Friday, 5 August 2011

Rockin' the Bay



Goodmorning, San Fran. I wake up around 8:30 with Evan on van parking duty. We face a ticket if we don't move the van. I"m tired as hell, not happy to be up, but duty calls. We get in the van and drive for what seems like hours of precious sleepy time (actually 20 min) until we find a spot with a 1 hour meter. We park it. Evan gets coffee, I don't want it bacuase I want to believe that I can go home and go to bed, but I face reality and buy a cup. We walk back to Nathans for an hour so I can sit in the bathroom for 10. back to the street, we find a spot right in front of Nathans! back to the van, rep[ark, now I shower and lay back down and sleep for another hour.

I wake up to Nathan's roomy, we chat while she makes biscuits. Not cat biscuits, although my back is tight, the biscuits are oven style. Evan gets a burrito delivered to him by CB that looks like a little pouch of perfection. I leave to get some coffee and find this burrito's twin. But without meats. I am successful. I hit Taqueria and swallow the best burrito of tour yet. I run into Brandon and Nick, we get more coffee (coffee, coffee, coffee, all day all night, that's what tour is all about) at Philz. I ask for an Americano, my jam, my coffee drink. Everybody knows that.

Well, the cute smiley lady behind the counter frowns like I just told her that her crayon drawing of her favorite animal sucks. I turn to Brandon with a smile and then back to her and I'm all like "Ok, that was a weird look. Explain to me how coffee works here, I obviously missed something."
"Well, we just have drip here" and she Vana Whites towards the back wall, adorned with a hundred different coffee beans. "I like dark and chocolatey and earth and leather and strong" I seem to recall communicating somehow…

She recommends a bean lickety split and I green light that shit. Give it to me, I"m in your hands. She grinds and drips a single cup in a Blue Bell style fancy dripper doo and then she does something REAL funky. She puts a mint leaf in my coffee. I'm all twisted at this point. You don't play with a homie's coffee addiction like this. Is this a game? Am I a clown or some kind of tater tot out here? I need espresso, Sheila. I ain't comin in here to roll dice into a tea cup and play duck duck goose. I'm from Brooklyn, NY. Gorilla, Intelligensia, Gimme Coffee, Grumpy's, Stump Town, these playaz be out on my block, a stone's throw, they know me by name.

But I don't say a word, I'm wide open, teach me to sing Sheila, take me to Philz coffee school.

I get my cup and sip that mint leaf funk. Best cup of coffee ever. I went 'Special Agent Dale Cooper' on her.

We all walk back to Nathans to leave for Oakland. Evan spots a hole in the wall shop selling hand made Lucha Libre masks. I am curious, and then hooked. Evan comes out with his new mask and helps me find one of my own...

We roll up on Oakland and play Eli's. Yelp describes it as "more Divey than your average Dive Bar"
There's dogs and facial tattoos. Maybe even dogs with facial tattoos. Nice staff, door, bar, sound guy. good lil' show on the stage.
Our dear friend CRASH set up this show and took good care of us. we rock out for the 20th time or so since we left the east coast, and decide we want to chill at a bar and hang before calling it a night. Crash recommends a Tikki Bar. We tell the other bands our plans, they seem reluctant to go, being locals wearing all black and stuff. It was the perfect spot.
Crash buys us a "Scorpion Bowl" which is a porcelain volcano surrounded by a moat into which our Tikki bartender pours sweet fermented nectars and some mystery spirits and throws 6 straws in and maybe says good luck. We attach ourselves to this lost link to a greater archipelagic hangover and start sucking down the juices.
the other bands show up, and maybe 2 scorpion bowls later they leave, quietly assuring one or two of us in a whisper that this bar is whack and not a great place to hang.

They underestimate Ghastly City Sleep. In our current interation we are especially equipped to enjoy any situation, ESPECIALLY a tikki bar with scorpion bowls and a HULA GIRL ROBOT! she stands across the bar with a permanent distant smile that seems to stare off into another realm, topless, and her hips constantly just roll 'round and 'round in a hypnotic orbit. I'm laughing at her absurd awesomeness when the autor in me conjures up a fantastic photograph…

I say "I'm gonna get my Lucha Libre mask and take my shirt off and pose with that Hulabot."
Evan laughs. "That would be awesome. Too bad you won't."
"what!? of course I will."
"no, no you won't"
"what, you think I"m too embarrassed to take my shirt off and wear a lucha libber mask in a tikki bar filled with maybe 15 drunk peeps after I personally helped down 4 Scorpion Bowls?"
"It's not that I think its something you wouldn't do, I don't doubt you would. But you won't, not tonight, not here, not now."
I get up and run to the van, get both my mask AND his, and return with a shit eating grin. I'm taking him down with me!

