Tour Diaries

Tour Diary 1998 (pt.2) : In the Texan Heat

[Leaving Dallas and moving on ….]

We have it fairly small in the light of the police's activity, and it's a relief when the bus finally trundles out of town around 3am, but not before Billy takes us at 20mph along the extact route JFK took on that fateful day. We get to stop at the Book Depository, wander across the grassy knoll, and lap up a unique slice of American pie. It's actually quite a moving experience (as you'll see because I captured it all on video) and we go to bed quietly staisfied that there may well be life outside this routine.

And so, onto Houston. It's only a short drive to get there and I wake up to find us parked directly outside the venue, set in a  seemingly pleasant part of suburban town. However, Billy assures us that it's not a place to be hangin' around in late at night as it all gets a bit weird & cut-throat. So far, things have been struggling to get into gear, and today marks the appearance of Matt Voss, UK A&R boss of the MCA wing. Thus, it's a crucial show for us as he's never seen us live despite being with the company for a year. He turns up around 4pm, when we're at our most industrious - computers and digital cameras are firing off and I'm busy with the routine of running new images into the live show for the night. I think this creates a decent enough impression, and we're all struck with the peculiar ability to string articulate sentences together, which is a combination that leaves him close to dumbstruck.

 

The venue's a good one: probably the smallest of the whole tour, but the stage is large and the Method crew are giving us some slack as they know it's an important show for us. The evening zips by, and the show is the first one where we pull everything together - it's still shaky in one or two areas, but in general the kidz get it, and therefore we get off on it. Matt is pretty blown away by the entire spectacle, and straight after the show is talking about freeing up finances to get us out of Camberwell and into our own purpose built studio. It's amazing how things can hinge on a 45-minute slice of action after all this time, but it really does work like that in this business, and he goes away to spread the word to the rest of MCA America, to whom he's giving a presentation tomorrow. Back in the venue Graham's got the bit between his teeth and everyone's on a relative high, so we attack the bar where a very obliging barmaid punishes us with half-pint Margueritas. It's also a good place to check out the Method show, which is blazing - the lights are fantastic and the kids obliging, if still an awkward mix of college and rave. 

 

Jez & I take a wander with the camera, and then run into....Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), who must be a rock'n'roll god to anyone who's had even the most cursory interest in modern music over the past few years. The evening gardually disintegerates into gentle chaos and I find myself half cut, showering down in an absurdly opulent hotel room at 5am. Things are beginning to pick up - the pace of life has become customary and people are beginning to develop a keen team spirit. Even the three lampy's we now have in our bus aren't too much of a distraction - they work so fucking hard, all they do when they're on there is sleep. One on them has a mullet. Without a trace of irony.

So onto Austin and the shortest drive of the tour.....



Tour Diary 1998 : Record Highs in the Deep South

The first in a series of 15 Tour Diary Extracts from Lunatic Calm, on tour with the Crystal Method around America, 1998.

MMMMMmmmmmm....odeur de bus. Yesterday, Oklahoma recorded a record high for that day of the year at 104F (40C) and this afternoon we are holed up in the guts of the stinky bus surrounded by a weight of technology hitherto unseen.

[RRwwwd>to Friday] Having just awoken after the first halfway decent night's sleep I've had since arriving in this country, we appear to be in some kinda well-healed local 'hood in downtown Houston. Once more, the temperature is unrelenting - yesterday Dallas clocked 106F with local peaks going higher. It is simply unbelievable heat wherever the fuck you go, with the only breather coming in the form of Albuquerque at the beginning. Two hours before the show, this immense tropical storm came to town Just as me & Howie had checked into the day room for grime removal. It was quite immense - visibilty reduced to less than 50 ft at it's peak & raging for well over two hours. By the time we got back to the venue, much of the stage had become submerged in several inches of water, with more cascading down the walls & tip-toeing its' way across power joints, lighting boxes & mixing desks. There was no way we could do the show without putting ourselves at huge risk (the entire keyboard rig could become live at any minute) and sensibly we withdrew & I DJayed instead. The throng liked it, but didn't know what it was. Crystal Method went ahead & played despite much gnashing of teeth & everyone got paid.

