Feed Us A Live Insect

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bocephus und Chad--part one

The cover for Bocephus und Chad's 1996 cassette, "The Kitfo Kid"

It's an old, old story, and it goes something like this: two beautiful youths find their destinies joined when they are marooned together on a jungle island, the sole survivors of a terrible shipwreck. Alone and cut off from civilization they form a deep bond that soon becomes love, a love which flowers gloriously before turning inevitably to jealousy and sadness, and ends only in death when they are finally eaten by wolves.

An old story indeed, but it's not actually the one I intend to tell tonight. No, this is a slightly similar but mostly (okay, entirely) different tale, the story of a band from the last years of the 20th century called Bocephus und Chad. And it's not actually about a pair of attractive teen models stranded on some island, it's about two guys in a dorm room with a 4-track recorder and a chorus pedal--sorry if that caused any confusion there, but it seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling.

So anyway--to put this in context: years ago, before I was a Monolator, before I met Mary, I was a miserable and lonely doofus in the midst of earning a useless art school degree, and it was Christmas, and I couldn't go back to Michigan to spend it with my family. I was instead returning from a disastrous and hallucinatory road trip to visit friends in Portland, the highlight of which was attending an hour-and-a-half long concert of Christmas carol medleys performed by a hand-bell ensemble...er, but that's another story. At any rate, I eventually fled Oregon and crawled into Arcata, California, where my cousin Jesse and his girlfirend (now wife) Alisen were students at Humboldt State, just in time to celebrate the New Year by getting stranded for a week as heavy flooding washed out all the freeways.

That was a wonderful week! Almost nothing was open in Arcata, so we spent most of our time playing a video game called, I think, "Twisted Metal," and wandering around town while some dude cruised by a bunch in a custom, 6-wheeled purple pickup truck with a license plate that read "LEETHL." When a road that went out of town finally opened up (a terrifying, winding one-lane road going straight up the side of a cliff) I packed up my car with great regret and headed back down to old southern california. Before I left Alisen lent me a tape from a local band called Bocephus und Chad, which I listened to over and over on my trip back to school--and technically I should have returned this tape to her back in, oh, 1998 or so. I still have it. Sorry, Alisen, I SWEAR I'm gonna get it in the mail to you. This year. I hope.

The music on this tape is a little hard to classify, since it doesn't really have much to do with the typical indie bands of the mid-1990's. I'd say it's more like Tom Petty-esque classic rock mixed with They Might Be Giants silliness, bombastic arrangements, operatic vocals, and, well, showtunes. If you're not scared off by that, then I love you, for you are a very special person indeed. Here is their "hit," an ode to men of modest dimensions, as it were. Yes, it's tasteless and juvenile, but it's also maddeningly catchy and kind of charming. Even though it's all keyboards and lead guitar (instead of banjos or what have you) I'm starting to think of this stuff as the authentic folk music of the late 20th century. I'm also gonna throw in the most awesome cover version of a Tiffany song ever recorded (yeah, I know it was originally by Tommy James & The Shondells, but that's not what's being referenced here).

Bocephus und Chad - Tiny Peters
Bocephus und Chad - Untitled

Coming up next: more mp3's and an interview with the band!
Really! I tracked them down!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

San Diego (okay, La Jolla)--Che Cafe

Yesterday we headed south down grimy old I-5, past Disneyland and Irvine and the Marine Base, to play a show on the UCSD campus with San Diego's Exfriends. Now these folks are total sweethearts, and on top of that are without question one of the best bands we've had the fortune to play with. We saw them play a little while ago at Mr. T's, and my first impression was "country rock"--but that's not really what they are. They've got fiddles and mandolins and twangy guitars, but there's no Tear In My Beer cliches, there's no affected southern drawl...but there IS electric piano. Basically it's catchy, well-written songs with strong hooks and extra instruments to fill out the sound. They could have just as easily had an oboe and grand harp in there and it still would have worked fine. The Exfriends are going to play a free show with us at Mr. T's on September 1, so please come down and listen to them, you will NOT be sorry.

The Che Cafe has its own Wikipedia entry (why doesn't Mr. T's have one?) and is quite a bit like The Gilman up in Berkeley...it's a student-run "worker's collective" and vegan cafe in a Eucalyptus grove next to what appears to be a giant and deafeningly noisy power plant on the UCSD campus. It's all-ages so there were lots of kids running around...we didn't sell any merch but it was still a nice place to play.

On the other hand our hotel was...not exactly crappy, it was clean and everything, but it was surfer/meathead-dude central. I didn't have any trouble falling asleep but poor Mary was kept awake until 4 AM by these fools running up and down the hallway, hollering and puking and apparently jumping off the roof onto what sounded like a set of tympani in the parking lot. We were right by the beach, and it was cool and overcast and pleasant (it even rained a bit--in July!--which made me happy), but the meatheads kinda ruined it for us. I just feel bad for the poor person who had to clean their room afterwards...

