Sunday, March 22, 2009

festival of false hopes

So, last week was the big SXSW (pronounced South by Southwest) Festival in Austin. And although we were ceremoniously uninvited, we made up our minds a few weeks back that we should try to go down and crash the party. A few calls were made to our friend, Miss Temple Ray, and Chip (Robinson) had some contacts and then Jack and Dave fished and caught a couple of slots for us to play at. And you know us…have slot?-we’ll rock! Before you knew it, between Chip Robinson (who we’ve been having the pleasure of backing up of late) and the OakTeam, we had 10 gigs lined up.
The ignunce began last Sunday about 11am, still raining like a cow pissin’ on a flat rock for 3 days and after getting through Greensboro we discussed lunch and Dave pulled over at the Biscuitville in Archdale. As we got out of eVANgeline we noticed the steam coming out from under her hood. Uh-Oh! Could this be the one time that eVANgeline would let us down? Upon further inspection it looked like a hose had come loose on top of the engine but still underneath LOTS more coolant was pouring out. We figgered we better have it checked out and asked for and found ( despite it being Sunday) an open Firestone Car Care Center. We got held up a while as one of the mechanics was fixing his brother’s car for free so most of us walked down to a run-down strip mall where we found a junk store, I mean THRIFT store. Jack and I bought $2.50 belts. Mine was Carolina blue and his was clear pink. Sweet! Just down from the Thrift Store was a pool hall and bar called Sharkey’s. It didn’t look like much on the outside but man, it was REALLY nice on the inside. Clean, with lots of tables we decided that this would be a perfect hang. So we sat down and watched basketball and had a few (4) $1.50 Shiner Bock’s while Dave and Chip watched Bonanza and listened to some lady talk about her incontinence waiting for the van to get fixed.
$99 and one radiator hose later, we’re on the road again. Greg and I were into full tour mode already hoping that Dave would pull over so that we might purchase more refreshments. Understanding the need to “get it on” we kept our mouths shut for as long as possible. We finally stopped for gas and the station was without beer. Now this posed a problem as the next stop was in South Carolina, and not only do we by band law never step foot onto SC soil, but there was NO beer to be purchased on Sunday between where we were and Birmingham, Alabama. The lady at the gas station said that there was an Ingles (grocery store) up the road and told us how to get there. Fifteen minutes that seemed like an hour later we finally found it hiding after miles of narrow two lanes. The shopping experience was not quick, but WAS fruitful as we all stocked up on goodies. I got a six pack of Guinness (Stout, of course) and a bottle of wine. Good to go! Long detour aside; we rocked it on down the highway to Meridian, Mississippi, me with my three belts on.

Monday morning was still dreary. Chip and I roomed together and I heard him stirring just after 9am trying to get his drawers on to make it to the free breakfast on time. The notice in our room said it was available ‘till 9:30am so as we stroll in at 9:25am we should be good, right? Uhhh…naw. Food lady had her messed cleaned up and ready to go home. We start bitchin’ but to no avail. Not one crumb. So Dave gets back from an oil change and alignment for the van and we grab a lunch from the local B-rated Taco Bell and kick it old school on to Dallas. Along the way we amuse ourselves by playing a game of guessing the nicknames of colleges that are in the NCAA tournament which nobody won (especially Chip who kept yelling “Tarholes”!) and then a new game I invented called “ITAP Confussion”. In this game, I would think of a phrase, set my phone to the ITAP feature and begin typing. As the words were filled in for me I would go on to the next word, never correcting the wrong words. I would text that to a recipient and they had to figger out the phrase. Nobody won that either.
The sun finally came out near Shreveport and we were blessed the rest of the week with a heapin’ helpin’ of it. We got to our 3 and a half star digs in Dallas close to 8pm and already had our dinner plans mapped out. Our friends from Raleigh who now live in Dallas, Maria Miller and her husband Todd met us at The Banana Leaf for some outstanding Thai food.

