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Date: Mon 18 Apr, 2005 at 13:34
Headline: Road Ramblings (April 14-17)
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"Hotel hobbies, padding dawn's hollow corridors
a typewriter cackles out a stream of memories"

-Marillion, The Last Straw

"I can't complain, but sometimes I still do"
-Joe Walsh, Life's Been Good

Thursday 4/14/05

5:33pm

Every time, I say that I'm gonna get enough sleep the night before before we leave. Never happens. Every time I say I'm gonna make up for that lack of sleep on the ride. Never happens. Finished load-in, and we're chilling at the Holiday Inn right now, with 90 minutes or so to kill before soundcheck. Fozz and I are rooming together, as usual. Our original room turned out to be...er, occupied...so we were reassigned to another floor. No Internet access this time around for some reason, but for now it's not essential. I'm torn between actual physical activity and catching up on sleep -- writing this seems to be a doable compromise. Feeling a bit hungry, but dinner at The Sandbar is free tonight, so I wait.

Stressed and edgy on the ride up, don't really know why. Usually it's the ride home that tries my patience more, but this time I really just wanted to get it over with and get right to work. Maybe it's because this is our third time driving directly to Vail and it's no longer an adventure. We know where we're going, we know how we're getting there, we know how long it's gonna take, so there's nothing to do but "breathe in on the tick, and out on the tock", as Billy Pilgrim would say. Some cool music on the way up, all selected by Matt & Juli since they were doing the driving. One of Juli's admirable qualities (of which there are many) is a complete lack of musical prejudice. She has likes and dislikes, but she never dismisses something out of hand based on genre, era, the politics/personality of the artist, etc. Always gives everything a fair shake before forming an opinion. That's a rare attitude, and even moreso in a musician. You'd think it would be the opposite, but alas...we love our little tribes. I was going to buy Nick Mason's autobiography Inside Out to read on this trip, but it turned out to be more of a coffee-table thing, not very practical, so I snagged a paperback copy of Smile, You're Traveling by Henry Rollins instead. Travel books, always fun. Travel books written by traveling musicians, even better. Travel books written by traveling musicians being read by a musician while traveling....the jury's still out. Probably should have brought a back-up, just for a change of pace; nothing but love for Hank, but the "lone warrior" speechifying in this one is pretty pummeling so far. Not really what I'm in the mood for at this moment.

This gig was scheduled for Friday 4/15, then bumped back to Thursday 4/14 for reasons still unknown to me. The Zeppo passing for the PTB at the Sandbar (he called me "kid", which was adorable) assured us during load-in that we do in fact have a gig tonight, but there's no mention of us on their calendar, they haven't put out the flyers & posters I sent them two weeks ago, and the Vail Daily still has us listed for Friday. Not encouraging. Tim takes a moment to remind me that "most people end up in the music business because they can't handle real jobs", which is true enough. Gets a laugh out of me and takes the edge off. For now.

Friday 4/15/05

3:02am

10 hours later. Thin, lethargic, distracted crowd. Lots of mic feedback. The power temporarily blew out partway into the second set and Tim broke a string for the first time in a long time, during a critical juncture of "Shine On". Otherwise, the gig was fine. ;-). The folks who were actually there to see us were cool, but they were the minority. Most of the patrons seemed more irritated by a live band interrupting their TV time. Played pretty stiffly for the first set, kept my back to the room unless I had to sing and let Tim do pretty much all the talking. I shouldn't let frustration get the better of me, but I just didn't have the energy to pretend it was all cool when it wasn't, and I didn't want to vent my spleen on the audience...so, I hung out by the drum riser, tried to lose myself in the music and forget the other stuff. Mixed results on that score. During the break we decided to blow off the set list and experiment, which got the mojo back up and running for me. Took requests, played a bunch of originals, had more fun. It was loose, but our improved attitude made up for it. The club was dutifuly sympathetic about everything, paid us our due, took care of the larger-than-usual bar tab, and promised a better experience next time. We'll see.

