Archive for May, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 16: Los Angeles

May 25, 2012

Miki poked her head in in the morning, and whispered the plan.  Something about how she was going out, going to be back, Dave would be around, that we’d get a ride to the auto shop on time, etc, etc.  I remember her voice being gentle and soothing. It reminded me that I’d been around unsavory characters for 15 days, and that I was desultory.

Eventually the fellas got up and we hung out with Dave.  It was Dave’s birthday.  We wished him heartily.  We all talked about UFOs and Area 51, Dave’s military service and how Hurt Locker was bullshit (I knew it!), and metal vet Dave Mustaine’s drug habit.  A common conversational theme since we watched Some Kind Of Monster in Birmingham was how Dave Mustaine his a huge douche bag for crying over how he sold 15 million albums in Megadeth instead of 90 million albums like he would have had he been allowed to remain in Metallica.  In addition to these conversations, we also consumed Eggo waffles.  And I took in their beautiful, beautiful house.

We got a ride from both Dave and Miki to the auto shop.  We rode in their huge, huge Tahoe.  I’m not an SUV lover – quite the opposite.  But after 15 days in the van, I did my best to bask in the luxury.  And being desultory, I tried to take it like Lil’ Wayne: “Fuckin the world and I ain’t cum yet.”  On the way, both Miki and Dave agreed with me that Beatles > Stones.

Long story short: we got the van.  But the nice auto shop ladies advised that we not drive it over 65 miles an hour.  And the keys wouldn’t come out of the ignition.  We found this out down the road.  They advised via phone conference that we pull the gear shifter up way hard (it was the kind you pull up and down next to the ignition, as all Town & Countries do).

I texted the appropriate parties that we’d finally escaped Tucson once we were outside of the city limits.  I wanted to be sure even if we broke down even a mile down the road that my words would still be true.  But that didn’t happen.  We got passed Tempe, passed fucking Phoenix, passed Arizona into California.

The drive was about nine hours.  It was hot as shit.  The desert was dead, little towns we drove by were ghost towns with structures made out of rotting wood.  There was no escape from the heat, and I just kept lathering my body in sun screen.  It was like driving through a thermal-nuclear apocalypse.

We got into L.A. listening to Radiohead of all things.  It was an unsettling soundtrack, and downtown L.A. at night looked more like Gotham City than I’d ever seen Manhattan look.  I’d only been to L.A. when I was nine years old or so.  I have very little memory of it, and besides, I think most of my time was spent in Irvine or some damn part of Orange County.

In brief: We saw Max’s sister / met up with Sarah.  The show happened.  I hurt my back headbanging.  We slept at Max’s sisters.  There was four of us now.

I wanted to feel like this but instead I felt like this:

-for part of Friday May 11th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 15: Tucson

May 24, 2012

I awoke in the Western Inn in South Tucson.  Sam, of course, was gone, and I had a text message from him that he was at some café nearby.  Probably talking to his missus and shooting up black tar heroin.  Max eventually awoke and got a call from the auto shop.  Sam may have been back by this point.



The nice folks at the auto shop said that the transmission was fucked and they’d get a used one from a junkyard and replace it.  The cost was going to be $1600, which (being sensitive about sharing too many details of Wizard Rifle’s finances…) obliterated everything they’d ever made.  Max gave them the go-ahead.  Then we checked out and walked forlornly to the center of town, catching a bus once we’d walked halfway.  On this walk, we (Sam, I believe it was) hitched a new fangled plan.  We would play the Tucson show that evening, then drive all night to L.A.  Somehow, despite the forlorn, it was agreed upon.



It was going to be a shitty day.  We were all stranded, we had been just in reach of our wish-fulfillment, and the coffers were being emptied with one fell swoop.  The town was hot, but not unpleasantly.  South Tucson was a bit oppressive, but the downtown area had some shade from things like buildings, that stood tall and had insides.

We spent noontime in the Shot In The Dark Café, a café named after our fate that day.  Max talked to Nate and a few others and everyone advised him not to pay to have a new transmission in the van.  The advice was just to get a new van.  Our lunch hours were frittered away in calm, agonizing desperation.



Really though, it was mostly Max’s, and I say this as a credit to him and a discredit to Sam and I.  Sam wandered off, probably to talk to his missus and shoot up black tar heroin, and returned with a dress – nice of him to think of resourceful spending.  I walked downtown Tucson a little and ordered a macaroni salad and an orange from the Shot In The Dark, both of which were delicious.  Max was on the phone with countless craigslisters selling vans of varying quality, along with Nate, other folks in Portland, and his sister in L.A. to tell her we were going to drive all night.

Although there were a lot of calls made, the van buying didn’t occur – it never did.  It might have been the better option as far as reliablity, but the timing was wrong.  The auto shop had already started the repairs, and we were worried they felt like they were being jerked around.  The idea we pitched to them was that they buy our van off us, possibly for free.  It was all logistically too much for one afternoon; or too much for us, at least.  There were no guarantees in any van we ended up with.  So we bowed our heads and submitted.



With a few hours to kill, we walked around downtown.  Sam was leading us somewhere, and I gave a shit until I found out it was an antique shop.  He’d been rummaging through antique shops in the towns we’d been to since the beginning.  I thought it curious at first; I hadn’t known him to be into antiques.  I’d since learned that it wasn’t even for him, and that little else that he did was either.



We didn’t find the antique shop, bad directions and bad Sam-orientation led us northwards, and, after trying an orange hanging from a tree (it was super sour), we settled on 4th Ave.  We’d heard it was a good part of town to hang out.  I was entertained.  Max decided to sit around in Epic Cafe on 4th & University.  He said he’d seen enough of Tucson.  Sam went wandering for the antique shop.  I went wandering just to see things.



