Poster Children New World Record Tour 10

Leaving the West


The sign under the light says "Beware of Rattlesnakes"



Monday May 24 - Boulder, CO

In case of Hail, wave arms


Hailstorm

We're almost 2 months into this tour now, driving near Pueblo, Colorado, we hit a major hailstorm. Huge iceballs are pounding on the van as we're driving on the highway, it sounds like gun shots. It actually hurts your ears - cars are stopping all around us. It's really scary. During this time, our band decides to start screaming, "WOO HOO" and yelling and waving our arms around in the van, shrieking like we're fighting a war. What else are you supposed to do when you're driving through a hailstorm like this?

Try as I might, I can't convince anyone to drive past Columbine High School. They say, "In a 100 years, it will be OK to do that."

Boulder Show - The Blue Note #2

Boulder Audience

The Fox Theater is one of the best places to play in the USA. And I'm really, really ticked off today because we have to play it on a Monday. We could actually have a big crowd in this town, if we played on a Friday or Saturday night. Also, this is a special Monday - it's a Monday that is between college sessions. There is no one in town now. Ordinarily, I'd say, well, we have to play Boulder sometime, and this is when it fits in, but the 20 hour drive before and after this show make it ridiculous. We could have just driven out from Champaign next month, on a weekend, to do a one-off show, with the same amount of driving.

Anyway, the sound guys and crew were all very nice to us and professional until we moved our drums off the stage for the opening band. "We NEVER do that here," the sound guy admonished me. "For future reference," he said. I replied, "Well, we've moved our drums off the stage the last couple of times we played here, so the rule must be new. We like to move our drums because it's not fair to the opening band to have to play in front of us. We have been screwed too many times by that sort of thing happening, so we don't want to do it to anyone else."

We talked about what a great place the Fox Theater is, and one of the crew guys asked me what other places in the US are as good as it, and I thought for a long time before I had to reply. I didn't want to let the words escape out into the air, for fear of the Bad Karma, but there was nothing I could do - I finally had to blurt out 'The Blue Note, in Columbia, Missouri. That's the other great club in America.' Then I winced over at Rick. The Blue Note is where we had our bad Urge and Pavement experiences. I didn't go into any detail with the Fox crew. The Blue Note is still one of the best places to play, even if they are having problems with their soundguys.

The rest of the night brought the two places closer together. I found out why we weren't supposed to move our drums - when we were ready to go on stage and play our show, we were told to wait 10 minutes, because the sound crew all had to go outside and get High. If we hadn't moved the drums, they could have been wasted all night. Still, I wanted to plead with them, please could you wait to get High, until we've started our show? Just to make sure all the mics were in place and the PA was working correctly? But you can't ask someone to put aside their lifestyle in order to work for you, even if they're being paid to work for you, especially if it's a soundguy at a club who holds your career in his hands that day. So we waited, sat on the stage looking at the audience for 10 minutes, before we could go on the stage. When I walked onto the stage, there I saw the mic in front of my amp - a couple of feet away. They forgot to place it. I wonder what else they forgot? When we started playing, it sounded like the PA wasn't even on. Worst, my bass just kept cutting out during the whole show. This is definitely not a show I wish to remember.


Tuesday May 25 - Drive to Oklahoma City

storms ahead on I-70, Kansas

East of Denver, I-70 dumps you gently out onto the Great Plains, Kansas. You see no mountains, but you descend thousands of feet in a slow slope through grasslands. This is the part of the trip where we'd see a tornado if we were ever going to see one, driving straight through Kansas and Oklahoma, although we are a bit north of where the tornadoes historically might be at this time of year. Still, I'm on anvil cloud alert - we are driving straight toward a huge blue line of clouds with very high tops, and it looks pretty exciting. Last night I found out that there were 2 tornadoes spawned southwest of Denver; that killer hailstorm we drove through was probably part of that same storm. I've never seen a tornado before in real life; only in my dreams, and in my dreams I'm a master of creating tornadoes - a conoussieur - I create F1s through F5s, all dreamily heading straight towards me, never cutting a path to the side, always growing bigger and bigger as they drift straight forward, until I wake up.

