Posted: April 8th, 2013
The end of the last tour was a blur. Space and time were pulled out beneath me like a rug. Each time, that happens. In a blink the shows in Portland, Seattle, Ashland, Tahoe, Vegas, and LA are behind me. They’re all great shows. moe., as a unit, has taken their game to another higher level.
I try to remember things that place the whole experience in context. In Tahoe, on the north end of the lake, at Crystal Bay, right on the California-Nevada border, the caravan came to a halt. It, Lake Tahoe, is completely surrounded by mountains—big fuckers. The terrain is inclined and rugged, steep in places, covered with giant boulders, Ponderosa Pines, and patches of snow. Lake Cottages crowd the forest for the trees throughout the landscape, vying for a view of the lake, or mountains, or other trees and boulders. There, moe., et al, hunkered down for 3 days; one off and two show days. Some of us, band and crew, went skiing. The rest of us lay low—sleep, drink, gamble—think about life and a deuce in the hole.
I was balls deep into reading, The Cell Biology of the Testis—Alien vs. the African Honey Badger: What If?, a friend of mine’s autobiography.
There’s nothing much else to do.
Crystal Bay is not a town but a place. Situated there are 4 casinos, 3 of them are run down and in dire need of renovation; a fire station, a few hotels, a log cabin that doubles as a high-end restaurant, and—thanks be to the heavens above—a newly opened craft beer dispensary. The place used to be an ice cream parlor, but it folded. Inside, the décor still looks like the ice cream parlor that was abandoned—a retro Andy Warhol meets Beaver Cleaver. Instead of a soda fountain and a soft serve behind the counter, on the wall, there’s about 50 beer taps. Suddenly, Crystal Bay got interesting.
But then it was over. Two great shows and we’re back on the bus attempting to get out in a snow storm high in the Sierras. It was 3 am and our bus driver had to put chains on the tires. It was snowing sideways. We had to make Las Vegas in 8 hours. It would take 10. The Hard Rock Café is right on the strip in the middle of it all. People walk the strip like narcotized herds of cattle, which many of them are: buzzed and bovine. moe. is to perform on the top floor of the Hard Rock, the third floor. Exhibits are displayed throughout the level. Myriad guitars signed by notable musicians are encased everywhere. There’s clothing, too. Stuff like, a coat Bruce Springsteen wore for ten minutes, or a suit Jimi Hendrix tried on, or ZZ Top’s formal wear. It’s not much steak, but the presentations sizzle. I’m setting up merch next to the Elvis room under a picture of Bo Diddley that’s framed with one of his square guitars. The level is closed to the public while we set up. It is cordoned off and there is signage up that says so. Yet people, buzzed and bovine, come off the elevator or escalator, ignore the signs and walk around the barrier to gawk. They wander from exhibit to exhibit in awe. It’s like they’re at the Smithsonian, viewing Charles Lindbergh’s plane, The Spirit of Saint Louis, contemplating how in the hell he could fly a thing, around the size of a one engine Cessna, across the country, let alone the Atlantic Ocean, and in doing so, usher in a revolution in aviation that would take man to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Except here, at the Hard Rock, they stare at some rock star’s pants, which are only strips of sequined, sparkly leggings attached to a padded ball pouch. Women gasp, but men suppress homo-erotic urges and equate the Spirit of Saint Louis to the amount of Budweiser they’re going to need to wash the thought of those pants and urges away. Is it me, Vegas, or is it really what’s become of the country? People are awed by bright lights, the pomp and pageantry of mediocrity, celebrate the lowest common denominator, and are hypnotized by the cult of celebrity. It is here where I have an epiphany: Wherever I go in this country the only thing I find we have in common as a nation is that English is still mother tongue, currency is still green, and shit still stinks. Vegas can do that to you.
