Here i sit, in front of my computer in what will soon be my former apartment, slowly allowing my life to return to a state of post-tour normalcy. I've got a lot to deal with this week--i need to move the rest of my stuff to the new place; i need to figure out when i can go visit Dad; somewhere in there i have to get back to that little annoyance of trying to find a job. But for now, i'm chilling out, petting my cat, and putting the finishing touches on our 2011 tour journal, because i know all twelve of you who've been reading can't wait.
Lansing, MI - Mac's
By the time the show began at Mac's on Friday, many of us were wiped out and cranky. The Wizard was snapping at people and many of us needed naps. I blame a combination of things, but the one thing we were most excited for--leisure time--was probably a huge factor. Thanks to the 90-minute drive from Detroit to Lansing, we had lots of time to waste for the first time all tour, and we opted to spend it in East Lansing among the college dudebros. Record stores and comic book shops were descended upon while Yale took to a coffee shop to do some day job work. At one point i met up with him and overdosed on the most amazing of mango smoothies. After two weeks of just staying afloat, health-wise, my body reacted to such a brazen intake of nutrition by slightly altering my consciousness to the point where i couldn't tell if i was in a food coma or if i was tripping balls on vitamins and nutrients. Add in a stop at a pita joint on the main drag and my only option was a power nap while the rest of the gang watched Punch-Drunk Love in the bar. Fortunately, the brief 15-minute crash was just what i needed.
Still, it felt like the prevailing attitude among some in our little party was "let's just get these last two shows over with," which is a dangerous frame of mind to be in. It screws those bandmates of yours who are actually trying to give the paying customers a memorable show, and it screws those customers, who are paying money to see you play and be 100% entertaining. It's the ultimate in selfishness, and no band should tolerate or suffer it. As Skeeter Pomeroy once said in the pages of the venerable, long-discontinued Milwaukee zine Milk, "if you're going to be sad, you have to be mad, or it's not going to work." In other words, if you're not rocking out, then fuck you, and the audience is well within their rights to let you have it.
Fortunately, this time, neither band's performance was adversely affected, and all crankiness was exorcised by the time HiFi played to what was probably the best crowd of the entire tour. Mac's was fairly packed for both our touring bands (even though we had to play before the two local bands instead of bookended between them, but whatever--chalk it up to miscommunication), and we blazed through some of our finer performances of the tour. I think it was Pittsburgh where my body finally managed to make sense of the endurance test i'd been putting it through; while most of the tour found me playing Zebras songs in a very tense, barely-held-together fashion, by Pittsburgh my arms and posture managed to find their zone (as well as my brain finally realizing that if i play the fills in the lightspeed "The Sun" as triplet sixteenths instead of standard sixteenth notes, i'm not pushing my arms to their dropoff point), and it's been clear sailing ever since.
Ft. Wayne, IN - The Brass Rail
Pot. Energy/Paulding/We Fiddle/Imp Walker/Arson/Black Holes/Success
After some more time spent in East Lansing, an incredible breakfast at a pancake house that served peanut butter and banana French Toast, and the realization that the bass cab was going to be fine for the last show (it blew because of mismatched ohm ratings between head and cab--an 8-ohm head pumping into a cab with two 8-ohm speakers that apparently cancel themselves out into a 4-ohm rating or some shit, so with only one speaker connected the ohms matched...I DON'T KNOW I'M JUST THE STUPID DRUMMER), spirits going into the final show were crazy high. We also had done a count of the cash in the HiFi band fund and realized that we were finishing this tour far ahead of where we started, somehow. We began in a $95 hole thanks to the fun times with the van impound and an oil change; even with that money reimbursed, we still ended the tour with around $290 in our previously depleted band fund. BRING ON THE STRIPPERS!
The Brass Rail is a killer little punk rock/rockabilly dive, and apparently the only cool thing happening in Ft. Wayne, a town where people apparently still drive past the punk bar and yell "hey, is that a gay bar?" at you when you're outside it. Pal, if this place were a gay bar, the drinks would be even stronger than they already are, so i don't know why you consider that an epithet.
