Friday, December 09, 2005

The Hourly Radio - a tour diary

I begged them to keep a diary for me. I said I would do something with it. Uh, this is where I'm posting it? Yeah, not what I had planned on. Anyway, wanna know what it's like to tour with the best of Brit-pop-inspired Texas bands? Not all that exciting, ya know? But then, I'm sure I got the G-rated version.

Thanks to Aaron, Ryan, Adam, and especially Tim (whom I bugged mercilessly) for this.

THE HOURLY RADIO with stellastarr*

9/29 – En route to Austin

Having repacked the van, we hit the road for Austin. We’ve already broke-in the ’05 rental van, having scraped up the side while leaving Trees the night before. When we first arrived to load in at Trees stellastarr* was already on stage sound checking and setting up their lights. Being that this was our first time to meet them and their first impression of us everyone was a bit serious and stiff while loading in. So… as Adam carried his first load of gear into the club Ryan and Aaron purposely waited outside and pegged Adam in the back with the soccer ball just as he was walking past stellastarr* for the first time…properly setting the stage for tour etiquette.

We actually almost missed our set because we were next door sharing a $30 entree at Green Room. Hated having to rush to the stage, and somehow managed to spend $110 on a piece of beef. Besides being rushed, the show went smoothly and we played a short set in front of an enthusiastic Dallas crowd. Couldn’t help but notice an exceptional female homosexual presence in the crowd and attribute this to Amanda, Stella’s bass player. Can’t say I blame them.

Stellastarr* are very polite and polished. Shawn is humble and reserved. Amanda very quiet, but confident. Arthur and Michael are the most outspoken and I can tell they fit the more typical rock star mold. Reportedly, the Austin show will be sold out. Look forward to spending more “quality” time w/ Stella*.

9/30 – Back to Dallas

The Austin show was a huge success. The venue (The Parish) was a really cool room and the sound good. The stage was bigger than Trees and considering we have to set up in front of stellastarr’s gear we had some space to move about. The crowd response was great and we sold quite a bit of merch so we should have money for food tomorrow! About half way thru stellastarr*’s set the fire alarms started going off because of their smoke machine. They didn’t even notice that it was going off and continued playing the rest of their set with the alarm blaring and exit strobes going off. Nobody seemed to notice or care. After the show everyone hung out for a while and Stellastarr was kind enough to let us partake in the some of the amazing goodies on their rider: Stella beer, Jack Daniels, deli sandwiches, Kit-Kat’s and Goober peanut butter and jelly. At the end of the night they insisted that we take whatever food and drink was left…now we definitely get to eat tomorrow!

We are now actually making our way back to Dallas to play the local New Music Festival on what is supposed to be our “drive day” to Atlanta.

10/1 – the long road to Atlanta

As soon as we were done with our set at the New Music Fest we hopped directly in the van to head to Atlanta and catch back up with stellastarr. We left at about 11:30pm and drove the twelve hour drive all night taking 3 hour shifts. We did a coin toss to see who got to take the coveted first two shifts. Tim and Ryan knew that tails never fails and started off the drive. We arrived in Atlanta around noon, in a bit of delirious state as nobody was able to get any sleep in the van. We went straight to our room, ordered a 5:30..PM… wake up call and crashed out in the hotel for a couple hours.

The venue in Atlanta was a huge complex made up of several bars and venues. We took the elevator up to the second and floor and when the doors opened we entered a room full of smoke with fire alarms blaring… we knew we were in the right place and looked thru the smoke to see Michael onstage sound checking and he shouted at us “Don’t you know not to take the elevator in a fire!”.

Our set went really well and we tried out a few new songs that went over really well. As we were tearing down after our set someone ran up to the stage to let us know that people were just taking our CDs. We looked over towards the merch table and there was a huge line of people of were apparently helping themselves. Being the honest people that they are those who had just taken the CD’s actually came back over and gave us money for the CD’s and were asking us to sign CDs, our set-lists, etc… Stellastarr definitely played their best show yet. Amanda opens up a bit and joins in post-show festivities. Michael discusses the art of drinking, hangover preventions and touring. He is by far the partier of the band. Shawn rarely addresses the group, but sits on his computer. Michael and Amanda tell us stories of the eccentricities of ex-tour-mates Placebo; to which we all joyfully listen like a little children at story time. The bar staff is ready to close down for the evening and has tried dropping that hint several times as the backstage festivities continued on well beyond closing time.

10/01 – En route to Orlando

In hindsight maybe shooting bottle rockets from our hands out the window of a moving vehicle isn’t the greatest of ideas. Apparently the Orlando Tourist Center is amazing every 20 yards there is another billboard for it. Florida is stupid. Rain without reason, warning or integrity.

10/02 – “Orlando is in shambles”

First things first- this is a dirty, ugly town and the roads have no rhyme or reason. The toll booths…totally unacceptable. We got to the club about 5:30 and unloaded our gear and watched stellastarr* sound check. Shawn had been looking forward to Orlando and telling us about this venue since we were in Austin saying it was one of his favorites. The Social in Orlando is a very cool venue. Its nearly the opposite of how most venues are laid out in that the stage and bar run along the long sides, so its really shallow. But they have a sort of pit area in front so you have people down below you and then a little balcony above that where the crowd is at eye level. And the set-up actually works extremely well and sounds great.

We then proceeded to our Days Inn “hotel” to clean up before dinner and the show. “Un-believable!” (we’ve been quoting Dane Cook the entire trip). The Days Inn looks oddly familiar, until we finally recognize it as the likely locale for several episodes of COPS. This place is a total crack-whore motel. So without even stepping foot out of the van, we leave searching for a new place to stay. We eventually end up finding an Embassy Suites in downtown—its closer to the venue AND closer to our basic standards of living and hygiene. So three cheers for upgrades.

We head up to our room- Ryan and Adam stay behind to check out happy hour and play a round of elevator tag. Big day for Ryan as he has his first shave with a real razor. Our little guys alls growns up now. We left the hotel, ate a shitty salad across the street from the club.

Our set went off really well and I believe it was our best show of the whole tour. The crowd was amazing and we actually sold enough records and shirts to pay for the van, gas and hotels! Stellastarr* played an excellent show as usual. Afterwards we hung out with stellastarr and their crew for quite sometime discussing recording philosophies and we could tell that they actually listened to our record quite a bit and that they actually DJ a couple of our songs back in NYC which was flattering to hear. We took photos together, said our goodbyes and loaded up. Stellastarr headed out, planning to drive for a few hours that night on their way to Philly.

We however weren’t quite ready for the evening to end and instead went next door to a bar and danced to Michael Jackson until last call. We headed back to the hotel where Ryan drinks a six pack of Stella (given to us by stellastarr*) entirely by himself back at the room, Adam crashes early, and Aaron makes out with two girls who followed us back. They’re referred to as “Hottie” and “Normie”.

10/03 – The long road home

After a late night we got off to a bit of a late start this morning but are now on the road and headed back to Dallas. It’is an 18hr drive back and we’ve decided on making it a non-stop drive. We’ve just stopped to eat at the lovely IHOP where Tim eats eggs that aren’t scrambled for the first time, and Ryan is unsure whether the painting in the men’s room is an early work by Chris Ofili, or has merely been subjected to years hanging on the wall at a truck-stop IHOP. I think the answer to that question best remains unsolved. The next 18 hours are filled with… driving… sleeping… man gas is expensive…where is a starbucks? … pizzahut jukebox…more fireworks out the window (it looks a lot cooler at night)…man this town smells weird... more driving…more driving… and we finally arrive back in Dallas at 6:30am.

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