It was a particularly beautiful day when we arrived in Savannah. The sun filtered through the Spanish moss draped oaks dappling the broad smooth streets with shifting flecks of afternoon sunshine. We were bound for the home of Don’s longtime friend Matt Uhl. When we arrived Matt greeted us, introduced us to his wife Corey and offered to take us downtown and show us around.
Downtown Savannah was a lot nicer than I remember. The buildings that were once boarded up and shut down were now a wide array of shops and cafe’s. Our first destination was Moon River, a local brewery in the heart of Savannah’s historic district. The beer there was excellent and (like New Orleans) it was legal to roam the streets and taste the beer as we drank in the late afternoon sunshine in the idiosyncratic tiny squares that make up the city. As we walked Matt talked about the history of the place and introduced us to Geocaching. I don’t know if you already know about this, but it is a GPS treasure hunt supported by a world wide geocaching community. It is very cool and I encourage all of you to try it out sometime. Jasper especially took to it, and I suspect he will be killing a lot of downtime this way throughout the tour.
Around dark we headed back to Matt and Corey’s place to get ready for the gig. The venue was to be at a guy named Brendan’s place. When we got there the party was already jumping in a most nerdtacular way. A big gang of dudes were playing some kind of high intensity video came while a spastic dog (who I now know to be named Boba Fett) jumped around hilariously in the yard. The show itself was pretty cool, and though we did it acoustic I think we made contact with our brothers in geekery.
After the show we watched the new batman (mystery science theatre style) and went to bed.
The next day began as sunny as the first, and I arose to Matt cooking up some eggs. The breakfast was amazing. Walking outside to get a little air I noticed that the rear passenger side tire was most certainly on its last legs; the woven steel belt sparkled like a cyborg freshly wounded. That being the case we spent most of the morning getting it fixed. It was a little nostalgic to me, talking to small shop mechanics who are friends of friends, running to the junk yard, getting mildly lost from mostly accurate directions, and small amounts of cash changing hands many times. After long though we got the whole thing taken care of, and, as we had time to kill, Matt took us Geocaching in the woods. It was pretty cool and Jasper left a copy of Rocket City up in a tree dwelling cache. After geocaching our next destination was to be Fort Pulaski. Out on the causeway heading to Tybee Island, Fort Pulaski was a key installment during the civil war. Designed by Robert E. Lee in his earlier years the fort was the most important guardian of the Savannah River and, by extension the port of Savannah. It was a particularly interesting place, and I recommend going there if you would like to know more. As for me I thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to stand on the ramparts and feel the sea breeze as the rain drifted in from the east.
It was nearly time for us to be on the road so we left Fort Pulaski and took Matt back to his place and loaded up the car to go. We were expected for dinner in Milledgeville, and though it is fashionable to be late, it is rude to be too late.
I don’t really think I should comment on this officially. Let it be known though that the Hostel in the Forest is just a place everyone should visit. It seems as though relating simply events, or even thoughts tied to those events would cheapen the experience in my mind, and therefore undermine the role this place plays in the maintenance of my sanity. I will say though that I would like to thank Alex for having us, all the staff that live in the forest, and Mark Garner (our other tour saint) for arranging it all, and all of the wonderful people we met there.
Tomorrow we are off to Savannah, and I am very excited to be back there again.
We left DeLand early. Bidding Bob farewell we headed for the coast and Daytona, our mission…airbrushing.
Daytona is sad in the winter, the empty streets lined with empty beach stores, worn out bikers filling empty hours waiting for summer to come and fill the air with sound. My plan for the day was to get a t-shirt with a scene of a dolphin jumping from a calm harbor, the silhouetted palm tree serene against a pink and orange sunset. Underneath I intended for it to read “Fuck Everything,” but my dreams were thwarted by the modest prices at the Airbrush Palace. Que sera sera. Jasper however, was successful in his airbrush acquisitions. I won’t spoil the surprise though, you’ll have to ask him if you want that story.
Soon enough it was time to take our leave of Daytona and head toward Jacksonville. The road was long and straight, the road flow broken only by signs for oranges and thirteen foot gators. As darkness began to set in we reached the sprawling metropolis to which we were headed. Jacksonville, I have come to understand, is one of the largest cities in the country…by land mass. We arrived in Jacksonville just about forty minutes before seeing anything that resembled a town. It took a minute to find the Burro Bar, but find it we did.
