mike watt and the crew of the flying saucer
"shinebox" tour '95
september 21 - 30, 1995
NELS CLINE'S TOUR DIARY OF
MIKE WATT'S "SHINEBOX" TOUR '95
BEGINS SEPTEMBER 20, 1995 - ENDS OCTOBER 31, 1995
w/WATT on bass, spiel
THE CREW OF THE FLYING SAUCER:
NELS CLINE on guitar
MICHAEL PREUSSNER on drums
VINCE MEGHROUNI on drums, back-up singing, sax
WILL BE JOINED BY ERIC FROM SAN DIEGO (MERCH)
DENIED DUE TO ECONOMIC SHORTCOMINGS
9/21 Evening Mo' 6, BLYTHE, CA
We're off to a great start. I just had one of the most highintensity, stresssoaked days of my life. Just drove from 9:30 till 1 am. Followed Steve Zombielike he (and I followed) missed Interstate 15 and here we are! still on the 10!
The drive started with Grumpy Watt at my house. Once again it's Steve and Watt in the Econoline with gear and me with Michael and Vince in my car with our crutches, shineboxes and primppacks. Watt's laughing, some boo and sleep now. Got to get up early now for sure.
The happy news: Gig with not only the beloved Geraldine Fibbers, but about 3 (including NYC) with Darling That Dog, plus Swish and tons of gigs with Six Finger Satellite from Providence, R.I., who I've never heard or heard about till now. I'm massively stoked about going South to West with The Fibbers & Norfolk with Sonic Youth.
Now I hope my car (yes, I'm driving my car, I tell myself) makes it through all is safe, sweet and swarthy as a Seaman's pipe spittle.
I feel so oddly offhand with preparation (or lack of it) for this trip. I've got my 2 guitar thing better with the marvelously repaired Jag and repaired speaker and a laundry bag full of 'Ground' CD's, a sheet of NCT stickers, and a few more sharpies and blank paper for ... Off we go! (Gear talk!)
"GET YER FUCKIN' SHINEBOX"!
9/22 SALT LAKE CITY Mo' 6
Drove endlessly yesterday (600 some miles) Saw two horrible roadwreck situations in Nevada. Got separated from Watt Van; hauled ass to late (8:05 p.m.) arrival at the Zephyr. Met up with Dan Hadley, called D.D. twice (love and New Music Monday biz). Heard 6 Finger Satellite very kitschy but punk based and hardrocking. Their Merch girl is Stephanie from Austin, TX, and she's adorable. The guys James, John, Jay and Rick are nice but a bit distant. Our first gig of the tour and theirs, too. They're on Sub Pop and are from Providence R.I. We have 20 gigs with them. Our set was up and down. Broke a string and played new Jag, which went immediately out of tune. Michael's snare is fucked. Watt's bass strap kept coming off. Vince on Roto Toms... on 'Piss Bottle Man'. Michael was trying to fix his snare the roto set alone sounded weird. The crowd not huge, but pretty voracious chanted "Snare Drum! Snare Drum!" (at least a few did). People were really into it, but it was shaky. I'm getting a fucking bug. My throat's sore. Shit. This sucks got to shake it.
It's 7 a.m and we're off. After yelling at Michael last night about insidiousness, now Watt's saying alchemy will change him, that he's 90% in the wrong, to just say "Miracle Gro" ... What a trip! 500 some miles to Ft. Collins, CO.......
We're in Ft. Collins College gig in their student coop. 4 bands, besides us and 6 Finger Satellite, there's Won Lump Some(?!) and the Skallywags, who I hear are from Seattle. Apparently it actually snowed there three days ago trees died with the sudden unseasonal snowfall. Anyway, it's kind of a Mickey Mouse state and p.a.college gig.
I feel like shit, though I slept a lot this afternoon in the van. Beautiful drive the same one we did last tour, where the sun set, odd clouds had formed, 'Roky Erickson Live' blared and Watt and I talked about Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy.
I hope I can shake this bug for good soon. This whole thing with Watt last night was pretty intense, but now things seem okay. (Endless Michael and Vince analysis this morning). We got up at 7, and it was fucking cold going thru Wyoming. Ate at the same place in Evanston that we ate at before with the same young girl running the whole show...
Now it's time to call D.D. love and N.M.M. The kill time while 3 bands play. Thankfully it's only one and a half hours to Denver tomorrow. SLEEP.
(Stephanie's wearing a kitschy forest green jumpsuit w/zipper it actually looks great. Last night we talked nail polish the great ice breaker. She's going to look for Wet n' Wild Dark Blue for me....)
It's just incredible that I haven't finished the October series one booking to go, then a Herculean effort to get an axis of D.D./Robin Mitchell/Jeff G./Richie West/Knansie (Rincy)/& Greg to coalesce... oh shit....
What an insane night talked to D.D., called Danny Frankel, thus finishing off October series. Tomorrow I must fax info to Robin &/or D.D. She sounded stressed and tired. Her friend (a really dear person) Cecile has skin melanoma. ... God.
The gig: on the phone constantly during Won Lump Some. The Skallywags were quirky and humorous, but a bit too goofball for me. Songs about hamburgers and Jerry Garcia's death. Some clever musical touches of artsy irony, but really kind of dumb. Six Finger rocked loudly they're really loud! Jay (the vocalist tall & ungainly & hyperintelligent & funny) said it was a total nomonitor situation. Noone bought their merch (Stephanie and I commiserated). Watt was ready to go on as soon as possible (getting late); but the mike cable situation was totally lame. Spaghetti. It was amateur hour. Finally we were ready to go. One young girl (lots of them there!) kept saying "Mike Watt Rocks My World". We started with "Formal Introduction" and from that point on it was near riot. The crowd surged forward, immediately pushing all the monitors towards us and into my "pedal dachau" (Wattspeak). Kids smashed into everything. Two security guys could not deal. My gear went off 3 or 4 times one security guy ended up making an arch with his body over my pedals. My set list vanished I had to keep shouting at Michael to know the next song. People ended up on stage for almost the whole set. It was boiling hot during "The 15th". While singing, I thought for sure I was going to faint. Watt later said that he thought he was going to have a heart attack. The crowd kept knocking his mike into his mouth. We kept getting pushed back further into the drums (& their stupid boom stands). There was no more room for me to move, but I kept jumping up and down. Watt and I kept cracking up, smiling at each other. It was intense! Afterwards, all these guys who were hanging out (Greg, his brother Bart, Matt, Joey, etc) were patting my soaked back. It was freezing in the side area "Dressing Room".
