In this extensive diary, Oakland's craziest MC shares the intimate details of life on the road with Dusted readers.
Cex's Tour Diary
At the beginning of the tour,
Nick and Rob were super-stoked about having a "crazy book"
competition, and the day after our second show we bought six composition
notebooks and most everyone got to work. The idea was to use downtime over
the four weeks of tour to make a "crazy book," the kind of book
that serial killers and other crazy people have. Like in Seven, the movie,
when they find Kevin Spacey's house and you see all those composition
notebooks and Morgan Freeman reads a little of one of them.
Nick's book was a "classic" crazy book in a lot of senses. There
was a lot of really pain-staking cutting and pasting from tabloids and
porno mags, and I think he cut up some hotel bibles, too. He put a lot of
references to apocalypse and death and stuff like that. Lots of little
disturbing words and phrases cut out and pasted together. Also, I think he
did some pages where he wrote vague Latin phrases over and over... you
know, classic style crazy book.
Rob's was more of a modern, urban kind of crazy book. A lot of dark
drawings, in a graf-type style, with some cut-and-paste collage parts from
magazines, with pictures of skulls and planes and stuff. He put a lot of
work into shading and coloring on each page.
Jimmy's crazy book got lost and then found a few times, and he was very
secretive about its contents. It started out as a story being written in
"the wizard tense," which is a new verb tense we invented in the
van on the first day's drive. I don't remember the rules exactly because
we never really brought it up after the first two or three days of tour,
but it was something about constructing sentences that have past, present,
future, conditional, and all that shit in the same sentence, and kind of
switching them up arbitrarily. The story was really disturbing, too--
mostly because Jimmy is kind of a quiet dude and the vaguely creepy stuff
he was writing ("You were mad at me, I could tell. I didn't mean to
but I ruined dinner," etc) seemed like maybe it could be based on
something real and we wouldn't know, because Jimmy's kind of quiet.
At some point in the tour, he started drawing these hilarious comics in
the back of his crazy book, and Jenny liked them a lot, and would make me
look at them while she laughed. They were really funny. At a few of the
clubs, he drew comics on the dressing rooms' walls. This is a picture of
one of them.
My strategy was to just keep a detailed journal about the tour and my
actual thoughts during the tour. Since 2000 I've had a diary on my web
site that I update in fits and starts. I've never figured out exactly
quite what the concept or purpose of the diary is, but I feel like it
sometimes helps me get my thoughts in order to pretend that other people
might be reading them. Also, I sometimes like to pretend I am shattering
somebody's illusions about the music biz world by telling them unpleasant
or mundane things about my own specific experiences with touring, albums,
BUT, despite the fact that I've toured more and more frequently since the
website's beginning (last year, I did six tours) and the fact that these
tours have always played pivotal roles in my personal and musical life, I
have barely documented these tours. I have an album of almost 200
Polaroids taken during my totally bananas six-week outing with Numbers and
Stars as Eyes, and I think I'd still like to try and get some of them
published somewhere fancy one day, because I think they tell the story of
that tour really well.
BUT, this would be the first time I would try and tell the story with
words. And maybe my plan of complete and total sincerity wouldn't end up
winning the crazy book competition, but I knew if my crazy book was just a
crazy ruse about fake craziness, I'd probably do like three pages and then get bored. I guess that's the kind
of pervasive and insidious thing about my vanity--- one day, my brain and
body just stopped understanding why I would put any work or effort into
something that wasn't "real" (see: abrupt end of college,
resistance to government jobs, intense aversion to any musician with
press-release powered "mystique," etc.) and since the
"realest" things tend to be the details clinging to the
underside of my own life... like I said, it's vanity. On the other hand, I
figure if I could pick up other people's lives like rocks in a creek and
scrape the ugly mollusks and moss and lichen off them, I might do that
instead... I don't know, I'm not gonna try and figure this shit out here.
It's the year 5000 (2000+3) and it's definitely time for some movement
brain-hurting speculation on abstract concepts.
To my knowledge, Ben and Jenny never even started either of their crazy books.
We never actually judged them at the end, either. Or even look through
each others' work. The end of the tour was rushed and weird, so it makes
sense, but looking back now it was kind of weird that nobody brought it
up. Also, I still have an outstanding bet of 10$ with Nick as to what the
official religion of Japan is.
(He said Shinto. I said Athiesm. I think I'm right, but I haven't checked
statement/cast of characters
From April 4th to May 5th of
2003, I went on tour as the opening act for my friends' band, The Postal
Service. Ben, the singer of the Postal Service, asked me to do this tour
while I was opening for his other band, which is called Death Cab for Cutie,
in March of 2002. He told me about this electronic side project he was doing
with Jimmy DNTEL, and how Sub Pop was going to put out their record and make
them to do at least four weeks of touring for it. For reasons still not
clear to me, he thought I'd be a good opening act. At that time-- and
really, up until the night of the first show--- we had no idea how this tour
would go down. We talked on the phone every two or three weeks after we met
in March, and as this tour grew closer and became more and more of a real
thing that was about to really happen, we would ask each other, "Who is
going to come to these shows?" The only thing really similar about the
music I make and the music of the Postal Service is that we both use
laptops. Mine just sits on the floor of the stage running off beats while I
do power karaoke over top, while Jimmy uses his to run a bunch of samplers
and keyboards and things while Ben and Jenny played guitars and keyboards
and drums and voices on top. They're really good. I'm kind of still working
on it-- the music part at least. I have all the other parts kind of down---
the fear, for instance. I'm not so afraid of the audience like all the other
bands in the world are. It's hard to explain, maybe you'll see it one day.
