"Welcome to the Blue Ridge Mountains" Credit: Beck Levy

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Hand Grenade Job was on tour in the great American south and northeast over the past two months. Over the course of the tour, HGJ’s Beck Levy chronicled her experiences on the road. After the first leg of the tour concluded, Beck came home for a short break before heading back on the road. Read previous entries herehereherehere, and here.

March 14, 2017: Asheville, N.C. at Static Age Records with Mellow Diamond and Wes Tirey

Blew my nose into a muffin wrapper.

Approaching Asheville now and it’s starting to snow more. This is a voice memo.

The last time I played in Asheville it was also snowing, it was with The Gift. We barely made it there. Almost no one came to the show because of the snow. We played at a bar that is now called The Odditorium. At the time, I was driving a small shuttle bus that ran on veggie oil. It had a 60-gallon tank that we used as a bench… that was the only warm seat in the damn thing because I hadn’t had time to insulate it before the trip. Going south in the spring, I didn’t think I needed to do that yet. Only one seat besides the driver’s seat had a seatbelt. There was a futon we bolted to the floor. I slept on it most nights despite the cold; I don’t remember why. I got the bus worked on before the tour by this guy near Catholic University. I don’t remember his name but he was a Taurus with a Scorpio moon just like my sister. He was supposed to fix the brakes and the steering column. As we discovered on that drive, he hadn’t. It was terrifying. I did that drive. Reflecting on it now, that could have been the death of me and my best friends and it would have been my fault.

“Welcome to Asheville!” Credit: Beck Levy

Being alone is starting to be less fun, or at least it is today. I’m hoping it isn’t just a steady progression into totally sucking. Really glad I have a day off to recover tomorrow. I’m eating Chex from the box and yelling at myself to try to stay hype for the gig.

***

I meet up with Crystal Bradley from Partyline at Rosetta’s Kitchen, a vegan soul food place that is just like food you can make at home, except you’re not in control of how good or bad it is. The bathroom at this place is the most on-brand Asheville shit ever; graffiti peace signs and a brochure about consent.

The venue is a record store next to Rosetta’s. I feel like everyone I encounter is being weird, but I keep telling myself it has nothing to do with me. Because I refuse to compromise on my vision, I have returned out into the frigid weather to fetch my velvet leggings from the car. All across this never-great nation of ours I’m turning gross bathrooms into dressing rooms. I spend more minutes doing my makeup than there are people at this show. Now it’s time to bum these hippies out with some a cappella songs about domestic violence!

The nice thing about small crowds is being able to make intentional eye contact with each person there. It doesn’t feel like I played well though and I go back outside, where the freezing wind is blasting me in the face, to smoke a cigarette, feel like shit in the privacy of the indifferent world, and reflect on my recent deluge of breakups. Mikey C texts me to ask how my show was, and I tell him I sucked but it’s okay. He replies, “How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love To Bomb.”

I’m joined outside by Wes Tirey, the Appalachian folk musician who opened the show. He got a Ph.D. in Philosophy. When I went back to school at Montgomery College, that’s what I first took classes in. I was the president of the Philosophy Club and led our Ethics Bowl team to win the state championship (eat shit, Dundalk Community College Ethics Bowl Team of 2010! You anti-choice fucks!) and there’s still a picture of me somewhere at MC, holding the eponymous bowl, wearing a Wolfbrigade shirt, and smiling a big dorky smile. Modestly, I don’t tell Wes any of that. He asks what kind of philosophy I studied and I say “Post-structuralism, but mostly I’m just an anarcho-communist.” The conversation ends there and we go watch Janel Leppin.

I’ve somehow never seen her before, even though she lives in Glover Park and I live in Mt. Pleasant. She is outrageously talented and beautiful. Her friend does psychedelic projections using an old school overhead projector. It’s mesmerizing. I’m still wallowing in self-pity which is beginning to ooze into full-on self-hate, so I keep thinking about how I’ll never be that disciplined or talented. I know that self-hate is a form of narcissism so I try to move beyond my own tiny life. It doesn’t work.

After the show I follow Crystal back to her grandfather’s house in Hendersonville.

March 15, 2017: Asheville, N.C.: Day Off with Crystal 

Crystal and her fur babies. Credit: Beck Levy

Crystal lives with her grandfather in an adorable house on a hill with a view in Hendersonville, about an hour outside Asheville. The house looks like a museum of ’60’s aesthetic, bold bright colors, wood panelling. Crystal’s fur babies are all redheads whose names start with C: Cookie, Clyde, and Cleo. I don’t have cell service here and it’s nice. It reminds me of my time at Penland, and I feel wistful for seeing blue mountains every day and being enveloped in humidity. Staying up late printing. That’s my natural state.

Crystal drives us to Hot Springs, where we soak for two hours in the healing baths. We decide we’re starting a cult/political movement where the platform is that if it’s raining or snowing, no one has to go to work. “We can call it… the Weather Underground,” I say and we laugh until I hurt. I’m trying to convince Crystal to run for mayor of Hendersonville. She is an ASL translator with an advanced degree in Psychology… or maybe Social Work. I forget. She would be an excellent mayor.

We eat tacos, read old Harper’s articles and astrology books, and go to sleep. I can’t fall asleep so I watch old episodes of Desus & Mero until 5 a.m.

March 16, 2017: Birmingham, Ala. at Seasick Records

I’m in my car eating cereal in South Asheville, freshly showered with an abundance of snacks from Crystal. Listening to a Janel Leppin CD. My allergies have been bad. Last night I dreamed I pulled sprouting bulbs out of my nose, like I was weeding my sinuses. Wish I could.

Just sat in traffic for an hour-and-a-half because of what turned out to be a truck that was stuck in the middle of a two-lane highway. The truck is emblazoned with a graphic reading “Alcohol funny car,” with a pixelated photo of a racecar. I’m exhausted. My New Orleans group chat is suggesting I eat ice chips to stay awake. Lauren says that’s the wholesome way to stay awake.

“Sleepless in Alabama” Credit: Beck Levy

I drive straight through to Jackson, Miss. where I’ve Pricelined a very nice hotel. My drive to Dallas is going to be so long, I want my sleep to be as comfortable as possible since it’s going to be a short sleep. To stay awake, I do Instagram Live like a radio show, glancing down at the responses. It’s pretty lit and for most of it the virtual room is full of Montgomery and Prince George’s County people. We talk shit on people we know, somehow I do this for, like, three hours. By the time I make it to Jackson I’m in an altered state. It’s the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at, like a fancy lodge with fireplaces in the lobby. It looks like the Great Northern! I do a facemask, take a bath, shave my legs, and sleep with a million pillows.

To be continued…