And speaking of Creepy Crawly Claw, they admitted that it was their worst set ever but they are still A-OK. It is always an interesting test of a person/band's character to see how they deal with adversity, and they did well even though their microphone didn't work for most of the set. I'm looking forward to playing with them in Olympia, maybe some other shows. Exciting!
After CCC played, this ridiculous "orc-metal" outfit called Clan of the Bleeding Eye played. They dressed up in studded-leather bondage-orc costumes, painted themselves green, and hacked through the grindcore sound. Foam battleaxes were present and were being used, both by and against members of the audience. God it was ridiculous, but I will admit that I was entertained. There are worse things when you are sick and you want to take your mind off your achey sore throat than to listen to a throat-bleeeaaruuurrrgghhh metal band beating each other with foam battleaxes, exclaiming "kill the humans". I can pretty much guarantee I would not have acquired that memory had I stayed home, or had I gone to one of several competing shows this evening.
Creepy Crawly Claw invited me to go on tour with them, since several key members of the Clan of the Bleeding Eye (including fascinating character "Chains") decided to go back to Berkeley. I wasn't sure if I should--I still needed to find a job--but I decided, what the hell, when will I get a chance to do this sort of thing again, and besides, it's just like a long weekend, an inexpensive vacation--and I did it. What follows are my reports from the road, all typed up on my TRS-80 Model 100 laptop. Enjoy!
The scene: a big empty black boxy room where the propietor and soundman is loudly bemoaning the fact that someone has walked off with his fog machine, aka "fogger" or "smoker". He is an "ex-hippie" who enjoys "loud music", and one has to commend his audacity to be opening a bar in this town. Tonight's show was apparently very, very underpromoted; we'll see if anyone actually shows up. I'm still not sure what I'm going to play or sing about; I'm thinking it will probably rotate around the phrase "wash your hands in the toilet", a frequent Oregon mutilation of the state-mandated sign "Wash your hands after using the toilet!" This phenomenon is endlessly interesting to me (c.f. "Press butt and release", "rub hands under arm hair", etc., there's more. I in fact did have to wash my hands in the toilet this evening here at Reid's Pit Stop, owing to the sink in the men's restroom not functioning. So I used the reserve-tank in one of the toilets, because, believe you me, I had to wash my hands.
Last night's Creepy Crawly Claw/Clan of the Bleeding Eye/Necrosluts performance was well-documented in my previous journal entry; four of the Clan of the Bleeding Eye folks are still here. Most of them still have a tinge of green around their hairlines, other places where soap did not hit. Dylan is wearing a black velvet dress that he found in a dumpster here in Longview. I probably would not have done this, but then I am not a member of the Clan of the Bleeding Eye. I have to respect this fashion and hygiene choice.
Tonight, and the next four or so days, who knows what will happen? But I don't have to be at work on Monday and it is time for me to do something a little impetuous. I am a little ill but I am chomping on cough-drops; I refuse to be impaired! Will things be half-assed? Will I get beat up by bikers? Will the Creepy Crawly Claw actually appreciate the magic of a Celesteville live performance? Stay tuned!
Holy hell! LxVxHxCx! (so written on my hand in traditional cross-x notation). The next band, Jackmore or something, is playing total hardcore, loud, lots of "fucking, fucking, fucking" in their lyrics. They are actually quite competent and rocking but this is almost too much and all I want to do is type or drive to Seattle. More about the adulation later!
Memo to myself: buy decongestant!
I slept in a kind of awkward position all night, shifting around to find a position where one nostril would open up a breezeway to sweet unturbulent air, no horking sounds, but for most of the night there was plenty of horking. I think a cat slept on my feet.
