Brittle Stars 2000 East Coast Tour Diary

[Hey, only 11 years late. Found this rummaging through some old files. With the title “Tour diary – achingly detailed version”, you know it’s gonna be riveting.]

March 2nd. Day zero we abandon our tour vehicle

The night before there was sort of an omen when I couldn’t get the van started in the parking lot of the grocery store. The engine would turn over, but just wouldn’t start and eventually the battery wore down from trying. Josh had to come out and we jumped it for a few minutes and it started fine.

March 3rd @ Above Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Athens, GA w/ Bug Eat Books, the Phones

Josh borrowed the van to load it in the morning while Estelle and I were at work. When I got home around 12:30 I got a call from Josh, stranded at a different grocery store (same problem), but when Estelle and I got there to pick him up he’d already somehow got the van started and brought it home. I noticed he’d left some interior lights on and we figured that had drained the battery and there wasn’t anything wrong so we finished loading and went back to my house to get more of my stuff. When it happened the 3rd time trying to leave for Estelle’s, a call to my dad left us w/ the info that “there’s a trick to starting it,” but this didn’t work and Estelle had to come over again to jump us.

We knew we had a serious problem on our hands, but we finished at her house, van running, and took off to Athens around 2:00 with the intent of not stopping until the venue. We figured we could make the show and would have time to worry about it the next morning w/ such a short drive to Duke. So we were off and excited and within 5 or 10 minutes the van started to chug and gasp, like it wasn’t getting fuel, going up a little hill. Once we reached the plateau it ran a little smoother, but I noticed the heat gauge was as far as it could go into the red. We just made it to a nearby gas station before it finally stalled crossing the street and we had to frantically push it the rest of the way w/ oncoming traffic!

By this point we were pretty sure we weren’t going to make Athens, but we called every rental place in town looking for a van without luck. That week had UF’s spring break, Fat Tuesday in New Orleans (a big draw for UF students), and Harley bike week in Daytona! The van was towed to Estelle’s where we did more calling, thinking, trying to find a van almost anywhere near central FL, but there was no luck and Dan and Heather were already on their way from Jacksonville to Athens. Estelle and I got the van over to a local shop but they said they couldn’t even look at it until 9 the next morning, so we left it and headed back to Estelle’s to make some more calls.

With some time to think clearly Josh had thought up the idea of touring in a rental car, borrowing drums and bass equipment from the bands we were to play with. After a few minutes of rest we decided to go for it and hit the airport’s rental area. We based our decision on trunk space and left with a Buick Regal, power everything and wood accents. The “It’s like a ski lodge in here” joke would be later run into the ground. We had to totally repack everything and leave a lot behind and save room for Dan, but still we were pretty packed in there with 70 (I think) freshly printed band shirts all over the place. We took off driving at 9 or so and finally reached Sarah’s house around 3, the Jackson 5 doing most of the work of keeping Josh awake. With part of the interstate closed, we went through the strangest and seemingly out-of-the way detour route, of course in the pouring rain. Dan and heather told us a bunch of people showed up from Atlanta and so Sarah had promised a morning after house show. Estelle was shocked to realize her repacking had tragically left her only 1 pair of pajamas. We were dead tired.

March 4th @ Duke Coffeehouse, Durham, NC w/ Barcelona

The next morning Sarah, Josh and I grabbed some stuff from the local supermarket (out came more ski lodge-wood accents jokes) and we had a big breakfast-making party with delicious banana pancakes and veggie gravy. When the ping pong action died down and we noticed we were running late we set our instruments up and played a short, but fun show of only 4 or 5 songs in front of maybe 20 Athens kids. At least from where I was standing it sounded really good, the best sound of the tour just playing in the dining room with everyone peeking in from the living room. Bren from the Masters of the Hemisphere had come into town and they quickly setup and played right after us, tight and professional after something like 7 months of separation! Their cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent” was especially moving and had Sean really belting it out – it really moved us. We didn’t get to see their last couple songs, having to pack and run off, but they played our request “Meteor” and wished us well. It was probably by this day that Josh’s “yo” had officially been stolen by all members, and Josh’s subsequent use of the phrase “Are you stealin’ my ‘yo’?” was rampant.

