mike watt and the crew of the flying saucer
july 16 - 25, 1995
MIKE WATT'S "CLAM BLOW" TOUR '95
BEGINS JULY 16, 1995 - ENDS AUGUST 31, 1995
w/WATT on bass, spiel
THE CREW OF THE FLYING SAUCER:
and Mike Watt is late -- sounds like he's psyched up...
Here he is w/Steve Reed -- He's smiling, he's got the engineer cap & aviators on ...Oh man. Joining Michael & Luke in the antique off Alameda from the I-10.
Told Steve that I'm nervous about the Dodge's potential for breakdown. The look on his face when he saw it spoke volumes, mmm.....
Watt asked me if I'm keeping a journal 'cause Lee wants snippets for Sonic Death. Now I'm really self-conscious.
Where are Michael & Vince (lost them about half hour ago)...
The moon comes up, the sky is beautiful.
The flashers on Vince's late 60's Dodge keep reminding me of Alphaville - Lemmy Caution!!
Tow truck arrives, "Little Bitty Kitty #1", with obvious biker psycho at the helm. Michael ends up riding in the van, on the truck bed as Bike H/Joe goes 80 mph into Baker, "Gateway to Death Valley". We're off to a flying start, Vince is going to get hosed by Ed Desert Rat, 4 Sure.
So on to Bun Boy for grease and flat beer. Our waitress seems to be frying on speed (it's the graveyard shift). The neon thermometer that pierces the night say's it's cooling off to a balmy 91 degrees (@ 1:30 am). Watching the bats fly in a strange combo of grace and awkwardness.
528 MILES to go for lst gig in Salt Lake City at "Mormon Coney Island" (Watt), where the brine shrimp flies coalesce in your face before their timely death 3 days later... ROCK THE USA! PRIMUS...
It's 5:30 am & it's Vince's distributor. Watt has floated Vince $ to get the van towed to Vegas 'cause "Here they got Bun Boy but no fuckin' distributor". We have to get to Salt Lake City and play, so Michael and his drums go to the gig -- Vince catches up....????
Poor Vince. Well gotta blow clams, Jack. Can't float in late, says Watt, or we'll never get the crew's respect for the rest of the tour. 4 hours "sleep", half a smashed banana and praying for a moment to take a shit sometime today. Watt's smiling, rolling w. the punches. I really feel like playing and we will.
Gig is over. Quite a long day -- it's Motel 6 in Salt Lake City and still no Vince. Trio gig. The crowd almost hated us. (at one point some girl yelled out "I paid to see Primus!" -- Watt said, "There's the fucking door", as he flipped her off. He then apologized). Only a few flying cups of coke. At least I had the time to shave and put on my no brand econo Vamp equiv. nail polish. ("Polish to Demolish", I cleverly told Les Claypool).
The Primus guys seem really nice, especially Larry the guitarist. He was at the computer in every spare moment making up imagery for their CD Rom, in which their identities will explode out of penguin bodies, etc. This is one goofy band. Their show is a massive production number w/beaucoup lights, fog, hanging props, a scrim made to look like Les' old apartment (sez Watt), and shadowy projections -- it's all very effectively realized. Too bad their music is mostly grinding cartoon ditties -- absolutely pathos-free. Most compelling to me was some droning, raga-like stuff w/Les singing up high w/Larry's guitar.
What a weird venue: the salt air whatever -- right at the shore by the dead brine shrimp and the millions of flies that swarm and swarm. When we played it was daylight still, with light streaming in through skylights & massive west-facing windows. Watt is so great -- we're just using white lights only, no fading or anything. ("Fuck you" was his description of his reasoning).
Met a guy named Dan Hadley who was working local crew tech. He had lived in Valencia and knows Gaylord Mowery, the Kelburn guys, lots of stuff. Very nice follow. Wants me to hear all these bands like Seam, Crunt, Fluff and some S.F. band that actually has a multi-syllabic name. Gave him an N.C.T. CD (Ground).
Embarrassing compliments from Watt today -- too personal to write out.
Steve is great -- he knows Watt so well and he seems to be really GOOD at doing his job: SOUND.
He's a godsend.
Where is Vince at this moment? I hope he's safe and asleep. He drove Watt insane with endlessly vague phone messages like, "Um..Uh...I'm waiting for the callback...I'm...Uh...just ready to get going...take orders, skipper...Guess I'll just go to Denver...Gave a guy a jump... Um..." (It takes Watt to do the imitation.) He was kind of blown up by Vince's non-messages. (12 in all -- all in a row on his home phone machine), but he loves him & is concerned, as are we all. It's not an official first tour gig until the full crew wails.