So last night: Creepy Crawly Claw were amazing, as would be expected; their Flipper cover (this time "Sacrifice") achieved the truly Flipperesque goal of clearing the room of any non-believers. I was believing, oh man. So then Celesteville played. I wasn't sure who was going to be the drummer up until a few minutes before the set; it ended up being Rob the keyboardist, who I later found out was originally a drummer, played drums in hardcore bands for years and years. Boy was it great! I need to start working out or something because I keep getting tired, but until I collapsed, things were great. I played surf-rock over a recitation about the Aurora Colony, and we'll see how the tape sounds, but I ended up playing the last few minutes of the set in full-on yoga position, playing the guitar behind my back, contorted. Later, one of the locals came up and was spellbindingly taken back by my guitar heroics (the phrase "cream my jeans" was mentioned, goodness!) and bought a copy of Lingua Ignota. I will need to learn to blush less easily in the face of praise.
We drove out of Longview, stopped to get gas at a Texaco station with a giant chicken on the roof that advertised "hot chicken". They also had "jo's", apparently an unreduplicated version of "jo-jo's" that was also only half as good; they were gnarled like orc hands. (and with that reference, all respect to the Clan of the Bleeding Eye). Rob and I drove up in the stereoless Metro in the rain, talking about past hardcore projects, the futures and pasts of our various ensembles/projects, etc., all the while following John, the bass-ar, yes, it's a bass for 3 strings and a guitar for 3 strings, player for CCC in his gigantic converted ambulance. He drilled a hole in the roof and put a giant skylight in! That's how handy he is--he puts a huge skylight in an ambulance he replaced the head gasket in and built a loft in, and he made a duck-billed platypus of an instrument and he plays it. Wow.
Next up, I walked with John and Mark to get some Thai food; spice heat sounded good to unclog my sinuses. And it was good, even though I generally expect a dish that is described as 4 out of 5 stars to completely kick my ass in terms of capsaicin--I usually order that instead of 5 out of 5, because that is traditionally the "let's see how we can make this arrogant sumbitch suffer" level, whereas 4-out-of-5 is usually ass-walloping but not inedible. This was just moderate, kind of disappointing but still tasty.
Tonight we played at the "Emerald City Cafe", which was fantastically inconveniently located right next to Safeco Field, where the Mariners were battling the Oakland Athletics, thereby inflating nearby parking prices to $15. I wouldn't have any of that, so I drove all the hell over downtown Seattle. I was going to settle for this $5 parking lot, but then I thought, that kind of sucked, so I drove on, and then miraculously this space opened up a half-mile or so from the venue. I am fortunate on this tour that I do not currently have a stereo or anything even vaguely theft-magnetish in my car right now, so I can park in the crappiest of neighborhoods with impunity so long as I get my guitars, drum machine, etc. out. It is kind of comforting, although long drives get a little irksome with just my little Realistic squawking distorted tape-player to keep me company...
The venue was beautiful and brand-new, still in the throes of remodeling. The stage was greatly enhanced by the green lights and the rushing-water-fountains flanking it. I immediately decided that I would play that waterfall song of _Flows West To East_ as my 15-minute epic song.
My college friend Jessica showed up with Chris, who appears to be romantically linked with her; apparently they met through their bowling club, which I wholeheartedly approve of. Jessica had not seen my live show probably since the Meringue days of my undergraduate life; boy would she be in for a surprise! We talked, sat in a nice booth gazing out at water, it was nice.
So at around 8 or so we went on. I had tuned my guitar to something approaching B flat and left it on the stage; I grabbed my Pianica and marched down the stairs, processional-style, B-flat honking all the while. I marched outside, played a B flat to the people walking out of the baseball game, the hardcore kids waiting outside. Then Rob and I started, heading for something a little gentler than last night's screamfest. And it _was_ gentle, at least for a while; it billowed into walls of sound but tonight I was playing through an amplifier I could control, (Xarek's Peavey bass amp, covered in punk stencils) as opposed to the 4x12 bombast of the previous night's amp, and that helped. I played one chord the entire night, but I played that open chord behind my head, on my back, bashing the guitar against the stage, licking the strings. I was kind of startled that I was violating my guitar with the impure touch of my saliva and lips, but so be it; that was the moment. Rob was gleefully attacking Bremerton hardcore band Blight's double-bass-drum kit, getting all Lars Ulrich on things at times, and it was pretty beautiful. Jessica and Chris were a little startled but they ultimately seemed entertained.
