Aphrodesia Summer Tour 2008!!
Aphrodesia Summer US Tour 2008- MI, PA, NY, PA, OH, IL, IN, MI, IA, CO, UT, ID, OR. (Got that?)
*For best results start at the bottom and read up
August 17, On the runway at Atlanta Airport while maintenance crews work on the cooling fan for the flux capacitor.
After Nebraska and cute tour dairy entries there is eastern Colorado and Jackson Lake State Park, where we camp and watch lightning storms on the horizon as we barbeque chicken and listen to Sylvain and Mouzhan play old timey music on guitar and violin. it's Sylvain's birthday, and all things considered, how would you rather spend it than crammed in a hot bus driving across the US and camping with 9 or your closest friends? (Don't answer that).
On the drive from Iowa and after we have dropped off Lara at the Des Moines airport at 7 AM, we get word that the promoters handling all three of our shows in Colorado have pulled out and cancelled. This points up a central rule of the music business: there are no rules. In what other business can your business partner pull out of a long-awaited, counted on and spreadsheeted part of your monthlong project, leaving you high and dry and him virtually unscathed? (again, don't answer that). Yes, we get half our guarantees for the three shows per conttract, but it's small consolation when you've got 11 hands on deck who have given up their lives for a month and you're traveling in a bus that eats money with its gas tank every half day or so.
But that's how it is in this world, and the end result is lightly attended shows in Denver (where we nonetheless get a positive and entertaining blog review that proves there are no private moments for anyone anymore ever) and Fort Collins, where we play an entertaining set anyway for a decent crowd that shows up by the second set. Driving to Boulder we detour from a planned campground to hang instead with Maisy, connected to us through the Jeremy and the Japonize Elephants even though we've never met her, who after one night gives us the keys to her house for the next three days while she flies to San Francisco with Jeremy. Which means after having nowhere to stay, possibly no gigs and nothing to do, we've now got a house of our own while we rock the front range and bike, shop thrift stores, hang at our buddy Johnny J's Laughing Goat coffee house and soak in the mountain atmosphere.
Axiom XXVII: Every now and then being a musician works out.
After Boulder - where the wack job who assaulted Paul in the alleyway (see Just Vote tour dairy, 2004) writes an apology on our mailing list, and Scott Messersmith from the Motet and a bunch of Guineans sit in on hand drums- we bid Mully goodbye and head for Carbondale, where we rock out in the most satisfying show of the tour so far, a big crowd that won't stop dancing and we look ridiculous in costumes salvaged from the bottom of our costume bin.
Afterwards we hit a house party and then are made breakfast by ** in the morning, an impossibly good homemade eggs benedict made for 10+ people by a crew of great Carbondalers who just want to shower some love back on the group that gave it up for the the night before (see Axiom XXVII) we drive west through Rocky Mountain canyons, Utah deserts where rainstorms bloom rainbows and a horizon of broken mesas and colored rock walls. It hardly seems like the same tour that took us to a food festival in Kalamazoo, parking on Bleeker Street, swimming in quarries in Ohio, but of course it is, and we're still here, moving west.
Salt Lake City is lunchtime business crowd out for a stroll but this one is much better than when we play here a couple years ago, a crowd that actually listens and even buys CD's afterwards. We camp by a lake in Idaho, barbeque a gourmet meal of chicken, sausages, potatoes and roasted garlic and zuccini, wondering why we never eat this well at home, then flop down in a field to watch meteors streak across the sky (Axiom XXVII).
The next three nights are as surprising as anything yet- three outdoor shows in Idaho that just get better and better. Ketchum is a resort town square filled with dancing bodies, Boise is a bigger city square with even more dancing bodies, in McCall we swim in a gorgeous mountain lake by day and rock out for a crowd that parties on a beach in back of a coffee shop at night. After McCall we grumble but make the drive to Portland and rock out for a crowd that won't let us quit, singing "Every Day" for us to make us come back and give them an encore. Danielle has printed up business cards for us that say simply "Yes, I am a Rock Star"; at times on the drive home the next day (day 32? 33? We've lost count but are glad to be heading back) we take them out and lance at them just to remind ourselves of what and why we keep doing all this.
