In his 2003 book Kingdom of Fear, Hunter S. Thompson laments being a frustrated musician whose song became word. In his mind, the ruby red IBM Selectric typewriter is a fine soprano saxophone. Conversely and generations later, I'm a frustrated writer whose word is a song. In the tones from my horn you'll hear the clearest explanation I have for the music, my life, and anything else. My fine Taylor trumpet is a fountain pen. A Macpodz concert is a diary and a dialogue. Nevertheless, I sit down to type out these redundancies at the request of someone who shall for now be known only as the Professor. I can't help but try, eh? Written or spoken language is such a vague and debauched means of conveying ideas, but we live in vague and debauched times, and certain details don't always come across in the inflection of a plunger mute or a sudden transposition to F# minor.
Music is a tool for becoming successful human beings. All creative endeavors are an exploration of the world and ourselves, simultaneously delving in to the macro and the micro, coming to greater understanding of our situation. A painting or a song reflects the disposition of the creator, and through the work, the creator shows their relationship to the world. We further the process of individuation while crystallizing our relationship within a group. This is true for listeners and performers. A concert is a group process. It's a ritual, really. For us the ritual becomes a repetitive cycle of drive, play, eat, and sleep.
Life on the road becomes complex within this simplicity. What do we eat? Is there money for it? Is there any nutrition in it? Where do we drive? Which exit? What time is load in? What do you want to play tonight? Make a set list or wing it? Do we have any friends in this city who will give us a floor on which to sleep? Did we make enough money for a hotel? What time do we have to leave to make the gig tomorrow? This is the barrage of mysteries that must continually be solved. Questions are answered and the pattern remains. We eat, sleep, drive, and play and it becomes such a routine that it's easy to forget how long we've been on tour, what songs we played last night, when was the last shower, meal, decent night's sleep, etc. Those of you who have toured in bands of your own or have followed an act around the country for the summer might identify with this strange sort of deja vu that manifests in the middle of a tour. It's not unlike waking up on Christmas morning, over and over again. There is exactly enough time in a day to sleep a little, eat a little, drive a lot, and play some music. This daily pattern induces a mind set, the mind set creates a focal point, the focal point bores a wormhole into NOW. The Moment. Everybody grooving. The jokes are funnier, the music is more dynamic, the beer has more flavor and the girls look prettier. Home is where the theater is.
I love spicy mustard and stinky pickles. I'm talking about mustard that clears your sinuses and briny, low-tide, salt and vinegar pickles. These things are rarer than I would hope in this day and age. It's impossible to know, by the label, which brands are going to have the burn, the zest. I eat a lot of sandwiches and I'm still looking for the proper kind of mustard and a good pickle on the side. The homogeneity of American food is maddening. The Waffle House menu is unvarying from Texas to North Carolina. We're almost as bad as the Brits. I need some pickles that could trim my mustache, I need mustard that would cure a head cold. I want a lover who will screw me senseless and I want music that takes me so far outside of myself, that myself becomes other, and other becomes me, and the band and the audience and the light and the noise become a gorgeous heaving mecca of fun. Why were we born, if it wasn't for fun? We got here in the name of fun, so fun should be the fallout.
A requirement of any tour is to spend egregious amounts of time in one another's company. The hilarity that ensued during our 120 hour Macpodz binges can never be explained, not by the most adept storyteller, not by Playboy's party jokes and least of all by me. I wouldn't even know where to begin... and even if I found a way to account for it here, the chances that it would make sense to anyone else are close to nil. There's something magical about spending multiple consecutive days with unwashed, sex starved, sleep deprived jazz musicians. It really allows the mind to lock in to a totally non-linear sort of logic. Perverse, almost buck-wild trains of thought criss cross and double back, spawning horrible puns and the smell of fart, trucking at 69 miles per hour. The smarmometer was off the chart. The truth is hare-brained, and the highway is longer than anyone would imagine.
We had heard rumors that the gig in Portland, ME, was cancelled but couldn't confirm it. No one at the venue picked up the phone and Tuna had no reason to believe anything was fishy. We burned about $65 worth of gas to get there, about 250 miles, about four hours, to find out the gig was indeed cancelled. Had we ever received this purported e-mail? The perceived explanation is that the owner of the club double-booked against the promoter who had been on an extended sojourn in South America, consequently out of contact. Eh Wot? Not dwelling gratuitously on these speculations, we retired to a local tavern, J's Oyster Bar, where I consumed a variety of bottom-feeders chased with cole slaw and Shipyard Ale. Oysters are spineless and sightless transsexuals who feed on the remains of dead creatures that sink to the ocean floor. What does that make us, the bipeds who slurp them so lustily? Excuse me, the lobster phone is ringing. If my nose is a bell, it was dinging. Lemon, butter, ocean singing to my balls, belly and brain. Finally the Macpodz became sea creatures too.