Blight were a loud grindcorey band; I watched some of them and it was entertaining but then Billis from luv(sic) showed up and we went outside to talk. To be fair, Billis saw a fair amount of Blight's set, pretty generous since I don't exactly see him as a hardcore fan. We went back inside and watched Shit Damn Hella, who were doing a queer-hip-hop variety show, sometimes funny, sometimes kind of stupid, always good-natured, and Shit was a pretty good freestyler and human-beatbox. I will admit to being entertained.
And then CCC went off for their traditional pre-show jog and returned: god it rocked, the best show I've seen by them yet. They'd painted their teeth black today to approximate the hillbilly look, and Xarek was in rare clothing form (some sort of zombie-cheerleader thing going on, face painted, crazy!) but the real star was the music, which was tighter and more threatening than ever. It was great and they dedicated their nameless song to ME! Little old me. And how can I not be honored by that?
In the last five minutes of the CCC set, while I was dancing madly, Steve and Anne from luv(sic) showed up (they had been delayed by a train and by Safeco Field traffic), and that just put the figurative icing on the figurative cake; these two are a fun, fun bunch, and it was nice to talk about my recent unemployment with Anne, who recently got laid off as well (then rehired very part-time). A fun bunch, a fun bunch.
Then we came back to the anarchist house "The Rat's Nest (aka "El Nido de las Ratas") and I realized: I haven't flossed my teeth in a while and they feel kind of gross. I walked six blocks in gorgeous clear cool Seattle night air to late-night QFC and bought floss, almost skipping back to the Thackeray house, so happy was I with my purchase and with the clear night around me. Dental hygiene is important, even if you are touring with a bunch of orcs and people with teeth blacked-out. Dental hygiene is important.
1:40 pm: Last night was really cold and I had a borrowed blanket; I was not wise enough to have remembered my sleeping bag. But despite being cold and having eaten one meal yesterday and having consumed one serving of alcohol the entire tour, I found myself really happy; I think so much of the time I just eat and/or drink to stave off boredom, keep myself occupied. There is something very beautiful about the constant buzz of activity here at the anarchist house, the definite non-money vibe. I feel strangely at home despite my pretty square surface appearance (no lip piercings, etc.) It is very beautiful and I'm very happy.
1:40 pm: Living room bathed in sun, after eating lunch drenched in backyard blue-sky and sun. The nice thing about the lunch: apparently while Rob/John/Dylan/Mark and I went to last night's venue to recover the minidisc recorder, and then to the military-surplus store to buy a blanket (successful on both counts), Xarek was out "dumpstering" food. And he scored, did he ever. Lots of those fancy wrap-style sandwiches, lemons and other citrus, bread--all tasty and none of which have caused me to double over with abdominal pain yet. We sat out by the non-functional fountain in the backyard, watched mosquito larvae swarm, talked about John's friends who kept bees, hitchhiked across the US and tried to sail a boat to Cuba, pretty amazing.
Tonight we head for Bellingham, to play at the "Showoff Gallery", apparently one of the last shows ever at this all-ages space. I wonder if it will make me nostalgic for the halcyon days of the X-Ray Cafe (later the O-Hell)? We will see if I get all schmaltzy/nostalgic. We will see. Apparently I have been drafted into a Clan of the Bleeding Eye side-project, which is fine. We will probably have a Pianica/Melodica duet during the Celesteville set; talk about bringing a tear to my eye. So nice.
So last night: did that actually happen? That's the phrase I found myself repeating over and over again, in creaky post-concert voice, delirious, in the loft of the van. What did actually happen?
