In third and final episode of his extensive diary, Oakland's craziest MC shares the intimate details of life on the road with The Postal Service.
Cex Tour Diary pt. 3
we went to Milwaukee
Jenny and Jimmy in the van.
We got to Milwaukee early to go to a barbecue. I didn’t know hardly anyone
there, but it wasn’t that weird. First it was Jimmy and Jenny and I standing
around smiling and kind of talking to each other. Ben and Joan were driving
separately but they called and said they weren’t going to make it in time for
the barbecue and would just meet us at the show. Nick went in the van to talk
into his cell phone about business issues involving the new Death Cab record.
Jenny disappeared and then Jimmy and I got a little scared and decided to have
a walk around a little strip of stores we had passed on the way in.
We went to a musical instruments store down the block. The guy working there
was maybe in his fifties, but he looked strong, and had some quality of
sculpture about his face. Not chiseled, but paper-machied. He opened the door
for us because it was locked, even though they were open. His hair looked like
there was shoe polish in it and his store was walls and walls of acoustic
guitars. I think we were hoping for some weird old pedals that the old man,
ignorant to their experimental applications, might sell us for cheap, but it
was all acoustic guitars and drum parts. Also, he started talking to us,
telling us with rising passion in his voice about how Jimi Hendrix came to this
store in the fifties and got his guitar fixed there and how this guy and his
family were fixing all the big stars’ guitars and now you’ve got Guitar Center
and the big box stores and so just to stay competitive he has to sell these
shitty Mexican-made guitars for one hundred and eighty dollars and do you know
how much profit there is on selling one of these Mexican guitars for one
hundred and eighty dollars? It’s like seventeen dollars. The old man was
getting increasingly louder as he talked. Then he said something about girls
that I didn’t really catch, and don’t remember at all, but relieved me of
feeling any further obligation to politely delay our exit. We found Jenny at a
Goodwill and she had picked out another dress for me, since I gave the blue one
I had in Chicago away to a girl in the crowd that asked for it. There was a guy
at Goodwill carrying around a huge knife in a super creepy way. Jimmy and I
told Jenny it was a good thing she didn’t come to the musical instruments place
with us, but I can’t remember exactly what it was we thought the old man had
said about girls.
The three of us walked back to the barbecue house. The grill was going. I asked
BJ from the band Noon Duet if the burgers they were grilling were for
everybody, and he said I could totally have one. But then this one guy who had
his daughter with him was totally going to give his daughter two hamburgers and
me no hamburgers at all. It was weird. She was like nine at the most, and I
guess she was saying she wanted to eat two hamburgers, and I was totally
waiting until everybody who wanted one got one before I snatched my own, but
when the coast looked clear and I rolled up the dude made this big deal like I
was taking a burger away from his daughter. EVEN THOUGH SHE HAD ONE IN FRONT OF
HER THAT SHE HADN’T FINISHED. I wanted to be all like, “Dude, this is a perfect
opportunity to teach your daughter about sharing,” but I didn’t say anything.
THEN he took out some secret fries and he and his daughter ate them and he
didn’t offer them to anybody else. Jimmy saw the secret fries, too. I don’t
know who that guy was and I don’t know why it heated me up so much but goddamn,
at the time it felt like the whole world had turned upside down.
We drank a lot of Red Bull on this tour. Jimmy has a friend that works for Red
Bull and got us “sponsored” by Red Bull, which meant we got a few cases of Red
Bull for free—and I’ve seen those cases at Supermarkets, they’re fucking
expensive—and that’s it. We didn’t have to mention Red Bull or drink it on
stage or hang up some banner or anything. It was great.
There was a Benihanas near the school auditorium we were
playing in Milwaukee. I had never been to Benihanas and I got the rest of the
team to say they’d go with me, but then they dropped out one by one so I ate at
Benihanas by myself. I had one of those big Asahis. Maybe I had two. I ate a
bunch of sushi while watching groups of post-college professionals in their casual
wear make small talk with each other.
