I'm writing about a 82 day U.S. tour I did a couple of months ago on here and the posts are tagged "tour blog."
Now booking another huge tour from July - December 2013, get in touch at email@example.com and let's do this!
Smashed 40: Slummer Jams is the latest release from the ever-ambitious Folktale label based out of Los Angeles. This two cassette volume consists of forty covers of Top 40 songs by hometapers new and old. Familiar names and newcomers to the scene disassemble, twist and reconstruct chart-topping hits from yesteryear and the modern era, filtering them through the ferric lens of the cassette underground. In typical fashion for Folktale, a wide variety of musical styles are grouped together: singer-songwriters, grungy 90s worship, electro-pop, experimental and dance all swirl together in this two and a half hour collection.
Covered artists range from Aaliyah to R.E.M., Boston to Blondie, Q Lazzarus to Katy Perry and so on.
It’s an intense and dizzying affair that seems daunting to get into at first, but works surprisingly well. Slummer Jams is much less laidback than the title implies; no artist here slouches with a noncommittal performance that attempts to emulate the original verbatim. What’s most refreshing about this expansive compilation is the raw honesty in which each artist delivers their songs. While any compilation is bound to have disjointed transitions between styles or slower parts that drag, Smashed 40 is completely packed with covers that some serious heart went into. Very few tracks feel rushed or haphazardly constructed. Most feel fresh and new, and without a track listing, could easily pass for original songs because each of the artists has established a sound as truly their own.
Dennis Callaci of Refrigerator and founder of the venerable Shrimper Records label that bestowed the world with hundreds of records by artists such as The Mountain Goats, Simon Joyner, Woods, and Jad Fair has even lent his subtle and minimal rendition of a song by The Kinks, a solid confirmation of the credibility this collection carries. The legendary Joyner himself makes a deeply affecting appearance, among other home-taper demigods that have been at it for decades like R. Stevie Moore, who contributes a whimsical take on Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up.”
There’s no shortage of beautiful and bare folk songs replete with tiny orchestras of acoustic instruments, warm drum sounds and natural recording environments recorded straight to cassette 4-track. Highlights include the sweet restraint of songwriter nomad Stephen Steinbrink’s version of Avril Lavigne’s “The Way It Is,” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” as sung by The Finches and the powerful cadence of Voice on Tape performing Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
The aesthetic pendulum swings often though, and the electronic tracks serve as a useful counterpoint. Captain Ahab completely embody the essence of “Sk8ter Boi” by Avril Lavigne (the only artist to be covered twice, and on the same side of tape, no less), Britney Spears’ “I Wanna Go” as channeled by Treasure Mammal and I.E.’s dancefloor pounding “Love You Like A Love Song” by Selena Gomez are just as fitting as any ballad found in the collection.
Smashed 40: Slummer Jams definitely leans heavily towards lesser known artists from Southern California, folkier styles, and artists with history rather than current big names, but that shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to prevent one from checking it out and really digging in. It’s a great introduction to dozens of artists who were on the tape scene long before the recent revitalization of it through digital lo-fi culture, many of which still have plenty of releases in print or coming out soon. The curation of the compilation is impeccable. Something of this scale could have easily been padded out with a multitude of artists that weren’t dedicated to paying their tribute to stars before them, but each contribution is unique and sincere. It’s good to remember that while these artists don’t necessarily aspire to reach the levels of celebrity that the bands they cover represent, it is undeniable that underground music is shaped by the mainstream in ways that are often imperceptible. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s refreshing to see such a large group of related artists collected in one place and singing to the tune of that notion.
Smashed 40: Slummer Jams was released in 2013 as a set of two professionally duplicated cassettes in a deluxe clamshell case with full-color artwork by Brian Blomerth and is limited to 300 copies, available at Folktale Records.
Nick worked at the George Eastman House, which is basically the Kodak Museum. It was just a short walk away. The museum was great, and since they have such a huge archive of world class photographs, they’re able to have different exhibits all the time. Everything up was awesome, and it was very cool to see famous photos from 20, 50, 100 years ago right there in front of your face. The exhibit that had camera equipment dating back to the origins of photography ruled, some of those devices were just brutally heavy and large. “Steampunk.” It was a really great way to experience Rochester, and the estate, or land, or whatever you call it that the museum and house were on was stunning. The little garden and paths around the side of the building were probably manicured the same way for decades.
