they recall, and the vivid detail and raconteurial aplomb with which they recall them. Me, I haven't kept a diary on this tour, and I basically don't remember quack.
I've always been slackjaw amazed by the ability of my bandmates, on virtually every tour I've done, to remember small details about hotels, gigs, long drives, diners etc. etc. (eg. [this is an imagined exchange but NOT AT ALL out of character]):
MZ: Remember the shower curtain at the Motel 2 in Lameville?
JS: Oh, Jesus, yeah! I've never seen quite that shade of chartreuse before - and how about the LENGTH? It was at least two inches shorter than any other curtain on the tour - except maybe for the one in Weakington...
BB: No, man, on the Z East Coast tour in '94, there was a shower curtain in Fucktown that was that EXACT SAME LENGTH, and an even more vivid shade of chartreuse, AND the water pressure was 7/8 as powerful as the pressure in Lameville!
JS: Really, man? Jesus!
MZ: Yeah! Yeah!
MK: You guys are fucking insane.
My inability to retain such detail extends to the gigs, I'm afraid. Frank Zappa was renowned by his studio assistants for his ability to remember musical minutiae from specific gigs literally decades after the gigs took place, and the guys in my band, although we haven't been at it that long, seem to possess a nascent version of the same skill. All I can say is thank God (and/or J and Thomas and Spiegelhalter) that these shows are being so exhaustively documented, because I have no idea, really, what I've done on stage for the past month and a half.
I can tell you happily that while I'm doing it, though, it's the most important thing in the world to me, and that there were only two nights on this tour (think I'm gonna tell you which they were? Nah!) when I wasn't fully occupying the moment and giving as much to it as I could. The fire which sprung within me in January of this year, and was stoked to intimidating heights in May, still burns brightly - while the logistical and financial realities of touring make it impossible for me to be a traveling 7/24 idealism machine, this much remains true:
the thrill I get from hearing my band totally burning behind me, while I alternately caress and mangle the strings of Jesse the green Stratocaster;
while I tickle the fake-ivories of the keyboard which keeps me emotionally connected to the childhood spent practicing "Begin The Beguine" on a small Hammond in the living room;
while I approach the microphone for yet another growing-up-in-public bout of vocalizing, to the best of my ability and beyond beyond, these songs I've written, finding inspiration in lyrics and melodies I wrote years ago but have only just recently discovered what lay in wait for me there;
while I delight in the abandon, skill and freak-ass energy with which Jason has made these songs his own, using inspiration from world music, jazz and pop to construct a multi-leveled rhythmic foundation while simultaneously, miraculously, keeping the proceedings a safe distance from fusoid purgatory (and I absolutely LOVE the way he turned any random array of percussion doodads into a cohesive rhythm statement at the SWR clinics);
while I shake my head in amazement at the utter appropriateness of Marc's presence in my band - how perfect that he should have toiled away privately learning my music for years before ever playing it for me, becoming as much a walking encyclopedia of my music as I ever was of Frank's, and spinning it out with such infectious enthusiasm on stage (typical comment to me from countless audience members: "I love watching Marc so much...he's so HAPPY!");
while I reel in disbelief at Bob Tedde's willingness to be not only an unpaid band member at the gigs in which he was able to participate, but to actually PAY HIS OWN WAY while turning down lucrative gigs of his own in San Diego, so dedicated is he to being a part of this music - and what an addition to the music he is...it was all to easy to take for granted his vocal gymnastics and guitaristic assistance while he was on the tour, but God almighty did we ever miss it when he wasn't;
while I glance to my left on stage and see Bryan, so much more on his plate now than when he first entered the rehearsal room at Joe's Garage to replace Thunes in Z and received, at best, indifference and, at worst, derision from me - how much he and I have been through together - unbelievable - and, although with the expanded entourage and new band members and myriad pressures which this tour has brought, Beller and I have not enjoyed the same degree of closeness which we had the luxury of enjoying in the past (which, as it relates to the stage, is probably my fault - I'm so tied up in my own process of musical/emotional discovery that I don't always take the time to fully relate, in a measurable, physical/eye-contact kind of way, to the other guys during performances...a situation I anticipate rectifying on the next tour), there is still a bond between us which is unbreakable and eternal and I remain dumbfounded by the gratitude I feel for him;
anyway, the thrill I get from all of that is fucking intense.
Then there is the crew. Thomas Nordegg, saint, superhuman, who uncomplainingly incurs such a toll on his vehicle and his person and remains utterly...enthusiastic is not the right word for the way Thomas feels about what I do, and inspired is alternately not the right word for the way he makes me feel - what can I say? Beyond beyond. That's the only way to put it. Thomas is unique. Always giving, always striving, and incessantly devoted to the cause. He is my link to the Zappa part of my heart, and his constant assertions that Frank is smiling down on everything I do are food for my soul. I really, really, really need him around.
Cami Slotkin vaulted from eleventh-hour stowaway (and entirely welcomed) addition to the entourage to absolutely essential crew fixture in record time, becoming more than just a goddess of merch - she is a trusted, reliable and necessary assistant in countless ways to CEO Chatfield, and her peerless rendition of "Missile Dick" added flavorful spice to several shows when it was badly needed...and her happy merch dance during "Pencil Music" sure does make me smile. I love Cami.
(It's 2:55: 39 PM right now. The Nordeggmobile, which has been plagued by maladies for the last couple of days, has just conked out during one of the long, hot uphill stretches approaching the East County of San Diego, about 27 miles from Pine Valley on 8 West. J, Cami and Bryan have just sped ahead to get some chemicals which might help the van go better. Ziegencamerabuggen has just bolted across the freeway, with scant concern for life and limb, with camera in hand, to get a panoramic shot of our current predicament. Jason has hopped into the driver's seat of the Budget truck where I currently sit, and composes a letter to his girlfriend (which he's actually going to physically hand to her tonight - this boy writes a lot of letters, almost every Post Office from here to New Brunswick has enjoyed his attentions). Scott and Thomas stand next to the van and muse over the vagaries of life, touring, the pursuit of tonight's gig, which starts in under five hours. Wish us luck.)
J was the vidoegrapher and driver/provider of vehicle three, which is proving to be an absolute necessity right now. More than that, he was, for me, the living embodiment of May 1998, the month where my idealism and creative potential took a huge leap into the stratosphere. J videotaped all those gigs as well, but more importantly he was THERE, providing encouragement at times when aspects of my growth were puzzling many of those around me, not least myself. On this tour J provided the various perspectives of fan, friend and observer, as well as a CD collection brimming with Ween, They Might Be Giants, Cornelius, Kerouac, a dizzying variety of exotic, unclassifiable arcana (including Rusty Warren!), and an amazing dramatization of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" that, at times, was difficult to distinguish from what was actually happening to us. He also has a funny hat, always buys the weirdest candy in the truck stop, and smiles at me all the time. For that, and for much more than that, I thank him profusely.
(It's 3:31:49 now. Our caravan has progressed approx. 3 miles in the last 36 minutes. Wish us A LOT of luck. We've just now left J and Thomas by the disabled van, abducted J's car and taken it and the Budget truck into Campo on a quest for an open garage - we've found it! Benny's Garage General Repairing! Only a mile from Nordegg's van! It's Sunday afternoon! We're in the middle of nowhere! We still have radio contact with Nordegg! Yes, Ziegenhagen - we ARE blessed.
Four hours and twenty minutes to showtime. We're about 70 miles from our destination. At the current rate of just under six miles per hour, this does present a challenge, one must admit.
3:50:41. We've left Nordegg and J behind to deal with getting the van to the garage, and MK/BFD plus Cami and Scott are jetting ahead to the gig. This is unquestionably the worst gig of the tour for us to be caught without a full crew - our showtime is at 7:55, we're playing a 25 minute set [yeah, you read that right] and we are completely subject to the schedule of Tull, which means we have to be ready to jump when told, so it sucks hard to be underhanded right now. Scott still has every faith that Nordegg and J will get to the gig in time, and I'm trying mightily to bask in the flame of his optimism. Last night Scott and I were discussing the travails of the tour, about how things occasionally threaten to get deadly but the universe always stops short of totally crushing us - in general it just says "Does this bug you? Does this bug you?" Right now it's tickling us mercilessly, like a fucking bully of an older brother or sister, trying to make us pee our pants. But we refuse to.
I can't wait to be home again. I want my wife and daughter
4:12:28. Chatfield just called Nordegg's cell phone - Thomas managed to coax his van to the garage and he's in good spirits. Scott bolstered him further and told him we would definitely be seeing him at the gig. We're at a gas station, fueling up the Budget truck and the J-mobile, and I just peeked in the BFD money pouch to get some cash to pay for the gasoline - oh my quacking God. The pouch was so thick a couple of weeks ago. Bryan just stuck his head into the driver's side and opined that the tour has turned into a Monty Python sketch: "We'll finish the tour no matter what!" "But you have no limbs!" "I'll play the guitar with my teeth!" "What teeth?!" "I'll play it with my nose!")
Chatfield. We first met in 1986, at the San Diego premiere of the film "Crossroads" (hee hee) being hosted by the radio station at which he was then working. His sister was a friend of a friend of my wife's, and through this tenuous connection he'd heard that I had something potentially interesting going on musically. Shortly thereafter he invited me to monopolize one hour of radio time on his station - Scott was the host/producer of "The Homegrown Hour", and he allowed me to abuse that hour many times over the next several years. We became enormously close friends in the process, and our closeness has continued to grew during the development of this website. His decision to manage this tour, for a level of compensation which would make you choke on your tongue if I told you, inspires my deepest gratitude, especially considering the zillions of tasks he performed on the tour while virtually teaching himself to be a tour manager, and the sacrifices he made in staying on the job while family crises could easily have lured him home for the duration. Scott is a godsend in my life - I would have really have cracked if it were not for him. On more than many occasions (today included) it's his twinkly enthusiasm which has kept me aim true. Thank you, thank you, thank you Scott.
And, although there's no time to do justice to this topic, thank you, thank you, thank you to all guest hosts - you saved our life - all audience members, all the friends along the way who made this tour, this circus, this absolute folly, something which I will always look back upon as a screaming success. I love you all.
OK. It's 4:52 exactly. We're within ten minutes of the venue. We place ourselves in fate's hand. We may not even be a four-piece tonight - the political wrangling involved in trying to get Marc's gear and person on the stage tonight has been stomach-churning (Tull, or their management, or the promoter, or somebody - nobody's owning up - wants us to perform as a trio, which we've of course done many times in the past, but the idea of ending this tour in such an incomplete fashion, considering how completely a member of the band Marc is now, is super unpleasant to me).