Anyway, it turned out that a lot a lot of people liked the Postal Service's album,
including MTV who showed up to film a "You Hear It First!" news
segment about them in LA. Last summer I watched MTV almost every day and I
remember the night I saw a "You Hear It First!" news segment about
El-P and it made me feel weird and excited, like the different worlds of
modern music were suddenly rubbing up against each other in a way that might
mean earthquakes soon. Also, a "You Hear It First!" is where I
first learned about tATu, after which I rushed out and tracked down a promo
copy of their album so I could get the tATu boner months before Maxim or
Jimmy Kimmel or anybody else was riding that train. And the Postal Service
got to go on
"Morning Becomes Eclectic," which is a radio show in Los Angeles
that is pretty big. I remember my best friend Andy once found this promo
cassette of Beck playing live on Morning Becomes Eclectic when we were in middle school. We
were absolutely certain we were the only people on earth who had this tape.
I hope Andy still has it.
So, we toured, the Postal Service and I. And the tour turned out to be kind of mind-blowing in the "holy
shit, all these shows are sold out" department. Which translates to
even more mind-pieces on the floor and wall behind you when you get into the
fiscal aspects, which we will get into, but later. I made more money on this tour than I think I probably made
from all the other tours I've ever done put together. I've never kept really
good records of these types of things, but I'm pretty sure.
For one thing, I'm debt-free now, as long as you don't count my student
loans, which I'm not because I'll start getting depressed if I do. But my
credit card balance, and some medical bills I figured I would just avoid
until I saw lawyers, and the health insurance and the outstanding money owed
to my father-- all that is signed, sealed, and delivered, and sugar. I can
barely believe it. I'm pretty sure Ben and Jimmy are OK with the amount of
money I walked away with, but even still, I feel like I just got away with the scam of
the century. At the beginning
of 2003, six month's worth of pre-hatched chicken counting imploded
inside the engine of my parents' station wagon, which was holding all my
worldly possessions and my body while I tried to scurry across the continent to
go live in a new city on another coast. When I finally made it to Oakland,
California and to my new (teal and silver) house, I had to get a job for the
first time in like two years, and I worked at a record three days a week. My
bank balance stayed in the negative, my fatigue and panic levels stayed
bubbling up in the high, but I did somehow manage to squeeze out a few songs
that I'm into. (esp "Kill Me")
Before I get carried away, let me just try and figure out the point I was
trying to make: this tour... it was good. However, it was not so eventful as far as producing
neat anecdotes like "How Mike Got Shot" or "How We Got All
Those Colonial Girls to Take Off Their Shirts and Kiss" or "Fences
In Stranger's Yards Near Which Sex Kind of Occurred." On the other
hand, it really did change my year and I guess probably my life, at least
insomuch that I'm going to buy a bunch of stuff I never thought I could
afford, and I'm going to shoot my BB gun instead of working that
government job I had before the tour.
What I'm saying is that this diary, it's no "The
Dirt." Which is probably fine, because (with all respect) it might be a
shame to put the few great stories I have now, like the shooting or the
fences, on a website (no matter how awesome that website might be)
when maybe I could try and make them into something slightly more permanent
or at least tangible -- like an album or song or "The Dirt 2."
This diary was an experiment and here are the results. It
started one way and finished a complete different way, as usual with things
I try to do. First of all, though, you need to be introduced to the cast.
These are secret pictures of everybody doing "the Cross-Eyed
This is Ben. He sings and plays guitar and keyboards in the Postal Service.
I love him to death. I really love him. I've done two tours with this guy
now and I still can't tell how aware he is of the fact that he's totally a
bona fide heart-throb in the eyes of a large number of music fans across the country. With
the screaming and the swooning and the HUNDREDS, if not THOUSANDS, of
crushes than he'll never conceive of or know about... I don't know how
aware of it he is, and I would like to get inside of his head one day and
check out what's going on in there, but I know that won't happen. Hopefully,
though, I will get to hang out with him a lot more before my own head calls
it quits. Ben is using a Red Bull can for a microphone.
This is Jimmy. He does the programming and the electronic stuff for Postal
Service. I had met him twice before this tour-- once when we played a show
together in Los Angeles in February of 2002 and one other time when I was
wondering the streets of Barcelona, lost, and recognized him standing in
front of some hotel playing soccer with some other Americans. Jimmy is using
an umbrella for a microphone, and there's a blanket over there on his right
because he didn't want anyone else seeing his Cross-Eyed Crooner. I think
this is probably the only time Jimmy ever did the Cross-Eyed Crooner.
This is Jenny. I don't know if she'd be offended by me saying this, but she
is really normal for someone who has been in a bunch of movies and on TV
shows. I mean, I'm from Baltimore and I buy magazines for the pictures of
famous people, and she's from LA and gets phone calls from famous people, so my brain kind of assumed at
first that her brain would probably work completely differently than mine.
But my brain was kind of wrong, I think. She plays keyboards and guitars and
sings for Postal Service and also has another band called Rilo Kiley. If
you're reading this, you've probably heard of them because they're a couple
times bigger than Cex (which is my band.) Jenny's got a water bottle for a
This is Li'l Rob, who did merch for the tour. He's a very unique person
and definitely has the most disturbing Cross-Eyed Crooner. Rob and I clocked
a lot of time sitting behind tables and counters selling kids CDs together,
and I must say that doing the merch thing is a lot less boring with Rob
around. He lets kids have it in a way that they don't really know they're
being let have it, but also in a way that makes me crack up every time. It's
kind of mean but that's OK, because Rob is just one of those guys who can
pull it off. I don't know if you know one of those guys, but it's not weird
when he's a little mean, because he's always in control and can
polish off his surliness with this touch of humanity that shows that he
really cares and is just having some fun with you, and that it's not your
fault you're being fucked with, it's the state of the whole retarded world in
general. He is using an invisible microphone.
