I woke up rather early, given how late we all went to sleep. It was to be a hot day in Indiana, that was certain. I was out of Clif bars, and had consumed my dinner the night before, so there was nothing for me to eat. I checked email, got my Flash demo up and working again, burnt a CD of the previous night's performance for Bobby Vomit (at his request the night before) and waited for people to wake up. Eventually they did, and after some discussion, we hit the road. Kerry insisted on driving again, I think out of the perception that I was not the quickest driver among us. That was certainly true, but my primary goal was reaching our destination alive.
So we hauled it across the remainder of Indiana to I-70 and western Ohio, where Manny asked me if I had Mapquest directions to Pat's in the Flats. I told him that while I'd been doling them out day by day, at some point (oh, maybe after Houston?) I'd just pulled all the directions out and given them to him, as he (a nondriver) was functioning as navigator. He said, "I can't believe that you don't have them." I said I didn't believe that I did have them; I'd given them to him. Back and forth we went, with Jason interjecting that he couldn't believe that I didn't believe that I had them. I asked Manny if it was possible that he dumped them--did he throw out old directions? Yes, it turned out. I said, "I don't believe you did that."
We cut through Columbus and headed north. We stopped at the first rest area, and I attempted to find food in the vending machines. I saw a package that boasted of "real fruit!" so I bought it...and it turned out to be this weird largely artificial gelatinous thing. Sort of like gummi bears, but with an ostensible connection to something that might have once grown organically. Only a connection, though. I offered it to Manny, and figured I might as well go hungry until we hit Cleveland.
Somewhere between Columbus and Akron, the rain began in earnest. Significant rain, rain that had others pulling to the side of the road. Rain that had Kerry slowing down a little, on occasion. We pushed on, and Kerry put in his new The Streets CD, which didn't do much for me, but which regrettably stuck in the head after the third or fourth listen or so. This was our soundtrack for the approach into Cleveland. By this time, I was quite cold from the air conditioning and lack of anything to eat. Due to our lack of directions to Pat's (which was difficult to get to, apparently), we were going to meet up with Greg's roommates at his place, and then we'd follow them to the venue. We pulled up at Girl Talk Manor right as the rain began to abate, and we hit the bathrooms and internet connections. (Thanks for the DSL, guys. It strikes me that if I'd been writing this thirty or so years ago, I might say much the same thing, but with the letters rearranged.)
We (Jason, Kerry, Ryan, and I) joined with one of Greg's roommates to get some food, and we headed over to a build-your-own-burrito place in a yuppifying shopping district (apparently once quite the countercultural center) near Case Western. The burrito was quite good (veggie), large, and affordable. We ate, grateful for some nutrition, finally. At one point Kerry went up to get more guacamole, and came back amused--the guy behind the counter asked him, "So you all following Phish around?" Kerry told him no, we were on tour, performing electronic music. The counter guy indicated Jason and said, "Oh, well then you might want to have a band meeting about the hat."
We returned to Girl Talk Manor, checked email, picked up Manny and Greg, and followed his friends down to the venue. Kerry put in his Streets CD again, and we commented on his polysyllabic rapping style. I suggested that he needs to work with a monosyllabic partner for contrast. ("Government funding for further education--HEH!--pales in insignificance--YEAH!" Or "In the afterlife Gladiators--OW!--meet their maker/Thrown through the wind fields and lakes of Bluewater--UH!")
Down we went to the Flats, and...yep, this was an emotionally resonant landscape for me. Great place for a music venue, as there were no neighbors to disturb. We pulled up to Pat's, loaded in and set up. It looked like I'd be going on first, which was fine by me. We pulled a line of tables in front of the stage and set up at floor level. My soundcheck was a bit loud, so I asked the sound guy to keep it lower, although ultimately, I probably should have had it cranked up.
With some time before the audience arrived, we hung out in the bar and wandered around the neighborhood. I managed to get a few photos of the overall industrialness of the place, the tanker trucks pulling out of the pumping stations, the fenced-off facilities with no easily discernable purpose... It was good.
At the time, my set wasn't doing it for me. In the good ones, the decisions one makes have effects that just seem right, and lead to the next right possibility, and I wasn't feeling that here. On listening back to it, however, there's definitely something worthwhile going on, particularly in the first part where the little delayed melodies retain some interest. The dystopian drony part with the W samples doesn't do as much for me, however. After a bit more meandering, I pulled out a granular breakbeat and finally played it straight for a few iterations before reversing it and playing over top. I actually used some chords this time to build up density, then let things fade and put the beat through the granular processing again, and finally messing with the delay time for that IDM flavor to lead into the fade. So ultimately it had its moments, but there was a momentum-losing aporia in the middle. Some people told me they liked it.
I wandered around for a while, checking out others' sets, going outside to get some air. It was quite a nice night after the rain of the day, and I learned that if it hadn't been for the rain, the show would have taken place outside. It's unfortunate; I think I might have had a bit of a boost from an outside show, but it was not to be. Xanopticon turned in a great, intense set which went over well with a death-metal fan whom I met (and who gave me his CD; I'll have to give it a listen), and pretty much with everyone else as well. Greg ended the evening with a joint set of him and his friend Hearts of Darknesses. I'd heard stories of his performances going a bit out of control, so I took my gear down to the van to get it out of the way. In the event, they were indeed entertaining and theatrical, slamming into the audience for involuntary participation, and both he and Greg ending the evening on the floor in their underwear, entwined in the audience's legs and covered in beer, but in no way were they destructive. Good sets by all.
At this point I was ready to get rolling, although I could feel myself start to lose my driving edge, and there would be problems if we were to wait too long. There was a party going on at Greg's, which Manny had suggested we check out, but I pointed out that if we went to the party, we'd be up late and it would be impossible to wake anybody up until noon, at which time the van would be late. So we rolled. I began following Mapquest directions, and at the point that we were to take the highway South in the direction of Akron, Kerry vehemently argued that we should NOT go through Akron; it'd take forever to get home. Instead he thought we should head East on 90. Considering how strongly he felt about it, I thought maybe he knew something I didn't, but it turned out to be wrong. Perhaps he thought we were going through Akron, which wasn't my intent; I was just thinking of heading South to the turnpike. But I went along, and we soon realized that this new route would be a problem. We needed to go South.
An hour or so later, we were on the road to hook up with the turnpike, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to continue driving at this point. We stopped for gas and I chugged an energy drink and a coffee, but still felt exhausted. I suggested that I needed to get a half hour or so of sleep before taking the wheel again, and we could just hang in the parking lot for that time. Kerry, though, thought it would be best to continue driving, and took the wheel, while Jason took the co-pilot seat. I took the middle row, closed my eyes, and waited for the coffee to work.
At some point the CD player was turned off, and the AM radio put on to some late-night talk show, and the coffee and energy drink began to take effect. We were listening to a talk show in which some guy was talking about his out-of-body experiences, and Jason and I were providing sarcastic commentary to help keep Kerry awake. Finally, at the last rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike, Kerry was unable to continue, and we switched. I bought (with much effort--it was around four in the morning and no one was behind the counter) a bottle of water and a candy bar to augment my caffeine peak, and we rolled into Pennsylvania, at last. Jason again provided the very useful service of running commentary/court jester/philosopher, making sure I remained conscious. I generally drove at the speed limit and took 279 into town, the easiest way from the Turnpike.
We dropped Ryan and Jason off at Ryan's place at around 5:00, retrieved the second middle row seat which we'd left there, and tried to put it in (unsuccessfully). Kerry wasn't feeling well, and he asked us to take him home to Point Breeze as soon as we could, so the seat project was abandoned for the time being. We dropped him off, and after he'd left the van, I took a moment to read the instructions on the seat, and was able to get it to latch. I took Manny to his place, and we loaded out his stuff. I could see the first light of the day over the row houses of his street, and called Patricia on the cell. Manny was taking a while to get back to the van; it turned out that there was a problem with his front door and he had to go in through a window. But we soon headed to my place, where Patricia was waiting outside, and it was great to see her again.
I unloaded my stuff and took it up to our apartment, where I could see that she'd been busy all week preparing for the electricians who were rewiring the house. Everything had been either moved into the bedroom or covered with a drop cloth. (We'd seen from the other apartments that this wasn't going to be an easy or neat process.) Now we had to return the van, so we went out to the airport with all the van windows down, and Patricia following in the MINI. We did a loop of the airport to get over to the one gas station on the airport grounds, filled the tank, and on my way out to the loop again, I noticed a local TV van with the satellite boom extended--right, I now remembered that W himself was due in town that day, and I was relieved that we were early enough not to have to go through a massive security snarl.
