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

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Part 4: Rim of the Chasm

(Note: Unfortunately it has been months since I've worked on this tour spiel. I hope I remember some details. I have some stuff written down from the tour, but not much.)

We got to Galion around 11pm and after dropping Mark and Aaron at the Stepro's, Tim and I checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Bucyrus. Despite the knowledge that looking for an alternative to Boone's Farming under the Bucyrus water tower with the town's three homeless guys at 11:30pm is a lost cause, the Horseshoe Bar provided a different yet equally depressing scene. Instead of music playing, the Blue Collar Comedy Show was blasting from the TV that was being ignored by the bartender and his four patrons. The patrons, 1 woman and 3 men, were engaged in an insult barrage that involved the guys ripping on the gal for being a whore. Awful. She claimed to have known the guys for 18 years told and us that "it's alright." If this in fact were true, that she hasn't escaped their abuse is a sign that maybe she now needs them as much as they need her. Sad. Tim had an Easton, I had a Michelob and a shot of Beam and we left after twenty minutes. Back to wifi and cable TV.

This was the portion of the trip where Tim, Aaron and I would be without cell phone service. For whatever reason, there is no AT&T service in Bucyrus. This was really annoying but in the grand scheme of things was fine, really. We had work to do and the more we removed ourselves from society, the better. We agreed to meet at Baker's Pizza at 2pm Monday to start

in earnest. It was very Let It Be/Twickenham in its cold, cinderblocky feel. That first day we got off to a slow start on account of some band having ripped off most of the club's PA gear when they played there a month before. Once they went out and bought new mics, mic stands, cables and speakers, everything worked great. We worked until 11pm and had gotten a substantial amount done. M & A went back to Galion and Tim and I settled for more cable and internet in the room. After our experience at the Horseshoe the night before, neither of us wanted to "go out."

The next day we drove to Galion to pick up the boys, got back to Baker's around 2pm and immediately started rehearsing. There was some great pre-production being done and we all seemed to feel good about the songs and their arrangements. So over the course of the two

days, we arranged and rehearsed all of the to-be-recorded songs and as a trial run for the new material we included them all in the set at Baker's that Tuesday night. In fact, we played two full sets of music at that Baker's gig. Porcupine and the new material makes 20 songs and then all the other stuff we do made probably 30 band tracks plus some Easton solo. There was a pretty good crowd assembled for a Tuesday night. Some strange man from Easton's

past bugged the shit out of everyone at the show and ended up annoying Tim so badly Tim fled the nuisance before we had even broken down our gear. Thinking Tim had left the venue for good, the freak ended up waiting for us in our hotel parking lot to "hang out" after the show. Absolutely no bueno. Aside from his crazy ass, it was a good night.

I must say that the folks at Baker's were very hospitable, generous and wonderful. They provided an invaluable service to our band, giving us the means to be as productive as we could be during the week leading up to our studio sessions. It was exactly what we needed, except for maybe portying with hookers and cocaine in a swank Chicago penthouse for five days, but whatever. These rehearsals allowed us to go into the studio in Nashville and crank shit out! Breck, Petra and everybody else's generosity will be indelibly stamped on the project. Our music is a transmission from the depths of the Buckeye.

The next day was spent casually working our way out of that Mid-Ohio quagmire. We were hauling ass southbound on some state highway until a detour caused us to have to backtrack and take an alternate route to Columbus. While there was quaintness in each small town we passed through, I was about done with quaint. I wanted to be able to use my expensive phone-puter and I wanted a decent meal. We were to play the Rhumba Room that night and we hoped it would be a doozy.

Easton rocked an interview on the Rhumba's back patio after loading into the club. He played a song whose title I can't remember but it's somewhere on film out there. There was a police car siren going off in the area during the end of the performance that was in tune with the song...pretty neat. Matt Hoover and ALT opened the show with solo performances of their songs. There was a crowd in the joint by the time the FB went on and that certainly inspired us to play a great show. It sounded great on stage and the concergoers were into the jams, especially the new ones. I got a little hammy-time and we crashed at Haley's late in the morning after reviewing the evening's events, etc... Much thanks to Haley, Christian, Bob, Angela, Dave and all the party people who came out to see the band. I told you I can play!

After some Yeah Me Too we hit the road for Louisville. This was a big show for me not only because I have always wanted to go to Louisviulle, but I was playing a show with my guitar hero Peter Buck! I met him backstage and he was really nice, as is everyone in Minus 5. We all discussed the new Beatles remasters and upon hearing Buck's opinion of them, I realized just how old the guy is. He was talking about having purchased some reissue series in the early seventies and comparing them to how the original pressing sounded. As a tremendous Beatles fan, this was beyond even me. There was also discussion of the pros and cons of bands playing yet-to-be-released material at shows and whether or not it is a screw to the audience. This was what we'd be doing with Easton's material that week and I likened it to REM having played their new album at Stubb's during SXSW a couple of years ago. Pete appreciated that.

The Louisville show was a little strange because the show took place in a church

basement/cafeteria and the greenroom was the former rectory. It all went fine I think. No, wait. The opening guy played too long and compromised our set length. Lame. When it was
all over, we tried to find some nightlife. Bardstown Road in Louisville seemed great but we had to wade through one crappy bar choice before we were able to find a good one. Cheap beer and good grub. It was the night Megadeth was on Jimmy Fallon. The metalhead bartender turned off the stereo so we could all listen to their performance, which was good. It was cool to see a metal band on network TV. Easton hustled pool and won a bunch of money off of an ex-bowhead and the frat boy meal ticket she carried around. After the bar, Easton bought us 40s with his pool shark earnings and we drank them in the parking lot of the junior high school where all the dudes from My Morning Jacket met in eighth grade. This left more than enough dough for Easton to put us up for two nights in some swank digs near the airport in Florence, KY. I don't remember the drive back to the hotel from Louisville because I was passed out on the back bench. Apparently, Mark drove us like a badass through a torrential downpour back to our KY palace. Hopefully during my next visit to Louisville I'll have enough time to visit the Will Oldham Birthplace and the quarry where Oldham shot the cover of Spiderland.

