3.28.08: Beat Kitchen, Chicago w/the pAper chAse: "'Big Guns' By Skid Row is a song about firearms"

It always seems to throw people when i tell them that i still get nervous before shows sometimes. "Really?" they ask? Yep--i, who is generally pretty damn comfortable on stage and has been doing this for years, still get nervous before certain shows sometimes. And for some reason, this all-ages show at the Beat Kitchen had butterflies churning in my gut when i woke up at 7 AM. I've never had them THAT early.

But we were of the opinion that this could be a huge show for us. All ages, Chicago, with one of our favorite bands in the known universe. The room was sure to be packed wall-to-wall with impressionable youngsters with disposable income, right? So we worked overtime to finally re-stock our merch: buying more copies of Hot Nuggets! and No More Music from our label pals and finally ordering a new run of t-shirts. So we arrived at the Beat Kitchen ready to win over a ton of new fans and move some units.

Ah, those silly expectations.

By the time we started playing at 8:20 PM (ten minutes earlier than the advertised start time of 8:30--um, er? There was some explanation about new liquor laws in Chicago dictating an earlier end time for all-ages shows, but still...10 minutes was going to save the night? Eh, whatever. The Beat Kitchen's been good to us so i won't bitch too much), we discovered that apparently Chicago trains their people at a pretty early age to arrive late for shows. We started playing in front of about 20 people or so, and by the time we had finished, several more had trickled in. But by the time Reds and Blue finished and the pAper chAse started, the place was wall-to-wall packed, as expected, with i'd guess about 20% of those people actually seeing us play.

This is something i'll never get--i think if the pAper chAse had played by themselves with no openers, a good number of people would have thought "what the hell, $12 for one band?" Yet they're fine just showing up on time to see them and no one else, i guess. I dunno. No sense in bitching about it, and at the end of the day, i'm not really that bummed--just bemused by the average concert-goer's willingness to not get their money's worth. I mean, it's very rare that an opening act wins me over in the first five minutes of a show...i get that. Very often they're not much to write home about. But it's still nice to give 'em a chance, ya know? I mean, you're spending the money on them.

Anyway. I can't control other people's habits, so no sense in wasting time thinking about it (even though i just did). As for our set, it was fine. We were solid and played well, and those people that were there for us enjoyed it (i even heard laughter during our between-song banter, so ha!). So mission accomplished to the best of our ability. A few roadblocks like Rev.Ever breaking a bunch of guitar strings didn't really derail us at all, and playing was fun, although i got tired out really quickly for some reason, be it lack of sleep the night before or the Beat Kitchen food not agreeing with me. Not sure.

Reds and Blue were enjoyable spacey keyboard indie rock (confidential to white, wrench, conservatory.: you should probably get in touch with Reds and Blue about swapping shows), and what can i say about the pAper chAse? As usual, they were ungodly and incredible. They opened with a pair of new songs that felt 8 minutes long each and still had me grinning and giggling like a doofus at the pure musicianship being shown on stage. The more and more i see that band, i can't help thinking, "John is a fucking genius. And he's a fan of OUR band? Really? How? Why? The amount of talent we have as musicians probably fits into his pinky finger and he's told me he loves us? What?" It's truly humbling and weird and awesome to think about that.

The show ended by 11 PM, so we were able to jaunt over to Quenchers in time to see our pals Bear Claw, but unfortunately miss the Conformists. Ah well. Bear Claw were excellent as always, and we got to say hi to some Chicago pals that decided to spend the evening over there instead (which, hey, it was free and the bands were awesome and we had played in town three weeks prior, so sure!).

Oh, and our merch sales? Two t-shirts sold to friends. I couldn't help but laugh at all the effort we put into re-stocking the shelves. The good news: we have plenty of t-shirts for sale next weekend in Madison and Milwaukee!


March 2008: So Far.

We have played a few shows this month, and we have been sorely remiss in writing about them. In an effort to get us back into the swing of things on that tip, i will now post some brief summaries of these shows we have played. These will not be as detailed as they would have been had we stayed on our game and posted about them as they happened, but what are you gonna do? At this point these are more for my benefit that yours anyway. SO THERE.

March 2: Mad Planet, Milwaukee WI. Our pals Neptune finally made a return trip to Milwaukee after having not visited us for the last SIX YEARS. This show was the same night as a big Black Lips show at Turner Hall, so expectations were low regarding turnout, draw, etc. However, a modest but appreciative number of people came out to watch us, Neptune, and Collections of Colonies of Bees. Our set was energetic and fun, and included a few old numbers we had been practicing in order to bring them back into the set for the sake of freshness (we knew we were playing a lot of shows this month and didn't want to get sick of all our new songs, so the answer was to bring back some old ones, like, on this night, "Tunguska-Electro" and "Gotta Disappear").