Another short drive to Syracuse, and upon arriving at Weston’s house, food was just about ready. Weston and his wife are so awesome, their house is totally cute and he plays harsh noise as Sunken Cheek, and is also super involved with the hardcore scene around town. This sample from his new 7” RULES:
Here are Weston’s cats loungingat 7 PM Eastern Standard Time:
Hanging out was so nice, I think we may have watched The Simpsons for a little bit, or maybe that was after the show. But we went down to Gorham Brothers Music, a guitar shop where they have punk/DIY shows with some regularity and it was an awesome show. There were tons of metal/punk/hc posters up everywhere.
Shore Lined Poison opened up with some solid industrial tinged synth/sort of power electronics/ominous brooding genre mashing. Really full and composed live, covered a lot of ground and hit pretty hard. Kind of tough to find a sound sample since it’s a Skinny Puppy song title but here is what he looks like when your camera is blurry and a mic stand is sort of in the way:
I finally met Jason of Paper Armies, who I just released a full-length for a month ago. His set ruled, he drove up from Ithaca and just destroyed.
I think I was starting to get a little sick again, and I had a majorly intense headache, then Lake Forest played and were super loud. I think it was their tape release show actually, and everyone was pumped for it. They delivered and then Weston traded me a copy of the Shoppers demo cassette, with a couple songs that ended up on their Silver Year LP.
It was interesting to see in the tape’s insert that it was recorded by a Matt Hall, who had set up my show in Plattsburgh, NY that would be happening a few days later. I asked him about it and he recorded it back when used to live here in Syracuse, pretty cool how little things like that line up and coincide. Funny enough, another guy from Syracuse I had talked to a bit is now in the new ex-Shoppers band Perfect Pussy, who just released their demo a few days ago:
I don’t think I can really get behind the name, or whatever artistic use it’s supposed to be used for, and wish that the lyrics were up so it’d be easier to really see and feel what they’re about, but I dig the music/recording style more than Shoppers.
Anyways, the show ruled and I was getting super pumped on New York state, it was three for three so far with three more coming up. At Weston’s house I slept under his gear/studio setup in the spare room, but probably watched The Simpsons for a while. It was a bummer we couldn’t hang out more because I really loved what he was doing out here but he had work early in the morning and wouldn’t be around. I owe this dude a phone call.
In the morning I played with the rabbit that lived in Joseph’s kitchen and hopped in his car. We drove around Buffalo and went all around town. One thing about Buffalo is that the streets don’t really make sense to me. Everywhere we went took like 10 or 15 turns. I guess it’s like that by my house, or out here we have to take 4 different freeways to get anywhere. It’s just different. We went to a thrift store where I ended up not finding anything I wanted. Ate at a place called Amy’s Diner that was pretty punk and I had a good chicken sandwich. We also saw this:
Driving around, we saw a place called New Age Creations that is likely the sort of place I’d absolutely not like at all cause I don’t understand new age, but in retrospect maybe they had some sweet rings. If anyone has some sweet rings they want to donate, email me.
These are all of my pictures from this day. We probably went to other places but I can’t remember anymore. Joseph is so awesome though, it will be great to hang out again in a few months. I remember kind of wanting to go to Niagara Falls but we decided it was probably not worth it and that it’s not too good on the American side. I don’t have a passport.
The drive to Rochester was only an hour and change, but there are little tolls everywhere whenever you drive out here. It’s something I can’t really ever get used to, it just seems like it makes more sense being built into the cost of living in a place or whatever. I understand why they toll but it’s just not what I’m accustomed to, it’s weird thinking about the cost of using a road everytime you actually use it, as opposed to it just being hidden and lumped in with the rest of life’s costs.
