Monday, December 18, 2006
Apocalypto, Mel Gibson's lush portrait of Mayan culture borrows from classic tales such as Predator, Conan the Barbarian, The Fugitive, and The Jungle Book, and is a belly flop from a sparklingly hyped high dive into a wading pool of Hollywood sewage. His window to an ancient civilization and it's accomplishments and relative influence on modern culture is smeared with the pudgy I-just-ate-nachos-and-wiped-my-hands-on-my-pants finger prints of an acne ridden adolescent, yearning for slow motion fight scenes with makeshift beating tools and with a little luck, a glimpse at a few naked native boobies. Granted, most Americans probably know very little about Mesoamerican civilizations and will probably be able to put some kind of twisted mockery of a history lesson together after seeing this film, but I for one learned more about the Mayans from reading Where's Waldo when I was ten. The only aspects of their life that are really focused on is that at some point they were fucked due to crop failure and disease, and their coping method was painting dudes blue and sacrificing them in uncomfortable ways to rhythmic, tribal drumming. Truly, this can only be the origin of Blue Man Group, and perhaps the one good thing that could come of this film would be our governing body cutting out the hearts of those overpaid fuckers and displaying their heads on the spire of the Luxor. The history lesson we're given of the Mayans is the equivalent of a Michael Bay movie about America that focuses solely on the enslavement of Africans from 1850-1855 titled AMERICANA. I was hoping for more focus on the culture, a grander scale if you will. A wider lens. Some Braveheart type shit. Not the case.
So history and culture is out, and we're left with a much more personal story of a shirtless man and his thong, his family and his tribe wronged by slave traders. While this isn't necessarily the plot I was hoping for, by no means does it rule out the grail I am truly after. I want blood. Lots. This is the part where I commend Passion of the Christ for delivering gallons of the stuff for my desensitized, gore-thirsty eyes to behold and revel in. In no manner do I consider Passion anything close to legitimate, important, quality, or true. Nor do I believe in Jesus as a spiritual entity, to me he is just a dude. A dude who got his ass raked in a most brutal fashion, and if a certain egomaniacal anti-Semite wants to make a movie depicting this raking of ass in a slow, graphic, and shocking manner, then by gum I will throw my money at him and eat it up like cotton candy. Add a twist of crazy, left field, "I still call the Japanese 'The Yellow Threat'" style Jew hatin' to the mix and it's goddamn entertainment, and I whole heartedly recommend watching it on mute while listening to Pig Destroyer. Gibson set the gore bar very high with this film, and I expected nothing less from his latest effort. Alas, it fell short. How short? Pretty short. The combat scenes were well choreographed, but not nearly as frantic and creative as those seen in Braveheart. There was no hurling of claymores, cleaving of hands, or dropping of bodies onto sharp wooden pikes during the melee scenes, and there sure as hell was no fucking riding of horses onto beds and crushing of faces with iron balls on chains. While we did get a somewhat cool scene of a wasp's nest being thrown at adversaries like an ornery soft ball (during what I call the Predator sequence in which the protagonist covers himself in mud and hunts his hunters, only instead of shoulder lasers and scorpion faces they have sticks and nose piercings), followed up with poison-frog-juice coated darts, all it did was conjure scenes of Macaulay Culkin's death in My Girl and the Beavis and Butthead episode where they get stoned licking toads. One of the best blood moments was the detailed and drawn out sacrifice scene, yet it left something to be desired. It didn't quite give me the chills like William Wallace getting his insides pulled out at the end of Braveheart, or when Duncan Heyward was burned at the stake in Last of the Mohicans. However, there is a very A+ jaguar mauling scene that I liken to the pig-tusk-in-the-face death in Hannibal which scored a few ecstatic squeals. And again, Gibson can't resist what I now have come to expect as a token feature in his movies... Samurai style blood fountains. We got one at the end of Passion when Jesus was stabbed on the cross (the logic that after bleeding as much as he did through that movie and then at the end there was still enough to spray like Old Faithful belongs solely to the insane) and we get another doozy when our protagonist takes off a chunk of an assailant's skull with his whoopin' stick. But, for two hours and thirty minutes of Gibson style mayhem, the over all pay off is weak sauce.
The final result of the film is a generic Hollywood action/revenge story, where a man is severely wronged by overwhelming forces and must take drastic measures of bad-assery to right the wrongs and go back to his dude like ways. You could almost cast Denzel Washington as the gravely unfortunate jungle-dweller that must exact his revenge on the Mayans with a .45 and a Jeep. The acting is great, and the costumes were great, but the over all production over-shadows the good aspects with it's ego and severe misrepresentation of Mayans as naive, brutish slave traders. Most grevous is the falling short of ridiculously brutal combat and unnecessarily bloody death. We got all that and then some in a movie about Jesus, a story told to children so young that they are intimidated by pooping in a toilet by old people that still think Alice Cooper is the anti Christ. I guess that's where the insane factor comes in. Following that logic, if a movie about Christ goes far above and beyond my peaked expectations for slippery, red, gruesomeness, then of course the movie about human sacrifice and slavery would be drastically more tame. In that case I won't hold my breath for a Mel Gibson adaptation of Goodnight Moon, but if it happens I hope we can expect a 23 minute, slow motion "goodnight armed robber with a machete feeding my own arms to the dog" torture scene.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
It's a thing I say out loud more than one normally exclaims against a grouped body of individuals of distinction, because I'm exposed to a bit more of their antics than I'd care. Maria is an avid reader of celebrity gossip, via blogs, magazines, and some weird seething chemical inside her brain that attracts her attention to mindless bullshit of minor consequence (I think they call it estrogen). So naturally, being her boyfriend, I am one of the first in line to get all the updates on what Britney is up to, the stupid shit Paris Hilton is wearing, how much of a loser K-Fed is, and whatever slut Madonna made out with for her latest publicity stunt. It's the same qualification that also entitles me to instant and lengthy updates on irksome situations at past and current places of employment, and gives me the honor of being allowed to take out the trash every time it's full, or just a bit stinky. The conversations will involve various stars and their grievances, and inevitably result in me professing my creed that heads this very diatribe. A winding path with many divergences, always leading to the same defiant proclamation uttered in dismissive yet fascinated bafflement. It usually goes like this:
Her: Jon! Britney Spears was hanging out with some gross weirdo last night!
Me: You mean that K-Fudge... dude?
Her: It's K-FED! And no, they broke up. A new guy. He's gross.
Me: Shit. That's a bummer.
Her: I know! Look, here's a picture.
Me: (Not looking) Wow he's pretty gross looking.
Her: I know! He's totally gross! I feel sorry for her. Also, Posh Spice said no to the Spice Girls reunion. Can you believe it?
Me: Posh Spice was the hot one right?
Her: Not anymore! She got all this plastic surgery! Look at her!
Me: (Looking) Oh my god.
Her: She looks like melted plastic!
Me: How can anyone think that looks good? How can anyone give a doctor that much money to make you look like a life-sized Bratz doll?
Her: Ha! Look at her forehead!
Me: Celebrities are bonkers.
I don't necessarily mean it as a blanket rule that if one is to be deemed a "celebrity" in whichever caliber of stardom they have succeeded in, they are then "bonkers". No. It's not an X = Y situation. There are plenty of "celebrities" that I respect and would consider completely capable of having a conversation that doesn't involve the hardships of having a shitfuck load of money and/or how much it sucks being famous enough to have magazines argue over who gets the rights to print pictures of you sneezing. I'm sure that's lame, but come on. Buy a house. I'll be in the office kitchen fussing over another lunch of complementary string cheese and pretzels. If I'm lucky Dave might not want all of his burrito. Truly, there are a good amount of fame-enhanced individuals that aren't necessarily surfing the same wave of drugs and hysteria as Anna Nicole Smith or Courtney Love. The John Stewarts, the Matt Groenings, the Will Farrells, they all seem pretty even keeled to me. I'd even go as far as saying some of the ultra huge celebrities like Tom Hanks and Dr. Dre that are dangerously within the realm of massive ego explosion keep their shit pretty chill. But then again, I don't know them. For all I know those two arm wrestle bears covered in butter on giant piles of precious gems. All I can do is ascertain.
Now that I've given a somewhat lengthy disclaimer, I can get into the meat. The proof that sits so obviously in front of us all, like a steaming turd garnishing a plate of dinner rolls, that celebrities are indeed fucking bonkers. I'm not quite sure exactly what happens in the psyche, but somewhere, somehow, something goes wrong. I'd like to be able to finger a certain religion that is becoming very popular amongst Hollywood notables as the definitive culprit, but alas, Mel Gibson throws that theory completely out of his anti semitic window. Nevertheless, said religion/cult can be credited as the "gateway to loony shit" for many of the people this post targets. Allow me to indulge.
