Tour Blog

Road stories.

I Can’t Say That I’ll Try…But I’ll Try To Try

Now that Warped Tour is upon us and I’ll actually be doing traveling and playing and fighting off lot lizards and not just sitting in front of my shitbox computer all day, I’m gonna try to try to get this blog going again.

I make no promises of continuity and thoroughness, and for all I know ShitBox 5000 will finally catch on fire at some point, but I’ll do my best to at least share the good stuff.

Posts might be more sporadic looking than my typically prosed-out, TL;DR style. If I can bear to not write that way.

Anyway, here’s the Sprinter’s cargo bay, MAXXXED OUT

There are so many more layers to this packing job than the outer one you see here. It’s like a half-ton Jenga of boxes and awkward cases and motorcycle helmets.

After packing I rolled over to my family’s old house, which is now surrounded by a chain-link fence and a demolition notice. Looks like by the time I come back from tour it will all be torn down. That’s not a surprise in the least, as that house is totally ShitBox 1956, but still. To actually inventory all the history in those walls, and to imagine those walls gone, is overwhelming.

But walking around the neighborhood and sitting by the creek at the end of the street, I finally had some time in relative silence to think. It’s been so long since suburban silence! Plus I figured this would be the last time I could truly be alone before I become a human sardine all summer.

I cleared my mind of all the city’s sirens, fireworks, screaming, honking, bangin’ club bass, and laughter. Focused on the sound of water, the frogs, the wind overhead. Had some conversations, worked out some things, and made a couple of very important realizations that I hope will guide me in the right direction for this tour and beyond.

Now I’m ready.

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SXSW Day 4

MY GOD, MAN.

I saw so much great music yesterday it’s stupid.

After getting lunch at Titaya’s, a fantastic Thai place (and not just because it’s called Titaya’s and I get to write the word Titaya’s in my blog Titaya’s), Mike and I headed downtown to catch Reggie Watts. The venue, Flamingo Cantina, is a fairly small reggae club, where the stage is about as big as the dance floor and the Red Stripes are as big as your head. Seriously, I didn’t know they even made those big-ass Red Stripe bottles. Yes I had one, are you kidding?

But ANYWAY we got there on the early side figuring there would be a huge line getting in and it turns out that wasn’t a problem at all. Crowds were filtering in and out as each band would finish so we just walked right in. Caught a band called Hooray For Earth, who did a pretty cool mix of spacey psychedelia with a harder edge and the occasional dance groove. The singer had a set of pedals for his microphone and he would pitch shift his voice up an octave for some beautiful soaring lines that sounded more like some kind of whistle. And at one point during a drum breakdown he tilted his mic towards the kit and hit the delay pedal for some live dub sounds. Very cool.

Reggie setting up. We wondered what kind of sweater he'd be rocking, and he did not disappoint.

So, Reggie Watts. Dude TURNED THE PLACE OUT. He’s a nasty beatboxer, and the sounds he was making kicked really hard in the PA. He’s a master of the Line6 DL4 delay/looper, taking that pedal’s capabilities to the absolute limit. He was clicking the footswitches with his hands faster than should be humanly possible, using the looper more like a sampler at times to throw in quick hits and drops.

He was also f’n hilarious. Not just goofball funny with the voices and accents, but really thoughtful stuff too. Also, I’m pretty sure about 80% of his set is improvised…but I really couldn’t tell where the written songs ended and the riffing started. This review is doing him no justice, so I should just stop here. Dude kicked ass, is all I’m saying.

After some running around I was heading to the convention center to pick up my official SXSW wristband (thanks, Bloodshot Records!) and I ran into none other than Adam Mormolstein, who told me Punch Brothers were playing in the evening. That’s all the persuading I needed, as I’ve been dying to see them live. Turns out the event was the Warner Sound showcase, which featured 7 acts. And every single one of them KILLED. Quick run-down, in order:

  • LP: Freaky little Dylan-looking kid with a folky backing band and hands-down the highest range I’ve ever heard from a dude. It would’ve sounded annoying if it wasn’t so damn impressive.
  • PunchBrothers: Amazingly tight, beautifully arranged pieces. The banjo player especially blew me away. It was my first time seeing Chris Thile live, and he gave off a vibe that seemed like he might be kind of a dick.
  • Ed Sheeran: Most of the set he just seemed like just another t-shirt-wearing bro with a looper pedal, but for his last song he cranked out a really insane 10-minute jam (featuring 4 broken strings and some seriously impressive British-white-boy-rapping) that had the whole place blowing up and won me over. This bro got a pass.
  • Kimbra: You may know her from her duet with Gotye on Somebody That I Used To Know (112 million views, holy hell), but on her own she’s a pretty freaky pop singer with a suuuuuper tuff band. She was excellent, killer voice, though a lot of credit for the set’s ass-kickingness does go to the band.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: These guys were great, totally blew away my expectations. Fun songs, hit really hard, with bubble machines and giant wooden JRs loaded with light bulbs that flashed in time. They were mostly in the psych-pop world, but they dropped in a fonky cover of I Wanna Dance With Somebody that really slammed.
  • Dr. John: Dude, it’s Dr. John. You know. Though I will say that the old-funky-jamming-dudes vibe kinda felt like a downer after the young, cliffhanging, we-have-to-prove-ourselves energy of the 5 previous acts.
  • Gary Clark Jr.: By 1 AM our ears were blown out (I forgot my molded ear plugs DAMMIT) and our feat were thrice their normal size, so we could only stay for one song. Dude’s got the Hendrix thing down, it wasn’t all that original but still sounded great. I would’ve loved to stay but I just physically couldn’t do it anymore.

