September, the transitional month…Part 1

I’m repeating myself here from the previous post a bit, but so be it.

I’ve been meaning to catch up on blog-writing—my monthly entry!—to describe the last bits of touring for the year and the state of things in Stockholm.

I actually had some time off after Camper Van Beethoven played at Outside Lands in San Francisco in August, and spent almost all of it out in the country in Grecksnäs where my wife’s family has an old 16th century farmhouse near a lake. It’s my favorite place to be. My daughter is now 2, and she likes it there, but misses having other children around. This means a lot of playing has to happen… well, a lot of playing has to happen with Marlowe in general. So a lot of my time is spent with her, which is amazing. I always hear so much about how parental bonding needs more dad-time in general, and I’ve been out of work (except when gone on tour) since she was about 9 months old, so I’m an essential playmate for her. It’s incredible. Of course she gets mad and sad when I have to go on tour. And punishes me a little when I get back. But that’s the breaks.

Marlowe at play.

Marlowe at play.

I managed to continue recording a bunch of songs/music while out there… mostly during naptime. I guess I need to mix it this fall, but I see no hurry as I don’t have any label or anything to release it, and what’s more digital files in the world anyway. I’m ambivalent. I have always worked hard on recording music, I feel like it is a different art form than playing live and I see it more like spatial sculpting in time. I love doing it, and I make music that is as good as I can make it and in a way that I want it to sound. I guess I always wished that that would be enough, but of course when it’s finished I want everybody to hear it and appreciate it like I do, but I find that of course that is not the case necessarily. There is that “small circle of friends” who are interested. That is great by itself, but makes the process financially unsustainable. So here I am, yet another hobbyist musician, availing myself of the home recording technology! The home recording industry is booming! I guess that’s where we’re at these days. I hope you enjoy it when I’m done, I assume it’ll be at!

And I admit to feeling lost still in the real world as much as in the music world! I live in a country where I don’t speak the language very well and don’t quite fit in at all. And if you’ve read any previous posts about Sweden, you might catch the drift that we’ve been living with Sanna’s parents since we moved, which is slightly debilitating. It’s really hard to find a place to live in Stockholm, for many reasons. One is that everybody moves to here from everywhere else in Sweden, now there’s 2.2 million people, which the city can’t quite hold. They’re building up a storm everywhere. But, more than that, the last 6 years have had a right wing government who has privatized a lot of things, including most of the state-owned rental apartments. That means that they offered the apartments for sale, initially to the renters… who mostly couldn’t afford to buy them. So who bought all the apartments? Private companies. And do they rent the apartments out? Well, sometimes, but mostly they are trying to sell them for more money. So if you can buy, you’re ok. If you can’t, well, maybe you should go back to fucking Åmål. (See previous post)

There’s a queue system for getting apartments in the housing agency. You sign up and as the years go by, you get higher on the list. Then when apartments come available, if you’re up there on the list, you may have a chance if the people ahead of you decline or can’t afford it or don’t qualify or whatever. We’ve been pretty set of staying in Blackeberg where Sanna grew up, for several reasons. One is that there are about 10 preschools here, tons of kids, it’s a great place for kids. There’s also a lot of nature around, parks and also nature reserves, forest and lake. It’s pretty! Also, Sanna’s parents are here, so that’s great for Marlowe to have grandparents nearby as well. (Plus of course, most of John Ajvide Lindqvist‘s books take place here. We even tried to get the actual apartment that Oskar lived in in “Let the Right One In” but weren’t high enough on the list.) While out in Grecksnäs, we came into the top ten for an apartment in a new building in Blackeberg, and by hook and crook made it to the top few and waiting patiently (not) we called as soon as the top of the list was offered the apartment and their time to respond ran out and we took it! So our move in was supposed to be Oct 1, but the previous tenants moved by mid-month, so we actually got keys on September 16th.

It’s kind of expensive. I mean, for a big city, it’s not, I guess, but for us it is. It’s one bedroom, big living room and bathroom, medium sized kitchen, all in a line along the side of the building so Marlowe can run the length of the apartment back and forth. It’s new, which is weird (for me) but that means it’s a super efficient building, a passive-construction house where the heat is recycled. Many Swedes are used to the overheated winter indoors, I personally like a cooler interior in the winter; I grew up in California, you know, where we don’t really heat our homes well.