August 4, I-80 Westbound, Nebraska somewhere.
How To Write a Tour Dairy*
(*actual pamphlet found backstage at Uncle Fester's, Bloomington, IN)
TALK ABOUT THE MUSIC EACH NIGHT, BUT BE BRIEF ABOUT OTHER DETAILS
Which means we shouldn't wax poetic about Jason's mom's homemade ice cream sandwiches in Bloomington, the hours spent in the bus the next day driving up to Traverse City in northern Michigan. We shouldn't talk about the fantastical swim we had in Lake Michigan after our set at the Dunegrass Festival, the sun setting over the ocean- er, lake- as we pretended we were back home in California and the Pacific had suddenly turned warm and fresh and smooth. If we're going to talk about the music we could talk about Sylvain and Mouzhan playing old timey mandolin and fiddle for us in the bus, at Nelson Ledges, late night at Dunegrass, and anywhere else we have a spare minute. And then there's Space Blaster, Mike Abraham, Sylvain and Jason's surf-spaghetti-metal band, with Ezra filling in on bass, which has rocked a 'tweener set in Bloomington and Cedar Rapids. Or maybe we could talk about Aphrodesia, but that would be too easy.
DON'T MENTION DRUGS OR ALCOHOL OR ANYTHING THAT COULD REFLECT NEGATIVELY ON YOUR BAND
Which means we can't talk about draining the keg in the beer tent at Dunegrass, greeting the dawn there and in Nelson Ledges, the champagne on the Lake Michigan beach, the utter helplessness with which the backstage liquor has succumbed to our embrace on most nights. We should instead emphasize that Mouzhan has christened this tour the 'Get Fit Tour' and the name has stuck- we are alternating sit-up days and push-up days, getting up early to run laps around the hotel or lake or campground where we are staying. Earlier tours required decompression afterwards, a regimen of excersize and healthy eating to get rid of the spare tire we picked up sitting around the bus, backstage, hotel parking lots and random strangers' living rooms. This time most of us look to come home in better shape than we left, reasonably prompting our friends to ask 'who are you and what have you done with Aphrodesia?'
IT'S GOOD TO MENTION OTHER BANDS AND MUSICIANS, BUT DON'T EXCESSIVELY NAME DROP.
Which means we can't mention the late night jam-and-drinking session/parade with members of Cornmeal, Railroad Earth and Vince Herman at Dunegrass, the fact that Buckethead cleared the entire backstage for his set there just so that no one would see his head without his bucket, the time we almost threw a baseball through the window of Donna the Buffalo's tour bus at the Silver Maple festival in Comstock Park, Michigan or watching Grace Potter try on dresses with Lara in a tent at Dunegrass.
DON'T SAY ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT ANY VENUE OR PROMOTER
Which means mum's the word about Chicago, where a sports bar named Duffy's mystifyingly paid us to play a near empty room full of TV's tuned to sports channels and a few nonchalant customers chomping on burgers. We can't mention the sketchy fly by night promoters in Colorado, who have pulled out of our shows at the last minute, leaving us to scramble for new arrangements with the clubs themselves just so we can get onstage again.
BE POSITIVE, BUT DON'T BRAG OR BOAST EXCESSIVELY
Which means we can't talk about how good it feels to deliver a tight smack in the face from the stage when all 11 of our gears are working in sync the way they have been. We can't mention the fact that the band is sounding better than ever, the horn section rearing its head at the right moments, the rhythm section relentless, Lara captivating. We can't compare ourselves to the other bands we share stages with, the trios and quartets of loose funk that look like a bedraggled mob of retirees compared to our crisp marching band formations after we're done with the crowd.
BE STRAIGHTFORWARD IN YOUR TOUR DIARY; DON'T USE CONFUSING GIMMICKS.
