Superchunk: Tours

 
 


Fall 2001
"Jeez... I haven't seen a damn Dairy Queen since Albuquerque."

11/29

Home.  Nice to be here. I really can't believe how much ground we've covered in the last two months. 

Provided the world with one of the finest ever examples of unawareness on the drive to DC.  We stopped at a rest area complex in Maryland at around 1:30.  The complex has one service station on one end, a restaurant/restroom facility in the middle and an identical service station on the other side. Jim parked the van next to one of the service stations and I walked up to the Sbarro/Roy Rogers/restroom facility to get some pizza (not in the restroom, though).  I got my food, went out the door, got completely turned around and spent the next half hour scouring the wrong side of the complex for the van. I seriously thought they had left me behind.  Eventually I spotted Laura and she explained that the van hadn't moved and I was on the wrong side of the building.  Thich Nhat Han would have been absolutely disgusted. 

The final show of the tour took place in DC at the new Black Cat.  Probably our smallest turnout in Capital City in 7 years but it was also our first Monday night there. We finished up with a tri-band version of "Fishing" that featured Blake from Rilo Kiley and Craig from Aerogramme on guitars.  After the show Tony presented us with a wonderful gift: a vintage model plane that he turned into a Superchunk tour plane a la Led Zeppelin's "Starship."

The man who plays the SG in Fugazi came out to dinner with us and was kind enough to answer all my American Hardcore -related queries (after witnessing our soundcheck Ian remarked that we had become a blues rock band).  He shed light on the little-known period right after the final break-up of Minor Threat that saw guitarists Lyle Presslar and Brian Baker joining forces with ex-Misfit howler Glenn Danzig.  The most interesting thing about this team-up (Baker didn't last long) was that the preppy-looking Presslar could not have been more out of sync with Danzig's horror/splatter image.  I remember a great photo of Samhain's only show with Presslar that appeared in a New Jersey fanzine back in the mid-80s.  On the left side of the picture was bassist Eerie Von, decked out in all black gear, white face paint and devil lock hairstyle.  In the center was Danzig, dressed much like Von with his hair completely combed forward so it obscured his face.  At the far right of the frame is Presslar' s arm.  It is obvious that he is wearing a light- colored Oxford dress shirt.  If that isn't sticking to your guns I don't know what is.  

Got back to Chapel Hill around 5:30 and prepared myself for the full evening that lay ahead.  Went over to Go! to see Aerogramme at 7:00, had some dinner, called Scharpling' s show to do a mini prank on Our Band Could Be Your Life author Michael Azerad ("Why no Wire Train?") and went to the Cradle to see.....The Strokes.  I wasn't in the club for more than ten minutes before a guy came up and said, "Jon Wurster, what happened to bootstrap rock?" Made me wonder too.  Headed home and tried to get a crummy virus off my laptop.  My apologies to anyone who got it from me.  I had no idea I was infected til DC.  In a strange Karmic twist, our friend Peter from Chicago got infected also.  Think I got it taken care of. Now I sleep for many days.

Ok.  Many thanks to Jason, Eric, Becky, Annie, Rilo Kiley, Aerogramme and The Good Life for coming with us. Not quite sure what the future holds for us but we thank you all for your support.

Happy Holidays to all,

Jon

11/26

Wow, has it really been three days since I updated this? 

I have been so exhausted these past few days that I've gotten increasingly crabbier to the point where I've let little things get way too far under my skin.  Got out of that funk when we left New York. Was great to see all our NYC friends again but I'm burnt.  Second show was very different from the first.  We started with a lot of acoustic songs and tried to build from there.  Said  adios with "Born To Run." 

We're at Jason's mother's place in historic Valley Forge, PA.  We did an early show in Philly tonight. Not a bad turnout for a rainy Sunday.  Once again, no one from my Philly posse showed up.  Not that I bothered to call anyone -I just assumed a select few would know they were on the list. Time keeps on slipping ,slipping, slipping into the future.

I opted to use the drum riser at the Troc (the highest in any club I know of).  Normally I ask to have it taken down but I just wanted to go for it this time.  Scharpling got me the new Kiss box set (can't wait to make that "worst of" compilation) the other day and I was so inspired by the photos of "His Catness" perched way atop his massive drum riser that I wanted to see what it must have felt like. Martin from Aerogramme wanted to set up on the floor so he set up in front.  Jason came in the dressing room as they were setting up and remarked that the sight of his drums in front of mine looked "pretty rockstar."  I really don't like the looks of it either but most of the bands that open for us like to be on the floor. I like to be up a little so I can make faces at Becky at the t-shirt stand.

One of the funniest incidents in Chunk history took place at the Trocadero back in 1994.  We were playing an early show with the late show that night featuring the just about to go massive Offspring and their then-not quite so well known tour mates Rancid. Just as we were finishing up soundchecking the three front guys from Rancid  bounded onstage, started jumping around and playing air guitar -all the while remarking how great the show that night was going to be.  

Jim and I were sitting in the dressing room after our show when Rancid founders Lars and Tim came running in.  "You guys are staying for our show aren't you?" asked Lars.  I replied that we were actually on our way to stay at my parent's place in nearby Harleysville.  Lars stated that Rancid didn't know anybody in Philly and that they needed some support.  He then offered to call my mother and tell her that we were going to be late because of the Rancid show. It was actually very charming.

Just then our soundman Caleb Southern (Caleb is the man responsible for producing the debut albums by both Archers Of Loaf and The Ben Folds Five) came in the room.  Tim took one look at his Billy Bragg shirt and exclaimed, "Billy Bragg! Dude, I wrote a song about him!"  Lars, obviously feeling slighted, corrected him adding, "Dude, we wrote a song about him."  The next several minutes saw Tim (or was it Lars?) trying to buy Caleb's Billy Bragg shirt.  Caleb refused at first (it was all he had on his upper torso) but then agreed to sell it for twenty dollars.  Tim (Lars?) was devastated to find he only had fourteen bucks to his name.  The guy truly wanted that shirt.  At this point both Jim and I were rooting for him to get the damn thing.  Caleb would not budge on his price.  Jim and I eventually chipped in the remaining money and there was one happy Rancid dude that evening. I think Caleb just took one of the shirts from the merch box and wore that the rest of the night.  Gotta track him down and see if he returned it.    

