Throughout the summer, Fountains Of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger will be offering periodic glimpses of life on the road as he and the band tour behind their new album, Traffic And Weather.
Well, we just returned from a not particularly grueling two-week run that took us to Pittsburgh; Cleveland; Toronto; Detroit; Minneapolis; Oshkosh; Chicago; Manchester, TN; Charleston, SC; and Atlanta. Since I didn't write anything down during the actual trip, I don't remember exactly what happened or when. Ha! How's that for a tour diary, Mr. A.V. Club editor?
But it doesn't really matter, since as any careful reader might have surmised by now (by reading this—or any other—tour diary), it's pretty much all the same: travel, hang around, play, hang around some more, repeat. The details are not so crucial. Nevertheless, here are a few things I learned this month, in no particular order:
1. The Cleveland Cavaliers are forced to play in something called the "Quicken Loans Arena." This is a terrible name for a sports venue. We tried to think of what could be worse… We came up with "We Buy Gold Arena," "Ovaltine Stadium," and "Depends Pavilion." I hope none of these actually exists.
2. The Mall Of America, outside Minneapolis, is just a mall. Yeah, it's big. So, like, instead of your typical 12 Starbucks, there are 30. Who cares?
3. Canadian "dollars" have somehow gotten to be worth about the same as REAL dollars. So stop throwing them away! It is actual money!
4. The Broken West are a great band. (We played about a week of shows with them.)
5. Oshkosh B'Gosh is no longer based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They moved to Atlanta a few years ago. That's fucked-up, yo.
6. I am less inclined to give a homeless person money if he tells me I look like Mr. Bean. (This happened outside St. Andrews Hall in Detroit.)
7. In Pittsburgh (where we shared a venue with Digital Underground… Samoans! Do The Humpty-Hump) there's a cool late-night bar at the Polish Army Veterans Association, which is hidden behind an unmarked door in a nondescript residential neighborhood. This sort of thing appeals to New Yorkers, who basically like any bar that doesn't have a sign out front.
8. Charleston has a popular local blues singer and pianist named "Shrimp City Slim." Jody and I went on a local morning TV show to plug our gig, and he was there plugging his next gig as well. Yes, he wears a beret.
One of the more notable stops along this leg of our tour was at the legendary Flying J Truck Plaza outside Chicago. Just kidding. It was at the legendary Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
Bonnaroo has evolved over the years from a jam-band-centric event to a jam-band-plus-Tool-and-The-Police-centric event. It was hot and dusty, filled with hippies, and lacking in plumbing of any kind, but somehow we still had a great time. Brian and I got to meet John Paul Jones. I got to participate in a weird press conference with Ziggy Marley, Lewis Black, Craig from The Hold Steady, and Xavier Rudd. And then our band got to play between Gogol Bordello and Ween.
Gogol Bordello is brilliant, and also an extremely tough act to follow, as its members are mostly naked and include cute girls playing circus instruments. I think someone in the band may have also been on fire. They can whip a crowd into a frenzy using hypnotism and the theme song from Tetris. They also have Elijah Wood in their dressing room, whereas we only have Tostitos and Jameson.
We went on after them anyway, because we had to. We then had to face a lot of rabid Ween fans. Ween fans are impatient and like to yell "Ween." Our singer Chris thought they were yelling "weed," which you had to admit made perfect sense in the context of Bonnaroo. He politely explained to the crowd that he wasn't holding. But this didn't seem to satisfy them.
After we finished playing, we hung around for several more hours to watch The Police, a band I completely worshipped as a kid. Sting had apparently already pissed off everyone that worked at the festival by insisting on shutting down the only access road so he could get from his jet to the stage in a presidential-style motorcade without fear of being accosted.
When the band took the stage, things seemed a little off from the get-go. Sting said "Hello, Bonnaroo, Tennessee!" and greeted the "80,000 Tennesseans." Both of those statements were technically wrong, since the town is not named Bonnaroo, and many of the festival-goers were from out of state. But that's nitpicking, really. The main thing that was wrong was that many of the classic Police songs, which I love, were "reinterpreted" quite liberally. One might venture to say "misinterpreted." Granted, The Police used to always jam and stretch and expand their songs in concert, but somehow this time around it often felt more like a "jazzy" cover band simply getting many of the melodies, grooves, and tempos a little wrong.
But Sting's voice was still strong, and Stewart and Andy are still awesome, and it was still exciting to see them onstage together again. I remain a big fan. In fact, I would like to hereby extend an open invitation to The Police to work with ME, free of charge, in a rehearsal room for a week, so I can help them get their live show back on track 100 percent. I will be kind but firm. I'm convinced that if they would only take a little advice from ME, one day they'll really amount to something.
We finished up our run of gigs with two more Southern shows. Charleston is the hometown of our brilliant lead guitarist, Jody Porter, and in his honor, the local paper ran a great preview piece featuring an old photo of him in his high-school-era band, looking dashingly new-wave. I won't link to it here, I'll let you search for it. [Editor's note: Or just click here.] In Charleston, I also mangled my ankle by stepping in a pothole in the alley behind the Music Farm, so my memories of the next night in Atlanta are mostly of hobbling around in pain and whining a lot.
Anyway, coming up over the summer, we've got an appearance on Conan, a trip to Japan's Fuji Rock Festival, shows with Squeeze and Crowded House and Joan Jett and others, another big festival in the U.S. starring The Police, and a bunch of other random crap. I'll try to ease up a little on the hallucinogens this time so I can remember more details. Bye!