I fall on hard times which prevent me from regularly updating my SXSW tour blog.
In Springfield, Mo., we visit a Guitar Center to replace equipment that has been broken or lost in the last five days. We need a tambourine, a guitar cable, and a very hard-to-find kick drum head to replace one that Drummer J. has destroyed with her relentless right foot. Springfield’s Guitar Center has the tambourine and the cable, but the drum head proves elusive. We are referred to another Guitar Center in Fayetteville, Ark., where we are scheduled to play that night. I write the address of this other Guitar Center on a green flyer that the store is circulating to advertise a sale. On the way out of Guitar Center, the security guard stops me. “The flyer has to stay in the store,” he says, making me recopy the Fayetteville Guitar Center’s address on to another piece of paper. In a lifetime of terrible interactions at Guitar Center, this is a new low.
In Fayetteville, we play a show in a dive bar to 30 people. To enter the bar, one may either walk right past the stage (a la The Galaxy Hut, for readers familiar with that venue) or, if one prefers, right onto the stage. At first, the show seems grim—-the opening band plays for more than an hour and includes a cover of “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs. Then, things take a turn—-people seem to like us, and we sell some records. We celebrate this success by leaving immediately for an epic overnight drive to Austin, where we must play at 4:20 p.m. the next day.
I drive from Fayetteville to Denison, Texas. This drive takes four and a half hours, and we begin the drive at midnight. While the rest of the band sleeps or watches Mean Streets on an iPad, I drive through the haunted country of southwest Arkansas, southern Oklahoma, and north Texas, including parts of the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations. Lakes abound here—-fog rolls in off of water that I cannot see, but know is there when the black landscape reflects the clear night’s low-hanging half-moon. I listen to “The Foxxhole,” a tepid Sirius XM radio station nominally associated with Jamie Foxx, while…well, “hallucinating” might be too strong of a word, but what does one call it when one sees cars that aren’t there and imaginary tornadoes, and hears the disembodied voice of Phil Spector in one’s right ear? (“These mixes need more reverb….reverb….reverb….”) When one isn’t falling asleep at the wheel, but is overtired, overcaffeinated, and simultaneously aware that, at any time, one’s vague sleepiness could devolve into actually falling asleep at the wheel and killing oneself and one’s three bandmates in a nightmarish Eddie Cochran–Metallica–Albert Camus smash-up scenario? Happily, we arrive at the Best Western in Denison in one piece, sleep for five hours, then wake up to finish the drive to Austin.
In Austin, the parking is hellish and so are many of the people. A woman tries to sell me a guitar amplifier hard case that would never fit into a car that my band could afford. The streets smell like marijuana and clove smoke. The word “branding” is whispered behind closed hands by 40-somethings with dyed-black hair and soul patches. People sport iPhones that will be garbage before the end of the next Obama (or the first Romney or Santorum) administration. And a gentleman at our afternoon show walks up to the stage and puts an unwanted whiskey shot on stage.
Like the rock that took Aron Ralston’s arm, this whiskey shot has been waiting for me my whole life. The glass was tempered to be placed at my feet; the grain mash was fermented and distilled to be poured into the glass at Lovejoys at 604 Neches St. in Austin, Tx. on March 14, 2012 at 4:31 p.m. The glass has held many whiskey shots before and I have held many glasses before but, in this encounter between man and glass, only one of us will survive. I kick the glass back into the crowd for the sake of the anecdote.