Digital Tip Jar

Brother Dege / Truckstop Darlin U.S. Tour
June 5 – July 11, 2013

Flew cross country.
Missed my connecting flight in Houston
Had to fly Standby
On the next flight.
No big deal.
What else you got?
It goes where it goes.
I get on it.
Middle seat.
It’s like Greyhound in the sky.
Just eat your peanuts.
And shut up.

I arrive in Portland.
First time here.
City is nice.
People are happy
Not miserable turns.
I like that.
John from Truckstop
And his wife pick me up.
We roll to their house
And load of the van.
The van for this tour
Is actually an old city shuttle bus
That was purchased by the Truckstop guys
Specifically for long tours
Such as this.
It’s not bad.
They ripped out some seats
And built a gear box.
Other than that,
It’s like riding in an airport shuttle
Only with rock & roll knuckleheads
Like myself
Shit in a bag
Piss in a bottle
Eat crap
Sleep on a rock
Speak in tongues
Grind the midnight oils
Dry hump the dead dreams
Heat stroke the meat
Scream at the sky
And occasionally
Curse the day
They were born.
But that’s ok, too.

The van/bus

Truckstop Darlin'

We drive from Portland
To Eugene.
First show of this leg of the tour.
I’ve never met any
Of the guys in Truckstop before
But they’re a good crew
Good dudes.
Not crackheads
Or junkies.
Which is good.
That was my only rule
When they asked if
I would be interested
In doing this double bill tour with them.
No dope fiends, I said.
Too much hassle.
Been there. Done that.
I know the drill.
It doesn’t end well.

For future reference
The Truckstop Darlin’ band
Consists of:
John Phelan: vocals, guitar
Matt Phelan: bass
Michael Winter: lap steel
James Pearson: drums

Eugene, OR.
First gig on this leg.
Not bad.
Played “Hotdog”
Nameless women danced
In the crowd.
Truckstop played
And to my pleasant surprise
They were good.
Good songs.
Good chemistry.
Not that they wouldn’t be good.
But there’s so much stuff out there
That the odds lean toward
Most of it sucking.
So yeah, pleasant surprise.
After the gig,
We roll south.
Toward northern California
Somewhere in the middle of the night
We stop and everyone
Crashes out in the shuttle.
I sleep in a haze
And don’t remember
Any dreams.

Antioch, CA is one of the oldest
Towns in California.
Population: 102,372
In 1851,
A plague hit the city
And wiped out most of the population.
It's kind of a shithole.
Even the name sounds
Like a stripped bolt
That fits on the underside
Of a dead machine
Whose only purpose
Is to blow black smoke
Out of a crooked pipe.
The town is mini mall meets California Gummo.
Abandoned gangster rap video carnival.
Nothing to do here
But cruise the mini mall
For statutory meth
Get tattooed on your neck
And buy magazines at the 7-Eleven.
Antioch might be a decent town.
But who knows?
I’m generalizing.
I do that sometimes.
Maybe it’s the venue
That’s annoying.
It’s actually two clubs.
You play on the floor in a corner
Of one bar
Next to a staircase that leads
To a hip-hop booty dance bar
That blasts the music
When we arrive,
A space robot
Pop punk band is playing
The matinee show.
They’ve got a giant tour bus.
No BS.
Next a guy folk guy
Named Roy Dean plays.
He’s decent.
Acoustic guitar.
Maybe a harmonica,
I can’t remember.
He ended set in a unique way.
About 30 sec into his last song
He rips of guitar, stands up,
And yells something like,
“If y'all don't want to listen then get the fuck out!
I'm just trying to play some songs here! 
Fuck you!!”
That was interesting.
Because it was like unscripted
Performance art.

I played an hour plus set after him
To a semi apathetic crowd
Of Antioch locals.
The music from the hip hop club
Out blasted me the whole time.
It was like wrestling
An ox.
You don’t win.
Even if you win,
You lose
Because you
There’s nothing to win.

On the 8th day,
God created Antioch
And he was, like,
“What the hell have I done?”

Oakland was good.
Better than Antioch.
I got to hang out with my sister
And her boyfriend
Who both live in the area
Also we played a red club
With cool bands.
No folk duds.
I can’t remember
And of the band’s names.
So there you have it.
We crash out
At the Other World warehouse.