After getting home on Saturday (where it wasn't raining, but it has thankfully cooled down since last week--I heard offhand that there were 138 heat-related deaths this month, which officially makes this heatwave a natural disaster) we decided to see a documentary called Who Killed The Electric Car. This was fascinating, a story about how General Motors, the automotive industry, and The California Air Resource Board colluded together to recall and destroy every single EV-1 all-electric car on the road. It was a sad tale, considering that I remember seeing these things driving around Los Angeles just a few years ago and wanted one pretty badly myself, but it gave me some hope that Mary and I might be able to rebuild our beloved, dead, rotting-away-in-our-white-trash-driveway Mazda pickup truck, The Flames, into a working electric pickup truck! We think we might actually be able to do this! I shall keep you posted.

The Flames.

Anyway--Who Killed The Electric Car gets a thumbs up from The Monolators, highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Escape from LA

On saturday the thermometer read 106 degreeees here in Highland Park. On Sunday and monday again it hit 110. I don't know if this a fluke, or a sign of things to come, but I can't take it.

The other night Mary and I were watching Peyton Place, which was kind of silly, but it had some scenes set in the winter...I was sitting in a pool of sweat and whined something about "snow!" Mary says, "it's only fake snow." Looked good to me...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

camera quandry

We went to see The Ettes play a great set last night as part of their residency at The Echo this month...they've recently come back from recording their album in London at Toe Rag studios (yes, that one). I should've taken some pictures, but I'm having some problems in that department.

You wouldn't know it to look at this blog, but I like to take pictures. We've got a couple of cameras between us, but unfortunately none of them are well suited for photographing people jumping around at midnight on dimly-lit stages...this became very evident to me on tour when I expected to burn through tons of film and only managed two or three rolls at most for the entire trip. We do have a digital camera, the most sensible option for blog posting--except that ours is from the Pleistocene era and is unbelievably slow, basically incapable of taking a picture when you actually press the trigger. Anyway I haven't got the money to buy a digital camera that would deal with low light in a way that appeals to me.

I do still use and love my wonderful Minolta Autocord, but it's not all that handy for club photography either: the viewfinder is okay but is still hard to focus in extremely dim light, the lens isn't especially fast, and a waist-level finder is a disadvantage in a crowded club. Anyway, I've been having trouble finding the time to finish off a roll of film and process and scan it fast enough to update the blog these days. Maybe if I could figure out the sports finder and attach a flash this might become more workable, but I'd still rather be able to focus at eye level and use available light in this case.

Mary actually has a pretty handy alternative: her Polaroid. My brother bought this for us at a junk shop for 5 bucks. It's not the kind that spits out a blurry snapshot with the whirring of electric motors, it's an old folding model from the 1960's that uses packs of peel-apart film. It's totally great, it can take very sharp, beautiful pictures and give you a scannable print in 30 seconds, if you can put up with the teensy tiny impossible coupled rangefinder focusing. But unfortunately it is a consumer model, it's got autoexposure and the lens isn't very fast. You can attach a flash to it, which makes it useable in clubs, but it isn't an electronic flash: it takes flashbulbs. These are little lightbulbs that literally explode and melt when you trip the flash. They're messy, but they work great, and the resulting pictures look a lot better to me than electronic flashes. The thing is that they're very, very, very, excruciatingly bright: I remember being at an Angela Correa show at Hotel Cafe a while back, and when Mary took some flash Polaroids a girl was overheard in the audience snapping "well, I'm blind now."

Tough luck, kid. The pictures look amazing.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Las Vegas -- Divebar

On Friday we made the 5 hour trek from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to play at a club called Divebar. Many thanks to Ivy, the Divebar's booker, for letting us play! Initially I was kind of worried about this trip, it's a long long way to go to play just one show (unlike playing a bunch of shows in a row on a continuous tour). I was even more worried when we got to Baker (about 60 miles outside of Vegas) and the giant thermometer by the side of the highway read 121 degrees. Walking about fifteen feet from the car to the gas station in Baker to buy water was actually paiiinful. Vegas itself, as it turned out, hovered at a balmy 112 degrees until well after sundown.

But playing in Vegas was COMPLETELY AWESOME. I know I said Gilman in Berkeley was the best show of our tour, and it was good, but the Divebar was better. Someone told us this place was on the Strip, but it's not, it's in a strip mall on Tropicana near the UNLV campus. It's a bar, so no door charge, and what makes it great is that it starts filling up with regulars no matter who is playing starting at about 10pm. Plus it's open 24 hours, so no Mustang-style shutdowns at 2 am. There were lots of people there when we played, maybe 60 or 70, and I was told this was a slow night. They were drunk and enthusiastic, unlike the arms-crossed-trying-to-look-bored types we all know so well. Plus--they give you about 5 drink tickets per band member, they pay really well, they feed you dinner, and everybody is really nice. Although when I asked the bartender for just some water she looked at me like I'd ordered a dead kitten.