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(Buzz eyes the crowd from my amp)

Drove around for a while afterwards looking for any wee-hours dining, but nothing was open. Fozz and I grabbed some junk food at the 7-11 near the club (already regretting this financially and gastronomically) and called it a night. Fox News is now blaring at me as I write. Tony says that promotion has been in full swing for the Glenwood show, so hopefully the results will be better. This whole thing probably would have been less of a downer if we hadn't already drawn so well on our previous visits. The people of Vail are cool and they like our show, but that doesn't matter when no one bothers to let them know that we're playing. Just another reminder that I can't afford the benefit of the doubt with these things, nor trust other people to follow through. Yeah, it was the club who physically (well, metaphsyically) dropped the ball, but I should have been more on top of them. I got comfortable, and paid the price.

Sheesh...Rollins is infecting me. Time to put the book away for a while, I think...

10:56am

Had a very bad dream last night, probably due to bad food, stress, and erratic sleep schedule. Not the typical T-rex-chasing-me or watching-the-plane-crash type of horrorfest, either. It was more subtle, having to do with something I had always believed -- known -- to be true, proving to be false, and the accompanying heartbreak. Not at all the case in reality, but the ugly subconcious fantasy will be swimming in my head all day anyway.

Woke up at 10:00, cleaned up the room, dressed, and walked over to the club to pack up my gear. No one was there. Probably not up yet. I was gonna play a game to kill the waiting time, but now realize that I left my quarters in the hotel room, so I grab some food from McDonalds and use the resulting change to beat up on those alien bastards. Sausage McMuffin, hasbrowns & O.J. Breakfast of champions. Visions of Super Size Me creep into my mind, I chase them away. Good game, a single quarter lasting 30 minutes or so (from long hours of pratice in my largely misspent youth), and for the first time I manage to crack this machine's Top 5. But at the end, I'm still the only one there. Damn. I want this load-out over with and our accomodations for today decided upon post haste. Actually scheduling a wake-up/meeting time would be a good first step, I suppose. The Police's "King Of Pain", and "Walk Away" from the James Gang stand out on the club's PA this morning. Great stuff. Love Joe Walsh, haven't heard this tune in years. Rollins is right, the era of great music is over, though I suspect he and I would differ somewhat on where that line is drawn.

Back to the hotel, to see what's up with everyone. Fozz and I discussed TV seasons a bit. To arc or not to arc? Pros and cons to either, for the people who make the shows and the people who watch them. Reminded me of the progression that House has taken over its first season. Very cut-n-dried self-contained episodes at first, then expanding the big picture as they have gone on, either through a more organic impulse, or because of the show's rather surprising (to me, anyway) popularity and subsequent 2nd season renewal. Cool show, btw. Smart, tense, funny, about time mass audiences in America got to see what all the fuss is about with Hugh Laurie, plus you've got Lisa Edelstein in a non-guest-starring capacity. What's not to like?

Now calling the others. Greg's first words to me: "Donuts! Only Donuts. And the shitty boxed kind, not the shitty good kind." Apparently, the hotel's continental breakfast left something to be desired. Tim's more or less alive, and they're both getting their stuff together. Checking on Matt & Juli. They're out in the parking lot right now, loading the Durango with luggage. Off to join them...

3:23pm

Well, it looks like a nap isn't gonna happen today either. We're holed up at the Apollo Park Lodge, in a fantastic condo suppplied for us by local friend and fan Tracie Sargent as an alternative to the motel that the club was providing for this, our unexpected day off. Nice of 'em, but this place is waaaaay better. Loading out this morning, we ran into quite a few folks who assumed we were loading in. Ugh. No one could come to a decision on what to do with the day once we got here, eventually weariness took over and we've retreated to our own areas. My bed is in a loft, overlooking the living room and kitchen. No real connection, but no real privacy either -- kinda symbolic of road life in general (says the dilletante, as if he knows anything about anything). Getting hungry, trying to decide how to handle that. Since we have a fully functional kitchen the most sensible course of action would probably be groceries, but that means venturing out, which doesn't sound all that appealing right this second. Fozz and I are contemplating going to see Sin City later today. Might be fun. I haven't been able to get to a movie aimed at the over-10 set in a while.