The area was covered with murals, many psychadelic, and yet there weren’t a lot of bonafied hippies or “artsy” types.  Just folks.  I began listening to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea again hoping for that clarity that’d washed over me before Las Cruces.  It was soothing but not altogether clearing.  I found a man playing classical guitar outside of a bookshop.  I gave him some money and asked if I could sit by and listen, which he nodded to.  He was good, except he kept playing a few jazzy, poppier numbers, which I’m not inherently opposed to; just that the classical ones were really doing it for me.  It made me wish I had classical music on my iPod instead of the fucking bullshit that I don’t know why I have.



Eventually I parted ways with the guitarist.  I asked him if there was anything cool to do around the area since I was basically stranded, and all he said, in a very soothing voice, was, “They got good soup there at Bison,” and pointed to a building.  He also listed some bars; he said no much happens in Tucson and he just liked playing some pool and drinking cheap beer (and yet he was oddly dignified as he said this).  I went into the bookstore.  Only two minutes later, I came back out and founds the guitarist gone.  Then I saw him a few minutes later on the street, and I was pretty sure he tried to avoid my nod.

Back at Epic Café, Max was killing time.  I joined him and we read a really great interview with Jeff Mangum that I found on Pitchfork, which I love in all ways but one – Jeff Mangum is a worrier; it comes out in his songs, it comes out in his person (at least in the interview).  I was breathing okay though, the van was going to be done at 5:00 that evening.

Sam met up with us, and Max took off for the auto shop.  I loaned him my iPod for the trip since he was going solo.  I had a talk with Sam about the dour future, and it went alright, I guess.  I don’t think that anybody can win, but I was thinking about the middle ground when it comes to the future – the pass between two hellish mountains.



Speaking of: I talked to Sarah on the phone and that cheered me up.  I told her we were planning on driving all night to L.A. and we’d be there in the late morning probably.  Something was amiss though.  I was in such a pit of anxiety – and not even feeling bad at that very moment – that I knew rolling into L.A. feeling like post-dumping Soren Kierkegaard was probably going to be a dour future in itself.

Sam took a call from Max outside.  He was gone long enough that I knew we were in Fucktown – still; again.  Sam returned, and with every philange crossed, I gave him a bodily gesture to lay it on me.  He gave me two big thumbs down.  Said the van wouldn’t be fixed until noon the next day.  And now, if we were still playing the show that night – and we were – we didn’t have much time to figure out how to get our fucking shit from the fucking van to the fucking place.



Sam and I walked to the venue with the intent to call the venue proprietor – “an honorable man” according to Nate.  Call him I did, and he said, with a voice that seemed old and drugfried, that he was still in Sedona doing whatever people do in Sedona, that he wasn’t going to make the show, that he sort of knew a guy in the first band who might have a van (who worked at a pizza shop; I could google the pizza shop and call them to try and get his contact info).  He asked what the trouble with the van was, but, despite sounding nice, he didn’t really care, and gave me a “huh!  Too bad!  Good luck!



The man at the venue was the proprietor’s brother.  He was the one that had seemed so aloof yesterday.  I came to find that it was just his way – a little slow and distant, but welcoming in a way that was his own.  It was annoying making calls trying to get our gear with him standing around watching, but whatever.  I called the pizza joint – Rocco’s – and eventually got a hold of Rocco of the opening band – Stinkfinger (yup) – who said he could do it (or was it maybe he could do it?) and that he’d be bringing a pizza.  But Max then called and said he got it figured in time for me to tell Rocco we didn’t need a ride.



Max showed up with folks from the auto shop driving a truck with the gear in the flatbed.  We unloaded it and the auto shop folks took off.  Rocco showed up and I shamelessly dived into his Chicago style “kitchen sink” deep dish, and it was.  Fucking.  Amazing.  The man at the venue also supplied some ratatouille type dish, which was good, but not filling.  Some salad was also present.  And some dame dropped off cookies.



For full disclosure on what a turncoat piece of shit I actually am, all too willing to prove my critics right – I tried to escape.  It was indecent.  And I failed.  That is all that’s worth mentioning on the subject on an open forum.  I sat at the merch table eating cookies like a fatty while news fell over the room that Stinkfist’s bassist hadn’t arrived yet, wasn’t answering his phone, that this was very out of character for him, that cocaine’s a hell of a drug, and that women are distracting.  So Wizard Rifle only played.



It was a cool venue, the people were nice, they supported the cause of beginning to rebuild the band savings, etc etc.  But the alternate universe where we skipped Tucson and spent a day enjoying that warm California sun was undoubtedly the better universe.  Unquestioningly.  This one’s made of curve balls, dramatic irony always working against the beholder, and weird shit in the food, like this weird calcium addative, pale and mysterious atop my orange juice, jiggling disconcertingly in the friction of the cabin of this airplane carrying me back to New York City.

The finest part of the evening was Miki and Dave.  They were a married couple that Nate knew and had gotten a hold of.  Dave had told Max way too late that he could have fixed the transmission for a couple hundred bucks – a real heartbreaker.  And while that kindness couldn’t be taken up, they did offer their place for the night.



It was a beautiful house in northeast Tucson.  This was the first married couple we’d stayed with who weren’t family, and the first house we’d stayed at that wasn’t a shithole in some weeks.  I think.  They had space and hospitality in spades, and I won’t soon forget how neighborly and selfless they were.  We were comfortable and set for the night.