Howie Drives

The last time we played Oklahoma City was the day of the bombing. Today we drive straight around it, not even stopping near the city. We talk like pirates to entertain ourselves for the last couple of hours; we say "ARRRRR" a lot, like a pirate. We talk about wearing eyepatches. For some reason, this leaves me and Rick hysterical. Art Bell entertains us for the last 3 hours of the 15 hour drive to Ardmore, Oklahoma, the southernmost Motel 6 in OK - tonight Art's guest talks about a new form of life he's discovered - they are called "Rods" and they apparently exist around us, moving very, very quickly, and hardly ever bumping into us. He complains on the air that no one will give him funding to study the Rods more closely. A guy calls up and says that a princess from another dimension spoke to him over the cable access station, and Art doesn't believe him.

Oklahoma Sunset


It smells like home now. I guess it's more like home because the ground is covered with grass, instead of dirt and rocks. I feel more at balance with nature now - I love the mountains and find the desert magical, but I guess I'm more balanced when there's deciduous trees and grassy fields instead of cactii and shrubbery.


Wednesday May 26 - Austin TX, but first, Dallas

Dallas, TX

We drove through Dallas and had some time, and Howie's reading the Don Delillo book about the Kennedy asassination, so we stopped at the Grassy Knoll, and went up into the Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald "allegedly" shot JFK. The Grassy Knoll is pretty small, it's just a little area between where a lot of cars drive. Its name definitely sounds a lot more majestic than it actually appears.

On the 6th floor of the Texas Book Depository, there is a Museum. You have to pay $6 to get in, and you have to check your camera - they allow NO pictures whatsoever, due to copyright laws, they say. We thought it was probably a really cheesy museum, but when you walk into the main floor and look at the panels they have up, it sort of lets you know that it's gonna be higher class than what you were thinking.

You pay your $6 and get into an elevator that only has buttons for floors 1 and 6 - and when you get onto the the 6th floor, it's very classy. There are huge photographs, panels, video kiosks, you see the actual window that Oswald allegedly shot through. You can see where he allegedly stood. There is all sorts of information about the Kennedys - old photographs, and all the huge black and white photographs really add an air of class. There are exhibits of actual items, too - JFK's place setting for the Austin dinner he never made it to that evening. Lots of books from the period, plates designed by Piero Fornasetti commemorating the Space Program. Most impressive was the array of pictures taken of the shooting, with each witness and picture taker's name underneath the picture, and then an actual camera above the photo, so you can see what kind of camera took the picture. That was really neat - and at the end of the display was the ACTUAL Zapruder CAMERA that he used. It has a big "FBI" sticker on it.

The whole museum was very, very intense. We spent a couple of hours in there. It's most intense to look out the window and see the Grassy Knoll, because you're looking out there with a couple of other people and you know they're all thinking Conspiracy. There are people everywhere talking about It, around here, people taking pictures and pointing. It's not full of people like Disneyland, either - there's just a handful of people here and there, just enough to make the whole experience really interesting.

There is a big glass cage around the Window (it's the corner window), so you can't look through it now, but you can stand a couple of feet away and look through the next window. I think that for years after the shooting, even though the building was closed to the public, people somehow got in and were chipping away pieces of the wall attached to the window, so the whole thing had to be restored anyway. The actual window frame and glass was removed and sits in the middle of the floor so you can touch it and look through it. And, most spectacularly, the glass cage around the corner Window contains a bunch of Book Depository boxes set up around it. There are 3 boxes set up as what they call "The Perch" and if you look closely, there is a camera placed in one of them. This is a real-time webcam set up in The Perch, at http://www.earthcam.com/metros/dallas/dealey.html. You can look through and see exactly what Oswald allegedly saw before he allegedly shot.

Walking around on the 6th Floor was the closest I'd ever felt to History. Even though JFK wasn't *my* president, I still felt some reverence, and being in a place like this where an event that made such a huge impact on society was probably the closest I've ever felt to being in a church. If you look out the windows on the 6th Floor, at the road below, you can see a painted white "X" in the middle of one of the lanes. That "X" marks the spot where Kennedy was shot.

And, actually, the most intense thing I saw in the whole museum was a child's drawing; they had a couple up on the wall. This one was black and white I think, and depicted a plane with the stairway extended down. At the bottom of the stairway were stick figures of Jackie Kennedy holding the children, all looking very sad. On the way up the staircase was a flushed-looking JFK, sort of smiling, and at the top of the plane's staircase, extending his hand, was what looked like Abraham Lincoln, helping JFK up the staircase. At least it was either Abraham Lincoln, or maybe it was God, with a black beard. I wish I could see that picture again, or at least have a copy of it.

and as you leave the museum, outside, stuck to the wall here, is a bottle of coke. (If you remember, Oswald stopped in the 2nd floor cafeteria after he allegedly shot, to buy a coke.)