If it doesn’t, then may I suggest a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, the one in the City of Angels, and the street the Henry Fonda Theater’s located, and where moe. went to perform after Vegas. I suppose when the first Spanish settlers arrived and drove the natives out, and then squatted on the narrow plain between the hills and mountains and the Pacific, they must have thought they’d found heaven, or a piece of it. There are 18 million people looking for a piece of heaven on that narrow plain today. As I walk to the theater from the hotel there is much to see. Out on Hollywood Boulevard there are many dominatrix-dressed women walking about. Enough that I wonder if there’s a convention. They are happy, joking, and hooting, and are varying in size, shape, and color. One walks near me. Her ass cheeks fill a miniskirt-fishnet thingy and hang like plump ham hocks in a butcher’s window. It’s an impressive sight. Enough that the transvestite at the bus stop quits arguing into his-her cell phone to watch the plump dominatrix walk by him-her. By then, I notice a phalanx of motorcycle cops and small Public Works trucks begin to close down the boulevard. They’re driving around in tight circles like the clowns do on small bikes in a Shriner’s parade. They’re redirecting traffic and setting up roadblocks. We wonder what’s going on. One friend wonders if it’s the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade a week early. There’s so many cops, another wonders if Obama’s in town. Destitute street people are about, though, so it couldn’t be Obama, or they’d of been cleaned up. Near a Starbucks I passed, in the parking lot, one lay dead (nearly) drunk. He’s facedown under a dumpster in a drying pool of booze and urine. Out on the sidewalk, another guy, with big bushy hair and a wild scraggily beard, is laid out on his side, his back flat against a wall. Though his eyes are shut, his free arm is reaching out and up like he’s grasping for an invisible hand. If there’s anything I carry with me from this tour, it’s the amount of homeless people I’ve encountered throughout the country—everywhere. One bum, in Madison, Wisconsin, I can’t forget. A man—he could have been 45 or 75—I could not tell—passed by me, late morning. He had a faraway look in his eyes. His pace was quickened—by the cold? Man it was cold. It was the morning after a snow and was around 20 degrees. But I don’t know if he could feel it anymore. His coat was open. He may have mumbled. What I can’t forget, because it’s freeze-framed in my head, is the greenish-yellowish icicles hanging from his nostrils like stalactites … It really made me think ... Dammit ... It was cold in Madison …
… It’s cold everywhere. Even here in LA. That guy with his arm stretched out, in his own filth, reaching for what? Now that’s in my head, too. I try to convince myself that there are people who will always live outside of society, even if it’s in the middle of 18 million of them. …I’m distracted. My thoughts are interrupted… Hey, there is a parade, about 80-100 people, mostly women, are holding banners and signs and shouting out for women’s equality. Suddenly, a guy with a big, 5 foot high crucifix draped in colorful beads, runs out from nowhere to the very front of the marchers and parade bombs the procession for Christ. It’s like he’d laid in ambush, but the women don’t seem to notice or care. Neither do any of the cops. I imagine this is an average Saturday afternoon on Hollywood Boulevard for them. I don’t know what to make of it all. Between here and Vegas, I’m confused. I sense no danger, and I’m not here to pass Judgment. I’d like to think, with these words, I’m leaving impressions.
Posted: March 7th, 2013
I thought I knew everything. It’s a trait I inherited from my mother. You can ask her anything, and she’ll have an answer for you. Her real specialty though, is anticipating answers to questions you haven’t even formulated in your head, and then telling you what you should do to solve these problems you didn’t even know you had. It’s an amazing gift, I know. One my father, God rest his soul, was confounded by each and every day for the last 60 years of his life.
Unfortunately for me, just as I started getting comfortable in my role as a know-it-all, the tour bus rolled into Ashland, Oregon. And, “therein lies the rub,” for I discovered something I did not know. Ashland has Shakespeare. I know what you’re thinking. Go on; “rank me with the barbarous multitudes,” for I have fallen amongst them. Imagine, Horatio, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, a great center for the Bard thrives. Imagine further, moe. rolling up to a grand Elizabethan theater, America’s first this side of the pond, in downtown Ashland. Then imagine the bus rolling right on by, continuing down the street, and coming to a full stop in front of the Ashland Amory. Excuse me, it’s the Historic Ashland Amory (not to be confused with the ahistoric armory across town).
Being in Oregon has its perks. There’s no sales tax here (Next time, I’ll plan a shopping spree). There are a lot of microbreweries here, too (Next time, I’ll plan a bender). I’ll do my shopping and drinking in the minutes I have between setting up merch and doors opening for the show. Actually, I have more than minutes between set up and doors. I just don’t let anyone know, especially Skip, our tour manager, who, otherwise, will find a make-work project for me to do. I’m convinced, in another life, Skip was a Bürgermeister of a Bavarian hamlet. In my mind’s eye, I see him going about the burg, a commanding presence, in lederhosen and a feathered, Tyrolean Alpine hat, instructing Frau Blücher in the minutia of potato dumpling preparation.
I joke, for the record. The other day in Seattle, Skip covered for me so I could meet a good friend at the Starbucks by the theater, and then grab a bite to eat. What I spaced on was that there are 5 Starbucks near the theater, including the original one on Pike Place across from the fish market. Saying, “Meet me at Starbucks,” in Seattle is like Mr. Jones telling you to, “Look me up in the phone book,” and expecting to find the right one—unless you have a Jones for Starbucks. I took the path well traveled and met my friend in a parking lot.
The show that night in Seattle was a dandy. Orgone (rhymes with “bone”) kicked ass the opening set. I was happy to see northwest moe.rons show up and support them. They’re a great band and are a great complement to the tour. moe.rons got what they came for, however. moe. brought the thunder for the next two sets, right from the get-go, busting out with, “Captain America” and keeping it going right through “Downward Facing Dog” and the final bars of “Plane Crash.”