We stopped by a music store called "Dusty Strings" in Fremont before leaving the Seattle area. I had visited that area with Brian MacDonald a few times, but never visited that store; while they don't really carry anything I could afford, they had a fantastic selection of acoustic instruments both obscure and non-obscure. I think they had four or five ouds. Wow! And they were very nice; apparently John knows one of the employees. We all piled in there, a bunch of unclean punk rockers in an acoustic instrument store, very nice.
We drove out of Seattle, nine of us in the van, me underneath the hammock of goods, effectively restricting me to two sitting positions, both of them uncomfortable. Memo: limit of van is eight passengers. Long drive through weird part of WA I've never seen; it seems very sad and kind of desolate but yet there's plenty of population, very odd.
Bellingham: a strange mix of college-town and odd mid-20th-century industrial/agricultural aesthetics; record stores advertising "We Stock Wax Trax!" next to "Stark Feed/Seed" or something like that, in this bleak sans-serif font, written large along the storefront. Odd. We walked around waiting for the show to begin. A bunch of us stopped at this sidewalk sale at "Blue Moon", home of an extremely laid-back proprietor who kept offering me progressively larger discounts. I ended up buying a 93-cent J. Crew sweater, fuzzy wool charcoal-color, quite nice actually and it completes the unclean-preppy look I've been cultivating all tour. I haven't shaved in four days and I look very 10th-grade, only in 10th grade I could get away with shaving once every few weeks or so, wacky Anderson hairless gene. Rob and I walked around; he explained some of the CCC lyrics, which are actually pretty cool although he kept denying that they were cool. We found a "flyer" for the show, actually a VHS videotape spraypainted orange, stencilled with the CCC name (and the Necro-Sluts, who, as we've mentioned, are long gone), hanging by the actual tape itself from a thumbtack on the bulletin board next to a record store. Four prepositional phrases in a row! Wow.
The venue (the Showoff Gallery): close to the stinky maritime-diesel-smell harbor, apparently a former boat-house (and soon to be a boathouse again; the venue is reverting back to its owner, a boat-sales-shop), next to the venue. When we entered we were greeted with the sight of barrels full of empty 40-oz containers, a lot of trash all around; OMEN! Apparently the show was advertised as beginning at 8 but "rock time" was scheduled somewhere around 10.
The show began, of course, around 11. The proprietors' band, Plunger, played some evil-carnival tunes for distorted grandma-organ and enthusiastic sloppy drums; it was fun. Then Creepy Crawly Claw went on, because Clan of the Bleeding Eye keyboardist Amber's brother (from Blaine, WA) wanted to see them before he had to go home. The craziest show I've seen yet? Yes. Rob didn't have a vocal mike so he just did a lot of screaming and flailing, Xarek ended up playing trombone throughout the audience, mostly ignoring his largely ineffectual microphone, John did his shuffle-and-bob thing throughout the audience as well, and Mark just got plain surly, throwing beer cans at the audience in varying levels of fullness. In terms of getting splattered with alcohol it was not so far off from a Crash Worship show, but this felt way, way more out of control, off-the-cuff chaos as opposed to scripted chaos. God it was crazy, and I danced like a lunatic, definitely a time to take off my fuzzy J. Crew sweater.
Next up was the Clam of the Scallop Fry, a "Clan of the Bleeding Eye cover band". Dylan vocalized orc-style, despite not being painted green, Amber played keyboard, Diamond played bass-ar, Eggplant/Robert played my Peavey guitar, and I played drums with this ridiculous wig on, making it impossible to see. I heard Dylan ranting, I heard some other drums echoing in the distance, I think it was both Mark and Rob. What a mess! I imagine it was a lot of fun to watch, but I couldn't see much and I was kind of lost in these primitive drum-beats, trying to become an orc, hide my half-elf blood from them in orcy percussion.
