It occurred to me that i totally forgot to list off any of the set lists post-Nashville, so before we jump into it:
Knoxville: We Fiddle/Arson/Ratings Spike/X-13D/Black Holes/Take the $/Telescope/No MM
Athens: Ratings/Pot. Energy/We Fiddle/Black Holes/Arson/Take the $/No MM/Certain Fate
Wilmington: Paulding/Arson/Black Holes/X-13D/We Fiddle/Sleeperhold/Probalos/Success
Part 4: "Hey Man, Her Name's Kim"
Something we made sure we questioned on stage at both the Wilmington show and in Durham was what in the blue hell the deal is with a theme park we drove past on the SC side of the SC/NC border called South of the Border. We couldn't decide whether or not this place was the most casually racist theme part we've ever seen, but whenever we asked, audience members laughed and shrugged with slight expressions of embarrassment. I dunno, you tell me--are a giant sombrero drop and drunken Mexican caricatures ethnically sensitive?
Not pictured: dignity
The good vibes and generosity of North Carolina continued in Durham, thanks to our pals in the crushing Maple Stave. Their drummer Evan sprung for a hotel room at the downtown Marriott not two blocks from the Pinhook, the coffee-shop-vibed bar hosting us for the evening. It was here where i proceeded to play the sloppiest Zebras set of the tour thus far, questioning how my endurance has held up during week 1 of this two-shows-per-night escapade. Fortunately, when you play as fast as Zebras does, the drumming is such a blur that no one can tell when i'm fucking up, it seems, because Evan (one of the few drummers i'm legitimately self-conscious playing in front of, because he is dazzlingly incredible behind his kit) was totally into it.
I played better during the HiFi set, where the tempos are less insane and more geared toward dancing, and a decent-sized crowd at the Pinhook got into it enthusiastically, a few people even taking photos!
Durham set list: Paulding/Rating Spike/Fiddle/Imp Walker/Arson/Chance-Medley/Telescope/NMM
Zebras even officially outdrew HiFi in Durham, as a lovely lady by the name of Kim attended the show to see Zebras specifically. She attends a lot of Those Poor Bastards shows (Vince's other band, a synth-tinged country duo) and was psyched to see Zebras (which happens a lot with TPB fans, it seems, which is beyond cool. I still haven't explored a lot of TPB, but it seems that Zebras is nowhere near the TPB wheelhouse, so for their fans to come to Zebras shows and "get it" is pretty rad).
Vince, Lacey and Kim hung out quite a bit, which apparently cheesed off one of the bartenders (Vince suspects said bartender was trying to chat her up). In Vince words, "when i started talking to her the dude got really salty. I think he thought i was some sleazy creep, but then she walked away and the dude leaned over and said, 'hey, man, her name's Kim,' like he decided to help me out or something. It's cool, i know who she is, dude!"
Durham, North Carolina: gorgeous downtown, a cheap bistro with awesome salads and sandwiches (visit Toast when in Durham, for serious), and some seriously awesome rockers (honestly, Maple Stave threw down the best performance we've seen on this tour so far. Absolutely pummeling). This tour is officially good vibes all around now.
Part 5: DC Will Do That To You
One of my worst tour nightmares came close to coming true last night in Washington, DC. It still may.
We had loaded in to the Everlasting Life vegan cafe in Washington, DC and had just eaten some incredible mostaccioli when i got a text message from my brother Kris. "Call me at your earliest convenience."
As my parents and grandma get older, i occasionally feel mild pangs of guilt that i don't live closer to them and spend more time with them than i do. Granted, that would entail living closer to the Fox Valley and not in Milwaukee, which would kill my soul, but that doesn't stop me from feeling bad about geography cursing us by distance.
So when my little brother calls me while on tour to drop the bomb that Dad's back in the hospital in serious shape, it's a surreal, sobering thing. Dad is a throat cancer survivor, having had surgery in 2000, but he's fought health problems for years after, including problems with his teeth stemming from the radiation therapy (they've basically rotted out of his head and caused infections left and right). He's back in now, and the doctors are fearful that his cancer's returned.
My mind raced on the phone--do we need to bail? Do i need to be back in Wisconsin? My brother and mom talked before he called me and we all seem to agree that there's no reason for me to cut bait and bail on the tour, as there's nothing i could do if i were there while they do tests anyway. But if his condition worsens to a point that i can barely type without my throat going dry, i won't have a choice.
It was with all this hanging in the back of my head that i took the stage at this charming little vegan cafe and proceeded to thrash away in front of 20 paid attendees. Kris had ended our conversation with something he's heard me say before--"take it out on the songs." It's my personal demand of myself to never let personal shit get in the way of a good performance on stage. For one, it's selfish to let me shit ruin a show for the other guys in the band, and for two, it's the best therapy in the world.
I also had old friends in the audience to keep the dark thoughts from taking over--an old internet pal named Andy whom i hadn't seen since around 1996; and my best friend from childhood, Sean, who now is a hardcore Republican working for the US Chamber of Commerce. I dedicated "Imperial Walker" to him as "the song that got me in the National Review before him," which was his reaction when that hilariously misfired "review" hit. It's reassuring to me that two old pals on the opposite sides of the political aisle can remain good friends.
So i bashed away at my drums to entertain my old friends, and i bashed away to work through the stress of being 894 miles from my family in a legit time of need. As of now, i'm keeping myself optimistic that i'll be able to finish this tour, merely having to deal with the shadow of my dad's health as a ghost following us in the background. If you could do me a favor, dear person reading this, shoot a few positive thoughts our way to reinforce my positive thinking, won't you?
DC set list: Grace/We Fiddle/Imp Walker/Black Holes/Magnets/Arson/NMM