Meanwhile, back at the Historic Ashland Armory the doors opened. I guess because it’s Oregon, I’m thinking I’ll see a few Ken Kesey-Merry-Prankster-types amongst the crowd. I’m not disappointed. A veritable Madhatters club makes a gradual procession into the Armory—there are people in stovetops, an English coachman, bowlers, a homburg, myriad fedoras, and, God bless him, one Tyrolean Alpine (if he had asked me to yodel during “Yodelittle,” I think I would have). A few of the younger, spawn of Merry Pranksters are hula-hoopers, who chose to hoop their hulas right in front of me. These young, athletic, gyrating women block my view of the stage. Professional that I am, I make do with just … listening.
The show’s progressing at a good clip. Moe.’s blown through a few of my favorites, like “Mexico” and “Timmy Tucker.” Just when I think I’ve heard and seen it all for one show, early in the second set a 40-or-50-something dude comes up to merch table. He has a homemade5-foot wooden staff. It’s crooked and chipped, and I’m pretty sure he’s carved it with his teeth. Did I mention he’s wearing oversized earmuffs, too? He says something to me, but I can’t hear him. He’s a half foot shorter and mumbling. I bend and shout, “I can’t hear you over the music.” He then says, throwing his thumb over his shoulder towards the stage, “This may seem like a really stupid question, but what’s the name of this band?” I quickly wrote down a phone number on a slip of paper and handed it to him. “Call this woman,” I said. “She’ll have the answer—she knows everything.”
Posted: March 5th, 2013
Opening night, Left Coast run, Portland, Oregon: moe.rons are filing into the historic Crystal Ballroom atop Cotillion Hall, where Portlandians have ‘Danced in the Clouds,’ off and on, for nearly a century. The Ballroom is a magical place—with its elaborate, ornate chandeliers above, and mysteriously symbolic murals upon the walls. But it is its dance floor that makes the Crystal Ballroom most unique, perhaps, in all of the country. True. Look it up. The ballroom floor is believed to be a near one-of-a-kind. It has a give to it, a sensation of floating when you walk on or dance across it (it really does), as though one were “… dancing in the clouds.” It was founded by local dance aficionado and businessman, Montrose Ringler, in 1914, with the credo, “To dance, to move with ease and grace, Lends charm, to figure, form, and face.” Ironically, Ringler would lose the building in the early 1920s, when dance, art, and jazz were associated with subversion, communism, and liquor—and considered detrimental to ones charm, figure, form, and face. Nevertheless, somehow, the building survived, which is a good thing, because it is an architectural gem; and was added to the National Historic Register in 1979. Today, the first floor is a microbrew and restaurant owned by McMenamins, one of the finest craft breweries in the northwest. Actually, the brewery is on the second floor, where there’s a mystical beer chute delivering the elixir of life down the gullets of happy patrons below (or so I envision). You’ll find the Crystal Ballroom up on the third floor. That’s where moe.’s played annually these past few years.
The Ballroom is one of many reasons to like the city. For I do. I like Portland, at least the Portland I know, which is downtown Portland. It’s a unique place. It has character—the kind I like. People, no matter what their ilk, for the most part—even complete strangers—are openly friendly and civil. Nobody’s on the defensive. Simply put, in post-industrial America, it is unexpected urban behavior (I suppose there’s an argument here that it’s unexpected behavior anywhere, these days). Comparatively, it’s not to say that people in New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Atlanta are not nice, it’s that most people in those places are not openly nice. It’s locked up and protected for the sake of survival. You have to pry it out of them, and once you do, you have a friend for life.
What makes Portland different? I have no idea. Walk a few blocks. Expressionism, the personal kind, is in fine form here. There are a lot of small businesses and shop fronts, the independent type, which speaks to a thriving entrepreneurial spirit. There’s Voodoo Doughnuts, and its distinct rose-colored packaging with the catchphrase —Good Things Come in Pink Boxes (no argument here); or Powell’s Books, every bibliophile’s wet dream (again, present and accounted for). Walk on and turn a corner, and there’s an amalgamation of hippies, the homeless, the hapless, and hipsters, both retro and moderne—populating the streets and parks and bars and stores. It’s that, or every state in the Union has emptied their wards onto the streets of downtown. I find it part of the city’s charm. I don’t sense danger (though I suppose there are dangerous places). The esoteric is alive and well. Different is entertaining, non-threatening, and, more than tolerated—it’s embraced.
My thoughts of downtown Portland are reinforced during the concert. People come to the merch table and say stuff to me like, “I can’t believe how friendly people are here?” or “it’s a wacky place.” I’m not affronted and neither are they and neither should you. Candor, after all, is what I’m blathering about. The one line that stands out comes from a Portlandian, when she said something along the lines, “I’m from Portland, but downtown—there’s no other place like it—it’s a lot of fun and flat out kooky.”
