Friday, March 21, 2008

breaking apart

posted by Majestic Ape at 12:15 PM


We had our first great show in MN. After the show, we met Lori B., the drummer from Babes in Toyland. She took us home with her. I went to bed at 3:30 am. At 4:30 am, Erick hears a knock at the bathroom door (it was me, no memory of going downstairs). I tell him to get out because I have to throw up. He opens the door and I collapse to the ground. He helps me up and heads toward the stairs. Then I fall again. He gets freaked out, obviously. I crawl up stairs. Somehow I broke my ankle. I tried to tell at 4:30 am but he wasn't processing and I wasn't speaking clearly.

We got to the hospital at 12 noon the next day. I leave 6 hours later with a cast the size of a moon boot. They said I have to get home ASAP for reparitive surgery.

I wont be home till Monday morning. We aren't cancelling shows.

See you soon.

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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.


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.


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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The rest of the Feb NE tour. This is the end.

posted by Majestic Ape at 5:35 PM

Detroit was a hoot and a holler. We got there around 9:00 pm, just in time for the van to skate across the yard of ice designated as parking lot in the suburban housing subdivision. Inside, we found a middle-aged man with a mass of curls and a button down shirt, frying up about 30 pounds of cat fish for the 20 or so misfits inside. In the library, there was a game of Dungeons and Dragons going on, and several people were watching some kind of net porn. I sat down at a table to collect myself after the tense drive. In front of me, for my reading pleasure, was a copy of The Poor Man’s James Bond. I remembered this book from my college years. It’s something akin to The Anarchist’s Cookbook. The first page was covered with hand-written text. It was titled “The Do it Yourself Home Suicide Kit”. There were precise directions for how to quickly and efficiently cut and bleed yourself to death. A razorblade was taped to the page. I went to the bathroom.

The bathroom was only half complete but not undecorated. A large orange pentagram was painted on the tiled wall above the bathtub.

I was encouraged.

There were two opening bands, both from Brooklyn. One featured a guy running a laptop, while his partner, adorned with a computer monitor on his head, accompanied with vocals.

By the time we played, the kids were ready to get tribal, and that they did. There was an impromptu mosh pit in the living room. A few very drunk kept people falling over. Despite the awkwardness of the arrangement, it felt like we played well. We certainly connected with the audience.

Jeff, at some point, had gone upstairs to use the bathroom and discovered two rooms. One was all climbing walls, and the other displayed many swords.

While I was changing back into street clothes, I listened to the dialogue from the other room. It went something like this.

“We should get naked,” from an adult male voice.

“Do you think? It would be weird to get naked,” from a young female voice.

“Wow, there are naked people in my living room,” from the voice of the host.

“We should take pictures!” from the adult male photographer that had been capturing the entire evening with very professional gear.

“I can’t believe there is a porn shoot going on in my living room!” from the host.

I stuck my head around the corner. There was the guy who earlier had worn the computer monitor on his head, now nude, with a naked girl on each side of him. They looked young: there were lots of flash bulbs.

The promoters started bringing in snow covered couches from the backyard, in preparation for the Apes overnight stay. We decided to get a motel. I saw one of the promoters hand Jeff a wad of cash.

When we finally arrived at our room at the Knights Inn following another drive through nasty weather conditions. I asked Jeff how much we made. Keep in mind that the guarantee was $500.

“60 bucks,” Jeff answered with flat affect.

I flipped.

“Are you shitting me? No way! That’s bullshit! Why didn’t you tell me?” I was freaking out.

“What would you have done?” Jeff responded.

“We would have taken a trip to the ATM with a tire iron! What the hell is wrong with people? We had a freaking agreement. They broke it before the show but I read those emails that stated that they would be paying almost what our guarantee was. Why is it that every other service in the world, when provided, is paid for? Why is it that people think musicians don’t need to be paid? Why are we seen as disposable? Is it because they think we are having so much fucking fun? We have expenses. We have bills. We are driving around the country in a vehicle that gets 14 miles a gallon and paying over $3.15 per gallon of gas everyday. We are not rich people!” I was livid. I am still livid. If the kids couldn’t keep their end of the deal, they should have cancelled. They should have gone to the ATM.

I do not believe in violence. I do not believe raising one’s voice is an effective way to communicate or get one’s needs met. I did feel, however, that there needed to be a consequence. One must know that one has made a mistake has been made. In fact, it is very difficult to change human behavior. However, it is not impossible. Behaviors that are reinforced over and over again, will repeat. If there is a consequence for a behavior which one should change, over and over, the hope is that that behavior will change. You must teach a replacement behavior, a more desirable replacement behavior. I felt that I missed a teachable moment.


The next day we headed to Chicago where we would meet up again with Sole and the Skyrider Band. The venue was the Abbey Pub. The van was on its last legs. I could barely get it to start, to reverse, and to get into drive.

The show that night was great. I won’t drag it out. All of the bands were performing at a top notch level. The stage sound was great and the audience was great. One of my best friend’s from home, Evan, lives in Chicago now. We went to his place after the show. There was more boozing and bro downs and finally quiet comfortable sleep in a quiet comfortable house.

The next day, we ate at our favorite Chicago falafel place. There is nothing like it in DC. Breck did most of the drive to Columbus. We hit several potholes on the highway and the van would simply shut off at a speed of 75 to 80 mph.

I was looking forward to Ohio as like Pittsburgh, it had become sort of a second home.
The little bar was packed when we arrived. The highlight of the night was the two man comedy team—insert name-.

Our set was notable for a few reasons. Right at the end of Practice Hiding, Erick’s bass rig died. He is quite adept at figuring out the broken part of his chain so we were back in action pretty soon. The crowd was quite somber and I keep making mistakes. I hit tons of bad notes and the Korg fell off the top tier of the stand 4 times. I toned it down but I never felt like I recovered. I met quite a few complimentary folks after the show but the feeling of being a fuck-up had entered the brain.

