The Imminent Return of Martin van Buren

•July 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Doris graces us with some journaling, even on an off day! A long drive home for the night, a reunion with an old van-friend…well, you can just read for yourself since any further summarizing would just give away the whole entry.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

•July 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Day two, and still goin’ strong! Looks like someband learned how to responsibly update its fans while being on the road. You might need a handwriting expert to decipher this one, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

New Tour, New Blog, Old Medium

•July 25, 2010 • 1 Comment

Doris has been writing in a tour journal lately, and — not to be too ironic — she’s decided to let us post her musings on the digital version of a tour journal. Note the mistake at the top right…for a minute there it appeared as if Doris has written to us from the future. Alas, it was just the tour-time-warp playing tricks on her van addled mind. This first entry is actually from day one of our tour with Tokyo Police Club and Arkells.

Hopefully we’ll be posting daily, so keep up with Doris’ adventures on the road!

Home (Is Wherever I’m With You)

•April 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A tour builds over its entire duration toward one moment: the homecoming. This can come in many forms: a latenight stagger into the kitchen, an early morning slide back into bed, a midday lunch with friends, the first big show back at home. In my case, home started to sink in once my cab crossed the Williamsburg Bridge toward my apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. To my left, a J train rumbled slowly by. To my right was a skyline unlike any other. We’ve played in nearly forty cities at this point and I’ve been coming to New York City for my entire life (I know I sound like a tourist wearing an “I <3 NY” t-shirt), but no place has ever felt as much like a home – a place that can take the weight off my shoulders – like New York did in that moment.

Once we arrive home, we quickly come to realize that there is little time that we are truly “off.” The day after we got back, we had an in-store at Other Music in the West Village. The day after that, we had a sold-out homecoming show with Sherlocks Daughter and Lawrence Arabia (Two amazing bands, by the way. If you’ve not had a chance to check them out yet, both are a must) at Bowery Ballroom…our first headlining show in New York in almost three months. A few days after that was Record Store Day, and we performed twice – in New Jersey and Delaware. The next day we had a show up in Clinton, NY at Hamilton College (some of the sweetest people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting thus far).

The point is, time off the road isn’t the same as time off – not yet, at least. So the readjustment to being home is tempered and buffered, something that is both helpful and harmful to the re-homing process. It’s like coming up from a deep-water dive…come up too quickly and you get the bends. Come up too slowly and, well, you just spent a lot of unnecessary time underwater. The balance is exact and sensitive, and given that this was only our second tour, we’re still working our measurements out.

Regardless of how much or little work there is to be done, being home after over a month away is a jarring experience. It takes just as long to get used to being home as it took to get used to being on the road in the first place. For me, that means a week of feeling a bit reserved, a bit out of sorts, and a bit internally and socially uncomfortable. My mind is completely in shock. Do I want to see my friends? Yes. Am I completely comfortable in social situations after spending five weeks with the same people every day? Absolutely not. It’s great to have understanding friends that don’t mind when you sit squirrelishly nursing beer after beer and not saying all-that-much.

None of this is to take away from just how indescribably glorious it is to be home. My own bed. My DVR. My roommate and/or romantic cohabitant, Mer. Our goldfish (Unagi). My Wii. My stove. My neighborhood. My bars. Everything that’s mine (or ours) is so refreshing and refreshed. Waking up in the same place every morning is a real blessing. It’s something that I very consciously miss while I’m on the road, but the remedy is so immediate and intensely gratifying that it is hard to imagine just how good it will feel until it actually happens. I think this flood of positive change is what forces my system into shock. It’s almost too much good to handle…though I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Laramie? You Hardly Know Me!

•April 7, 2010 • 2 Comments

On our first tour, we had very few night drives. It’s a fortunate thing to be able to get back to the hotel/friend’s house early enough to catch more than five hours of sleep. Since there were only two bands on tour number one, it was much easier to keep our schedule running on early bedtimes and early wakeup calls. This time, we’re dealing with the opposite. Even the short drives are longer than they were the first time around, and because there are three bands on the bill, most shows don’t end until midnight at the very earliest. As such, we’ve had to endure some rather lengthy, exhausting, and sometimes treacherous latenight drives.

