Tuesday, February 01, 2005

No Xmas for John Rhys-Davies: TLASILA Tour Reminiscence Vol. 2

(This entry was begun on January 14.)

Oh dear, it's been four months since the tour, and I remember less than ever. An ideal situation! At present, I'm watching deleted scenes from the bonus disc of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind DVD; conversely, I haven't watched more than three minutes of TLASILA footage - in total - from the September convocation. And we shot, er, loads. (If I were now to write "And Peter North was DP," I'd be pushing it, and peddling auld wares as well.) It's not that I'm not solipsistic, but, in these dim days, I have a pronounced tendency to not compulsively review. (And, in redundancy news, I kinda just need to charge forward.) I'd rather someone like Aida Ruilova or Chris Habib (both of whom obviously already have plates stacked sky high) deal with it. Despite my vid proclivities, I have sounds darting through my consciousness; I have a powerful desire to track down, stake out, and murder each one of them. (Oops, I just received an image from A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die. My brain plots against me...)

Off track again. Kate Winslet never previously did that much for me (I always got her mixed up with Helena Bonham Carter), but she's rocking these extended improvs, and she has an unmistakable allure. I dig full frame...



Bug Jar (9/15) - disappointing turnout, probably the (second) worst of the tour. Maybe 80 or 90 bodies, tops? As usual (for the God and Country trek, that is) promoters were, to be charitable, less than aggressive in spreading the word about the gig, thinking AWK's presence alone would drive a snarling MTV 2 horde into the foyers of their clubs. Sat at the merch table for a few hours with Leslie Q, listening intently as she spun tales of domestic peril. It was an odd evening out. Foul ropes of yellow-green vomit lay adjacent to the side stage door; we had a pretty cool set, I suppose, though for me it seemed more of a lull, a coalescing. John Schoen (a Rochester stalwart and all-round decent chap) tantalized with promises of a double disc set of Roxy Music outtakes or alternate takes or whatever they were from their Eno-period Musikladen performances, but to date, he's sent nada. (Dude, you're killing me!) Great to vibe with the darling, delightful Dave Cross (of Coffee renown, not th' other Mr. Show 'un); the mammoth (both in girth and character) doorman salvaged my video camera after I'd inadvertently left it in the gutter. Cheers, good sir!

(Note: "second worst" is accurate. The mob at Newport, Kentucky numbered far fewer, perhaps less than 50. All of whom were likely performing with us that bleak, yet exhilarating evening. For those of you not familiar with Southgate House, it's a swell venue, big-ass Iowa barn-sized, with two floors, many bars, a sympathetic and caring staff who'll sweeten your nipples while tweaking your beverage, and a local audience - those not on stage - which can be roused from stupor. And we manifestly failed to bring the millions. A shame, really, since the promoter assembled an absurdly fecund package. Your loss, OH/KY... Er, with profound thanks to those who attended and enjoyed the festivities... Christ, I'm too fucking thoughtful. Goddamned Ethics degree!)

Flywheel Arts Collective (9/16) - awesome gig, at least from this jaded perspective. Temple of Bon Matin (even in their fractious September state, still very enjoyable), The Believers, Corsano/Moore/Moore, Magik Markers... The Flywheel sold out and dissenters feared an AWK fan-crush, but daft thoughts flew that eve, and the throng's demo was naught but predictable. (In other words, they complained about themselves.) A lovely, predictable throng, of course. Many hot ladies... And more than a few dudes who stood with arms crossed, semi-scowling, as we shot our load across the distaff prow. We encountered this minority often. They either wanted or expected some sort of sonic replication of Wigmaker, and thus they couldn't get down with our heavy prance vibe, no matter how hard everyone else around them was fruggin'. (Word to the unwise: we did that album already. We're not doing it again.) They seemed blistered, abandoned and upbraided by our embrace of - good Christ, how could they? - an ecstatic tension (sans conventional release), of motherfucking joy! Forgive the apparent slide into hagiography, but I've nothing really to ask forgiveness for, and I've every right to describe. (Robbe-Grillet is still tucked under the Guarneri ebonized chin rest of my smashed-up '75 viola.) But, hail to the supergods, we did perform an impromptu (and likely ill-advised, and utterly unrehearsed) cover of Charles Tournemire's Symphonie-Choral Op.69, and at that anarchic juncture the Shave-as-Avant-Garde-Bulwark boys jumped ship. Still, many fluids were exchanged, and the front line dancers were soaked. Sam Sebren (from the great, much-missed Splotch) was there too! Blown away by the strict Believers vibe, and dazzled, like everyone else on Earth, by Corsano's focus and control... From there on out, 'twas cool as a mobile morgue. Awesome thighs on those Magik lasses, and they strangle you with 'em as soon as they get crankin'. (Skulls not crushed, but dreadful red hand prints where palms met coconuts...)

