FRANKLIN BRUNO TAKES HIS TURN AT THE TOUR DIARY
THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE DO NOT Necessarily REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF JENNY TOOMEY CORP.
Writing this a couple of days later, I�m already a little blurry on the drive from Idaho to Seattle. I suspect this is because I was pretty blurry during the drive itself�I kind of went into self-imposed hibernation mode on the all-driving days since Minneapolis. There was classic rock, gorgeous scenery of the craggy, piney variety I�m poor at describing, some academic reading, and a few games of Jay�s electronic Scrabble, which plays words like GOX against one on a regular basis. I think I must have done part of the driving too, but wouldn’t swear to it under oath.
Got into the Sit �n� Spin, an almost archetypically hip/kitschy caf�/restaurant/club/coin-op laundry with lots of board games and juice drinks. (This is fine: Being on a rock tour, especially when one�s over 24 and a not a heavy drinker, I�d rather find myself tossed into the set of Friends in a strange city than, say, The Decline of Western Civilization.) Soundchecked on a nice big stage, got a few drink tickets, a gratis chicken sandwich, and quarters for the washers. Jenny did a magazine interview, the local weekly had a long, very positive review of her record, and Steve Turner of Mudhoney (old friend of Jenny�s though I don�t recall the connection) showed up to say hi. The just-named OGs (Original Grungesters) were playing a show mere blocks away, so sometime between check and our set, most of the troupe walked over, past what appeared to be the Mothership/Taj Mahal of all Starbucks and the like to what turned out to be a union hall�International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, if I�m remembering right. It was a very different, resolutely all-ages/community vibe than the last time I saw Mudhoney, which was maybe 6 years ago at the Palace in L.A. with Hole. (I don�t remember who was opening for who at that point.)
Loud room, sober but not unexciting playing, one old song I recognized. I wouldn�t say they�ve changed much, but I hadn�t been waiting for the Mudhoney drum �n� bass project anyway. Keep on rockin� in the free world, I say. (Speaking of grizzled veterans, I�ve noticed in a couple of towns that The Lazy Cowgirls�who were the band, long-established even then, that Nothing Painted Blue played our first ever non-college show with�are out on tour. That, my friends, is persistence.)
Missed the openers back at our show, including Jen Wood who used to be in Tattletale and who I know slightly (in other words, I felt bad about not watching) because I got completely sucked in to a pinball game called Wrecking Ball. I thought I�d been playing about 20 minutes when Jenny came in and told me that the second band had ended a while ago and that we needed to get on stage. (Tour always has this hurry up and wait aspect�one�s often looking for mild time killers, some of which turn out to be more effective than one wished.)
The set itself was mainly remarkable for Jenny talking to the audience more, and more politically (about a stupid, sexist new book about Kurt Cobain that seems to quasi-blame Tobi Vail for his death, or at least for �using her boyfriends like accessories.�) than the last few shows. And: Since this was the show Jean missed, I filled in a couple of violin parts, which wasn�t as good (obviously), but I could hear Jay and Amy better than usual, which should help us play together better. I have a lot of trouble setting a tempo at one point in �Artful Dodger,� but everything else is coming together nicely.
Amy�s sister happens to live here, and Jenny and Kristin stayed with someone I didn�t meet, leaving the rest of us (Jay, Heather, and me) to an already-booked hotel room close to the club�a nicer-than average Ramada Inn. Nothing to say about the sleep experience, really, except that when I went out to get something from the vending machine, a compactly built, very drunk Englishman in a mildly flashy black suit was having trouble with the adjoining machine. �Oh God, why are you doing this?� he muttered to no one in particular, before asking me �Are you buying a packet of crisps, then?� I said I was. �Are you having nacho cheese?� (I can�t quite capture the strangeness of his pronunciation of �nacho.�) �If you�re not, I�m going to shake the machine.� I looked behind the glass�it was the old dispenser-doesn�t-make-it-all-the-way-around, keeping-your-chips-from-falling-by-one-sliver-of-a-corner story. I actually wasn�t planning on having nacho cheese Doritos, so I helped him jostle the machine. I can�t remember what I finally purchased myself, and I don�t know why I�ve spent so long on this incident.
