Week One – The McCarricks are still in London, waiting by the phone for permission to enter our fabulous country. Apparently, they haven’t impressed Bush quite enough to be allowed in. They were told to present U.S. immigration officials with press clippings and gold records in order to validate their status as musicians, but it isn’t working.
Maybe they’re terrorists.
So the tour begins without them. And it’s a good thing, too, ’cause they wouldn’t have fit on the first stage. This show is what our agent, Mike, refers to (euphemistically) as a “warm-up gig”, meaning, it will suck and no one will come.
Poor Delorean! They drive their asses all the way to New Haven from Portland, Oregon and the stage is too small to hold their equipment. They probably wanted to do this tour, too. They probably said “yes” when they were asked.
All that’s missing tonight is chicken wire for the audience to throw beer bottles at. I was standing in the club, looking at the stage and thinking this when Delorean’s guitar player, Barton, walked by and said that very thing, much to my delight. “Whaddya call this place?”, he muttered, “A honkey-tonk? In Connecticut?” It didn’t suck though — and people did come and didn’t throw beer bottles.
Our Providence show is actually in Fall River, Massachusetts, at a place called the Narrows Center. The club is a beautiful loft in an old factory building, so gear must be loaded in on a freight elevator. This all goes smoothly, but then Billy gets locked out of the room and bangs on a door a few feet away from where I’m reading a book I might have stolen (Bernie claims I stole it, I disagree). It’s an engaging book, so I don’t really notice the banging, though it goes on for a long time. Then he starts yelling (or so he says — I was reading).
Eventually, someone lets him in. I look up, smiling, “Oh, it’s you”.
“Ladies and gentlemen — my wife!” he announces to the room and then to me, “It’d be nice if you weren’t completely oblivious.”
A bunch of hometown friends show up that night, including Rizzo and Dave Narcizo. Rob moans, “I gotta play Dave’s parts”.
“But you always play Dave’s parts,” I say.
“Not in front of Dave!” Of course, he plays Dave’s parts like only Rob can. Hard and clear, with muscle and flourish. Dave is thrilled. “I didn’t know I was that good!” he says. Drummers.
I do an insane tap dance throughout the show, trying to stomp on all kinds of effects pedals at once. I’m frustrated with my American equipment and miss the rentals I’d gotten used to on the European leg, but in trying to get more out of these stomp boxes, I end up looking like a total spaz.
The next night in Northampton, I find the distortion pedal of my dreams in the music store next door to the club. I love Electro-Harmonix pedals anyway, but this pedal I found combines a beautiful humming tube sound with that funny fucked-up-ness that Electro-Harmonix is so good at. Plus, it looks beautiful — chunky and metallic — I wanna wear it — or drive it.
Our beloved friend/musician/super hero, Skeggy, lives in Northampton and offers us a place to stay. “I live in the old mill house,” he says, “ye old-ey mill-ey hous-ey. There are plenty of couches, plus french fries, vinyl, fishing and I’ll make breakfast.”
We’re sold on “plenty of couches” but an hour after the show, in the middle of the night, there are indeed french fries, made by Skeggy’s wife, Connie, the very definition of a perfect woman: one who will make you and your drunk friends french fries at 2 in the morning. Rob plays jazz piano for — and with — whomever is around. And after a vinyl listening party at 3 there’s a little bit of sleep.
By the time I’m up and walking the dogs, Skeggy is making breakfast. “You can’t spell Skeggs without eggs!” he cries gleefully, already on his second gin and tonic.
After an extended morning jam session in the living room (3 hours long, with rotating members) during which Skeggy teaches my children to fish in his river, we reluctantly pile back onto the bus and declare this the high point of the tour, all of us quietly concerned that this might actually turn out to be true.
Saturday night is the Regent theater in Boston. Good ol’ Boston. Everyone’s so…Boston there. I take my dogs for a walk to try and drum up some memories, but no specific ones come to mind. Just a montage of crooked streets, dirty snow, hot shows and kamikaze drivers. The kamikaze drivers are still there, actually. I risk my life trying to get back in time for sound check.
That night we have dinner at a Thai place with Echo and his sister, the motorcycle saleswoman (she can identify the make and model of a motorcycle by sound alone). Echo tries to pay. He always tries to pay. He bought us kangaroo meat in Iceland once. We don’t let him buy dinner anymore.
Then we drive to the Jersey shore and sleep Sunday morning away in an empty beach house that has been graciously offered us. When we wake up, we plan a barbecue for our night off. We take this barbecue very seriously, writing shopping lists and buying ingredients…chopping, marinating, grilling, drinking.
Afterwards, we’re pretty proud of ourselves, though we decide that it’s only a good barbecue, not a great one. “Next one’ll be great,” we agree.
Of course there is no next one. In the morning, we’re on the bus for good.