Anyways, the show tonight in Rochester was in a place I won’t disclose because if they are still having shows there, it would suck to have it get shut down. I remember reading quite a bit about DIY/makeshift spots getting busted in Rochester, people who were getting beat up by cops just because they were at one earlier in the night even if they weren’t actually seen inside, it’s not really that nice. But the spot was cool and Cory of Cae-sur-a helped me get in touch with Nick, who offered up his space. The other performers played experimental guitar compositions and played well, were nice to talk to. Joe of Carbon Records came and got a bunch of merch from me. Everyone was real nice and the environment ruled. People donated generously and were a delight to hang with.
Nick’s house was an absolutely beautiful and giant corner house with huge rooms, it was like a step back in time. No TVs anywhere, just really classy. The rooms were so huge. I wish I took a picture of the dining room. Here is one of the living room areas:
There were three, maybe four really nice cats and for some reason there was this tiny bathroom by the kitchen with the smallest little sink ever.
Nick offered up his bedroom and slept in another, and sleep was good.
I will have a split 12” LP with Former Selves, 7”, 9 new Bridgetown tapes and new visual projections. Absolutely NO town is off-limits, I’m down to come play and hang with anyone, ANYwhere. Small shows or strange situations welcome. We don’t want to play bars and don’t really feel comfortable in ‘legit’ venues. Living rooms, DIY spaces, warehouses, basements, art galleries, anything different is awesome and we can accommodate any circumstance. All you have to do is contact me!
This is going to mostly be East Coast/South/Midwest this time. Hit me up and let’s do this! firstname.lastname@example.org
My “Maroon Bells” video:
Here’s a video I took of Big Waves of Pretty in Michigan last year:
Breakfast with Mike/Honest Bag in the Victorian kitchen, a refreshing shower in a modern bathroom, and just hanging out listening to tapes for a bit. Mike gave me a couple and tried to give me something that I can’t recall what it was but I was like, “dude, there are 25 of this.. you should keep it” or something like that. Or maybe already had it. I packed up a box of records and tapes I’d acquired from people on the road to mail back home to save space in the car. Thankfully Mike had no shortage of LP boxes. It was hard to leave, hanging with Mike was so great and his mom hooked it up with tubs of really good vegan cream cheese and incredible bagels for the road ahead. It was so nice. I think the basement had the largest couch I’d ever been on, well, not true- but it was luxurious.
I left and went to the post office to mail the box and encountered the worst soccer mom drivers and frustrating left turns. Driving North towards Buffalo, the weather shifted from bright and sunny to grim and gray. Rain poured and the drive was miserable, probably mostly due to being so tired from staying up til sunrise and my back feeling sore because the bed was too soft. The ultimate first world problem for a traveler, but honestly if a couch or something is too soft it just wrecks my spine because it doesn’t provide enough support. The hardwood or tile floors average it out in the long run, maybe. The rain and lack of visibility made spirits droop on the drive but it let up by the time I hit the city and arrived at Joseph’s house.
Joseph is awesome, he had been ordering stuff from me online for years and would mail me zines and tapes and always let me know that he wanted to put on a show whenever I’d make it out here. I distinctly remember feeling really bad though. I can count the number of times I’ve legitimately felt pretty crazy or out of my head on tour and this was definitely one of them. I just wasn’t myself, and was so tired and nonsensical that he must have thought I was insane but also kind of totally understood it. We sat in the living room for a while. I wolfed down a bagel and then he hopped in the car and directed me to The Vault.
The space was awesome, really nice setup and was being run great. Kevin, the owner, was super nice and was setting up his gear to play first. I set up my merch and people were already coming up to me fully aware of who I was, knowing which releases they wanted to buy and that always shocks me when it’s people I’ve never had a communication with online, but have this knowledge of me. That it’s someone who came to a show prepared for what the show was going to be, and knew they wanted to take a part of it home without just being some person at the show who happened to enjoy it and got merch afterwards. It makes total sense for anyone who goes to a show with the intention of seeing a band, but it’s just so crazy to think that band could be, and somehow is me in some alternate universe. I guess I’m just really stuck on the idea that the only people who have any interest in my music actually contact me, or have been contacted by me, when the world is so much bigger than that and most people never actually do talk to each other.
