Monday, January 21, 2008

DOTN TOUR Problogue – The Club Wagon and Dream Catchers

The Blue Club wagon that rolls south through Virginia right now perhaps the longest and most reliable member of Days Of The New. Sometime around 1996, Travis' father bought the van (pulling favors from his used car dealer friends, I suspect) and piled Travis and the other three original members of Days Of The New into the van to tour with Kenny Wayne Shepard. Two years later the van was parked while the group left on busses to open for Metallica.

It has been ten years since that Metallica tour, ten years since the first Days Of The New album was released and went platinum. I started playing with Travis weeks after the original band split up. On my first tour with Days Of The New, we had two buses, a band of seven and crew of nine. Three years later on my last tour with Travis, the band was just two of us. We traveled south to Florida in the Club Wagon, using a borrowed license plate for the trailer and praying no one searched the van for drugs. The tour manager used Travis' fame to walk into a Harley Davidson store and rip off hundreds of dollars of clothing in exchange for the "promoting" that he promised the band would do at our shows. The infrared video made in the back of the van was smashed and thrown out the window in a state of paranoia. At our last gig on that tour, there was not enough cash to pay for gas to get home so I used my credit card to drive us home so I could be in Louisville in time to propose to my girlfriend.

Travis and I spoke little after that tour. He was sick and I was not a part of that world. Traci and I moved to New York where I've been working magic with friends, freaks and geniuses. As he moved from Louisville to Los Angeles to Utah, Travis never stopped composing and writing songs all while going to the depths of meth addiction and back out again. After a few struggles to get clean, (with one very public attempt on the A and E Intervention show) Travis overcame the drugs. In doing so, he managed a level of self-awareness that I feel foolish to even try to describe. He is still aggravatingly, beautifully insane, far beyond driven, and approaching his second year of sobriety. We will celebrate his twenty-eighth birthday on this run of shows.

Malcolm rides in the van with in-ear headphones pumping his iPod. He is the raw-food eating bassist who placed an ad in the Village Voice last Fall that said "will take quality over money". Malcolm has been finding his groove and getting to know everyone, being very respectful of the relationship quirks that are present even when we're not speaking them. And there's Phil, the everything man, who drives, tour manages, tunes guitars, and snores as loud as I do. Malcolm and Phil have both made more Days Of The New shows than I have this year, so any allusions of seniority I might entertain are futile and pointless. (The great Paul Culligan filled in for me for shows in March.)

We are men of differing backgrounds who gather to bake a birthday cake for God. Communication is paramount and defining our terms cannot be rushed. We travel in tight quarters with all the old buffers gone. No tour manager, no roadies. Travis hands us the money, we help Phil with the driving. I want to believe that what is forming now may be a kind of solid constellation of minds who each contribute to the gestalt of an emerging music machine, a vessel upon which a group might sail. But that's pretty fucking rosey talk. In reality, who knows. What I know is, Travis says this is the trip where we work stuff out, and I know any success is going to be a concerted effort, with no shortage of emotion as we revisit old venues where some unthinkable shit went down. We are relearning the songs that we played for 3 1/2 years straight, seeking a balance between what of the old is still resonant, and a new terrain upon which we can expand the universe.

The Club Wagon rolls with Indian dream catchers hanging from the felt ceiling. I look at them as fly paper and air purifiers. The chimes catch the lower tones of my tinnitus in ways harmonious and excruciating. But I cannot imagine asking that they be taken down. At the start of our first tour in 4 years, the dreams of the passengers are bloated and immense, and have precious few shared visions among them. The dream catchers are pulling double shifts.

I advance with quiet faith that the act of making music is the best way to find a compass. Like the dream catchers, I work overtime to get the job done. Until i get tired. I love to sleep on tour.

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