All Writing and Photography © Alex Livingstone/Owner's Closet

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The last leg's last stand

(Part thirteen of a sequential tour narrative. Go to April, 25 2009 to start at the beginning.)

We made it to Park Avenue CDs in plenty of time for our in-store performance. Turns out, there was another act on the bill and we had their whole set to decompress before taking the stage. There was a great turnout for the in-store... at least triple the size of the Auburn show which put things into some kind of demented perspective. I purchased the CD/DVD of Crack The Skye because I needed to learn lyrics and watch the "making of" footage. At this point, I was dorkin' out on the new Mastodon, big time. The folks at Park Ave. were very nice and gracious. They had snacks and beer for us when we arrived and they later sent us on our way with a ton of beer and Vitamin Water! Tim played acoustic, I played direct through the P.A., and Sam played floor tom and snare. It worked out really well, I think. We went straight to Will's Pub to load in.

Here's and example of why the iphone lies: We searched the internet for Will's pub. We hit the "Get Directions" button that plugs the coordinates straight into your iphone map app. We typed in "current location" and it told us where to go. What the computer age didn't know was that Will's Pub burned down last year and that there is a new Will's pub in a new location. The address the internet/liephone gave us was a brand new medial facility built atop the ruins of the old bar. Luckily, the new Will's was on the same street in Winter Haven and we made without too much cussing.

The show in Orlando turned out to be one of the best of the tour. Matthew Butcher opened the show and delivered a great performance. A couple other bands played and then we had a great set. I met Kevn Kinney after the show and we had a nice conversation about southeastern rock and roll in the 80's and 90's. He has played my hometown (Charlotte) many times over the years which led to a discussion about the city's big clubs of yesteryear, The Pterodactyl, 4808, and The Milestone.

There was a huge crowd out for this show, despite there being several festivals going on in Orlando that weekend. Our dinner at some family oriented fishmonger was good. I had a ton of shrimp and gallons of sweet tea. Sam and I stayed at some motel. The next day, we left Orlando early to try and do some scenery lameness in St. Pete's. Tim and Sam wanted to visit the Dali Mueseum so we liephoned its location. Once inside and faced with a steep entry fee, I dug deep and asked myself if I cared enough about Dali to pay a lot of money to see his art. Myself told me that I didn't so I made a couple of phone calls and sightsaw instead. Visual (2D) art is a tricky one for me in that I'm not interested in the majority of media, genres, and styles. I love photography and I find many styles of painting appealing, but I feel like I've seen enough of Dali's work on refrigerators and dormroom walls to satisfy the need to see a visual representation of Pink Floyd's "Meddle." That's a bit of a generalization, isn't it? That's right, it is.

We then drove to Clearwater in search of the beautiful white beaches full of sanddollars, palm trees and bikini-clad women tanning themselves beside coolers full of cold beer. Wrong. We first got to Indian Rocks Beach which reminded me of some of the more residential beaches I have visited in my life and therefore, a nice calm place to chill on the beach. Instead of stopping there, we drove north to Clearwater proper to a public beach full of people I'd rather not see in bathing suits. After about 45 minutes, we split in order to find a snack and a beer. We found both at a bar nearby and we consumed $2 Pacifico, oysters and shrimp while a cover band played Eagles songs on the patio of the bar next door. Ahhh, beach life. Cold beer, tourists, flip flops, good food, cover bands... wait, that kinda sound like Austin.

The show in Tampa was at a bar called New World Brewery. It didn't seem to be a normal venue because as we arrived, the soundman was assembling the P.A. on the covered brick patio in the courtyard. That's fine, whatever. "Last show of the tour, let's have fun." I drank plenty of free beer and was nice and toasty when we went on. There were some great moments in the set because Sam and I were both throwing caution to the wind and cutting loose. It was a good way to end and we went back to Orlando after the show, looking forward to the next day. Our plan was to go to the beach and decompress and then go into the studio Tuesday relaxed and record many of the newer jams we had played on the tour. However, this was not to be so. The heavens decided that this was the week that Florida would drown in torrential rains. Bummer. Good thing our hotel was attached to a mall...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bojangles is the best fast food ever

The show in Raleigh was good.  People came out despite the show starting at 8:30.  There was an A/C vent pounding my head on stage which annoyed me because I was sick and non-psyched.  We played a rather long set, it was fun, etc...