I walked back to Wehr Hall, where the show was going down, crossing over a
rickety bridge and trying to smother the suggestion which had appeared in my
head and suggested that I throw all the money banded up in my camera case out
over the side and into the water. I got to the show and had some Coronas and
played a set which wasn’t bad but definitely felt like either a 1) support slot
at a college show set or 2) a
end-of-tour-is-sort-of-in-sight-but-not-close-enough set, or both.
The show ended without incident and we packed up our stuff
to go play acoustic sets at the Cactus Club. BJ had invited us down to do it,
and we kind of thought it was going to be a completely off-the-cuff, casual,
fireside type thing but it turned out to be kind of an event. I mean, people
were there to see us (to see Ben and Jenny, actually) play acoustic. I drank
four hard ciders, then I think Joan H. went on first, and I ran out to the car
to get my minidisk player to record the sets but couldn’t find it and ended up
missing her Steely Dan cover, which made me feel like a douchebag. Jenny went
next and everybody in the audience flipped out. It was maybe 40 people but it
was a small room and really late at night so it felt like a much bigger deal
than I think any of us had envisioned. It had been written up in the Onion,
too, which is maybe how people heard about it. Ben played next and did the most
songs of any of us. People were really excited and gave him requests. I went
last and did “You Kiss” and a cover (“Moon”) and I think that’s it. I felt like
I totally botched it up but Jimmy told me he was jealous that I could go up and
do that. I think I botched it up, though. Ben was really good acoustic.
At the Motel 6 I drank a Corona in the bathtub.
we went to Minneapolis
This was the night Nick came up with the crazy dance where
he jacks up his pants and rolls up the legs and wigs out.
Atlanta had bummed me out but the show in Minneapolis made
me want to die times ten. After my set, I went into the van and called
virtually everyone in my cell phone. Nobody was home. The club, 7th
Street Entry, was really stingy with the drinks, too, even though we had sold
out their club, and Ben vowed never to play that place again with any of his
bands. I was thinking about calling Erik at Kork and telling him to maybe take
a break on booking me in Minneapolis at all for the next few years, but later
on I would be glad I didn’t. Erik is a smart guy anyway, I doubt he would have
really listened to me. I mean, he would have listened to me, but he wouldn’t
have stopped booking me in Minneapolis. It was my fourth show in Minneapolis.
At my third show, there was some article in the paper about Tigerbeat6 and the
Paws Across America tour that ended with a plea for Kid606 to kill me. To
actually MURDER me. I don’t know what crazy retard thought that would make any
sense ----I mean, we’re friends, and up to that point Miguel (606) had put out
all my albums, why would he kill me? In any case, it bummed me out big time.
But the show on the Postal Service tour bummed me more. I called everybody and
nobody was home.
The winner of the best hospitality spread of the tour: Atlanta. Here’s a
picture of Lil Rob and some of the food we got backstage. I took this picture
before the show started so some of the very food in this picture was later
puked up. (Also, sorry if it’s confusing that I’m now giving you all these
pictures out of sequence, i.e.: this is a picture from Atlanta in the middle of
the story of Minneapolis. I don’t really know why I didn’t include these
pictures at the appropriate place within the previous parts of this ‘tour
diary,’ but I am guessing that the slap pictures and the Cross-eyed Crooner
shots had seemed to set the bar so high that these guys didn’t seem so great to
me while I was assembling parts 1 & 2. Secondly, I know the ending of this,
the third and final installment of the tour diary, I know the ending is going
to be kind of anti-climactic so I’m trying to maybe compensate with photos. I’m
in Portland, Oregon right now typing this into my laptop and the Postal Service
tour seems like it happened last year, even though it happened four months
Oh yeah, and I guess I saw a little Hee Haw in the basement of the 7th
Street, too, with some weird local girl who was really, REALLY stoked on
herself, and her friend. I think I forgot all about her the next day, but I
think they with the first band that opened up. I don’t remember them very well
at all but I wrote in my crazy book that these two girls in the basement of the
7th Street were totally, TOTALLY stoked on themselves. Also, Jenny
got sort of sexually harassed and then fifteen minutes later was feeling like
it was her fault, and like she didn’t want to hurt the harasser’s feelings.