Coeur D� Alene
We stopped for dinner in Missoula and met up with Amy�s high school lab partner Katie who is doing a degree in Environmentalism. We parked in front of the underage disco (The Whole) which was held in the local Elks lodge. There were groups of disaffected youth wearing tank tops in 20-degree weather pulling each other�s manic panic pigtails and screaming at people from cars. It makes my skin crawl to remember the claustrophobic moments of that age. Claustrophobic moments, who am I kidding. It was claustrophobic years.
(kristin drinking) (jay and his pumpkin carving)
Katie took us to a snazzy restaurant with 20-foot high ceilings, $20 plus specials and huge columns flanked with those busty women that are usually on the bow of ships. Kristin ordered a Halloween martini that came complete with candy corn in the glass. I believe it was made up of something called pumpkin smash and vanilla stoli. She made it through half a dozen sips before giving up. (I took a great Polaroid of it�but it doesn’t really translate as a digital photograph) At the restaurant we began to notice that Jay is the first band member to be demonstrating symptoms of the disease known as �long-drivicus-stir-crazicus� for some reason he began carving the decorative pumpkin with his keys�
Afterwards we dropped off Amy who will be flying to Seattle and we headed off for 3 more hours of driving to Coer D� Alene. After about a dozen tries at several theme hotels (The Bates, and The Flamingo for example) most of which were closed and some of which had signs warning against fornication�we settled for a Budget hotel. Since these were motels none of em had two beds so that meant one of us was going to have to sleep in on the floor. Heather volunteered to do the dirty work as she was excited about the original character of motel vs. hotel chain and (of course) the downtown proximity of the bars. Lucky for us wed unintentionally hit the jackpot. Both hotel rooms were suites and had not only two beds but TWO ROOMS! The sleepy woman in the nightgown who checked us in never mentioned the two rooms when I asked�and both rooms were a measly $29 bucks each. They weren’t the cleanest rooms and mine had a bright pink bathmat that had clearly been stained with hair dye, (I’m from guessing when a fugitive from the law holed up against the prying eyes of inevitable bounty hunters)�but with two beds�a �pet friendly� manifesto written in the voice of the pet�i.e. �don’t leave me alone in the room where I might bark or the hotel may have to call the doggie police� and “magic fingers” vibrating massage units connected to all four beds we were in rocker heaven.
Across the street we found an odd wine-bar/latte joint/ game room and played some heated darts until the number of darts hitting the floor superceded the number hitting the dart-board.
Miles City Montana
Woke up baked in the hotel room with a heater that had the settings broken off. It was on and all firey cotton air or off and freezing� I was up and down all night pushing the one button that worked. Got on line and downloaded today�s mail only to find a note from my favorite college professor Mosh forwarding the hyper-flattering NYTimes Pick of the week review of Antidote with a cheery congragulations. Minutes later I overhear Amy�s phone call home to DC where we get the news that a rocker friend from DC may have beenexposed to Anthrax.
It’s particularly strange to be touring in the face of the war. It reminds me of the opening chapters of The Steven King novel…The Stand where an aging failure of a rocker finally has a hit song on the radio that peaks during the plague that signals the beginning of the end times. I seem to remember a grotesque scene of a pile up of cars and dead bodies in the Holland Tunnel with the radios all tuned to stations playing his song to the deaf corpses.
(everything is big in montana, even the hot dog selection)
It�s odd I feel so blessed in the forward motion that huge powder topped mountain to my left the endless horizon in front one mile from Livingston on route 90 West with Gillian Welch singing a song that certainly seems to be about MP3s.(the random overlaps of down time) It�s such a genuine distraction from the media microscope. Would it make a difference if there were 6 cases of Anthrax�if there were 8? If I was home I might think that it would. Right now I just get to wonder why Jay drove the van so fucking far ahead of us here in the car.
