Saturday, March 15, 2008

March Animals go South

posted by Majestic Ape at 5:44 PM

Round two started on Friday, March 5. We were leaving town with a brand new transmission and excitedly heading south. I was armed with a new wallet, driver’s license, and sunscreen.

We left for Richmond around 5pm Friday afternoon. Even though its only about 100 miles to Richmond, traffic on the DC beltway and on 95 South is pretty congested. I expected it would take around 4 hours. It rained most of the way. When we hit Lorton, home of the Virginia state penitentiary, Erick had to pee.

When we got out at the gas station, there were a few folks standing around smoking near the toilets. They sure looked like a band. I figured we would start running into people going to SxSW. I had to ask.

“Are you guys a band?”

“Yeah,” one of them answered.

“Who are you?”

“An Albatross.”

“No way! We’re Apes!” An Albatross have been together as long as we have. We first played with them in a basement in New Brunswick, NJ. We were on tour with Liars and it was two weeks after 9/11. We made a connection then and ran into them many times over the years. I think we even played a show together in Brooklyn.

We would be together for most of the tour and it was hysterical that we happened to stop at the same bathroom, at the same time, on the way to the first show in Richmond.

They arrived first, as I got on 95 going the wrong direction.

We have not played in Richmond since 2001. The last time we played there (also with Liars), a drunk girl had thrown a glass at Erick and they got into a fight. I vaguely remember some wrestling on the floor. I think I dragged her off him. We vowed to not go back to Richmond.

The club, The Camel, looked very new, very clean, and was nicely laid out. There was a bar side with seating, and a stage side for the show. We were playing first, then An Albatross, and Amoeba Man was closing the night. Amoeba Man is the band of Jason, who is a great Richmond/Charlottesville promoter. He had promoted our show with the Slits the year before.

I think we had a blast playing. The floor was slanted as to allow people in the rear of the room to have a few of the band, who was playing on the floor. The crowd was enthusiastic and it felt LOUD.

An Albatross is comprised of five men: Phil on keys, Eddie the singer, Jay the bassist, Stevie the drummer, and Daniel the guitarist. Their music is fast, loud, screamy, and the show is HIGH energy. I felt like we were a great compliment to each other and I loved watching them play.

Amoeba Man was great as well. We spent the latter portion of the evening professing love of each other’s music.

Jason was kind enough to give us his apartment for the night. Erick and I both dreamt of someone trying to kill us.

Raleigh.

The weather leaving Richmond was pretty perfect but as we headed south, it got quite cold and extremely windy. The wind was so strong it was blowing the van either on the shoulder or into other lanes.

We arrived in downtown Raleigh and it was very quiet. It was a Saturday night. I wondered where the people were. An Albatross had already arrived and were sitting at the bar. I met the bartender to ask about food or buyouts. There would be neither. He explained (and we already knew) that the first promoter had dropped the show very recently and he had been kind enough to pick up the pieces. He had told our booking agent that he couldn’t meet the original guarantee or rider. They were very generous at the bar though.

After our various dinners, we got to sound check. Its extremely important that we get sound checks whenever possible. Jeff is a HEAVY hitter and plays extremely loudly.
Erick’s frequencies are slightly atypical because he plays a baritone guitar. Breck is a powerful vocalist and as a group, we need sound checks. Having monitor levels set appropriately makes all the difference between a show where you can relax and let loose or be stuck trying to hear what’s going on and forcing the rest.

The show was originally going to start around 10:30, I believe. However there was a UNC vs Duke Basketball game on the television. We had to wait for the game to end.
At around 11:30pm, the game ended and the bar mostly emptied out. Showtime!

The music sounded great but for the deafening feedback that occurred several times. It was nobody’s fault but I found myself wishing for earplugs on multiple occasions. An Albatross also played a powerful set. I met several very cool people that lived locally. However, that night we were going to be staying with long time Ape friend, Mike B. Mike B and his lovely wife Sarah, had moved to Raleigh not long ago and had a house outside the city. Before we could leave, I did a live phone interview for the WUSC radio station. It was the college radio station for University of South Carolina. We were playing in Columbia, SC the next day.

On the way out of town, I finally saw the people. The intoxicated masses were spewing out of bars all over town and driving recklessly to other locations.

We got to Mike’s carpeted home around 3:30 am. New houses have very nice carpet padding. Mike offered snacks and drinks. We hung out for a bit and went to bed.

I had forgotten what it was like to play in smoky bars since much of the northeast has now instilled a cigarette smoking ban inside restaurants and bars. We reeked of cigarette smoke. Even the van smelled like cigarettes. We did laundry. I got to shower in Sarah’s shower, the girl’s shower. It was lovely. Thanks, Sarah!

The next day’s drive to Athens was largely on country roads. It was bright, warm, and the skies were clear. Its hard to be in a bad mood when the weather is perfect.

We had been warned that the show in Athens might be desolate. Athens is home to University of Georgia and we were playing on a Monday night during spring break.

Erick bought a baby’s monkey jacket from the vintage store next to the bar. He couldn’t resist.

The promoter, Gordon, took both bands for dinner at a pizza place up the street. We enjoyed our first family style meal together. They were kind enough to let me have a salad.