However, we were staying with long time Ape friend, Gene Mullet. The man is a rock mainstay of Ohio and we were lucky enough to form a friendship. He has a beautiful clean and stylish home right outside of downtown Columbus.

I think I fell right asleep in the giant king size bed with fluffy comforter.

In the morning, I met Lindsay, Gene’s beautiful, smart, and sweet fiancée. It made me happy that he had a love connection. We went to one of Gene’s favorite places for breakfast and had a relaxing last meal on the road. I took lots of photos of other diners and their meals.

I took a different route on the way home thus avoiding the Penn Turnpike. It was a great move. There was beautiful scenery and smooth roads the whole way. When we had about two hours to go, I started to get sad. Erick was on the phone with his girlfriend, excitedly planning his first meal back. Breck had been talking happily with his girlfriend as well. I envisioned Jeff’s mom in the kitchen baking him cookies. Then I got a text message from my mom.

“Your cell phone bill was over $121.00. Stop using email. Get the rest of your crap out of your bedroom. We are turning that room into a walk-in closet.” Ouch. There’s my love.

When we got back to Jeff’s, my little old car was dead. Although, it started right up with a jump from the van, the reality of the age and life left in that car, smacked me in the face.

When I got back to my house in the city, I went to the bathroom. When I stood up from the toilet, my new cell phone, which contained pictures and videos from the entire tour, plopped into the bowl of Diet Mountain Dewed- flavored urine.

We found out a few days later that the van needed a new transmission. We had no choice but to replace it. There was no time or money to purchase a newer van before our next tour that started in two weeks. The new tranny cost about $1500.00 which was surprisingly cheap. The total income from the tour, however, went to fixing the van. Total take home pay from 2 ½ weeks of shows? None.

The shows were great. The people were great. I love our new record. I am thrilled that people seem to like it. We are adequately warmed up for part 2.

Next chapter: Tales with An Albatross.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Rochester, Buffalo, and part 1 of Detroit

posted by Majestic Ape at 3:52 PM

There are very few highways in Vermont and in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. We were eventually to Route 90 across NY State but we had a long drive through small towns, fields and mountains to get there. When we got about halfway to Rochester, the howling winds and snows began once again. In the van, we were treated to more of the same-- no heat, no defrosters, and no windshield wiper contact on the driver side. However, I was now used to it.

We got to the Bug Jar about 8:00 pm and went across the street for food. There is an Asian restaurant that serves Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai food. Jeff elected to order the same menu item as Breck. Erick finds the act of two people ordering the same menu item completely intolerable. He will voice his displeasure with this choice and then mock the "doubler", even after the meal is served. He claims it violates good dining out rules. We already know.

We are hoping for a better show at the Bug Jar tonight, than in shows past. The local band, Tiger Cried Beef, was opening and apparently they were a local favorite. One of the members, Keith, had contacted us after reading an old blog that described how everyone left after the opening band played on our last stop in Rochester. He promised that would not happen again. He also offered to put us up for the night after reading about the bizarre accommodations we had previously. There have been some hard times in Rochester.

Company, from Brah Records, was going to play in the middle. They had played with us in Burlington. Nice folks. Very pretty music.

Tiger Cried Beef came through with their promise. There music was great. They had a good crowd. The crowd stayed. The crowd showed enthusiasm. I began to think that our prospects in Western NY State were improving.

After the show we caravaned to Keith's palatial home. Our van was barely operable. I could not get it to reverse at all. I could also only barely get it into drive after having it slip in and out of gear and not catch. These were not good signs.

We arrived at Keith's and all piled in (Company stayed there, too). Keith gave us the tour, which was extensive. The house was absolutely huge. I was also struck by the cold inside temperature. I was EXTREMELY grateful for the bed to sleep in. I was EXTREMELY grateful for the clean showers, great company, great food, and good stories. I was also just quite freezing.

That day I purchased the little chemical foot warmers that you squeeze and the chemical reaction from the two solutions mixing, produces several hours of heat. I stuck them in my socks, put my hat and coat on, and went to bed around 3 am. I think it occurred to me that if I got up to pee, I would step on the warmers, spill the chemicals and give myself burns. What happened was I woke up in two hours with my feet wet and cold. I don't know what happened.

The next Keith fed us delicious home made food and entertained us with rock 'n roll stories. We only had a one hour drive to Buffalo. It was 17 degrees outside. I started calling mechanics to get an oil change before we left town. Keith gave me a coupon for a $15.00 oil change. I made an appointment for 5pm. Jeff didn't want to wait. I thought that was ridiculous. We needed new oil. We needed our wiper fluid replenished. I was hoping they might be able to give us the slightest idea of what the hell was wrong with the van. I was overruled.

We drove through snow showers to get to Buffalo. The GPS was giving us wacky directions. Actually now that I think about, we simply didn't see the club, as it was not clearly marked from the street. It was so cold in that van that I didn't care if we lived through the evening. When we finally found the club, I was desperate to get inside. It wasn't much warmer. The dressing room was heated but that was it. I planned to isolate in that room for the evening.

We loaded in down a set of wet and slippery back stairs and had a decent sound check. The sound man and the promoter were both named Mike. I think they were two of the nicest guys were met on tour. Mike the promoter drove home before our set and brought me back a silk undershirt. That's real kindness.

We got burritos that night. Then we drove around in circles trying to find a grocery store so Jeff could get cliff bars.

Back at the club, they had turned off the heat in the dressing room. The girl who played first also worked at the club, Bev Beverly. She released a bunch of balloons throughout her set. The audience seemed to have a blast throwing them around. I pocketed that idea for future shows. I thought it looked great and gave people a great chance to interact without actually having to dance. Not everyone likes to dance. Next up was Hotel Nourishing. The self-described math rockers had quite a bit of innate musical talent. I will be interested in seeing how develop over the next few years.

