It’s a confusingly bright morning in Portland Maine; somehow equally misty and bright. Pleasure boats bob idly in the water as fishers and tugs skate a slow white wake across the surface.
Yesterday was a red letter day. I had a lobster roll, looked at boats, and drank many of the fine malted beverages indigenous to this place.
The Flask Lounge is a very nice place, a cute local, confidently cool and illuminatingly unpretentious. The club sits in a renovated historical district of town, probably called “Something Hill” or “Random Heights.” I guess I could look it up, but some mishmash of undeserved ennui and welcome sunshine stays my thumb.
The show was uneventful, so uneventful that the first band Modern Rust didn’t even show. I was distracted most of the time, but it seemed to go over very well. Joel Carpenter & the Effects were very good. It is most excellent to see and share a bill with a band like them. Like the town of Portland itself, their commitment to the craftsmanship of rock and roll is staggering a time of neophillic fad bands.
After the show the ages old demon of fatigue was upon us. As we were (and are) time rich and cash poor in this venture I decided we were going to camp. Everyone was resistant to this idea but I didn’t really care much. The park was called Bradbury Mountain…as in Ray. I think everyone had a bad nights sleep except me, and my desire for balance makes me feel somewhat guilty, but I rarely insist on things like this…plus it was basically free. I feel like cheapness is a trait crucial to this kind of touring, it really couldn’t happen otherwise. Think about it, at super cheap rates (something like 20 bucks a day per person) accommodation alone is in the neighborhood of 80 bucks a day. Add 5 dollars per meal per person per day and gas and what have you got…..a really shitty vacation. Broke = game over
I suppose it is the problem solving I enjoy most about this lifestyle. Finding new places, learning new things, and most of all putting my limited resourcefulness to the test again and again. Add the battle for momentary transcendence endemic in music to the mix and what have you got? Thrills….and not the cheap ones either. The opportunity to decisively win (or lose) hundreds of little battles (not to mention the medium ones) every single day. That might sound irritating to many, but to me that’s what it’s all about….that is except the hokey pokey.
I am reporting live today from the Dunkin Donuts in scenic Framingham MA. The melange of sharp greys and dull greens rolls out before me twisting itself into auto wreckers, scraggly trees, and broke ass superhighways. It’s not so bleak as it sounds though, there is a certain earnestness about the terrain. It is as though a war took place here in extreme slow motion…..maybe it did.
Yesterday was a strange one, a kind of jaunt through terrible weather and excellent diners (JP Spoonem’s of Cranston, RI and The Loving Hut of Worcester being particular highlights). I would describe them but the confines of this medium force my brevity.
When we arrived at the venue it was pouring rain. Drab sheets of water ran through the rills in the cold-cracked asphalt, but lo…..well, it just kept raining. The Lucky Dog was still closed so I made my way through the deluge to a pub called The Banner. It was what I expected, a nice local pub, full from the weather and the hockey playoffs, and I had a quiet pint. I really love the quiet pint, and so (by extension) I developed an instant affection for the place.
After a while Erick arrived to open up Lucky Dog. I haven’t decided as to whether he or the place is more awesome. An incredible room filled with the sweetest form of eclectic decor, run by a guy with the coolest permutation of the Massachusetts accent.
We were playing with a rock band from Long Island called In Circles that were very good. They were young and sloppy, but their energy was as electrified as their giant amps. They were followed by a jammy local band called Killiney Woods. Our set was late and not many folks were there but our commitment to the bit remained intact. Afterward we closed out the bar talking, drinking, and trading stories with Erick until everyone’s show buzz was replaced with exhaustion. He apologized for the lack of attendance, but this is new turf for us and making an ally like him here was more than worth the trip.
I find myself in peculiar circumstances this morning, in a chair, in an art studio (surprisingly free of art), in Providence, in Rhode Island, on the Earth, in the the Sol System, in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the only universe we even remotely understand without math.
The last two nights have been good. The Mercury Lounge was a success, and we played a very interesting bar called Dusk in a warehouse district of Providence. I expect I should’ve taken pictures, but that’s the way it goes.