We drove to Madison to get a head start on our super long drive to Minneapolis. The next morning we ate at Perkins if for no other reason than to convince ourselves to never eat there again. What is it with the top layer of hash browns cooked and everything else transparent? What is it with �potato pancakes� made like real pancakes with a few shreds of potato? What is it with the �salad omlette� where someone forgot to cook the veggies before they wrapped them ice cold in bland eggish material?
We made good time to Minneapolis so I made the executive decision to skip soundcheck and head straight to Ragstock a store that has the honor of being my most favoritist thrift-store memory. Ten years back on our first trip to the twin cities Pat Whalan our host took us there where his housemate worked and gave remarkable discounts. It was a playing field of vintage dresses, gaberdine, odd costumes. We left with bags and bags. Last night I found one sad dress. It was twenty dollars. I don�t think I�ll go back there again.
We had dinner with some folks from American�s for Radio Diversity a group that began in the wake of the sale of Rev 105 a super cool radio station institution that lost its life in the media consolidation and bandwidth grab that washed across the dial in the wake of the 1996 telecommunications act. Now a days the station that once championed Tsunami is playing blocks of Poison and Striper. We talked a lot about common concerns. They�ve done a lot of interesting work substanciating the lack of diversity on the radio by taping everything that gets played and logging it. If we could get 50 folks to do that for a full week across the country we�d have some super interesting numbers to look at.
We ate super spicy Thai food and considered ordering the Basil Martini. My Thai dish was served on a huge bed of steamed spinach which is the best idea in food that I�ve heard in a long while. Back at the 7th street entry Shiner and Death Cab for Cutie were rocking the kids in the big room. It sounded good but I didn�t sneak over there in time to see a thing. We never played at the First Avenue although I had a flash back to when Unrest, Stereolab and Tsunami played the 7th street years ago and we drew less than next-door�s dance party where kids danced in front of huge screen that projected fractals.
The bartender Meg gave me apple juice tumbler sized glasses of tequila and refused to take my drink tickets which is probably the reason why I later refered to Minneapolis as �the windy city� from stage. Kristin and Heather participated in a heated T-shirt sales contest. After much hassling of innocent bar patrons they tied neither having sold a shirt. Jay watched both opening bands intently and then told me he�d decided to form his own band�apparently he�d realized that it wasn�t too difficult. It only took a week on tour with me for him to figure that out.
Silent and screaming sparse but�fun show quick and dirty�in front of an audience of traveling poets (not kidding) who later championed our restraint�We�ve always been a shoe in with the traveling poet audience. Now if only I could identify where they regularly congregate. I could test the limits of disintermediation.
We loaded out in a flash and sped off to Pat Whalans to check out his new house. Kristin and I slept on a futon in the dank basement everyone else spread out in the living room. All the other times we stayed with Pat we were rudly awakened but a rather mean Cocatoo named Mika Bird. Mika had the infamous reputation for hating men and was the only animal I�ve ever seen be mean to Andrew Webster, Tsunami Bass player and kin to St. Francis Asissi. Andrew will be happy when I tell him that earlier this year that loveless mess of feathers fell off it�s perch and is now quite dead.
Pat woke us with coffee and Pancakes�just like ole times. It�s a shame we didn�t have more time beautiful people and things in Minneapolis. On the last Tsunami tour Kristin almost rented a U-Haul to bring back the cowboy-themed livingroom set being sold for a mere $500. I wonder what treasures would yield themselves today� But there are 1666 miles to drive between Minneapolis and Seattle and that�s a thousand miles more than the devil�s number. Got to put some miles between 666 and me.
