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Catching Up, Vol. I: Everything Is Going Exactly As We Planned

Hello, friends! Rob here.


I was worried that, after tandem-catapulting straight from Eurotour to Mardi Gras to regular tour, I may have allowed the statute of limitations to lapse on my being able to post something about Europe, but even now, MANY PEOPLE ARE SAYING "hey man, how was Europe?", so I think I'm good. Today will feature part one of Europe catch-up along with some more current, general blog stuff, and I'll wrap it up in a future entry to be posted hopefully less than two months from now.


A month or so before our European tour, when we were sorting out who wanted to fly in at what time, I made the decision to stay in New Orleans until the last possible minute so I could be in town for the Super Bowl. My wife and I have hosted Super Bowl parties the last few years and this one was going to be something of a christening for our new home. Plus, at the time, it seemed like the New Orleans Saints were destined to waft through the playoffs and make it to the game's biggest stage unhindered by any sort of gross malpractice on behalf of the officiating crew- especially not a mistake so flagrant and consequential that one Atlantic City sportsbook actually gave bettors their money back.


Anyway. The first thing anyone in the UK said to me was "boy, the Saints sure got screwed, eh?"


Keep in mind, by "the first thing," I don't mean that I struck up a conversation with some so-and-so, and eventually I mentioned I had come here from New Orleans, thus prompting the remark. Our friend Jack Bosma (a name you may recognize if you're active on the RevHeads page) was on my flight into London, so we took the train into the city together, and Jack happened to be wearing a Saints shirt at the time. As we were waiting on an elevator on our way out of Heathrow, a guy next to us noticed the shirt and made the remark unprompted.


By the way, if Mardi Gras was any indication, New Orleans is not over the NFC Championship Game and probably won't be for quite some time. Roughly one out of three parade floats this year was full of riders in "blind referee" costumes tossing homemade penalty flags with bitter, punchy slogans like "IMPEACH GOODELL," or "WE WAS ROBBED," or "REFS DAT," or "THERE ARE A LOT OF SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH THE WAY THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE CONDUCTS ITS BUSINESS, FROM PLAYER SAFETY ISSUES TO ITS TACIT APPROVAL OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, BUT THIS IS THE ONE I AM CHOOSING NOT TO FORGIVE." Hilarious!


Anyway, this has all been in service of admitting that I kind of missed out on London. I came down with a cold probably somewhere around hour two of my overnight flight into Heathrow, so, between that, jet lag, and my late arrival, I wasn't exactly my best self for the first few days of EuroTour. (EuroTouro? Teurope? Ugh, no.) By the time I made it to our hotel in London, I had a few hours for a shower and a nap before we loaded onto the bus and departed for Manchester.


Our European tour bus was of the double decker variety, with the driver's section and a small common area on the ground floor, a bathroom halfway up the stairs, and then bunks, a TV room, and a small forward viewing section on top. It was delightfully European and I wish American tour buses could be double-decker almost as much as I wish that the plural form of "bus" was still "busses."


My time in Manchester was brief and filtered through a haze of sinus congestion and weird British cold medicine (why does it have caffeine in it?), but I remember it fondly all the same. The part of the city I was able to explore was a lot of street art and asian food and pubs tucked away in side streets and alleyways. This is based on a pretty snap judgment and may be way off base, but if I had to pick a city to compare it to, I'd go with Melbourne- the hip little city that carves out an alternative niche in the shadow of its titanic big brother. That may not be a very helpful comparison, because the second-largest city in Australia probably isn't the most relatable frame of reference, but hey, not my problem. MY FACTS DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS.


Then we were back in London. I was still kind of playing catch-up health-wise, but I managed to grab a quick lunch with my parents, who made the trip probably sixty percent to see me/the band and forty percent because Europe. I'm not going to spend too much time thinking about whether that ratio needs tweaking, much less in which direction. Anyway, London's storied 100 Club was everything I could possibly have hoped for in an underground dive that has been both a jazz club and the primordial soup from which punk rock emerged. The ceilings were low, the crowd was up in our faces, the sight lines were sometimes obstructed as a matter of structural necessity, and among the numerous portraits of musical legends who've graced the club over the years, I found the greatest jazzman name of all time:



If I take a photo of a photo that someone else took, and post my photo (of their photo) online somewhere, do I still need to give proper photo credit? Seems like a useful loophole for the Fuckjerrys of the world. Anyway, I have no idea who took the original, sorry.


