Wednesday, July 28, 2010

UNISEX TOUR log III: brave friends, Highline Ballroom, Unisex Salon

(513): we arrived at our motel in the ghettos of New Jersey. there is a half-naked Chinese man in our room. exposed. we go to another room and everything is wet. we are scared.

text from Erica, about 1pm or so, Monday the 19th. apparently our friends who had driven overnight to come see us in NYC booked a brothel. apparently also the half-naked Chinese man was naked on the lower half. i found out later that Erica's dad kindly booked them this motel.

meanwhile, we were still having lunch on the street in Chinatown. after a moment of consideration we returned to our half-eaten pork-buns, tried to finish our lunches and put aside the image of the man in the hotel room. whether it was due to the half-buns or the surrounding multitude of glistening, sweaty Chinese men, we found this challenging.

the night that followed was nothing short of fantastic. the dark staircase up to the venue came to a set of double-doors and opened up into the beautiful Highline Ballroom. Unisex Salon was sound-checking as we walked in and lead singer Kenyon (yes, same as our college.. no, not near Uganda) hopped down to say hello. last time i saw Kenyon he was half-naked (top half), psychedelic tattoos covering his chest, with a headdress perched atop his dreadlocks that looked like a french maid's bonnet dunked in a vat of pirate's booty. today he was wearing a very nice black hat and t-shirt.

soundcheck at HB

the grandfather from Little Miss Sunshine works at the Ballroom. he gave us our passes to the beer-stocked green room upstairs and later announced our show with great relish and conviction. i may have enjoyed his introduction as much as our set. after the show, which felt like somersaults down a hill, the promoter Denise told us we were one of the best young bands she had heard in a long time; i humbly asked if i could quote her on it and she said "yes" =). while Unisex did their crazy thing we had drinks with lovely Anne and mightily-bearded Michael from Wakey! Wakey! who had come out to see our show. i felt mighty blessed to be at a table with old friends from Kenyon and Cincinnati, new friends from New York and the music world, and my bandmates. (and there may be a detail here left out... only those who saw it know what i'm talking at... keyword 'ambush')

and yes! our friends who escaped the brothel in NJ made it safely to the show and even ran merch for us(?!), though not before talking their way out of a speeding ticket (they had to pee really, really bad) and nearly suffocating while a mysterious can of Febreeze gradually sprayed its entire contents from an unknown location in their car. i can attest that they are alive and well, with minimal brain damage.

we after-partied at Beauty Bar (password: "i want to be in Unisex Salon"), hotel-lobbied at Crocodile Lounge (BEER = PIZZA), crashed and burned at Andrea's and set off for OH in the morning.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

UNISEX TOUR log II: arrival in Manhattan, save Dolores, Chinese secrets

we're all at home, for the moment.

Drummer Seanny is in Columbus, sleeping, certainly. He dropped us off at rendezvous X in Cincinnati at 12am, took a quick shower, and headed north to work the 3am graveyard shift at FedEx. Guitarist and newbie Mikey is back in South Bend (he's hosting a show at his venue there and won't be able to join us for the last half of the tour), and bassist Brad told me on the phone just now that he just got up (it's 5pm).

72 hours ago, we were parked on highway 95 in Maryland.

i had forgotten that in New York City, there is rush hour on Sundays, and it's the worst one all week. people who are returning from weekend vacation or who live elsewhere and work in Manhattan during the week or really just everyone and their mother are all trying to get back into NYC on Sunday evening. so the four-hour drive takes seven, and naturally to celebrate we have a dance party in the WALK van. we listen to the -entire- catalogue of Michael Jackson and feel real good about pretty much everything.

we are slow-grinding to "Dirty Diana" when we get a text from some new friends of ours that they were on their way - from Cincinnati - to see our show in NYC. floored. we ask each other 'would you drive 12hrs to see us play for half an hour?' and are like 'haha, but seriously i dunno if i would man.' thoroughly jazzed, we grind all the way onto the G. Washington Bridge and finally, at sunset, into Manhattan.

we make our way up the Henry Hudson to Inwood (NW side, about parallel to the Bronx) where we will stay with singer-songwriter and Kenyon alum Andrea Daly. her roommate Charlie is a ninja and only returns when no one is looking, so there is room for us to crash. one detail of the evening to share: we might've called it a day, but as it is Brad's first night ever in NYC we decide it was imperitive we go downtown. after dinner at Union Sq. the boys want a drink, so i suggest the Continental - on Astor Place, the long-black-hallway bar where bouncers don't want you to stand, 80's movies are projected on the walls, and, as many times as you want, you can get five shots of anything for ten bucks (they have a sign outside that says "Yes, we're serious."). the boys return to the apartment merrily, if somewhat un-ninja-like, at a wee hour, and we all go to bed.

MONDAY MORNING. we traipse down from the apartment and find that not only do both we and Andrea have parking tickets, but at some point in the night someone apparently tried to break into the WALK van. glass shards make a spikey little frame around the bottom of the rear driver's-side window. Dolores (our sexy GPS) is perched in the cup holder in plain view... evidently someone was really lost last night... i guess after breaking the glass they must've remembered where they were going as the screen was left intact. we resolve to keep Dolores out of sight and head out of Inwood.

the Highline Ballroom is in the heart of Chelsea, business district in the southern part of the West Village. at 11am our plan is to park and leave the van until load-in at 4pm... at 11:30 our plan is to park and leave the van until load-in at 4pm... at noon we are sticking fast to the plan... at noon-thirty we have nearly given up but find a spot a few streets over. famished, we take the train to Chinatown.