-for part of Thursday May 10th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 14: Tempe (NOT)

May 21, 2012


We were sleeping at this guy Jay’s.  It was an alright place, with some minor oddities.  The shower was in the kitchen, almost every door was a sliding door, there was a mysterious loft that Sam slept in.  These were perhaps just odd because of how quickly we were in and out of the place.  We packed up and drove off, first to a US Bank, then to get a coffee.  We were at this coffee joint for a long time.  I was actually sitting in the van, chatting on the phone with Ian.  And the boys weren’t in the coffee shop, they were off talking, I predict it was about the dour future.

We got an oil change, and as we studied our route we realized something.  Our show that evening was in Tempe, which is right near Phoenix.  The next night’s show was in Tucscon, which was actually 100 miles in the wrong direction – because the show after was L.A.  We wondered why it was this way – and we confirmed that there was indeed no error.

Then I figured: since there was no guarantee in Tucson, and since there was just a potential to lose some money and time in that backtrack, why don’t we cancel the Tucson show, play Tempe, and then just blast into L.A.  There was a flutter of thought about this, followed by an enthusiasm, and a joy.  The previous shows had been rough on the boys, as well as for me, for a variety of reasons.  Max called Nate and asked about it.  After a few minutes of negotiating, it was a done deal.

Everyone was more ecstatic that I’d seen them on the entire tour.  Which isn’t to say it’d been an unhappy time all round.  But the idea of our desires and the coming events actually coinciding or coalescing was incredible – we’d taken the reins of our journey.



Nate then got ahold of me and tried to talk me back into doing the Tucson show.  He gave me some compelling reasons.  Like that if we needed an off-night, Tempe was the one to cancel.  That the Tempe guy was a flake.  That the Tucson guy was an honorable man.  That it was an awesome, exclusive (elitist?) art gallery that he’d been trying to book for a long time.  That Sam could have a great connection with his visual art.  It was all considerable, so I said I’d talk to the guys about it.  He made a quick quip about how it was more important than seeing my girlfriend in L.A. a day sooner.  I was sure I’d been misunderstood from afar.  All I could do was shrug about it.



Sam and Max and I talked it over, long and deep, and decided we still weren’t going to play it.  I reported on what Nate had said, then tried to stay out of it because it wasn’t my decision to make.  But Max was almost more adament not to play than I was; I had my desires, but he seemed very willed that we were going to get to L.A.  But we told Nate that we’d take a look at the venue anyways, just out of good will (and we needed to make it look like we wanted to play the show, to foster a good relation for potential rescheduling).



We pulled off in Tucson and immediately hit an In N Out Burger and went to the drive-thru.  Max was saying it was the greatest fast food experience anyone can ever have.  And it would have been.



But the van broke down in the drive-thru, about halfway between the ordering radio and the food window.  The manager was stumped, he’d never had to deal with it before.  He was a cool guy though.  He shut down the drive-thru and comped the food.  We used our last Triple A call to get the van towed.

Joe was our tow truck driver.  He took us to a place right nearby, which was closed.  He said that this was no neighborhood to leave the gear in – it’d be gone by morning.  This was South Tucson.  So we went to a hotel where we could load out – a Western Inn just down the street.  But he got another repair shop on the horn that could take the van into a garage that night.  So he towed us all the way to the other side of town, talking about how he trusted these people, and how he only ate organic, local, free range meat.

We were told that we couldn’t get an estimate until the following morning, but that it was definitely the transmission.  This is the kiss of death.  We got a ride to the venue from one of the guys at the repair shop, who blasted “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin, and made at least some of us feel better.

At the venue, we encountered… nothing.  It was a cool looking place, but we found that the “honorable” proprietor was in Sedona for something going on in Sedona to do.  The guy there was very slow talking and seemed very aloof about our troubles.  I thought we were going to ask if there was a place to stay, but the boys seemed coy about asking.  So I did, and got a very aloof answer from the guy there.  It wasn’t “no,” and it wasn’t really “I don’t know” – it was something far more useless; so much so that I don’t remember.



So we wandered down Toole Street to the Congress Hotel and looked into a room there.  It was a little out of our price range, but we got some leads on other spots.  There was a nice hostel nearby that was $40, but Max didn’t want to take the tiny room.  So we set our hearts to walking back to South Tucson, to the Western Inn.



In downtown Tucson, we asked a girl about good places to eat.  She recommended the Iguana Café.  It was really shitty, but we thought eating Mexican food in Arizona would be a political statement.  It wasn’t anything at all.  It really pissed me off.

So we walked three miles or so to the Western Inn.  Sam was on the phone with his girlfriend and Max and I had a talk, which was really pleasant and refreshing, though I don’t remember what it was about.  One part consisted of thus:

Sam, on the phone with his girlfriend, is basically a narrator for the events that have just happened, since he’s catching her up to speed.  I said that I wished he were an infinitely wise sage who would narrate the events just after they’ve happened, but reveal and expose the deeper meanings to them.  The deep drives behind the behaviors and the exact ways in which the transmission failed right when we were going to win.  All I wanted was telos for this.  But he could not, in reality, provide them, neither to his girlfriend, nor to Max, nor to me.


-for Wednesday May 9th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 13: Las Cruces

May 21, 2012

We awoke early to catch the continental breakfast that was supposed to end at 9:00 in the morning.  I don’t know what the emotional consensus was, but the breakfast was literally made up of Hostess cakes and Sunny Delite.  We grabbed a bunch and took them to the car.  Max had an idea – I think he’d gotten it from Andrea – to hit up a Holiday Inn’s continental breakfast.  I’d also done the same with one in Portland when working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car.  We did this; it was not very good.

After passing the Alamo, which was relatively nearby, we set our GPS for Las Cruces.  We got on I-10 and it told us to keep going for 500 miles.  So we drove out into the great wide open, and into a rain storm.  And there, about where I-10 meets 290, we ran out of gas.  We pulled off onto 290, thinking it was Fredricksburg, but we found out Fredricksburg was 49 miles off.