Watt's tour shirts are hilarious -- adorable, actually, -- a cat dancing to an old radio w/musical notes flying out of it & "Clam Blow Tour '95" done in musical notes as well. Cute as heck!
I've finally taken a shower here at the G -- used I'm soft and unmanly, the way I like it. Snooze... many products.
An off day to travel to Denver. Leisurely wake-up and hang for 2 secs. Roomed w/Michael last night, nothing on TV but HBO softcore vom -- I've never seen this kind of stuff. It was oddly depressing and irritating to have no other choices except Rush Limbaugh!
If I sweat as much on stage as I did last night I'm going to have to find this recharge (no sugar gatorade equiv) that Knansie/Rincy (Polar Goldie Cat) told me about. Sweat blindness - sheesh!
Had a really dumb morning dream -- went to some kind of summer party w/enclosed patio, rock types. Sonic Youth and others were supposed to be there. I went into this rec room/patio and the toilet was exposed in the corner. As I tried to pee I noticed that as I started a kind of nordic blond fluffy type woman (conventional beauty) sitting right there -- said "oop, sorry" .. took a second to get going there...
Michael just told me:
VINCE'S VAN IS HERE! - Onward...
.. "Maybe it's how you hold it", she said nonchalantly. Hmm. Looked for people I knew. No Lee, no Thurston, no Kim -- oh wait, maybe Kim was there... yes, and she was looking at a book... an art book.. something like Annette Messager. Then Cindy Crawford rushed in all windblown, feeling like she was late. I woke up, & in spite of the non-eroticness (no interest in Ms Crawford whatsoever) I had a splendid morning chubby... Michael has showered. Time to eat!
Totemistic Baggage ...
If I didn't have my necklaces (Om, O cat from Knansie), my model mags, my neo-Pat-Smear nail polish, my Wendy guitar straps (Kristen strap #4 has its debut last night -- it totally rules! Red Guitar hearts on white w/Kristen' s face on each one), I think I would nut out. Pretty pathetic for a 39-year old "Jazzbo" led astray by visceral passions and visions of immersion/extinguishment. Tough shit. Navia is the new top model so I bought it -- the first I've ever bought, 'cause it always features the same boring fluffy types (Cindy, Claudia, Elle, Niki, ...) but Navia (from London, Vietnamese) is hot. I'll gaze for miles...
Warm thoughts of D.D. before I left.. so much fun.
Girls -- I'm the cuddler.
Can't wait to see Wendy in NYC...She's so damn adorable. She once told me I'm the weirdest guy she knows. Maybe she should get out more....I guess being an aging yet momentarily still youthful looking married fallen jazz fusion stench-head in love with androgynous models counts for something.
Watt's all grumpy -- let's drive.
I'm happy 'cause I'm wearing a Polar Goldie Cat's shirt that Rafe made for me ("Polar Goldie" and a cat/ spider head). Knansie & Rafe made a bunch w/crayon. I love the cats. I'm carrying the 5 of spades card that Matt (Basscat) found in the street and gave me -- we are both '5' obsessed. I told him about the Tom Verbine song w/the line "55 Fives she drew on the door/55 Five, I wish there were more". It got a good smile. I wish I didn't adore Knansie so much. Oh well.. D.D. called her "my girlfriend" until things started to get beyond my usual swirl of swoon. I'm honest, D.D.'s honest, we're both fucked up.. must be why we've been married for 14 years.
The Sarge (Watt) persists with conflicts with Michael. Annoying baggage. It scares me that Watt & my Dad (& I'll bet his Dad) share these intense mood traits (w/attendant abusive potential), and they were all from PEDRO.
Leaving the Mormon Burg -- balmy, breezy, not too hot. Real weather luck so far. Praying for Vince's van. He's fine. Came in last night around 11, post brine swelter.
Had a beautiful drive through Utah and Wyoming -- weather karma excellent so far. Dramatic sky, a bit of raw, unreal clouds. Christian Book Convention took up every damn room in Denver -- all the way out to the suburbs. Cruised into a Days Inn -- all in one room, possibly the last room in Denver. Steve's Dad called it "Barrel House". Steve and I procured imbibements and munchies around 11, hung with Watt and talked about what got us all into playing (Steve seems to play all the rhythm section instruments).. It turns out Steve, Michael, and I know perhaps a dozen people in common in L.A. (like Joe Blocker, Frank Patty, Hozah Sonship, Henry Franklin, plus Daryl Woods is his brother-in-law!). This is so cool. The room sucked but it was a MIRACLE.
