Sean's Tour Diary - Part 1 of 6

The Long Winters official website
Sean Nelson
Publication date: 
June 30, 2003

Sean's Tour Diary
Part 1 May 23-May 28

Day One / Friday, May 23

Denver, CO. Lion's Lair
w / The Wind-Up Merchants

"We are out drinking. We are out smoking. You think this is living?
Well, you got to be joking."

Flew in at noon. $6 bus into the city through ghetto-ass neighborhood leading
to Lion's Lair, a true shit hole if ever I've played one (and I have). To
their credit, however, they had both Golden Tee 2004 and the MegaTouch 2000,
as well as a great jukebox, and Newcastle (in bottles) so… By day, we had
a long lunch/meeting, then John, Eric, and I went to a park that John found
(he's very good at finding parks in cities) and threw a frisbee around like
the hippies we probably secretly are. There was a drunk couple at the park,
loudly berating and threatening each other. At one point I overheard the
drunk woman say, "I'm gonna pay those guys [meaning us] to KICK YOUR ASS!"
"Go ahead, BITCH," came her nemesis/lover's reply. Later, we were told that
the park was a "gay park." And that's when all the dog walking began to
make sense.
At the bar, I met Zach, who dropped out of high school 15 years ago to
tour as drum tech for Aggression, an early SoCal punk band (who apparently
could afford a drum tech). They toured with Agent Orange, Black Flag, Bad
Brains, and tons of other bands, he said. Now he works construction ("finishing
work: the easy stuff") in Denver. For an obnoxious drunk—at 5pm—punk rock
heckler, a pretty good dude.
Then, the show. The opening band was uninspired (though in that club, where
the stage is behind the bar, it's hard to imagine anyone being terribly
inspired, though that's just an excuse; I'm sure lots of bands play really
well there—just not them. Or us). Our set SUCKED. None of the amps were
miked (sound guy: "We ran out of mics."), and the crowd was dead, except
for one guy who proclaimed, "I've got a big dick," just before we started.
We soldiered on, playing fast and loud, including "Sway," and "Outshined"
as last-ditch crowd mollifiers. In all, a comically bad beginning to the
tour. Better now than later, I reckon.
Post-show, we (John) drove through 4 hours' worth of Colorado, stopping
off in the ghost town of Julesberg, where the Grand Motel was very closed.
Made it almost to Ogalalla, Nebraska to sleep in an 8 Motel (not Super-8,
you understand. Just 8) with a lounge called the "Char Bar."

Day Two / Saturday, May 24

Omaha, NE. Sokol Underground
w/ Nada Surf, Sondre Lerche

"The jobs are in the city but the good times are not."
Drove all day through Nebraska, listening to the Lights EP, Crooked Fingers
(first album), Dylan's New Morning, Let's Go Sailing demo, Dave Attell,
and Nada Surf en route. A long drive through boringly verdant landscape,
with an excellent breakfast at a diner in North Platte. I highly recommend
anything with bacon in it. Words to live by. Very excited to play first
show ever in Omaha (childhood home of Herbert Bergel), and to be reunited
with the Nada Surf boys. The tour actually starts today in every real sense.
Nada Surf is soundchecking now, playing "Killian's Red." It sounds lovely
in the house, which is a very large, low-ceilinged, cafetorium-style affair.
Apparently, however, "the mids are a little pokey" onstage. Ah, the language
of the soundcheck. Nice greetings with Matthew, Ira, and Daniel, and Kevin,
their all-purpose tour docent. Backstage, I assure Daniel that Ca'Del Solo's
Big House Red is a perfectly acceptable bottle of wine and everything seems
good to go.
The show, alas, was a bit bumpy. Our banter was a little shy of winning,
and we completely lost the plot on "Blue Diamonds," our ambitious instrument
change number. I say "ambitious" because the song involves me playing the
bass, and frankly, my bass acumen makes Sid Vicious look like Jaco Pastorius.
And not because they're both dead. All was redeemed by the end of our set,
though, and lots of kids came up to say really nice things. We also sold
a bunch of CDs, which is always nice. I chalk the shakiness up to nerves,
and for my part, unfamiliarity with my new keyboard rig, the mighty Nord
Electro 2. Things will be much better tomorrow in MPLS. Nada Surf's set
was masterful. They play a long time, but the crowd stays with them and
the pace is always well measured. They close with a cover of "There Is a
Light That Never Goes Out."
(A side note: It's a pleasure to play with Sondre Lerche, if only because
his music is so utterly inoffensive, volume-wise. It's nice not to always
need ear plugs.)

Day Three / Sunday, May 25

Minneapolis, MN. Ascot Room
w/Nada Surf, Sondre Lerche

"I hope you got there early, and I hope you brought your date."
One of the only downsides to playing all-ages shows (which Nada Surf admirably
strives to do whenever possible) is the frequency with which the shows have
to start before the sun goes down. We played tonight at 5:45pm in a club
that looked a bit like Caligula's drawing room. All that aside, we played
really well, with special high marks for "Cinnamon" and an avidly-requested
"Medicine Cabinet Pirate." The Nord is starting to make more sense, and
the sounds it makes are beautiful. The crowd was large, and obviously on
our side, which felt great.
The bonus to playing all-ages shows manifests in being done before 9pm.
This was particularly sweet tonight because across town at the First Ave,
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks were wrapping up their own tour. I had it
on good authority from sources in Milwaukee that the night before, SM&J
had performed an all-Pavement set and that the odds were good they might
do it again tonight. Needless to say, I would not be missing this show.
My friend Court flew in from Maine (he has infinite frequent flyer miles)
when I told him about the show. He procured enough tickets for the Long
Winters and Nada Surf boys. After our show we walked the seven blocks to
the club quoting Morris Day. We were treated to a very loose, very long,
but ultimately awesome set (for my money, anyway), albeit a Pavement-free
one (sniff). Tonight was one of those amazing nights that only seem to happen
on tour, when the world feels just small enough to accommodate one's every
Then we had a late Chinese dinner and checked into a Super 8.

