How Sweet It’s Been, How Tough It’s Getting or The Detritus Of Nostalgia: Neurosis As A Biological Tactic For Survival
An old friend of Jimmy’s was at the show in Santa Fe. He actually worked with Jimmy at a downtown Austin restaurant back in the gay 90’s. I say “gay” in the old school sense of expressing careless joy and happiness. As we crawl towards the 2k teens things are getting mighty grim, eh? Well this fella waxed about one of his favorite days in Austin. It was Easter Sunday 1995. He and a buddy were in East Austin playing croquet and listening to KUT as The Gourds performed live on air. He said he remembers vividly everything about that day. As I remember it, Jeff McCord had invited us up to give it a shot. And we just did what we could do. We made a cassette from that KUT session that we started selling at shows. And for the next year, in every coffee house and cafe in town that tape could be heard playing. This fellow said he had worn out a couple of those cassettes. He was excited to learn that he could get it for free on Archive.org. I always like turning people on to the archive. A great free music resource.
1995, It was the year we broke through in Austin. Suddenly, out of the blue, we had huge crowds dancing and singing with us at The Electric Lounge, Hole In The Wall and Flipnotics. By SXSW we had begun work with Mike Stewart on what would become Dem’s Good Beeble and had a record deal with the Dutch indie, Munich Records. A year from then we were touring the States and Europe. It happened so fast. I remember thinking it was just a fluke. I surely did not expect it to last long. In fact, I arranged with my boss at the time at Book People, Phillip Sansone, to allow me a few months leave to do these tours. I trained one of my employees to take over my position and I was out of there. I still need to call them and let them know I am not coming back.
Jimmy’s pal talked also about his days in the kitchens. How now in his 40’s that he couldn’t do it. It’s a young mans game. His comments rang true with me. Especially after this gig at Santa Fe Sol or S.O.L. As Jimmy referred to it. The turn out, even after getting radio love from KBAC, was sparse. At this point in the OMJ touring things got a bit bleak. These are the nights when we have to reach down deep and recall the reasons we dreamed this dream, connect with the emotional essence of the old mad joy that brought us along, thru so many years, to this place, here and now with these people to sing our songs. And that is exactly what we did. It wasn’t the greatest Gourds show ever. But it was unique and original. I had a few clams that the band bailed me out of. Nothing anyone would notice of course. That is what makes us “pros,” says jimmy.
The small audience was really wonderful and enthusiastic. Many of them were hard core fans. A pleasant surprise was the amount of dancing that went on. And it wasn’t just the boogie down, shake yer ass dancing. It was a lot of couples, two stepping, twirling, whirling and gliding. I admire people that dance at shows, any shows. It is inconsistent I realize, but I never go out dancing. I can bust a move on stage. But, get me on the floor in a crowd and I get very self conscious. I don’t know. Maybe it’s some long buried dance trauma. Time turned it all to gone and we loaded out in the frosty full moon with the words of Jimmy’s buddy still ringing in my 44 year old ears. How sweet it has been, how tough it is getting. Wish us luck. We are gonna need it.
What a difference a day and some New Mex food makes. A typical Gourds breakdown happened today at lunch. Assuming everyone would want to eat some real good New Mexican food we made a plan to go to La Choza in Santa Fe. This place is “off the chain” as Eagle put it. Since we hit it at lunch hour there was a bit of a wait. I had told the colorful, effeminate host of the fashionably tussled, highlighted hair we would need a table of 7. Once all of us arrived things began to unravel. Claude, Max and Jimmy wanted nothing to do with this place. I am guessing because they thought it’d be too expensive. Suddenly we became 4 and the wait was nothing. I was disappointed about the others bailing because I had eaten here before and knew how damn good it was. I know how much those cats like good food too. Oh well, “you can lead a Gourd to culture but you can’t make’em eat,” eh? The rest of us proceeded to have what might end up being the best meal of the tour. And it was only 15 bucks. I felt much better after those stacked enchiladas smothered in red chili. Why do I get a participant ribbon in the epidemic of obesity? Because food = happy.
Off to Taos. We played at KTAO’s Solar Center. It’s basically a giant tent in the shape of a Wienerschnitzel. Um, maybe that is a regional hotdog chain that many of you do not know. So go get a hard back book from yer book shelf, place it spine side up and slowly open the pages at the bottom to make a tent shape and that is what the solar center looks like and a Wienerschniztel too. But inside the walls are like quilted, off-white garbage bags. The floor is wood. And on this night it was full of happy, dancing people of all ages, kinds and degrees of cleanliness. The full moon glowed off the muddy snow outside as the temps dropped into the low 20’s. Inside the warmth bounced off the garbage bag Weinerschnitzel walls. Another Gourds show was in full bloom and boom. During Claude’s “Wagon Of Destruction” I went pacing through the crowd like a disturbed person, head down and counting on my fingers, gesturing wildly. A short, shirtless dancing young man came up to me tattooed and pierced in every imaginable place on his somewhat squat body. He thanked me sincerely for coming and playing Taos. I reached to pat him on the back and he was as warm and sweaty as a goats bladder. I politely thanked him then walked away with my hand extended from my body, ala Larry David, and dunked it into the iced down beer by the stage. As the audience applauded Claude I patted him on the back to dry my hand off.