10:30pm

Pretty relaxing, uneventful day. Decided to grab some groceries earlier. Some incredibly unwise junk-food purchases along the way, but we'll survive. We missed the matinee for Sin City. Despite now having food here, Juli decided to go out to dinner with Tim & Greg, while Matt, Fozz and I ordered up a couple of pizzas. Us crazy kids, eh? We've hauled out the show projector and are using it to watch DVDs on the high white walls of the living room area. Matt got hooked on the Whedonverse last Fall and is just starting Buffy Season 6, so that's been the theme of the evening. It's a lot of fun watching these eps with someone who hasn't seen them before, catching the first-time laughs and such. Once More With Feeling was particularly cool on a big screen. "Walk Through The Fire" was even more goosebump-inducing than usual. Juli's back now, Greg has gone to check out the free Buckwheat Zydeco concert, Tim is either with him or passed out at the hotel. It's been fun hanging out tonight, but I'd still rather be working. Damn the world and its weather.

11:55pm

Should have gone to bed a while ago, but common sense is conflicting with my system being set on "show mode". The projector went off after Matt & Juli decided to turn in, and it's been lots of mindless TV staring since, while trying to finish the lyrics for "Saving Grace", a new SoN tune. Lewis Black is headlining on Comedy Central's Friday Night Stand-Up. So far, I think his quick bits on The Daily Show are much funnier. Just saw a commercial for a reality/prank show called Boiling Point, the premise of which seems to be harrassing people in public places and timing how long it takes them to completely lose their temper, with hidden cameras running all the while. Gack. At this rate, I swear they're only another year or so away from "Touch The Stove". Now we've switched to Presumed Innocent, which I haven't seen in many moons. Despite the talents of all involved, is every bit as dull as I remember. These lyrics still aren't working. Time to turn in, I think.

Saturday 4/16/05

11:57am

Read a little more Rollins before hitting the sack last night. The book is still careening wildly between victory and defeat without even pausing for breath. I can relate. Still a little deflated about there being no gig last night, but there's work to be done so I can't dwell. We sent out a message to the SoN mailing list reminding the Vail folks about tonght's show, which is taking place only 40 miles or so away from them, and offering a discount if they bring a copy of the e-mail in. Called and thanked Tracie again for the way cool digs, and we're now en route to Glenwood Springs. Fozz asked me if I want to blog using his hand-held cell phone/radio/computer terminal/cuisenart/toenail clipper/weather-control device thingie, but I'd rather wait and type this up later. Besides, the luddite in me stil finds that to be some scary-ass technology. This is how SkyNet starts, folks.

The radio station we're tuned to, JACK FM (or possibly some other variation like JAKK -- I haven't seen any billboards) is throwing some curves at us. REM's "Man On The Moon" leads into Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero", which then gives way to Linkin Park's "In The End". "Playing what WE want", declares the station liner. Damn straight. Even if not entirely true, it's a step in the right direction. The fact that I'm impressed and find such a format "eclectic" when it's just a few different eras of mainstream rock thrown together only goes to show how badly watered-down and ghettoized radio has become in the past couple of decades. Sad, really. Ah, more Joe Walsh: "Life's Been Good". You can keep your Claptons, Pages and whatnot. For my money, Walsh had the best rock riffs of the 70s. Played out or not, this song never ceases to amaze me. So many diverse ideas crammed into it, and all of them work ("They don't write 'em like that no more," grumbles the grizzled 1800's prospector).

Note to self: "Take Back The Thrown" would make a cool album title.

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(at a rest stop just outside Glenwood Springs)

7:28pm

Back at the hotel, finally. We're all feeling pretty bad-moody at this point, except for Fozz. I think that's because unlike the rest of us he's had a few projects to keep him occupied for most of the day. Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait some more. Hurry up and listen to inexplicable feedback. Bleah. Set up and soundcheck took 5+ hours, and still both the room and PA leave a lot to be desired. Tiny stage, a single monitor mix, screen off to the side. Sound guy was late and slow-moving. Matt, Greg and I had some fun jamming various Rush tunes waiting for a line check which livened things up for a while, but as the light at the end of the set-up tunnel seemed to drift further and further away, we finally decided to bolt and get some fresh air. Checked out a local music shop, took a walk over a bridge in the center of town. There are safety barricades up on the sections which span the train tracks and highway running on either side of the river, but not the river itself. I guess according to the city planners, if you wanna jump to your death, that's fine...just don't distrupt the traffic. Leaned over the side and let the rolling water hypnotize me for a while. Dinner was fairly good, but too expensive, especially considering that the venue we're playing was willing to feed us for free. Gotta stop doing that, or at least stop paying for it out of the band budget. Discipline hasn't exactly been the watchword of the weekend.