Gonna wrap this all up tonight in DC.  

11/23

Up at the wee hour of noon.  Jason is doing his yoga in the other room commenting on how bad he feels.  Crippled by the crippler.  Post-show saw most of us attending a bar/burlesque joint where most of us felt severely out of place.  Pretty sure I rubbed elbows with Rufus Wainwright. The ban was not discussed.

Wild crowd for NYC last night.  Super-fan Tony was there and he seemed to suck others into his "world of heckles." Before long there was a constant barrage of good-natured Wilbur-related catcalls and even a variation on a traditional Christmas carol about yours truly. Saw a post on our bulletin board stating that there was a lot of man on man action in the pit.  I just hope somebody from The Advocate was there.  Maybe this will be the crossover we've been looking for. There were a couple weird sound problems and another broken cymbal but I thought we did well.  See the bulletin board on this site for a slightly different opinion from "Peter" (why are we so hated by the Peters of the world?). Kitchen rags for towels tonight.

Tonight should be pretty different.  Hope we don't duplicate too many songs.  Thinking about playing Incidental Music and Laughter Guns in their entireties.  Wouldn't that be great?  I can hear your groans from here. 

On a different note:

Is there anyone out there who experiences the shutting off of streetlights when walking or driving underneath them?  This has been happening to me on a regular basis for the last 3 years.  I've read this is a "phenomenon" of some sorts. Probably just that electric personality of mine that all the ladies always talk about.

11/22

NYC. Got in around four.  We stopped at a Boston Market along the way.  Several people were eating their Thanksgiving meals there.  Made me very thankful for the many things in my life and made the whining about the bad bagels at Dunkin Donuts,  the "annoying woman in the green sweater" at the Holiday Inn and how lame certain Manhattan restaurants are all the more tiresome. 

Had Thanksgiving at an Italian restaurant in Little Italy.  The waiter was a cool older gentleman from the old country.  It was hard to make out just what he was saying and I swear I heard him say our meals came with pasta, salad and a Cert. 

Becky and I came back to the hotel after dinner and watched two full hours of new CSI.  Man, do I want to kiss Marg Helgenberg. I can tell by watching her that she knows I like her.  This reminds me of a story my mother told me of watching T.V. with her grandmother back in the '50s. They were watching a singer perform on a variety show and my great grandmother remarked that "he sings better when I don't look at him." Ha -I have on Conan in the background and Garafalo just did a bit about how hot all the coroners are on T.V. this season.

Is this a new trend: book commercials featuring famous espionage writers reading their work?  Just saw one with James Patterson.  Really thought it was a Conan sketch until it faded out. Why can't they do this for the latest in erotic fiction? 

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

11/21

Back in the good ol' U.S.A. A much better showing on my part this time in Montreal. Last time, if you'll recall, it was Halloween and I was a drunk Fred Durst impersonator who turned the beat around (twice!).  Not a great turn out last night but those who came got an interesting encore.  I think every song we did was pre-1991. Saw our old friend Howard (he's got a speaking role in the recent film Eye Of The Beholder) and his wonderful dog Gus. I think Howard put us up the first time through with me in '91. I remember the previous night we stayed in Toronto and slept at a teacher's house.  We had to get up at 7:00 am -same time he did- and shove off.  Made me hate school even more.

Had a perfect laundry situation yesterday.  The laundry room (a mere 15 yards from my room) only had one dryer and washer and both were empty. It was only $1.50 Canadian for a full hour of drying time. I know this means nothing to those of you safe at home with your portable hand-held wash and dry contraptions but THIS IS THE ROAD! THIS IS THE REAL WORLD! THAT SYNTH CRAP YOU LISTEN TO IS GUTLESS! Oops - I just fell into a scene from Valley Girl there.  Sorry.

Caught the Canadian equivalent of ESPN Sports Classics while waiting to leave for the gig (that means a show -we call them "gigs").  It was vintage black and white footage of an early '70s grudge football match between Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. What had me most perplexed wasn't the fact that these teams existed but that it wasn't shot in color. The far north is always the last to get technological  breakthroughs.  I think I read where they didn't even get screen savers up there until last March.

Playing a theater in Boston tonight.  Kind of weird -the seats go up to the stage.  I really like the feel of the place but I think the fact that it's a seated venue has scared people off.  Either that or kids would rather spend time with their stupid families at Thanksgiving than pour their money into our bloated pockets.

11/20

Didn't end up going to the Jicks.  Decided to catch up on unanswered e-mails. Watching a show on TLC where they go into trauma centers and film them patching people up.  A guy just popped a patient's leg back into place after it was dislocated. And I just threw up. 

It's amazing how French Montreal is.  Even more than I remember it being.  Speaking of which, I never realized how unaccommodating the language is when it comes to pop/rock music until I caught an all-French-Canadian music program earlier in the evening. The show featured mainly vintage clips of long-haired denim-clad singer/songwriters from the '70s and early '80s.  Most of them reminded me of Gordon Boch, a New England singer Jim likes to play in the van.  Boch sings "nautical-flavored" ditties Mac and I call "sea shanties." This usually leads to Jim deriding us for being "uneducated." Anyway, I am of the opinion that it's hard to rock out convincingly when  spouting a bunch of words with so many silent s's. That said, everybody has the right to rock. 

11/19

Our drive to Canada did not start well. We awoke to one of those dismal gray mornings that scream " Detroit." What a gloomy town.  I would guess there is maybe a 20% occupancy rate of the buildings downtown.  Wonder if it will ever bounce back. We got lost on the way to the border due to the excessive fog and the shoddy signage.  We were following Jason and Eric and the equipment van when they pulled into what appeared to be a vacant lot in the vicinity of the elusive border.  