Watt was very lavish with praise, and these guys started chanting my name Nels!, Nels!, Nels! ... or was it Nels Cline!, Nels Cline!, Nels Cline! Watt joined in. I got really embarrassed and emotional. I waved it off. I was concerned about catching pneumonia (still am), plus I think the bridge pickup on the Jazzmaster ate it from too much sweat. It's all weak now. So I was swabbing my guitar during this. Watt hugged me. Later as I went out on stage to break down my stuff, Watt was laying into Vince heavy about something. It was weird still don't know about that one.
So now we're at the Mo' 6, Vince and Michael are swilling bottles of local microbrew (a tad for me), I'm losing my voice. Hopefully the yelling at Michael for song titles had something to do with it. I feel exhilarated but also tired a bit worried about my health. Watt said he was proud of me because I didn't get mad or "all anal" about the insanity. To be honest, it was kind of a gas and a good gig, I think, all in all. I thought of Pat Smear at one point during the gig the way he seems to incite or exhort the crowd to insanity just by facing them, almost taunting them in a celebratory way. Tonight I kept looking at all these people, really interacting, almost total pandemonium and they were getting it. It was good.
Tomorrow I must fax, change strings, pray for my rear pickup, go a mere 1 1/2 hours to Denver. Gig with Six Finger, plus Spell, who I've heard a lot about. Health: Return!
9/23 DENVER Ogden Theater Dressing Room
Puppet Show really cool Panditstyle organ. Six Finger rocked they're done. Coming up: Spell, popular local band with exFluid drummer (Garrett) and cute bassist Shannon. Power trio.
Denver is weird. Had a killer Mexican lunch as we wanted to see if Vince's horn could get fixed. I'm feeling pretty out of it no voice. Came to venue to discover that Wednesday's storm(!) knocked out power. Might have to change to Mercury Lounge but no! Power on around 5:30. Guys from last night showed up, plus Karl from All (also there last night) and his beautiful wife, Claire, who I discovered today is Belgian. She's really great.
When 6 Finger arrived Stephanie presented me with a bottle of electric blue nail polish (interestingly, I think this is the same shade Knansie wears). She is so cool and so cute.
Had a weird experience trying to fax my house with flyer for N.M.M. October (got up this a.m. and made it, handlettered, after another marvelous episode of THE TICK). Couldn't find an open copyplace finally Steve and Michael encouraged me to go into this Passport Photo place. There, a Spanish speaking woman and a onearmed man let me fax my disk for $4 a page (including the totally unnecessary cover sheet) a highway robbery total of $12 but apparently it came out great. I called D.D. and she was on line, tipsy on wine and had already copied them! Just as I was talking to her Knansie and Rafe showed up to do the mailing! I was so overwhelmed, I almost started crying. Talked with Rafe and Knansie Rafe giggled when I told him that I loved them. D.D.'s taking them out to dinner what a scene that'll be. I mean it I love them all!
Now Spell are about the start. The Puppet Show folks are spraying bubbles on us. They're so sweet and totally out there
Everybody's smoking cigs and it's killing me. I'm going to try to rest up.. Bought some Halls & Bayer at the Circle K. Praying...
Spell are okay kind of generic, but rocking. Shannon is stunning poised. (Shannon looks so poised and beautiful, it's like she's not playing basher rock. Guitarist look like tall bleached blond Michael J. Fox. Plays a Hagstrom).
I'm drinking a 1/2 pint of Remy V.S. Told Watt "Don't worry I won't get drunk!" He said he never worries about me I'm the most disciplined person he knows Sheesh!
I've got to find out if the Puppet Show organist has a record Mr. Quintron.
9/24 DENVER HO Mo' 6 9:30 a.m.
Well, the Remy felt good, but today in spite of an improved throat I think I've got a good fever going. I'm going to try to let Vince and Michael drive today...
Last night was pretty cool, though. Some familiar faces besides Bart, bro Greg, etc. The people with the cable show who interviewed Watt at Red Rocks, last tour, showed up. I hate that I forgot their names they have a band, 2 guys and the adorable towheaded girl. They said their show got the big shaft and they're moving to Portland!
The set started without Michael for about 4 bars! Where he was I don't know ....probably retrieving a shine towel from upstairs. I tried to play as hard as possible. The Deden Theater was too big for the eye but those who were there were so beautiful and seriouslooking. Some moshers, but also a lot of really sweet, sincere faces. I broke a string and went to the Jag. On "Political Song...!" solo I (quite ironically, in light of the "cut down on guitar solos" by Ric) pulled all the chords out of the Wah Wah (again) it actually was funny in a way.
Afterwards, I went over to Watt while he was singing the last verse and bowed my head apologetically. I don't know if he noticed. It was my first incursion into his stage space. Ended set with "Tuff Gnarl" and I was all out of tune I guess that's kind of appropriate. Encore was "Piss Bottle Man" and in spite of having almost no voice earlier, I took a belt of Remy and actually got out 3 of the maybe 5 falsetto notes! This made me happy.
Mr. Quintron played afterwards. I was sorry I missed Miss Pussycat's contribution (she's a classic weirdo trash theater girl) but I like the organ. It turns out he did have a record, which I bought. The 6 Finger guys seemed way into him.
It also turned out, I later learned, that they had driven from Salt Lake City to perform and got no money from the promoter! Apparently Watt and 6 Finger kicked in whew!
After the set, at the load out, it was lightly drizzling. A pair of adorable 16year olds Jeff & Jamie (Jamie, a girl w/dyed black locks) who I'd spotted during the set were hanging. I thanked for listening, giving us energy. Jamie kissed my hands ("you're rad!"). She saw my Polar Goldie Cats necklace and asked if the Trooper with the Hello Kitty pillow inside was mine. She was delighted to find out she was right. They asked me to sign their clothes. (Jeff: shirt, Jamie: pants, ??? Jeans) which I did. Then we got Jay half the 6 Finger Guys over for Jeff because apparently Jay had licked Jeff's face during the set! They came over Jay wrote 'E = 6FS' on the shirt. James, the bassist recommended music for them to listen to (at their request).