Nick, Ben, Rob, and I grabbed her shoulders and shook her a bit, trying to tell
her she should feel rage, not guilt, but I don’t think we helped at all.
04/26/03 when we went to Omaha
Jenny was a total spazz all day in the car. She was SO excited
about Omaha. I guess that it’s her home away from LA because the label her band
Rilo Kiley is on is out of Omaha and something of a dynasty there. I don’t know
if it was the bummer sauce I’d slathered on the night before, but after a while
I started getting the feeling I was a stowaway on the USS Somebody Else’s
Party. I was pretty quiet in the van. We ate at a Thai restaurant and I was
pretty quiet there, too.
The show went really well, though. My set did, at least.
The show as in this wide basement called the Sokol Underground and there were
some bona fide Cex kids there. The rest of the heads, most of whom looked
straight off the Makeout Club, seemed really down as well.
By the end of the Postal Service’s set I had imbibed six free Smirnoff Black
Ice drinks and didn’t feel buzzed at all, but the moment I put my lips to the
seventh, opaque splotches sprung up in front of my eyes and I was instantly
immersed in a migraine. I stumbled from the merch table to the green room and
crashed on the couch until everything had been loaded out. It wasn’t much time,
but having my eyes closed for even just a little while helped me clear out some
of the ghosts obscuring my sight and gave me the strength to walk to the
convenience store and get some water.
All I could think about was getting to a motel and sleeping off the rest of my
migraine so I could see and speak properly again, but on the ride back to the
motel I got the impression Jenny was bummed about the show—that it hadn’t lived
up to her expectations of Omaha or something. I would have tried to investigate
more but in my migrained condition I didn’t really have the tools for good
bonding at my disposal.
we went to Denver
Jenny, Jimmy, Rob, and I walked down the street looking
for food when we saw two little girls in bizarre belly-dancing costumes dip
into what looked like a long-vacant building sandwiched between two empty lots.
Puzzled and amused, we followed them into the building Alice-style to find a
fully functioning Moroccan restaurant and a fantastic five-course meal complete
with B+ belly dancing and an authentic Moroccan waiter spinning glasses of
water around on his arm.
Primary among the minor misfortunes besetting the actual
show in Denver, it happened to be the last thing between us and our two big
Seattle shows—Seattle having the singular distinction of the cities on this
tour of being the only one where Ben and Nick’s houses are. It’s unfortunate,
but it’s unavoidable with shows at the end of a tour. There’s no way to be more
psyched about yet another set in yet another town than you are about your bed
and your stuff and your mail and a breath.
The other problem, which would have made me want to die
had I not shared everyone else’s impatient indifference to anything other than
the impending 20-some hour drive to Seattle ahead of us, was that the club we
played had a volume restriction imposed on it by the city. A really shitty and
quiet volume restriction. During my set the sound guy had to keep a decibel
meter in front of him and pull down the faders whenever my output got above a
certain level. Which resulted in a very oppressive atmosphere (there were cops
walking around, too, which was weird and which Lil Rob felt made a big
contribution to the tight-assedness of the vibe), and a quiet, embarrassing
set. I should have just gone acapella after the first song or two, but I tried
to soldier through it and got mostly utter confusion and maybe some pity from
the crowd for my efforts. Really--- it was comically bad. The Cex that Aquarius
Records has been following all these years is the Cex that showed up in Denver
with the Postal Service. There were some kids who pow-wowed with me by the
stage right after the set, though, and shot good vibes into my system and
quelled any depression that might have boiled its way up past my pre-Seattle
obliviousness. After that, I changed my pants and slipped through the crowd,
who seemed to be OK with the unspoken contract of minimal effort from all
parties involved – bands, audience, staff, everyone— which lay gently over top
of the night.