Scientology is the fruit of one man's labor, starting roughly in 1952 as an outlandish self help philosophy and extending to it's modern day culmination of Chef getting killed on South Park. The man I speak of is American Science Fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, and he is completely and utterly bat shit crazy. However I suspect he's actually a brilliant, manipulative, businessman who targeted successful artists and their displacement with reality as a source of income, and if this is true he should be celebrated as a hero, not a messiah. The other day I took the time read the entire Wikipedia page on Scientology, which is a great read if you have the time (it inspired this post). From a strictly neutral standpoint I have come to the conclusion: "Dem fuckers is crazy". I mean, like most people I knew Scientology was a bit ridiculous, that it dealt with spiritual connections with aliens, that breast feeding babies was not encouraged, and that it considers reincarnation and immortality factual events and places heavy emphasis on events that happened in past lives. Pretty nuts, but it's on the level with circumcision, Heaven and Hell, and the fucking rapture (I still can't get over that one), which are all central elements of established and widely followed religions today. It all stems from a weird (and ultimately primal) human tendency to explain things we witness but don't necessarily fully understand (ie: birth, death, weather, gay marriage) by making up fairy tails and using them as an excuse to rape and destroy those who don't agree. The big difference that I see between Scientology and more accepted and practiced organized religion is the origins and the justification of practice in the face of adversity.
The origins of current religions are very old, and were established when human interaction in the world was very different than it is now. I'll say now that I'm a staunch and bitter atheist bubbling over with cynicism and doubt, but I can understand the need for people to have some kind of explanation for life that goes beyond science. If the only concept of thunder I had was that "God is pissed", and then some dude in a fancy red cape came around and started telling me he saw Jesus cure leprosy with his touch, I'd probably be the first to spit on the corpse of my neighbor's daughter who had just burned for charges of witchery. Of course it makes sense, that dude's cape is fucking nice. The good shit. But there are no such capes shrouding the mystery of L. Ron Hubbard's pay to play pyramid scheme. No, he was not a humble messiah from ages past that lived a life we can merely speculate over, rather he was a science fiction author. I'll say it again. Science fiction author. As in, he was paid to write stories about space ships and aliens. If one were to read L. Ron Hubbard's Wikipedia page, one would come across a number of allegations that call his morality into question, which would then lead one to the conclusion that he is an alleged bastard. An alleged bastard that started a religion that charges money of it's followers for 'enlightenment', and it is obvious that this is the get rich quick scheme of a manipulative con-man... that wrote fantasy stories about aliens and space ships.
When Christianity is called into question, regardless of how critical or fact ridden the opposing argument is, the defense always reverts to a simple, child-like yet extremely effective rebuttal. Faith. Examples follow:
There is no physical proof that God exists, and Jesus was just a dude with a few good ideas.
I believe God exists and that Jesus is our savior.
The fence is green.
I have faith that although this fence does indeed appear to be green, when I die it will be red.
You don't actually have an "argument", you're just telling me about stuff you believe.
My faith in my faith will get me into Heaven. I don't have to make sense in Heaven. In Heaven we call those kinds of ideas "sin".
And so on... So it's ludicrous, but impossible to argue against because you can't tell someone what they believe. If you could, the republicans would have figured it out a long time ago and we'd all be in factories branding platinum oil piping for 2 pesos an hour. It is a logic that will forever justify their beliefs and the more it is argued against, the more they rally that their faith is being tested and that they must hold true. The only way that argument is shaken is if the individual questions it themselves. Scientology, however, has no such fortifications. Their logical arguments against criticism are like listening to a 6 year old interpret the future. First of all, when the church's recommended practice of not breast feeding infants and instead supplying them with a "Barley Formula" (barley water, homogenized milk, corn syrup/honey <--- seriously?!?!) was first called out by nutritionists, Hubbard's official response was "I picked it up in Roman days." See the quotes? He said that. He was serious.
Let me lay this out:
Nutritionist: This "Barley Formula" has no nutritional value to a growing human and honey has been known to cause infant botulism if given to babies under 12 months. Why do you recommend this as a substitute for a mother's breast milk?
Hubbard: It's a recipe I picked up in a past life in ancient Rome. If it worked then, it'll work now.
Another choice rebuttal comes from Scientology's compatibility with other religions. While at entry level awareness church members are told that Scientology is very compatible with other religions (obviously to appear more inviting), it has been alleged that Hubbard's higher level teachings state that (again, quotes here--->) "Jesus had never existed, but was implanted in humanity's collective memory by Xenu 75 million years ago, and that Christianity was an "entheta [evil] operation" mounted by beings called Targs. (Hubbard, "Electropsychometric Scouting: Battle of the Universes", April 1952)." The logic here is beyond absurd, it's insulting. This is like claiming that unicorns not magical horned horses, but are actually flying Big Foots in disguise.
OK, so all I've really done here is illuminate the obvious: Scientology makes about as much sense as voting Ren /Stimpy in '08. Time to bring it around. Time to rip the lid off of it.
People believe it! People think it's true, that it's reality. Did Hubbard believe it? Really believe it? I doubt it. But other people, educated people with college degrees that live in cities around other people with college degrees actually believe it. Jerry fucking Maguire BELIEVES that 75 million years ago an intergalactic alien ruler named Xenu brought billions of aliens to Earth in a DC-8 jet plane, stacked them around a volcano, and then blew them up with hydrogen bombs. John Travolta subscribes to a religion that uses a pyramid scheme of monetary payment for enlightenment, that directly states that higher levels of awareness are taught by invite only and are distributed based on individual "contributions" to the church. Isaac Hayes sincerely believes that the events leading up to World War II are caused by alien soul clusters that attach themselves to living humans. Kirstie Alley and Beck agree with teachings that have "documented" such past life experiences as "being run over by a Martian bishop driving a steamroller", and "being transformed into an intergalactic walrus that perished after falling out of a flying saucer." It's seriously wacked, and it's even becoming trendy in Hollywood to join up and start writing checks. My only comment: Celebrities are bonkers.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Our shuttle dropped us off at Sea-Tac and we had a long, boring wait through all the lines and security. Always a cruel bummer at such an early hour, but a fucking cake walk compared to our last European jaunt in which our drug addled guitar-player-at-the-time was on enough weed and muscle relaxers to sedate an entire audience at a Blood Brothers show and required 'baby sitting' in a manner that could probably have gotten Nat and I instantly hired at a job tending to mentally defficient cattle. If such a thing exists. Oh wait, yeah, it's called "Golf Caddie". One connection and 15 hours of pretending it's possible to sleep sitting inside a washing machine later, we were spat out at Schipol airport in Amsterdam around 8:15am local time. We were to meet up with the band Young Widows who would be sharing the tour with us, and wait for our driver Martin to pick us up. Evan (Young Widows' guitar player) was waiting for us just outside customs, gave me a warm welcome and we joined the rest of the dudes outside in the crisp morning air. Martin arrived 45 minutes late, we packed up, and headed to Utrecht which is a small college town 45 minutes away from Amsterdam and where we'd play the first show.
The venue is called ACU, we played there the year before with The Assailant, and it's a cool little punk bar with a show space in the back. Unlike last year, we didn't partake of the legal drugs that the Dutch have to offer after a particularly nasty encounter with "space cake" which left me vomiting in a corn field and stoned for 3 days. Literally. No, this time we chose "sleep deprivation" as our drug of choice and did our best to make it through the evening in an alert manner. The show wasn't particularly well attended, but we had fun, and upon returning to our hosts apartment for a rock solid evening of sleep, we were delighted to see the name plaque on his neighboring apartment read "J.J. Van Boom". Who is J.J. Van Boom? We don't know, and never will know. All we can ascertain is that he is totally awesome by virtue of his title alone.
Next day was a day off. We went to Frankfurt and met Sammy, the guy who runs Monkey Drive in Europe and screen printed all of the Akimbo and Young Widows merch for the tour. (Bands take note: Sammy did an incredible job and we highly recommend having your shirts printed with him for a European tour. Get in touch if you need contact information.) Sammy and his friend (totally going to burn in hell for forgetting his name already) took us under their wing for a hot night in Frankfurt. Most notable was the curry wurst we had to kick off the evening. Nat, Aaron and I ordered curry wurst at a "spicy" level of 3 (out of 7). The shit was a goddamn inferno of pain, like opening your mouth to the door way of hell, satan's bitches peeing all over your tongue. It was a conversation killer. We ate in silence after the first bite, the only noise the occasional snurf of liquified muccous being sucked back into our noses. Halfway through his meal, Aaron put down his fork. We looked up and he was sweating like a bratwurst on a
hot grill. "I'm done." he said. Game over. The rest of the night was spent bar hopping with our hosts. Jet lag was still ripe, and much to the shagrin of our party-hungry hosts our crew only lasted a few hours. As soon as we got back to the screen printing shop I found a spot on the hard-as-all-fuck-floor in the office and passed the fuck out, a pile of unsold Lords hoodies my pillow for the night.