We'd already cleaned out the van, but I was a bit concerned about some of the worn spots in the plastic trim of the cargo area, some from Jason's boxes, some from the edges of Geoff Cutups's mixer. The rental agent, however, took the van back and charged us the agreed-upon amount, and so Manny and I went looking for Patricia. She'd said just to look for the MINI in short term, and we eventually found her after one false positive (yep, another MINI in short term, 6:30 Monday morning). Heading back onto the highway (Patricia, mercifully, driving), we heard Manny moaning from the back seat. Was he about to be sick? We offered to pull over, but he said he was just worried that he'd lost the Austin check. I can't say I was surprised, as I'd anticipated this back on the 24th. He did, however, find it, and we continued into town with me dropping off to sleep and then jumping awake any time the car changed direction or went over a bump. We dropped Manny off, hit the grocery store (I was hoping to have a caffeinated Clif Bar for breakfast; we were successful), and arrived back home just as the electricians pulled up, at a few minutes to 8, beginning a week in which we had very limited use of our apartment. For now, we would have to go elsewhere for showers and a quiet place for much-needed sleep, so once again, we hit the road.
Once again, I was the first to wake up, joined in the shower by one of the many mosquitos that had got into the room. I looked into connecting to the 'net (no dice; the phone jack was of the old, non-modular school), and waited for everyone else to get it together. We ultimately did, and Kerry took the wheel again while I got to work on the tour journal. During load-out, a number of opportunistic mosquitos joined us, and we spent the morning killing them and being sucked dry by the survivors. The tour was taking its toll in exhaustion, blood loss, and overall misery (see photo). We reached the Mississippi; the second time I'd been over it at driving level. On the other side, we could see the pyramid where they've interred Elvis's sarcophagus. (Some people seem to think that this is a sporting arena.) I got a few decent photos of Memphis squalor as we sped on.
We got through Tennessee without getting out of the van, crossed the Ohio River (yay! Home was at the other end of it!), and stopped for gas and water somewhere in Indiana (see the panorama from the parking lot), and got on the road again...only to be pulled over minutes later for speeding. Kerry had been doing his 10-miles-or-more above the limit, and Indiana's finest wanted to have a word with us. "We clocked you going a little fast there, and we wanted to check you out." I dug out the rental agreement, and Kerry was removed from the van while the officer checked out his record (clean), and did the same with Jason (also clean), gave us a talking to, and we were on our way.
Onward we pushed, doing the speed limit this time (much to my relief), and we attempted to find Muncie. For a city that, like, appears on maps and stuff, the connection between it and Indianapolis is very obscure. Our directions were reasonable, but the road itself was so empty that I was sure we weren't going the right way. Eventually we did enter Muncie, and only then got lost from the poor signage, but a bartender set us straight, and we pulled up at the collective house where we'd be playing. Not many people were around, but it was still early yet (8:00 or so). I'd been concerned about our timing, but we lucked out--Indiana doesn't acknowledge Daylight Savings Time, so we didn't lose the hour I'd thought we'd lose. We loaded in, hung out a bit, talked on the back porch. I got a chance to chat with Bobby Vomit, who had played Re:Pulse a few months back, doing an interestingly lowercase turntablism, and also with Bobby's uncle (and father of one of the citizens of the house), who apparently was a picker from a number of years back, and told me some stories about how he raised his sons to be better guitar players than he.
After a while, I headed to the basement and got connected to the 'net for the first time all day on dialup (thanks, guys); meanwhile, Stallio started playing his plunderphonic metacommentary on current (and past) pop. None of us had had anything to eat all day, so we were getting a bit desperate to figure something out, and we ultimately sent Kerry over to a Chinese place for a menu. He returned some time later with his takeout and our menus, and we ordered (Hunan tofu for me; very low price for a pint). I'd been pouring myself glasses of water from the Brita pitcher, and then later saw one of the house citizens swigging directly from the Brita's spout. I switched to the tonic water I'd found in the fridge, which was nice--particularly after having been an hors d'ouvre for the many mosquitos in the van.
Jason and I were the most likely candidates to perform after Stallio, so we decided to set up and see who got finished first. Tables were assembled and cleaned (thanks again to our hosts), and Jason broke the ice. This ended up being good for me, as our food arrived during his set, and I was able to park myself in the kitchen and eat for the first time that day. I'd been looking for a friend who lives in Muncie, and finally made phone contact, but he'd had a number of things to deal with that day and wasn't up to attending. It would have been nice to see him, but I was already very tired by this point, and it was going to be increasingly difficult to be appropriately social. He'd made an offer to put me up, back when he thought he might be coming to the show, but now that we were in the house and I was this tired, the thought of going elsewhere seemed like far too much labor.
Eventually I wandered down to see the end of Jason's set and get ready for my own, starting with the poem, and getting a few giggles from the audience. The subsequent set was more of the same stuff I've been dishing up for the last few nights, starting with drones (this time achieving a melody of some mild interest, making this drone part most similar to my Guitar Clouds disc, although faster), moving to clicky guitar-based percussion, then messing that up a bit and bringing in the Bush samples. I'm actually getting kind of tired of these, in part because if I'm going to fit them in, I have to change the mood to dystopian, which isn't necessarily the mood I want to build. To mitigate this somewhat, I selected some samples I haven't used quite as much lately. I added in some more aggressive E-bow string bends over the movie samples and a breakbeat, which worked nicely; then I granulated the break and messed with the delay for a more Xanopticon-like effect toward the end. I ultimately went out on an ominous string loop that I've lately been inclined to drop into pieces, leading into a drone in which I messed with the delay. Some nice abstract textures came out of that.
The few people who were in the basement seemed to dig it. I'd forgotten to snap photos of my audience, so what you'll see in the photo section was about half of what I had. Also the PA was rather loud for what was, in fact, a house, so any number of people upstairs could hear it as well. Xanopticon said it was his favorite set of the ones I'd done to date, which was nice. At this point, I was pretty well spent, so I headed upstairs to get some air, and sit down for a while. I chatted again with the father of one of our hosts, who approvingly checked out my guitar, and played it a bit (he did indeed have some chops).
Eventually everyone had played, and it was quite late. All of the couches in the living room folded out into beds, and there was an IKEA seat that folded into a single bed, which I claimed. Bobby Vomit came by to chat, but he quickly reached the point of retiring. At about this time, Jason came in to ask if he could borrow the digital camera, to photograph "an interesting crack" in the concrete across the street, on the barrier separating the sidewalk from the river. While I appreciated his taking shots of my sets, and certainly trusted him with it at the shows, there was a disquieting enthusiasm about this request. While I'm sure he wouldn't have intended for something bad to happen, I could foresee a chain of events resulting in the camera coming back damaged or not at all. So I declined, to his disappointment.
So a new idea was suggested, and Greg, Kerry, and Jason went off to skinny-dip in some pond adjoining a municipal park. I drifted off, but was awakened by one of them returning, and telling Manny that the others had been arrested. It turned out not to be true, but at this point I found it believable, until the others came back. Then, finally, all was darkness.
I got up somewhat later than I have been on the tour. We had some great quesadillas courtesy of our host Hymie, packed up...and at this point Kerry realized that the video projector was not in the house or the van. It was most likely left at the club, but our expectation was that it probably was long gone. We went over to the party house, where we...just hung out for an hour or so before we finally got rolling...to a record shop. Then another. And at that one, I found Steve Reich's Music for a Large Ensemble, which I'd been looking for for years--Patricia and I used to get it out of the library in our old, broke days, so this was a bright spot.
At this point, it was late afternoon, so we rolled north to Fat Cats, where--much to our amazement--we got the projector back. Manny had to apologize again for Girl Talk's Radio Shack comment, but it seemed as though things were squared away. Now we pointed north again, toward Texarkana. It was about 5:00, and we had a *long* way to go. Kerry pushed the van aggressively onward while I got down to work. Sadly, I had to reboot once due to a weird CD reader issue, which meant that I couldn't relaunch my time-limited demo of Flash MX. So I opted to do some work on the tour journal instead.
At one point we stopped for gas and found a Subway next door; a half-size veggie sub would be dinner. I happened to note a "High speed internet breakfast" sign on the Hampton Inn across the way, and found it mildly amusing. Then it was back on the road. Sometime after dark, we went through foul-smelling Texarkana and on into Arkansas. By this time, whenever we stopped for gas, mosquitos would enter the van and feed off our exotic Pennsylvania meat. Hunting them was one of the things that kept us all awake ("Ryan! It's above your head!"). From the front seat, Manny yelped. Greg asked, "What, is there a wolf up there with you, Manny?" No, merely a wolf-sized mosquito.