We rolled into Durham around 6 or 7, Stevie Wonder soothing, and I think it was the coldest it was to be for the entire tour, probably in the low 60’s. We found the Duke coffeehouse but almost no one was there and it was obvious nothing was going on for awhile so we headed into town and overstuffed ourselves with pizza. We found a flyer that billed us as Gainesville’s answer to Lush, My Bloody Valentine, and the Cocteau Twins. My big joke was that our answer was “no.” We returned and loaded our stuff inside and chatted with Barcelona’s drummer, Christian, and keyboard player. We found out there was to be two sort of separate shows, the 1st being this young, local trio, the Runes, playing classic rock covers, and the 2nd (with a slightly raised cover charge and long intermission in between) was us then Barcelona. Before the Runes played they let a random, kinda out-of-it skate punk kid who walked up kick about 2 Led Zeppelin guitar riffs incessantly for at least an hour, maybe two. The Runes played just about every classic rock song you could think of, ranging from Zep and U2 to Zep, U2, and Stone Temple Pilots, and, in rock fashion, opened and closed with the same original song, the closer more “rockingly.” As nice as they were they played for what seemed like two hours and it put us all in the weirdest mood almost like the whole show was a joke.

The stage was unnecessarily grand and was equipped with a catwalk, which we could only imagine was for blazing rock solos or fashion models. The minute we were setup the lights went out and we had nothing but a bright spotlight shining directly into our eyes and a sense that either there was an audience watching (completely silently), or perhaps an interrogation committee. The sound onstage was absolutely horrific and after the 1st song the whole situation was surreal and embarrassing. I felt like we were in the humiliation scene of some awkward teenage coming-of-age comedy as Estelle and I could barely stop cracking up! Unfortunately it set the mood for the rest of the performance, which felt equally ill at ease and off-balance to me. Evidently the sound wasn’t all that bad off-stage from what people told us, and Barcelona sounded fine. Unfortunately I spent most of their set in intense stomach pain, which probably contributed to/fed off of my nervousness during our performance. After the show I probably spent the most time apologizing to random people for our performance like a fool and we eventually met Kate (or Katie?) from Duke’s radio station and who’d helped us setup the show. She was super nice and let us crash on the floor of her Chapel Hill apartment decked out with a bunch of really neat poster prints.

March 5th

Kate directed us to this wonderful breakfast place (the Diner?) in Chapel Hill and after mischievously leaving some plastic drink container on the hood of some truck (we were real rebels in a hurry) we headed back to Durham. We broke out Dan’s super pop and shoegaze mixtape and hit the main drag where pretty much everything was beautiful. Coming into DC the Innocence Mission tape had everyone in a good mood and finally the laptop was broken out w/ Josh and I making ourselves sick trying to play Ghouls and Ghosts with keyboard controls. We also had our 1st big argument over whether or not were going to Ikea the next day and I was starting to feel the crunch of the back seat, being completely covered with shirts and our sleeping stuff. Josh talked about his family and of when he lived in DC. We found Jason Barcelona’s place in Arlington right before nightfall and we walked with him to a nice little Sushi restaurant near his house and we heard all the crazy new schemes of Trevor Holland and rumors of over-the-top drinking involving an unnamed Japanese band who had recently toured. Jason wasn’t up for bowling, but gave us some directions to an alley where we later found how cheap we were at the time. Actually we opted to tour DC at night for free instead of paying $6/person just to get inside the bowling alley. We quickly tuned into a local station playing “GoGo,” which evidently is popular almost exclusively in DC. It’s a mix of upbeat rhythm and blues w/ jazzy vocals and MCs, almost all done live in hype-the-crowd fashion. Several really strange covers were heard as we basically wandered around trying to find the White House. Eventually we saw the Washington Monument and parked a few blocks away from the White House, where I’ve never seen so many homeless concentrated in one area. Estelle took some goofy photos of us in front and we circled around back where Josh asked a local cop about how long it’d take them to get him if he jumped the gate. He also yelled for Chelsea, but I guess she was refusing to see him at the moment.

March 6th @ The Galaxy Hut, Arlington, VA w/ Barcelona

We started the day with a visit of the Now! Music and Fashion store where most of us paid too much for CDs, then we followed it w/ an Estelle-appeasing trip to IKEA, the Swedish megastore, but she was disappointed to find no fabrics. We then wandered around this mall that was so enormous it had districts and its own closed circuit TV channel showing a barrage of ads and clips from wretched in-mall karaoke. We indulged in some huge smoothies and I freaked out finding a Legos (only) store with scale replicas of the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol Building. Did a bit of shopping in Georgetown and after a quick and predictably disappointing jaunt through some Tower/Virgin record store we found our rental car with the back left tire flat. We had to unload every piece of luggage and equipment onto the side walk to get to the spare, but we changed it successfully and headed back to Jason’s. The rental company told us they’d cover the cost of a patch so Estelle and I left the car at a nearby station, toured a little two story thrift store and a music store and came back. The station said since the leak was on the wall, we’d have to replace the tire for probably $80. We went back home and called the rental place for more options and we decided to get up super early the next morning and swap the vehicle out at the airport.

That evening we pretty much gave in to using band money to eat on and we went all out at this uppity Italian restaurant and Estelle got all embarrassed when I asked how much the tea was and then declined. I ended up ordering it, and of course it was hot tea, which I don’t care for.

The Galaxy Hut was pretty small, but they must have a good set of locals because when we set up the place was pretty packed. We played in the front window with no stage and everything pretty cramped, but I felt a lot more comfortable being directly in front of the audience and I think we played pretty well – Everyone agreed much better than the Duke show. After our set the guy from Splendid E-zine interviewed us in front of the club with loud cars rushing by (not much got on tape). He told us Jeff and Tina of Hub City couldn’t come out because Jeff got some food poisoning. Barcelona sounded punchier in this setting and w/o the awful stomach pain I enjoyed them a lot more. Afterwards was more running back and forth to the car to sell t-shirts and CDs, but it was nice that a few people told us that their friends at Duke called especially to recommend they come out and see us.

March 7th @ Brownies, NYC w/ Garlands, Mahogany and My Favorite

Dan and I made the ultimate sacrifice and got up around 5 or 6 to drive to the airport. I was navigating so we lucked our way into DC and after a few missteps made it to the airport. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a single gas station all the way there so we ended up getting screwed on their $3.60 per gallon charge to refill our tank. The plan was to try to swap for a van but the only thing available was another, even bigger, town car, a Buick Regal, which had even more trunk space and wood accents! Leaving DC we stopped at the place where the stairs scene in The Exorcist was filmed and took some cheesy band shots there. The road leading out of DC was beautiful and rural, however the gas prices were outrageous. $1.90 a gallon and no Chevrons in site. At this point in the journey we listened to Dan’s latest purchase, a CD of the ‘60s psych pop band Tomorrow and Josh couldn’t keep from singing, “Three…jolly little dwarves, sitting on a toadstool!” Driving into New York about all we could find on the radio was this ridiculous speed metal station with hot licks galore.

At this point we all agreed Josh should be the NYC driver and it was a big relief for the rest of us, though I still did quite a lot of complaining about his hotrodding. We crossed a bridge, came through some tunnel and ended up in Manhattan somehow. We headed straight for Brownies and found a good parking spot a few blocks away. It was early afternoon and just cool enough for jackets. Brownies wasn’t open yet so we hit yet another Urban Outfitters (1st was in Georgetown) and found the favorite Indian Restaurant (to Estelle’s dismay) with the heavily decorate ceiling, “Panna II” I believe. More walking around, but we didn’t go far and eventually as it got dark we checked in at Brownies where a few of the Garlands guys were already, and moved our car in the best spot right across the street. Jill Shelflife showed up pretty early too, but I didn’t completely recognize her until a little later. Brownies was pretty rough on equipment since the stage was only big enough for one band, but the sound was good and it wasn’t too smoky. Mahogany showed up and they took awhile, understandably, to set up all their stuff, which included an enormous patchwork of cables and electronics and four big, beautiful Fender amps.