Which means we can't make up a pamphlet found backstage as an excuse for being cute with this tour dairy entry. Damn.
July 27, 2008, West on I-80 towards Chicago
New York is a sucked orange, narcotics, the constant buzz of sleeplessness. Three nights in New York gets us a rush of activity, money spent at jazz clubs, museums, taxicabs and dingy bars. We jog along the Hudson river, record some vocals for our new album late night at the Blue Man studio (thanks Mully), greet the dawn from the chess tables in the corner of Washington Square Park and shuttle all our gear out to Brooklyn from Manhattan for the first of two gigs. Zebulon is Williamsburg hip, dimly lit and packed to the gills, and though the sound is subpar we're flying. Mully is back with us for the next 3 weeks, and though he hasn't played with us for a year and a half and we had no rehearsal he fits in like your favorite shirt found underneath the sofa lost for over a year, just dust if off and slip it on. Our songs sound like themselves again, all those guitar parts no one else knows come to life, we feel complete in a way we haven't in a while. The next night in Harlem, at our friend Abdel's place called the Shrine, is even better, when our friends The Get It open the show with a blast of classic soul and we follow by ripping through our set list like a famished sailor tearing into a pack of baloney. Afterwards we wind down downtown at dance clubs and corner store liquor stores before dragging our butts out of bed to get on the road by 9 in the morning for PIttsburgh.
Pittsburgh is Abraham town- that would be guitarist Mike Abraham's hometown, and his dad Bob brings out a posse who pack the Thunderbird Cafe and hoot and holler for every note we play.
Cleveland? Well, Pittsburgh was hot, but Cleveland was steamin'! (if you get the joke please don't email us)
Nelson Ledges Quarry Park is the site of the Summer Hookahfest, an annual festival run by Ekoostic Hookah, a midwest jam band that has been around so long they've got their own festival- kind of like Flowmotion and their Summer Meltdown up near Seattle. It gives us late night brainstorming ideas- what if we just stayed in California and put on our own festival? Who would we invite? The list gets long and mostly obscure- Secret Chiefs, Sleepytime Gorrilla Museum, the Fucking Champs-
and then we realize we're going about this all wrong. We could fill an entire weekend with nothing but Aphrodesia side projects, and those are mostly the bands we want to see anyway, so there. What other band can do that? For example, we'd have The Sweet Snacks on one stage, then The Trifles on another, Space Blaster pounding it out on one stage while Mas Cabeza gets groovy afterwards, the Japonize Elephants ripping it up before they hand it off to the Mitch Marcus Quintet, which leads into the Octopus8/Venus Christ extravaganza, followed by Carne Cruda, and then after interludes of Awesome Possum and Fetal Position the middle eastern sounds of Khidarag lead us into everyone reuniting as Aphrodesia to close the night, each night.
Actually, the more we think about it, the more that sounds like too much work. We'll probably just keep playing other people's festivals.
Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Nelson Ledges, a big lake surrounded by woods and campgrounds, a huge thunderstorm before we play and another one named Buckethead afterwards. Our set is solid, we're firing on all cylinders now, locked in and blasting through- it's nice to drive like mad across the country, endure the heat, the cramped bus, the disorganization that greets us at the festival and then kick ass once we get on stage, it reminds us of why in the world we do this in the first place. After we're done we jump in the lake, make friends and watch Buckethead give the crowd what they want- and we know that because many of them wear Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets on their head in the rain.
Who is Buckethead, you ask? All right, we now pause for a Buckethead semi-review:
Buckethead is a tall gangly guitarist who never appears in public without a blue jump suit, a silver mask and a bucket on his head- a bucket that used to be from Kentucky Fried Chicken and is now plain white, which may indicate a 'cease and desist' letter from the Colonel or maybe just a change of artistic vision, who knows?
This is the second time we've shared a festival stage with him, after the High Sierra Music Festival in California a few weeks ago. Buckethead is the current guitar player for Guns n Roses, and rose to a quirky kind of obscure fame appearing in several of producer/bassist Bill Laswell's projects in the 90's, most famously Praxis.