After supper we drove to New "Live Free or Die" Hampshire to gain our repose at the apartment of a transplanted Michigander. She had a paranoid roommate who was planning to wake at 8 AM to accomplish various errands. I don't blame the roommate for being paranoid. Every time I was in New Hampshire, I was terrified, too. It occurred to me that one possible reason that our government is so out of touch with the real needs of the people is that they gauge the issues in the cafes, diners and focus groups of the Granite State. The place seemed doggone isolated, like no one had anything better to do than stick their big noses into each others business. There was no furniture in this house. The roommate was moving out, eventually, but had planned well ahead and gotten rid of everything but the fridge. Our benefactor was cajoling with the irritated roomie to deal with us until morning, to give us place to sleep. We rolled out the bags and relaxed. We tried to be quiet amidst the excitement, the oyster buzz, and the speculation about the non-existent gig, but our whispers and giggles carried, kept the roommate awake, until whiningly, she asked, "Can't you just go to sleep? It's three AM! What time do you go to bed?" To which I answered honestly and with a fiendish grin, "Usually about six or seven," the average at that point on the tour. It was a boyish delight in the futile pretense of hip vs. square, which is nevertheless a fun game if you know how to play. I finally tuckered out, after annoying all the others by typing rambunctiously on the computer, at about quarter to 5. We were woken several hours later by the sound of stomping and slamming of doors, by an older guy in a shapeless baseball cap, flannel shirt and jeans, ranting. He hollered in a thick New England accent.
"Alright, everybody up! This is not a dormitory! No breakfast! No showers! You're trespassing and if you're not gone in 2 minutes I'm calling the cops!"
"Honey, we can't get up, we've all got big boners!" said Nick, the only one who was composed enough to form a sentence, and who thought this guy was joking around.
"You'll be the first one to go!" pointing.
"Right through the window, eh?" Nick went from sound sleep to sarcasm in .5 seconds.
"Through the window!" and he stormed out.
We were loading the van with our sleeping bags 5 minutes later, and the Landlord returned in his pickup. He had cooled off a little and wanted an explanation. His stance was that someone should have let him know in advance that there would be guests on his property, but of course no one knew anything in advance. He said he was shocked and angered and may have overreacted a little, so, "I sort of apologize." We said that we understood the surprise of seeing a half-dozen long haired rockers on the living room floor, and therefore also sort of apologized, meeting him halfway to approximate a whole apology. He whipped off his baseball cap to reveal a freckled, shiny dome. "I used to have long hair... I was young once too, ya know..." We chuckled awkwardly and with that he departed. We imitated his accent all the way to the Vermont state line. "Doahmitohry."
There are a few things that make it possible to deal with a society that largely perceives us as slackers and vagrants. Whether we're degenerates or artists, (is that redundant?) we have a sense of humor and a rock and roll band that people enjoy. We had the honor & privilege of sharing a stage and/or a buffet line with many talented musicians and excellent dudes: The Breakfast, from New Haven, Connecticut, The PMG from Lafayette, Indiana, Jim Loughlin and Vinnie Amico, representing moe., Terry and Shannon Lynch on horns, (check out their set at Summer Camp, 12:30 Saturday afternoon, bring your coffee mug) Too Fat to Skate, Turtle Soup, School Bus Yellow, Cougar Magnum, Moonalice, Tea Leaf Green...
The originators of "Genius Food for Super Heroes," collided with the ranks of the Most Important Meal of the Day in the Green Mountain State for a midnight brunch, a continental buffet, featuring the dueling basses of Chris DeAngelo & Brennan Andes on the Eddie Harris tune "Freedom Jazz Dance," followed by a nine-peice bucket of "the Chicken" by Jaco Pastorius. Adrian was roaring behind the set, Nick was spurring him onward with fierce conga fills, and Griffin whaled on the cowbell, a true preponderance that satisfied every Will Ferrell in the room. Matt Oestericher and Jesse were trading riffs on the keyboards, Tim Palmieri and I were taking jabs, guitar and trumpet. I was astounded at Tim's endless supply of tasty riffs. There were moments that it was impossible for me to discern what notes were coming from which instruments, but I had a sense that it was funky, in the broadest sense of the term. A cosmic orchestra, Breakpodz for Macfast, ain't nothin' but a pizza party. A week later in Albany, an epic "You Got Me," unwound with shredding contributions from Pat McClimans on guitar, Shannon Lynch on tenor sax, and Jim Loughlin on the MalletKat electric marimba. Listening back to that recording, we discovered that the You Got Me > Lifetrance > Token House Song extended to almost 40 minutes of uninterrupted jamming. As Arlo Guthrie says, "I been singing this song for 25 minutes. I could sing it for another 25 minutes. I'm not proud, or tired." In the second set there were further rambling explorations that probably exceeded the limits of genteel behavior. We had the time, the space, and the fuel, and were beginning to explore new territory. To let it grow, to experiment, to work at it until it sounds right... this is a rare and precious process. We're grateful to be in it. After all, there is no such thing as a product. Everything is a process, an event. Continual manifestation. The process called Macpodz is something that requires me to learn, to grow, to man up, to act like a kid again, to push myself to work beyond what I thought possible, to focus, to diffuse, and to laugh. It is a blatant opportunity to practice balancing strength and flexibility, to reconcile patience and intensity, to simultaneously journey inward and outward. Music is a tool we use for becoming, for realizing, for living.
We are barreling towards Indianapolis and getting closer to the season of festivals, barbecue grills, orange barrel highways and skinny dipping, the season of rock and roll. So until we see you at Hookahville, moe.down, or somewhere in between, know you have our sincere thanks. Your support allows us to work, play, and do what we love. Everybody likes to have fun, you know, and everybody likes to shake their buns, some of the time. Stay positive, hang loose, spread the love. T.T.F.N.
PSA: Get tour schedule updates, stay in touch with other music fans and grab the latest show downloads at the Macpodz new internet message board, www.podzsquad.net .