It was at this point that we met a woman who can best be described as "challenging."  She was a surly border guard sitting in an official customs car.  She was the rudest woman I've ever encountered.  Jason and Eric somehow made it past her and to the customs office.  The shit hit the fan when Jim pulled our van up to tell her we were with the other van. Poor Jim got maybe five words out before she cut him off, demanding to know where the hell we thought we were going. He told her and she lit into him.  At one point she screamed, "You don't come here and just tell me where you're going!" Guess she forgot she asked him for that information just seconds before. I was so utterly amazed at how out of control her temper was that I cannot honestly remember anything else that she said. I just couldn't fathom how mean she was. 

Jim handled it wonderfully.  He knew if he shot back at her she'd do all she could to make things even harder for us.  She told us to go wait on the street, far away from her.  There's nothing like someone who hates their life so much that they take it out on others. We had to get through one more rude American customs official before we got to the rude Canadian officials.  Inside the customs building we waited with another band who we later found out was French prog violinist Jean Luc Ponty and his group. Much later we were allowed to carry on. I was the first to cave and get doughnuts at Jim Horton's. 

Many hours later we made it to the Opera House.  First time we played there was in '91 and there were so few people that we asked them to join us onstage to watch the show.  Last time we were up against U2 -not so much crossover there, I guess.  Good turnout tonight.  The sound of the room was wonderful from where I sat.  Eric had to run out to the van in the middle of the show to get me sticks because I was burning through them for some reason. Must've been working out customs-related anger. 

Day off tomorrow for the drive to Montreal.  Word is that The Jicks are playing at the venue where we'll be Tuesday.  Maybe we can all jam on "Jailbreak" or something.

11/18

Detroit. Good one.  Can't say we kicked the Strokes asses but we had a respectable showing.  Probably the most animated crowd of the tour. Played "Detroit Has A Skyline" acoustic at the beginning and then electric at the end.  First show with Aerogramme, a fine Scottish trio that can not too inaccurately be described as a cross between Travis, Mogwai and Entombed.  Heard about a couple people getting their cars stolen while the show was happening. God, we gotta get up early and head to Toronto.  There is a raging Goth party happening downstairs but I'm going to have to pass. Probably the last diary entry for a few days.  Stay out of trouble.

11/16

Here's the scenario. You're in a band that's been around for 12 years.  You've just played what you feel is one of the best shows you've  ever done in front of the absolute best audience of your current tour.  You return to your hotel after a wild night of Karaoke with your fine opening bands. You check your e-mail and are greeted with the following (his run-on sentences are worse than mine!):

"Hated it, the encore was nothing more than embarrassing who were those geeky people on stage they looked like the geeky people in the audience you know the ones with feet planted on the ground talking during your 'serious' moments.  I guess 10 years was a good run as far as my love affair with you guys is concerned I was at the concert with Seaweed but the crowd you are drawing now hasnt a clue how raw and classy you used to be live. These artsy fartsy types that like your acoustic stuff really are the lowest form of yuppie shite if you were in the audience yourselves you would feel the same. I left during "Born to Run' and caught the last part of Stereo's set at the Fireside how refreshing being among the young and involved a cleansing moment sorely needed. Goodbye Peter. "   

I'm just hoping he bought a t-shirt.  Despite what Peter says, I  felt our show in Chicago tonight was great. Thanks to The Good Life for coming out with us (tonight was  their last show with us) and also to Thax for the introduction.  THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE SUPPORTED US THROUGH THE YEARS HERE.  

It's 4:00 am and I must rest up in order to kick The Strokes asses tomorrow.  We're up against them in Detroit.  Support "boot strap rock"!

11/15

Utterly devastated -the hurts just keep coming.  We pull up to the hallowed First Avenue nightclub in downtown Minneapolis and find they've just repainted the exterior.  If you've ever seen  the outside of the club you know it's festooned with silver stars -each one indicating a group or artist who's played here.  As far as I know, they really haven't redone the stars in years, and most of the names were of bands who played First Ave early in their careers and are now huge (Prince, U2, R.E.M.). You can imagine how excited we were to see several of our contemporaries listed among the hundred or so new names now adorning the wall (Sleater-Kinney, Yo La Tengo, etc,). 

 You can imagine our disappointment at finding that nowhere on a wall which includes the names of Dumpster Juice, G.B.H., and The Gear Daddies were your heroes listed.  Club manager/prince of men Conrad walked us around the outside of the club promising that he gave strict instructions for us to be included - and I believe him.  Mac got the whole episode on tape. I just wonder who's playing drums for the band tonight because I sure ain't.  My fragile ego just won't allow it. I'm actually sitting in a T.G.I. Fridays across from the club writing this with tears in my eyes. 

Hours later and everything is much better.  Spotted an ad for a show called Unsatisfied at the art museum.  The show features artifacts from the '80s Minneapolis rock scene. It is maybe not so well known that at one point (84-88) my three favorite bands (Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum -I know you're probably moaning about SA but I will go on record saying their shows at the Brewery in Raleigh, NC in the spring and summer of '88 stand as two of the best rock experiences I've ever witnessed) were from the Twin Cities.  

The cab ride to the museum was funny.  The Ethiopian driver ingratiated himself to me  when he said he recognized me from my incredibly brief appearances on The Conan O'Brien Show. I ingratiated myself to him by showcasing my knowledge of great Ethiopian long distance runners of the late '60s and '70s like Abebe Bikila and Mamo Wolde. Our conversation ended on a weird note.  He would bring up the name of a very successful pop star (Phil Collins, George Michael, etc,) and ask if I knew if they were gay or not. Rod Stewart was the one he was most interested in. I told him I thought he was "very not gay."

The show was wonderful.  So many great pictures and collectibles.  Saw great photos of the early Replacements (one showed Tommy at the front door of the Stinson home being told by a cop to turn down during a Mats practice), Huskers and Man Sized Action (featuring a baby-faced HTSU producer Brian Paulson!).  The best section was the "lyric corner." Would you believe they had a copy of the City Pages classified page that Westerberg read from for "Lovelines" ("JD, if you need a fishing partner please let me know..")?! They also had hand written lyrics for three tunes from Husker's Zen Arcade album.  

