Tour Update 6

by Swingset Showdown on 2013/07/05

Los Angeles was very kind to us. As we drove out of the desert and started to approach the city, we crossed an invisible line that had a sudden weather change. Entering the city, we all started to wake up because the heat was no longer suffocating. It didn’t matter to us that Los Angeles was in the middle of a heat wave.

Day 8- City of Angels

My dad was kind enough to get us a hotel room in LA as a gift for the tour. That was our first stop. I was sure to claim a real bed. Air mattresses were okay for Las Vegas, but my back was ready for an upgrade.

Everybody was in a good mood and ready to get back to work after 3 days in Las Vegas with no show. So, as soon as we were settled and had a second to get online and catch up with some life, we made our way out to the venue, TRiP, in Santa Monica.

We were set up to play a free show, but it didn’t really matter that much for our wallets because we had another show the next day that I had anticipated would be a well-paying gig.

Trip is a small dive bar with a decent stage and all kinds of beer. Based off their website, and what friends had told us about the place, I was sort of expecting a hookah bar, but that might have been the whole Alice in Wonderland theme. The outside of the venue was painted in flashy colors of paint that were poured down the side of it’s once black walls. The stage was set with the band’s backs to the front window. It reminded me of some places in Seattle, so we were pretty comfortable.

The bands on the bill were mismatched. Trip has a reputation for booking anything, so I sort of expected this. It was fun, but not necessarily the best way for us to keep an audience.

-The first band was a collaboration between Ray Prim and Ainje Emme. They are singer songwriter types with smooth melodies and rich tonal voices. They were very far from Swingset Showdown’s thing. Still, they were very interesting to watch and I took some pictures which I will post later.

Caveman Voicebox was next and they were friggin’ awesome. They were straight hard rock, but they knew how to sell it. Their playing was tight and loud and they rocked like they were in a stadium, ignoring the fact that the crowd had left with the previous group. Again, totally mismatched bill. I appreciated it and danced alone in front of the stage for as long as I could until I had to start loading out our gear.

There is no backstage to Trip, so we loaded onto the sidewalk from the van. I put my stuff together out there and we waited for the next band to load out onto the street before we loaded on. This would never fly in Seattle because the weather would never permit it. Still, I didn’t mind.

By this point in the tour, we were playing pretty well. We were excited to be playing, and had some practice. Eric was chilled out after San Francisco. Still, the acoustics, I was told, were not very good. This had to be a problem with playing to an emptier room. The walls are all brick and the floors are concrete. Therefore, sound just bounces around. The sound dude was on top of everything, so I didn’t blame him. I had a single friend of mine who is living in LA come out, and he said that the closer he got to the stage, the better it sounded.

-On stage, we all wore paper In-N-Out hats that we got from Las Vegas, and nerdy glasses. They went together really well. People asked us repeatedly after the show if we worked there, if we were sponsored by them, or if they could get a double double with fries. Our set went well, though the first part was sparsely attended. People filtered in throughout our set until we had a decent crowd, not great, but good. Some people looked confused, so I tried to introduce the songs in a way that might help them understand. There was a handful of people that I could tell were getting the jokes.

After our set, we talked to the sound guy who had lots of nice things to say. It’s always a compliment to hear that from sound guys because they hear so much music that they usually tune it out. Giving them an original thing to listen to that they like is an achievement. We also talked to a bunch of big drunk Swedish dudes that kept commenting on our hats and repeating themselves. I talked to them about the differences between Swedish women and American women, a discussion which included a lot of fat jokes, sex jokes, and drunken advice. I tried to pack up my stuff quickly and grab my camera in time to get some photos of us taking shots, but they left as soon as I was out of sight, and I never got those shots or those shots. Heh.

200 West hit the stage after us. They are funky, melodic indie stuff that reminded me of Seattle bands that we usually get lumped in with if the booker looks only at our instrumentation list and doesn’t listen to our music. That’s not a jab at them. They were good. It was a more chilled out thing than us, and they seemed to capture a larger audience. They also nailed a few covers, including an Outkast song that got everyone moving. I took a few pictures, then sat in the booth in the back of the room by the merch table and grooved out to them, which I thought was a perfectly acceptable way to consume their music.

Goodfellas finished off the show. They were very kind to show up early to see the other bands on the bill. Some other members of the bands that played had filtered out and off somewhere, which I can sort of understand, since it was a free show, but also…come on, guys! Goodfellas play rock and roll, and their demeanor kind of reminded me of the Eugene greasers that I mentioned in an earlier post. However, they had some melodic hooks that were definitely born of experience developing as musicians in a place very different from Eugene. I’m not sure that sentence makes sense. They were fun to watch and well rehearsed. Honestly, it wasn’t my kind of music, but they had a crowd going and they looked like they were having fun, so I was too.

