Saturday is supposed to be the day of rest. We decide to cancel our final SXSW show. Jeff’s hands are a mess of open, bloody wounds, and he needs several drum parts.
Everyone wants to go to the colossal flagship Austin Whole Foods for breakfast. After eating and observing very tall goth kids in the parking lot, we discuss the plan for our free day. We decide to split up. Erick and I will go downtown and check out a bunch of free shows on the other side of the highway. Jeff and Breck want to run errands and relax. Our first stop is a record store hosting the Fuck by Fuck You festival.
We want to see our Dutch friends, zZz, play. When we arrive, Genghis Tron, are already playing. We hear music coming from lots of directions and wander off to see what else is going on. There are several free show happening in the backs of bars, in little warehouses, on patios. The weather is beautiful and my positive vibe continues. We watch friends Shellshag and Green Milk from the Planet Orange. Green Milk had blown us away at our label showcase the night before. We are also big fans of Shelshag.
Divya meets us around 5 pm. We get a drink and we head back downtown. Erick is slowly getting annoyed. He hates my necklace. It’s too hippy. I’m wearing too much red. I look like some crazy girl walking down the street. He’s probably hungry and I plan to split the first chance I get. Erick and Divya want to go to the Insound party at Club D’ville. We walk over and stand in line for a minute. Erick makes one more remark and I just walk away. I run into my friend, Greg Ashley, on the street. He is with our label mate, Brian Glaze, who is about to play at Jaime’s Spanish Restaurant. Greg and I decide to get a drink. Back in 2004, we had done a month long tour with his band, The Gris Gris, after SxSW.
Greg gets a beer and I get a shot of tequila. We sit outside drinking and chatting till Brian Glaze starts. I watch the first few songs but then I see Erick coming. I take off. My friends Josh and Evan, of the band Revival, are playing down the street at 7 pm, and I want to see them.
There are actually several friends from DC in the bar and it’s pretty awesome to be with everyone. I sit on the floor while Revival play and silently sing along to all of their songs. After Revival, I talk to friends from another band from home, Shortstack. I am devastated to learn that they have cancelled their entire US tour because of a very ill family member. I sit on the floor with my friend, Adrian, and we watch Vandaveer, play his set.
When the show is over, we all go get a slice of pizza and stand on the street eating and talking. Then I just wander off alone again. I see the Monotonix guys in line at a food vendor and then I see Matthew Johnson. Only moments later, Erick finds me. Divya is going to take us back to Adam’s to get the van. I promise him we can come back downtown then and do more ‘business’. By the time we get to Adam’s, I’m wrecked. I don’t want to go back out. My broken toe is swollen and burning. I just want to elevate my foot. He is totally insatiable. He keeps rambling about some Kemado party that Michelle was going to. I make arrangements for him to get a ride home with Adam and I offer to drop him off back in the city. During the 10 minute drop off drive, he riddles me with guilt about the importance of teamwork. He insists we get so much more done when we are together. He wins again. We have to meet Michelle at some club called Parrish 2 and no one can tell us exactly where it is. The streets are absolutely mobbed with people because of the addition of the St. Patrick’s Day partiers. We don’t find Michelle until she comes outside and stands on the sidewalk. We end up sitting and talking there for about 45 minutes.
We are waiting for the guys in Akimbo. I’m glad I came along because this is my first chance to actually talk to Michelle. But I’m also beginning to see that if we make it to this party at all, it won’t be for at least another hour. Luckily, Erick is in agreement. We give Michelle a few demo CD’s and take off. Finally, by 1:00 am, we are home. We are lulled to sleep by the sounds of Jeff and Breck snorting cocaine off the tits of strippers. Yeah right.