He & I had talked earlier quite a bit. He's really smart and observant behind his prescription shades which he always wears (sensitive eyes?) He recommended anything with Dick Winn, James Jamerson. We expanded to include Astin "Family Man" Barrett, Flabbo & Holt, Ingus, Paul Chambers ... all this for Jamie, who claimed to be a beginning bassist. Jeff surprised us by saying he liked Dimeola! We were dismayed. I recommended John Scofield. When I wrote down 'Sonic Youth' they cheered in perfect unison, as 6 Finger vanished. I guess they don't dig Sonics. Jamie told me she has a picture of Kim on her wall (proudly). It was really adorable.
She loved my polish (she loves Pat Smear too, whom I credited with my look) and tried to get me to put on her goth lipstick but I declined, telling her that I'm ill.. Gave Trio CD's to them and Bart & Karl/Claire, who were all hanging out. Karl looks like Ken Filiano.
Watt came out and sped off. We followed. Slept in the boiling Watt/Steve room. (After polishing off the cognac and talking about the bands, esp. Mr. Runsron). Now it's towards Lawrence KS. It's rainng...
My bookmarks this time are a Geraldine Fibbers sticker Knansie gave me and a postcard from her with Queen Elizabeth II on it (she know I'm a queen, okay?) It has a delightful sweet note:
"Dearest most special Nels,
May you have the most most moments this tour. Remember your water & juice.
Good to look at repeatedly.
Last tour was a Built By Wendy tag and later the postcard from Kazu and the rest of Blonde Redhead. (Called Amaded, may stay with him and Simone in NYC. Told them about a Hogstrom he may want at Black Market LA).
Keep thinking about D.D. & Knansie & Rafe dining and doing the mailing. I hope Jeff lent them the magic stamp machine.... I'm filled with love and gratitude...
My nails are bright fucking blue ..."Tour totem" Watt. Thank you, Stephanie.
I had playfully been giving Rick, the drummer from 6 Finger grief about wearing beige pants when the rest of the band had solid black/red outfits. Apparently they told him "Nels keeps saying that you're screwing up with the beige pants", or something to that effect. He apparently was mortified and bought black pants yesterday! Upon hearing this, I was mortified and later told him that I was only pulling his leg .. He said (smiling) that it was okay. He seems to be an intense fellow and a monster drummer (the latter of which I told him).
Bassistinshades James, so thoughtful, turns out to be a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. Peter Green is his fave guitarist and he also loves "Tusk". Wild!
Jay is into Kraftwerk (of course). In Ft. Collins he and Watt went on and on about their whole catalogue. Watt was WAY into Kraftwerk!
It has occurred to me that it's Sunday.
I'm in my car (back seat, no drive). My fingerless gloves and electric blue polish are a sight. (Steve: "That's some nail polish you got there, Nels").
Michael and Vince had another vision quest last night: salads, Kmarts, red onions, cheddar. They're cracking me up. We all do lots of voices. Vince's are killing me. "Well alright! Whoo!" How many ways can you say "Fuck you?!" Gotta stop those twisted mind games, man.
Tool o' the Man wants the Fibbers!
Instead I get Teddy Edwards.... well alright!
In van selections last three days:
C. Haden Live with Bley & Motian
N.C.T. edited cassette.
Michael and Vince bought discs yesterday. J. Edwards, Big Joe Turner (Vince). More Duke too, I suppose.
Goodbye Denver, you seedy fucking town. Goodbye towheaded kids like Bart and Cable Girl...
Until next time....
9/24 SALINA, KS Mo' 6
Just had dinner with Michael and Vince at a Ramada Inn restaurant. For this zone of near emptiness it wasn't bad. My electric blue digits are not a hit.... I didn't even notice at lunch today (in Limon, CO) that I was getting disapproving stares, but everyone else did. Watt was funny. At a gas station, (where we eyed some particularly fabulous old custom coupes) he said, "Shit, if they saw someone on TV wearin' it they'd all wear it! If anyone gives you shit, I'll take care of 'em!"
The coupes were sublime: Michael noticed that the dark blue one, owned by an old couple, had written under the dash "Lucky Slut & Little Devil" Yeah!
Called D.D. and she's fine. Went to Chung King with Rafe & Knansie and did the mailing. Wrote 4 postcards. I feel like shit. Off to bed...
9/25 LAWRENCE, KS Granada Theater
Got up feeling like I'd been beaten with golf clubs. Serious war being fought among the microbes. Michael is trying to dodge the dreaded disease while Vince now has it full on. I have pangs of guilt. Watt left before us. Vince, Michael and I drove from Salinas and started looking for breakfast near Topeka. Rather forbiddingly barren of attractive eateries. Soon we were approaching the turnpike. We turned off, praying for cuisine, but ended up with (as I had feared) ruralville. Turned off on a small road to turn around. Michael has to pee and while we waited a cop pulled up and questioned me/us thoroughly. Looked in back window at our stuff, where are you going, what are you doing here, etc. What kind of music do you play. ("Jazz" I confidently replied). My only faux pas was I forgot to take off my sunglasses. The cop actually seemed kind of nervous or scared. Let us go and told us which restaurants were available.
We drove into Lawrence and stopped at the first cafe we saw: Willie C's. Turns out our waitress recognized us (actually me, I guess) as Watt's band. Turns out also that the manager goes way back as a Watt and B.O.C. fan. Lisa & Thom. Declining the proffered free lunch (which was quite decent) we were nonetheless showered with service and pleasant chatter. Lisa worked at the Old Outhouse when she was a teenager. She's only 25 now and had seen the Minutemen! She apparently gave Watt a necklace on the last tour. (Saw us in K.C. open for Primus). I think it's the one I wrapped around the drink holder.
