Some Bits of Tour Diary: January 2013

Here’s a brief recap of the first couple months of 2013. 2013, how’d we get here already? This is even after Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 AND 2010. And we’re still all here on planet earth.

Anyway, after Christmas and before new year’s I did hop back to California to play 3 shows with Camper Van Beethoven, in Solana Beach at the Belly Up, San Francisco at the Independent and in Petaluma at the Mystic Theatre. This is a holiday tradition with us there, we’ve been doing it for many years. In Petaluma, I met up with my brother’s family who come over from Davis, and got a bunch of mail that was there. That was mostly good, but some bad.

For example, while we shut down our label Magnetic the previous year, we needed to file that last K-1 for the partnership, and Victor did it late with his taxes (which I assume he did extend) so the IRS wants about $2000 from us in late fees. For a company that never cleared $1000 in any year as income. Not sure exactly what to do about that, as I’m flat broke and jobless. And living in another country. They really need to get the absolute rich and the corporations to pay a fair share rather then trying to make up the deficit of what the government spends on military by shaking down the minimal earners. It’s utterly ridiculous.

These shows were great, regardless, and I came back to Sweden for New Year’s Eve. Had to head back to the US in a couple weeks to play on the east coast, where we had several sold-out shows in Philadelphia, Boston, and Atlanta, and a couple not so sold-out shows that were nonetheless well received. The new Camper Van Beethoven album, La Costa Perdida, came out on Jan 22, while we were in Georgia.

This run of shows was well received. We’re playing really well these days. And the material is good! So hell, they should be. But the thing is we can play even on nearly zero sleep, it seems, and make few mistakes. We went from Philadelphia at the World Cafe, where we’ve played 3 or so years in a row now, to a new venue in New York called Stage 48, over on the west side of Manhattan on 48th st. Strange that we aren’t playing in Brooklyn, I guess we aren’t hip enough yet. This club was pretty big and had the weirdest staff: all models. Which, compared to our band or our fans, looked pretty unreal*. The place held over a thousand people, I think, so we didn’t sell it out. Victor and I had a nice dinner at a Thai place nearby with my friend Richard Gann, a painter who lives in Brooklyn (and teaches in Providence!) and Dane Terry, who plays piano on Victor’s latest album. Did an extensive interview with Richard Gehr from Relix magazine, (whose editors later asked about the correct title for “Jonathan Segel’s ‘I Was a Nightmare’ album”….which is, of course, actually Victor’s latest….)

From there, back to our New Jersey motel. We never get to stay in New York these days, too dangerous for the equipment. Then to Boston, playing at the Middle East club in Cambridge, now maybe 9 years in a row here? I mean, recently, anyway. We also played here back in the 1980s, where the infamous “Jocelyn” incident occurred. (See “Hey Jocelyn“.) I also have a couple pics of us playing here when I was playing my old violin and my old Stratocaster, the day before we played in Montreal where all our gear was stolen in 2004. One nice consistent thing about playing at the Middle East club is the nice middle eastern food! …and the super cold dressing room.

We got up much too early to get to the Bronx the next day at noon to load in for a WFUV in-studio show. Several of these were filmed also, and are on YouTube. Then we headed back to our Newark motel, but we had the forethought to look for food in the area. We looked up Italian restaurants on the internet and discovered one that sounded good in the neighborhoods near the industrial area by the airport, and sure enough, it was a neighborhood. Didn’t look like there could be a restaurant, but when we pulled up to the address, there was a purple cadillac with a white vinyl roof parked in front of a converted house and a women on crutches smoking in the doorway. We walked in where this woman was working a front bar and went into the back and sat at a table that had a plaque above it on a wall that reserved the table to “Federal Agent” Joseph [unpronounceable last name]….  One maitre d’, one balding ponytailed waiter. Awesome food, nice wine.

Back to the hotel, next day driving back to Philadelphia, back to the World Cafe to play in the radio studio for a later broadcast. We drove afterwards all the way to Richmond, VA, where David lives, sometimes. He’s back and forth between there and Athens, GA. We made it by 8pm, just in time to head to Mama Zu for yet another outstanding Italian food meal.

Thus ended the Yankee portion of the tour. On to the south.

