Thursday, February 24, 2005

02/24/05 - And you will know us by the trail of kiwiskins

On a plane from paris to milan, where the bus and crew will catch up tomorrow....we're flying in a day early alone to do press and I'm looking, this very moment, at the staggering alien landscape of the alps beneath us....standing in security a half hour ago I turned to brian and said “what are we doing here? HERE?” What the fuck happened in our lives that we'd be standing in charles de gaulle airport at 5:30 am catching a flight to italy to be at mtv by 9? Reality check not possible on under 3 hrs sleep, sorry.

I'm encountering a strange problem; the more things happen the less I am writing in this diary.
I feel like I should keep these entries short and pallatable. I feel like I should choose and stick to one topic. I cannot stick to one topic. Fuck it. I'm also facing the very postmodern-feeling phenomenon of sitting down to interviews with european journalists who have this entire diary printed out in a white paper stack and refer to it as we are talking.

“Yez, zo you were having said a few weeks ago in your webzite diary zat....” Eek. It's wonderful, it's bizarre, it's every narcissist's dream come true. Now for the news.

We've now played six shows of the european tour (edinburgh, liverpool, amsterdam, london, gent and paris) and it's been a slow start but last night in paris was finally on fire finally. The crowd was wild, brian broke a cymbal, the acoustic guitar died so we played “amsterdam” on electric, in french, which I managed not to mangle, and we did two encores. Even though half of the shows have been sold out, there's been something off....hard to tell if it was tiredness, quiet crowds, who knows, some combination, but for some reason things were slogging a bit. Brian gets more frustrated with this than I do, he's a performance perfectionist. We've been testing out new material here and there and it's been hard to break from what's comfortable but it's good for us and good for the material...I'm in love with the new song called “me and the minibar” and we're tacking it onto the end of the set some nights. It's a solo piano song so brian either sits at his kit and listens or watches from offstage and I feel that weird freedom and lonliness of playing by myself again. No drummer to keep time with, complete focus on the two feet around me, but also an acute sense of something missing. I always think of the beatles leaving stage while paul plays yesterday on guitar, alone.

The brigade at all the shows has been friends showing up every night to make the clubs beautiful with their bodies and flowers and bizarre ideas and I only wish we had actual time to spend with people instead of the usual rushed hellos and you-are-wonderfuls and goodbyes.

We have a new crew member this time round...miss brianna, who is with us instead of whitney or em to commandeer the land of merchandise, along with the usual suspects: joel, our trusty and wonderful sound engineer and robert, our austin-powers-meets-dudley-moore-romanian-born-jew-family-moved-to-isreal-then-spent-teenyears-in-germany-now-residing-in-london tour manager. The accent is a work of art. We give each other endless grief and usually spend the hours after the show on the bus talking about nonsense and music and everything under the sun. Bri just came back from egypt, where she got stuck in one of the pyramids trying to indiana jones herself down into a hall that was closed off to the public. The new bus looks exactly like the last one, Falco, but we've named it Bill. The drivers name is Dirk, he's german, and we chatter in deutsch and he calls everybody sweetheart.

I took pains to make myself feel more homey on the bus this time around. This undertaking included packing
-my favorite mug and tea collection, including ball strainer
-icecube (the polar bear. Miss Regina Spektor named him. Brian has been sleeping with him the past few nights because he has “needed him more”.)
-posters for my bunk (which I've just been stealing from each venue along the way. I got a really nice arcade fire poster from the melkweg in amsterdam


-my mouthguard, to prevent teethgrinding (at the insistance of my dentist and to everyone's nightly amusement....honestly, you haven't seen sexy until you see me with no eyebrows on and the mouthguard in. I look like a deranged fieldhockey player)

Edinburgh was gorgeous and I felt my scottish roots piercing through my nads like shrieking bagpipes. A brash lass came up to brian after the show and belted, repeatedly (with full scottish vigor): “GOO FARRTH AND FOOGGING ROCK!!!!”. I nearly wet myself with happiness.
Liverpool had an equally rowdy bunch and we dj'd after the set, enjoying being masters of the universe while the resident dj watched on in horror as we clumsily span muse together with the dead kennedys, goldfrapp followed by the stranglers followed by NIN followed by trail of dead followed by the killers (and many of these played at the wrong record, on purpose....yes).

We were dragged to the major club street after the gig. robert insisted that it was a rare anthropological phenomenon and good god was he true to his word. The temperature was close to freezing and there was an endless parade of staggering, falling-down-plastered liverpudlian girls wearing close to nothing buzzing up and down the street, shivering to death. Nary a coat to be seen. One of the strangest things I've ever seen. Teeth chattering, they all assumed a kind of hands-crossed-over-the-chest-clutching-opposite-shoulders-pose to ward off the biting winds that made them look a little like high-heeled, teetering corpses on some sort of purgatorial disco death march.

