"Up On The Sun" (a fave Meat Puppet's song of mine) or at least up with the sun — that's what I was doing on the last leg of my Jickscation. Only there wasn't much sun, it was overcast as the sun moved to its zenith in the sky that day, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and a day packed with glistening astrology perched on a week with tremendous astrology to come, notably the rare and potent Mars retrograde that we're in now.
And since I was up early, like the other days, I lit out for Nashville by about 6:20 that morning.
I really did think I was clever getting on the road so early and that I'd skirt any rush hour traffic around Atlanta on my way but it was a total no go. I spent until probably 10 just getting the hell out of the innumerable and unvaryingly clogged merging lanes and past the Atlanta hub on towards Nashville. It was slug eat slug.
I couldn't help but think about and pray for the poor saps who believe that their only real option is to live an existence that involves 2-4 hours per day OR MORE just sitting in discrete vehicles in an endless horizon of tragicomical traffic to get to their jobs and that somehow they regard the payoff as worth it. It's a perspective I can't understand at all but I do try to feel for them. And also to be grateful that it's not me.
But the drive wasn't all bad. I didn't know I'd be licking past the border of Chattanooga and that leg was pretty, some kind of pass in there, lovely river, a beautiful mountain drive.
When I was 21, my boyfriend King and I rode our 750 Yamaha Virago from Colorado back to Virginia and then from Virginia down to the Great Smokies and I remembered how Chattanooga was this surprisingly lush and ultra-Southern stop along our way. It's a brick warehouse filled little city, minor city, wrapped around by almost like a fjord — the mountains loom up close. When we came down out of them back then I recall it was like being spit out of the fecund hills into a ghost-rich city wafted by honeysuckle. I shoulda made time on this trip to stop there for a bit because of the fond memories but I've decided since to try to get down there sometime in the near future.
I did do a really bad thing on the way. The rainy mountain pass ride was so pretty that I decided to make a little video for my IG, driving, listening to tunes, all that. I hate myself for doing that. I never text and drive, barely talk on the phone and drive except on speaker (occasionally), and so to be videoing something from behind the wheel at 65 mph, very bad form! I hate myself for it but after doing so I knew that in the whole of my life I'd never be so reckless with my life and the lives of others again. I'm still chastising myself over that!
In the end I got to Nashville around 12:30, hit a high-end antique store focused on 18th century pieces that I drooled over more for my decor than for potential antique clients (all way out of picking range — you can't usually double the price on a $4k piece in most other markets most of the time). I also sat in the parking lot and checked my phone, and posted something on the board, that maybe I was planning on watching again tonight instead of dancing. More on that later.
My hotel was good enough to let me check in right away instead of waiting till 3 and so I dumped my stuff off and headed out for Hatch Show Print, which was one big bonus to extending the trip this far in the first place. I'd wanted to see HSP for a good five years and my husband has no interest in Nashville period, and flatly refused to take me there for HSP, and I'd begun to think I'd never see the place.
Hatch Show Print has been making letterpress posters and other print bits since 1875. I've made posters since I was about 16, and letterpress ones and/or hand-carved linoleum block prints for about those same five years, and plus my great-grandfather was an etcher, he worked for the National Mint, and I'd had a lifelong love of printing in part spurred by him. I love language and it seems all my life I've adored typography — been really attuned to how letters are formed, different fonts, types in relation to one another, in relation to images, used historically as broadsides, how they've been used in commercial art, and then in recent years where the influence of commercial art elements have influenced any kind of lettering art and Internet imagery, even home decor. Some of it is weird but it remains fascinating.
So getting to see this iconic place that is itself bound up with the music industry, making show posters, was a super special treat for me. I went and took their tour, which gives a LOT of history, from the hyper-local elements of the place, like that they always make the county fair poster for Fulton County (and seeing them you can really see the influence on Americana posters, carny type stuff), and the brothers who founded the place and how it was passed through their family and then eventually taken over by others, and how the workroom and all the letter stock and carvings have been preserved in their mid-century state, and how they hand carve (no computers, no computers!!!!!) and hand print most all their design work, and the process for that — I loved every single second of this amazing letterpress tour!