I think we had a blast playing that night. A decent sound check goes a long way. Thanks, Mike! After the show, we met a lot of very cool people who had many kind words for us. We were introduced to Kyle, who would be hosting us for the evening. Kyle informed us that he was house sitting for an older gentleman who owned a massive loft space above a huge artist studio. He promised he would crank the heat. Kyle kept his word. The place was huge, clean, and warm. The space had an indoor garden, abundant musical toys to play, and ample space for us to spread out. We talked to Kyle for a while and went to bed quite late, warm and happy.

The next day Kyle had invited us to eat lunch at the coffee shop where he worked. We ate well. The soups were delicious. We had to set out for Detroit early as we had to go through NY, Ohio, and Michigan. Typically you cut across Canada but I had no ID.

The van barely started and was cutting off once we hit the highway. We HAD to find a mechanic. Using my GPS I found a place called Mohawk quick lube, about 8 miles off a nearby highway exit. It quickly became apparent that we had entered an Native American reservation. When we found the location that the GPS directed us to, there was only a little house back in an empty field. I looked closely and saw that the sign above the garage read "Mohawk Quick Lube". It did NOT look like we'd expected. We were expecting the typical urban jiffy lube.

The fellow who serviced our van was clearly Native American. He charged us $17.95, with no additional taxes, fees, or instructions to replace our rear differential. It may have been the cheapest and most interesting oil change we'd ever had. While we waited, Breck and I wandered a bit on the snowy grounds outside, taking pictures of empty fields.

Back on the road, we had a long ride to Detroit. Jeff took out the laptop and set up a movie. We watched "The King of Kong", the story of the quest for the title of World Champion of Donkey Kong. It was a great story. I highly recommend checking it out.

The snows began again about 2 hours outside of Detroit. I no longer batted an eyelash at the weather. No one else up here seemed to either. When we pulled off the highway at the GPS directed exit, I was struck that we were CLEARLY in a residential suburb. I did not have a good feeling. I knew that the venue had changed, as Scrummage University had just been unexpectedly closed down.

When we pulled into a suburban subdivision, I wasn't altogether surprised. When we found the house, there was no real driveway. There was a sheet of ice and various cars parked in odd locations in the yard. The house looked like a hansel and gretel cottage.

Outside we were greeted by a young fellow in a print hoodie wearing some kind of gold chain. This was our promoter. I had been reading some email exchanges about this show and I vaguely remember the promoter PROMISING that even though Scrummage had been shut down, he was still almost certain he could get us almost $500.oo. I was now very doubtful.

Next section-- Satanists? Anarchists? or just a very nice bunch of people

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posted by Majestic Ape at 11:25 AM

Pictures from the Black Cat Feb 29,

These beautiful photos were taken by Fernando. Infinite thanks for your interest, execution, and brilliant artistry. Also, your quick action in posting is quite admirable. MANY THANKS!!!! We love you!!!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Riding the waves

posted by Majestic Ape at 9:36 AM

Lord have mercy.

I wonder if god dislikes musicians and artists. Maybe god dislikes old cars.

Apes arrived home from tour this past Friday night. Yesterday (Monday) morning, I took my personal driving vehicle, a 1994 Toyota Corolla, to be emissions tested. The car failed its first test back in January and it had to be re-tested. I had hoped that after an oil change, and a pre-test high speed drive, the exhaust system would be refreshed, just enough to pass. This was not the case. When the nice man returned my vehicle to me after doing weird things to it, the pretty data lines on the emissions report indicated that the car was seeping too many dirty, dirty gases into our already tortured air. A mechanic was going to have to explore the innards of my Toyota.

My responsible and employed brother convinced me to drop the car at a gas station by his house and crash at his place for the night. At 8:00 am this morning, I get the call. The little Toyota needs a new catalytic converter, a left rear tire, and an alignment. This is not a surprise. The car has over 185,000 miles on it. However, with the price of repairs estimated at $1050.00, I have a real problem.

My current financial status is in the poor range. Every time I have had a major expense over the last seven years that I haven't had funds to cover, I charged it to Discover. I know this is stupid. I never felt like I had many other options. Well, the option always has been to get a real job. I never exercised this option. Bands and tours and job...they just don't work together.

Anyway, after I hang up with the mechanic, I have a panic attack. I don't have $1,000. I don't even have a credit card with room for more debt. My parents have been helping me with my rent payments since I was in the hospital. I have medical bills from Johns Hopkins that are almost as bad as my credit card bill.

I never exactly know how to proceed in high stress situations so I defer to my old standby behavior. I call home. My dad answers. He was asleep. He yells at me. I hang up. I email my mom at work. She calls me back and tells me I have to go back to teaching. I have to get a job. I have to get a real job-- the kind that gives you health insurance, paid vacations, and a bi-weekly check. These jobs don't accommodate tour schedules. They don't let organ players go when its time to go. The children need their teacher unless their teacher is going to have a baby, or is going to have surgery. My parents are not wealthy people. They have their own problems. They can't save me. I don't expect them to save me. I just want them to make it all better.

The panic attack doesn't exactly recede. The nausea and the sense of imminent death actually increases.

Within minutes, I'm on the phone with a middle school in Rockville that needs a computer teacher from April 20 till the end of the school year. That's the first step out of the hole. And I have already secured the next step-- I will teach computers at a private school for most of the summer.

But good golly miss molly, I might be back in the jail known as 'school' as of this September.

If you have the power, use our music now. Put it in your movies. Put it in your commericials. Use it in your television shows. You won't be disappointed! Your viewers will rock. Your listeners will listen. Your customers will buy.

Dream big! Dream really big! And as the waves come in, ride them.

Believe me. I'm a teacher. I know what I'm talking about.

