Our return to Canada began as they usually do: they took a look at a bunch of weird looking guys that need to shave and bathe, packed into a van full of gear- and we were promptly asked to go inside and report to the agents. This much wasn’t a surprise- but, as they poured over our papers, it was noticed that the contracts for our two remaining Canadian dates has the supporting band (us) listed as “TBA”. We couldn’t really say that that was our new band name (there is a band that is actually called TBA, by the way) so thus began a series of phone calls to our manager to contact the booking agency, the venue, and on and on. Of course, you never get any of these people to pick up the phone on the first attempt so- we waited.
As we got comfortable I studied the unusual congregation that had convened at this particular border crossing. It was quite the menagerie of personalities, body types, accents, and nationalities. No harmony to the room at all and everyone appeared at least a tad guilty of something. It was like the Mos Eisley Cantina in “Star Wars”, actually.
An elderly Asian woman was pleading her case at the counter while holding a small dog. Her husband, who was even older than herself, was asleep in the waiting area. She was trying to explain their residence in Texas and occasionally Canada- and then her story changed when she mentioned that she hadn’t been back to Canada for a few years. Between the inconsistencies in her story and her staccato, broken English, the agents began to seize her like a pack of rabid hyenas on angel dust. They began to drill her about what she said, what she IS saying, and on and on. You could tell that that they looooved it. It was probably the most excitement that they had seen in several hours. Her case ended when they said that she was going to have to pay some sort of fine or fee or something of the sort that was a few thousand dollars. She didn’t even blink and said “Sure”.
(We felt sorry for her long enough to smack her dog in the face for walking away from her. After that- fuck her.)
The lobby itself was an unusual, unnatural fade of fucshia; no doubt a calculated color designed to induce nausea and dark thoughts. The mood was weird there. We were in our own dimension of tour hysterics, making fun of everybody and everything; especially ourselves. We watched the next victims- a couple that appeared as if they were in costume as stereotypical yuppies, complete with ‘guy in Polo shirt with ponytail, driving a convertible sports car- get the very, very bad news that all of their wines acquired were to be either confiscated or taxed heavily. The huffs and puffs as ponytail guy pulled out bottle after bottle and put them on the counter in front of the agent told the story better than any bit of details being exchanged. They were not pleased. The rotund, toad of an agent only had snide and authoritarian remarks such as “Well, you just do that” and “Well, you can try” in response to any of their claims or protests. Meanwhile, my bandmate commented that she was likely Googling what kind of fish to buy on the way home to go with said wine….and, judging from the joy on her and other agents’ faces, I don’t think he was far from the truth.
And, of course, they could have done a very brief bit of online searching to find that our shows were legit- but that’s not what they enjoy in those places. It’s a very familiar bit of lowly humanity, those people who become the worst teachers and crooked cops, who have no interest at all in justice, or truth, or even what is usually basic and decent ingredients to benefit the greater good. No, you can clearly see the ugly pride on their twisted faces as they survey the puke pink lobby and see their own personal stamps of misery on unsuspecting faces.
It turned out that we had crossed at the wrong crossing. It might have made a difference as papers had been sent to another crossing but they very well might have said “TBA” as well- and then we would have been at the mercy of the agent there and whether he or she wanted to treat our pair of Canadian dates as the equivalent to the Nazis invading France- so who knows? It was a nuisance but we were on our way in time to still make soundcheck.
We arrived at the venue in Toronto to find the weather had gotten a tad cold. We rushed in and met the staff who were wonderful people. We busted ass to get a soundcheck and calmed down for a pre-show breather. As I sat at the merch table, a couple of guys came up and introduced themselves and said that they had seen our last Toronto show a few years back when we opened for Young Widows and Russian Circles. The guys admitted that they showed up to the show not knowing anything about us and having just dropped acid. They had prepared themselves for a sort of familiar music with the two headliners but hadn’t counted on something like….us. Between our “out there” music and the visuals we employ, they had their LSD-soaked brains blown, in a good way. So, yeah! Repeat customers! They were very cool people and one of them gave me a comic he had done that is fantastic. (I would mention his name and specific work but wouldn’t want to possibly complicate his life with the above tale of psychedelic misadventures.)
It was a good show and a very good sound experience, thanks to a great, involved soundman. He later told me that he was going to be accompanying one of my heroes, Alexander Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten, on some upcoming live dates. Not a bad thing to have on your resume, for sure.
The last time we were heading the other way (from Montreal to Toronto) and we stopped in a rural town to eat. We wandered between a gas station and a Subway, debating who would eat what. I, myself, was not completely sure that they spoke English in this particular spot as, you will find, it’s one thing for French-Canadians to speak English (most of them do) but it’s a whole other thing to get them to actually do it for an American. Especially dirty, ugly ones.