Got to Granada at about 2 and Watt bolted out, nervous because his "Check Engine" light keeps going on, but a guy at the Ford dealership told him not to worry, it's probably nothing. Of course, Watt will worry anyway (it's alarming). Watt seems generally uptight (yes, more than usual), which is taking a serious toll on Vince and Michael's morale, since he barks at them mercilessly or treats them like they don't exist. I seem to recall writing something like this at about this point in the last tour, but this penchant of Watt's to be harsh and unreasonable with Michael and Vince is hard to take. It's so unnecessary and after all his ranting about "chemistry" it's his surliness that's fucking up the chemistry of the band now. If this affrontery continues I really don't know how Michael and Vince can hold on. They feel totally isolated and disrespected. Granted that their little vision quests and bonvivantisms don't jibe with Watt's style of touring, but it's not really harmful. Not compared to treating someone like they're dispensable and hanging that threat over them all the time. I don't get it. I get treated so well (I don't need strokes, hearty "Good Mornings", but I know where I stand. Also I seem to be able to better flow with Watt's psycho Calvinistic streak, which continues to scare me. Where did I get this?)
Watt bit Michael's head off for wanting 2 guests (the people from the cafe, Thom & Lisa). He said sales are low and guests are hurting us. (Low sales could be a major stress factor). When Michael offered to pay, he backed down and grumbled about being online, which is costing him money. This type of reaction just seems unnecessary. Why not just tell us what's up? Michael is actually afraid to even talk to Watt now. Just what is insidious?....
I'm hoping to get soundcheck out of the way soon and hit some stores. There's one in town that sells Built by Wendy, and I want to make a pilgrimage. Also, used CD's and books beckon... Now Watt seems cooled out, doing an interview. It's hard seeing everything that's going on, but it's got to be harder on M & V.
I think ticket sales must be pretty slow.
9/26 Tuesday (about to leave Lawrence) College Motel(!)
Yesterday was actually a gas. Soundchecked early. Brad Barrish, Columbia College Rep showed up and took us to Lovegarden Records. Talked to a girl named Kristin about nail polish and Wendy (this is the place with her stuff). She turned out to be Wendy's old roommate! She also adores Wendy and told me a bit about how Wendy stayed in town for 1 or 2 years after leaving college and made clothes, selling them on a sidewalk. Bought a Polvo tape and gave her a CD (she's a buyer).
Cruised around this benign oasis with Michael, Vince, Steve and Brad (Watt disappears, you know). Brad insisted on buying us dinner at a place called Free State a Kansas version of a tony restaurant/brewery and it was really good and pleasant. As the sun set my cough was getting heavier.
Back to the Granada, a slow trickle of people coming in. Sat with Stephanie at the Merch table and chatted for quite a while. Jay came by. Stephanie snapped a polaroid of me and Jay (he's 6'5") giantlike. Had a drink with Michael and Vince (cognac pour le throat). Caught 6 Finger until I decided to book backstage to see if Watt/set list had arrived. Caught Watt in the crowd. He gave me the set list. I've somehow ended up making all our set lists. Probably because I brought a tablet. Anyway, I screwed up and left Watt's upstairs ("Where's my list, Nels?") Ooop. But it was okay 'cause the very nice sound guy, Jeff, hadn't put a mike cable on my mike yet. Spotted fans who I'd talked to earlier Lisa from the restaurant right up front, Bros. Andy and John and their badass cousin, Carina (look out...).
Set was pretty good good sequence. Watt talked to the crowd a lot, probably because he was winded, but also it was a real nice crowd and a decent turnout after all (the place was an old movie theater, and it's really quite nice). I pushed myself. A cute girl who I'd seen arrive and whoop during 6 Finger's set was dancing wildly to my right (a girl Michael said could be a relative correct. She was smoking and drinking smuggledin Mountain Dew!) I keyed off of her and she kept smiling and going nuts. This helped me through the set. Lisa seemed pretty drunk.
We encored w/ "Piss Bottle Man", still I could only hit the higher notes. Then Watt surprised me by calling "Maggot Brain". I think it was pretty good. Then we did "My Secret Garden", which needless to say I could barely sing, but I worked massive coughing into the song. We played this because Watt had a mental blank and couldn't remember his bass part (solo) to "Powerful Hankerin'". People were pretty into the mayhem.
(1) After the body of the set I took off my guitar and bashed myself in the head full on with my guitar (the edge of the body, right above the left eye). Put ice on it in Michael and Vince's room later, as a cool writer guy, named Jack, asked me questions about my background.
(2) Watt telling the crowd that he didn't have the Seattle crowd this tour, but he really likes playing with "Nels Cline". No mention of Vince or Michael. I was embarrassed and I looked at Vince who looked visibly deflated. He was already playing with the flu...
(3) Postset: Oh, God. The dancing girl was named Zoe, & her friend was Anastasia. They were 18. (I learned this when I told them how long I'd been married). Zoe was really into yours truly, and yes. I thought, crazy as she was, that she was really hot... she was bottle blond, wearing a cropped black tank that showed off the sun design tattoo around her navel. She had a slender nose ring. Anastasia had long brown wavy hair. Zoe claimed to be a drummer (Michael had given her a drumstick), Anastasia, a singer. Zoe wanted me to come and meet them at a bar. She gave me her address and phone #. She wanted me to paint some of her nails, which, of course, I could not resist. Did her pinky nails and thumb nails, which were tiny, 'cause "I chew them"!") Anastasia got pinkies done, too, (nice nails). The I did some guys thumbnail, signed a piece of paper with polish... a bunch of guys were very complimentary to me.
I was falling behind breaking down my stuff. Took my leave. I'm going to get shit about this from Vince & Michael for a while. (Jay was giving me shit, too, in a gentle way. His grin reminds me of Tim Berne's).
This makes me think of a funny conversation I had with Wendy before the set. I called her to tell her that I was in Lawrence and had met her old roommate Kristin. She was all delighted and told me to go meet her best friend Toni (who wasn't home, it turned out). I told her about my new polish. ("You're such a girl", she said, which pleased me privately). She later chided me about how much girls like me. (How would she know? I still deny), ending with the statement, "You're a hottie" (!) Never heard that one! The she had to go out to "have some drinks with some friends". I called her a gadfly. Later I was set upon by 18year olds. Sheesh. It's fun, but also fun to tell them how old I am it tends to blow minds. Guys usually say something like "Dude, it doesn't matter, man 'cause you fucking ROCK!