The best HD-related item was a manila envelope sent from SST to drummer/vocalist Grant Hart which had a handwritten early track listing for New Day Rising. In the lower right hand corner was a note to Grant from his mom saying, "Grant- we will be out of town til Monday.  We would appreciate it if you didn't have a party.  Food is in the freezer.  Love, Mom." Did I mention that the second song played over the little gallery PA while I was there was the Wallet's horribly brilliant local hit "Totally Nude" (I found a copy of the Wallet's album while we we were making HTSU and it perched atop the mixing board while we recorded)? 

Overheard two great stories while I was eating tonight.  There was a group of older men and women sitting next to me who were having a great time.  One story involved a man's nephew who was conceived after the guy's brother and sister-in -law met on a phone party line (both were fifteen).  The kid was put up for adoption .  The story took a weird twist when the guy's other nephew found out about the other boy ("My brother, being the asshole that he is, told him") and found him through a TV search service.  The entire family ended up on Sally Jesse Raphael. The boy ended up being adopted by the mayor of a town in California and is doing great. The other story involved the mother of one of the women at the table.  The mother had just flown out to Hawaii to visit another daughter.  She got so sick that she  was laid up in bed for a couple days.  The woman said her mother was so out of it that she went into the bathroom and mistook a potted plant for the toilet.  You can guess the rest.  Are you still reading?

Great show tonight.  Both opening bands joined us for "Born To Run."  Spent the 90-minute drive to Eau Claire Shaloming (see previous diaries) and rocking out to the best of local radio (Van Halen, Night Ranger and AC/DC).  Was I unbearably obnoxious?  C'mon!

11/14

Sitting in a big equipment closet at Grinnell College in Iowa while The Good Life play.  Two and a half days later and we're here.  Jim and Laura did most of the driving.  I read Moby Dick twice (once in English, the second time in Spanish). Saw a great sign in Sioux Falls, SD this morning: "Frozen Custard and Butter Burgers." Mmmm, just like mother used to make.  Had breakfast two days ago in Butte, Montana at an old joint called M&M.  The place is in the historical registry because it was one of the sole places where cowboy types could find food, drink and "amusements" back in the mid-1800s.  Had french toast and water.  Not very amusing but I did see a shirt which read, "Osama bin Laden: Wanted Dead Or Alive."  "Alive" was crossed out.  Not that that's very amusing either.  More  fine graffiti, this time in Wall, SD in the mensroom of a restaurant.  Etched loviningly into the divider between the sink and the urinal were the words "Dashiel sucks my ass." Underneath that, and presumably scratched in by someone else, was the following sentence: "Well then it must be one huge suck because you have a huge ass." 

Heard a great radio station the other night somewhere near Missoula, MT.  They must have played an entire side of Thin Lizzy's Live And Dangerous album .  We've been hearing tons of Bob Seger too.  Man, I just never got into the Seeg.  Maybe it's the fact that he can grow a much better beard than I. I shaved mine off  back in Portland.  I was once again mistaken for an Osmond.  This time it was Osmond family patriarch great grandpa Gerald Osmond.   Didn't think it made me look that old.

11/13

Drive day number one is behind us.  We're in Butte, MT right now.  Strange traveling through the middle of nowhere and not being able to find out what was going on in Queens all day. Heard a remarkably unenlightened  talk radio host complaining about the fact that the networks haven't been showing any footage of dead bodies.  A woman called up to state that we should "bomb their turbans off." Stopped at a rest stop a few hours ago that had pictures of bin Laden on the urinal cakes.

11/12

Got stuck in a Seahawks-related traffic jam on the way to the in-store today in Seattle.  The kids were kind enough to wait around for us.  Played some tunes, got some shirts. Now waiting to soundcheck at the Showbox.  This place has been around for quite some time and is somewhat legendary as far as I can tell (rumor has it that Steve Largent once saw The Cars here).  Word is there weren't a ton of advance tickets sold so we're worried.  I've been forced during the course of our 2001 tour to change my policy of refusing to take the stage if there are less than 400 people in the room.  Now I only refuse to play if there is a major sewage leak in the club.  

Forgot to mention earlier that we are now a three band power package tour.  L.A.'s Rilo Kiley joined us in Hollywood. Can't get a firm answer on what their name means but my guess is that it's Samoan for "Great, now we're both mad." 

We make the turn eastward tomorrow.  We are facing a two day trek to Grinnell, Iowa. Last time we played there we stayed at a Days Inn where someone rearranged the letters on the marquee so it read "Free HBO. Poop Now." There's a photo of it on this site somewhere. Funny how I can remember that but can't remember to put my credit card (can you believe I have one?) back in my wallet after using it. Did just that yesterday but was very fortunate that the store called my bank and the bank found me and told me I left it behind.  Eric swung by the place this afternoon and got it.  Praying I won't return home and find a $2,000 charge for "entertainment" at Thee Doll Haus -'Portland's Number One Gentlemen's Club'. 

Back from dinner.  Saw a poster on the way in for Hells Belles, an all-female AC/DC tribute band.  My friends and I have a long-standing fantasy/joke about a band who plays a "sticker release party" in celebration of their first band sticker. The Belles have brought that fantasy to life and taken it one step further with their upcoming "Merchandise Release Party" at the Showbox. 

At the hotel across the street from the Paramount Theater. Margaret Cho is doing her "Notorious C.H.O" show there. Ms. Cho actually came to see us in Hollywood once.  I think she may have even bought a T-shirt. Great show tonight.  Good turnout for a Sunday night.  Couple of equipment problems, but stuff happens.  Met some great guys who came down from Alaska for the show.  I asked them for a bite of their whale meat jerky and they looked at me like they didn't know what I was talking about. Even played "Her Royal Fisticuffs " for that weird girl who comes to see us sometimes.  :)

11/10-11

Just got back from a kick ass round of karaoke here in Portland.  We hooked up with The Good Life at a sports bar downtown.  Mac did EJ's "The Bitch Is Back," Becky did some '80s power ballad I've never heard and I got to do two -The Who's "5:15" and .38 Special's "Caught Up In You." Tim from The Good Life brought it all home with His Purpleness' "Nothing Compares 2U."