And repeat my motto:

Always trust Kleiny.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Art Garage, SC, and the long drive home

posted by Majestic Ape at 12:06 AM

Our final show of the tour is at the Art Garage in Columbia, SC. We played here last October with The Slits. The venue is pretty cool as they have sleeping quarters for the bands. The folks who run it, Jonathan and Amy, go out of their way to make sure everything is taken care of. There are plenty of drinks, awesome food, and clean beds. Done. There is nothing else left to desire.

At our first gas stop after Birmingham, a man approaches the van and asks what part of Maryland we are from. We tell him we are from DC. He shares that he used to live in Laurel, MD but he thinks living in Alabama is much better. I express how much friendlier Southern people are compared to Washingtonians. He replies back, “I don’t care about the heart or the love. I like the price of houses and the money!” Amen, brother. Amen.

Since I’m kind of sick of writing by now, I’ll try to keep this part brief. There are opening bands. We set up. We change clothes. I take a sip of Dickels Whiskey. Why not? It’s our last show. We play to some very energetic and appreciative people. Jeff’s high hat finally completely falls apart. We all hang out afterward.

In the morning we return to El Burrito, owned by Susie, who generously fed all of us for free on our last tour. She is out of town but has left instructions with her staff to feed the Apes for free. How cool is that?

While we are sitting, eating on the patio, I listen to a woman talking at the table next to ours.

“You know how many times I’ve been hit in the head by a pine cone? I hate squirrels!”

We leave a tip, pee, and leave.

As always, the final drive home starts out okay. I drive the first shift until I’m told to stop at South of the Border, the bizarre tourist attraction at the South Carolina/North Carolina border. It’s a collection of an old weird amusement park, souvenir shops, bad restaurants, and freaky animal statues. We have to take pictures with the animal statues. My favorite shot is Jeff with his head between a gorilla’s legs. The idea is that Jeff’s head are Gorilla Testicles.

And as always, after the second gas stop, Jeff gets behind the wheel his race against himself.

“I forget how to drive on the highway,” says Jeff as he gets behind the wheel, to do his infamous final drive home. “Just go to sleep and we’ll all wake up in heaven. Together. We can jam for all eternity. Get those kinks out.”

I wonder what heaven would be for The Apes. It doesn’t quite matter. We are already here.

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Monday off, Tuesday Baton Rouge

posted by Majestic Ape at 12:04 AM

Its Monday and there is no show tonight. We are going to drive most of the way to Baton Rouge, the location of the Tuesday night show. We have planned to pick a cheap motel about two hours away from Baton Rouge. This will be our first motel stay of this tour and we are hoping to find a television with proper computer inputs. Jeff has been storing the movie, Borat, on his computer this whole time.

We decide to stop around 7:30 pm. We pull off the highway after passing an exit sign listing several motel choices. Little did we know at that moment, we were entering historic Natchitoches, LA. After lots of nightly rate discussion with various front desk clerks, we opt for the Comfort Inn. They offer a AAA discount and give us a room with two double beds for about 60 bucks after taxes. We don’t even have to sneak people in.

Our dreams are quickly dashed when we discover, well, you guessed it. The television has the wrong inputs. Jeff is devastated but the rest of us are not discouraged. We are not accustomed to wall sized movie screens in our basement residences. We will happily watch this movie from the laptop computer screen and we will laugh! HA HA HA!

After an elaborate dinner at the Burger King across the highway, Erick and I decide to explore this historic town. We are not ready to lay in bed for the evening. We drive about 4 miles down the main road and pass a body of water on the left. I want to stop there but its too dark to see if there is a shore side path for walking. Next we pass Northern Lousiana State University. Naturally, Erick wants to pull over there and walk around campus. I’m not interested. It looks pretty deserted. Maybe its Spring Break. We continue driving and I follow signs for the historic district. The only thing we find is a 24 hour Super Walmart. This will have to do. I’m certain that most of the local folks are probably here if they are still awake.

We separate and wander alone for a while before eventually regrouping in the hard liquor isle. We gasp at the very low prices for some very typically more expensive whiskeys. I egg Erick on and try to get him to buy a bottle. I have no intention of drinking, I just feel like bugging him. He is not interested. Apparently, he got wasted at the house parties in Denton. I had no idea.

Back at the Comfort Inn, Breck and Jeff are relaxing and having some personal computer time. They are both hunched over, tap tap tapping when we talk in. And then finally, finally, Jeff sets up for the official band viewing of “Borat”. I have already seen it in the theatre but I still laugh just as hard. When the movie is over, it’s only 1:00 am, but everyone seems like they are going to sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open. The motel bed finally does the trick and I sleep till Jeff’s watch alarm clock goes off at 9:30 am.

I know the motel has free breakfast until 10:00 am. I almost never eat normal breakfast food but I leave the room in search of free coffee. I sit down in the mini-kitchen and immediately, an elderly couple starts chatting with me about their travels. They are retired Navy people and firefighters. They have been in Texas visiting their grandchildren and are slowly meandering back to their home in Lake County, Michigan. After about 8 minutes, I am shown pictures of the daughter-in-law and grandchildren. They are all simply beautiful. Our conversational exchange dies quickly when I tell them why I’m on the road.

After we check out, we go back to the historic district in search of food and coffee. Their coffee shop is a bust but Breck wants waffle house anyway. We had seen at least 10 Waffle Houses on the highway yesterday so I figure we inevitably pass one. We drive for 2 hours with not one sign of a Waffle House. I can’t believe it. When we finally give up, Erick and I end up at a Chinese Buffet. Breck and Jeff get pizza. More leftovers to stink up the van.