College Motel: Our first roach motel. Hilariously fucked up. Watt flooring it, of course ("Floor Rock", Steve always says). Hope he didn't catch any tentacles. On to Omaha to a Rock Bowling Alley (!) 3 hour drive.
I heard from Steve that Carla and the Fibbers guitarist (name eluding me) broke up while on the road. This could be really weird when we hook up with them ....hmmmm....
Vince and Michael are sick with my fucking bug. Vince seems like he'll follow my path exactly. Michael claims to be a day behind me, which actually means he's on the fast track. He's still drinking plenty of beer and crawling to bed, though amazing.
Did this bug come from those Boston flights? Passed around in Blythe during the Mota Meld?
Now I'm at the Ranch Bowl. Yes, it's a club, it's a bar, it's a bowling alley all in one wacky complex. We've soundchecked, strings are changed, dinner eaten, Keno played, (thanks to Michael) and lost, and I'm having one of those IvesIan experiences that seem so endemic to these clubs. Piped in music, "Married with Children" w/sound on a TV screen. In the bar, it's Nirvana w/water skiing and volley ball visuals. Don Delillo, of White Noise fame, would O.D. on these scenarios. Last night there was music in the bar outside the concert room and different music audible in the bar, leaking in at virtually equal volume. Whoa... woe to the sonically sensitive.
This place also has a volleyball area replete with sand for the special summery feel. Watt calls it a sandbox. It is, in fact, quite summery here in Omaha, probably 80 degrees today and sunny quite nice, especially compared to Denver. Watt's in a good mood (last I checked). There are about 100 neon beer signs in this place. I guess they serve beer....
I was right about ticket sales. Monies for us band members will be reduced in accordance with our threadbare beginnings. Vince is bummed 'cause when he pays Linda back for money borrowed on the last tour, he'll have nothing left over. Michael's happy 'cause he actually thinks less money means fewer income tax woes (he paid no tax for years and did not file). He's hilarious. "I'm certain there's something more about the Oklahoma City bombing, we don't know, involving I.R.S. records..." Sometimes his hippie mentors manifesto so alarmingly... so be it.
I keep thinking about Carla and the Fibbers. Listened to the album as I drove today maybe someday I'll comprehend why the opener, "Lilybelle", almost causes me to break down every time I hear it. This morning it was the usual goosebumps, but this time accompanied by the welling up of tears (which has happened a couple of times before). What's the deal? Only later did I sit in the car outside the Mo' 6 and inspect the lyrics which actually are quite intense, with an air of confrontation and tragedy. But it was/is simply the music that destroys me. Godgiven moments.
Time to call Darling Wife.
I'm sitting at the merch table w/Stephanie in what is becoming a nightly ritual of hanging prior to the set. 6 Finger are sounding really good. This place is weird old potato people at the door & ticket window. A good crowd. We have to be up at 7 (or earlier) tomorrow 6 hours plus to Minneapolis (First Avenue, Prince's Club).
Cigarette smoke is killing me. No Watt yet... need to make set lists ... must procure cognac.
About to go to Minneapolis. Good gig, in spite of Michael & Vince's disease. Vince was really struggling, but he came through. They were mincemeat at the end. Today I drive and let them sleep. Probably have a radio show for Spin mag. Met some nice folks afterwards last night a guy, Rob, who had Trio knowledge (in Omaha!!) and his friend Jonathan. Talked extensively w/two 18 year olds, a couple, Dave & MaryBeth. They'd been there when we arrived but didn't know to just come in and hang (felt bad about that), but we chatted and they were cute as hell. Dave's actually quite the dreamboat Mary Beth, in a B/W baby doll & totally Dorothy red shoes. Talked about P. J. Harvey, the Cramps, Patti Smith. I guess Lux had just blown through with the Cramps wearing a plastic miniskirt, fishnets, & thigh high boots. Go Lux! They explained that the reason the crowd was kind of docile is .. "Well, Omaha!!".
Got back early (before Watt) and hung with the sick boys.
Then Watt & Steve Watt totally animated at 2 a.m.! On the powerbook, on the Man or AstroMan? web page, reading song titles aloud. This morning, he's up "Pow!". "Let's visit sick bay!" "McCoy, here!". Bye for now.
I'm in the dressing room @ First Avenue. An early show (all ages) we hit around 8:30. 6 Finger just played. Hung out extensively w/Stephanie @ the merch table & they've only sold 1 pin! ($1). Stephanie is really whimsical (she's 22). Bought Vince (& me) a cognac. My throat is fucked. It was fine until cigs and trying to talk over the din (no voice). Copped the September French Vogue earlier before eating w/Vince & Michael: Olga, Nadja, & Juliette Binoche! Hope I can sing. More cognac required.
Michael's working his snare. He & Vince are sick as hell major head colds, Vince has a fever (Michael may as well, but isn't copping to it). Watt's been in a good mood. I drove all day, which made me sort of crosseyed. I'd love a nap... Run Westy Run are on now. They sound like a rock band. Steve's happy, they're playing his song. Horrible postMeat Puppets vocals... I've heard these songs in Watt's van.
Met a young guitar player named Dylan (who has a bit of nail polish on) who saw us in San Diego (Ringspiel tour) and at Irvine Meadows, Lollapalooza. An old fIREHOSE fan who doesn't dislike us! He digs us! All the publicity here actually says Mike Watt & the Crew of the Flying Saucer. This may be the first time. It's a pretty amazing club. About 100 video and pinball set ups, upstairs bar, killer P.A., nice people working here. I sort of wish I could party a bit tonight, but we've got 29 more shows in a row after this!
Tomorrow we're in Iowa City, so maybe I'll call John Rapson. He'd probably shit if he saw me thrashing around in my electric blue. Better call him!
9/28 In Iowa City @ India Cafe
Went w/Watt to Eden, his amp company in Minnesota styx. Steve, Vince & Michael took the Watt van, so that Watt & I could arrive & soundcheck w/gear set up.