Lucky us, next show would be in Belgium with our buddies Torche and Baroness, simultaneously touring Europe. Not much to say out of the ordinary. Great show, both bands tore it up and we had a great time hanging out with them. Torche had a substitute drummer, as Rick was at home with a belly button infection or some stupid shit like that. The new dude did a good job filling Rick's sizeable presence in that band, and while the songs were definitely solid it was a bit of a bummer not being able to see Rick leaping off his throne before all the big hits. The beer was wonderful, so wonderful it possessed Nat into thinking he was cool to pull the van up the driveway after about 14 of them. I walked outside and there's Nat trying to reverse a 20 foot long van around a tiny corner and up a slanted driveway, soppy hair hanging out the window, wondering why the van keeps stalling. Perhaps it was the keg of Belgian beer controlling his feet. Just spit-ballin'. There was only so much drinking we could take being early in the tour, and beds were inevitably fell upon.
Up in the morning and off to Paris. Martin informed us that our show was going to be on a boat. Clearly, we didn't really know what to expect. The only "show on a boat" I know about is when bands like Quiet Riot play the Emerald Queen Casino. We arrived and saw a decent sized, red boat docked in a river at the address for the show. It kinda looked like a cross between a tug boat and the vessel in the original King Kong, but painted red, and no 'Charlie' the Chinese chef anywhere in sight. We were blown away when we walked inside. It had been completely overhauled to act as a full on concert venue, including multiple bars, a stage, lights, good PA, the whole works. It was pretty surreal. I was a bit nervous about how the show would be. Our last show in Paris was in a tiny room/cellar underneath a bar downtown. Only 20 people were there, but the place went crazy and it was easily the most fun I've ever had in the band, arguably the best Akimbo show since we started playing. I wasn't sure if that energy and reception from the crowd was going to carry over to this bigger, nicer place, and I was also unsure about enough people being there to fill up the room. Once the doors opened people started pooring in. It was incredible. We were selling merch before, during, and after our set, and the crowd would roar with us between songs. It wasn't as chaotic and intimate as the first Paris show in the cellar, but it was one of the best shows of the tour and I couldn't get over how awesome it was to have over 100 people at a show in a town where we drew 20 a year earlier.
Me in front of the boat, totally amped.
Inside the boat.
After the show we went to a tiny apartment where all seven of us were to sleep. We partied in a manner fit for dudes in Paris, met some great locals, Aaron locked himself in the bathroom with a girl, and I slept on the kitchen floor. Finally it felt like we were on tour.
Montagu, France was our next destination. Montagu is a tiny French village, I think we were told it had a population of around 700 people. Luckily, it's in the middle of a whole bunch of other tiny French villages, and word on the street was that people were going to be driving to see the show since bands rarely came through the area, and we would be a break in their everyday lives of squishing grapes for wine, eating cheese, and walking cows in public streets (or whatever rural Frenchmen do when they're not clubbing the discos in Paris). We played a tiny pub just off the main street, which was maybe the length of two American city blocks. The promoter met us early at the club and took us to his freakin' mansion up the street, where we were shown to our rooms (yeah, plural, as in we each had our own room) and then fed a luxurious 4 course meal that would easily go for about $30 a plate at any American restaurant, only the cooks wouldn't be listening to Neurosis while they served us. We headed back to the pub and to our surprise it was packed with people. The show was very fun, merch flew, and the bar tender/owner kept the beer flowing like we were gods. We headed back to the mansion afterwards, a joint was passed around which is always the end of the night for me, and I slept like a wee babe, the only disturbance being a demon cat screaming like the dickens well after the party had subsided.
The next two days were in Spain, and while very fun, weren't the best shows of tour attendance wise. Aaron did his damnedest to communicate with the locals, and for his efforts received a hat. One of the shows was in a club that was trying to pull off an authentic Irish pub experience. They pretty much had it nailed down, from the swords on the wall, the Guinness signs everywhere, the giant rhino head on the wall, and the over-all decor of the place. "Ahh, lookee here laddy! We've left Spain and gone tchroo a mageec pahrtahl straight ta' Dooblin! Bahr tender, get me yer finest pint!" NO! There was one area where they failed, utterly and unforgiveably, and it totally blew the smoke screen from your eyes. Their version of pub food was a grilled cheese wonderbread sandwich with fries so undersalted and undercooked they were almost crunchy, "vegetarian" sandwiches stuffed with tuna fish, and not-nearly-greasy-enough burgers served on dry bread buns. "Ahhh sheet lad. Tarns out we aint in Ireland at all. We're in soddin' Spain. I'll have the octopus tapas."
The trip through Spain was entirely worth it though. Great people, lots of fun, and we got to see Portugal which was a treat. On the way back north we stopped at a bone chapel, which is basically a room in a church with walls made out of human bones. It was totally metal, and while we acted with the utmost respect for the dead whilst inside, I promise you dear readers that I was shredding scorching solos over double kick madness in my head the entire time. The best Spanish show was easily Zaragoza at a cool little place that Young Widows' old band Breather Resist had played on their last tour in Europe. Lots of people and big beers. Big beers, surprisingly, were somehwat rare on this tour.
First show back in France was in Lyon, on another boat called Sonic. Just like the last boat show, this one was a rager. We were starting learn that France is definitely a country where Akimbo is welcome. Again the place was pretty packed, and this time it got so hot in there we all sweat at least a pound or two. If you run over to our myspace, a kind French person posted a picture of Nat after the set on our comments page. It's the one where he' looks like he's just been plucked from a river and dropped in the corner. If you look at his pants, you will notice the only dry spots are the edges of the seams. Richard Simmons can suck a lemon.
Rouen was the next stop, triumphantly bringing us back to Le Brooklyn Cafe. I still can't pronounce "Rouen" the proper way, even after two tours of obsessing over it, it pretty much comes out like "wgghhhggoohhh". Much humor. The name of the bar cracks Martin up, and as a result he can't stop saying it with the thickest French accent possible. It sounds like "leay Brrgrhhggrghookleen Cafeh". Also hillarious. Our good pal Gildas set up the show again, and he made us a giant vat of his famous hummous, which the French pronounce "Ooh-Moos". Again, funny. Unfortunately, the bar was having problems with a neighbor calling the police during shows, and as our show was on a week night we had to keep the amps really low. Performing with quiet amps is always a huge bummer. It kind of feels like you're doing some boring mock puppet show of your normal set, sans hand jammed up your ass. Nevertheless, reception was as warm as the other French shows and we had a great time. Post rock, we were playing kicker in the back. This Frenchman came up to the table wearing a brand new Akimbo shirt, watches us play for a bit, and then affter a game looks at me and says "Your bass playing is very good, but your foot ball is shit." I'm like Marty McFly when it comes to kicker, if you call me chicken then we will start fighting, I can't control it. Naturally, I invited him to play, and was crushed with little effort.
After we drank all the band beer, I bought Akimbo a round from the bartender, who in his supreme awesomeness refused to charge me. Aaron was missing, as the lovely lady he had shacked up with in the bathroom in Paris had come to the show and they were most likely having a picnic in a park, holding hands, and talking about the pleasantries of poetry, finely roasted duck, and Mozart. The only other drinker in the group was Geof, drummer supreme of Young Widows, so he got Aaron's beer by default. We toasted and finished. I was feeling good, happy to be on tour with such awesome people and getting such a warm welcome back to a place so far from home. I thought whiskey shots would be appropriate. I asked the bartender for two shots, one for Geof and one for myself. Nat had been assimilated into a conversation of broken English with a Frenchman, a very common occurence as foreigners almost make it a mission to practice their English on you until you've exhausted every possible topic of conversation and are left awkwardly looking around, with no real graceful way to end it, hoping for someone to call you over to watch the merch table or help load gear, so he was out of action. The bartender pulled two tall, thin glasses down and before we could interject with "Sir?!?!? We just wanted a shot, not a thermos." he poured us two of the most massive "shots" of Jim Beam I've ever seen outside of a bottle. Fuck. Assuming it'd be rude to not take them (especially since again they had come free of charge (god bless the French)), we devised the plan of chasing sips with our second beer (technically our second tap beer, probably our 12th actual beer) until it was down to a normal shot size, and then commense in the manner we had originally set out. Needless to say, the rest of my night was spent stupefied, thoroughly stomping my plans to watch horror movies with Gildas all night. My only strong memory of the night was stumbling into Gildas's house and seeing their dog which we later dubbed "Splinter" after the rat in the Ninja Turtles movie, reaching down to pet the dog and being instantly repulsed by a massive (seriously, fucking massive) cancerous lump on it's side. Petting it was like carressing a blanket with a baseball sewn into the fabric. All I could say was "Gross... I'm going to bed."
We had a day off and drove to Caen, which is right on the western border of France. We met up with the benevolent Nico, who in addition to putting on our show and having a hot dinner ready for us on arrival also heads up Paranoid Records, the label that released City of the Stars on vinyl for the tour. He had the Band of Brothers DVD set which we immediately started watching. Half way through the second episode, Martin made it known we were right in the area where all that took place, and by "all that" I mean the allied forces storming the beaches of Normandy against the Nazi forces. Plans were quickly made to put on our tourist pants and go see the historical sights, since the following day we didn't have to be at the club until about 7:00.
