5. 6. 7.
My stint with Hull is over as of a few hours ago, when they dropped me off in front of Downtown Music Hall in Little Rock. I love those boys, and am hoping that the next year brings them the kind of attention and success that they really, truly deserve. They were so much fun to (mini)-tour with.
Day 5 was an off day; we bummed around and stopped in Memphis to hunt down some barbeque (success! Rendezvous did us right, touristy kitsch and limited menu be damned. Best sweet tea I've ever had) and crashed at their pal Jacob's house in Little Rock around midnight. We watched the Bobby Liebling documentary, which was infinitely depressing and made me really, really glad that I stay away from drugs, but also delighted to see my old friend Pellet looking so happy at the end. By the time we'd seen the last of Bobby, Jacob has headed to bed, and we followed suit. He has four adorable cats that kept everyone except Jeff in paroxysms of delight, and an impossibly stocked cupboard filled exclusively with packets of Top Ramen and white rice, which gave me flashbacks to my first forays into "cooking" when I was in grade school. I like your style, Jacob.
Yesterday was the second day of Mutants of the Monster Fest II. There were a handful of bands I was really excited to see - Beneath Oblivion, The Ascent of Everest, Hull (duh), and Rwake - and a few I'd never really heard of before. I always forget how awesome Rwake's live performances can be, between CT's manic street preacher energy, B's spidery Moog manipulations and caustic howls, the crashing heaviness of it all, and the ragged synchronicity of the band itself. Also, John gives the best hugs. The Ascent of Everest are something really beautiful, too - post-rock with soul. I do still miss Evil Bebos, some of the members' previous band - an awesomely heavy psych-doom band that my best friend and I used to hang with and put on house shows for in college (she did the show-throwing, I did the nerding-out-about-them-in-print-ing). Those weer the best days, when we were a little younger and a lot wilder and way crustier. Hull crushed it - they really are so much meaner and streamlined as a four-piece, and have really impressed me on this run. Git it, boys. I hadn't seen Beneath Oblivion in years, since Kuma's Rock Fest in Chicago in 2009 (they remember my underage ass getting kicked out and summarily quarantined by the gear cases, too) but have been following them ever since, and was captivated by the suffocating heaviness they brought to the Downtown's stage. The Pallbearer fellas showed up and gave me a heavy-duty vinyl copy of their new record (best dudes, best present!) and I must have hugged half of Arkansas out of sheer happiness in being there. People here are so very kind, and honest, and passionate. They really fucking care about music.
Tonight, Pallbearer are the main attraction, with a metric fuckton of others taking the stage beforehand - I think the first band goes on in about fifteen minutes, and it's only 2:45pm. Gonna be a long day. Bought my plane tickets for London this morning, too, so color me the happiest girl in the world. Seven hours on a plane is nothing - I'd travel halfway 'round the world four times over just to see his face.
Spent some time walking around Little Rock earlier today in search of tea and a bagel, and on my way to the inevitable Starbucks (about a mile way), was struck by now much...nothing...that there was. Vacant businesses, empty storefronts, faded signs, nothing resembling traffic on a hot Saturday afternoon. The odd denizen walking - or stumbling - around in the heat. Nothing but fast food and a dubious-looking Chinese restaurant with shuttered windows seemed to be open, and I was on the verge of reverting back to tour mode and going the gas station breakfast route (Lipton tea and a packet of ramen crumpled into two separate Styrofoam cups of boiling water) when that blessed greenish mermaid rose up from the sea of auto parts and empty streets to beckon me into her air-conditioned, comfortingly bland gullet. It made me realize how little I actually know about this city that I've spent so much time visiting. I've seen the (awesome) woman who runs Downtown Music more often than my own mother this year, and been to Little Rock with four different bands by now, but I still haven't got a clue what it's really like. That's what touring does to you, I guess. All you see are snapshots. Sometimes they're good - endless wild nights in Chicago, the mouthwatering pizza and big-hearted staff at the Hi-Tone in Memphis, Ho Sai Gai's sesame chicken in Philly, the lovely couple with the hearse in their front yard in Orlando - and sometimes they're terrible, or worse, straight up boring. Driving through Mississippi or Detroit is awful. Wending your way through the mountains and over the painted deserts out West will fill you with life and awe. Swilling bourbon in Nashville and chugging forties on a stoop outside a basement show in South Philly is scumbag nirvana. Places I hate to visit, like Pittsburgh and Miami and Missouri and most of Texas - have their pros, but by the luck of the draw, I only see the cons. The neverending cornfields and truckstops of the Midwest will numb you. The arid, lonesome Southwest will parch you. The toll-heavy asshole-driven Northeast will make you see red. The swampy black magic druglust in NOLA and Savannah will take their pound of flesh.
I can say all of these things, and know them, and mean them, but acknowledge full well that I do not really know these places. Some I'm very familiar with - Chicago, Portland, Philly, Raleigh, NYC, Austin - and some I've only passed through, but none of them are home to me. They're home to someone, though, someone who knows them like the back of their hand and can show you where they went to preschool down the street and tell you where to get the best sandwich in town. All I can do is draw upon my own blinkered experience, and draw my own conclusions, as biased and ill-informed they undoubtedly may be. I remember royally pissing off a blogger from Iowa after complaining about how shitty Dubuque, and by extension, Iowa, was. He got annoyed at my perceived "East Coast superiority complex," and I hated the fuck out of that lame little burgh with its rude youth and inhospitable vibes. I have never had fun in Iowa, and wasn't about to pretend. We were both right, and both wrong, and both had opinions about this particular slab of earth.
I want to get to know these places, though. I want to see them through different eyes, and venture off the beaten path, and fall in love with them. The place I grew up probably seems like a hillbilly backwater to those who have never fallen asleep to a whipporwill's cries or seen the sun bleed out through pine branches, or picked huckleberries and played catch with an old hound dog all day then fallen asleep beneath a tanned deer hide, or known what it feels like to walk a ways into the woods behind your house and be the only human being within untold miles of dense, untouched, untainted forest. To me, it's heaven, but to someone else, it's hell. Pittsburgh is someone's heaven. Oakland is someone's heaven. Houston is someone's heaven.
Guess I'll just have to keep hitting that asphalt, and wait for clarity.