The show at the 100 Club was amazing. We decided, probably about an hour before sound check, to learn The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" in honor of the history of the building, and it got dangerous in there. I was so amped during that set that about two thirds of the way through it I realized I wasn't even sick anymore. Music is cool.


We spent much of the following day in transit. First it was a drizzly morning plowing through the English countryside on the bus, then we boarded a ferry in the Port of Dover at the foot of the beautiful white cliffs (immortalized in song by the great Eric Johnson), took a turbulent ride across the Strait of Dover, climbed back on the bus in Calais, and cruised the rest of the way to Amsterdam, buzzing on the electricity of the previous two nights and ready to tackle mainland Europe.



* * *


Today, we are in Austin, thick in the weeds of another amorphous chapter in the endless book of touring. A mere two days after the insanity of Mardi Gras, we were packed up and on our way to Madison for the start of the Take Good Care Tour. That first week of touring was great but also kind of weird because we started things off in the Upper Midwest, where it was all frozen bodies of water and dense, pillowy snowfalls. A Lyft driver in Madison who was wearing khakis and a button-down (no jacket) in eighteen-degree weather told us it had "really warmed up over the last few days." Apparently the wind chill had been negative fifty the week prior, which meant that any exposed skin would start to develop frostbite after a few minutes. In Milwaukee, the loading area of the venue backed right up to the riverwalk downtown. The river was iced over and there were visible human footprints on top. A bouncer from the venue told us that every year, without fail, that river became "some college student's watery grave."


But in the span of a few days, we went from this:



...to this:



And that, friends, is why I will always be a habitual over-packer.  There's just no way to be prepared for a tour like this one without bringing enough clothing to fill a garbage truck.  Well, there's that and then also a traumatic anecdote from my childhood. I used to road trip to Grand Lake with my friend Frank and his dad every Fourth of July, and one year when we were probably around nine years old I forgot to pack any underwear.  Fortunately, I was a little kid, so my body wasn't quite as gross and sweaty as it is now, but still- I had to make two bathing suits and the pair of tighty-whities I was wearing on the drive up last an entire week.  That experience changed me.  It was my personal 2019 NFC Championship Game.  I will never be over it.


Last week we FINALLY played a show in St. Louis that didn't evaporate at the last minute! It was a blast and long overdue, and then our friend John "Papa" Gros was playing at our old St. Louis stamping ground, Broadway Oyster Bar, so we had to stop by and get our friendship on.


The friend whose thing I'm plugging today is The Nuclears! This is some straight-up ROCK AND/OR ROLL. THUNDERING RIFFS! DUELING GUITARS! CHARMING MUSIC VIDEOS!



A long time ago, Nuclears vocalist Briana Layon and I were in a band together with some other friends from high school, one of whom will probably turn up in a future edition of Friend Whose Thing I'm Plugging and one of whom completely vanished a few years after we graduated deleted his Facebook profile in 2006 (a move I regard with equal parts resentment and envy). Anyway, we were AWESOME. The band essentially went through two distinct eras. In the early days, we called ourselves things like "a collective" and "an anti-band" and switched instruments and stayed up all night recording 90-second songs on Windows Sound Recorder with a single desk microphone- the kind you'd normally only use to call bingo numbers or testify in front of a Senate subcommittee. Bri fronted the band during the second era, when we dialed the irony back to about eighty percent, bought a second microphone, and started writing songs that would sound like actual songs if ears could squint. We rehearsed. We actually tried a little. We played a friend's birthday party one time. Anyway, now Briana and I are in our thirties and we're both Doing The Thing and that's really cool. The Nuclears are about to drop an LP in April called Barrage Rock, which you can sample here and pre-order if your fancy is sufficiently tickled.


Here's an ill-fated attempt at comment section fodder: I have no idea how to pronounce the word "despot." I've seen it a million times. I can spell it. I know what it means. I can use it in a (written) sentence. But I have no idea how to pronounce it. There are at least five more words like this for me in the English language, but I can never remember any of them offhand. Do you have any of those? DISCUSS. And while you're at it, see if you can figure out why, in an era where most people carry around the aggregate of all human history, experience and knowledge in their pockets, I've never bothered to look it up.


Okay, bye!