IF I WAS SOMEBODY OTHER THAN ME…
I am sitting in my parents’ living room and it is just past midnight. I’m drinking a can of Bud Light and I feel very good despite it. I’ve never lived in this house but there’s a bed here for me. I’m trying to imagine the house I grew up in and it’s hard to recall what it felt like anymore. This is actually the house my dad grew up in. Much has been invested here.
Today was Sunday. Father’s Day. This morning I returned to Minneapolis with the Velvet Lapelles after a few days on the road. I dropped Ashley and Eamonn off at their homes and arrived at my own to find it strangely empty. Most of the large furniture was gone, taken while I was away by my ex-girlfriend, as planned. The open floor suited my mood after this trip: spent and refreshed at the same time.
I made the most of the afternoon by packing up many of my burdensome belongings and hauling them away for storage. Under normal circumstances I would’ve hauled them all to some other rented place. With the amount of time I’ll be away in the coming months it wouldn’t make sense. Today’s boxes held CDs, movies, books, photos, journals and drawings. Collections of collectibles I collected. I have already sold much of it. What is left hasn’t been sold yet due to laziness or else was retained for sentimental reasons. With each box I removed from the house I was feeling lighter and lighter. This summer I will have less and I will do more.
“Take it easy – but take it.”
“I can’t help it; the road just rolls out behind me.”
ST. PAUL, MN – AMSTERDAM / RIVER FALLS, WI – UW RF AMPHITHEATER
St. Paul, MN to River Falls, WI – 28 miles (56 miles round trip)
Personnel for this period of the diary includes myself, Lucy, Ashley, Jesse, Geoff, Eamonn and our new sound guy, Joe. Joe had been a house engineer at one Lapelle gig prior to me joining the band. His first gig as Lapelle-exclusive sound guy was June 9 at the Amsterdam in St. Paul. We didn’t make it easy on him.
From a house perspective the show went well, I believe. On-stage, however, we were plagued with gear problems. As a traveling band our gear gets dragged around across states and stages. Occasionally things fall into disrepair and require attention. On this night it all caught up at once. It never derailed us but no matter how transparent it is, these things affect your focus. I’m sure it was noticeable from the crowd when a tattered cord began to buzz wildly, but as a fleeting moment in a show hopefully that isn’t a memorable moment. For a performer, this kind of thing can throw you off your game. Following the show we began itemizing our headaches. By the time we hit the UW River Falls Amphitheater three days later we had addressed many of those issues and were feeling much more confident.
The road to the Amphitheater wound around a maze of campus parking lots. When the van pulled up Joe was already on-scene and was getting a handle on the sound situation. He was also establishing a rapport with the venue crew and organizers, which it turns out he is excellent at. Sound check was a breeze. Our gear cooperated and the sound was great. After the show there were high-fives all around.
The night couldn’t have been more ideal. The weather was gorgeous, the venue was beautiful, there was a great crowd and Charlie Parr opened the show. Charlie is a guy that the band has a great deal of respect for. He’s the man who inspired me to become a solo folk singer five years ago. Ask anybody. The man sounded better than ever and the crowd adored him.
CHICAGO, IL – MARTYR’S
St. Paul to Chicago – 398 miles
“We need to ration the joke supply,” Geoff said, “We’ve only been on the road for 30 minutes.” It was 11:30am on a Thursday. Lucy was driving and probably felt like a teacher taking a class of hyperactive delinquents on a field trip. I arrived to the van late but so did everyone else. On my way out the door I had to remove my window A/C unit at the last minute because water was pouring in around it. I left it on the bathroom rug and texted my roommates an apology for the inconvenience. I loaded my gear quickly as I could, trying to spare it from fat, heavy raindrops. Soon the van was filled and we found ourselves where we wanted to be for weeks. In traffic together. Free and on schedule.
A double whammy of rain and construction slowed us down. We phoned ahead to let Martyr’s know we’d be arriving in Chicago an hour later than our load-in time. This was of no consequence. We got to work loading in and Joe got to work meeting the venue staff and checking out the board. Martyr’s provided comfortable accommodations and we were able to enjoy a nice, complimentary dinner together in their green room before the show.
The crowd at Martyr’s was welcoming and contained here and there people each of us had known from various scenes of our lives. During the show, Lucy announced that the next day was Ashley’s birthday, to which someone yelled, “COUGAR!” It was around midnight by the time we loaded out and we took the opportunity to sing happy birthday to her on the sidewalk. She said she didn’t want to make a big deal of it but then insisted upon absurd demands at every juncture for the next 24 hours. “It’s MY birthday, guys…” Jeez, fine! We can stop at Medieval Times already.
We stayed with Ashley’s cousin Tim and his wife Monica who were very sweet and accommodating. There was one warning: the landlords lived downstairs. Though they were elderly and claimed to be hard of hearing we made sure to sneak into their 2nd floor apartment via the sewers like ninjas. The next morning we flushed ourselves away and went out for birthday breakfast at Longman & Eagle, which Geoff originally thought was called Eagleman and Schpiegleman’s. Ashley’s order included “one-hour eggs” which is just eggs cooked slowly over an hour. While the standard egg can be cooked in a matter of minutes, it was her birthday. This process gives the egg plenty of time to process what’s happening to it.