So basically I saw about 8 hours of fantastic music yesterday. I can get used to this.

Off to rehearse with Jon and Skull Orchard (for the first time!), and play 2 sets – one at 4:15, and one at 1 AM – let’s hope I don’t get too drunk before the 2nd one.

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SXSW Day 3

Not much to report today – much of it was spent getting to Mike’s place, writing yesterday’s blog post (ha!) and recovering from my BBQ binge. A couple things of interest:

1) Down the street from Mike’s place is a cluster of sweet vintage shops that all do clothes, furniture, etc. Every time I go into one I ask if they have a particular piece. It’s a ceramic kangaroo, with a pouch that’s designed to hold keys, change, or whatever. It’s something my dad always talked about and was on the lookout for, and even though I’d never seen one before (not even in a picture) I always ask if they have it. I did the same thing for my mom, except for her it was asking every record store if they had a copy of Spooky Two (which was a success, though I never actually gave her the record…)

So I did my routine at this one shop, and rather than the blank stare I usually get the guy said “yeah, the one in Pulp Fiction!” OHHHHHH RIGHT. It’s what Butch used to hold his watch! Then the dude immediately pulled up a picture of one from his Instagram. Turns out the shop had one for several months and it didn’t sell, and eventually the guy up and bought it from his own store. So alas, I didn’t actually score a kangaroo caddy, but now I know what to look for. There are some on eBay right now if you search “Pulp Fiction Kangaroo” but I’d still rather find one in person.

 

The visuals were intense. I took this picture at the worst possible time to prove it!

2) At night Mike and a couple of his buddies and I went to a party at an arts center downtown. The act we were there to see was Com Truise (you read that right), an electronic duo that calls itself “mid-fi synth-wave, slow-motion funk.” A pretty accurate description, actually. There was also an ’80s sci-fi element to their sounds that was pretty cool. I’d never really seen an electronic artist live, and while I generally hate on the electronic stuff I understand it a little better now.

Hearing the stuff at a way-over-the-top volume, with massive stacks of subwoofers that rattled both the pants and the nostrils, certainly helps. While electronic usually sounds like wallpaper when I hear it in the background, it’s a very physically exciting music at max volume. Made me kinda wish I had a chalice full of drugs and someone to dance on. I guess either of those could have been attainable at this party, but for one thing how do you even talk to anyone at a super-loud scene like that? “HEY GIRL I’M ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THIS CERAMIC KANGAROO THING HEY WHAT YOU DRINKIN ON?”

3) SXSW is a friggin’ carnival. Just humanity everywhere, what a mess – especially on 6th Street. Holy moly.

Alright, time to get my act together. Gonna try to catch Reggie Watts this afternoon, meet up with fellow Dirty Rook and Skull Orchard singer Tawny Newsome when she gets into town, and see where the street-roaming takes us.

 

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SXSW Day 2

Meat. Sauce. Brutality

I’m writing you today from behind my uncomfortably distended gut. Stubb’s BBQ took me DOWN. They have a family style all-you-can-eat deal. And I ate-all-I-can. Sausage, pulled pork, ribs, BRISKET MY GOD THE BRISKET. Plates of pickles, onions, and serrano peppers. Mac & Cheese, potato salad, killer baked beans. All with a thick slice of white bread just to cap it all off.

I ate….so much. And so fast. Really did myself in this time. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep much last night.

Last night’s gig was a party put on by Root Music, developers of Band Page, and it was also sponsored by Formspring (did you know IFD has a formspring page? I manage it/write all the smartass responses). The party was held at this building that used to be an auto shop, but they converted it into a real hip performance space.

One of the outside walls from the party.

Check out the stage/light/video setup they had going – pretty sweet. We gave the video operator a thumb drive laoded with the videos we usually play on our TVs and he basically VJ-ed them live, which made for a really cool effect.