TWO SECRETS i have learned about Chinatown in my travels: pork buns and park music.

next time you find yourself on Canal St. in Manhattan, go immediately to Baxter and walk down to the Dragon Land Bakery. there you will find many delights, not the least of which is the pork bun, big fat delicious treat for $1. they also have many stranger things available, including a spiral-y croissant thing with spinach and four hotdogs stuck in it. that is also $1.

after this, follow Baxter down to Bayard and find yourself in a strange plaza with a huge Chinese mezzanine, several stone checkerboards, 200 old people, and Phish. a year ago when we played in New York for the first time (with Unisex Salon) my friend and i spent a day in Chinatown just exploring, and we found Columbus Park tucked away behind the main drag. apparently this was the place where, every day, all the old Chinese people would come to hang out and JAM. old folks brought their beautiful, jangly, dusty musical instruments and gathered around in a circle, just jammin. one gray guy even had a tiny PA and a mic and was singing at the top of his ancient lungs. we thought maybe this was a special event, but every time i have been back to Columbus Park, there they are, jammin. it's gorgeous.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

UNISEX TOUR log I: Buster's, Charm City, and Lois Lane

i am almost Lois Lane.

thank you for checking up on us.... we're on day 3 of Unisex Tour and hanging out in the heat at our friend Baby A's house in Chevy Chase, MD (air conditioning is busted...). after rehearsing for a few days with drummer Seanny (Columbus' the Illusion), bassist Brad (Cinci's Charlie Hustle), and WALK newbie and guitarist Mikey (met him on tour in South Bend), we left Friday for Lexington in Seanny's white Ninja Turtles van. thanks to the sexy Dolores (our GPS) we made it safely to Buster's, giant warehouse venue in Lex. there we played with an incredible funk band fronted by Lurch from the Addam's Family. as white as the day is long, the lead singer was nearly 7ft tall and sang like Barry White. however perhaps the most notable detail you need consider about Buster's is the wind. it took me a minute before i acknowledged that the air conditioning inside the warehouse was nothing short of turbulent. it was another moment before i realized spinning sinisterly below the sprawling ceiling was the source: a titanic fan, at least 30ft in diameter. after i reconnected the lower part of my jaw i delighted in pointing out the Big-Ass Fan to others throughout the night and watching them reconnect the lower parts of their jaws. i have actually just been informed by Seanny that the company who makes these is called "Big-Ass Fans". ...

we left our friend's house in the morning and began the 10hr drive to Baltimore. the drive through West Virginia and Pennsylvania was gorgeous and made quick enough by Herbie Hancock, Amazing Baby, even At the Drive In..?, Miles Davis, and the wonderful most wonderful game ever in the world Contact. if you aren't aware of this mind-reading word-game, the love is spreading all over the world and will find you soon enough.

Charm City Art Space, the Baltimore venue, was a garage-turned-hipster-artsy-venue. our promoter friend there, Scott, was a big red viking and very kind... he accommodated us and squeezed us onto his video-game-band bill. yes every band that played were video game cover bands, and how! unfortunately the space was so hot, SOO hot, that we sweated nearly to the point of collapse. by the last chorus of Anna Sun i believed i was going to bite it Lois Lane style and fall over into Mikey's guitar rig. thankfully the night was faint-free and we ended the night relaxing with friends at the Tastee Diner in Bethesda.

we are now leaving Baby A's abode and are off on the easy 4hr stint up highway 95. our show in NYC is at the Highline Ballroom in the West Village, 8pm sharp. love and poodles and panda bears. hope to see you there =)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

wishing you good tidings on July 4th

as much as we argue about how it is and ought to be run, as much as we sometimes love to hate on it, as big a joke as it is made out to be in movies and pop culture, America is a good place to live, a good place to grow up.

i was a homebody tonight instead of goin out friends, and my parents and i stood out on the front lawn, watching explosions in the sky 200 yards away, 20 miles away, right over our heads, from all different parts of the Eastside 'burbs.

i had a similar experience a couple years ago... hanging out for the 4th at the Bellevedere apartments in Clifton, went up to the roof where there's an almost 360-degree view of the city. mild night, nothing doing, and then: all across the city of Cincinnati were flashes of light and fire... a few at first and then hundreds of explosions all at once, filling the air with color and sound and it shook me for a moment as i thought, my God, it's like we're being attacked. it's like some beautiful terrible memory of being attacked in our own town. and i remembered... well duh, that's exactly what it is. but it had never dawned on me the meaning, the vision of your own home being lit up red and white in the middle of the night, the fear for your close friends and your mom & dad and your future and your life. and today we replicate that moment in history but without fear.. instead with fun and drinks, wows, smiles... in celebration! how strange! how mildly inappropriate? how oddly exactly what it ought to be? how poignant?

whatever it was, it was special to me to be so humbled, struck in the face by this holiday which had been in my mind just a big weird party that happened every year. may the meaning and sense of hope that this day is meant to bring find its way into all of our pointed little heads this year.

happy 4th! be safe and be merry!

Friday, July 2, 2010

onesies and facepaint


7/16 Lexington
7/17 Baltimore
7/18-19 New York City w/UNISEX SALON
7/20-21 Philly/DC TBA
7/22 Columbus
7/23 Cincinnati
7/24 Covington

more to come.