On to RED ROCKS now to see the natural beauty and see if any kids in Colorado know/care about Mike Watt. The "Primus Sucks" contingent in Salt Lake City sure didn't.. This will be the first tour gig with Vince in tow (The "Drum Van" is barely hanging in. Fuck. We're all in prayer mode).
Red Rocks turned out to be pretty amazing. All the staff, the food, and those amazing damn rocks! It rained on and off, but never during our set (or Primus'). Primus set up their own little practice room on the road and Watt & Les were jamming on "Born on the Bayou" (Les likes to play drums) -- Les asked me to get my guitar after I peeked in so I zipped out thru some pouring rain (kids were already seated -- they open the doors at 4:30 and these early birds were getting drenched) and jammed on some funky groove stuff. It was really fun. Primus have those tiny Gallien-Kreuger amps and a small drum set (Herb warms up on a pre-set).
Our first set with Vince had some truly thunderous moments and a few clam blows (drum flams, hesitations, etc). Tempos were way up, sound on stage good. Between Saint Steve and Matt & Cheruki (sp?) on stage it's a pretty boss team -- and really nice folks. The audience was pretty into it, too (almost got an encore, though time constraints wouldn't allow for such shenanigans, I'm sure). We played 50 minutes (the set was supposed to be an hour, but I think bossman Derek has nixed any future such set lengths).
Watt's cousin Dave & some friends showed up -- nice people. A crew of radio or T.V. kids from Vail Colorado, who have their own station were really cool -- Kirk, Jessica, Scott and guy. (Jessica has that nordic snowgirl beauty -- thin, white-blonde stringy hair -- sweet). After Primus' set we had a splendid boo sesh with them and Doug (Promoter/Provider) and some Primus crew. Really nice, talked with Doug about the Allman Bros. (his shirt) and with Larry about Hendrix, Prez Prado -- he's a super sweet kid. Tripping along. He thought that I was his age (how flattering -- he must be 25) -- was pretty damn surprised when I told him I'm 39. Watt got pretty blitzed with the Power Mota. Talked a lot later about the set (the fine points) with me and Steve as we took the scenic route past his esteemed Masonic Temples. Talked lots about D. Boon -- really great stories that warmed my heart and taught me some things -- serious history. Steve thought the set was "excellent", he also said embarrassingly complimentary things about my playing - seems I may have blown him away! Yawzer!
Another day off to drive (Primus don't do too many days in a row -- maybe it's all that production overwhelm). Haven't seen the drumboys yet -- roomed with Watt and Steve. Got some $$ -- gotta send a bunch home to D.D. So life as we know it can continue...
Yesterday was pretty wonderful, yes, yes.
(Started one of my road books: "Red Azalea" by Anchee Min (Chinese woman now living in L.A., I believe) about her life in Mao's People's Republic. It's already a mindblower).
Found a Free Phone yesterday -- tried home two times, called Greg (Stinson) -- all phone machines. Oh well..
Drive, Drive Drive.
My first day driving Watt's van. Really nice vehicle. Unfortunately, I sort of lost the drum van somewhere in the vast expanse of flatness that is Kansas. Slowed to a crawl -- we even changed drivers around 7 pm (Steve took over) and still never saw it.
Got to MO 6 in Manhatten (they call it "the Little Apple" - near Ft. Riley) and no call to Watt's machine (out of pager range), so then the worrying started. But they finally showed up about 45 minutes later -- "couldn't make those hills". Hills?! That poor Dodge is weak city -- the prayers begin again.
Hung out while Watt talked history with us -- lots on State's Rights. Watt's passion for and knowledge of history is really impressive. I love listening (I'm too lame to jump in -- the only conversation I could bust into involved a sudden switch to Cy Twombly, Mike Kelley, etc. "Finally something I know about," I chirped. Unlikely that Fashion/supermodel topics will arise, so I just stay quiet and learn).
Today at 4 we do a radio show in Kansas City. Our first -- acoustic scene -- should be way fun. I'll get to use my "backpacker" mini-guitar, which sounds cool as hell. Sort of guitar with banjo/mando overtones. Maybe a little dulcimer too.
Lots of negative reaction to the nail polish here in Kansas in terms of icy stares of disbelief. Fun, fun, fun ... Pat Smear's insidious influence (not that I need too much prompting in the faux femme feel dept). It needs some touching up...
