subject: And that would be that...
Posted on July 2, 2004 at 9:41 AM

In the last 61 days we've played 54 shows in 32 states. We've done shows in everything from a tiny little bar in Smithtown, NY where the patrons had to cross the "stage" to get to the bathroom, on up to First Avenue and Metro, the two nicest clubs in the United States.

On the two vans we had, we put a collective total of almost 25,000 miles on the odometer. We saw gas prices from $1.69 in Oklahoma, on up to $2.89 only a week later in San Diego. We got one flat tire (unusual for a tour this long), and were never pulled over by police even once (unique for a tour this long). We had about a dozen incidents where our lives flashed before our eyes (the worst being the accident in L.A. that happened right in front of us, and hitting the deer before the tour started.)

I had to hear the phrases "Dude, the first time I saw you was..." and "I didn't know you guys were still around" literally thousands of times. I was going to count the number of times someone in the audience yelled "Freebird" during the tour but stopped doing it when I got to the mid-three digits. At least four times on the tour I had to walk away from a "fan," because the things they were saying to me made me want to hit them in the face. At least a dozen times I had to do this same thing because of someone in the van with me.

On our rider was a total of 2592 bottles of beer, plus 1212 drink tickets. I drank 6 of those beers. The other 9 people on the tour drank the rest, plus an unknown number of drinks they bought without my intervention.

Statistics do no justice whatsoever to what it takes to do something like this. In the heyday of industrial music, when we had a bus and a crew, our complaints were on the order of "the label only bought one half-page ad for this show?" and "the club didn't get everything on the rider?" and "man, I have to go play? I haven't finished this level of Abe's Odysey yet!" On this tour, in a very different environment for both industrial music and the touring market, my complaints were more on the order of "well, I'd like to get hotel rooms tonight, but the owner of the venue shorted me 50% of the money," or "because we just payed $2.60 a gallon for gas, I had to dip in the salaries..."

In the 6 years between our last national tour and this one, things have changed in America. The touring market is down overall, and for the type of music we make, it's almost nonexistent. I would be surprised if more than 60% of the clubs we played on this tour are open in a year. People are not going out to shows any more, for whatever reason. It was everything I could do to get this tour to the finish line, and it has left me drained, both financially and physically.

There are people that were part of the tour that went far above and beyond the call, people that merely met expectations, and people that dissappointed me so bad that it's unlikely I'll ever speak to them again. I made new friends, new enemies, and reaquainted myself with old friends and old enemies. But most of all, when everything is said and done, I can say that I did something that most people can't do, and the ones that can, well, they're afraid to. We put three bands in one van for a 61-date national tour, and anyone that chickened out or said it wasn't possible or doubted at all can just go fuck themselves. We did it and they didn't, and that's what it comes down to when all is said and done.

subject: ...
Posted on June 30, 2004 at 10:13 AM

I'm writing this entry on my own couch in my own loft in Chicago, and my wife is sitting next to me. I can't even begin to tell you how good that feels, after two months in The Van.

I'll put up a full End Of Tour wrap up tomorrow. Right now I plan to enjoy the comforts of my own home for the next several hours, then go play the final show of the tour. The last few nights are thus: Springfield was okay. Kansas City was pretty good. Minneapolis was great (no offense to all the other venues we played on this tour, but First Avenue is the end-all-be-all of rock clubs, the crown jewel of the touring circuit. Not even Metro can touch it.)

So, the Final Blog Post here tomorrow, then I'm back on Ye Olde SMG Blog.

subject: No fumar, gracias
Posted on June 27, 2004 at 2:23 AM

To relate all the events that have occurred since my last missive would be tedious for both you and I. Suffice to say that now that we've left the West Coast, our drives between shows have lengthened considerably; thus, my daily sleep deprivation has increased exponentially as well. I have no idea what the words "well rested" even imply any more, let alone having any personal experience in that heady event.

The two Colorado shows were excellent. However, I have to give the win to Colorado Springs. A fantastic crowd and the best dive in the world make for a really cool show. We had a good time, despite the feeling of impending doom, knowing the longest single day drive of the tour was in our immediate future.

The 780 mile overnight trip from Colorado Springs to Ames passed without incident, however. We're back up to 10 people with the addition of Garret Lansing, who is photographically documenting the last week of the tour. We're well packed, and I've now decided that Greyhound isn't such a bad way to travel, what with the roomy seats and bathroom and what not. The only real plus is that I can smoke like a god damned chimney in The Van, and I'd probably get in trouble for that on a Greyhound.

