Little Rock, AK – “Waffle House” – Juanita’s – May 21, 1999

We bolted for the door of the “Waffle House” as a thunderstorm rolled overhead. The bright, golden light inside the dinner contrasted sharply against the dark blue Arkansas sky outside. Shaking shoulders from our ears, we gleefully accepted five oversized, slightly greasy, laminated menus offered by our sunny, soon-to-be waitresses, Melba and Mary.

I lost my voice last night singing at Janita’s. In truth, it was only hanging on by a thread after belting out that acoustic set back in Millwalki. So I scribbled and smiled a greeting and quick explanation. We were the only patrons this morning at “The Waffle House,” and so had our choice of ketchup brown booths. We slid into one overlooking the parking lot with a front-row view of the incoming storm. the boys laughed at me as I whistled and scribbled out my breakfast order.

Last night after locking ourselves out of the van in the parking lot of Juanita’s, some southern gent sauntered up who said he had a coat hanger in his car and didn’t mind helping a very grungy gang of hippies break into a vehicle they claimed was theirs. As it turned out, Todd (the coat hanger owner) is not so good at breaking into cars but, on the bright side, runs the local “Waffle House” and offered to hook us up with breakfast in the morning before we split town. When I told Delucchi about Todd’s offer, I’d never seen someone’s face light up so bright, “Waffle House?!” he uttered staring off into the distance. I’d never been to a Wallfle House so I got excited just looking at his excitement.

I was less excited, however, in the morning when breakfast arrived. I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth but when a curdled nest of runny cheese eggs and a side of dry toast arrived on a vast white plate, I suddenly wished I’d slept through breakfast. The guys had better luck with semi-tasteless double orders of waffles, O.J. and all-you-can-drink “coffee” which I’m not convinced wasn’t just runoff from one of the gutters outside. When we were adequately stuffed and only mildly queazy, our lovely waitress Melba floated over to our table, all glowing and southern-bell like and said:

“Now, on the voucher Todd gave me, you all’ve got forty dollars and twelve cents left so WHAT CAN I GET YOU TO EAT?”

She ejected her hips back like she’d popped the clutch on them and launched into a fit of laughter. “Y’all want pie, honey? or some more grits?” We stared up at her in silent disbelief. None of us could imagine eating more Waffle House.

The previous night’s event at Juanita’s was a benefit gig to fight breast cancer, featuring not only my music but a “Poetry Slam,” I found out I’d be Between 1/2 hour musical sets, poets ignited the stage with their fiery words and flamboyant styles. Some even inspired my bandmates Soucy and Brian to join in with beats and licks. My guys are truly the best.

During one of my turns on stage, a woman in all white (I’m pretty sure was on LSD) came and sat on the stage right at my feet. She kept petting my toes like they were kittens as I sang. Between songs, she tried to get my attention by pulling on the hem of my skirt, mouthing, like a hostage, that she needed talk to me about something RIGHT NOW! I thought she was pretty harmless but the bouncers removed her anyhow. I kninda wonder what she had to say.

After the gig, we still had to deal with the issue of being locked out of Moby, so while the rest of the band drank mochatinis (the bar’s signature drink), Dellucci heroically borrowed a car and retrieved the spare from the hotel

2 oz. — Vodka · 0.5 oz. — Espresso · 0.75 oz. — Chocolate Liqueur · 0.5 oz. — Simple Syrup · Garnish — White Chocolate.

At 5 am, Chris loaded our drunk asses into the back ally after getting the van opened and lovingly secured the flowers my glorious mama sent me, between the back seat and the instrument cage… “so you can sunbathe in their light on our drive to Mobile, AL tomorrow,” he said. He’s the best babysitter a band could have.

Nashville, TN – “Bowling Ball Baby” – 12th & Porter – May 20, 1999

When I introduced Chris Soucy from the stage last night, I did so with a new moniker – “On guitar, we’ve got Christopher Daniel Soucy, Otherwise known as Bowling Ball Baby.” Let me explain. About 3 days ago, Chris received this baffling email from a mystery sender:

“Where were you at the show? Everyone missed you and kept asking about you. I got naked. We all did. Missing you. Love you Bowling Ball Baby!”


No name. No identifiable characters. No recognizable email address. This anonymous letter has since preoccupied Chris’s mind driving him plum crazy on our drives as he tries to reclaim lost memories. “Who could this mad stalker be?” he’ll mumble absentmindedly on a quiet mile of road. And that is how Soucy got his new nickname “Bowling Ball Baby.”