The thing that made it really great was that the two other bands we played with, both local to Vegas, were fantastic. Both were indie rock, but miles and miles more interesting than your standard indie band. Guns That Shoot Drugs had a sort of Bauhaus-y vocals courtesy of their frontman John, who was incredibly friendly and kind and is one hell of a showman, jumping around and writhing on the floor and working very, very hard. Also his lovely and sweet girlfired Katie bought the pig-driving-with-girl Monolators shirt and wore it through our set! It looks like Guns That Shoot Drugs is going to come out to Mr. T's to play with us on August 4, so please come and take a look! Plus--Jack, the guitar player, saw our old Polaroid camera and up and gave us a working 8mm movie camera! Like so:

Next up was The Laymen, who brought to mind Television and actually our pals Death House Chaplain. Also incredibly nice and friendly guys, they've got some fierce guitar playing and managed to sound much bigger than a trio by bouncing riffs back and forth between two different amps on either side of the stage...it really did sound like more than one person was playing lead. I was very impressed, there's no way I could pull off something like that myself without causing a huge trainwreck.

We played last and were kind of (okay, very, on my part) sloppy and skronky, but it didn't seem to matter too much and we pulled it together enough by the last four songs to make a good impression. Ivy later told us that nobody left during our set, which is really as much as we can ask for! When Mary pulled out her glockenspiel for "Best Friends In Space" people starting screaming and cheering. We sold three copies of the Best Friends 45 single, also a record. So we made more money at Divebar than anywhere else on tour, too. We can't wait to go back!

One thing that threw me at first was that everybody in the club was smoking. This is not allowed in Los Angeles (and I didn't see it anywhere else we toured), and it took me a while to get used to being around smoke again. But it was a good thing. Instead of people having one drink and watching a few minutes of a band and then going outside for a smoke, and then drifting away, people stay inside for hours and hours drinking and smoking and drinking and smoking, and so you have a bigger audience, and they drink a lot more, and you get more money from the club because people spend more. So I think they should go back to allowing people to smoke in clubs now, despite the fact that our clothes and hair and our drum cases reeked of cigarettes.

Las Vegas, I love you. When we drove home yesterday the thermometer in Baker read 122 degrees. Okay, maybe next time we might wait to go back until it's not the absolute hottest possible time of the year...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hot damn, Shakey Jake!

I was looking through the endless trough of kitsch that is WFMU's Beware of the Blog when I spotted an entry on street musician Shakey Jake Woods.

When I lived in Ann Arbor in the mid '90's Shakey Jake was a legendary figure, apparently homeless, an old man who wandered around town performing his streetcorner version of blues--which, as far as I could tell, at least, consisted of wild, atonal hollering accompanied by vigorous bashings on his randomly detuned guitar. The songs that I heard him sing did vaguely remind me of conventional blues but were stretched out into long, long, nearly formless wailing: "OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABYYYYYYYY OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I remember with pleasure seeing the looks of consternation on the faces of polite mothers and fathers of prospective Michigan students as they toured the U of M campus for the first time and passed Jake on the corner of State Street, belting away whilst playing his guitar wearing oven mitts.

As it turns out, Jake made some recordings at radio station WCBN in the '70's and they've been compiled into a cd that is now for sale, with all proceeds going directly to Jake. I recommend following the above link and listening to "Fat Bacon," and picking up a copy of the cd from edspecial@digitalrealm.net (I'm getting one). These clips sound quite a bit more like structured songs than what I heard Jake sing in the '90's, but they're still waaaaaayyyyyy more minimalist than anything you're likely to hear from any other "blues" musician.

The WFMU writeup describes Jake as in need of dough--probably true, although interestingly there was a rumor when I was back in Ann Arbor that Jake was in fact a rich man, and owned a Mercedes and dated beautiful young women. I never saw the Mercedes, but what the hell, it's a good story.

By the way, we're off today to Vegas to play at The Dive Bar and wallow around The Stratosphere. I shall report forthwith.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Best Sister Ever

I don't have a sister, but this guy sure does. Click on "songs"...

Thanks to Jackie Paper from Tuesday Club for telling me about this band. Nice edible guitar!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I just learned that Syd Barrett died whilst we were on tour. I don't know why I'm sad about this, he was virtually dead thirty years ago, but still...it was oddly comforting to know he was still out there, somewhere, doing something, and now he isn't. He was only 60 years old.


Back to Los Angeles

We made it back to Los Angeles yesterday (Monday...I'm back at work on Tuesday) with no real problems, except that when we got in the van in Berkeley the temperature was in the 70's and when we got out at a rest stop somewhere in the Central Valley it was about 150 degrees outside in the shade. It was like walking into a hair drier...welcome back home...I have never seen the hills here look so dead and dry.

