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Bloodsucking Vampire Squirrel tour diary part 1 by Travis

pictures of some of these events can be found on the images page.


I should start by saying that this is our longest tour to date, and very
possibly, the longest and farthest I have ever been from the pseudo normalcy of
'hometown', or whatever. I've only just moved to Albuquerque five years ago, whereas
Sean, and Miguel were born here. Pathetic as it sounds, the midwest might as well
be Bagdad to me, as I haven't really travelled as much as I would like. I hope to
visit Bagdad someday. The odds are slim, but nevertheless, I'd like to see it. Such
is the way of the American, to be the ever-eager, ever-ready Uber Tourist. The
operative word here is 'tour', and that is what this spiel is all about; Pilot to
Bombardier hits the Midwest (sort of). I got most of my leads for this tour from the
'Book Your Own Fucking Life' site at www.byofl.org, and a few of them from folks
around town like James Hall, and Everett Bowler from Last Day Parade. The remainder
are contacts we've been cultivating over the last few outings. I really couldn't
list all the leads I ran down, but I'll try to list the ones that panned out, and
thank folks accordingly. I booked most of this tour myself, and to tell you the
honest truth, that was my first mistake. Share in the burden that is booking, that
you may live in harmony. I had a fortune cookie at Mr. Chopstix in Denton TX, and
that's what it should have said. Another mistake was doing it all by email, instead
of by phone. Most (if not all) of my positive feed was by phone, and in retrospect,
if I had used the phone solely, we might possibly have had a longer tour. Its just
harder to write someone off when they're right there on the phone with you. We left
town with eleven shows slated over sixteen days. But hey, lets not let this ugly
foreshadowing scare you, we had a blast. What I remember of it was fun. I took
notes.

Aug 4th
Albuquerque, NM
We played with Exploded Drawing, and Mistletoe at the Launchpad. This show was
important to all of us. Exploded Drawing's first time at the Launchpad. They came up
with a great flier, courtesy of Sean (their drummer/vocalist), who is a graphic
designer. We're slated to play three shows with Brian, Javier, Damien and Alex from
Mistletoe before they disembark on their westerly tour, and we head east. Mistletoe
has the kind of sound that at first listen might pass for indy, but could easily
become mainstream radio sometime in the not so distant future. The kind of mainstream
you still find yourself actually enjoying, like Weezer, or some of those kids. The
first time I saw these guys was at a party at Anna's house over by MLK, and they
were pretty subdued. It turns out they must've been playing some of their quieter
stuff, because this night they got up on a mess of rock, and kicked its ass, as my
grandpa would've said. They had a super tight stage show, that summoned arena rock
grandeur to mind. Someday fellas. Exploded Drawing had a good set which featured
dual vocals from drummer Sean, and guitarist Daniel, (Lucas aptly on bass) and
ranged from some more radio friendly, vocally-driven stuff, to some deeper darker
(more experimental) guitar driven stuff. You could tell they were stoked to be
there. Daniel has the slightly mad genius thing going. You can smell the fortyweight
burnin up there. These guys are going to be great, and we're talking a lot about the
next time we play together. They have some time slated to record with Sean once we
get back.
Frankly, the whole night was kind of weird, and I was just unable to pay
attention to anything, knowing that we were leaving town the next day. One of the
symptoms of booking the tour by yourself is the constant assurance that you have
forgotten all the important things. We played a decent show, but I remember thinking
that we needed to be better for the road. Just nervous or whatever. Some of the
shows were still iffy. There were too many days off. Of course I was so rapped up in
the whole uncertainty, I completely ignored germaine info, like directions to each
and every show (including the next one). I hadn't even called ahead on some of the
shows to make sure they were still on. I was just too worried about the five days
off to even think about anything else.
We played a decent set with a few minor fuckups. I boned the beginning of the
new song, and I seriously boned the beginning of the Cars cover, 'Just What I
Needed'. Sean's guitars were out of earshot a little, and Migs was torturing his
bass with dissonant abandon. That means he was whacking it a lot with his fist. It
was all over too soon. Migs felt that the end of the set lagged, but I felt as if I
could have played longer. I don't really remember what I did after the show, as
usual. I suppose I was wandering around looking for someone the whole night, but
whoever it was, I didn't see them. At least, that's how it felt. I tend to wear
myself out on stage as much as I can, so afterwards is always some kind of
semi-nautious, oxygen starved, alcohol-soaked haze. We got paid really well, and
that put me in a good mood, because it would get us a head start across the midwest.
We should thank Joe Anderson for all his help. Getting a little encouragement from
this guy is like being blessed by the Rock-n-Roll Pope.