(on the way to montana)
We woke to buckets of ice rain�super depressing weather . Everything I know about Ann Arbor I hear through the stressed-out and taxed academic lens of my intermittent conversations with Peter and to be honest it�s left a bleak film . Today�s weather is a perfect stage setting to claustrophobia and stifling boredom. It feels like a week of Sunday afternoons. Heather, Franklin and I visit Zimmerman�s (Zingmermans?) the locally acclaimed deli which is notorious for it�s $150 dollar bottles of balsamic vinager. Considering the climate and my mood it just makes me mad. I order a bagel with veggies and they charge me 6 dollars. It feels like a magnet for gormet masochists�. You buy your coffee in one store and then are sent cheerily out in the rain with your cup to the building next door to self serve� and this process saves time? For whom? My suspicion that Ann Arbor is a black hole is confirmed when about 5 miles out of the town�s boarder the sun breaks through the clouds and we have a lovely speedy drive to Chicago. Tonight we play at Schubas a club. I�ve never played there before though I once spent a remarkable millennium watching Andrew Bird�s bowl of fire igniting Schuba�s dance floor while I swayed in silver sandles and a pale pink off the shoulder floor-length gown with a tall lemony Gin and Tonic. The only thing missing from that scene was a tiara. So clearly I�m excited to contribute to the already stellar legacy of Schuba memories. Though by comparison in the day the club seems small and empty.
Heather and Kristin go off to find a coat and Franklin and I stop in at Uncle Fun. The fella who works there tells us we have only 10 minutes to shop�TEN MINUTES? I couldn�t get through the hand buzzer drawer in 10 minutes. I turn off my consumer brain while Franklin considers buying a �reusable� mask from the 40s. Basically it�s a warped and melted flesh colored head shaped thing stapled to a 1940�s letter pressed two-tone cardboard frame with a couple of crayons thrown in. Apparently in the 40�s one could have unlimited fun by putting the mask on and drawing different theme faces. Right now it looks so grotesque we had unlimited fun by asking the store clerk if he though it would fit on Franklin�s head.
Soundcheck was easy thanks to Fabrize the helpful French soundman and Dinner in the Harmony Grill was delicious.
Afterwards we wove our way through the upstairs swing dance class to get to the booking office where two beautiful women wearing lovely plaid skirts, high-heels and tight sweaters (note to self�) let Kristin and I camp out on the phone lines listening to music and catching up with emails. Downstairs Franklin taught Jean to play Scopa some Italian card game where apparently Franklin gets to make up all the rules as they go. Eventially I settled behind the merch table with Julia to chat about her dog Tiger who is very much in love with me. It�s always bittersweet to play in the city since Lounge Ax closed it�s doors.
Deanna Veragona played before us. She had a great band with trumpet and stand up bass who could really swoon. Last time Amy and I were in Chicago for Lady Fest we got to record with her a bit at Kingsize for the Anti-Death-Penalty that Jon Langford was organizing. I got to sing Freakwater harmonies �let that freight train take me back to my home town.�
We had a super audience� silent in the songs, whooping and cheering afterwards� Mark Greenburg played organ a bit. I had hoped he would play WITH the whole band but apparently he �forgot� to bring his own organ down. I�ve never heard of fella�s forgetting their organs before but apparently that sort of thing happens a lot in Chicago� It has something to do with the Mafia history�people are afraid to carry around instruments for fear that rival gangs will think they are carrying machine guns. Mark said this is one of the reasons why there are hardly any musicians in Chicago. His playing was honestly sub par so we threw him off stage after a couple of songs. I guess we got away easy. Edith came up and sang on Patsy Cline we both wrote out cheat sheets to remember the entire voluminous lyrics. It sounded nice�wish we could carry her around with us so we could listen to her pretty voice. Later in the set Jean performed a bit of a composition that was written by the electric bear and the castinetts made another appearance in our encore.
(amy and her castanets, amy with edith frost)
The next day was consumed in preparations for the speech at the U of Michigan�Amy and Davn and Franklin and Jean got to go thrift shopping and I spent two hours editing. I suppose it was worth it� We chopped off another 10 minutes and the speech was the best so far.
I�m actually beginning to memorize the thing. I think it went well and Rebecca Eisenberg who hosted the event seemed pleased. There was another person in the audience who argued that the system would always be the �way it is� and that�s why he was getting a law degree. (And your point is?) Telling an activist that idealism is hopeless is like telling a lawyer that there is no law. Idealism is our foundation fella. It�s not about how it is� it�s about how it should be. . Half the group crashed at (FMC board member) Peter Dicola�s house. Peter is in a Economics PhD/Law Degree program that is so difficult (I believe he said) no one has ever completed it. He seems pressured but unbending. We had a great dinner talking about recent events�the sopeanas that were distributed to the 5 major labels by the Dept of Justice last week and the language the RIAA got caught trying to slip into the terrorism bill which would allow them to go into folks computers and deleate illegal files. It�s important to remember how many of our civil liberties are lost in the vunerable and hysterical periods of recession and war. If I could go online right now I�d direct you all to the sage distillation of the history of presidential over-reach in war-time which was offered on ALL Things Considered a couple days after the towers fell by Prof Eben Moglen. If any of you do a search and find it I�ll happily add a link here if you forward it to me.