Maybe Montrose Ringler knew that all along. Such are the possibilities. Such are my observations: if you can’t find your head in downtown Portland, then you’re not going to find it anywhere.
I’m presently on a bus to Seattle … and the search continues.
Posted: February 28th, 2013
It’s after 4 in the morning and I’m wide awake. I gotta leave for the airport in another 2 hours, but I can’t sleep. I have a million things on my mind and no one to talk to about it. I feel like my buddy Jack whose therapist suffers from narcolepsy. He tells me he’s been seeing her for years without much progress. I asked him why he continues to go, and he said it took him awhile to find someone he trusts unloading all his baggage on. To me it sounds more like handing your baggage to a one-armed bellhop with the crabs. I’d be checking out of my room before the luggage arrived. I kind of envy her now, though, Jack’s therapist. I could use some sleep. Maybe I should just call Jack? and hear him out?
Nah, I can’t do that to Jack.
I’ll sleep on the flight to Oregon. It’s gonna take a while from where I’m at. The compass is pointing west by northwest, and I’ll be jumping three time zones. moe. and crew will rendezvous there, in Portland. We begin the ten day crawl along the western seaboard, visiting familiar places and faces, and seeing all our left coast friends.
I have to admit, even though I’m yawning as I write this, this trip’s going to be special. I’d advise all you moe.rons venturing out for any of the upcoming shows to arrive early, because you’re in for a treat. Orgone (rhymes with “bone”), a down and dirty, R&B band out of LA, will be opening for moe. during Winter Tour, deuxième partie. That’s French for ’second part,’ Homer, in case you’re wondering. I don’t speak French, in case you’re wondering about that, too; or like, maybe, if your thinking I’m trying to impress you, I’m not (I can order a beer in Czech politely, though, in case you’re thinking we might ever be in Prague together, and thirsty).
Truth be told, I just like the sound of the French language—probably as much as you’re gonna like the sound of Orgone. I first heard them when they played at moe.down, 3 moe.downs back, and they rocked the proverbial house down.
And then, before your toes stop tapping and your hips stop swaying, it’ll be moe.time—two full sets of your favorite band. Yupper, this trip is gonna be fun …
Ah, well, so much to think about, so little time … so little sleep … to heck with sleep. I gotta go. It’s time to fly. No, really, it is.
Posted: February 20th, 2013
Have you ever had one of those days, that wherever you go you feel like people are staring at you and giggling a bit, and you start to wonder what’s going on—are you imagining it or is it really happening? You start to get a little paranoid, maybe. Then a breeze hits you in the face, and the place where your underwear would normally be but because today is the first day back from a tour, and you’re doing laundry, and went commando to go grocery shopping, and you suddenly realize the wind is hitting you where it can because your zipper’s down. Has that ever happened to you? Have ever experienced one of those days? Nah, neither have I. Just wondering.
Anyway, Winter Tour, Part I, hath endeth, and on a very upward note. The band back-ended the first leg of the winter tour with 10 shows in 11 days. That’s a lot of shows. On Sunday, February 17th, everyone in the band and crew went the four points of the compass out of Atlanta. Some drove, most flew, in search of much needed rest. Even the previous four days seem a blur, now. moe. doglegged through the southeast and left 4 great shows in its wake at the historic Bijou Theater in Knoxville, the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh, the Fillmore in Charlotte, and the legendary Tabernacle in Atlanta. It’s a good feeling to watch moe.rons, young and old, old and new, pack into theaters to see and hear some of the best music this country’s got to offer. It hit home for me in Atlanta, sometime during the first set, when I walked out from backstage, and looked up at a sight to see: the floor and double balconies at the Tabernacle filled up to the hilt with smiling faces. That’s a lot of good karma, there, moe.rons!
Speaking of which, you’ll be happy to hear, how much the folks who work at the theaters have a genuine affection for you, the average moe.ron. I hear it directly from the people at the venues. They like “our” fans, I’m told. Apparently, “we” shatter stereotypes they hold of the average rock concert goer. I guess it’s not that often they deal with hard-drinking, chain-smoking, music-loving, hedonistic, pacifists, who stumble in, stagger out, and tip handsomely. So, mi amigo.moe.litos, not only do you have exceptional taste in music, you’re very well-liked and welcomed wherever you go to see moe. Of course, I’ve known that all along. I‘ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of you over the years, at least your smiling faces, as a merch-toting, book-hawking, slob. So keep up the good work.