Moments later, we have a most incredible portrait of the two of us with Hulabot. Just leavin' a slick with ZERO REGRET in my wake wherever I go. Thanks Evan, for not only pushing me to my ridiculous place, but for posing with me as well.

Crash, who I can only hope is sufficiently amused for the evening, graciously opens up her home to our circus and we crash :) happily on her floors.

Big Sur


A day off in California

This morning, and for the first time on tour, I wake up in the van.

"Morgenstund" by Edvard Grieg seems to be gently wafting from a distant corner of the universe. I eat a protein bar, stretch, soak in the morning sun and the cool air. Today, dear reader, is a day off for Ghastly City Sleep. We discussed the pros and cons of taking a little road trip from this road trip - the van's missing crank case cover which makes gravel and bouncy road refuse and detritus our kriptonite, the co$t of gasoline and the gluttonous chevy 20 we ride in, the trailer with all our equipment…

If any of you know CB, you know about his life-changing road trip out west he embarked on years ago. It s a great story, and something about the timing and the landscape made a remarkable impression on him and helped him make the decision to move to New York and peruse his dream of playing music. That story culminates in a trip to the famed Big Sur on the central coast of California - a geographically diverse miasma of microclimates, mountains, redwood forest, waterfalls, beaches, rivers, whales, seals, sharks, birds, rainbows, and a general apex of American Geographic majesty. In my official synopsis I'd like to add that the landscape is so pristine and breathtakingly gorgeous it coaxes you into belief in unicorns, and the possibility that one might just appear at any moment out there.

The drive would be about one or two hours, but CB said that despite all the beautiful things we'd seen thus far, it would be worth it. 'nuff said as far as I was concerned!

So the plan was to depart asap and go to Big Sur for the day, return to San Francisco and crash at our friend Nathan's, wake up the next day and rock Oakland. With no big drives on the horizon, we geared up for a relaxing remainder of the California coast.

I walked to a starbucks with CB before everyone else emerged from the Texas Toast. We went to a starbucks to use the facilities*, headed back to Texas Toast, gathered our brethren, dropped our trailer to leave at the Toast house till our return, and hit the road.

Once we got to Big Sur country, there was a single two way road winding tight around a great shear mountain sloping unabashedly to the crashing pacific. The water all up and down this coast was nothing to toy with… surf country, big water… the mountains are all covered in what appeared from a distance to be a healthy velvety fur, the color scheme of the landscape is all muted and earthy, golden and hazel, with deep navy sea under cloud cover. A huge cloud of mist touched the shore like wizard hands, the clouds drifted into the mountains just at road range, so many times we were driving through thick mist such that you couldn't see 20' in front of you. Glancing down to our right (east) was a shear cliff of brambles, to the left (west) the face rises up into gray nothingness…
We cross Bixsby Canyon Bridge, every break in the road a chance to see the drama that is the ocean crashing way down below. We're just looking for a place to land, anxious to get to the drama and soak it all in. We find a touristy spot, park and walk down little dirt trails until it dead ends at a vista point, a wooden balcony about 4-5 stories above the beach we so desperately want to touch. the search goes on…

We drive further down and see cars parked on a dirt turnaround, and a tiny little trail leading down, down, down. We park, descend, and find the trail splitting in two, one leading to a mine-shaft style wood framed hole in the mountain that just had the gravity of a black hole, and another tree covered path with a stream racing down to what must be the beach. We go for the mine shaft.

The tunnel goes about 40 feet until it opens up to an amazing scene:
We emerge perched about 20' above the water, on a trail with a wooden fence. Below us is a small patch of beach surrounded by a scoop in the rock, being pounded by a huge sublime pulse of thick black pacific force. Each wave seems to tear hundreds of pounds of pebbles and rocks from the beach like greedy fingers only to slam it all back down with a crash. The water has a viscous film of giant leathery kelp at the surface, the canopy of what must be a deep dark underwater forest in constant motion.