So here is Nick, the man who invented the Cross-Eyed Crooner, and who really did
the best one. But this isn't a picture of it. He was driving almost all the time so I never really got a
chance to capture his Cross-Eyed Crooner on my digital camera, like these other pictures.
You probably noticed that all the other pictures were taken in the van,
which is where you could find us for most of the lit-up hours each day. Nick
was our tour manager, which means he went and got the money and made sure
everybody was in the van when the rest of us were completely not qualified
to do either of those things (or anything else, which was the case after a
lot of the shows.) Also, he worked the projections for the Postal Service's
visuals. And, yeah, this is not his Cross-Eyed Crooner, this is some other guy he
invented in the basement of the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. He did this
dance that made me LITERALLY piss in my pants it was so funny. He jacked up
his pants and wriggled around and man, you should have been there.
This is me, my name is Rjyan. All of these other pictures are of people
goofing around and looking gross on purpose, but this is how I look
normally, like when I'm resting. It takes a huge amount of concentration to
keep my face from doing this on its own, and I usually exert that effort
when a camera is aimed at me, but this picture was taken oh whatever. etc,
Now that I look at this, I realize I'm about to pull some serious
bait-and-switch on you here, because you may get the impression that this
diary is about those pleasant-looking people in the Postal Service, but it's
mostly about me. I hope that doesn't ruin it. If it does, email me and tell
me. I won't reply to you, but you can rest assured I will feel real bad
about it for a lot longer than I should. Mean or disappointed emails have a
tendency to do that to me, which probably means I'm insecure. I'm working on
(oh man am I gonna get in trouble for these pics)
So obviously I was in love with
Cross-Eyed Crooner from the moment it was unveiled to me in the van, and I
made Rob and Nick and Ben do it all the time and I laughed every time. Somewhere
on the east coast I realized that it was inevitable that I was going to put
Ben on blast and tell the audience to make him share the glory of the
Cross-Eyed Crooner with the rest of the world. Because a thing like that...
you can't keep it locked up, you can't keep it all for yourself. It's a
beautiful thing and I wanted to share it.
I mean, but that's just me. At
first I was like, "New York City: it will be big. I will make the show
very memorable. I will unleash the Cross-Eyed Crooner and no one shall ever
forget the day that Postal Service and Cex played in New York
But I didn't do it. I don't remember why. I think I was just generally not
feeling either of the New York City shows too much. The first was too
afternoon-y, and the second was just weird. And I had a migraine. But wait,
I'm getting ahead of myself.
So a few days after that I thought, "OH wait, I'll do it in Seattle.
Ben's hometown. It will be good there because everyone will feel this sense
of closeness and I will seal our closeness by cracking this inside joke
open and letting everyone feast on the delicious goo inside."
And then we got to Seattle and I was sitting in a booth with Ben and Nick
and all these Sub Pop dudes, and somehow the Cross-Eyed Crooner came up and
Ben and Nick started doing it for the Sub Pop heads, and I was peeing my
pants and I told Ben about my plan. I was like, "I wanna put you on
blast." And he laughed.
So I did it, during the show I told the audience to make him do it somewhere
in the middle of their set.
And they did. A few songs in, some kids started yelling for it. And the
Postal Service dudes just laughed it off and kept going. And after the next
song some kids asked again. They yelled out, "Cross-Eyed
04/05/03 when we went to
The night of April 5th, we
stayed at the Hotel Congress in Tuscon after playing a sold-out show at a
magical art gallery. Some kind of frat mixer was going on in the hotel's bar,
and after our team watched two episodes of Hee Haw and finished
the Smirnoff's left over from the show, we caught the final few seconds
of party music before the frat DJ closed up shop and yelled about the last call.
There were all these college kids dressed up in their underwear, and some of
the girls had bunny ears on. Some very non-threatening looking guy in his
underwear and a tie asked me where my territory was.
"You know--- where do you pimp?"
It sounded like he was talking to me in secret code.
We were bummed about missing the frat mixer, but we moved on, taking it to the streets
to look for snacks. Some girls from the show were staying at the same
hotel--- they'd driven from some other town and got the room just to be able
to see our show, which kind of blew my mind. Rob and I recognized them across the lobby so as we
were leaving I motioned for them to follow and they did. Rob found out what
their deal was while the rest of us got amped about the Cheetoes and
microwavable cheeseburgers at this woefully under-stocked convenience
store/internet cafe near the hotel. My brain almost exploded while I was
standing in line to pay for my cheeseburger because I saw this Magic: The
Gathering card taped to the glass in front of the cash register guy. I think
he had taped it there because he was obviously conscious of me staring at
the card and having my mind blown by it but he did that thing where he kind
of ignored that it was happening even though he was obviously noticing. The
reason my mind was being blown is because it was A) a Magic: The Gathering
card that was being displayed in public, and not hidden. Hidden, because of the...
you know, the shame. And part B) is because there was this quote on the card
that said, "One wizard is a suspect. Two wizards are a
conspiracy." Luckily no tattoo shops were open or close by because if
they had been, there was a small but very real chance that I might have
gotten that tattooed on me somewhere, that quote about the wizards.
After cooling off my brain, we stood around outside of the convenience store
wondering what to do. An amazing idea came to me: we should get the new
friends in on the slap game.