Gig in Minneapolis was cool. First Avenue folks very cool Steve, (Watt's fave, the owner), Conrad, etc. A real class scene. Loudass P.A. Steve bought out 650 tickets to fill the place and all faces were fixed on Watt. I never did get a nap. Drank cognac for my throat all evening (slowly). A bit of a stumblebum, but all in all a good set (specially considering how sick Michael & Vince were). Watt was in his element: Run Westy Run, (Pals, & Steve loves their stuff), his fave club, a big crowd (about 1,000) . Encored w/"Maggot Brain" & "Piss Bottle Man". Grant Hart showed up what a great guy. Rolled joints (pas pour moi), helped Michael & Vince break down their stuff, brought us a bag of paperbacks for the tour (including Koszinski's "The Painted Bird" & "Encyclopedia of Villains"). I think he dug it (the set).
By the end of the set I was really drained. Sitting mutely in the dressing room w/my plastic cup of cognac (Conrad had arranged to get it downstairs to me all ages rules, you know and it was mega). Steve & Michael had scored some boo, & Terry & Craig from the Westies suggested we go to Weck's Bar (across the parking lot) where their bartender friend Linda (quite a rock and roll gal) would take care of us.
So we did. She poured a massive Courvoisier. Watt was w/Grant & others & buying double Wild Turkeys for Michael, Vince & whoever. Talked w/Terry awhile. Started to feel lovely. Called D.D. bad connection. She couldn't hear me well, though I heard her fine. It was frustrating, but good to hear her sweet voice.
Went back to Jolly (lit) Michael & we talked about Watt, music, the whole deal (Vince has reunited w/ an old musician friend, named Chris). Typically (when I'm starting to get pretty drunk), I hid tears as they welled up thinking about my life: D.D., the Trio, Watt, my girlfriends, my family, the L.A. crowd basically how damn lucky I feel. How blessed. It always fucks me up to feel good.
Smoke was killing me all night. Finally went outside and waited w/Dennis (good guy) & the crew + Chris, for Watt. Vince was shitfaced, perhaps the drunkest I've seen him. He was so blotto, he left his horn & backpack @ the bar (had to go back). I was pissed off he was (I thought) supposed to drive the next day to take the load off me (didn't happen anyway, I drove all day today). He was out of it. We went to the Mo' 6, where I slept right away. It turns out that after he stumbled around my car for awhile, he passed out. Michael found him w/his horn & backpack asleep on the grass and could barely wake him (now he was pissed 'cause he got even less sleep). "Muy borracho", Watt kept saying.
This morning, Michael & I had "Health Breakfasts" near the Mo'. (He deriding me for only having toast) & talked about stuff. He's through helping Vince get through these situations (the terms "codependent" & "enable" seem sickeningly relevant).
Then Watt & I lit out for the Eden Amp. Co. (w/stops at a computer place & supermarket first). Eden Meister, Dave, is very cool. Watt had told me about the "onearmed man" and his literal cottage industry. (It's in a cottage in the beautiful Minnesota woods). Watt picked up his new 4 x 10" cab and had his 2 x 10" shipped back to Pedro.
Pleasant drive (5 hours or more) to Iowa City. Soundcheck @ Gabe's very small & destined to be a swelterer. Haven't called Rapson yet, but since we're in no hurry to get to Chicago (soundcheck is @ 10:30!), maybe I can see him tomorrow.
Now I'm alone @ India Cafe, drinking a Singha. Finished a splendid veg. meal. A couple of guys near me dropped and shattered their salad plate and just kept talking nonchalantly as the owners scraped it up. Weird.
Hung out @ the club predinner w/Stephanie & various 6 Finger members. A nice camaraderie is developing. It is also evident that Stephanie doesn't mind me hanging out w/her at all. We looked at band 8" x 10"s on the wall together. She pointing out various Austin bands and we traipsed through my toolbox (she gave me a little plastic 'Hello Kitty" pillbox for my toolkit). Okay, (D.D. and anyone else) another Nels crush in full swing. It'll be okay and her delightful face (very animated at times we make little faces at each other & she does little voices sometimes that remind me of Camille) is saving each day for me. Happiness.
Watt & I talked about music the band & me today early in the car. The rest of the drive was just sleepy & affable. Heard his views on the drummers. (He's actually quite acute) & he really is supportive of them... wants Michael to get more creative (yet more strictly grooving) & for Vince to relax & try to have more fun (& eye contact). We agreed that Vince has great musical ideas. As for me, I reiterated that he should tell me if my nail polish &/or leaping around ever embarrasses him. I explained that it's not just me being me, but also a challenge to his crowd: like Pat Smear, I endeavor to invite all into the party while simultaneously telling them all that they can fuck off. He was into it & said never to worry also that the reason he says my name so much onstage is to tell his crowd that he's behind me (the juvenile 39year old gangly fruitloop) all the way. I am ever grateful.
He keeps saying that he's starting over for the third time and I'm sure that for every guy (or Zoe) who tells me how much he/she digs my contribution, there are more people who go home saying that the fag sucked. Why do I feel subtly empowered by this?
Chris (6 Finger soundgirl) and I were supposed to have a nail polish summit tonight, but I feel it's nogo besides, I haven't even shaved in 2 days I'm in full tour stench mode. Not a pretty sight...
I'm back @ Gabes. It's going to be packed with kids. I really wish I'd had a nap..
I finally figured out who Jay looks like. He's like a cross between Zachariah Love (Neil McClaren), Tim Berne & Pierce Brosnan!
And Stephanie has a Geena Davis/Juliette Lewis quality, though that seems kind of trite. She loves Drew Barrymore, but she's way cuter and cooler than Drew. It's fun pointing out cute crowd members together. Better call D.D.
9/29 @ Jifflube, Coralville (Iowa City)
I'm in a waiting room getting an oil change. I'm drinking the worst coffee of the trip, from a donut place next door. It now grey and almost rainy a big change from the string of beautiful sun we've had (Watt & I did encounter a few minutes of rain & a massive nearby lightning bout in Minn., yesterday).