I found the limit on in-van music: The New Boredoms (chocolate synthesizer). Steve was stoic, but I finally said, "Steve, is this driving you nuts?" "Well, it sort of is...", and off it went. Good to know limits... Went back to Blonde Redhead 'cause Steve's enjoying them. Had discussion with Watt about their blatant S.Y. influence with me arguing the fine points of the little difference (muted, muffly, fuzz, Brazilian voice leading) while simultaneously asserting that I tend to like most of the S.Y. influenced bands anyway (Unwound and especially the ruling and hopefully someday reinstating Polvo). Not that into Truman's Water, though.
Anyway, I'm just totally fucked up on that Sonic thing, as we all know. Many discussions used to ensue wherein I would tell Watt that I knew that I could never really be friends with S.Y. (Even though they've always been kind to me since L84!) because "you can't really be friends with somebody who like you too much". And that was okay with me, really, 'cause it's always music first in situations like that for me. I don't want to be some kind of needy dork (even though I kind of am). Well, Watt kind of mitigated this whole thing by making sure I got to play on "Tuff Gnarl" in N.Y.C. last summer -- then reality took hold, music was made -- a dream came true, but it was generously infused with a healthy does of the mundane. Watt took hold of my passion and threw me into my own world, not just his/S.Y.'s.
In a way, Watt and I are total opposite personalities, but the thing that unites us is passion/dedication. It's a bit Townsend-esque -- the big windmill into oblivion/surrender. The workout, the exorcism, but without props, dogma, embarrassing self-involvement. It dawned on me 2 nights ago as Watt told stories about how D. kept his confidence up when he could've been frozen in fear ("you couldn't be scared when you looked over and saw him, this big guy, just bouncin' and screamin' like every show was his last"...), that I'm out in the world playing not only the music of Mike Watt but also that of D.Boon, Sonic Youth, Wire ... It's incredible!
These days off are killing Watt (& Steve, too). Our tour in Sept -- Oct is 33 dates in 35 days. "You gotta get that momentum going" says Steve. Whoa...
Lee R. e-mailed Watt yesterday -- said those who stay are getting it, rest of the kids are leaving, We think this blows serious chunks -- Courtney's been ranking on kids, disrobing, saying "show me your dick", chanting "bullshit", just being the mess she is. But she bums everyone out and they head for the parking lot. Sonics should've played before if you ask us. Especially seeing as how their new stuff (much with Kim on guitar) played at N.Y.U. in Spring was ecstasy inducing -- a real swirl of dynamic sound painting, THE SHIT! (I know, no objectivity -- too fucking bad).
I'm trying (in my head) to finish my song loosely about Marianne Faithfull that I want Carla Bozulich and Petra Haden to sing with my trio and Watt -- for what I don't know. Also trying to finish my merchant marine uncle asshole song for Watt to sing with trio and Petra, Rachel & Knansie (tambourine) for same mystery reason. Better start writing down all these words in my head....
The Geraldine Fibbers tape destroyed me! Carla rules. There's even a totally unexpected touch of S.Y. in the hillbilly/rock stew -- great production. Chills ran down my spine on a couple of moments (actually, more than a couple...)
In-van listening: (so far)
Me (only four tapes with me):
Watt says that Edward hated Capt. Beefheart, the Wipers, Sebadoh ... guess he wasn't a Boredom's fan).
"Can you imagine Watt in a band with someone who don't like Beefheart?!" - Watt
Sent some $ home to darling wife this a.m. (Advance from Watt). Learning...
Today, I attempt to break an early and classic on-road grease consumption habit. Bought some fruit...
Michael and Vince are adjusting timing/idle on the Drum Van. God, it's lucky they and Watt know about cars. Drum van chanting continues..
In spite of the fact that Michael sometimes hasn't a clue when to shut up and Vince is a bit slow (and I'm a precious queen) I think Watt's rather pleased with the "Newbies". He likes my driving. All 3 of us Newbies brought little utility carts to move our gear with - this got a big yuk from Watt. He calls them "shine carts" after his running "shinebox" routine (from "Goodfellas", an endless source of verbal banter/appropriation). It's an unceasing point of riotous, goofy mockery. Pretty great (havin' seen the movie only once, I'm hardly able to keep up with the references, but Michael, Steve, and Watt are really soaked in this one).
Tonight is Memorial Hall, 3000 seats ("small" for this tour!).
