There are depths of misery on tour that will forever remain untold, never to be understood by another. There are those who have felt it themselves, in their own way, but everybody has their own way of feeling it. I have tried to explain this particular feeling to my friends in the band, but they claim to never feel it, but they surely do, because, I figure, everybody who shares this lifestyle must. What I will say is this: the feeling is a cumulative and very specific convergence of things that are, taken alone, only moderately unpleasant. They include a deep gastrointestinal discomfort generally caused by too much gas station food, stinking and stretched out clothes, loneliness, and most of all, an aural overstimulation so pervasive it resembles chronic boredom in its monotony. This feeling inevitably comes once a tour, but only if the tour is longer than twenty days in length, and arrives unannounced as each tour’s emotional nadir. I can write of Frankfurt now, almost wistfully, because it was the only time I truly found myself in the pits, and only for a very specific moment. I was sitting with my head in my hands at the bottom of a staircase, feeling very tired, sorry for myself, and tired of feeling sorry for myself, when a door shut behind me. I was tired of all of these things, tired of playing shows after playing something like fifty show in fifty-five days, and eating bad food, missing my amour and what have you...but when the door shut I instinctively looked behind me where the door was and saw that painted on it was a woman, a sexy cartoon woman, naked up from the waist. She was chugging a liter of milk and spilling it all over her face and bare breasts. The painting was so detailed that you could see little milk rivulets gathered around her nipple follicles. (Nothing of this nature has so aroused me since Jessica Rabbit.) There had been one paying customer at a show on the other side of the world.
It was like the aimless sadness of youth, when one allows oneself to cry more or less because one was in the mood to make a scene, and only moments later mother or father comes to tickle you or make a face, and one can do nothing but laugh at how ridiculous it is to be upset for the sake of being upset. And so I realized, here’s this painting of a woman with milk on her tits, and my life in particular is too stupid to justify this misery. And so we drove to Koln.
Somewhere between everywhere we had been and Koln we passed the metaphysical border between places where pizza isn’t the king of foods and into the land where pizza is. I bought tubed mustard for my parents at an Indian supermarket and then we played a show. All was right in the land where pizza is king. This was one of tour’s resounding successes, which culminated with the promoter passing out on the bar while the lovely unsupervised bartender gave everybody whatever they could drink. Her mother was from Detroit, we all sat alone in the bar having free drinks and listening to a Motor City compilation. The bartender’s name was Manu, short for Manuela, but Eric misheard her and thought she said, “Anu.” The humor may be obvious, but it was particularly funny for us: some time ago my brother developed a pronunciation for the word “anus,” specifically “anu,” that later became colloquial usage in Titus Andronicus when referring to that part of the anatomy. Tee-hee.
We played Tuesday in Brussels at a venue complex Botanique. The facility was built as a royal garden. This was not immediately apparent, as the whole place was concrete and plantless, save for a small hallway there some green plantlike things dangling. There was also a hedge maze and a fountain outside. Very European. Luc, the lighting engineer, told us that the room used to be a greenroom laboratory of sorts, and is in fact the very room in which the endive was “invented.” (Were they not warmed against playing God? These would not be the first peoples smote from existence for their hubristic chicory-smithery.) During the show I relayed this astonishing fact to the impressionables who watched us rocking and rolling, flailing with reckless abandon, and one of their ranks replied, “Neko Case said that on stage last week.” And so I came to realize that in Belgium, Neko Case’s word is alpha and omega on man-made root plants, and I am just a piece of shit.
Omar Rodriguez Lopez, former guitarist and principle songwriter of At The Drive-In, was playing in Botanique’s big room next door. He had a seven- or eight-piece band, who we encountered in the tiny hallways between green rooms. Ian O claims that he complimented Omar on his shoes, boutique Chucks, and Omar was “very friendly, seemed like a nice guy.” I felt bad for Omar & Co. because they took upon themselves the unenviable task of filling the facility with marijuana smoke. The ways in which they channeled those energy was apparent when I caught some of his set. Guitar pyrotechnics.
How ironic that we should play the same venue on each end of our maiden voyage? La Fleche D’Or was kind enough to have us back on their turf after some problem arose, likely from the fact that nobody had bought tickets to the show, with the venue we intended to play. I was too tired to do any of the things I promised myself I would do, like go to the Louvre and see La Joconde in the flesh (ie, in real life). The show itself was curated by a Parisian band called Sheraff. Everyone was very nice and sounded very much like Nirvana.
Be advised: it has been twenty years since Bleach came out, and nearly that long since Slanted and Enchanted. The people who bought first pressings of these records when they came are now married and their wives will soon force them to throw away or sell their favorite records, if they have not already. This means that we have reached the twenty- to twenty-five-year “vintage” cycle wherein things from that long ago will soon reach thrift stores and dollar bins, where the twenty-year old trash that forty-year olds bought the summer before they entered college will pass through thrift stores, into the hands of impressionable sixteen-year-olds, who will buy these treasures and make the next generation of important bands, most of which will be heavily indebted to the guitar rock of that period. And then, to them, your mid-eighties influenced electro-pop band will sound “like the Killers or something.”
All of the bands were quite good. Jack Graetzer brought the pain and we got to the Chunnel without incident for the last time. I woke up to deal with customs. We will be questioned each time we enter the country from now until eternity because of November’s customs mishap. Then full speed ahead to London, for a flight to Newark, home, and the next day to New York, for a show with the Wrens. Everything that happened there was normal and decidedly not-exotic, so I will not write about it. It was good. You have better things to read about. We are two days from SXSW.