We highly recommend it! It was fun catching up with Maria and Todd too. It was kind of an early night for me, hitting the pillow just after 11pm.
Tuesday morning I followed Dave down to what looked like a nice freebee breakfast buffett. I loaded up my plate and had a seat. The waiter brought me a bill for $14 and asked for my drink of choice. Oh well, like they say…there ain’t no free. Outside was a beautiful, Dallas Chamber of Commerce day. Having brought our gloves, we decided that there was time for a little catch before heading off to Austin. We worked up a good sweat running after fly balls. Dave almost put one through a window in the churchyard bungalow so after that we concentrated on mostly grounders. We finally got in the van about 1pm. After stops for food and ice cream (Jack ate a bag of salad and I ate a 6 foot party sub…that’s what it felt like!) we got to Austin late afternoon and searched out where we would all be housed for the week. Chip’s friend got us all hooked up! Chip stayed in a trailer off of Barton Springs Rd. and we stayed with the pot lady. Seriously, it was great. She left a key outside, we walked in and found three more keys, and we’d never met her before in our lives. Greg entertained us with a few Cole Porter songs on her old piano for a while until “mama” finally came home. We all introduced ourselves and the next words out of her mouth were “anybody wanna smoke some pot?” “Uhhh…we gotta gig tonight”, a resounding “No!” from the band. Boy, times have really changed, huh? She really went all out though. She had bought 4 fancy blow-up beds and made us all feel right at home, and all at no charge…well, wafting of pot smoke notwithstanding.

Our gig that night was at The Hole in the Wall, not exactly in the thick of the “South by” goings-on, but then again it WAS a Tuesday night anyway, so whatever. We had a 12 minute slot to fill with both Chip and the OakTeam, and at a very late hour. Despite, the time we still had a decent crowd of folks. The “singer”/songwriter before us was brutal, making his 12 minute set seem like 12 years! When it was finally our turn, Chip played “Mylow” from his new record and “Abe Lincoln” and then introduced us as we kicked into “Willie Mayes” and “Indy 500”. Nan from Bloodshot and Edgar from Blue Rose both seemed to really enjoy the set…if you can call it that.
We got back to mama’s about 2am.
Wednesday morning, we strolled our fancy asses up to Maria’s Taco Express (as we would every morning thereafter while in town) and had a Mexican breakfast feast. It was walking distance and the weather was perfect. The fire ants on my ankles were a problem but it was an otherwise very lovely gathering of thoughts and ignunce. We had a show to do with Chip at the Guitartown Party at Fado’s about 5:30pm so there was time to kill at the nice lady’s house beforehand.
Load in was a bit of a bitch at Fado’s. There was an alleyway to park the van in but to get our gear in the club was to rudely have to push a few folks aside as it was already packed from shows by The Silos, John Dee Graham and the like. The sun was beating down in our faces when we hit the stage. The drums were a beautiful sounding silver sparkle DW kit and when I cracked the snare it sounded like I was in the studio. The whole stage really sounded great. Needless to say, that made the gig a real pleasure for me and when all was said and done, for the crowd too. Chip kicked ass! The OakTeam was set to play the Guitartown “afterparty” when the final “sanctioned” band was done playing so we went to dinner with Tom, our friend from Chapel Hill and then took in the sights for a while ‘till showtime. Nextdoor was a pretty great cover band. The Spazmatics were some Emo kids playing 80’s hits to a sequencer. They had the biggest crowd I saw all week. We wandered back into Fado’s and watched a little bit of Billy Joe Shaver with his crack band (and awesome upright bass player!), followed by the very very awful Truckee Brothers and then a surprise add-on appearance by Raul Malo. It was about to be time for us to play when Doophus-head got up and announced “Thanks to everybody for playing, thanks to you for coming out and Good-night everybody!” Huh? Wasn’t there something about an “afterparty” in there somewhere? I know we told the crowd about it during Chip’s set. Had it been cancelled unbeknownst to us? Well, there were still a few people mingling about, maybe we could grab their ear if we hurried on stage. They (all 15) began bouncing around and dancing when we cranked up. The soundman was in a full-on jitterbug. He was REALLY getting into it. Like I say, the drums and stage sounded amazing so I was having a blast playing, especially the songs from the new record. Scott Miller (Commonwealth) was in the house and afterwards gave us, once again, what’s the term? “mad props”? Yeah, he LOVES us. Hell, we love him too. It’s really great when your peers, people you look up to, like him and Robbie Fulks “get it”. After the set was over I was convinced that it was gonna be a tough one to top.
Thursday was “Hellday” and we knew it. What at one time was gonna be our day off, now was our busiest day of the week. We had to be on stage at the Saxon Pub at 12:30-1:30pm, splitting time between both bands. So after Maria’s we headed that way and set up, getting an earful of whatever from the sound guy. He was just talking away…la la la la la la la la, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…and we pretty much ignored him…like a whole lot. The show was good though and we broke down moved on to Lovejoy’s, where Chip had a 2:00pm showcase with actual PEOPLE there! It’s always exciting to play in front of PEOPLE. Anyway, we rocked the hell outta that bitch despite the bartender being a dick. The worst part though was the logistics. Just off of Sixth Street, there was that whole CROWD thing to deal with. During the set the van was about to be towed and Paul had to run out and move it. That could’ve been a disaster! It was great fun and the folks were really diggin’ it so we played about everything we knew. We packed up and went on to the next challenge which was about an hour south of town, Tavern in the Gruene.