Every edge of rock we walk over meets the sea with violence. The forces at work are of a physics our bodies can't possibly relate to, and certainly wouldn't last long in. Resilient purple & white spotted starfish grip these edges. Nick scrambles over rock to try and pry one from its perch and fails. We walk to the end of the path, climb over the wooden railing, and crab walk on all fours to the outer edges. Waves are crashing, leaving little pools of life in the crevices, where we find sea anemones out of an Ernst Haeckel coffee table book… I recognize the species from coastal exploration at Montana Oso west of San Louis Obispo. I let my fingers gently drift into the scrambled wig of the anemone as its fingers close in with a surprisingly dry sandpapery suction… it feels good! My bandmates look on with caution as I risk getting an alien sting from the tentacles. I implore Evan and Nick to sample this tactile delight (okay, from here you really have to read this in some pretentious Olde Worlde Explorer's voice, maybe I have a pipe in my mouth, retelling at the explorer's club over curated cocktails in gramercy, y'kno?) and they follow suit. Commence Comprehensive Digital Photography via Mobile Cellular Devices!!

We explore the other trail, and the beach, where we see a sea lion swimming along in the distance. The tide seems to be coming in. Not a soul around, one could potentially get "locked out" of certain spots by the tide!

We are all starving, tired, the day has been long and glorious. CB knows of one other spot in his memory where he reached a larger beach, and we decide to go for it. With tips from a local cafe, we find the narrow one-lane path where trailers dare not go and make our way to the beach. Here, we found the golden egg...

The beach was a long proper edge, lined by a forest of giant bonzai, and 20' out into the surf stood two great rocks, beach mountains. The one on the right had a great hole carved in its belly by millennia of hard pacific waves. the left mountain was spotted with succulents, and had rock formations that looked prehistoric. When I say that, I mean it appeared as though some art director fabricated the rocks for a dinosaur movie. Prehistoric, Ignatious, penetrated by millions of rock worms millions of years ago? The whole beach scene was from another world. This was a Tattouine beach, I half expected a mammoth to emerge from the woods behind a flock of saber toothed tigers to play a game of quarry-bone heehaw with a bunch of mermaids and unicorns with leis and rare healing herbs adorning their horns.

I noticed two little tiny people climbing the left mountain in the distance, and I tore off my shoes and ran for it. I had to climb to the top. Little ice cream scooped pores in the rock face support my scrambling hands and bare feet. I am quickly past the point of no return, mid face, looking down to the surf, looking up to the top. I'm a spider. I'm a monkey. I'm at the dizzying top, I can see everything the world has to offer. This was the magnetic pole of awe for me on this tour. Here we are, at the top. For the next three weeks, I will be climbing down this moutainn until I step into my apartment in Brooklyn. Every word I've written on this blog describes a step to this point. I was ear to ear teeth. I was deep deep breaths. I was longing for all my loved ones, every friend, every lover, my whole family, I wanted them all to be here with me. I decided that I'd better enjoy this for myself. I started singing, I yelled out as loud as I could. All around me was gray clouds, mist, the sea, people on the beach were little ants, mountains on the shore disappeared into nothingness. The surf attacked my mountain relentlessly all around me, impossibly below me. I imagined a great storm, how many tsunamis this mountain must have weathered through history, the white foamy fists driving into the thorax of rock with death in mind, and here I was, a little tiny rickety boney fleshy flea finally on its crest. Me and the mountain finally meet, and I was happy I got the chance to shake its hand at this exclusive password-protected secret society cocktail party that took so much effort for this van full of brooklynites to breach.

I felt truly happy. I felt the whole tour was for this moment.

I climbed down, laying back on the rock, back to the mountain, all hands and feet searching the rock for steps. and tried to express my enthusiasm. Nick, who is afraid of heights, decides to go for it, followed by Brandon. I ascend with them one more time and take a last look before we decide to leave the beach.

We go to a local bar / restaurant and order delicious food, some local beers, and reenergize before our trip back up to San Jose to get our trailer and then the final leg to San Francisco. We arrive at Toast house, say hellos & goodbyes, and ship off to San Fran. We get to 24th st and enter Dirty Thieves, take photo booth pics, drink a couple IPA's.
We walk to Nathans house but he's not home yet. We drink whiskey and water on his doorstep, take medium format pics with my holga copy, I blog on the sidewalk.
We eventually meet up with Nathan and crash on his living room floor. What a day!!!!!

be sure to check out more photos here!

