In 2001, Sunset Valley was touring in support of our Barsuk release "Ice Pond". We were excited to play Tucson and had heard great things about the place. (I actually love Tucson, just so you know. It's on my short list of places I would like to live.) We rolled into the cool district, near Hotel Congress. There were many great shows going on that night. We found our venue- it was called Skrappy's and was in an alley off the main drag. We were to play with some local bands, and we even got a somewhat insulting review in the Tucson Weekly.
As it got dark out, droves of music fans flooded the clubs on the main street, but our little Skrappy's lived up to it's name. It was a mostly empty big room with slouchy couches a few kids milling about. Actually, before child labor laws, there were probably a lot more kids milling about. Finally it was our turn to play.
On tour, before smart phones and laptops and internet, you just kind of watched your life get sucked down the waterless urinal of time. If you were into getting drunk, well, that could mask it a little, or if there was a pool table or a way to jog or something… Or reading. I can't seem to get to my reading very well. My attention span is a piece of… Hey, I didn't know they had coffee here. I have started many books and never gotten to double digit chapter numbers, and in some cases not even double digit page numbers. I still don't know what the catcher In the rye catches. I blame my eyes, because I rarely hold books in front of them. Anyway, there was one good part of touring for me...
The actual playing of music part. Finally I got to plug in all that heavy gear and forget about losing time and money, missing my better half... I stopped wondering why I didn't pick a more useful major. Actually, my major was useful, it was me that wasn't useful. You just sink into the ether of rock, and once you're in it, open your eyes and look around at all the decibels and chords and harmonics and beats, all swimming around like schools of fish. The sun is shining through the surface up there, but that's just some reality trying to get at you. You are safe for about 45 minutes.
This place we were in had really tall ceilings. If you were on stage and looked up you couldn't see the top, just blackness and some cobwebbed light rigging. We came to the end of a song during the set, and it was kind of quiet. As in completely quiet. The 10 or so kids were just probably thinking about other stuff, like non-clapping kinds of things. And then, from way above the stage, a cricket started to chirp. I looked over to my bandmates and they were looking up at the sound, jaws held up only by incredulous smiles. It was too perfect in every way. If one was writing this as fiction, it would seem too obvious to include. That night the cricket seemed to be our biggest fan. (A deleted sentence about a cricket groupie was here.)
After we played, we went to man our merch table. We had cd's and t-shirts for sale. Now I have seen some amazing things happen at merch tables. At La Luna I have signed peoples tickets after opening for Ween and The Cardigans. I have seen John Roderick charm and chat and take pictures and make everyones' day. I have seen Neutral Milk Hotel turn the merch table at Satiricon into a genuine mob scene. I have seen BJM, DCFC, GBV, and other acronymic bands sell insane dollar amounts in a night. All great things to be a part of or witness.
That night we sold one cd. One scratchable, breakable, meltable, skippable cd that is hard to unwrap. A sweet and shy teenage girl came up to the table and bought the copy of Ice Pond, and looked at us and asked in all earnestness: "Are the crickets on the cd?" (Studio audience: Awwwwwww)
After the show, there was about $35 to split between 4 bands. I think the locals let us have it for gas money. Some other band or the booker asked if we needed a place to stay, but we had to drive all night to our next stop in Santa Cruz. Fantastic tour routing, courtesy of a booking agent who is now incredibly successful but pretty much tried to kill my band in 2001 with 20 hour drives and unbelievably selfish decisions. Oh, I didn't mean to get negative there, or in the top paragraph. That's just how the dice roll in the music business. Actually, I think they are not dice, but strings. Invisible strings pulled by a cosmic puppeteer hand. That last bit is cheesy, but I am leaving it in because I think it's true. A certain recent event has made me believe that these forces are very real.