"puttin' the opera to bed" tour diary - week 3

monday, october 5, 1998 - pensacola, fl

from nels cline:

   It's been a whole Florida kind o' thing. Jack Drag are driving back to Boston and we've just driven up from West Palm Beach to make up for our missed gig of exactly one week ago. Just took pics w/ the wonderful (but always underage) Chris and hisdad Tim - a family of Fibbers fans who can never get into the venues so the soundchecks become mini-concerts for them. Did the same tonight - played "This is a Prayer" and "Fireman Hurley".Sluggo's is pretty funky - like any old rock pad. Upstairs, w/ a gaff tape palace. Hey! Just found out that Chris can stay! Accompanied by adult is the ticket!

   Let's go back to those halcyon days of a few days ago..... The college gig in Tallahassee went pretty well. The flood warning was unwarrented, and the crowd was amazingly attentive. It was also not too small, considering the weather situation. It's the only gig so far where "...Old Man" and "Breaking the Chokehold" were performed in reverent silence. I LOVE that - usually we hear much hubbub from the bar, etc. - the usual bullshit. Jack Drag (who play pretty much the same set each night) sounded a bit tougher in this room - Steve accentuating John's guitar more, which makes them sound a little more rad. But the kids sort of hung back until we played. I became increasingly more surprised to find out that quite a few folks in Florida (all guys, of course) are hip to my music! I gradually formed the impression that the scene here is a bit analagous to Orange County - really hardcore fans generally overlooked if not out and out dissed - who will drive long distances and attend multiple shows of their faves. A grateful bunch.

   Orlando was pretty great - the Sapphire Supper Club, where 3 years ago the Fibbers rocked and T.J. Kirk annoyed (my poor friends and their virtuosis marginalization endeavor).The night I wept just because...well. Anyway, we were treated really well, and the gig was a major sweatfest w/ some mild pit action and even crowd surfing during "Fear"! The Jack Drag boys, one night away from their last gig w/ us, sat in on "The Red & the Black" (Jason on tambourine, which Watt nixed the next night). John just did feedback - "John choked", Watt observed, "but Joe was DOWN!". The place was packed and just felt electric. A pleasant surprise was the appearance of Fibbers internet page svengali Randall Hixson and his delightful kids Lelley and Dylan, plus their friend Paul. Note to all : Hardcore Fibbers fans -all 10 of them - are so NICE and INTELLIGENT. Anyway, Randall scored major points by bringing Bob a copy of the new Keith Moon biography. He was blown! Also, these really funny guys - Keith and Kevin? - both motorcycle racers - came. They had also come to Tallahassee, and are smart, irreverent, tipsy Watt fans. The night was notable for the number of drunken folk wanting to ENDLESSLY TALK and talk... A couple of people apparently jabbered at Steve while he was trying to mix and sing his parts Most memorable crowd holler: "WE like beer!!" Followed by the afterthought, "WE like you, too."

   Forgot Gainesville! Bill's place The Covered Dish. Got a beautiful little care package from sweeheart! Featuring a fab new nail polish, so now I can settle on a proper tour shade - it's a kind of periwinkle. Great! Love her love her love her... Whole day made, the rest of the night was fine. Watt again pleased. The night ended at dawn after a party at a woman named Suzanne's house w/ Joachim Phoenix , the guitarist from a band I've never heard called Space Hog named Antony, his girlfriend (never was introduced), and the Black Gang. Watt got QUITE lit, and both Watt and I at different times got into a heavy rap w/ this Antony fellow, who's going through a real crisis about the BOIZ and his art/identity. Kind of hard for me to really relate to, by I feel for him.I told him that he is the artist, to assume control, etc. He told me that I remind him of Gus Van Sant (!). Suzanne spun great old funk and soul vinyl (a pretty black woman, she), including Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out", the Nile Rogers - produced hit from...?? Anyway, it was cool to hear. Back to the Mo, then on the phone to sweetheart till 7 AM. So logey when we left that I left my special TOUR ZEBRA in the bed. Fuck!!

   St. Petersburg : Went to the Dali museum (saw the Hixson Klan AND Jack Drag there!). Cool and tacky - tons of Dali merch! I was really struck by an early self-portrait - haunting Salvador in a wide-brimmed hat and a pipe. We dug it... The theater was pretty big (and, upon arrival, filled w/the dreaded fog - thankfully never used!). Last Jack Drag set, and they seemed to really get over. They sat in again - this time Jason played floor tom and cymbal ("He was off to the races!" - Watt). The show was pretty cool - I really went off on"Liberty Calls"and spilled my fluids all over my wah wah. Watt seemed pleased overall. Photos w/ the Hixsons, chats w/ more Fibbers fans, and goodbye to the wet carpet in the van! Steve was really so pleased (but it turns out that Bob's new drum heads got left). Stayed w/ a fellow named Steve - a taper fanboy who got drunk in Gainesville and tried to get Steve to let him sing on his mike! A nice guy, though. Too bad he didn't have any towels.. Partied a bit w/ some friends of his - a rather in-your-face fellow (quite the stoner) and his girlfriend. Another late night. Traveled in fullstench mode the next day. Mmmmmm!!!