But I had to leave on tour again! Camper had to play our 9th annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Camp-Out Festival (and I got to too) and then we had an additional festival in Bishop, CA on the 22nd of September. So I flown the Wednesday before the Thursday-Saturday Camp-Out, a strange flight on Virgin Atlantic, whom I hadn’t been on since actually being on Virgin Records in 1988 or so. A short hop to Heathrow, one of my most hated airports, with a layover in terminal 3, which is at least better than terminal 5, then a long 11 hours to LAX. I got in in the evening and had a horrid hotel near the airport, which took too long to get to as they had no actual shuttle. A tiny and weird room, so I walked down Sepulveda to a Ralph’s supermarket and bought some beer and then went to get some Mexican food. The next day when I got up, our tour manager Bobby came to get me. I had to drive the rental van with a bunch of gear out to the desert, as Bobby had to go fetch a second drum set and other gear. I very much enjoyed this. I lived in Los Angeles for a few years in the late 1990s and learned to love its incredible urban expanse. Driving out to the desert on a Thursday afternoon was pleasant! I stopped at the outlet mall in Cabazon and bought some slippers and some shorts. I got to the hotel in Yucca Valley, and strangely wasn’t allowed in until our manager got there with the actual, physical credit card. That was a little weird since probably 75% of their bookings that weekend were due to us having our festival in Pioneertown… But they eventually let me in and I had a huge suite all to myself. I could have totally partied.

David as Captain America

I made my way up to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace a little later that afternoon, again a lovely drive. The weather was amazing, clear and not too hot. I love Pappy and

Harriet’s also, what a weird place. The “town” was built as cowboy movie sets. The opening evening had acoustic acts indoors, or mostly acoustic. Johnny Hickman played first in a duo with Jim Dalton, whom he’d been recording with. Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers played with drums and electric guitars as well… they seem to have brought their own crowd, people following them from Las Vegas on their way to San Diego. They arrived in a big black old bus. I’d never heard them before, but their fans were very excited to see them in a small venue like this, and they sounded good, sort of Tom Petty meets Allman Brothers. Some neat little pop songs and some major key jams. After them Johnny and David Lowery played an acoustic set. I certainly hope the Roger Clyne fans stayed, as it was pretty incredible. The sound quality was great, and their voices sounded low and strong, David played either classical guitar or a six-string banjo, Johnny played into Victor’s Vibroverb amp. Really lovely and intimate versions of the Cracker songs and a couple other tunes.

The theme for people to have dress-up fun this year was very odd. Friday was “Mexico versus Canada” and Saturday was Hawaii. I can’t explain that. Nonetheless, the next day was Camper’s night to headline the outdoor stage and people were dressed up in all sorts of ways, from looking like calaveras to mounties. Gram Rabbit opened the outdoor part (as always?), I missed them this year as I was getting ready. Camper played a decent set, though our drummer Frank Funaro has bad tennis elbow and was suffering. David dressed in American flags to offset the Canada and Mexico theme (I wore a red and white Adidas shirt and tried to get my hair into a soccer mullet.) In the indoor part, the Dangers played, then after the outdoor bands, Chris Shifflitt and then Victor Krummenacher closed the show with a rocking psychedelic countrified bluesy set with Chris Miller and Greg Lisher guesting on guitar, along with his normal rhythm section of John Hanes and Paul Olguin.

Victor Krummenacher band

After the show, Victor and Greg and I all hung out at the hotel talking with John and Paul at the hotel till they had to go because they had to catch planes the next morning.

Saturday, we got to wear Hawaiian shirts, which is always fun. We had our meet-n-greet signing at 5pm, after which I had a quick dinner ( I like the food there) before I had to play a set at 7:30. I have mentioned before that I have pretty much abandoned the idea of playing songs at this event due to the impossibility of rehearsal, so for the past few years I’ve just played sets of improvisation, guitar/bass/drums space rock stuff. Frank, however, didn’t want to play due to his elbow, but Cracker had a ringer there, Ben Mize, who had played with them a few times before (coming from the Counting Crows, I believe.) So I asked Ben if he wanted to jam! He was into warming up before the Cracker set, so we played a cool set for the dinner crowd there on the inside stage. It encompassed some interesting moments, we even veered off into a surf-rock area!

jam session.