Now here's the thing- Buckethead played an hour and a half solid, with no one onstage but him and his iPod. If I were to tell you that some guy was playing guitar solos along with his iPod as his backing band you'd tell me, understandably, that that sounds like it sucked. And we heard more than our share of critical griping from jambanders at High Sierra. And yet- it doesn't suck. In fact, Buckethead killed it, delivered the hard rockin' goods and then some both sets we've seen him. Yes, it's all metal/hard rock with perhaps a few too many power ballads thrown in, yes, his soloing relies a lot (*music geek talk alert!) on what Abraham calls 'three note per string aolian' with more than a dollop of harmonic minor thrown in, yes, after a while the music gets a tad monotonous. But then you realize that here's a guy who just went up and rocked a festival crowd for ninety solid minutes with nothing but himself, his guitar and his iPod, and left a bucketfull of people begging, pleading and screaming for more, while the buckets on many of their heads went soggy from the rain. Can you do that? The guy- whoever he really is- is a virtuoso: give him some props.
The next day we hang out at the campground, lounging in the sun and the lake and taking it easy (well, for us, anyway....). Aside from an impromptu African dance class session and a lovely old timey set by Sylvain and Mouzhan that draws several of the locals over for a street party, we invent several games to pass the time ad blow off steam, such as:
- The squishy rubber thing game. I take the squishy rubber thing, and throw it at your head. You respond by throwing it back at my head.
- The heavy concrete brick game. I throw the concrete brick at you. You then heave it back at me.
- The throwing chairs game. Are we throwing chairs? We're throwing chairs.
- You find a 'God of War' cardboard poster, bring it back to the camp, pretend he's a Latin American president more interested in social programs than in austerity measures proposed by the IMF and you're CIA: you take him out. Hard.
Now we drive to Chicago, where we'll soak in the local atmosphere for a night before making our Chicago and Illinois debut tomorrow at a place called Duffy's. It's hot, the bus is crowded and uncomfortable, but we're having fun and not really that freaked out that we still have three (!) more weeks to go. Tell mom not to worry about us, we're doing fine.
July 25, 2008, Cleveland, OH, room 708, the Hampton Inn, Day 10, or maybe 7 or so, or 4, depending on who you ask...
How to get pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike:
First, drive a white short bus with California plates with your band's name on the side, the exterior looking a bit worn, kind of like you spent part of the day in the hot sun scrubbing off the graffiti that has covered your bus since you parked it at various band members' houses in San Francisco and the local neighborhood kids treated it as a brand new canvas.
Then, turn the lights off, set everyone's flashlights to 'strobe', pump some Michael Jackson over the stereo and have everyone hang on the crossbars and twirl around, practicing their best John Travoltas as the bus makes its way from Philly to NYC at 2 on a Monday morning, our very own mobile dance party on the most State Police-infested stretch of interstate this side of the equator.
Of course, to really do this right, you've got to have just played a hot, sweaty gig in Philly at the World Cafe Live, giving it all up for the city that let us run up the Rocky steps last time through town. You've got to have hung out for a bit afterwards in the humid east coast nighttime air, trying to decide to crash on some new friend's floor or pack the party up and move it to the Big Apple.
You've got to have done all that after a day spent lounging around Lara's folks' pool in Harrisburg, scrubbing the graffitti off your bus, catching crayfish in the creek and enjoying a summer that you don't get in cold and foggy San Francisco, after rocking out in the city's outdoor amphitheater the night before for a set in front of a few hundred families sprawled out on the city park lawn.
And before that, you've got to have drive ten hours from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where you met up with Lara and Mike, the band's plan of some people driving across the mountains and plains and some people flying somehow actually working out, letting you work out the kinks on the first date of your monthlong summer tour in front of a festival crowd more interested in sampling the local food bazaar than listening to a halfway mature band from San Francisco intent on cramming into a bus to small for half their number and driving across the country in the heat of summer with no air conditioning.