Aug 5th
We actually got on the road fairly early with plenty of time to get there.
Sean's girlfriend, Sarah, and her accomplice, Anna, tagged along for the next
two dates. I think I got the directions to the Highlife House by calling James from
Last Day Parade from the van outside Colo. Spr. and asking him where those guys
lived. This was the start of a generally asinine mishandling of every facet of the
tour by me. That I don't live in the world spoken of in the manual should not come
as a big surprise to anyone who knows me. Part of the punk rock ethic I still vainly
grasp hold of is that things are not supposed to run smoothly, and if they do, they
are not to be trusted. You need a little slack. Slack allows for mobility, but it is
important to tend ones slack lest one should find himself hanging from the business
end of it. Its a fine line.

Colorado Springs, CO
Got to the house despite questionable directions, and met up with Aaron. The
Highlife House is enormous (by my standards) and filled with books, alt-media
manifests, freaky art installations, and so on. A lot of this is Betina's stuff, but
anywhere up to five live there, with an extra room for travelers. Aaron's girlfriend
Betina used to live in ABQ. There's even a secret walled up room in the basement
that nobody has ever been in. Spooky, huh? Bands from all over stop here to play and
there is evidence in the barrage of fliers and stickers pasted to everything,
including the kitchen sink. Aaron took a little collection and sent us to the market
for veggies. Upon our return he whipped up a fantastic wok dish. The veggies were a
little overcooked, but the peanut sauce was to die for. Aaron plays with
Sacco&Vanzetti, and for those of you who are not aware. He also lives in, and books
the Highlife House; the only viable venue in Colorado Springs. There were people
coming and going most of the day while we lounged with Mistletoe, and had yummy food
and cheap beer. S&V had not played for about six weeks, so it promised to be a
decent show. The guys from S&V were as friendly as always to us, and as usual,
nearly at one another's throats. Creativity in this case breeds a little tension.
The thing about these guys is that they fucking rock, and they know it. On the one
hand Aaron is a networking guru (there is a huge map of the US and Canada on the
living room wall riddled with little slips of paper containing contact information
for bands that have played HLH from literally every corner of the Americas). Of
course, he must realize how well they would do if they could tour. On the other
hand, singer/guitarist Jay has a daughter. Jay looked me in the eye, explaining both
the reason they cannot tour, and thereby the cause of their turmoil. 'I have a
daughter,' he said, and his tone made clear,...'and there's not a damn thing in the
world that is going to take me away from her for even a minute'. I can totally
respect that. My dad played rock-n-roll, and I never saw him. These guys put on a
great show. Some of the best bands I've seen, including ones of I've played in,
have been driven purely on dynamic tension, and personal conflicts. These guys have
that in abundance, so maybe that's why they rock so damn hard. Mistletoe played
first, and had a series of technical difficulties. Javier's voice went kaput about
half way through the show, brought on possibly by the limited PA. Unfortunately,
their show came off a little less than sterling. S&V was second (due to Jay's
demanding work schedule), and we played last. A lot of kids left after S&V. We had
anticipated that, so we banged the songs out, regardless of the fact. S&V were
spectacular, despite their insistence they should have played better. Afterward we
drank some more, and crashed on the floor watching American Psycho. All the
literature and video in the HLH reminded me to get my glasses fixed.