The drive to Atlanta was long the next day.  That day we ate at Bojangles, which I plan on doing at least once more on this tour.  Cajun filet biscuit, seasoned fries, sweet tea.  Unstoppable.

The show in Atlanta was bleak.  The Earl is a fine club but it was a huge room and not many folks were there.  Some of Tim's family came out, especially his special lady.  For four days of the tour, we were to have a tour manager with us.  I had one of the best nights of sleep in Atlanta.  Sam and I shared a room at the Highland Inn near five points.  WE ate at the Vortex the next day which reminded me that I've eaten there countless times.  It's awesome food with a pretentious menu.  The whole front page of the menu is a lesson on "how to be a customer."  I thought the list of rules the the Star Seeds staff would post on a chalk board was stupid but putting an even more extensive list on the front of the menu is just lame.  Too bad their food is great.

We sauntered up to Athens and I checked into the Holiday Inn when we got to town.  Did some laundry, met the guys at the 40 watt for load in, ate at The Grit, met Cameron back at the room, walked to the gig, ate slices, had a lone star at the 40 watt, drank bourbon in the room.

Boiled Peanuts and a School Bus

(Part twelve of a sequential tour narrative. Go to April, 25 2009 to start at the beginning.)

The liephone said to take 316/29 back to Atlanta, jump on I-85 and be in Auburn, Al in just over three hours. Had I asserted that I drive and that I believed this suggested route was the best course of action, we might have gotten there in three to four hours. However, I had driven from Atlanta the day before and I wanted a break. The plan was to leave at 1:30 so as to avoid Atlanta rush hour and make the drive as short as it should have been. Once we actually got on the road it was 2pm and though this wasn't a tragedy in and of itself, it certainly was a harbinger of the trip ahead. It seems no one else had bothered to look at their liephone or map because we were making multiple wrong turns before getting out of Athens. The person driving then decided that there was no way he was going through Atlanta so he picked out a "scenic" route that headed south and west in order to bypass the city. The whole point of leaving at 1:30 was to avoid the traffic. After living in Austin for nine years and sitting on the parking lot that is I-35, I understand that exerting a little patience will get you through the jam and still make the highway the faster option. If we had gone through Atlanta we might have hit some traffic but we would have gotten through it and it probably wouldn't have been that bad. Instead, our three hour trip turned into a six hour trip. Bummer. Aside from buying a bottle of Vidalia Onion hot sauce at a peanut stand on the side of the road, I was as close to loosing my shit as I may have ever been. I don't think I have ever felt so pissed off from not being in control. As we got stuck behind school busses, RVs and redneck junkers on Highway 16, I bit my tongue and vowed to take the helm as much as possible from then on out. I'll sit through some interstate traffic so that I'm not in the van all day.
And once we got to Auburn and made a big liephone-induced wrong turn on our way to the club, it started pouring rain and lightning. Great. The Strutting Duck was the name of the bar we played that night. There were some nice folks working there and the food was good. Too bad there were like, seven people watching our set. We played much more than our normal set taking some chances, and why not? If a tree falls in the woods... The green room was an airstream trailer without electricity, in which we took turns shooting from the bottle of Maker's Sam and Katie bought down the street. After all, The Duck was a beer-only bar. I believe this was the night when the Jason Isbell bit really took flight. It had started in Whitesburg, but now it had full lift off, mumbling it three times and everything. Mumbling it in an OCD-Rain-Man fashion became hilarious after a gig like we had that night.
I had vowed that we would make the next day's long drive to Orlando without consulting a liephone, using only an old-fashioned road map. This also meant that I was driving. Unfortunately, we had to leave around 8:00am but with Sam's coffee I was good for awhile. The other three slept for most of what was a beautiful drive southbound on a string of state highways that stitched together the lower foothills of Georgia and the upper parts of the coastal plain that, once we got on I-75, became northern Florida . It was nice to witness this gradual transition of landscape again. Having grown up taking vacations on the beaches of the Carolinas, a large part of that liberating four hour drive east was watching the diverse foliage and red clay foothills get flattened by sand-rich soil staked with pine trees and golf resort billboards. However, unlike the beach-bound drives that own so much real estate in the nostalgic part of my brain, this day's drive had a more ominous vibe. Upon getting out of the van in the parking lot of Sonny's Real Pit BBQ, that first deep breath of thicker, saltier air meant that I was near, or perhaps already inside, Florida for the first time in my life. Yes, the ill-reputed New Jersey of the South.