We get to Baton Rouge at about 5pm. The weather continues to be absolutely perfect. We park near the university. Erick and I walk around a lake for close to 90 minutes. There are a ton of people out exercising. I am reminded that this is a normal work day for most people. When we drive over to the Spanish Moon, fellow DC band, Antelope, have already arrived. We know these guys from home and are pretty excited to play with them tonight. They are at the beginning of a 6 week tour. I am thankful we are headed home now only because I’m still scarred from 6 week tour with Liars last summer. We are warmly greeted by promoter Aaron, and sound man Jeff, who point out that this is our third stop here this year. While they anticipate this will bring a large crowd for the evening, I suspect it will not. I am right. In the dressing room, we find a large bottle of Jack Daniels with “Apes” written on it. There are many ways to ease the pain of the empty rooms.

We are having minor concerns about finding a decent shelter for the evening. Our only Baton Rouge friend, Carlee, has just moved to Austin. I offer to book a Motel 6 and pay for it myself but nobody is interested. They would rather I ask for a place to stay during our set. That night we are also playing with Akron, Ohio band “Six Part Seven”. We know many of the same people and share benevolent stories about tours past.

Antelope play first and I enjoy them quite a bit. My favorite song is called, “Wandering Ghost.” I change clothes during the middle of Six Part Seven’s set. I can barely keep my eyes open. For some dumb reason, I pound two diet cokes and a red bull. Stupid, Kleiny! Why so stupid?!

Our set goes smoothly. Afterward, Justin from Antelope, offers to share their room at the Extended Stay America. I am really grateful but we don’t want to infringe upon their space with our smells. Thankfully, we are approached my friendly band man, Fred Weaver. He suggests we stay at the house he shares with his father. I immediately think “clean shower” anytime we go to the home of a parent.

We follow Fred home. Jeff still sleeps in the van even though there are enough bedrooms and futons for everyone. I sleep on the floor of a room filled floor- to- ceiling with music books and magazines. I doze off reading an issue of Chunklet from 1999. 1999. Apes year 1. We were so young, so hopeful, so full of dreams.

The next morning we plan to meet Antelope at a local café. Fred joins us and we dine in style. After a quick pit stop at the local health food store to re-stock (Breck needs a Kombucha), we say goodbye to our friends from home.

The drive to Birmingham seems incredibly long to me. I am really quite sick of listening to the same 20 songs on my ghetto plastic MP3 player while I drive. Instead I make up stories in my head. There is more breathing to contemplate and brain journeys to take.

We are excited to arrive at the Bottletree and are warmly greeted by the staff. This is easily the nicest, most band-oriented club in the country. After we load in and order food, I get online. I need to upload some blogs. I haven’t uploaded anything since the first day. Naturally I get distracted while waiting for blogger to load. That site is hideously slow. I never do it. After we eat, we talk to our super friend and fan, Chris, who is now working the door.

I approach Chris to say hi. He tells me how excited he is for the show tonight. He also tells me that after our last show, he listened to Baba’s Mountain (our last record) for the entire month. He told me that he thought he heard the voices in the beginning of the record calling, “Chris! Chris!” He is right.

Also, we see Lee, our dedicated super-friend, who has driven four hours to be with us tonight.

The opening band, Vesper, kicks ass. I dance during their whole set. The next band was unexpectedly switched at the last minute. We were supposed to play with Two Ton Boa from Portland but their drummer was ill. 31 Knots, also from Portland, arrived just in time to take their place.

When we play our set, there is a serious amount of love and energy in the house. We feel it and do our best to put out some high energy music in return. We even do an encore and I think its our first this tour. When we are done, I ask from stage for someone to take us home with them in exchange for an early morning kitchen and bathroom cleaning. We get several sincere offers. We opt to stay with one of the club employees who lives in a nearby loft. He has secure underground parking so Vannie will be safe.

We follow him back to his building and shuffle in with our gear. Jonathan, our host, happens to be a brilliant photographer and while we settle in, we admire a bunch of his work. He asks about shooting us in the morning. I hesitate but Breck is into it.

Breck and I wake up first. Jonathan and Breck go off to the park to take pictures. I stay behind to draw a self-portrait. Jonathan is also doing a series of shots of people holding self-portraits and I have agreed to this type of picture. After the drawing is complete, I wander off alone to find coffee. I am always surprised by how friendly people are. Everyone I pass on the streets of downtown Birmingham goes out of their way to smile and say hello. I eventually arrive at Safari Coffee and I’m greeted by a lovely South African gentlemen. He describes for me, the origin of the Bundi roast I am about to consume. The coffee is great. I consider buying a pound to take home but remember Jeff’s announcement that we are losing money on this tour. There will be no payout at the end.

When I get back to the loft, everyone is there. I re-do my self portrait drawing. The first one looked frog-like but the second one is okay. We take a few photos and head out.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday in Austin

posted by Majestic Ape at 11:49 PM

You’d think a clean comfortable bed in a quiet room at the Hilton would ease ‘ol crazy brain to sleep. Not me! Not this nut job! I was too tense about getting back to Adam’s house in the morning. Arrangements for my transportation had been made the night before but the mode of transportation was making me tense as well.

I had to be in the Hilton lobby at 9:00 am, as that was the time that the limousine would be picking me up. Yes, I did say limousine. I needed a ride to a place that was 2 miles away and I had 2 hours in a chauffeured limo to get there. When the limo pulled up, I rushed over to it and jumped in. The transition from 87 Ford Econoline Conversion Van to limousine is not a smooth one but I quickly became friends with the driver. Since I had two hours allotted for a 30 minute ride, I asked him to take me to Whole Foods for breakfast. Next, I asked for the river. I wanted water.

Jason, the driver, and I walked around the nature path discussing every topic imaginable. I saw beautiful birds and 4 red-eared sliders (turtles). He dropped me back at Adam’s around 10:30 am. The door was unlocked and everyone was sleeping. The living room smelled vaguely of drummer sweat and dog fart. I had just taken a photo of the limo sitting adjacent to Vannie (our van).

