Tour Diary: Days 11-12, Los Angeles (pt. 2) & Fresno

zz_converseI must admit that it is tough to write this final tour diary entry from the comfort of my dining room.  There is something about typing out these entries in the van, at a cafe, or in someone else’s kitchen that lends the whole process a sense of immediacy and authenticity.  Now I am just relating tales of things past, like an aged man capturing his memoirs for posterity.  But relate I must!  For you, the fans, wait hungrily for details of the final tour dates.  Wait no more: they are here.

When we last spoke, it was our day of rest.  No gig, no travel.  We all thought we would be whisked away by our many Los Angeles friends to pool parties and other prototypical Hollywood affairs, but as it turned out we spent the whole day sitting around and doodling on the internet.  Well, not the whole day.  Paul and I did venture out to Shoe City, where I purchased my first pair of Converse (black with white laces) in an attempt to hipsterizer myself (result: failure), and then to Sears, where Paul bought a jacket and I caused mayhem by turning the knob on the multi-purpose music box in the Christmas display from “All Holiday Songs” to “Halloween.”  You should have seen the children’s faces!

Did I mention there’s not much to do without a car in North Hollywood?  But I digress.  The next day I awoke to find that my videocamera would not charge.  Not knowing whether it was a problem with the camera or the power cable, we headed to Fry’s to find a replacement power supply.  The replacement worked when I tested it in the car, but when we got back to the house the true cause of the problem became clear: the power receptacle on the camera had snapped internally during a fall at Mr. T’s.  What to do?  The battery was only 75% charged.  It was resolved that the tour diary video would be suspended and the juice would be used for that night’s show at the Bootleg.

When we got to the venue, however, we were informed that videotaping (even of ourselves!) was not allowed.  Sad!  But at least it allowed us to tape the Fresno gig.  The Bootleg Theater, despite its arcane rules, is an awesome venue, with a bar in the same room as the stage.  Finally!  It made a real difference.  Instead of cowering in the back of the room feeling fidgety and wanting another beer, people were able to cower by the bar instead, purchasing and consuming drinks at will.  Ta-da: no fidgeting!  Our set, which was first, went really well, and my voice (which had been in disrepair since Seattle) was back to full force, allowing us to perform “Mountain Girl” to the appreciative crowd.

Notable guests included acclaimed guitarist Capital, super-talented singer-songwriter Pi Jacobs, film editor and music blogger DJ Ollie Baba and award-winning recording engineer Steve Sykes.  What?  It’s LA.  I’m supposed to name-drop.  Everyone else does it.  Here are some more names: The Swagger Sticks, Toy Robot and Hotel St. George.   These are the other bands we played with, and they were ridiculously good.

Trivia time: the bass player from The Swagger Sticks, Matt Morales, is also a stand-up comedian who does shows with Kevin Avery, with whom I used to work.  Funny men, both!  Toy Robot’s lead singer and guitarist, Loren Isaac, used to work with Capital, who incidentally was there because our drummer Chris used to be in a band with him.  Hotel St. George is from San Diego, where we have played!  OK, that’s not really trivia.  The guitar player likes to break his gear, though, which I thought was cool.  Let me say it again: the show was off the hook.  We met lots of new people, including a particularly nice guy named Big Dave who now sports a Ken Flagg glow-in-the-dark button on his jacket.  Expect to see us doing shows with these bands again in the future.

Roller derby is wildAfter the show, despite my best efforts to get the rest of the band to attend, I was dropped off all on my oddy-knocky at an after-party for a women’s roller-derby league.  Boy do they know how to party!  Of course, this being LA, there were some movie stars in attendance.  Well, OK, they had bit parts in a movie about roller derby.  But still!  There were shenanigans, as the photo shows, though I am a faithful boyfriend and steered clear.  Not that I was invited to participate.  Later that evening I had one of my favorite late-night snacks: a bacon-wrapped hot dog.  Goddamn those things are good.

The next day DJ Ollie took me to the North Hollywood Diner, which he tells me is one of the few true-blue diners in Los Angeles.  I couldn’t find it on Google Maps, sadly, otherwise I’d point you in its general direction.  The food was fantastic, if a bit heavy.  One bite of Ollie’s biscuit with gravy and I felt almost unable to move.  Apparently starving to death is not a risk associated with touring.  Afterwards he dropped me off at Frank’s house and it was time to pack up and prepare for our final destination: Fresno.

I noted in a previous entry that everything we had heard about Fresno left us in a state of trepidation with regards to actually playing there.  These fears were unfounded.  After plowing through the wall of methane surrounding the town, we found it to be small and uneventful, yet friendly.  Meth-addled truckers and former college-bound youths turned crack dealers were nowhere to be found.  Who makes this stuff up?  There’s even a top-notch brewery and restaurant in town.  We ate there, and were sated.

The venue we played, Audie’s Olympic, has a great sound system and the only shag-carpet stage we encountered on tour.  Score!  They also have free pool, which helped to kill time while we waited for the other bands and the sound man to appear.  The show got under way at around 10pm with the spaced-out Dia del Astronauta, who weave woozy guitar textures around lilting vocals to create pockets of sonic haze for the audience to bliss out in.  They’re playing tonight at Mr. T’s Bowl, incidentally, so if you are in LA, check them out.  We followed with our final set of the tour, which for the first time did not include “Ship of Plenty” or our fancy mushroom light, largely due to a) the vibe of the gig and b) the fact that we couldn’t use our smoke machine.   It was never the less a great and worthy set, which included plenty of stage banter and one audience member reminding us, emphatically, that we should have “no regrets.”

The final set of the night came from the Buffalo Guns, who as far as I know do not hunt bison.  They were highly energetic and generally awesome, and have the distinction of being the only band we played with who not only acknowledged the other bands on the bill, but actually rapped their names repeatedly.  Very cool and somewhat surreal.  They also jump around a lot and generally put on a great stage show.  Beanies off to you, Buffalo Guns, for helping to close out our tour in style!

Devil horns!From that point forward it was simply a matter of driving the 3 hours back to San Francisco, which Chris bravely volunteered to do.  The drive was smooth and stuffed full of Radiohead songs.  While we coasted along the highway I had time to reflect on the ups and downs of the tour, as well as the stuff I’ve learned about touring and performing in general, none of which I will relate to you here because it would bore you.  Suffice it to say that going on the road was a resounding success and we have nothing but love and thanks for all of the people and bands we met along the way who helped make something that from a statistical standpoint should have been an abject failure riddled with catastrophe (a first tour) into something wonderful and not at all painful to reflect on.

OK, I’m getting sappy.  We’ll see you next time we hit the road.  Until then, keep the rock in your heart by saying hello to Cleveland.  Over and over.

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