After the show I made my way around the room shaking hands, signing CD’s and thanking everyone for coming. Sometimes we get an irate customer or two who want to register their complaint in person. Sometimes it is because we didn’t play gin and juice, sometimes it’s because we didn’t play some other favorite, then sometimes it is because they want to tell us that the sound was bad, the sound guy sucked, and that “I tried to tell him but he ignored me. ”
When she couldn’t get satisfaction from Mark, our sound man, she took her case to Eagle Eye at the merch table. Then there she was, shaking my hand and whining about how she couldn’t hear the voices. “I’ve got brothers who are musicians, so I know what I’m talking about.” she said. Yes because all musicians have exactly the same experience. We all know the secrets of pristine audio manipulation. And, we are able to impart that timeless technical wisdom telepathically to our siblings. Knowing that, I understood completely that she knew what she was talking about. I assured her that I would reprimand our sound engineer and require he take an on line refresher course about the physics of sound at www.f#%koffsoundbitch.com
After the show some of us gathered in my and Eagle Eye’s room for fellowship. C Bumps surfed thru the television channels and stopped on a musical performance by a girl he called, “Feist?” I had never heard of her. But, we watched, listened to the song. She seemed steadfast, sophomoric, almost angry, but still cute enough to make everyone feel safe. Markwad and Cbumps explained to me who she was and sang a bit of a song I would recognize from an IPod commercial. It wasn’t that long ago that Neil Young was giving Clapton shit about “This Bud’s for you.” It used to be frowned upon in rock n roll to pimp products. Now we have whole careers launched from f#%€ing commercials. It just makes me wanna buy some beer and a new car and go get a mcrib then puke. Let’s face it, I am like lobby coffee at an Albuquerque La Quinta….bitter. Ugh.
I can’t sit here and say that I wouldn’t do such a commercial if given the opportunity. But, I think it is safe to say I would never represent anyone’s vision for the image of their product. For shits and grins though let’s go there. I could sell beer probably. I could be placed in that Beer ad about the “second unmanly thing you’ve done today.” But I would just walk up and check their ID’s, take their beers and tell’em to get the Fug out. Then I’d take a swig of a nice, hoppy IPA and laugh manically as it spilled out of my mouth like golden blood. (enter a group of solid Gourds dancers gyrating and spinning around me as gin and juice plays) Boy that was easy. I could make commercials as good as any of those Ad grad’s. How hard could it be?
I think the funniest commercials are the erectile dysfunction products. I especially like those Cialis ads. The couple is walking thru a grocery store and suddenly they want to have sex. Which is a rare fetish I have never heard of. I mean there are plenty of perv’s who frequent places like grocery stores for lots of creepy reasons I guess. But they are not the target consumer of these spots. Suddenly the couple enters a hallucinatory hyper real world of ultimate romantic cliche’ like a beach or the mountains. Then they start talking in the voice of the narrator about the very horrific shit that can happen if you take this drug. I think this is supposed to be the simulation of shared intimacy and friction that we are to associate with sex. Then ta-da ( this is funny because the drug name is actually Tadalafil ) Ta Da, they are sitting in separate claw foot tubs holding hands gazing into a picturesque sunset. What kind of twisted focus group did they tap into that separate claw foot tubs would stand as a metaphor for the after glow of sex? I don’t get it. And how long before someone names their kid Cialis?
We have been in Northen New Mexico now for 4 days and already most of us have begun shriveling up into piñon scented prunes. There doesn’t seem to be any amount of water that helps. The lack of oxygen at these heights makes it difficult to maintain the mental capacity to keep count of hydration intake. At any point a Jack London novel could break out. We really feel the altitude during shows. The normal places we might take a breath while singing is different; A dance I might do effortlessly in other places closer to sea level extracts its pound of lung capacity until I teeter. Luckily I can dizzily teeter in rhythm. My neck most mornings feels like a rodeo clown is sitting on my head. But body pain sometimes distracts one from the existential whining and self pity. For some reason that Journey song “Faithfully” pops in my aching head, Steve Perry’s annoying alto scrapes a chair across the floor towards the ears of my mind:
Under the big top world
We all need the clowns to make us smile
Through space and time
Always another show
Wondering where I am lost without you.”
It’s melodramatic, derivative and insipid. But somewhere deep inside of me there is a place where that stuff can be converted to useful emotion. The detritus of nostalgia warbling up into the ether, rank methane to fuel my magic carpet of self loathing, Don Rickels wrestling angels in a swamp of conceit and regret. In my best Ernest Tubb, “They could build a pipeline to Texas for the tears inside me. “
Am I more f#%€ up than the average person? I tend to believe so. But as I grow older and wiser and even more f#%€ up I am gleaning evidence that this may not be true. But neurosis may be evolution’s way of making me impalpable to larger predators. And in this group it serves as camouflage that almost makes me appear normal.