Photo Credit: Trinette Faint

Nashville proved a warm-hearted city for music. It caught me off guard too. Given its heavyweight reputation in the music biz, I half-expected a crowd with ears too worn and jaded to appreciate what we had to offer. But, oh, was I mistaken. Our listeners were nothing short of captivated and vibrant. Even so, when I suggested they might dance if moved by the music, a hidden voice from the back countered with, “Folks in Nashville don’t dance honey.” That said, a few brave souls got up and shook it (they must’ve been from out of town).

Now, in the morning we’re back on the road and I’m savoring a wholesome breakfast of gas station peanut M&Ms behind the wheel. We’re headed back through kudzu-lined roads toward Memphis then on to Arkansas. It’s oppressively hot inside Moby and Donie Hathaway is on the CD player singing “I’m Just a Jealous Guy.” I love Peanut M&Ms. I prolong my chocolately breakfast by relishing each and every smooth oblong pebble individually. I meditate on their individual characteristics, letting their sweet colorful outer coating dissolve before allowing myself the indulgence of their chocolate crunchy centers. There’s something enchanting about the road this morning; the heat, the music, and the chocolate. The sheer joy of the moment causes me, halfway through my breakfast, to turn down the music and blurt out to the boys how much I love and appreciate them. Four cupped hands immediately reach toward me in response. “How much?” they ask. Of course, I can’t resist them and dole out my prized breakfast candy to their greedy little hands.

Bowling Ball Baby

Memphis, TN – “COPS, SAVIORS OR SATANISTS?”-Newby’s – May 18, 1999

There’s a moment, right? A precise moment when a landscape changes around you, enveloping you in a whole new dimension. It hit us full force as Aerosmith’s “Walk this Way” on the radio was abruptly replaced by a show debating the morality of cops in biblical proportions. “COPS, SAVIORS OR SATANISTS?” – and just like that, we knew we’d entered the deepest part of the bible belt.

Dellucci, our cultural tour guide was excessively caffeinated having roused us at dawn in preparation for a full day of Memphis sightseeing. In the morning we visited Graceland which was both shiny and candy-like AND a little moth-ball-y and creepy-town. I mean, one minute you’re in the perfectly preserved shimmering “The Jungle Room” marveling at Pricila’s lively choice of palm prints, and the next, your eyes drift out to a headstone on the lawn where Elvis is literally lying, buried alongside his mum and grandmum for god sakes. Heebie Jeebies abound! Shoulder to shoulder, we shuffled from room to room, clutching our audio guides like lifelines, stealing glances of rock history through the gaps in the crowd. I came away feeling slightly hollow. I got the sense poor Elvis’s home was a museum long before he ever moved out onto the front lawn.

Our afternoon was crowned by a visit to iconic Sun Studios where Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, and other greats got their start. I was midway through a cell phone interview when we pulled up to the museum so I invited the journalist on the other end of the line to accompany us into the birthplace of rock-n-roll – a virtual first for him.

Tired and sunburnt (with literal red necks) we wound up the day at Newby’s – quintessentially a bar in every sense. Our first set was Chinese water torture for us, with people talking so loudly we could bearly hear ourselves up on stage. But when songs ended, these same people would clap and cheer as though they were inspired and moved by every word I’d uttered. Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly sensitive artist. I mean I’ve played directly underneath a TV broadcasting the World Series at a sports bar, but I can fairly say that this was a more difficult crowd to engage. I’ve never felt quite that invisible before.

Thankfully, as the night evolved, so did the energy in the bar. The second set brought the crowd to life, with grooves that got people dancing – a rare sight at Newby’s, according to Mimi, the barmaid who grabbed a CD, too proud to take her discount.

I did have a guardian angel who stood off of stage right and sang along with every word on the album. She was gone by set break but whoever you were dear angel, thank you for buoying my spirits and keeping me going when I thought I might just have to up and quit.

Chicago, IL – “Rollaway” -Shuba’s – May 16, 1999

We woke up to a hurricane in a Chicago suburb that came off the lake. It was my turn to take the rollaway last night. Each night we book two rooms at The Fairfield Inn. They all look 100% the same which is both unnerving and comforting — We play at a different venue every night but come home to the same room. Our rooms are divided into “the snoring section,” housing Dellucci and Brian (this is also where MJ gets smoked), and “the non-snoring section,” the room Soucy and I share. Kenny is the floater.