There aren't many words available to truly describe the feeling of seeing those places. 'Heavy' is one. It's very introspective, and more often than not you find yourself walking alone and not speaking to anyone, just soaking in the reality of the events that happened where you stand, the events that caused those events and so on. It's different when it's not on TV or in a history book; when you're standing 100 yards away from the beach where hundreds of humans ran straight at a machine gun's trajectory on purpose; when you're alone in a sea of white crosses, many without names; when you sit on top of battery housing a cannon that shot up to 12 miles at boats that may have held your neighbor's or co-worker's grandfather; when you exist in a place where had thousands not met violent deaths the world could be a very different place. I left feeling stupid and insignificant, my prime concerns at the time being playing punk rock to pockets of people and whether or not our merch we needed was going to be delivered in the mail the following day.
Veterans memorial on Omaha Beach (left), and a machine gun bunker overlooking a beach (right).
The Caen show was fun, as was the foosball before and after. Nico treated us well and we attacked the food in his kitchen after then show. Next morning was spent waiting for records to be delivered to his house so we could take off
to the next show in France. There had been a huge ordeal in getting copies of the new album and it looked like we were finallly about to get our supplies. A package arrived, but it was only the CDs, the vinyl was still missing. Discouraged, we left. The next few shows were good, including a rendesvouz with more American touring bands by the names of Japanther and The Good Good in a small town called Esslingen. We played a poorly attended show in Austria, where I entertained myself by demanding strobe lights and a fog machine for the encore, and finishing by saying "Thanks, we're Breather Resist" which was only funny to three people.
After Austria it was the Czech Republic, which was the biggest surprise of the tour. The first show in Brno (I dare you to pronounce that correctly. "Brno" is actually Czech for "we don't give a fuck about phonetics.") was at a place called "The Yacht Club", a really cool punk club. Tons of people showed up, including our old friend Blair who used to live in Seattle and played in The November Group, and was now living and teaching English and politics in Brno. After the show a Czech man brought me a goblet of beer and I kissed him on the head.
The next day we went to Prague. On the way we stopped at another bone chapel. This one with actual decorations made of human bones, including a giant chandalier containing at least one of every bone in the human body and a twelve foot high coat of arms. Very metal, and I curse myself for not taking band photos there. Then it was off to Prague, one of the only major cities that was undamaged during World War II. I swear that place is fucking magic. It really made me feel like I was a kid again. It's just as beautiful as your average European city, your Paris's, your Barcelonas, but it's HUGE. All the buildings and statues are enormous, I felt like a young immigrant walking through Times Square for the first time. We walked for miles around the city, starting at the train station and heading all the way to the top of this huge hill to see the palace and cathedral that overlook the whole city. Then it was off to the venue, where even more people showed up than in Brno. The crowd was awesome, and we were overwhelmed at the turnout of both Czech shows as the band had never played in either place ever before.
Back to Germany, and not just Germany, Wurzberg! We played Immerhin, a super rad punk club where we had our last show of tour the year before with The Asssailant, and where the following morning the staff told us they had never had a band that drank as much as us. I don't care how they remember us, so long as we leave some kind of mark. This show wasn't quite as well attended as the last one, most likely due to it being a Monday, but it was still fun and as always, our host Marko was half the reason. We crashed at his place again, where he lives with two horrifying companions, a tarantula and a millipede (shudder), and after a quick puff of the green I was immediately out, as usual.
The rest of tour went by pretty quickly and was somthing of a blur. It seemed the best shows were behind us and we were just riding out the rest of the trip. The show in Berlin was the only one that really stood out as a good one. We interviewed with a guy who does an internet fan site type thing. It was pretty funny, as he had made a lot of assumptions about our band based on the music and lyrics, and for the most part was way off. First of all, he had supposed "Akimbo" was a reference to the shooting style in first person shooter videogames in which the player uses two guns at once, and was pretty bummed to hear that it was just a word that Nat happened upon while writing a paper and was the only thing we could agree on that nobody hated. He also thought our song "Ground Control to Major Bummer" was a reference to an obscure comic book character named Major Bummer, and was somewhat mortified to hear that no, it was just a half witted play on words stemming from boredom on tour. Reading this in type, it's not as funny as the interview, so perhaps I can convey the childlike disappointment we saw in his eyes with each let down (there was more than just the ones above). It was as if he had peeked at his Christmas presents a week early only to find out they were being donated to the poor kid down the street, until by the end he kind of just gave up and moped out of the room, utterly disappointed.
In the last stretch we also played a show in Copenhagen at this huge, dirty, punk squat that is somewhat established as a huge, dirty, punk squat. Martin informed us that a few years earlier they were having their annual crust fest thing, and some junkie crust punk girl OD'd in the band sleping room, passing out under one of the beds. The next morning everyone assumed she was sleeping and took off without checking on her. The body was up there for two weeks in the hot summer, and it was a performing band that found her as they were climbing the stairs to sleep after a show. I've seen some ridiculously gross shit staying in punk houses and squats over the years, but I can't imagine what it would be like to find a body. I would probably barf, and then cry, and then tell everyone I personally delivered the body to the morgue.
The last show was in Bonn, where Martin grew up. The show was great. A bunch of people crowded into a small bar, and a great last show after a string of less than exciting turn outs. We had a triumphant last meal at the burger joint next door (we told the cook she was a goddess), and after staying up until 3:30, Martin drove us back to the airport, one more notch in the tour belt. It was one of the best tours the band has done so far, and it was a treat to share it with all the guys in Young Widows, and of course Martin.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Yes, after over four years of desk jobs, playing videogames, watching movies, going to movies, eating, sleeping and engaging in other activities that will ultimately bring me one step closer to a fern on the evolutionary ladder, Maria and I joined a gym. The 24 Hour Fitness on Denny way. If you go to their front door you can probably still see the scratch marks on the wall where I desperately tried to cling to liberty as Maria dragged me in by my feet. Actually, that's a lie. I used to be a huge fan of "das gym" and would go regularly while in college. I remember Maria seeing an old picture of me in my fitter days, chirping in exclamation, and then looking up at me with a look of "what happened?" Beer, Maria. Beer happened. Beer and the acknowledgement that I hate physical activity that doesn't involve a loud instrument or an orgasm.
But we all know that the gym has its merits... Hot bod, washboard abs, gay friends, and cable! It just takes time and discipline, but with enough of that stuff I could eventually get back in shape, and maybe one day become a hulking neck with legs. Maria and I are already trying to master-mind ways to transform our slovenly nature into motivation to get into the gym. My first opus came as our host, Steve, was showing us the cardio machines, various devices that one places themselves upon which then simulates some kind of horribly embarrassing physical activity that most are loathe to actually do in public, hence the need for a gym. Why they place those things right in front of the windows for all of commuting Seattle to gawk at your jiggling sides and tomato red face is completely beyond me. If it was my choice the treadmills and the stair masters would all be housed in some kind of sensory deprivation cave with zero light, and all the users would be forced to wear virtual reality goggles displaying the CGI scenes from The Lawnmower Man. Instead they are lined up like socks in Mark Summers' underwear drawer, facing the corner of Denny and Yesler in full view via the floor to ceiling windows. Maybe it's reverse psychology. These sweaty, red faced, lumps of flesh in spandex are beautiful. You are a hag. Maybe it's the same idea as public execution, that people have an inert need to see others punished, a macabre fascination with seeing something horrible happen to another living thing. Regardless of the twisted logic that inspired this sadistic placement of exercise equipment, it was in this atrium of pain that I had my first "eureka!" about how to get myself motivated to actually do something for my health.
A while back, Maria and I cancelled cable, a decision that definitely made us more financially sound, but also made us painfully aware of our own boredom. I've never been a TV junkie by any means, but there were a few shows I got pretty fond of during our short sprint with more channels than I could ever hope to truly appreciate. Well, they have TV in front of all the cardio machines. I now have a sprawling gateway back into the land of prime time, and while Best of the 80's won't be quite the same whilst perched atop a motionless bike, straining to hear Gilbert Godfried's nasal banter over my own deep panting, Amazing Race truly will be amazing as I run in pace with the contestants. Only instead of a million dollars, I will be getting a side ache. However, I can now rest in the comfort of knowing that after Shark Week is over I will be fit enough to run a marathon. Twice.
Another lure is getting back into weight lifting, which I was actually pretty fond of back in the day. When I started to fall off the wagon years ago, I would still try and get back into the rhythm of working out a feeble few times. These are bad memories. Memories of trying to move the weight I had been at a month previous, being surprised to find out that it wasn't too bad, and then waking up the next day unable to move. It's a humbling pain. It hurts to scratch your ass, to click your mouse, to rub the tears from your eyes. You learn to both appreciate and despise the intricate mechanism that is the human muscular system. I'm glad that this time I will have these memories of discomfort as hindsight, hopefully allowing me to pace myself and take it easy the first few visits. However, remembering the pain of not lifting weights for a month and then diving back into the deep end, I am fully afraid of what it may be like after four years of inactivity. My guess would be crippling.