As the tour has gone on, the shows have been ending later and later. We crossed the border from Vancouver to Blaine, WA at 2:00am just this week, and didn’t get to our hotel until 4. We’ve had more post-midnight check-ins at hotels in small towns between venues than I thought possible on a single tour. Asheville, NC. Las Cruces, NM. Bellevue, WA. Baton Rouge, LA (fine, so that’s not such a small town). Subsequently, as we’ve gone further north, the weather has gotten progressively worse. Last night, we drove three hours out of Salt Lake City and landed in Rock Springs, WY. It had been snowing for hours in SLC, but as we climbed the mountains from Utah into Wyoming, the snow predictably intensified. The drive was one of the most harrowing and painstaking of my life, and I was grateful to be relieved by Kevin about halfway through.

We awoke in Rock Springs to a van completely caked in snow and frozen from the outside in. After thawing it from the inside out (and cracking the windshield in the process), we took to the road once again, for the five-plus hour drive to Denver. Midway through Wyoming – somewhere near Laramie – we got a call from Aaron (Cymbals Eat Guitars’ tour manager) informing us that Route 80 East – the major road going across the northern southwest – was closed for 50 miles in both directions. We attempted a brief run at an alternate route thanks to our shifty GPS (named Mildred), but were thwarted by yet another road closing. In fact, all roads from Wyoming into Colorado were closed due to reasons beyond our grasp. Understandably, the fine people of Wyoming haven’t figured out how to deal with a bit of snow in April just yet.

Defeated, we rolled into Laramie with heavy hearts. Not only would we miss the show in Denver, but we’d miss seeing some friends that live there, and I’d miss seeing my parents. (They drove five hours to Denver from Santa Fe and had already arrived by the time we found out about the road closing.) In an effort to uplift my spirits, I upgraded to a new cymbal stand…my first since I first bought hardware in 1998. “Huzzah!” I declared. “A new cymbal stand!” And we all rejoiced at my spontaneous purchase. We departed shortly after for Lovejoy’s Bar and Grill, where Bear in Heaven and Cymbals Eat Guitars awaited our arrival for an impromptu night of show-cancellation-related lamentation.

It was bittersweet, and Cymbals had just about thrown in the towel. They booked a hotel in Laramie with the stipulation that if the roads somehow cleared by 6:00pm, they could cancel the room and move on to Denver in time for the alleged show at Hi-Dive. The local beers were happy-hour’d, and I promptly took my full glass and threw it at Aaron.

“How dare you?!” I accused. “This is all your fault!”

We both collapsed in a sudsy, hopsy mess of pale ale, sobbing and convulsing on the floor.*

After we cleaned ourselves up, I had my glass replenished and hunkered down for what promised to be a long night of grieving our loss of the trip to Denver. Sara, the kindly tour manager for Bear in Heaven (and co-founder/co-owner of Home Tapes Records) reminded me to take it easy. The altitude, she explained thoughtfully, would amplify the effect of the alcohol. I thanked her for her motherly instincts and swiftly downed the pale ale before it had time to escape my clutches once again.

As I took my last gulp, Sara leapt from her seat in alarm. “The road is open!” she declared excitedly. Sara, you see, had been checking the interwebs vehemently for hours in anticipation of this very news! Route 287 South, she explained, a small road from Laramie into Colorado, had finally opened and would lead us to Route 25 South which would, in turn, lead us to the promised land of Denver, CO.

Tabs paid, we rushed to the van and selected our fittest and soberest driver…Doris it was! Moments later we were Denver-bound.

So here we are, only moments from the-show-that-almost-never-was, just a few miles outside Denver, and I can’t help but feel that this show is fated. It had to happen, and so it will. And even though we’ve done this hundreds of times before, I’m particularly excited for this one.

[*To the reader: The aforementioned beer-tossing incident may have been hyperbolized or embellished for the purpose of storytelling. In actuality, the author clumsily knocked his beverage to the floor, splattering himself, his belongings, and Aaron in the process.]