I think Lil Rob invented the slap game. In any case, after the Tuscon show,
while Nick went in to check us into the Congress, the rest of us were out
front in the van being totally amped because our second show was FULL of
kids and completely awesome. Much better than the first. So Ben is in the
front seat with "Carrot Rope" cranked up all the way, dancing like
a spazz, while Rob, Jenny, Jimmy, and I are in the back seats counting to
five and slapping each other in the face, hard, and trying to capture it on
I was totally stoked when I realized the next level of the slap game meant
slapping & getting slapped by strangers. However, we accidentally
ditched the strangers at hand--- the girls from the show. There was some thing where
they told Rob that they wanted to show us a "secret" and Rob and I
had a quick, whispered meeting and decided that it wasn't evil for us to at
least find out what the "secret" was, and that if it turned out to
be one of the things that we thought it might be in our heads, we could just
bail and still not be evil. When we found out that the "secret"
was a tater-tot hidden in one of the hotel's potted plants, that's right
about the time that the accidental ditching occurred, I think.
On April 5th I ate two donuts (buttermilk and bavarian creme), a hot
chocolate, home-cooked pasta, asparagus, a piece of blueberry pie, microwavable
all-star jumbo cheeseburger. The songs I played at the show were called:
Drive Off, Stop Eating, Ghost Rider, Kill Me, You Kiss Like, Stillnaut,
Wayback, Bad Acne. I slept on the floor.
04/04/03 when we went to
On April 4th, we laughed so
much in the van. It was the first day of tour and I couldn't stop thinking
this: "Everyone on tour
in one vehicle is such a good idea!" Actually everything really about
this tour seemed like a good idea. When I toured the midwest in the fall of 2000
with Kid606 and Gold Chains and the Blectums, and we were all in one
minivan, and when Stars as Eyes and I
toured the US in the summer of 3000 we both went in Steve Ferrari's Nissan, but since then every tour I've done has
involved multiple vehicles. It was immediately comforting to think that over
the next four weeks everyone on our team was going to be right there
physically beside me every day. That sounds like a weird sissy thing to say
but I felt really happy thinking about it on the first day of tour.
That night, at our first show in San Diego, the Postal Service blew me off
the stage. I'm sure a lot people, especially those who have maybe never even
seen me before or paid attention when they saw me before, will go
"Duh," but still. I had what I thought was a good set despite an
audience that seemed unusually intimidated by my confidence weapon (better
that than unconscious of my confidence weapon, I guess?) but then the
headliners rolled up and made me feel like the most amateur shit ever. There
was just so much going on on the stage-- instruments! every instrument! I
don't know how good I thought they were going to be but they were amazing, so amazing,
and it made me feel megabehind on my hustle. But also happy that I was
touring with a good band who I wouldn't mind seeing a few nights in a row.
The next day I sat on the curb outside of the motel while Ben talked on his
cell phone and everyone else finished waking up. I wrote in my crazy book. I
wrote: "Will I get the loneliness on this tour? I had bad thoughts,
some panic, in my sleeping bag last night... but only briefly. I want to do
a tour that doesn't have to be a life-changing experience. Just work. This
is my work, I need to just work."
On April 4th I ate two and a half pieces of pizza, a salad, another salad, a
shirley temple, some rolls, some trail mix, a Nestea, two Cape Cods, a shot
of Skyy vodka, a lot of water. I slept on the floor and did not
In San Diego I played: Wayback, Stop Eating, Ghost Rider, Kill Me, Wrist
Elbow 2, Orgasm Headache.
04/05/03 already did
04/06/03 when we
drove through the southwest
I always have stressful dreams
where I either lose my shoes or find myself suddenly without them, in bare
On the morning of the sixth, we
had a great breakfast at the cafe at the Hotel Congress-- the third great
meal I've had at that cafe so far in my twenty-one years of life. Our waitress was this adorable blonde girl who
had moved to Tuscon recently and I felt very patriotic looking at her. She
had lived in Gaithersburg, MD and England. Before leaving town we hit up a
Wallgreen's and I bought some black eye makeup and really tight red cheerleader shorts
that say "Let's Roll" across the ass.
We had been invited the night before to go to a BIOSPHERE!, but it was an
hour away from Tuscon so we didn't go. I made a note to myself to try and go
to the biosphere next time I was in Tuscon.
I put on the red shorts and my red sleeveless muscle tee and rocked them at
every rest stop we hit that day, including this famous rest stop in Arizona
or New Mexico where they have a secret mummy called "The Thing"
and you have to pay a dollar to walk through these long halls of mismatched
wax exhibits about weapons and old cars-- you have to go through all this
weird shit just to get to the very end and find
out what "The Thing" is and it's a mummy. Well, it's a mummy
holding a mummy baby, so I guess it's technically two mummies, but it's very
weird and you have no idea when you pay the dollar that you have to walk
through all these other exhibits behind the rest
stop in order to see "The Thing," and when you finally do see
"The Thing," it's really easy to walk right past it because it's
not marked really well, even though that's the whole reason you paid the
Also at "The Thing," there was a pretty stocked knick-knack store,
and Jimmy bought a realistic looking chicken sitting in a nest. I named it
Henster McCluckcluck in tribute to the many animals who had graced the
dashboard of Steve Ferrari's car on my tour last fall with Numbers and Stars as Eyes. Oh, how
I miss Ratty White, Al E. Gator, and Robert Bobby Brown Jay Foxy Poo Brown
(the dog). I miss Steve, too, who I've toured with twice, and visited a
few other times.
Anyway, a couple people giggled but nobody talked shit about my skimpy red getup at any
of the rest stops, which felt great.
I had showered the night before but my shoes smelled kind of bad in the van,
and I felt embarrassed. When we finished driving and stopped at a hotel, I
took a shower, MB'd in the shower, and then went to sleep on the floor.
These are the things I ate on the sixth: saltines, Munchies (that's the name
of some snack), Nutter Butter cookies, Wendy's Triple Decker burger, fries,
an avocado/squash/Portobello omelet, toast, Chinese breakfast tea, orange Gatorade, a 32 oz can of Miller High Life, and some nuts.