We're both kind of sad that the main leg of the tour is over. It was great...the van didn't break down...nobody got sick...we only had one disaster show and only one where we played badly. The bad thing is that our expenses on tour exceeded our earnings by somewhere between 10-15x (no lie)--but we knew this was going to happen, and because our expectations for the trip were so incredibly low (like, will the band survive the tour?) we're very happy with how things turned out and we're antsy to do it again! We'll probably be able to manage a week-long excursion sometime in the fall and another two-week trip in January, on top of long weekend-type trips...

One thing that became clear to me over the course of the tour was that, surprise surprise, some of our songs consistently went over better with audiences than others. I would say in general that our "rock" songs fared worse than our, er, less-rock material. "Our Tears Have Wings," "Red Lamb," "Best Friends In Space," and, especially, "We Fell Dead" got pretty good responses no matter where we played, and unfortunately things like "Strawberry Roan" did not. I'd even say that "Captain In The Army" and "Eagle Fighting Zebra" got lukewarm responses at best, although Mary thinks the latter song did fine..."Medium High" did very well...it's kind of hard to judge these things, but I'd say that in general when we played for younger (i.e., sub-hippie-burnout-aged) people they weren't quite so interested in retro rock-type sounds. Clearly there was a preference for dance-able type music, but beyond that distinctive and memorable things, rather than just rote hard rock. If nothing else came out of this trip I feel like we need to work even harder on songwriting and arrangement for our next tour. And cobbler. There needs to be more cobbler.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Berkeley--924 Gilman Street

Aha! To make up for the debacle that was Modesto we get to play what turns out to be the best show of the tour. I always had fond, tender memories of Berkeley...like cobbler...and now I like it even more.

If you're never been there, The Gilman Street Project is a club much like The Smell in downtown Los Angeles: an all-ages venue where all the freaky and underage bands get to play. It's in what I think is an old warehouse, covered in grafitti, and has (thank god, why don't more places have this) natural light coming in from the skylights. Since we're playing an afternoon/early evening show, this means I can see where I'm putting my hands on my guitar neck, an important consideration in my case.

Everything about this show was great, we actually made enough money there to drive all the way back from San Francisco to Los Angeles without using our credit cards once. There were droves of teenagers in the place (is 56 a drove? It seemed like it after the other shows we played). There were little kids dancing around onstage while the bands played! Yay little kids, we salute thee.

The first awesome band that played was the majestic and resplendent Space Vacuum (from outer space), motto: "we suck in the best possible way." They have blindingly sparkly silver outfits and play synth-rock songs about outer space. What more do you need? NOTHING, that's what. They had the little kids get onstage and dance with tinfoil-covered space monkies. We loved them and were very glad we didn't have to go on directly after them.

The second awesome band of the night was the equally majestic and resplendent (in their own way) synth-and-drums duo The Tuesday Club, who actually have pictures of the very show I'm talking about up in the comments section of their myspace page if you look right now. The synth player/singer looks like some kind of elf but performs a bit like Jimmy Durante--she sings out of the corner of her mouth and she has that sort of vaudeville shimmy to her head and even though she did not actually say "hot cha cha cha" I feel it was essentially implied. I think this band is going places. Mary said of the vocalist "she's got a bit of that Becky Stark charisma going on," and I agree. I hope we can play with them again before they get all big and famous and leave us peons in the dust.

The third awesome band to play was us, and we did fine, I think. We got a really good response for "Best Friends In Space," which doesn't surprise me considering that the overall mood of the night was kinda loopy. I think some of our other songs might have been too much on the rock side of things for the kids in the audience, who were really there to dance.

And dance they did for the fourth awesome band of the night, Mister Loveless, a moody dance-punk trio who headlined the show and I think brought a largish chunk of the audience. They were pretty spectacularly tight and reminded me a bit of The Killers and maybe Wire or Gang Of Four. Good stuff! We would love to play with any of these bands again, should they come down to Los Angeles or when we make it back up to San Francisco again.

So we ended the main leg of our first tour on a high note, which I'm very grateful for. The rest are weekend shows...Las Vegas this coming Friday, then (we hope) Phoenix, and then San Diego at the end of the month.

Modesto—The Mustang

I have been asked by wiser and cooler heads than mine to withhold my own personal feelings about this venue and present the bare facts of the night in a simple pro-and-con format, thus allowing you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusions. Tonight (Saturday...I'm late posting this) we played The Mustang, a (sort of) gay bar in a cinderblock bunker near the train tracks in Modesto, California. So here are the facts:

-the guy organizing & promoting the night made a very nice poster for the event.

-some really good bands played that night, including the absurdly tight Bridges from Sacramento, and the Orange County-based ‘80’s synth-pop masters Romak and The Space Pirates, both of whom we hope to bring to Los Angeles at some point.