But you know what I know? No matter what, when we hit that downbeat tonight, I intend to be very much in the mood to play. And play we will. And heads will be, I might immodestly add, ripped off.
See you sooner than you expect.
P.S. Nordegg and J made it to the venue just as we were starting soundcheck. Ziegenhagen was allowed to play. The show, while short, was great, and the audience received us warmly. We got a wonderful review in the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper. And Ian Anderson was standing by his dressing room door, patiently waiting for me, at the close of our show - he wanted to tell me how much he enjoyed us, how truly regretful he was that we weren't opening the entire West Coast leg of the Tull tour, and how much he hopes that we will be able to tour together next year.
And the universe smiled. Widely.
Jason Harrison Smith
Notes from the desk of the motard...
Jason Harrison Smith here with some thoughts. Being the least intelligent on this tour, I have to try to make humor my source. Here goes!
Necessary listening requirements for the motard are as follows:
1. Bluth - s\t - Garbanzobeans Records
2. Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast Musical Bar-B-Que - s\t - Rhino
3. Cornelius - Fantasma - Matador
4. Mats Oberg and Morgan Agren - no specific title - no specific label either
5. Self - Subliminal Plastic Motives and Half-Baked Serenade - Zoo and unknown
These titles are enough to get anyone wanting to be a motard started.
Let's define a motard, shall we? Moron plus retard equals motard. While holding negative connotation, it also is a term of endearment, trust, and honor--i.e., be PROUD to be a motard (as long as you aren't the original motard).
A motard must be in touch with his feminine side. Painting the fingernails is a must--chicks dig it. When times are hard and laundry facilities are unavailable, don't hesitate to borrow a pair of panties (they're actually quite comfortable, and such a perfect fit in the buttocks as well). Sleep in the same bed with another man at least five nights a week, however, when the thrill wears off, you'll find the floor immediately comfortable.
Enough of the feminine side; Cami's typing this for me anyway.
Being the motard I am, I experienced the east coast for the first time this year, and, I must say, what a gas. Everybody is so bold and brash, but not necessarily rude (except in Massachusetts, hence the term masshole). I learned some of the best phrases in my life. For instance, if someone is complaining that he's hungry, your response should be: "Why don't I fix you a big bowl of Shut The Fuck Up?" Or (this one gets 'em every time) reach into your pocket, say "hey! You forgot something!," then pull out your middle finger. Always pronounce straight shtraight and street shtreet. [Please take this opportunity to go to the bathroom or get some chips during the rather lengthy pause in which Jason is trying to think of more relevant stuff about the east coast... Oh here we go!] Twenty-four hour delis in New York City have the most unbelievable date and fig bars in the world.
Enough about the east.
On a personal note, the Dallas show rendered a rare correct version of "'Cause of Breakfast" on my part. Wilmington, NC was the most surprising show due to the fact that when we walked in, the club had a Western motif and no people in it, but the place wound up being packed by showtime with lots of enthusiastic people who had never seen us before. I wasn't expecting such a seemingly odd place for us to play to turn into such a beautiful flower. We played three sets (which was a first). Mike's new song, "The Endings of Things" is a heartwrenching masterpiece. I still tear up upon hearing it, not necessarily because of the lyrical content, but because of its melody and chord structure. I think Mike's on to something. Mike has dubbed me a permanant member, which was very thrillling. My new friend Colin LaMastro is driving over two thousand miles to host our next show in Durango.
Lemme tell you what this Colin guy is going through. He takes his new truck in for an oil change at a garage. The jack slips off the frame, punctures his radiator, ruining his new car. Let's hear it for the aspiring-motard mechanic. We're not sure, but we're hoping he'll make it, and, knowing Colin, he'll be there. He's been to the most BFD shows on this tour--ten so far.
Lemme give you a little rundown of the entourage.
Thomas Nordegg. Man of reason, man of rhyme, man of velcro.
J. Young, dumb, and full of Playstation.
Scott Chatfield. Noble, happy go lucky, whose iron fist guides you. Clad in glove.
Cami Slotkin. Cami reminds me of an M&. A hard candy shell with a soft center. It won't melt in your hands, but she's a real sweetheart.
Marc Ziegenhagen. A nasal chain saw by night, his day life radiates like a ray of sunshine in my face. I close my eyes and only want to soak up his energy. God bless him and FUCK VIC VOLARE!
Bryan Beller. Bryan, too, has deeply touched my life. God, I don't even know how to explain it, man. He's definitely my soul brother in rhythm. God bless him.
Last, but certainly not least, Mike Keneally. I still remember the first time meeting him, and all we did was grin at each other the whole time. It was definitely a bond that could not be reversed, especially when he asked me to join his band. Through music, Mike has taken my playing to levels I never knew I could reach. And for that, I am eternally grateful and I will stick with him through thick and thin, and not out of obligation.
And to all my brethren and sister, I love you all.
And now we'll test Marc Ziegenhagen's typing speed since Cami is now sleeping in the back of the van and he has taken over the dictation. He claims to be able to type 80 words per minute. Let's see how he does:
Ready? OK, go!
So, ah, I'm goin' up to the catskills tomorrow, and then I'll take my dick out and then I'll dress my dog in a dress and then I'll light up some fire crackers and then I'll stick one up his ass and then BOOM and ya know my uh Wyoming attitude is just not quite right for the city - you need a city attitude - so I'm gunna put on a kilt, grab some bagpipes and I'm gunna go marching up the street playing my bagpipes - boom - then I'm gunna drive through Texas in the middle of the night with my headlights off and my head sticking out the window and one hand on the wheel yellin and screaming the alphabet at the top of my lungs. BOOM!
That's enough of that shit.
Motard required movie viewing:
1) Blue Velvet. Dennis Hopper is truly at his finest in this psycho drama. 2) All "Planet of the Apes" movies. 3) Barbarella. Not quite enough nudity of Jane Fonda, but good enough, and a great cornball movie at that. 4) Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It's the color, baby. It's got to be the color. 5) The Andromeda Strain. One of Michael Crichton's finest books and a great film to boot.
And to close, I'd like to say may all your days be bright.
Jason Harrison Smith.
PS Whoever knows how to obtain Albert Marcoeur discs, please e-mail me through Moosenet. Mike has been telling me about it and I'm very anxious to hear it. Over and out!
Hello, people! Wow, my own little chunk of cyberdom.....gosh, as I type this, we've just crossed the border of Connecticut into Massachusetts and we've come across a fresh automobile accident wherein no police cars have yet arrived and everyone is "off-roading it" to get around the mayhem by driving over the grassy median to re-enter the freeway via a weigh station. Wow
Gads. A somber rest/gas stop after witnessing the vehicular carnage. A sensitive bunch we all are and can be. Geesh, is this the right time to attempt to be uplifting and amusing in a typical Tour Report kind of way? I feel like I'd almost rather reflect on the transitory nature of things both good and bad in life and make mention of the importance in relishing each fleeting moment of happiness we feel in our journey but, hmm, I guess I just did. OK then, on with the report.
Y'know what? Rather than recap events and experiences thus far on the tour, I'm gunna tell you about a couple of dreams I've had while on tour with BFD. Of course, being on tour with BFD seems kind of like a dream in itself, but these are actually *real* dreams that have occurred during the very brief moments I've actually had in which to sleep.
I don't remember where we were when I had this first dream; it was probably somewhere very pleasant. But the pleasantness was completely absent u pon waking up because this was one of those dreams that makes you feel like you've actually experienced what you've just dreamt, and this dream was kind of disconcerting. There is a theory held by certain people who study sleep patterns (somnambulologist?) that when we dream we are technically insane; we see things that aren't there and believe that they're real, feel sensations which are completely imagined but feel very real nonetheless. Anyway, this was one of those feelings.
In the dream, I'm no longer on the road with BFD. Oh! I remember now where this dream occurred (aside from the astral plane). It was in NYC the night after the Knitting Factory show and the day before the Steely Damned gig. In the dream, I'm back in Minneapolis and I'm feeling very disoriented because I know I shouldn't be here, I should be back in NYC! So I'm walking around telling people "hey, I have no idea how I got here but I need to get back to New York City, and fast! You seem I'm on tour with this band, and they're probably getting ready to leave the hotel in a couple of hours." I remember looking at a clock to see what time it was and thinking to myself "okay, New York is two hours ahead of Minnesota, so...I have this much time to catch a flight to JFK or someplace". No one in the dream was anyone that I recognized and everyone seemed to think that I was, well, insane because they didn't know how I'd gotten separated from my cozy little touring group and, of course, I couldn't explain it either.
It sure was nice to wake up from this dream but there's that moment right after waking up from dreams like this where you continue to wonder what the hell is going on. That moment passed fairly quickly and I finally realized that all was well and I was safely in bed in what was, truly, a glorious suite in the Southgate Hotel in the middle of Manhattan.
Read what you will into that or this next dream because every one's a capable dream analyst at heart, right? Right. This next dream happened just this very last night. We stayed at a hotel in Milford, PA right next to a restaurant named (perhaps in keeping with the Lewinsky scandal) "Big Willie's". The band, plus J and Cami had spent a couple hours in the pool room listening to a gamut of songs from the CD juke box which was cranked about as loudly as I've ever heard a jukebox be cranked while taking on some local pool sharks in a series of very well-played matches in which teams were chosen and defeated and winners and losers were born. Bryan was a supremely adept competitor against the local yokels but, in the last shot of the last game, with only the 8-ball remaining, he shot and sunk the nefarious black ball, but scratched. Scratched his butt, then scratched. Everyone was a good sport though and we then retired to our rooms. Wait a minute, this paragraph was supposed to be about a dream. Sorry.
Okay then, last nights dream: I'm in a city I don't recognize with tall semi-gothic-looking buildings towering all around me. I'm in the middle of some kind of downtown square where the roads meet at a point and then go off between the buildings in diagonal directions. There are people walking around me, and it's daylight, but no one seems to notice me and I don't recognize anyone or any of the landmarks. It felt like a mix between downtown Boston and Picadilly Circus, though I've only actually been to the former.
Anyway, I'm walking around this strange town when I walk past a door. A red door (yep, I dream in color). I open the door and there's some steps going up to a room at the second floor. I walk up the steps and enter the room which is on the left and, hmm, now that I think about it, for a moment there it felt like the dressing room at our first gig at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ. Hmm! Anyway, hanging over the entrance to the room are about two dozen strands of those tiny plastic multi-colored beads that you find in certain middleeastern restaurants and massage parlors (though I've only actually been to the former). The lighting in the room is dim and there's a strong smell of incense in the room (yep, I smell in color too). There are groups of people sitting around various tables playing card games. All are quiet and I get the impression I've entered some kind of competition. There are little clocks on the tables like you'd see in chess matches. I walk around the corner and there are a bunch of people who seem to be preparing to go to some kind of a performance, a play perhaps. They are all men dressed in full drag; pumps, dresses, wigs, makeup, you get the picture. (It may seem incredulous that I remember so many details from my dreams, and I don't always, but I've kept dream journals for years when I do remember them and this was one of them).