04/07/03 when we
went to austin
Part of the reason I guess I've
never done a comprehensive (or even mildly adequate) tour diary on my own
website is because tours are really fucked-up stories. (I know a bunch of
you reading this could be people who go on tours in vans all the time
yourselves, and I feel like I'm feeling you roll your eyes at me talking all
"tour is weird!" because it sounds cheesy or whatever... but I
guess I'm still under the impression that 90-some% (maybe 99%?) of people in
the universe don't go on tours in vans all the time themselves, and in fact,
up until 1999, the year I graduate high school, I didn't go on tours in vans
ever myself, and since taking up this career path I've tried to find a
pamphlet or handbook or something so that this crazy bullshit wouldn't seem
so weird to me, but it seems like everybody just assumes that this crazy
bullshit is just normal for us blessed musicianfolk and thus they kind of
shrug it off like it's no big deal. Um, so my point is... put your eyes back
in the front of your head, I guess.)
Sorry. So touring is a fucked-up story: it begins RIGHT AWAY, there's no
build up, no rising action. I think there's a literary term for this... in
medias res? That sounds like it might be right. Anyway, it's more like in
CRAZIAS res because it starts right away, then it changes into something
different -- TOTALLY different, with different people and place and scenery,
everything but you is different. And you start being different, too, but it
doesn't make any sense because usually you're doing pretty much the same
thing every night: drive, go to a club, play a set, get paid. And even on a
t-a-m-e tame tour like this one I'm writing about now, it's still sensory
overload. We lit up about 0 afterparties, there was approximately 0 inter-band
conflicts, and 0 people got scabies or had to get a emergency vd test, nobody
broke an arm or threw meat at a naked lady, etc. And still, it's too much.
It's too much. Last tour I did, last fall, I tried to deal with the
"too much" factor as if it were a cold pool. I jumped right in all
the way, dove down to the bottom, came up, wiped my eyes and told everyone
else how awesome the water was. And I stayed in there, swimming around in
the cold, cold water, smiling with chattering teeth.
This time, under the mature guidance of my friend Ben, we did the tour like
where the pool is still really cold, and maybe everyone is kind of
wordlessly expecting you to do the cannonball, but you just sit down and put
your feet in the water and smoke a cigarette, and other people might get in
the pool but you're just chilling, and nobody calls you on it--- nobody's calling
you a pussy or telling you to get in, even though you think some of them are
thinking it's weird that you're not jumping in. And then when you're done
smoking the cigarette you just stand up, kick some water off your feet, and
move towards the car.
On April 7th, after we arrived in Austin, I got new tattoos on my wrists--
male/female handcuffs I had drawn out in my crazy book the day before. Not a super big
deal but I really like them. I also tried looking at some porn magazines
that were in the van but it felt kind of like having a lit cigar at the
gas station. I decided not to look at porn anymore on the tour.
On the way to dinner, Ben told me I smelled like a gutter punk.
Here is what I ate on the seventh: radishes, some beer, a shot of jaeger, a
bowl of Thai pho seafood soup, two tofu egg rolls, a frozen ice cream
snickers bar, gatorade, two Whataburgers, four chicken strips, and a
chocolate malt. Would I believe someone if they sat me down and
explained to me that I could never be great?
See, this is a super fucked-up story. It's day four and I already started
freaking out a little. I mean, I didn't really DO anything, I just freaked
out in my head and went to town in my crazy book. On day four,
jesucristo. And there's nothing really in the other days so far that would
lead into a freak-out, it was just me sitting there at the back of the
Mercury, next to Steve Ferrari, who lives in Austin, and we're watching the tour's third sold-out show,
with him asking me and me asking him, "Why does nothing about music
make sense to me?"
Seriously-- what is it that's not working? What specifically is not
working? All of it? The whole thing? Is there just a square peg in my hand
that I don't know how to put down? Is this just out of my reach? Why does it
feel so out of my reach...? I want to talk to just one person feels
like they might have went through this -- this (mostly) politely ignored
STENCH, this self-evident handicapped limping deformed fucking burning
plumetting atrocious fuck FUCK FUCK FUCK
I make songs to try and say
it but I feel like I'm still talking to myself
I figured it out, I'm never
going to get rid of this doubt
Music doesn't need me I am the smallest sound
You tried what would anyone else have done was there anything you didn't do
was there some way to turn your insides to english and you just missed it
and never knew
and on and ON AND ON
my head is spinning, etc.
[I wrote some other crap about "my last album ever" here but I'm
omitting it because it's retarded.]
Set list in Austin: Wayback, Stop Eating, Ghost Rider, Kill Me, Marriage
Acapella, Wrist Elbow 2, Orgasm Headache.
If I were to think I could come through a magic hole for some kind of Beck
ending, I'd be insane. I'd need pills. To know that there could be some
end -- ANY end at all, just a place where my body stops moving and my organs
aren't churning 1000 mph -- --- ----
So then later that night, after Steve and I got a bunch of Whataburgers and
met back up with the Postal Service at the Motel 6, we were sitting around
after Hee Haw and there was a commercial for water on TV. Jenny made a
comment about how she hates drinking water and I was like,
"Oh my god! I hate drinking water, too! Everyone is always on my case
about drinking soda and I just hate water. I mean, I like it for swimming
and showering in, but--"
And then Rob cuts me off like, "Wait, you like showering?"
And I was all, "Yeah... what?"
And Rob was like, "No disrespect, you know I love you, Rjyan, but--- I
really couldn't tell. Maybe you should..."
