Electric Balloon Tour, Day 4

Oberlin ended up being pretty much the best college show we’ve played. The venue had big delicious cookies and the best root and ginger beers (Virgil’s and Reed’s, respectively). Opener PEAKS was fantastic, and segued nicely into our thing. I even knew the guy running sound from college times. The setup was such that we couldn’t see the crowd at all, but we could hear them oohing and aahing and generally freaking out at the appropriate times. Sometimes a college crowd is kind of checked out, but this one was really engaged. They dug us and we dug them. To top it all off, they put us up in a hotel. This is basically expected in Europe but practically unheard of in the US for bands at our level. The hotel was the Oberlin Inn, which is a good two or three steps up from the motel chains whose names end with numbers where we normally hang our hats.

After dropping off my stuff, I felt like having a few beers of the non-root variety, so I headed out to The Feve. Fortuitously, Carlos and Krill were already there and it was $2 shots and tots night. I had some shots, chased by a crisp Carling Black Label. I resisted the temptation to get tater tots, and dropped the extra few bucks for a salad instead. Any opportunity to eat fresh fruits and vegetables on the road is God telling you something. I have to keep my nutrition game tight until I get down to barbecue country and it all goes to shit.

I slept like a rock, and was relieved to find no urgent voicemails from work when I awoke. We had a delicious breakfast at Black River Café. Just a standard breakfast thing; bacon, eggs over easy, rye toast, home fries and coffee; but every element was superlatively tasty. They were playing Van Morrison the whole time. Not just one album, either, someone had created a solid playlist of the best Van Morrison songs. Van Morrison is my shit. That and New Order got me through the real dark awful bits of college. Yeah, a lot of his albums are inexcusable, particularly the later ones. Yeah, his vocal tics are kind of silly. You do anything remotely as good as Astral Weeks in your life and you are allowed to hate on Van Morrison. Fuck you, imaginary Van Morrison hater. We can maybe be friends but will never fully understand each other.

We had a pretty leisurely day of running errands: hardware store, music store, grocery store. Stopped into the radio station, WOBC, to do a quick session. Then it was off to Kenyon to play at The Horn. Kenyon is small, and The Horn is the only on campus venue, housed in a converted barn. We’d been there once before, and were excited to come back. The kids who run the music programming there are friendly and highly competent. Great PA system, too. Kenyon has the distinction of housing the best college dining hall we’ve ever encountered. All the standard things like granola are made by Amish people, and there are all sorts of nonstandard items which are not only made fresh but also artfully, appetizingly presented. It is generally fresh and wholesome and varied, all of which features are in short supply on most tours.

Gambier, Ohio has some old school liquor law on the books prohibiting the sale of alcohol over 42 proof. We bought a bottle of something called Old Dan Tucker, a dilute bourbon whiskey distilled in Ohio. It tasted like when you fix yourself a whiskey on the rocks at a party and you get distracted and forget about it all night and then find it several hours later, ice all melted and back up to room temperature. I realized after we finished the bottle that the right thing to do with this, the only thing, would be to make whiskey sours. Sour mix is equal parts lemon juice and simple syrup, simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, and dilute bourbon is the same as equal parts whiskey and water. So hypothetically, if I had a pint of dilute bourbon, that would be the same as half a pint of water and half a pint of normal bourbon. So I could add half a pint of sugar, and I would have a pint of simple syrup plus half a pint of bourbon. And I could then add a pint of lemon juice, creating a substance functionally equivalent to 4 parts sour mix and 1 part bourbon. You might want to tweak the proportions a bit, as making simple syrup involves conflating wet and dry measurements, and I often think sours are too sweet, but I think my principle is sound. Maybe next time.

Kenyon gave us a warm reception. We were fed homemade chili, cornbread, salad, chips and salsa. The chili contained chickpeas, a great innovation. The show itself was plagued with technical difficulties related to my bass amp, but the venue had a backup, and a good time was ultimately had by all. Some familiar faces from last time, and good vibes all around. I love the way kids at Kenyon dance. They rock some deeply weird moves, completely devoid of self-consciousness. Warped Tour mosh pit meets Burning Man rave tent meets Elaine Benes/Taylor Swift High Postmodern White Girl Arm Stuff. I suppose the overwhelming whiteness of these spaces is a factor in the dance culture. If they got like a step team or something, people might feel pressure to elevate their dance game. But it seems like a function of youth more than anything, and the overall effect is sweet. Everyone feels comfortable looking mildly-to-totally silly here. Our friend Jon is a legit good dancer, but unserious enough in his approach to blend right in. It is a pleasure to watch.

In the morning we had a full-on dining hall experience. I had a big sandwich, a salad, a delicious piece of pineapple cake, and some coffee and granola and a sandwich for the road. I am ready to face the day. Looking forward to Chicago: seeing some old friends, drinking a face-melting cup of coffee from Wormhole, and staying with Jonah from Krill’s parents. Grownup houses tend to have more soft things to sleep on and better snacks.

I really hope my amp isn’t actually broken for the rest of tour. but that is beyond my power to assess until we get there. Serenity now.

2 responses on Electric Balloon Tour, Day 4

  1. Hear hear re: Astral Weeks. Funnily enough it got me through some tough shit in Uni for me as well. I have never been a “listen to the whole album experience” kind of person, but I do make notable exceptions, and that is one killer album. Folklore has it that it was all done in one session – I wonder if this is true. Either way, if I ever look like I’m going to jump out of the 11th floor window at work – and you prefer I didn’t – you should play “The Way that Young Lover’s Do” and my shit will settle back to its modicum of normality.

    Seems like you are getting your fill of locally made food. I look forward to your ongoing commentary of the somewhat little flaunted tapestry of small town culinary americana.

    1. Have you heard the demos, available on the Bang Masters compilation? There is an absolutely perfect sleazy, bluesy version of Madame George, and a few others from around that time.

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