30 September, 2008

the bits of real life

even after all the times i have been on tour and come home, i dont think i'll ever get used to the letdown that accompanies the moment you pull into the driveway and turn the car off. tour is finally over and the frenetic pace of life on the road fades. and whats left? laundry, bills, phone calls, the bits of real life that you have put off for the stimulation of being on the road. the silence of your own house and your own mind. no more distractions!

so i'm home. and it isnt like i was out that long. just 2 weeks and we only had 5 shows in all that time. it wasnt a tour about music, it was about the time in between the music, and so maybe this time, its the friends and travel that i miss the most.

17 September, 2008

the path of ike

we finally heard that our houston show had indeed been cancelled, so we ambled out of the bywater and headed west on RT.10, heading through houston towards austin. all reports had warned us about driving that route, but looking at the map, we didnt see any better way. we made sure we had a full tank of gas and took our chances.

what we saw on the way was quite incredible. as we approached the louisiana-texas border, we began to see caravans of electrical maintenance trucks, cars with gallons of gas strapped to the back, billboards in tatters and other smaller signs of the hurricane. yet, as soon as we crossed the border into texas, the damage was even more striking and immediately visible. no billboard was intact, and more and more buildings were missing roofs, walls, or were partially collapsed.

we stopped at the first rest-stop in texas, which, as we pulled in, we could see was closed. everything was covered in a cracked layer of smelly mud. clearly water had reached here. the whole place stank, though it took us a moment to realize why. as we walked back to the van, we noticed something odd. the parking lot was covered with dead fish and shrimp of all different sizes. the biggest pile of them was centered around a big drainage grate. literally hundreds of fish had come pouring UP through the grate into the parking lot as the drainage system was overwhelmed. as the water receded, the fish were left to suffocate on the pavement. it was an eerie site, an ominous version of the phrase "fish out of water".

as we approached the beaumont/port arthur area, the devastation was clear. the side of a hotel ripped off. whole swathes of urban sprawl without a single light on. we passed an arena whose parking lot, plus the highway approaching, was bumper to bumper full of tractor trailers carrying relief supplies. scanning the radio, we found that most stations had pre-empted their usual programming in favor of public-bulletins and call-ins. we listened in awe as listener after listener phoned in with information on FEMA, hotel-vouchers, food-stamps and relief kitchens.

it was growing dark as we came into houston. the downtown looked lit, but we passed through short stretches of highway without any streetlights and many many gas stations with no power. the scale of what we saw was overwhelming, something i dont think you can get an accurate representation of from the TV or internet. we drove 4 hours at highway speed through affected areas. miles of damage.

it reminded me of visiting new orleans after katrina. you stand in the wreckage, at whatever stage, but you dont touch it. you experience it, but you dont physically engage in it. it's a hollow feeling. i couldnt shake the suspicion that we were trespassing through these towns' post-apocalypse clean-up.

we arrived in austin late night, quiet and somber from our visions. austin would be our home base for the next 5 days.

SUGGESTED READING: ISSAC's STORM by Erik Larson (who wrote "devil in the white city")

16 September, 2008

i'm headed out on the road again, after a summer of laying low and recording my new record. my partner in crime for this trip is my friend desdemona "bunty" burgin, a gifted photographer who moonlights as a tour manager for me every once in awhile. our first tour together, of the UK in spring 07, featured theft, mugging, and a car accident. no kidding. our second tour was the 9 week marathon "lafayette" tour in the fall of 07. bunts is the perfect tourmate, sweet and capable and funny as shit. you should also check out her photos.

we're heading out on the road for a set of shows with my old friend stephen kellogg. along with his band, the sixers, stephen has spent the last 5 years criss-crossing the country working his growing audiences into a fervor every night. i happened to have a spot in my schedule, he happened to ask, and we are reuniting for a few shows. everytime i see stephen, he sounds better and better, and i dont know anyone who works harder or thinks about how to make their career better, more often. my only regret is that we dont have more shows...

bunty and i left massachusetts on sunday and headed south toward houston, which had just been hit by the devastating hurricane ike. from the news reports we were watching, it just didnt seem possible to have a show there in two days, but we also hadnt received confirmation from the promoter that the show was cancelled. so we drove...

looking at a map, we saw that new orleans was on the way. i've spent some sizeable chunks of time in NOLA and even made a record there in 2004. the last time i was there was december 2006, on a writing trip. getting to go back, even for 24 hours was a treat. we're staying with my good friend, shawn hall, a painter, who also owns piety street studio, where i had recorded "we will become like birds". piety street is in the bywater, a funky neighborhood i have become quite familiar with and fond of. katrina impacted the area, though it did not flood. compared to 2006, it finally looks like the bywater was running on all cylinders again. the same cant be said for other parts of new orleans which are still mired in post-hurricane beurocracy and neglect. it's mind-boggling to think that the great and mighty american enterprise could turn so profound a blind eye to such a beautiful and important place.

shawn is relentlessly positive, but never unrealistic- qualities that have carried her through lots of tough situations. she's one of the main reasons i love new orleans so much. through her, i've seen unique parts of the city through her artist's eye and really grown to feel a connection to her neighborhood.