The Burro Bar is awesome. It is my favorite kind of mega dive, and I mean that in the most complementary way possible. It is an amalgam of my top three dives, arranged in a kind of terrace. When you first walk in (on the highest level) it is a normal drinking dive, a place well loved into artful disrepair. Walking through the arches to the second level it is a pool dive. Green tables dominating the floor space and lit mostly by hanging bar lights emblazoned with beer logos I can’t recall. The third and lowest level is that of the grungy music venue. The walls, bandaged by stickers and graffiti, seemed somehow tougher than the others creating an air that can only be described as “badassness.” All this was linked by a bar that stayed the same height across all of the tiers. Though the venue end of the bar was very like sitting at the kids table, I thought it was cool to have a legitimate excuse to rest my chin on the bar, as I drank some of the local Dukes Brown Ale.
We were unusually early, but the other musicians arrived before we’d been there too long. The first to show was Shana Falana, they had just come from Miami that day and I was excited to see them play. Next came Jimmi and Katy from the Memphibians. I met them in Philadelphia and we’ve been in contact since setting up this show and a few others. It was great to see them again, and we spent a little time chatting about Jacksonville and getting the rundown for the night. Shana Falana started out and they were really cool. A boyfriend/girlfriend indie two-piece they did a kind of shoegazy kind of trance rock that was I really enjoyed. Having played in a lot of duo-type bands I know it can be hard to get a full sound and an interesting stage show. Employing a really cool projector show, computer sequencer, drums, a looper and some cool guitar/voice effects they did just that. After they finished it was our turn. I was excited to play tonight, perhaps too excited, and overall I felt that my performance was hindered by an excess of cockiness. Everyone else seemed to think it was great, and we did sell some records, but I do felt that I (at least) would have done better had I curbed my ego a bit. There is an interesting balance of conceit and despair one must enculture to play rock and roll. I find that I feel best when I am fully confident in my abilities but a little scared of what might happen. It is a great feeling to be surprised that people liked it and more than a little relieved that your head didn’t explode the way that you thought it would.
The Memphibians were awesome. I guess the best way to describe their music is like the Pixies on an air-boat with a few dead alligators on board. It was very cool show to watch, and an excellent iteration of the continuum SS Boombox seems to operate in. There is a definite “Fuck You” quality about the Memphibians, but it is a more humbly confident one. It’s more of a “Fuck you, or not, whatever we’re gonna rock out anyway.” I really appreciate this because it is as earnest as it is unapologetic. This quality, a kind of sum of the awesome personalities exuded by the members, was palpable and magnetic onstage and I was honored to have opened for them.
After the show, Jimmi offered to let us stay at his place and we graciously accepted. Funny stories were told, that I will reserve for personal anecdotes, but I assure you it was very fun and we were very well taken care of.
Tomorrow we depart Jacksonville for the Hostel in the Forest, and I am particularly grateful for hospitality we were shown here. Thanks to Mellisande for taking care of at the bar, to Matt on sound, Shana for doing projections for us and rocking, Kevin, Andrew, Jimmi and Katy for putting on an amazing show and making us feel like part of the community of real musicians. I will never forget it…except in the case of serious head trauma or death.
We left that morning before I actually achieved any degree of consciousness. I remember coffee and bidding Stuart and Julie farewell, but out side of that I don’t recall much before sighting a sign for Dinosaur World. It seems the universe, or at least Florida, is conspiring to rid me of my cash money. As we traveled on I-somethingorother I stared wistfully out the window as we passed Lego Land, an exit for Kennedy Space Center, and Fantasy of Flight. Alas, we had neither the time or the funds to spend on these type of pilgrimages, so onward we drove, gliding on the dull grey pavement particular to this part of Florida.
It was only a well stretched hours before we arrived in DeLand. It is a pretty little town close to, but out of sight of, the coast, and is home to Stetson University. Stetson, the center of hat research in America, is apparently deep in developing a type of headgear that will allow the wearer to both become invisible and provide a +2 bonus to strength. This makes sneak attacks far more plausible.
Being a fairly small town we reached Don’s dad’s place fairly quickly. His house is an interesting looking two storey home sided with stucco in the spanish-american style. It is a cool place, and, though close to town, is surrounded by greenery giving it the feeling of remoteness. The temperature had dropped substantially that day and I was refreshed both by the coolness of the wet air, and the variety of green growing things that pervaded my vision. Don’s Dad Bob greeted us and introduced himself at the door. After showing us around the house, Bob offered to take us on a tour of the town. It was a nice ride and I enjoyed rolling around in the Jeep and seeing the sights.