I love San Francisco
Because it isn’t Antioch
And it’s beautiful.
I’m still bitching
About Antioch.
It’s not them.
It’s me.
SF has a great vibe.
Got vibe for miles.
I lived in SF years ago.
For a summer.
Working kooky jobs.
For example,
I was a cook for two days
At a gay diner.
I’m not sure what happened
I think they found out I wasn’t gay,
And I got fired. 
After that,
I worked in a video store
In the drug infested Mission district.
Lot of stories.
It was crazy.
I was crazy to work there.
One time
Two drug dealers
Got in a fist fight inside
The store.
I had to shove them out the door
To keep them from wrecking the place
I branded
One of those
Pocket fisherman
Stun guns
Zapping it in the air.

Site where we shot the House of the Dying Sun
album cover in San Francisco on Broadway.
House of the Dying Sun album cover, 2002

The venue we are playing
Is off Broadway St.
Around the corner
Where Amy Milligan
And I shot the album cover
For House of the Dying Sun
In 1997.
It’s right outside of a strip club
On Broadway
With an Adam & Eve sign
Out front.
The strip club and the sign
Are still there.
Weird how time goes by.
Our bodies are like holograms
Projected onto different spots
At different times.
Then they pop back up again.
Same spot.
Different time.
My sister Jamie and I revisit the spot.
Take a picture.
Then hit the City Lights Bookstore.
Hang there for a bit.
Buy a couple books for the road.
Then I hit the Beat Museum
Around the corner,
Which is cool as shit.
I love all the Beats.
Some of my favorite shit ever
Anybody who hates the Beats
Is a pretentious douche bag.

SF is a great city
Magic and energy to spare
Love it
Forgot how much I missed this place.
Years ago,
I spent weekend in jail in a rubber room.
Long story.
They mistakenly
Identified me as a crazy person.
Long story.
I spent the weekend in jail.
Most of it with the crazies
In the psych ward.

I knock out a ok set
At the venue
And try to get back into the groove
Of playing solo,
Which is its own weird beast.
You’re the band.
So there are not a lot of surprises
While playing.
In fact,
The only surprises come
When you fuck up
Or throw the script out of the window.
That’s part of the challenge, I guess.
Good crowd.
After the show I go
Club dancing
With a cute heavy girl named Stevie
At dance club across street.
Drinks fun.
Then her date shows up.
And it’s over.
No big deal.
I wander the SF streets.
Such a cool city.
I step through the steel and concrete
Towering favelas of the modern world.
Staring out
At it all
It all keeps moving
With the machinery of the dream
Humming in the distance.
We call crash in the shuttle
Parked on an inclined hill
In North Beach

With the late night sounds
Of traffic going by.

Another good SF story.
In ’97,
I helped my ex-girlfriend
Move to SF.
I brought my cheap acoustic
Guitar “Dixie” along
For the ride.
While in SF,
Her car was broken into
By a crackwhore
Who broke the window
Grabbed a few things
Including Dixie.
Cops caught her up the street.
They impounded Dixie
To use as evidence in the trail.
So Dixie sat in an evidence locker
For another year or so,
Then was shipped back to me.
What a guitar.
Still plays like a monster
And it’s totally crappy
$100 plywood guitar.
I’ve used it on every album
I’ve made.
Dixie’s got a gnarly growl,
Never gives up.
And cuts through the mix
And a unique way.
Wrote a lot of songs on Dixie
Including "Laredo,"
"Strung Out on a Dream,"
"Hell Bent Woman,"
"The Drifter,"
"Come on, Baby,"
"Mexico” and a lot of others.
Here's to you, Dixie.
You're the best dream catcher ever.

Central CA
Is a flatland
Farms fields
Solemn people driving to their quiet destinations
Halos of palm trees
Dairy Queens
Scrub brush and skunk weed
Tan Jesus icons of the dirt soil
Barbed fences and trip wires
Burping Canyons
Golden bleached grassy hills
Lard rats.
It’s so sedate.
Then you come over the hill
And hit Los Angeles
And it’s just this massive
Raging in every direction
As far as one can see.
And it just goes on forever
And ever.

Matt from Truckstop band
Has a healthy head of afro hair.
He calls it a "Caucasio"
"It's not an Afro...it's more of a Caucasio.”
I like that.

I got good news and bad news
We’re the band.
And it's just a dream.
Either you like it
Or you don’t.
What’s not to like?
Playing rock & roll.
And sleeping in a van?
It’s a dream.
It’s all a dream.
Just a dream.

Punk rock club.
Fun show.
Good people.
Guy named Gordon shows up
With his Dobro
And asks me to sign it.
We can’t find a Sharpie
So he asks me to scratch my name
Into it.
So I do just that.

