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state champs tour diary



well, it's been a month since i left to go
on tour with the state champs down to boston,
and so i thought i'd finally get around to
posting some tour diary extracts.  i think i'll
post in three installments.  i hope you don't
all get bored to tears.  you can always hit
'delete.'

--------------------------------------------------

THURSDAY MAY 11

	it's midnight and i'm still up.  i didn't 
allow enough time to get everything done that 
needs to be done before i left.  but by about 1 
a.m. i'm finished packing and i fall asleep for
three hours.  i have my alarm set for 4a.m. 'cause 
that's when catano says we're leaving.  i end up 
sitting in the front room watching for the van 
until 6:20.  not a good start.  i think i could 
have used the sleep.  also, the "van" turns out to 
be an oldsmobile sedan and at first glance there 
isn't enough room for me, let alone any of my 
stuff.  somehow we manage to pack ourselves in.  
all three of us in the back seat have luggage 
beneath our legs and on top of our laps.  i'm not 
looking forward to a thirteen-hour drive in this 
position.

	so we hit the road:  andy sawler, bass, 
is driving; mark mullane, lead vocal/guitar, seems 
to have won the passenger seat.  i'm in the back 
with jon dacey (guitar/screaming) and mike catano 
(drummer extraordinaire).  everyone seems too 
tired to do too much talking.  the diet of music 
on the tape deck is heavy on pavement and 
pavementesque bands, with occasional breaks for 
superchunk.  :-)  we hit the border almost exactly 
at noon.  a car full of young males loaded down 
with boxes and the border guard hardly stops us!  
we start laughing after we crossed into maine and 
we suddenly start chanting "USA! USA!" and then 
laugh some more.

	the drive through maine is uneventful and 
there isn't much conversation until we start to 
approach boston and start talking about bullies 
and fighting back in school.  wayne has the 
funniest story, about someone actually getting 
teeth knocked out.  i can't believe i'm falling 
into this habit of calling him "wayne" like the 
other guys do (mark loves hockey and looks like 
wayne gretzky).  we hit boston about 5:30 p.m. and 
drive through a residential district with 
traditional-looking houses and lots of trees.  jon 
raves about how "cool" the neighborhood looks.  
i'm not sure if he's found the right word but i 
know i'm as happy as him to have arrived.  we find 
a parking lot for the car and jon and i realize 
that we packed the wrong footwear -- we both have 
holes in the soles of our sneakers and it's 
raining like crazy.  we wander around in the rain 
quite a bit, meeting up with the members of 
tipili: ryan, dave, lissa.  they are the band 
we're going to see tonight, and ryan and lissa are 
seeing to accomdations for the band.  i can hardly 
believe it:  ryan looks like bob mould, dave looks 
lou barlow.  

	our first indie-rock stop on our 
pilgrimage:  we go to the middle east.  tipili are 
on a bill with half japanese that night.  we munch 
on falafel and chicken souvlaki sandwiches while 
they soundcheck.  diminutive lissa stands up to 
play her drums, and it's a stripped-down kit, so 
between her and "bob" and "lou" they have quite 
the striking stage appearance.  

	when tipili play that night they turn out 
to be heavily sebadoh-influenced.  i enjoy their 
set.  they have minor misadventure when ryan 
breaks a string -- catano runs to fetch wayne's 
guitar for him while lissa tells the crowd about 
her habit of screaming "BEEF!" when leaving 
restaurants, and then demonstrates high-pitched 
and low-pitched renditions.

the second band, cricketer, supposedly feature a 
member of smack dab.  after getting our fill of 
wanky, self-indulgent "experimentation" we walk 
out and cross the street to a basement coffeeshop 
called liberty.  by the time we get back to the 
mid east, dqe are doing their last two songs.  a 
female guitarist-singer/male drummer duo doing 
off-center country tunes.  half japanese hit the 
stage and i suddenly understand why they split 
opinion so much, why some would think them really 
brilliant and some would see them as really 
indulgent and bad.  jad fair really *can't* play 
guitar.  screaming your vocals through a 
megaphone into a mic that's wired through a 
distortion pedal is a fun game for a while but it 
wears out fast, i found.  the set was half an hour 
too long and lots of people walked out on it, 
indie-rock legend factor notwithstanding.  i did 
enjoy the first 45 minutes or so, though.