We left Eagleman and Schpiegleman’s and headed across town (or something) to record a session for the Internet radio station ‘Fearless Radio’. As we loaded in we encountered another band there for the same reason. Geoff and I approached them.
Geoff: What band are you with?
Dude: Bon Iver.
Dude: No. Not Bon Iver. Beau Navire, like this… (displaying a gray t-shirt which read “BEAU NAVIRE”)
After the session we split for Milwaukee.
MILWAUKEE, WI – SHANK HALL
Chicago to Milwaukee – 89 miles
I don’t know what the neighborhood surrounding Milwaukee’s Shank Hall is called but it was a pretty rad little area. I asked four or five people what it was called, and they told me, but I have just crap for memory. It felt a bit like Dinkytown for an older demographic. Jesse, Eamonn and I got some frozen yogurt. That’s when I discovered boba. Boba? What the hell is boba?
(BOBA SPOILER WARNING———————————————-Boba is tapioca balls with fruit juice in it. And it is eaten by the Sarlacc like a chump.)
The walls of Shank Hall were lined with head-shots of performers who had visited the venue over the years. I was impressed to find John Cale among them. Our set there was different from others we’ve been playing. Very laid back with a lot of space. Out there in the vast darkness of the bar room, the headliners and their spouses seemed pretty into it. We opted to leave after the show for Madison, where we were to perform the following night.
Madison was something else.
MADISON, WI – UW UNION TERRACE
Milwaukee to Madison – 79 miles
Madison to St. Paul – 261 miles
We arrived at the house of band friends’ Grace and Justin and unloaded our gear up to their third floor apartment. It was quite late by the time we arrived so people quickly began nesting on the floor for a night’s sleep. As the lights went down, Jesse, Geoff, Joe and myself snuck out of the house to see what Madison nightlife had to offer.
We were very close to Lake Mendota so we found a rocky area near the shore to sit, talk about music and watch ducks climb a ladder. Jesse was carrying a phone in his pocket playing Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” which emanated from his pants. At some point the conversation turned to the ominous nature of social media. “That is it!” Jesse said, “I am done with Facebook!” We wandered around the neighborhood until about 4am, stopping for a while at a cash-only diner where the four of us shared one pancake and a veggie omelet with what cash we could all scrape together from my wallet. When we returned to the house Jesse told us to have a good night and that he would see us in the morning. He would be sleeping outside…
I awoke on hardwood early the next morning and decided it was finally time to change my clothes. Lucy and Ashley left early to visit the farmers’ market in Capitol Square. Eamonn, Joe, Geoff and I left a bit later. It was Saturday and Madison’s gay music festival, Fruit Fest, was just getting set up down the block. We stopped back here later on. There was a feeling of celebration in the air. We walked about a mile further and up a hill to Capitol Square where 300 vendors were selling produce and baked goods. Also circling the Square were 40 nude bicyclists, some with tight, encapsulating leather thongs. Parents shielded children’s eyes as they passed. We saw some things.
After a couple hours the group reconvened and decided to hit the beach. On the way out the door Lucy received a phone call from the Lapelles’ manager, Mark. He said someone had tagged the band on a Facebook photo of Jesse and that it had over 90 likes (129 now including me). We pulled up Facebook and found this:
We walked to the beach and enjoyed a nice swim. I hosted a water-treading contest. All participants were bored. A lifeguard yelled incoherent, garbled sweet nothings at us from the bench. “WHAT?!” Then a bunch of other stuff happened and soon we loaded up the van and headed out to the gig.
Union Terrace was beautiful. It was three levels of lounging decks overlooking the lake, where sailboats whizzed by in the distance. I would estimate there was somewhere between 700-1000 people enjoying beers the entire time we were there. What an incredible opportunity to play outdoors in front of this many people, right? Well…
“They already made the call,” some student with a laptop said, displaying weatherchannel.com. “There will be a thunderstorm around 10:30.” Much to our disappointment, we were asked to move indoors into a cafeteria where 1000 people could not go. Unable to convince the student that it wasn’t going to rain (it didn’t), we hauled our gear into the cafeteria and set up. We all were a tad broken-hearted, but we are professionals and the show goes on.
Our spirits began to rise as show time drew nearer. One person told us they saw us play in St. Paul the previous week and came with 35 friends. Band buddy Sean Keith was there and we were happy to see him. Even your faithful narrator knew him, having played a show with his band 10,000 Blades at Nick & Eddie. He told me he read this blog. He’s actually reading this right now and actually YOU ARE HIM. HI SEAN. Thanks for coming to see us. Sorry we couldn’t play outside, but things turned out pretty well inside, wouldn’t you agree?
The show was a sweaty one. Madison dances. Post-gig, an impromptu rap battle broke out in the parking lot between Ashley and myself. The cornucopia of devastating rhymes were straight from the dome and are not remembered. Ashley’s included a slam on me that went, “Matt Latterell. Social Media. Matt Latterell. Social Media.” I believe that part of being a rap warrior is being honorable enough to admit when someone had your number. Ashley, you still haven’t done this.
We spent one more night at Grace and Justin’s and hit the road bright and early for home. Justin, we didn’t see much of you but you had a cool record collection. Grace, thanks for hanging out with us, showing us around and being so great.
To be continued.