Our accommodations provide us with four beds and one rollaway which, we take turns in. The rollaway is a guaranteed bad night’s sleep. These beds are notoriously squeaky, rusty, broken medieval torture devices.
Often, though we’ve requested an extra bed months in advance, the hotel will have forgotten to leave one in our room. That’s too bad for the designated rollaway-er who’ll usually fall asleep on a filthy carpet waiting for staff to bring up their sleeping arrangement.

There’s a song, a take-off on The Grateful Dead’s “Roll Away the Dew,” that we sing each night in the interval between when Delucchi secures room keys and the ding of the elevator which opens to unfurl us onto the long tongue of a hallway where we drag bags in search of room numbers we only vaguely remember —

KENNY: “Was it #307 & #308 or was that last night.”
SOUCY: “That was last night.”
BRIAN: “Shit.”
SALLY: “I’ll go ask the front desk again.”
DELLUCCI: “No, it’s #418 and 19, we just got off on the wrong floor.”

Sometimes check-in is slowwwwww. The front desk attendant is absent doing something untoward not expecting a band to show up late night. We park our butts on the curb outside and start to hum our rollaway tune.

The Rollaway Theme Song

This is all to explain the crinkled state I found myself in this morning, groggily dragging my ass downstairs in only my orange oversized John Forte T-shirt, no pants, no shoes, mascara gathered like tribal war paint under my eyes, to fetch the guys coffee in the lobby. The woman at the front desk was very surprised to see me in this state.

Back in the “non-snoring” room, I slurped my coffee loudly hoping to “accidentally” wake Soucy and Kenny who were slumbering like two quiet cherubs in their cozy, non-rollaway beds but I slurped in vain. When the guys finally did wake up at 11:30 they wanted to do yoga, which meant moving most of the unglued-down furniture onto the beds and then modifying downward dogs and warrior stances to navigate the air conditioner, TV, and bedside table.

Last night was a late one despite our early gig. We opened up for Richard Buckley who was great (but I was already a fan). We had an hour set. My voice hurt from the night before, screaming at that unplugged show at Thai Joe’s, but I managed to belt out a couple of notes for an attentive full venue.

On The Jukebox

Shuba’s is a fabulous place to play. The staff is unapologetically hip and the ones responsible for keeping us up so late. We basically closed the bar down laughing and listening to tunes on the badass 70’s rock jukebox. I especially enjoyed the free photobooth where I got to take pictures with the band and some of the audience members. We’d jumble behind the red curtain and I’d shout expressions between flashes.

  1. Sad (flash)
  2. Busy (flash)
  3. Happy (flash)
  4. Goofy (flash)

Milwaukee, WI – “Show’s Canceled” – Thai Joe’s – May 15, 1999

The show was a blast, even though it initially seemed doomed from the start. When we arrived for soundcheck, the situation looked pretty grim. Thai Joe, stood on the curb outside his shuttered establishment. He was smoking a clove fag in a splinter of sunlight that had elbowed its way between two buildings. He seemed preoccupied with more pressing issues when he casually dropped, “Show’s canceled.”

Turns out, Thai Joe’s had run into some trouble for operating under an unlicensed name, not to mention an unfortunate little date rape that had occurred at the club earlier in the year. I stood there speachless in my overalls and soft purple t-shirt waiting to hear his plan B but Thai Joe was clearly busy nursing invisible wounds and a canceled gig seemed the least of his worries.

For the next two hours, I stood like a dejected team mascot outside the club, shaking hands and turning people away as a bartender unceramoially scraped “Thai Joe’s” logo off the front door. Some people already had tickets. I felt awful, especially as Thai Joe was in no position to offer them refunds.

Suddenly Joe reappeared beside me, breathless with good news. “The chief of police just gave the thumbs up,” he announced, with one caveat—it had to be an entirely acoustic performance. Energized by the challenge, I hurried to catch up with the band. I found them in a sun drenched deli, hitched to a red and white checkered table cloth, waist deep into some impressively large sandwiches.

“Fancy an unplugged set?” I asked. They didn’t hesitate.

Back at Thai Joe’s, a skeleton crew turned some lights on us and the audience (the ones I hadn’t turned away) gathered around us closely like a corset. We rooset on some brown pleather stools atop a makeshift, wood slab stage. Soucy abandoned his electric guitar for my acoustic one and Brian slapped and banged everything within arms reach. He even turned my empty guitar case and the leg of my chair into percussion instruments. Lyrics flowed, stories unfolded, and new songs like “40 years” and “Nisa” were bravely debuted. I sang my lungs out to the intimate audience and they brought us out from cold, opening their warm hearts to us.