	the funniest thing i saw at that set was 
the only two people who weren't paying attention 
to the band.  it was mary lou lord with some guy 
and they were frenching each other, clutching at 
each other's shirts, etc, practically all through 
the set.  i just thought it was so hilarious.  i 
kept wondering why they stayed.

FRIDAY MAY 12

	i've got my own accomodations arranged with 
my friend ian mardon, a concert violinist whose 
most recent recording credit is a CD release with 
the boston philharmonic -- a mahler symphony.  i 
sleep 'til noon on his floor and when i wake up he 
serves me breakfast:  an exotic scrambled-egg 
concoction whose secret apparently involves olive 
oil and thyme, toasted home-made bread, and 
imported english tea.  we sit there sipping tea 
and listening to a string quartet and i can't help 
thinking that this is not the way i pictured the 
rock and roll road.  :-)  we talk and catch each 
other up for 4 straight hours.  i feel so relaxed.
eventually i kick myself out of the apartment to 
go meet up with the band again.  we meet at the 
"someday cafe", what looks like a hippy pothead 
hangout with bob dylan blasting on the speakers.  
yan raymond had met up with us the night before 
and now he walks in and we have a good chat.  yan 
has driven down from quebec in order to see the 
state champs and pavement.

	the next item on the agenda is a visit to 
the office of surefire distribution.  they are on 
the seventh floor of a downtown office building.  
ron and larry turn out to be really friendly and 
helpful, and the guys start combing through their 
stock and they buy shitloads of indie rock 
records.  at least two of them buy the guided by 
voices box set.  i restrict myself to shrimper 
cassettes by nothing painted blue and lou barlow, 
a vinyl copy of archers of loaf _icky mettle_ for 
my buddy jim cooper, and a copy of the latest 
MR&R.  i talk to ron about distributing the state 
champs 7" and it looks like a go.  ron tells me 
that colin mackenzie is *too* nice.  "is he up to 
something?" ron wants to know.

	the guys take a long time to decide what 
they want and buy it, and darkness falls.  ron 
looks at his watch and says, "you're missing mary 
lou lord in the subway!"  i say, "no thanks, we 
got our full of her, frenching some guy at the mid 
east last night."  he and larry both laugh.

SATURDAY MAY 13

	ian is still in providence -- he went 
there yesterday for a gig so i have his apartment 
to myself.  i listen to a beethoven string trio CD 
and read the local entertainment guide.  an ad for
the mid-east says that the state champs are from 
montreal.  none of the guys call me before 1pm so 
i head out on my own to harvard square.  i've 
never seen so many fashionable-looking people in 
one place at one time.  i visit this giant 
discount bookstore and buy a book of interviews 
with jacques derrida.  every shoe store that i 
visit wants to charge me more for a pair of 
converse than what i would pay in halifax.  i find 
the most expensive pair yet at a store whose sign 
says "low low LOW prices."

	i'm starting to give up my dream of a new 
pair of cons.  i take the subway back across the 
water from cambridge to boston proper.  i walk 
down newbury st to newbury comics and buy the new 
superchunk/tsunami 7".  there's a copy of the 
hardship post/randy bachman split in the $1.99 
bin.  i keep going to marcello's pizzeria and fill 
up on cheap cheese slices.  some hare krishnas 
walk by and some girl at the next table asks her 
boyfriend if hare krishnas have sex.