Then Celesteville went on, not much time to prepare or catch my breath. I tuned my guitar and played a version of "Vast and Sad" that was kind of hamstrung by the ineffectual vocal microphone; I did a lot of screaming, taunted the audience, and Rob and Mark ended up dividing the drum-kit in two. (As I said when we were loading up: "Like Solomon dividing the baby in half!" I hear biblical references are always cool, especially on punk rock tours with orcs.) Scream! Play heavy power chords on two of the remaining strings!
***STRING-BREAK COUNT THUS FAR: 4! An average of 4/3 each show!***
When it was over I was thoroughly incapacitated, this time from a mixture of potent domestic "Bud Ice" (the first intoxication of the tour!) and the heady joy of performing. We talked, loaded out; Johnny the proprietor dumped a bunch of vegetable oil into the salsa and I kept dunking my chips into it (It's just like Seven-Eleven! I quipped). This is why I am gaining weight, that and the beer and the long periods of inactivity while clickety-clacketying on my computer, but I digress. I think that when we were loading out I grabbed my library book (Robert Walser Rediscovered), but I can't really be sure... That would kind of suck, but in terms of monetary value it's not as bad as leaving my cymbal and stand at an anarchist bookstore in Berkeley (c.f. the Minmae Spring Tour.)
We drove home, somebody offered me a Vaselines CD and Rob a T.Rex CD, which we listened to on the way home, and which was pretty good, hi Ned if you're reading this. (Ned played this album a lot when we lived in the same house in California.) I fell asleep in the loft, freeway lights flashing past through the skylight, and when I awoke, Nirvana's In Utero was blasting and we stopped the van and turned off the ignition on Thackeray Place NE just as "All Apologies" was coming to a close; how appropriate; we staggered out into Seattle darkness, came inside, and slept.
Yesterday: The afternoon was long; I had hoped to get coffee with my friend Jessica but that didn't work out; so I hung around the Rat's Nest, ate cough drops, read Lynda Barry's The! Best! Of! Marlys!; back in the day I had considered her inferior to her compatriot Matt Groening, and who knows, but these days she is considerably funny, pretty much consistently making me laugh and/or get pensive. Good stuff for lazing around in Seattle, queer/anarchist promo/propaganda on the walls, sun drenching in, steady buzz of activity. Nice, nice.
John and Amber and I went over to look at the accordian store which happened to be a block away from the house, and if only everyone were so lucky to have an accordian store that close by! Their products were beautiful, but I felt a little awkward looking at all these beautiful things that I could neither afford nor adequately play. Still, the concept was great and the accordians were gorgeous. We stopped in the comic book store, and I didn't buy a thing. It is nice being on tour with non-buying types (well, except for Robert/Eggplant's Folkways collection...but that's cool... I mean, he got a record called I Hate This Capitalist System!
We drove down to Olympia in the rain, caravan-style. John told me about his history of tour-vans; apparently one of them had "Turdsac" spraypainted on it (after the name of the previous owner!), one of them was a diesel that he'd modified to run on vegetable oil, lots of dreams and drama. It made me a little sad that I hadn't followed a rock dream instead of a kind of useless grad-school dream, but hey, my spine appreciates it, and god knows how I would have paid my college loans. Sometimes it is hard to be square.
We stopped at Xarek's friend Brie's place to socialize and eat food. And chief among the foods that were served was KALE. Beautiful, deep-green kale, steamed and presented, familiar cruciferous stink, holy deliciousness! Also: wonderful salad with insanely delicious garlic-onion dressing, quinoa with garlic and onion, steamed broccoli and carrots; it was like crawling back into Eden and cuddling up in a blanket by a fireplace and doing a crossword puzzle with delightful sweet Connie Francis playing in the background and let me make this perfectly clear: Vegetables are where it is at.