They showed us TONS of posters they made over the years, like easily 75, and in the back of my mind I'd sworn I thought I'd seen Pavement had done one once but when I asked the guy — and he was really glad to ponder Pavement and said he hoped they had but he wasn't sure and what a great band Pavement was and so I told him about the Jicks show that night and he was psyched — it turned out he couldn't readily find one.
So no evidence of a Pavement poster, but there were so many bands up on display I couldn't begin to touch on the largesse. But even like The White Stripes and The Decembrists and Yo La Tengo, all the oldies, Yes and Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, that whole pantheon, you know, Talking Heads, and all the old and new country, Elvis obviously, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, that kind of thing, even David Sedaris! And on and on it goes into ads for everything, and all the carny stuff, lots of "show review, beautiful girls" type stuff, sports events, boxing, hockey, witty and wise sayings, church revivals, big tent shows, whatever. It's fudging awesome!
That's where I bought all my souvenirs. I got Liz, whose a N'awlins born native and a Tennessean at heart even though she was raised in Virginia, my depressed friend who I dined with at Perly's, I got her a poster that says, "Yer sweeter than candied yams dipped in honey covered in syrup with them big ole pieces of white sugar on 'em & a dadgum cherry on top!" Liz doesn't think anyone recognizes her brilliance (she is actually brilliant) and her thoughtfulness and kindness so I hope this'll do the trick for her when we get together next.
And then for my girls, I got them each one that says, "I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck." I used to sing that to them all the time when they were little (and still do sometimes in one of those you're-fully-grown-but-you're-still-my-baby-and-I'm-still-your-mommy moments). Only I sing it all the way..."a hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap, a barrel and a heap and I'm talking in my sleep about you, a-b-b-b-bout you!" I can't wait till tomorrow because my older daughter Anwyn is coming home from Paris for a month and she is going to LOVE hers (I didn't tell her about it yet). It's flat so it's easy to drag back to France in her suitcase.
I got myself a circus type one with elephants and tigers and lions that just says Hatch Show Print and the dates and I got Erik a deck of cards because it has George Washington as one of the face cards and he loves the 18th century and early American history even more than I do.
After all that, which was only a few blocks from my hotel, I went back and got ready for the night.
I had somehow concluded that it maybe wasn't as hot, so instead of wearing the same dress I'd worn to every other show (lazy packing) I decided to wear a long sleeved shirt and jeans. I had been afraid it was going to rain, but just before the show I decided it wasn't and didn't put on rain boots and rain jacket and umbrella (thankfully, because it didn't rain and that stuff woulda been hot).
I hopped a cab down to the show only he never turned the meter on and didn't know how to get there and when he pulled up to the Mercy Lounge he asked me to just give him what I thought it was worth. It was like 10 blocks maybe, I gave him 8 bucks. I hope that was fair.
I still needed to eat though I continued to not have much of an appetite and after poking my head in this place in the Gulch area where the club is called Peg Leg Porker, which smelled outrageously yummy, I decided to ditch that because it was so crowded and also really hot in there with giant industrial fans screaming in the place. I ended up at some place called The Chef and I which was some kind of chef-driven chef table theater type of thing.
I know it's probably so verboten in 21st century America to call out any kind of so-called stereotypes but they do exist, in part, for a reason. And this place was totally run, in the front of the house — host, bartender, a server — by extremely snooty and flamboyantly snooty, gay guys. The kind who are "so over" everything. Very "don't you know who we are?" And yes, this can be expressed by social-climbing teen age and twenty something girls, or middle aged style makers, or preppie-ass frat dudes whether still in school or just overgrown in lobster pants but each kind has their own way of proffering their crippled and petty snobbery and it would be nice if we could still point that out as a phenom without being tarred as some kinda hater. This restaurant was all the way the snooty gay guy way and it was as silly as the other ways, just done this way.