I made my way to the front lobby where the merch was set
up and sat down to write in my crazy book when this high-maintenance chick in a
high-maintenance-chick hat walked out of the bathroom and wiped out. Just blam!
right on the floor, on her back. She seemed awake but waaaay gone for a few
minutes, until she suddenly snapped upright and turned normal and started
telling the cop hovering above her that she felt fine and was going to go home.
The cop wouldn’t let her move, though, and called the paramedics, who showed up
shortly, parking their ambulance on the sidewalk in front of the venue. The
wipe-out girl was standing not fifteen feet from the merch table and Lil Rob
and I had a perfect view of one EMT lecturing her while another EMT stared at
her tits. It was so flagrant. It seemed almost fake but it wasn’t. We couldn’t
contain our laughter.
After the drama dissipated I got back into my crazy book
and started meditating on my plans for the rest of the year. I wrote:
“1) sell as many of my possessions as possible (cds, stuff, shit, studio gear,
2) go to Europe, Australia, Japan
3) actually do #2”
A month before the Postal Service tour began I had some grand schemes about a
fall tour which would put me in Europe for four or five weeks, then Australia
for two more, then Japan for two, all back to back. Then maybe six weeks in the
US. I was super gung-ho about it until the Postal Service tour started winding
down. I figured that part of my faltering confidence in this dreamy uber-tour
was all the money I had been accumulating from the almost-always sold out PS
shows making me soft. One way to combat that, I knew, would be to spend a
shitload of it on new gear. Portable gear. Get rid of everything that couldn’t
be hauled around with me on the road. Touring used to stress me out because I
was far from home and the people I loved there, but after I ran away from
Baltimore and felt like I no longer had a home to be far from, my main beef
with touring was that I couldn’t finish new songs from the road. By the end of
every tour I was so sick of the songs I had been playing that I never wanted to
hear them again. But a completely portable studio could nix that problem
altogether, and I could maybe stay on the road for months, eating up cities---
gorging on roads and fields and mountains and trees, devouring new places, new
buildings, new people, new friends. If I could move and write, I’d never get full, never get bored, never have to stop
moving and empty myself out alone at home.
PUNK ROCK IS ABOUT CHANGING THE WORLD!
PUNK ROCK is about CHANGING THE WORLD,
where is your punk rock safe,
and why are you still there?
we drove to Seattle
Oh my god, we were in the car for almost 20 hours. We stopped to eat and pee,
of course, but never for very long. I don’t know how any of us would have lived
if it weren’t for Stars of the Lid. I don’t know how I would have not cried if
it weren’t for Stars of the Lid and a relaxed attitude about occasional drug
I used to be really against it, back in high school. Well, for like a year I
was really against it, which is pretty typical I guess. Now I don’t know what I
am. I guess my main thing is avoiding having any kind of mental mantra or rule
which can be summed up in a few words.
04/29/03 our first day in Seattle
I forget where we took this picture--- it was pretty early in the tour, though.
It’s amazing how much time you spend at gas stations on a tour.
The ~three days we spent in Seattle are kind of a blur to me, squished together
with each other and with the three days I would spend in Seattle less than two
months later, when the Dismemberment Plan kidnapped me and brought me to the
Pacific Northwest shows of their farewell tour.
Jimmy, Jenny, and I watched a few DVDs at Ben’s house and went to thrift stores
in Capitol Hill. I hung out a little with my friend Lucianne who is an
astrophysicist and who I accidentally murdered in the liner notes of my second
album, OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN! I bought THE FRAGILE at a used CD store.
Here’s Rob painting that girl’s nails black in Arkansas.
picture I took of Jimmy in New York City.
The Postal Service’s first show ever, in San Diego, CA.
04/30/03 our second day in Seattle
05/01/03 when we went to Portland
People talked all through my set in Portland. I kind of want to partially blame
the layout of the particular club we played, but shirking the blame isn’t going
to make me a better performer. Some people liked it. My head was elsewhere.
After I got off stage I spent the rest of the show writing in my crazy book. I
went off for a few straight pages. Not all of it makes sense.
“There was a big stretch post-DC where it was just turned
off. I switched it off. Mostly the same way I had switched it off before (in
July/June/May of 2002--- which holds, I believe, the record for longest period
of celibacy for me since age 15. I’m not bragging, I’m asking you, ‘help us,
all of us,’ etc.) The same way being by being supergeneradismal over a girl who
I asked to marry me. I mean, that’s not all of it. It’s been tough and that’s
helped, but I’m also making a concerted effort here not to be an asshole. And
maybe it’s because I don’t think that any concerted effort like that on my part
would ever be enough to stop me from doing asshole things to those I love, but
for whatever reason, despite the fact that I have been technically(?),
legally(?), reasonably(?), materially(?) GOOD, I do not feel good.
“I do not feel like a good boyfriend or a good person. I feel the opposite. I
think that the reason I do not feel good is because of the lesson I had printed
indelibly across my brain during the previous summer, the summer of 2002, which
I spent alone in my grandmother’s apartment, curling free-weights I had bought
from Target, completely unable to escape the pulsing, glowing red truth
emanating from all the tired boygirl Baltimore melodrama from which I could not
find a way to extract myself. Showing 24/7 across the inside of my skull were
these words, this lesson: ‘YOU’RE NOT A SAINT, YOU’RE SCARED.’
“But I grabbed the whip out of his hand and hit
myself even harder. I dug a hole and when I couldn’t keep all the light out of
it, I ran west across the map, trying to outrace the sun, to find somewhere
“I used to do what I wanted, I used to kiss the girl if I wanted to kiss her
because I knew if I didn’t, it wasn’t because I was good, it was because I was scared.
I hated feeling paralyzed. I felt like acting,
even acting bad, would make me infinitely happier than all the frozen people
around me, all the excuse-makers, all the flakes neck-deep in denial. I’d take
the most actingest action first available: taking time to deliberate or decide
could mean falling into a black hole, hesitation and doubt breeding litters of
children in my head. I know I’m too susceptible to the comforts of delusion;
I’m paranoid about falling asleep and sinking into complete irrelevance.
Movement is the only defense I know. Move, and try as hard as you can to make
tangible things to leave behind you, mark where you’ve been. If you can’t make
a tangible thing, do something you can write about that people will read.
Written words are at least more tangible than spoken ones. They stay written,
they don’t deteriorate. When I began to suspect delusion or inertia in those
around me, I didn’t take the time for a trial, for deliberation. I booked.
“And where did this take me, what did I become? I write in a journal about how
right I am. I scream into a hole, a tiny little hole. I write and I tour, I
pretend saying what I write in front of a crowd makes it better, makes it real.
I tour. I go wherever I can paint my caricatures uninterrupted by anyone who
might question their accuracy.
“It’s May 1st, four full months since I left Maryland. I have paid
off all my financial debts, I have a girlfriend who is maybe the most popular
girl in the SF hipster music scene right now, and I haven’t cheated on her, I
have two roommates who will need something like $650 or $700 a month from me
for the next six months, I have a booking agent bending over backwards to
accommodate my constantly shifting fears and crises, I have a pair of
publicists and a friend in Portland who have helped me release a new record
that’s been received (so far) way better than any of my previous attempts at
making a record with me on the cover. I have another record ready to come out
in the fall, I have shows whenever I want them and possibly no shows if I don’t
want them, although I’ve been afraid thus far to find out if I can really ask
for no shows and live.
“And I write. And I cannot seem to stop the transparency from worsening, from
spreading across my skin.
“That’s not why I booked.