At one convenience store I picked up some energy drink which I didn't consume, and a Nutri-Grain thing that was packed with all kinds of hydrogenated polymers despite its pretense of healthiness. While Manny, Kerry, and I were in favor of stopping at a motel somewhere, Greg and Jason were all about making it to Memphis by the time the bars close, with the intent of picking up and staying with women who for whatever reason hadn't been picked up by anyone else. The trick would be to make sure they fed one and took one home, and then one would pretend to be drunk and pass out, thus earning a meal and a place to sleep without any quid pro quo. Happily, Kerry's position as driver meant that this was vetoed, and we went with the motel idea instead.
After midnight, we stopped at a Super-8 in West Memphis. We were still in Arkansas, but theoretically in the greater Memphis area. An elaborate plan was constructed, by which Kerry and Manny would go to the front desk, get a room, and then the rest of us would come up to the room in pairs at five-minute intervals. Manny betrayed some irritation that the room for just the two of them was $62; he'd been hoping for $30. Jason and Ryan took the keys to the van and headed across the road to a convenience store, while Greg and I waited for our five minutes. Mosquitos swarmed over the van, knowing that we'd come out eventually. We got our stuff out, closed the doors as quickly as possible, and still got bit. We made it to the room, which was serviceable, but had a few character-enhancing features, like a blood smear on the wall above the bathroom sink. I chose to assume that this was from a mosquito kill. (The motel actually had a sign warning about leaving doors closed due to the mosquitos.)
The night was strangely empty without a performance. There was nothing giving shape to our day, no real goal other than to drive as far as possible. Ryan and Jason came back, hung out, went back out to smoke, and Greg went across to the convenience store. I just hung out in the room with Manny and Kerry; eventually we collected everyone again, and they put a Bond flick on the TV. Manny and Xanopticon took one bed, while Greg and Kerry went for the floor. That meant I'd be sharing a bed with Jason. We scrupulously kept to the bed's outer edges, and I went to sleep.
I awoke abruptly at 8:30 local time, wondering what the hell alarm was going off, and in ten or fifteen seconds realized that it was the automatic coffee grinder. OK, cool. I was pretty awake, so I answered email for a while before getting back to sleep. I woke up again an hour or so later, helped myself to some fruit and coffee (having been invited to), and talked with our hosts, very nice, interesting people. I sent more email, got a shower, and got ready to go. Unfortunately, it looked like we were running too late to hit the artists' brunch, but with any luck I'll be invited back one of these times. Kerry hooked up with his friend again, and the rest of us went in search of food. Happily, our hostess Kim set us up with directions to the Tamale House on Airport Boulevard near 51st (or was it 53rd?)--I had a very, very good soft potato and rice taco for $1.03, including water to drink. Kerry missed out on that one by having bailed, and Manny missed out by staying in the van eating some kind of hydrogenated snack substrate.
Kerry showed up, and we now had some errands to take care of in town: stopping by Waterloo records, and cashing our check from AMODA (which, it turns out, we couldn't do: Manny has no photo ID). Waterloo Records (which Andy had suggested we check out) was really impressive--massive used section with some good stuff in it (I missed Painkiller's Buried Secrets; Jason scored that instead), lots of high-quality new releases, too, and I managed to score some new stuff--Material's Secret Life, ex-Polvo Ash Bowie's solo Libraness CD, the 13th Floor Elevators reissue (we were in Austin, after all), and a couple of early Stereolab CDs, along with a copy of EI magazine.
I rolled us on toward Houston, through a couple of rainstorms, keeping a speed I was comfortable with (usually just a bit above the limit, but significantly below in the rain, but a couple miles below the limit around Bastrop, a speed trap Kim had warned us about. Thanks, Kim!) I put on the Material CD, thankful to hear some guitars again after the nonstop diet of IDM. Without Greg in the van, things got rather quiet and serious, as well as a bit unconscious for the nondrivers. I followed our Mapquest directions right to the venue, although it's so nondescript on the outside (and doesn't say "Fat Cats," but rather "Mary Jane's") we passed it and had to double back.
The venue is pretty much your normal bar, apart from the men's room being out of commission, requiring us to use the men's room across the street at one of the other clubs they own (from the sound of it, a folk club). We loaded in, got set up, and started soundchecks. Greg came in, rejoining the tour after his night away. For a while there I was feeling tired and weird, possibly as the result of not having eaten in a while, or maybe just from lack of sleep. I had a kind of "veteran" feeling by this point, weary but accepting that "this is what we do"--go in, play music, do our best, and move on. I sat down, drank water, worked on tour journals, and tried to make some calls home. Patricia was hanging out with our neighbor Steffi; my parents were hanging out at home. (My mother said, "it would be interesting to see you play sometime." True, it might, but it very well might not, I had to admit.)
Some local guys were going to play first, and eventually some of them came in. The guys from Go Spread Your Wings were interested in our setups, and we talked for a bit. Other locals filtered in, some audience members and a hip-hop duo with (well, maybe with) a DJ. The locals would go first, and then we'd follow in the same order as Denton. I had a few conversations with local artists who seemed very excited to have us here, and who gave me their CDs, as if I was a minor celebrity or something.
While we were waiting for things to happen, the sound guy got on the mic and announced his own personal lack of Jesus. There had been a picture of Jesus inside the door of the club, and it was now missing. He wanted whoever had taken it to 'fess up and return it, which was understandable, but he was definitely being heavy-handed about it. While it wasn't one of our guys, I admit that I did wonder if it had been. (We actually never found out who took it.) After some DJ action (some of which was actually Manny), Go Spread Your Wings played a sort of ambient IDM (as I remember it) which was quite fascinating. They also had some interesting fractal video projections. I dug 'em. The DJ had some good taste as well--starting with a tune from Bowie's "Heroes", he essentially reminded me that I need to reconnect with this album, and then he hauled out some Gary Numan, among other things. The hip-hop guys were on next, but for some reason took about a half hour to get up in there and start their set. They were pretty good once they got going (including a refrain of "Give the picture back!" at one point), and they had a healthy contingent of supporters in the house. There was a really good crowd, in fact, and I was ready to play.
I was up next, and started by thanking the openers and the DJ, which seemed to build some goodwill. I began my actual set with the poem, which people seemed to like. I recall getting some applause, anyway. I followed that up with what's getting to be the standard short set these days, ambient intro, some guitar percussion (which went really well), some dissonant slide stuff to set up the Bush samples, then get out of that and mess with the delays a bit for glitchy effect. During my soundcheck I'd dropped in some beats to check levels, and Jason asked if I was going to do it in my set. Well, why not? So I did, letting it go a bit, stopping it, and then hitting the granular processing to mess it up. I did some further guitar over top of this, and at one point I heard shouting from the audience. I couldn't really make it out, so I kept going and took it as enthusiasm. While the drones were dying out, I took some photos of the audience, and then I was off. Gilbert, one of the hip-hop dudes, shook my hand and told me he dug it. The GSYW guys liked it, too, one of them saying that I was "cinematic--you're making movies, man!" One problem with the set, though, was that it was very, very loud. The sound guy's pretty much deaf, and apparently a few people left with their hands over their ears in that glitchy section near the end.
I stepped outside to call Patricia, and heard Syne Lapse start up, waaaaay louder than I thought was ideal. People started streaming out, and Manny asked him to turn it down, but this was a problem that was going to dog us for the evening. It turned out that I played to the most people, and those who were left were definitely hard-core.
Xanopticon played to even fewer people, but they were enthusiastic. I went up to the stage to try to alleviate the Moat Effect, and indeed a few others joined me. Ryan turned in one of his most physical sets to date, too. For a change, I went around the side of the stage to look back at his screens to see what all he was doing, although I wasn't familiar with the programs, apart from PD and Bidule. I ended up chatting with a guy named Jay about electronica; his contention was that a lot of practitioners, Ryan among them, are trying to copy Aphex Twin, and I found myself disagreeing. Having listened now to Drukqs in the van, I can see his point, but at the same time it's clear to me that our crew's goals are way different than Aphex's, more chaotic and assaultive while his pieces are more crisp, tight, and controlled. Plenty of audio effects are similar, but the goals differ vastly. (I'll also note that the first track of Drukqs is phenomenally beautiful.) It turns out Jay is using Girl, too, so we tried to talk about that as well over the super-cranked system. It was a conversation in which one person shouts, and then the other shouts back "WHAT?"
After my early good set, the evening was taking a bit of a darker turn. This turn got particularly dark for Girl Talk's set. It was a good set, although unusually he slowed it waaaaaay down, like DJ Screw, or so I'm told. His friend's Houston posse was intensely enthusiastic, though, which made things work. Work, that is, until his cover of "Scentless Apprentice," when he crammed the mic in his mouth and took off the ball of the windscreen, as well as causing the XLR connector to separate. He said something to the effect of "What is this, a $20 mic from Radio Shack?" which offended the sound guy to no end, it seemed. He threatened to bill us $120 for the mic, which was outrageous--considering that it was repairable, the worst thing Greg did was insult it.