We waited on the side of the road in the rain for Triple A, and in that time we shat and pissed, and felt prudish and laffy.  The man came and gassed us up with nine dollars worth, enough to get us to Junction, Texas.  Sam informed us that we had one more free Triple A call.  We would need it.

We got back on the road with Sam driving, Max sleeping, and I riding in the back.  The weather cleared up.  We hit Junction and refueled, I bought a comb at a general store, and we went through a thrift store.  Back on the rode, Sam and I put on Rust Never Sleeps and I had some kind of life epiphany about myself and my life since 2005.  That was a good feeling.

Eventually Sam got tired so I took over driving.  Driving through the beautiful Texas countryside, parallelling the border of Mexico, with deep, heavy clouds off to one side or straight ahead, I put on In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and had another sort of epiphone about sex and its meaning. Part of the revelations came out of a rush of clarity – I’d been sad and anxious the night before, and I felt in that moment that everything was going to be alright.  I just needed to focus.  It meant a lot to me, except one other thing dragged me down a bit, and would prove to drag me down further in the coming days: Jeff Mangum is a worryer.

A toppled semi to further my meditative transcendance.  It was blurry in real life too.

We drove through El Paso in a colossal thunder and lightning storm during rush hour.  Visibility was only a few feet and I was stressed, but we pulled on through.  Not long after, we crossed over into New Mexico and I believe into Rocky Mountain Time.  It wasn’t long after that before we rolled into Las Cruces, AKA Hell (only sort of).

We couldn’t find the venue.  The address we got was a dojo.  There was some kind of art space nearby, but they didn’t know where the venue we needed was.  We sat around in that area of Las Crucus, which was far from beautiful aside from the tremendous rolling clouds in the sky and several rainbows.  Nate was telling us it was some practice space.

Somehow, after asking someone, somewhere, we found out that it was a door on the side of one of the warehouses marked only with an ‘X’.  We found it, but no one was there.  After waiting a little longer, patience running thin, sure we probably weren’t getting free meals or making our guarantee, someone pulled up.  It was another band, Vampirates.  We talked with them for awhile, then went to find food.

It all hit me at once.  The hunger, the lack of nutrition (all that junk food), being upset about this venue, lack of alone time, and weird anxieties all came in at once.  I was on the phone with Sarah after doing some grocery shopping for a simple meal, and I realized it.  I had to cut the call off and eat something.  I felt awful for ending the call so soon.  She’d just gotten to Los Angeles and had had a great day.

Dinner was hummus and shit in the front seat of the car.  Then we drove back to the venue and loaded in.  I was surprised that it was just one room that might fit 100 people in it, but it still smelled like every other practice space I’d ever had.  I was crawling out of my skin, just like the night before.  All the clarity of the drive, and my commitment to focus, had burned off.  I tried to talk to Sam, but he had to call his girlfriend.  I tried to talk to Max, but I found I could only speak in vague abstractions.  So I told him I was going to take a nap, and did on a couch while the bands played.

Wizard Rifle played and I sat behind their merch table post nap, and I sold nothing.  A girl that was traveling with Vampirates sat next to me drinking vodka from a big gulp.  I wanted to kill myself, after poking the big gulp with a  pen.  We found a place to sleep – at the first band’s house, where the second band was also staying.

I called Sarah again and smoothed things out, apologizing from cutting the conversation off.  It was a nice, tender conversation.  I followed it up with a kitchen shower and a bed with Max.

-for Tuesday May 8th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 12: San Antonio

May 20, 2012

I awoke in the Omni hotel by a text from Sam saying he was in the café.  I wandered down while Max slept, and there Sam and I talked about how sometimes we felt like the world is ending when we put our minds into a state of vulnerability and then things go to shit.  True then, very true now.

Eventually the three of us checked out, and grabbed a bottle full of Agua Fresca (muy fruit-tastic) from the lobby.  We took the van to a Firestone to get the bad tire patched and put back on.  We then traveled into East Austin and had the greatest tacos on Earth from a cart on E 6th Street.



After an iced coffee, we went to Barton Springs and had a swim.  We felt like chumps for paying because we saw a free spot right near the pay-to-swim pool.  But we can’t unring a bell, so we swam – poorly.  The whole place really was more populated than these sexy pictures might lead on:



After a little basking in the sun, we sallied forth to a post office, a few shops on South Congress (which I thought sucked, check out the pictures, and if you see Max, guess what he’s doing in exhibit A):



Then the we headed to San Antonio.  It was only a little over an hour.  The city looked fairly decent heading in.  Down on the street, it was a little less flattering.  We showed up at the venue – Night Rockers Live.  The man at the venue seemed utterly perplexed at there being any show at all there that night.  But, weirdly enough, he seemed down for it.  He just wanted to talk to our booker after he went and got some “supplies” (i.e. cigarettes; car took a shit that morning).  We got a hold of Nate and found out that the show had een moved.  Apparently I’d been sent something about this (I found it later while digging through texts).  The Night Rockers Live guy was humored and relieved.

The new venue was Korova and we headed over there.  It was a big empty room right near downtown; basically in downtown; and the people there had the band soundcheck.  We had a hotel and they gave us directions (which proved to be confusing).  We checked in and the guy at the desk mentioned that Rammstein was coming through soon.  I almost felt a pang of sadness to be missing it.  He also mentioned a good Mexican restaurant being in the middle of downtown, which wasn’t too far away.

We drove there, and I’m pretty sure it was closed.  But we found another Mexican place nearby called El Mariachi.  It was like something out of a dream.  The food was pricey, and I should have gotten what they got, but I was too cowardly to conform, so mole it was.