My dreams have really changed since starting this trip. Populated (alarmingly) with Rock & Film Stars, none of whom I've ever cared about. In one dream Flea walked into some motel room Watt & I were in with a big mop of purple hair, hugged us warmly "hello", and I got a bunch of his hair in my mouth. This morning Natalie Wood was staring at me in a friendly way from inside a big aquarium, she in the water, me outside (how totally creepy!) She was beautiful in a 60's style bikini. Before this memorable image was some other parade of star types -- can't remember much now. Perhaps I should begin worrying. In an earlier dream I was sitting watching T.V.-- some innocent commercial or video -- and suddenly it switched to near-abstract B&W images of huge phallus sort of pushed into another with spraying sea foam sort of like those Bruce Weber commercials for Eternity - sheesh! Now I've gone homoerotic?! In the dream I stared at the T.V. in disbelief/fascination as I began to realize what I was seeing. It was oddly compelling.
Last night I volunteered for floor sleep - I was due, plus I felt responsible for losing the drum van. The A.C. froze my ass, so I kept waking up (and having those weird dreams) - finally put on a sweatshirt and my world was fuzzy enough to sleep in. I actually feel great today.
Watt just gave me a videotape of "Bring Me The Head Of Gerald Rivera" that Carducci sent him. Hmmm.... I'm writing so much 'cause Vince is still not ready. Man. Vince, you've gotta speed it up a bit... Watt's getting apologetically edged... On to K.C.
2 memorable road signs: Interstate 70 Kansas -
* GUARDRAILS CAN KILL! (with some sheriffy-looking blond cubehead admonishing)
Better than yesterday's 6-legged living cow/raccoons/giant prairie dog/pheasants/ etc...
"It's an honest living" - Watt.
Ooops - yesterday was Friday 7/21. Not even a week out and I've already lost a day. Writing on the move.
Blazed to Kansas City, but it turned out to be on the Kansas side of the river. Drum Van lost us at a red light, arrived late. Watt was pissed. Had a radio show to do (acoustic) - our first, so he and I did it duo "Chinese Firedrill" and "Intense Song..." Couldn't believe he called that one! It was really fun .. our first outing with our respective acoustic axi.
Two guys from Midwestern Sony drove/hung. Chris and Eric. Eric has his own label - don't remember the name. Super young guy.
Gig was just okay. Hellish acoustics. Some stumblebum drum action, monitor problems. Audience was lukewarm verging on warm. Broke down gear pronto and headed out to Osceola, Iowa for sleep. Have to be in St. Paul today for GK & Watt has an interview. Cruising right now thru the endless cornfields of Iowa listening to Patsy Cline - so beautiful! Great band and the deep well of emotion in these songs is so affecting - so blue.
Vince seemed completely toasted yesterday. We got a late start (he was a bit slow). Then the lost drum van incident. I guess Watt had a good talk with them (Steve probably did, too, while Watt and I jammed on F.M.) Watt kept apologizing to me for complaining to me and for always getting so emotional about everything. (This was unnecessary. I mostly listen, 2 cents here and there). He's optimistic about the drums, loves these guys, even when it's hard to tell. Anyway, I thought Vince was going to lose it, as he was setting up his drums -- he looked distraught. I tried to give him some positive vibes but I think he was at his wits end. He's very hard on himself. I think he felt pretty set upon, then some stumblebumism on the gig, fatigue. He'll be okay, but I hope he doesn't feel too picked on - everyone knows the brother got soul.
In van listening: Johnny Thunders ) -
More Geraldine Fibbers) - Me - God, I love this album.
Last night as Steve drove to Osceola, there was distant lightening to the west, a clear, starry sky above and to the East - mysterious and beautiful. A little bit of rain today on Interstate 35 going into St. Paul. Van temperature has stayed around 80 degrees - a miracle. How long can this great weather last?...
The aforementioned Eric fellow, upon seeing my guitar strap (Wendy's Kristen Strap #4 ' 'Stadium Rock' model) told me a store in Lawrence, KS carries her stuff and sells a lot of it. I must remember to tell her.
I keep forgetting to put up the "Kristen's Room - All Other Towed Away" sign I bought in Nevada. Maybe I'll save this for N.Y.C., where a few folks will get the reference ... or Lolapzuzu.
It's 2 pm - we made great time. It's a good thing. I need to change strings, shave. My buckets of sweat con- tain some caustic substance to insure instant string death. And my anality has me desiring the bright & fresh.
Now we're in: Roy Wilkins Auditorium and it's huge. Sonic hell potential. Hoping for a big crowd to soak up some of the bounce. Plenty of time for string change and fire off some postcards to the Bro, Greg, ...
STEPHEN REED'S NOTE FROM HIS MOM (Facsimile)
Dear Stephen -
Pray without ceasing.
