Archive for November, 2001



The night after the LA show we stayed with Franklin�s parents I slept on sheets so clean and soft that I went to bed covered in club smoke woke up with a contact clean.

In the morning there were frittatas, bagels, fruit salad and TWIN coffee pots with regular and decaf coffee. Parents are the best�(If any of you want to offer up parent�s homes for us to stay in next tour�we will gladly accept.) When I went to take a bath Franklin�s mother almost knocked through the door in order to make sure I had soap, towels (hand towels and wash cloths even) everything that I needed. Little did she know I was not taking a shower but a bath in the, never before experienced, �midget tub.� I�m not sure who
designed the midget tub and for what purpose it was created but it was certainly an adventure. My ass against the back end and my toes curling up in the front�actually the washcloth came in handy. While I was becoming yogi-clean Jean and Amy did yoga in one of the many guest rooms. Later Franklin�s father talked about the musicals he�s written and we all snuck peaks at Franklin�s baby pictures. Still all good things must come to an end�we packed the car took a pit stop at Trader Joes we were off for an 8 hour trek to Phoenix. I don�t remember a thing about the trip but once we arrived we were surprised to find a nice indoor-outdoor club with Christmas lights and a sort of beach-hut vibe and best of all, outside there was a beautiful vintage aluminum Air stream Winnebago that we could use for our dressing room.

Franklin�s sweetheart Brie met us and we all went to a local haunt recommended by the bar maid (unknowingly) to eat the worst Mexican food dinner of our lives. Let me tell you they are lucky it�s been a few weeks or I�d warn you off their botulism factory by name. Even the Margaritas were so soapy and bitter I honestly believe they made them with Palmolive. It may have been the first Margarita I have failed to finish in my life. Thankfully when we returned to the club the bar maid was able to recommend an excellent silver tequila to wash away the bitterness. While the rest of the band heated up the Airstream with naps and scrabble I entertained Kevin Cordt�s father and stepmother and watched the opening acts that were really wonderful. One fella and a guitar played a couple of songs by himself and one with a boom-box. Afterwards a woman in a red cape and a fella (no cape) played a fun set who�s finale included the fella noodling on the guitar and the girl mimicking the noodle in meows. Our set was fun. The soundman did a great job. (Did I mention he fixed Jean�s amp for us during soundcheck?) Despite all the mean things that we�d heard about Phoenix from our friends in Tucson�it seemed like a pretty nice place. We high-tailed it out of there and drove the hour and a half to the Congress Motel our future home for two consecutive nights.



Los Angeles

There was some logistical shuffling at this juncture in the tour, so I�ll start with the morning after our San Francisco show, which we spent in a Ramada Limited (of the same no-frills ilk as the Holiday Inn Express) in Santa Clara. After what I recall as a long disorganized discussion about who was going where when the night before, it was decided that everyone else would go down to the L.A. area the day before our show, with Jenny and Kristin staying behind to do two speaking gigs in one day. (I assume someone who was there has written that up elsewhere.)

Heather was a bit panicky and rushed because she had decided to catch a 7:30 train to San Diego at Union Station (one of the few important architectural landmarks that hasn�t been cheesed up or demolished in L.A., by the way), giving us roughly six hours to get down the 5. Plenty of time, as it turned out�we got her to the train station well over an hour early. Tearful goodbyes for our erstwhile classic-rock lovin� driver? That overstates it a bit�we were probably all a bit exhausted for heavy sentiment�but genuine regret at seeing her go.

During the drive down, Amy made arrangements to meet her brother, who lives off Melrose, and we found a hotel for Jean and Jay: The Farmer�s Daughter on Fairfax, oddly enough�a place I�ve passed probably every other day for the last 7 years, but have never had occasion to visit. (I�ve noticed before that hotels are invisible in one�s own home base.) The only thing that merits mention here is that it turns out this is the hotel in which The Price Is Right puts up the contestants it flies out, hence the lobby wall full of Polaroids of midwesterners wearing �Come On Down� tees and smiling in proportion to their winnings, which were scrawled under each photo.