Neptune were, of course, mind-blowing. Their sound has changed a tad in the six years since we saw them last in that while they still have intimidatingly huge home-built guitars, the bulk of their sound is now built on homemade electronics and tone generators. Mark would bend the shit out of some light switches while Dan pounded the crap out of his homemade drums and Jason chanted into the mic. Intense and excellent, to say nothing of how good it felt to re-acquaint ourselves with some old friends we hadn't seen in years. Thanks to their being awesome, it felt like we had just played with them a week ago.

March 7: Cal's, Chicago. In the past, all our shows at Cal's have happened in front of like 8 people. On this night, we showed up at the bar to see the room already filled in anticipation of the Big Rock Show! It was the last show that Let's Get Out of This Terrible Sandwich Shop would be playing for about four months, as their ringleader Tony was heading off on a cruise ship with Second City. The Sandwich Shop put on a hilarious and fun-packed show full of fuzzy indie-pop goodness, and they are one of the most well-dressed bands we've ever played with, easy.

Our set is a raucus party thanks to a good number of people who came out to see us--a bunch of EA Forum people, Mike and Edie from the Lusties, a tons more. Total basement-show atmosphere with Yale slamming into the crowd, cord issues, and all sorts of madness. SO MUCH FUN! I plug our upcoming show at the Beat Kitchen with the Paper Chase, and a few people express a real desire to make it out.

Oh, and we played "The Sound of No America" for the first time since Havre, MT in 2005, if my estimation is correct.

March 8: The Attic, Manitowoc. Well, it's the Attic. Obviously we'll make it fun, even if the turnout isn't what it used to be any more. A notable exchange that made me feel old and depressed:

14-year-old show attendee, to promoter Chris Karlin: "Are there any metal bands playing tonight? When's the next metal show? We want to see metal bands."

Chris: "There aren't any metal bands tonight, but you should stick around because all the bands tonight are still really good."

Me: "Chris, if you want to tell them we're metal so they come watch us, that's cool."

Chris: *laughs* "Seriously, guys, you have to stick around for IfIHadAHiFi. I saw them for the first time in this building when i was your age.

Chris made me feel really old with that remark.

Anyway, another show, another great time. My mic was a piece of shit, though, so no one really heard me until the last couple songs when The Wizard and i traded. The kids ate it up and we sold a bunch of copies of Hot Nuggets!. We also, perhaps most importantly, found out that there's a new strip club called Stars Cabaret outside of Manty. We asked about it from the stage. Yale: "Is this another one of those places where it's all girls you knew in high school?" Lots of laughs and emphatic nodding, followed by Chris presenting us with free passes to the club! Ha!

We'll use them in June on our way up to Steel Bridge.

March 14: Cactus Club, Milwaukee. We were seriously under the weather for this one--The Wizard was just recovering from the flu, and i was fighting off a cold bug of my own. Still, a decent turnout saw us give it our all and play, yep, another pretty fun set, even if it wasn't our best. We busted out "Edison No Side" for the first time in years, and ran it into "Success! Success! Success!"

Danish power-popsters The Beatitude returned to Milwaukee for the first time since they played a show in 2003 with the New Blind Nationals at Onopa. They remembered Rev.Ever from the show, which probably wasn;t hard as one of the girls in the band is a friend of Ashley Altadonna's and visits Milwaukee pretty frequently. Anyway, they are white, wrench, conservatory were great, of course.

The next night we were supposed to play in St. Paul with wwc, but we ended up blowing the alternator outside of Baraboo. The story, as told in my own journal:

Friday: Our show with the Beatitude and wwc was loads of fun. We didn't necessarily play our best show ever (the Wizard was recovering from a nasty flu bug and i was--and still am--fighting something off), but we gave 'er as best we could and played fairly well overall. The bar was crazy packed but judging from the money brought in at the door between 38 and 43 of them paid to get in...which, now that i think about it, is pretty damn good for a show consisting of us, white wrench, and a pop band from Denmark (who totally brought it, by the way). Cycling in old Ones and Zeroes tracks, as well as resuscitating some No More Music songs we had dropped for awhile has injected some real old-school fun into our sets lately. Having visiting in town and at the show is always an extra bonus load of awesome.