So, yah. The drag queens are all standing around as if we're backstage and they're about to go on and do their routine. The next thing I know, I'm looking at myself in a mirror and I have a wig on, myself! It's a blonde wig and it strikes me that I look positively horrible. (Unlike our illustrious bass player, I've never actually done drag and have no desire to, but, as I said, read into this what you will). I reach for a hair brush and start combing my hair to try and make it more, idunno, appealing, but there's all these snarls in my hair and the comb keeps getting stuck. I feel no pain, of course, because it's a wig and not my real hair, but lo! Soon I discover that it's actually NOT a wig but REALLY IS MY OWN HAIR, and I am horrified because as I drag the brush through the knots in my hair, the brush takes with it huge chunks of my golden locks. I'm looking at the comb and seeing blonde strands of hair stuck to the comb and I look back in the mirror and I've actually pulled out so much of my hair that I have bald spots on the sides of my head and I'm looking even worse than I did previously. I'm even wearing makeup at this point to add to the ugliness of it all. Eeegads.
It then occurs to me that I hope this is just a dream and not real (this happens to me all the time - in dreams, not so much in real life - and I very often wish that if I could just take it that one small step further and realize that it IS a dream, then I could take control of my dream and fly around act out fantasies I never could in real life, but I've never gotten to that point of near astral-projection before so, oh darn).
I make a dash for the door and walk back out into the street (the stairs had miraculously disappeared, I guess) and shortly after getting back onto the sidewalk Mike, yep, Keneally himself walks up to me and says "do you remember being here?" An alarm goes off somewhere, possibly a fire alarm or some kind of weird clock and I wake up to the phone ringing. It's the wakeup call I'd placed with the front desk the previous evening.
Marc Ziegenhagen's Digital Tour Wrap-up Synopsis Thing
Some final thoughts from the Digidudeski as I near the end of what has been the most important and most worthwhile touring experience of my digital life.
First, the setting as it unfolds before me now:
We're presently driving across New Mexico at 11:09pm Mountain Time. We just gained a whole hour thanks to the phenomenon of time zone divisions. With drives such as these - from Dallas, TX to Durango, CO, planning to sleep in Albuquerque, NM - I almost wish we were forever touring from East to West. Gaining an extra hour feels like receiving a gift wrapped package from Neiman Marcus designed especially for us.
There is currently, off in the dark empty distance, a brilliantly volatile lightning storm brewing which everyone who isn't sleeping or typing is watching.It reminds me, on a smaller scale, of the fire flies that we've been see ing at various stops in our travels and the awe with which Jason Harrison Smith has watched them swarm. Apparently, he'd never seen real live fire flies before we first arrived in New Jersey six weeks ago. A first time for everything, I suppose.
He and I just spent the last however-long-it-was typing up his new entry for the Member Missives page and looking at digital gig photos taken by Scott. Under more ordinary circumstances, I'd be tired of looking at a computer screen by now. But on long drives like these where driving until we just can't drive no more is the modus operandi, the word "tired" carries very little weight (unless you're driving) and, since I'm not very good at driving while I type (unlike Thomas Nordegg who can pretty much do anything), I'm very much in the mood to reflect on the past six weeks and on what it feels like to know that this tour is soon to come to a close.
Given the way that things have gone on this tour versus the way things seem to have gone back home since I left (a great big "pffft" to Vic [The Prick] Volare and VLO [Very Large Orifice] - hey, you guys forgot something! <reaching in pocket>...), I can say this much with the utmost certainty; I DON'T WANNA GO HOME!!! Not yet. I want to keep on touring until my digits fall off along with the heads of everyone else in the country who hasn't seen us play yet. If this tour were to go on for another 6 YEARS, I'd kiss Ian Anderson's butt goodbye on Sunday and hit the highway. "What are you doing in 2004?? Okay, I'll seeya then!", I'd tell 'em all back home.
Now don't get me wrong. Minneapolis has plenty of redeeming qualities that I love in a city, and there are plenty of great bands that I enjoy working with. But there's just something about being on the road and moving from city to city every day from which I get a sense of accomplishment unattainable when stationary and rooted in one specific place. I prefer to be mobile (Sagittarius much?), and quite honestly, I'd rather be touring with BFD than doing anything else right now. It's almost safe to say that this is the only band I've ever been in where I can truly be myself and be accepted for who I am - a rare feeling in my world (no tissues, please). I guess you could say that the road is my home and BFD is my live-in caretaker, and I just want it to keep on going for ever and ever. I wish it wasn't going to end. But, of course, practically every one else in this entourage really wants to go home to their wives and girlfriends and cats and...
.....whoops. WAHH!! Why is it that every time I get into typing something for the web page (granted, this is only the second time, but if you'll recall from the last entry...) some kind of NEARLY MAJOR CATASTROPHE happens?!?
We've just pulled into a gas station and realized that the right front tire on Captain Nordegg's van is as flat as a pancake at an IHOP. Luckily enough, this station has an air hose (much like the blobulent suit) and the tire seems to be able to hold air, but there's a distinctly audible "hissss" emanating from it. Wow. Once again, disaster strikes us but I can't help but take note of how lucky we really are; this could have happened anywhere in the middle of The Big Nowhere we've been driving through for the last 2 hours. There coulda been no air hose within blowing distance and I woulda had to...never mind. Wow. Hm. Well, there's a truck stop just up the road and we're gunna limp on over there to see if anyone can help out the "We're Not Here to Help" people. I'll be back in a minute with an update (I think!). Wish us luck, okay? Let's sing an apropos Phish tune while we ride and await our destiny, shall we? "The tires are the things on your car that make contact with the road..".
...LATER THAT VERY NEXT DAY-LIKE...
Let me put this to you, people: Do you believe in guardian angels? How about the idea of being "Touched by a Dolphin"? This tour, my friends, is must see TV. Beer for Dolphins, without question or compromise, has some kind of benevolent super-duper quasi-metaphysical Presence following us around and looking out for us when things look like they're turning into dog cheese. Here, then, is today's series of miracles:
Last night was the first time we tearfully were forced to break up the caravan and go our separate ways. Staying behind with the Nordegg Van for early morning tire repairs in Tucumcari, NM, were Scott Chatfield and Thomas Nordegg. The rest of the entourage high-tailed it to Albuquerque with plans to sleep for the night then, presumably, plunge on ahead to Durango in hopes of connecting with the remaining straggling Dolphins at the gig the following evening. Not a chance we'd see them before then, it seemed.
Well, this morning after a cream cheese laden breakfast at the Einstein Bagelry and a miraculously avoided Loss of Everything in the Trunk of J's car which was left completely open to the criminally minded public all night long but somehow remained unmolested, we were preparing to depart with the rudimentary checking of our CB radios when, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the voice of Scott Chatfield booms over the CB's.
Voice of Da Moose: "Radio check, this is two!"
Everyone else: "HUH?!?! WAAAHHH!!!"
We positively freaked. Somehow, within a mile of us and receiving our signal was the obviously repaired and highly driveable Nordegg Van containing our two missing Dolphins. Now, you have to appreciate the odds of this kind of thing happening: the town they stayed in the night before was over 2 hours away; the variables involved in their getting the van fixed and departing Tucumcari, and the consummation of our bagel consumption, plus the fact that any of us could have been anywhere at any given time, yet somehow we manage to end up at precisely the same place at the same time doing the same thing!?! Wowzers! This was full blown post-McLuhan deus ex machina-driven divine interventionism of the utmost Shirley MacLainist unbelievability. We're truly blessed.
What's really weird, though, is that this kind of Infinitesimally Huge Odd-beating good fortune has not been entirely uncommon during this adventure. There have been other moments! Shall I tell you of one in particular that stands out in my digital memory? Okay, since you asked....
Miraculous Moment in BFD History to Never be Forgotten:
Location: Somewhere around Columbus, OH, en route from Detroit, MI, to Charleston, WV.
What happened: With Chatfield gone home and Beller having taken over as surrogate tour manager, the caravan stops at a Safeway to get gas and munchies. We decide we'd rather eat something more substantial than Safeway munchies so we ask the station attendant if there's a fast food place near by. The gentleman informs us that there's a Subway about two miles up the freeway, so we pile into the cars and drive away UNAWARE OF THE FACT that Bryan, SOMEHOW, managed to leave behind his coveted and incredibly important TOURING BRIEFCASE!!! <gasp>
What could have happened next: The caravan finds the subway, eats, drives away and doesn't realize until God Only Knows When that the briefcase is missing. The briefcase, of course, containing all essential contact information for clubs, hotels and guest hosts, would have been lost and the tour would have come to a screeching halt. (Can you hear it, too??)
What actually happened next: We found the subway and ordered food. During the delicious sub consumption, I make conversation with one of the friendly gals who works behind the counter. She notices, and says she likes, my rainbow bracelet and for this I really like her a heckuva lot very much. Upon discussing the fact that we are a band and on tour, she requests that we all sing her our Big Hit Single. I rush out to the van to get Bob Tedde's guitar while J grabs the video camera. We proceed to sing and perform "Potato", unplugged, Live at the Subway in Ohio, for these two gals and the various perplexed customers shopping within.
(Important note: if these wonderful gals hadn't asked us to do this, or if for some reason we were unable to, these precious minutes we'd killed would have slipped away and the important moment about to occur simply wouldn't have.)
After the song and much laughter and applause, we prepare to leave for our cars. As we're about to drive away, one of the gals from inside pounds on the glass and motions to us that we have a phone call. A phone call?!? Unable to imagine who could be calling us at a Subway in the middle of Ohio, we go back in only to discover that the person calling us is the Safeway attendant who'd found Beller's briefcase, remembered that we were going to the Subway, got on the horn and placed the call just in time to save the tour.
We are truly blessed.
This was just one moment that helped to make this tour incredibly unbelievable for me, yet there's still so many more things to type about. There's just something about traveling with Keneally that makes nearly every waking moment seem like a discovery of some new unique thing that brings light and humor to every situation. Virtually nothing escapes our mesmerized attention. There's a child-like innocence surrounding this group with which discovering pleasure in every facet of life and never feeling alienated in new surroundings comes completely naturally. We're truly one big happy touring family.
And hey, I hafta also mention: the people I've met along the way (and maybe it's you! ) have been so great to talk with and get to know in the short time available. The musicians I've met and talked with and the fans who've taken a moment to extend kind words of appreciation to me about my role in the band have been intensely wonderful inspirations along the way. I really hope to hear from and see you all again, and sooner than later.