Nope, no complaints whatsoever. Bunked over at Kim and Thurston's manse, and until very early morning I ripped discs from one of the many 60-foot high stacks of promo CDs which littered the kitchen counters. Next day we flogged some merch, brunched, did laundry, and sat aghast as Chris Grier's feet became ever more befouled. (That's why the ladies love him. No conception of shame.)

It's weird that some of our older fans can't make the transition with us, but, of course, it's also quite normal. I'm not living in 1996 anymore (although it's true that I lingered there, post-marriage, for several years), and there are no more Wigs, God and Countries, Where a Horses, Les Tricateuseses, Commmiinngggs, or Tony Conrad, Fat-Asses left in me. (The mere presumption that those works, especially Wigmaker, are the "best," the most unhinged or risk-taking, is galling.) I'm fifteen billion light years past those traumas, and the brake lights haven't yet winked. If any of you are wondering about our precise coordinates, the new album should assist in your triangulation efforts. That's a promise.

Safari Lounge (9/17) - looked grim, initially. Not much of a venue, no managerial controls, no staff, no nothin'. Located in a filthy, brackish back-alley, the joint had "Great White" (or "The Shirts," or "NZ indie losers") written all over it. (In smeared Crayola Tub Tints...) It was a precise analogue of my 10th grade conception of what a really cool rock club (and we're talkin' '72, mind) should be. Alas, that premonition failed to include Ben McOsker as doorman and cashier... Eventually, a pair of elder freak-types approached, and they turned out to be both owners and absolute kittens. We hauled our gear in, sniffed around the place, and after a bit of stilted chat proceeded to follow Rat's nose to a (semi-partially vegan, for my sake) hot dog stand-cum-bizarro-boîte oft-visited by the portly Laundryroom Squelchers crew. There we finally encountered the AWK fan-crush (at least the tip of the spear of said crunch), and much mirth was shared as Andrew and I sang Sparks tracks from desiccated memory. Back at the Safari, the hermetic Load CFO held a bucket in one hand, and a papal decree in the other: "no soul shall be asked to give more than two dollars in donations at this door." I was going into blind panic mode, but Rat calmed my ass down. "C'mon, this'll be the best gig of th' fuckin' tour." Then... The masses arrived, the other groups parachuted in, and we had one helluva sweet ride. Huge aud (for the size of the place), an albino rat-munching python in the corner, no annoying DJs, cheap beer, many hot-ass Prov lovelies with short-short-short skirts and oddly glazed eyes, another set of marriage-collapsing Russki/Hindi crunk-jazz from Temple of Bon Matin, a generic noise display that turned out not-so-generic (courtesy of Pleasurehorse - Mac touch-pad massiv krew in da, er, dump!), grind as raspberry sorbet (thanks to the stolid, no-nonsense Necronomitron fam), and Grier, still shoeless.

We peeled out and crashed immediately into Vanishing Point 'dozer blades. The gods made love in pools of our cochlear fluids, as short skirts edged ever closer...

Synopsis: another takedown. (I was stunned that anyone bothered to show.) Rat nailed it: not the best gig, but certainly in the top three. We shall make a point to re-visit dear Providence! (Balto too.)

Afterwards, we decamped to Villa McOsker, where we left the empty husks of Bastard, Grier, Wolcott, and Morgan. (The cat hair-to-opulence ratio was pegging above recommended levels on our TSI IAQ-Calc™ indoor air quality meters, prompting the rest of us to retreat, clothespins affixed firmly to schnozolas, to the Biltmore.) It rained hard all night; the image on the splash page of the TLASILA site was taken as our tour van sped through the wet Rhode Island underworld on our way to Load HQ...

Chris worked his way out of the putrescent corner he'd passed out in, hopped a cab (if I remember correctly), and soon joined us at the hotel. We spent the morning dividing receipts and carefully folding our clothes into tight little pocket-sized squares. I will never finish this fucking entry.



Providence was enshrouded in a foul mist; as the wind swirled below in the beer garden, we made a break for the van.



After a week in the alien heartland, it was a massive fucking relief to head back into New York.

SUNY Purchase College (9/18) - was cancelled. Miscommunication. All for the best, however, as we ended up needing the extra time for Tonic preparations. (Fucking undergrads!)

Tonic (9/18) - the top, a total blast.

Such as we were, in as much as we could be said to be anything, we embodied the essence of whatever the fuck we could be. Most possibilities lurched into, and drained.