On Sunday morning I wake up at 9:30 am. Several events take place in the next few hours that most humans would consider somewhat disturbing. If I ever write the unedited Apes story, I will remember to write about Sunday morning. But for immediate practical purposes, and the family nature of this story, I’m going to omit all of it. I will share this. Around 11 am, I clean Adam’s kitchen. It is a long standing Apes tradition that our last meal in Austin be at the Star Seeds Cafe by I-35. Today would be no different. Adam and his roommate Erick join us for our final meal. We all pile in the van and head over. I am not totally listening to Adam as he gives me directions. When I miss the first turn, I throw the van in reverse and go all the way back down the one way street the wrong way. I don’t feel that I have put anyone in danger. I watch the mirrors carefully.
At the cafe, we sit at a corner table. I ask each person what they are ordering. There are no surprises. Erick orders migas. He always does. A few minutes into the meal, Kevin Guthrie calls. He wants to drive with us to Denton, TX. He needs a break from his band. We tell him that its fine and he meets us at the Star Seeds. After breakfast, I go outside on their porch to stretch my legs, and I see my friends Josh and Evan, in a rental car on the corner. I run over to say goodbye but I will see Evan in Denton. He is riding home with Chicago band ‘Chin Up, Chin Up,’ and they are also playing tonight in Denton. We thank Adam and Erick for the extreme generosity and I give Adam my leftovers. There is so little the Apes can do to show appreciation. Leave food and a clean kitchen.
Before we leave town, we make a final stop at Whole Foods to say goodbye to Michelle.
I run into Mary Timony, a friend from home and fellow musician. More DC crew representin’! We had seen her van several times the day before. Each time we wanted to leave a note for her on the windshield but somehow never had a pen. I carry a giant backpack full of shit, everywhere I go, and yet, no pen.
On the drive out, we stop at Guitar Center and a discount book store, both per Jeff’s requests. Jeff needs a chain for his high hat and more cheap books to read. Guitar center has no such chains. Jeff rejects the offer to special order the part.
We hit a massive backup in the exodus from Austin. The congestion easily adds an extra hour or more to the length of travel. The boys, with Kevin, are packed sardine style in the back, with Erick sitting on the luggage between the captain’s chairs. When I take a quick look behind me, all of their heads are flopping to the right, like little droopy babies.
We are playing another house show and I believe that the show is supposed to start early to accommodate another later starting house show in town. When we arrive, Monotonix are already there. This is our last show with them and of course, I’m sorry to see us part ways. The bonding between us was solid and brother/sisterhoods have been formed. We see Meggie, a super fan, whose band is going to play first tonight. We also meet Jonah, the promoter and primary renter of the house where the show is being held. Jonah hops in the van with us and takes us to Taco Cabana for dinner. Over dinner, we ask Jonah about holding house shows. He tells us that he hasn’t really gotten any complaints from neighbors as nothing could compete with the noise of the trains. He lives directly across the street from railroad tracks. Trains go screaming by about every 30 minutes to an hour.
When we get back, Monotonix are starting to set up. They offer us the opportunity to play before them but Jeff needs time to change his drum heads. When they are ready to start, Yanathan, the guitarist starts screaming, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” He does this most nights. I must admit that I’m not crazy about angry loud voices. Call me a pussy. I am one.
I vacate the basement. Ran is about to set his cymbals on fire. My dislike of fire AND basements is enough to prompt this hasty departure.
When Monotonix emerge from the basement, they are pouring with sweat. I go in to survey the damage. The floor is wet. There is trash everywhere. A trash can is laying on its side. The air smells of burning plastic. Jonah sweeps up and we proceed to set up. When we are about ready to play, the kids gather back in the basement. They are a very supportive and rowdy bunch. These are my favorite types of audiences. It’s totally motivating and encourages us to basically, rock the fuck out! As soon as we’re done, a long-haired blonde lad approaches me. He states stoically, “That was the best show I ever seen. I have been looking forward to this for two weeks.” Thanks, Aaron. Seriously, dude. Thank you.
When we are done, I get a text message from Evan. They have arrived at Rubber Gloves, the club down the road. They are running very late and I change clothes quickly to run over there. Erick and Breck join Jonah and some of the others to go check out the Norwegian metal band playing at the other house. I take the van alone.