On this night the HiFi played after a touring pop-punk band from Detroit and before Zebras and the local headliners, Kan-tis, a sort of more metal Primus (complete with funky bassist wearing a propeller hat and...a Primus shirt. Fuck yeah). After the pop-punksters' positive reaction from the crowd, HiFi set up, opened with "(The HiFi Vs.) Potential Energy," and were immediately greeted after the opening number with the following from some visibly pissed burly dude:
"THIS IS THE WORST SHIT I HAVE EVER HEARD!"
Well, strap in, buddy, because we're about to get a whole lot worse. Meanwhile, a dance party was breaking out in the front row as two well-dressed individuals couple-danced and one complete knockout gyrated near her boyfriend (or someone who wanted to be? I dunno). All in all, i'd call our completely face-melting set a win, and this set the best tour-closing performance HiFi's had since 2004, when we closed our tour that year with a killer show at Madison's High Noon Saloon and two of our girlfriends surprised us at the venue.
As i tore down my drums after a similarly killer Zebras set (possibly the best one of the tour, complete with rowdy fans who had seen the band before and a great sequence in "The Gift" where The Wizard took the theremin into the crowd and played it against people's heads), i bemusedly observed a fairly amorous couple lose the ability to wait until they got home to take matters into their overly-rambunctious pants. The girl disappeared into the ladies' room while her boy stood guard at the door and then not-at-all-surreptitiously went in after her, locking the heavy bolt on the door behind them. I can't say it was a bad plan, as that bolt was secure as hell--i used it myself when i had to drop a deuce at the venue earlier (normally i do my damnedest to avoid pooping at a punk bar because the men's room is never a crap-safe area--there's never a door on the toilet nor a lock on the bathroom itself. But we were talking critical goddamn mass and so the women's room was my only choice. Funny thing--ladies' bathrooms are covered in WAY fewer band stickers than men's rooms).
A girl showed up to knock on the door, but i broke the news that the facilities were due to be unavailable for a while. "Sorry, someone's fucking in there." "Are you serious? God, i really have to pee!" I had been chatting with a guy friend of Kan-tis' (and explaining the restroom coitus to him as well), so we assured her that if she used the men's room we'd stand guard. As she attended to her needs in the dude's room, we heard the megabolt unclack and the glowing couple emerged. I greeted them with a loud "YYYYYEAAAAAAAHHHH!" and Friend of Kan-tis lost his shit laughing. To the couple's credit they merely grinned, giggled and went about their evening.
Every touring band was paid $100 at the end of the night, which solidified the Brass Rail as Completely Fucking Rad in my book. Despite their weird-ass oddly-shaped stage (more long than wide, which made our stage plot a bit weird to sort out and meant that i was about 4 miles from the rest of the band on stage), and because of their patrons' willingness to voice their displeasure in hilarious ways (along with the dude yelling at us during the set, at one point i went back to the men's room, where i had tagged the celing with a HiFi sticker, only to see that the sticker had been removed), i would highly recommend this place to anyone who wants to play a show in one of those small towns where they're happy to see decent punk rock of any kind come through.
We followed a years-old HiFi tradition of driving straight home after the last show, arriving in Milwaukee around 7 AM with bleary eyes and happy hearts. Was this the best tour IfIHadAHiFi has ever been on? I don't know if i'd say that. I'd call it a pretty damn good one, however. Sure, we played in front of some ambivalent zombies in Nashville, and had shows with audience numbers in the single digits, but as i've said before, getting our name "out there" is, at this point, a secondary goal behind visiting pals and taking in this incredible country of ours. Sure, there were times while driving through torrential rain on precarious New York bridges where none of this touring nonsense seemed worth it, but we also finished strong with four consecutive shows that reminded me exactly why we do this. Am i already planning next year's two-week tour? Fuck no, but i'm definitely not against doing another one.
I'd rather not drive as much next time, though.