Smack dab in the middle of one of the most German parts of Texas is a little bed a breakfast complex. Tavern in the Gruene is a really cool bar attached to it, open to the public. We arrived and sat down for a beer, resting a bit before tackling another tough crowd. We had joked about bringing our bathing suits, maybe finding a mudhole to stomp around in, but sure enough RIGHT in front of the bar was a beautiful swimming pool and hot tub. DAMNIT! Oh well. We loaded in and set up gear along with a very small PA system Temple’s boyfriend, Greg brought in. It was a quick sound check and we then ran off for a fancy Mexican meal. Our friend Temple Ray, who had booked some of the shows for us, opened the night with a quick set. Unfortunately, the food kept us from being able to see/hear it.
We arrived just in time to take the stage, again Chip was first as we have lots more songs worked up should the night need to go longer. We were supposed to play ‘till at least 11:30. The OakTeam made it our mission to get some dancers in front of the stage. When they all turned their backs to us I got up and went out and drug one lady onto the dancefloor. She ran off screaming though as soon as I let go. But you can best believe that we knew which ‘”ace in the hole”, when all else fails, panties droppin’ song would get their asses out there. Dave started into (The Commodors) “Easy” and sure enough, here they come, “easy like Sunday mornin’”. When that was over though they wanted to start making requests “Play some Beastie Boys!” Sheesh! Has it gotten to the point that the only bands that can play small clubs are cover bands?
When we’re done with our set it’s about 5 ‘till midnight. So I go straight to the bar for an ice cold bellywasher. I stand right beside the cash register for 5 solid minutes being ignored by the bartenders.
They announce “That’s it!” “Hey, can I get a Lonestar?” “Can’t do it” he says “I’ve been standing here for five minutes!” I say. “We gave last call” “I WAS ON STAGE!” “Sorry, can’t do it”. I then said some ugly words. And once again, as parts of the country are backwards thinking as hell, I couldn’t buy a beer after midnight between there and Austin. By the time I got to Austin I just said screw it, took my AdvilPM and said Good night!
By Friday morning we had made up our minds, we’re blowing off the Saturday gig at Giddy-ups (LOL!!) and kicking it back to the Old North State. We just had one more, and most important to the OakTeam, gig to do. It was a 3:30 show at Threadgills for our distributor, Burnside Distribution Corporation. I was pretty beat down when my buddy, Brad Rice (who now plays with Keith Urban) called to set up a time for me to meet his new baby, cute little JB. Once again, perfect weather started the day as we walked up to Maria’s for breakfast. Jack and I met Brad and had the usual (I prolly ate 40 avocados last week!) It was great to see him again and how happy he is. The babe is a beauty!

They had to leave before the music started at Maria’s, it would ‘a been too loud anyway. But Brad would have really loved Chuck Meade. I know I did. He looked and sounded just like a young Nick Lowe, and that ain’t a bad thing in either case. His song, “She got the Ring, and I Got the Finger” was a knockout punch to the early bird Friday showcase crowd, and the Latino dude on guitar, pedal steel and harp was unbelievable!