The place wasn't even full, only half the "theater kitchen" seats were occupied, and the only thing bringing me there was proximity, not that the chef's reputation wenteth before him or something. I didn't have a reservation, didn't know about the place, just wanted to sit at the bar, get a quick appetizer, have a glass of wine, and move on. And in spite of the evident half empty state of things the gatekeepers were reluctant and inhospitable. (Maybe my rolled up jeans looked too downscale, who knows?) But they did let me have a bar seat with a touch of barely concealed eye roll.
In the end the caprese salad with butternut squash that I got was good, was okay, but nothing to make me sit up and take notice. In fact, the tomatoes could have been drizzled earlier with olive oil and salted in order to pick up more meaningful and subtle flavor. So it was all just okay.
When I was ordering, the bartender also said their rosé was dry when it turned out to be bordering on sweet once i tasted it and when I gently mentioned that after he asked me how the wine was he challenged me like I was an idiot and called another guy over and vocal-fryly said, "She said this isn't dry but it is dry, isn't it?" and the second guy said "Yes, it's totally dry," and the bartender looked at me and said, "See?" I stood corrected.
Needless to say I had no desire to linger there and got over to Mercy Lounge about a good half hour before Lithics came on.
I must've thought that Mercy would be bigger than the Georgia Theater because Athens is a small town and I had maybe even been confused from looking at the various club websites, but it turns out the Mercy Lounge is really small. It was likely smaller than any of the other three places I saw the Jicks on this getaway.
It's a second story exposed bricks type place, with several posts lining the central sweep of the place so that being sure I had an unobstructed view was a top concern. I wasn't going to be watching from some perfect perch like the night before. I'd be lucky if I could see at all.
It's then that I realized that I hadn't worn any knee brace at all that night. I must've forgot because I was wearing pants instead of a dress. So then I was worried about keeping my knee stable.
I found a corner by a window and the wall over on the Mike and Jake side of things. It was next to a pole (not one of the pillar/posts) which I calculated might come in handy if I felt like rocking out but wanted to be sure that my knee wouldn't be totally vulnerable and I could grab onto something. I was also glad I was wearing these higher heeled Dansko sandal slides because they have like a two-inch heel which is helpful once it gets crowded and I can't see over any of these big boys heads.
Lithics were a delight again and I made a mental note to listen to their CD on the ride back to Virginia the next day.
After that it was all about holding my spot and toughing it out in what was turning out to be a pretty hot evening in that club and I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I did bring a hand fan with me to all these gigs and ladies, they're a life saver. The Jicks should make one and add it to their merch — would totally sell out! Everyone who saw it complimented me on it one way or another, like how smart it was to carry one.
Speaking of compliments, I think I might've gotten hit on that night. I'm not sure because, you know, I don't go out to bars alone or hit a bunch of clubs solo most of the time, so I'm probably out of practice. You decide.
So this guy comes up next to me I think after Lithics and he starts making conversation. The obvious, "Have you ever seen this band before? I haven't seen them play live." And I'm all, "Oh yeah, I've seen them lots of times and Pavement lots of times too. In fact, I've been following them on this tour. I just saw their last three shows, in Athens, Chapel Hill, and DC." He was wowed by that and didn't say anything for a sec and then he said, and this is the "was he hitting on me?" part, he says, "Suddenly I feel really underdressed." He was in a tee shirt and jeans and they looked fine enough to me if unremarkable, totally like most of the folks there, and so I was totally earnestly like, "Why?" And he said something like, "Well look at you." And I felt mortified and I said, "What, do I look overdressed?" And he said, "I just meant you look really nice tonight." Not used to an out-of-the-blue compliment from a stranger at a club. Of course I was all stammery and didn't know what to say so I said, "I'm feeling like the girl from Lithics, that maybe I'm beginning to rethink these long sleeves," because that's something she'd said about her sweatshirt and it was true, I was getting very hot (and no, not because of the guy.)
So I rolled up my sleeves and took out my fan and he started asking me more questions about the Jicks but then the Jicks came on super fast, much faster than between the sets at the other shows I thought, and I was so excited for my last show but the guy kept talking! He kept asking me questions and the first thing I said was, "Wait, I want to hear every single word they say." I was super nice about it, but definitely insistent, but he didn't get the clue and kept asking me questions and saying stuff to me. I really didn't want to move from what I considered to be a very strategic spot — window ledge to hold my water, pole to hang on to for dear life when I danced knee-brace free — so I finally said, "I don't want to talk now but I'll tell you after the show. Fortunately that shut him up.
