French Quarter Tour Diary - Week 1

Categories: On the Road

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I won't attempt to explain the amalgam of esoteric in-jokes that manifested into the tour poster seen above. There's a perfectly good but lengthy explanation for why the four of us chose to put John Fogerty's head on a French Quarter t-shirt, gave him dice for eyes and exhorted the viewer to keep on "chooglin'" in the year 2001. The best part of the story is that in this first week of our 28-day west coast tour, we've managed to sell four of them.

This tour is in support of our new record called Desert Wasn't Welcome and so far it still has that glorified road trip feel. Three friends and I are traveling the west coast in my overstuffed 2001 Toyota Camry, listening to podcasts and Buffalo Springfield and Die Antwoord, hanging with locals in a new place every day and basically getting paid a neat sum to do a fun loud thing.

Of course there are challenges with which to contend: equipment chaos, bad smells, crowd apathy, logistically unavoidable Subway sandwiches. But all indicators are looking up. Over 100 kids came to our show at a bookstore in Long Beach, where our bassist Preston found a book about rural Australian outhouses. I've only had to erase and start over on our tour budget Excel spreadsheet once. My Camry is holding up like a champ.

I'm constantly in awe of the local flavor we get to sample and must dedicate some space to hyping some of the excellent acts we're played alongside thus far. In Tucson we shared the bill with Arcsin(100), contemporary champions of the '90s slacker rock template. Their songs have the yearning lyrics and concise melodies of classic Built to Spill with the occasional burst of scrambled Sonic Youth riffage. Before we departed on this tour I had been getting over-caffeinated in the afternoons and spinning their latest full-length in my car. Arcsin(100) sounded just as good at night and in-person with beer in hand, going nowhere.

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The talent in Long Beach, CA is consistently jaw-dropping. Pageants play moody, serene indie pop in the Galaxie 500 vein, fronted by a young singer who possesses an austere vocal clarity similar to Victoria Legrand of Beach House. Wild Pack of Canaries cram Brazilian pop syncopation and Mars Volta guitar tendencies into an accessible package that even the biggest opponents of prog could spaz on.

However, the most impressive act I've seen so far wasn't a new face. Twice now we've had tour-overlap with our friend Chad Matheny, otherwise known as Emperor X. Dude's been nomadically attacking basements and art spaces for years with his verbose imagery and Mountain Goats-like narratives. Now he's partly settled in LA and signed to Bar/None Records, getting deserved recognition for his efforts (he's also scheduled to perform at Yellow Canary Dance Hall on Wednesday, October 5).

I got to witness his versatility first-hand in an unlikely scenario. A friend of ours from Long Beach was recently handed a clean bill of health after spending months in the hospital with a serious blood condition. He asked Chad, our band-leader Stephen and a talented local songwriter named Jon Atkins to play a few acoustic jams in the park behind his house as part of his recovery celebration party.

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Beyond the pleasure of seeing three distinctly different songwriters get intimate in an unassuming suburban lawn zone, I watched Chad demonstrate the ease that comes with performing for so long. He exuded the very same charm for a few pals in the park as he did onstage later that night for a few dozen paid attendees. He unpretentiously prefaced one song by announcing, "This is a song about failing to repair an air conditioner unit." He cracked endearingly terrible jokes and invited the crowd to throw out their own. He's a true DIY lifer who's finally getting his piece.

The southern California leg is winding down. My next missive will likely get beamed in from the Pacific Northwest. This creepy drunk guy at the Long Beach show who had a diamond implant in his front tooth offered to do a house remix of our album. I left my cell phone wall charger in Phoenix and my favorite pillow in Tucson. Cut your losses, play bass, listen to CCR.

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