Last night was a burn. Small place (Gabe's Oasis that dog will be there in a week). Packed w/kids. A total sweatbath one of those places where the moisture hangs off the ceiling like stalactites. It was so hot that Jay's strapon synth wouldn't stay in tune plus he almost passed out from the heat onstage (apparently, heard this from Watt). I hung in the back next to Stephanie and hid on the floor, trying to rest. The smoke was killing me. 6 Finger sounded shredded, which on their fast numbers was great. In fact, they seemed to be really pushing the tempos impressive in such a broister!
We had a real devoted crowd Watt fans down deep. I broke my D string on "Against the '70's". That what I get for cutting corners. Earlier it seemed that the strings had life in them, so I only changed the top 2 strings. Silly rabbit! The beater Jag, my spare, is turning out to be a total drag. It lost gain/highs after about 1 song more ghosts. When I get back to L.A., it's going away. (Gotta call Black Market today at some point). Anyway, I just cranked everything up to compensate. Watt was raging, seemed to be having fun. Monitors were getting pushed, crushing the pedal dachau again sign of a good show! Encore of "Maggot Brain". Seems quite searing. Drummers sounded pretty good. Real strong on some tunes. "ETicket Ride", & "Piss Bottle Man" still need tweaking (they tend to drag). The crowd always seems to get a kick out of my falsetto on "Piss Bottle", and I always love it. "Chinese Firedrill" is always out of tune, which bums me out. Coming after "Intense Song", I've smashed the guitar to a pulp. I try to tune up fast, but so far I suck and haven't gotten it in tune.
Afterwards, I talked to a bunch of sincere kids (Kevin, Jason, etc) who really dug it. One kid told me "that was the best guitar playing I've ever heard in my life" whoa, there, pard!
Apparently Watt had begun getting into Michael's shit about his bass drum sound again and really pissed him off. They debated heatedly and Michael got Watt to admit that his delivery of his ideas needs a little softening. All was well after about 15 minutes.
I had pretty much withdrawn. Had called D.D. before dinner. Talking to her, missing her, hearing about her erotic dream, then seeing Stephanie with her little nautical slitback dress (revealing a stunning sun tattoo in the middle of her back) I was in full blue longing mode. D.D. & I are having a rougher time being away from each other this time. Wah!! So I just sunk deep into a miasma of conflicting emotions. I miss my wife!
Also talked to John Rapson and his wife, Beth, on the phone. (John teaches here I played w/him + Vinny's quintet, here at this time last year). He's sick, but if there's time, I may see him this morning. Better call him now...
Phone rock w/Rapson no facetoface. It's now raining like hell. We're off to Chicago Mo. in 'burbs. We don't even load in till 8. laundry?)
John sounds like he's doing a lot of interesting things. Big band, improv ensembles, fibre optic improv link ups. (Says that, oddly enough, Iowa leads the nation in fibre optic technology). Beth is fine; Hanna's got breasts (& taken up trumpet), Sam's in high school(!), Clara's following behind them and is fine... a good life.
(Got to find a trinket for Stephanie today. Last night she gave me a little pink 'Hello Kitty' pillbox to put in my toolbox. She collects matches... Hmmm... It's got to be glittery, 70's ish).
Every morning now my chest hurts. Dry hackin' chunk. Then I'm okay (as things moisten up) until the cigs hit then the cough.
Now it's just me & Michael to Chicago. Vince has the magnetic minichess set to engage in w/Watt. We're the phlegm twins. Car feels great. Onward.
9/30 Milwaukee outside Shank Hall afternoon
Into Chicago Michael and I got separated from the Watt van with the swirl of heavy traffic & highways. It gets intense outside Chicago, and Illinois drivers blow. Trying to think ahead, we went by the Mo' 6 from last time, but no Watt & no Watt reservations. It later turned out that Steve had to pull off right away to get gas. He was in fumes (a Watt nono) and we did end up staying at the same suburban Mo' 6 as last time (Euclid exit, near....). Anyway, Michael and I decided to dine and do laundry, since the absolute earliest time for loadin was 8 p.m.
We went back to a place we'd eaten at before "The Fourteen", a bluehair/family place with the world's largest and most layered menus. Different size meals within menus. It was fine. Then we booked to Chicago, thinking we'd missed rush hour. But we didn't miss the spillout of a Cubs game, so it took us an hour to get into town. Avoided I 90 toll road and took the long way in I 290, a good way to see the many neighborhoods.
The Cabaret Metro (on N. Clare) is in a pretty happening neighborhood, and its near Laundryland. When we arrived (8 p.m.), the Watt van was there, but no Watt, Steve or Vince. An all ages show was in progress and ending at 10, so we booked over to the Laundryland and did laundry. While spinning the duds, we cruised Clare and found a used book/record store & copped a used L.P. of soundtrack music to Fassbinder's Veronika Voss & Lola a total score. Michael found a used Duke bio. Saw a perfect store for 'thank you' trinkets for Stephanie (for the Pillbox & polish) but it was closed: Flashback Collectibles all 70's trash like, lunch pails, 'Judd for the Defense' novels (!), etc. Went back to venue postlaundry and 6 Finger was there, Vince asleep in my car, Steve hanging. Also arriving Joe Carducci, Duane Denison, who are great guys. Duane brought me an L.P. of the DenisonKimball Trio. (I had sent him a copy of "Ground", which he said blew him away). He also knows 6 Finger. Carducci is so insular and intense. He felt "old" listening to 6 Finger's set Devo?! Now?! Local idiot savant/annoyance Wesley someoneor other was shouting, talking shit endlessly. I guess he's a nearfamous crazy guy w/records on amphetamine reptile. Duane (who clearly has had enough of this man) said he used to see him on the bus almost every day threatening to kill people. An insane, massive black man w/walkman on and casio preset music. Hmm... it's odd when people voyeuristically cotton to crazies and make records of them (i.e. Wildman Fischer, Rory Erickson). They always get more than they bargained for.
Anyway, Duane and I checked out 6 Finger. Vince sat in on alto resplendent in requisite red shirt. Watt later made hysterical comments about the shirt emphasizing his svelte figure. Their set was much more insane than visual & good for it. James actually moved around! It became in my mind "The Night James moved on Stage." Asked him about it later and he said, "I don't know what got into me", grinning. He's funny. It had taken forever for the club folks to set mikes (Chris & Rachel all the club employees were exceptionally nice, Carey (killer red bellbottoms & midriff), Steve etc. 6 Finger had no soundcheck and a little tension, but it all worked out. Our largest crowd yet (paying about 460 or more). It felt full. It's another old theater w/balcony & basement club.
