I am tripped out when we pull up to The Culture Room. Travis and I played here four years ago on the very last tour we did together opening shows for Robbie Krieger. That tour was such a nightmare that I never thought I would ever return to the club. It was the place where the evil tour manager showed up with a bags of Harley Davidson clothes and asked us to wear the t-shirts onstage so we could keep the jackets. "Fuck no," Travis said, and the guy ignored the store's request to return the merchandise after the show. When I remind Travis of this he says," Oh, yeah. Get ready. We're goin back to ALL the old places."
At sound check, it gets tense between Travis and I. After years of getting the vibe so easy, Travis and I have been having a hard time communicating things and getting on the same page. It is equally hard for Malcolm who is getting to know us both for the first time and who has his own way of playing music. Travis and Malcolm have also done a handful of shows with Paul Culligan on drums and they are both anxious for us to fall into the vibe that they had built on the last tour. Ultimately, time and playing a few shows will bring us to the right place. But will it happen by tonight? I'm a little worried.
I turn on my mystical antennae for any signs to guide me. The soundman is from Louisville. Bingo! He tells me that Buster Brown (famous 80's Louisville band) used to have an inside joke about a kind of cow tipping they invented that involved sticking the fuzzy end of a mop up the ass of the cow. The soundman waits for me to laugh but I am stunned to silence. Is this the omen? Is this…mystical?
"Fuzzy end up," the soundman says again and laughs.
Before the show I decide to walk from the hotel down Route One to get my mind ready. As I walk out of my hotel room, Travis is walking out of his.
"I'm going to get coffee," I say.
"I'm going to get cigarettes," he says.
At this point, I know you could accuse me of enabling. I wouldn't argue, but with so much intensity around our first tour in four years, it had crossed my mind that this might not be the most optimal time for Travis to quit smoking. I am fine bumming Nocorette, but I'm not going to draw a hard line about smoking with a guy who is clearly going through a lot to get back out with the band. As it turns out, when it appears that there is no place nearby to get cigarettes, Travis heads back to finish getting ready. When the van picks me up on Route one 30 minutes later, Travis is chewing Nicorette.
"I need to say this to you guys which means I need to say this to myself," says Travis. "We need to find a way to better rehearse on the road." We discuss. I am excited for the show. My beard is tingling.
Before the set, Rowdy the tour manager/roadie for Showdown comes in the dressing room. He tells us that when he was in high school one of his best friends was so into Days Of the New that he put a band together to play Days Of The New songs for the talent show. "He even dressed like Days Of The New," Rowdy says. It runs through my mind that after so many years of not playing together, I am dressing up like I'm in Days Of The New, too. Oh, well. Gotta start somewhere.
Shortly after 10:30 we take the stage. Flight Response gets us off the ground and Touch of Anger, a new song, feels epic even with some mistakes. After it, Travis holds up his guitar and says to the crowd, "These instruments are alive."
When a fan yells "What are you drinking," Travis says, "Diet Coke. I've done enough drugs to kill an army."
The show is intense, thoughtful, and probably a little too careful. Still, Travis walks offstage and says "That's the greatest show I've ever played in my life." I think he's probably exaggerating to be kind and avoid saying some other things that he could say to us, but there is no lie in the fact that we all feel really good. Our first show is done. Afterwards, we reunite with some old friends, one of whom does not believe I am the same Ray that used to play with the band. "But Ray was such a good drummer," she says. Ah, well.
Phil and Malcolm find the ocean and go swimming before the night is over.
Touch, Peel, and Stand
Shelf In The Room
Touch of Anger
Dancing With The Wind
Perpetuate Rigorous Ghost