Ragged Wood

•March 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In the van driving along the I.5, heading to Eugene, Oregon, where we are thinking about spending our night at a hotel whose concierge, according to Google, serves scotch out of plastic cups, and whose policy does not include the “improper” use of their towels. In other words, customers are forbidden to use their towels to wipe off any makeup. Self explanitory to why they only charge $12 per night.
We are currently a little over a quarter of a way to our next show in Seattle where we will be playing at the Crocodile Cafe.   It’ll be the second time we’ve played there and my third time visiting the city, in total.  I am hoping we will get to walk along the waterfront again,  but wont be too bummed if we don’t, because we’re scheduled to play our first in store performance at Easy Street records, just a few hours before the show. Besides shopping at Pike place market one of the best things, I think, to have come out of Seattle are the Fleet Foxes (I’m sure you’ve all heard of them).

Since I bought their record in January, I’ve noticed I often find myself day dreaming about getting to see them live one of these days, and wonder when and if it’ll ever be possible, seeing that I myself will be on tour for the most part of this good year. However when the time comes, I hope it will be with someone who appriciates their music just as much as I do. Jake would be a good candidate, however he has seen them before, and therefore is not my my first choice (sorry Jake, you can definetly tag along if you’d like).
Earlier at a rest stop, while some of the guys were still wizzing,  I followed Jake in his spontaneous behavior and laid on some of the springiest grass I’ve ever known. Staring ahead at a pristine blue sky, I found myself humming the melody to “Ragged Wood” and when we loaded our bodies back into the van I put my headphones on and quickly exhanged the shins for what I think is one of my favorite albums at the moment. Fast forwarding to the song stuck in my head, I decided that, instead of Googling the lyrics, I would keep myself occupied in this here van, if only for a few minutes, by typing them up stenographer style. When I got to the end of the song, I realized that this was going to be the song I would use to reel my concert buddy in. The lyrics are simple and beautiful  and the melody would definetely stick if they had never heard it before.   So to my friends , family and fans: if you’ve never heard this song before check it out on YouTube or whatnot and read/sing along to what I think Robin Pecknold’s is singing.

As for me, I’m going to pick up from where I left off on this black and red striped scarf I began knitting when we first left N.Y for this tour, aprroximetly 3 weeks and 1 day ago.

“Come down from the mountain you have been gone too long
The spring is upon us follow my only sun
Settle down with me by the fire of my yearning
You should come back home back on your own now
The world is alive now in and outside our home
You run through the forest and settle before the soul
Darlin I can barely remember you beside me oh
You should come back home back on your own now
You should come back home back on your own now
And even in light the woman of the woods came by
To give to you the word of the old man
Morning time where the sparrows and the seagull fly
Jonathan and Evilyn get tired
Lie to me if you will
At the top of Berringer Hill
Tell me anything you want any ol’ lie will do
Call me back to …back to you
Lie to me if you will
At the top of Berringer Hill
Tell me anything you want any old lie will do
Call me back to.. Back to you”

Home, Home on the Range (Where the Deer-Bands and the Antlers Have Played)

•March 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For four days, amidst the whirlwind of countless bands’ Winter/Spring 2010 tours, Austin becomes a refuge for exhausted musicians. The break from the road brings with it the brief sensation of a homebase; there are no long roadtrips, no draining car rides, no daily scrambles to find a cheap hotel. Just four days of playing music for as many people in as many places as possible. It’s a task that seems insurmountable in foresight, but an immeasurable relief from life on the road, if only for a little while.

I may have questioned the sanity of those who were charged with our well being and, with that in mind, booked us eleven shows in four days for our first year at South by Southwest. I may have even been embittered by the idea of having to run from venue to venue with as little as ten minutes between sets, leaving us little time to decompress in between. Once we reached Austin, though, and the four days of what Jeff oh-so-eloquently calls “throw ‘n go” began, all of my doubts subsided. Our first show at the Paste party was hectic and spectacular, and the Galaxy Room was filled to the brim. Our second at the Fader Fort was surreally rockstarrish due to an incredible and superhumanly efficient stage crew, loads of free gear from Levi and Converse, a massive stage cluttered with cameras and engulfed in fake smoke, and a surprise headlining show by Damien Marley and Nas. By the end of Day One, I was nothing but excited and fearless about the remaining nine shows.