Watt clearly hated the nonallages super late time. We weren't even on stage till 1 a.m., but it was all okay we played well. No major incidents, good dynamics. My throat again was killing me, my neck hurt. The crowd gawked, which gave me my first onstage bout of selfconsciousness.
Bob Teagen (the legendary) showed up w/his mesmerizing buzzheaded girlfriend, Bobbi, to videotape us. Boy, he gets around! No nail polish. I'd stripped it the night before in anticipation of a nail party w/Chris and whoever else. I guess it way okay, but I felt like a specimen being carefully observed, and as a result I think my playing was less than sharp. Word kept leaking out that Mascis was in town. It was true, he showed up behind the stage at the end of the set.
As we walked offstage to a really good response (Watt's locked in on a set list that he likes, so we always end w/"Tuff Gnarl" now). Watt asked J to do "Maggot Brain". J, typically lethargic, took Watt down stairs to the dressing room, where I guess a million dudes had showed up (and drunk all our beer, etc). I waited offstage for what seemed like forever, finally shouting, "What is this England!?" to nobody in particular. Finally they came out for the selfsoilage hour: J, Watt & King from Urge Overkill on drums (J's idea apparently). J on my guitar playing in the wrong key for almost half the song, then went to Emixo. instead of Eaeolian. King never got the groove. Then this Watt fan, Scott went out on Vince's drums to cinch the soilage quotient. J went on forever, gradually turning up everything to 10. It stunk! It was rockstar bullshit I hate to admit. Then the crew returned for "Piss Bottle" (which was when I discovered the pedal settings. J had left the guitar on the stage w/ the compressor on just squealing). That was it.
Avoided all backstage schmooze and broke down gear. J bailed, I acknowledged him, but I didn't know what to say. King was so drunk, I don't think he knew anything. Steve Reed: "I hate it when the gigs get cheapened". I did say something to Watt that was a dig. He's always going on about J's photographic musical memory, so I said, upon seeing that Watt was bugged by the slackness, "so much for J's photoraphic memory!" Watt howled and found J & started telling him what key it's in. I guess he didn't remember it at all.
When I found out that that Billy guy from Smashing Pumpkins was there I really wish that I'd done "Maggot Brain", 'cause the rest of the set from my end felt halfon...
Packed up and hung out a bit. Met Troy, one time Meat Puppet, and his pals (he wanted to get us all mojo'd out, but no). Had a cognac. Met a kid named Eric and his girlfriend (Anne..?) & gave him a C.D., since he kept asking about the Trio. A lot of guys were real supportive and complimentary. Stephanie was in a funny mood & we had real little laughs, (even though her fave shirt, A G. Love w/ Special Sauce T. had gotten black marker on it). She rules. She is saving me. It's so obvious that we like each other at this point and that it's not going anywhere too volatile. She was also selling the newlyarrived Watt shirts: black w/orange, cat, shoebox, etc. cool.
Back at the Mo', I went from a seriously euphoric wacky mood to total sleep while everyone else was hanging out. I mean I went down.
Woke up at 9:30, back to sleep till 11:30! Got up loagy (sp?) as hell and later couldn't find my watch. Went nuts. Went back to Mo. (Watt & Steve on ahead), but found it in w/my clothes. Whew! I love my watch (it's from D.D. my only possession other than gear on this tour that really matters to me well, wedding ring, but that never comes off). So Michael, Vince & I got to eat breakfast at "The Fourteen".
Michael drove into Milwaukee, while I finally got a moment to thumb the new Harper's Bazaar, and crash a bit. Now I'm feeling kind of okay. No more coughing, please God. It's overcast & mild as we wait for the club to open. This was supposed to be 2 shows : one all ages and one oldsters w/drinks in their hands. But sales for early show were slim, so it's been combined thank God! 2 shows tonight could kill me. More sleep required. Must expel more lung gunk. Vince is sitting outside the club eating again! Man, this guy never quits!
Bad news. Show is 21 & over totally a drag. Watt is superbummed. Keeps making jokes like "The Myth, the Man, the Shill for Rolling Stone". "The Has-Been that NeverWas, the Asshole". He's laughing at his own jokes and bumming majorly.
Since the show is now for old drinkers, we had over 3 hours to kill. Found an incredible vintage clothing place called 'Closet Classics'. Amazing. There was a wonderful, hotlooking black transvestite w/2 friends shopping and giggling. A large greyhaired women was running the counter, assisted by an adorable tattooed brunette with vintage acetate shirt (hideous) and baggy army pants. Bought a black Elviraesque wig and white make up for Halloween. Also a little plastic deathhead to hang on my guitar, and some wacky sunglasses and nifty celtoid hoops for darling wife. Spent too much, had a great time.
Walked around Brady Street, bough a spare egg whisk & a 3way adaptor. Had a Schell Anniversary Ale @ Nomads, a nice old pub. Shavenheaded woman bartender very butch. I kept seeing signs for Adrian Legg he seems to be playing everywhere. Plus we're following the Blaster/Beat Farmers tour everywhere.
Couldn't find any postcards. Would've been a good time to do some missive missiles.
The current repeating set list:
Formal Introduction The Big Bang Theory Milking the Cow The Red & the Black Big Train Against the '70's Drove up from Pedro The 15th Makin' the Freeway Intense Song for Madonna to Sing Chinese Firedrill Forever/One Reporter's Opinion Eticket Ride Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing Coincidence (is either hit or miss) Tuff Gnarl
(Encores: Maggot Brain, Piss Bottle Man).
6 Finger Satellite have arrived. Everyone seems fine (shopping in Chicago). John is tired. He also seems like the most uptight, or square headed. Rick is wrapped up pretty tightly, but it registers w/me as kind of intensity. Jay and James are just great, and Chris & Stephanie, we know they rule. They also have their former "Sound Goddess" Sheila in tow again... Hmm...
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this page created 25 may 00