I have to say the sound was great at that club. The soundman was extremely well seasoned and the people in the audience, while it was only a few, were quite enthusiastic.
Gordon introduced us to Pierre, who offered to host us. Pierre and his roommate Davey made the whole stop worth it. They had a small house right outside downtown Athens.

Pierre had moved here from France a few years back and had a heavy French accent. When we got to his house, he was making polenta with ‘stinky cheese’. I proclaimed that his polenta was the best late night snack I ever had. He insisted it was terrible. He had no olive oil, only rice bran oil, which was unacceptable. He was supposed to leave the house at 8 am the next morning, because he was going with an Athens band, to SxSW. I don’t think he went to bed till after 4 am. At 8 am, someone knocked loudly at the door. I waited for Pierre to answer but he never came out of his room. I answered the door eventually and had to guess which door belonged to Pierre so I could wake him up. When I opened door #1, I saw a large fisherman sweater on the floor and a slight body underneath a sheet. I guessed wisely. When I woke him, he shouted “Oh FUCK!” which sounded great with his heavy French accent. After a quick shower, Pierre was off to Texas. I hope we see him down there.

Chattanooga

When we got off the highway, we saw a billboard the read, “Wake up America, if racial profiling was legal, 9/11 would have never happened!” There was a animated picture of the two towers blowing up. Many yards displayed homemade signs depicting biblical quotes. Most quotes warned of Christ’s return and suggested that it would not be pretty for the sinners.

My favorite yard art was a large (maybe it was a cow) skull placed atop a long log (that was supposed to resemble some kind of Animal neck) and the body of the animal was covered with a confederate flag. I was afraid to stop for a photo.

Jeff’s brother and his wife live outside of Chattanooga. We stopped at his brother’s house to drop off our gear before going to the show. Brian, Jeff’s brother had just pulled into his garage.

“Good thing I was home,” said Brian, “I didn’t know you were coming here first.” Jeff replied, “I emailed you two weeks ago.” Brian responded, “Well I never got it,” and thus began the dialogue marked by short phrases and somewhat irritated or exasperated tonality. The Schmid men are not men of many words. While they are lovely people, they carry sort of a constant tone of slight annoyance.

I think Brian’s wife, Laura, was very happy to have new people around. We talked a lot before going to the club.

We headed downtown to the venue and shortly after, tried to go to an burrito place for dinner. The van full of the Apes and the Schmids provided ample conversational entertainment. I wish Erick had recorded it.

When we got back to the club, the first band was already playing. In fact, they were almost done. We had asked to play early because Brian had to wake up early to go to work. But it was really early. We took our time loading in and got a mini line check. Then I did a mad dash to the van to change clothes. I think it was the fastest change I ever did. When I got back, the room seemed full of people.

I had my mask on and went into the crowd to meet people. Someone grabbed my entire ass cheek in his hand. Since he got me from behind, I had no idea who it was. I made a comment about it in the monologue but honestly, it didn’t phase me. Maybe it should’ve.

For a small club with no monitors, the sound was great. Daniel from An Albatross assisted. And Eddie, Stevie, and Jay have begun standing close to the stage and clapping rhythm during a few of the songs. Its pretty awesome to hear them and see them while I am playing. Even when no one else is there, it really increases the human factor and just gives me a generalized good feeling.

Brian has a very close friend, another Brian, who Jeff has been in a band with. Brian B. also lives in Chattanooga so we went to his house after the show. He has a giant empty house not far from Brian and Laura. There is a band practice studio off the garage, and a entertainment throughout the house. We should have had An Albatross stay with Brian B.

Oh I forgot that Jeff’s obsession for the evening was finding earplugs. He planned on sleeping on the couch in the living room. His brother was going to be up at 6 am making protein smoothies in the kitchen and Jeff did NOT want to hear the blender. I gave him my earplugs.

Breck and I slept in a clean, lovely, guest room. Erick slept in the kitten room. Laura had rescued four kittens and Erick elected to sleep with them. He said they were only insane for the first two hours.

We relaxed for a while the next day before deciding to cancel our show in Huntsville, AL. It would have been an 800 mile drive to Houston the next day and it seemed pretty ridiculous to try to do that drive in one day.

Even though An Albatross invited us to stay go to New Orleans with them, we opted to drive and find a motel outside of New Orleans. We did not make a reservation and when we pulled off the highway in Slidell, LA, Jeff couldn’t find any rooms for under $80 a night. We only found one room for $60 that was 50 miles away. We got back on the highway.

I pulled out the GPS. Jeff has been making the calls and I thought I could do better. The first place I called was the Motel 6 back in Slidell. They had rooms for $56 plus $3 for internet. They had told Jeff a much higher price only moments before.

I told Donna I was on my way.

Jeff put on a movie when we got there but I read some and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I was quite hungry. I had seen a Cracker Barrel across the street and decided that I wanted to eat there. I don’t know why. The urge to slowly make meals smaller and less frequent never leaves you. You just have to learn to ignore it. Sometimes I don’t ignore it, and the day before had been a “light eating’ day.

So it was Cracker Barrel. Jeff went to Walmart to try to find steering wheel fluid. Breck and he had been researching how to find the power steering fluid receptacle under the van hood. Eventually Breck found a how to video that was for another type of car but seemed close enough.

After a stop at the surplus store for a new orange hat, we were on the way.

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