There is an exciting element of experimentation to this tour. We have more people now (thus more stuff), are covering new terrain, and I am attempting to write this with my phone. We shall see how it all turns out. I suspect it will be good.
It seems like a good time to finish up for today. We are headed for Worcester, Massachusetts and the Lucky Dog Music Hall, and I keep suppressing this funny greedy feeling. It’s almost like a Pokemon type mania. All these states are so new and so small with cultural and culinary peculiarities I feel like I’ve got to catch em all.
The road to Asheville is long and mountains are treacherous in a 1988 Corrola station wagon. I am proud to say we made it through them and through the cold mountain night to The Landing and the Dreamtide festival. We met Phil there and then talked to our contact Andor and found out what the deal would be for the night. He said we’d be on about midnight, and judging by overall feeling of slow dreaminess pervading the place I figured it’d probably be a bit later and a pretty prime slot. Left to our own devices, we loaded in, secured our stuff and met Mark and Whitney for dinner in Asheville proper. It was great to see them again and we had some pretty amazing pizza at a place called the Standard Pizza Co. or some such thing. When we returned it was still early so it was time to explore. Like many hippie-type events the whole thing was divided into a variety of stations featuring different buzz enhancing activities. Mostly bored by this I returned to the music room and basked in the heat of a giant wood stove while all kinds of performers made music at varying degrees of skill.
As for my two cents about it…this whole thing is a Timothy Leary/Ken Kesey freakout 2.0 that I can’t even really begin to describe…or clearly understand. The Landing is a kind of compound of open homes populated at all times by 17+ freethinking Ashevillians. The look of it is similar to a kind of motel adorned with a variety of ceremonial looking fires and ephemeral led laser art. The trappings of this are all extremely to my taste, it is the feel and underlying motivations of the whole thing that is baffling. You may know this about me but I will do nearly anything as long as I have at least a trifecta of solid reasons to do so. For example, jumping off a cliff into a river. Reason one, I really want to because it’d be cool. Reason two, this is excellent fodder for stories when I feel nervous or anxious in a conversation with someone. Reason three, I have observed locals do this with no particular technique, and I will likely never have the opportunity to do this again with rednecks as an ideal control group. These may or may not be good reasons but I feel they are all solid. As far as this community is concerned I’ve got the cool part. I figure the cost is diffused and everyone has more space. This is the hitch, I cannot produce an authentic reason why I personally would do this. I suppose being part of such a community is of higher value to these folks than the inevitable drama/hassle/lack of privacy. Not for me, but it is cool to go to their parties.
Back to the chronology, I really enjoyed my time in the “Awarehouse” music room. It was excellent to cool out and enjoy the kind of compounding micro-decor that hippie types do so well. Our show however was good, but felt very weird. Jasper had suggested we start with some slow stuff, but being the jerk that I am I insisted on playing the set. In retrospect, after the philosopho-musical vagaries of improv electro, and the crisp but ambient loop-violin show, loud weird rock and roll can be a bit jarring to the psychoactivated mind. This being the case, and competing with a variety of other consumption related activities, the crowd thinned a bit during our show. I was assured afterword that those who were there were mesmerized and I did talk to a guy who told us that we must have arrived on angel wings specifically to blow his mind. I can get behind that.
We left shortly following Mr. Mark Garner back to his home atop the mountain. This departure was rudely interrupted however by the Asheville police. It seems as though I had rolled through a stop sign. The whole thing, even at the time, seemed so ridiculous. We, some grungy dudes in a 25 year old car leaving a crazy solstice party that celebrated the non-ending of the world, had to be the only rock band in America stone sober with not so much as a speck of keif dust to be found on us. You could kind of see in the cop’s face that he felt like an ass, but had to give us a ticket to appease the three cars he’d called in as backup. Though it was funny I was really angry at myself as the fines resulted in 50 bucks plus 238 dollars in court costs. Infuriating. Anyway, luckily we could (grudgingly) pay the ticket, so we proceeded to Mark’s place.