2nd show in S.F. was good.  Didn't seem as good as the other night but everyone has been saying it was better. Dunno.  While Mac and Jim were hanging out with Doug Martsch by the pool (BTS was in the middle of a 5 night stand in town) I was laughing my head off watching the Friars Club roast of Hugh Hefner on Comedy Central. Best moment was when someone (I can't keep these guys straight) was telling Hef how much Playboy meant to him.

Comedian:

"My grandfather told me that when he was young there was no pornography,  He was forced to masturbate while looking at a charcoal drawing of a vagina.  His grandfather just sat in a field with his pants at his ankles waiting for a cloud in the form of a tit to roll by ." My apologies to my mother who I know is reading this.

10-hour drive to Portland today.  Jim did almost all of it.  He was ready to murder when we got out of the van. We had a great late night dinner at the same tapas place we came to a few years ago. Was very happy to see the hostess Amalia again. Amalia was my girlfriend's best friend back in the late '80s when we all lived in "The City Of Hope-Free Living (that's Winston-Salem, NC to you and me)."  Last time we played there I was robbed at gunpoint. 

Can't say how excited I am to go to Powell's book store tomorrow.  This place is a whole city block long.  I'm gonna get every book on the Oprah Book Club list.  I shouldn't bust on that.  Some  writer just got his ass kicked because he whined about his new book being chosen by OW for  inclusion on her list. He said he was "horrified" or something to that effect and as a result got his book pulled from the list.  

Back in the hotel after the Portland show.  Good one.  Club was cool but seemingly unheated. Don't think we helped 'em pay the heating bill tonight. Nah, there was a pretty good turnout.  It really seems that the 11th has had an impact even on the world of rock and roll tours. Most club managers have said that turnouts are down in general.  Got overwhelmed at Powells and only got a few books. So burnt I can't summon the strength to type anymore.  That wasn't too dramatic, was it? On to Seattle for some serious spelunking.

11/08

Making the scene in S.F.  I like this town but there is such a sad/negative vibe in the area where we are lodging.  There are so many loose cannons and people with severe mental problems walking around with nowhere to go.  It's very sad. Everywhere you go people are yelling and smashing bottles. 

In much less significant news: I'm tired.  Got to sleep in today but I'm still burnt.  Did laundry.  Went to a drug store and heard a funny conversation between an older man and the store's completely uninterested middle-aged manager:

Older Man:

"Why haven't you got those things (not sure what he was talking about) anymore?!"

Manager:

"I don't know.  We just don't stock them anymore."

Older Man:

"And another thing,  why are the gas prices so different everywhere?! It's $1.35 here and then it's $1.40 somewhere else!"

Manager:

"It's all politics, I imagine."

Older Man:

"That's what I thought!! I was waiting for you to admit that!"

Might go see Zoolander.  I don't know -there are absolutely no other options.  Everything else opens tomorrow. Looking forward to the new Steve Martin movie.  

Good show last night.  I think it was our best set list of the tour -good flow.  

Had fun hanging out with The Good Life last night.  They're from Omaha, NE and have been with us since Houston.  They're part of that whole Omaha/Saddle Creek records scene even your Uncle Bill is into (I'm so waiting for the not so distant future when the world will be populated with older people with today's children's names: "Kids, we're going over to Grandpa Dylan's house. Grandma Ashley can't wait to see you. Uncle Skylar will be there too"). They were telling stories of being on tour with Bright Eyes and the throng of young ladies that come to see young Connor.  It's not uncommon for girls to jump in the van and start pawing at him.  Lucky bastard.  Only time something like that ever happened to me was when a stray dog jumped into our van in Brazil and started pawing all over me to get to the ham sandwich I had stuffed into my pocket. 

11/07

Quick run-down of the last couple days:

The show in Tempe did happen outdoors.  We didn't get a soundcheck but that was ok.  Sometimes those "load in, set up and play" shows are fun.  Pretty good-sized crowd for AZ on a Monday night.  Arizona has a weird alcohol policy where kids and drinkers can't mix.  The remedy is to have all the drinkers on one side of the club and the underage kids on another.  The two groups are separated by a chain-link fence.  Luckily they usually put the kids up in front of the stage and the partiers in the back.  

Right after we played, someone started announcing upcoming shows. .The one that elicited the strongest reaction was "Preston School Of Industry, featuring Spiral Stars of Pavement." I shouldn't talk, I once asked Watt what Who album "Piss Bottle Man" was on. Reminds me of the time I was watching the local news in Winston-Salem, N.C. and the woman was reading a story about  the armed forces radio station that had just gone on the air in Iraq during Desert Storm. She went on to tell of the first song played on the new station: "A very appropriate song by the Clash called, 'Rock The Calabash.'" This reminds me of the time I worked in a record store in Greensboro, N.C. and a woman came in seeking "Rock The Casbah" and asked my co-worker for the song that had the lyric "Siamese don't like it,  not the cat's fault."

Speaking of the last gang in town, what's up with Built To Spill doing three Clash tunes during their set?!  They opened with their take on The Clash's take on "Police and Thieves" and also threw in "Straight To Hell" and "White Man In Hammersmith Palais."  I kept calling out for "We Are The Clash" from Cut The Crap but they didn't know it.  

Back at the hotel we were treated to the finals of the International Aerobics Championship.  The guy who won was dressed as Charlie Chaplin -fake mustache and all.  He beat out a guy in a halter top.  

L.A. was L.A.  Seemed like a ghost town when we pulled in. Heard the show was sold out in advance but it didn't seem that full. We had a weird incident with one of the in-house sound guys.  Stuff got resolved but there was an uncomfortable vibe for the rest of the night.  The show was good and Becky saved her job by selling a large amount of merchandise. Didn't see any celebs at all -maybe they were at Built To Spill at the House of Blues.  Gotta ask Plouf what Aykroyd is really like.  Wonder if Donna Dixon was there. Still waiting on Doctor Detroit 2.

More tomorrow.