So I'm: "Are you saying I smell?" And I looked around the room for
some help from somebody else, or at least a puzzled look or something, but
it was a solemn scene. Everybody had Rob's back in a way that was a little
bit more serious than I was really prepared for. I think somebody used the
phrase, "Smelling up the van." I think. It kind of didn't seem
real, but I guess it was.
It was freezing cold outside
for some reason. I sat on the steps in front of the pool and called Indra
Numbers on my cell phone. After we talked I went into "the loud
room" and Ben and Rob were already asleep. I went to sleep on
the floor again.
(Pretty much every night we divided up into "The loud room" and
"The quiet room." Loud room was always Ben, Lil Rob, and I, and
the quiet room was always Jimmy, Jenny, and Nick. Nick would usually count
the money and do the figures in the quiet room while the rest of us kicked
it in the loud room for a minute, and then Jimmy and Jenny would defect back
to the quiet side and go to sleep. At some point on the tour --I think it
was after Boston?-- Lil Rob and I figured out that the quiet room actually
stayed up chatting later than the loud room did, and we started to think
that "Loud" and "Quiet" were really euphemisms for
"Chumps" and "Not chumps," respectively. We were
jealous, we wanted to bond with the Not chumps.
But it wasn't really a big deal or anything. I don't think we were actually
upset at all, we were just playing.)
04/08/03 when we
went to dallas
I showered the morning of the
eighth (obviously) and rubbed bacitracin on my wrists. I also took my money
to a post office and bought a money order in order to pay the rent for
March, April, and May. I scribbled out some financial projections for the
tour and guessed I'm come out with something between four and five thousand
dollars profit if the shows kept being sold out. It was a kind of wild
guess, though, with very little fact-based number-crunching being done, so I
decided to assume four thousand tops. Every tour I've ever done ends with a million
more expenses being a million more expensive than you mentally accounted
for, even though you mentally account very conservatively because you don't
want to be shocked and disappointed yet again. But you always are, always. So this
time I was assuming low but even still, "Four thousand! That's almost twice as much as I've
ever made before on any of the other dozen or so tours I've been on!"
I still have the ratty pieces of paper that I did the final accounting for
my fall tour on. Mike D, our tour manager, Miguel606, Indra Numbers, both
Stars as Eyeses, and I all sat in a crepe place on the Piedmont while I worked
the books over and over again, trying to find us some more money to take home.
Back to Crazy Randoms, though. Ideally, though, I was hoping I could come out with six thousand ---> two
thousand to pay off my credit card (which had been buying me groceries for a
few months), two thousand to pay off emergency
tragedy loans from my father, and the last two to squirrel away for rent and
pay for my share of the van we rented. I started making a dream list of gear
I would buy if I had six thousand dollars just to spend on anything I
wanted, just for fun though, because I knew there was absolutely no reason
to get my hopes up higher than maybe paying off all my debt after this tour.
Sitting in the green room of the club in Dallas I doodled a stupid drawing
of myself with bat wings that looked shitty. I also came up with idea for a
tattoo of an odometer that I think I might try to actually get some time. I also wrote down the lyric to a Lync
song, but I'm not sure why.
Stuff I ate in on the eighth: a strawberry lemonade, a vegan cookie, some
kind of Odwalla shake, chips and salsa from the rider, baby carrots,
soybeans, some sushi.
Set list in Dallas: Drive Off, Stop Eating, Ghost Rider, Kill Me, New Maps,
Wrist Elbow 2, My Head, Cut Wrists.
The show itself had this highlight: this guy Chris rolled up and bought an
armload of merch because he said he had been downloading my stuff for years
and wanted a chance to directly support me. We talked for a while and he
bought me two shots of goldshlager. I had already had one and a half Asahis
before the show, a Smirnoff Ice (shut up, I like them), two or three
Heinekens from backstage, and a Cape Cod that some other excited dudes
bought me. Chris was great, though. He had a really good attitude about
music, and about talking to strangers, which are both super important but
surprisingly uncommon among kids that go to underground rock shows
04/09/03 when we
went to fayetteville
I ended up with a serious
stomachache the next morning and swore not to drink that goldshlager stuff
again. My head felt fine, though, so I don't think it was a hangover. It went away after I slept against the back window for a spell.
Everybody but Ben painted their nails black with my polish before the show
I'm getting better at doing my own nails. During the show, Lil Rob painted
this crazy random's nails black and then I painted her friend's. They were
both Christian, I think.
The show itself was our smallest yet-- packed, but I'm not sure if it was
officially "sold out." It was the bar in the basement of a kind of
nice pizza place. I went way better than I thought it would, although
apparently at one point I was spitting-distance from a physical ass-kicking.
Playing without my glasses on is great because I end up just walking by
potential fisticuff situations with aggro dudes as if they are invisible to
me. Because they are. "In the zone" and sans corrective eyewear I
can't really distinguish the macho shoulder-puffing and head-jerking and
scowl-wearing moves that signal a fight might be about to happen, so I don't
sweat it, and just keep it going, and these dudes (and these dudes are SUPER
rare, btw-- it's not like there's danger for Cex at every Cex show) I guess
these dudes just feel dumb and sit back down because nobody cares. I don't
know, maybe I'm totally wrong, that's just my read on the sitch.
"Sitch" is a word I picked up from Ben on this tour. I picked up
some great ones from Lil Rob, too--- "buckled" is my favorite. It
Set list: Stop Eating, New Maps, Ghost Rider, Kill Me, Orgasm Headache,
Wayback Machine, Freestyle (ham, helicopters, penis), Wrist Elbow 2.