Kerry's set took us even more toward the dark, particularly when he lost it at the end, threw his Kaos Pad, and broke his Digital Video player. I hadn't followed all the details, but it emerged later that this is what had gone on. I just knew he seemed super-pissed afterward. We loaded up the van again, concerned at what the sound guy might try to do, but we got out of there successfully.
We were supposed to stay with Greg's friend Hymie, so we followed him to some random area of Houston for late-night Vietnamese. We were first led through some of what late-night Houston had to offer. Essentially this meant deserted streets, but we did pass a number of prostitutes parading themselves around a pickup truck, one of whom definitely had masculine legs.
When we pulled up at the restaurant, we ended up parking in their lot a half-block away. While we were walking in, a sports car pulled up sharply and screeched to a halt on the sidewalk behind us. Four long-haired Vietnamese guys got out, the one muttering that he can do whatever the fuck he wants, bitch, because he's a fucking Federal Agent. I doubted his veracity, and wondered how he might try to augment our dining experience. There was a policeman right inside the place, though, which helped the vibe a bit for me. This might have kept Jason outside for a while, however. Our food was good (spicy tofu for me), and we chatted with some of Greg's friend's friends, interesting folks, including the one guy going through his post-collegiate Nietzsche phase.
Time to split. We headed over to the Party House to drop off Jason, Ryan, and Greg, and then to the straightedge house (Hymie's place, a nice little house somewhere south of town) for the rest of us, where I snagged Hymie's room for its proximity to the phone jack. Then, finally, sleep.
Wow. What a fantastic day, even though I wasn't completely happy with my set. It was generally good, and nothing overall wrong with it, but I know I was coasting in a few places, and I didn't feel that on feeling I like to feel.
The day began early for me, as I had work to do, finishing a bug fix I owed a client. The PowerBook had charged overnight, but the adapter was getting really hot. It was still working, but given the way the last one failed, I wasn't optimistic for this one. I made sure the Apple Store in Dallas had the part I needed in stock, and got a shower. Soon the other guys were up, and we headed back into Dallas, actually quite close to where we were yesterday (damn). First time I'd been in an Apple Store, and I found it to be quite nice. Good layout, helpful people. I got the adapter, and learned that if I blow through the replacement too, I should probably send the 'book in for Apple to check out its internal power supply. That'll take a week or so to do, so if it comes to it, I'll have to schedule that one carefully. They were also going to get me some rubber feet for the laptop as well, but they forgot to bring them out before I left. I did, however, pick up an adapter for use in the car and in the air (combo cigarette lighter format with emPower port), which I'm using now and which is just great. I have so much power now that it's not even funny. It's ridiculous. (Another tour joke, involving Negativland's "Time Zones.")
The traffic around Dallas was pretty brutal, and we took a while to get out on the road South to Waco and Austin. On the way we listened to some rap stuff Greg had burnt to CD, and I burnt one of Naked City. It's kind of cool to be able to do that while jamming down the highway. I worked on resolving some of the evil Flash stuff that was dogging me, as well. During the drive down we made contact with my friend Andy, and it would work out quite well for the tour to drop me at an interchange near their house. The changeover worked out smoothly, giving everyone else some room in the van for the first time since evening in St. Louis. I got to check out Andy's house in Austin, and we got some tasty Chinese dinner (sesame tofu for me) with his wife Andrea and daughter Mychaella, who was excited to see me again, show me absolutely all of her toys, and tell me pretty much everything on her mind. I kind of brain-dumped about the tour so far, decompressing now that I was off the van and away from the tour for the first time.
Soon it was time to head down--showtime was at 9, starting with local AMODA volunteer DJ Oonce Oonce, and it was already 8:00. We made good time, and got in at 8:30 or so. Cirrus (where AMODA was having the event) was actually quite the swanky space, easily the best room on the tour. Wood trim and paneling, high ceilings, expensive-looking bar, the whole bit, although its entrance was in an alley. I figured I'd better change. The guys had already brought my gear in, bless them, so my clothes were already up there, although I had to get down to the van to bring in my big bag. I changed (black jeans and the bowling shirt again--I figured this room deserved the Power of Shandrew)--freshened up a bit, and set up my gear. I was next to Otto von Schirach, who turned out to be a nice guy who'd flown in from Miami for this gig. He apparently has a lot going on in Miami, which meant this was just a one-off for him.
It took a while to get set up, as the sound guys had a lot of us to deal with. They put a monitor up on stage, which really played havoc with the microphone Otto would use (as would Greg). It would be a while before I checked or started, as it turned out, so I hung out drinking water talking to Andy. (He observed that we were quite possibly the only nonsmokers/nondrinkers in the crowd. We weren't the only ones, but we were clearly in the minority.) I ultimately did check, and I got to show Andy where the magic happens with my software. I also showed him the digital camera quickly so that he could get a few shots of the show, and then bring the camera back for me to photograph the audience.
People began to filter in, and they were slated to be entertained by DJ Ooonce Oonce, but she was having software problems, alas. Eventually a decision was made to have Oonce Oonce go last, and I'd go first. That was fine by me--Andy could get going if he needed to, we'd already had dinner, and there was an audience in the house. I was announced, and off I went.
This set wasn't bad. During the whole thing, there were video projections I couldn't see, but one of which was a spotlight on me. I did my now-usual arc of ambient drones, some pick percussion, some noisy dystopian dissonant slides, leading me to the Bush samples. I got ambitious and opened seven modules, tempting fate in this way for the first time since Detroit. After two iterations of Bush's "Uh" track, I ring modulated it for texture and picked up some other Bush samples (like the decontextualized numbers), as well as Ashcroft ("believe me") and some similarly paranoid old movie samples before droning to a finish that I let ring out while I left the stage, "Apparition"-style, but I kind of think that the audience didn't really get it. There was too much going on around them, and only the first row or so of audients could actually see me to know that something changed. Once the tones died out, I said, "That's it!" from the crowd (it was too dense for me to go all the way to the back as I like to do), and got some applause.
One unfortunate side effect of streaming my set to disk is that I can't listen back to gauge the level of applause, or to remind myself of what level of audience interaction I had. But it's so much more convenient in that I don't have to transfer from MD, and theoretically could burn a CD of my set right after I play it. Sadly, no one's taken me up on that yet.
Jason played next while I hung out and talked to Andy. The room was getting crowded, so Andy and I slipped out into the hall to talk while Jason and Xanopticon played. Andy had thought that the "Uh" section went a little long, but it's true that it's a long loop (one minute; two iterations making it two minutes). But he did like parts of the set, and observed that my method is a particularly unforgiving one, in that if I make a mistake with the guitar, that mistake is around for a while instead of just passing.
We continued to talk while Holocaust played, and we chatted with Greg before he went on. The mic problems concerned him, though, and he was afraid that he'd get up there and be completely inaudible. I'd told Andy that Greg's show was hilarious and dynamic and all, but in the event we weren't able to see him due to the number of people, and we weren't able to hear him. Apparently people in the front could hear, but all his vocals were lost for us. I had my first equipment failure at this point, when I went to adjust my satellite bag (an MP3.com freebie) and broke the plastic clasp for the strap. I knotted it and I'll have to look for a metal replacement. It's actually a good bag, apart from the hardware. Andy had to split by this time, but it was great to see him again and hang out.
I myself was pretty tired too, so I tried to find a seat in the crowded space. I sat on the arm of a chair Kerry had been sitting in, and chatted for a bit. He'd been planning on spending the evening with a friend, who for whatever reason had to leave, so Kerry would be hanging with us instead of bailing. He got up, and I just hung on the arm of the chair for a while. While Xanopticon played, one woman came up and sat down; it turned out that she's Mel, the drummer of the band Bahrain, and they're going on tour soon--on a route very similar to ours. They're even playing the Lemp, which I warned her about while sharing a few tour stories. (I mentioned this to Jason who said, "Dude! You have to tell her about the fleas!" so I went back and told her.) I introduced her to Manny, who may set them up with a Pittsburgh show one of these days, and she bought one of the poem CDs, too. Cool.
I wandered around for a while, and Xanopticon finished playing. Then Otto came on and did a good set of his lascivious IDM. His vocals were a little more audible than Greg's, but they still needed to be significantly higher. Then DJ Oonce Oonce took over, and persevered as much as she could before the software problems came back. I tried to take photos of dancers, but the area was too dark and I didn't want to intrude with the flash. One of the writers from Igloo magazine noticed and talked to me about sharing photos with them; she hadn't seen my set, so we discussed that as well, along with my situation in general (touring, married, working, etc.), and we may discuss these things a bit more for an article on the event.