The Ames, IA show wasn't one of the highlights of the tour, and I'll leave it at that. Big ups to the people that came out; small ups to the club for the most lackluster promotion we've seen on the tour. I don't understand why someone would buy a show, sign a contract to say that they'll pay for said show, then not promote it. If I knew they were going to do that, I'd have had them just Fedex me a check so we could have driven straight to Springfield and avoided the trouble of having to go to Iowa and play a show. It would have saved a lot of trouble for everybody. (I'm not really supposed to talk shit about promoters and venues in The Blog, but fuck it. I held up my end of the bargain, and they should have done the same.)

Anyways, we're on the way to Springfield now. Only four more shows until we're home; I literally can not wait to sleep in my own bed. Or just plain sleep.

subject: Winnamucca Blues
Posted on June 23, 2004 at 3:20 PM

Whelp, for those of you not in the know, our Reno show was cancelled, as the venue went out of business a couple days before we were to play. (Nice of them to tell us.) So we're 0-2 in Nevada for this tour. Both venues went out of business before our show; let that be a warning for promoters looking to book future SMG shows in Nevada. We didn't know the venue was permanently closed until about an hour and a half before the show was supposed to start, so we ended up staying the night in Reno at Circus Circus. Whee.

Eugene was silly, too. Kind of a downer after the awesome LA/San Diego/San Francisco/Seattle run. Salt Lake City is tonight, however, and I _know_ that will be off the hook, because it always has been and always will be. No worries there. Of course, we have to get there first, and that entails driving clean across the Great American Basin, which would be better named the Great Big Fucking Hole In The Middle Of The Country. 550 miles of nothing but sand, sagebrush and dust devils. Whee squared.

We're only a week from home as of today, and I couldn't be happier about that. It's felt like the movie Groundhog Day for about a month now, and there's nothing I'd like more than to break the cycle of drive->play show->sleep->repeat.

subject: Over the river and through the woods...
Posted on June 21, 2004 at 6:05 PM

The Seattle show is now done and gone, which means that the Domination Tour has reached the final turning point, where we point the Van/Trailer Symbiosis east and head for home. I'm writing this on Sunday, the last Day Off of the entire tour. We've got 10 shows left as we make our way back to Chicago.

The show at the Fenix was amazing, as always. Rick Wyatt is one of the few people in this industry that cares more about putting on a good show and making sure people are there enjoying themselves than maximizing the bottom line. Sometimes this works to his detriment, I'm sure, but in all honesty, the fact that he takes such good care of the bands that play his venue makes every other Pacific Northwest date possible. I'm proud to call him my friend, and was very happy that we were able to book my birthday show at the Fenix. Also, a special thanks to Brad and all the production staff. These guys definitely go the extra mile, and were very understanding of my seeming inability to tell time.

In order to recover from the monster day in Seattle, Vincent, Miguel, Brian and I drove down to my mother's house, which is up in the Cascades a bit East of Salem, Oregon, for some serious R&R, while the rest of the boys stayed in Seattle for some serious Party Time. Mom has an amazing piece of property on a river. There are, like, trees and shit. It occurred to me today that the farther you get from an Interstate highway, the better the quality of life. The water in the river that fronts her property is crystal clear. The air smells like, I don't know, what I suppose air is supposed to smell like when it isn't full of truck exhaust. You can see shit in the sky besides the moon and airplanes. In short, it's pretty fucking nice out here. A fitting last Day Off. We'll be meeting up with the rest of the boys in Eugene tomorrow (today, when you read this) for the first show of the Last Leg.

subject: Scrapramento...
Posted on June 18, 2004 at 9:19 PM

So, after the three-hour drive to the Capitol of California, we arrive at Shady Brady's to discover that the venue has no P.A. This, for obvious reasons, poses a bit of a problem to an "industrial" band (which in this day and age means "a band with electronic backing tapes/computers/whatever the fuck.") When remarking on this, I was informed that "most bands travel with a P.A." This is an interesting bit of news to me, as in my experience, only the biggest nationals travel with a full P.A. The only tour I've ever been on where a P.A. was dragged around the country was Angstfest in 1994. Quite frankly, I couldn't see Angstfest playing in Shady Brady's, a 100-capacity bar.

I have to be honest and say that we could probably have pulled off a show; the owner of the venue offered to procure a P.A. at no cost to us. However, when all was said and done, I decided this would be considerably more trouble than it was worth. So I'm taking this opportunity to apologize to anyone that came out to the show in Sacramento, and found we had already left. There was simply no way we could have played a show that could be described with any phrase nicer than "half-assed." So we didn't. If it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right, as Lisa is always telling me.

So, we drove half-way to Portland (which put us in Ashland, OR), stopped at a hotel for the evening, then finished off the drive today. I'm sitting in the club in Portland writing this, with an all-encompassing ass-ache from sitting in The Van for what seems like a week solid. Almost all of the remaining drives on the tour are of the 6 to 9 hour variety, with one epic 14-hour fiesta in our not-too-distant future. Yee haw. Let me just say that if you're thinking of starting a touring band, and you're over 6 feet tall, just plan on having a total vertebrae meltdown on a daily basis.