After the show, Joe showed his gratitude with dinner on the house. I must say, Thai Joe’s was the most open “shut” bar I’ve ever been to.
Hoping to get into a little late night Milwaukee mischief, the four of us trotted out into the night. It was raining and we repourpoused our jackets as umbrellas. Just when we thought Milwaukee had no adventure on tap and were about to abandon our mission, a bowling alley bathed in blue lights and swirling silver stars caught our eye and we thought –Why not bowl a game or five?

Goodnight Milwaukee!

Madison, WI – “Egg on my Face” -The Mango Grill – May 14, 1999

I’m guessing you’ve never played a set with your fly down. What about an entire show?

The Mango Grill was pretty full for the week after graduation. Most patrons sat up front, their eyes at about, I don’t know…. crotch level. There was no green room in Kathy Griswold’s charming, family-style restaurant turned venue, so I made my grand entrance from the restroom, which ironically had a green door, near stage left (sometimes you’ve got to improvise). This entrance was also convenient, I told myself, as I got to use the facilities while I waited “in the wings.” But somehow in my pre-show excitement, I forgot to zip up. This might not have been catastrophic. After all, my painter’s jeans were baggy. In fact, they were intentionally unrevealing. But!!! Because I was holding them up with a belt, my unzipped pants formed a gaping hole that left little to the imagination.

Kathy Griswold taking orders for her famous mashed potatoes at The Mango Grill

The first set I thought we played really well so I was dismayed the audience looked away from us seemingly distracted or bored. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when at set break those same seemingly unenthusiastic characters raved about how much they were loving the show and bought tons of CDs (we’re down to 60 now … uhho).

The thing is. All those Wisconsinites had more than ample time to confront me about my nearly naked state and not one of them did. My bandmates, facing the same direction as me, were excused. But why did not one Cheesehead pull me aside and point out the cavernous hole sharing the spotlight with me? Perhaps they each expected someone else to do it? Perhaps they secretly liked the side (peep)show? Or perhaps no one saw this illicit feature? NOT. This brand of ‘egg on the face’ was a stunning Easter souffle I assure you.

What’s nice about embarrassing the shit out of yourself on tour is that you’re gone by morning and no one in the next town is any the wiser. Casually you can then call your booking agent, depending on the vulgarity of the embarrassment, and ask him to kindly pass over that stop on the map for your next 2-3 routings.

So how, you wonder, did I find out about the open gate? Kenny pointed it out as he and Dellucci harnessed Moby for a late-night 4-hour trek back to Minnesota where we’d forgotten some of our equipment at The Caboose.

“Sally Taylor, paging Sally Taylor,” He pointed at my pants, “please bring your tray table to the upright and locked position” And suddenly all my slightly askew interactions throughout the night came into sharp focus.

But…. after my initial humiliation, some roll on the floor, full band laughter and a commitment to never buckle before a precursory zip, I found gratitude. Yes, gratitude folks. It’s stuff like playing a gig with your panties showing that makes you remember that this music stuff isn’t about candy-coating art with glitter to feed your ego. It’s about sharing time and space and giving an audience the opportunity to see humanity in the nude (and I mean that mostly metaphorically).

Minneapolis, MN – “Beer, Beer, Beer” – The Cabooze – May 14, 1999

I must admit, I had my concerns when we approached the Cabooze. If the name of the gig didn’t give the vibe away, in front of the venue was a deck of motorcycles lined up like metal middle fingers asking for a fight. A deck of hairy-looking Harleymen stood guard around their bikes with crossed arms and leather faces. I tried to envision these burly dudes swaying in unison to Tomboy Bride. Humm, unlikely.

If I’d held out any hopes about what we might find inside the venue, they were shattered upon entry. Pinball machines, fluorescent lights flashing “beer,” “beer,” “beer,” and a line of faceplanted barflies balanced on barstools. I felt a little out of my element. But I misjudged the place.

Our opener, Linda Robert’s Band, delivered a heartfelt performance that concluded around eleven o’clock. We took the stage half an hour later, under the shadow of my earlier apprehension. But it’s funny, just when you brace for a nosedive, life has a way of surprising you by lifting you up. By the time we got on stage, the burly crowd had thinned out, vacating the premise for a presumably rougher establishment with more grissle on the bone. In their place, a new crowd flooded in. They danced and cheered, clapped and whistled. They shouted words of encouragement and brought their audience A game. A night I was sure would end in a bar brawl ended up with an extra enchor! It just goes to show you can’t judge a show by its cover.