The evening wound down, and we were thanked by the woman who organized it all, who said she'd see us tomorrow at the artists' brunch (an artists' brunch? Cool!), and we loaded out, waiting for the AMODA people to load out all their sound and video equipment, so we could all go get a late dinner at a 24-hour vegetarian place. I traded some CDs with Otto, who said he dug what I was doing, and suggested a collaboration with Xanopticon--interesting suggestion.
Greg bailed from the van to hang with his friend in Houston, and we took on a guide to the restaurant, which turned out to be funky, but quite good. The collective energy seemed to be draining with the lateness. Jason was inert, with his head down on the table, too much smoking and drinking. One of the Austin guys came over and started a multisyllabic philosophical flow that so reminded us of Jason that it was creepy. "Dude," someone said, "Did you suck Jason's soul out?"
I talked a bit to Todd from AMODA, who mentioned that they're planning on a series of sit-down concerts for which he thought my ambient stuff would be ideal. I'd be happy to play such a thing, actually, so with any luck I'll be back in this fine city sometime soon. I really do like the vibe here. The general vibe in Texas is straight-up, friendly, and laid-back, with Austin having a bit more of a Californian flavor.
We took on Mason, another friend of AMODA, who led us to the house where we'd be staying, a neat little house in one of the northern parts of the city, with KIm and Mike (more friends of AMODA; I think Kim had been at the show) who--bless 'em--had WiFi in the house, as well as a huge white puppy who seemed to have a great disposition. I picked a comfortable couch in the kitchen, plugged in my stuff to charge, offloaded images, downloaded mail and logs (man, I'd been up a long time), and went to sleep.
Jason continued to drive us toward Texas. When asked, he said he was all right. Some time after the Oklahoma border--I have no idea where at the moment--is what's billed as the largest McDonald's in the world (in square footage), straddling the highway. We stopped for gas, cigs (Jason and Ryan), water, and a restroom break. I took a few blurry photos, including one from the actual seating area above the highway that doesn't suck. Eventually as we headed West I got fatigued enough to fall asleep for an hour or so, waking up on the outskirts of Tulsa when we slowed down for a traffic jam. We opted to go around Tulsa and take a direct route down, which put us on some local roads instead of limited-access highways, which happily slowed us down occasionally from Jason's usual aggressive pace. I'll admit that I was getting kind of worried about it, especially in the rain which seemed to cover most of Oklahoma.
Even though he'd been driving since two in the morning, he claimed to be ok. He wanted to get us to Denton by noon. Why? He didn't know. It was, apparently, just a personal goal, but this to me is a warning sign. As we approached Texas, I thought he was speeding up out of a need to get there before getting too tired--the van was going at just the right speed to oscillate up and down with the regular bumps of the joins in the road's concrete slabs. Once we reached the border, I could do the math and point out that there was another hour to Denton, at which point he was willing to turn over the wheel. I've been in that position ("OK, I'm going to make it here by this time no matter what") and it's better to give up on those kinds of goals. So he conceded. Good man. And he did a hell of a good job getting us to Texas as quickly as possible.
When we opened the door of the van, the wave of heat told us that we were really in Texas now. We got gas, put on the Esquivel, and headed toward Denton after some brief confusion about how to get back on the highway (my first intuition was correct, but was voted down, so we checked out every 90 degrees of the interchange). I stuck to the speed limit.
We found the venue first, in an industrial district near the railroad tracks and across the street from a concrete plant or something. It was closed for the afternoon, so we went several blocks along the same street to our contact's house. He wasn't there, either, and we couldn't get his cell number--Manny had left his notebook with all the tour's contact information back at the cursed Lemp. So...we decided to head in to Dallas, scope out the hip area (whatever it was; we'd need to find that out), and eat. Kerry took over the wheel, and I dealt with some work-related stuff, although the PowerBook's battery was running low. We put on the radio, and listened to a bunch of current hip hop and Latin stuff I'd never heard of, but which are apparently hits.
After crawling through construction traffic, we navigated to University Park, where Manny thought hip stuff might be. The University in question was Southern Methodist, so the kind of hipness we'd had in mind wasn't part of the neighborhood, but we did find a Barnes & Noble, where we'd look in the local papers for clues. Finally having an AC outlet on hand, I plugged in the PowerBook, and was surprised to see that it wasn't actually charging the battery--I was just getting the green plugged-in light, as opposed to the orange charging light. Unplugging and replugging it, I finally heard a little arcing sound, and the charging light came on. Considering the way my last power adapter died, this wasn't good. I was glad that I'd looked up the various Apple stores around our route, and thought that maybe we could plan a stop tomorrow.
We moved on to Deep Ellum, which was supposed to be the hip area in Dallas. Jason was excited, though, as he spotted a Masonic seal on one of the buildings down there and wanted me to take photos of it (we didn't get back to it, though). Apparently things don't open in Deep Ellum until 8, so the "Manny goes into a record store and doesn't come out" factor was thwarted, and we did hook up with a good lunch in this Brazil place. Some people weren't into going into a place that didn't look cheap, but the prices were actually good. We sat around the table with our thousand-yard stares, unable quite to decide on an order, and Manny asked, "Are you guys just not feeling this, or what?" We were feeling it (as in we did indeed want to be there and eat), but we'd been through a lot in the last 24 hours. We were now veterans. We were tight. The van seriously smells like dude.
We did manage to order, and I had a couple of tasty vegetarian crepes--particularly good with a bit of habanero sauce on them. We revived, and told Manny about the episode with the girl at the Lemp and the wrestling belt, an event which seemed by this time to be weeks in the past. Greg said that it would have been really something to see--some girl just coming up and popping Manny as hard as she could. Manny said, "If she'd've done that, I would have pulled out my knife." St. Louis was a disaster as it was, but imagine--"Oh, yeah, we had to cancel the St. Louis show; Manny stabbed our only audience member." We laughed.
Back in Denton, we left a message for our contact at his home, having gotten the number from Directory Assistance, and we drove over to the main square. It turns out that there's an amazing used book and record store there, the Recycler, where I found a copy of the Raybeats' first EP, Roping Wild Bears, for $4. I'd never seen one in the flesh before. Of course, this now vastly complicates my life, as I'm storing vinyl in a hot van in Texas in July, but I'm keeping it in among Manny's many records in the hopes that this will keep it from warping. And during the hottest parts of the day, we'd be driving with the A/C on, so maybe it'll work out. I also picked up the Dylan/Baez/Baez/Farina bio, Positively 4th Street and Man Ray's Self Portrait, which I always look for in used bookstores. Success! I made a few calls to share the warmth.
Down to the house where we were being put up, where we met Matt (our contact's one housemate), Matt (our contact), and...the other housemate whose name I unfortunately forget. Nice little place, and a very welcome sight after the lack of a bed in St. Louis. We did a quick loop of the University there (UT Denton?) and picked up the weekly student paper, which did an article on the show. They got some details wrong, but were pretty positive about it, so the vibe was good. Sadly, at this point we realized that the chocolate-covered espresso beans had not stood up well to Texas. We had chocolate espresso bean soup in a bag.
Then we pulled up at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios (see photo--it took me a while to get the sign), which is really a funky little bar. On coming in, I heard them playing Townes Van Zandt's "Our Mother the Mountain," which was a great comfort to hear. I thanked the sound guy, and noted that after listening to all this IDM and electronica in the van, I'm looking forward to playing some Big Star, Guided by Voices, etc. to come back down to earth. I recommended Joel Phelps's version of the Van Zandt tune, but I might have to email him to make sure he has a reference. I'm listening to it now as I type this up. (Thank God for iTunes.) We also discovered that the DJ mixer Xanopticon's using keeps digging into the side of his monitor, which isn't so cool. We're trying to work out a solution.
We set up, I took a few photos of the venue and the industrial neighborhood, and we waited for the audience to show up. A local DJ did appear, with the thought that he'd play between sets. Ultimately I got started, playing first, and did a subtle set. There wasn't much in the way of audience for me, so I kept things toned down. I started with my usual tone cloud, some guitar clicks, a few samples, and then for the second half I thought I'd mess with the orchestra samples as they'd worked well in St. Louis. (Maybe the only thing that went well there). In a way I lost control of this part of the set. The general level dropped as the guitar lines died out, and the samples weren't quite behaving the way I'd hoped. I think the problem ended up being related to my selecting a tiny slice of the sample I'd planned on using as a bed. It was kind of a lowercase set there at the end. I'd had Jason take some photos of my set, and then bring the camera up so I could take one of the audience, but there wasn't much of an audience to photograph. Jason's shots were nice, though, if a bit dark due to the room's lighting.
Manny told me afterwards that in Austin I have to keep the volume up and use more Bush samples, rather than going minimal, although Jason thought that it really worked in its difference from the other sets. I did like the lowercaseness of it, so I'll have to listen back to the stream to see exactly what I was doing.