We went back to the nice lady’s house, packed up and got the hell out. I mean, how crazy is it that she would let us come in and flop, take over her pad, make ourselves at home and not ask us for a dime?
And never meeting us before? It was an awesome thing to do, I know that. It prolly saved us a damn thousand dollars! Thanks a million, nice lady!
We rocked the shit outta the crowd at Threadgills. It was our last chance, so why the hell not? I was still a bit pumped up from the Chuck Meade thing too. I was on the hot side of the stage, in the full sunlight as the boys were rockin’ the shade. “Spotlight courtesy of God, y’all!” We met some great folks there and talked a bit before grabbing a free beer and running out. Frank and Bill at BDC are great to work with! Our time in Austin was coming to an end though, thankfully. Listening to 60 bands playing at the same time can wear on your nerves after a while, it was kinda like a “Band Hell”. And speaking of Hell, 35North was nothing but 30 miles of stop and roll traffic getting out of town. It finally opened up after about an hour though and Big Daddy put the pedal to the metal, Dog. (…or Bro’ whichever you prefer, Greg and I just called each other both… DogBro’)
Close to Waco, we was hankerin’ for some liquor and sent Dave on a slight wild goose chase fer it. When we found “Bad Bear Liquors and Wines and Shit”,

I got a pint of white tequila and poured it into some Minute Maid Pink Lemonade, which quite honestly did NOT suck! On the other side of Dallas, we found an exit with everyone’s food choices represented. Jack and I chose a swanky little “fast” food jernt inside the Exxon station called “Dos Tacos”…hmmm, catchy name. We both ordered cheese enchiladas, rice and beans. Man, it was the damn blind leading the blind back there. It was like one trainee teaching another trainee…”well, I THINK you do this…” Holy crap! 30 minutes later, they finally let us out of prison, gave us our food (which actually was OK) and we were once again on our way to Jackson, Miss.
I did my best to stay awake to help keep Dave company, cuz everyone else was knocked out. I did good too ‘cept for one 5 minute stretch of road in Louisiana when I missed some cool cop action chasing down a speeder. 4am we roll into Jackson.
9:30am Saturday morning and a showered and packed Jack nudges my dead body. By 10am, we’re rolling again. It’s a long way before we can find food for everyone. Finally, about 1:30pm we reach Tuscaloosa after what seemed like a solid hour through no-man’s land.
North of Atlanta there was what looked like a haz-mat situation after a crash, holding us up for yet another hour of stop and roll. Greg sang us his “Huevos Rancheros” song and we tried to figger out a way to listen to the Carolina and Duke NCAA games. Then Jack bought the $4.99 app for his Iphone and we plugged in. The only problem was that the feed was the TV-FEED! Have you ever tried to listen to a game that’s on the TV in the other room? You can’t tell shit about what’s going on. They never (well, seldom) tell the score and they are showing replays and shit, and you have no idea! A bit frustrating but both games turned out in our favor, so what the hell.
Finally out of the traffic, we made it to the north GA border and pulled into our final Rest Area before SC. It was 7:15pm and the bathrooms closed at 7pm. They had a dude in the parking lot sitting there daring you to piss on a tree so we got back in the van and prayed we wouldn’t have to stop and get out in the toxic Palmetto State. Luckily, like a beacon, there it was, one last chance to relieve ourselves before that dreaded landmass. 105 miles later, the “all clear” was given and we pulled into the Rest Area (open 24 hours by the damn way!) near Gastonia, NC. Much chillier than we’d been in days, we had to get out hoodies outta the back to stay warm. Somehow the conversation turned to Snuggies, the blanket that wears like a Star Wars character. I started singing a made up song on the spot called “SnuggiFuggin’”, (to the tune of “Barefootin”) about doing it in a Snuggie. Look out! it might be on the next record!
Finally, we rolled into Raleigh close to 1am last night and 6 days of laughin’ our asses off was over. We gave each other love and chalked it up to another lesson learned…and good times had!


Anonymous said...

Great story, although it's kinda sad i can relate the most to the part where you explain the effort it takes every time to convince the rest of the people in the car of the importance of (cool) beverages for the road, and the 'smoking' part....Now play some beastie boys !!
cheers, Roland, NL

Anonymous said...

OK I believed every word....right up to the point you turned down the smoke....Man, you got to keep these blogs reality based.....

Anonymous said...

Now that's one helluva week. And a good story too. But honestly, you never left home did ya?

johan / hellsinki