This feels like a wrap up, then, I suppose. If anyone wants to correspond with me, e-mail will be graciously received at Digidudeski@hotmail.com. The truth is in the typing, so please send me more light. And hey. If that was you I saw outside the truck stop in Western Alabama smoking cigarettes and waiting for the Greyhound bus, drop me a line.
See you all again, then, on the next tour which should be happening sooner than you might think! Keep an eye on the Obvious Moose, and thanks again to all. Keep in touch, K?! K! Lotsa love to you all.
Now I know I hinted at an honest-to-goodness Tour Wrap-Up in my brief "Thank God I'm No Longer The Tour Manager" message back in early August, but that was before the tour's Southern Swing. That was before New Orleans. That was before I heard the news that nearly threw my life into turmoil...but I can't even get into that until later. (Maybe I am a tease after all. Hee hee.) In sum, I briefly considered not writing this, but I have to admit to being inspired--and, to a certain degree, carried--by the other entourage members' fine literary contributions. So as we barrel down US Route 160, carving our way across the Navajo Nation's federally ordained chunk of Arizona, I sit here, typing. Thinking. Remembering. Reminiscing. And, to my surprise, only shuddering infrequently.
This will be a scattershot deal. When things come to me, that's when I'll regurgitate them onto the keyboard. I ask that you excuse me in advance for any non-Beller-like continuity flubs. Life on the road does that to you. Even to OCD me. Anyway, let's begin.
Strongest Guest Host: Scott Baker, Detroit, MI. They should throw skates on him and make him a goon for the Red Wings. For him, lifting gear into the truck was like throwing marbles into a bucket, one at a time.
Most Resourceful Guest Host: Chet Haun, Muncie, IN. After buying us hotel rooms and having to straighten out the lady who forgot about his reservations, and even after coming up with a power strip within minutes of a serious power problem on stage at Headliner's, he then performed an extremely delicate task with frightening speed and efficiency. I'd tell you what it was, but then I'd have to kill you.
Most Helpful Unofficial Guest Host: A three-way tie. First there was Colin LaMastro, a crazed New York-based BFD/Zappa fanatic who set the record for most shows attended (I believe it was 9). Insanely helpful and loads of fun. Secondly, there's P.S. Bean, who put us all up in his beach mansion near Cape Fear, NC. We awoke to hot coffee and Hardee's bacon-and-egg biscuits for all. Yeah, baby. Last but not least we have Mitch Fawley, who manages a Days Inn in Columbus and sported us all five rooms for two nights. We are the luckiest band in the world, are we not?
Most Musically Tweaked Guest Host: Chris Opperman, New York City, NY. You all need to hear this kid's music. He's weird. And, dare I say, talented as well.
Most Document-Oriented Guest Host: Ron Spiegelhalter, Portsmouth, NH. Find him on Usenet for more details.
The Glutton-For-Punishment Award: Tom Copson, Philadelphia, PA. He actually let us invade his lair twice. He's still recovering.
Proudest Guest Host: Greg Henry, Rutland, VT. Creator of the BFD Guest Host website, he did indeed have a lot to be proud of--radio interviews, airplay, a packed house in Rutland, a sweet hotel (with free breakfast buffet--I think I devoured an entire cooked pig that morning), etc. etc. Good show, lad.
Like I said, everyone was so great...Chris Sampson...Michael Folz...Lloyd Thayer...I know I'm leaving people out, so please forgive me, cuz I's gots to move on. But first there's this:
The Inga Wohlgemuth Award: An award for the most unexpected act of kindness by a complete stranger, created in honor of Miss Inga's impromptu baking of a birthday cake for yours truly back during Spring Tour '96. This tour's Inga Award goes to "T", a man who approached Cami at the merch table in Houston with an envelope in his hand. It was marked "Do Not Open Until Dallas" (the following day's location). When Cami opened the envelope during the Guitar Center SWR clinic the next day, she discovered a heartfelt note of thanks and support for BFD. And--oh yeah--a stack of twenty dollar bills. BFD thanks you with all of its hearts, "T".
Chatfield Computer Adventure #1: As Keneally and I were soundchecking for The Steely Damned show in NYC (7/22), Tour Manager Chatfield was using the rare non-BFD time to gain ground on his laptop. You know, update the website, answer Guest Host e-mail, that kind of stuff. Unfortunately some kind of charge/spark/gremlin/weirdness came up through the phone line and nailed the laptop in the butt, crashing the system and sizzling every program and file open during the crash. This left Chatfield with a crashed desktop at home and a crashed laptop on the road. Ugh. Major props to Pete Turley for wartime assistance in the digital realm.
Memorable Moment #2: Driving through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX. Locating the grassy knoll. Seeing the picket fence. Being told by Chatfield where Zapruder stood as he shot the most famous home movie in history. Taking the same route that JFK did right before it all went down. Not understanding why the motorcade was diverted away from the most direct route. We drove the whole thing twice. Kennedy never stood a chance.
Frick and Frack--Marc Ziegenhagen and Jason Harrison Smith, respectively. Earned for their practically instantaneous bond of friendship and companionship. Jason the drummer was Frack because it was closer to "Tap", his first nickname. Also accepted: "Plink and Tap".
poltergeist--a police car. Used during radio communication between vehicles, of which there were three: the gear truck, Thomas Nordegg's '89 Ford Aerostar and J's Infiniti (the "J-mobile"). When the poltergeist was no longer a threat, the following words were used on the radio: "This house is clean."
bogey in the convoy--also used over the car radios to indicate that a non-BFD vehicle had interrupted the continuity of the three-car convoy. Keneally grew a distaste for the phrase fairly quickly and replaced it with one more his style: "cat's eye in the twinkie".
partrude--a non-sensical made-up word used to indicate mass vehicular departure, usually from a gig or a hotel. Context: "Shall we partrude?"
Clinton--an unsightly white-ish stain on an article of clothing. Context: "Keneally, man, you've got some Clinton on your jacket."
bucket--bathroom. Origin relayed to Tour Manager Chatfield by a female friend of his who could no longer tolerate teaching junior high school in the Houston area. Apparently this teacher's breaking point was when a student stood up during the first week of class and proclaimed, "Ma'am, I gotta use the BUCKET." It was an instant addition to the glossary, so much so that we even sold a little bucket with a BFD bumper sticker on it at the Dallas show. We have no shame.
beyond beyond--a phrase used by Thomas Nordegg to describe the intensity of a certain experience, good or bad.
motard--an idiot. Derived from the combination of the words "retard" and "moron". It was the standard tour insult.
quack--a wholesome substitute for "fuck". Cursing over the radio was banned.
Truman Capote--the driver of any slow-moving vehicle in our path. Coined by Chatfield late in the tour. I don't know why.
fuckstick--the ultimate Chatfield insult. Reserved for the people who made his already difficult job impossible.
hey, you forgot something--this was always followed by a flash of the middle finger. We had Colin LaMastro to thank for that.
butt gig--a shitty gig due to lame venue, lack of crowd, bad sound, etc. Past, present or future usage all acceptable. Context: "Man, look at that stage and those monitors. And three bands are playing tonight? Total butt gig." In fact, The Elvis Room in Portsmouth, New Hampshire was such a shining example of this glossary term in action that we renamed the city "Buttsmouth".
Ziegen----- The nice thing about the name "Ziegenhagen" is that it can be transformed into nearly anything. The technique--the origin of which is disputed--served us well throughout the tour. If Marc was sleeping, he was "Ziegencrashin'". If he was complaining, he could be "Ziegenwhinin'" or "Ziegenbitchin'". At the bar he was "Ziegendrinkin'". His main keyboard was the "Ziegenboardin'". Once he left the dinner table without leaving any money (by accident) and he became "Ziegen-dine-'n'-dashin'". Endless fun was had by all.
the 12th clinic--a special favor. Backstory: I was supposed to have booked 12 SWR clinics for the tour in order to fulfill my obligation to the company I love so much. Deadline day came and I only had eleven booked, so I asked an unnamed SWR executive if eleven would be OK. His reply: "You can perform the 12th clinic underneath my desk when you get back." That moment should be arriving soon. Gulp.
Chatfield Computer Adventure #2: Having only recently recovered from the NYC Laptop Dump, Chatfield's computer was perched on the only thing resembling a table in our "dressing room" backstage at Wilbert's in Cleveland, OH. You can only imagine the horror on Cami Slotkin's face when, as she reached for an open beer on the same table, the bottle knocked over and foamy beer gurgled its way onto the keyboard and into the speakers. The laptop continued to work for a short while, and Nordegg consoled the contorted Chatfield with the reassuring words, "See, it still works." Then the display started freaking out with all sorts of lines and color problems, and Chatfield responded "Yeah, it works fucking GREAT." That was as close as he ever came to losing his cool on the whole tour; after that, he just went on about the business of getting it fixed. He even forgave and hugged poor Cami shortly thereafter. I don't know how he does that--had it been my laptop, I probably would have slit my own throat, not to mention the throat of the offender. Cami was inconsolable for a couple of hours, but the BFD entourage kept her humanity intact. And the happy ending is thus: I'm writing this to you on the previously beer-soaked Powerbook. Macintosh. Think different.
Memorable Moment #3: Standing onstage during "Potato" in Philadelphia, PA at Upstairs At Nick's (8-12-98) and noticing some kind of light flickering in the crowd. As I looked closer I discovered that the flickering light was a series of three potatoes, each with three lit candles stuck into them. The Cult Of The Flaming Potatoes stood and swayed, holding their fiery symbols of worship as they sung, "Potato, potato, potato."
Most Unexpected Ally: Mother Nature. During the entirety of the tour, only once was a load-in or load-out accompanied by rain. Sure, sometimes it was hot, but overall we were totally blessed by the weather on this tour. It's worth noting that only days after we left Wilmington, NC, Hurricane Bonnie came in and pretty much thrashed the whole town to hell. Had we been caught up in that mess, the tour might have come crashing to a halt. We were lucky.
Best Nickname For A BFD Fan: "Dognuts", a resident of Charleston, WV. He was a hell of a dancer as well. Go Dognuts, go Dognuts...