Evil Orcs


San Jose, Redwoods, Evil Orcs

We wake up in Fortuna to Monica blending berries and batter to make us deliciously decadent pancakes with butter and syrup and apples and coffee. She and Dave send us off proper, and we head to San Jose. They give us tips on great redwoods spots, which we keep an eye out for.

We're taking the Redwood Highway on the way down, and once we hit redwood country our pace slows down and we're spellbound, just looking for a place to stop and take in the scenery. the road becomes a winding tunnel through Endor, and we pull off and ecstatically skip into the forest like a bunch of smurfs.

It doesn't take but 50 feet or so to feel completely encompassed by some spiritual majesty, the trees are so huge, the ground is bursting with giant clovers the size of cup coasters, and everything is so green and leafy that sounds are quickly deadened, furnishing a little bubble of silence around your body wherever you are. We're all separated, climbing on logs the size of freight trains, running hands over soft furry sawdust-skin on felled tree arms, circumnavigating giant tree trunks the size of houses. Bigger than bodegas. Footprints that would call for $5000/month rent in the Brooklyn market. Am I being clear? Single trees older than cities, in a city of their own. One could walk in it for days completely spellbound.

We reluctantly get back in the van and move on toward San Jose. The roads are tight, winding 35mph curves that are tough on the van with the trailer. But we still manage the speed limit. Regardless, there is a cue of about 4-5 automobiles tailgating us, and when we finally reach a two-lane passing zone, we hear the roar of climbing rpms and to our left is a small car whose passenger leans way out of the window.

In the shrillest screeching vocal assault she can manage, a woman in her 20's shouts "FUCK yooooooouuuu Get off the fffffffffFUCKING ROAD you ASSHOLLLLLES!!!! AAAHHHHHHH!!!!"

It caught us so off guard that we collectively started cracking up. Until the next truck pulls up and is filled with muscular bearded demons with double handed middle finger salutes rattling off rounds like twin uzi's turning our hull to swiss cheeses. "FUCK YOU ASSHOLES!"

We have just driven through one of world's most majestic forests, apparently all but lost on these expressive impatient travelers. We are not sorry, by the way, for going the speed limit on the REDWOOD MOTHERFUCKING HIGHWAY. They screamed by us and end up 3 cars ahead of us at the next stop light.

Impressions of these two carloads of hotheads made the rounds in the van and quickly became tour memes. Endless hours of befuddled laughter has and continues to ensue as the retelling of our fellow road-goer's exclamations get more and more exaggerated. Blood curdling screams… the trees themselves must have shook their heads in collective disappointment at the human race. Shame on you, shrieking banshee lady. Shame on you, heaving truckload of impatient Orcs.

Needless to say, all of this wonderful North Cali stuff made us late to the show. Texas Toast House has had a lot of problems as of late with neighbors and cops, and had to cancel our performance due to our late arrival. We played here last fall, it was a highlight show because of how small and enthusiastic it was, everyone is there strictly to see bands, everyone is SUPER friendly and accommodating, and we had a great time. Despite not playing, they still passed a donation jar around for us and made us dinner and let us crash. THANKS Texas Toast!

It was a really cool dry night, so I actually slept in the van, which has a perfectly Matt-sized bench seat in the back you can pull down to a bed. Comfy end to a perfect day.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Whale of a time.

7.26.11 (to Fortuna)

Waking up at nick's house in Portland… reeeeally early. we pack up and convene in front of nick's. Portland, like most of the coastal northwest, is flush with beautiful vegetation. Right in front of the house is a huge streetside array of flora just bursting with life… something that New York City really lacks in a block-to-block way. Sure, our botanic gardens and vegetal urban "events" are spectacular, but Portland is just leaning against a doorframe paying' no mind & chewing gum, and without jumping through hoops to create miracles of civic park glory, achieves a spectacularly peaceful lush cityscape at every crack in the pavement.