After us, the bands started outside and the first was Jackshit, which is Davey Faragher’s band (original bassist for Cracker) with Pete Thomas and Val McCallum, some pretty renowned and amazing players ( I mean, Davey and Pete play with Elvis Costello!) They played country songs, for the most part, or rock songs in a country style. Incredible guitar playing, and singing and, well, everything. Also super tongue-in-cheek funny.

Cracker played their Hawaii set, opening with the Hawaii 5-0 theme song, Johnny as Jack Lord, David as… um. A thin Hurley? A surfer dude?It was extremely realistic, regardless. I could swear the hair looked like his own. They switched drummers from Frank to Ben and brought in Davey to play some bass. At this point I became mesmerized, and had a certain epiphany: seeing 3/4 of the original band playing things like “Low” and “Movie Star” in the very place where they had written and recorded the album (yes, they did that in Pioneertown!) had such an amazing historical resonance that the songs suddenly made sense in a way that they hadn’t for me since maybe 1995. It was like seeing through time! All in all, yet another great concert.

After them, Leland Sundries played inside, a folk-rock set, and then the end of the festival had Frank Funaro doing something all by himself.

When he got set up, he had a giant bass amp stack and he came out with a low slung bass and said “I’m going to play the entire Ramones first album, it should take about 28 minutes.” And then he stepped on the fuzz box and off he went. He played and sang then entire Ramones album from start to finish. Incredible! At the end he said, “that was a little easier playing it in my room.”

Well, despite a series of late nights (I mean, I was so jetlagged I had no idea what time was what) we had to get up early to play a noon show in North Hollywood. This was going to be an important thing, actually, a show at some place that was a gathering of Sound Supervisors from Hollywood. The idea is that, if they like what they hear, they would be more inclined to speak our name in the meeting with whomever decides above them that our music might be in some TV show or film. Supposedly. I mean who knows, but it’s definitely worth not sleeping much to do, as pretty much the only way a songwriter can make money anymore is by sync fees for film or television.

So once again, I was driving the gear van, everybody else in various cars or things. I never made it.

I left early and got coffee in Yucca Valley, got on the road. I made it as far as the rise leaving the valley past Palm Springs when the right rear tire lost its tread and the sidewall blew out.

Well, this rental van had some sort of coverage where they were supposed to send out somebody. So a few phone calls later, Bobby got the roadside assistance number to me, but when I called they couldn’t put together the VIN from the van with our rental contract (Ok….) So I finally figured out where the jack was and how to get the spare from below so I changed the damn tire there in the 95º desert. Which actually only helped for a little while, because after I stopped to make sure the air pressure was good for all tires, I got back on the road and a little while later, near San Bernardino, the left rear sidewall burst like a popping balloon! Well, now I was well and truly fucked, there was no way I was gonna make the gig. It was about 11am, and the show was over an hour away. So this time, I had no spare left and had to wait for somebody to come help. Bobby eventually got through to the van rental place and they claimed to send somebody out. I waited a while there in the heat, told the CHP officer that I was fine, he said “we don’t want you sweating to death out here.” Eventually I gave up and walked to the nearest exit. Got lunch and sat at a Starbucks to read a book. Eventually a guy called and said he was nearby with a new van, so he came to pick me up and we drove over to the broken van, where I had to load out all the gear, and put it into the new van (he wasn’t so keen on helping.) Then a tow truck arrived and then David and Velena arrived on their way back from the gig, they saw us from the other side of the 210. David said it went well, and that maybe my being missing was more interesting for the people there who all seemed to be interested in the idea of the violinist being broken down by the side of the road. It would have been truly funny if I had been on my way to a classical concert, or better yet, dressed as Mozart, while I walked by the side of the highway in the midday sun.

Anyway, now it was like 5 in the afternoon, and I had to go to El Segundo to once again unload and load gear (Bobby’s car had the gig gear, we had to switch so I could drive the San Francisco gear back to San Francisco.) Slightly after 6pm, I set off out of Los Angeles and drove until midnight to Victor’s house. I did not unload the van when I got there.


musician. real person. that's my real name, go ahead, look me up.

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Posted in Camper Van Beethoven, Music, Sweden, Touring

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