Today we had two shows. We were scheduled to play a party for KVRX radio station and we were also playing the showcase for our booking agent, Michelle of Panache Booking, later that night. The KVRX party was being held at a place called The Indepedence Brewery located quite a distance from the downtown area. Many of the roads leading to the Brewery were so new that Candace (the computer) and our GPS didn’t identify them.

The female computer voice repeated herself several times. “Off route. Return to route.” I know, Candace! I know! Relax! Sometimes you just have to take a chance! Jeff showed me on his screen that we were floating in space.

It was an odd afternoon but nonetheless pleasurable. By the time we were finished, we had to drive straight downtown to load into the Flamingo Cantina. Due to numerous road closures and imprecise directions, it took a damn long time to make our way into the alley behind the Cantina to unload. I had to promise the police officer blocking the street that I would take only 10 minutes to unload and leave the premises.

Jeff and Breck decided to go back to Adam’s after load-in. Erick and I wanted to stay downtown amidst the chaos. We wandered for a while and eventually made our way to Mekong River for an Asian dinner. Erick firmly believes that he plays best with Asain food in his stomach. Hey, whatever it takes. We waited 45 minutes for our dinner. I watched several patrons become enraged and demand either food or money. I guess you can’t let people get too hungry or they lose their minds. Duh.

We headed back to the club around 9 pm. I started to get excited because I was hoping to see many loved ones at this show. The bands began and there was not one disappointment.

After our set, we hung out with friends and watched the other bands. When we were leaving, Josh and Evan decided to come with us. It seemed like everyone wanted to keep partying, even though it was really late. Well, Erick was the most determined to keep partying. I think that he thinks he is going to miss out on something if he goes to bed before 5 am. I like to stay out, too, but I have limits. By the time we dropped Jeff and Breck off, Erick has planned to go right back to the Flamingo Cantina. He wanted to pick up Michelle so she could lead us to the hottest party in Austin. I had already changed my mind. I just wanted to chill with Evan and Josh, quietly, maybe at their motel. Erick was relentless.

“Kleiny. We are going back out. How often are we all together in Austin? Hunh? Hunh? Don’t be lame, Kleiny! Don’t be lame! Lame! Kleiny! Kleiny! Come on, Kleiny!” I’m never sure if he thinks that saying my name 100 times will finally change my mind. But I’m weak. Erick never gives up till he gets his way or you disappear. Then the phone calls start.

I had already given up. We were already back in the van going to retrieve Michelle. She had received word about some party on a bridge. Did they say Hansen was supposed to play?

When we finally arrived at the bridge, there was, in fact, a band playing. It was a punk band from Milwaukee. Despite the sleep deprivation that was beginning to accumulate, I was dancing and having fun. But my buddy Josh tuckered out. When he announced he was going to start walking home, I insisted we all drive back together. It was time. We did stay long enough to greet former tour mates, zZz, from the Netherlands. They were still the tallest dudes we’d ever played with. When I hugged Bjorni, I think he wanted to pick me up but I clenched those little feet on the ground. We said our farewells at 4:30 am.

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Day 5

posted by Majestic Ape at 11:47 PM

It’s Wednesday. We are bound for Austin and it’s the first official day of the South by Southwest Festival, 2007. We are not playing tonight. Our tentative plan is to register, get dinner, and go to the Birdman Records showcase at Club D’Ville. All day while I am driving, I think back to past festivals. We have never stayed for more than a day or two but this time, we are staying till Sunday. I also keep thinking that it was right after this festival, in 2004, that I developed anorexia. I had been engaging in many maladaptive food and exercise behavior for years leading up to that time, but when I got home after that tour, everything got far worse. That spring season, I believed that I was engaging in a great experiment. I thought that I was practicing the only scientifically proven way of extending cellular lifespan—calorie restriction. But it became an obsession, one that would leave with almost no measurable body fat and seriously ill for 3 years. Anorexia is a bitch. It’s like being possessed. Anorexia claims more lives than any other mental illness. It’s also much more difficult to recover when it starts in adults with a history of being overweight. That was pretty much my case history. I finally got help around Christmas. At the present moment, I am ‘in recovery’. I am aware of the relapse rates. I am also aware that when I was actively anorexic, I was totally mentally and physically incapable of interacting with anyone or creating anything. I could go on and on about life with anorexia and life in recovery, but the whole point of my writing about this is to simply say that I am, for the first time, perhaps going to experience this festival, as a healthier person. I will experience the festival.

When we get to Austin, traffic is a mess. There are bands, vans, music people, industry people, press people everywhere, filling the sidewalks, streets, and bars. We double park by the Hilton. Erick and I head for the convention center. Instantly someone hands us black Miller Highlife hooded sweatshirts. Someone calls our names from above. We look up. Todd Cote, our old booking agent from Leafy Green, is waving at us from the 2nd floor of the Hilton. We excitedly wave back. We are looking forward to seeing tons of friends down here.

“Free shit! That’s what I’m talking about!” says Erick. We are all hoping that the next several days will be filled with ample amounts of free food, alcohol, and designer custom-tailored clothing. The Apes have set their sights quite high.

We learn that we get only one badge per band and each band member must be present to get their own wrist band. With our new hoodies, and a giant tote bag full of SxSW paraphernalia, (music magazines, condoms, and a hangover survival kit), we return to the van.

After Breck and Jeff have gotten their wristlets we park the van, get food, and head to the Birdman Records showcase. I can’t wait to see David KazNelson, Matthew Johnson, Paul Quattrone, Alexei, all of our birdman family.

There are lots of excited hugs. I run into one of David’s business partners that I had met during CMJ. We had hit it off during CMJ but due to the band’s recording and show schedule, we hadn’t had another chance to hang out. It’s an unexpected treat to run into each other again. This very generous person buys drinks for all of my band mates. They couldn’t be happier. We hang out at Club D’ville for a while until the boys want to go see Faceless Wearwolves playing down the street. We walk over together and as soon as they settle it near the front of the stage, I take off alone. I have the itch to wander and stare at people.