After acquiring some crab rangoon, we returned to Chez Schlotman to do some picking. Bob has got some really cool guitars and is a great player and songwriter so we hung out and traded songs until Don’s brother Rob arrived. Walking in the middle of a new tune we (somewhat miraculously) played pretty well, he complimented us all and introduced himself. When our return introductions were over and some family reunion-like ribbing was done we all headed downtown to get something to eat. Our first destination, a place called Tony’s, was packed and so we stopped into the Blind Pig next door to meet the owner (also named Tony). He was a really nice guy and apologized for our Thursday gig falling through. It was cool though and hopefully we can do that gig next time we’re in town. Wandering around downtown we happened upon a somewhat upscale looking Mexican restaurant. Bob highly recommended it so we went in. I hate that I can’t remember the name because the place was absolutely fantastic. I say this even though the waitress seemed not to like me much. I had some kind of taco filled with plantain and covered in mole sauce, and flan for dessert. It wa really really good, and I know that if I am in DeLand again I will make a point of eating there.
Following dinner we proceeded to a cool bar called DaVinci’s. A side business of a antique restoration company, DaVinci’s was packed with cool stuff. From the artwork on the walls, to the doors, to the moulding the place was packed with interesting bric-a-brac inside and out in the massive courtyard. They have live music here as well and have pretty big stages both inside and out. DaVinci’s also has a great beer selection, that (thanks to Rob) I was able to enjoy. Perhaps we will angle for this place next time we’re in town.
Before long we left the bar and headed back to play a bit more. This time we had a bit of an audience and we played a few numbers for, Rob, Bob’s girlfriend Sandy and one of Bob’s friends Bruce. They really seemed to enjoy it a great deal and we whiled away the rest of the evening playing trading tunes again.
Tomorrow we are headed to Jacksonville to play with the Memphibians and I am incredibly excited about that.
It was another late morning. One of two things seems to be the reason from this, either I am becoming acclimated to the unbearable lightness of being,…or the tour is finally starting to wear me out. Stuart and Julie had made quiche and coffee though so (in the event that an existential crisis was brewing) my mind was put to the task of enjoying the morning.
The day was nice, quiet, and relaxed. Julie had to work, and Jasper, Don, and Stuart took the dog Lula to the beach. I had time to slowly catch up on some work, sew some seeds for gainful employment upon my return, and watch the shadows creep slowly around the fenceposts. I was like a lizard in a cool breeze.
Slowly the day proceeded until everyone returned. Before long Julie made an enchilada casserole that was somehow exactly what I wanted to eat. As the activites of the day we, as you do, talked and had a few drinks. It was an excellent day. Soon though it was time to get to the show.
The Octave is a karaoke bar and music venue in the “cool” part of St. Petersburg. Guarded on both sides by interesting looking dives, weird 50’s business to business showrooms, record stores and venues, this place was well positioned to provide a cool clientele. When we arrived, having been prompted beforehand, the DJ Mike gave us the lowdown and we started to load in. It was a very cool crowd in there, lots of folks with gauge earrings and neck tattoos wearing tight black clothes. Based on the principal of social equilibrium, I felt cooler for being there. The set up was kind of strange. Octave, being more of a karaoke venue than a music one didn’t have a wired PA system. All of the mics were wireless and there were no other visible inputs on stage. In fact there was nothing on stage, just one power outlet and a few mic stands that I understood were borrowed for the purpose of our show. It was an interesting feeling to have so much room on stage, but unfortunately this would ultimately preclude any use of the groove lobster for this show.
Just before we went on Geri and a bunch of other people showed up. Seeing that we had only two mics she ran to her car and got an amp and mic setup to provide the third. We could have totally made due with just two, but it would be easier and she was on a mission before anyone could say otherwise. It is so awesome to be taken care of like this. She set us up with the gig, loaned us equipment, brought her friends, and was so cool and supportive. Frankly, I’d have been excited if she just showed up and gave her two cents on the show. This kind of above and beyond makes me want to be a better person.
The show itself was great. I thought we played well without the sequencer, people really seemed to dig it, and we sold a few cds. Julie and Stuart seemed to enjoy the show even more than the previous night and Geri reported that the owner really loved it. It was a nice energetic injection into a particularly calm day.
I really can’t thank Geri enough for helping us along our way, and Stuart and Julie for being helpful, welcoming, and supportive.
Tomorrow we are off to DeLand to visit Don’s dad, and I expect this will prove very interesting.