24 Hour Fitness actually has a pool, and pretty nice equipment. The last gym I frequented on a regular basis was the Bellevue YMCA, which pretty much attracted the dregs of the suburbs and the elderly. The smell of this building was unreal. It was like all the old people were constantly peeing in their sweat pants while exercising and the staff was pumping bubble gum through the vents to cover it up. It wasn't the Hollywood vision of an exercise club: fit people staying fit, naked babes in the shower room (remember Repossessed?!?!), smoothie bars and energetic sexually charged personal trainers spotting your bench. No. It was elderly men with testicles down to their knees in the locker rooms. It was non-English speaking locals calling you out at the basketball court. It was immensely obese women in stretch shorts holding back the tears while doing crunches. It was the only gym in Bellevue with a $25 monthly membership fee. I very specifically remember an inhumanly large Russian man who was an exotic beast in the weight room. He was older with gray hair, a bristling moustache, fingerless gloves, and a massive leather support belt for his back. He would dress in matching colored sweat pants and sweat shirts, which would soak through as he worked out, bellowing in his native Russian tongue and startling the timid gym members as he hefted enormous amounts of weight like atlas heaving the earth. Truly a sight to behold, and ultimately emasculating as you took your turn on the tricep machine changing the weight from 180 to 70.
Apparently I've graduated, or I guess gyms are cheaper these days. 24 Hour Fitness seems to be much nicer than the YMCA of my youth. It definitely has a gym smell, but it's nowhere near the salty-sweet pungency of a sick bay that I was expecting. Instead of manic foreigners and old bed wetters in the weight room, there's the typical smattering of what one should expect from a centrally located facility smack in the middle of urban Seattle. 20 somethings, 30 somethings, office workers, gays, tattooed hipsters, and worst of all the typical run of the mill fitness geeks. The dudes with tribal tattoos, head bands, tank tops, fanny packs, and muscles, talking loudly over the noise of the gym about sports and boisterously asking if you need a spot for your military press. However, I must extend a gracious and venerable thank you to Steve Jobs, because every single one of those fuckers has an ipod now, making awkward weight room talk near obsolete. I'll be sure to crank the ABBA in my head phones so it is audible within my proximity, a warning to over friendly muscle heads who want to shoot the shit about stretches and deltoids that I'm not a talker. I prefer to endure my pain in the silence of loud headphones. That way I won't drop the weights on my laughing face when I accidentally poot mid bench press.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Next day we got up and talked Europe logistics with Evan over a massive breakfast. We'll be touring Europe for 4 weeks with Young Widows in September/October. After gorging, it was over to Chris's recording studio (which was just as messy as a tour van) across the street from our show that night, and where we're currently planning on doing some recording next year. Unbeknownst to us, the show started a bit early and right when I was planning on heading back over to see the opening band, a mildly irked Evan came in and half politely, half sarcastically asked us if we were going to be performing that night. We ran over, set up, and rocked the shit. Stan and Chris definitely poured beer on me, and I definitely spit water in Stan's face. Young Widows and Coliseum played again, and I snatched a video of Coliseum playing a song. Note the beyond ridiculous drumming. After the show we drank beers in the studio and played around a bit with some recording. The results were an embarrassing sloppy mess that was recorded forever, and will probably be considered by many as the best material we've ever carved out in a studio. Hours later, after realizing that the only thing that could come of more recording was endless embarrassment and the possibility of black mail, we went out again to the bar where Tony works and gawked at a short, drunk woman playing pool who had some of the most ridiculously enormous fake breasts I have ever witnessed. They weren't the biggest I've seen per se, but in proportion to the rest of her stature one had to wonder what the fuck she was thinking. It was like she had to keep walking or else fall flat on her face with the weight of such monstrous boobies. Aaron made the astute observation that she must live like a shark, constantly moving, in fear of being dragged to the ground under the hulking weight of her obtrusive mammaries.
Next day was off to Cincinnati, the beginning of a four day stretch through Ohio that we would come to call "morale exploder", or "fun stabber". The show was at an arts warehouse, and more people came from Dayton with the opening band than actually came from Cincinnati itself. There were some power issues, we blew two fuses in succession and almost called it quits 3 songs into the set. It got sorted out after an awkward break and we finished up. A girl at the show had a thrift store shirt with a great white shark on it, mouth agape. It looked big enough to fit me and I offered to pay her $50 for it. She must have realized the majesty of such a garment, and did not budge. It occurred to me that perhaps she thought I was being a creepy, hairy, molester and was trying to get her to take her shirt off (not the case!), and so I then offered to pay her up front and then pick up the shirt the next day when she had ample time to change into anything else besides that damn shirt. Alas, I was denied again. We concluded Cincinnati with a visit to White Castle, spurred mostly by Aaron's curiosity about "flavor explosions" described in Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. I sincerely hope it's the last time he takes advice from "stoned" actors in big budget advertisements dressed up as Hollywood comedies, because the only type of "explosions" we experienced were well after the meal was over. We left the show and went with our new buddies in the first band back to Dayton to play monopoly in an apartment hotter than hot. It was a second floor apartment, and I liken climbing the stairs up from the heat of the summer night and into the baffling incindiary haze of that room to riding the Mr. Toad ride on a hot day at Disney Land, only the ride stops in the "hell" room, roasting you in your little cart. Nevertheless, we persevered and kept ourselves cool with cold beers and a frantic game of monopoly that lasted until 6:15 am. Monopoly can be a dangerous thing. I have never witnessed a "game" that so quickly turns it's participants into raging assholes and conniving weasels. I am no exception to that observation, exhausting great measures attempting to intercept property trades and slyly offering trades of my own in the heat of rent exchanges. Nat was able to secure some serious property via trades that involved talked-up sums of cash and cigarrettes from one of the players, a smoker who had nothing to smoke. His nicotine addiction was too fierce to heed my warnings about never trusting jews, and Nat scored the first monopoly. Luckily I managed to land on some property that posed as a good trade for another player, which we traded and soon the flurry of houses and hotels began, a veritable shit storm of investments and curses as less fortunate players landed on our bloated stretches of red and green plastic. After hours and hours, I tied the game with one of our hosts. We both had enough property that each turn resulted in the exchange of massive wads of little colored bills, neither of us gaining any financial ground on our opponent. We threw in the towel and I slept in a sea of my own sweat, half naked on a messy floor.
We had an air conditioned breakfast at Waffle House the next day and continued on our way, the taste of victory still fresh on my pallet. We were going to meet up with our buddies Genghis Tron for a short stretch of shows that night, an exciting prospect for me as the last time we were touring together I was extremely ill and didn't get much of a chance to hang out with them while shivering and coughing in the back seat of the van. Again, the show had spotty attendance but it was awesome seeing the Tron dudes again and we raged afterwards, showing them the exciting times to be had with punch game. Michael and I even exchanged slaps across the face. He was a bit sauced, the only reason I think he agreed to so quickly get involved at such a high level of punch game. He asked if I was going to hit him hard, and I responded affirmative. A drunken cheer went up as I slapped, open handed, right on the meat of his face. He spun around and almost went down. It was my turn next. I didn't see him wind up, choosing to close my eyes and let the hit come. I was told in the aftermath that he wound up like a side arm pitcher and slapped the living shit out of me. My defeat wasn't nearly as dramatic as his, I held my ground and muttered a humble groan of escaping pride, but his slap was low and hit my jaw. The ache of my jaw being rammed to the side still sits with me as I write this over a week later, a reminder of drunken comeradery, of dudes being dudes in the company of dudes, of tour. Punch game continued into the night. Nat and I tagged out after trading hits to the stomach, which hurt our wrists much more than our guts.
The next day was again, hot as balls. And again we were at Ms. Nature's mercy and without air conditioning. We spent a few sweaty hours in the house, completely miserable, then decided to head over to the mexican restaurant for AC and some fruity girl drinks. Mookie, Hamilton and I shared a pitcher of strawberry dacquerie. The show that night was 45 minutes away at The Red Parrot Cafe in Toledo. In attendance that night was a very young group of rag-tag punk kids, the kind of kids I hated having at shows when I was a young rag-tag punk. One of them, a very young man that couldn't have been older than eleven, was wearing a Misfits shirt and smoking ciggarettes like he had been at it for years. When he was reportedly confronted by one of his friends that he shouldn't be smoking at eleven, he supposedly threw his cigarrette to the ground with rage and said "Shut up you bitch!". Later in the night, I was watching an embarrassingly bad opening band and fighting off sleep from the free pizza I had enjoyed, when suddenly the group of young punks all formed into a little crowd at the table next to mine. Intrigue hit me like an avalanche. I craned my neck and peered over, utterly blown away by what I witnessed. A squat, young girl, slightly overweight with shoulder length hair and gobs of eye liner (it's all the rage these days) was quietly sitting down, a look of complete shock and horror on her face, as one of her peers pierced her lower lip with a safety pin. I watched the mock body modification artist pause just before he clasped the pin shut, beaming with pride in his own bad-assery, and his words were lost under the grunting and out of tune sonic travesty coming from the stage as he mouthed the words "I told you it would hurt". I'll never forget the look on her face as she tongued the safety pin, blood running down her chin, gazing into the faces of her friends in a desperate search for admiration and acceptance, her eyes silently screaming "Holy fuck this hurts, but I'm finally cool... Right?" The pin looked so awkward in her mouth, diagonally pierced through the lip, clasp end scraping up against her teeth. I don't know what will suck more, the raging infection that no doubt has inflamed her face into a red throbbing catcher's mit, or the hellfire that must have rained from whatever parental guardian caught the blunt of her angst. After the band played I was outside relaying the horror I had witnessed to Mookie as the piercer and a few of his cronies left the cafe, muttering about how they need to get some more safety pins. I did a fair amount of stupid shit when I was younger, but watching these young Ohians rage in their youthly fashion made me feel like goddamn Doogie Howser.