11/06

At the hotel in Tempe waiting to find out if our show here with Built To Spill is going to take place outside or indoors.  The word is that if it gets moved indoors it will be a miserable experience.  All I can say is we've never played a good venue in this area.  My favorite was The Library in 1993 with Rocket From The Crypt.  The place was a metal bar that had a completely uncalled for literary motif.  There were shelves full of books against the walls and a brass railing in front of the stage.  I was actually surprised the rail was still standing three songs into Rocket's set.  It was gone by the end of the fourth.  Our first time here was at the Sun Club where the soundman bellowed, "All sluts report to the soundboard," after our set.  Would you believe he had no takers?

A fine gent was kind enough to set me straight on the Chuy's controversy.  Apparently young Jenna Bush tried unsuccessfully to purchase alcohol at an Austin, TX establishment called Chuy's and the staff called the man on her. You'd think with her connections she could get the stuff delivered to her.  Guess she wanted a body shot.

Saw the most beautiful rainbow on the way here today. A full 180 degrees. The majesty of that moment was offset by the scene taking place in the hotel lobby tonight.  The moment I stepped through the door the man behind the counter slammed the phone down and said, "Fucking asshole -people like that should be killed."  What's he got to be mad about?  The Diamondbacks are world champions! 

A friend has been forwarding some e-mails from the Chunk e-mail list (I'm way too terrified to subscribe) regarding my playing style.  The issue in question is just what I'm saying when I'm playing.  I wish I could tell you that I'm reciting some happening Beat poetry or some complex theorems, but the truth is I am completely unaware that my mouth is even moving when I play. This got me in a sticky spot once when a huge guy in a Helmet shirt cornered me after our show and wanted to rumble.  He said during one song I looked right at his girlfriend and mouthed the words "I want to lick your entire body from head to toe."  I sweet talked my way out of it saying that I wasn't in fact saying anything -just opening my mouth every time I hit the snare drum. The funny thing is I did end up licking her entire body from head to toe later that night.

11/05

Stopped now in Las Cruces, NM.  Just watched Arizona win the Series.  We will help them party tomorrow.  

Had dinner at the always wonderful Chuy's in Van Horn, TX.  We have been stopping there since 1992.  Chuy's serves fine Mex food but what keeps us coming back is the vibe and decor.  The restaurant prides itself on being sanctioned by former Oakland Raider coach and present-day commentator John Madden.  Mr. Madden has a terrible fear of flying and rides from game to game in his customized "Maddencruiser" tour bus.  He stopped in Van Horn (a tiny town which serves mainly as a stopover for weary travelers) many years ago and dug Chuy's.  Chuy digs John so much that a large table sits in front of the giant screen TV  with a sign bearing the inscription: "Reserved For Mr. John Madden." There used to be a a second sign which read: "...or Mr. Marvin Jenkins (I can't remember the actual name) when Mr. Madden is not in town."  

This got a whole debate going on in my head all during dinner: "Did Mr. Jenkins die or did he do something to make Chuy revoke his preferred seating status?"  I must admit that there was a certain level of tenseness at the restaurant this time.  The first thing my eyes made contact with was a huge banner that said: "Not affiliated with any other 'Chuy's restaurant.'" There were also flyers announcing:  "We  have been open since 1959 and do not call 911 after refusing service to minors."  It seems there are local establishments that take a hard line on such an issue and have seen their business decline as a result. You can read more about this in my expose in next week's  West Texas Herald ("Van Horn Youngsters Find Tough Going In Spirits Pursuit, Local Eateries Black Listed"). 

Speaking of weird signs -what is up with the indiscriminate use of quotation marks that I've been seeing all across this fair land? Some recent faves:

"The Dentists" (a new dental complex in Houston)

Fort Worth's Window Repair "Professionals"

We Are "Open"

and the old favorites:

Work At "Home" and Lose Weight "At Home"

Good "night."

11/03

Good in-store today in Dallas at Good Records.  Played some numbers and got some shirts and a veggie burger too. The show tonight is in Ft. Worth at the Ridglea Theater, a cool old venue that must have been the place to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the '70s and '80s. All I know is that local heroes and Bands On The Run winners Flickerstick are playing here next week as part of their "fan appreciation weekend." If you've read my previous diaries you know that I was fully captivated by the drama/horror/insanity that was BOTR. Annie was saying today that when she told the porter at her building in Jersey City that she was going on tour with a band, the 50-ish Dominican man replied, "Oh, like Flickerstick."  I am not alone.

We've been fortunate to have three days of wonderful weather in Texas so spirits are relatively high even though we're up against the Damned again. I thought I told those guys to take a hike.  I must say they were really good when I saw them a couple weeks ago (in spite of the drummer's tantrums regarding the lighting -way worse than my tantrums which are usually related to the substitution of kitchen rags for regular towels: a clear and unforgivable breach of our rider). This testimonial should be in no way interpreted as a call for you to see them. 

 We're a little concerned about the turnout tonight. We've never played in Ft. Worth and we got the vibe that people from Dallas might not be into driving over here.  Matters were not helped when I overheard one of the people putting on the show saying that a piece of the PA that is not working well has to be fixed by next week "because Flickerstick and Stereolab are playing and those shows are going to sell out." 

Played "Las Ramblas" last night.  For you non-completists, this is one of the b-sides of our latest single.  It's a quiet number where Laura plays synth and I play guitar.  I think I did ok mainly because I was way more concerned with making sure the gaping hole in the crotch of my pants wasn't visible.

Best line so far in the American hardcore book belongs to D.R.I.'s Spike Cassidy:

"We moved to San Francisco and lived in the parking lot of a supermarket in our van for two months. The van next to ours belonged to Verbal Assault." Things have really changed.  Nowadays a band would never dream of living in a van parked in front of a supermarket.  A Blockbuster maybe, but a supermarket? No way.

Post-show.  Actually a respectable turnout.  Jim got baked from the Mary Jane the guy in front of him kept lighting up.  His requests for the Dead's "St. Stephen" went unanswered. More in a day or two.  Massive drive to Tempe tomorrow.

11/02

Just finished soundcheck here at the wonderful La Zona Rosa in Austin.  Gonna go get some records at Waterloo and then eat more Mexican food (hopefully). 

