Suffragette Tour Report #2: Fear And Loathing In Cleveland

Ex-Breeder reflects on a well-received show, the perils of all-night driving, and how not to introduce the band onstage.

(Editor's Note: The logical stepsister to the all-women Lilith Tour, the Suffragette

Sessions was a 12-date, women-centric outing that kicked off with an Aug. 19 date in

Portland, Maine. The tour wound its way through the Northeast and Midwest until early

September. One of the featured performers on the bill, ex-Breeders bassist Josephine

Wiggs, took notes on the road and chronicled the trials and travails of the outing, which

was organized by the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls' Amy Ray (guitar, mandolin, vocals) and

Emily Saliers (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals). The Suffragette Sessions also featured

female funk-pop act Luscious Jackson's Kate Schellenbach (drums, percussion);

violinist/singer Lisa Germano (keyboards, violin, mandolin, accordion); folk singer Jane

Siberry (keyboard, accordion, guitar, vocals); Gail Anne Dorsey (bass, guitar, drums,

vocals); Lourdes Perez (guitar, percussion, vocals); Jean Smith (slide guitar, vocals) of

Mecca Normal; and Come's Thalia Zedek (guitar, clarinet, vocals). The tour was loosely

based on folk legend Bob Dylan's '70s Rolling Thunder Revue, with each artist sitting in

on each other's sets and songs. In her second report, Wiggs explores the perils and

pleasures of all-night driving, the mysterious disappearance of a tour member, a bit of

fear and loathing in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how not to

introduce the band onstage. The Suffragette tour was slated to end on Thursday at the

Roseland Ballroom in New York.)

We arrive in Burlington, Vt., at 4 a.m., having driven there after the Portland, Ore., show.

The theory behind this is that you get the whole day in the next town (instead of spending

it driving on the bus). The reality, pour moi at least, is that you crawl into your hotel

room just as the dawn is on the horizon, and sleep fitfully until check-out time, which is

also generally time for soundcheck.

So much for the day.

I can only think that the several members of our party who are seen in the hotel lobby

each morning returning from the gym belong to that category of people who thrive on

about five hours of sleep. I myself need the old eight between the sheets if I am to

function at all.

Having left the hotel for soundcheck, someone noticed that Thalia [Zedek] was not on the

bus. This seemed a "Twilight Zone"-like disappearance, since she had been smoking a

cigarette right next to the bus just seconds before everyone got on. Being left behind is

something one always fears (especially when there are 10 people and your absence

could be overlooked), but the real danger is usually in the middle of the night at a truck


Someone suggests we institute a "buddy" system, and Kate [Schellenbach] says, "But

what if both of you get off the bus?" At the gig, a "runner" who is being dispatched to buy

rice cakes is also instructed to retrieve Thalia from the hotel.

The show goes well, though the feeling is that the audience in Burlington is always a bit

on the reserved side. Lord knows what they made of Buffalo Daughter (the support act),

who are, as usual, incredibly loud and deliciously inscrutable. Watching them tonight it

occurs to me that SuGar [Yoshinaga] and Yumiko [Ohno] have similar hair coloring to

Amy [Ray] and Emily [Saliers], and henceforth we think of them as the Amy and Emily of

alternative electronic rock.

It's a long overnight drive to Cleveland (650 miles), and when we get on the bus at

midnight, Dave, our esteemed tour manager, pours himself a little Makers Mark on the

rocks. This seems a pretty good idea, and Thalia and I, Emily, Lourdes [Perez] and Jean

[Smith] all pour out a glass. By the time everyone is ready for a refill, there seems to be a

general and warm feeling that the Makers Mark was a jolly good idea after all. By the

time the bottle is all but empty at about 2:30 a.m., someone quips that we may not feel

that way tomorrow morning.


We have a day off, after a 14-hour drive from Burlington. A contingent of the tour visits the

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where Mark (one of our crew) gets thrown out for touching

the Elvis exhibit, which, he remarks sullenly, is "not very rock 'n' roll." While Kate and I

are examining the Queen exhibit, and specifically the excessive height of Roger Taylor's

cymbals, we notice that the Breeders' "Cannonball" is playing on the video wall.

In the evening, Emily organizes a bowling expedition to an ancient bowling alley where

a beer is $1.70. Gail [Dorsey] tries to buy (vintage) bowling shoes (excellent stagewear),

offering the guy $40. He says no, he can't do it, but the girls chide him en masse

until he relents and says, strangely, "OK, you can have 'em for seven bucks."

At the show the following night, the crowd is wildly enthusiastic: there is much cheering

and spontaneous singing while they wait for Buffalo Daughter to take the stage. It seems

that BD are averaging about 10 minutes a song, which means they only play about three

songs in their set.

Cleveland to Detroit

In the back lounge of the bus, Amy, Emily, Kate and I work out the parts to "Cannonball"

and assign Amy and Thalia to sing the choruses and do the "moose call," as Thalia calls

it, at the beginning. (Jane, being from Canada, and therefore presumably knowing about

these things, takes issue with this description, but it sticks.) Lisa [Germano] and Emily will

sing the verses. Jane is to sing "I'm the last splash," and during subsequent shows, she

gives the timing of this line her own special interpretation.


We have a day off in Ann Arbor, and Kate and I share a cab into town with Amy and

Thalia. Amy is going to work out at the gym and we are going to drink coffee. Thalia, who

usually carries nothing but a pack of Camels and a lighter, is carrying a large-ish

shoulder bag. Intrigued, I ask what she's got in it and she says, "Two packets of

cigarettes and my inhaler." We go to the Herb David guitar store, where Lisa is trying out

an electric ukulele. Thalia plugs in a guitar and starts playing [Led Zeppelin's] "Stairway

to Heaven." We rendezvous with Amy at a vintage clothing store, where she buys a shirt

printed with a nut motif.

Jane is the host for the Detroit show, which means that she writes the set list and

introduces everybody onstage. Unfortunately, she introduces Thalia as "Thalia Zedek

from the Breeders." Everybody in the audience cheers loudly. Everybody onstage

hisses: "No! It's COME!" And then she says, "Thalia Zedek from Crumb."

She goes on to introduce Kate as "Kate Schellenbach, from Tennessee" (we don't know

if this is a joke, or if she thinks it is true), and me as "Josephine Web from ... er ..." We

wonder where she has been for the last week.