After sleeping the majority of our day off in amsterdam I found out, to my great joy, that one of my favorite newly-discovered bands,
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead were playing at the Melkweg (where we were playing the next night). I jumped up and down with glee and headed over with the crew a few hours later. They were mindblowingly good...ah, finally to see some amazing live music, they swept the crowd into folds of majestic battledrums and washed our souls clean with guitars...I danced and headbanged like there was no tomorrow and I was only disappointed that they didn't play my favorite song from the new record (“worlds apart”...which I had coincidentally just played the day before on the BBC in london when they asked for a track, so good...). We met the band after the show and found out, with much rejoicing, that they were fans of the dolls and we toasted with pernod and decided that a night of dancing was in order. Somebody local knew a club down the street and we stayed up til four in the morning, health, lungs and voice be damned, laughing and screaming our storied and dancing our asses off to the cure and grauzone and joy division and madonna. This is what I fantasize about, and it so rarely happens. We vowed to play shows together and parted outside the trail of dead tourbus feeling like true comrades.

Speaking of comrades, who should hit belgium at the same time as us but mr. bush. In a truly inspirational act of god, we were greeted upon exiting the bus with a parade mob of protestors in Gent, voicing their hatred for Our Dear President. We dedicated a special version of “war pigs” to him that evening and hoped for the best. It's both embarrassing and inspirational to be an american abroad nowadays. Must remind all these europeans that millions of americans like ourselves don't support this man or his regime and we make no apologies....we just do what we can do, hope to steal back the cabaret and the country all in one fell swoop, why not. The whole planet. German neonazis marching in on the Dresden bombing anniversary, french neonazis torching memorial train cars that transported french jews to Auschwitz, more war and death imminent, people starving in darfur, british, french, belgians, italians,americans begging us for coins and cigarettes in the street, it's always been this way, there's nothing we can do, there's everything, there's nothing. The man next to me just asked if I would help him off with his suit coat, he can't reach. There's everything. Pick the herald tribune up again. There's nothing.

Monday, February 07, 2005

02/07/05 - goodnight clocks & goodnight socks

It was one fucking magical thing after another this weekend. We had four shows in a row: New Haven CT, Philly PA, Providence RI and Portland Maine. The shows got more and more intense each night as brian got over his coldflu and we got more and more warmed up. Regina Spektor is my new hero and I can't wait to tour with her some more. She is just as amazing in person as she seems on record and I was onyl pissed that I never actually got to watch an entire set she played; since she was on immediatley before us we had to be getting ready. But what a soundtrack to hear through the walls, the girl is just on FIRE. We share lots of stories and made fast friends and she and grace, her tour manager, stayed over at my house on saturday and sunday nights after the shows. Saturday was a massive convergence: David J (from Bauhaus) was stayong over Saturday night as well (he was actually camped out here at the cloud club (pope sacrificed his bed) for the entire length of our mini-tour but we only got to see him that one night as fate would have it...he was in town becasue he'd composed some music for some Beckett shorts that were going up in a theater right across the street from us).

Anyway.....saturday night, late...still buzzing from the show and looking into my bedroom and seeing regina playing chopin on my piano while david j stood there listening with his eyes closed...delirious talks and hilarious jokes even though we were all ready to collapse was just......fantasy. life as it should be. all friends, all art, all music, all love, all the time.

This morning regina woke us up and we showed her the top floor of the house (a must) and we blew bubbles with the blue robot-bubble man i got for christmas and we ate muffins and drank tea and I gave regina a bunch of music I thought she would like....Peter Jefferies and Legendary Pink Dots and Neutral Milk Hotel (all of which she's never heard of). We agreed that The Arcade Fire was deserving of the attention. Then we sorrowfully parted ways. Regina left roses on the piano and David J left a little doll.

Having a support act like regina that I could relate to was such a breath of fresh air...I must say it can get tiring to play with rock band after rock band and feel like I have nothing to say to the railthin shaggy-haired brit-poppish singer next to me, even though we're doing superficially similar things.

The brigade performers blew my's so amazing watching everyone getting more and more creative and confident and preparing more and more for the shows. Highlights included the gorgeous almost-naked girls in providence and portland who offered their bodies up as a sacrifice to the general public as blank white canvases, the cast of wonderland in new haven, the candy girl in philly (and pacofish the stiltwalking flag-giver-outer outside, who gave me my very own avril flag), the insanely gorgeous living statues in portland and providence and the 10-second date. It's working. It's happening.

Speaking of Avril, we fianlly finished editing the first installment in a new art form I call "Karaoke Verite". Nobody knows quite what to make of it (always a good sign), and so I'll let you judge for yourself and say nothing: (it's the video above coin-operated boy).


recommended reading of the week: "branded: the buying and selling of teenage america" - by alissa quart.
frightening and edifying. makes me want to burn down malls and hug all children.