	i go back to the apt and sit and read some 
more of my novel (james kelman _how late it was, how 
late_).  wayne phones to tell me that the guys are 
going to buy scalper tickets and get into the bad 
brains show.  i don't have the budget so i decide 
to head straight to tt and bear's, where the guys 
will join me later.  i get there too early so i 
head to liberty again (tt and bear's is right 
around the corner from the mid-east) and sip a 
large coffee.  at the table across from me some 
guy is making fun of the band names in the club 
listings.  "who's ever heard of these bands?"  one 
of the names he reads is "scarce".  then he whips 
out a cellular and phones somebody.

	prickly are on stage when i enter tt's.  
they are a hopelessly cute cuddlecore band but i 
like them anyway.  i buy their seven-inch.  two 
girls, two boys.  the drummer looks like sebastian 
lippa.  the lead guitarist looks like heather 
harkins.  :-)  sleepyhead, like small factory who 
are on later, are two guys on guitar & bass backed 
by a girl drummer.  someone had told me that they 
sound like eric's trip but at this gig they sound 
like thrush hermit to me.  flying nuns come on and 
rock my world.  kinda like a power-trio, slight 
more math-rocky, slightly less poppy version of 
the archers of loaf.  they tell me that they have 
an ep coming out on matador.  i'll buy it.  
they've heard of sloan, that's pretty good.  but 
prickly are cooler 'cause they know pest 5000. :-)

	mark, jon, and andy show up for small 
factory, who just *are* indie-pop.  i find myself 
right at the stage and i just blissfully soak the 
show up.  it could have gone on all night as far 
as i was concerned.

SUNDAY MAY 14

	i sleep in til noon again and ian and i go 
for mother's day brunch :-) at this place called 
the black goose.  right across the street there is 
a little deli.  the sign says, "S&M deli -- we 
cater."  :-)  i have to take a photo.  we walk 
through the boston common and the public gardens.  
i take a photo of cheers and feel stupid doing it. 
in the public garden there is a monument to the 
discovery many years ago at massachusetts general 
hospital that "inhalation of ether causes 
insensibility to pain."  i ask ian if he thinks 
there will ever be a monument to the discovery 
that "inhalation of glue causes insensibility to 
reality."  he just laughs.

	we walk up arlington street along the edge 
of the public garden and pass by the ritz carlton. 
we turn right on newbury and walk the crowded 
sidewalk, past stores like "arden" and "armani".  
we walk into this new age bookstore that has a big 
glass cabinet filled with crystals.  i've never 
seen anything like it.  cheesy synthesizer music 
is playing.  we pass by allston beat.  that place 
is scary.  the prices people will pay to look 
"hip".  then there's this three-floor bookstore 
with its own cafe.  it may be the most posh 
bookstore i've ever been in, but the penguin 
paperbacks still cost the same.  this seems 
strangely comforting.

	i meet up with the band at soundcheck time 
at the mideast.  we chow down again on falafel and 
souvlaki sandwiches that the management have 
graciously provided and i get psyched to videotape 
the show with yan.  before the show starts i meet 
up with joyce linehan and chat a bit.  state 
champs play an excellent set to a small crowd, 
some of whom are really into it.  we sell a few 
tapes but no shirts.  this band called "ui" is 
next, they are repetitive and boring, some of the 
same sounds as six finger satellite but just 
nowhere near as interesting.  the lune are next.  
in their accordian-trumpet-acoustic guitar 
configuration they are really next but when they 
swtich to guitar-bass-drums rock they are really 
cliched.  tortoise are top of the bill and the 
place is more crowded than it was for half 
japanese.  the first song is really great but the 
set kind of winds down to an anticlimactic finish. 
they are one of these indie-rock-jazz-fusion bands 
from chicago, and they combine sythesizers, drums, 
and other instruments in some neat ways.  they 
keep switching instruments, though, and you'd 
think they were showing off but i don't why 
because some of their jazz chops, especially on 
the xylophone, left much to be desired.  ask 
catano -- i think they really pissed him off.  :-)
i bought their 7" though.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
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