The road up the mountain is long, but my blogging time has grown short so I will describe it in more detail in the next installment.
We arrived in Leiper’s Fork, to the home of Casey and Molly Black at six o’clock in the morning. I was groggy, Jasper was past verbal, and Don had just been hit by his 98th wind. If it weren’t for that damn central time zone we’d have been an hour more polite, but as it was we were ridiculously early/late. Luckily Molly’s alarm clock had just sung its worktime song, and so it wasn’t as though we wrenched them both out of geometric dreamscapes populated by pearly unicorns…only Casey. I still felt bad. I don’t remember much aside from remarking on how soft and padded the carpet seemed and attempting to fit into a mummy sleeping bag crafted for a much smaller person.
The next thing I knew it was nearly noon and the smells of something delicious cooking awoke my beast-self, the clamour of its opportunivoracity eventually rousing my conscious mind. Apparently Don (on his 117th wind) and Casey had gone to the grocery store and acquired eggs and some potatoes of the red-skinned variety. It was even more delicious than it smelled, and I whiled away the half-morning catching up with Casey and grilling Don about how the eggs were seasoned. It was good. When we had all awakened, I asked if Casey had a football or something. Though it was not what I meant he pulled out a European football and we proceeded to kick it around for some time. It was clear within minutes that Jasper was far and away the superior footballer amongst us. It was good that we weren’t playing a very competitive sort of game though. The thrust of this game of soccer was mainly to say crazy stuff before kicking the ball… preferably in an outrageous accent. I would elaborate on this, but aside from it being less magical if I did it would also be substantially less funny. I hate it when people say this but you had to be there.
Playing pretend third world schoolboy is exhausting and so we took the party back inside and played some songs…an activity we are all better at. Casey had some new country stuff to show us and an absolutely awesome video for “Fire.” When dark set in and we started to get hungry we headed out to a place called Country Boy for dinner. It is a funny little place in Leiper’s Fork proper. It’s kind of like a grungy family restaurant that is not grungy in the least. It was nicely well lit, and thoroughly confusing. There are places like this in the spectrum of casual dining, but not precisely like this one. Most are grungy diners, cheap food, not so clean, decent food, kind of a dining staple of my life. The other end of the spectrum are folksy tourist traps where you have the honor of sitting on cheap furniture, anachronistic bric-a-brac discreetly bolted to the walls with all the artistic subtlety of an auto accident, and paying 15 bucks for a fried catfish sandwich on white bread with miracle whip. This place however was directly in the center of this spectrum. A well kept high standards version of the first, or a completely sincere iteration of the second. The food was great as well.
When dinner was done we returned to the casa del Black and began to prepare for the evenings festivities. We were setting up as Molly arrived home and so we got a chance to catch up a bit with her in the conscious hours. I gathered that she has a Madmen-esque job these days and that seems pretty cool. Before long furniture was moved and the guests started to arrive.
There were a lot of faces familiar and new and I was glad to see again the various characters that have populated Casey’s sphere of being. The show was awesome. Casey opened up with a few songs and it was really good to play on those tunes again. After playing his tunes he joined us on cajon. It was really great to have him back in the band if just for a night and we had an amazingly good time. It seemed to go over very well and though I would’ve come just to see Casey and Molly we did alright in terms of sales and tips and that was a huge relief.
After the show we hung out and it was amazing the sense of community that permeated the event. It turned out that most our audience had moved elsewhere living lives big and small, near and far from the town where they grew up. I was a kind of gypsy as a kid, and though I kind of had this experience with family, I’ve never had it with friends. This is an amazing feeling to be included in this. I guess I really understood for the first time why people get so assed up about the holidays. It’s not just the reminiscences of times past but a kind of magnetic sweep over our lives, realigning our atoms and reassuring us that we are all part of something effected and bound by the same forces in the end. It was hard to see everyone go after connecting and reconnecting with them, hard to leave in the morning, but this is the life I signed up for so there it is.