Biggest Fucking Assholes Of The Tour: The Tedio Boys, the band that opened for us at Local 506 in Chapel Hill, NC. Not only did they suck cock musically, but after BFD was done playing their first official Southern show to a less than packed house, a member of The Tedio Boys--looking all wide-eyed and hyper as if he was on bad speed--was standing nearby as we loaded our gear into the truck. He was holding a black magic marker and desperately wanted to draw "tattoos" on all of us. Most declined, but both J and Keneally (trusting souls that they are) allowed Speed Boy to defile their body parts with his scribblings. As we were driving away in our usual three-car convoy order (truck in front, Nordegg van second, J-mobile third), someone in the Nordegg van radioed ahead to Scott and I in the truck and casually informed us that there was now a swastika on the back door of the truck. In black magic marker. We pulled over to the side of the road and inspected closer. Above the swastika was a poor drawing of a fish and two words: "Swim Fast". I desperately wanted to go back and club the fucker with a baseball bat, but Keneally and Chatfield thought better of it. A note to The Tedio Boys (not like they're even literate enough to read, let alone have computers): If I ever see any of you again, it'll be the last time any of your noses sit straight upon your ugly fucking faces. Fuck you, fuck you, and fuck fucking you. The world is full of assholes, they strut and abuse...
Memorable Moment #4: NOTE: This is not in any way meant to disrespect the fine folks who put together the Butler, IN show. They were great to us and had nothing to do with the following Memorable Moment.
At a certain point before our show at the Most Surreal Venue of the tour--a weedy field in extremely rural Butler, IN where the annual Grass Roots Tea Party was being held--we were informed that we needed to stop playing at 11:00 PM sharp because a noise curfew was strictly enforced by the town's police. But then later we were told that we could play for as long as we wanted because the police would be preoccupied that evening with the KKK rally that was occurring downtown. It was entirely possible that, had we arrived in town just an hour or two later, the first thing we would've seen was a bunch of assholes parading around in white sheets and hoods. Homophobes and racists, they're fuckers and jerks...
Back to sunnier subjects.
Best Venue Drink Policy--The Chukker, Tuscaloosa, AL. You guessed it--anything we wanted, no charge. The sad part was that we couldn't even fully enjoy club owner Dave Demoya's generosity, for we had just endured the Hardest Drive Of The Tour, a 455-mile overnighter from Savannah, GA to Tuscaloosa. We left Savannah at 1:30 AM and arrived in Tuscaloosa at 10:00 AM, which gave us five hours to sleep before we had to get ready for a clinic at 4:30 PM. Zzzzzzzzz.
Most Drunken Show--The Club Tavern, Madison, WI. I almost fell over twice during our second set that evening. Hey, it was my first show after my hellish week as Tour Manager, so what did you expect? For Jason, it would have to be The Maple Leaf in New Orleans. He was totally hammered. "Vent" was pretty interesting that night.
Most Debaucherous Day--Monday, August 24th. Our day off in New Orleans. Cami, J, Marc, Jason and I started drinking at 4:00 PM. Seven hours, three strip clubs (one with males as well as females), a pool table and a gay bar later, we were a sight to behold.
Best Billboard: We spotted this sign as we crossed from New Mexico into Colorado on the day of the Durango gig. The car radios were instantly aflutter with debate on whether or not we should stop, turn around and go back so that we could capture it for all the digital world to see. Now that it's obvious who won the debate, I'll simply say that we don't have anything against the beast that is Toss Panos, but at the same time, how could we not show this to you?
Most Absent-Minded Member Of The BFD Entourage: Bob Tedde. It's a miracle this guy is even alive. He lost cables, earpieces, clothes, you name it. Watching him set up his rig was like seeing someone dump a whole jar of chunky tomato sauce on the floor from a height of at least three feet. Then, for the coup de grace, he left his Roland keyboard amplifier in a hotel lobby in New Hampshire! He's still trying to make arrangements to have it shipped back to him. It got to a point that whenever someone lost something or left something a mess, Thomas Nordegg would just shake his head and say, "Bob Tedde". I still love the guy, but he scares me.
Coolest Opening Act--Project/Object, of course. The NJ-based Zappa tribute band made things easy for us in my home state. Their leader Andre was particularly helpful. Check 'em out--they rock.
Memorable Moment #5:--The Berklee Performance Center in Boston was a great venue, but we weren't allowed to sell merchandise anywhere inside. However, they didn't say anything about the alley in back where our gear truck was parked, so during the show, Keneally mentioned on the mike that we'd be 'round back selling shirts and CDs if anyone was interested. Sure enough, right after the show, there was Cami Slotkin and Mike Keneally, standing in the back of our Avis truck and dispersing merchandise with great haste to a crowd of nearly 50 eager Berklee-ites. It was like a scene out of a traveling medicine show from the 1850's.
Worst Auto Repair Establishment: Benny's General Service, Boulevard, CA. As we rolled along I-8 on our way from Casa Grande, AZ to San Diego, CA, Nordegg's van kept hesitating and stalling in the 115-degree heat of the Mojave Desert. The situation was so persistent that we were forced to split the entourage in two, for we were in serious danger of being late for our opening slot for Jethro Tull. The band plus Chatfield and Cami pressed on while Nordegg and J managed to get the '89 Ford Aerostar to Benny's, where a toothless, overweight Deliverance-looking subhuman inspected the fuel filter and pronounced it to be OK. Nordegg did manage to make it to San Diego, but not without a new, more serious leak. AAA had to be called in to make the final adjustment--the toothless fuck had forgotten several screws and bolts during his reinstallation of the fuel filter. I can't tell you how much this perfectly avoidable problem with Nordegg's van wreaked havoc on the final loadout of the tour. The process of trying to get everyone to their proper post-tour destinations was, as Nordegg accurately stated, "Armaggedon".
Best Venue Staff: Cowboy's Texas Bar-B-Q, Wilmington, NC. Proprietor Bob Taylor fed us the most amazing food of the tour, in a building he'd literally built with his own two hands. It wasn't the biggest place, but it sure had the nicest people. Honorable mentions: Sarah Wood from The Velvet Elvis in Savannah, GA (the lady charmed Scott Chatfield right out of his body), and Mike Trombley of Advance Music in Burlington, VT, who made us feel right at home in Nectar's.
Worst Venue Staff: A tie, beginning with Mamakin's in Boston. They were impossible to reach on the phone for advance info, our drummer Jason almost got in a fight with a local Fenway Park vendor simply for trying to park in front of the venue, the place where the venue staff told us we could park didn't exist, we were fed tepid pizza, and--adding insult to injury--Scott had to track down six different people in order to get paid. Boston gets my vote for Rudest City, but my pick for worst venue staff goes to The Stoned Monkey in Huntington, WV. Nowhere to put our stuff (we changed in the gear truck), the club's power kept going out during our set, we were told repeatedly that we were lucky to even be there because we were opening up for local bigshots "Steel Pterydactyl", and then at the end of the night, the proprietor changed the terms of the deal on me (this was during my week as Tour Manager). After heated negotiations, we settled on a figure that he handed over to me in cash. As he walked away, I counted it and found it to be $50. short. I'll sponsor their castrations and peelings of smirks...
Best Clinic: Nectar's, sponsored by Advance Music in Burlington, VT. All praise is due to Mike Trombley. A close runner-up was E.U. Wurlitzer's in Worcester, MA, where Jason played what Ron Spiegelhalter referred to as Fisher-Price's "My First Drumkit" and we played a stupid lounge-improv tune called "Antelope Man" as I counted down the final 30 seconds before the official start of the clinic. Joyous mayhem, it was.
Worst Clinic: Sawmill Music, Columbus, OH. The posters--which went up a day before the clinic--didn't even have Keneally's name on them. To say that they were indifferent to us would have been an overstatement of their interest. The owner did show up at the last minute and pledged to do a better job in promoting a second clinic if we ever came back, so there could be redemption in the future for this establishment, but this clinic was a bad start to an even worse day.
Best Hotel: The Cortina Inn, Rutland, VT. Greg Henry set us up in a hotel with a pool, a jacuzzi, and the most kick-ass breakfast buffet of the tour. It was truly a luxury we didn't deserve, and I felt guilty because Marc, Jason and J were staying down the road at the Red Butt Inn, or something, but it all evened out in the end.
Worst Hotel: Travelodge, Dallas, TX. I don't know what it is with these Travelodges--they seem to have a knack for picking out America's dumbest, least helpful people to work their front desks. Just when I thought that Cleveland's Mister Howell couldn't be topped (see Act 21 of the LOB), along comes a surly lady who refused to acknowledge that our room keys wouldn't open our door. She simply kept giving me different keys and telling me to go back up to the ninth floor and try again. The first three times I was nice. The fourth time I was less so. The fifth time I grew short. The sixth time, when she told me that there was "absolutely nothing" she could do--neither leave her desk nor call somebody else to help--I lost my temper. Finally the manager showed up and told me that she had been giving us keys to the wrong room. Poetic justice: the bitch quit the following morning. Honorable Mention goes to the Sunset Lodge in Wilmington, NC, where only Scott Chatfield stayed. Apparently the "crusty" carpet was only the beginning of the filth Scott had to endure on that night. Then housekeeping practically chased him out of the room the following morning.
Best Sound: Another tie. Kirk Miller, who has been and continues to be the house engineer for Ween, worked magic at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, possibly setting a record for shortest successful soundcheck in the process. And Sergei Ushakov of Burlington, VT (winner of the Spring Tour '96 award as well) is still the band's unanimous vote for the guy we'd most like to take on the road with us--if we could ever afford to do so. Then again, he did our sound for free at Nectar's, so what else could we ask of him? The Courage Under Fire award goes to the kid who did our sound at Headliner's in Muncie, IN. No older than 23 and on his first truly professional assignment, he single- handedly busted his ass for two hours straight and got a decent sound out of a really shitty PA. I wish I knew his name (Chet Haun, are you listening?).
Worst Sound: Sudsy Malone's, Cincinnati, OH. An otherwise pleasant experience, the Sudsy's gig featured monitors that, during breaks between songs, sounded as if someone was shooting a machine gun at us. Runner-up goes to The Stoned Monkey in Huntington, WV. It's hard to sound good when the main breakers keeps flipping off. It happened twice that evening, both in the middle of high-energy songs (pardon the pun).
Best Overall Venue and Best Crowd: The Bottom Line, New York City. A team of highly skilled soundmen kept things smooth during three switchovers between us and The Ed Palermo Big Band. The sound rocked, the rabid crowd was right in front of us, and it kind of felt like playing a professional show in a professional club for people who honestly cared about our music. Honorable Mentions: Club Clearview in Dallas, TX (crowd), Club Tavern in Madison, WI (crowd), The Khyber in Philadelphia, PA (crowd), The San Juan Room in Durango, CO (venue), The Berklee Performance Center in Boston, MA (venue).