We returned to the venue and watched the two opening bands of metal Monday in San Antonio.  The crowd was made up of about seven people – either band members or band girlfriends – in a room that could have fit maybe 600 people (and had probably never been filled before).  I didn’t understand why one of them rammed home the fact that Pantera was from Texas before they covered Pantera.  Whatever.  There was one guy who’d driven from Austin to see the show.  I asked if he’d caught the Austin show too and he said he hadn’t, which I thought was strange; he had a reason I can’t remember.



It was a lonely, lonely night, and in that space, I lost a little piece of my mind.  The despair wasn’t lost on the boys either, as Max demonstrated when he rapped his way through “Organ Donor Song.”  He would not have done it unless he was staring deeply into the abyss.  The show was over, and two enthusiastic fans sidled their wobbling asses to the door with nary a glance towards my money making machine.  The house speakers blasted Alice In Chains as we loaded out, and, done with our wretched night, we finally hit the hotel.  We had but a few hours before our long drive to New Mexico just ahead.  I slept on the floor… Sam was bedded.


-for part of Monday May 7th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 11: Austin

May 20, 2012


A necessary backstory is that the right-rear tire of the van was continually losing air.  That morning, we found it was a bit too flat to go anywhere.  So we called Triple-A hoping they would patch it up and pump it up.  Instead the guy that came just put the spare on.  It was a whole ordeal of taking the gear out of the back and putting it on the street.  He didn’t really do anything.  He was covered in confederate flags, so he was clearly a wife-beating piece of shit.  Sam might have called in asking for a flat change, which isn’t what we needed.  A Triple-A call wasted.

Josh saw us off with donuts and breakfast burrito in our hands.  He was one of the most standup hosts we had the whole tour, I believe – or at least what I saw of it.  We tried to get out of town but the GPS kept taking us in circles.  And as we drove in circles, another dour conversation about the future was had.  They were stressful affairs, full of a potential of misunderstanding and stringing-along.  But we rode on, and found the Texas between Texarkana and Austin held some pretty grassy landscapes, some pretty weird towns, and a whole lot of nothing.



We drove into Austin drenched in sweat and listening to Louis C.K. and laughing hard.  It was about 5 or 6:00, with the evening approaching.  We found no one at the venue, Red 7, so we took a walk.  We went to 6th Street where some kind of street fair was going on.  It was annoying – we wanted a downtown unencumbered by people and bullshit.  Some stupid bar had water and a broke-ass pinball machine.



We walked towards the river but never made it.  We were by the creek that runs through downtown, and found a nice park with an amazing tree for climbing, and a bathroom that was a castle.  I nodded as my own opinion formed – I’m not much for Austin.  It’s like Portland, with all its virtues and misfortunes.  The key misfortune being once it gets old, any town like it gets old also.  An anxiety, similar to one I felt in Memphis, set in.  I didn’t want to be there.  I wanted to get on the road again.



We went back to Red 7 and waited around a little while for some venue workers to show up.  They eventually did, and we loaded in.  We traded our drink tickets for buy out money and went two doors down to Koriana.  It was delicious.



The show was fine.  I think there was a decent amount of people and it sounded good from the outside.  My problem was that I was outside – the merch table was in some weird annex where people were smoking.  There was a big vibe of people not giving a shit about music either; there were a ton of people out there at all times.  I sold some merch to a very enthusiastic fan though – a young lady that talked the boys’ balls off after the set.  I was able to break up the monotony a bit with a call home.

I was feeling alright, but we didn’t have a place to stay.  For the first time, we Pricelined a hotel and found a cheap room at the Omni in the southside of town.  We loaded up and made our way there.  There was trouble in the lobby when Max tried to check in.  Since it was 2:00 in the morning, we’d made the reservation for that night; meaning the night to come.

While we waited, I went and looked in on a salsa dance in the ballroom, and stole a knife from the closed restaurant and made swandiwches of cashew butter and bananas and bread right in the lobby.  It worked out eventually, though Max was on the phone for awhile and Sam fell asleep right in the lobby by the frontdesk.  Our room was a three star hotel, nine stories up.

-for part of Sunday May 6th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 10: Texarkana

May 11, 2012


I awoke at the co-op with a slight pain from sleeping on a hard floor.  Sam gave Andrea and Amelia a ride to the highway.  Sam later said it’d taken “longer than expected,” and that he’d had to “take a few entrances and exits.”  Or something; I translated this as they twisted his arm into driving them up the road a bit.  I took the idle time to shower.

We left the co-op and hit a grocery store for some produce, went to a post office, and went back to get some coffee at the same place as the day before.  They had been planning on going to Graceland, and I was looking forward to it also.  Until Max told me it was $32 to get in.  I politely let them know I probably wasn’t going in.  They drove me to Sun Studios instead – they’d been last year.  I got in free by giving a CD of a band that I wasn’t in, that wasn’t Wizard Rifle, but rather was a really shitty band from earlier in the tour.  I think they were called Versa.



Sun Studios was interesting, obviously.  The actually recording area was kept as it was.  I didn’t know Ike Turner created rock n roll.  The music they allowed us to hear was beautiful.  The downside is that the only song they played in its entirety was some U2 & B.B. King piece of Shit.  There was another part that was a museum, which, in my opinion, was a little touristy.  Just being priggish.



When they picked me up from Sun Studios, they were bummed out about Graceland.  It was “underwhelming” said Sam.  It was a very strictly guided tour.  They’d heard that all his suits and guns were hung up on the walls.  Apparently those exhibits had been taken out just days before.  I felt slightly fortunate.