I showered on the eighth and the ninth. Also on the ninth I had my first
really serious conversation with Jenny, which was about message boards and
Before the show, this really nice dude from the local college radio station
picked up Jenny, Jimmy, and I to go do some on-air promo for the show. It
was fun, and Jimmy totally stole the show by telling everybody to bootleg
the Postal Service and Cex albums. The DJ asked him what records he had been
listening to lately, and Jimmy couldn't come up with anything.
"This is weird, I buy new CDs every week," he said.
"Really?" asked the DJ, because this makes it kind of sound like
Jimmy has a lot of money to burn or something.
But Jimmy corrected him, "Well, at Amoeba they let you return any CD
for 75% credit, so I buy them and then burn them and then take them back the
next week and get a new one."
We all laughed and then Jimmy leaned into the mic and, dead serious, said,
"And I think everybody should do that with our CD, too. And DNTEL
The DJ turned to me and asked if I wanted people to do that with my album. I
was too busy laughing to think and I said, "Well, I kinda hope that
people want to keep those pictures of me on the album."
And Jimmy didn't miss a beat, he leaned right in and said, "Photocopy
it and then return it."
I died. We all died. Jimmy is my favorite.
After that we went downstairs from the radio station and hit up some college
computers to do internet, which I don't think any of us had done since we
got to use a computer at the magical art gallery in Tuscon. However, Jenny
did the bad thing and went to the message boards. And, as always, she found
HATERS there. HATERS and message boards are peas and carrots. I knew my
opinion on the matter probably wouldn't hold a hell of a lot of water, but I
could tell Jenny was feeling some relative of what I had felt the thousands
of times I let myself sneak peeks into those black holes (ie, the peek which
precipitated this song I wrote called "Brer Rjyan" on that album I
just put out.) So I tried to give her a pep talk, really just all the
regular stuff--- if someone is talking shit on a message board, they really
don't have anything creative or important to be doing, and they want to tear
down somebody they don't even know because someone else's success bothers
them that much, and this type of person really is a baby psycho whose
opinion doesn't mean much because it's so wrapped up in their warped
perception of themselves and the world, etc, etc. I don't know if it helped
Jenny at all but I felt a little useful for a second.
And while I was huffing and puffing some lame anti-message board business,
something strange occurred to me: ever since I was a little kid, I have
wanted to be famous (I don't know about you, but I was born in America.) I
conducted interviews with myself in the shower and in the bathroom mirror,
sometimes regarding a fictitious new album or movie, but more often
regarding things that had just happened in real life, like eating dinner
with my parents, or forgetting my homework at school, whatever. I remember
the exact moment in sixth grade when I decided I really, truly, actually
needed to do something real so that I could be in a band: watching the Red
Hot Chili Peppers perform on some awards show. The Grammy's, maybe? They
wore diapers. I didn't get it at ALL. My first reaction was, "Who are
these idiots? Do they know they look so stupid, jumping around in dumb
costumes? What is going on in their heads?" and then seconds later,
sitting dumbfounded in front of the television in my parents' basement, I
knew that I *had* to be Anthony Kiedis.
That's not the thing I realized though. What I realized was this: I've
wanted to be famous since I was little; Jenny HAS been famous since she was
little. I don't know what it means, but I realized it.
04/10/03 when we
went to st. louis
St. Louis was the nth in
a series of shows with the Postal Service where I did barely a pussyhair
over nil in merch following a set that was motherfucking gangbusters. Or
maybe just regular gangbusters, but I felt like motherfucking gangbusters
afterwards anyway. In St. Louis, there was a huge mosh pit at the Creepy
Crawl. Lots of really young kids moshing. Set list: Drive Off, Stop Eating,
Ghost Rider, Kill Me, My Head, Wrist Elbow 2. Moshing!!!
I didn't drink in Fayetteville or St. Louis. Actually, I drank a little in
St. Louis, but only like 1 beers or 2 beers. One of my favorite dudes, Eric
Axelson, was at the show. He played bass in this band called The
Dismemberment Plan who were my favorite band growing up. I mean, I was in
love with the D-Plan. When I was in ninth grade I went
to see them at some hall (Knights of Columbus?) in Hamilton, a
neighborhood in North Baltimore, and for years afterward I went to just
about every Plan show in the Maryland/Virginia/Pennsylvania area. And I
danced. I was a teenager and they were the first weird rock band you could
dance to! The first weird rock band that wanted you to dance! I grew
up as the Dismemberment Plan's biggest fan, and a few years down the road,
after they had released their fourth album and I had released two of my own,
they asked me to open for them on the east coast portion of this gigantic
tour they were doing with another indie rock titan called Death Cab for
Cutie. I had never heard of Death Cab for Cutie but all the five-foot art
school girls I knew were in love with them. I knew going into that tour that
I was getting away with murder-- there was no way in hell that I should have
been opening sold-out shows at 1500+ capacity venues. The whole experience
taught me a shitload about music and ambition and business and tour riders,
but infinitely more important was the bonding I did with most of the other
guys on the tour, including Eric, who is the wisest font of bidness
knowledge in my cell phone, and the man I want by my side when I sit down to
ink that deal with MCA or Interscope or Island/Def Jam late next year. But
that tour was also where I met Ben and Nick, and where Ben asked me to open
up on tour for this new electronic band he was working on with Jimmy from
It was great to see Eric. He always makes me feel good about my hustle. We
had a beer behind the weird corral the Creepy Crawl uses to keep the babies
away from the bar, and I tried to bring him up to date on the lumbering
wreck that is my wanna-be music career. After the show the In Englishes and
the Postal Services wanted to hang out but we were staying on opposite sides
of town, so we squatted in the alley behind the club and played a few games
of C-Lo with the wooden dice I had stashed in my fanny pack, then we hugged
and said goodbye.