Worst Overall Venue: The Elvis Room, Portsmouth NH. It was because of this venue that the phrase "butt gig" came into play. Our stint in Buttsmouth was marred by a Chinese Water Torture load-in, 100-degree indoor temperatures, buckets that would scare even the hardiest trucker, and a sound system more suited for a high school public speaking class than a four-piece rock band. It was the soundguy's first day on the job, so it wasn't really his fault, but when we hit the stage we were left wondering why the monitors were nonexistent no matter what adjustments the new guy made. Then we discovered that they weren't plugged in. We don't seem to have much luck in New Hampshire.
Worst Crowd and Worst Overall Show: The Union, Athens, OH. Thursday, August the 6th began with the Worst Clinic and got even worse from there. The load-in involved a sky-high flight of stairs. The club staff consisted of one guy who, according to him, "didn't have enough authority to either feed us or give us buyout money for dinner." The true club owners were "unreachable". The sound system was like a horror movie. The crowd was sparse, largely indifferent, and even belligerent--someone used Keneally's pedalboard as a beerholder, and two drunken guys tried repeatedly to steal merchandise from Cami. For me, on my last day as Tour Manager before Chatfield returned, it was the low morale point of the tour.
Best Overall Show: Cowboy's Texas Bar-B-Q, Wilmington, NC, 8-20-98. In a tiny club on a tiny stage--the smallest of the tour--a stripped-down Beer For Dolphins showed what it was capable of over a three-set, four-hour show for about 50 genuinely appreciative fans. Keneally even called "Zomby Woof" out of the blue and, believe it or not, we nearly nailed it without ever having played it before as a band. Feeling confident, we went into David Byrne's version of "Take Me To The River" and smoked that one as well. Nearly everything we did that night smacked of magic. Maybe it was the food. Maybe it was the tiny stage. Maybe it was the oncoming hurricane. Whatever it was, it was a bright shining moment in the midst of a tour that, on occasion, made The Alternate Reality of opening for Vai seem easy in retrospect. Runners-up: The Bottom Line, NYC, 8-14-98; Headliners, Muncie, IN, 8-2-98; The Khyber, Philadelphia, PA, 7-24-98; The Club Tavern, Madison, WI, 8-8-98; Club Clearview, Dallas, TX, 8-26-98.
Thomas Nordegg: The walking definition of the term Spartan. He wouldn't sleep for periods of 20 hours or more. Not only did he occasionally fast, he enjoyed fasting; he felt it helped to "purify" himself. On more than one occasion, when there was some technical work to do and the rest of us were dead tired and sleeping, he would stay up all night and complete the task at hand. I'd wake up and notice that the work was done, and I'd ask him, "Thomas--when did you have time to do that?" And he would respond with a knowing smile on his face, "I did it during hours of the night you do not even know exist."
Marc Ziegenhagen: Never have I seen someone appear to be having so much fun while playing near-impossible music. There were times when, as I gazed at him from across the stage during his solo in "Inca Roads", I thought his head might explode from pure joy.
Jason Harrison Smith: The look on his face when he finally beat me in a game of pool. It took him a couple of weeks--which delighted your admittedly competitive narrator to no end--but on that occasion when he hoisted himself over the mental hump, he flashed me an unmistakable "now you're mine" look. At that point I realized that I was in for a long tour on the billiards table. We split the rest of our games about 50/50.
Bob Tedde: Practicing. While we drove, while we ate, while we soundchecked, while we did anything, there he was with his guitar over his shoulder and his headphones on, working out a new part for the following show. The payoff would come during the performance, when all of a sudden he'd be playing a part I'd never heard anywhere but on the recording. Whether it was the swelled harmonies in the penultimate section of "Drum-Running" or the secret verse in "Top Of Stove Melting", the pleasant surprises kept on coming. That is, until Mike unceremoniously fired his ass after The Bottom Line show. (See the Tour Pix page for photographic evidence of this occasion.)
'J': This one's easy--at least 75 times during this tour, 'J' approached me wearing a face as eager as a kid in Candyland, sputtering with excitement, "Have you seen Mike? I have to tell him something!"
Cami Slotkin: For those not in the know, Cami is a literary girl, a graduate of UCLA with an Classics major. On three or four occasions during the tour, Mike invited her up onstage to recite a poem she called "Missile Dick". It was, according to her, about "a ballistic lover" who "exploded upon impact", if you know what I mean. Now I always knew she was an expert on the English language, but what shocked me was in Boston at Mamakin's when this normally reticent-to-a-fault lass commandeered the stage by altering the rhythm of her poem to match up with the broken-down groove from "Bullys (sic)". It led to what was one of the most surreal moments of the tour: her finishing the poem with a flourish of Latin as the band built to a dissonant frenzy, and when the angry groove eventually kicked back in...she curtsied.
Scott Chatfield: It happened more than once, but it's my indelible image of him from this tour. He's driving the truck and I'm sitting shotgun, watching him fish his cellular phone out from his leather bag as he prepares to charm yet another unsuspecting hotel front desk employee into giving us an unheard-of rate on three rooms, each with two double beds, two smoking and one non-smoking. "Hello," he'd begin innocently, "I'm looking for a good rate on three rooms..." From there, it was pure larceny.
Mike Keneally: During our gig at Headliner's in Muncie, IN--in a venue that could be best described as a glorified basement--I watched him as he waded out into the crowd during a solo and gave a little bit of himself to nearly every member of the audience. Soaked in sweat, with strips of wet black hair pasted to various points on his forehead, he kept playing and giving, making eye contact with everyone he walked by, until the room was practically humming as one gigantic musical organism. It was why we were there. It was why we were anywhere.
Most Dramatic Moment Of The Tour: For me, at least. As the BFD entourage was getting ready to leave Ron Spiegelhalter's boss's house in Southern New Hampshire for a long drive down to Philadelphia, Scott Chatfield discovered an e-mail from our booking agent Mike Kelly sitting in his inbox. Scott read the gist of it aloud: "The club promoters are happy, a lot of them want us to come back, they're offering better deals...I think we should start another leg of the tour in October."
Reactions were mostly positive. Mike dreaded another prolonged absence from his family, but realized that it was better news than it could have been. "Be careful what you wish for," he kept muttering. The rest of the band was ecstatic, as was Scott. But not me. What would SWR say?
They'd been generous enough to allow me to leave work for seven weeks, perform clinics for them along the way, and guarantee me a job when I got back. But this would be practically suicidal for my relationship with them, I thought; not only would I have to ask them for even more time off, I wouldn't even be able to do it in person. I'd have to do it while I was still touring. "Uh, I know I'm not back yet, but can I leave again five weeks after I get back? For another month, maybe more?"
It wasn't a sales pitch with which I felt overly comfortable. If they balked and said "sorry--if you go, don't bother coming back", then I'd be having to jump off another financial cliff in order to continue working with Keneally. And if I stayed home for SWR instead of touring with Keneally, I had visions of myself driving off of a cliff within a month. Keneally needed an answer from me in roughly seven days. Goddammit, here we go again.
I called the CEO of SWR from a bowling alley in Raleigh, NC and broke him the news. He was, shall we say, less than pleased. My department--artist relations--had suffered greatly in my absence, he said, and although the reports he'd received of our clinics were mostly good, he wasn't sure it was good for the company to have someone so important to the operation so utterly absent from the office. Even repeated performances of The 12th Clinic would not do in this case. I was told to call back in a couple of days for the official answer.
Everyone in the entourage knew what was going on and comforted me as best they could. I spent the next two days trying to relax, playing pool, drinking a little more Absolut Vodka and orange juice than usual. When the moment for the return phone call arrived, I found myself in a truck stop somewhere in western Alabama, sitting in a brown-carpeted booth and chain-smoking Marlboros like a true resident of a tobacco state. After some meaningless small talk, the CEO said something like this:
"It's not a great situation, I'll tell you that much. But it doesn't seem to make any sense to harm this relationship...the clinics really are a great thing for us...if you come back and work your ass off, I think we can do this whole thing again."
Another tour and more clinics and a job when I get back? I stammered in disbelief. Yes, he said, just so long as you can take care of business in the office when you get back. Now what I'm about to say may strike some of you as complete corporate cocksucking, but I don't care because I'm going to say it anyway: SWR is the coolest fucking company in the world for letting me do what I'm doing without firing my ass. I mean, can you imagine your place of employment allowing you the kind of freedom that SWR is allowing me? The way I feel about SWR is way beyond any kind of endorsement. They were the only ones out of all of our endorsement companies--Mike Keneally's included--to step up to the plate and provide even a limited sponsorship of the tour, and now this? The fact that my fairly complex rig performed flawlessly over the course of six weeks and 30 shows under the worst possible conditions is practically superfluous by this point. SWR: The Shit Works Motherfuckin' Right. I really don't know what else to say, except that sometimes I get pretty lucky.
And I can't help but feel that the most important chapters of this story have yet to be written.
Letters from Rock-n-Roll Fantasy Camp
Dear Mom & Dad,
Dear Mom & Dad,
Dear Mam & Dam,
Greetings from Cincinnati!
Phew, so much West Virginia, so little time. So finally here's some quick stuff about Athens Ohio. They have the Worlds biggest Taco Bell. (I'm serious, it's on a plaque) It used to be like a big theater or something and I think the Chihuahua actually lived there for a while, (unless those guys were teasing me, 'cuz I asked.) The gig was at a place called the Union and there was this giant air conditioner vent behind me and Bry. This was cool (ha ha get it) because it was so hot, but also kind of a pain since we both have long hair. So in Killer Fish, Bryan and I were singing on the same microphone and my hair got caught in Bryan's front teeth. We didn't even realize it till we tried to step back from the mic stand and both our heads kinda jerked twards each other. I thought this was really funny till I remembered all the jokes we used to tell last year at Band Managers Fantasy Camp about guys with hair in their teeth. Don't tell any of the Rockola guys, OK Mom? Well now I have to get on a plane back to San Diego so I can make the fffff...darn wedding so I'll miss the next few shows. Fantasy campus interuptus! Bummer.
Hello, long time no chime,
Ok so.. I rejoined the tour on Tues. Aug. 11, we played in Portsmouth NH at a place called The Elvis Room. I had to use your Amex card Ma to hire a limo from the Boston airport (sorry) The limo driver was in a real good mood. He said it was cuz the last of 8 felony charges against him (in Mass. and New Hampshire) had been dropped to mistermeanors. He also was celebrating his 1 month anniversary of not getting drunk. This all happened in like the first 10 minutes. It was a looong drive. Anyways The Elvis Room was ...interesting. It was the sound guy's first night, and even tho he was real nice and tried real hard, the technical difficulties seemed to really effect the show. Mike channeled a lot of bad energy in a kind of a good way (I do that alot) Some of the other kids were kinda scared by this, but I dug it!