It was a long drive to Texarkana.  First things first – we crossed the Mississippi and immediately passed into Arkansas. I thought we were going to Texas, but Texarkana – funnily enough – is a town that has an Arkansas side and a Texas side, and our show was on the Texas side.  Our drive was long and relatively dull and consisted of the entire state of Arkansas (Little Rock pictured immediately below).



We pulled in after nightfall to The Road Map, which actually seemed to be on the outskirts of town.  At first we thought there must be some mistake.  It didn’t look open, much less like a venue.  But sure enough, it was the spot.  It was a huge biker bar, and we found three people in it – just three people – and the place was somehow so filled with cigarette smoke that I could hardly breathe.  And it was only to get worse.



The promoter Josh showed up with our food and supplied the beer.  He said the place was very generous, and it was true – apparently the fellas were getting two pitchers each.  Josh explained that one of the band had dropped off the bill because someone had broken their hand, which sounds incredibly painful!  The remaining band was… something else.  A group called the Mutha Load who had been around in some form or other for about 20 years, and had been playing the same set of songs for about that long, although they’d gone through some variations.  And they were fronted by someone who we had to see to believe – a man named Gator.



Gator entered and everything I’d heard was true.  Super southern, super immitatable.  I was also pretty sure he was retarded, either by birth or by birth or some sort of self-abuse (maybe chemicals, maybe blunt-force trauma).  Anyway, I won’t soon forget him, and his interesting inbred drawl of southern whitey-bonics.  And the Mutha Load’s music is something else.



I had a nice long talk with Sarah, which couldn’t be beat.  Then I had to go sling merch while Wizard Rifle played.  As the evening had unfolded, it turned out that they had to go first – Mutha Load’s drummer was running late.  He worked at a Mexican restaurant.  And it was Cinco de Mayo.

Wizard Rifle’s set was fairly slipshod, with something going bad with the guitar in the first song, and some very noticeable flubs throughout.  And yet, I sold almost $100 of merch, maybe more.  People just kept coming up almost nonchalantly, and yet with genuine enthusiasm.  And I realized something interesting; something that makes me a totally priggish, stereotyping, culture-shocked Union soldier.  What I realized is that although these folks were easily the epitome of southern stereotypes – almost every last one of them – they were also some of the most genuine people, and generous with their money.  None, save one or two, had seen or heard of Wizard Rifle before, and yet they shelled out more than any other stop on the tour.  It just goes to show you.



It took awhile for the Mutha Load to start.  Gator kept walking up and yelling at me in a near-incomprehensible slur about how I was dressed for success, and look at this mothafucka right here, and something to the tune of: “I’m all into equality n shit.  So why do they get black history month, and they get Cinco de Mayo…?  I mean…” to which I responded: “You want a white history month?” as he simultaneously said: “Hey, I ain’t a racist or nuthin!!”  Yip yip!

So Mutha Load played and it was Gator screaming like a little child or a grouchy ogre while his one-legged guitarist (with a camo prosthetic;; who I think was Gator’s brother) played incredibly good guitar, along with the rhythm section who I don’t remember as being remarkable.  The genre was southern metal, with a lot of Down in it.



We loaded out during part of their set, but caught the end of it.  The Road Map was so full of cigarettes that I couldn’t even take it anymore.  Gator bowed his head into my shoulder and said, “I’m sorrryyyyy.”  I asked for what.  “For goin on soo late.”  I said it wasn’t a problem, and he smiled big.  That was the last I saw of Gator.



We followed Josh to his place.  I found out the next day that we’d crossed over to the Texas side of Texarkana.  Josh’s townhouse was very nice, and there were people there drinking and smoking and talking as drunks are want to do.  Josh proved himself the salt of the earth (for the first of a few times) by being a cine expeditionary – namely by seeking out controversial films.  I hadn’t come across a cinephile in awhile.

And he made up a damn fine sleeping situation, right there in the living room.  Damn fine shower too.  And ultimately, this is one of the finest shows that I was around to witness.

-for Saturday May 5th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 9: Memphis

May 11, 2012


I awoke in the airstream feeling pretty disgusting.  My mouth tasted like dead possums since I’d been eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches while dozing to Some Kind Of Monster.  I fixed that problem with some toothpaste.  We hit the road without much ado.  We got to see a good view of Birmingham on the way out, which I was thankful for.  It was a hot, sweaty drive on the way to Memphis.  I had to stop reading The Plague, I just couldn’t take it anymore.



We crossed over into Tennessee.  We rolled into Memphis around 2 or 3;00 in the afternoon.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  There was blazing concrete, dead grass, ragged warehouses and houses and the smell of tar and rubber.  It was like America’s armpit.  I didn’t know it was such a ragged, decrpit place. Max assured me that this was the ass-end and once we got to a certain part of town it’d be a little better.

It was a little better, but the heat still beat any of its virtues into submission.  We went to a café right near Goner records and meandered there, then shopped some records (Max got Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World), then loitered in the heat a little longer.

Then several things happened that really broke all three of us down, to varying degrees.  One was while were trying to figure out what to do.  In the midst of this blaze, Max learned from the guy at Goner that there was a music festival going on.  And that Megadeth was playing.  This destroyed any chance of a turnout for Wizard Rifle’s show.

The next was while we were driving to the venue.  I saw Dick Dale was playing that night.  Playing at the Hi-Tone.  Where Wizard Rifle were booked…  We spent a few absurd minutes trying to figure out if Wizard Rifle was opening for Dick Dale (or the other way around?), until we got to the venue.



The bartender didn’t know anything.  He called the booker Jonathan and eventually found out that we’d been moved to a place called the Buccaneer.  He didn’t say it with much encouragement.  We said we’d go check it out, and he welcomed us to come back and get some free food and drinks.  So we drove off.