Earlier today, Greg and I did a radio interview at KDNK, a station in nearby Carbondale. Tony drove us over through back roads, which was...certainly not a dull experience. The station is a pretty cool little operation, very indie, very old skool. Stacks of LPs all over the place in addition to the expected CDs and computer. Interview was Ok. The guy wasn't terribly prepared, but asked some good questions anyway. My last couple of radio experiences not being so exciting, I chose Greg to come with me because he's a normally a very funny guy and I thought we could do some bantering, but he was all business today. Oh well. Dropped a new stack of demos with Tony, which he will hopefully put to good use.

Fozz is editing video, working on a new promo for the web site. Again with the keeping busy. "Saving Grace" is openly mocking me at this point. Funny, because the song's subject matter has been weighing on me pretty heavily this weekend -- just can't seem to find a way to give it rhyme and meter. Still a dull ache from that dream the other night, dirty pool on the part of my subconcious. Maybe I should switch to "Head Full Of Smoke" instead. For some reason, the TV is tuned to an episode of Cold Case Files, which is siphoning away my attention right now. It's all about the apprehension of some guy who recorded himself torturing and mudering a dozen women or so. They're playing one of the audio excerpts now...disturbing stuff. Puts things in perspective. My family is safe and healthy, what the hell do I have to complain about?

All the gripes about logistics and time-wasting during today's (lack of) activities can easily be washed away by a great crowd. From all reports, Tony's been promoting like a champ: flyers & posters, and radio & newspapers, oh my. Here's hoping it's all worthwhile...

Sunday 4/17/05

3:06am

Bizarre altercation as we were loading out. A young woman in formal wear, dangling a cigarette from long-gloved hands, comes walking -- sauntering, really, clearly having had a few drinks tonight -- up the alley behind the club. Her purse has gone missing, she says, and asks if any of us has seen it. She looks like something out of 40s noir pic, and we just stare. Almost immediately we're hit with a blinding flashlight beam from the end of the alley, a few dozen yards or so away. "Come here," shouts a hard female voice. I assume it's our David-Lynchian guest who is being addressed here, and I look to her with even more curiosity. "Walk towards me, now," repeats the voice behind the flashlight, and I begin to wonder if it's a police officer. Aren't they required to identify themselves up front? "ALL OF YOU!", she amends harshly. Well, that tears it, we have ourselves a cop. No mistaking the "command presence" in her voice that time. We're all about 10 feet from her before we can clearly identify the uniform. There are a couple of vehicles stationed at the end of the alley, another stationed near the front of the club. Quite an operation for a lost purse. Another officer appears and whisks our new friend away. The flashlight finally turns off. "I have enough problems tonight without people not being able to follow simple de-structions!", the first cop barks at us. Since she's armed and acting twitchy, I decide not to roll my eyes at her choice of non-words, though later we will laugh and laugh and laugh. Yeah, I always do exactly what I'm told by unidentified people weilding flashlights in a dark alley of a strange town. Good call, ma'am. First night on the job?

Apparently what has happened is this: a fight which began earlier in the club (Tim and I witnessed the perpetrator being forcefully shown the door) has continued on the street outside, and somehow in all the confusion, the purse was stolen. Or something. We think. Not sure if that all adds up -- it could just be that we're annoying Glenwood's finest by being awake and in public at this late hour. Our stressed-out captor wants to know what we had to do with the fight. Nothing, we protest. Greg takes point: "We're the band, we don't know anyone here, we were packing up and just getting ready to leave." He gestures to the big white truck in the middle of the alley. It's obvious that she really, really doesn't want to believe him, but reluctantly decides to give it a miss anyway. Greg and Tim turn around and head back to the truck, the rest of us hang a right and walk up the street toward our own transportation. As we go, I catch snatches of the conversation between the other officer and Purse Girl. She keeps shouting at him to let her go and find her property, he seems mainly concerned with her putting out the cigarette. Yeah, I think I'm gonna have to go with the "annoyance" theory, myself.