We head over to the Voyeur, where Aerick Duckhugger is writing the names of the bands on the white-board. I give him a Krupper (translation for non-Andersons: make a fist with two hands and wallop him in the small of the back, don't worry, it's gentle). We meet Dennis Driscoll, who is shy but friendly enough, and wearing brown polka-dots and corduroy. We set up, drink some of the nice beer that is allowed us by the complimentary $5-per-band-member tab (which could be a lot of $1-a-can Schlitz or a little of the good stuff; I had a nice Islander Pale Ale and a Pabst and gave a Schlitz to Rob and Eggplant). Lots of talking with Aerick, his SO Mel, Dennis, the CCC types. Pleasant Olympian evening.
Dennis Driscoll plays and his songs are nice, gentle, maritime-flavored, very gentle, occasional guitar mistakes are made and he keeps playing; I admire people who can deal well with things going wrong. Too much of his stuff might not be my cup of tea, but it's good and sweet and earnest for the first twenty minutes.
Next, I play, this time just me and the Univox drum machine and the Guild guitar (as opposed to the Peavey that I've been playing/mangling at the other three shows). I play an extended version of "Ephrata Cloister", a very quiet version of “A Tableau”, and a super-extended version of "Utmost House", in which I forego the drum-machine clatter of the earlier songs in favor of a clap-along with the audience. They clap, and keep clapping! I do the Chuck Berry/Angus Young duck-walk the whole time. I chant “A house/On stilts” over and over and the audience picks it up; oh how I love audience participation. I end up taking off my shirt to wild cheers, slapping the open-tuned Guild (which is on the floor), sweaty and wild-eyed. It was great.
CCC go off to do their jog. Xarek tries to do a trombone-processional through the restaurant in front of the building, but the proprietors will not have that. CCC plays their set and it is manic and there are only a few people in the room, but all of us are dancing. Aerick and I dance like madmen, mad Creepy Crawly Clawercise, pure fun and pure sweat. I end up taking off my shirt. John invites me to play bass-ar for the Flipper cover du jour (tonight: “Sacrifice”), but my note-perfect (if too fast) version of Will Shatter's bass line is not recognized as such by Rob, so he sings his own made-up lyrics. Fair enough. John's strap is really long, and it hangs down around my ankles; I feel incredibly punk-rock. Sweat, and sweat, and sweat; the show ends up with most of the equipment on the floor, and me incoherent and sore-calved.
We stay around, talk, tremble for a while, and then we take off for Portland--they've decided to play a show in Ashland at 2 pm the next day--a 7-hour drive from Olympia but a little under 5 hours from Portland. We drive on into the 1 am night, me tired but fortunately not very intoxicated (I'd sweated out what I'd consumed, definitely). Dylan rides along, tells me all about Spam Records, plays my Pianica for half an hour, then falls asleep, snoring a little, which certainly doesn't help me stay awake. I slap myself to stay awake, which only sort of works. Centralia, Chehalis, Kelso, Kalama, Longview, Vancouver; all these place names go by in a 3-am blur. The caravan of me and John's van makes it to my place, never having gotten separated, and seven people sleep on our couch, our floor, the spare futon. I sleep on my sweet, beautiful, lovely futon next to a window, oh the joy my sweet spine feels.
I set my alarm clock for 8 am and I wake up around 8:10, after one round of snooze-bar postponement-joy. I go downstairs and wake up people who do not want to be awakened, make coffee, oatmeal, toast, tea, trying to be a good host in spite of the fact that most of my dishes are still dirty from when I left. (Such a bad housemate I am sometimes!) They eat and load up into their van; right before they leave, Rob says, "hey, you probably want your guitars, don't you?" Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten: I'd left my guitars in their van. Boy would that have sucked to have forgotten those!
The van takes off, we wave au-revoir, and I go upstairs and sleep and sleep. I wake up tired, sore, congested, but very happy--I feel alive and I'm glad I went off on this lunatic little tour. Here's to more spontaneous tours, more spontaneous everything, more mayhem, more kind kale-cooking radicals; here is to the sweet young life!