In the meantime, I’m kicking back, chillaxing, and catching up on reading, writing, and cigar smoking. I was gonna go to the bank, but I can’t. It’s the third Monday in February, Presidents’ Day, a federal, and therefore, a bank holiday. The thought of which, has really got me percolating about reason 4,573 of why the country’s gone to shit. Once upon a time, there used to be two days off in February, associated with two American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22). The holidays were unofficially collapsed into a single day in 1971, under something called the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Contrary to popular belief, US Postal Workers were not the driving force behind the “Saint Monday” holiday scheme (there are 5 of them), they were only beneficiaries. No, the Act was a marketing concoction of the national travel industry’s lobby. As a result, Washington’s Birthday, now called Presidents’ Day, officially moved his birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February, which meant that Washington’s Birthday would never again be celebrated on his birthday. More sadly, the observance of Lincoln’s birthday—the President whose will and leadership saved the country—and because of that, is widely recognized as the nation’s greatest President—would soon become as relevant as Warren G. Harding. I could go into a rant about how, over 40 years later, in a microcosm, Presidents’ Day has come to symbolize a radical mind-shift away from people thinking about civic responsibility and history, to conspicuous consumption and spending on anything and everything travel—cars, planes, gasoline, destinations, shopping, self-absorption--the usual. Or that when the passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill occurred it was done during great social conflict and war, when Americans, civilians and soldiers alike, were being bombed, shot at, and killed, at home and abroad, over said conflict and war—in Southeast Asia and on American college campuses and public buildings. (And you think Congress is oblivious now?) Today, George Washington is a caricature for ad campaigns, and Abraham Lincoln is so far gone, well, it’s like this—there are people going to see the movie, Lincoln, who: a) have no idea how it ends; or b) think it’s a movie about hot rods. Okay, maybe “b” is a little too cynical. But let me add this: Before, when there were two holidays in February, most people took those two days off and thought about two great American Presidents at least once during the day. But now, after 40 years, the only people who have the ‘holiday’ off are the moneyed interests: the banksters, Wall Street, and Government. Otherwise, you’re either working, unemployed, or happen to have the day off (like me), and at some point today, will probably curse the American presidency for it.
And that’s all I gotta say, except, if you don’t believe me, go ask yo’ mama!
Posted: February 16th, 2013
I’m in a hotel room in Knoxville. The walls are so thin, that for the last 30 seconds or so, I hear the guy in the next room over taking a whiz. I wonder if that means he can hear me fart? I can, because I had Mexican (food, i.e.) for dinner. So, I do. Loudly. There’s a sudden pause from next door, momentarily, then Austin Powers continues unabated. In the scheme of things, it’s not much. It’s not like I split the atom, but I now know that he knows I’m inside of his head. The other one, top side, that doesn’t do the thinking.
After the gig in Lafayette, we packed it up and went to Indianapolis for the band to do a Radio Show there the next afternoon. The radio station, WTTS, recorded and filmed the whole affair, in their Sun King Studio. moe. performed a short acoustic concert for about 40 or so lucky contestants. You can listen to the whole show here when you have chance: http://wttsfm.com/2013/02/moe-in-sun-king-studio-92/. It was all cozy and intimate, very laid back. Consummate professionals that they are, the band played a nice foot-stomping set, and were very well-received.
Late that night, we made our way to Knoxville, for a day off. I was all for it. After yammering about how exhausted I was, I slept for 12 hours, which I didn’t think I had in me. Bizarre really, to sleep that long into the early afternoon, then get up and go forage for breakfast. I was never a morning person, but I was never an afternoon one, either.
Now, I’m wide awake, and it’s 2:47 in the morning. I need to sleep. But I can’t. My mind is churning. We are gonna head to the venue at 10:30 am. We’ll pile our crap in the tour bus and drive a block to the venue—it’s a long block—the Bijou, over on Gay Street. Hmmm: Gay. That word’s evolution in motion. I can understand the street name, though. Gay is a traditional southern-type name, like Paige or Jimmie Dale. I remember Gay Pride, my sister’s best friend growing up. That was her name, Gay Pride. True story. Her family owned Pride’s Mill, on the Guilford Road, up in the Woods of Maine. Her mother was from the South, so it made sense to everybody up in Maine who named their kids, Mary or Jane (hahaha…maryjane) or Robert or John, etc., that she would name her daughter Gay. For me, throughout my life, whenever I’ve heard the words “Gay Pride,” there is no alternate construct, I always think of her. She was a really nice person.
Why am I thinking of that? WTF? I need to go to sleep. It’s now 3:24.
Why did I have a fajita with black beans and rice about six hours ago? That meal is boring through me one bean at a time. Oh, yeah! Life’s a gas.