The DJ's set was nice; he really thought about how to follow my act, and he gave all the other intermissions the same level of attention. Jason was up next and did a good set to a gradually increasing audience. Meanwhile, I got charged for water, even though I was comped for water before my set. Weird. Fatigue was kicking in, so I parked myself on a bar stool in the performance room, and talked to a few people who dug the set, although didn't make any sales (apparently one of the old-school Stoic Sex Pro CDs was sold later in the evening, but I didn't see who bought it).
By the time Xanopticon was on, there was a significant and enthusiastic audience, and he turned in his most intense set to date. His performances have become more physical as the tour's gone on, especially with such an engaged set of listeners. It's really something to see--when he flails his arms as he moves the crossfader between his laptop and his desktop machine, it's like he's trying to jump out of his own skin. Weirdly, at one point in his set, I had a missing minute during which I must have fallen asleep on the barstool. I got up and moved around for a while to stay awake.
Greg's set was super-intense with all that audience to feed off of, particularly these two girls who were into dancing to this weird music. As ever, he stripped down to his underwear, ran around, and screamed, got beer poured on him, rolled around on the floor, and got people all excited. It was quite a show. Kerry followed up with his most intense set to date, and it is indeed getting kind of frightening now. He'd warned me in advance to move my stuff and he got up on the table, screamed into the mic, threw his Kaos Pad, and collapsed into one of the PA cabinets. I thought for sure he was taking a dive. During this whole thing, there was this 15-year-old guy, there with his dad. His dad sat through the whole thing, and I wonder what he thought, particularly Girl Talk's often obscene lyrical content and stage patter. Still, he sat through, walking out to the bar only when Kerry's self-mutilation videos came on.
We hung out for a bit afterwards, although I was thoroughly beat. I loaded my stuff in the van, and hung outside listening to the passing train. Again I wished I'd set up the MD recorder. I brought it, but I've not had it set up. In checking over my stuff again, I thought I'd forgotten my toiletry bag in the club, but couldn't find it there. I tore my stuff down, and when I mentioned it to Jason, he offered to set me up with his toothpaste, if necessary. Once again, good man, but I finally found it in a section of my big bag I hadn't investigated. Gradually the others came out and loaded, and after waiting for another train, we headed back to Matt's place where we scared up some food from the fridge (Jason improvising a bean and cheese tortilla kind of thing that gave us vegetarians some dinner). I connnected briefly to the house DSL while the others hung out talking, and then laid out on the floor while Kerry checked his mail on the house iMac. I don't remember him leaving, and that's the last I recall until morning.
Chicago is the home of electric blues, so I think I can fairly begin by pointing out that I woke up this morning with a headache from sleeping on the floor in a weird position. I snagged a couple of Tylenol, which for some reason really gave me some energy. I got a shower, prepared the Detroit tour journal, and uploaded it once Kerry's sister was awake. Girl Talk had returned sometime around 4 or 5 in the morning, so the Dude, Where's My Girl Talk episode ended well. Shortly, though, it was time to leave. We loaded in the van, got out into traffic, and...went to some record stores Manny wanted to hit, first off Reckless in Wicker Park. I fielded a work-related phone call while we were on the road, which added a bit to my to-do list, but that's the freelance life. Kerry and I were hungry, so we headed up to Earwax, this place he knew with a lot of veggie options, snapping some photos of vintage signage along the way, a particular obsession of mine. I might be in a bit of a rut, but I had their tofu equivalent of scrambled eggs and found it very tasty. I also connected with a single-shot latte with some hazelnut syrup, and that was damn tasty as well.
Manny finally joined us, and we got on the road...to another record store he wanted to hit. At this point, I figured that I should work on the actual work I had to do, so (as Chicago-familiar Kerry was handling the driving) I worked on the laptop in the middle row seat. I stayed in the van while Manny checked out the other store (the name of which I've forgotten), tried to solve this Flash problem I'm dealing with, and listened to Chris Bell and Big Star in iTunes. After all that IDM yesterday, I was jonesing for some power pop. As I continued to work and the battery slowly drained, it occurred to me that Manny was taking quite a while in the record store. He was pre-listening to LPs he wanted to buy, while time just kept on ticking. We'd have to get on the road to St. Louis at some point, and it seemed that this point kept getting closer. Still, we had to get back to Lakeshore to hit the other Reckless Records, as that was where decisions on selling stuff would be made.
This time I went in and found a number of noteworthy sale items, ultimately buying Kraftwerk's Computer World, two Esquivel comps, and tried to get William Shatner's The Transformed Man, but despite its presence in the bin wasn't in the back. Someone's walking around with the CD but no cover, it would seem.
So this time we really did get on the road. I'd been in comfortable seats for a while, so now I had to rotate to the back, and got what we've taken to calling The Ass Seat, in the center of the back row straddling the two seat units. It really is a seat, with a seatbelt and everything, with the added element of hard plastic things sticking out right into your ass. I tried to get work done, although I was feeling a bit dehydrated by this point (not much we could do about it at the moment) and was acutely conscious of the battery draining, and took breaks to put the machine to sleep while I was trying to think of my next work move. Ryan had his laptop in the van as well, and showed me the patches he'd been working on in Pure Data--very complicated, interesting, and inspiring.
Finally we began to move out of the Chicago area and on 44 West (South? I forget), our route to St. Louis. At one point I rotated off the Ass Seat and into the corner, and Ryan drew the short straw. He kept the laptop out (good battery life on his Toshiba), and showed Greg and me some amusing animations he'd downloaded (Sealab 2021, a parodic remix of the old-school 2020 I recall from childhood), which helped lighten the mood. The drive was a bit tedious and had that element of racing the clock, as we'd started out so late. Kerry really booked us toward our goal. The other guys slept in the van, but I wasn't able to do this with any consistency.
At around 7:45, we pulled in front of the Lemp Arts Center, a bit south of the city center in...another decaying neighborhood. It, like the Detroit Contemporary, was an urban cultural outpost. Unlike the DC, there was staff on hand when we arrived. There was also apparently a death metal band rehearsing in the basement. So activity! Good thing.
Our contact wasn't in the house yet, and as we started setting up a number of questions began to emerge. These were questions like, "what about the PA?" (the guy running the space expected us to bring one and didn't think he'd had one, but...the death metal band had to be playing with something) and "where's the audience?" (unknown; the owner said to me, "This show was really well publicized. I have no idea why no one's shown up yet.") This led to other questions, like "should we play at all?" While this was being debated, we set up anyway. Manny went down to the rehearsal space in the basement to retrieve the PA head and a cabinet from the metal band, and was promptly bitten by what appeared to be fleas. Great.
Apparently back at the Fireside, Manny found this plastic WWF wrestling belt, with a large insignia sticker, and thought it would be perfect for Girl Talk, so Greg had it in his transparent clothing bag. I saw Greg having a conversation with the punk girl who was with the band in the basement; she wanted him to give her the belt. He said that since it was a gift to him, he couldn't, but that she could fight for it with the person who gave it to him--Manny, unbeknownst to him. "You don't think I'm serious," she said, "but I'll do it. I'll take him down." Luckily, for whatever reason, she didn't.
Contact was made with Jon, an ex-'burgher whom we knew and who helped set up the show; he promised to bring another cabinet. Some soundchecking was done, and then the other guys went off to find some food. I wasn't hungry, but I was getting a bit tired and trepidatious at the continuing lack of things happening. Still no audience, for example. The Lemp had an old Kimball piano in the corner off the room, so I spent the next half hour or so playing it, just kind of poking around. Not all the keys worked all the time, and it was out of tune, but there's something immensely satisfying about playing a real piano, hitting large, weird chords, letting strings ring out and listening to the sonorities. With any luck they'll have someone in to repair and maintain it; it deserves that.
The others came back, and Manny entered quoting "Piano Man," so I stopped playing after a bit, becoming too self-conscious about it. Jon, our contact, arrived and we chatted for a few minutes about the scene and his life there in St. Louis. I asked where he was living, and he described it. I said, "So I guess we'll be following you back there after the show," and was met with a puzzled look. I then learned that he had hoped there would be a large enough turnout to the show that he could count on someone else putting us up. Hmm...definitely a problem.
After wandering in and out of the arts center for a while, I figured I might as well play, so I did. The audience consisted of us, Jon, the guy running the space, and--hey!--a couple of other people. I started with the poem, which most of these guys hadn't heard before, and I got some laughs out of it. The rest of my set was short, about 18 minutes, and I did the brief overview of what all I've been doing, dropping some old movie samples over the ambient thing (doing a lot of upward glisses under the rubber samples). I got some good results with the guitar-produced percussion patterns, having decided to base my delays on 40 bpm, so I may do some more of that. I also threw in the Michael Jordan voiceover outtakes, and ended on a nice ambient combination of tones. As an overview it was decent, but the show was certainly a bust. After I played, Syne Lapse, Girl Talk, and Holocaust played together...for three minutes, still managing to chase about half the audience out.