If you were there, you know.

Got so stoned downstairs I spilled a drink on to the lap and legs of the lovely Jocelyn Shipley; of course, this suave move coincided with Kim Gordon's arrival at the table. My putz value rose dramatically.

Soundcheck blues are always eroded by a decent dinner and a few drinks... For some reason, we chose Mexican. Not bad or anything, but always a bit too sumptuous in advance of required gig gesticulations. Left my goddamned olive green khaki hat there.

The booze afterwards was helpful. Shot the shit with Monotract, Double Leopards... Latina bartender gave me her number, but I tossed it soon after. She was cute and all, but thoughts in that sacred regard were thousands of miles distant... Great to be at Tonic in Morgan's company. We hate everything, equally. (Shades of the Fleming/Smith duo circa '75. Loathing, O, such loathing.)

The show? Murder. Kim and Thurston danced throughout, which sorta blew a fuse below the superolateral surface of my right cerebral hemisphere. A true "wha-?" arc of disbelief. Likewise, around the periphery of the stage, decorum was abandoned, shame sent packing. In most of the photos I've seen, I'm grinning like a psycho ward patient in a Hari Rhodes hallway scene from Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor.

Those very sexy NYC lepers were kind enough to accord us many huzzahs, a pair of encores, and the right to share many litres of sweat. The entire fucking audience refused to budge until they'd heard from us a third time. At last, ecstatic piss.



The sound dude had to fight his way through the mob to reconnect the mics... Not wanting to spoil things, I opted for an extended ass-kiss, thanking all for their enthusiasm, their desire to permanently rid the world of smallpox, etc. Afterwards, my ex-semi-girlfriend from '99, Kitt, emerged from the middle of the fray. I was delighted to see her. Drinks, palaver, replay of break-up trauma, etc. Despite knowing better, I put on the moves which worked well five years earlier. Had her on the ropes maybe for a half-sec, but, of course, she knew better also... Kitt looked great, still twitchy and possessed of an intelligence far too large to comfortably fit into such a skinny-ass frame. Before I get all (J.) Iglesias on you, I'll fast forward to...

Chris Habib, and the photoshoot for I-D mag. Not certain whose idea this was (Thurston's?), but suffice it to say, I didn't make the November centerfold. I'm sure the editorial board rejected the pix as soon as they saw the sweaty, middle-aged goofball clutching Pretty Things and Sly and the Family Stone DVD boots as though they were contemporary cultural markers... Wish I could have been there to hear their comments: "Oh, mother of God, no. No, no, no... Oh my..."

What cunts! My beauty has retreated to internal arbors...

Still, life was great. Wowing New Yorkers always makes me rigid. Nice crowd of admirers/stalkers on the sidewalk outside the club... A Russian girl who accompanied my friends Suzanne and Mark hit the гвоздь on the голова with this observation: "You do not make dissonant music. This was psychedelic music, but for today." (I swear I'm not making this up.) Not exactly how I might have characterized the Tonic vibe, but coming from a new listener, perfect. Marc Weitz was there, Aida Ruilova was there, the extended Sightings family made it down, my pal Bert from university flew up for the show... Such a beautiful vibe.

(Said freq. was found strangled at a Black Dice gig two weeks later.)

We packed up the gear, dropped everyone off... I hit the sack at dawn. After a great gig, I kinda think I deserve a sick night of sex, or an early morning curb crawl with salmon-jacketed Euro coke-chimps, or at least a bout of googly-eyed hand-holding at a Village cafe with a West 60s trust fund gal who'll likely not recall a thing a week later... I've had plenty o' the above, but now, desires are convolved, and my heart, once a foul, poisioned organ, resides elsewhere, restored. With delivery vans rumbling in the streets below AWK's tar-paper penthouse, I replayed memories of passionate kisses with Elja outside a market stall in St. Petersburg, Russia. (I am such a pussy.)

WFMU session (9/19) - aka The Lozenge Tapes. A fitting conclusion... Great session, although my vox had long since departed for Valhalla... Brian and the crew made us feel like golden pariahs; the cupcakes were divine. Grier had to catch a train, leaving the studio during a break in the recording. The post-partum pall landed, hard. It was over...

More to come.



(Snap by Uli Loskot, taken at Baltimore's Tarantula Hill sweathole on September 11, 2004.)



And here's my wizened mug (yet again), from a mid-December self-portrait. Note the (very expensive) luggage under the eyes, the cheeks carefully tucked away... Such a good lil' narcissist, eh? (My pedigree demands it, unfortunately... Even Stockhausen would do well to smear on a bit of body glitter.)