The last Ohio show in Toledo was just like all the others. Too hot, sparsely attended, and no real excitement from the audience. We did meet a few employees from Lumberjack Distribution who were kind with their praise and invited us by the office the next day. I was seriously dehydrated playing that night and felt pretty queezy the entire time on stage. It looked like my amps had shot water onto my body instead of blistering rock, my shirt was soaked. We went to our new friend Chris's apartment and watched the audio commentary from Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Milius on the Conan the Barbarian DVD, and then stayed up until day light playing Nintendo, featuring Kung-Fu, Contra, and Mike Tyson's Punch Out. Hamilton won much respect from the onlooking audience with his mastery of Punch Out.
Next morning we went to the Lumberjack office and had pizza for breakfast, which I think was my fourth straight meal consisting of pizza, which is half a complaint and half elation. Thank christ, we were leaving Ohio and heading back to the warm bosom of Chicago, morale thoroughly demolished. The show was at the Beat Kitchen, which is a sweet sounding room. Genghis Tron sounded amazing, despite their self proclaimed sloppy performance. Indian was savage and jaw droppingly loud, as usual. We kicked out the jams and laid waste to the room, a fun show. We retreated to the Flaster pad once again, where we quietly hung out and listened to Boston until all passed out.
Next day we left Genghis Tron to play in Bettendorf, Iowa at a comedy club called Penguins, which was attached to a crazy casino in the Quad Cities area. We waited to get the show started while a middle aged comedian with a Fender Squire apparently thrilled the audience with witty banter in between shoddy renditions of classic rock riffs. There's only so much "Whole Lotta Love" I can take being played through an off brand combo amp, so I went to the casino where we had caught rumors that if you showed your ID to the right people, gamblers were given a five dollar bill, no questions asked. The rumors were true. We showed ID, gave some fake addresses, and walked back to the bar with a fresh, crisp five dollar bill in our wallets. Sadly, it didn't last long. The show went super late and we played from 1:45 to 2:15. The bar shut down the show before Meth and Goats had a chance to rock our faces, and we rebelled by packing up and leaving. I was so tired that night I went to bed almost immediately after arriving at our host's apartment.
Next day was Milwaukee, and our last show with Genghis Tron. The turn out was great and the support bands were all pretty good, most notably Father Phoenix. We had some technical issues during the set, Aaron's amp was making an unhappy buzz and my cables kept coming unplugged which caused an ear scorching scream to come from the speakers. It was a good time though, and after the show we went to party with the locals. Someone had the ludicrous idea that a bon fire in August would be nice, so we corralled in the yard around a fire pit on a hot summer night. The usual hap hazard drunken antics occurred when fire and drunk people mix: reckless jumping over the flames, long walks to find more shit to burn, somebody throwing a huge cardboard box on the fire to see how big it could get. On one of the walks to find wood, someone happ'd upon a box of porn in a dumpster.
Porn boxes are an interesting phenomenon. Porn is usually accrued while a male is single and/or living alone or in the company of other single dudes. The collection grows as the content of each film becomes memorized with repetitive viewing and new porn is acquired for a fresh look at the same thing, also allowing the last film to be forgotten, therefore more exciting when put in for a nostalgic screening. Then, something happens where the male feels the need to purge the porn. This is usually caused by moving, either into a place where private porn screenings are not possible, or into an environment shared by an intimate partner, therefore rendering the necessity for porn obsolete and/or risky. The result then, is the accrued collection of porn being discarded along with common trash, and every so often being found by the next single male giving him a jump start on his collection, or in our case, a party of drunk people rooting through dumpsters looking for shit to throw on a bon fire.
Needless to say, there was a screening of the porn that night. I am usually violently against the viewing of pornography in any form while on tour. The male sex drive is a thirsty, rampaging beast, and when denied its periodic supplication can become a veritable behemoth, a 'Taz' mid-spin if you will. The images that course through a healthy young man's head after four weeks in a van with stinky dudes need no explanation here, nay, they would render this author at risk of federal persecution. Introducing the uncommonly graphic and bestial imagery of pornography to a young male in this state is similar to waving a raw steak in front of a starving bear, enticing a toddler with an ice cream cone, or calling Marty McFly a chicken. It's something I'd rather avoid, because a month without sex needs no external tantalizing. I like my balls. I'd rather they didn't explode. However, despite the testicular risk at hand it's hard to avoid the urge to see what treasures lie in a film called "Big Booby Boat Butt Adventure", so the party moved to the apartment and we started watching porn. It didn't last long. Nobody was really surprised that even though the name hinted at some golden and hidden comedic treasure chest waiting to be discovered, it was just regular old porn, made that much more awkward by the presence of females. We quickly changed it to Family Guy, and went to sleep shortly after.
The next day was a hasty and groggy good bye to Genghis Tron, made easy with the comfort that we'd be seeing them in a few weeks when their tour brought them to Seattle. We were off to Minneapolis for an early show at the Triple Rock, one of my favorite clubs to play in America. The Triple Rock is owned and run by the dudes in Dillinger Four, tour veterans who show they know what a touring band wants out of a club by treating their visiting bands extremely well. Free meal, free drinks, and friendly staff. The show was an early all ages deal, not our choice but the only spot available for the show. Enough people came to make a decent effort at bringing the rock, a good time was had, and after the show I spent over $5 on Simpsons pin ball while Nat was tutored in disarming knife wielding assailants by Triple Rock security.
Next day was off to Fargo. Not much to report other than low attendance and a late set. I couldn't stop thinking about how Godheadsilo used to be from Fargo, and I kept asking people if they saw them 'back in the day'. Only one guy said he did, and it turns out he saw them after they had moved, so it didn't count. I also kept an eye out for the car dealership that William H. Macey's character worked at in Fargo the movie, but didn't see anything too familiar.
Next was a day off. We drove to Missoula and rolled in around 4am, crashing with our friend Josh who runs the fabulous label Wantage USA (quality bro!). Crashed in his office aka basement, and got up the next day to enjoy a smattering of sitting around and watching crazy asian movies. The crown jewel was called Naked Killer. If you like lesbian assassins who make out, kill dudes, and cut off their wieners, then I highly recommend it. The show was at the Raven Cafe. It was a good time. Some dudes rocked out, but most of the audience did the folded arms dance that people usually do at our shows. We retired back to Josh's and watched Red Dawn, an Akimbo tradition when staying at the Wantage house. The movie is fantastic, worth it just for the scene where Patrick Swayze is crying and accidentally blows a snot bubble. That was the last show of tour. Next day was a relaxing drive home to Seattle, mission accomplished, where I now reside, work, and contemplate topics for the next rant.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
The ensuing activities at Scott's house are somewhat hazy. I'm not really sure how it came to be, but it was a platonic yet physical act of brotherhood and comeradery, a dance of friendship, a physical manifestation to interpret the mutual trials we share as traveling bards. Me and Stan took turns punching each other in the arm. Sometimes referred to as "punch game", "the widow maker", or "death match", the rules of the game are simple. Two trained combatants exchange punches in the same spot on the opponent's arm, continuing until one of the players gives up, at which point all kinds of demasculating comments ensue, the kind of stuff we got called in high school as we blazed between classrooms with our heads low to avoid our athletically enhanced yet intolerant colleagues. Well, unlike Stan, I'm not friends with a ninja kung-fu dude that knows how to kill a person with strategic blows to pressure points, so needless to say I was at a slight disadvantage. I tagged out early, but drank enough to start up again a few minutes later. Chris Owens also got involved, and when I say that I mean he started punching me for no reason completely out of turn. I don't know how much those dudes learned from their wise ninja black belt friend, but they definitely took notes on the punch maneuver that causes massive horrific bruising. I woke up the next morning to find the most heinous blemish in the shape of Stan's fist advertising my sissy defeat at punch game, prominent on my outer right bicep.