It is nice to be in Oregon, the only state in the Union that actually smells right, IMO. While I'm an Eastern Oregonian, I have certainly spent my fair share of time in the Valley. It's nice to look at something that is, say, $0.99, and know that's the actual price. It's nice to not have to pump your own gas. In short, it's good to be home. Lisa is coming to the Seattle show for my birthday, so I'm understandably anxious to get this show over with and depart for parts north. The last time I saw her was way back in Champaign, 'round May 2nd or so. Since she and I spend pretty much every waking moment together, as we both work at home normally, I get separation anxiety of the first order. I'll drop a post about the Portland show tonight, then you probably won't hear from me again until Sunday night or Monday morning.

subject: Fog
Posted on June 17, 2004 at 1:08 PM

San Francisco is a fun, albeit incredibly expensive, city. Just so you can put it in perspective, I had a $19 hamburger yesterday. With a $19 burger, I would think that one could reasonably expect to get, say, a foot rub while eating it. But no foot rub. It wasn't a _bad_ hamburger, that's true enough. But it wasn't God's Gift To Meat Eaters, either.

The show went great, though. The club was _very_ hospitable. I'd like to give shout-outs to Butch and Dave and Dave for making our stay there so painless. We had our best merch night of the tour, as well, so no complaints there. I'd wax poetic on other facets of San Francisco, except that I'm running late right now. I stayed at a friend's house last night, and now I have to go round up alll my little indians and get on the road to Sacramento. More later.

subject: Dope, guns and fucking in the street.
Posted on June 16, 2004 at 1:16 AM

Let me just state for the record that my official tally of Places That Are Actually Cool As Fuck In North America has been permanently altered by plus one. To the list, which has thus far consisted of Toronto, Vancouver B.C., and New Orleans, I have now added Tijuana. I had been to T.J. before, but not really, as my visit consisted of walking across the pedestrian bridge, buying cigarettes and tequila, and walking back over to the good ol' USA.

On Sunday night, we played our San Diego show at Brick By Brick. Max, the owner, is probably the single coolest guy I've ever met on tour any time, any where. Before the show, I did an interview with a Mexican television station. The two guys conducting the interview, Jorge and David, invited myself and anyone who wanted to come with to T.J. after the show. The show went well enough, but I didn't drink enough water on stage (my normal intake is about a liter and a half during the hour performance, but for some reason I only drank about a third of that here) and after we were done I felt like I was having a stroke or something. So I passed on the trip over, and went back to the hotel for some much-needed rest instead.

The following day, 6 of the 10 people on tour went in to L.A. to spend the day off with friends. Brian, Wade, Miguel and I stayed in San Diego, because we felt no particular need to spend any more time in L.A. than necessary. I spent the day catching up on paperwork and lounging by the hotel pool. In the early evening, David called me from T.J. asking if I still wanted to come over and see what there was to see. When David got there to pick us up, Wade and Miguel were sound asleep, so Brian and I hopped in and were treated to a high-speed car tour through all the neighborhoods of T.J. That complete, David took us to what he said was the most famous taco stand in Tijuana. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this claim. As we were leaving, I turned to Brian and said that it was kind of sad in a way, because I knew I would never in my life have another taco as good as that one. After that, we met up with Jorge and some of their friends, and after a quick tour of some of the various evening attractions of Tijuana, we ended up at this bar that beggars description.

Most of the larger clubs in T.J. are oriented towards separating young American men from their money, via the judicious application of various vices. Like all border towns, there is a relatively large section of real estate devoted to this endeavor. While there are a few traditional nightclubs and bars, most of the businesses could be lumped under the general term "whorehouse." In Tijuana, this consists of a strip club on the ground floor of the building, with the balance of the structure consisting of what would, in other circumstances, be called a hotel. The strip club will be full to the rafters with young Mexican girls trying to earn enough money to go to "The Other Side," the USA. When an American sailor/soldier/redneck walks in the door of the strip club, he is immediately swarmed by the most predatory business people that capitalism could possibly conceive of, asking him in various semi-sultry and not-so-sultry ways if he'd like a "honeymoon," which is a half-hour stay in the hotel above.

Out on the street, there are hustlers of every possible stripe, from your basic beggar on up to full-blown con artists trying to lure Americans down dark alleys, purportedly to see various sexual acts of the most depraved nature, but more likely to get the shit kicked out of them, and their wallet stolen. Thrown in with this mix are a generous dose of hookers that, as far as I could tell, never did earn enough to go to The Other Side, and are now past their prime, and thus unable to get a job in a more reputable establishment. They're now stuck giving 50 Peso hand jobs to drunk sailors in order to earn enough money for their next 20-bag of meth.