Mahogany played first and the sound of the two 12-string electrics coming through 4 amps was like a rushing breeze of sound that was enveloping and exhilarating. And quite beautiful.

[The following was added Jan 4, 2010, so it’s a lot foggy.]

March 8th @ The Flywheel, EastHampton, MA w/ My Place in Space

We were somehow under the impression that Easthampton was “near Boston” so we were pretty disappointed to find ourselves seemingly in the middle of nowhere playing a deserted college town on student break. Back in 2000 the Flywheel was a bit shabby, operating out of a “long vacant cabinet store“. We had fun playing to maybe a dozen people tops, but afterwards we were kind of guilted into paying $10 (IIRC half what we were paid) for a now legendarily bad VHS recording of our performance with unlistenable audio and constant cycling through every special effects filter on the camera. I’d love to know if this tape still exists.

After playing we thought we could make it back to NYC but ended up springing for an $80 hotel room along the way, putting us $70 in the hole for the day.

March 9th @ La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA w/ The Skywriters

In Philly I remember driving past endless stretches of abandoned buildings. Of course I had a cheese steak sandwich which was good, not amazing. La Salle for some reason treated us like royalty, paying us more than all the other shows combined and giving us a private grab-what-you’d-like tour of one of their snack stores before the show. I vaguely remember us playing well to maybe 20-30 people, and we got to see Mario and Tricia earlier. We left thinking we need to book all on-campus shows next time, and I think someone later found out that they changed their policies to pay (no name at least) bands less.

March 10th, 2000 @ The Firebelly Lounge, Wilmington, NC w/ Pacer

I just don’t remember much about this day or the show…

3 thoughts on “Brittle Stars 2000 East Coast Tour Diary

  1. Dan says:

    Steve, thanks for the fine memories – lots of laughs in here. Quite brilliant, and an accurate assessment of the tour. To fill in some commentary on the latter part of the tour:
    Brownies, NYC — amazing show. Mahogany killed it. Garlands was incredibly friendly, also sounded great. My Favorite also killed it. We also played great – best show of the tour, by far, IMO. I felt like a rock star on stage – this was NYC and we were playing to an absolutely PACKED room. It felt pretty fantastic. I recall a sort of downstairs room below the stage for the bands to hang out. It was dirty and dimly lit, and we were all tired. Jen Turrell drove up from someplace far away – DC, maybe? – because she couldn’t catch us whenever we had played there. That helped fuel the rock star feeling, plus she was crazy cute that night and I had a major crush going.
    Flywheel, EastHampton — My recollection here was not that we “had fun” or even that we played to a dozen people. I remember there being virtually, literally, NOBODY there except the other bands. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But it felt really pointless to even be playing. I think we were all super bummed after leaving NYC, and thinking the whole way over that we should just have stayed in NYC and bailed on the show — before we even arrived. As far as I know, Estelle ended up with the VHS tape, basically to ensure that nobody’s eyes, including the rest of the band members’, would ever witness it. The performance was pretty terrible, from what I recollect.
    LaSalle, Philly — not much to add, the exhorbitant fee we were paid about sums it up. I remember thinking Philly was a really dirty shithole.
    Firebelly Lounge, Wilmington — I remember wondering if Katie Holmes was going to show up (this was Dawson’s Creek heyday — they filmed the show here), but instead a bunch of drunken sailors showed up – quite literally, like a dozen or two navy dudes in white duds with their hats and all, boozing it up at the bar. It seemed like despite a fair sized crowd, absoolutely nobody was watching the bands except we watched each other, politely clapping. Kim and Jeremy (?) from Pacer were very nice.
    Looking forward to the reunion tour!


  2. estelle says:

    Awesome diary Steve! Really took me back and filled in some very foggy memories. One thing I remember well though, that is not clarified in here, I alone changed that flat tire. :) hehehhee
    Oh and by the way, I definitely don’t have the weird vhs tape – never even got to see it (thank goodness).


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