… Ah, to doze off. Instead, I lay here in the dark. Every time I shut my eyes my mind churns and wanders. Hmmm, like—should I do laundry or buy underwear? Or maybe just wear the last pair till Sunday? … There’s no Starbucks near the venue in Raleigh, Thursday. That blows … I know the one in Charlotte is a mile away from the venue … If I go, I walk through a Confederate boneyard to get there. … Damn! Last time I spent a half-hour reading the headstones, and imagining the short, brutish, and blunted lives of the poor bastards. Does anyone stop and read them? ... That Asteroid—DA14—is set to pass earth on Friday. I wonder if it has a big brother—DA15—following it? … How can we rely on NASA to know if such a thing is coming? They can put a rover on Mars to split small rocks but they can’t see a rock half the size of a football field coming at us until it’s on top of us. … What if we went like the dinosaurs? … I read there’s a new theory on dinosaur extinction. Apparently, they asphyxiated themselves via methane poisoning, not by an asteroid slamming into the earth. There were so many of them, eating so much grass and meat, that they gassed themselves to death. … A greenhouse gas effect. Hahaha. It fits the current reality. Could that actually happen to someone?
… Ah to sleep … to unwind the mortal coil … Alas, the winds breach me underparts again, as loud as a turbine, and I wonder: if this is how the dinosaurs went, how content they must have truly been.
Posted: February 12th, 2013
It’s Sunday night in Lafayette, Indiana. moe.’s playing their 5th show in a row, and they’re tearing it up. I’m amazed. I really am. You go to a moe. show, you’re gonna get a 100% of what these five guys got to give. Stamina, a little tequila, love of the game—and the energy of the crowd—it’s there—the push—night-after-night—every show. A good example of that was the previous evening, in Chicago. All five members of the band sang lead vocal on at least one song because they had to. Rob has had the chest and throat funk, and his ability to sing is limited, as in, he really can’t or shouldn’t. He would sing once, anyway, and that would be for one of their signature songs, “Rebubula.” After the show, Skip, our tour manger, mentioned he thought it was a first—all five band members singing in one concert. I don’t know if it’s ever happened before. But it is what I’m talking about—the effort these guys give. When Vinnie had mono last summer he played for days until he all but keeled over under the Brooklyn Bridge—and then his wife came and forcibly took him home. It was an extraordinary effort. The thought of that, even at this instant, makes …
… Me? On the other hand? Right now? My ass is dragging. I have no stamina, but I will do shots of tequila, if only for the jolt, when need be. I’m in a reflective mood. Exhaustion does that to you. I’m 5 years into a gig that was supposed to be a summer job. “You can sell our merch and your book,” they said to me, “it’d be just like ya runaway and joined the circus.” True. It was. My first day on the job I was handed a broom, a shovel, and the way to the elephant stall. These years later, I’ve put on 25 pounds, my son calls me One-Eyed Grey Beard, and tonight, after 5 straight shows, I’m on the edge of veg. I feel like each step I take is through a snow bank. That said …
… You know I’m very grateful for the opportunity. It’s not lost on me that I get to hear world-class musicians play each evening on the job, even if it’s from the merch booth (near the elephant stalls). I’m surrounded by great people and the tour schedule gives me time to write the little stories I like to write. No, mi amigo.moe.litos, what wipes me out is the multi-tasking. Many things to do, seemingly all at once, all day long. It’s: Go! Go! Go! And here’s the rub, if truth be told …
… I’m a serial single-tasker. Always have been. I do my best work in installments. For instance, I just sold a sticker to a guy. That was hard enough. It was even harder not to ask him about his mullet. You don’t see that hairstyle too often anymore. You barely see it on someone in their twenties. I think: is the mullet a sincere expression of one’s fashion sense or sensibility? But the task at hand is to sell a $2 sticker. And before I can even begin to think about mullet sensibilities …
… My thoughts are interrupted by “Chromatic Nightmare.” I like the song a lot and Jim’s taking it to it. I feel like I’m dancing a waltz as I walk through a funhouse on a midway. Combined with Huffer our light guy’s lightshow, which, at the moment, is like watching currents of electrified spaghetti attacking the theater walls, well, it’s wild and surreal. And because I’m so exhausted, I feel like I’m on the verge of a flashback. Not that I’d know anything about such a thing, except for maybe that time in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, when I encountered all those pigeons with Mohawks. (Swear to God. They had Mohawks.) But I shouldn’t count that. Actually, now that I think about it, I probably shouldn’t even be talking about it. In fact …
… I’m starting to hear the opening refrains of “Mexico,” another favorite song of mine, which puts me at ease. I’m in a different place and time … there I am, drifting down to Ciudad Juárez, cross the bridge, over the Rio Grande, just south of El Paso, in search of Cubans (cigars, i.e.), donkey shows, and burritos; but instead run into hookers, drugs, and the banditos. Dicey, sketchy, and mostly, crazy—circumstances being what they were—desperate—I survived, if for no other reason, finding myself that day, “down in Mexico” …
… truly yours, on the edge of veg.