After Jorge and David took Brian and I on a quick walking tour of this scene (one memorable image is of a beautiful whitewashed Spanish Mission church from the mid-1800s, with a gigantic neon-encrusted brothel on either side) they took us to this bar. I wish I could remember the name of this place, because, like, fuck. It was a tiny little place, but it had the loudest jukebox I've ever heard in my life. About half the contents of the jukebox was Mexican rock of the last several decades, with the rest being glamish (T-Rex, Bowie, et al.) The bar served two things, alcohol and marijuana. I spent the next six-odd hours swimming through a very nearly halucigenic haze of pot smoke and Corona Familar beer (8% alcohol in Mexico!), all the while engrossed in conversation with all my new Mexican friends, which was about a third Spanish and two thirds English, but entirely at a full-throated yell in order to be heard over the lilting strains of "20th Century Boy" at 125db.

I couldn't begin to relate all the bizarre happenings of the evening, but suffice to say that Brian and I made three very good friends, had an excellent meal, and got an expert on-the-ground tour of a very strange place. I have to say, and I think Mr. McDaniel would agree, that it was the best day of the tour so far. I will add the following two tidbits of information, and let you make your own conclusions:

1. Tijuana is by no means entirely described by the above. The district I described is a rather small slice of a _very_ large city. Like all big cities, it has neighborhoods of abject poverty, neighborhoods of incredible wealth, but largely consists of those in between, just like in the good 'ol USA. During our car tour, we saw all of these and then some. It is actually a very nice city, as cities go. It just has a lot more freedom than your average American city.

2. While I'm not a big fan of Bukowski, I now fully understand why he wrote the way he did, now that I've spent an evening in one of the very places from which he drew his inspiration. I felt like I was living inside a Tom Waits album for the entire duration of the visit.

subject: Likely see someone you know on Heart Attack and Vine...
Posted on June 13, 2004 at 7:17 AM

Holy fucking shit. L.A., for like the first time ever, was quite off the hook. That _really_ surprises me, as I seem to have been cursed since 1991 with having shitty shows in LA, plagued with technical problems and jaded audiences.

Not so tonight. CA had quite a few technical problems, however, so I guess the Karma Police pulled someone over and beat them with billy clubs, but it wasn't fucking me for a change of pace. Got to see some good friends as well; En Esch stopped by, and Buzz McCoy (TKK) came down, as well as Tony Schrock from Final Cut and Tamie Downs (Newlydeads + Faster Pussycat.) I'm not a name-dropper; it's just that it was good to hang out with some old friends that I haven't seen in a while. En Esch tackled me in the middle of "Better Than Me" and pulled me off the stage. Too much comedy for one night. Only in LA.

An interesting highlight to the day: we left the hotel for the club about 4:00 pm, and when we were cruising down Highland, someone coming down a side street decided to pull a u-turn in the middle of the intersection. The problem with this course of action is that they didn't have the light, and Highland is a pretty busy road. So the guy making the u-turn slammed in to 4 other vehicles during his about-face, and then sped off. One of the vehicles he tagged was a Chevy Suburban full to the gills with a bunch of gentlemen of the East LA persuasion. They took off after the guy, and ended up pinning his vehicle to the guard rail about a quarter mile down the road.

We stopped to help out the other three cars, one of which was very badly damaged from hitting the stop light pole after getting tagged. While trying to cross the road to get to this guy, I was just about run down by someone running the red light (which had _just_ changed from the green it was on when the accident occurred.) LA is simply the most bizarre place I've ever been, or ever will be. It is continually amazing to me exactly how self-centered people can be, given the opportunity.

The strangest thing about the whole operation was that the guy who almost ran me over actually stopped to tell me what an asshole I was for trying to cross the road to help this guy. Keep in mind that he drove right through this accident, basically while it was occurring. Too fucking weird. The second weirdest thing about the situation was that if we had have been even one second earlier, we would have been nailed by that u-turning cocksucker instead of the Suburban, which was directly in front of us. Food for thought.

subject: "I'd like an Old Fashioned, hold the sugar, oranges, bitters and cherries..."
Posted on June 12, 2004 at 4:43 AM

Plush is an absolutely awesome club. The staff was some of the nicest people we've met on tour, and the club was really well kept. We had our only Sound Chick on the tour so far, Erica, who did a bang-up job keeping our craziness in order.

Nothing much to say about the day besides that. It was relatively average (drive up, park in psuedo-cool neighborhood, walk around causing trouble, play show, drive away.) We're back in the same Flying J I posted from earlier today, on our way to L.A. I'm sure I'll have some interesting tale or another to relate about tomorrow's show. Escape From L.A. is physically impossible to complete unscathed for a band. Ain't gonna happen. Snake Plisken couldn't do it, so I don't expect we'll have any better luck.

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