Here it is…again. A tour retrospective with some videos. :) Beware, this is pretty long, I’ve been working on it maybe 30 minutes at a time for weeks at this point and this will be the third edit since I forgot an entire half a week. How does that happen? ha.
The Break a Branch off the Crazy Tree and Beat Your Dick to Death With It Tour was one of my favourites I’ve done yet. Originally pitched to me by H.W. (“Josh” from here on in) as a “rap tour” with just me and him, I knew that I really didn’t A) have the rap chops or B) the desire to just rap without singing, because it’s intentionally limiting expression for a non-artistic purpose which is an idea I’ve become relatively bored with. So from the get, I realized I would be sticking out like a sore thumb.
Then, we discussed the idea of having a third person join us for the tour in order to split costs and to have an extra set of hands…early on Jesse Dangerously was mentioned and we also had a bunch of other folks get at us, but we decided on Jessie D because Josh had toured with him before and because he’s better than us at rap. And because I’d known him for TEN FUCKING YEARS online and never met him. It was time.
I have to say that touring with these guys was great…when the three of us were in the car it was a really fun dynamic. Josh is so wildly goal-minded and consistently asking, aloud, the question “what can I do to be more successful” on the business side and “what can I do to be a better rapper” on the art side. Jesse would give the rap answer, and I would pretend to know what I was talking about for a minute in order to answer as best I could. Usually at length, because I’m physically allergic to shutting the fuck up.
The kickoff show in Boston was incredible. Some of my favourite new friends made the trek out from Worcester to catch the show, and made Josh and Jesse feel incredibly welcome. Josh had the hometown crowd in the palm of his hand and was clearly comfortable on stage.
Because customs determined Jesse’s beats could be considered a weapon of mass destruction, he was forced to perform over jacked beats. Even still, it was AMAAAAAAAAAZING to finally catch a dude I knew for many years do his thing. I listened to a CD he had given me many years ago for a few months and really dug it, but it wasn’t anything like this. Oh what a decade will do. I realized quickly that following him was a bad idea. A bad idea I would repeat consistently for the rest of the tour haha
After Boston, we headed out to Brooklyn where we met up with the Ellis Ashbrook folks to rehearse, because they had promised me they’d back me up on a few of my tunes that night since it was to be my birthday show (at midnight…but the next night in Pittsburgh I was gonna be surrounded by strangers…hehe). The rehearsal gave me goosebumps and the performance was no different. Here’s a clip Josh took of me wrapping up my first song. The energy stayed high, and then Ellis joined me for “We Were Lovers”, “Trickster” and “The Fat Lady of Limbourgh” which was, as anyone who knows me can imagine, my favourite time of the night.
I jumped the gun a bit. Before that all happened, Jesse rocked his set and murdered it. Yes. Both rocked AND murdered. Taking his shirt off for the first of what would be many times during the tour, he drove the crowd wild, except for the thugs holding up the wall (and, thus, missing the point) who were just wildly unamused. But then, the saviour and he who possesses a Doctor Degree in Thugganometry…the one and only H.W. hit the stage. haha
Josh’s honest, emotional energy connects with people sometimes and alienates them others. This was one of those times when everyone just ATE it up and joined in the moment with him. Including the aforementioned thugs. It was great to watch him connect two nights in a row with good crowds, knowing that after that we were all venturing into unknown territory.
Tim joined us in the car from New York to Pittsburgh and then Jersey after it and kept us amused with an endless barrage of amazing sociopolitical insight, dope ass beats (one of which I’ll be rocking soon!) and fresh raps. His enthusiasm was a morale boost, and he won the nickname Nice Guy Tim for being…well…I probably don’t have to tell anyone who reads my blog. You’re either smart enough, or you know him.
He’s a dude I’ve known for a long time, and have spent enough time to know he’s on the right side of just about everything. If you can have him in your corner, you should, he’s both interested and interesting. Manifesting the ‘04-‘05 era of the Strange Famous message board in the flesh with him, Jesse and Josh was definitely a highlight of the tour that felt so natural I almost forgot it happened! :)
The next morning we got up and headed for Pittsburgh. We met Cody, which was probably the highlight of the trip. The show was marginal, with people seemingly disinterested, but then coming around to buy some merch and show some love at the end of the night. This was the first set I played the Mieka Pauley song “Marked Man” at, to the confused stares of indie hip hoppers. haha. Met some lovely people, briefly, then went to a sandwich shop that OPENS at midnight. Also waiting was this drunk guy. If you click that link, you’ll watch a somewhat amusing situation where this guy thought it was cool to come “hang out with” (read: drunkenly slur at) us. Click the link. Lulz inside.
Then we headed to New Jersey, where we played with a great dude named Ray and an AWESOME band called Karma Bat. They shred genres back to back, which is my kind of thing…then they gave us a place to stay, too. No quicker way to my heart. The apartment was a very homey sort of place for me too, with graffiti art on the walls, and then Stampy made us pancakes in the morning! YAY. With all of the fast food, processed junk and whatnot that is part of the touring process it was nice to have a nice breakfast in a relaxed place before hitting the road.
One of the lowlights of the show was a rape-joke happy juggalo with a bad rap name. I won’t mention his bad rap name (just know it’s not our boy Raymond), but I made mention of it at this diner and Jesse squashes me type quick. hahaha. This was a good talk, and we discuss our desire to one day see Hip Hop’s status on Facebook turn to “single”. Right now, She is in an open relationship with me, Jesse and H.W. Jussayin’
Then we started the trek to Cleveland. On the way, we discovered the venue was closed down so we tried to secure another venue with the help of ninja-gig(tm) master Greg McKillop. He had worked out an acoustic venue.
I hate disagreeing with my friends publicly, but this is where I noticed a marked difference in attitudes between Jesse and I and Josh…The acoustic venue would have been fine for us - Jesse beatboxed, Josh rapped, and I play guitar…we could have improvised a FINE set for Josh (with me and Jesse being the ones who had a more slimmed-down set) but he’s a rapper through-and-through and felt a little uncomfy without a P.A. and stage and I wanted to address that attitude because I get it a lot from rappers and bands alike.
This is the best thing that the poetry scene does for rappers - teach them to be compelling without the buffer of music. Allow the words to connect with people in a room. I remembered when I started trying to do poetry, how naked I felt - how each performance failure was just BRUTAL in a way that it would never be with a musical backdrop. My brief foray into the world of spoken word was quite a learning experience and I can’t recommend enough that ALL performers try it if they want to be embarrassed in a productive way.
There’s so many ways to make music. Music is our primal connection with emotion, and for so many people, it’s their ONLY connection with emotion that they let show. Being able to make music under any circumstances is one of the delights of the artform, and if words are your medium - that is no different. Hit something and recite. From KRS-One to Jack White, the most successful musicians FEEL that primal urge and act on it, only later being able to realize it to full potential.
Anyway, this difference in opinion is borne out in this amusing video Josh took at the coffee shop we were gonna play at. Jesse D and I are planning a tour of Onyx songs done lounge style, be on the lookout. Ha.
After that, we went around town looking and found this DOPE venue that is half skatepark/half bar with a FREE videogame system that has everything from Frogger and Arkanoid to whatever the else you want to play that isn’t as cool as Frogger or Arkanoid. Unfortunately, this bar was not interested in letting us ninja gig there. Which actually came as something of a surprise to me. If anyone knows or remembers the name of this venue, do tell!
Then a friend/fan of Josh’s, Chris Parks, let us both crash AND do a live webcast out of his apartment! Here’s a short clip of Jesse and I practicing while Josh awkwardly accosts Chris’ girlfriend and housemate, Ashley. I love watching this clip because at the end of me and Jesse’s little session, you can see what I do whenever something dope but unexpected happens…that wild nervous giggle that makes me look so corny but reminds me how much I can love life. Haaaaaaaaaaaaa.
After the webcast that night, I brough Jesse to the airport so he could fly to Austin and meet up with the nerdcore/Backburner dudes at SxSW.
The next morning, Josh and I struck out for Indiana to play at Rachel’s Cafe - an AWESOME venue in Bloomington - along with Anti-Swag Fiend Party. On the way, we stopped so that I could take a picture in Indianapolis at a place very special to me…the home of Jim Jones’ (the cult leader, not the rapper) first church.
The next morning we did a ride I’ve done quite a bit at this point, from Indiana to Springfield, MO. I cannot understate how much I ADORE Springfield and it’s denizens. Kara Remington, Rob, Jim Phinney, Ryan Spilken, Jess Gray, Josh and Rachel…the list goes on and on and on and on….too many wonderful people to even attempt…but on the way, I remembered one of the coolest features of that trip…the beef that happens between two RV stores. Josh asked me about it, and I was more than happy to share what I know. P.S. Fuck da Police. Jussayin.
The show was great fun, and Ryan Spilken helped Josh fine tune his entrance essay for college, culminating in a dramatic reading with music!
After Springfield, we hit the road again the next morning and headed to Austin for SxSW. Excited as shit, we finally got into town at a ridiculous hour and headed to SxSW proper downtown to meet up with kHill from the ThoughtCriminals and Dave from DualCore who were in the middle of a cypher. This video clip is actually very disappointing for me, because I say “bitch” in one of my rhymes…but it happened, so I figured I’d put it out there. Ugh. We’re not all perfect…and this freestyle is anything from fantastic, but it encompassed the excited, Scribble-Jam-in-the-early-thousands vibe that engulfed me at the time. Haha
After SxSW started shutting down, we went to the location of our gig in a few days where Tony Mantis from The Locksmiths was STILL DJ’ing a dope party at a ridiculously amazing artist complex/gated community/project called “Metropolis” around 4 in the morning.
Locals say it’s called “methopolis”, but I saw very little of that and everyone who lived there was wildly supportive and friendly. It was wonderful to do a show with so many talented people in such a laid-back atmosphere (literally poolside. Amazing stuff.)
Awol One impressed me, after hearing his name for years, but not until I spent most of the day not knowing who he was since he introduced himself as Tony, which is a very quick way to earn my respect (for whatever that’s worth).
Dolan killed it, and I’m proud to occupy some of the same air as him and Prolyphic had the strongest set I’ve seen him perform in a looooooooooong time. It was great to meet Left Over Wine and Soul Rebel Project, too. The whole thing was so fun.
But nothing was as fun as playing with the ThoughtCriminals as my backing band! HOLY SHIT these guys tore it down. With one 4-hour rehearsal we worked a 25 minute set with ZERO breaks and plenty of Shane-timed pauses and breaks. Fucking impeccable, no nonsense professionalism without forgetting to have a good time. I even got to do one of their songs, Whirling Dervish, which was a distinct pleasure.
I could go on about all of this forever, but who cares? If you care, drop me a line and lemme know, maybe even on this monster of a blog post. haha
Then, the next morning, the loooooooooooooong trek home.
We started at about 11 when we picked up Jesse at a posh hotel that he and his homies trashed, Keith Moon style, and made the getaway before the cops were called (who knows what the Texas police would do to 2 yankees and someone from Canadia!)
So then we drove. Josh drove in the daylight, I drove overnight. First we got an oil change and a new tire to replace one with a huge bubble.
We made it JUST in time for our Worcester gig at the Dirty Gerund Poetry Show, where Jesse and Josh did meh proud yet again, and the Worcester community came out hard (no hetero).
With only two shows left, I had the opportunity to play The Spot Underground in Providence (formerly The Call), and play with the AS OF 4/15/2011 defunct Sound in Stone with Taylor Benoit on the bass. I joined Mark, Larry, Willow and Derek for a 2 week tour last year, which I extensively blogged about as it occured. I’ll definitely be trying to assemble these folks again for some shows, and everyone seems interested so maybe that’ll be sooner than later. :) Either way, it was great to do a gig that’s something more like what I usually do for Jesse to catch a different species of American New Englander in it’s natural habitat.
Which brings me to another point. I actually identify as a Canadian. I believe that New England is rightfully part of the sovereign nation of Canada and that we will one day reunite with our northern brothers and sisters. VIVA LA CANADA
Anyway, the show was great, with Josh Willis being as accommodating as ever and a few good friends coming out to catch the set. It was really nice to be home and I was actually looking forward to the last show in Portland, ME.
What can I say about Portland?! They’ve got a really cool, intensely creative, indie hip hop scene. Anyone into the late 90’s, 2000’s, era of indie rap know that much of that is due to folks like Alias, Sole and other folks that would go on to found the Anticon crew…and local legend Brzowski was the one to put out some dope hospitality. Setting up the show and then giving Jesse and I a place to crash. The show ended in a round-robin first-come-first-served cypher and I took the opportunity to do my last rapping of the tour.
And if you made it through this once, you deserve a cookie. If you made it through this the first time, then upon the 2nd edit…you deserve a big hug. If you read the whole thing the third time, I’m prepared to tongue-punch you where you want.
Here’s a link to all the videos linked throughout the post, for the visually inclined:
http://www.twitvid.com/YLGHJ - drunktard *
http://www.twitvid.com/IZM1T - Cleveland practice *
http://www.twitvid.com/94TPR - fuck tha police *
http://www.twitvid.com/5SW2Q - an essay with music
http://www.twitvid.com/SYSFB - Brooklyn gig *
http://www.twitvid.com/OLUGM - 4am breakfast in Brooklyn *
http://www.twitvid.com/ZCY0J - morning in Brooklyn *
http://www.twitvid.com/ZZUTA - Diner in Somerset, PA *
http://www.twitvid.com/XKWDG - Lounge Onyx *
http://www.twitvid.com/YMKUV - SxSW cypher *