The club in Philly was called Upstairs at Nick's. (and it was.) It was also cool. But when we got there I realized that I had actually left my FRIGGIN' amp back at the motel in Salem New Hampshire. (Sorry mom, there are just some times a guys gotta say FRIGGIN', and one of those times is when you leave your FRIGGIN' amp in a FRIGGIN' motel room in New FRIGGIN' Hampshire. But like you always say mom, every cow has it's silver lining so guess what? We found out my guitar rig sounded better running direct thru the PA than it ever did thru that old amp. Is that crazy or what? Anyways, it was a hard show for me cuz I had to play in the dark. The club had a better PA system than most of the other clubs with a whole bunch o' monitor mixes and stuff but like only 3 lights! This was mostly only a problem for me because I still need to look at my hands alot. (you wouldn't believe the kinds of things they try'n get away with when I'm not watchin' 'em) And check this out, during Potato, these 3 guys came up to the front of the stage. Each guy had 1 potato. Each potato had three lit candles in it (how many were going to St. Ives?) (sorry) Mike attempted to play slide with one of them, (the potatoes that is) and it was cool to watch but kinda ugly to listen to. Anyways it was fun but I started thinkin' how dangerous would it be if we started playing Floating Face alot?
Ok then it was on to Asbury Park NJ On the way there we did a cool clinic and Bryan's Grandparents came and they were really proud of Bryan, I could tell. Sometimes, when we were playing, BB's grandma reminded me of my own Grandma. She even had that same interesting smile my Grandma used to give me when I was 7 years old and used to play the first line of "Fire" by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown over and over and over again on my Close-n-Play. Grandmas rule!
Well Mom & Dad,
Three Meaningless Moments
JS: (Frantically, in the back seat of the J-mobile as it races toward another gig) "Our Lucky Wasp is gone! It's a big old dead wasp! He's been here on the rear dashboard since the beginning of the trip, and now he's gone! We're hosed!"
J: (Calmly, solicitously) "Jason, sometimes the wind blows things around back there. Maybe he's moved to somewhere else. Check carefully."
JS: "Yeah!" (Desperately tears apart rear of vehicle) "Nah, he's gone! We're quacked! Man, something really bad's gonna happen now!"
SC and MK/BFD friend Leighsa Gonzalez are merrily strolling around the perimeter of New Orleans' infamous St. Louis #1 Cemetery just before midnight. Absorbed in conversation and oblivious to the various catcalls, raunchy solicitations and scary noises about them, they are approached by a police cruiser.
Policeman riding shotgun: "Good evening. What are you two up to?"
SC: "Jest walkin' around..."
PRS: "Well, this is a very dangerous neighborhood, and you two have "Rob Me" written all over you."
LG: (Half-seriously) "But I know judo!"
PRS: "'Judo' is a four letter word, but 'Uzi' is a three-letter word. Why don't you both head on back to the French Quarter?"
SC and LG: "Gulp!"
The entire BFD entourage stops for a tasty cajun meal at a roadside creole joint on our way out of New Orleans towards Houston. The exotic food is the most ethnic, original and flavorful meal most of us have had on the tour.
BB: "Man, this gumbo is great! (To waitress) Excuse me, but what is a beignet?"
Waitress: "It's sort of a Creole-French doughnut we eat down here, cher."
MZ: (Looking up after having been absorbed in his meal for several silent moments) "Hey, are we still in Louisiana?"
Hiya! Cami here, here being on I-81, somewhere in Pennsylvania, en route to somewhere else in Pennsylvania that has a relatively cheap motel in it which is more or less on the way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, wherein lies The Elvis Room, the site of tomorrow night's gig... So I'm riding shotgun in the happy Avis truck, typing this update (Jason was going to cover this one, but he can't type and ride at the same time, so Marc was going to take dictation, but the Powerbook is in the truck and so is Scott, and there isn't quite enough room left for Frick and Frack together, therefore I got the short sti--er, uh, honor), reading the map, adjusting the FM-CD adapter, holding the wheel while Mr. Chatfield sets up his little dome-light block, and ZOWIE is it ever pouring rain.
Today we left Ohio for (we believe) the very last time of the tour. We made the tremendous mistake of attempting to Get Some Things Done in Youngstown without the guidance of Bob Tedde, who grew up there and who will, thankfully, be rejoining us tomorrow night in Portsmouth. But anyway, this ultimate Ohio venture was actually the result of leaving Indiana, where we (we, I say, as if I were up on stage, which, with the exception of a poetry reading between sets in Madison, as a rule, I am not) played the Grass Roots Tea Party until the police came to enforce the sound curfew (just as soon as they could make it over from the local KKK rally). But hey, when those same police pulled Thomas over (Thomas drives at speeds you do not even know exist), they gave him a written warning instead of a ticket, so the consensus is that they ain't all that bad.
What else, what else? Well, sheesh, the boys have been wonderful, the shows have been more wonderful, the people at them have been even more wonderful still--things are altogether wonderful in We're Not Here To Help Land. Especially when the Lerches are around to spoil us all even more rotten than our fabulous guest hosts are spoiling us! Mike and I were listening to Wish You Were Here in J's car before the last gas stop, which was just mindbogglingly cool and utterly appropriate, and I think that about covers it till next time.
Moments of Clarity: Fear and Loathing with Beer for Dolphins
"How many more nights and weird mornings can this terrible shit go on? How long can the body and the brain tolerate this doomstruck craziness -- this grinding of teeth, this pouring of sweat, this pounding of blood in the temples -- sixty, seventy hours with no sleep... buy the ticket, take the ride, and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well maybe chalk it off to forced consciousness expansion; Tune in, freak out, get beaten."
--Hunter S. Thompson
"Remember, ladies & gentlemen... Touring can make you crazy."
The truth about this horrible, fiendishly unrelenting tour which we have all become cruelly imprisoned within? You would run screaming from this URL to the nearest bar, the nearest dealer, whatever, trying desperately to force the terrible memory of what you'd read from your embattered head. We're talking years of therapy. I know I'll need them. But no, what I'm offering you is not the truth. Neither is what anyone else on this page chooses to write. That would be too much for any of us to handle, it being out there like that. Here is what I can tell you:
I don't know where I am. In fact, I don't know where I've been and I almost certainly don't know where I'm going. Touring, in this way, is an excruciating microcosm of life itself. It resembles (so closely that I shudder) a twisted real-life Dungeons & Dragons adventure; except instead of Dungeons & Dragons you have venues and club owners.
But really, consider the parallels: a group of people (some human, and occasionally, as you will find out later, some not) traveling together, overcoming obstacles, enduring a series of missions, aimlessly, haphazardly. Each of these adventurers possess distinct traits, strengths and weaknesses, abilities and experiences. As a group they work together, each being pressed into service when their particular specialty is called for. As they overcome each obstacle, damage and experience are tallied, as well as monetary gain and the occasional booby prize. Occasionally, they sleep, or venture into the nearest town to replenish their food and/or equipment supply. Perhaps the occasional dramatic episode breaks the monotony. Perhaps a member of the caravan is forced to depart the group for a while; perhaps forever.
I've stretched this simile out enough; it is tired from the exercise. However, realize as you read this that as cutely fitting or clever as it may seem to you, to be inside of it is truly maddening -- what will "normal life" be like, when, if, this mad, mad journey ends?
The most deeply disturbing notion is that it would be NO DIFFERENT. Once locked into this perceptual state, it may be impossible to break free and restore sanity ever, ever again.
Mike Keneally must be unnaturally possessed by some force greater than any of us can comprehend. He speaks in tongues. Sometimes, he even plays guitar in tongues. Though he does not play with the devil's toys, the devil's playground is indeed where he plays -- but he brings his own toys, openly thumbing his nose in the devil's direction and living to tell the tale. Indeed, he is a devil all his own, and how can I not resist preferring Satanism? I cannot.
Did I mention that Mike Keneally speaks in tongues? Never before has one man unleashed such a mound of gibberish onto this earth. At any provocation, disturbing and sometime revelatory streams of subconscious goo will spurt forth, sometime followed by nervous laughter, sometimes by an eerie silence as those around him shift uncomfortably in their seats. A sneeze is shortly followed by a crazed "Oh God! My dog is here!" A loud rap on the dashboard of the car provokes a sound from his lips which can only be described as primal, dark, and utterly without humanity. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the company of an incognito immigrant from outer space...
I have to change the subject now or I will very likely be kicked off the tour.
The road never ends. It is the perfect physical manifestation of the Moebius strip in the addled mind of anyone who travels with such intensity as this. It wraps around the country like a ribbon around an ornamental Christmas package with a dead bunny hidden inside. Maddeningly deceptive, deceptively maddening -- all fun and games at first, but when you venture deep enough into that heart of darkness, when you see that abyss and be seen as such, you will never turn that key, flare that ignition and open that doorway again without a twinge of hesitation. Where will it lead you?
You must always remember that the journey is the important thing, not the destination. The destination will get you nowhere because, quite frankly, it IS nowhere.
Bryan Beller is one intense billygoat. As I write, he whips my car around the streets of Somewhere, Mass. like a cracked-out weasel. When Bryan enters the car, it is like an immediate intravenous injection of pure Fear & Loathing. Bryan Beller exudes Fear & Loathing like an odor -- it is his natural state. Ask the wrong question, make the wrong gesture, shit, even sniff the wrong way and he'll rip you a new asshole.
Sometimes, he huffs and snorts like a wild boar; keep your distance, he could charge at any moment. One of God's own prototypes: too ugly to live, too rare and precious to possibly be extinguished.
Editor's Note: After transcribing the previous section, J jumped into his Infiniti and sped away without explanation. He seemed upset, frustrated with his writing and the tour which inspired it. We hope he reappears before the beginning of the Southern leg of the tour, otherwise we may have to arrange for alternate transportation. This will not be the first time. In the meantime, he left behind several pages of frantically scribbled notes and journals, and in the interest of filling out the rest of his space here we will insert one of them for you raw and unedited.
7/28 -- 3:02 P.M. -- On the road -- Buffalo, N.Y.
Already my memory has become completely loopy -- I feel like my life has now been nothing but cars, venues, and the occasional motel room, forever.
the rest of the 'people' on this tour keep looking at me funny as i'm trying to tell them what i'm trying to say... does that make sense?
islands of such great complexity -- and emptiness
Ohio: cultural wasteland through n through, don't know how long can stand
That's enough of that. Sorry, but I needed a break -- I headed over to downtown Newark for a marathon of strip clubs and adult video stores, anything to make me feel as if I'm a human being and in L.A. again. Whatever. Let's get on with it, shall we?
Thomas Nordegg is not a man. We will never know what ungodly force created him, but suffice it to say, he embodies more than is dreamt of in our philosophy.
Let me explain.
