We wake up in Cleveland and drive to Chicago. Due to unremarked-upon tectonic movements neglected by earth scientists more interested in studying sexier faults like the one that caused Japan’s 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, these two cities are growing further apart every year.

We drive for hours, stop outside Toledo to get Fill-In Bassist C. new white pants, drive for hours, and still are in Ohio. We eventually enter Indiana, get bananas and coffee at a rest stop, drive for hours, pass Gary, Ind., the birthplace of Michael Jackson, drive for hours, listen to an 25th anniversary celebration of U2’s The Joshua Tree on 1st Wave, a Sirius XM station devoted to “the early alternative,” stop at a rest stop to get more bananas and coffee, and still are in Indiana.

At the last Indiana toll, the motorist in front of us cannot pass because he either doesn’t have 70 cents or has the funds, but in the wrong denomination. Society stops functioning as this personage idles in his car, pressing the “Help” button on the automatic toll machine and explaining the situation to his frustrated wife, girlfriend or sister in the passenger seat. But the man isn’t properly angry. He’s not a doer, but a shrugger. Undoubtedly, he would sit at the toll until midnight, refusing to act—-the Indiana Toll Road’s equivalent of a Hooverite, or the nascent Tea Party during the 2007 financial crisis. Imitating Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Timothy Geithner, I get out of the car and pay the toll for him.

We arrive at the venue at 7:30 and learn we will play at midnight. This leaves four-plus hours to imagine a dialogue with the leader of one of the opening bands, as I am familiar with his catalogue of recorded works.


JM: Good show.
LOOB: Thanks!
JM: I don’t mean to, you know, pry, but, like, do you remember when you used to play in that remarkably-influential-if-not-iconic band that changed everyone’s life?
LOOB: Yes.
JM: Well, I don’t, you know, want to ask an awkward question, but, like, why does your new thang sound like a bar band now?
LOOB: What?
JM: I mean, I’m just saying that, like, your aesthetic has morphed from, like, an edgy punk aesthetic into, like, a bar-band aesthetic. What’s the deal?
LOOB: Are you disrespecting my art?
JM: No. No. Definitely not, dude. I love the blues. And bar bands. Like the ones you hear on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or Beale Street in Memphis, or 18th Street in Adams Morgan. I’m just saying is that it gives me whiplash a little bit. To hear you playing in a bar band. What’s the deal?
LOOB: I changed. I matured. I grew. My old band was the product of a different period in my life. Now, I am a different person producing different art.
JM. Weird. I am basically just a bald version of my 19-year old-self. I’m not producing different art.
LOOB: You’re not producing different art?
JM: No.
LOOB: A) If you really believe your claim, that’s fucked. You are 34, not 19. If you’re art hasn’t changed, that’s a problem. B) You can’t really believe what you say. When you were 19, you played guitar-heavy music with a lot of time changes—-basically, emo. Then you heard a Gang of Four record and started making what I would call, if I was feeling generous, art punk. Then you heard an Anthony Braxton record and started making very difficult (to the listener) improvisation-based music; basically, you started sounding like Can, or trying to. Then you heard a Suicide record, got a drum machine, and started making what I’d call dance punk if I was being generous or electroclash if I wasn’t. You started making electroclash and wearing a dress! You’ve since disowned this aesthetic, no longer wear a dress, and might think you don’t play dance punk anymore, even though you probably do play dance punk, even if it’s tarted up here or there with allusions to Motown or “roots” music that you’re still trying to co-opt 60 years after Elvis. So, imagine if a fan of your 19-year-old emo period was at this show tonight and was like, “Hey man—-why don’t you play emo anymore?” Wouldn’t that annoy you? And why did you stop wearing a dress anyway?
JM: I got tired of changing in the car.