Tour Diary: She-Devils – Aug ’99, Wanton Destruction Tour
August 27, 1999
Venue: Dewey’s Deck & Bar
City: Hattiesburg, MS
This was a great weekend considering both of our shows were last-minute replacements. Some Alabama friends were positive that they could get us into Barnstormer’s in Montevallo that night, but hadn’t noticed that the club was already booked up. Our Saturday show at Java.com in Auburn was cancelled because the place closed down. I heard recently that Java.com bartenders had a tendency to pass out drunk behind the bar, such that you had to step over them to serve yourself a drink. I’m guessing that they didn’t keep track of tabs very well. A few months ago they had an incident in which one of the Java.com owners didn’t like how things were being run and expressed himself by taking a pair of wire cutters to the breaker box. Yeah, I liked that place.
It was a great weekend for putrid scents. The air in Hattiesburg, including that of the Dewey’s parking lot, smelled like a jackknifed dumptruck. Everything else about Dewey’s was fantastic. It’s probably the most professional and accommodating bar we’ve played to date. The manager, J.P., had everything under control. Jack, the soundguy, was great. This place even had a stageguy! A long-haired drug casualty type whose name I forget (but who we have since referred to as “The Dude”) made us pizzas. I was skeptical of him at first (he asked if the drums were made out of saran wrap), but after a while, I couldn’t help but crack up every time I saw him. He would make a great Hollywood movie sidekick. Also in attendance was former Mercury Theatre co-owner Russ Smith.
We played with two great bands from Oxford, MS: Blue Mountain and Fappy Tweed. It was great fun to hang out with all the rockers, including the Blue Mountain dogs Willie and Cowboy. Willie slept in the green room almost the entire night. We were very impressed by Blue Mountains rider items. Backstage, they had a fruit basket, chips & salsa, magazines, bottled water, fruit juice and an enormous tub of obscure and imported beers. Blue Mountain guitarist Laurie Stirratt (sister of Wilco bassist John Stirratt) said that she hasn’t actually eaten a piece of fruit in five years, but she still asks for it…just in case. Blue Mountain is on Roadrunner Records, which is mostly known for the bands Sepultura and Deicide. It’s an interesting contrast. I wanted to buy a Blue Mountain CD, but the label doesn’t allow them to sell discs on the road. Roadrunner should reconsider because Blue Mountain would probably sell a lot.
Everyone played exceptionally well, such that only a smoldering pile of rubble remained where Dewey’s once stood (that last part isn’t necessarily true). The crowd was enormous and enthusiastic. Blue Mountain wants us to open for them at the Varsity Theatre in Baton Rouge. The Varsity has never been especially warm to the idea of local music. I’ve considered posing as an unknown band from out-of-town, figuring that I’d have a better shot at getting a gig than a moderately well-known local band. Still, playing there has been a life long…well, a Baton Rouge-long dream.
The Fappy Tweed boys invited us over to their room at the Hattiesburg Econolodge for the purpose of partying ‘til dawn. “We’ve got Bud and bud”, one of them said knowingly. It was tempting, but I was already only half conscious. We were all staying at the same motel, and only two doors down, so we snuck into our room quietly. We didn’t want to give them the impression that we weren’t hard core partiers or anything.
August 28, 1999
City: Pensacola, FL
In keeping with band tour tradition, we ate breakfast at Waffle House before getting on the highway. Everybody wanted to stop at the Palestinian gardens on Highway 98 in Mississippi, but we only saw one sign and the directions were obscured. Maybe next time.
The air in Pensacola smelled like something large had recently died in the direct sunlight nearby. We got to the Days Inn at 2:30, but housekeeping didn’t have any rooms ready. They sent us down the road to the Civic Inn, winner of our Worst Motel Value award. As we brought our bags upstairs, we noticed the insane looking shirtless bearded guy with his second floor room door open, sitting on the bed with two cartons of GPC cigarettes, watching TV and leering at us. Although it cost $20 more than we spent the night before, we found that there was no bathtub, no chain on the door and nothing but a chain to lock the door to the adjoining room. The air-conditioner started and sputtered pathetically in an attempt to cool off the sweltering room. It kept Pinky up for most of the night. Attention travelers: avoid this place.