“Why did I feel faced with this decision:
“MUSIC or ELIZABETH
“And that was even before
I had learned what it was like to be the one at home for four weeks, when
Indra went away to Europe with Numbers. Before I knew exactly what it’s like to be the lucky one who gets to sit by the
phone and wait. To go to work and come home and wait. To swallow every ‘look at
or ‘guess what I heard!’
04/30/03 our second day in Seattle
I was backstage writing in my crazy book when Jenny lay
down on the couch. I was sitting there with my legs crossed, scribbling in my
notebook while she talked, facing the wall to the right of the one I was
looking at. She told me about this guy who had been draining her psychically,
part monster, part anchor, part widely adored singer-songwriter. I tried to help,
telling her that he was a boy and probably would not change, and even if he
did, it wasn’t going to come in some lightning bolt. If it came at all it would
most likely be gradual, with a lot of steps forward and almost as many steps
back--- a process that would require Jenny to put her life on total pause if
she wanted to still be there and be sane when this guy came around. If he ever
did. I was talking to her and trying to be helpful, and as soon as my mouth
closed around my last words to her, “Don’t sweat it,” I realized who I had been
05/01/03 when we went to Portland
“During my fall tour last year I realized that if I were
to be with Elizabeth, it would have to be 100%, no mistakes, no holes, no
snags. I had so much to make up for. I couldn’t possibly expect to rebuild six
years of trust around a touring schedule. And not touring—that would be
effectively checking out of the real-sweat-real-body philosophy of music I had
touted so hard for my few brief years in the game. But otherwise, I’d be asking
her to pause. Asking anyone to pause
should be out of the question, much less somebody that meant so much to me.
“I had six weeks of fall tour to prepare myself for a confusing, premature exit
from the hustle. To figure out how to line everyone up and say, ‘I need out for
a while. But not because I’m scared.’ I wanted to figure out a way to say, ‘But
not because I’m scared’ and have people believe it. And by people I don’t mean
my four or five adoring fans, I mean: Miguel, Jessica, David, Jeremy, Erik,
Grunge, Jason, Craig.
“I wanted to call the tour ‘Tour to Regret’ but Miguel had the posters made
bearing the ‘Paws Across America’ title already.
“My plan was to tour like there was no future, and that’s
pretty much how it went down. I opened my mouth and drink went down, drugs went
down, kids got naked, clubs got kissed in. I can’t really tell that story well
yet, though. I’m not far enough from it. I hope one day Indra’s polaroids get
put in a book, because they tell that story better than I ever could.
“I came home for a few miserable, stupid days and took off
for the west coast abruptly. The day after Elizabeth’s birthday. I had six
weeks to figure out a way to say, ‘I’m not checking out because I’m scared,
because I can’t handle the work, the time on the road, the criticism and the
reviews and the heckling and the hate--- I can handle those things. I can. I
could eat it up and vomit albums back in your face far longer than anyone could
actually dish that shit out.’
“I needed a way to say, ‘I’m not quitting because I’m
scared, it’s because I’m trying to be a saint.’ But I don’t even believe in
saints--- why would anyone believe me? Music, which might not ever make me
happy –-fuck that, which only ever works when I’m not happy, hating the words that just came out of my mouth and
trying to say the last thing I’ll ever say—
There were three more shows after that. I didn’t touch my crazy book at any of
them. The tour ended with a different band playing between Postal Service and
I, which shouldn’t have made us feel physically separated, but it did. It felt
like it had already ended and we missed it. And then suddenly, it was really
over, and I was driving back to Oakland in a different van that didn’t have any
of the Postal Service in it, driving “home” with a bunch of money and this
notebook with my picture taped to the front. We didn’t even think to judge our
crazy books –-we barely got to say goodbye. Jennifer Love Hewitt came to our
last show in LA but she didn’t talk to anybody in the bands.
Rob, the van, and our stuff on the first day of the Postal Service & Cex
tour. April 4th, 2003.
By Rjyan Kidwell