"Visit Florida. See America's Wang."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I-85 is not that bad

(Part eleven of a sequential tour narrative. Go to April, 25 2009 to start at the beginning)

The show in Raleigh was pretty good. I was happy to see John Durham, Jennie's aunt, and most of the Dynamite Brothers and Birds of Avalon crew. I had come down with the van illness and felt like shit that night. What didn't help was the A/C vent that was aimed directly at my head when we were on stage. Since Sam was setting up in the middle of the stage between me and Tim, I had nowhere to go and got pounded by this thing which was possibly the longest set of the tour. We got back on stage with Tim twice that night. Even though we went on around 8:20pm, there was a good crowd and we played well. Back at the 15/501 Extended Stay, I watched a little Predator and Sleep as much I could considering we had a long drive to Atlanta the next day.
Yeah, we scenery fagged a little bit before getting on the road proper and ended up getting to The Earl at the very last minute. Even though we were running late, I made an emergency stop at Bojangles on I-85. Believe me, it was necessary. The opening second group on the bill was using our gear and we had to load it onstage immediately after arriving. The Earl is a big venue with great food and a good sound system. Our set was ok. I remember that evening I discovered my threshold for pre-show booze consumption. Two shots and three beers is too much if'n I want to feel in control. The long drive and stress of being late made me "think" that I needed to chill out with a couple drinks. Wrong way of thinking. I slept very well that night in a cozy bed at the Highland Inn. The next day, the four of us ate at The Vortex in Five Points before heading to Athens. That place has good food but they are ridiculous when it comes to teaching the customer how to be a customer. The whole front page of the menu is a lesson on how to behave in their restaurant which is quite tacky. Believe me, I understand the frustrations of dealing with idiot customers in a service industry environment, but that's how it goes. If you don't like it, find a job in another field. I reckon someone has to teach people how to behave in a restaurant but chances are, the people that need said instruction are probably the same ones who won't read the page of the menu that doesn't have food items listed.
When we got to Athens I checked into the Hollodome and did some laundry. Checked out the 40 Watt (rad) finished laundry, ate dinner at Grit (rad), met Cameron and a bottle of Bulleit back at the room (rad), headed to show. The fellow opening the show was a real sad case. Apparently, he is either awesome or pathetic, depending on his level of sobriety. This evening, he was loaded and sucking in a tragically hilarious way. The "crowd" was still booing him when we took the stage and built itself back up to 50 or 60 strong during our set. We played well and then Cameron and I went out on the town. We ended up back with Bulleit and Neil Young. Imagine that.
I have to go to work soon and will resume this later. The next part of the tour was painful and frankly, I don't have the time or the energy to write about it right now.

I have forgotten a lot of bits

Just hanging out on a Saturday afternoon, trying to get jacked on coffee. I am listening to some of the newest Birds of Avalon tracks. Their new album called Uncanny Valley is weird but great. The few tracks I have of their sessions with Mitch Easter are even more bitchin' but they are super secret "and don't really exist." That's how I understand it anyway.

Earlier today I wrote lyrics for a new song of mine called "Slip Past." I wrote it immediately after I got home from the Easton tour. The first time I picked up the guitar it came pouring out. I had gone almost a whole month without playing guitar and was a little backed up. I was feeling a little pressure to complete the lyrics because I want to play the new song at the Hole in the Wall this week. On Thursday night, I am playing a "solo" set for a "singer/songwriter" night Mike Nicolai put together though I feel the guitarist/songwriter moniker suits me better. The set of 9 songs I will play are mostly new and only one will be a Grand Champeen song. Seven of the songs I'll be playing make up half of the record I have been recording. I am not only looking forward to playing guitar in front of people again, I look forward to performing these unheard songs. I like them and think that y'all will too.

My next post, which I will immediately write, will resume the tour diary. I have forgotten plenty of details which is a strong case for taking taking notes on the road. The last bit of the tour is in the deep south and was spotty anyway...

Today I have also come up with some new riffs for my stoner rock side project with George and Sally.