On Jan. 15, with haphazard grace, The Mermen wander off on
the beginning of a nine week slog across America. Guitarist Jim Thomas, drummer
Martyn Jones and bassist Allen Whitman, accompanied by soundman Roz Jones (no
relation to Martyn), guitar tech Mark Dickson and their roadie, known only as
Leslie, arrange themselves inside the white Ford Super Clubwagon 350 window van
and, pulling the matching white trailer with the gear, drive all night to San
Diego. In late January and early February we published Whitman's first report.
The story continues:.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sun., Jan 21st. The Dingo
Bar. Matt Kora, who has taped almost 100 of our shows, says that after this,
the 2nd show of a two night stay, he doesn't need to see another for the rest
of the tour. We redo "Black Mountain Rag" at half-speed. We do "Latia" and
"Hawaii 5-O." Girls fight for dancing space in front of the stage. At the party
afterwards in the bar we get drunk. Again. They tell us that other bands don't
stick around The Dingo to drink after the show. We tell them that at no other
club do we stick. We convince one of the owners to quit an 8 dollar an hour job
at the ominously titled Citicorp on what was to be her first day. At 7:30 AM
she was crumpled against the wall of her bedroom, pulling off a bottle of Jack
Daniels saying: "I don't know what to do...I gotta be at my new job in 30
minutes..." She never made it. We're so proud of her.
Monday is spent
saying good-bye. It takes forever to leave Albuquerque.
Jan 23, 2:45 AM...
We cross into Texas listening to a live bootleg of Rush (Toronto, 1986). An
hour ago we stopped to look at the stars. No cars on the two-lane blacktop of
interstate 84...i could easily see the red glare of Betelgeuse on the left
shoulder of Orion and the blue-white cast of Rigel burning at his right foot.
We're headed east into the big state.
Jan. 23, 7:32 AM. Route 84, going
south. Mid-state Texas. We're listening to another live bootleg...this time
country singer Holly Dunn (Calaveras Co. Fairgrounds, CA, 1995),
Texas, Tues., Jan 23. The Electric Lounge. A painter works on a platform 4 feet
up the wall of the club. Inspired, maybe, by our performance he paints a large
canvas with a likeness of a frog on a lily pad. At the end of the show he sold
it to an audience member for 200 bucks. 280 people see The Mermen on a Tuesday.
Before the show I take a long, cold walk around Austin, past the 6th St. scene
and up to the state capitol. "Largest in the country...larger than the U. S.
Capitol in Washington, DC." We spend the night with the wonderfully hospitable
Steve Sheinkin and Sarah Simpson. Breakfast is at Dan Rather's favorite spot.
But the food is bad. Next door is the incredible Tesoros Trading Company. A
store of imported knick-knacks from everywhere. The owner has impeccable taste
and we can't stop ourselves from overspending on cool stuff.
Texas, Wed., Jan. 24. Urban Art Bar. 271 people come to see The Mermen in
Houston! We hear radio ads for our show on the way in to town. On arrival the
right trailer tire goes flat. Our crack road crew has it repaired and gets
sound check done at the same time. Logistical genius! Thank God for Roz, Mark
and Leslie. Experimenting with a distortion bass sound. Separate amp setups for
clean and dirty. More gear on stage. We get a great reception. I walk in
downtown Houston. It's really depressing. Big buildings and closed stores.
Panhandlers on every corner but I'm from San Francisco, the panhandling capitol
of America, and I'm used to it. I tell the audience that we're looking for a
place to spend the night and after the show Mike, Kari and Eric approach us and
offer their home in west Houston. In the morning they bring us donuts and
coffee in a blissful suburban setting.
Dallas, Texas, Thurs., Jan. 25. The
Galaxy. The owner changes the deal. He cuts the pay in half and tells us we
gotta pay for all our beer and wants 20% of whatever t-shirts and cd's we sell.
We momentarily consider not playing but then decide that it is better to do the
show thereby showing the guy up. We negotiate to keep all our merchandise
money. We make three times as much on that as we do on the performance fee.
haha! At Cafe Brazil, across the street, it is our waiter's first day and he
gives us the ultimate conspiracy story of fibonocci equations, pyramids,
earth's pole shift and illuminati stuff flying all over the place. The club is
a big empty room. It's a small but appreciative audience. At the 24hr Doughnut
Lady the Boss herself takes Roz's donut, throws it away and gives us two whole
boxes! I think she thinks were famous. It's the place where all the Dallas
misfits go. I am reminded of a cast party at High School.. It's a safe
environment for all to be and be seen. 13 hours to New Orleans. I take 600 mg