-we made 40 bucks from the door, the biggest take so far.

-my extremely kind and patient cousins Jesse and Alisen not only put us up for the night (thank you!) but also went to the show and stayed ‘til the bitter, bitter end.

-and, last but not least, there was Mary’s homemade cobbler waiting for us when we got back to Jesse and Alisen’s place.

-when we booked the show we were told we would have the second-to-last slot and play probably around midnight. When we got to the club at about nine the promoter/show organizer fellow told that we’d been bumped to last…out of six bands, for an event that didn't even start until 10pm.

-there were two stages in the club, one in the front and one in the back. The idea was to alternate between stages so that there would be no down time between acts—that is, one band could set up their gear on one stage while another played on the second, and then vice-versa. This would have been a good idea (and a possible way to get through six bands in four hours) EXCEPT THAT THERE WAS ONLY ONE PA. And no sound person. So whatever time that might have saved by alternating stages was lost by shuffling the PA back and forth between the front and back of the club and then having somebody try to figure out how to plug everything in and get the microphone to work.

-our scheduled slot of midnight came and went with only three of six bands having played. At around 1:30 in the morning, while the 5th band (a Celine Dion-esque solo artiste, playing synths and flute and singing with an electric fan blowing her hair around—no lie) was still endlessly setting up her equipment (i.e. the fan) and hadn’t yet started playing, we asked the organizer guy if we were in fact going to be able to play, as the bar was set to close in half an hour. “I think so,” he said, “although you might have to play for 20 minutes instead of half an hour.”

-at past 2 o’clock in the morning, the bartender gives the last call and we are still standing around while the organizer guy is fiddling around trying to set up the PA and figure out how to turn the microphone on. Everybody except my cousins and Romak and the Space Pirates have left long ago. The club’s owner suddenly appears, tells us she’s closing down, and says we can’t play. Eventually she relents and we are allowed to play two whole songs.

-We play “Tears” and “Red Lamb” at earsplitting volume and about 5 times normal speed. Mary kicks her drums off the stage and that’s that. We later find out the PA was either turned off or didn’t work during our two songs.

-We do not get to enjoy cobbler until 3 AM.

In conclusion
Thus was our experience at The Mustang. While I refrain from venting my spleen, your comments are welcome. Me, I have to go. COBBLER TIME.

Santa Cruz—Caffe Pergolesi

Sorry that it took me so long to get this entry up, we haven’t had much time to spare…I’m typing this out on the laptop in the van…

We made a stop in yet another place that’s new to me, Santa Cruz…this is a nice perk of touring, I get to see new places. This town is a little beach resort kind of place…I think it was a quiet artist’s colony once upon a time, but now the downtown is more or less an outdoor shopping mall, too bad. There’s a beach, but it’s filled up with volleyball tournaments sponsored by Bud Lite…that kind of place. Remember the movie “Back To The Beach”? Okay, that’s what Santa Cruz is like, except without PeeWee Herman singing “Surfin’ Bird.” Although—it does, amazingly, have a Lee’s Sandwiches, like in Alhambra! Well, it’s not as hardcore as the one in Alhambra, it’s got more regular deli-type food and it doesn’t have those green coconut waffles like they do down south. But when the intercom comes on and says “number 22, your order is ready,” it’s the same guy’s voice as they have at home. Creeeeeepy.

Um, anyway—I digress. The place we played at was called Caffe Pergolesi, and as it turns out, it’s not a regular music-type club, it’s a coffee shop, as the name suggests. I had talked to a couple of people from Santa Cruz before we left on tour and all of them said “oh yeah, the Perg! I used to hang out there, but I don’t remember them having bands there. Do they have bands?” Well, as it turns out, yes and no. Bands do come through to play there, but they just have a spot in a side room (the building is a converted Victorian house) next to where people line up to use the bathroom (tip: try to use the bathroom somewhere else rather than at The Perg). There weren’t any other bands playing that night, just us, and there wasn’t a PA.

So we weren’t sure what to do. We clearly couldn’t play a big loud rock show, because there were families with their little kids hanging out, and hippie types drinking tea and reading Sociology textbooks…but it WAS an all-ages venue, and there were actual teenagers hanging out, so what the hell. I turned my amp down to “2” and Mary played her kit with mallets and no cymbals. And one of the guys behind the counter, Paul, was a champ and came up with both a bass amp and a microphone (another tip: bass amps make really good improvised PA systems). Thanks Paul!

So it ended up being a nice little show. We played our quieter songs like “Medium High” and “Your Mother’s Lover Eating Cake” and it went pretty okay. We were sort of crammed into a very small place, so jumping around and hysterics were out, the result being that I actually paid attention to what I was doing for once and played not sloppily, a miracle! Mostly we played for the people standing in line to order drinks or waiting for the bathroom (bad move—see above), but a very nice guy named Mason sat down and listened to the entire set. Mason plays bass for a band with the extremely superior name The Lords Of Mysterious, which I highly recommend, and we’re looking forward to meeting up with him again the next time we’re in Santa Cruz.

Next stop…back over the 17 highway (the “California Death Highway," remember?) and on to Modesto-ooooooo.

Friday, July 07, 2006

San Francisco--Thee Parkside

Well, everybody's gotta have an off night, I'm just sorry it was here in San Francisco, we'd been looking forward to playing with our South Bay pals E>K>U>K up in SF and we kinda played like spastics. I kept tripping over and unplugging my guitar cord from my amp in the middle of the "Eagle Fighting Zebra" solo, and it was so dark onstage that I couldn't see my guitar neck and fluffed the chords to "Captain In The Army" and generally made a mess of things. And then E>K>U>K and Electric Eel Shock went on and pretty much decimated us. So that was kinda embarrassing. Jeez, I think I might actually have to start practicing the guitar, how pedestrian. Of course Mary played like a champ, as always. I think we might have made up for our sloppiness by jumping around as much as possible and emitting rivers of sweat, but we should've played like we did at The Funhouse.

Anyways...I don't know how familiar you are with Electric Eel Shock. They are a three piece Japanese heavy metal band. They have their own Wikipedia entry. They are awesomeness. The drummer plays naked. The guitar player hits his Flying V with his head and holds it above his head with his teeth. They play a song called "Bastard" and berate the audience: "Bastard! No! You Bastard!! Ok, I am also a Bastard..." You MUST see them play or you will be very sorry.

Sooo, anyway, it could've been a better show, especially as our old friend Mark came across town from his place ("I live in crackville," he says) just to see us. But that's okay. The rest of our San Francisco trip was great...we stayed at The Andrews Hotel, our favorite, near Union Square. We ate at an Indonesian place down the street from the hotel where I had a dish containing "chicken gizzards and innards and stink beans." The stink beans were big and green. They didn't stink, and were pretty tasty. The gizzards were kinda rubbery/chewy. Mary had some soy cakes that were mmmmmMMMMM good.

And that was San Francisco. Next stop...Highway 17 (the Highway of Death, so we're told) to Santa Cruz.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Loomis--on our cousin's porch

I wasn't going to do an entry for Sacramento because we're not playing club shows on the 4th or 5th, but rather hanging out with Mary's cousin at her ranch in Loomis, a couple of miles outside of Sacramento. Her kids are engineers, like crazy mad scientist engineers, and they can build pretty much anything out of a couple of twigs and some ball bearings. For instance, there's a school bus there that they're converting to run on vegetable oil--they're building some kind of system that I don't really understand which will let you pour in used vegetable oil and it will filter out the water and impurities from the stuff while you're driving...amazing stuff. I was just talking to some other bands, asking how the hell we're going to keep touring if gas prices keep going up, and this is the answer, apparently. Of course the idea of driving a giant school bus over the mountains in Oregon gives me the shakes, but I should start looking for a short bus for us to drive around in. The other project they're working on is to convert a race car bed (by which I mean a plastic bed in the shape of a race car for little kids) into a drivable race car, with an engine and everything, except that it'll still be a bed that you can sleep in. Apparently they're going to have a race with their friends with vehicles made out of beds, reclining chairs, and L-shaped couches. Like I said, geniuses.

So anyway, we ended up playing a show (really a practice) on their porch. They had a mic and a PA (with built-in echo and phaser effects, which translates into endless hours of beatboxing fun), but no mic stand, so they stuck it between the handlebars of a motorcross-style dirt bike and I played while sitting on the bike, wearing a crash helmet for a little while. BEST SOUND OF THE TOUR. Obviously we should do all our shows by driving in on bikes with built-in amps and drum kits. I'm sure our genius cousins could built this for us. Get working, boys, we'll play you with t-shirts or something.

San Francisco is tomorree...can't wait. This was a nice break, though, thanks Sue!

Eugene--John Henry's

For our last morning in Seattle we headed over to Irwin's Bakery on 40th and Bagley, where Danny from Luxxe works--and where, incidentally, they sell these marionberry scones that Are. To. Die. For. Seriously, we have Jess travelling with us and she's a baker and she liked these a lot. Mmmm, I can still taste them, yum. Plus Danny was wearing the Monolators shirt she got at the gig on Sunday (we have a polaroid of this that we will scan as soon as possible). Thanks Danny! So after loading up on scones we said a sad farewell to Seattle and got back on I-5 heading south.