Later Kate, Peter�s sweetheart and housemate had to watch �An American in Paris � for her Ethnomusicaligy of Gershwin Class so we joined her on the couch. It�s always a treat to watch movies like that with Franklin. He�s got all the back story and the details on all the other movies of the character actors in all the bit parts. He also managed to borrow the Real Book to work out the sneakier chords from Girl From Ipanima for the in between songs so we�ll be ready for future between song tuning noodling.
After Buffallo we went to Detroit to play a super fun show with Warn and Davn of His Name is Alive and Time Stereo fame. The show was set up at the last minute at a nice little bar called the Lager House right in dark heart of burnt out Detroit.
Whenever I hear folks implying that Michael Moore overstated the long term impact of US industry moving manufacturing operations overseas and out of industrial cities like Flint and Detroit I have this incredible desire to lock them in the tour van to drag them across the country for a little peek a boo with their own eyes. Members of the Jenny Toomey experience reaped the full benefits of a nearly completely shut down and boarded up main drag in what was once one of the United States largest cities by taking very dramatic photographs standing in the middle of a 6 lane Downtown thouroughfare that had absolutely no traffic in the middle of the day.
(davin, jenny and kristin, taking over detroit)
Afterwards we loaded in and Amy directed a DVD yoga class for some of us on the dirty floor of the club while the Pogues CD raged in the bar in the other room. When Davn arrived we headed to Greektown for garlic mashed potatos on our way we passed several casinos. It�s legal to gamble in Detroit now�you don�t even have to cross the boarder to go to Canada. I guess that makes sense� if the disinfranchized and hopeless are going to piss away their money somewhere it might as well be into their own community lottery and gambling pools.
(betting problems are very serious)
The show was chocked with Time Stereo goodness. Openers The Double were catchy and cathartic. They had an alternately super cool, super-spazzy drummer and a guitarist/singer with a buttery voice and a great melodic sense. I believe they were from NYC.
Next up was Warn with his acoustic show. It�s always interesting to get to hear the songs in their most stripped down versions, particularly now considering the lushness of his new record� Someday My Blues will Cover the Earth already a van favorite. I think the rest of the band liked it too. I could tell by the fact that they played about 100 games of Photo Hunt in the other room.
Afterwards was �The Little Princess Zoo Time� or something� which involved The Electric Bear and The Electric Girraffe playing distortion in front of a placid backdrop. But then, just when the audience was lulled into a confused stupor, suddenly an ape broke through the backdrop and created havok with the audience tackling audience members, tossing bananas and messing up some bar patron�s pool game. We were lucky to get some of this on tape.
We played a pretty loose but fun set including the debut of �Your Inarticulate Boyfriend� one of the songs that we did with Calexico for the Tempting Album. Amy wowed the audience with her impressive castinette skill.
We managed to load out before the kindly bartender explained to me for a second time that he had told his girlfriend years before that he would marry me. He did this with his arm around me. I didn�t much know what to say to that and still sort of don�t. I guess that�s a compliment? (This fella can�t intuit my conflicted distrust of matrimonial union? I though it was transparent�I�ll have to work harder at distilling on the next record).Aside from once removed proposals it was a successful night.
Warn and Davn were good sports by letting the whole band stay at their house. We�re a big group� I think everything worked out ok� and Warn and I got to have a good long talk about Neil Young on the drive to Livonia� He was listening to Bruce Springsteen in the van which confused me a little and then he started nudging me in the direction of CSNY� times like this I have to remember he�s a bonified taste maker. I�m always pleased to get the insider angle.