I get several text messages while I walk and ignore them all. Just as I start to return to find my group, I run into some of the guys from Club D’ville. They are going back to their room at the Hilton and invite me to join them. My first inclination is to refuse, as if I’m abandoning my band. But that’s ridiculous. I can go somewhere without them. I go.

Being at the Hilton is bizarre. Apes don’t go to 4 star hotels. Apes don’t really go to hotels at all, unless we are in Europe, and the promoters pick up the tab. The Hilton is bustling with the fancier side of the music crowd. We go up to the 18th floor. Room service is ordered. I get a delightful foot massage. Wow. I use the bathroom several times, only because its so cool to not sit in urine. No pee on the floor either. Or writing on the walls. When the toilet flushes, its contents go down.

I am invited to stay at the Hilton. There is an extra bed. My phone rings. Erick Jackson.

“Dude, where are you? Where’d you go? Everyone was looking for you,” he reports.

“I’m at the Hilton.”

“What are you doing there? You better not get any ideas in your head. Are you gettin’ weird? You are coming home with us,” he insists.

He’s right. I am going home with them. I had committed to driving them back to Adam’s house and I have no intention of going back on that word. I also feel weird about staying in someone’s room that I don’t really know. At 1:45 am, I take off and find my band mates on the street. I feel relieved to be back with them, for no particular reason.

I drive home. I should say, I drive to Adam’s.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring Mini-Tour 2007, Day 4

posted by Majestic Ape at 7:46 PM

The next drive is to Shreveport, LA. We are playing a house show. There is a kid who lives in Shreveport named Alec. Alec loves music, bands, and shows. Alec loves them so much that he opens his home to these bands and invites them to play in his living room. He also opens his home to other local lovers of music. Tonight we are going to play at Alec’s house, known as Cooper Manor. We are supposed to play between the local opening band and Monotonix. We have mild concerns that we will have to play do after Monotonix as, quite honestly, they are a tough act to follow. The dramatics in their show, and the mess that they leave, are a rocky foundation upon which to play one’s set.

We start out late and have an 8 or 9 hour drive to Louisiana. Throughout the afternoon there are phone calls from Alec. The contract that we had received from our booking agent stated that our set time was “whenever the band wants to play”. When Alec calls to ask again about our dinner requests, he informs us that he wants the whole show over by 11:00 pm. The first band will start at 8, Apes at 9, and Monotonix at 10. We know we won’t arrive till 10:00 pm. I call him back and speak to him in a positive and warm, teacher-voice.

“Alec, this is what we’ll do. You’ll make a bunch of vegetarian curries. The first band will start at 9. The Apes will go on at 10, and Monotonix can play at 11. Okay? Great!” He goes for it.

We are way off schedule according to Jeff’s computerized mapping program and GPS satellite system. Jeff has lovingly named the female voice that speaks directions, “Candace.” Candace tells us we are one hour delayed. At our final gas stop, Erick pulls me aside.

“Kleiny, you better drive like the wind. We have to play before Monotonix.” Great. I love it when my band pressures me to speed.

I take the final drive leg of the journey. There are cops EVERYWHERE on the road. I see a utility van a few cars ahead of me. I accelerate and weave a bit to catch the van. My theory is that if I keep pace with the van, and drive just behind it, speed radar will catch him and not me. Also, he is going over 80 and I figure it’s a good incentive to push me to SPEED, SPEED, SPEED!

In the end it doesn’t matter. We pull up at Alec’s house after 10:15. It’s pouring rain. The food is mostly gone and Monotonix are already playing. We are starving. I take a bowl of the meat and bean concoction from a pot on the stove and start eating. A little Japanese girl approaches me. “Oh, um, that the one that I use ketchup. It have corn syrup.” I’m cursed.

Monotonix don’t hold back because they are playing in someone’s home. The fires are set. Ami jumps in a trash can. He dumps the remaining salad and scatters it all over the kitchen. He tapes youths together with duct tape. At one point, he touches a skate board that is cautiously held by a long-haired blond youngster, wearing glasses. The boy’s face becomes terror- struck and then furious. He grabs his skateboard and runs out the front door. I think he is running home until he reappears moments later. He has broken the skate board in half. I guess that the boy felt it was contaminated after Ami touched it. Perhaps he felt compelled to destroy it completely. I plan to console him later.

The heat coming from the show room is oppressive. Monotonix finish their set. We try to clean up a little bit but mostly we rush to load in as I know Alec wants to get this show over as early as possible. Its one of those bizarre shows that I will never forget. The combination of the heat, the salad on the floor, the broken skate board, and the dancing youth make for a memorable show.

After the show, I talk to some kids and then jump in the shower. Alec has offered to stay at a friend’s house tonight. Monotonix spread out in the living room. Jeff heads for the van. Erick, Breck, and I blast the air conditioner in Alec’s bedroom and settle in for the night.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Mini-Tour 2007, SxSW

posted by Majestic Ape at 7:12 PM

The date is Saturday March 10th and I hereby declare that Apes Spring Mini-Tour 2007 is officially underway. I am currently sitting in the back left passenger’s captain chair of our beloved ’87 Ford Econoline Conversion van, better know as Vannie. It’s dark in here. Breck is driving. Jeff is in front, no longer the official navigator, as Mike B has given him a GPS and it has voice data software. And when the voice doesn’t direct, Jeff just turns the laptop screen toward the driver with the expectation that he/she will read the screen while driving 80 mph.