We unfortunately weren't able to set up a Portland show, but Peter from The Fast Computers was a hero to us and set up a Eugene show for us with some local bands at a place called John Henry's, which was kind of a swanker place than we're used to playing in...with a nice PA and a ramp that goes up to the stage and everything. Overall our experience in Eugene was kind of mixed...on one hand, everyone from the other bands on the bill (Fade13, DoublePlusGood, and The Soft Planes, who played their first show after a 4-year hiatus) could not have been nicer or more supportive. On the other hand, we went into a local indie music store and asked if we could put up a poster and give them some cd's...and the guy asked us who we were, and then turned us down. And also Eugene has an abnormally large number of one-way streets, and one-way streets that turn into two-way streets, and then back into one-way streets, and it's damn hard to get around.

But--it turned out to be a good show. I don't know that we played quite so tightly as we did at The Funhouse, but there was a much bigger crowd and we ended up selling enough merch to make some gas money. We also had a superfan there. He was kinda intoxicated and started telling us that he'd been following the Indigo Girls around on tour. I think he also said something about prison sex in Texas, and he'd put his fingers to his lips and make big smacking sounds, like the prison sex is to DIE FOR in Texas. I wonder if he remembers doing this. The Fast Computers themselves didn't play on the bill, but they are playing at John Henry's in a few weeks with one of our favorite bands, The Lovemakers, awesome! I am jealous. We are going to try to get these folks to come down to Los Angeles to play with us at Mr. T's, so you must come see them when they do.

Two more good things about Eugene--there was a big sign at the hotel over the room where the vending machines were, and it said "Ice And Pop." Yes, pop, not damn soda, but pop, the way it is in Michigan, and the way god intended it to be. Also--we were leaving the next morning after playing the show, and had only about 4 hours of sleep--so before heading out for Sacramento we stopped at a Dutch Brothers coffee stand near the hotel. And by God, those guys gave us our coffee for free. They said it was customer appreciation day. I dunno if it was or not, but Dutch Brothers, we salute thee!

It was good coffee, too.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Seattle--The Funhouse

Right across from The Space Needle is this place called The Funhouse. We were expecting this to be a more...um...populated show, but alas the 4th of July weekend struck again and we played to the other bands waiting to go on. But that was okay--they were all great, and we played what I'm pretty sure was our best show so far. It was also our loudest show so far, so loud in fact that I think we need to start wearing earplugs during our set--on the ride back from the club I thought Mary said to me "I think I need to start wearing your clothes onstage," when in fact what she really said was "I think we need to wear earplugs onstage." Which is too bad, because I don't want to go deaf and also I want to see Mary wear my clothes.

We played with a Seattle trio called Luxxe who played cool, dancy, sort of deconstructed rock songs, including this one longer, mostly instrumental piece they introduced as "all prog rock," and was haunting and lovely. We hung out with them in the parking lot because their bass player, Danny, was too young to get into the bar until she actually played their set. Danny wound up with one of our handmade shirts--a brown sleeveless thing with a fake fur collar and a dinosaur listening to records painted on the front. We're glad such a cool person got it--and I think we're going to visit the bakery where she works tomorrow morning before we leave for Eugene.

We also played with a San Diego band called The Long And The Short Of It who played loud, complex, screaming punk metal kind of songs, with the lead singer looking a bit like Iggy Pop and swallowing the mic to get it to feed back in strange, low textures. They also had a flying V bass, the first one I've ever seen, and I was most impressed by it. Really nice guys to boot, we wish them godspeed on the rest of their tour!

And, dammit, I got called a hippy AGAIN. We were hanging out behind the Funhouse with Luxxe when this bald guy with a brown pleather turtleneck saunters up and says "what are the hippy homos doing back here?" Apparently it's my hair. Now I really, really want to get it cut off.

We're both sad that we played our last show in Seattle. We really like this place--it's a gorgeous place and we like everyone we've met. I think we'll be coming back soon--but for now, onto Eugene!

Seattle--The Blue Moon

So...basically if you took Mr. T's Bowl and moved it about a thousand miles north, and replaced the Highland Park burnouts with old hippy burnouts, that would be The Blue Moon. It's just a few blocks away from our hotel, which is nice, except that it takes me about 20 minutes to find a parking space and I get all uptight after we load in--because of parking and because there really isn't anyone there. We figured out that this is a bad time of the year to play up here because it's the 4th of July weekend and apparently the entire bar-and-clubgoing population of Seattle is out camping. Seriously.

The saving grace, though, is that everyone (who didn't go camping), and I mean everyone that we've met, is extremely nice in Seattle. I was talking to my friend Stefan about this, and he guesses that people are in a better mood here in general 'cause the rent isn't so high and people aren't scrabbling so hard to make ends meet. So even though the hippy burnouts aren't really all that interested in our set (except for one--I'll get to him) the other bands waiting to go on have been very enthusiastic and supportive. This doesn't always happen in Los Angeles.

