Tour Diary – part 7 – U.S.

Week Two – In Philly — is saying “Philly” as lame as saying “‘Frisco”? — in Phillydelphia, we play World Café Live, a European style multi-purpose facility that includes a radio station, 2 venues and a restaurant. After sound check, I take Bernie and Rob to the radio station to show them the lovely studio space where I recorded an interview and session earlier this year.

They study a “collage de rock” on the wall at the entrance which includes a picture of me looking particularly goofy. “Not goofy, just friendly,” says Rob.

“Friendly and goofy,” says Bernie helpfully.

I take a cell phone picture of the two of them, secretly hoping it turns out goofy. It doesn’t. It turns out dark. They do look friendly, though.

For some reason there’s a huge barrel of ice water in the dressing room. We challenge each other to submerge various body parts in the ice water for as long as possible. Some Doloreans play, too, as their dressing room only holds two people at a time and they were bored anyway. Billy and Bernie win (they win everything) in a dramatic test of endurance, the rest of us hooting, cheering and writhing. Their skin turns upsettingly wacky colors afterwards.

We then play another show without the McCarricks, wondering how it sounds. People claim not to miss them, but, really, what are they gonna say? Sure wish you guys sounded better? Rob thinks we sound like an adorable indie band. I agree. The music sounds smaller and sweeter, maybe even more stylized, but without the string parts, the songs lack drama.

Success! The McCarricks get the call they were waiting for — from the USA of America! Fuckin’ A! — and race to the airport. They will actually make the New York show.

The next morning, we pick Martin and Kim up at an airport hotel in our Family Bus. They’ve never seen the Family Bus before, even though they’re in the Bus Family. They ooh and aah over our luscious faux maple paneling, stained carpets and torn seat covers. “It’s a comfortable bus,” they decide.

Martin is carefully led around all the parts of the Family Bus that might fall on him or break if he breaks them. Kim says over and over again, “Just let me do that for you, Martin.”

It rains during load-in at the Bowery Ballroom and my wet hands and face lead to a couple of pretty bad shocks during sound check. At one point, I’m thrown back from the mic and — I’m pretty sure — my lips fly across the stage. It felt like that happened, anyway. I’m the only person who laughs. The sound man (the same sweetheart guy who did the 50Foot/Muses show here last year) looks ill. “Did you want a towel?” he asks.

The show feels great. No better audience than a jam packed and hungry New York one. People sing along with the new songs! And Martin plays that goddamn cello like a rock star…so nice to have the strings back.

Our D.C. play is Iota in Arlington, VA. They have amazing food there; Bernie and I begin rhapsodizing over the grilled salmon salad long before we pull into town. By the time we get there, we’re starved. Unfortunately, they do still have amazing food, but only for real people. Now, one of the menu items is “Band Pasta”, which means if you’re in the band, they order for you and it’s pasta. This happens a lot. I never really understood why clubs had to feed musicians in the first place, but Band Pasta always makes me sad anyway.

Bernie walks out for something better and I go on a protein hunt for the kids, looking for a Vietnamese place where Ian McKaye took Vic Chesnutt and me once but I can’t find it. So I end up at Whole Foods, which I can’t afford, but I figure it’ll keep the kids from getting sick, which I also can’t afford, and sick hurts them.

Rob gets Band Pasta. “What’s wrong with it?” he asks, his fork in the air.

On the way to Chapel Hill, we put the band up in a (bizarre) hotel while my family sleeps on the bus, outside. The hotel looks like it was planned as a vacation getaway but then no one showed up. There are party patios and miniature golf courses and barbecue pits, theme rooms and tiki bars and jungle gyms. But it all looks empty and post-apocalyptic in the morning drizzle.

I do an interview on my cell phone for the Tucson show while the kids watch cops get driving lessons in Starsky and Hutch tactics. This is so wonderful to watch. The cop cars race through a huge, empty parking lot, screech their tires, skid across the wet pavement and spin around and around, then do it again. My children cheer. So do I. I keep interrupting the journalist to yell, “Yes!” and “Holy shit!”.

The best is when the cop loses his or her nerve, though, and just stops and sits while the driving instructor watches from afar. Sad cops.

The morning of the Chapel Hill show, Bodhi gets his first ever earache. My kids don’t get sick very often, so I don’t have the purse full of painkillers, fever reducers and kleenex I’ve seen so many other mothers carry. To be honest, I don’t even have a purse. And I’m not good in a crisis — not when the crisis concerns one of the kids. If they cry, I usually cry, too. This time, I panic.

So does Billy. We put Ryder in charge of the two little boys and Billy races off in one direction, looking for a drug store, while I race off in another. We run and run in the North Carolina heat.

When I finally find a drug store, I am at a loss as to which pills to buy. I don’t want to put any pills in perfect Bodhi, but then I remember him holding his ear and crying and begin to read labels. I don’t like the idea of reducing a fever; I think fevers play an important role in healing, but I can’t find a pain killer that isn’t also a fever reducer. And they all have saccharin in them, and dyes…I grab a fistful of brightly-colored, brightly-flavored candy drugs and hope Billy found something herbal.

Then I race past Bernie on the sidewalk, holding up the pill boxes in triumph. He cheers. Billy is already back at the bus with his boxes of candy drugs when I get there. Bodhi is pain free, happily chatting and laughing with his brothers. “Wow, that’s amazing,” I say. “What did you give him?”

“Nothing,” Billy says.

I get my first mosquito bite of the year in Atlanta. By a dumpster behind the club. It’s an ankle bite and it gets angry, red and swollen and looks very pretty. I think I was blabbing about being oh so southern and the evocative thickness in the air and the heartache of spanish moss, etc…In other words, I deserved it. I decide to embrace it anyway. Mosquito bites are a part of summer, it’s practically summer now and I am oh so southern.

“Hey, Gomer, ” Billy yells, “quit scratching and git yer ass on stage!”

During sound check, Barton, who is also from the south, tells me about the first time he ever swore in front of his mother. She told him that he wasn’t allowed to use grown up words, but that he was free to make up his own swears and use them freely. This just kills me. I laugh forever. “Razzmafrazz!” he says, grinning.

The show is hot and loud tonight, the audience is hot and loud, too. At the end of the night though, as we drive away, headed for Louisiana, we are hot and quiet. We listen to crickets, we watch the moon and the spanish moss go by, everyone but Billy falls asleep.

Posted in: words on July 7, 2007