When we arrived I got to see Davn�s most recent work on the front stoop. They are called �Travel Logs� and basically they consist of regular logs and stumps on wheels and with carrying straps and handles. These are probably available through the Time Stereo catalog.
Almost immediately I curled up on the remarkably hard floor in the control room and for the first time in a week put a door between my dreams and the dreams of my band members. My band members were more daring watching the newly completed �Electric Bear Movie� and the classic �Wet Beginings� into the wee hours of the night.
I wrote a nice little piece about Buffalo and which focused mostly on how great Marty our host treated us� first with the incredibly delicious veggies that he roasted right there on the Mohawk grill for us� then by letting us crash at his enormous beautiful house with an entire 4 bedroom apt where everyone got beds and clean dukes of hazard and empire strikes back sheets and finally by getting up at the ungodly hour of 8 am so we could wake to a full bagel, chives, avocado, tomato spread�and endless pots of coffee�.
(the empire strikes back…. at franklin!)
but somewhere between then and now that fine writing was lost. It�s days and days later and I�m in �tour mind� where the details leave the brain immediately so as to allow for more room for new details to shuttle through the Teflon synapses.
I have a vague memory that I liked playing Buffallllooooo�we will return.
Things are good. Even with 4 hours of sleep and many hours to drive to get to strange NPR Radio interview in Boston. Even with malls that have absolutely the same grouping of chain stores in every city in the nation. Franklin and I went searching for eggs and coffee we found a Starbucks and a mall so relentlessly cheerful it hurt the teeth. Even so�we are on tour�we are stardust�we are golden�we are arrogance and forward motion�we are untouchable.
(franklin bruno is a good thing)
Back in the car for a dose of unreality�There are Journalists with anthrax in NYC where we just were. Suddenly every tickle in my throat is hatching spores. When we arrive at the NPR studio we are scheduled to be a bit of lighter fare in between the scientific explanations of biological threats and a heartbreaking interview with the wife of a man who walked down to take photos of the towers only to be crushed, only to be found with camera, only to have the posthumous photos published in Newsweek. The interviewer is nice but facile (Franklin�s word). �So this song is mean�what�s THAT all about?� When I explained a bit of the politics behind the FMC speaking tour the interviewers response was something like� �Wow..those people who see you as a little 5 foot 5 woman with a shock of red hair and a guitar have no
No idea what?
I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe I was talking to one of “those people.”
It will be interesting to listen back to the interview and see if that’s really what she said. If she was really so dismissive or if I’m just being hyper sensitive The strangest thing was the moment when she asked me about why “Unclaimed” was so despondent? What do you say to that? I just pointed to the fact that she recognized that emotion right? I mean if you can
experience an emotion why can’t you distill it? Why can’t you represent and process it? It was odd to me that this woman who was spending the entire day interviewing folks about Anthrax and their crushed spouses couldn’t see the validity in an exploration of despondency.
The rest of my Boston report disappeared into my computer.
All I remember was:
Bumping into Watt outside the Middle East (he was playing at TT�s next door) and talking about the awesome impending reformation of Mission of Burma to play two shows. I can’t think of a band that I never saw play that I would rather see.
Eating two helpings of their super garlic spread that is so strong it actually feels like sharp garlic needless entering your taste-buds. (All fears of anthrax were quelled in my homeopathic compulsion towards garlicky self medication.)
Sitting around with Mary Timony, Christine and Geoff before the show. We compared notes about our previous evenings shows in NYC. They had played a party for Jane magazine where people talked through the entire set and then received little silvery gift bags with hair dye and other goodies. I believe I saw a small parade of these women walking through Chelsea in stilettos dangling silver bags.
The show was fun�afterwards Heather (who joined the tour that night in order to help us with some of the long drives) got behind the wheel of the van allowing the rest of us exhausted rockers room to crash. At one make shift rest-stop… that was set up in what looked like a trailer�Kristin saw a sign near the coffee advertising �Aesops Bagels� and made (what seemed at the time to be) a hysterical joke about bread and the public domain. What a pair of geeks we’ve become.