We played the next four shows in towns beginning with the letter “A”: Augusta, Athens, Asheville and Atlanta. Augusta was a new town for us, a nice venue called Sky City run by a guy who is putting on some excellent music shows in this town, which seems to be appreciated by the locals.

here the band is replacing our lead singer…

Then Athens, which is sort of a home town for us as David teaches at UGA and Velena, our manager, lives there and runs the 40 Watt where we played. We ate at a new place with our old tour manager Jason, some really high end local food. Strangely, at the 40 Watt, it was not the most well attended show, I guess the town is full of students who just want to go to dance parties. OR something…. when we left the club there were a bunch of clean young men hanging out near a red bull truck, who called me “sir” when I approached them. That always makes me suspicious (even if it is the south.) Several of us went with Bryan Howard (who played bass for a couple weeks with Cracker last summer, has a band in Athens called Heap) and a couple of his friends to one bar where our tour manager Bobby became the center of attention for some strange girl who started the conversation with him by saying “I have had sex with way too many dudes!”. Which is actually the wrong thing to say to Bobby, I think, as he replied “what’s way too many?” But then she dragged some other guy off his bar stool and started talking about his dick, until both he and Bobby realized that neither one was actually “with” this girl and they began to make their exit strategies… We moved on to a different place run by Bryan’s friend, which was more of a biker-style bar, but they had a band playing some Led Zeppelin covers (featuring the drummer from the Heap, I think.) Several scary looking dudes with beards were taking over the toilets to snort cocaine from the porcelain, and they didn’t like any of us going in to pee. Victor and I convinced the bassist and guitarist to lend us their instruments and we jammed some psychedelic rock music for all 6 patrons for a bit. When we left, there was a ruckus with the clean young men who had been outside by the red bull truck, as one was too drunk to drive and was being fired from the entourage, who were apparently all rent boys paid for by a rich old dude to “party” with him, and the rest were going back to his place, or wherever, while the one being left was crying. He tried to pick up on Bobby to get a place to stay, but no dice. Exciting!

Jamming on borrowed gear…

The next day, we drove to Asheville in the ice and snow, sort of a scary drive. Last time there, we played at the Orange Peel, this time at the Grey Eagle, which was a smaller venue with an excellent Mexican Food kitchen. Many people came, but apparently many did not make it due to the weather and the icy roads.

driving through South Carolina…

Next day was off to Atlanta, playing the Earl, which was sold out and packed, which was super fun. Until it was finished and we had to get into a rental band vehicle to drive all night to West Virginia to play at Mountain Stage. This vehicle came from Rocket (or Rock-it?) tours, with a driver, and had a couple front side benches and then bunks like a tour bus. Like the front half of a tour bus, sort of. Not the most comfortable, but not super awful, however, like any tour bus situation, it would take a few days to get used to. So very little sleep was had. Plus the roads were still very icy and bumpy.

we were zonked by Atlanta…

Mountain Stage is a full NPR radio show, all timed out and programmed with the MC and many bands. On the bill with us here were people like Calexico, Bonny Prince Billy, and Bahamas. We all got about 4 songs. It was extremely organized and a very professional stage crew and great stage sound. We muddled through, and later got back into the half-a-tour-bus and went back to Atlanta to the airport.

setting up on the Mountain Stage. Note also that on this tour I am playing “The Paul” Les Paul guitar with the Bigsby newly placed on it.

I thought I would get some sleep at a hotel in the afternoon, but checking on my flight I discovered that British Airways had it listed as being late and getting later, while their AA local branch did not. This delay would mean missing my connection in London, of course, so when I called AA, it was delayed according to BA by 3 hours though AA still didn’t see it as such. I rerouted and thus had to leave earlier, and connect through Miami to London. So no sleeping. I made all three parts of the flight. I haven’t been in Miami for a while, it was still funny to see all those people in the airport dressed in pink. What a dumb place.

Regardless of the flight switch, it still takes most of an hour to get from one plane to another through terminal 5 at LHR. It’s insane! They even have the customer service stations right there to reroute people, because people ALWAYS MISS CONNECTIONS there. Why must people go through this at LHR? It’s outlandish. LHR terminal 5 is a shopping mall. It’s awful to have to wait there for hours, you are simply expected to shop? There are very few comfortable seats to wait in, very, very few where one can lie down. And they charge people for wi-fi connectivity! That is simply greedy, they have a captive audience who need to access the net. It all basically shows that the customer who flies is thought of as only a source of bilking more and more money from. Airports are shameful. I don’t hate flying, really, just the parts where you aren’t actually on the plane.

Anyway, I made it back to Stockholm. And had a couple weeks of life here before heading back again. Long enough to start the little one in preschool, which meant hanging out in preschool with her for 3 days, which was a petri dish of new illnesses that I of course caught before going back on tour…..

*I realize that some fans and band members may be distraught to read this, but fear not: my labeling of the wait staff here as “models” could mean anything. In fact, they may even have been colostomy-bag models, for all you know! (Actually they were trying their best to be the super young and buff style of TV model. None of them could have actually been fashion models. Nor, probably, could be anybody in our band. Sorry.)

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