Today was my less than triumphant return to the town I claim as my home. Less than triumphant, but more than enough…that is how I’d describe it. We left Nathan’s place strangely, Jasper left his shoes behind trying to prevent a neigborhood dog from getting in the house. Finding that Nathan and Cody had already left to go to Gary and Vicki’s place on the lake there wasn’t much we could do so we headed Athens way.
On the Coralee front, it seemed as though our new junkyard tire had developed a slow leak and, being a constant source of anxiety was a problem that needed to be fixed. Luckily Kyle’s dad’s shop was on the way and Dave patched the thing up in minutes. That being done we proceeded to the Grit, my favorite restaurant of all time, I had the golden bowl as usual, and I my anxieties about my once home were momentarily pacified.
After some attempts at geocaching and some wandering around it was time to proceed to the Terrapin Brewery. As we walked into the back biergarten Kate greeted us. It was an exchange surprisingly far from strange. There was admittedly a lot of buildup in my psyche anyway. Meeting again my once lover four years later in a oddly professiono-casual setting. Her native directness diffused the whole thing in a big hurry as she welcomed us and told us what the deal was and where to set up to play. It was to be a day of reunions I began to understand as Mr. Kell Dodson arrived with the PA. Still holding the record for my most reliable friend, he brought us a very nice PA at that. It was amazingly good to see him, and I hope that he follows through on his threat to crash at our place in Brooklyn. The gig was kind of rough (as I was later to find it always is) but I had a good time reliving some Telecash memories with Mr. Nathan Willams and looking out onto a scene populated by characters from my Athens past. Paul Davis, his sister Katy, Leigh Ann, Dave Fitz, Nathan and Cody, Rainey…it would have only been more complete if Dawkins and Isaac had suddenly arrived.
Our exit from Terrapin was hasty as we had to make another gig at the Flicker Bar by 9. I was a bit disappointed as I only had time to really try the experimental peanut butter chocolate beer. It was very good I might add. As the beer tour shut down we packed up quickly, bid everyone adieu, rounded up those still interested in partying and headed to Flicker. More on home turf, the flicker show was substantially better. I really like that place and as we walked in Mark was already setting up for the roots xmas party. We set up and got ready to play with New York haste so we were on pretty directly. For this gig we were accompanied by american baritone Benjamin C. Dawkins. As always he delivered a most stellar performance and it is always a pleasure to have him onstage. We were followed by a number of great folk songwriters and singers led by a man named Mark Cunningham. He is a really nice guy, and a good songwriter to boot and I got kind of….shall we say, folked up, all the while catching up on the events in all our lives that transpired since last we spoke. It was nice, and before long it was time to go. Our sleeping options being somewhat limited, and imposing where available, we decided to make the drive onto Nashville.
I don’t remember much from the drive, being passed out for most of it, I just remember being nervous about driving down a country driveway in rural Tennesee (rock salt being what it is), and being hesitant to wake up Casey when we arrived at 6 in the morning. What transpired next though is a story for another entry.
We arrived in Milledgeville a bit too late, but Nathan and Cody only seemed a little annoyed. I apologized and Nathan made some hyper sincere statement followed by a hilariously snarky joke so I knew it was all good. It is always great to see them.
Our stay there was (with the exception of Jasper testing his new-found geocaching skills) mostly restful and involved a lot of sleeping and watching of movies we’d missed out on. Everyone these days seems to have these giant high frame rate TV’s. They are very cool but there is a certain tele-mystique that is somehow ruined by them. From the makeup on the actor’s faces to the temporary sets one can really see behind the curtain, so much so that even the big budget movies of yore look like sci-fi channel original miniseries from the late nineties. In most places this would be a little unnerving, stealing from the magic of the experience. At Nathan’s however, it is a huge bonus, the revealed flaws giving him an even greater platform for his unique brand of media jokery. If I had some investment capital I would definitely produce the Nathan show. It would be kind of like the thinking man’s Beavis and Butthead.
After restful nights and pleasant days, I was ready to brave the hipster vortex of Athens, GA. It is a bitter sweet place in my mind, but we are buys all day and I expect it will be, if not a positive one, a rich experience for us all.