The Feminists: Dispatches From The Trenches Of Indie Rock

Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How did it come to this so soon? I remember so well the days of idly pondering tour season, and thinking very abstractedly about being on the road again. And now, a month later, here we are. The first show of a six week national tour (that’s 42 days in the van) with about 30 shows stretching from Victoria to Montreal and back.
I must say, this particular tour seems more fraught with peril than the last one. We are treading a very thin financial line this time around. The van cost us thousands of dollars to repair (nothing cosmetic, just what needed to be done so we wouldn’t die in a flaming wreck on the trans-canada), resulting in the sobering reality that none of us have any cash reserves to take with us. This sorrowful fact, combined with the anxiety of not knowing if we are going to get paid for any of the upcoming shows, or if we will sell any merch, has actually caused me to awaken in the middle of the night sitting bolt upright in bed with clammy palms more than once over the past month.
What brand of craziness is this? I mean really, what kind of people take an unpaid leave from their jobs, spend all of their money just before they depart on a six week driving tour of Canada with no idea if there will be any money for gas, food, or shelter for the duration of their entire journey? And also, they will have to work at a somewhat demanding job almost every night, possibly for free. Crazy people, that’s who. Nutty little nutcases.
We played the first show of the tour in Victoria. While driving to the ferry, it was discovered that the Magic cards had been forgotten. Or rather, Someone was supposed to put them in with the gear but No One ended up doing it. A grumpy pall settled over the van. Then Grief and I had to stuff ourselves into the bunk and get buried under eighty pounds of blankets on a sweltering afternoon so we could save ourselves a few bucks and pay for two passengers on the ferry instead of four. We always get ordered to hide because we’re skinny and can be easily stashed. Mike and Ferdy are way bigger than us…if they tell us to hide, goddammit, we hide.
Soon enough I am settled into a nice aisle seat to begin contemplating the ocean whilst I knit a fuzzy scarf. Alarmingly domestic, no? Grief and Mike are hanging around at loose ends…usually they ignore me on the ferry, as they are busy playing Magic. But this time, it looks like they might be desperate enough to stick around and make conversation. Just as Mike is about to start complaining about how bored he is, I offer to let him watch a South Park DVD on my laptop. Crisis averted; conversation avoided. Grief reluctantly takes out his gameboy and starts playing. Ferdy sits calmly and reads from the bag of old newspapers he has brought along to catch up on.
We get to the venue about 4 hours early. I knit and knit until my scarf can be wrapped around my whole body at least three times. There’s no place to go, either sit in the van or sit in the bar where as usual the horrible house music is cranked up to an obscenely loud intensity for no apparent reason. There’s nobody in the bar yet, and the people that are here are trying to have dinner in the pub, taking bites in between screaming at each other trying to make themselves heard over the “music”. How can the staff stand it? I wonder. Do they just tune it out after awhile? I think it’s really terrible to have music blaring at an overwhelming level (i.e. drowning out conversation) unless everyone is willing and able to focus on it exclusively. Why do people think they’re having a good time when they have to yell blue-faced at someone right in front of them to communicate?
The hours crawl by until finally it’s time to play. Unfortunately, there’s still no one in the bar. Oh wait, there were two people (plus the other band) but they were on the guestlist. We haven’t played a totally dead show for a long time, but the sting of humiliation was as powerful as it was familiar.
The first song was okay. About bar 3 of the second song Because Why, the kick drum part disappeared. Very problematic, as it’s just Mike and I for the intro. Then the kick sort of came back but it was seriously fucked up. I lose beat one, and now it’s Ferdy’s turn to come in and he really needs to know where beat one is. He guesses where it is, but then Mike plays something completely incomprehensible and we all lose beat one again and now we have three different versions of where it might be. Now it’s Grief’s turn to come in with the vocals, after loping in with his guitar part that laid down the fourth and final version of beat one. I’m wondering when or if he’ll come in – I certainly don’t envy him, everything will be even more fucked if we don’t follow him but the question is, does he have enough nerve to lay it down confidently and lead the way?
Ah, sort of. Now were sort of gallumph-ing along like a wounded elephant and I am just livid, absolutely furious with Mike for fucking everything up so badly almost beyond repair. The closest we’ve come to a genuine train wreck in a very long time. We limp to the finish line and I’m thinking about how much I want to just go home and forget this stupid tour. Right after I throttle the drummer.
“My bass drum head broke”, Mike tells us as soon as the song is over. What? “I can only play bass drum with my left foot tonight”, he adds. Huh. The right beater of his double kick pedal smashed through the bass drum head at the beginning of the second song. He had to play the left beater of the double kick against the remainder of the drum head. And he’s not left-footed. The left foot usually plays the high hats. So everything was screwed up. I felt quite sheepish for being so mad, but I’m really not very capable of rational thought during the heat of battle. I want everyone to play as perfectly as possible and sound amazingly good onstage and I get really (irrationally) mad when it doesn’t happen. We were able to play eight songs before Mike’s leg began to spasm. You can’t really blame him, it would have been like me having to play all my solos with just my left hand…possible, but not very pretty.
Actually, Ferdy and Grief and I were very impressed the Mike pulled it off as well as he did. He only started rehearsing with us with the double kick maybe three weeks ago. And it was only because he had his double kick with him that we were able to play the show at all.
Needless to say, we did not get paid. We loaded our gear into the van and went to crash at Cory’s house. Cory is a very generous friend of Ferdy’s. The other band was staying there too. As usual, I was the only gal in a room full of rock and testosterone. After a half hour of observing a gaggle of drunken human males in their natural habitat, I went to bed. Where I could follow along with the conversation just fine as the volume continued to rise while the beer continued to flow.
The next morning, we filled the gas tank and took the ferry back to Vancouver. Overall it cost us $70 to play in an empty bar in Victoria. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be musicians. Let them be doctors and lawyers and such, but break their fingers if they pick up a guitar.