We had a great time at Pensacola Beach. Driving past the crowded karaoke stage area, we found a nice semi-secluded stretch of beach near a row of water front condos (one of which was shaped like a flying saucer). Just when Pinky was wishing she had brought an inflatable raft, we spotted one floating just off shore (no sign of any former owners of aforementioned raft). The water was very pleasant except for the jellyfish which stung me once and stung Pinky twice. Later, I heard that Jellyfish stings will stop hurting if pissed on. I wonder who figured that one out. Maybe you forget all about the pain because you’re so outraged about having just been pissed on.
We returned to the motel to change for dinner and the shirtless bearded guy was still sitting on the edge of his motel bed. After dinner, we headed over to Sluggo’s. The main act that night was David Dondero & the Pity Party. David is a native Pensacolan living in Athens, GA. Locals talked like it was the return of the prodigal son. We almost skipped dinner, anticipating a feast of fatted calf. Anyway, we also learned upon our arrival that a band (“Some boys in a van from Austin” as they were described) that wasn’t actually scheduled to play was also on their way. They turned out to be a terrific bunch of guys with a punk band called Foilin’ the Works. Most importantly, they provided Pinky with drinking buddies for the evening. The Countess played the Cowboy pinball machine three times but won no free games.
Making a quick stop back at the motel (shirtless guy in place), the Countess and I watched a little bit of the Jack Van Impe program. He’s the guy that takes current news stories and explains how they were specifically predicted by the Bible. It’s quite entertaining and Jack has lovely tooth caps. It’s boggling that Rexella hasn’t been picked up by CNN yet. We also went into the BP gas station on Palafox St. for some drinks and a tandem ice cream sandwich (thumbs up, by the way). That parking lot must be the meeting place for the Pensacola chapter of weirdos and psychotics anonymous.
Foilin’ the Works put on a really fun show. We played a really good set too, once again leaving little but a smoldering pile of rubble in our wake. In fact, I wish we had recorded that one instead of the Dewey’s show. The next act was a solo acoustic guy (transplanted P’cola guy living in Atlanta) named Matt Lucas. I had assumed that after I heard loud punk rock, I would be ready for something more low-key and melodic. I was wrong. It felt like the self-pity party. He had songs about goth chicks that won’t give him the time of day, a fantasy about saving a petite asian red & black clad hooker from a serial killer and then her finally giving him the time of day, hippies that are mean to him, trying unsuccessfully to pick up women in a car that’s out of gas, his attractive but uninterested upstairs neighbor clogging on his ceiling, and how his best friends are inanimate household objects. Very bitter. Painful to listen to. The Countess thought that he should consider hanging out with different people, or at least higher class inanimate objects. Also, it sounds like he goes to sleep at night with Ani Difranco’s “Light of Some Kind” on a continuous loop.
The headliner, David and the Pity Party, started things off bizarrely by electing to perform in the cramped bar area downstairs instead of on the stage. At least it looked and felt crowded then. He definitely had some snappy songs and an entertaining stage presence-basically singing like and acting like Daniel Johnston only more frenetic. The main difference is that I don’t think this guy is actually crazy, only putting on a show. He raved, made jerky movements and at one point plowed his way through the cramped bar hurting the Countess’ knee with his guitar as he recklessly barrelled through. Not to censor anyone’s expression or anything, but I don’t want to be injured by somebody else’s art. At another point, David went off on this punk/not punk tangent asking each audience member which they were. When he asked Pinky, she replied by saying “I want to lick your asshole”, which threw him off temporarily. Then David asked the same question to the Foilin’ guitarist who was sitting next to Pinky. He replied by saying “She wants to lick your asshole”. There was then a brief moment of tension in which Pinky got concerned that David might drop his pants to save face, but thank goodness that did not happen.
Foilin’ the Works, five days into a month long tour and totally broke, slept on the beach the night before and was on their way to sleep on it again. For the second night in a row we were invited to participate in some partying excess and for the second night in a row we declined. A P’cola beach-punk local was leading the Foilin’ boys out to meet some beach-punk girls who hang out (where?) on the beach all night. When we returned to the Civic Inn, the old shirtless guy still had not budged an inch.
We got up around 10:00am and the shirtless bearded guy was still sitting in the same position as the day before. They must have missed him down at the BP station. Maybe he’s some sort of human scarecrow, hired to keep burglars away from the cars. Trying not to look, we sped off toward the bagel shop for some yummy bagels and coffee. We had no choice but to put the previous night’s Dharma Blue restaurant leftovers in the bed of the truck. As you can imagine, the southern August weather is not kind to leftover Tuna steak.