So we play, and as I felt all uptight I kind of blew it and played not so well. Not embarrassingly bad, but kind of amateur hour. Mary, on the other hand, completely destroyed me, as she did last night, playing just beautifully. We played with Portland's Prick And The Burn, who reminded me a lot of our pals Chooka, except that they played some country songs with what sounded like really funny lyrics that I could have understood if I wasn't so deaf. During both our and Prick And The Burn's set we had an old hippy burnout named Tim screaming at us, bellowing something along the lines of "Doesn't it feel good!" and "how do you experience the experience!" or something, I dunno. He had a tie-dyed t-shirt (which, I have to admit, I used to sport myself...when I was about 17 and didn't know any better) and a white-guy afro and looked like what I imagine, say, that Wavy Gravy guy looked like. Afterwards he came up to me and told me how beautiful everything was and then he said I was a young hippy. "I am?" I said. He said that I was the next generation of hippy, and that it was really beautiful, and that he had a nephew who looked just like me and was really beautiful and wore his hair in a ponytail, and how beautiful it was that there are still hippies like me in the world. So I shot him.

No, not really, but still--I want to cut my hair now.

Also on the bill was Seattle's Chicken Starship, who are a bunch of guys who dress up like chickens and play songs about camping. Can't go wrong with that! Note: I didn't take the following picture, it's from Chicken Starship's website--like I say, our camera is not cooperating:

There was one more funny thing that happened, which was that the bass player from Prick And The Burn got about three seconds into their first song when he broke a string. This almost never happens, and as he didn't have a spare I lent him the Monolator bass. Then Chicken Starship played and their bass player broke a string about three seconds into their first song, so they played their set with The Monolator bass too. The dear little thing has gotten a lot of action lately, I hope it's happy...

Saturday, July 01, 2006


From Eugene to Seattle...

...took way longer than it should have, but we hit some nasty traffic around Tacoma. There were only two things that made it bearable, one was the Steakburger/miniature golf place just north of the Washington border, and the other was this:

Apparently this is the business end of a giant inflatable cat that was presented to us thusly as we crawled through traffic on I-5 North (thanks to Jess, our babysitter, for snapping these pictures...we brought our camera, but of course forgot the cable needed to transfer the shots to our computer, so...more pictures later).

This is the first time any of us has been in Seattle, and in fact I believe it's the furthest north I've ever been. It's so beautiful that it makes Los Angeles (and our back yard in particular) look like a concrete armpit. We rolled into Seattle yesterday (which was Friday...today is Saturday) and checked into our motel, which unfortunately turned out to be kind of crappy and is right across the street from the what seems like the world's largest outdoor mall, with things like a city block-sized Anthropologie store and stuff like that. Fortunately there's a nice street with promising-looking restaurants around the corner and we ate at a place on NE 55th called Thai Family Kitchen that was great...tasteful and clean, in contrast to, say, our hotel. I had a hard time enjoying my spicy beans and squid because of nerves...my stomach was doing somersaults the whole time. We changed into our band clothes and headed out to the Lobo Saloon for the first show of the tour.

I wasn't expecting too much for our first show of the tour. The Lobo Saloon is in a part of Seattle called, I think, City Center, judging by the signs on the freeway offramp. It's on this strange block that's half burnt out and half really really posh and developed. The club itself is just a bar with no stage, just a PA in the corner...and there wasn't really anyone there, just a couple of guys at the bar, and we were really really tired after a drive that should have taken four hours but ended up being seven. So it should have been a bad show.

But it was great! We hit the intro chords for "Spider In The Woods," sounding very very loud in that little place, and we were off. The people who watched were still over at the bar, and I couldn't see them, so it was one of those singing-into-a-void kind of things--but the people who were there were very enthusiastic, and Mary was pounding the bajeezus out of her kit, and I think we did pretty well. Also--one of the other bands on the bill, Johnny Cheapo, were from San Bernardino (!) and the lead singer picked up on our Mr. T's reference in "Eagle Fighting Zebra"--turns out their bass player (who couldn't make it to Seattle, unfortunately) lives on York and Avenue 57! Highland Park in force in Seattle, amazing! You gotta check Johnny Cheapo out, GREAT Clash-style punk rock, played by a guy who looks kind of like Link Wray...we're going to try to book a show with them at T's when we get back home. We also met the guy who was clapping for us at the bar during our set, I think his name was Jeff (I'm really sorry if I got that wrong), really nice guy, told me I was too skinny and need to put on some weight. You don't get that down in Los Angeles...

Today (Saturday) we caught up on sleep, mostly, except for in the morning when we met my old Cal Arts friend Stefan (who apparently knows everyone on Capitol Hill, as far as I can tell). Stefan is an amazing and beloved animator, you must visit his web site. He was also in a band called Soapy Grapes several years ago, which was lead by his eight-year-old cousin, and performed one of my all-time favorite songs: "I Saw A Vampire." You MUST go here and listen to some of the mp3's (scroll down a little bit).

Tonight is the Blue Moon Cafe...gotta go and get ready.