Day off.
We hit the beach
And chill.
We eat tacos
I make sand art
To relax.
Man Ray Man

We roll out.
Cross into the desert at night.
Drive till Matt can’t drive anymore
Then we crash at a Motel 6
Somewhere out there.
Who knows where. 
Five guys crammed
Into a small motel room.
We made the first serious mistake
Of the tour
Which was letting John sleep
Next to the air conditioner
In the motel room.
The reason it is a mistake
Is because John cuts
A lot of smelly farts.
His farts have an atrocious consistency.
Throughout the night
We could hear his farts popping off
And then the resultant
AC propelled
Waft of stink
Spreading throughout the room.
In the morning,
I made verbal note
That overnight
The AC had been
Transformed into
A Fart Dispersal Unit,
Serving a brand new
And obscene purpose.
It was like having
A front row seat in John’s ass.
I dreamt of dead whales,
Rotting blubber,
And the death of all godly things.
It was séance
Of black sounds
And brown death.

It’s somewhere around
This point in the tour
Where the side windows
On the shuttle bus
Begin coming unglued
From sides of the van.
They begin flapping
Back and forth
From the pressure of the wind.
You can see them flapping.
That’s glass flapping.
Everyone on the tour
Begins to question
Whether or not shuttle buses
Make good tour vehicles.
So far in the tour,
We’ve blown a heater hose,
The transmission has been slipping,
And now the windows are flapping
In the hinges
And coming unglued
From the bus.
Hell with it.
Keep it rolling.
Matt buys some industrial glue
And some brackets,
And proceeds
To glue and staple
Those windows down.

Arrived at the venue
After long, overheated
Drive into the Arizona desert.
Walked into the bar
And bought the local barflies
A drink.
These were some salty old dogs.
They call themselves “AZ Rippers.”
I guess because they rip drinks
Into their gullets.
I’m not exactly sure.
But it’s fitting.
We locate a Laundromat
And wash clothes.
A young Mexican boy approaches me
With a broken toy.
"Where do u live? He asks
"In that van with five other guys."

AZ is a beautiful
Wasteland of bars
Lotto ticket stores
Endless Dirt.
And everyone
Is addicted to something.
Thousands of years
From now,
Future humans
Will dig up our ruins
And say,
“Damn, these fuckers
Sure liked mini-malls.”
And then the children
Will ask the elders
“What are mini-malls?
And the elders wills say,
“Mini-malls were open-air shopping facilities
With storefronts arranged in a row,
Where the primitive humans
Could purchase legal weed, lotto tickets
And hair products.”

Arizona Rippers

Good gig
Four people from Louisiana showed
Out of nowhere.
It’s weird to see your people
When in a place
Far away from home
Where you don’t expect them.
It’s like popping out of
A time machine.
It’s really cool they came.
I play my set.
Need to change strings on the Dobro.
Everything is pitchy.
Truckstop rocks their shit
Then a local dude did his thing.
I change strings on a pool table
In the bar next door.
We load out
Pile in the shuttle
And get the fuck out.
Late night pool barge session
At the motel
Chorus of snoring
And man farts.

Brother Dege, Yucca Tap Room. AZ

Hotel Congress
Good club.
It’s an old hotel, restaurant,
And live music venue.
Wacky hippie guy
With a beat up acoustic guitar
Hangs out
During sound check and
Talks nonsensical gibberish
To us all
Throughout the proceedings
As if
We’re the only ones
On planet
Who can understand
His cryptic, lingo.
But he’s an interesting guy.
Management asks us if we
Want him “removed.”
No, man.
He’s good.
Let him hang.

Good gig.
Nice place.
We got set up with this gig
Thanks to Kathryn Bertine
Who are using some of my tunes
In their documentary, Half the Road.
Tucson is a cool little city.
Clean town.
Nice, conscientious people.

After the Tucson gig
We have to roll straight out
Load up the shuttle van
And roll for 14+ hours
In order to make it to a gig
In Austin, TX
Tomorrow night
It’s going to be a long night.


Plant a flag in it
The desert knows no mercy
From the scum huts
And Aztec ruts
Of towering favelas
To the ghost ring
Of a lone pay phone
Muttering in an empty parking lot.
Meth the color of dirt
Everything...the color of dirt.
Even dirt.
Palm fronds fanning
The bleached streets
Ragged sun rats
And rusted grassing
Of the
Stucco cactus
Tied off
Tourniquets of Frazzled wire
And broken glass.
Texas Yarmulke
Honking twice
At the
Ayahuasca drive-thru
I got my crater for a halo
And a mountain for a pueblo
Tipped and aimed
At the statique of the sun.