Sept 1, 1999
Venue: M’s Fine & Mellow Café
City: Baton Rouge, LA
It’s easy to question my judgment when I go and book a show at M’s. I mean, let’s face it; the proprietress, Marian, is nothing short of insane. Still, it’s such a nice club. Easily the classiest place in Baton Rouge. They specialize in jazz and folk music, but occasionally will branch out into more rockin’ bands like us.
It was a long day for the Pink One. After her morning classes at LSU she came home to learn that her five month old kitty, Bookers, had died for no obvious reason. This was also the day she was moving into a new house. By 7:30, The Countess and I were ready to head to the club, but we still hadn’t heard from Pinky. Just when I began to worry that the Countess and I would have to put on a Teddy Bear Satan show, Pinky called and arranged to meet us at the club.
Ordinarily on Wednesday nights at M’s, they hold “Poetry Slams”. It’s basically a cross between a poetry reading and a cockfight. Usually, whichever poet is the most popular or loudest or has the biggest… poem is the winner as judged by randomly chosen audience members. Well, the judge selection isn’t completely random. Sometimes they specifically choose judges because they know nothing about poetry or are otherwise illiterate. Lucky for us, tonight’s slam was preempted by another quasi-poetry-related event across town. (There aren’t enough poets or poetry fans around here to support two such events in one night) I wasn’t relishing the thought of loading our equipment in around these people anyway. However, when our 9:00pm showtime arrived I started wishing for poetry slam laggers because there were only three full tables of people in the entire place. We stalled for a half hour and then began the set. Next thing I knew, the place was full, aside from the tables directly in front of the stage. Whew!
Once we had the sound properly adjusted and I replaced the dying house microphone cord, we put on a terrific show, thereby reducing M’s to a smoldering pile of rubble. I had them rolling in the aisles with my witty between song banter while Pinky and the Countess employed their usual sultry rock poses. In the middle of the set, Marian handed me a note asking us to turn down 10-15%. I’m really damn lucky that she didn’t just go over to the mixer and start twiddling with knobs in the middle of a song. That’s what happened the last time I dared to play M’s. Yes, Marian was in not-rare-enough form. After the show, she cornered me and some friends at our table and launched, out of the blue, into a ten minute monologue about some other M’s performer who brought Marian to tears in the first 8 beats (not songs, beats) of her set before making $350 in the tip jar and selling 20 CDs. “Why can’t you be more like that person?” was the obvious subtext. If it means getting to hang around Marian any more than I already do, I’ll pass, thanks! She also limited our food options to personal size pizzas. Seems that bands in the last three months ate and drank $200 more than bands did the previous three months. Two-thirds of our band don’t even drink, but we still have to suffer. And to be frank, my dinner looked a little too much like a frozen Totino’s Party Pizza for comfort. We got the better of Marian though. We only turned our instruments down 3.87%.
September 10, 1999
Venue: The Bayou
City: Baton Rouge, LA
Since local and national businesses have been slow to accept National Jetbunny Magazine as a viable advertising vector, the rag has been staying afloat with all-star charity tribute nights. Well, more like pay [Jetbunny editor] Luther Gooch’s rent for him nights, but it’s still good exposure for the bands.
This was the second annual Madonna night. Last year was terrifically campy and fun. I’m sure they were hoping to recapture that magic, but it didn’t quite work out. The first band, Betaversion, was arguably the best sounding of the night. They sounded quite polished and stayed faithful to the songs. We played second and reportedly stole the show with our brooding “Crazy For You”, country-billy version of “Live to Tell” and “Papa Don’t Preach” in all it’s baby-keeping splendor. The Ciccone-Devils were all dolled up Madonna style and I wore a platinum wig (which reportedly made me look more like George Washington than the material girl…Oh well). After our set, the bottom pretty much dropped out of the evening.