Aug 6th
We lit out early next morning for Boulder, where Sean's sister, Tammi, lives.
Sean and Sarah had actually driven down after our show the night before, so it Anna,
Migs, and I in the van. The drive there was pretty droll. Sure its beautiful, but
we've made the trip a couple of times before. Went up there and played in Denver
once, went to see Radiohead/Beta Band at Red Rocks. Anyway, we had Anna to entertain
us. She was enthralled by Pauline Reage's, "Story of 'O'", the whole time. Go
figure; Catholic girl, S&M, it all makes sense now. We missed having another car to
chase after, but Sean and his girl were soon to part so she could go to school in
LA. We had to leave him to his main preoccupation throughout the entire tour. Her
name is Sarah, duh.
Colorado is beautiful as I stated, but somehow just too Anglo, too suburban.
Like the whole state is really a wilderness amusement ride somewhere near Epcot
center. Its all these dubious little research-shaped buildings parked at the foot of
every hill, and around every cutback. Like the ride might suddenly end at one of
these control booth buildings and you'll have to get out and head back to reality
with some squirrel ears on your head. Corporate squirrel ears. Bloodthirsty bastards
are lurking everywhere.
Tammi wasn't around when we got there, so we tooled around the mall area, and
kind of split up. We saw Sean and Sarah headed back to the apartment, and they were
glowing. I left Migs and Anna and kind of meandered around, and bought a little diary
to write in. At this point I started in on the notes pretty heavily. I know that for
Sean and Migs I tend to talk a lot, so this was a way to alleviate a little stress
for them on what would be a long road.
Boulder is like the suburban crown jewel of Colorado; the scenic suburb of
privileged bourgeoisie. There is no dirt, and nothing looks out of place. Its like a
big movie set. Even the homeless seem to hold themselves with a little assumed
dignity. They only let you see their good side. Anything unattractive in Boulder is
immediately ticketed. We ate out which was stupid considering the prices, and
finally headed out to Denver, to meet up with everyone there.

Denver, CO
We saw the guys from Mistletoe as soon as we got there. The vocal breakdown from
the night before had them all studying for the nights show. Javier could not sing,
and so he'd written lyrics down for both Damien and Alex to learn, and they were
hunched over their lessons when we arrived. We were also pleasantly surprised to see
Harry and Paul from Albuquerque drinking at the Fifteenth St. Tavern, where we would
be playing. They just happened to be in town, and just happened to hear we were on
the bill. "We wouldn't miss it!" Harry said. Paul nodded. Also saw some friends
formerly of Albuquerque and now in Denver. Vicki, and Jimmy and his motorcycle.
It was totally awesome and cozy to have folks you know around.
Coincidentally Jimmy's ex-wife was there as well, and I bet it made
things interesting for him. She told us we rocked after we had played. Twice we've
played Fifteenth St. and both times seemed to impress the folks working there, but
we still have yet to meet Lori, the booking agent.
The opener was this cat from Philadelphia named Lou Rogai, who did a couple of
numbers with Javier, and Alex improvising on the drums for fun. We had been
listening to Damien Jurado and Amy Mann, or something, so this was right along that
line, and we all loved it. Lou had his shit together with the acoustic guitar and
the singing, but not losing everyone after one or two songs. He stayed more or less
interesting the whole time, which is what I think is hard for those type of acts to
do (or any act for that matter). We swapped some recorded stuff with him. Mistletoe
was next, and seeing those guys pull off an awesome show impromptu was pretty cool.
They took a lot of lemons and made lemonade. It was still kind of tart but hey its
better than munching on lemons. Damien sang and played guitar, and even discarded
the guitar, and went frontman on everyone. Alex did all these backups, and even lead
vox on one song. Eventually Javier decided to attempt a couple, and they all came
off great. Maybe some sort of realization for these guys? Three way vocals? We
wished them all good luck before they took off to stay at a friend of Brian's. If
I'm not mistaken we drank a little more, and then drove all the way back to Tammi's
after the show. I remember that it sucked.