Never got those cards done -- surprise -- Watt has another acoustic set for some radio station in Minneapolis. No one knew (except Watt, I guess). Since the rest of the crew of the flying saucer (incl. Steve) were walking around St. Paul, Watt went duo again, which seems to work pretty well. It's really fun. Ended up on "Dave's Super Tasty Video Show", "co-hosting" with Watt from the street in Minneapolis. It was nice that Dave (who just shows Columbia artists) included me, even though I felt dorky (also unshaven and wearing my Guv'ner T) - Hmm.
Gig went okay - good band energy, with a real feeling of DRIVE and few space outs, Watt barking a lot, but overall quite decent. One kid in front knew every lyric. (Except to the wire tune, I suppose). Watt got tough with one kid who kept flipping us off and yelling stuff about Primus. When Watt walked over to him and said "I'll kick your fucking ass, asshole", he really got kind of scared and cooled out.
After the gig was really weird. Watt got bent because Vince and Michael pulled up alongside us on a city street in Roseville, where we're staying now (St. Paul burb). He got really pissed -- understandable that he wants them low profile, but also to just follow. But later when Michael and Vince came in to puff some boo a fan had given Les. Watt pulled the head trip on Michael that drives me (and him, obviously) crazy. The "if you still have a gig" one. Keeping Michael off balance, always the little brother, or the apprentice, whatever. They bailed, Watt floored it (again!) and went to sleep. Seeing that Michael was stung (they thought, I'm sure, that a little light band hang would be encouraging and pleasant, and why not?) I went to their room to try to tell him not wig, but this is hard on him and I really find it hard to respect -- old-school, or just too- moody people, even ones prone to arrogance. (What I'm sure Watt thinks he working on with Michael). have feelings, and my take is that Vince and Michael really need to be pep-talked, not dressed down and kept off-balance. They need to feel on the team, not like eternal auditioners. Well, today's another day -- 300 some miles to Milwaukee.
Watt's e-mail says that Courtney's been arrested for assaulting Kathleen Hanna. Fuck...
I've just showered and I feel a little clearer. Watt's silent at the Powerbook. (except for the Courtney report), and it occurs to me that with Watt (and other moody authoritarian types - in his case a Navy kid) you have to sometimes just shut up, wait out the storms, try to understand the root of the thing. I think something is worrying Watt that may have nothing to do with the band. Maybe not even the tour, although there's still the Canadian border, New York City, a hellride from Raleigh N.C. to Austin, TX ("that's half the country, Holmes!") ahead. Enough. I just hope Michael doesn't try the direct approach this morning. Last night I suggested (since he asked) that he just be quiet for a while - just let things settle into a classic dysfunction I guess is one way to look at it. This may be impossible!
Fun: Jammed again in Primus' little practice room prior to the show with Les on drums and Larry (then later Steve) on bass. More groove. It's so fun to play funk rhythm guitar. (like the old Bloc days?) and we all were smiling at times. Steve hadn't played bass in a while, but he sounded good.
Les seems to want to hang a bit with us. He seems a bit isolated. We've all noticed a schism in the band between Larry and Les on one side and Herb on the other. Herb seems way into his head in terms of drumming. Always the disciplined warm up, the scientific vibe. He also seems unhappy -- and perhaps, tellingly, un-absurd in a band based primarily on absurdism (you know, the boy kind). Herb entered the practice room while we were jamming. Les just kept playing like he wasn't there! Herb gave us all a look that could kill and immediately made a U-turn. I felt really weird. Les want to hang with Watt (and us) and puff boo later, but it wasn't to be.
Watt is so deferential toward me, but so belidge, to Michael especially. I don't want to feel caught in this, but I am and I don't dig it.
Watt and I seem to have an understanding -- sort of like there's this pool that, unlikely as it may seem, we both drink out of, and he's showing me a lot about the history of the pool, the geography. If we ever collaborate on some songs (something he wants) maybe the exchange will balance. Further the music -- that's one commonality. But there's also something else ... a kind of karma, I dare say. Well, on to Milwaukee ("stinking' Milwaukee", Steve says).
Caught some stench entering Milwaukee. A sickly cloud o' vom. Interesting day.
I'm alone in the dressing room, 4th floor of the Riverside Theatre, an old and decent-sounding place, right on the water. I can look out and see the river, old buildings, and rats and roaches of the usual waterfront dimensions. Michael and Watt talked straight away. Watt's worries are quite legit., and I hope Michael hears him: too much late night boo sesh energy, too much lip service around boo obsession. Discipline. Make the gigs good. Don't enhance Vince's tendency to booze. I hope that this is the end of all this. Watt was totally tortured this morning, worried about the tour, coming off like an old fogey/fascist MoFo. Worried that I thought he was an asshole. One's antennae must be out to read a lot of what's going down. It's hard for everyone.