   West Palm Beach : What IS it about beach communities? After driving through the bourgeois sector we finally found Ray's - a blues bar resplenbent w/ pics of Duane Allman, Stevie Ray, Robert Johnson, Muddy... Watt really dug the wacky paintings onstage of Muddy, B.B., Robert Johnson, And Stevie Ray (hmmm... not quite MY pantheon). The waitresses were a trip - one VERY chesty one drank the entire time we were ther and never seemed drunk (though she certainly was no rocket scientist), another pulled up w/ her sqeeze on a motorcycle wearing Levis torn so as to reveal most of her naked buttcheeks. Classy! The place was a challenge : a speaker hung right hear my head - actually, next to and below my head - and I only hit it once! The P.A. was toy, the crowd was noisy. I sweat so much I looked as though I had jumped into a pool, clothes and all, Watt, who seemed grumpy earlier, seemed pleased afterwards. The opening band The Mute-Ants,were what Watt aptly called "coloringbook punk". REALLY unimagiative. Driving out 30+ miles to the mo Watt got intoone of his amazing fever-brain philosophical/metaphorical jags. "The final battleground is of IDEAS!" "When are we actual?" "What we do hear will have reverbereations!" "WHERE ARE THE COURAGEOUS?! IS IT ALL JUST PAINT-BY-NUMBERS?!" I paraphrase.

   Random thoughts: Every night Watt has Coltrane on the P.A., before and after (SUN SHIP and A LOVE SUPREME, respectively) . At first I didn't get it, but like the opera it's all part of Watt's challenge? inspiration - sincere and no pose. And for me it saves my sanity nightly to hear this music instead of some altrock swill right when one is immersed in Watt's "reverberations".

   --- Met a nice fellow named Hugh who came ON THE BUS from Miami to both Orlando and West Palm Beach!! A Fibbers fan, too.

   --- Watt's van is beginning to lose the moisture stench . Never did get to see whether or not mushrooms would grow in there.

   --- Watt has funny paradoxes. One morning he was typically READY TO GO but looped around to make sure Steve snapped a shot of a sign (my current fave) that read FACT-O-BAKE Auto Body. He likes the curtains in the van neatlyrolled, but as for the rest of the van, well.... He's been so funny, ARGH! We enjoy wordplay, and his history knowledge and character voices/personae delight me.

   --- Steve Reed is amazing, doing it all: sound, vocals, driving (though Watt does the lionshare) and tons of documentation w/ Watt's digital camera - an wondrous invention. "Snap that!", Watt bursts out as a weird road sign approaches, and Steve does, later meticulously listing each shot in a notebook. Yay, Steve!

   --- At least these diaries will not have all the typos of my previous diaries because I'M TYPING THEM! (My endless ones from '95 were handwritten and later put on floppy by my old neighbor who had to try to read my printing and intentional misspellings, word creations, arcane references. I never read them 'cause I wanted to deny them in some way, and I left on tour w/ the (beloved) Geraldine Fibbers. These diaries will also hopefully not have so much reckless daydreaming and delusional meandering - I'm rather different now, and so is this tour, this music.

   --- The people here are really bugging me, so au revoir for now.Gotta play, anyway. Long drive tomorrow, and I'm ready to say goodbye to the swelter and surreality of Florida. More later.

from bob lee:

   back to pensacola to make the gig we got flooded out of a week ago. blown away by the fact that a father and 16 year old son (tim and chris respectively) hAve come from mobile, an hour away, just to watch us soundcheck! luckily they allow chris to stay even though he's two years too young. I have a good talk with him about bands (he's in one called xbxrx), getting gigs, etc. chris has been putting on gigs in a local friend's living room! "well I figured I can keep complaining about nothing good happening or I can make something happen." sounds like a true punker to me (even tho I have no no idea what his band sounds like.) very encouraged to see this kind of enthusiasm! go chris! the crowd tonight is very hard to get a rise from, although plenty come up to congratulate us at the end, for the whole set it seemed like we weren't getting over. still pretty good.

from steve reed:

   make up show for missing it last monday. bazooka has played here before so I know this place pretty good. the sound system was poor, but for some reason it wounded pretty good. the crowd was too noisy for me and unfocussed but the performance was still great.

from watt:

   we gotta drive over six hundred miles to get up to florida's panhandle and make up that gig we lost in pensacola due to hurricane geroges. the pad is called "sluggo's" and I played the old one years ago w/fIREHOSE. lots and lots of hours to get there but we get there early anyway. it's a trip seeing the stuff w/the weather all clear from where we'd been w/the winds and rain all raging. trees knocked down, the sides of the roads still swamped and flooded. we pass up through orlando, then gainesville, turn west at tallahassee - past the towns we just played to get to pensy. it's right on the border w/alabama. this is the finale for our eight days in florida.

   the boss here is named terry and she's got a band too, who's gonna tour soon w/our buddy spot on fiddola (that's what he calls his viola). spot's amazing, he can play anything he wants. anyway, we do soundcheck and then I talk w/terry and dave (who's working the bar and is in her band also) about my idea of the state of affairs of punk, where it's been - where I'd like to see it go and what I'm doing about it. they probably think I'm insane. some thirty kids are at the front door, they think "swing dance lessons night" is still on and not cancelled due to the watt gig. terry breaks their hearts by breaking the news. some of them start doing their swing stuff right in the parking lot, it's a trip. I take a walk around the pad, it's in the old part of the city. funny mason lodge, all gingerbread house looking. lots of old, beaten waterlogged buildings, very old south in their construction. the air is all full of wet and muggy, muggy, muggy. I go to the van for the pre-gig konk and sweat to fucking death in there. there's just no mercy. I have intense nightmares about some type of persecution but wake up in sweat moments before we go on and remember no particulars. I completely miss the openers, _eugene swank_ who I see have a stand-up bass up against the wall the must've used for the set. bob lee says is was like _reverend horton heat_, I'll take his word.

