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Music Production: Circuits of Steel Tour 2003
07/20/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Chicago: Circuits of damn, I love this town.

I woke up early on Jason's couch, finally having gotten comfortable. Showered, shaved, and went down to the basement to see if I could bum Jason's DSL connection. They've put a lot of work into the place to start making it livable, but they still have a lot of work ahead of them. Jason's room, for example, is a windowless cubicle in the basement which he's turning into a studio. With the lights on, it has atmosphere, but getting to it makes it obvious you're in the basement.

The rest woke up and got showers, while I called Patricia and talked to one of our Detroit peeps who couldn't make it out to the show. We found the van unmolested, loaded up, and waited for Jason to make a run to his bank. To entertain us, Greg was reading from his vast stash of novels for teen girls (the series is named Girl Talk, hence his performance name, I suppose), including one about a junior high school girl who was the drummer in a band called Iron Wombat. This will become important later.

Jason back with us, we scoped out coffee on Pontiac's main drag (not to be found--the cafe that claimed to be open Sunday wasn't, and we decided that this dead town only served coffee to the dead), put some gas in the tank, and headed...down to Detroit to hit some record stores Manny wanted to hit. On the way we played Kraftwerk's Computer World, which Jason had brought from his collection, and it reminded me how good this album was. Sure, the lyrics are lame, but the beat on "Numbers," for example, is a monster.

So we hit the first store, Culture Shock, which actually bought a few discs from me. The plan was then to hit another store which we simply could not find (actually, we couldn't find the intersection of 9 Mile and Little Mack; Detroit just would not let us get our little mack on), and then head out to Stormy Records in Dearborn before getting the other guys signed up as drivers. With the traffic and construction, we didn't arrive at Stormy until much later than ideal, and we realized we'd have to forfeit doing the WNUR radio show. I did, however, manage to score a used copy of Hrvatski's Swarm and Dither. I pressed on to the airport to deal with the rental, where we learned that adding all of the other guys as drivers would cost so much that it wasn't worth doing. We opted just to put Kerry on, and he pressed on toward Chicago. I moved to one of the rear seats.

I had work to do, so I hauled out the laptop and messed with Actionscript. We were definitely at a time disadvantage, so Kerry was driving fast. For some reason--probably reflecting on the Detroit experience, fatigue, and not being able to do the radio show--my mood crashed, and I contemplated how feasible it would be at this point to bail, essentially an amplified resurgence of the "what am I doing here?" feeling from last night. I could have been home this weekend checking out the Vintage Grand Prix with Patricia and one of our friends who had an invitation to an on-course party. I could have had large blocks of time to devote to work. Instead, I was in a van speeding toward Chicago, hungry, dehydrated, tired, listening to pretty much nothing but IDM, and having to get work done.

At one point we passed through Kalamazoo, the ancestral home of my guitar, but I was too busy working to notice. Gradually, as we got out of Michigan, my mood began to lift, partly from getting some water, partly from Herbie Hancock's Headhunters on the van's disc player. This kind of thing may be the biggest challenge of touring: weathering the psychological changes, and realizing that how things look at any given moment isn't necessarily how they all are, nor how they will be. And I like being in Chicago, so I was looking forward to that.

Traffic slowed us down, but the threatening weather only threatened. I got a few shots with the digital camera, including some interestingly blurred shots of decaying industrial Gary, Indiana that would make good CD covers. While we headed to the Fireside, I called my cousin to see if we could connect at the show. The venue itself is a bowling alley, all classic '40s design, in Wicker Park, which apparently is a neighborhood of the half-funky/half-gentrified variety. My cousin had said that it was marginal/questionable, but these things are relative--after our neighborhoods in Detroit and Pontiac, I was totally good with it.

We loaded in, set up, stopped in the third and fourth skanky bathroom of the tour (that bad), and did soundchecks. We didn't have enough table space, so an additional table was improvised with a particleboard sheet and two sawhorses. I leaned the guitar against the table at one point, and then the table was moved, sending the guitar flat to the stage. Fortunately the only result was some out of tune strings. If I'd been using the Univox Mosrite copy, it would have been catastrophic, I think. It was a bit alarming at the time, though. Then we waited for the audience. I changed my shirt to this vintage bowling shirt I'd bought on Friday, in honor of the occasion. The embroidered names, Shandrew and Leonardo, were in the house. It felt good.

Syne Lapse played first, doing an interesting computer-free IDM set, and then it was my turn to go on. I hadn't seen any of my invited people coming in, but I was in a good frame of mind nonetheless. I started very ambient with the guitar clouds, and got more into hitting the pick against the pickguard for setting up a rhythm. I messed with this, and then thought I'd do a "Tone Beating" and sample thing. The "rubber" speech sample was mildly amusing, but seemed out of place for this set. Afterwards, I took photos of the audience. It turned out that two of them were ex-Coctail Barry Phipps (with whom I've been email corresponding), and Pramod Tummala, who's recording with him. (They'd come straight from Barry's studio, in fact.)

We got a chance to talk for a while before they headed back in to record, but it looks like some cool things might result. For one, I'll have a fair amount of his recent projects to review, and there's a chance we'll be working on a collaborative project that he has going on. Xanopticon played while we were talking, so I missed the visuals of his set, but I got to hear him.

After Barry and Pramod left, I checked out Girl Talk's most dynamic set to date, in which he managed to launch himself off the subwoofer and into one of the light fixtures on the ceiling, connecting with a loud snap, and then came crashing to the floor. Fortunately, he wasn't injured, but it was a scary, thrilling rock 'n' roll moment. Greg sold a T-shirt to a friend of Kerry's, and protocol dictated that I photograph them together. Greg has quite the knack for posing with the ladies. Kerry was up next, and once again he raised the level of intensity. If he does it much more, it'll be scary.

It turns out we had about 25 people, which was better than Detroit, although the audience looked pretty sparse in the large space. We hung around for a while before loading out, hoping to avoid the downpour that had started while the show was still in progress. I noticed a distinct high end to the sound of water, and realized that some rain was coming in through the ceiling above the bowling alley, collected in plastic garbage cans. The rain did taper off, though, and we loaded fairly quickly. Greg went off with some friends to spend the remainder of the evening, and the rest of us arranged to hook up with some of Kerry's other friends for dinner at a place with good vegetarian options.

First, however, we had to head to the Empty Bottle to drop in on a woman Manny knows, but who was not in attendance that evening. We did, however, manage to drive the van into a foot-deep hole (see photo), but fortunately we were able to back it out. If it had been any deeper, though, we'd have been in trouble.

By this point, I've forgotten the name of the vegetarian place in Lakeshore, but it was quite good. (It turns out that it's called Pick Me Up.) Well after midnight, then, I had my second meal of the day, a vegetarian breakfast scramble (with tofu instead of eggs). Based on yesterday's experience, I've decided to stay vegetarian for the rest of the tour, and this was a satisfying way to kick it off. For the most part I hung out listening to Kerry and his friends, too tired to say much, but interested in what was going on. Oddly, we saw Girl Talk and his posse walk by outside, on their way to the lake.

Eventually it was time to check out and hook up with Kerry's sister and her apartment where we'd stay, so we headed down to the Loop along Lakeshore. It was something of a sentimental journey from when Patricia and I were walking around there two years ago, and seeing some of the same sights. I couldn't see the Congress Hotel's sign, though, so I'm not sure if it's still in business.

After some confusion, we did find Kerry's sister, and we were shown the swank studio apartment where we'd be staying. We were able to stash the van in the parking garage, so most of the gear stayed in (I brought mine up, though). Quite a good view out the floor-to-ceiling windows, too, and I snagged some shots. After the raw space of yesterday, this was really something--and she had DSL, so mail checking was easy. After some hanging out and unwinding (and watching the security camera channel in the building), we stretched out on the floor and went to sleep.

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