The drive on I90 East/I94 East through Wisconsin was absolutely beautiful, past the dells, past the Ho- Chunk Casino. Vince's van, now aptly dubbed "The Prayer" by Watt, wouldn't start at a roadside Shell Station -- now it appears the fuel pump is blooey. A good ol' boy in a red pickup helped Michael & Vince (mostly Michael -- thank God he knows about cars!) get it started. Lost over half an hour -- made it to the venue with about 5-10 minutes to spare before set-up/soundcheck, which we now do in 10-15 minutes thanks to Steve Reed. We'll wail in half an hour or so. Tomorrow we go to Chicago -- only about an hour away for a day off. Must get the van worked on (I'm sorry, The Prayer, worked on) first thing. Probably a casual, sociable evening ahead.
Fave signs today:
APOCALYPSE PAINTBALL (#, address) - WHA??!
PARTY WITH A PIG!
ROCKY ROCOCO'S PAN PIZZA (all you Firesign fans!)
Wisconsin Road observation, probably very pedestrian:
A lot of fat white folks with anti-abortion messages on their cars and often with butts hanging from their mouths.
This is actually an entire cornbelt phenom. Mom & Dad smokers with massive guts are real charming...
A day off to fix The Prayer, maybe hang in Chicago.
Gig at Riverside was pretty good -- the high ceiling slapback really threw Watt. He's right: high end is cool in these venues, but bass and bass drums are like amorphous lumps of ooze -- no definition. It was a total sweatbox. A few kids yelling "You Suck", etc., the usual curious to lukewarm response -- so far Red Rocks was a standout gig.
While Primus played it was so unbelievably hot -- totally misty with condensed glandular emissions. Les' rig shut down apparently (due to over-heating) and he has to just use his direct signal. They played a lot of different stuff in their set. From outside by the river it sounded pretty raging. Afterwards, even Herb seemed happy and relaxed.
Michael said the bathroom was totally trashed (only one bathroom in the whole opera-style venue) -- slimed with piss, shit, vomit and everything in the place was wet.
While Primus wailed I just stood around. Met a real cool kid named Eli who loves Watt. He's a bass player. Gave him a Trio CD (since Watt was introducing/vaunting me..) He was real sweet. Brian, bass player with Violent Femmes brought cigars. Watt & Vince are into it -- though Watt said he got the Mega Buzz, having abstained for a while. ("Got the sweaty upper lip goin!"..)
At one point a massive fireworks display erupted out by the lake, only sporadically visible from where we were -- really spectacular explosions echoing everywhere. Turns out they were for Italian Day or something. Festa Italia? It was cool.
Last night at MO 6 : Puffed a bit, then Michael and Vince chowed at Denny's while I removed nail polish, etc. Watt floored it again, but he got wound up and happy before retiring, and he and Steve reminisced about certain old "in concert" appearances: Alex Harvey Band, Foghat, BTO, etc. Some of it was hilarious - like Watt doing B.T.O. I'm starting to think that Steve has heard every band in existence (including Flash - in fact, he said Peter Banks jammed with his old band once!!! -- whoa...) Watt also talked about how most of the Minutemen stuff was recorded - "Buzz or Howl", spot with 4 mikes and PZMs on the Go-Bos! "We were so tight at that time". No shit!
Finally called D.D. again last night. She sounded really good. She had seen 'Il Postino" and she practically started crying just talking about it. It told her a lot about our love, our lives (Neruda figures heavily into our wacky courtship years). She sounds pretty damn strong, which is so great. It makes me feel better about being away. I think it's going to be good for us (at least at first), and I don't think I'll be worrying about her too much now. Greg, Amanda and Carole have been checking in on her - my mom, too -- which is so great, and she's keeping Alex up-to-date, too. Friends and family are a great thing in life -- plus, of course, the darling wife.
In Chicago burb at Motel 6.
Fave signs today: BONG REC AREA
Heard a hilarious radio show with J. Edgar Hoover's Lieutenant - "There is no evidence whatsoever that J. Edgar Hoover was a homosexual or a transvestite..."
Also heard the famous Paul Harvey -- what a goofball! -- must tell Greg and Suzanne.
Yesterday was serious down time. Had at least 2 lightning and thunder downpours. Had a late afternoon greasefest at the Fourteen with Michael, Vince and Steve, which entailed Steve and my first trips in The Prayer. Whoa.. that tin can's a story unto itself. It was a cool hang, winding up in Michael and Vince's room with soundless Brandon Lee movie and C.D.'s. Steve wanted to hear Ground. I tried to escape, but Watt had split for cuisine (he spent the day doing phone interviews which seem to drain him). Eventually Watt checked in with us and I went back to the room to read. I scored the new Vogue and Bazaar (Kristen's in both!) and more of 'Red Azalea' to read. Also I had to do my nails (how very sweet...)! Watt showed me Lee Ranaldo's tour diary on the net -- he's really bummed about the "seating". 30 kids up close who had come to listen to Pavement (who Lee waxes ecstatic about), while a thousand yards away everyone else either mills about or tries to listen. Plus, on the second stage they're doing wet T shirt/Hickey contests! Wha?!? He sounds bummed big time. All the bands are gone when S.Y. are done. Courtney's running amok. What a nightmare. Plus, Kathleen's pressing charges (okay!) Well, I'm still looking forward to seeing Eric...
Side: The new mags have some righteous Kristen and an ad for C. Montana with Olga. (She's so hot!) Michael thinks I twist the tomahawk when I peruse, but it's just a tingly dreamcloud. I really got relaxed. "Red Azalea" is a good book -- use of short, direct sentences has a poetic and urgent effect.
Now it's a.m. and a fellow named Jeff is coming to pick up me and Watt for more radio stuff (possible acoustic songs). Right now Watt's looking at e-mail from Thurston, Albert Bouchard's wife, plus he's scrolling through the punk and bass pages and having a hoot. The punks crack him up -- like he said, it's never about music so much as an abstraction - like who's the most punk, etc.
Did the little suburban F.M. (mersh) station - "The Bear" (forgot the call letters). Live acoustic (4 songs: "Drove Up from Pedro", "Intense Song", "Walking the Low", "Big Train") with veteran D.J. Watt took a couple of calls and did spiel. He gets pretty nervous about these affairs, which makes him talkative, humble, and humorous. I didn't have a bottleneck for "Big Train", so I vied their stapler which sounded lame, but got a good chuckle out of everyone. Jeff Sodakoff (Sp?) is really cool. He was joined by a college radio guy at Columbia whose name I never got.
We ended up being taken to lunch at Harry Caray's Famous Sports Restaurant for some fine Italian stuff (had minestrone and pasta with garlic & oil & pepper - yum!), then we went to the venue. Talk revolved around industry matters, mostly between Jeff and Watt.
Next it was on to JPTV with this wacky hippie guy, Gerry - Watt had done his show before. What a character! Sort of Jerry Garcia/Dr. Demento kind of guy. Watt just stood there in their control room and spieled - lots about piss bottles, etc. At one point after signing their acoustic guitar for charity, Watt handed it to me and said, "here Nels, show 'em what you can do!" at which point I played a bit of "Ida Lupino" and said "Carla Bley".
At both affairs, Watt told me to talk more, not to be shy. It's hard. He says with my personality I can't Bogart. He's continually calling me "one of the best", "up there with D. Boon, J. Mascis" ... Eek!
Jeff was highly amused by Watt's antics -- he's genuinely hilarious, quick. The perfect guy for such things. (A view I'm sure Watt doesn't share). Gave Jeff a C.D. at Watt's urging -- he seemed genuinely interested. Another 10-minute soundcheck at V.I.L. Pavilion?) - Huge 7,500 seat hockey/baseball arena.
Gig was okay -- Watt thought Vince played his best yet. Michael's going to change his bass drum sound. Crowd was a bit blase but not overtly hostile. 2 caps thrown at me -- scored a White Sox cap (that I really don't care about).
More jamming with Les and Steve prior to show. Vince even brought in his horn. He's got an excellent ear! Bailed out post-set pronto to Benton Harbor, Michigan. Now it's an hour later on the timeline and it's time to snooze. Another Motel 6. Everyone's pretty beat. On to Lansing tomorrow, then Detroit. Looking forward to staying in a house with Watt's friend Bob. Laundry? Watt says he's got tons of C.D.'s and videos that I'll dig. ("He's all into weird shit. Curlew, Knitting Factory"). Hoping he has live Boredoms stuff for Michael and Vince to check out...
Note: Tonight while soundtracking I noticed for the first time that Wendy wrote on the tabs of my stadium rock Kristen Strap:
My heart soared. I love Wendy!
this page created 22 jul 97
this page created 22 jul 97