Aug 7th
Next morning we just lounged all day. I couldn't get a hold of Jeremy Worm to
make sure our show was on in Ft. Collins, or to get directions, or anything. I think
Sean finally got them off the internet. He was peeved at me, I'm pretty sure. You
see folks, I have this condition. For example; I got bored halfway through watching
an advertisement for ADD treatment on TV. I need help, but I can't remember why.
What irony and/or paradox. Getting distracted watching a two minute spiel on
attention deficit by a device which could very well support the symptom. Maybe ADD
is some sort of evolutionary reaction to media bullshit. Did this shit even exist
before TV? What has anyone got to say that can't be said in two minutes anyway? I
certainly can't think of anything. If only we could convince each other that we're
not walking-talking television sets, we might somehow snap out of it. Read on, dear
friends.
Anyway I decided to go for a swim, on account of there's a nice little stream
right across the street form Tammi's apartment, and I couldn't recall the last
thought I'd had that wasn't beamed via satellite. Also because Migs had seen some
nudists skinny dipping the day before. Lots of nudity on this trip, subsequently,
but we won't go into it now. Anyway it was cold as shit, so I didn't stay long, but
man did it feel good. I walked around the mall again for a long while, and started
to get all sad when I realized that one of my ex-girlfriends from Texas was married
and living in Boulder somewhere nearby. It made me get all sappy, so I stopped and
drank two or three beers at a place called Juanita's and made a terrible sketch of
some weird looking biker dude at the bar. Something about him reminded me that its
good to avoid everything sometimes.
Went for a drive in the mountains. It is sad and perhaps criminal how all
things beautiful are being hoarded and usurped by the extremely wealthy. Every
beautiful vista ringed by resorts. Installations and institutions designed to keep
the rats (or perhaps squirrels?) just back from the scenic brink of insanity. Thank
god for them all. I guess if it weren't for the rich buying up all this beauty, some
hillbilly would have come and dumped a refrigerator on it a long time ago. Or some
old burnt beds and rotten diapers, you know what I mean? Thanks to the rich for
protecting the last bits of beauty from us. Wooden palaces on granite bluffs justify
the trees and wilderness which surround them. Paradise on two acre lots with a
guarantee of non-encroachment until 2008! Pastoral gentrification. If Colorado could
license all the incredible scenes that seem to erupt everywhere, it would surely be
the home of kings. Even shacks in the hills belong to millionaires. As we came down
the mountain we passed a beautific English cottage with modest garden (Brits, gotta
love em), log cabins from right off the syrup bottle, Japanese walled farmhouse with
serenity written all over it, remodeled mining shacks too new to be completely
authentic. Stylized dream homes where even the birds timeshare their nests. A shell
shocked rodent skittered across the road like a refugee in occupied territory. It
prompted Sarah to tell us she used to have nightmares about squirrels trying to get
into her bedroom to attack her. 'Take back the night from them.' I said.
Bloodsucking vampire squirrels; the newest threat to American decency and values.
Alas, Sarah and Anna parted from us as we prepared to leave for Ft. Collins. Miss
them miss them. We ended up having to jump the battery before we could go, but the
van was still holding up marvelously, otherwise.

Ft.Collins, CO
We got to the Back Alley, and found Worm, the guy who books shows there. The
place was cool, but strange. Another situation where there were kids there, but a
bar as well. Migs and I had beers while Sean tried to catch up on some sleep. We
realized that the bartender Jay used to play in Endmile, which was an awesome band
that had visited Albuquerque on occasion. He told us about his new band, Giant
Spiders, and promised to play some of it when we crashed at his house later on. He,
like everyone else we ran into from Ft. Collins, was totally stoked on the music
scene there, and talked about it a lot. Apparently things are getting better all the
time in Ft. Collins. Sounds like someplace else I know.
Three touring bands on a weeknight. The other two bands were already there, but
we had a hard time meeting them. They had been on tour for some time, and had a lot
of dates left to go. Maybe it was just because they're from California. RX Bandits,
and Alastair. They were all younger, and I was wondering what kind of music they
might play. We set up first, and went on. The first thing I said, looking at this
group of youngish faces, was something like, "I love this part at the beginning when
nobody knows what to expect. We could be a reggae band or something, for all you
know'. We belted out our set, and a few people loved it, and a few were ambivalent.
Neither of the other bands watched us at all. For me this is a no-no. So these guys
got strike one. We tore down like greased lightning, and took neutral corners. The
second band took forever setting up; that's strike two. Right off the bat they were a
cross between pop punk, and the goddamn lollipop guild, (strike three, you are OUT).
"Hello...hello...hello...", I'm not joking at all; barbershop quartet harmonies.
Tragic. The three stooges did it better. I didn't feel bad not checking these guys
out, because (I hated them, and) it turns out this is what everyone had come to see.
Migs and I sat outside drinking, and met some folks on the deck. Ernie, and Chad,
and Libby. We talked to the guys from Alastair while RX Bandits prattled on. They
told us they were headed to Europe as soon as this tour was over. Hooray for them,
I'm still daydreaming about that. Alastair started to get ready, and when they began
warming up on this kind of light dub-type stuff, I was thinking, 'Thank god they
aren't pop punk'. First tune starts like this; a one, and a two, and a ooompa,
ooompa, ooompa, (ska band = three strikes, and its a shutout folks). We sat around
and drank excessively while we waited for Jay, who voiced his total disgust for ska
and pop punk about every four seconds for the rest of the night. I hate to say it,
but there was little for any of us to talk to one another about once our bands had
played. Good luck in Europe fellas.
Stayed at the Back Alley way too long talking about Karl Alvarez and Ft.
Collins, and all the up and comings, then went to Jay's and listened to his band,
then died.