Good show last night.  It was presented by a group of young upstarts called Hands On Houston.  Because it was a college show there was no ad in the local weekly.  Fortune smiled on us and there was actually a feature on HOH which mentioned the show.  Good turnout in spite of the Dammed show across town (score one for the "kids" -I heard we outdrew them).  We're up against them again tonight.  Trying to get a rumor going that they're Taliban-sanctioned.  

  Who should show up at the gig but Mr. David Cross -the kid from Men In Black and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. He was doing a stand-up performance in Houston and some kids kidnapped him and took him to our show.  Had a beer afterwards at a college bar called Valhalla.   The place was kind of like a dungeon but without the charm. They were playing latter-day Madness on the jukebox and I was confused. Got to our hotel at 3:00am only to discover that one of the beds was unmade and there were dirty towels on the floor.  I love how people who work third shift at hotels just do not give a rip.  The guy at the front desk said "Oh, maybe someone's still staying in that room." Oh, and maybe you need to be fired. He did end up switching us to a much nicer room that didn't smell of cigarettes and sex (until much later). 

After dinner.  Didn't find anything at Waterloo (they had so much stuff that I gave up and decided to stand outside and throw pebbles at a trash can) but I did score at Book People with American Hardcore, an oral history of, well, American hardcore punk.  I can just envision the next couple days driving through the desert pestering Jim every couple minutes with questions like "Oh my god,  remember Gay Cowboys In Bondage?"

Now we rock.

11/01

Sitting backstage at the venue at Rice University in Houston.  We passed the football stadium on the way in where in the '50s a spectator ran out onto the field and tackled an opposing player who was running for a 90-yard touchdown. It's good to know things like this because it makes your life better. As we speak there is a man ministering to several students outside of our room.  Weird hearing that juxtaposed with the emo-rock coming from the hall were the gig is happening.  

Good to get out of New Orleans. I like it there but there is a weird energy that I'm not so into.  Kinda like the feeling you get when you watch all the Evil Dead movies back to back.

Last night was ok but it seemed like everybody was partied out.  I know I was.  Apparently everybody got their drink on this past weekend.  The club was cool but it seemed like people were just plain worn-out.  The opening band were locals and went all out with elaborate costumes. Saw a guy dressed as the Twin Towers -he had a small airplane on each arm.  In a word, questionable. 

Here is the run-down on our costumes:

Mac: Rockin' Rollen (the John 3:16 guy in the rainbow wig from the '70s)

Laura: Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead

Annie Hayden: Courtney Love (complete with fake bruises)

Me: I started out as George Michael (because of my beard I was very limited in my choices -guess I could have gone as Sir Walter Raleigh or Rex from Flickerstick) but as I caught my reflection in the mirror before we went on I realized I more closely resembled a scrawnier Sylvester Stallone in the film Cobra.

Becky: "Connie from the 80s."  Becky's roommate Connie is a very nice Chapel Hillian who works at the Cat's Cradle.  She is affectionately known by us as "Rock and Roll T-Shirt" (although I don't think she is aware of this) because of her massive selection of vintage concert Ts.  Becky went as what Connie may have looked like in the 80s hair-metal era. 

Jim: In his own words, "A fully-grown adult." I like to think that he looked like our dad taking us out for Halloween.

We opened with Bobby Picket's fright night favorite "Monster Mash."  It actually sounded like we knew what we were doing. The rest of the set was pretty normal except for the first encore: an acoustic version of The Misfits' "Horror Business."  You would have loved it? 

Had the first DQ of the tour.  Not so good.  I always forget that Dairy Queens are the absolute filthiest restaurants on the planet ( I'm pretty sure I saw a plaque that said as much in today's DQ).  Everybody was bummed.  Becky because they didn't have Mister Mistys and Jim because he had to stop the van. My cone was misshapened.  I overcame this setback and I will play the show tonight.

10/31

Hey, it's my birthday!  Also the 10 year anniversary of my first real show with this crazy crew.  Who'd of thought it? 

Mac saw a great bit of graffiti in the mensroom of a local truck stop today: "George Bush...I'm impressed." I'm told the bar next to the hotel gives free drinks to birthday boys (and gals) so I gotta go.

12:00 pm.  Mac and Jim stumbled in at 3:30 in the morning.  The bar is open 24 hours.  I was going to go back at 6:30 am and drink with the kids waiting to get the school bus but decided against it. What if a reporter from Circus saw me? 

Got an e-mail this morning from a friend who saw the Strokes here last week.  I haven't heard them but I just want to go on record as being against this new crop of musicians and actors who are the offspring of famous people.  These people are taking work from us working class boot strap entertainers! I call for a boycott of The Strokes, Rufus Wainwright, Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson and others (please go to my new website www.offspringofcelebrityboycott.org).  And while it is true my great grandfather invented the automatic garage door opener, I don't feel that I should be included in the boycott (he sold the patent to that a-hole Silas Sears for a side of beef).

On my way out of the hotel today I was asked by the mailman if I was an Osmond.  I told him I was Merrill.  He said, "Nah, his beard's thicker." Couldn't argue.

Mac just read me the NME review of our London show.  Maybe the worst review of our career.  The funny thing is that most of the writers there refer to us as a grunge band.  I refer to them as dinks. The justice is that they have to live in London and breathe petrol fumes all day long. Ah, that's not very nice. I'm just venting.  It was either that or hit Jim over the head with the televison. 

10/30

85 people in a room that holds 1,000 is a bit discouraging but these are the moments that build character. Before we went on I asked Jason if we were in Europe. Show went well. Similar set to Atlanta.

As we loaded in I realized I had actually played the 328 Performance Hall in the winter of 1990.  I had been hired to play with a singer-songwriter (I shouldn't say hired -she was a friend) in a BMI-sponsored songwriting contest.  The woman actually won the Southern regionals and we went to the National finals here in Nashville. We didn't even place.  The winner was a seven-piece funk-based party band we lovingly re-christened Date Rape.  I don't remember their real name but I do know they went on to complete and utter obscurity.  I was fortunate that Treva (the singer-songwriter) split the regional prize money with the band and I was able to purchase the drums I used for my first few years in Superchunk. I've since donated them to an Indie-Rock theme restaurant in Dayton, Ohio called  The Pimple Zoo.