When I get to Rubber Gloves, I immediately see Evan. It’s not hard to find him as the room is pretty empty but for a few scattered youth. I am so glad we played at Jonah’s house. I have had a few very dark nights at Rubber Gloves. I remember going outside alone and sitting near the train tracks after we played to 10 people. I remember staring up at the sky and the stars and feeling completely and utterly dead. I think that feeling started during our set when Paul, our first singer, started yelling at a kid in the audience to shut up and stop talking. I think he said something to the effect that since we had driven hundred miles to be in Denton that night, the least they could do was shut up and pay attention. The kid was a huge fan and was only talking to express how excited he was about the show. Paul apologized later but that was an extremely unpleasant display. It made me question how much longer I could keep going on the path that we had carved out for ourselves. But that is in the past. And right now, I’m here with my friend. Evan and I watch The Narrator play and get a drink when they’re done. It’s good to replace a dark memory with a positive one.
Erick and a local guy appear at Rubber Gloves around 2:00 am. They escort me over to the other house show. I can’t believe it’s a Sunday night, and at 2:00 am, there are still people out partying.
Eventually we make our way back to Jonah’s house where we are staying with Monotonix. The Apes have claimed Jonah’s bedroom. Erick gets good and comfy in the closet.
The next day, both bands venture to the Denton town square for food and coffee before parting ways. Ami and I have a excellent bonding conversation over coffee. We discuss marriage, soccer, the state of America, the state of Israel, and finally we learn that we have something unique in common. We both love kids with mental retardation.
Erick and I jet off to the health food store/cafe a few blocks away and it is there that we bid Monotonix farewell and good luck on their long tour ahead. We also run into a few of the show goers from the night before. I am shocked when I met one guy’s baby. I forget that young people can and do have children.
After an hour of used book store wanderings, we get in the book-loaded van.
Its Monday and there is no show tonight. We are going to drive most of the way to Baton Rouge, the location of the Tuesday night show. We have planned to pick a cheap motel about two hours away from Baton Rouge. This will be our first motel stay of this tour and we are hoping to find a television with proper computer inputs. Jeff has been storing the movie, Borat, on his computer this whole time.
We decide to stop around 7:30 pm. We pull off the highway after passing an exit sign listing several motel choices. Little did we know at that moment, we were entering historic Natchitoches, LA. After lots of nightly rate discussion with various front desk clerks, we opt for the Comfort Inn. They offer a AAA discount and give us a room with two double beds for about 60 bucks after taxes. We don’t even have to sneak people in.
Our dreams are quickly dashed when we discover, well, you guessed it. The television has the wrong inputs. Jeff is devastated but the rest of us are not discouraged. We are not accustomed to wall sized movie screens in our basement residences. We will happily watch this movie from the laptop computer screen and we will laugh! HA HA HA!
After an elaborate dinner at the Burger King across the highway, Erick and I decide to explore this historic town. We are not ready to lay in bed for the evening. We drive about 4 miles down the main road and pass a body of water on the left. I want to stop there but its too dark to see if there is a shore side path for walking. Next we pass Northern Lousiana State University. Naturally, Erick wants to pull over there and walk around campus. I’m not interested. It looks pretty deserted. Maybe its Spring Break. We continue driving and I follow signs for the historic district. The only thing we find is a 24 hour Super Walmart. This will have to do. I’m certain that most of the local folks are probably here if they are still awake.
We separate and wander alone for a while before eventually regrouping in the hard liquor isle. We gasp at the very low prices for some very typically more expensive whiskeys. I egg Erick on and try to get him to buy a bottle. I have no intention of drinking, I just feel like bugging him. He is not interested. Apparently, he got wasted at the house parties in Denton. I had no idea.
Back at the Comfort Inn, Breck and Jeff are relaxing and having some personal computer time. They are both hunched over, tap tap tapping when we talk in. And then finally, finally, Jeff sets up for the official band viewing of “Borat”. I have already seen it in the theatre but I still laugh just as hard. When the movie is over, it’s only 1:00 am, but everyone seems like they are going to sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open. The motel bed finally does the trick and I sleep till Jeff’s watch alarm clock goes off at 9:30 am.