We grind through most of the night
And into the steaming desert
Of the day.
AZ through TX
Five guys.
It’s so hot,
Everybody strips down to their underwear
And just
Sweats out the drive
As the sun boils the van.
And everything in it.
We’re meat pies.
On slow cook.
Just dudes in the wind.
Or rather
Dudes in a boiling hot van
Racing across the desert
As the dirt
Fly past.
Stop for gas.
Chew on a greasy truckstop hotdog.
Stare into the distance.

We just got here.
We’re exhausted
And nothing makes sense.
There are bikers everywhere.
Everyone is dressed in leather.
Even my unknown cousins.
I just found out that I have
Some cousins-in-law from Texas.
Wacky bunch. Good people.
There’s a jazz cop on the bill.
He plays jazz guitar
And sings falsetto.
Bass player
Has sheet music on a stand.
It’s hard to rock
When you got to read.
Why not just eat
Hickory stuffed oak chumps
In a batter sauce of steamed rivets?
You can only plow
Through the darkness
With a machete.
It’s all the same journey, though.
Just plow through it.

Houston, TX.
They said it couldn’t happen,
But we made cinematic history today.
Milestone shit.
After video taping Matt
Plunging a toilet in Houston
I’ve decided to make a movie.
I’m going to shoot it
On my iphone.
Each scene will only be
Six seconds long.
It will be about exorcising demons
With plumbing tools. 

Tulsa, OK is not a bad place.
To die. 
Neither is Antioch, CA
Now that I think about it.
It’s just that god has cursed the earth
In certain places
And the people in those places
Have to work a lot harder
Than people in other places
To be happy and have a good life.
It is places like this where
Great art is made.

The venue is a hole in the wall
Full of Oklahoma barflies.
I can’t even remember
The name of the place.
It’s forgotten in time.
Nobody exists there.
Everyone just floats
Like a ghosts
Through fast food
Drive-thru lanes
And says FUCK YEAH
A lot.
People die.
It’s sad.
The PA is a nonexistent affair
Piled in the chunks in the corner.
Matt Phelan pieces it all together
And somehow makes it work.
Matt Phelan would be an MVP
On ANYBODY’S crew.
This dude is a monster.
He doesn’t drink.
He doesn’t do drugs.
He isn’t lazy.
He does ALL the driving.
He can fix all kinds of shit.
He plays his ass off live.
He can flow with my nutty antics.
He’s got a killer positive attitude.
Good dude of the highest order.
I salute him
And his massive skill set.
He slaps that mismatched PA together.
And we’re off to the races.
But the races in this case
Is a dive bar in Tulsa
Where dead ghosts
Blow in the wind
With ragged flags
And tater tots.
I strap in
And notice
A few problems.
One, every time I try to sing
Into the mic.
The PA shocks my lips.
This isn’t an uncommon a thing
With PAs in shithole dive bars.
In fact, it’s kind of par for the course.
If you play a shithole bar
And the PA, in fact,
Does NOT shock your teeth,
You are overjoyed!
You’re like, “WHOOOT!
Moving on up!”
It seems
You’ve got to shock
The fillings out of your teeth
For your art once in a while.
Second problem:
I can’t hear shit
Of what I’m singing
Because the bar is like a void
That sucks all sound into a sad,
Lonely and decrepit place
Where no sound exists.
Third problem:
I’m complaining a lot here,
But I’ve got one more.
There are no subwoofers
To the PA,
Which means my stompbox
Which I plug directly into the PA,
And use to simulate a kick drum sound,
Will with 100% probability,
Sound like
A sickly elf tapping
On a cardboard box.
It just does NOT work well
Without subwoofers.
Case closed.
At this point...
10 shows into this solo tour,
I’m already a little bored
With playing with myself.
Playing solo that is.
It’s a weird gig.
If you’re not playing
To a attentive & sympathetic audience,
Who appreciates your art,
And instead are playing to clownhouse
Full of drunk people,
It’s a War of Volume
And they usually win. 
They don’t give a fuck.
They are there to have
Drink and have a good time
Or be miserable. Whichever.
And you are just
A mildly entertaining distraction.
But playing solo is also
Great in some ways
Because you kind of control everything.
No tour scheduling hassles
No ego trips
No inner-band bullshit.
It’s just you.
But having said that,
There are fewer surprises
When playing live.
You’re just out there on your own,
Kind of playing / exploring
With nobody to bounce stuff
Off of.
So it’s weird like that.
For this gig,
The drummer in Truckstop Darlin’
To come sit in with me on my set
And play some drums.
Do it as a duo.
I tell him
Just have fun,
Pump the kick
And rock shit.
I dub him "James Addiction." 
There is no wrong.
As long as you rock.
James agrees to do it
And we bang out a pretty cool set
With a few improvisational
Songs in there
Where we just riff and jam
And make shit up.
He kicks ass in the set.
The PA is still a mismatched
Piece of shit
That shocks my teeth
And lips whenever
I put them to the mic
To sing.
This kind of shocking your teeth
Happens way more often
Than you would think
When gigging.
Usually it occurs
In small clubs with crappy PA.
I just power through it.
Fuck my teeth.
Fuck my lips.
Playing with James is fun.
It’s new and different.
It’s good to keep switching
Things up.
Keeps you alert and fresh.
Everything teaches
All you need to know
All the time.