The Buccaneer fucking sucked.  It looked horrible on the outside – a piratey sign over a house (basically), with a front patio.  The inside was for old people, and the bartender sassed Max when Max said, “I think we’re playing here tonight.”  Turned out that they were – sassed for no reason – and this infuriated Max.  We referred to the bartender by many horrible names over the rest of the day, until Max found out that they had some mutual friend in Portland.

Still, for the moment, Max was pissed, Sam was on the phone, and I had a growing anxiety.  It wouldn’t stop growing, even after Memphis.



We drove back to the Hi-Tone and got our free food and drinks.  My veggie burger was curiously sensational.  Jonathan showed up and was running all over trying to set up for Dick Dale.  He finally spared 15 minutes for us and explained that he’d double-booked.  He said he’d told Nate, but he was clearly lying.  He contradicted himself at some point.  He was also stoned, so it was hard to get a good beat on how benevolent he was being.  I felt like we were being shucked off, and – as someone who’d previously worked at a venue, and had a standard of quality – it really pissed me off.



We had a late afternoon and early evening to kill, so we opted to go to the Mississippi River.  We finally found the downtown area with some tall buildings.  I knew Memphis had it in it.  Down by the river, Sam and Max had a dour discussion on the future.  No details are necessary here.  We sat watching the music festival off in the distance down the strand, listening to the bass of 3-6 Mafia’s set blast out onto the river and bounce back to us.



Eventually, we had to meet a friend of theirs named Andrea, and her traveling buddy Amelia.  Sam and Max met Andrea in Portland, but she wasn’t from there, she’s a traveler.  She just ups and goes and does it.  She had asked a few days before if she and Amelia could get a ride from Birmingham to Memphis.  We had to say no because their was literally no room.  This didn’t stop her from asking several more times about other rides.

We met with Andrea at the Buccaneer, where we tried to square away a plan.  We decided we might not play because we had such low doubts that anyone would be such a shitty bar with so many music happenings that evening.  Max got the bartender’s number saying he’d call in the night to see if anyone was there.  Oddly, the bartender was okay with this.  So it was.

We went to the Hi-Tone to see Dick Dale.  Jonathan said he’d get us in for free.  I drove the car there while the and and the girls walked it – it wasn’t too far.  I made a phone call to Sarah and discussed my bad feeling about Memphis.  I was searching my heart, asking, “Heart – where you at?”  I feared it was far from where its body was, and I needed to find where that was and the reason.

The opening band sucked.  I don’t remember who they were.  The singer was annoying.  We all agreed, so we went for a walk in the park drinking some beers I’d taken from the green room of the Bottletree the night before (and was thanked for my generous and ironic idea).  I tried to talk to Amelia about traveling, its contents, and discontents, but she seemed reticent to get really into it.  I saw her with an iPhone later and wondered if she had a chunk of change in some bank somewhere (both she and Andrea had an appearance that didn’t scream money).



Dick Dale was pretty good for awhile.  He shredded and that was great, but I wished he’d had some ornamentation besides bass and drums.  A horn section would have been incredible.  And he kept doing obvious covers like “House of the Rising Sun.”   I wanted deep surf archive shit.

After a bit of Dick, Max called the Buccaneer who said that people were there and waiting.  It was shifty but we went ahead.  I had advised that we just say “fuck it” to the whole thing and getting screwed around, and I was sure that Jonathan was a shyster.   We got there and unloaded, then I went back and picked up Andrea and Amelia.

Sure enough, there were people there.  Sure enough, Jonathan did show up and bring people.  In fact, they played an amazing set to a deepy enthusiastic crowd and I was slinging merch left and right.  I recommended Max do a shoutout before the last song, and he did so, singling me out.  There were a few nights where he’d single me out and say, “Our merch guy just sits there in the back reading philosophy and making insightful comments.”

We loaded out in triumph, except Max didn’t help.  He was talking to Cole from The Black Lips.  Apparently the whole band had been in the Baccaneer that night watching, and they’d loved it.  Cole said it’d been awhile since he’d seen anything so raw.  They exchanged contact info, along with CD and a shirt.

We weren’t sure if we were getting a hotel or not.  Someone approached Max and asked if we had a place to stay.  He offered up the floor of his co-op; said it was fine for five people.  So four of us rode out there, then I went back for Andrea.  We had a nice talk about traveling; though I don’t remember the specifics.

The co-op was filthy, and there was a demonic clone of Sam living there.  I’m pretty sure he was tripping, and I tried not to look at him.  Everyone was just about asleep when we got in.  And we joined them.  It was possibly the most uncomfortable sleep I’ve had on the whole tour.

-for part of Friday May 4th, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 8: Birmingham

May 10, 2012


I awoke at my Aunt Terry’s.  I wandered downstairs and couldn’t find anyone.  I finally looked outside and found Sam and Max cleaning the van out.  We went inside and started laundry.  My Aunt Terry came down from her office and offered us food.  We opted for pancakes with blueberries and bananas.  It was brilliant.



A general air of lounging was adopted for that early afternoon.  I called Ian and we caught up.  Max gave me a haircut then I showered.  We puttered around and organized and got our laundry sorted.  Then it was time to go.  It was lovely seeing my Aunt and I wished her a fond farewell.

As we drove off through Brooks following the directions she gave us, we discussed what we’d prefer when we grew old: a beach house, a log cabin in the woods, or a country house perhaps like Aunt Terry’s. We also passed a red grist mill which my Aunt Terry said was the most photographed spot in all of Georgia.  We had to see it for ourselves – and photograph:



We drove on, taking a slightly mixed-up and traffic-filled route trying to bypass Atlanta.  In the end, we just took I-85 back near Atlanta then switching up to I-20 (maybe?) and going for Birmingham.  We never actually saw Atlanta again, except in my rearview mirror.