For my part, I drove out to my parents� in Upland, about 40 miles east. Very strange, of course, coming home in the middle of a tour�seeing the place you live as others see it, or so one imagines. (If this tour had been a month earlier, I�d have invited everyone to sleep in my apartment, but I moved out of it immediately�I mean, two days�before leaving for D.C.. Long story for another occasion.) Anyway, great to see my parents, and good, I imagine, for them to see me safe�I don�t mind mentioning that my mother (and my girlfriend�s) worries were what led to me taking a train to D.C. at the start of the tour rather than flying. Bree (that�s my girlfriend) wasn�t even in L.A. while we were there�she drove to Utah to see her sister a few days after I left town, largely out of concern about possible biological attacks. I have to admit that I dismissed this, but after the postal anthrax incidents of the last several days, I can�t do so quite as lightly. (She was worried about the cropdusters, actually.)

At my parents: Laundered, ate, chatted, slept.


What I did on my own time in Upland couldn�t possible be of interest to the general surfership, so all I�ll say about the afternoon is that since the whole group is staying here tonight, my mom spent most of today worrying if we had enough blankets for everybody and making up a shopping list for breakfast tomorrow. (I helped when asked, opened my mail, paid bills, and wrote emails in the meantime.) I got out of the house a bit later than I should have�with late afternoon traffic edging into actual rush hour on my way into the city at about 4 p.m., it actually took 3 full hours for me to get from Upland to Santa Monica (to pick up Jay and Jean, who obviously weren�t going to stay at the Farmer�s Daughter all day) and back to Silver Lake (where Spaceland is). For emphasis: I�m talking about covering roughly 70 miles in 3 hours. Did I mention that I�d rather live elsewhere?

Side note: I wasn�t there, but in the course of visiting friends, Jean apparently bumped the head of a small child on a moving ceiling fan, causing an uncomfortable scene with the father, who was, of all people, a member of the defunct D.C. hardcore band Government Issue. I�m happy to let Jean describe �her side� of this incident herself at some point�all I know is, one day you�re a punk, the next day all you care about is your baby�s skull. Sellout!

As for the show itself, it was the most dispiriting and pointless date of the tour thus far, bar none. We didn�t play especially badly (or especially well, though I�m not inclined to fault the soundguy for unclear stage sound�he told me it was his second day at Spaceland). And technically, the show wasn�t poorly attended�there were some bodies in the same room as us, but I wouldn�t go so far as to call most of them an audience. Highlight: J & K stopped at the infamous Madonna Inn, a monument to bad taste near San Luis Obispo, on their way down Highway 101, and came away with a large pink cake, which sat on stage for most of our set.

(every good simple machines fan deserves cake)

Lowlight: The other bands. Before us, a band called AM/FM, who had that uniquely L.A. quality of looking less like a band than some people auditioning for the part of the band in a movie. Cheap, obvious shot, but true. Can we quit with sideburns soon? Singer held a fighting-a-windstorm position at the mic for most of the set, and I�ve thankfully forgotten the hideous lyrics, though I do recall a non-ironic �This one�s for the ladies� song intro. After us: Gwenmars, who I would have to describe as Weezer without the wit. It�s a profound shame that, given the integrity and innovation of these artists, that the broken major label system which Jenny�s speech criticizes will serve them so poorly. Did I mention that I�d rather live elsewhere? (Ah, I see I did.) Musically and ideologically, this was the most inappropriate bill imaginable�I won�t say this only happens in L.A., just more often.