Day Two began with a quick interview, followed by an early outdoor set at the Eastbound and Found stage and a late BBQ breakfast over at Yard Dog for Schuba’s annual SXSW roundup. The former was unbelievably energetic given the early set time (1pm is early, right?), and the latter felt much bigger than the cramped stage seemed to allow thanks to a particularly enthusiastic audience. The day ended early for us – by about 5pm – and left plenty of time to go see some other bands. Mer and I spent the early evening out at Ruby’s BBQ with my parents, and washed that down with some Lone Stars at Stubb’s massive outdoor stage. We had a chance to check out The Besnard Lakes (psych-folk) and The Soft Pack (pop-rock) before losing steam (unfortunately prior to either Drive By Truckers, Band of Horses, or Broken Social Scene) and heading back to our hotel. Day Two ended with a feeling of tentative satisfaction mixed with a nervous energy for what was ahead.

Our third day at SXSW was by far our busiest, consisting of a grand total of four shows. We had tapings for two acoustic performances to start the day…one on the outskirts of town for Rock Feedback TV, and the other downtown Austin with NPR’s All Songs Considered. Each lasted roughly an hour, at which point we had some time off to go hang out in the Spin loft…a massive party filled with ping-pong, video games, acoustic performances, photo shoots, free Stetson boots and hats, and an online radio station doing constant interviews for Spin and MySpace Music. Shortly thereafter, we had to be across town at the Gibson Studios for a live performance on Seattle’s 90.3 KEXP. I messed up twice during “Starring,” and got characteristically down on myself – not a good thing to feel prior to our show later that night. As if I hadn’t been nervous enough about performing live on the radio, we had to leave from there to immediately load-in to our “official” (whatever that means) Frenchkiss/Mom+Pop Records SXSW Showcase. It was the only show all week for which we had a lengthy and thorough soundcheck, and by the time the doors to the backyard tent were opened we were ready to go. I had been as nervous for the showcase as I have ever been for any show, but in the hour leading up to showtime I managed to successfully calm myself down, turning most of my negative nervous energy into a collectedness that translated into optimistic confidence. The set was our most powerful and energetic and fun, and though the crowd beyond the front few rows was disconcertingly still during the songs, they more than made up for it with near-deafening enthusiasm in between them. We were followed by a stellar performance by Local Natives, a doozie by An Horse, a rockfest by Suckers, and a moving powerhouse by The Antlers. Les Savy Fav fittingly dominated the last slot of the night, while our tourmates Bear in Heaven brought down the house with what I would consider their best performance of the tour at Emo’s next door. It was a late night, a party night, and Day Three came to a close with pride and relief and anticipation of our final day at SXSW 2010.

Day Four was almost as busy as Day Three, and about twice as hectic. We began the day with a recording of an acoustic Daytrotter Session at Stubbs, which was also hosting Rachel Ray’s massive and gourmet-BBQ-soaked day party. After being denied free roaming around the venue and any delicious “VIP ONLY” BBQ, we hungrily recorded our set and wolfed down some egg and bean tacos before running down the street to The Mohawk for the MOG party. We had only thirteen inputs for our instruments (we usually use about eighteen or more), only fifteen minutes to set up, and another show ten minutes after our set at MOG down the block. Despite these obstacles, we had been well prepared by Jeff to throw ‘n go. The MOG show was our most raw, most pointed, and most visceral performance of the whole festival, which often happens when we’re running on fumes.

Immediately following the end of the set, we broke down and arrived at the Coffee? No Pants! Party only ten minutes late (luckily, Avi Buffalo covered for us and switched spots so that we wouldn’t have to cut our set short…thanks for that!) We waited patiently to play our eleventh and final show, and once we took the stage it was with an ease and confidence the likes of which I’ve never sensed in this band.

As we hit the last note of “Location,” all of the exasperation excitement exhaustion exhilaration that I’d staved off for four days hit me like a wrecking ball. I found the nearest Lone Star, the nearest couch, and promptly began to decompress. We capped the week off with a group dinner at Ironworks BBQ for a meal of the best smoked ribs and brisket that I’ve ever eaten. Why do my entries always end with some sort of food wrap-up? Well, next to the music, it’s the best part of being on the road. Especially in Texas.