I know the motel has free breakfast until 10:00 am. I almost never eat normal breakfast food but I leave the room in search of free coffee. I sit down in the mini-kitchen and immediately, an elderly couple starts chatting with me about their travels. They are retired Navy people and firefighters. They have been in Texas visiting their grandchildren and are slowly meandering back to their home in Lake County, Michigan. After about 8 minutes, I am shown pictures of the daughter-in-law and grandchildren. They are all simply beautiful. Our conversational exchange dies quickly when I tell them why I’m on the road.
After we check out, we go back to the historic district in search of food and coffee. Their coffee shop is a bust but Breck wants waffle house anyway. We had seen at least 10 Waffle Houses on the highway yesterday so I figure we inevitably pass one. We drive for 2 hours with not one sign of a Waffle House. I can’t believe it. When we finally give up, Erick and I end up at a Chinese Buffet. Breck and Jeff get pizza. More leftovers to stink up the van.
We get to Baton Rouge at about 5pm. The weather continues to be absolutely perfect. We park near the university. Erick and I walk around a lake for close to 90 minutes. There are a ton of people out exercising. I am reminded that this is a normal work day for most people. When we drive over to the Spanish Moon, fellow DC band, Antelope, have already arrived. We know these guys from home and are pretty excited to play with them tonight. They are at the beginning of a 6 week tour. I am thankful we are headed home now only because I’m still scarred from 6 week tour with Liars last summer.
We are warmly greeted by promoter Aaron, and sound man Jeff, who point out that this is our third stop here this year. While they anticipate this will bring a large crowd for the evening, I suspect it will not. I am right. In the dressing room, we find a large bottle of Jack Daniels with “Apes” written on it. There are many ways to ease the pain of the empty rooms.
We are having minor concerns about finding a decent shelter for the evening. Our only Baton Rouge friend, Carlee, has just moved to Austin. I offer to book a Motel 6 and pay for it myself but nobody is interested. They would rather I ask for a place to stay during our set. That night we are also playing with Akron, Ohio band “Six Part Seven”. We know many of the same people and share benevolent stories about tours past.
Antelope play first and I enjoy them quite a bit. My favorite song is called, “Wandering Ghost.” I change clothes during the middle of Six Part Seven’s set. I can barely keep my eyes open. For some dumb reason, I pound two diet cokes and a red bull. Stupid, Kleiny! Why so stupid?!
Our set goes smoothly.
Afterward, Justin from Antelope, offers to share their room at the Extended Stay America. I am really grateful but we don’t want to infringe upon their space with our smells. Thankfully, we are approached my friendly band man, Fred Weaver. He suggests we stay at the house he shares with his father. I immediately think “clean shower” anytime we go to the home of a parent.
We follow Fred home. Jeff still sleeps in the van even though there are enough bedrooms and futons for everyone. I sleep on the floor of a room filled floor- to- ceiling with music books and magazines. I doze off reading an issue of Chunklet from 1999. 1999. Apes year 1. We were so young, so hopeful, so full of dreams.
The next morning we plan to meet Antelope at a local cafe. Fred joins us and we dine in style. After a quick pit stop at the local health food store to re-stock (Breck needs a Kombucha), we say goodbye to our friends from home.
The drive to Birmingham seems incredibly long to me. I am really quite sick of listening to the same 20 songs on my ghetto plastic MP3 player while I drive. Instead I make up stories in my head. There is more breathing to contemplate and brain journeys to take.
We are excited to arrive at the Bottletree and are warmly greeted by the staff. This is easily the nicest, most band-oriented club in the country. After we load in and order food, I get online. I need to upload some blogs. I haven’t uploaded anything since the first day. Naturally I get distracted while waiting for blogger to load. That site is hideously slow. I never do it. After we eat, we talk to our super friend and fan, Chris, who is now working the door.
I approach Chris to say hi. He tells me how excited he is for the show tonight. He also tells me that after our last show, he listened to Baba’s Mountain (our last record) for the entire month. He told me that he thought he heard the voices in the beginning of the record calling, “Chris! Chris!” He is right.
