Skirting Death with IfIHadAHiFi. (Pt. 2)
1:15 AM 8/25 – Billings, MT
Current van mileage: 202,248
Current band fund: $159
I wasn’t gonna say anything about days off, because, sheesh, boring, right? However! After our set in Bismarck, one of the kids noticed that I introduced our song “Doubting Thomas Telescope” as a song about a scrap metal sculpting genius (namely, Dr. Evermor outside Baraboo, WI). So after the set, as he was talking to Yale, he said, “That sounds a lot like the Enchanted Highway.”
Located on a stretch of highway that looks to connect I-94 with I-90 in South Dakota, the Enchanted Highway is marked by an ENORMOUS metal sculpture depicting a flock of geese. It was hard to miss, as we could spot it from about three miles away. We took the exit, found another sculpture of what looked to be cow-spotted deer or something another three miles down, and then drove another two miles before realizing that this could get us *really* sidetracked. We stopped at the two sculptures we saw to take pictures…including, yes, more Rev.Ever BALLER photos.
The sculptures were awe-inspiring, it is true. But I think for sheer whimsical Seussian imagination, Dr. Evermor is superior. Also, he’s from Wisconsin, and thus was born with certain advantages over people from other states.
Oh well, nothing beats the recharge that a hotel with a hot shower and cable provides on tour, even if the recharge is only a whopping four days in. Onward to Missoula!
Oh, and by the way: Big Sky country has some of the biggest bugs I’ve ever seen. I suppose with all that sky they have room to grow. In any event, I’m now so squicked-out by our windshield that I clean it with dainty girl hands and dance on my tiptoes going “Ew. Ew. Oh god, *ewwwwwww.*” I’m a badass rock dude.
1:18 PM 8/26 – leaving Missoula
Current van mileage: 202,610
Current band fund: $138
After years of showing up at venues and seeing no flyers on the wall or meeting a promoter who, upon being asked about the local bands playing with us, replies “Well, there are a couple bands we could call and bring down tonight if you want” (true story), it’s a real lift to the spirits to pull up to a venue and be greeted by flyers with your band name in huge lettering all over the door. It’s also good for the self-esteem to find your CD for sale at the local record store, or to walk into Missoula’s #1 burrito stop, Taco del Sol, and see full-color flyers on the wall there! Essentially what I’m saying is: make it look like someone put some G.D. effort into the proceedings, and we’re gold.
Every time we play Missoula, I’m left awestruck by how beautiful the town is. Tons of small, locally-owned shops pepper the downtown area, and just a glance to the east reveals scenic mountains so vast they may as well be across the street. People wade and kayak through the river that runs through town–a river so clean that you can see to the bottom from the bridge overhead. It’s an oasis of pretty in a state where the mountains get monotonous quickly.
We had low expectations for the show, as it was a Tuesday night and word on the street was that the town was burned out by that weekend’s Total Fest–Missoula’s annual 50-band orgy of beer and rock. But the promoter, Mike, who plays in the band Victory Smokes, did everything he could. Two local bands with lots of friends (including a ska band; we’re at least 10 years shy of the fourth wave of ska and those bands still pack ’em in. Never underestimate the pull of a genre originating from a country known for its ganja), lots of promo, playing *the* hot bar in town, the Badlander (The Intelligence played here the night before) and a second touring band called When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, from Austin (who absolutely KILLED). A killer bill for a weekend anywhere, but on a Tuesday after the city’s major punk fest, it resulted in low turnout and $60 to split between two touring bands. Ah, well.
But as often happens when we play in front of a small crowd, we played really well and folks ate it up (not enough to actually buy a cd or shirt, but whatever). Tonight’s crowd featured the following crazy “small world” moments:
- One couple who knew us from an old Milwaukee/GB-only cassette comp we were on in 2001, where we covered a song by our previous incarnation, The Pop Machine
- One crusty old dude wearing a t-shirt from Shooters in Oshkosh who explained that he came out to see us because he was in a “competing” band in Oshkosh when we still lived there and he recognized the name (which, really–“competing band?” That phrase represents such a difference in outlook from us that I can only shake my head, but it was still rad of the dude to show)
- A dude named Wil who lived in Riverwest for two years and kept yelling “RIVERWEST!” And “MILWAUKEE RULES!”
- A drunk maybe-vagrant who sat outside the club all night and told me stories about when he allegedly roadied for Van Halen on the 1984 tour (I suspected BS when he got the brown m&ms story wrong, saying they were green–this guy wasn’t really much of a “small world” moment, but I thought he warranted mentioning)
Also of note: the opening band (who also are responsible for bringing in their friends and netting us their cash, so thanks, opening band!) was called “Fag Rag.” They were silly fun, but on the list of awful band names we’ve been exposed to this tour, they land solidly ahead of “Speed’s the Name” but just behind “Vaginal Blood Farts.”
Wil ended up letting us crash on his floor, as long as we’d give him a shirt and stay up drinking Evan Williams with him. The other guys were happy to oblige, staying up all hours talking music with him (including assuring him that no, we WANT the local ska band to headline over us so their friends stay long enough to see us) while I just wanted to sleep. I’m too light a sleeper to crash out while people in the same room are drunkenly shouting “NO WIL LISTEN STOP LISTEN WIL NO LISTEN WIL STOP STOP STOP,” so I finally grabbed my sleeping bag and went to sleep in the van.
Our band fund keeps dwindling, and when we refuel we’ll be under $100, but we’re on our way to the big money portion of the tour–Seattle–with our friends Police Teeth and The Bismarck, Portland on a Friday, and San Francisco and the Mount Vicious CD release party. I hope those fools are ready.