Kevin played a lovely Malaria Control set under a fitting blue light, and UVB-76 played next. They reminded me of buddies Comfort Slacks but way more biohazard. Biohazard is a new trend sweeping Southern California’s Inland Empire so get ready for Chernobyl 2013.
I set up and was just about ready to play, so Joseph called everyone in from cigarette breaks and fresh air and the front room. Dimmed lights, 40 people crowding around you, and house music fading out is the perfect time for gear failure.
All eyes on me, I frustratingly troubleshooted as many pedals, cables and connections as quickly as possible, hoping to find the problem barring me from being able to perform. It was pretty bad and I think the problem was that an input jack was knocked pretty hard and the soldered connection came loose if memory serves correct. I was pretty pissed because this was one of the best turnouts of tour so far and everyone was ready, restless and waiting, as I struggled with getting the connection working again.
Somehow it came back to life and I had the most surprised look on my face, almost wanting it to not work because it seemed so hopeless. So I played and it was probably not too great of a set because I was so stressed out that it was going to give out any moment. A video exists of a new song I was playing on tour that is probably not the best document of it. The sound here is a bit grainy and lacks the dynamics or frequency response that made this song fulfilling to play live. But the album it’s on is not finished and it’s not time to share the studio version of it. So here is “Rust Eagle,” named for the parallel arc shared in events in my life with a ship of the same name in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge.
I guess it went fine. It was one of the best responses from a crowd I can think of really, and that means a lot. Jack Toft played next and was pretty incredible. He reminded me so much of an east coast John Thill, sort of a local folk hero weirdo with incredible command of the English language, but in such a different way. He basically rapped about polarizing subject matter over beats of diminishing fidelity, self deprecating himself and bringing his performance and gear to the brink of self destruction with every song. Lots of stream of consciousness freestyle slam poetry riffing off the crowd’s enthusiasm kind of like Brian from Narwhalz (of sound). Painfully hilarious and a born performer, kind of next level art.
After the show Joseph told me that it was the first show he’s ever put on and I was blown away. It was one of the most financially successful shows of the whole tour, people loved a set that I felt terrible about delivering and possibly even apologized for, I saw a mindblowing set, met tons of really sweet people and was just super pumped up all night with the exception of the brow sweat of gear failure. It was so cool that though he had been going to shows in town for so long, he’d never put one on before and decided to try it for me. I told him to keep doing it because he was doing such a great job that people everywhere could learn a thing or two from his initiative, making posters, running door, getting people inside for each set, getting locals pumped on and aware of who’s playing. Stuff that should be simple, obvious or easy but just doesn’t happen or work out all the time. So we went back to the house, I ate another bagel and slept with the cat on the couch. Buffalo ruled and we still had a whole day left to hang out. I always tell people Buffalo rules.
I’m writing for a new cassette site called C86’d, and here is my first piece: a review and story about an amazing musician/label from rural Kentucky that is well worth your time. Hope you have a minute to read it and listen to his album.
In the 1950s, Bevo Francis was a point-scoring machine that held a multitude of college basketball records up until as recently as last year. In his senior year of high school, he scored more points (776) in the basketball season than people live in the town of Caneyville, KY (627).
60-odd years later, Bevo Francis is just one musical recording pseudonym of Josh Johnston, who runs the Tent Revivalist label out of Caneyville. How our paths crossed is a story for my other blog, but I’m very glad to have come across Johnston’s label and music. Similar to Francis’ affinity for basketball, everything Johnston touches is a sure shot. They both have a gift. His aim is true no matter where he’s coming from. Under the guise of Bevo Francis, he crafts simple and heartwarming songs that lighten the load of our daily routines.
On “Sun City Welcoming,” each of the 8 songs consist solely of Johnston’s timid but resonant voice singing softly over a borrowed Yamaha keyboard in lieu of the backcountry folk angst or punky overdriven guitar squall that dominate his other recording projects like Night 1980. His musicianship and knack for arranging melodies into the purest pop form are what really shine here. While it can be hard to make out his lyrics as they swim in a kiddie pool of reverb around the chords he forms on the PSR-160, it’s clear that what he’s saying means a lot to him. He’s just not quite ready to let everyone around him know what he thinks in such a public way. Living in a town that small can do that to you.