So the show was over. We thought that getting something to eat might be good, so we loaded up. We also had a possible place to stay with Manny's aunt, so we thought we'd visit her first. Manny got in Jon's car, so for the second time on the tour, someone bailed from the van, and things felt a lot more spacious. We followed them to a pleasant little street by the university, which reminded me a lot of our neighborhood at home, except that the bugs were making some very compelling almost IDM-like sounds. I wish now I'd recorded it.
Manny's aunt was gracious (particularly for having a vanload of freaks show up at her door at 11:00 at night) and very interesting, but was suffering from a headache and was unable to have us stay. Still, a nice visit with a fine person. I was also able to brush my teeth for the first time in several hours, and that made me happy. We next went in search of food, but...had to stop at a record store first.
Our fatigued discussion turned giddy, and we determined that Manny in the WWF belt is the Iron Wombat, who would fight all comers for the possession of the belt, sort of like the Golden Bough. We continued on to a neighborhood near Jon's where they had a 24-hour coffee shop...with WIFI! I wasn't quite hungry enough for a sandwich, and just opted for a mocha. I checked email on the PowerBook, relieved to be in touch with people, and passed it around to others; similar happiness resulted.
Jon and Manny went off to Jon's place to see about getting us into an empty apartment in the building to sleep, and then returned an hour or so later. We discussed the possibility that we'd sleep on Jon's floor for a few hours and then get going to Denton early, but there was a sizeable contingent who thought we should just get on the road. Jon had to get to work early and it was already getting late, and was reluctant to put us up. I was too tired to drive, and didn't want to be the passenger of anyone who was. In the event, with all the weird unresolved conflicts and a long, long drive ahead of us, we decided to go under the radar and have Jason take a turn at the wheel and get us as far as he could. He'd slept in the van most of the day and said he was fresh, so on we went. I got in the seat behind Jason, Girl Talk rode shotgun, we put gas in the tank, and off we went, West across Missouri, on an all-night drive.
I tried to sleep, but sleeping in a moving vehicle isn't something I'm usually capable of doing. I'm also very concerned about driver fatigue, so anytime I sensed the vehicle drifting, I snapped awake. Unfortunately, the suspension on this van is extremely soft, so pretty much any stimulus makes it seem like it's drifting. I kept checking in on Jason, asking if he was ok (he said he was), asking him to slow down (hey, night, occasional rain, and the fact that we didn't have a deadline meant that we didn't have to speed), and generally making an annoyance of myself. In between all that, the pattern of brief episodes of sleep and jerky wakefulness continued across Missouri (interrupted by two stops at rest areas--Missouri has these interesting automated soap dispensers/sinks/blow dryer combos) until we found ourselves somewhere in Oklahoma at dawn.
I woke up early on Jason's couch, finally having gotten comfortable. Showered, shaved, and went down to the basement to see if I could bum Jason's DSL connection. They've put a lot of work into the place to start making it livable, but they still have a lot of work ahead of them. Jason's room, for example, is a windowless cubicle in the basement which he's turning into a studio. With the lights on, it has atmosphere, but getting to it makes it obvious you're in the basement.
The rest woke up and got showers, while I called Patricia and talked to one of our Detroit peeps who couldn't make it out to the show. We found the van unmolested, loaded up, and waited for Jason to make a run to his bank. To entertain us, Greg was reading from his vast stash of novels for teen girls (the series is named Girl Talk, hence his performance name, I suppose), including one about a junior high school girl who was the drummer in a band called Iron Wombat. This will become important later.
Jason back with us, we scoped out coffee on Pontiac's main drag (not to be found--the cafe that claimed to be open Sunday wasn't, and we decided that this dead town only served coffee to the dead), put some gas in the tank, and headed...down to Detroit to hit some record stores Manny wanted to hit. On the way we played Kraftwerk's Computer World, which Jason had brought from his collection, and it reminded me how good this album was. Sure, the lyrics are lame, but the beat on "Numbers," for example, is a monster.
So we hit the first store, Culture Shock, which actually bought a few discs from me. The plan was then to hit another store which we simply could not find (actually, we couldn't find the intersection of 9 Mile and Little Mack; Detroit just would not let us get our little mack on), and then head out to Stormy Records in Dearborn before getting the other guys signed up as drivers. With the traffic and construction, we didn't arrive at Stormy until much later than ideal, and we realized we'd have to forfeit doing the WNUR radio show. I did, however, manage to score a used copy of Hrvatski's Swarm and Dither. I pressed on to the airport to deal with the rental, where we learned that adding all of the other guys as drivers would cost so much that it wasn't worth doing. We opted just to put Kerry on, and he pressed on toward Chicago. I moved to one of the rear seats.
I had work to do, so I hauled out the laptop and messed with Actionscript. We were definitely at a time disadvantage, so Kerry was driving fast. For some reason--probably reflecting on the Detroit experience, fatigue, and not being able to do the radio show--my mood crashed, and I contemplated how feasible it would be at this point to bail, essentially an amplified resurgence of the "what am I doing here?" feeling from last night. I could have been home this weekend checking out the Vintage Grand Prix with Patricia and one of our friends who had an invitation to an on-course party. I could have had large blocks of time to devote to work. Instead, I was in a van speeding toward Chicago, hungry, dehydrated, tired, listening to pretty much nothing but IDM, and having to get work done.
At one point we passed through Kalamazoo, the ancestral home of my guitar, but I was too busy working to notice. Gradually, as we got out of Michigan, my mood began to lift, partly from getting some water, partly from Herbie Hancock's Headhunters on the van's disc player. This kind of thing may be the biggest challenge of touring: weathering the psychological changes, and realizing that how things look at any given moment isn't necessarily how they all are, nor how they will be. And I like being in Chicago, so I was looking forward to that.
Traffic slowed us down, but the threatening weather only threatened. I got a few shots with the digital camera, including some interestingly blurred shots of decaying industrial Gary, Indiana that would make good CD covers. While we headed to the Fireside, I called my cousin to see if we could connect at the show. The venue itself is a bowling alley, all classic '40s design, in Wicker Park, which apparently is a neighborhood of the half-funky/half-gentrified variety. My cousin had said that it was marginal/questionable, but these things are relative--after our neighborhoods in Detroit and Pontiac, I was totally good with it.
We loaded in, set up, stopped in the third and fourth skanky bathroom of the tour (that bad), and did soundchecks. We didn't have enough table space, so an additional table was improvised with a particleboard sheet and two sawhorses. I leaned the guitar against the table at one point, and then the table was moved, sending the guitar flat to the stage. Fortunately the only result was some out of tune strings. If I'd been using the Univox Mosrite copy, it would have been catastrophic, I think. It was a bit alarming at the time, though. Then we waited for the audience. I changed my shirt to this vintage bowling shirt I'd bought on Friday, in honor of the occasion. The embroidered names, Shandrew and Leonardo, were in the house. It felt good.
Syne Lapse played first, doing an interesting computer-free IDM set, and then it was my turn to go on. I hadn't seen any of my invited people coming in, but I was in a good frame of mind nonetheless. I started very ambient with the guitar clouds, and got more into hitting the pick against the pickguard for setting up a rhythm. I messed with this, and then thought I'd do a "Tone Beating" and sample thing. The "rubber" speech sample was mildly amusing, but seemed out of place for this set. Afterwards, I took photos of the audience. It turned out that two of them were ex-Coctail Barry Phipps (with whom I've been email corresponding), and Pramod Tummala, who's recording with him. (They'd come straight from Barry's studio, in fact.)
We got a chance to talk for a while before they headed back in to record, but it looks like some cool things might result. For one, I'll have a fair amount of his recent projects to review, and there's a chance we'll be working on a collaborative project that he has going on. Xanopticon played while we were talking, so I missed the visuals of his set, but I got to hear him.
After Barry and Pramod left, I checked out Girl Talk's most dynamic set to date, in which he managed to launch himself off the subwoofer and into one of the light fixtures on the ceiling, connecting with a loud snap, and then came crashing to the floor. Fortunately, he wasn't injured, but it was a scary, thrilling rock 'n' roll moment. Greg sold a T-shirt to a friend of Kerry's, and protocol dictated that I photograph them together. Greg has quite the knack for posing with the ladies. Kerry was up next, and once again he raised the level of intensity. If he does it much more, it'll be scary.