Good to see the Lambchop folks.  None of my guests showed up.  Guess the Dixie Chicks are mad at me.

10/29

Saw a funny exchange in the  hotel lobby this morning. Two older German men were meeting.   The older of the two explained that the reason he hadn't contacted the other man last night was that he "had too many beers and was no longer in control of the universe."

Got a killer condom at a vending machine today: www.condom. The graphic on the front shows the www.condom logo in a Netscape-ish browser.  Can't wait to use it on Jim.

Pulled up to the club just as Delbert McClinton was finishing up his set at the Rock For Tots show across the street.  I actually thought it was a cover band til I heard him do "Giving It Up For Your Love" and realized it was the man himself.  Tons of bikers are streaming out of the parking lot where the concert took place. 

We are pleasantly surprised that we are playing in the venue where Jim and I took it to some a-hole kid's butt eight years ago.  I've probably written about this incident before but here goes.  Said creep was causing havoc during Polvo's set (grabbing people from behind, throwing ashtrays at people) and Jim and I grabbed the kid (he wore a Jesus Lizard shirt -I've blacklisted them from my Close and Play ever since) and threw him in the dressing room just as Laura was coming out of the bathroom.  She went back in and stayed there as we dressed the kid down.  The kid then starts crying (I really think he was on the drugs) and will not leave when we tell him to get out. His screams of "What did I do, what did I do?" can be heard from the dance floor. The creep gets thrown out and later calls in a bomb threat from the payphone in front of the club. Ash Bowie had the best line of the night ("You guys don't even deserve the World's Fair").

Post-show.  Not a ton of people but it was a good show.  Possibly the best onstage sound (for me) in recent memory.  I'll write more tomorrow after we take the tour of the big disco ball.

In Nashville now.  We're staying right across the street from the new football stadium.  We totally had Annie fooled into thinking that we were opening for Aerosmith there tonight.  We also convinced her to buy some leather pants because "we're rockers, right?"  

Cracker Barrel redeemed itself today.  There was absolutely nowhere else to eat and we swallowed our collective pride and went on in.  Jason was thoroughly embarrassed that we would dare eat at an establishment which resides on the banned list (see previous diaries). When I told him I would not mention it in today's entry he insisted I make note of it.  The food was edible and we all bought Blip Bleeps (some candy they sell there -I can just see the thought that went into naming the things: "We need a name for this candy within the next 4 seconds"). Eric had us entertained with stories of a Limp Bizkit tour he was briefly involved with (he worked for one of the opening bands).  Oh, Fred.

Been getting mixed reviews on my beard.  I've never had one before and I thought I'd go for it.  I think I look like a slightly healthier Shane McGowan with slightly nicer teeth.

Big venue tonight. I last played the 328 Performance Hall in 1995 with Magnapop, a band I was filling in for.  It was the last night of the tour and I ended up wearing a Burger King crown on my head and playing "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" on the guitar with Throneberry.  There were only a hundred people there.  There might not be more tonight.  All I know is that I'm gonna party hard and party right.  

10/27-28

Dare I say we played one of our best ever hometown shows last night? Kind of chancy set list.  Not many of the old standards but people seemed to be with us.  I really like having several low-key numbers in there.  "Lipstick Vogue" worked well too.

Didn't get out of the club til around 2:30 and we had to be on the road by 8:00.  Major bummer (I'm thinking of calling myself Major Bummer -either that or Major Damage -whichever one Hollywood embraces first is the one I will go with).

Slept most of the way down to Atlanta. Laura and Jim drove the van.  After soundcheck we are accosted by our old friend and co-worker Dewitt Burton (see previous diaries and read of his exploits) who is dressed as a slice of anchovy pizza.  There was a Halloween parade going on on the street the club is on (this is why we had to get here so early) that he and his friends marched in.  The costumes are very impressive (pizza slice -made of foam rubber/pill bottle/french fry) and I am envious of the cartoon hands (think Mickey Mouse) they all sport. 

After dinner I head out for pieces of my Halloween costume.  I won't tell you what it is 'cause it's a secret. 

Back at the hotel post-show.  The venue was nice.  We usually play the Echo Lounge but tonight we tried the Variety Playhouse.  I think we actually had less people than we would have at the Echo.  We were introduced by Dewitt (in pizza costume) and it was a treat to watch him go off in the pit (while in costume).  Broke out a few numbers we haven't done in a while ("European Medicine", "For Tension").  Dewitt said it was the worst encore selection we've ever done ("What Do You Look Forward To"/"Lipstick Vogue"/"For Tension"). Hard call -we've played Atlanta so many times and done the traditional encore songs ("Prec Auto"/"Hyper"/"Slack" etc.) so many times that you want to try something else but it is hard when nobody seems that responsive to a different angle.  I shouldn't say unresponsive because the folks were very kind.  Broke a cymbal -always happens in Atlanta.  I get that Black Crowes vibe going and just go insane.

We haven't yet done our traditional pre-tour attendance guesses.  I hope we start tomorrow. I think Knoxville will be the poorest attended show of the tour.  We've never had much luck there and it's a Sunday.  Ugh.

Catch you on the flippy flop.

10/26

First date of our US tour begins tonight on our home turf.  I don't think we've ever started a tour in Chapel Hill.  We're in practice so I think we'll be ok.  

Let me introduce you to the members of our fall 2001 touring party:

Us four clowns you already know about.

Jason Ward: Tour Manager/Sound Guy/Keyboardist

Eric Baecht: Tech Dude/Japanese Translator (might help in San Francisco)

Becky Mormino: T-Shirt Mistress/Fellow DQ enthusiast

and....

Miss Annie Hayden: Auxiliary instrumentalist (Annie will be playing guitar/keyboards/percussion as well as supplying backing vocals.  Her stance on Dairy Queen is not known)

I'm in the process of welding my kick-ass new monster-sized drum riser together, so I gotta roll.  Hope it fits in the club. 

(Thanks to all for your kind words regarding Maddie.)