Day Four / Monday, May 26

Drive Day, Minneapolis to Chicago
"Weren't that a man?"
400 miles may not sound like much, but then you drive from Minneapolis
to Chicago, stopping in Milwaukee for dinner. No truly memorable adventures
were had, but driving into Chicago at night (two great songs contain those
three words), listening to Muddy Waters is an image that sticks with me.
Chicago is the adoptive home of our good friend Evan Sult, who hosted us
like a champ in his long, narrow apartment full of cats and posters for
his new band, Bound Stems. He's thriving there, and it's great to see.

Day Five / Tuesday, May 27

Columbus, OH. Little Brother's.
W/ Nada Surf, Sondre Lerche

"Accidents will happen."
Today, the wheels tried to fall off. Before I get too far into it, let
me just say that the unlikely coincidence described below is actually, literally
true. It did, in fact, happen. If you tried to invent such a coincidence,
for a short story, say, you would edit yourself, because it would seem too
convenient, a gilded lily. But I'm telling you that at the moment of impact,
I was jolted awake to hear Elvis Costello singing "Accidents Will Happen,"
the actual chorus, in my headphones. After a long, miserable day in Illinois
traffic and Ohio thunderstorms, I had nodded off in the back seat, listening
to Armed Forces on my discman. Apparently, I'd hit the repeat button, and
the record had just started over. Anyway, that's the exciting part of the
car crash story. Oh, and I got a great picture of John leaning into the
Lima Police car. No one was hurt, and the dent only made the van look more
rock. Anyway, we were already super late.
The morning was a bit of a disaster. After a late start, Evan resolved
to take us to a great local restaurant "a few blocks from here" for a quick
breakfast. Almost an hour and at least a mile of misguided navigation later,
we arrived at the café, and had a grumpy meal of barely-decent food. Time
to bolt, right into the heart of one of the most intense rush hour clusterfucks
of all time. By the time we got to Ohio, with most of state left to cross,
it was clear we weren't going to make it in time for load in, or sound check,
or even doors. John drove like hell through the monsoon, and we prayed we
would get there in time to play. After the Lima debacle, we were well and
truly fucked. I called Nada Surf to say we probably wouldn't make it in
time for the show, that we were really sorry, but we would get there as
soon as we could. No problem, they said. The show would go on, and with
us. Sondre agreed to go on first (cheers to you, my Norwegian brother).
Daniel called back to ask about what we like in our monitors (a prince!).
We raced across Ohio, and when we pulled up, the Nada Surf boys were waiting
for us in the loading zone like National Guardsmen. They embraced us, helped
us unload a few things, then shepherded us to the stage, where their amps
and drums were ready and waiting for us. And then, we played, and the crowd
exploded. I can't think of a more gratifying show, and I don't think we'd
ever played better. All the stress of the day was unloaded into the performance,
the audience reaction was enveloping, and god bless Nada Surf for getting
our backs. By night's end, I was round on both sides and high in the middle
thanks to the club's liberal drink ticket policy. A day like this is exactly
why you want to be in a rock band.

Day Six / Wednesday, May 28

Detroit, MI. The Shelter.
W/ Nada Surf, Sondre Lerche

"I'm an Old Testament kind of guy. I like my coffee black and my parole
denied, yeah."

Ah, Detroit. Fallen city. John Roderick is very eloquent about Detroit's
exquisite corpse, and I highly recommend his disquisition on the subject.
My own experience of the city is less magical. I once bought some very good
psilocybin mushrooms here, though, from a gentleman in the parking lot of
the very club we'll be playing tonight. A toddling town? More like teetering.
I've always gotten the sense of imminent extinction from downtown Motor
City, and it has always freaked me out a little. But the downstairs of St.
Andrew's is a nice room with good stage sound, and everyone is buoyant from
yesterday's triumph.
When we arrive, we discover that a curious double booking will make tonight
the cultural crossover of all-time. Downstairs, representing whitey, The
Long Winters, Sondre Lerche, and Nada Surf. And upstairs, ladies and gentlemen,
show ya love for BUSTA RHYMES! No more than 50 yards apart, two very different
shows were going on simultaneous. The upstairs event was free, sponsored
by Kool cigarettes. Downstairs we had a plastic tub full of beer and some
chips. I'll take those odds. The show was great. The Long Winters have settled
into a groove by this point, and the songs from the new record are really
finding their feet. Cinnamon and Scared Straight are particularly slamming.
Afterwards, I got to play keyboards and sing harmonies on a few songs with
Nada Surf. Post-show, I met someone who could play "Pike St./Park Slope"
on the piano, which is more than I can say for myself. Another super-gratifying
Afterwards, I see Sondre Lerche backstage, hunched over the MegaTouch 2000,
playing a game whose object is to remove all the blocks from the screen
so that you can see a naked lady. He turns to me, eyes wide with wonder,
and exclaims, "this game is INCREDIBLE!" It then occurs to me that he is
a very young kid, very far from home. It seems the MegaTouch phenomenon
has yet to sweep Norway.
Loading out proves tricky, what with all the limos and bodyguards and commemorative
American flag pin salesmen, and street poets, and such. But we get out intact,
argue for a short while, then cruise the elephant burial ground that is
Detroit at night before heading off to Windsor, to tempt fate by crossing
over into Canada.