It turns out we had about 25 people, which was better than Detroit, although the audience looked pretty sparse in the large space. We hung around for a while before loading out, hoping to avoid the downpour that had started while the show was still in progress. I noticed a distinct high end to the sound of water, and realized that some rain was coming in through the ceiling above the bowling alley, collected in plastic garbage cans. The rain did taper off, though, and we loaded fairly quickly. Greg went off with some friends to spend the remainder of the evening, and the rest of us arranged to hook up with some of Kerry's other friends for dinner at a place with good vegetarian options.
First, however, we had to head to the Empty Bottle to drop in on a woman Manny knows, but who was not in attendance that evening. We did, however, manage to drive the van into a foot-deep hole (see photo), but fortunately we were able to back it out. If it had been any deeper, though, we'd have been in trouble.
By this point, I've forgotten the name of the vegetarian place in Lakeshore, but it was quite good. (It turns out that it's called Pick Me Up.) Well after midnight, then, I had my second meal of the day, a vegetarian breakfast scramble (with tofu instead of eggs). Based on yesterday's experience, I've decided to stay vegetarian for the rest of the tour, and this was a satisfying way to kick it off. For the most part I hung out listening to Kerry and his friends, too tired to say much, but interested in what was going on. Oddly, we saw Girl Talk and his posse walk by outside, on their way to the lake.
Eventually it was time to check out and hook up with Kerry's sister and her apartment where we'd stay, so we headed down to the Loop along Lakeshore. It was something of a sentimental journey from when Patricia and I were walking around there two years ago, and seeing some of the same sights. I couldn't see the Congress Hotel's sign, though, so I'm not sure if it's still in business.
After some confusion, we did find Kerry's sister, and we were shown the swank studio apartment where we'd be staying. We were able to stash the van in the parking garage, so most of the gear stayed in (I brought mine up, though). Quite a good view out the floor-to-ceiling windows, too, and I snagged some shots. After the raw space of yesterday, this was really something--and she had DSL, so mail checking was easy. After some hanging out and unwinding (and watching the security camera channel in the building), we stretched out on the floor and went to sleep.
We started late. Patricia and I picked up Manny at 10 and drove to the airport to rent the van. Manny regaled us with tales of the well-formed conspiracy book he'd just read, but forgot to bring along. Apparently it all fits together, going back 350,000 years. Who knew? We got the van from a girl who'd been drinking heavily the night before, said our goodbyes, and then it was...back into the city to pick up Ryan (Xanopticon) and Kerry (Holocaust) high above the South Side.
Our van is a Chrysler Town & Country, quite new, all kinds of motorized stuff (seats, mirrors, etc.). It's not a MINI, but it'll do. We had to remove one of the seats of the van to fit all the gear in, but it does fit. (And Xanopticon's roommates have a new chair for the week.)
We had some issues getting out of the city (well, I had some issues, having skipped what could have been a good route for a longer one. But we got out of the city, onto 79 and the Turnpike, and into Ohio, taking the opportunity to find out a bit more about the tourmates. Xanopticon doesn't talk much, but makes some really intense music. Kerry's doing some research toward opening a vegan restaurant with a much-needed angle: staying open late, with late kitchen hours. (Usually Pittsburgh restaurants are closed by 10 or 11, which doesn't help much to foster a scene.)
We hit one of the Ohio's bright new postmodern utopian rest stops, a weird combination of Frank Lloyd Wright and Morris Lapidus (a large circular center court with wings coming out, a long covered walkway held up by a dramatic spire. I picked up a coffee and a turkey wrap, the protein of which kept me awake on the long straightaways. I had half. (I did confess to Kerry that I went carnivorous for this one; he said, "We'll just have it out in the parking lot.")
We drove on to Cleveland, with its weird traffic patterns and inevitable wrong turns to pick up Greg at his place in the top floor of a former mansion, where I found the second nasty bathroom of the tour. Greg's room is quite large and could really be something; one has to marvel at the vast array of stuff strewn about. Out in the hallway, there's still the bell/indicator box to tell the servants what room they'd been summoned to, and I wondered what the original occupants would make of the chaos up there now.
Greg came down with an amazing number of t-shirts on a rack, and a partial mannequin modelling one of his dresses, all merch, but there was no way it would all fit, so he had to purge some baggage. I had the remaining half of my wrap before the van got too hot, trying to find some shade away from the building so I didn't have to smell the fermenting garbage.
On we went, making our way back to 90 West, while my body debated the wisdom of having that slightly warmed-up wrap. (Eventually it was accepted.) The drive to Detroit was quick and uneventful, but we were concerned about this show. There was a report of issues with the gallery, and another report that there was another electronic show at another venue across town--the space we'd originally wanted, but couldn't get. Was the show still on? Would anyone be there?
Turns out not. At least not right away. This, in fact, includes the people who ran the space. We were a half hour early, but all that greeted us was a sculpture around back. The neighborhood of the Detroit Contemporary consisted of some abandoned warehouses, empty lots, only a few people on foot in the distance, and little car traffic. Gradually we realized that we probably weren't going to be 'jacked here--nobody was around to do it. So we waited.
There was a little activity in the side yard of the gallery, though--chickens. After a while some other gallery people showed up and told us that there was a sheep, too, although he's apparently spending the summer out of the city. They couldn't, however, let us in, so we all waited together and talked about the chickens.
Eventually the right peopled showed up and let us in. The interior space of the first floor...is raw, but would suffice. We all got set up on the stage, cheked out the decent sound system, and waited some more. A few people asked about my setup, and it was nice to make the connection. Most everyone else went out for food; I placed an order for a steamed dumpling appetizer, vegetarian if possible (it wasn't), and (struck with a quick wave of homesickness) made a few calls. You know, the "what am I doing here? I could be home spending Saturday night with my wife" feeling. But it passed. Manny arrived with the food; I did a quick check, ate, and started my set.
I was a bit unfocused from the drive and the wait, and ended up just giving a two-piece overview of what I've been doing lately. I started with drones, added some dissonant slides, threw in some W and other speech samples. During a long fade I tried to set up the next piece (new delay times, different ring modulator settings, some new samples), and then Girl crashed. Well, I was pushing it by having seven modules open, and the software is beta. In a minute and a half I was back up, although I didn't carefully set the delays or ring modulate anything. I just went with some pure tones, which suggested that I go into a variant of "Tone Beating," although I dropped in some speech samples in addition to the usual pure tones and guitar. Overall the set turned out to be a half-hour sampler of what I've been up to over the last year or so. While after each half I got some applause (and some kind words from other performers, Niles, and another audience member), I wasn't really happy with my performance--no direction, no attention, no focus. My hope is that I can keep these failings in mind for a better set in Chicago tomorrow evening.
During the following sets I got a chance to talk to people (including some good recommendations for things to check out), and sell a few CDs (thanks!).
Jason (ex-Pittsburgher, joining us on the tour) was up next, doing dense IDM that worked really well for me. Kerry followed with a particularly intense set (featuring video projection), and then Girl Talk rocked the house in his particular outsized way. Xanopticon came on next, and pummeled the audience with his intense, noisy, twitchy IDM. We're planning on having a discussion about Pure Data later on in the tour; he's apparently using an amusing patch of his own devising he'd like me to see.
After quick sets by locals Kero and D-bit...things began to get weird. Jason was to lead us back to his loft in Pontiac, where we'd stay for the night. Except that he had to borrow some gear, so we were to go to this other guy's place first, and that place was in the 'hood. In a way, this wasn't worse than where we'd been, but still we'd had enough. It was late, we were exhausted, and we were waiting in a van in a Detroit warehouse district at 3:00 in the morning. With an eighth of a tank of gas and a van full of gear. I was not pleased.
Finally we were set to follow Jason, so I had Greg remind him about the gas situation. Through Greg, Jason told us that there was a station right around the corner. "It's cool; just don't talk to anybody." Huh? I don't know what's up with that, but sorry, no, it's not cool. We got on the highway instead, following Jason, but once on the road, he promptly accelerated and disappeared. I kept one eye on the van's range meter (56 miles before running out of gas) and we called them on the cell. We extracted information about where they were, whether or not we were still behind them, and what the directions were. Frustrating as this process was, I was impressed with the act of two people in cars an unknown distance apart talking to each other.
But we still had to get there. The range meter dipped down into the thirties at times, the needle hovering just below one-eighth as we drove through that Michigan corporate sprawl landscape curiously devoid of gas stations. Eventually we caught up and followed him to his place, a raw former retail space converted into a loft at the end of Pontiac's main drag. As we got out of the van in the parking area, Jason said, "It's cool to park here, but you'll want to take everything out of the van. And if there's any spare change or anything in the change caddy, they'll smash your window to get it." Apparently things are quite desperate in Pontiac. (I knew it was supposed to spell "excitement"--and it does, but just not quite in the way I'd expected.)
The loft itself was large, a bit dirty, disorganized, and a place to stay. I snagged a spot on the couch and tried to get comfortable enough to sleep.