In all fairness, 75% of the next band bowed out at the last minute leaving the one remaining member to piecemeal together a combo. The results were quite noisy and disorganized, which pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night. Sit-in guitarist Fred Weaver provided what was simultaneously the most interesting and frightening moment at the end of their set. In keeping up his PQ (punk quotient), he proceeded to bash his guitar, tear up equipment and act like a wantonly destructive maniac. It would have been amusing except for three things: 1) other bands were still waiting to use the drums, amps and microphones to which he was laying waste, 2) the aforementioned drums, amps and mics actually belonged to other people and not him, and 3) it’s lucky that he didn’t seriously injure a member of the audience when he threw his Les Paul (those are heavy) onto the very crowded floor. I love a spectacle as much as the next rock music deviant, but if that guitar headstock had broken off during one of Fred’s amp bashing back swings, I’d probably have my jaw wired shut right now.
The second most interesting moment was the when the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) Board raided the place for underage drinkers. The lights were on for at least ten minutes while about seven agents went around checking IDs. The current law is 18 years old to enter the bar, and 21 to drink. The 21-year-olds are (supposed to be) the ones wearing bar-issue plastic bracelets. I’m sure that there was a ton of underage drinking going on (this is Baton Rouge, drinking is the number one pastime), but I heard that only one or two people were hauled off.
Additional amusement was provided by the house stage manager (a first for the Bayou?) who was so completely obsessed with the disrepair of the Bayou P.A. and it’s technical ramifications, that he was impervious to small-talk. Here’s some sample conversation…
Ross: Boy, that Sam Anselmo sure is a monster behind a drumkit!
Guy: We need to put some JBLs in those wedges.
Ross: Um, yeah.
He was also making time with the Countess discussing the many famous people he knows that can help propel us to stardom. Judging solely from appearance (which is unfair, I realize), I’m guessing he used to run monitors for Motorhead in 1983.
The rest of the evening, though periodically entertaining (Luther’s fetching bustier/spandex capri pants ensemble, for instance), seemed pretty sloppy. But maybe I’m not on the pulse of the people, because the place was packed and no one was even heckling. We left before Rotating Fonzie capped off the night, so I can’t report on them.
Once outside, we ran into our friend Louis who also is the band Regia. He recently moved back to BR after a brief stint in Portland, Oregon. I don’t think he’s happy to be back and I don’t think he should be. After talking to me for a couple of minutes, he went to talk to the Countess. Louis told her that I had said I would put him on the guest list for the next night’s show. Of course, I’d be happy to put such a distinguished indie rocker on our guest list, but the funny part is, the subject never once came up while we were talking. Well, naturally we put him on the guest list but…
September 11 1999
Venue: The Bayou
City: Baton Rouge, LA
…he never showed up. For that matter hardly anyone that wanted to hear us showed up. The Bayou was far from abandoned, but those in attendance were mostly interested in drinking and shooting pool. In between our songs you could almost hear crickets. Who did show up was, for the second night in a row, the ABC Board. I didn’t even realize they had been there until later when the set was over. Reportedly, one agent spent a full 45 seconds contemplating my 32-year-old drummer before electing to not interrupt the proceedings.
At least we weren’t too menaced by my arch-nemesis, LSU football traffic. An LSU home game has a lot in common with a hurricane. There’s a violent storm (of traffic) before the game, followed by a serene and falsely comforting eye during the game. After the game is basically like a flood of drunk driving. Not to be missed. We arrived at the Bayou during the eye and didn’t leave until two a.m.
I think I’m just about over playing the Bayou. That’s too bad, because it’s one of the best… well, only rock clubs in Baton Rouge. Still, it’s so dingy. We tried to spruce the stage up with streamers and balloons, but that hardly made a dent in the dreariness. Then there’s the permeating Bayou stench that will follow home anyone who dares enter. It’s mostly smoke, of course, but there are some additional elements to the smell that I haven’t been able to isolate as yet. Another downside to the Bayou is the element that tends to hang around Chimes street these days. Disclaimer # 9485: I’ve enjoyed the friendship of many a pierced, tattooed, spiky-haired individual. However, some of the “people” holding up the buildings these days are such mindless losers. They’re also responsible for a great deal of the recent Chimes area street violence. One of these no-accounts spit on the Countess’ car as we were pulling away from the service entrance, continuing some pointless, one-sided vendetta that began a few months back when she declined to stop playing a show to suck his dick. Instead, she announced into the microphone that he had syphilis. Chimes street is kind of a parade of low-lifes. Take Smitty the aluminum can flower man, for example. Word is that the flowers are mostly a front and he’s actually a drug pusher. I can’t verify that personally.