He does not eat. He does not sleep. (He may go into Standby mode; do not be fooled -- he is always awake; he is always listening.) Sometimes he expresses the feeling of pain or fatigue. Again, do not be fooled: this is but Nordeggese for 'I am experiencing technical difficulties.' What am I trying to say?
Here is what I am trying to say:
Thomas Nordegg is the Terminator.
Peek behind those wraparound sunglasses (which may or may not be detachable from his head) and you may detect the red luminescence just barely glowing behind his eyes.
Observe his uncanny ability to imitate the humanity around him -- mostly soundbites from TV or refrains used by band members -- in an attempt to blend in. Thomas, as we call him, will never blend in. He will always be too perfect to be human -- an otherworldly presence as beguiling as a statue in a wax museum.
He claims to have recently replaced his once imperfect 'natural' bone structure with a more sleek, aerodynamic design employing hollowed titanium and Velcro. This alteration cuts his weight by a third, allowing 'muscleman' Beller to lift him to the ceiling for pre-show lighting adjustments thought impossible before 'Thomas' entered the room.
Like Robocop, he carries concealed compartments within his body which hold cables, plugs, batteries and who knows how much more -- no one is exactly sure. All anyone ever sees is a quick flick of the wrist or a blur -- something too fast for the human eye to properly perceive -- and the required instrument is brought forth as if by magic. IT IS NOT MAGIC. Advanced extraterrestrial technology far too complex for our feeble minds to comprehend, perhaps. Perhaps something even more intangible. This question is hotly debated behind closed motel-room doors, over stiff drinks before shows, and in cars between cities -- any car but Nordegg's, that is; there is a general fear that if he finds out that we're on to him, he may alert whatever authorities are responsible for him and there could be trouble.
"AS YOUR ROAD MANAGER I ADVISE YOU TO HAVE MORE EMPATHY!!" Chatfield screamed as we barreled though upstate New York at 90 MPH.
I groaned inaudibly. What was this crazy monster implying now? Empathy? In the middle of this hellish madness he's trying to make me wrap my mind around a concept as ridiculous as empathy? Empathy, for fuck's sake, exists only so much as the ego, id, and the mind itself exist; that is, as utterly man-made abstract concepts, weak excuses for representations of reality (the word reality is a weak excuse for a representation of reality) only to be used by high-minded intellectuals who think they understand the world around them. I didn't truly believe Scott was one of these, but how could I explain all this to him in my frantic, crazed inner state? We are each of us islands of such great complexity -- Islands!
"Open the tequila," I grumbled as I pumped the gas pedal further into the floorboard than ever before.
Fear and Loathing with Beer for Dolphins, Part II
"So, in America, when the sun goes down, and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey, and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming and the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars'll be out and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear?"
--Jack Kerouac, On the Road
--Mike Keneally, unpublished interview,
I was standing by the bar in our Boston venue, Mama Kin, which was tackily decorated with various Aerosmith-related phenomena. Accompanying me were two ladies, friends of the band, or friends of friends of the band, I'm not sure which. Doesn't really matter, does it? What matters is that they were there. And I was with them. That much I'm sure about. The rest I have to cull from notes hastily scribbled on napkins and pizza boxes. And so we were just standing there sipping our drinks and absorbing the general chaos surrounding us in this godawful place. I eyed my glass with tentative suspicion.
"What is this called, that we're drinking, again?" I roared over the tumult. I knew I'd asked before, but on the other hand I wasn't sure. I could have only been thinking it. Or did they hear me? Had I spoken at all?
"IT'S A PURPLE MOTHERFUCKER!" screamed Theresa in her loud, brassy Long Island accent. I briefly mused on the peculiarity I still felt whilst speaking to unfamiliarly-accented people, then remembered the subject at hand.
"But what's in it?" I wondered aloud.
The other girl, Heather, started to reply, but was cut off by Theresa immediately.
"It's ACTUALLY a GRAPE CRUSH," she intoned.
"It's-- it's what?!?" I was suddenly confused, though I couldn't remember why. Heather managed to run down the list of ingredients for me, which settled one issue. But--
"So it's really called-- what, a grape slush, huh?" I said, trying to keep my cool. But she hadn't heard me. She just kept talking. Was she even seeing me, I wondered? Or too lost in the haze of her story to maintain contact with the outside world? Suddenly I realized she was no longer the only one talking. Heather was trying to say something.
"Grape CRUSH," she said.
"What?!?" What was she getting at now?
"Not slush," she added.
I realized my mistake. Shit. I must sound like a fool, completely ignorant-- Quick -- say something funny...
"Right!" I yelped. "Because if it were a grape slush, then it would be slushy. This isn't slushy. Right?"
The two girls, silenced by this last observation, seemed to consider it seriously, then nodded their heads, gravely, in unison. I had lost all grip on what was going on. Was there no communication in this bar? Had we deteriorated to the level of dumb beasts?
"I need some coffee. Let's take a walk, huh? Finish your Purple Motherfuckers."
We ventured out into the street. "Don't worry," I advised them. "They know me here. They'll never fuck with us trying to get back in. Just play it cool."
Boston is absolutely insane. Hordes of people, some freakishly ugly, some nauseatingly beautiful, all dressed in nearly nothing, all out in the middle of the street, roaming in packs, psychotically drunk and making no attempt to hide it . As we venture out onto the sidewalk, two girls pass, lavishly, sexily dressed, too much eye makeup, lipstick, it's too much to bear. As if that weren't enough, two frat boys are trailing them by about twenty feet, arguing about where to go next. I can't understand anything they're saying, not until one of them finally resolves the argument by loudly declaring, "Let's just follow these GIRLS!" I grab Heather and Theresa and we retreat.
Walking down the sidewalk, now; no idea where to go. I light a cigarette. Theresa assures me that we are indeed en route to a convenience store. But I still have no idea where I am, really-- too much is happening. All around me people are writhing and grinding... Grown men and women wobbling down the street, falling on each other, laughing, screaming, laughing, then things get ugly and a fistfight nearly ensues, but they soon forget and continue to make their way down the street. I am witness to it all.
As we make our way down the reeling Boston sidewalk, I am confronted by a man who grabs me and yells, "I was just about to talk to you! I thought you were HIM!" He points and I see standing a ways away, a supposed friend of his, giggling and bobbing at the edge of the sidewalk. Now the accosting intruder is laughing hysterically, shaking me and winking.
This was too much.
"GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME, YOU FUCKING SWINE!" He just continued laughing and wandered away.
Bought coffee, got coffee drunk and moved back into the club, upstairs and into the band room. Mr. Chatfield has set up shop here, reigning supreme over a roomful of hangers-on and guest host with family. As Scott simultaneously exerts his solemn but powerful influence over the room while performing laptop business, the three of us attempt to blend in and enjoy the seclusion of the band room; we are exhausted from the chaos surrounding us in all directions. The room's inhabitants are engaged in some kind of conversation, too mundane to be anywhere near intelligible to us, in our state. Occasionally, Scott chimes in with something twisted enough to break through to our consciousness, but generally we sit in a wide-eyed stupor, shooting knowing glances at one another and nodding our heads rhythmically to music which does not exist.
Finally, I cannot stand the soporificity of this peeling, cracked room and its droning occupants any longer. But how to communicate this to my companions without raising the freak flag too high? Screw it. Improvise.
Theresa and Heather immediately snap to attention.
What to say? "Let's go across the street, break into the stadium and steal second base."
We are up and out.
The next leg of our journey/mission is extremely hazy. I remember standing in the street, Heather screaming at me, mid-argument concerning the proper way to steal second base out of Fenway Park.
"IF WE DON'T COME BACK WITH SECOND BASE, THEY'LL ALL LAUGH AT US!" She was screaming at me.
"Look, Heather, this is a very--"
"LET'S FIND A PIZZA BOX AND CUT IT INTO THE SHAPE OF SECOND BASE!!"
"That is the stupidest idea I've--"
"FUCK YOU! I'M NOT STUPID!"
Theresa was standing a few feet away, smoking and staring off into the distance.
"Look! A bowling alley! AND it's a disco!"
"WE NEED TO GO STEAL SECOND BASE!"
How do I handle this?
"Listen to me for one moment, please? If we go into that disco bowling alley place, then--"
"--there'll probably be a secret entrance to the stadium somewhere in the back! THEN we can steal second base... See?"
We wound up shooting pool in that godawful, smoky, lizard-inhabited place, with Jason Smith, (also known as 'Killer' since he beat the shit out of a guy who tried to keep us from parking the truck in front of his souvenir stand when loading in to Mama Kin) and the game that ensued was of legendary proportions.
Airline stewardesses are depraved individuals.
Returning to the club, preparing for the show, I crossed paths with the infamous Ron Spiegelhalter-- NO! I can't handle his kind right now. Deceptively shy and pleasant, Ron is just as crazy and depraved as his electronic behavior suggests. Upon meeting him in Portsmouth, he offered his girlfriend to me in an unspeakably seedy manner, such was his devotion to Mike Keneally and his cause. We chatted quickly, I think. I can't remember. I made some excuse about needing to charge my batteries and ran away.
I can't talk about Boston anymore. It just gets worse; my heart breaks; I shouldn't have gone on this long.
As I type this, we head into New Orleans, and I fear that a horrible, intense night is ahead of me. In preparation of what's coming, I locked myself into the Tuscaloosa motel room yesterday and slept for over 14 hours -- I will not need sleep tonight, and am utterly prepared for a nonstop roller coaster ride of traumatic visceral intake. Riding in my car is a stowaway, a brave young girl who hopped aboard in Tuscaloosa after fleeing Chicago the day before. I have not been able to ascertain the exact cause of her flight; but she, like me, is walking along the edge of reality and can't stop moving. I would continue to write, but for fear of revealing her identity and ensuring an ugly end for the both of us.
And now, I think back to the first hours of the tour, halcyon days they are now, driving to Las Vegas, excited, happy, free -- no more. It's been a Heart of Darkness trip since then. Catch-22 in constant motion, instead of stagnancy -- a moving stagnancy. A trip. Then, in that blissful time, it was but a few of us: myself, Jason, Cami, Thomas... eventually Marc Z. but by that point things were already tainted, we were already hallucinating without need of pharmaceutical aid, for lack of sleep and crazy circumstances had done us in. At that point, it had only been three days or so; but it felt like three weeks. Now it feels like three years, or an eternity, but when I get home I know it'll feel like it never happened. That's the way life is: things happen, but once they're done happening, they're not real anymore.
If you'd like to E-mail J, do so with caution at firstname.lastname@example.org. He won't read it until after the tour, though, but won't he be happy to find so many gigabytes of fan mail when he gets home!
Back to Obvious Moose.