French Quarter Tour Diary - Weeks 3 & 4

Categories: On the Road

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There's so much to report and so little Internet to shove it in. First things first: the small bit of youth music we've witnessed in the Western United States convinces me thoroughly that my generation of American musicians has the studiousness and audacity to be emotionally unflinching in the face of economic turmoil and technological proliferation. Second things following: we all got fifty-cent neck tattoos.

The NorCal/Pacific Northwest leg took us to strange lengths. The bands we played with in the Sacramento area swung neatly between technical proficiency and calculated ineptitude. Our local homies ALAK use Captain Beefheart chord shapes and fragmented percussion as a strangely compelling vehicle for affecting, harmonious vocal melodies.

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Oakland's No Babies are among good company in the Bay Area corral of spazzy, damaged punk outfits, the most artful being Death Sentence: Panda! and cuddliest being Deerhoof. Seeing them live in a living room proves they are the most volatile, with all the members huddling, jumping and stabbing their gear in chaotic formations. They are certainly the only band I've seen with a lead singer sporting kneepads. Safety first!

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Andrew Henderson of Sacramento's G. Green took home the Somehow-Succeeding-By-Not-Really-Trying prize. During his solo acoustic set, he sang a cover of Bob Dylan's "Ballad in Plain D" while some guy held up the lyrics for him on an iPhone. Henderson, clearly peeved that the house show was devolving too far into just another boozy party, and perhaps that only myself and his friends were watching his set, walked into adjoining rooms and sang in people's faces while iPhone guy dutifully followed.

Up in Olympia, Washington, our show was in the basement of the long-standing ABC House where legend has it a pre-Geffen Nirvana also played. I was thrilled to share the bill with Broken Water, my absolute favorite rippers in the Pacific Northwest. At times they sound like the perfect band for shoegaze addicts that called off the search after trudging through those boring Lush albums, with expertly layered guitar tones that circle in on themselves a la My Bloody Valentine with woozy, gorgeous 4AD vocals on top.

After our Washington shows, we said goodbye to keyboard player Andrew, whom we borrowed from Olympia-based pop band LAKE. A rabid record collector and dice-thrower, Andrew is also an outrageously talented jazz pianist and we got to see his quartet play on a night off in Olympia. During one of the intermissions, he relayed an Ornette Coleman quote that every musician should aspire toward: "All you need to understand my music is human form and planetary citizenship." It makes me feel like all art should be within reach to everyone, despite the cynics who insist Coleman made music exclusively for highly cognitive Earthlings.

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Jazz gigs were the least creepy way we spent our free time. In Kennewick, Washington, we shot a music video with our friend Tim from P.E.T.S. that involved burying our bassist Preston on the edge of a riverbank in the light of an overcast late afternoon. As we dug him up, I was responsible for removing his breathing tube before it got in the camera shot and after any risk of dirt suffocation would occur. To find out if I did a proper job and Preston didn't die, look for the video in a few weeks when that shit drops online.

After some long drives and excellent shows in Denver and Albuquerque, the boys and I are back home, decompressing. What did I miss? I saw some righteous Occupy Phoenix participants on the front page of the New York Times. I also heard something about QuikTrip proposing a 24-pump convenience chalet on the roof of Chase Field. I lost a total of four garments on the road; my dad told me his fantasy football picks are in decline. Returning to reality in the desert makes the future seem distraught. At least Kim and Thurston are still together. Cut yr losses, play bass, keep on chooglin'.

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