The smell of Jasper making waffles got me going this morning. There must be something about Florida that makes people want to make waffles….hmmm. Anyway, we got going pretty quickly that morning, and bidding Lynn farewell we got back on the road and headed for St. Petersburg.
It was hot. Not warm, not relatively hot, just straight up hot and bright. Though it is kind of cool (rhetorically anyway) having a hot day in the middle of December I find it pleasant from a purely philosophical point of view. The sun beating down on us was really the only thing I thought of (other than being glad of having found my sunglasses) until we reached Tampa. Traffic was kind of heavy when we entered the city, but I was kind of glad of this as I got a chance to look around. Florida cities have a particular look about them. Everything is light colored. Everything from concrete to utility poles is either lighter than usual or painted a kind of off white. I assume that this is to reflect light (and in so doing heat) but it does create an interesting effect. The whitish infrastructure, superimposed on tall buildings, their various shades of pink-orange and purple-grey stacked across the crisp horizon underneath a thick color shifting sky, is a very striking sight.
When the bottleneck of traffic had cleared and we were again moving, we quickly traversed Tampa Bay and were off to our destination. St. Petersburg is quite close to Tampa, and so before long we were back out of Florida cityscape and back into townscape. This town is easy to navigate as the Peninsula it occupies is divided with precision and the streets and avenues clearly numbered. We were to be staying with Don’s old friends Stuart and Julie. When we arrived at their house Stuart came out to greet us. Their place is really cool, the straight low lines that echo the horizon here accentuated by interesting and well chosen decor…they also have a hot tub. Julie arrived shortly after we did from her job as a USGS climate scientist. After all hanging out and getting acquainted we decided to go to a Thai-Mexican place for dinner called Nitally’s. It was amazing, I had a kind of noodle dish with tofu, scallions, and cilantro that was incredible. Don had a curry pad Thai thing that looked great, Stuart and Julie split a cinnamon curry, and Jasper had a chorizo curry dish with chicken. When we’d all eaten too much (as the portions were huge) we headed over to the Ale and Witch for the show.
The Ale and Witch is strangely located, at least in my experience. It is in this outdoor plaza/shopping center type place. The whole thing is a bit like an MC Escher drawing, the lines of the stairwells, cantilevers and balconies intersecting at unexpected angles from every point of view. We were to set up beside a back lit palm tree. The look of the environment we would be performing in was exceedingly surreal…I guess that figures in the town that is home to the Salvador Dali museum. We shortly met the owner Tim and he gave us the rundown and began to set up the sound board and get the technical PA stuff ready for us. He was super friendly and accommodating and I recommend that everyone that is in St. Petersburg stop by the Ale and Witch (the beer selection is incredible too). Soon after meeting Tim, Geri and Charlie arrived and began to set up. Known as Geri X, they were our sponsors for this evening and it was really cool of them to share their regular gig with us. Their first set was amazing. Geri has an incredibly cool voice. If I were to describe it in visual terms it would be like a tin-type picture of a laser beam. A beautiful balance of style and control, she wields this unique sound to employ songs that, scalpel like, carve a delicate portrait of a sad and wonderful personal experience. Charlie’s drumming too is amazing. Utilizing a variety of pots and spoons, along with traditional kit drums, he creates an organo-industrial foundation for the music that causes it to hit all the harder. Our set was very fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it a great deal. We tried some new guitar switching things mid set, some of which worked well, but its all a work in progress. After we’d finished, Geri and Charlie went on again and we’re incredible yet again. It was nice to sit back with a good pint of local beer after we’d played well and really enjoy the music. Though it hasn’t been on this tour, in my experience it is somewhat rare to meet players whose music you actually like. This was certainly one of those rare occasions.
After all was said and done we all hung out for a little while. Geri, who seemed to really love the show, insisted that she could get us a paid gig for tomorrow somewhere in the immediate vicinity. Though I was somewhat skeptical at first she didn’t seem to me to be the kind of person to bullshit on this point so I told her we’d love to if she could swing it. Amazingly, only a few hours later we were confirmed for tomorrow at a place called Octave. I can’t even express how grateful I am for this, there is a kind of familial comaradare that people who’ve toured a great deal share. We are all in the same boat and by sharing and helping one another it makes the whole community stronger. It is refreshing and vindicating when people get this and if Geri is touring New York way I would be more than happy to return the favor.
Worn out and satisfied with a job well done, we returned to Stuart and Julie’s place for the night.
Tomorrow is the gig at Octave and I am excited about that.