The bruise is name worthy, although it has no name. He's like any other gay friend you have, never content with one outfit for too long, always changing colors, gets way more attention from women than you do. Like a sexy, painful chameleon. Actually it looks way worse than it is. Unfortunately blogger is not cooperating and I'm unable to upload any of the pictures I've taken of the baby nebula on my arm, so you'll have to trust me when I say it's kind of like a hyper-color Piccasso under my skin.
The show that night was to happen in Lansing, Michigan. We presumed there was a large time consuming errand to run before we could leave, being that Aaron needed to get a temporary residence visa to play our one show in Canada. We're not smart men, and Scott's internet was down literally paralyzing our ability to acquire knowledge, so I hiked a few blocks to the nearest public library and got the necessary information to clear Aaron's name and get him over the border. This information also included the fact that the Canadian embassy in Chicago does not provide this service, so instead we got breakfast and hit the road, planning on attempting to acquire said document in Buffalo.
The turnout in Lansing was a bit upsetting, as our last show there was well attended. Lords were with us again, as well as the other two bands from the previous night in Chicago, as well as some more. It was Hood Booking's last show in Lansing, so Steven was throwing a barbeque. Apparently cheap beer, awesome music, and cheese burgers aren't enough to get the rockers to come out in Lansing, but we did our thing nonetheless. During the last song Stan, being the aspiring gentleman that he is, threw an empty beer can at me from two feet away. He chose a prime moment to assail me, because as his arm came down to hurl the spent beer, my head (in full rock star glory) came down in a most crucial headbang and the bridge of my nose connected with the beer can before it had the chance to leave Stan's grubby little mitts. So, instead of tossing a harmlessly light empty alluminum can in my direction, the effect was that of being punched in the face with a metal coated boxing glove, leaving a cute little bruise right between my eyes. After the set, punch game made a triumphant return, only this time we were slamming our fists into each other's stomachs as hard as we could. I already got the lecture from Maria so please spare me another dose of morality laced with maternal "you should know better". I know it's stupid, but it makes for a great internet video. It starts with Stan, Nat and I trading blows outside of Mac's, then moves on to the house party where Remis of Sweet Cobra gets involved (an opponent I shy away from with great reverence), Chris and I trade some chest punches, and Stan picks up Nat (maybe the gayest thing that happened all night). In addition to more than enough beer to sufficiently equip a fraternity for seven super bowls, the house we were hurting each other at also happened to have all the leftover meat from the barbeque. So, what else do real men do after drinking beer and fighting? Eat steak. We cooked up a whole mess of steaks and gorged. I think that night was the closest I will ever get to traveling the plains of Brythunia with Conan and his men. Beers, punching, eating the flesh of other living creatures. An eve I will treasure for many years to come. Perhaps one day when I have a son it will be his right of passage into manhood, to punch his father in the arm, drunk, with a beef flank stuffed into his cheeks. The night came to a close with Nat using a discarded Super Soaker to clean some of the meat bits off of Stan's face before he went to sleep. Friendship.
The only thing that was missing from the mayhem were our buddies in Elders who had shacked in a hotel that night. They only get honorable mention because I was informed in a flurry of text messages that they almost out-partied us, ending with one member sleeping naked and another member waking up to find he had shit the bed. Truth? I can't say. Only the four men within those hotel walls will ever know.
The next morning we found that someone had lost their steak into our host's shower over the course of our slumber. A picture is not necessary. It was fucking gross.
After a sad farewell to Sweet Cobra and Lords, we made the jaunt over to Buffalo. The show didn't go too hot. We played with Gongtopia, which was a dude with a bunch of gongs playing pieces that he had written. It was pretty cool, and a welcome change from standard rock/metal band with brutal mosh part x after thrashy speed part y, but didn't do much to bring out the locals to the show. The other band had potential. I think they were called Divine Machine. The dudes dressed in Target bought Jawa outfits, and the promoter had told us that they sound like Goblin (70's band that composed original instrumental rock/funk/ambient soundtracks to a whole mess of absurdly great and timeless horror movies). It seemed like it was a shoe in for a good show, but alas I was saddened at the realization that sounding like Goblin, and wanting to sound like Goblin are two very different things. They opened the set with a cover of the theme to Return of the Living Dead, one of my all time favorite zombie movies. A great song, and a wise choice for a cover. However, one thing I've noticed over the years of touring and playing shows is that more often than not a band's cover of someone else's song is usually the best number they'll play that night, and this was no exception. My excitement quickly waned as their set plodded on, and by the time they were finishing up I was outside slamming a Miller in preparation for another show in front of an unenthusiastic handful of people who probably think I'm an arrogant pre-madonna. After the show we met up with Sarah, a friend of Juan Montoya who plays guitar in the gut wrenchingly good Torche. He had told her to come see us, and she offered to put us up. First we went to a party, where Nat carried the punch game torch with Sarah and another slim, fragile looking female at the party. One would normally be wary of a guy like Nat trading blows with small women, but for some reason everyone was okay with it. I don't want to insinuate any of that girls are weaker crap, I think there are plenty of girls who could take a punch from plenty of guys and hardly flinch. It needs to be stressed that these girls both had the frames of 12 year olds. It just didn't seem like a good idea. This was immediately evident when Nat delivered his first hit in the middle of the party room, and a raucous, drunken dance party went instantly silent with shock, all eyes on the strange man with long hair who had just punched a super model in the gut with the force of an umberhulk. However, they both clocked him good in return and he seemed genuinely throttled. After the party Sarah cooked us grilled cheese sammiches and biscuits with eggs. I fell asleep in the living room watching the Super Mario Brothers movie, which I had completely forgotten is the most insane and nonsensical film ever to be released.
The next day was a day off. The consulate general in Buffalo that was to provide us with Aaron's visa was not open on Sundays, so we were completely shit out of luck. I guess Canadians hate getting their faces rocked off by loud bands from Seattle. Sarah offered to put us up another night and we happily obliged. We got beers and hung out on the deck all afternoon. Yoni took some great pictures, Aaron gave Sarah guitar lessons, we listened to Skynrd, ate some Taco Bell, and Maria and I had an intense phone discussion about the merits of M. Knight Shyamallamma's various works after she saw Lady in the Water. I still say Signs can eat a dick. Sarah's male model roommate was generous with his weed, resulting in me spending a relaxing hour and a half before I fell asleep listening to my ipod with a shit eating grin on my face.
Our next show was in Massachusetts in some shit college town called North Brookfield. We were 4 hours on our way when Michelle called with the heart wrenching news that the show was cancelled due to things getting rowdy at another show that had happened a few days earlier, resulting in everything getting cancelled regardless of the notice needed to give touring bands time to find something to do. We called up our old buddy Nate Shumaker of Dopamine Records / On Fire fame and scheduled a ferocious bro down like the olden times. He knew exactly how to welcome us, hugging us outside with a 30 case of PBR in one arm. I made a run to the store to get some bratwursts, and we beer'd and barbeque'd. Yoni and I closed the evening with a screening of Anchor Man, the best movie in the world.
We hung out in Nate's apartment for most of the morning, then bailed to Boston for our show at Great Scott with Disappearer. The show went really well, and people showed up and stuck around despite our playing at 1am on a Tuesday night. After the show we stayed with our friend Kerry who used to live in Seattle, only we actually slept at her friend's apartment that was being moved out of the following week. The place was a mess, everything all over the floor in preparation for being moved, complete with little bugs and beetles scurrying across the floor from junk pile to junk pile. The last thing you want to see when you're going to sleep in someone's house is insects crawling around on the floor, because invariably those of us that don't sleep in the van or get a couch will be down there with them. In the shit. The front line. Once we stayed in a house that in all seriousness had an ant trail moving through the middle of the living room. The only option when we find ourselves in this situation is to drink so much we fall into a deep, fairy tail slumber as soon as we hit the ground, otherwise your thoughts are plagued with visions of the bug pit scene in the King Kong remake and every little twitch you feel on your skin, be it a hair on your arm brushing against the blanket, the sleeping bag settling against your body, or a pregnant cockroach laying poisonous eggs in your ear will send you into a frantic covulsion of slapping and brushing. We drank and watched Ghostbusters, revelling in Rick Moranis, and by the time I had consumed enough alcohol to blind-side my phobia of waking up in a cocoon I retired to my little gap I had made between boxes, furniture and shelves. It was right next to the wasp nest, just a few feet behind the termite mound.
The next morning we were woken by Yoni who had slept in the van. Yoni has Pancreantitus and his health is constantly fluctuating. He had been in pretty bad shape for a few days and wasn't getting any better. He needed a ride to the airport so we got up and took him to Logan. It was a huge bummer losing him, but he was pretty uncomfortable and it was the obvious best choice. We miss him and hope he's doing better.