The sound system was also state-of-the-art. I didn’t catch the brand names of the speakers, but it was a new line array design that apparently could be more effectively time/phase aligned, which resulted in a really clear full-range sound. The system was also LOADED with great subs, and my mic was right up by one of the stacks so I was feeling Chad’s kick and Hari’s bass all over. Kinda hot.

The projectors were specially set up to fire only onto the center sculpture, without any overhang. Sweet.

The set was really good musically (virtually no tech failures either!), and while the SXSW party vibe is much different than your typical rock show we had a good time. We’ve been hanging out the last couple of days with some folks from GREE, the company that co-sponsored Sunday’s party, and they came out to this party too. GREE is the largest social network in Japan, specializing in mobile games, and they’ve been a great connection to make, especially in our goal to some day get into Japan. Not to mention they’ve been pretty rad people to hang with, too. So from the networking standpoint that SXSW is really all about, this trip has definitely been a success.

There were also LED video-capable curtains, and boxy light panels on each side of the stage and throughout the room (not pictured)

Now the rest of IFD is on their way back home, and I’m staying at my buddy Mike’s place for the rest of the week. I’m free and easy until the Langford gigs pick up Thursday, so I’m looking forward to just going out and checking out some random shows.

And I still have some barbeque mistakes to work out. Think I’ll *try to eat vegetarian today.

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Mobile App Test – Peggle!

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Just downloaded the WordPress Android app. The new Sprinter van has an Xbox on it. We don’t have any games yet so we’ve been playing the Peggle demo. NON STOP.

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Welcome/SXSW Day 1

Howdy, and welcome to my new blog! I’m gonna give the tour/gig journal thing a shot, and try to document my experiences on the road, in the studio, and elsewhere. Ideally this will be a place I can spam out whenever I please, without the guilt or annoyance of blowing up my friends’ facebook news feeds etc. But I’ll probably just end up linking to every post on facebook anyway…ah well.

This thing may not even get off the ground, who knows…I’ll consider it an experiment in the meantime.

WELL LET’S GET STARTED! IFD is here in Austin to play a couple of SXSW-related shows. We played a party yesterday (more on that later) and have another one later today. The rest of the band heads back home tomorrow, but I’m sticking around until next Tuesday. Later in the week I’m playing bass for the most excellent Jon Langford and Skull Orchard, one of his 34 concurrent bands. I’ve only been to Austin once (to watch Gremlins at the Alamo Draft House with MC Chris) and even spending just one night here was a rad time.

Setting up the stage

Yesterday’s show was part of the “Power Up!” party, sponsored by Gree (a Japan-based mobile gaming company) and Alternative Press magazine (who featured us in their “bands to watch” edition last year). The party was set up along the side of the beautiful Palmer Center, where the ‘Screen Burn Arcade’ event, a pretty huge gaming convention, was happening inside. Austin’s recently crappy weather streak broke just as we were pulling in, and it became a beautiful day for a show.

FOH and Monitors utilized these Soundcraft digital boards, which I hadn't seen before. Slick design.

The show itself was shaky at times. We had some tech issues right from the outset (Chad’s wireless pack had a dead battery, Bill’s keyboard was losing connection at times, holding up the start of a couple things), and the party atmosphere had a much different dynamic than a dedicated show, but I think we did fine all things considered.

Oh yeah…during the opening DJ’s set I had to check on something with the FOH sound guy. I ran back to the tent, and lo and behold dude was sleeping on the console. Upon being awoken (with a really awkward ‘hey man…?’) his eyes were BLAZED. I can only hope we sounded okay…

Motion City Soundtrack

Motion City Soundtrack were the headliners here. I haven’t listened to them much, but they are an excellent band. Super tight, great sounds, and while I’m no pop punk connoisseur I really dig the songwriting. Justin’s voice was right on – he’s got a high range that cuts through but it doesn’t have that whiny quality that turns me off from a lot of pop punk type stuff. We hung out with them afterwards and they were great guys, too.

Speaking of hanging out – we all went out to this Hawaii-themed bar (complete with outdoor beach volleyball court!) and, just as we were starting to wrap up, some dude went sprinting out the front door. Apparently this dude was trying to drink-and-dash. Everyone in the place ran out to the parking lot, where dude was trying to drive out (poor drink-dash technique if you ask me). People were standing in front of the car, banging on the hood and windows, and the car was pretty much stuck. Eventually one of the bartenders ran up, jumped on the hood, and gave the windshield a BRUTAL stomp. Pretty much spider-webbed the whole glass. I guess that was punishment enough, as the crowd got out of the way enough for the car to pull out. Crazy….so we got the hell out of there and that was essentially the end of the night.

Austin's beautiful skyline, captured on my awful phone camera.

I’ll try to stay up on my gigs and criminal activity sightings throughout the week so stay tuned!

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