The next show was a Friday night in the upstairs lounge room of the Southgate House in Newport, KY. This meant that we had the whole next day to relax at the Hilton. I walked over to Cracker Barrel for a delicious lunch where I wrote some of this here tour spiel. Tim found me there and together we searched drove the streets in search of a coffeeshop and a store where Tim could buy an eyeglass repair kit. After this thoroughly exciting adventure, we went back to palace to chill for the whole afternoon!

During our stop through Columbus, Sam Brown had given us the entire Beatles Mono box set! Thanks, dude! Our suite had an entertainment interface port, so I hooked my computer up to it and we listened to these crisp remasters through the nice speakers on the room's huge flat screen television. We were newly inspired by tracks we had all but forgotten about. Specifically, "Anna" off of Please Please Me. So good. We also spent some time charting out "Nobody Plays Piano In Athens, GA" in preparation for our date in the studio. It is a cool piano based song that Easton says he wrote and recorded on the spot. The demo is good but, oh, what we did to it in the studio! More on that later...

Upon Easton's demand, we ignored the liephone and free-formed it over to Southgate House from the interstate, getting there just fine. Once you stray from the directions, who knows which gasket will blow? Actually, there's a good chance it'll be mine, but I'm working on that. Load-in up a bunch a stairs, soundcheck, dinner across the street near the aquarium, opening set by the Billy Catfish Orchestra (dude with a guitar and a bubble machine). We had a great set and the people that came out were so nice, attentive, and supportive!

We were playing most of the new songs and they all went over really well. I was having a sort of bass drop-out issue which kept my mind half out of the game but I suppose that's how it goes. Back to our KY Palace. The next day was our double header, time-zone changing, move into the studio day. Oh Billy, Billy, Billy. This is a biggie.

Not only did we have to be in Lexington for our performance at an Oktoberfest celebration under a tent at 2 or 3 pm, but we had to get to a radio interview by noon. One of us lost his phone before we even left the hotel so we spent an extra thirty minutes tearing the van apart finding only that we had left Tim's merch at the Southgate House the night before. Sweet. As we bail on the phone and merch and jump on the interstate, the kettle started pressurizing as we began to see steam coming out of a couple Barons's ears. Then it happened. Twenty minutes down the road traffic comes to a standstill. Total standstill with nary an exit in sight. Trapped, late, hungry, tired, having to run off into the woods on the side of the interstate to pee and finding the van locked and your bandmates and the people in the surrounding cars howling with laughter when you come back...

it all came down right there. Sometimes in life and on the road, the moment comes where all of your problems are intensified making it seem like it's all gonna fall apart. Well, I reckon sometimes it does fall apart. Thankfully for the Barons and the rest of the planet, the world didn't end and we made it to Lexington. Yeah, we had to call the radio station and cancel our appearance. Yeah, the world probably did end for the poor soul who was driving that double tractor/trailer that crashed and spread its mangled fusilage all over southbound I-75. Yeah, our bandmate found his phone in his man-purse while we were sitting there idling on the highway. Yeah, we made it to our tented gig in a church parking lot. I tell you what though, Mountain Dew and Bratwurst have never tasted so good together as they did that day. So as to burn up the road towards Nashville, we broke down our gear and loaded the van as Tim finished up the set with some acoustic numbers. Got paid and splitsville.

I drove us to Nashville, listening to the Jicks and enjoying the beautiful state of Kentucky in a lovely afternoon sunshine. Our load-in at the Cannery was early-ish so there was no time to spare and thankfully we didn't run into much traffic. Though at one point when the other guys were asleep, we did come to a dead stop on the Blue Grass Parkway. I was in quiet disbelief that this could happen to us twice in one day but not ten minutes later, we were past the wreckage that had occurred on the other side of the highway. Rubberneck traffic was all.

We made it to Nashville right on time and loaded straight into the club, with some leftover heated tempers from the trying day. Our load-in/soundcheck was compromised by Buddy Miller who was using the stage to rehearse his band full of Nashville session fags. Acting a total stage hog, Miller stopped his crap with enough time before doors to let us set up our gear and realize how uncomfortable the scene was. I used the rented bass rig...some Trace Elliot bullshit that had PGPA written all over it. I felt like a wet cat up there. We soon found out that the monitor engineer was a complete idiot who on what must have been his first day at work, was given control of one of the most powerful sound systems in town. Bad bad bad. If you haven't been to the Cannery, it's a huge building. Really cavernous. And this worried us a little. It only accentuated the fact that we were playing so early that when doors opened, the only thing in the room other than crew members wearing fingerless gloves and Ziljian sweatpants were the restless ghosts of food packing employees from the late 1800's.

Thankfully, by the time we went onstage, a crowd had assembled and the show seemed to go off without a hitch. Maybe there were hitches, I don't remember. I just know that it was not a cut-loose last show of the tour. Before the last band had even finished playing, we were loaded into the studio over in Berryhill where we were going to record one of the best albums I have ever heard. Tim, Fredley (who happened to be in town), and I went by the Basement to see a show but it was packed, the cover was steep, and it had been a long day so Jim headed off to his hotel and Tim and I went back to Club Roar. We found Aaron and Mark absorbing the studio/warehouse vibrations (playing tunes on piano and guitar). For the next day, our first day of tracking, we had planned a twelve hour day. Jump right in. We were ready.

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