The three of us continued down to Darien, Connecticut for our show at The Depot. It was pretty disappointing. The Depot is a teen center that does live shows, similar to Ground Zero and The Old Firehouse where I was lucky enough to see live music as a thirteen year old, resulting in me sitting in this here van and recklessly traveling America instead of doing that job thing or that school thing. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for places like this, but as an adult in a touring band it's not the place Akimbo should be playing. Those type of places are for nurturing young musicians and giving them a platform to create their own environment, to take ownership of performing and setting up shows. Those places are not for rock bands with 20 amps that will knock the windows out of their frames. They are not for borderline alcoholics who enjoy a beer or twelve with each performance. They are not for touring bands that can't afford hotels and rely on other bands and people to put us up after shows. The result was us announcing during the set that we need a place to stay, which was 85% a joke, and 15% a depressingly genuine request. I concluded the announcement with "as long as you don't live with your parents" which apparently was completely disregarded because the only offer we got was accompanied with "I'll have to ask my mom." We were assured that she was "cool", which wasn't too comforting. The "cool" factor varies dramatically from 16 year old son in his punk phase, to 25 year old adult filthy from weeks on the road, unshaven, bruised, tattooed, and starving. Miraculously, we were approved, and I can only imagine the regret that must have coursed like the Nile as we entered her clean, air conditioned, febreezed home. Whether or not sheer terror seized her at the sight of us, we were welcomed with an unnecessary amount of hospitality as we sat around her patio table with a few of her son's friends and enjoyed a late meal of ice tea, veggie burgers, pretzels, cheddar cheese combos, and (I shit you not) pigs in blankets. Slightly awkward, but very pleasant. After the kids who didn't live there took off, we were shown to our own bedrooms and everyone went to bed. Yup. We were put to bed. Lights out! I tucked in and watched the making of Jaws on my lap top and had a restful sleep in a guest bedroom under a plaque that said simply in large bold letters: INSPIRE.
We woke up around 8am and were fed coffee and blueberry muffins. I didn't really know how to engage in any kind of casual conversation with these people (my vernacular for bullshitting revolves entirely around video games, horror movies, and marine life) so all I could do was thank them over and over again for being so generous and hospitable. I wasn't being sarcastic or anything, it was completely genuine. But, it was pretty much all I could think of to say besides discussing the best freeway to take on the way out. We got directions and moved on, leaving our host to scower her house in search of any missing valuables and hose down the beds.
The drive to Pittsburgh was long. We got lost in New York and ended up driving all the way through it, out the bottom end and back up to Pennsylvania through New Jersey. The drive through Pennsylvania was gorgeous as usual. The freeways travel through long stretches of green hills, a cool drink of water compared to the dry nothing of the mid west and the 2000 mile strip mall on the east coast. I love driving in Pennsylvania and always offer to "man the carriage" as it were when we're going through it.
It seemed the show in Pittsburgh was doomed from the start. We were up against three notable shows all happening in the city, the worst of which was a free Don Caballero show happening in a small bar in a much more "hip" area of town. We were also informed by one of the local bands at the show that in addition to the hype worthy competition, there were also a few smaller shows happening with local heavy rock bands, so even the troglodite metal dudes that aren't constantly clicking refresh on the Buddy Head gossip column would be spoken for. Only two people came. After two bands they were refunded and the show was called off. The promoter was very professional and still paid us, fed us, and alcohol'd us, and we were grateful for that, but it was a huge bummer. One of those nights where Lady Fate puts on her bitch pants and shits on your face. We packed up, and then Aaron and I waited around while Nat and the promoter talked about jews, being jewish, judaism, and jewish day school. After the jews finished jewing about jewness, we admitted complete defeat and drove to the free Don Caballero show that stole our audience to meet up with John, the drummer of the first band who had bailed after playing so his other band could open the Don Cab show. HIs directions were somewhat spotty, and that combined with three dudes all arguing over which way to go gets you very very lost. We eventually arrived and waited at the bar for the show to finish. I was completely glued t the TV watching that Japanese game show they play on Spike TV. The one where people dress up as bowling pins and get slammed with a giant bowling ball, run up a hill with giant fake boulders bouncing down at them, and run across the pond on floating pads that fall out from under their feet. People always fall over and get hurt, and we all know there is nothing in the world funnier than people getting hurt. You may have seen it. It's called "the best show on TV since MacGuyver". The show ended and we went to John's where I immediately crashed, despite the lack of air conditioning. We had to get up early the next day for Dude Fest, and that is where this post ends and the next begins.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Nature won another notch on the score sheet against me in Boise. The dry heat pretty much killed the discomfort we skirted against in California. I hate the sun. It's the only thing that can completely demoralize me in the amount of time it takes to exclaim "Holy fucking christ I need some ice cream." The show was in an odd bar that didn't seem too accustomed to hosting bands of our ilk and volume, but ended up going really well. A lot of "hat metal" dudes were there pretty early, you know the type. Baggy shorts, t-shirts displaying sports teams, clothing brands, and various ironic muses about drinking, fighting, and/or copulation. I ran into an old tattoo artist of mine that did the lines on my forearms. The reunion was joyous. The post show hangout was also a zinger, smoked up with Saviours in a tattoo shop and then retired to a house that one of the dudes had wrangled up. Thankfully we had a moderately cool basement to sleep in, but it smelled ferociously of cat urine and someone thought it'd be a good idea to keep coming in and turning on music for us to sleep to. Scott of Saviours fame had his first real sleep in 2 weeks that night and I have never heard a more vicious and awe inspiring snore. It woke me out of a deep, mystifying sleep fueled by weed and beer, a feat in and of itself. At first I was irked at being jolted from my rest, but my irritation quickly dissipated into wonder and adoration for the majesty of Scott's snore, an intimidating yet magnetically curious sensation that I imagine young Bilbo Baggins had felt as he clambered into the chamber of the sleeping Smaug. It was like a heaving beast in the dark, but what made it so wondrous and horrific was how hard he was breathing. Imagine a brutal snore, like something that would come out of John Candy, but sped up so that the noise belched every second. This was my lullaby in the early hours of the morning.
Salt Lake City was lame. Too hot and the club didn't even put the support bands on the posters for the show. We had a stage hand type dude who had all the enthusiasm of a Chotchky's employee sans flare, and while we weren't offered any pizza shooters or extreme fajitas, we did get some excellent shitty chinese food, a personal vice that I readily indulge in whenever possible. The club was cluttered with TVs hanging all over the place, there's even two at the front of the house on either side of the stage. They had the audacity to play live DVDs of other bands while the real bands were playing on stage. Trivett of The Sword was awesome enough to turn them off while we played, only to have tight faced employees come over and turn them back on. It's kind of a bummer to be playing to a barely populated room, look up and see Killswitch Engage doing backflips and ninja kicks in front of a packed house, and then look down to see the dullards in the room watching the band on TV instead of the real band on the real stage. Why did you come to the show? That night we joined The Sword in their hotel and drank like it was revenge on the heat and the show.
Up early again for the drive to Denver, which turned out to be much more pleasant than I had anticipated. The altitude in Denver is a silent oppressive blanket that hangs in your head and coats one with sloth and the fierce desire to take a nap. No naps were had though. My plan was to ignore the effects of the high altitude and thin air by drinking. It kind of worked, a bit. It worked well enough that I don't really remember much happening after the show other than making an enthusiastic stop at Wendy's and falling asleep on a carpet that was in dire need of a thorough shampooing.
And once more, we were up early to get to Lawrence, Kansas. Sadly this would be our last show with Saviours and The Sword. This was also the hottest day I have ever experienced in my 25 years of flipping off and cursing at the giant, flaming asshole in the sky we call the sun. It was in the upper 80s in our van with the air conditioning raging at full blast. Leaving the marginal safety of said air conditioning would result in your body practically shooting sweat like a million tiny super soakers. When we pulled up to the Granada around 8pm, we saw the temperature displayed on one of those electronic reader boards attached to a bank. 108 degrees. At 8pm. The sun wasn't even high in thee sky anymore. This is obvious proof that world is indeed going blow up soon, or melt, or something. Frankly I'm glad. The less time I have to spend in that kind of weather the better.
The Granada was huge, a little unnecessary for our bands, but it's fun to play big stages like that and pretend the place is packed with rabid fans, topless bikini babes perched on their shoulders. Here's a video of the bands doing their thing, complete with sugues provided by Yoni's illustrious dancing Mexican friend Fritz. I took a bunch of video of this dude who was standing in front of JD while The Sword was playing. Sadly, it was too dark to make anything out. He was pretty stoked. He would steadily rotate from screaming the lyrics with arms raised, frantically playing air guitar and head banging, and then stopping and staring at the band with childish adoration.
The post show hangout while we were loading out was bittersweet and ripe with bromance. We said our goodbyes and farewells, and drove all night to Chicago. Nat was a goddamn champion and single handedly guided us for 11 hours into the warm and inviting bosom of the Flaster residence. Scott and Cara Flaster, who run Seventh Rule Records and put out our "City of The Stars" album, were our gracious hosts as usual. They're kind of like a spare parents house, they have washing machines and almost always feed us. I crashed out in the cool basement and slept like a wee babe.