Watching video playback of the show right now on the TV in our hotel room. Vanity? Masochism? Boredom? Whatever. It was a great crowd, if not a very large one. Lots of Old Skool fans, so the psychedelic stuff got the biggest cheers. We fielded requests for "Arnold Layne", "Free Four" and more in addition to the usual suspects. Always tricky when I go off on a tangent with just bass & vocals, cause usually it's meant to just be a quick few seconds, but the band almost always decides to try and follow along. Sometimes they remember the tune, sometimes not so much.;-) Still our efforts were appreciated. The originals went over well. "Mr Serious" was smokin'. Pleasantly surprised as I listen to find that my vocals didn't suck, despite having no monitors. In fact, all the vocals were pretty much spot on tonight. I guess our close proximity to each other made up for the technological failures. On the other hand, the weird holes in the sound that we observed during the gig apparently weren't just the stage mix. Juli's the MVP tonight -- she was on fire during "Great Gig", took the wireless out into the crowd to give audience members a shot at singing "Another Brick", and played the acoustic rhythm guitar on "Comfortably Numb" for the first time. Greg broke into an impromptu drum solo during the breakdown in "Run Like Hell". Very cool, we should expand it.


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(it's even smaller than it looks...I'm hiding behind Tim)

Tony worked the door and sold merch. We're pretty much out of everything at this point, just a handfull of stickers and a single copy of One Left Turn. A few folks signed up on the mailing list, always a good thing. Didn't make much as this was a door gig and the draw was less than voluminous, even after the promotion that we did. Could have been worse, but that doesn't make me feel better. Between this and what happened in Vail, I know I should have just gone with my gut and postponed this trip until we could set up a more stable run. To quote Mr Malcolm, "Boy, do I hate being right all the time." I won't take this sort of risk again, not when I have other people taking time away from their day jobs and families. It's not worth it.

Feeling bloated, dehydrated, exhausted, defeated. I want to rage at my body for betraying me, but I know damn well that it's the other way around. The remorse of the diabetic sugar junkie. Much more discipline is required if I'm ever gonna survive this lifestyle for real.

11:42am

Back on the road, headed home. We had breakfast with Tony at a Mexican place just off the freeway. Good eggs. Good service, though you wouldn't know it from our agent's behavior. I decided not to talk this morning unless I had to, and now everyone assumes that I am pissed off. Not true. I've managed to put my disappointment and frustration with this run behind me, try to focus on the positive, stay calm and connected to whatever powers may be in the universe until I can get home and truly decompress. I'm being polite when spoken to, just not offering anything up on my own. Everyone misinterpreting my mood proves something I've suspected for a while now: I talk too damn much, and posess some pretty annoying conversational habits. Gotta curb that. I genuinely like these people (even the waitress-harrassing ones) and I don't want my presence to be an irritant to them. So, not so much with the talking for now.

I'm gonna try and finish the Rollins book on the ride, because I know I'll never pick it up again once I get home and have less time on my hands. Listened to Fish's Internal Exile all the way through for the first time in a few years. "Credo", "Shadowplay", and the title track gave me chills, just like the old days. Nice to know that music can still do that. :) Fozz just showed me a potential cover concept for the new CD. Clarity is the working title, and as much as I like it, such an abstract word doesn't lend itself easily to visual interpretation. This design is pretty cool, though.

6:06pm

Managed to finish the Rollins. Feeling a little beat down by the narrative, but on the other hand it does help to put life in perspective, much as the CCF episode last night. Things could be so much worse in so many ways. Still, I'm not sure if I'm gonna have Hank as my literature travel buddy on a consistent basis. More escapism is called for, at least as a back-up choice. We're pulling into Park Summit now, getting ready to unload the gear and go home. Looking forward to it. I've missed my family more than usual this time out. I'll be happy to stay home for the next little while and start digging into recording.

Bye for now,

-Thom