Tour Diary: By June – Spring 1998, East Texas
February 28, 1999
Venue: Freddy Fabulous
City: Beaumont, TX
Two days on the road can hardly be considered a “tour”, but we’re grasping at straws here. Auspiciously, we managed to leave town only one hour late – a new band record for promptness. In case you were wondering, it is possible to get a Fender Rhodes piano and a 4 piece drumkit into the back of Vic’s parent’s Dodge Caravan. Glenn snazzed the van up a bit with some American flag stickers he found at the Grosse Tete truckstop and we were on our way.
Freddy Fabulous turned out to be a converted fishing boat dealership, which was, not surprisingly, right across the street from the new fishing boat dealership. It was basically a huge tin building that got a little interior remodelling. You can imagine the interior acoustics, I’m sure. Art MacKinnon, who books the place (or, at least, did before we played there), set us up with a discount at a luxury high-rise Holiday Inn. In a very un-punk display, Christine insisted on getting her own, separate hotel room. What is this? The Icecapades?
Dinner at Elaina’s Mexican Restaurant almost turned into an international incident. The bill wasn’t correctly itemized or was in pesetas instead of dollars…I forget. Then, I nearly got us lost in the east Texas badlands before Vic steered us back the direction of the club.
In reality, there were a lot of people at the club, but I think they were all there on serious drinking business. Our biggest response came from one table of flannel-clad punk kids who were probably impressed just to see anybody who lived outside of Beaumont. In the end we were neither lassooed or stampeded so I consider it a victory. I felt lucky just to get our guarantee, but Art actually asked if we want to play there again. Bizarre!
February 29, 1999
City: Beaumont, TX
No one pulled any Keith Richards hotel antics, but we did manage to irritate the Holiday Inn staff by sleeping until noon. Naturally, we immediately headed for Denny’s. We were all impressed that Christine ordered the “Sunshine Slam”, which substitutes fruit for the usual greasy meat. We she started trying to steal the bacon off our plates we became less impressed. Hard to blame her though, really.
Glenn, the adventure king, decided it would be fun to make the drive back entirely on backroads. Needless to say, the trip took twice as long and was twice as bumpy. On the upside, we got to see several bizarre yard sculptures and the outside of the Mahatma Rice packaging plant. We didn’t stop for the tour.
March 7, 1999
Venue: Thirsty Tiger
City: Baton Rouge, LA
This was, against all odds, perhaps the best By June show in it’s history so far. Not that this was really a “By June” show per se.
I knew from the get-go that this would be interesting. Our beloved drummer/mental narcoleptic Glenn Fields suffered a tackle football injury to his kick drum knee earlier in the week, effectively putting him out of musical commission and causing him to inspire monstrous run-on sentences. I went to my local rock star rolodex and called up George Brown. No, this is not the singer/guitarist of Buck Price, but the drummer for the local 60′s style surf/rock band Twobanger. George is genuinely brilliant and tasteful behind the drumkit. He was up to the challenge. The show must go on.
By the time our 5:00 pm load-in time rolled around a) it had begun to rain and b) there had been no word from the illustrious Ms. Christine Blanchard. Neither of these occurances struck me as odd because a) this is Louisiana b) hey, it’s Christine we’re talking about.
As my Toyota pickup sat slowly sunk into the mud in front of Glenn’s house, Vic Sanchez and I loaded it up with our gear, not the least of which was the 200 pound Fender Rhodes. If you’ve never carried one down a slick, muddy cast-iron staircase in the rain, I recommend it. Moving Christine’s equipment for her was nothing out of the ordinary at this point, and besides, the show must go on.
Already tired from the first leg of the Rhodes journey, I passed on my usual Thirsty Tiger unloaded parking space and took one slightly closer to the door, even though it was on an upward incline. As Vic and I were halfway to the front door, one of us on each side of the piano, we watched a middle-aged man leave the bar and get into his car parked directly in front of me. We then watched as the unstarted car rolled backward to smash my front bumper. I think my emergency brake stopped his car from rolling. I was dismayed, of course, but these things happen. We exchanged information and then the man drove off somewhere, presumably to sober up. Vic and I finished unloading and setting up. The show must go on.
George Brown, being the professional he is, was set up and ready even before we were. I grabbed an acoustic guitar and went over with George the beginnings, ends and general ideas of the songs on our list, most of which he had never heard before in his life. We did a brief soundcheck, painstakingly achieving a sublime balance between the guitar, piano, bass, drums and vocals.
As you’ve all guessed, the piano was never played that evening. It would’ve been nice to know that a bit earlier in the evening, before I parked on that hill, for instance. My truck’s alignment has just never been the same and no mechanic has yet been able to correct the newfound tendency for my tires to disintegrate while I’m driving down the interstate at a high rate of speed. It keeps me on my toes, I guess.
Free from the structural rigidity required for vocal harmonizing and with plenty of extra sonic room left vacant by the piano, the music really seemed to stretch itself out into new territory. The powerful driving rock beats of George Brown certainly didn’t hurt either. The man never missed a start, stop, change or accent! It’s like he was reading my mind. The crowd could tell that I was having fun and they really seemed to respond to that. The evening was saved!
In conclusion, all of my current automotive problems are the fault of Christine Blanchard. I’m just joking, people.
April 24, 1998
Venue: The Cowhop
City: College Station, TX
When Chicken Ranch Records asked me to play this Roundup IV release party, it sounded like a good idea. After being aware of this show for weeks, Christine “remembered” two days prior that she had to sing in a wedding that night. Once again, it was going to be the By June power trio.
The drive to College station took an eternity. Glenn, Vic and I arrived at the club at approximately the time we were supposed to play. We were third on a four band bill, wedged between two teenage hardcore bands, Grubworm and Plague. Oh, joy. My friend ‘Clip, whose set we totally missed, was already cozied up to the bar for the night. The best set that night was put on by Austin rockers It’s Not Rocket Science, but I think they broke up not long after that. The club was basically a shotgun style daiquiri shop with a huge glass wall in the front. Unfettered, we unloaded and began the set. When I pulled out my acoustic guitar, the high-school punk kids started looking at me like I was Lawrence Welk. Maybe they’d never seen a hollow stringed instrument before. To make matters worse, Vic managed to get himself completely hammered in the short time we spent at the bar before playing. A new zero-to-hammered record, I think. Needless to say, the bass playing was weak that night. Glenn managed to divert some attention from Vic by crucifying several of the songs himself. Through it all, the set came off pretty well. Our biggest new fan for the night turned out to be the Plague guitarist’s mother, who was serving as the Plague chaperone. What does that say?
After our set, I went up front to check out the Plague boys. Now, I’m not trying to start a debate on the etiquette of moshing, but an inconsiderate, out-of-control fifteen year old slammed into me, spilling most of my beer onto my shirt and pants. She acted both totally unrepentant and extremely amused at this, so I did the only logical thing for a person in this position: I threw the rest of my drink on her. She was at the bar gathering ammunition when Glenn and Vic decided it was time for me to leave, thereby concluding the Ross Beach/By June conquest of College Station.