It takes courage to speak up in such an insular community, and Johnston’s got it. The feeling I get from this tape and from the seven others I have on Tent Revivalist is that Josh is trying to break free from a vast system of stereotypes: of what it is to be a rural southerner, or a forward-thinking punk kid surrounded by them, of escaping the backwards mentality of a declining town run by cops who dabble in trafficking narcotics, that a label should focus on a specific sound or style. We talked about all these things at length over the course of many emails and phone calls before spending two afternoons together in a house nestled by the most beautifully colored forest I’ve ever been in.
This tape came out in September 2011, and in the year between him releasing this tape and me seeing him belt out performances in a dive bar in Nashville and a Zumba studio in Kentucky, it’s powerfully clear his voice has grown and matured significantly. Not just how his voice cracks as he cathartically releases previously private words about how his immediate surroundings have simultaneously shaped and repressed him, but in the graceful flow of harmonic syllables he chooses to express his stories. These really are authentic tales from the heart of the country, a young man’s growing pains as he breaks free from the cradle of middle America.
I think what Tent Revivalist is all about is capturing that authenticity of where Johnston is from and finding an outlet any way you can. One of the guys I met that he released an excellent tape for as Welfare Queen told me about the trailer he lived and wrote his songs in, and how he he’d like to save up for a guitar pedal so he could record again someday, but was in no hurry. The Bloody Ridge Rum Runners pounded out some raw, visceral Americana that could have passed for being from generations ago. Standing on the gravel sidewalk, Johnston and I were yelled “faggots” at by a woman with missing teeth passing by in a truck outside the fire station on Main Street. That’s just the sort of place he’s coming from.
Maybe the proliferation of low-fidelity bedroom recordings on Tascam 4-tracks is a bit watered down or doesn’t have a whole lot of substance sometimes. But it’s good to remember that there are real people with actual stories behind their songs, and it might be all they have. It’s not all just people recording for no reason and throwing it on the internet. There’s a lot of heart out there. I’m really glad that the tapes on Tent Revivalist did find their way online for people like me to find.
I highly recommend this album and label to everyone, not just for the honesty behind the music, but for how it’s made me think about where countless other albums like this have come from.
The cassette version on Tent Revivalist is sold out, but many other tapes are available for $5 postage paid, including a new one by Kentucky’s Jovontaes, who just had a record out on Woodsist.
“Sun City Welcoming” can be streamed in full on bandcamp, and a CDr re-issue was recently released by California’s Family Time Records.
I have finally had a chance to upload a lot of the label’s back catalog to the Bridgetown Bandcamp. Now you can listen to and download over 50 of the label’s releases from the past five years. Here are a few selections:
Dr. D.R. Barclay’s incredible mixtape of DJing nothing but records with songs that have one note guitar solos:
Vehicle Blues’ cassingle with two of my favorite songs he’s ever written:
The very first Nicole Kidman/Jon Barba release that I recorded and play on most of the songs. Each song is about a different Nicole Kidman movie:
Waking dehydrated, I stumbled downstairs to the kitchen in my underwear to find all the guys sleeping in similar attire, with the most tortured facial expressions. The muggy summer heat. I took a shower and was sweating by the time I exited the bathroom. Loading my gear out to the car was a blast. The hilly ground was soft and wet, hard to keep footing on while carrying 50 pounds of stuff, or to position in the car when it was on a 30 or 40 degree incline and stuff kept spilling, falling, sliding around. Not to mention the stairs down from the house were the last nail in the coffin of the previously existing condition known as full body exhaustion. I finished loading out and took another shower. Sweat on the way to the car as I gave my goodbyes.
Stopped downtown for a little bit, cute and quaint with brick sidewalk and even road. Old. A step back. Gassed up and drove towards Pittsburgh, skirting West Virginia along the way. When I think of the term “middle of nowhere” in the sense of it being amidst thriving nature, but relatively little human inhabitation in spite of how close it is to most of the country’s major urban areas, I think of West Virginia. It really does feel untouched, moreso than most anywhere else, it seems. It’s just deep country. How many X-Files episodes take place here? Enough, that’s for sure. I’d really like to spend some solid time here and see it for real.