Posted: February 9th, 2013
A week before December 21, 2012, I was in a Karaoke bar in South Florida. Why, I have no idea. I guess because it was in the way of me and having a beer, so I went in. A woman in her mid-twenties was standing on stage butchering a “Land Down Under.” I think of my son, who is presently in Australia, and start to fret. I hope he’s on high ground. Listening to that woman sing, I’m sure the Apocalypse really is upon us, and the great flood will follow.
As you know, fortunately, the end times didn’t work out as planned, and moe. is on tour. The band is doing a swing through the upper Midwest this week. All the moe.rons coming to the shows tell me how happy they are that moe. is back in “town” again. The band’s played in Michigan 3 times since September and Wisconsin twice since October, which has made these moe.rons ecstatic. It’s nice to see. We’re hitting Chicago and Lafayette, Indiana, too, and doing a radio show in Indianapolis, before going southeast.
On the road, you see all kind of things and meet many people. Every day is an adventure. In a coffee shop in Ann Arbor, the waitress, she calls herself a barista, is stern looking. Her hair is pulled back in a bun tightly, so tight the corners of her mouth appear creased in a permanent scowl. She kind of looks like the Joker working as a Librarian who hates her job. She’s giving me the once over, or maybe she doesn’t like my plaid coat. I smile. I’m not sure where she’s coming from. At this stage of my life I’ve come to know this much about the world of work and labor: Sometimes people end up where they’re at. Most times, people end up where they should.
I paid for the coffee and threw her a buck tip. I wasn’t sure if she smiled or hissed, but I stepped back just in case. It may have been too much, I know, but once again I found myself overwhelmed by the feminine mystique. Moving to a table, I do what I often do, pull out my pocket notebook and jot down a few thoughts and observations.
I leave the coffee shop and head toward the stage door of the venue, The Ark, where moe. will be playing an “intimate” acoustic show that evening. I hear a voice behind me, a woman’s, shouting. At first I think it’s her, the Joker, but it’s a woman with a camera. I noticed her inside taking pictures of pigeons on a magazine rack through the window, and rolled my eyes. Now she catches up to me and wants to take my picture. I’m guessing she likes her men in plaid. Red plaid. She said she has a website about humanism called the “Humanist,” or something like that, in Ann Arbor, and photographs the local scene. She saw me writing inside and wondered what I did. She said it like she thought I was unemployed. I said I was a writer, and she sighed before I finished saying, “and I work for moe.,” which meant nothing to her when I did. She took my picture with me holding my notebook near my face. By now, it’s hanging like a mug shot in a police blotter, somewhere on a day-in-the-life blog about Ann Arbor.
I’m now near the front of the venue, when I hear someone else shout out. I turn. It’s an old man with a crutch moving toward me like an Olympic sprinter. I’m beginning to think that red plaid is the new day-glow orange, or vice versa, because every stranger, everywhere I go, has something to say to me. “Can you help an old vet?” he asks. “I’m not a drunk. I need a dollar for a cup of coffee.” The degrees of homelessness in America, and throughout the world differ from place to place, as do the angles for panhandling. In New York last weekend, there was a kid with a sign that read “Why kid? Need money for drugs.” He was wearing Ray Bands, was dressed warmly, and compared to some of the human suffering and deprivation I’d seen along Broadway, he looked like a fool. The veteran in Ann Arbor repeated, “I’m not a drunk,” and added, with his hand held out, “even fifty cents will do.” A buck or fifty cents? This bum kept a tight budget. I’ll give him that. I look down the street at the coffee shop, and wonder how he’d be received by the Joker. I give him the change in my pocket, then look for the stage door. If I don’t get off the street, I’ll never be ready for show time.
Posted: February 5th, 2013
Hola mi amigo.moe.litos,
Phew! What a set of great shows over the past weekend! If the opening salvo of the winter tour is an indication of what’s to come, I’d advise one and all to make an extra effort to attend one of the upcoming shows. Whilst the temperature outside was dropping south of no north, inside the Best Buy Theater the boys were white hot. There was serious toe-tapping, hip-swaying, head-bopping mojo everywhere. People were excited and happy. And with that comes great reward. I can honestly tell you my friends, the energy you bring to the theater channels right to the stage.
For me, as always, I enjoyed seeing all the old familiar faces and meeting a few new ones. It’s one of the great perks of being on the road, that, and getting to know the towns and cities where moe. plays.