So we sat in the van and ate our road food and Subway sandwiches before resuming the drive. About ten or so miles outside of town, a policeman pulled us over. As he approached the van, a guy pulled over behind his cruiser and walked up, looked at us and said “Yeah, that’s them.”
This concerned citizen had called the police because we looked suspicious. So we were interrogated, the van was checked, and passports were poured over, before the not entirely unkind officer said “Thank you for your collaboration.”
So I was driving very carefully.
We were to play the same venue as we did on that tour, Il Motore. I was surprised to see that many of the same people were there: same promoter, soundman, even a somewhat legendary bartender who insisted on being called “Trashy”.
Before the show I was surrounded by a few middle-aged guys who talked to me for a long time. They were great! One was a high school teacher who had started a “vinyl lunch hour” where students were invited to eat lunch in his classroom and bring records. It was a very popular thing. This led to us talking about how important records were to us and, especially, when we were younger. He described buying KISS’s “Alive” and studying the photos for hours as he listened to it, making it that much more of an experience when he saw them live in 1977. Awesome.
He also told me that he and one of the other guys were going to take their 15 year-old daughters to New York in the summer, something he saw as a possible last hurrah of the father/daughter relationship that they both knew and before she became a full-fledged, pissed off, “fuck you, Dad!” teenager. He was a super sweet guy.
It was one of those nights where I was able to please the guitar nerds in the crowd, somehow. I had lots of questions about pedals, my amp, guitar, influences, and such. I feel like such an imposter on guitar and no very comfortable discussing it like I hear others do- but I appreciate it when people hear something they like about what I do.
After the show we retired to a friend of one of my bandmates’ place where a few slept downstairs and a bandmate and myself stayed in a very, charmingly small upstairs space that felt more like a treehouse. I got the bed which made me very happy.
The following morning was GORGEOUS. As previously mentioned, I had been to Montreal before but, as per usual, it was in and out (and snowing). We had breakfast at a great little place where the food was great, the people were beautiful and nice, and the weather was fantastic. I ate a little bit but had to go and walk around and see a bit more. I was really taken by the place and surely want to spend more time there some day.
Allston, ME (Boston)
As we entered back into the states, the border guard exercised a very bit brief of rapid-fire questioning with command presence: “What’s the name of you band? Where did you play? Where are you playing? How many are there?”
He opened the van door and looked at faces, asked for a $12 or so fee for transporting commercial goods over the border (a first- proving, again, that you never know what to expect) and we were on our way. We felt a bit of relief.
After many miles and a whole-hella’-lotta’ trees, we arrived in Boston. As we neared the venue, we got the call from Acid Mothers Temple’s tour driver/manager-type, Justin. They had gotten really, REALLY screwed at the border. They were told that they would need to hire a broker for their merch and would also need to find the phone number and address for the factory in Honduras where Fruit of the Loom made the shirt. Seriously. This was on a Saturday so there was no chance of arranging emergency shipping via the Canada Post- so they were really up the creek. It was obvious that the guard saw these older, Japanese guys and wanted to give them an epic load of shit. And he surely did. Being a touring band from Japan, those guys really depend on t-shirt sales to make the whole trip worth their wild so this was a bit of a crisis. Really, really sad.
So we were running the show a bit late as we were really worried that AMT might not actually make it. I went for a walk and saw people throwing up in the street and it wasn’t even 9pm. Ahh….Boston! I ate clam chowder and was happy for it.
The opening band, Da Burdz, were fantastic! Can’t say we were expecting that at all as the name is…you know…misleading? Lovely folks.
Before we went on the Acid Mothers rushed. They ended up leaving boxes and boxes of merchandise on the steps of a church (!) with a note. I really wish I coulda’ seen the reaction to that when those people opened those boxes. And, of course, when they returned to the border, the guard didn’t even care and practically waved them through. Amazing.
The stage was a tad cramped but the set went really well, I thought. Our bassist FELL on some people in the front row which made for a weird spell as nobody was expecting it- but I guess all was made well. He felt really bad about it though.
A few energized folks talked my ear off after the set. I had a couple of beers before we played but was done for the night- then a Bostonian handed me a beverage of appreciation which turned out to be some 9 point Belgian. It knocked me on my ass. I don’t think I embarrassed myself that badly after that………?
Twas a great honor and pleasure to see a favorite musician of mine, guitarist Andy Willis of The Web, my favorite Louisville band ever. Ever. An added bonus was that we were staying the night with him. Unfortunately, in Montreal I had begun coughing and it was terrible by that evening- so I slept in the van. I was just drunk enough to not care about the discomfort.