The highway crosses a river again and brings me back into Ohio, the state’s slogan is “So much to discover.” I’ve spent around 10 or 11 days here on this tour now, and am ready to leave. It’s been a good time and I honestly don’t know of any other band who has played this state so many times in one trip. Even bands from here told me they saw my calendar and had no idea how I got so many shows in the state. Neither do I, really. It was worth it though, there’s really no sense in skipping a place if you have a chance to try it.
2 hours later, and Pennsylvania Welcomes You.
At the Pennsylvania Welcome Center, there were Christian ladies with a booth set up with free cookies and soda. They were very sugary.
Approaching Pittsburgh from the Southwest on I-376 is very unique, because you see signs saying that the city is mere miles away, but there is virtually no civilization in sight. There are lovely hills dressed in the thickest green trees, ebbing and flowing all across the horizon, and no hint of a mid-sized city anywhere. Then you approach the Fort Pitt Tunnel and it all goes dark for two minutes. When the tunnel opens up, all of a sudden the sun’s radiance explodes and blinds your dilating pupils, the downtown skyline thrusts itself square in front of you, a grand river runs below the bridge, and a volley of highway signs directing traffic to a dozen different exits and offramps shoot up overhead. Trying to pick out which one is yours in the matter of seconds that fly by is overwhelming, and amazing. And then you’re blasting through downtown city streets among the bikers, pedestrians and skyscrapers a moment later. I’d consider this my favorite entrance to a city in the entire country, with Savannah, Georgia at sunset being my second favorite (and in a very different way). There are videos of this on youtube, but they can’t quite capture the feeling of driving in for the first time, not really sure of where you’re going and being overstimulated by it all.
Today’s show was at Garfield Artworks. Richard, who set up the show made it into a late afternoon barbecue sort of thing with like 8 performances, almost all of which had different video artists projecting work for the sets. It was an awesome time. And it was great that there was so much food available and everyone was super friendly. I was having a pretty great time and felt really good about the show. Even managed to read a little bit.
Manny, who owns the space and has been booking shows in Pittsburgh for like twenty years is known to be a bit grouchy or blunt when he’s not happy with something, I’ve heard. That he calls them like he sees them and has no hesitation to unleash what can be vicious words. But I found him really relatable. I like to think I understand why people who have been around forever, or aren’t necessarily the most popular people in town are perceived in certain ways. That it doesn’t really mean anything bad in the long run, it’s just people’s opinions and if you’re making things happen, that’s it. He even confided a few things in me about people we knew, sort of, just kind of talked about things he’s had to go through and put up with. It made sense to me. And after I played, I wandered back to the table for a soda and he straight up told me something that I definitely won’t forget, but can’t remember the exact wording. Something like “That was good. What are you doing, doing this? Playing house shows on these crazy DIY tours to noone, not making any money, releasing your own stuff. You should be signed to like Kranky or something. What are you doing here? Think about it.”
It was pretty powerful, however he phrased it. I remember being kind of frozen by it, thinking about all my friends who have been breaking their backs doing this for forever, fighting for the attention of drunken twenty-somethings caught in a passing phase between teen years and cubicles, that might not mean that much to them, but is all we have, at least for a few of us. Lately I’ve been thinking about how I’ve been getting older, about weeding through the muck, trying to find friends in the only place I’ve ever really known, and how it keeps changing around me. How I’m not here to party and frolic like I’m in a theme park on the verge of going out of business. How my cold, robotic seriousness makes it a little tougher to cope with the reality of living in this sort of subculture than if I just let loose and tried to enjoy the ride until something different dominates my life. If it ever does. Not that I don’t have a good time doing this, but it’s weird to think about the fact that there are alternatives. I’ve seen the party animal reckless musician types and that’ll never be me. And I’ve seen the guys who play clubs that someone who has never been in a band booked them at from across the country. The guys who sit at home and record everyday and never really integrate too much with their peers. All the different stereotypes that exist of underground/independent musicians, or just in general. It’s just something to think about that doesn’t have any clear questions or answers.