By my last day, Times Square became less of a challenge and more entertaining and enlightening. During the afternoon, I ran into Woody from Toy Story and Mickey Mouse having a chat. I was nearing 45th and Broadway. They stood just about nose-to-nose, and their big mellon-sized cartoon heads were bobbing and jerking around. I thought they were being playful. But then I realize that they were talking kind of loud. Shouting really loud. At each other. Angrily. And they were yelling in Spanish. I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t know Woody or Mickey were Mexican, either. I hear the word “mama” and “puta” spoken liberally. I translate with a computer-like efficiency that would have even impressed my high school Spanish teacher—the same guy who awarded me a “D” just for remaining conscious during the dullest nine months of my life. Roughly, well, it turns out Woody’s momma’s a whore!!! Which, as Dr. Phil might say, goes a long way in explaining his chosen life path as a lonesome cowboy, riding his beloved horse, Bullseye, across the high prairie.
I would have liked to share the outcome with you, my amigo.moe.litos, but time was against me. I was also distracted by a well-dressed, middle-aged man rapidly approaching me like we were old friends. His hand was extended, and just as I reached to shake it like we rowed together at Yale, he asked me for a buck. Presumably, the one I held in my other hand. Man, this guy really disappointed me. Obviously, he didn’t know what he was doing. The previous evening, after the show, as I made my way back to the hotel in 15 degree weather, I encountered panhandlers and bums on every corner. In that walk, I counted more bums on Broadway than plays or musicals. Not one would dare dress as a Yale man and expect a return. Poverty is supposed to be a wretched sight to behold. I think that was lost upon him. For all the charitable donations, awareness, public and private institutional giving, and so on, it—poverty—persists. It’s there, thriving, on the fringe, in every city, town, and village I go to. I’ve concluded there must be an art in sustaining poverty beyond the callous indifference to human suffering. The key is as much in the giving as in the receiving. On an institutional level, you need to target the recipients carefully if you really want to get nowhere and keep your job. It’s easier to help people who can help themselves than help people who cannot. Especially, when the person you’re helping is yourself.
The Yale man has not learned this yet. When I had no dollar in my hand for him, he brushed it aside and moved on to the next person. I would have watched him further, but I had to go. The road to Pittsburgh beckoned. Besides, the dollar I had in my hand was for the guy hunkered over an air vent, wrapped in a dog blanket, shivering like a quivering mass of protoplasmic jelly. Confounded by what I should do or what can be done, I handed him the bill, and walked on.
The bright lights in the big city continue to distract me.
YOY must it be? ...brother John
Posted: February 1st, 2013
Hi there moe.rons:
Once again I find myself happily traipsing about Times Square. I’m searching for the Best Buy Theater, where my employer and your favorite band, will play this weekend. It’s crowded here, in T-Square. It’s always crowded here. People move in herds or freeze and gawk at the bright lights in the big city. There are people jams everywhere. I hear chatter from all quarters in languages familiar and unfamiliar and then some. I can’t make out what anyone is saying. Mostly, because they’re speaking in tongues other than English—the language I happen to be fluent in. Hearing all the different languages spoken is like listening to a Rhapsody in Sacré Bleu. I like the sound. It’s like going to Miami—a place once considered an American city, but now more widely known as the de facto capital of Latin America and favorite haunts of really bad reality TV. In Miami, the lingua franca is Spanish, with a smattering of English and a lot of people sounding like a bad imitation of Al Pacino in Scarface sounding like Al Pacino in Scarface. Here in Times Square there’s much more linguistic diversity. I’m picking up German, Japanese, French, Italian, some guttural Slavic language (or possibly a sick Dutchman?), and I’m certain, the belching of hobos panhandling for quarters.
If it is hobos (and, dear God, by the smell, that may not be belching), I can’t tell because I can’t see. I’m suddenly semi-locked in-step with a herd—whilst distracted listening to languages. It’s stop and go against my will. I can’t pass, either. I wait for an opening, fearful I may be spewed into the back end of a tour bus, or worse yet, into the open arms of a street vendor who’ll have me in a $20 Rolex. The street vendors have me pegged as a rube. Rightfully so, I suppose. I’m in New York City and I’m wearing plaid. And not just any plaid. It’s “Hunting-8-point-buck-in-the-Woods-of-Maine” red plaid. In my mind’s eye, I’m already sporting my new $20 Rolex and hearing the cackle of the band and crew about how I was suckered again.
All but young Casey, our newbie monitor engineer. He’s from Maine, too. And I know for sure he’s in the market for a $25 Rolex—ka-ching! Oh yeah!
I’ve all but closed the deal now, when, suddenly, the herd parts and I break free. There is no tour bus. There is no $20 Rolex salesman. But there are actors posing as mannequins (or maybe they’re mannequins posing as actors???). Beyond them, I see “moe.” on the marquis of the Best Buy Theater and make a beeline. I’m there … or here … I’m in … through the double-secret entrance … I’ll see you soon enough… if not, later … tootles, brother john