Nick hops in the van, he's IN! We're gaining critical mass! Nick's unique and super-enthusiastic energy quickly makes the rounds in the van and suddenly it feels like he's been in Ghastly the whole time. We roll outta Portland and head for our show in Fortuna, CA, where our friend Dave, an amazing musician and former bassist of Pygmy Lush calls home.

We pull off the road when we see our first proper North Cali pacific beach, where we can kiss the ocean.

We continue to drive south, passing great redwood forests, epic beach vistas

The next thing that happened on this trip would immediately cement itself in our memories forever and will probably be the highlight of this whole tour, if not in the top 3.

We pass over this bridge spanning a river cutting through mountainous forest. On one side of the bridge is a crowd of people taking pics and pointing. I am in the passenger front seat, I lean out of the window as we slow to a roll and ask what everyone is looking at.

"A Whale!"

A whale. "A whale!" I say. "A WHALE" everyone says. We are all 5 years old now. "Pull over! pull over!"

We pass the bridge and do just that. Everyone grabs cameras, iphones, and jogs out to where the hubbub is. Hands on the concrete edge, looking down just below us into the water, a 30' gray whale is slowly swimming out of view, surfacing regularly to breath a plume of mist. It makes a little turn and heads back to the bridge, surfacing like a big slow ghost, tilting to the side to look up at us, waving its big tail, breaking the surface with its barnacled skin. It was an incredible experience, something most people spend years trying to capture, spending lots of money to do so! And this was a great way to see a whale as well, we were perched right over it, front row seats. We marveled at how this day kept eclipsing itself with one amazing experience after another.

Tonights show was in Fortuna, CA. Our good friend Dave, formerly in Pygmy Lush, is going to meet us at the show. The show is in a bran at the top of a giant winding mountain.
The further we drove, the more remote it became, until we were all weirded out by how far out of the way this place was. Driving at night, taking sharp corners, we finally make it to a Barn surrounded on both dies of the street by cars, people are wandering around everywhere. We pull up, and kids are asking "Are you the New York band!?"

We get out and survey the scene. Everyone is wearing smeared warpaint. people are sweaty and drugged out. This forest elf named Quaid appears, shirtless, curly hair all mopped and exploding. He is very happy we are here, and gives us warm gentle hugs. The first barn house has a DJ playing techno electro dandy dance. Some party goers are swaying to the glitches. there is what I recall being a trough of beans, but in reality probably a long table of potluck food stuffs. I didn't touch it. We were taken to a second barn in back that had stables and horse shoes and lassos and smelled like manure. Here's where you guys can set up. Black light fluorescent bulbs were crudely hung form the rafters.
My sneakers became spaceships.

We dragged the gear through grass and barns and set up. everyone was curious, on drugs, happy to see us, and slowly the crowd gathered as we start checking our instruments and mics. I peer into one of the stables and see a giant 400 lb pig sleeping next his buddy the goat. "Oh my. Are they going to be ok if we rock out in here?" I ask Quaid.

"They love music" assures Quaid. Excellent. Two living things are guaranteed to dig it, its a start.

We play to a very attentive crowd, rock out, talk to some appreciative barn goers. Pack up, head to Dave's. I never did hear applause from the stable, but something tells me that pig and goat heard something uncommon floating on the air form the barn that night. Do pigs crack smiles in their sleep?
Dave lives with his girlfriend Monica in a cozy lil place packed with fun music gear and instruments. We sleep tight, no bedbugs bite.



A thunderstorm is sweeping across Seattle, a stark contrast to the unbelievably sunny cool dry weather we'd had for the past two days. We talk about the van, the crank case cover dilemma, and decide to drive to Portland before taking the issue any further… we had a show that night with Housefire, a really great band we played with last fall in Boise ID.

We met up with are ol buddy Nick Choban, whom I met through Brandon back in Brooklyn last summer and illustrated a graphic short for. Nick is a great conversationalist, a naturalist and great appreciator of David Attenborough and NOVA, a Texan, and an incredible artist. His hand is super detailed and his drawings have a character of line thats always really pleasing to the eye. It was great to see him again, and we got to talking about our journey, our impending west coast joy ride, and before we knew it, he was considering hopping in the van and coming with us to Los Angeles!

After the show Karaoke commenced, and Evan was the only man brave enough from our caravan to partake. "Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi… he rocked us all.