The Jicks started up and if the set list here is to be believed — https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/stephen- … a3b36.html — they opened with "Jenny and the Ess Dog." I can't recall for sure but I do know that I thought everything sounded awful because there was this tremendous amount of feedback that hadn't been there for Lithics. It was ear splattering.
I recall that at some point, for some song, early, Steve said something like, "Am I in the room," I think referencing whether his maybe acoustic guitar was picking up and sounding good. I don't know how things work, like, if they travel with their own sound guy or whether it's a new sound person for every show who does it for the club, and so I'm so afraid to say this because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I was thinking, "How can someone not hear that the sound is so off?" I mean, I'm a total clueless idiot about so much as setting the treble and bass in my car and even I could tell that the sound wasn't right for the size room.
The "maybe-he's-hitting-on-me guy" mentioned something about it and this time I did talk to him instead of shush him and I said, "Yeah, there's way too much feedback, how are they not catching this?" So he took off the second I said that and I think went and said something to the sound guy because within a short minute it all sounded so much better. If it had been that way for the whole show it really would've sucked. So I guess hitting on me guy was good for something.
I couldn't see much of Joanna sadly because I really like watching her serene vibe and Mike was very blocked by a pole (though I did want to mention that Mike really tears it up. The night before in Athens with that broader stage space, he totally used his space, stepped up partly on his amp or some equipment, really used a lot of physicality and dimension in playing, it's very rad.) I could see a little bit of Jake from time to time (he always looks so happy to me), and I could sort of see Steve on occasion.
I recall Steve all of the sudden saying something like, "Oh, there's my wallet," and appearing to pick up his wallet from the edge of the stage. Then he talked about what tour per diems are and how his wallet is stuffed with cash because he eats on the cheap and he's got a lot of money in there because he doesn't fully use his per diem. That seemed to make the crowd laugh. He's just like you Got Money?, he's got money! Ha!
I definitely got into rocking out even though it was tight as sardines in there, much tighter than any of the other shows I'd seen. Because I was against the wall it was even tighter because that doesn't move. At one point I did have to ask this guy in front of me if he'd be willing to scooch forward just an inch or so and thankfully he did. He was among this class of couples who seem to need to be in constant physical contact with one another at a show. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like me some kissing and I dig everything in the "No Tan Lines" arena but this constant petting at a show looks a little soggy with co-dependency. But mostly the linked figures take up too much extra space with the infernal rejiggering of their coupledom and that cuts into my dance space, a far more important realm of space at a show in my totally biased and self-serving opinion!
Again, I can offer you no set list, only that I was blissed out in the extreme, rocking out to the band who now sounded superb after the sound rework.
Of all the nights I saw them I liked "Middle America" the most on this night, it somehow sounded more powerful and I lived into the lyrics and music in my dancing in a big way, it felt so connected.
When they did their Pavement heavy encore I totally got into it. Figured why not, here's my last few songs live. I totally sang along on "Shady Lane" and my heart coulda burst through my chest I was so into it. I'm so critical about my voice because my family, which was all musicians on my mom's side, harped at me constantly that I sang out of key. Singing for me is something that usually causes my throat to seize up and I can't even get a sound out. It's gotten better over time, the feeling of mortifying humiliation not so severe, but still not good by any stretch. But it wasn't there at all that night, not one whisper. I full out sang and loved it. Clearly I've "learned to sing along and languish here..."
It was one of the few times I could see Steve, too. You know he usually has that hair over his eyes — he could really use a barber who understands the shape of his head — and maybe he likes that hair over his eyes, maybe it helps with "avoidance dripping from his chin," (he did actually sing one of the nights, "the avoidance drips from my chin" instead of "your chin"), but in this one bit of time during "Shady Lane" I think his body position and the lights and whatever made it so that his eyes could be seen while he was playing. I'm gonna gush now, so deal with it. He looked really beautiful — just in his element, open into himself and his body with his instrument, full of song and ownership and possession of his whole self, and his eyes so visibly clear and bright. I loved seeing that, I just looked right into them and was blissed out.