Bad start. The atmosphere on the bus that night was weird - we'd been out here for three days gearing up for this and the first show didn't happen, so we all sat around looking a little hopeless and being very quiet and then dissipated to our bunks good'n'early.

At 5am I was awake and having it extremely small & privately in the spacious front lounge listening to my "Requiem - Music Inspired By Death" tape which seemed a strangely apt accompaniment to the vast expanse of featureless flatlands that is Northern Texas and then Oklahoma. Tinpot shacks puncture the roadside with little twisted farmsteads sitting away back from it all, full of auto junk and Mad Max vibes. The bus trundles on & we hit OK City around noon. Our driver, a man named Billy Mackenzie, from Memphis, is a God amongst men - he fought in Nam and got shipped back only when he was shot in the head for the second time. Oh man, does he have a story to tell....and it's the minutiae that really counts for something: "there was this big tree that had fallen down across the road'n'me & mah mate wuz sittin' there just drankin' a beer". We've got on with him extremely well since the moment we got on his bus and he brandished his piece saying "better put this where no one's gonna find it".

The venue seems pretty well equipped to deal with us, although by the time we get to put our stuff on stage we have about 15 feet by 10 feet to play with.....and the projections to rig. We make the wrong choice on that front and are forced into projecting from the front, which renders them diluted to the point of vagueness. It's not a bad start tho' and the kids do respond, all be it sadly with their hands rather than their feet. At so many places like this you will find the same looks of astonishment emblazoned on the faces of the people that come along - they have simply never seen the likes of what we do before, and have only "gotten" techno a couple of months ago.....so it's graft all the way and some time you come back holding the prize, others you leave everyone mildly bemused, but fairly sure they've had a good time.

[Ffwwd>>>>> Sunday evening, with the sun going down over the Kansas Turnpike....]

The week's actually flown by, such is the severity of the schedule. Today we've driven from Austin to Kansas - 725 miles, roughly equivalent to Land's End to John'O'Groats and en route haven't encountered a single town of any note whatsoever. Texas itself is something like four times the size of the UK, and whilst such mind-numbing journeys are not necessarily to be recommended, they are infact engrained into the very fabric of touring. There is no substitute for appreciating such expanse. You have to be entrenched in the bus for aeons to really get to grips with the enormity of it. I think we've now left the blistering extremity of the Texan heat - 115F in Austin was unbelievably severe, although it's felt ferocious ever since we left the tropical storm of Albuquerque.

Thursday was Dallas. Oh my god, what a business district. Here's a town so very clearly delineated between haves and have nots - we are holed up in an area called Deep Ellum, which is pretty seedy, dusty and oppressively hot....but Graham and I take off for the opulence of the day room, which takes us across town and we lap up our time in the godlike environs of air con central for several calming hours. Back at the venue, the kids are out early, as are the police, who are dealing out random acts of aggression as if their jobs depended on it: there's a new law that's just been introduced in Dallas which prohibits anyone under 21 being outside their houses after midnight. Scheduling is  therefore tight and we come onstage bang on the button to a warm response. The heat rises but the show is completely satanic - the monitors are so fucked up and loud that the second half of the is clinically dangerous - I turn my back at one point to see Jez wailing in agony as jetstreams of feedback blast the stage, inches away from his head. We really battle through the to the end but it's one of the worst experiences I can remember on a stage..... Not only that, but the heat rises after we play as more & more people stream into the venue, until it all reaches critical mass with the arrival of Crystal Method: as soon as you walk into the venue (as we do on Graham's command) you can taste the sweaty heat in your mouth - scorchio. We hang around the bar for a while and people drip by, giving us props, whilst all the time there's a steady line of security fellows gliding to the back of the throng with limp bodies held aloft. Meanwhile, outside the police are plasti-cuffing flared youngsters and banging them up in a mobile cage. The only amusing thing about this heavy-handedness is the fact they they arrived on bicycles wearing what looked like hotpants. Man, this is a fucked up country.....