 

Austin on a Wednesday Night

Austin, TX audience

I don't think there were any people from Austin at this show tonight. Everyone seemed to be from Madison, Wisconsin, or somewhere else in the midwest! It was definitely a smaller crowd than we're used to in Austin, but just as friendly. Austin is just as wonderful as you hear; all the people are laid back and nice. Unfortunately, tonight we were playing in a venue that is mostly for blues bands, it was a barbeque restaurant. The people there were extremely nice and we were treated well, but I don't know if it was the right place for us. And I still don't know why we don't play Emo's, one of my favorite places to play in the entire world. We're going to have to ask our booking agent about that. I don't think it is good for us to play in a weird place like this - I mean, if you didn't know who Poster Children were, and you saw they were playing at a place where bad blues bands play, what would you think?


Thursday May 27 - Denton, TX

Denton, TX audience - and I would say that probably all of the people pictured here are from Oklahoma

This is a rehearsal complex, like a small garage in the middle of a huge industrial area, a perfect place for a club. It's a very European-style club, too - someone cooked us a great dinner, and the door was wide open to the club. Lots of Christmas lights, comfy stuffed chairs, and cigarette butts, and very friendly.

I would say about 95% of this audience was made up of people from Norman, Oklahoma. I asked from the stage how many people were from Oklahoma and about 45 people raised their hands. It was really funny. It is such a compliment that all these kids drive down from another state to see us play- and they're really cool kids, too - the kind of people we'd probably hang around with if we lived in Oklahoma. (and maybe were a bit younger, too.)

I have discovered that I like Grits. Especially Waffle House Grits. Now, where am I going to get Grits when we get off tour, and go back to Illinois?


Friday May 28 - San Antonio, TX

I wish I had a picture of the minivan-ful of Amish people stopped at the gas station a couple of days ago, because half of them were Amish women with their little doilies on their heads, and the other half were little children, all wearing Burger King paper crowns on their heads. Maybe they just got back from seeing Star Wars. I am too afraid to boldy go up and take snapshots of things like that, and then I kick myself later. There's no room for politeness if you want to be a good photographer.

Last night, Jim and Rick had the closest they ever had come to having a fight on this tour, which is very, very far away from what normal human beings like me would call a "fight." It was like they were quietly and comicly accusing each other of being impolite. It was really, really hilarious, like they were trying to get on each other's nerves, but couldn't do it because the argument was too silly. Rick had looked obviously pensive all night long, like something was really bothering him, and finally, when he walked into the motel room, I guess he mentioned something about "Did the opening band eat one of our muffins?" (Yes, you're already supposed to be laughing.) And I think Jim must have said something about how the opening band were very nice guys, and probably asked 'is that what was bothering you all night?' but it also turns out that Jim ate 3 muffins. We had muffins and soup for dinner last night. Somehow, when I walked in on this conversation, Rick was asking Jim "if you're such good friends with the opening band, what was the name of the band?" and I think maybe Jim was trying to make the point that you shouldn't let one band eating an extra muffin ruin your night, because Rick said, "well, Howie said he would have killed someone if he'd caught them eating one of our muffins." It was like, 4am, and as I said, I think with the tour winding down, everyone was trying to get on each other's nerves, but it just wasn't working. We're all too much friends, I guess. (And Rick says he was pensive because this was the show that got our booking agent pissed off at our record label - and it seems like a really stupid show for them to argue over.)

Show

San Antonio Audience

The opening band, The Peabodys, are a great band, like MC5 crossed with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and they are going on tour. We wish them luck. It was very, very, very hot in this room tonight, and it was a good crowd. I think it's really cool that people this far away from Illinois know who we are. Best of all - we realized when we got here, that we had played this venue before, like, about 8 or 10 years ago. It was a completely different club, but there was a guy who saw us there that long ago. We were looking around the outside of the club; a tiny building set in a nondescript street, and Rick and I were sure we'd played there before, but the insides of the club were different. This guy confirmed it. I knew we'd been here before because I recognized the little nondescript stone bridge outside the club. It's crazy the things you remember, espcially when they aren't obviously memorable.


Saturday May 29 - Houston, TX

Houston Audience
This picture is taken about a half-hour before I asked a member of the audience to come up on stage and sit in a chair while we play a song. Kevin, here, was the one who got up on the stage. (He's almost up there already!)