I'm sure you can imagine that the whole of everything was like the night before, I was simply completely and totally happy in every imaginable way to get to be here and be part of the crowd of Jicks-loving Pavement-loving peeps.
But ding dang if even good things don't come to an end.
Steve had cajoled the audience to come see them in Louisville and I seriously considered it. I mean, I figured why the hell not, what am I doing on Friday? And in the end I really wish I had because the drive home was SOOOOOOO long and going to Louisville woulda broken it up just a smidge. That's a regret I'll long have!
After the show I was desperate for water and the bathroom and so took off for that immediately and abruptly. I didn't say good-bye to maybe-hitting-on-me-guy which I hope didn't make it seem like I can "Spit on a Stranger." I didn't mean it coldly, and I supose a goodbye would have been more polite. Shame on me.
Tnen I walked back to my hotel those ten blocks, which was a little nerve-wracking but turned out okay and settled in for a nice sleep-in because the hotel check out time was a rare Noon and I could use the sleep.
The next morning after checking out and before hitting the road I went to Antique Archeology, the store that the "star" of American Pickers, Mike Wolfe, owns. Just a sexist plug for Mike here, he should totally be like, on that People Magazine type list for the "Hottest Men In America." Brains, a passion for history, digs and celebrates Americana, totally kind to people, really truly interested in people and not just their things, a great buddy to his road partner Frankie, and drop dead gorgeous. It should be folks like that who are glorified and not just actors. Anyway, that probably makes me sound shallow but a girls got eyes, you know.
Sadly, whatever Mike Wolfe brings to his show he does NOT bring to his shop. Not only was the shop super small (I was expecting a big antiques expo warehouse or something) but it was about 65% brand merch. Like mugs and tees and posters and keychains and matchboxes and candles and baby onesies and you name it. The actual vintage and antiques were few and far between. I complained about this on my IG while also saying that I was going to double the price of what I bought there when selling and some guy commented, "Classic logrolling." I didn't know what that meant so I looked it up and in addition to some unsavory and unmentionable definitions from the Urban Dictionary, it also means kind of tit for tat political favors. So I'm hoping the guy wasn't calling my re-sale plans logrolling but rather that the TV show was a tit for tat trade driving TV watchers to Mike (the multi-millionaire's) shop where the #1 thing to pick up is stuff to advertise...Mike's store.
So I was disappointed in that. I did get this rad late 60s early 70s Remco doll head that I'm going to sell at Halloween, but there was almost nothing else to choose from there were so few "pickings."
After that what was left but to head back to Virginia?
When I got on the 40 and Google Maps Siri said, "Go straight for 212 miles," I was at least glad to not keep that power-draining app on, but I was also like, ugh, just this long slog across the least pretty part of Tennessee. Even when I got to my turn North at Knoxville it was another 100 miles to Bristol, which is that town half-in and half-out of Virginia and Tennessee.
I'd swear I drove 85mph a good 70% of the way but it still took me until 10:30 pm to get home. When I did get home I was so relieved from the fatigue of driving (though finally in Virginia there were excellent roadways and gorgeous scenery) that I had a good old "home sweet home" feeling. Sadly that lasted only about 20 minutes.
For whatever reason my husband Erik all of the sudden got so pissed off about my trip which was heartily unexpected, and nitpicked the expenses even though it was seemingly fine before, and basically harped on me for two full hours. I was so tired and of course trying to keep the glow of my happiness about me and it was a real fudging come down! The end.
No, no way am I going to end it there. I told Erik the next day that such a blindside was unacceptable and kicked him out of the house for the day, told him to find something to do all day so I could unpack and stuff and cool down. So then I got the house to myself and took a couple of little hits of weed, put on some Sparkle Hard, and danced it out a few times, with lots of space, a tight knee brace, and a whole new understanding of the music.
And I danced and danced that day.
I hope when the tour revs back up mid month ya'll will do better than me and actually post set lists and remember banter and tell us about your good time!
Up with Jicks!