I took some pictures, then went back to the hole in the rear of the room and tried to attract people to our merch spread. I don’t think we sold anything all night. Many drunk people came up and hit on Julene, our merch diva, though. One actually leaned over me and tried to convince her to let him buy her a drink as a “trade” for some of our merch, which I thought was a pretty bold move for somebody who didn’t know what my relationship with this girl was. If she was my girlfriend, though, he should know that he left his sleazy throat wide open for all kinds of punishment as he got all up in my personal space. This thought crossed my mind.

So we packed up, talked with some bands, made friends with the bartender and sound guy, who again, was really into us, then headed back to the hotel. The parking lot was full to the max, so we parked the van father away than I was really comfortable with. Some asshole took up 5 spots with his SUV and trailer combination. Once inside, I claimed my own bed, and day 1 in LA was on the books.

Day 9- Our Introduction to the Land of Flakes

I was really excited about this day. This was by far the most difficult bill to put together on this tour, but also probably the best bill that I had put together.

I slept in past breakfast because somebody forgot to get me up for it even though I set my alarm in the living room, where it was plugged in. I ended up eating whatever was left out and not feeling that satisfied. The rest of that early morning were hazy, but we eventually headed off to a Mexican restaurant to get food, then decided to go down to the beach, which was 2 miles away.

We got into the van, and drove down to Manhattan beach, then spent an annoying amount of time trying to find parking. It was at this point that I realized the beach in LA is probably like Capitol Hill in Seattle. We eventually fit into a tiny spot and headed down to the water.

We were all a bit road weary and show weary at this point, but it was almost required that we hit the beach while it was nearby. So, we walked past some bikini babes and watched some surfers for a while until we settled on a spot to set up. I took some pictures and video of us playing by the water. By us, I mean everybody but Eric (And Sofia, who was off with a friend). Eric instead opted to ignore all outside stimuli, and dig what he called, “A Grump Hole.” Eric just wanted to play around on the internet back at the hotel. He didn’t want to deal with the beach. A Grump Hole is apparently made by standing in one spot, and kicking out sand/spinning in place. You follow this simple formula and try to dig as far down as you can. For Eric, it was about up to his knees.

While he was doing that, Julene ran around in the water. At one point, she took off some of her outer layers, which of course captured the attention of us guys…well…everybody but Eric, who was too distracted by his grump. I have an awesome video of this that I will post below here at a later time. Editing and uploading photos and videos takes a lot of time, and I barely have time to write these updates.

Eventually we were done with the beach, so it was time to get back. We drove back to the hotel with a few hours to spare. I briefly thought about writing the next tour update, but instead passed out, face down, on the bed. When I woke up, I would have a strong desire to dig a grump hole.

I got up to everybody else getting ready to leave and quickly checked my e-mail. There, I found a letter from the booker telling me that Lot 1 Cafe, the venue we were scheduled to play at, had fallen on hard times. Their sandwiches just weren’t selling enough. Therefore, they would have to make the show free, in order to attract more people. This meant no door money for us bands. I sent a carefully worded e-mail pleading to change it to donation only and to let us run our own door, but I knew that it was futile. The show was going to start in a couple hours.

I also happened to catch a Facebook post from earlier in the day that was posted by one of the bands on the bill. They said that they were losing their drummer, and that they “might be playing their last show tonight.” Might? What is this, “might?” They were on the bill and scheduled to play. Nobody told me anything directly about this.

I was quickly spun into a bad mood, but tried not to let it get to me. It could still be salvaged. Remember, this show was by far the most difficult one to put together. It took the most of my time and resulted in the most of my frustration to claw out a time slot at a decent venue with some decent bands, and everything was falling apart at the zero hour. I had already dealt with several bands jumping on and flaking off the bill before the tour had even started, but I was confident at the moment that we started the tour, that it was now solidified and we would have a great introduction to LA. I tried to stay positive as we hit LA traffic at rush hour. We were passing right through downtown to get to Echo Park. We should have left earlier. More grump. I filmed Eric dealing with the traffic to pass the time.

Once we got there, we were greeted by Clitorati, a bunch of happy punks and their fans, taking photos on the street. They were psyched to be there and I was psyched to see them. I was really shocked at how warm they welcomed us. All I had done was give them a slot on a fun bill, but to them it was like we had given them a Grammy. I really liked those dudes and dudettes.

Soon after I was greeted by Clitorati, Robert, from the headlining band Tartar Control, came up and introduced himself. He was in character. I liked where this was going. He thanked me for putting the show together, and again, I got this weird sense that I had done something profound, when I had not. He said that it’s not often that people just approach them with the work all done (find the venue, book the bands, etc.) and just ask them to jump on. That’s just how it works in Seattle, but everybody seemed to be acclimated to dealing with flakes out in LA. My usual method was somehow shocking to them.

