Friday, September 12, 2008

Birmingham AL - Sept.10 - 11

The van has officially been named “The Shitty Church.” This happened pretty early in the trip, based on the fact that the person who has to sit in the middle in the front feels like they are sitting on a church pew, staring at a Virgin Mary statue stuck on the dashboard. The drive to Birmingham seems pretty easy and is totally un-wobbly with the new tire. We’re still going 40 MPH top speed up hill, but this leg of the trip seems pretty short.

So Birmingham is totally awesome. Everything about this stop, except the heat and the fleas, is awesome, which the locals all tell me has never been the case before. Pull into town a little early and we head to the AC Temple, Lance’s old home and current home of Birmingham Brian, Milton, and Jason. It’s another totally crooked house with cool art and amazing flyers everywhere. Lots of various musical instruments and spray-painted amps strewn about. It has a really gnarly dirt and stone basement too that feels like a real cave. You’d think Birmingham is some kind of major noise/punk mecca from all the amazing bands they’ve brought there. Several Cock ESP flyers.

Brian gives us some homemade salsa and cooks up some beans to wrap in tortillas. Totally delicious. Just what I needed after a day of snacks and miscellaneous food. Like every spot so far, they also have a few cats that are sort of wild but sort of live there too. After some food we head over to the venue, which is a cool bookstore called Greencup Books with an incredible upstairs loft space that they use for shows. It’s huge. It would rent for $3500/month in Brooklyn, MINIMUM. Just the upstairs.

I browse the books and chat a bit with Mike, one of the bookstore owners, about Brooklyn. He offers me a deal on the used books so I grab a few for the road. “Decoding the Universe” by Charles Seife (I’ve heard it’s a bit muddled, but it’s about Information Theory and cosmology, which I’m into) and “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon” by Daniel Dennett.

The first band are some indie/post-hardcore/shoegazey band, one of those bands where the singer closes his eyes and cocks his head to the side and makes an eyebrow-raised smile face while singing. Oh yeah, important to lift up your shoulders while singing like this too. They’re good dudes and a talented band and all but kind of a strange match with the rest of the show.

The second act is a guy named DAVEY WILLIAMS who was AMAZING. He played what he called “fake blues” which was guitar that started out sounding kind of like the blues, but would then get warped with pedals, looped, layered, and then he’d break out electric toothbrushes and a balloon to play the guitar with on top of all that. Really alien music. Totally great. Google that guy.

There was a really good crowd for this show too and everyone stayed to the end. Repeatedly everyone told me that noise shows in Birmingham are never this cool, but maybe things are changing. An older punk guy who told me he played in Birmingham’s first punk band (formed in ’83) was there and was stoked on everything, which was a big compliment.

All around best sets of tour from everyone in our crew. No one in the audience would dance or clap for the RADIO SHOCK show, but that just encouraged me to get crazier and pump more and more energy into it. Very hot, lots of sweat. DRUMS LIKE MACHINE GUNS set started with Brian downstairs talking to people on his wireless mic through the amps upstairs. When they started into their intro noise part it sounded so good I had to take my earplug out and it just got better from there.

Lance’s triumphant return home went great. Everyone crowded up front at his insistence and HYLAND HOLOGRAM sounded the best yet. The opening and ending of the 2nd song were super-tight. Last song ended with the drum kit getting kicked apart. Everyone loved it. They sold almost all of their T-shirts.

We leave the gear at the bookstore (and Lance mistakenly leaves the door money there too) and go back to the AC Temple. Some of the show-goers also come back to the house. B’ham Brian breaks out some more chips and salsa and makes us all blueberry banana smoothies! Plus some bread and humus he made the day before! Southern hospitality and more healthy food, an awfully nice trend on this tour.

Mark and I retreat to an empty and slightly quieter room around 3AM or so. I decide to sleep on a giant stuffed Cthulu thing, some kind of shark-squid stuffed animal that someone made. It’s about as big as me, so after wrapping the tentacles around a bit, I make a pretty nice bed out of it. It takes a while to get to sleep because Brian is really pumping the music, just about the best DJ mix I’ve ever heard, a mix of novelty songs, thrash metal, classic oldies and noise. Even some Jesus & Mary Chain in the mix. Cool but distracting, but eventually I fall asleep. No idea when everyone else went to sleep.

Wake up around 10 and searched around for some coffee. Got bit during the night by some mosquitos and I think a few fleas. Bummer, but it’s not so bad. Mark’s reading about Postmodernism on the porch. Lance is up and I ask him about going out to pick up some coffee. He wakes everyone up and convinces us to go to the Big Lots to find food. This turns into a couple-hour-long outing which makes me a little grumpy, being all before a cup of coffee and food of course, and naturally when we get back someone has already found coffee which is brewing. But we also got some eggs and cereal and soy milk which is good. B’ham Brian gets me online to do blog posts.

We realize it’s an hour later in Atlanta because of the time zone difference so it’s time to go! Richie opts to ride with the Birmingham crew, who are also going to FREEDUMB FEST 2012 so we have a little extra room in the van, which is basically taken up by the new groceries. Pick up the gear and the $$$ are still right where they were left. Still doing good for gas money. On the road to Justin’s place now, the “Black Casl” or “Chateaux Noir” where FREEDUMB FEST happens in Stone Mountain GA. We’re all pretty psyched about it. DRUMS LIKE MACHINE GUNS open AND close the fest.

On our way to FREEDUMB!!!

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