Aug 8th
You know that old saying 'Early to bed. Early to rise'? Well for us its 'late
to bed, get up hurting all over'. I won't try to describe how surly we were, just
that we all carried daggers in our eyes, and mucus in our hearts. There was not a
lot of camaraderie or witty banter here, engaged in the substantial part of this
trip. This wasn't the (fun) onstage for an hour each night part of it, but then
(tedious) traveling. The driving. Driving across Nebraska, the haybales and hayrolls
dotting the harvested fields look like mighty rabbit turds. For a moment I could
almost imagine these giant hares peeking over the hillsides, like in that ridiculous
movie 'Lepus'. We saw a crop duster spraying the fields. He swooped down so low you
could've hit the cockpit with a dirtclod. This happens to be a big past time out
there. The pilot barreled across one field in front of us while I snatched at the
camera. He zoomed upward at the last minute, missing the roadside powerlines by less
than ten feet. By the time he had swung around to hit the other side of the field, we
were too far away to get a good shot. I went ahead and wasted a couple of pics in a
vain effort to capture this scene as it seemed to pertain to our namesake. This
prompted Sean to ban me with disdain from camera privileges. Actually, he told me I
had to pitch in for film, which equates to someone who is as financially inept as I
am as a hands off. It might seem a little silly for me to get all excited about
spraying pesticides on corn, but its as foreign to me as baba ganouj, and I love
baba ganouj. My grandfather once told me he flew in a cropduster all the way across
Kansas and never got higher than thirty feet over the whole state. Nebraska is only
a little more rocky than Kansas. There's more elevation between the Heights and the
Valley than there is in this entire region.
We saw a sign that said, 'Merry Christmas-Eat Beef'. We saw cornfields, we saw
a pet cemetery. This part of the country would horrify Stephen King. Onward through
the fog. Strange and brooding weather as we made our way across the state toward
Chicago. Humidity like a wet stinky quilt draped over a homeless drifter. Entering
Nebraska one gets the surface impression that nothing is actually occurring. The
wheels are moving, and the mile markers are racing by, but the sameness gives the
impression that no actual distance is being covered. The constant repetition of this
rural scene with crops and barns, tractors, etc is like deja vu...deja vu. Soon,
however, the distance is made more profound by the lack of distinction. Another sort
of desert, like outer space, where the miles traveled and the distance before the
destination seems incalculable. My toenails are painted red and every time I pull my
fishy foot out of my decrepit combat boots, I cannot help but laugh at the obscenity
of it. Migs and Sean were advised that blue would be more striking. Driving across
Iowa after dark and the humidity is like a wet dog asleep in the van. The air
congealed into thick clots of fog somewhere past midnight. Not much farther till
Chicago.

Albuquerque NM, Launchpad
Joe Anderson <launchmofo@aol.com>
Mistletoe
Exploded Drawing

Colorado Springs, CO, Highlife House
Aaron Tretka <ATretka@yahoo.com>
Sacco&Vanzetti

Denver, CO, Fifteenth St. Tavern
Lori <quantums6@hotmail.com>
Lou Rogai

Ft.Collins, CO, Back Alley
Jeremy Worm <wormzero@hotmail.com>
Rx Bandits
Alastair
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