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Music Production: Circuits of Steel Tour 2003
07/22/2003 Circuits of Steel Tour 2003: Live in Denton, TX: Circuits of Texas!

Jason continued to drive us toward Texas. When asked, he said he was all right. Some time after the Oklahoma border--I have no idea where at the moment--is what's billed as the largest McDonald's in the world (in square footage), straddling the highway. We stopped for gas, cigs (Jason and Ryan), water, and a restroom break. I took a few blurry photos, including one from the actual seating area above the highway that doesn't suck. Eventually as we headed West I got fatigued enough to fall asleep for an hour or so, waking up on the outskirts of Tulsa when we slowed down for a traffic jam. We opted to go around Tulsa and take a direct route down, which put us on some local roads instead of limited-access highways, which happily slowed us down occasionally from Jason's usual aggressive pace. I'll admit that I was getting kind of worried about it, especially in the rain which seemed to cover most of Oklahoma.

Even though he'd been driving since two in the morning, he claimed to be ok. He wanted to get us to Denton by noon. Why? He didn't know. It was, apparently, just a personal goal, but this to me is a warning sign. As we approached Texas, I thought he was speeding up out of a need to get there before getting too tired--the van was going at just the right speed to oscillate up and down with the regular bumps of the joins in the road's concrete slabs. Once we reached the border, I could do the math and point out that there was another hour to Denton, at which point he was willing to turn over the wheel. I've been in that position ("OK, I'm going to make it here by this time no matter what") and it's better to give up on those kinds of goals. So he conceded. Good man. And he did a hell of a good job getting us to Texas as quickly as possible.

When we opened the door of the van, the wave of heat told us that we were really in Texas now. We got gas, put on the Esquivel, and headed toward Denton after some brief confusion about how to get back on the highway (my first intuition was correct, but was voted down, so we checked out every 90 degrees of the interchange). I stuck to the speed limit.

We found the venue first, in an industrial district near the railroad tracks and across the street from a concrete plant or something. It was closed for the afternoon, so we went several blocks along the same street to our contact's house. He wasn't there, either, and we couldn't get his cell number--Manny had left his notebook with all the tour's contact information back at the cursed Lemp. So...we decided to head in to Dallas, scope out the hip area (whatever it was; we'd need to find that out), and eat. Kerry took over the wheel, and I dealt with some work-related stuff, although the PowerBook's battery was running low. We put on the radio, and listened to a bunch of current hip hop and Latin stuff I'd never heard of, but which are apparently hits.

After crawling through construction traffic, we navigated to University Park, where Manny thought hip stuff might be. The University in question was Southern Methodist, so the kind of hipness we'd had in mind wasn't part of the neighborhood, but we did find a Barnes & Noble, where we'd look in the local papers for clues. Finally having an AC outlet on hand, I plugged in the PowerBook, and was surprised to see that it wasn't actually charging the battery--I was just getting the green plugged-in light, as opposed to the orange charging light. Unplugging and replugging it, I finally heard a little arcing sound, and the charging light came on. Considering the way my last power adapter died, this wasn't good. I was glad that I'd looked up the various Apple stores around our route, and thought that maybe we could plan a stop tomorrow.

We moved on to Deep Ellum, which was supposed to be the hip area in Dallas. Jason was excited, though, as he spotted a Masonic seal on one of the buildings down there and wanted me to take photos of it (we didn't get back to it, though). Apparently things don't open in Deep Ellum until 8, so the "Manny goes into a record store and doesn't come out" factor was thwarted, and we did hook up with a good lunch in this Brazil place. Some people weren't into going into a place that didn't look cheap, but the prices were actually good. We sat around the table with our thousand-yard stares, unable quite to decide on an order, and Manny asked, "Are you guys just not feeling this, or what?" We were feeling it (as in we did indeed want to be there and eat), but we'd been through a lot in the last 24 hours. We were now veterans. We were tight. The van seriously smells like dude.

We did manage to order, and I had a couple of tasty vegetarian crepes--particularly good with a bit of habanero sauce on them. We revived, and told Manny about the episode with the girl at the Lemp and the wrestling belt, an event which seemed by this time to be weeks in the past. Greg said that it would have been really something to see--some girl just coming up and popping Manny as hard as she could. Manny said, "If she'd've done that, I would have pulled out my knife." St. Louis was a disaster as it was, but imagine--"Oh, yeah, we had to cancel the St. Louis show; Manny stabbed our only audience member." We laughed.

Back in Denton, we left a message for our contact at his home, having gotten the number from Directory Assistance, and we drove over to the main square. It turns out that there's an amazing used book and record store there, the Recycler, where I found a copy of the Raybeats' first EP, Roping Wild Bears, for $4. I'd never seen one in the flesh before. Of course, this now vastly complicates my life, as I'm storing vinyl in a hot van in Texas in July, but I'm keeping it in among Manny's many records in the hopes that this will keep it from warping. And during the hottest parts of the day, we'd be driving with the A/C on, so maybe it'll work out. I also picked up the Dylan/Baez/Baez/Farina bio, Positively 4th Street and Man Ray's Self Portrait, which I always look for in used bookstores. Success! I made a few calls to share the warmth.

Down to the house where we were being put up, where we met Matt (our contact's one housemate), Matt (our contact), and...the other housemate whose name I unfortunately forget. Nice little place, and a very welcome sight after the lack of a bed in St. Louis. We did a quick loop of the University there (UT Denton?) and picked up the weekly student paper, which did an article on the show. They got some details wrong, but were pretty positive about it, so the vibe was good. Sadly, at this point we realized that the chocolate-covered espresso beans had not stood up well to Texas. We had chocolate espresso bean soup in a bag.

Then we pulled up at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios (see photo--it took me a while to get the sign), which is really a funky little bar. On coming in, I heard them playing Townes Van Zandt's "Our Mother the Mountain," which was a great comfort to hear. I thanked the sound guy, and noted that after listening to all this IDM and electronica in the van, I'm looking forward to playing some Big Star, Guided by Voices, etc. to come back down to earth. I recommended Joel Phelps's version of the Van Zandt tune, but I might have to email him to make sure he has a reference. I'm listening to it now as I type this up. (Thank God for iTunes.) We also discovered that the DJ mixer Xanopticon's using keeps digging into the side of his monitor, which isn't so cool. We're trying to work out a solution.

We set up, I took a few photos of the venue and the industrial neighborhood, and we waited for the audience to show up. A local DJ did appear, with the thought that he'd play between sets. Ultimately I got started, playing first, and did a subtle set. There wasn't much in the way of audience for me, so I kept things toned down. I started with my usual tone cloud, some guitar clicks, a few samples, and then for the second half I thought I'd mess with the orchestra samples as they'd worked well in St. Louis. (Maybe the only thing that went well there). In a way I lost control of this part of the set. The general level dropped as the guitar lines died out, and the samples weren't quite behaving the way I'd hoped. I think the problem ended up being related to my selecting a tiny slice of the sample I'd planned on using as a bed. It was kind of a lowercase set there at the end. I'd had Jason take some photos of my set, and then bring the camera up so I could take one of the audience, but there wasn't much of an audience to photograph. Jason's shots were nice, though, if a bit dark due to the room's lighting.

Manny told me afterwards that in Austin I have to keep the volume up and use more Bush samples, rather than going minimal, although Jason thought that it really worked in its difference from the other sets. I did like the lowercaseness of it, so I'll have to listen back to the stream to see exactly what I was doing.

The DJ's set was nice; he really thought about how to follow my act, and he gave all the other intermissions the same level of attention. Jason was up next and did a good set to a gradually increasing audience. Meanwhile, I got charged for water, even though I was comped for water before my set. Weird. Fatigue was kicking in, so I parked myself on a bar stool in the performance room, and talked to a few people who dug the set, although didn't make any sales (apparently one of the old-school Stoic Sex Pro CDs was sold later in the evening, but I didn't see who bought it).

By the time Xanopticon was on, there was a significant and enthusiastic audience, and he turned in his most intense set to date. His performances have become more physical as the tour's gone on, especially with such an engaged set of listeners. It's really something to see--when he flails his arms as he moves the crossfader between his laptop and his desktop machine, it's like he's trying to jump out of his own skin. Weirdly, at one point in his set, I had a missing minute during which I must have fallen asleep on the barstool. I got up and moved around for a while to stay awake.

Greg's set was super-intense with all that audience to feed off of, particularly these two girls who were into dancing to this weird music. As ever, he stripped down to his underwear, ran around, and screamed, got beer poured on him, rolled around on the floor, and got people all excited. It was quite a show. Kerry followed up with his most intense set to date, and it is indeed getting kind of frightening now. He'd warned me in advance to move my stuff and he got up on the table, screamed into the mic, threw his Kaos Pad, and collapsed into one of the PA cabinets. I thought for sure he was taking a dive. During this whole thing, there was this 15-year-old guy, there with his dad. His dad sat through the whole thing, and I wonder what he thought, particularly Girl Talk's often obscene lyrical content and stage patter. Still, he sat through, walking out to the bar only when Kerry's self-mutilation videos came on.

We hung out for a bit afterwards, although I was thoroughly beat. I loaded my stuff in the van, and hung outside listening to the passing train. Again I wished I'd set up the MD recorder. I brought it, but I've not had it set up. In checking over my stuff again, I thought I'd forgotten my toiletry bag in the club, but couldn't find it there. I tore my stuff down, and when I mentioned it to Jason, he offered to set me up with his toothpaste, if necessary. Once again, good man, but I finally found it in a section of my big bag I hadn't investigated. Gradually the others came out and loaded, and after waiting for another train, we headed back to Matt's place where we scared up some food from the fridge (Jason improvising a bean and cheese tortilla kind of thing that gave us vegetarians some dinner). I connnected briefly to the house DSL while the others hung out talking, and then laid out on the floor while Kerry checked his mail on the house iMac. I don't remember him leaving, and that's the last I recall until morning.

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