Anyway, with my ego pumped, I got oriented and realized that the first band, which I will not mention, was nowhere to be found. People stared asking me where they were and what we were going to do. I said, “Let’s pretend that they are on stage right now. Let their set time run down, then Clitorati can go on at their regularly scheduled time.” This satisfied everybody, so we just chilled out on the sidewalk for a while and talked about things and stuff. I felt like I was making some friends. We all knew about the free show change, but nobody seemed to care. I got the merch table fixed up, hoping to make some gas money. Eventually Clitorati took the stage.

Clitorati is young. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the average age of the band and their fans was 16. This was a good thing. They were pumped to be there, and the energy was high. They brought a lot of their friends, and they got Lot 1 hoppin’! I took some excellent photos that I will post when I get a chance. They were funny, loud, punky, and tight! They must have been happy to play there, because they just blew me away. Even Eric, who isn’t into punk, was lovin’ it. They put on a show that was better than most of the punk bands I see at 21+ shows. It might have had something to do with the fact that they weren’t so drunk that they forgot how to tune their instruments…Seattle. Their set was a mix of covers and originals that they nailed. They just nailed it. When I first saw them, one was wearing a Regular Show tee shirt, one of my favorite cartoons, and the other was wearing a NOFX tee shirt, one of my favorite bands. I knew they were going to be awesome, and they just killed it. I could not have asked for a better opener for the show. Fuck those first flakes.

-We played the middle set, and get this, EVERYBODY STUCK AROUND TO SEE IT! Clitorati’s crew was sticking around for the long haul. Tartar Control’s people were showing up, and I even had a couple friends there. It was shaping up to be an awesome show. In Seattle, after the crowd sees the band they came to see, they leave. This is why the order of the bands is so carefully chosen. Whoever has the most draw must play last to keep the people there. I half expected Clitorati to disappear, but they were there to party. I’m not sure if this is how all of LA shows go, but I liked it. Energy was insanely high, and it fed our playing. We were playing extremely tightly – being on tour helps that a lot. The stage was barely large enough for Eric’s piano, so Jason set up his amp on the edge of the stage and stood right in the middle of the slam-dancing crowd. We also got some volunteers to be Godzilla and Mothra. They donned the costumes and did the whole thing right there in that tiny room. Needless to say, the crowd loved it and I loved being a part of it. That set got me high.

Tartar Control. Their name deserves its own sentence. Everybody should know about this band. They showed up in character, dressed as clean-cut Mormons with sickeningly wholesome personalities. They didn’t ever break character except to tell me about how they find it hard to find good bills because they clear out comedy clubs when they play there, and the hardcore punks and metal-heads take one glance at them and don’t think they are hard enough to be on good bills. Oh, how wrong you all are. Tartar Control is a hilarious improv group that makes insanely good and aggressive punk music. Their whole stage performance fucks with your head and tickles your senses. They throw smoke bombs of inappropriate wit between hardcore thrash-punk songs that amuse as much as they make you want to get in a fight. They had total hypnotic command over the audience the entire time, even getting them to all sit down for one of their songs. All of this, while never breaking character. They acted like the typical Mormons knocking on your door to bring the word of Jesus, while simultaneously using their schtick to rip the Mormons apart, illustrating and exaggerating their ignorance and close-mindedness. At one point, there was a “Latino Man” watching the show from outside. Between songs, they noticed this guy, and invited him in saying, “Come on in, Mr. Latino Man, the show is free.” Then, Sean started playing some upstrokes while making eye contact with the confused man and said, “we’ve got some ska breaks,” as if to try to welcome the Latino Man to the show. You can watch that whole interaction, and more, in a video to be posted later. Needless to say, they were very photogenic and this is not the last time I will be talking about them. Oh, and did I mention they have a friggin’ ROBOT for a drummer? He talks to the audience, too. There’s so much going on with this band.

When the show was over, we did the typical “thank yous” to all the bands, and were very sincere about it this time. I talked to a lot of people and our reception was excellent. I thought it was funny when one person apologized that we had shown up in LA in the middle of a heat wave. I laughed out loud. We must have built up heat calluses after Las Vegas, because we didn’t even feel it.

I got one of the best burgers ever at Lot 1, which I highly recommend, though Google is now listing them as relocated or out of business on Google Maps. They are still in business, but maybe Google is privy to something we are not. If you live in LA, go get a sandwich or burger there. While you are at it, catch a show.

I would have liked to get paid, but we made some new fans and sold some merch, which was really all we could ask for.

We listened to Tartar Control’s album in the car later in the tour, and it does not disappoint. The comedic sketches between songs are just hilarious.

I found out that two days after our show with them, Sean, Tartar Control’s guitarist, was punched in the face by an asshole show-goer, and it broke his jaw. They had to cancel a bunch of shows and the Cobbler Party they were planning is indefinitely postponed. Send them your prayers.

We left LA on our way to Fresno the day after the show, feeling satisfied and pumped. The bad things didn’t get us down, and the good things were golden. Los Angeles was very kind to us.

-Ike

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