Worst part for me personally�my parents, and an aunt and uncle, came to the show. The last time I remember my parents going to see live music of any kind was a Les Brown and His Band Of Renown concert that came to a local
college when I was in high school (actually we saw Ella Fitzgerald once toward the end of her life as well), so this wasn�t exactly their milieu in the first place. I�m sad that they weren�t able to see us in a place�Portland, S.F., Chicago�where people were friendly and liked us and where it might seem like there�s any point or even pleasure in engaging in this activity at all. As my aunt Beverly put it: �So this is where you spend your life?� Well, sort of. (In fairness, I should mention that there were a few nice folks at the show, though I didn�t know several old friends
of Jenny�s who were present.)

Drove out to my parents, with Jenny, Kristin, and Jay arritve a bit later, as they�d made a side trip to give Rocket From The Crypt the rest of our pink cake at another club. My dad (in his usual robe) and mom waited up for us, and my mom put everyone to bed very maternally and solicitously, but it�s probably for someone else to record their impressions of my parents, so I�ll stop here.



Berkeley University (Berkeley, CA)

This was one of those strange speaking engagement shows where the university chose the option of having the rock band perform after the speech and the panel. I changed out of my cowboy boots and into my clown suit. It�s actually quite a regular black suit but I wear a bright blue enormous flower on the lapel that suggests a connection by thin plastic tubing to a triggerable water-source in my pocket. I rushed out to get a last drink before locking myself into three hours of straight talking rocking mode and on my return trip with a full pint of Watermelon juice in hand (when in California�) I was surprised to bump into Nicky Thomas the drummer from Fire Party and Mavis Piggott. Nicky was one of my main inspirations for picking up an instrument and she is ironically now a student at Berkeley law school. Another sneaky intersection of law and music. She said it was a vocation�one day she just decided there needed to be more activist black women lawyers. Follow those voices.

The speech was a breeze�it certainly gets easier. Immediately afterward there was a spicy panel discussion with Brian Zisk of Future of Music, Fred Von Loehman of EFF and Ted Cohen of EMI. The panel is up for streaming at the EFF website so I won�t paraphrase peoples� arguments. You can check out the fireworks yourself. An hour later while the battle between the audience and the panelist raged on the band quietly moved the podium and set our equipment up on the stage of the mock courtroom auditorium behind them and played a short under the cool fluorescent lights. It was fine.

Franklin later reminded me that I said something to the audience during the short set about University shows being lucrative but soul killing. I was referencing a Tsunami show in Connecticut where, while in a bathroom stall, I overheard two coeds complaining that they couldn�t score any drugs so they might as well go the show. University shows are often free to university students so the band gets treated like the backdrop to one of the dullest of the reality shows. For example, at Notre Dame we played in a room where the dart team spent the entirety of our performance practicing in perpendicular lines four feet from the apron of the foot high stage of the Irish-themed sports-pub where we played. Despite the truth of my confession, It was an in-joke that couldn�t help but be lost on the attentive law school students who sat politely in chairs behind little fold up desks.

I�m learning that there IS one thing that suffers under my combined rock ing/talking rolls. It�s the banter. Giving an hour long speech about the history of the music industry is something that seems to require that I convey a genuineness and authority that makes it difficult for me to later snap into performance mode. The best audience banter is lies, confessions, insults and more lies. John Reese from Rocket from the Crypt stepping onto the stage with a �Ladies and Gentleman� against the advice of my lawyer and my own better judgment�I must make a confession to you tonight�Ladies and Gentleman I must admit�I was raised by hobos��




Chico was fun. I had two speaking dates at University of California at Chico which has a strong music school. I gave the speech in an auditorium of music students while other music students filled practice rooms. I actually walked passed several people practicing the Tuba. After the speech I gave a talk for another class of music students. As one could have expected the questions were a lot more focused on strategies for surviving than they were on copyright law. It just reemphasized for me the need for better support structures for musicians. Unions, health care, access to radio. It would be good to spend 6 months studying those things figuring out what�s available and what�s missing�maybe schedule a tour of music schools to figure out first hand if there are any programs that work that could be applied on a larger level. Maybe in 2002. The other exciting thing about Chico was my ability to purchase something called �diet air.� It was peachy. We are unquestionably in the end times.