So once you've got all that, cue the mobile dance party, flash the lights, hit the Turnpike and see what happens. Although the thing is, we did all this, followed it to the letter, and got nothing. Not even a drive by from the po po. Can you explain that? Maybe they were busy posing for reality cop shows with confiscated garbage bags full of Columbian brown fresh out of someone's trunk, who knows. All we know is we took the party to New York, where all of us crashed on Ezra's folks's living room floor on Bleeker street after we wandered around with pizza and beers, settling into the chess tables in Washington Square park to greet the first shades of dawn. Go figure.
Day negative one: If life were like Myspace or Facebook you could get little feeds from all your friends all the time, updating you on their moods and activities. Problem is the options avaialble are too limited. "Ezra is packing" Mood: 'apprehensive' doesn't really cut it. Your personal ticker right now would have to say "Ezra is packing up the last ten years of his life, flashing through every memory from his years in San Francisco, pulling out thumbtacks from the walls he thought would be the only ones he'd ever need. Ezra is having a breakdown boxing up his life until he gets back from two monthlong tours and moves to NY, leaving behind his girlfriend and everything he's built over the last decade plus in San Francisco. He's listening to Stevie Wonder all day, who somehow makes him cry and feel good at the same time, pulling out dusty CD's on his bookshelf he hasn't listened to in years, including one from the first gig Aphrodesia ever played, in Olive's bedroom at the House of Love on Fulton St., a house party back in December 2002. Your update says it makes him thinks of how far he's come in the last few years, how far Aprodesia has travelled, literally and otherwise, but he's scared to put it in his CD changer. He wants to move on and not back, but it's hard when you've got your past staring you in the face so intently.
But endings are beginnings too. Yes, Ezra is moving to New York City in the fall, but the band is far from over, this cross-country tour far from the last we'll ever undertake. As we drive east the hot desert miles fly by underneath, hip-hop blares from the stereo, we make sandwiches, read old New Yorker magazines and gaze out the window at the barren landscape, wondering why the world has gone from despair and loneliness to not feeling so bad. Yes, this is new and yes, there is a lot to leave behind and yes, it's scary, unsettling, disconcerting to have the rug pulled out from under you and all the familiar touchstones of your life yanked away like favorite wall hangings thrown in a pile in the middle of the room. But there is life in loss, liberation in uncertainty.
Which doesn't matter a whole lot now anyway, since there's quite literally no going back now.
Flashback to Day Negative Twelve: waking in sweaty tents at the High Sierra Music Festival, making ourselves 'Aphrodesia Mimosas' (recipe to follow- don't knock it till you try it) blasting through a set at the Shady grove side stage, a late night renegade set at our campsite, a blur of sweat and energy on the main stage and a final gasp atop Brent's RV later that day. If festivals were Olympics and each band a team we'd take home the gold in every event, our side cleaning up at the 6am kickball game, leaving every ounce onstage everywhere we play, some of us waking up in strange tents with stranger people. If you didn't know any better you'd swear we were rock stars, with our very own VH1 camera crew to follow us around and docment every backstage glance. But since we do know better we keep it in perspective, enjoy it for the once a year blast it is, and drive home at the end of the weekend.
Flashback to Day Negative Five: The Oregon Country Fair mainstage is a blur, and afterwards we wander around the crowds looking at booths selling silver earrings and African print skirts and whatnot. We'd like to stay for the real action at night, but the Fair won't let us, so we sell the few camping passes we have for gas money while Sareen from Santa Cruz makes us cocktails and a guy Lara picked up walking around the Fair cuts slices of pineapple for us as we blast music and hang out around our bus before we leave. Bus party over, we cruise through town to the nearest 7-11 for Free Slurpee Day, picking up three teenagers from Portland who have no plan except to hang out all night in Eugene waiting for the fair gates to open the next day. They cram onto our bus and ride with us for some Mexican food, snapping pictures of the bus, and when we leave them to drive to Bend they're still giggling.