I remember we put on Songs From A Room, which was a pleasure.  We talked about LC for a minute, then played his latest album Old Ideas.  A torrential rain shower fell upon us limiting our visibility severely, with lightning and thunder and hydroplanes, and Sam remarked how perfect it was with the music and everything.  After the rain and a refueling, we listened, for some reason, to Radar Skinny.  It was a pleasure.  We passed into Alabama, crossed the time zone into Central Time.  After Radar Skinny, we listened to Urges, and we moved into Birmingham.

Our venue – The Bottletree – seemed to be a little south of anywhere.  There were warehouses and empty streets all around, and someone said a “suburb” was just a few minutes away.  And yet the Bottletree was like nothing else on earth.  Words cannot do it justice, but neither can my photography, so suffice to say the proprietors had taken great care to have the wall decor, lighting ambiance, and overall aesthetic.  Also in the back were Airstream trailers for sleeping in and watching movies – and before the show, while eating a heap of amazing food, we watched Hated: G.G. Allin & The Murder Junkies.  It was pretty all right.



The bill had been fucked up.  Whoever set up the show thought we were playing a different day (one before or after). Once the error had been brought up, we had the choice of not playing and getting half of our guarantee for the trouble, or to play on a lite indie rock bill, get free dinner, and maybe some extra skrilla.  We chose B.



I talked with Sarah through most of the evening; a long conversation about professionalism, happiness, parenting.  The battery died, which broke my heart – I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  None of the other bands watched Wizard Rifle’s set for more than a fleeting moment.  They were comparing Moogs in the back.  I gave reading The Plague a shot again, but couldn’t get into it.



We wound down; all the other bands bid us a lukewarm adieu, though one group invited us out for drinks.  We got to sleep for free in the Airstreams, which was pretty great.  We just had a quiet night watching Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster and making fun of the music they were trying to make, Kirk Hammet trying to remember his lines, and how you could see Lars Ulrich as a child while looking at him now.

-for Thursday May 3rd, 2012

Wizard Rifle, part 6: Raleigh

May 7, 2012

We awoke on our couches; I was the first.  Brandon was gone from his spot.  I was hot as fuck so I jumped in the shower, and realized halfway through that I didn’t have a towel.  Not wanting to be invasive, I air-dried and it was pretty nice.  I came down and the boys were up.  We invited Brandon to join us on our trip around Richmond, and he said it sounded pretty good, but he said he had a planned all-day date with the couch.



We headed near the downtown area and found the 821 Cafe.  It looked cool, but we didn’t eat anything – they just got an iced coffee.  We wandered down to the Hollywood Cemetery, and after having a hard time finding the entrance, we wondered it far and wide.  One of the bartenders at Strange Matter said (I think) that it was the oldest cemetery in America, or one of them.  There were indeed a wide array of gravestones from over the centuries.  And there was also a huge pyramid of stone. I thought I was taking us to the river, but a custodian said we wouldn’t be able to get to it from the cemetery.



We walked back to the car (walking past the Teen Sex ad) and drove to the river.  We tried to get to it passed a train track but found it was either gated or beyond a cliff that would have killed us had we jumped.  We eventually found our way to a walking bridge over the James under a highway and got onto Belle Isle.  There was some questioning in our hearts, but it paid off.  Belle Isle was beautiful.  Some gal named Alicia led us to the good spot (it was full of people).  We didn’t swim because the rapids were threateningly strong, but we did strip, and Sam dipped.



We didn’t stay horribly long, but the day was growing late.  We trekked back to the car and rode off with Sam at the wheel.  The drive from Virginia to North Carolina was very beautiful and very green, with a gray sky that began dumping rain on us at a certain point.

We rolled into Raleigh and I thought it was a pretty good looking town.  We found Slim’s and loaded in.  There were a certain amount of crazies and homeless in the area.  Everyone at the venue seemed so excited that Wizard Rifle was there, that they’d been blasting the album… and yet many said, while they’d love to stick around for the set, they’d be off somewhere getting drunk.

Before the set, I sat outside in the warmth reading The Plague when a girl, whose name I later learned was Julie, interrupted.  I didn’t mind though; I had just been thinking about how traveling with my head deep in a book could be harmful to the time.  In truth, my head is in many places during this trip, and I’m not the only one.  Taking all this into account, I had a talk with this Julie about UFOs, epidemiology, math, and what she wants to be when she grows up.  The crowd was highly enthusiastic, even in small numbers.  I believe a good amount of merch was sold.

The boys knew this girl named Alex who offered to put us up, so we drove there.  On the way out, the place was literally swarming with bro bros and homeless folks begging for change.  We left that shit and went over to the house, which felt nice and out of the way.



There were people over, including that girl Julie, with a backyard bonfire going on.  Some came and went.  One awesome guy chopped firewood absurdly fast, with a passionate vigor, with an absurdly small hatchet.  I mostly sat quietly and sleepy listening to people’s conversations, most of which were entertaining, but none of which can be recollected for this account.  I do remember a Portland feeling to it – everyone spoke of people that weren’t there by their first and last names, and I got this questioning about what any one actually did, or wanted, or planned.  All I could perceive in this lifestyles of the early adults around me was party.  Perhaps staving off the despair.

Sure enough.  In Alex’s kitchen, she served me some cold leftover ravioli in a bowl and when I asked what she did, she said she was a faggot (AKA waitress).  I did her dishes then I went to bed.

-for part of Tuesday May 1st, 2012