After the show, I went to Mike of the Honest Bag blog’s house to go sleep. I was kind of wary at first before I met him since I don’t align at all with the main theme that prevails throughout his blog, but I knew he’d be a positive and friendly person and wanted to hang out. You really can’t judge a book by it’s cover. He was among the most sweet people I have ever met, just brimming with soulful energy, so nice and sincere. His mother had been expecting us and laid out a giant feast that we could barely make a dent in.
His mother’s house felt like walking into a Victorian home from centuries ago, like it was on the historic register or something. The furniture and decor might as well have come out of a museum, it was a pinnacle of beauty and splendor. I just felt like I was in a castle or something. Mike and I stayed up and talked about our mutual friends, and our experiences/interactions with music and life, and growing up and everything until past 4 AM and then I slept in the spare bedroom. It was a great day that pushed the boundaries of 24 hours at that point and had to finally end. Can’t wait to go back to Pittsburgh.
After a night of not really sleeping well through that breakup argument happening a few feet away in the room next to the living room, Andrew made some nice breakfast and we hung out for a while before packing the car and getting ready to leave. Athens, Ohio was only about an hour and a half away. It sure was nice to be in the part of the country where all the cities you can potentially play are so close. Athens is a really small college town, not really a touring destination for most people, but I like to give these places a shot when there are people who are interested out there.
It was a really pretty drive on one lane roads through lush green countryside, rarely a car in sight.
The show was at Shane and Grant’s house, on a very hilly street in the middle of the tiny town. It’s like whoever built the town never cleared the forest or leveled the land to any degree. After driving down the driveway of an abandoned house, a ways behind it was the house the show was at, stilted on a steep muddy dirt road and all. Slippery and the car could barely maintain traction. Opening the door was like being hit with a fireball. The air was thick, heavy, weighed down by the moist heat. Loading equipment and things up the slippery hill, stairs and into the house was a brutal workout. Grant made pasta and Shane was putting up mattresses against the walls and windows to soundproof the living room. For good reason too, it was nearly silent outside, sound could probably carry a good distance. The occasional bird or rustling in the trees punctuated the powerful realization that this is really the country, no car engines whirring down boulevards or people chatting outside their homes. It was a nice isolation. Sitting out on the deck behind the house for a while in tranquil quiet, a wooden porch pushed right up to the trees and escarpment’s incline.
Kids showed up and I played a pretty good set if I recall, nothing stands out in memory this much later as particularly different, which is fine by me. Par for the course, which is pretty good. Usually if I can’t remember anything about a specific performance, it means nothing went wrong. I’d heard Athens is like the number one party college in the nation or something like that, which may or may not have had anything to do with the fact that I didn’t sell any merch at all, but people weren’t really partying or crazy. They were probably unrelated, and I had a good time regardless. Zack Kouns played next, he came from about the same distance as me, from a small town in Ohio. He was formerly of Philadelphia noise freaks Social Junk, who I saw in LA a few years back, not sure if he was in them at the time. He was dressed quite nicely and I really loved his accent. The shirt, shoes and suitcase gave off an image of a traveling salesman of centuries back. His set was a whole other thing, raw and vicious. Stripped of his shirt and striking himself with a whip as he sang over pounding electronics under an eerie green light.
Shane was originally slated to play but decided not to in the interest of keeping his peers coming back to the shows so that they wouldn’t ever know which show he’d actually play, and so that they wouldn’t miss future touring bands. It was kind of hilarious and cute the way he explained it. It seems silly but kind of makes sense in a town so small where there probably aren’t a ton of local acts to support experimental artists on tour. I mean, Zack Kouns has been on at least 3 or 4 other shows at this house that I’ve been invited to on facebook, and he lives close to two hours away. I’m just glad so much has been happening here though, and that Shane is so enthusiastic and supportive. He even offered up his bedroom and a fan so I could sleep better in the heat. Him and a whole ton of other guys crashed on the couches in the living room and it had to be miserable for everyone. Even I roasted with the fan and not having to be in such close proximity to a bunch of other bodies. But for the guys, that’s summertime hanging in the countryside with your buddies.