On a different note, our supply of Tomboy Bride CDs is running startlingly low. We hit the road with only a hundred left. I wasn’t expecting them to go so fast on our last tour. Before leaving Boulder I placed a rushed reorder but we won’t see new stock for at least two weeks, a detail which makes me both giddy and worried as proceeds are covering most of the band’s salery.

Exhaustion hijacked us when we got to the hotel at three in the morning. Drifting off against the tail end of “Car Wash” on TV, we succumbed to sleep. Before I knew it, the front desk was calling. Leave it to Dellucci to keep us on target. He’d set a wake-up call for 9am leaving us 10 minutes to vacate our rooms and 5 to raid the complimentary continental breakfast downstairs. We slipped Captain Crunch mini cereal cartons into our coat packets and doctored to-go coffees with Carnation instant powdered milk. By 9:15 we were at our stations back in Moby, ready for a solid six hours behind the wheel.
Can’t wait!

South Dakota-ish – “East Coast Here We Come” – May 13, 1999

And just like that, we’re on the road again, tumbling past tumbleweeds and thundering through endless crops. Each corn stalk salutes like a soldier as we zip by. The fanfare that marked our departure last tour was absent this time as we pointed Moby east, into the sunrise; no waving handkerchiefs, no confetti, no streamers, and no tearful boyfriends or girlfriends waiting in line to kiss us goodbye. We slipped away under cover of darkness yesterday morning before even the streetlamps on Pearl Street had gone out. Dellucchi drove all day and when night fell, we slept at a nameless roadside motel in two very crowded, creeky beds in a room with crunchy carpet and drapes the color of bile.

Now, it’s morning. As we merge back onto the highway, I can’t help but laugh and read the first billboard aloud:

Buzzing from my freshly crafted cocoa coffee, I join the boys in belting out The Black Crowes’ “Remedy.”

Brian bites his lower lip, his goatee splays out like a defensive hedgehog; he drums a righteous beat against the dashboard. Soucy plays an air guitar solo, fingers moving swiftly along the neck of his ethereal Fender, while Kenny, red sunglasses perched low, purses his lips and jogs his chin in time.

There’s this fuzzy patch in the center of the window, first row back, where Brian props his head. It’s become a running joke—that his hair gel ‘Bed Head’ has left a filmy residue on the glass that blurs the view and seems resistant to Windex. We’ve come to accept it as another passenger in the van and have named it “Bart.”

Brian in his ‘Bed Head’ protection hat

I’m spacing out through “Bart,” the smudge, thinking about how lucky I am to be on the open road, the master of my destiny and not caged and this thought brings me back to the day before we left.

I’d visited a good friend—let’s call her Sam—at a mental institution, a friend who’d always been a bit eccentric but much the way I considered myself to be. Sam had been admitted to the Boulder Behavioral Correction Center by her husband after mistaking her reflection for an intruder and shooting a series of holes clear through her dining room wall.

During my visit, she’d yanked me into the restroom, whispering, “They’re listening through the walls,” and promptly locked the door. As my eyes adjusted to the echoey dark room I saw all her stuff was haphazardly unpacked into her shower stall. “People think I’m crazy but you don’t think I’m crazy,” she said in the craziest way imaginable.

She was wearing the same clothes she’d been committed in a week prior; a pair of baggy men’s pants, a dog-hair-brown sweater, and a pair of platform boots I think she must have been sleeping in. A baseball cap hid her unwashed matted hair. I was shocked the way you might be if someone threw ice water down your back. Where had my friend had gone? Had she always been this crazy? Was I so adept at normalizing insane behavior I’d been blind to who she was all along? What else wasn’t I able to see? Am I crazy? These questions ricocheted silently off the bathroom tiles.

Then, she started to cry in a way that distorted her face into something more frightening than a loaded weapon. Sam might have been crazy when she shot up her home, but this place was making her mad. I didn’t have the words, so I simply embraced her, holding her trembling, wailing form. I made promises of finding a good therapist and reassured that everything would be alright, despite my doubts.

And now I am on the road and she is in a cage and I am left to wonder at the blurry ‘Bed Head’ named “Bart,” who of us truly deserves such freedoms and restraints?