James Addiction

Drive day.
We had no show booked on this date.
But on the drive from Tulsa,
John got the cell
And arranged a pick-up gig
At an all-ages club in Little Rock.
Good deal.
We arrive in the drizzling rain.
Pull up.
The building looks like Evangelical church
Meets strip mall.
There’s a bowling alley upstairs.
The all ages venue is downstairs.
We arrive early.
To kill time,
We eat
Go bowling upstairs.
I think James won.
Bowling for boredom.

I can smell an empty room
From a mile away.
Maybe even two miles.
I’ve spent too much time
In them.
I’ve seen a million empty rooms
And rocked most of them.
Maybe not all.
It’s hard to bat a thousand.
Damn empty rooms.  
They all look the same,
Because they’re empty
Except for a soundman, a bartender,
And few of the dudes
From the other band on the bill.
As we load into the all ages venue
I get the odd, aromatic whiff
Of Empty Room Syndrome
Which in short
Translates to
“There will be no one at this gig.”
 I opt to sit this one out
And just nap in a corner.
“I’m just going to chill, guys.
You got this one, tonight.”
At this point,
I’ve been playing in dive bars
For 18 years.
I can sit out an empty room
Now and then.
I’ve earned that right.
Over the years,
I’ve played
So many damn empty rooms
I can’t remember them all.
From coast to coast.
Across oceans.
Made my bones in empty rooms.
It’s like a tree falling in the forest.
There’s no one there to hear it
Except me.
Sure enough,
Come 10 p.m.
The club is empty as fuck.
Nobody there
Except for two chicks.
Fans of Truckstop.
Nice girls.
They sit at a table.
Watch Truckstop crank through
Their set.
Salute to Truckstop Darlin’.
Those guys are fucking real.
They rocked the shit
Out of that empty room.
Lot of heart, those guys.
They took that empty room
And made it their bitch.

Killing time on the Fart Bag Scene. Little Rock, Arkansas

After the Little Rock show,
Some locals offered
Us a floor to sleep on
At their place.
Except for the fact,
They had 12 cats.
They warned us beforehand.
Hey we have a lot of cats.
No problem.
I had a feeling that
This place was going to
Smell like a lot of cat piss.
I voiced that concern to the guys
And got little response.
Sure enough,
When we walked in the front door
Of this house,
We were hit with the uniquely
Smell of cat piss everywhere.
The guys exchanged coded glances
Along with a round of
Muted eyebrow raising.
But it was too late to turn back now.
Fuck it.
We were all too exhausted
To give a fuck.
Lot of cats up in there.
I staked out a spot
On a couch
And barricade myself
With pillows, blankets,
And a table.
Took a quick shower.
We all crashed out,
Sprawled around
The living room of this house
With cats leaping and skittering
About the darkness around us.
Funny thing is with weird smells,
After 10 min
They kind of disappear
Or you don’t notice them as much.
The smell kind of fades
In your mind
Until you leave
And come back later.
And realize
It still stinks.

Little Rock, AR
Woke in the Cat Piss House.
Cats climbing everywhere,
Smelling our bags.
What’s in here?
Get out of here, cat.
We grab our shit
Thank everybody.
Good people.
And roll out of there.
We hit a coffee shop
To wake up.
While there,
We meet a white rapper / school teacher chick
Named JLR
Pronounced J-Lar.
She gives us a CD.
I put it in my backpack
And make mental note
That this JLR CD will be
A good mood picker-upper
At some point down the road
When we are tired and bummed
And/or burnt out.
We wish JLR well in her endeavors.
And roll out
In search of a van repair shop
That will assess
The transmission on the bus
Which is fading.


Digital Tip Jar

No comments: