I fully intend to sleep in on the first day of tour, but I’m wide awake by 9:30. I finish packing and have a leisurely breakfast, a bacon egg and cheese and a fancy coffee. The nearest good coffee to me is C. Lo, which does a cold brew with coconut milk and toasted coconut shavings in it. It is delicious as always and puts me in a good mood. I basically never have a leisurely morning to myself. Maybe someday I will become one of those people who routinely wakes up for things before it is an emergency to do so, but for now this is a fluke. We get to New Haven with plenty of time to spare despite having to make several stops to get various merch and gear items scattered between our houses and the practice space. Before going to the venue we stop at a park by the water where there are legit ten food trucks lined up next to each other. They are mostly taco trucks, and the array of taco options is dazzling. I decide to start out at a truck that advertises “tripletas” because I don’t know what that is. This is a basic principle of food selection: if you are eating the food of a culture other than your own, and you see something prominently displayed on the sign and you don’t know what it is, you should try it. The fact that it’s advertised means the proprietor is very proud of the job they do with this particular food, and/or its presence on the menu is important to people more familiar with this kind of food. The name “tripletas” evokes the Dominican “tres golpes,” which I love. The first time I got tres golpes I didn’t know what it was, I just liked that the name was self-explanatory to somebody. It turned out to be mashed green plantains, eggs, fried white cheese, and fried salami topped with pickled red onions, a delicious and filling combination. The three hits. The triplets. Three things you want to eat, together. I trust you, food truck. The primary item pictured next to the word “tripletas” looked very large, and I didn’t want to fill up at one place, so I opted to get my triplets in empanadilla form. The triplets turn out to be chicken, pork, and ham, with some melty American cheese (also like tres golpes, it is unclear which of the more than three ingredients count towards the named amount and which are uncredited contributors). It’s a tasty combo. Hearty and salty but not too much because the chicken balances the two pork elements. I can’t remember the last time I had an empanada that was fried to order rather than merely reheated, and I appreciate the freshness. So far so good.
My next stop is a few trucks down, a straightforward al pastor taco with some radish and lime. It hits the spot. All the tacos are $1.50-$2. I wish I had a couple hours to try an al pastor taco from each truck and declare a winner. While I’m eating a nice couple eating next to me offers their untouched veggie tostada, and I eat it. Their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. I know how that goes and am happy to help them out. I finish it off with a thoroughly mediocre elote. It hasn’t even been grilled at all, just boiled, and the crema is just on the right side of turned. You can’t win ’em all.
Cafe Nine is all brick and just the right amount of dim, festooned with show posters. The stage is tiny, but this is clearly a live music venue first and a bar second. Our bartender is a cool older musician who looks like Dame Judi Dench. She is clearly living her best life, playing in like three bands and working at the coolest bar in town. A nice selection of New England craft beers is available. I came here planning to eat some New Haven pizza, having fond memories of a trip to Frank Pepe’s back in the day and also a hot tip that I should go to Sally’s this time instead. But between the tacos and knowing we’ll be fed where we’re staying, I hold off. I’ll be back in New Haven at some point, and our hosts tonight will feed us.
The set is fine. We don’t fuck anything up but I feel unsteady. An old friend who’s living in New Haven to work on a political campaign comes through. Vote Lamont for CT governor, if that is a thing you can do, so he can have had a key role in a winning campaign and continue to climb the political ladder and one day exert a meaningful positive influence on our piss-poor electoral system. It’s always good to see a familiar face at an out of town show, and we shoot the shit until I happen to look up and see that everyone has packed except me. He has to get up early too, and we part ways. Cafe Nine seems to operate on a “no drink tickets, if you’re in the band you can just drink” policy, so I take a Jameson to sip on while I deal with my gear. More places should adopt this highly civilized approach to hospitality. We have a longish-for-nighttime drive ahead of us, as we are staying in Boston with Julian’s parents. This is a reliably great lodging situation, with a soft surface for everyone and even private rooms for two, plus a ton of food. This time it is Wegman’s sesame chicken, dumplings, and some homemade cold sesame noodles. I dig in hard, as I ate tacos at a weird time and never ended up having dinner. I sleep on my preferred couch for at least nine hours and awake rejuvenated. Then there is challah French toast with some fresh fruit. Perfect. Julian’s mom is a consumnate hostess. Also a truly threatening Scrabble player, to the extent that my goal is usually to lose by less than 100 points. Unfortunately we did not allow time for Scrabble on this trip. Sated, we set off for Portland.
The show in Portland is at the Apohadion Theater, which is less of a theater and more of a DIY spot in the industrial part of town. Like Silent Barn it started out illegal and went legit, which I guess is easier to sustainably do in Portland than back home. It reminds me more than anything of Goodbye Blue Monday, a place I did not grow to sufficiently appreciate until late in its life. There are seats and tables, and you can get beer and wine and tea. I would be a regular if I lived around here. The people who run it are friendly. The opener, Bright Boy, is legit amazing. He makes weird stuttery beats like J Dilla and has a beautiful angelic voice. The songs are very freeform, to the extent that it is not immediately clear that everything he does is in fact on purpose, and I appreciate seeing a rare set in which I genuinely do not know what is going to happen next. Kind of reminds me of Son of Salami, and I wonder if this is a New England thing. The crowd is sparse but into it. It’s a weeknight, and we rarely go to Portland. I feel a little more secure about the set this time around. We’ll be okay for New York, right? We must. We rehearsed for this more than any tour I can remember and goddammit we are going to give these people a show. Tonight’s lodging is with Julian’s aunt and uncle, who have a vacant floor of their house available that is being renovated. We stayed on a different floor last time, and it’s cool to see the house take shape. We manage to finagle our giant van into the driveway, which makes us feel better about leaving some stuff in the car. We dig into some chips and salsa and go to sleep.
In the morning we meet up with Julian’s cousin, who takes us to Dutch’s for breakfast. She lived in Ridgewood briefly and we had a few fun nights at Gottscheer a while back. It’s nice to see her again and be properly shown around where she’s from. Dutch’s reminds me a bit of the justifiably famous Friendly Toast, which mashes together a bunch of breakfast staples in a clever way and they all have sort of a veneer of healthiness/naturalness but in practice you are stuffing yourself like a filthy animal and you like it. I get this:
This is bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado on a maple griddle cake. I have never had a griddle cake before, and it’s fantastic. Sort of like a big flat buttery corn muffin biscuit. The bacon and egg are perfectly done and the avocado complements the other ingredients nicely. This is a true hall of fame breakfast sandwich. Coffee is good too, and I get my favorite seltzer, Polar grapefruit, to wash it down. Great success all around. Coffee and seltzer should be a more common breakfast combo. Seltzer scrubs all the nightthirst off the back of your throat better than water, and coffee makes you ready to face the day. I keep both at work at all times. CVS does a decent grapefruit seltzer, comparable to Polar. Hal’s is also a favorite. La Croix is overrated but also people who talk shit about it are as annoying as the boosters so I just avoid that whole conversation. Seltzer is seltzer and it is good. This is my position.
The next stop is Boston, where we have a bunch of time to kill because there’s a comedy show before our set. The comedy is pretty bleak, a bunch of similarly dressed young white dudes with the same cadence talking about receiving blowjobs. It really makes me appreciate the genuinely weird and unique comics I know. With that ruled out as a time-killing option, I decide to get some dinner, and most of the band comes along. We’re fortunate to be playing near one of my favorite Korean places in any city, Seoul Soulongtang. I remember getting a delicious cold noodle dish last time, and in the hot weather that seems like just the ticket. I end up going with a combo this time, naengmyon and BBQ pork belly
I guess because the combo was only six bucks more than the standalone noodles I assumed it would be a smaller portion than usual, but no, this is two full-ass portions of Korean food. Both delicious, and I do end up getting through damn near all of it. The noodles are in an icy beef broth with some radish and hard boiled egg and brisket. Hearty and refreshing. The pork belly is perfectly cooked, with a nice char on the outside and a melty texture within. Everyone is pleased with their selections. A top-notch meal with plenty of time to spare. Back at Great Scott, we are pleased to see the room filling up. Doors at 10 in Boston is nearly unheard of because curfews are so early, but fortunately it all goes off without a hitch and we are able to play our full set despite being sandwiched in second of three. Playing second is usually rough because you rarely get a proper soundcheck, and with all the additional elements on this record we really need it. But since we showed up early it was all good. It is our first nicely packed out crowd of tour and it feels fucking great. Just easier to summon the sort of energy you’re supposed to put out in front of people. Later in the car, Felicia says that the number of people in the audience shouldn’t affect the quality of your performance. And of course she’s right, from a professional standpoint, but you can’t help responding subconsciously to a big room and just being more psyched. At least I can’t. It is a mad rush at the merch table after our set, further complicated by the fact that neither of the other bands appear to have a merch person. At first I turn people away, but then I start to feel bad. It is the last band’s release show, and they are leaving money on the table. So I just end up doing merch for everybody and giving them both some money at the end of the night. Everyone else in the band thinks it is ridiculous that I did this, and I’m inclined to agree. I need to stop being so accommodating all the time. So that’s it, other bands I play with are on their own from here on out. We have a decent merch night, slightly hindered by the fact that LPs didn’t arrive in Allston like they were supposed to. Tomorrow’s trip to New York would have to include a trip to our P.O. box to get another shipment. In general we have a lot more merch to deal with on this trip: T-shirts, tote bags, and sweatshirts on top of the new release and all the old ones. And we brought everything because we had minimal time to deal with it before leaving. Merch has been a trivial concern in the past, generally shoved unceremoniously into a single suitcase with maybe a supplementary box, and now it’s a solid third of our storage in the van. I can see why people pay to have this done for them. Have we finally reached the level of needing to bring an additional person on tour? The thought of how much it would cost and how much hassle it would be up front to schedule makes me cringe, but we’re trying to do a new thing where we spend a little money on things to slightly improve the quality of our lives on tour so it’s a possibility. We’ll have to run the numbers. For this one, though, we’re on our own
Back at the Julian’s parents’ place, we are greeted with a giant bowl of homemade cavatappi with pesto and a tray of meatballs from an Italian deli. It hits the damn spot. I appreciate the use of cavatappi, my favorite go-to pasta. You can use it with basically any sauce and it’s the best for mac and cheese. This is an early night with minimal hanging, though. Tomorrow is the big release show at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and we have bad memories of being catastrophically late for journeys between Boston and New York. In order to ensure arrival at 3 PM for soundcheck, we will have to leave at 9 AM. Everyone makes a face when I say this but no one argues. We gotta suck it up and do it. In the morning we will shove some bagels and coffee in our faces and set off with grim determination to meet our fate, hopefully obtaining the needed records on the way. I am uncharacteristically nervous about the show and sleep poorly. It’s been so long since we’ve done a big New York headlining show, and MHOW is by far the biggest venue we’ve done that at. Our last release was at Baby’s All Right, a lovely place to play but very small and never a question of whether we’d sell it out. This is a risk. Whole areas of my life are organized around an aversion to risk. I try not to think about it and go to sleep. Eventually, I succeed.