   the way sluggo's is laid out is a bar downstairs and the playing part up two stairs w/a pool room in between. everything's beat to hell but I dig it. good vibe, reminds me of the old days. there is a vibe though that I get when we start playing that I don't dig. sort of like an in-crowd thing that's suffocating. even in a small town like this, can you believe it? these aren't cats used to fucking w/the status quo of forms, I can tell. we soldier on though and at the end of the piece they ask us back for more. the more subdued cats now feel brave enough to speak their piece. sometimes it works out that way and the shallow hip thing doesn't win out. after being kind of bummed now I'm way in to moving it out hard. we play a bunch of tunes and finally it's time to bail - I mean it's a work night and folks gotta konk for the next day. me, I'm all fired up now w/adrenalin and want to talk w/the workers of the pad there and see what's up. we're like spieling for hours about all kinds of intenes shit and I'm digging it - no fronting at all, just everyone laughing themselves silly about the trippyness of how the shit in this world gets hooked up and the hustles that get run. there's a cat there who now can't remember his name who's really going for it - this cat's relating books, movies, bands, songs - everything. he's great. wish I could remember his name. fucking alzheimer's. finally I gotta bail too, it's like five am and we got athens tomorrow - four hundred plus miles. at the mo-six I konk w/my eyeballs itching like dried-up leather baseballs, all scratching in their sockets. damn.

tuesday, october 6, 1998 - athens, ga

from bob lee:

   back at the 40 watt club, always a pleasure. have befriended a few of the locals here, and in atlanta, including hiro noodles (king of men, he sent me a copy of the neil young/ devo film "human highway" and a great neil tape from 76, also his own cd which I recall being good), todd from low yo-yo stuff records (he taped us a copy of "doc at the radar station" so we can learn "hot head" and "carrot"), mark and lindsey from atlanta (they have seen every show I've done in georgia with watt or claw hammer since 1992) and the gang from c-11 club/ house in atlanta where we stayed this past spring (they have a d. boon shrine built into the wall.) also my good friend dave anderson has moved out here from my old home turf of lambertville, new jersey, and I spend most of the evening talking to him backstage, missing the opening set by trona, who have lost a member and (obvious even from a distance) changed their sound considerably since I saw them in pittsburgh five months ago. gig tonight is especially good, once we get past a shaky beginning, possibly from audio weirdness/ unfamiliarity after having played pretty small stages for the last week. immediately after we play, as I am stumbling around trying to find a drink, two people come up and ask me very weird questions... a guy saw my (southern culture on the skids) t-shirt which says "hillbilly" on the front, and asked me if the design was copyrighted ("well I didn't make it so I don't know." "oh, you don't know if they copyrighted it it?" he asks me this three times. I mean... do I look like a fucking copyright register?), then another guy comes up straightaway and asks if I get royalties on the records I've been on and how much. who comes up to someone sweating their ass off and stumbling around from exhaustion and asks them these things? I'm pretty fried after a 2 hour gig and can't say much besides "thanks!" to people who say "good show!" we crash with 40 watt owner barrie buck and her boyfriend doug at their lovely home and trip out on doug's collection of vintage popeye memorabilia.

from steve reed:

   another one of my favorite clubs. we've done a lot of shows at both location and they're always great. good people, good sound, great vibe. it's a rainy night but we still had a great tunout. I called home to see how things are going and my mother gave me devastating news!! I can't talk about it but I will work it out over the phone and when I return. it never fails. we stayed at the bosses beautiful home and I have plenty of pictures.

from watt:

   we get going early to get up to georgia. it's a six hour haul and we're gonna lose an hour w/the time zone change. everyone's konked quick after they pile in and I'm manning the meat wagon. no prob though, I'm an early man and I'll do the konk when mr. reed takes over. w/my lack of sueno there's no way I can do this whole enchilada. I get us through florida and alabama and then hand the helm over. riding in the van all these years makes it easy for watt to konk in the van even if it's moving. I just let go of my muscles and let the flow of the row tug my ragdoll ass around, I don't care. what's important is the sueno and the recharging of my fucking batteries so I don't get sick and have enough gas to put my foot through the fucking thing when it's gig time. this is also the purpose of the after soundcheck konk in the van (boat) before the gig but you knew that. usually I'm doing all the driving so I don't have a turn at konking while we're rolling but when it comes to the long hauls, I share the hell w/steve reed. just makes sense.

   we're playing the "forty watt" club (good name for this idiot to be playing at, huh?) in athens tonight. we always have a good time here, they got great folks working it. barrie's the boss and there's a new lieutenant named aron cuz rud now is trying to start a bar in nyc. good luck, g. opening tonight is _trona_ which is a boston band that did a gig w/us last tour. they used to sound like _x_ but now the lady in the band is cut and they're a trio. don't know what they're gonna sound like now. probably still won't know due to the konkage I just got to get done if I want play well. anyways, we're in luck cuz the cat who's got the record store right in front of the pad has a cassette of the captain's "doc at the radar station." now nels can learn "a carrot's as close to a rabbit that a diamond gets" and we can all nail down "hot head." when tour's done I want to do a seven inch w/nels' piece that we do after the opera ("this is a prayer") on the a side and the beef's "a carrot's..." on the b side. I wanna record the b side live during the tour and the a side after the town at wayne pete's pad where nels has recorded many of his trio's seven inchers. I want a document of this tour, you know? it means that much to me.

   I do some spiel on the phone for some upcoming gigs and then it's konksville in the van and yes, another rerun - it's a fucking swelter in there. I get weird nightmares about all kinds of insecurities that are undefinable but not blurry enough not to scare the shit out of me. both the dreams and the heat wake me up crazy just moments before gig time. how does my body know it's time to pop? fuck if I know but I grap a bag of shirts, get the bass and get on up to do the piece. my team's all in place, they are so good at getting the shit together quick. great. these folks in athens are down and very happening to play for. the piece is full flow and we do tons of songs after and end up playing over two hours! I haven't done shit like this ever in my life, playing this long and doing all the spiel on top of it, damn! sure is a trip. I guess all the gigs I've done in this life have added up to get me to here. I'm a lucky man. I would've never thought shit was gonna work out the way it has but it has, huh? I'll give my brain a cramp if I think about it too much so I better just let it go for now.

   some cats from the tallhassee gig (the ones who race motorcycles) came to see us up here and I end up spieling the longest time w/them 'till we have just got to go. barrie's gonna have us stay at her pad and her boyfriend doug is waiting to lead us on. he's got work in the morning and it's fucked to keep him waiting. I tell him I'm sorry and that I just get caught up w/the post-gig adrenalin running and shit. I havent been there for like almost ten years. it is one incredible pad, all old w/tons of rooms and non-track home stuff, you know - one of a kind design. it is righteous. four in the morning though and I got no time to talk so I just climb up into the pilot house and konk on the hardwood floor up there. it's a square room w/a big window in each wall (taking up almost the whole wall), that's why I call it a pilot house, like on a boat. the sky just opens up then and starts pouring the rain down. the roof is metal so you can imagine the sounds. it's intense but hypnotic and puts me right out. not before I feel this rubbing on my back and I think it's a cat but I look and there's no cat anywhere. I wonder if this pad's got a ghost? gotta ask barrie tomorrow.

wednesday, october 7, 1998 - charlotte, nc

from bob lee:

   our opener tonight is danielle howles, a somewhat hyper solo performer who plays sweet and endearing folk songs and has an appealing tendency to introduce the songs for minutes longer than the songs themselves are. like our last trip here, we play to a relatively small but very enthusiastic bunch and have one of our best shows yet, especially the end bit. mike throws us for a loop and breaks out with "maggot brain" and "my secret garden", neither one of which we've played yet. "maggot brain" isn't so much of a problem as "garden", wherein mike tries to teach me the beat while we're playing and I never do really get it right. must do better next time cause I really like that song, especially as done by the madonnabes. penny, the owner of tremont music hall, is a great lady and I encourage all bands to check out charlotte. as I'm walking offstage to take a piss and wash off a young guy comes up and says "hey... would you ask mike to play 'down with the bass'?" I just say, "uh.. no!" and go walking off. under calmer circumstances I might've explained that we don't know that song and anyway mike doesn't want to do firehose or minutemen songs anymore cos he doesn't want to be, as he puts it, b.t.o. with only the original bass player still going "what song do you wanna hear? 'taking care of business'? alright!"... in fact I do explain this to him later after I've cooled off... but those first few moments after finishing, dripping wet, heart still racing, is not a good time to engage me in conversation more detailed than "hey- good show!"

from steve reed:

   penny is a great person, boss to work for. the last time we played here we had about forty people!! this time much more!! I like this place.

from watt:

   man, do I wake up w/a gut ache. it must've been the chow I ate yesterday, it was stuff I usually I don't do like cold boiled peanuts in the morning, hot pork cracklins in the afternoon and then falafel w/babagonouch (sp?). I seriously think it was the pork cracklins and the pain is enormous and incredible. I wake up like at five-thirty am and just lay on the deck, hurting. I just got to walk this one off so I get up, lay in the tub for a little bit and then head out the hatch and start hoofing it around town. of course, it's still raining but w/this pain I just gotta move. I get a little wet but mainly walk under the big trees. let me tell you, I'm almost doubled-over, people. I find a gas station and get some seven-up and drink that to get some belching going. if I can burp this gas shit up, I'll be way better. forgot to say but when I did the bath I also blasted some heavy blowout too. I mean the shit ran (flew) like water. water under pressure. ok, broth shooting like an aerosol spray. anyway, that part of the body is hurting too. believe it or not, the belching really helps and my stomach is finally stopping w/the rising yeast effect. thank god for the small mercies.

   easy drive to charlotte, the rain backs down to a drizzle. before we bail out of town though, we gotta stop at the only mac pad in athens cuz five of the keys on my duo (the 1, 2, w, s and x keys) are now dead and I gotta to get an external keyboard. this pad's in the woods and the cat sells it to me for thirty-five dollars, no prob.

   I really dig this place in charlotte called the "tremont music hall" and the boss penny. really, really good folks here and it's a pleasure to work for them. last time they booked me at the last minute cuz of a columbia, sc gig falling through, good people. I am so tired from the gut war that I just gotta konk and penny lets me use a back room and this motherfucker is out quick. I totally miss the opening act which is a solo thing by a lady named _daniella_ where she sings, tells little stories and plays the acoustic guitar. I wake moments before gig time but bob lee says she was great. some cat from _vintage guitar_ magazine interviewed nels and his peddles and I bet he dug that. I'm so proud of nels, he is tits, total. let other folks find out about him, that's what I say. one thing I gotta say is right before I konked penny got me this burrito w/some sauce that she said was "blisterring hot." first off, I could tell it wasn't latino made and odds were good some hippie pad made it cuz the thing was so luke warm (in temperature) it was obvious as hell. she said the cat made the sauce special hot but this must be a relative thing cuz the shit was tame! the burrito itself was ok but a little funky, I tell you things like bugs and germs get killed when you heat the shit up, both with temperature and with spice. this fact folks will hopefully pick up on, probably when some familia moves down here. it's one of the things I truly dig about pedro too (besides the geography).

   the gig is intense and I dig bringing the piece to folks who obviously really want to hear it. so much enthusiasm for such a weird thing like me and my opera. nels is wailing like a motherfucker and bob lee is tearing up his drums. these guys are great. once the piece gets done, we play another hour worth of encores and finally es todo. brian cullinan, an old bud and columbia comrade talks a while w/me and I enjoy it thoroughly. didn't know he was there until we were done. there's a cat there named dustin who I met last time and he works at a comic book place and we get talking about _the watchmen_ series by alan moore. we both really dig it - it's about how the superheroes are all turning fascist and imploding. great shit. he says he wants to turn me on to _the invisibles_ so I give him my e-mail address and look forward to that read. what a funny man but w/a good heart. I thank penny many times and we bail for the mo-six where I can do some catch-up konk, big time.

thursday, october 8, 1998 - carrboro, nc

from bob lee:

   I'd been looking forward to this stop so I could get a sailor suit at the navy surplus across the street from cat's cradle, but their latest shipment of sailor stuff must've come from the midget brigade. big news for today, ed crawford is here! joins us onstage for "red & black". as a big firehose fan, this is a big honor & pleasure for me to be a part of. I haven't seen ed since the last firehose gig in san pedro, which was one of the most upsetting shows I've ever been to. very heavy emotions flowing from the stage that night, uncomfortable to watch knowing those guys and a bit of the history. anyway, I'm really glad to see those guys hanging out & getting along again. we play another good, long one tonight & stay with mac from superchunk and his lady friend andrea, checking out jazz books and answering email.

from steve reed:

   I got a great haircut here at the midway barber shop. nels bought a navy uniform at the surplus store across the street for halloween. ed crawford showed up at soundcheck and mike asked him to play "the red and the black" as an encore w/the black gang. he played great and it was great to see him and watt together again. we stayed at mac's house way out in the country.

from watt:

   tiny ride to carrboro to play the legendary "cat' cradle." I've played three versions of this pad (the first two in the town next store to here, chapel hill) and really dig it. great man named frank heath runs it and it is pure joy to play for him. I look forward to giving it my all each time I come around to his pad. the location is great too, right next to a laundrymat. why can't it always be this way? I have only one outfit left and this washing of the stench is just in time. thank you, lady luck. the hot, moist thing is starting to subside too - I can dig that. right across the street is an army surplus so I get my costume for halloween in minnesota - an enlisted man's sailor suit. funny thing is that all the winter blues in the store are from the german navy so I gotta go w/summer whites. fuck it, it'll do.

   I finally get some time to do my first batch of post cards of the tour. usually I do these every week or ten days but the storm and other shit put a kink in that plan. while I'm writing them up, who shows up? edward, my old bandmate from fIREHOSE. it's a great thing to see him and he's looking great. we haven't seen each other in a while and do some catching up. he helped a band called _whiskeytown_ for a little bit but had to bail when it got jive and now has his own band called _grand national_ that has just started doing gigs. I tell him all about the paths I've gone down since we were last playing and where I feel I've been and where I'm going and why. edward's always been great about hearing me out and it doesn't take a lot of explaining w/him, he toured w/me for seven and half straight years and knows this idiot pretty well. it really, really feels good to see him. I ask him to come back later and play "the red and the black" w/us after the opera. I think it's happening I get to play the piece for him and he wants to see it. means a big bunch to watt.

   tonight's the first pre-gig konk I do in the van where it ain't a swelter. I give up the thanks happily. that shit was killing me. the fall comes slow to florida and texas but it's here now in north carolina. I wonder if them pads ever get one or does it just go to winter? I should know these things after all these tours but that's stuff a flannel-wearing man likes to forget fast. I wake up to the sound of _daddy_, who opens up the show. they're locals and the have an incredibly huge fucking sound. they only play like seventeen minutes but it's one hell of a maelstrom. reminds me sort of _black flag_ but even more over the top. even though I didn't see them, I heard the whole set through the walls of the van (boat). I thought they were great. I pass out right after they're done however and wake up just as it's gig time - what a surprise! this is shit is uncanny, damn. anyway, no time to figure that shit out now - it's opera time.

   we rev up the piece and I'm intent on doing it good for edward. nels and bob lee are in great form and working it like a motherfucker. you gotta see nels do the solo in "liberty calls!" toy ray guns, egg whiskers, lug nut covers, everything. it's quite a dance he does. bob lee's really gotta a good feel for his solo in "...old man" now. towards the end, during the dream songs like "...choke hold" and "shore duty" some guy is yelling for some old song of mine and I just want to tell him to can it but hold focus and stay dedicated to the piece. I'm only doing this opera one more tour, can't they just hold on and let us do it? of course, the magic of alcohol must be involved somehow, I'm guessing. he probably does mean it but damn, is it distracting. he goes on and on but I ignore him. when we finish and come back to for encores I ask everyone "why." of course I'm really talking to him but make it general. I say one way to really get attention is to get a band and do gigs. or write a book or paint a picture. but to try and wreck a piece by bogarting on it, why? maybe it's a test for me to see if I can really dedicate myself to the opera. if it is, I've been really tested all year. hope it makes me stronger - I think it will. I call edward up and we do the blue oyster cult song I've played since I was thirteen. edward really cooks on it - just like we were playing it together yesterday, he doesn't miss a note or a beat. I wonder when's the last time he's played it? the last fIREHOSE gig was like four and half years ago! nels gives edward all the solos. it's a blast to play it again w/him, he's standing next to me, doing the background singing in my mic along w/me. watt is very happy to be here tonight. the crowd really cheers edward as he leaves the stage and we do a bunch of songs fIREHOSE used to listen to in the van doing all those tours. after we're done edward says he got a kick out of hearing all those tunes again. he also says he dug the opera which really means a lot to me. I thank him many times. jon wurster and mac of _superchunk_ are here too and it's great to see them. we end up staying at mac's pad in the woods and it's great. he's got a new label besides _merge_ called _wr_ (for wobbly rail) that's putting out jazz and improv stuff. ain't it funny how the connect between punk and jazz ain't so far away? nels and mac talk for hours but I can't hang much longer than drinking some beam and saying hi to the three cats (one even purrs like a pigeon!) and then konking hard on the deck of mac's pad.

friday, october 9, 1998 - charlottesville, va

from bob lee:

   tonight we play at a sushi bar! my favorite dish, all we can eat, fresh & great & a prefect pre-gig meal. light, high in protein and smeared heavily with wasabi, infamous for its ability to produce intense cocaine-like rushes and numerous bowel movements which get gradually softer & warmer. perhaps I have said too much. well anyway, scrawl is here! marcy broke her collarbone and fucked up her shoulder in a bike accident a few weeks ago but is soldiering on like a champ. the first band is called supertanker, which leads me to expect loud indie rock but in fact they are rhythmically skewed groove pop, very unique, with a great drummer. what a pleasure! local opening acts are very hit or miss, sometimes you get a cool one but more often, a cookie cutter impression of whatever the new popular music is. luckily we haven't gotten any zoot suit wearing swing bands yet. this is why mike likes to hand-pick his openers or at least have booking agent steve kaul, who has pretty good taste, pick them. it's very inspiring to have a good band on right before our own set. so it's great to have scrawl back with us, they play well despite marcy's pain and break out a few new songs. our show is by far the longest of the tour, sixteen encore songs and a couple long spiels from watt, close to two and a half hours. for added inspiration, a beautiful woman dances right in front of the stage all night, and I have a great talk with her afterwards (hi lindsey!) to add to the hospitality, promotor aaron takes us back to his house and we chill in a jacuzzi drinking bourbon almost till the sun comes up. what a guy, what a place. rock is indeed a blessing and I feel very blessed, as well as pretty drunk, taking in the lush virginia scenery with hot water bubbling up and down my back.

from steve reed:

   "tokyo rose" - it's a sushi bar!! upstairs sushi, downstairs rock!! scrawl opened the show and the gang played an awsome two and a half hour set!! it was great!! after the show we stayed at aaron's. it's a beautiful home and we jacuzzied under the stars. the night was beautiful and the water felt great! aaron, you're great people and family, thank you.

from watt:

   up off the deck and the first thing for me is a walk through these woods where mac's pad is. the road's called old nc-86 and the fucking trucks are wailing by so fast and heavy that they're blowing my ass over. damn. I walk on the side where they're coming at me so at least I got a small chance of getting the fuck into the trees before the blow-by. damn, it's either on the road in the van or on foot w/these big trucks fucking w/my life. relentless. anyway, the woods out here are great and I really dig it. then I see this possum on the road that's been hit and killed. they're trippy looking to begin with but these guy's got his mouth open w/those little pointy teeth jutting out and his tongue is like frozen all stuck out but w/some semi-folds in it. it's really creepy and gives me the geebies. the reality of this mortal coil can be heavy and I can't shake loose the image of that dead possum from mind. finally, I have to turn around and head back to mac's to gather the team but I can't shake that scene. damn.

   we say bye to mac and andrea then head out using mac's advice of taking nc-86 (which turns from the "old" to the "new" one down a ways) and then up to charlotesville, va via us-29. fuck going east to catch the interstate and then backtracking back to catch the college town and besides, that interstate drive is kind of lame, sight-wise while the us-29 is one righteous haul going through the rolling hills of virginia. lots of tiny towns and farms w/green and fall colors all laid out it the most happening way. fast road too. we get up to town in no time and head for the club, "tokyo rose," a new one for me in this town.

   the pad is downstairs from a sushi place and the cat putting on the gig is aaron, who's really happening. he's still building the stage and putting a door on the head when we come in. the cat who owns the whole place is atshushi and he's got an apprentice named tom (who's pop was from virginia but he was born and raised in japaan) who'll later make us sushi. now when I eat sushi, I play intense. I maybe eat it four or five of times a year - I should eat it more. the protein really wails on me and my body just goes for it. tom fixes me up a rainbow roll (my favorite) plus all kinds of stuff like mirugai (giant clam), ikura (salmon eggs), tako (octopus), hamachi (tuna) and buch others 'til I'm fucking ready to pop! I'm stuffed. off to the van to konk, big time!

   I miss the opening band _supertanker_ which is fucked cuz bob lee said they were really happening. _scrawl_ is next and it's their first of eight gigs w/us. they're old friends of mine from ohio (via ed fROMOHIO) and are a great band. I'm still konked so I miss them too. damn. I get up just before downbeat time (no shvitz again - we trulyy are outof that region of the country at last) and go downstairs - the place is packed. all red painted cinderblock and w/a good spirit to bring out the opera. it's great bringing it to the cats there and nels along w/bob lee are kicking up some major dust, they're incredible. I soak the whole outfit and when it comes to encore time, we do all but a couple songs we know. we end up playing almost three hours but it seems like fucking moments - that god damn sushi! what a fun gig. you know, I was born in virginia and spent time there as a boy (by the water - born in portsmouth and lived in norfolk) and there's a great spirit I'm feeling like when I was in italy and playing for my ma's people. it's funny that way, huh? I feel genuine about what I'm doing and for a moment, doubt subsides. damn.

   when everything's done, aaron offers up his pad for us to konk in and when head further up us-29. his pad has got one of those big outdoor bathtubs that has jets bubbling up streams of water under you and sooner than before you know it - me, bob lee, steve reed and aaron are sitting in this thing - outside in the cool virginia fall, under the stars and a full moon - not even cold ourselves cuz the water is all broisted up. it's a trip, never did this before. I drink some beam, we do some talking and then it's out and towled down w/every muscle of watt all putty and I hit the deck hard but limp enough to collapse into a puddle ready for the konk this longest of gigs I think I've ever have done deserves.

saturday, october 10, 1998 - washington dc

from bob lee:

   welcome team new england, dave and fred from lond island, new york, who will be taping the next five or six gigs. tonight is the last gig with trona, who have been playing as their alter ego, the ray corvair trio for the last few gigs, surfy instrumentals. while shooting photos of scrawl from the front row, I notice another photographer, which turns out to be my childhood pal dave carpenter, the guy who first played minutemen and meat puppets for me back in 1984. I'd lost touch with him completely for several years until we played here with sonic youth in may and he happenned to be at the show. tonight is a bad show for me, due to the strange acoustics onstage I cannot hear a thing from my drumset unless I hit the drums at ear-piercing volume, which makes it hard to play with any precision. "bad" gigs are hard, especially when someone comes up to say, "hey, good playing!" "no it wasn't, you fucking idiot!" but everyone else seems to like it including mike. it's hard to figure one's own self-consciousness. how self critical is appropriate? where to draw a line between taking pride in ones work and beating oneself's head into one's wall over a "bad" gig? ultimately not much to do but work on it for tomorrow's gig.

from steve reed:

   our good friend from delaware has joined us for two shows. we've known chris lausch for several years and he has become one of our best friends on tour. scrawl was cool and the gang was great and ian from fugazi came to the show. he loved it!!

from watt:

   wake up and aaron's ma, linda is cooking us up chow - omlettes w/ham aaron has just got from up the road and it's great! apple butter made by the town's church social too. fantastic! these folks are something else. we trade all kinds of stories about funny stuff and then it's time to bail, glad for the good times. much luck to aaron down the road. we're off to this country's capitol but first we gotta take nels to the shrine the masons built washington in alexandria.

   we get done w/this ritual (nels even got a key chain - the "triple tao") and then head for the "black cat," a pad run by dante where I'v played many times and dig it much. right before soundcheck we gotta go to the npr building and I have to record a segment w/them regarding bob mould and his life of music. they ask me to pick songs from his past and talk about them. I choose stuff like " something I learned today," "newest industry," "I hate alternative rock" and "divide and conquer" - shit like that. I love bob and dig talking up his tunes and his sounds. I still remember when me and d. boon put out the first husker album on our own _new alliance_ label back in '81, it was called "land speed record." put that label together w/$300 of our work money. much love and respect to bob.

   we do soundcheck and the I hit the van for the pre-gig konk cuz I am tired as a dog. I konk for almost four hours. easy now that the climate's a lot more easy to deal with. no more shvitz in the van. I miss both _scrawl_ and _trona_ (who are called _ray corvair trio_ now and do all instrumentals) and wake up just in time to do the mission. I head in w/a bag of shirts and my bass and walk right up to the stage, toss down the bag, throw the dino hat on top of that, pop the bass case, sling the boom tube and begin the piece. the monitors here are incredible. the cat doing sound took a giant sidefill and pointed it at me, just like a half a p.a. and along w/the wedges, blasted watt w/watt. it was great! best I ever had a made the whole thing a joy to do. the cats in the crowd were very much w/us and I was very into it. lots of encores later, we get done and I thank everyone so much for having an open mind and letting me do the opera three times this year in their town. I explain how important it is to me emotionally and how grateful I am to have nels, bob lee and steve reed help me realize this piece and of course, them for having a broad enough scope to let this idiot do his dance and tell his story. kathi from _bikini kill_ is there so it's great playing "rebel girl" for her and dedicating it to "women on bass." ian's there and so is guy so I sock it up twice as hard for them too. especially when we do _the pop group_'s "we are time" and _roky erickson_'s "I have always been here before." this is one happening gig. dante's girlfriend even made some veggie maki (like a california roll) so it's almost like sushi twice in as many days! me and dante have laughs about the whole trip and then I gotta go. we roll up to laurel via the washington-baltimore parkway which has an exit for the nsa - scary place, we keep on driving. team new england (fred and dave) are right behind us and they gotta be laughing as we backtrack some miles on the outer loop due to some navigation foul up (still much respect to mr. reed) and finally we get to the mo-six at like four am! damn, am I tired and you know what happens next: I konk and konk hard.


sunday, october 11, 1998 - philadelphia, pa

from bob lee:

   my hometown! or close anyway, I grew up about about an hour north of here in new jersey and this is where I saw most of my early big rock gigs, ranging from the doobie brothers to the grateful dead to pat benatar to u2 to emerson, lake and powell ("so... why are you nostalgic for this place again?" I hear you ask. hey we ain't all born cool, and anyway most of the punk gigs I saw were in trenton or new york or ohio anyway. philly was never big on all ages gigs) in an article I read about bon jovi's stature as the figurehead of new jersey rock (c. 1988), it said "the capital of jovi's jersey is philadelphia." and that's pretty true, the philadelphia spectrum is where rock happenned. as two girls once argued to me in our discussion about music, "how many of your favorite bands have played the spectrum? all of ours have, scorpions, ozzy, maiden, loverboy, billy squier.." at the time I could have answered "the who, the kinks, the stones, pink floyd, uhhh...." and not much else. it took me until I was 20 to appreciate black sabbath, ac/dc and led zeppelin due to the negative influence of such insensitive cretins. precocious youngster that I was, I was listening to king crimson and genesis - well they played the spectrum but not when they were "good", but rather after they "started" sucking - and stuff like clash, jam and talking heads. I got no respect. I got trouble for my roxy music t-shirt from the def leppard guys, but not as much as took for wearing it to hardcore gigs two years later. so... why AM I nostalgic for this place? well, my mom is here, and we are playing on south street, the good place to go shopping. I spent over a hundred bucks on records here last time. this time around, having spent buttloads of cash on equipment that has been forgotten either at home or at the clubs on the way (nothing serious, just extra heads & sticks), I have been more conservative. I almost bought a copy of neil young's soundtrack to "where the buffalo roam" but didn't have $10 on me so fuck it. (anyone who could tape this for me write bobzilla77@hotmail.com. I'm also looking for "on the beach" on vinyl.) tonight's show is part of a jim beam promotion, so before we step up onstage, the beam girls come out and throw out beam hats and shirts, many of which are thrown right back at them. "let the products sell themselves!" I can hear the audience screaming. good gig tonight, definitely great to see my mom again. she is very impressed by mike's use of rhythm, and actually picked up on "crossing the equator" being like a meditation, where thoughts come bubbling up from, and back down under, the mantra. (mike actually wrote it as a dream sequence but the metaphor still works.) great audience tonight, and the well-wishers after the show help us load out in record time. back at motel 6 I get to see the last ten minutes of "this is spinal tap", reminding me again to have a good time all the time.

from steve reed:

   the jim beam girls loved scrawl. I had some sound problems with scrawl but I worked them out. rick and sandra from my old band _hipnotic beat_ came to the show. the show was nearly sold out. mom called me from home with news about my current situation back home. things are about the same and starting to get a little bit better and clearer in my mind about the future plans.

from watt:

   morning time and I get up sore as a motherfucker. damn, my fingers are as big around as presidente-sized cigars. swollen like a bloated mississippi, my joints are. stiff and hurting, I force myself on my morning walk and get on up to an auto parts store to get us a new radio antenna cuz this one got bent by some pecker and is about to come off and I can't have someone get that shit in their face on the freeway, can I? it's one of those econo ones that just clamps on the base of your broke-off original. it's sunny and great fall weather, the best time for being on the east coast in my opinon. not sweaty, not cold and lots of bitchin' bright colors.

   I roust the cats and we make the short hop through baltimore and wilmington (the delaware one, not the one next to pedro) to philadelphia and get there early. that's good cuz it lands us in a perfect parking space right outside the pad on south street (a phily cross between haight and melrose) which is called the "pontiac grill" and is a place new for watt gigs. a simple bar w/a stage in the back, there are no mysteries here. a great cat named sam is behind the bar and he was in the navy so he's got lots of stories to tell watt. I listen up and dig it. he's from west virginia but spent his sailor time in san diego and since he was a corpsman, had to spend time w/marines. arrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhh! it's ok, it's worth a bunch of laughs and we're both having a good time. he's got some of this black label beam and it's good. later, chris from delaware comes around and shows me a place he likes and tells me about him being young and going to college in this town (temple) and his early punk days. I do some diary and then it's time to hit the hay.

   wake and then ready to play but first I gotta call this number this cat gave me and tell his bro happy b-day but the bro is bagging some serious wind and I can't get through the busy tone. damn. I leave a message w/the phone company, I wonder if that shit works? anyway, time to get going and even though it's a few minutes past downbeat time, I ain't late cuz these "beam girls" have been trying to pass shit out from the stage to the crowd. the crowd's throwing it back at them! t-shirts and frat hats and shit like that. damn, it's surreal - shit like this at a watt show. they're in little pants (shorts) and tied-up shirts. one of them tells bob lee she wants to be an actress. I just sling the bass around me and start giving it the go. there are many parallel universes in this world. I wonder if they knew I drink beam? no matter now, it's the piece that has to get delivered and I focus hard. john coltrane spent much time in this city and you can feel the spirit. nels is fantastic as is bob lee (who's ma is in the crowd) and we dish it up intense. we play and play until finally we got to end it and then I talk w/a bunch of cats after about all kinds of things. these gigs seem sometimes like they are never over but over they have to be and soon we say bye to sam and all the cats there and head over the delaware to new jersey cuz the mo-six is in mount laurel there. the deck can't reach up fast enough to grap my tired ass and bear-hug me down into a heavy konk cuz I'm already there. dig? damn.

read week 2 of the tour diary

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