Well, for some reason, I really expected this show to be empty, just because of the audience reaction we got when we opened for Failure last time we were here. But the room was full, every table was full of people sitting around it, like we were playing at a dinner theater. People clapped and yelled loudly after each song, and wondered why we'd not been to Houston in years. (We have, I said; you just didn't know we were there). The stage and room reminded me of Trito's Uptown, in Champaign, the venue that Poster Children grew up with, where I watched the greatest bands of the late 80s and early 90s, where we opened for Dinosaur Jr., where Steel Pole Bath Tub blew Nirvana off the stage, and where Lonely Trailer, one of the greatest Champaign bands ever, played a show that was so good, the audience (including me) laid down on the floor and pounded their fists to hear more. So if I shut my eyes on this stage, I could remember like we were playing back in Champaign, back when people danced and loved music, but if I opened them, I'd see a big huge guy reclining in a chair nodding his head with his feet up on the monitors as we played. Most of the audience was sitting in chairs, and the chairs were pushed all the way up to the stage. Like a dinner theater. On the side, by Rick there were people standing, because there weren't any tables. Ah well. I'm so glad there were actual people in the room, I don't even care if they were sitting. It was a fun show, and it certainly could have been a lot worse!



Houston

not for small children

Unfortunately, on the way back from the show, I saw something I never want to see again. We were driving on the freeway and all the sudden came to the top of an overpass and noticed a bunch of cars parked in the road, and others skidding around. Then I saw what looked like a bunch of plastic bottle tops in the road and some sparkely parts, and then the van started skidding and the anti-lock brakes clicked in. When Rick got the van under control, we saw it was an accident, and it had just happened, the police had not gotten there yet. Cars were parking everywhere, and there were people running up and down the highway with cellular phones - and we were just trying to get out of there, because it just seemed like everyone was in the way. I yelled at Rick to start honking at the gaper in the car in front of us, staring out the window, drooling, and then I smelled a terrible gassy smell, the smell of an overturned car probably about to catch on fire. It smelled very dangerous. I got madder and madder at the people parking their cars on the road and finally turned my head toward the window to do my part as a good citizen and give someone a dirty look, and then I saw it. On my left, crashed into the sidewall of the highway, was an overturned car, looking like an upside-down cockroach - and laying on the ground in front of it, sticking out the window, was the body of a young man, sprawled out on the pavement, his arms were outstretched, his head was sort of tilted with his chin on the ground, and his eyebrows were up, and there was a pool of blood under his head. There is no way this man was still alive.

I heard my voice say "Oh my god" probably a full minute or two before the rest of my mind comprehended what I'd seen. Then I heard Rick say "Are you ok" and I realized my face was in my hands, and my head was down forward. No one talked in the van for a long time. I guess I was the only one who saw the dead guy. I think I cried a bit, but I don't know why. I cannot describe my feelings. I don't know what I felt. I'm so sorry for all of those people around him, I don't know who else was with him. I'm so sorry for his family and loved ones. I'm sorry for whoever killed him, I'm sorry for his last minutes. I wondered what he did tonight. I hoped he had a good night. Can you imagine?

I had my camera in my hands and almost took a picture of it, but the guys told me not to; "that is a terrible thing to take a picture of." My judgement told me not to take a picture, also, although I think at least one of my bandmates has a book of photographs taken by a famous photographer that has lots of pictures of dead people in it. Apparently when a professional photographer takes a picture of a dead guy, it's ok. In fact, we all just paid $6 to go to a Museum to look at pictures of a guy getting shot in the head in Dallas. I felt like this guy's last moment should be preserved somehow, I think that's why I wished I had taken the picture. No one will mark a white "X" on this road for this guy. He's not as important as a President, and the road is too busy.

Maybe I wanted the picture so I could know what really happened, so the image didn't have to change in my mind all night long. I laid in bed and couldn't sleep, of course, and I tried to be an adult about it and forget it, but I couldn't quite do that. I wanted to go back and see him taken away. I wanted to see an ambulance, I wanted the street cleaned up, and I wanted him in a safer, more comfortable place. That's what all those people were doing on the road; waiting for the accident to be cleaned up so they could feel better, I think.

When I laid in bed, I stretched my arms out and put my chin down on the bed, imitating his last position. I don't know why I did that. Later, I walked outside in the middle of the night and noticed a huge sunflower growing in the field near the van.

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