Saturday was an adventure and a half, as we left Milwaukee for St. Paul (caravaning with Lemur and white wrench) only to discover on our way out of town that our battery gauge was looking awfully low. We kept an eye on it and as soon as i saw it drop lower i called Dixie and had them meet us at a rest stop outside Baraboo, where as soon as i decelerated the van conked out and i coasted into a parking spot between Dixie's and Slater's cars. We charged out battery from Slater's with jumper cables and elected to turn around as we were likely dealing with a bad alternator and stopping to recharge every hour or so was sure to be a pain in the ass.

Here's a sampling of my half internal/half external-with-the-guys monologue/dialogue as we discovered that the exit we took in order to get onto I-94's eastbound lane was the same one that was a mile out from effing Paradise City, home of the glass ceiling with nekkid stripper above you (and a vacuum tube that shoots tips upstairs into the room at the feet of said nekkid chick...AWESOME):

Yale: "Oh, hey, strip club in one mile!"

Josh: "Deej, isn't that the one you're always talking about? Paradise Something?"


Me (internally to myself): Wait, let's think about this--it's about 4 PM so maybe they still have a lunch buffet or something going. I'm hungry! Yeah, but it can't be as hopping right now as it was when Saara and i were there at night that one time. Plus, we'd have to get our battery charged again to make it home, and i doubt that a stripper would charge our battery in lieu of "charging our batteries," and if she did, she'd probably still want $50 or so...fuck it, we're going home.

The van kept running while the battery gauge once again dwindled to nothing. It was decided that the safest route off I-94 would be the Van Buren exit as it's more of a straight shot--trying to take the ramp onto I-43 N would have been an unmitigated disaster. So Yale and i started making phone calls to people who might be able to meet us on Van Buren with jumper cables, enabling us to charge the van enough to get it to a garage.

Note: It's a surreal feeling, driving a van that is chugging along fine, while calling ahead for someone to meet us at the place where we fully expect it to conk out. It feels a little like Keanu Reeves in Speed.

Anyway, traffic congestion between Miller Park and the Domes fucked us. The van died as i was in the middle lane slowing down with the rest of the traffic. Fortunately no one was in the right lane, and i was able to immediately veer the suddenly power-steering-less van over to the shoulder, where Jamie eventually met us with jumper cables. In her words, she was actually sort of thrilled to have punk rock van troubles back in her life for a day. Ah, sometimes it's good to be friends with the ex-girlfriend of an ex-Modern Machine.

After some thrilling on-a-dime Y-turning by Jamie in order to face our van head-on, we got the van charged enough to get it off the interstate ASAP, exiting onto St. Paul Ave. (ironic, as we began the day heading to St. Paul MINNESOTA), where it promptly died again near Van Buren. This time we let the battery sit on Jamie's for a while longer, and was then able to drop it at the garage no problem.

By the time we recovered our gear from the van and transferred it to the Church of Murray, it was now roughly 8:30 PM. I was HUNGRY and raring to DRINK LIKE A FIEND. Michael and i met up with Lindsey at Rio West for Mexican food and a pitcher of margaritas for starters, coaxing Jamie back out to join us so we could buy her some thank-you shots (us for the van help, Lindsey for Jamie buying her a few the last few weeks).

March 22: Corral Room, Madison. Pretty much all our shows at the Corral Room are lowly-attended. This was no exception, although we did much better on this night than we have on others (15 or so being a huge step up from 3 or 0). But this one was a blast nonetheless, as the lineup we were playing with was full of pals: wwc, Whore du Jour (a madison supergroup of sorts containing friends from the Skintones, Screamin' Cyn-Cyn, and Cats Not Dogs), and Pat mAcDonald, accompanied by his pal MelanieJane on backing vocals.

Pat plays a great dirty blues with soapbox guitars and a mic'd stomping board for tempo. His half-hour set was mostly peppered with bitchin' covers, from "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog" to "Roadhouse Blues" (probably one of the few Doors songs i can stomach). Whore du Jour were absolutely stellar. The basement room made them sound nice and full and loud and fuzzy, and Heather is always a hoot to watch on drums.

Our set was a blast as well, as the other bands gathered up front to watch, along with one miss Norah Fox and her boy Ian, who came out for the show because we hadn't seen her since, geez, last June? LAME. Anyway, good times were had, we played well, it was another goofy basement show vibe, and i can't wait for our show at the Annex on the 4th with Box Social, Sleeping in the Aviary, and Mise en Place. THE END!