We are 50 miles outside of Charlotte. Erick just hung up the phone with Mike B. We have learned that Mike B has a younger brother who resides in Charlotte, fresh from a divorce. Mike B has been a generous and dedicated Apes fan and friend for many years now. Even though he lives in Memphis, he has ventured to shows all over the southern and central United States. He never arrives empty-handed. There are always gifts and offerings of devotion that are very much appreciated.

Erick and Jeff are discussing several hot topics-- Roth IRAs, flaws of the new Windows OS, and Jeff’s 2006 rebate earnings of $420.00. Erick has a mild expressive language disorder. He asks Jeff whether he has started contributing money to his IRS. I know Erick is referring to Roth IRA retirement accounts. I wait for a minute before I gently correct him.

We have just stopped for dinner. Erick and I choose Subway. Breck and Jeff choose Papa John’s pizza. Jeff’s “almost veganism” has intensified and he declares that he can only eat tacos and pizza on this tour. Many of his old favorite tour foods contain egg ingredients, thereby rendering them inedible. Burger King Veggie burgers are no longer allowed. Prior to our dinner stop, there had been extensive discussion surrounding Jeff’s childhood friend, Neal. Neal believes that Taco Bell’s ‘Seven Layer Burrito’ is THEE PERFECT FOOD.

“It’s ‘yummy and mushy so he doesn’t have to chew,” Jeff explains. He has left out nutritious. Neal is the guy who won’t swallow vitamins because they aren’t yummy. Neal also loves chocolate ice cream, but only when it has melted into a soupy syrup.

I started out the drive earlier today. We left late because I took an hour at CVS waiting for prescriptions. We are not in a rush. Our last Charlotte gig didn’t start till 11:00 pm.

Sadly, my mini ipod died a few weeks ago. I will not be replacing it. Jeff has given me a tiny free rubber mp3 player that holds about 20 songs. I have loaded it with a rather strange assortment of music and sounds. I have selected songs by Cat Stevens, Hall and Oates, Dizzee Rascal, Diana Ross, The Spinners, Toots and Maytal, Kate Bush. There are also some bird sounds, a guided meditation and some Russian soldiers chanting.

Just as I get onto Route 95 South, the breathing meditation starts to play and I decide to do the meditation while I am driving. The instructional voice lasts one minute but I do meditative breathing for the next 3 hours. I put myself in this bizarre trance so I can reprogram my mind. I go on a magical brain journey.

When we pull over at a rest stop, I am in a heavy natural high. The combination of low blood sugar from light eating today enhances this sensation.

We pull into the Milestone around 9pm. There are a few police cars in the lot next door to the club. Have refrigerators been stolen? That’s what the boys think.

Neal, the manager and sound man of the club warmly welcomes us. He was here for our last Charlotte show. He’s a talented sound man. I’m glad the atmosphere is relaxed as this is our first show in 4 months. I know I will need some extra time to set up, especially since I now have a….TWO-TIERED KYBRD STAND. Wahoooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kleiny’s growing up!

We load in. Ever hear that phrase before? I meet some of the lovely fellows from the other bands with whom we’ll be playing. Sharing the bill tonight are Snagglepuss and Satanic Romantic. I meet Scott and Peter. Both are very warm chaps.

Satanic Romantic start the night. They are dancey, beautiful, high energy, campy, bath-house style cabaret. Mid-set, the man at center mic, opens a bottle of champagne, pours some on his head, takes of his head wrap, and shakes his geri-curl hairdo loose.

I slink off to the beer closet to change into my costume. Holy shit. It’s really tight. I guess overalls from Gap Kids AREN’T supposed to be worn by adults. I tell myself its okay. My only mistake is not urinating before putting on costume. I have to take it all off again to go sit on a fresh seat of very yellow female urine spray.

I’m psyched. It feels like an eternity since our last show. I put on the ski masks, fetch some bottled waters from the bar, and warm up the crowd with a voice-altered comedy.

We play. I fuck up. I am so excited during the first song that when we get to the 2nd verse, I go right to the 3rd verse! Good one! And it takes me about 10 seconds to figure out my mistake and regroup. My hands are really sloppy for the rest of the set. But damn, it was fun.

After the show, I am approached by a lovely lady named Joy. She is the wife of Darren who is in SnagglePuss. Joy generously offers us her home for the night. She describes a winning combination-- spare rooms, clean couches, and a hot shower.

While Snagglepuss plays, I draw their portraits. After their set, I ask to draw Kyler from Satanic Romantic. He is a beautiful man dressed as a beautiful woman. He sits at the bar for me and I sense that he doesn’t want to sit too long. I rush to finish and thank him with a tight hug. He asks me to squeeze his breast. I do. Damn!

After loading out the equipment, we follow our hosts home. They bring along a very pretty girl named Stewey. Joy and Darrin have a beautiful, clean, colorful home. Drinks are brought out, snacks are provided, and our hosts entertain us. I pace, get online, and eat some snacks.

When I finally go lay down at 4 am, I am experiencing a significant amount of nausea. I don’t fall asleep till 6 am. But in my mind, everything feels great. I’m alive, I’m happy, and I’m with band. Erick comes in the room at some point and spreads out on the floor. He reported later that he a hard time falling asleep as well.

I hear the late night conversations continuing. It sounds like there is a lot of over-sharing.

I am up at 7 am. Despite having some new medications to assist me with keeping a more regular schedule, I’m awake and in the kitchen. It takes another snack to put me back to sleep. At 9:30 am, I’m awake for good. There’s old coffee in their pot and soymilk in the fridge. Crabtastic.

We split for Nashville, TN by 2 pm, but not before stopping at a strip of 3 major American fast food establishments. We split up and regroup outside on picnic benches. Erick displays his Taco Bell 7 Layer Burrito. He wants to illustrate for Jeff that it’s basically a regular old burrito (Taco Bell style, of course) and not the mushy diamond that Neal claims. Jeff doesn’t believe. He never ever believes. Its 64 degrees.

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