Also, when we were leaving, I found this little scarab-beetle flute kind of
flute thing on the stage. Nobody knew whose it was so I took it. Everyone
once in a while on the tour I'd take it out of my jacket and blow it and try
to play melodies, but it was hard. In Portland, it fell out of my pocket and
I get the feeling that admitting you want to be famous is the ultimate
blasphemy to most hipsters. You know what I mean--- like you're totally and
utterly artistically compromised for not being all sour and serious
regarding that particular aspect of the culture of America. Like you can't
have any vision unless you either scornful or fake-ignorant of the idea of
fame. As if the vision and cognizance of fame were mutually exclusive in any
04/11/03 when we
went to nashville
Set list: You Kiss Like You're
Dead (acapella), Wayback, Stop Eating, Ghost Rider, Kill Me, New Maps, Good
Morning (specially requested by SUZAN, who was awesome, but then aborted
about 2 bars into it because I was way too drunk to remember the words),
Drive Off A Mountain, Wrist Elbow 2.
In Nashville, the cooler backstage was plentiful and of its fruits the
Cexman did partake. Mountain Goats played with us and I had a really great
time talking with them (John + Peter) backstage before the show. We talked a
little about Baltimore and how awesome it is. We dipped into the backstage
about a half-hour before show time, when there were about 10 people in the
club, and we ended up being so into our conversations that it was suddenly
about five minutes before I was supposed to go on, and I got this idea. I
wasn't sure if it was still just those ten people out there, or if there was
maybe ten-hundred people out there, so I borrowed Nick's duct tape, duct
taped my eyes really shut, and had the John Darnielle from Mountain
Goats walk me out from the back to the stage, where I did the first two
songs of my set in complete blindness. No idea how many people were in front
of me. I will have to try to do an entire set blindfolded and ignorant like
that one day, but it was so scary after two songs that I took the tape off.
It turned out there were 250-some people in the room, which was a small
room, and it was totally cramped and crowded and then my set went pretty
damn well from then on. Which was kind of a surprise because, you know, Cex
in Nashville... you know. On one hand, this whole night kind of made me want
to tour forever. On the other hand, if I've done it once, I've done it-- why
rush out to do it again? Why not take a break and focus on life before this
gets really rotten and I have neither life nor music to
[lots of dots]
[drawing of a square gun]
I've only ever been to a strip bar twice before, and both times was in
Canada with my friends Grand Buffet (the best live band ever.) I didn't
enjoy myself either time. I also didn't drink back then. We were a week deep
and playing all my runaway songs every night got me thinking about Baltimore
too hard, and on the eleventh I made the mistake of calling back there.
After the show Rob and I walked to the Deja Vu, a Nashvillian lapdance
factory on the side of the highway next to the Super 8 where we were
staying. We walked in thinking we were all despicable and evil and weren't
in for more than two or three minutes before we both laughed. "This is
us at our evilest?" Most of the other douchebags in there looked like
this was the highlight of their week. I'm not sure how long we stayed but we
left feeling a lot better. We didn't really feel cut out for evil anymore,
at least for a little while. After we got back to the hotel I went in the
van with my book and pen. After a page or two my pen ran out of ink so I had
to write with a blue sharpie I stole out of the front pocket of Ben's shoulder bag.
for a time I face the worst fear I can imagine, I beg for their
rejection and then I turn their confusion, and the embarrassment that
saturates the room like the odor of bodies, of sweat, a foul odor we
politely ignore -- I seize their waste and sweat and mistakes and I make it
my food, my blood, and with it I animate my empty body. Every brain in the
room creates sacred expectations and arbitrary tastes and I touch that to
the embarrassment and awkwardness that extends the other way, into me and my
life, back before I can remember a child who learned to regret what he's
just said seconds after he learned how to say.
I am good at a worthless trade, an art that artlessly and tactlessly reminds
people how unfair and ugly the banal things are that are lying outside the
contrived world of our art; the voices, the bodies, the hopeless WRETCHED who
will not proceed past the anonymous veil separating the great heroes from
those peasants who pay for he great heroes food and hotel rooms, and swords,
and cars, and peace of mind. I want to die on the electric fence that keeps
the CHOSEN from the OFFAL and be PANNED by critics who mistake my
desperation for a (mis)calculated piece of ART
I AM FILLED WITH STRAW AND I CANNOT HIDE IT FROM YOU>> NO MATTER HOW
MANY GENEROUS -OR CONFUSED- MINDS I MIGHT CONVINCE OF MY POTENTIAL FOR SOME
USEFULNESS I WILL NEVER GET HARDER TO KNOCK DOWN
I WAS BORN FILLED WITH STRAW AND HERE STRAW MEN ARE FOR KNOCKING DOWN
I KNOW YOUR BED HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN IN A PLACE THAT IS SAFE AND I KNOW YOU'VE
BEEN TORN FROM IT AND SLEPT IN STRANGE PLACES FAR FROM THE FAMILIAR
COMFORTING YOU COULD HOLD
THINK OF ME AND SEE THAT LITTLE GIRL WHO CAN'T SLEEP IN THE BED THAT WAS HER
ONLY SAFE PLACE. IF YOU HAVEN'T EXPUNGED IT FROM YOUR MEMORY TO KEEP FROM
CRYING WHERE OTHERS MIGHT SEE, THINK OF THAT LITTLE GIRL WHO WAS THOUSANDS
OF MILES FROM HER SAFE BED, TAKEN, FORCED TO KNOW IN EXPLICIT ILLUSTRATION
THE WEAKNESS OF HER OWN GRIP ON THE WORLD OUTSIDE
BUT WHO TOOK ME?
world is full
schedule is full
shoulders are full
head is full
friends are full
everybody is full.
you could spill out into the sea.
By Rjyan Kidwell