We met up with Ryan Parish, the drummer for Darkest Hour (also playing in Portland that evening), long-time friend of Brandon's, and our drummer for the Ghastly Fall '10 tour.

He took us to a bar filled with arcade games that was pouring free beers for the Darkest tour. Before I actually made it out of the van I was overcome with exhaustion and passed out! I woke up about 30 minutes later and made my way inside. The tables were all glowing white light tables. Tired, hungry, worn out, we closed the arcade down and said our goodbyes to Ryan after he showed gave us an explanation of the new "Band Wagon" phenomenon, which is a giant van -bus hybrid that bands can rent for less than a tour bus but have to drive themselves round the country… These things are HUGE, and we all agreed it'd be a nightmare to try get that thing around all the precarious nooks and crannies we find ourselves pushing Blu and the trailer through.

tired, tired tired….

we drive with Nick back to his spot, he;s staying in a 2-story old wooden house and we crash on the couches and pull-out beds.

Day off in Seattle


I wake up and CB is already gone to move the van every hour from parking zone to parking zone (bless his heart). I got a shower and packed up my gear and headed to Victrola for some coffee. I was soon joined by the whole crew who was planning a big brunch at the hacienda. On our horizon was a trip to a salvage yard to try and find a new crank case cover and fix this vulnerability we have with the van… too bad it was a rare sunny dry cool day in Seattle!
I returned to Connor & Julie's to a full-on waffle/cheese-mushroom-jalapeno egg/home fries brunch courtesy of the household & Co. One of the best breakfasts of tour to date, for sure!
After brunch we split up, Brandon and Evan went to the block party happening in Capitol Hill to see our tour nemesis, Battles, Connor & Julie went to a BBQ, and CB and I drove north about 20 min to a salvage yard!
I put on a wifebeater and leather gloves, CB grabbed a wheelbarrow, and we took a list of comparable engines and scoured the yard for a crank case. The yard was muddy and super dirty… I got under a couple vehicles with missing cases before I found a couple we could harvest. I started unscrewing the bolts with the socket wrench only to find that the last bolt was metric, and I didn't have the size I needed! I walked over to another salvager and begged for tools.
"I charge $15/hour for my tools.." he smirked slightly.
I laughed and smiled big, and got the 10mm socket I needed and finally retrieved the cover. We drove to a Walmart to get a new trailer tire as the old one was balding - only on the right side, which is another puzzle we have to figure out. while in the parking lot, I fix the case cover to the engine and have CB start it up as I hold it in place, but the noise is still happening even with a healthily shaped cover. more puzzles, this also means we have to keep driving with the cover off.

After a long day of duty, we drive back to Capitol Hill, I do some laundry, and we prepare for our pilgrimage to In the Bowl, my favorite Thai restaurant in Seattle. Its a tiny hole in the wall covered in pictures and statues and everything on the menu is amazing. All vegan, super spicy (a "3" will chemically alter your brain, "2" tends to be the perfect balance of heat and heaven), and the owner/staff is very friendly. I ordered soy duck coconut curry with veggies and basil and cherry tomatoes.

The night ends chill back at Connor & Julie's with IPA's and music in the windows in the front lawn. I start nodding off in my chair and head for the couch.

on to Seattle


We wake up in Missoula and Josh is already in the kitchen cooking up some eggs from the free-roaming chickens in his garden. Coffee is being pressed, Chard is being chopped, cheese grated, everything smells divine.
We all take showers, wash up, get rollin and sit at a table and enjoy the gift of a home cooked meal.
From Missoula we have about 10 hours on the road to Seattle. We are staying with Conor and Julie - Connor is Evan's older brother, we stayed with conner and Julie last fall when we toured with Ryan on the drums. It was pretty neat to have family in the circus coming through Seattle.
We head straight to the venue - Funhouse - where we got on a bill with Master Musicians of Bukake… part of the Mr. Bungle / Secret Chiefs family!!!
We loaded in, parked the van and headed out to get a meal. The show was lots of fun, I met up with my old friend Bryce with whom I've played in numerous bands… Bryce is the current drummer for Military Junior and one of the best drummers I've ever been in a band with.
We played, had a blast, and enjoyed Master's set along with our friend Cody, who plays under Young Bear - a beautiful ambient guitar & effect based project… all around great night. We were exhausted after the show and crashed hard at Conor & Julie's.