Also, we see Lee, our dedicated super-friend, who has driven four hours to be with us tonight.
The opening band, Vesper, kicks ass. I dance during their whole set. The next band was unexpectedly switched at the last minute. We were supposed to play with Two Ton Boa from Portland but their drummer was ill. 31 Knots, also from Portland, arrived just in time to take their place.
When we play our set, there is a serious amount of love and energy in the house. We feel it and do our best to put out some high energy music in return. We even do an encore and I think its our first this tour. When we are done, I ask from stage for someone to take us home with them in exchange for an early morning kitchen and bathroom cleaning. We get several sincere offers. We opt to stay with one of the club employees who lives in a nearby loft. He has secure underground parking so Vannie will be safe.
We follow him back to his building and shuffle in with our gear. Jonathan, our host, happens to be a brilliant photographer and while we settle in, we admire a bunch of his work. He asks about shooting us in the morning. I hesitate but Breck is into it.
Breck and I wake up first. Jonathan and Breck go off to the park to take pictures. I stay behind to draw a self-portrait. Jonathan is also doing a series of shots of people holding self-portraits and I have agreed to this type of picture. After the drawing is complete, I wander off alone to find coffee. I am always surprised by how friendly people are. Everyone I pass on the streets of downtown Birmingham goes out of their way to smile and say hello. I eventually arrive at Safari Coffee and I’m greeted by a lovely South African gentlemen. He describes for me, the origin of the Bundi roast I am about to consume. The coffee is great. I consider buying a pound to take home but remember Jeff’s announcement that we are losing money on this tour. There will be no payout at the end.
When I get back to the loft, everyone is there. I re-do my self portrait drawing. The first one looked frog-like but the second one is okay. We take a few photos and head out.
Our final show of the tour is at the Art Garage in Columbia, SC. We played here last October with The Slits. The venue is pretty cool as they have sleeping quarters for the bands. The folks who run it, Jonathan and Amy, go out of their way to make sure everything is taken care of. There are plenty of drinks, awesome food, and clean beds. Done. There is nothing else left to desire.
At our first gas stop after Birmingham, a man approaches the van and asks what part of Maryland we are from. We tell him we are from DC. He shares that he used to live in Laurel, MD but he thinks living in Alabama is much better. I express how much friendlier Southern people are compared to Washingtonians. He replies back, “I don’t care about the heart or the love. I like the price of houses and the money!” Amen, brother. Amen.
Since I’m kind of sick of writing by now, I’ll try to keep this part brief. There are opening bands. We set up. We change clothes. I take a sip of Dickels Whiskey. Why not? It’s our last show. We play to some very energetic and appreciative people. Jeff’s high hat finally completely falls apart. We all hang out afterward.
In the morning we return to El Burrito, owned by Susie, who generously fed all of us for free on our last tour. She is out of town but has left instructions with her staff to feed the Apes for free. How cool is that?
While we are sitting, eating on the patio, I listen to a woman talking at the table next to ours.
“You know how many times I’ve been hit in the head by a pine cone? I hate squirrels!”
We leave a tip, pee, and leave.
As always, the final drive home starts out okay. I drive the first shift until I’m told to stop at South of the Border, the bizarre tourist attraction at the South Carolina/North Carolina border. It’s a collection of an old weird amusement park, souvenir shops, bad restaurants, and freaky animal statues. We have to take pictures with the animal statues. My favorite shot is Jeff with his head between a gorilla’s legs. The idea is that Jeff’s head are Gorilla Testicles.
And as always, after the second gas stop, Jeff gets behind the wheel his race against himself.
“I forget how to drive on the highway,” says Jeff as he gets behind the wheel, to do his infamous final drive home. “Just go to sleep and we’ll all wake up in heaven. Together. We can jam for all eternity. Get those kinks out.”
I wonder what heaven would be for The Apes. It doesn’t quite matter. We are already here.
For more on the Apes visit: http://www.theapes.com