Touring always involves unforeseen adventures. When you drive across the country and back in a rented van, playing 30 different clubs in 30 different cities and sleeping on the floors of strangers newly befriended, it's a prescription for the unexpected.
Last year we did a short tour in Japan, and the first night in Tokyo I woke up in the middle of the night to use the high-tech bathroom in our hotel room. All the lights were turned off, so I fumbled around until I found the lavatory and sat down to discover the toilet seat was heated. Hot buns seemed a little weird, so I looked down at the plethora of buttons to turn it off. Naturally all the buttons were identified in Kanji, and sadly I don't read or speak Japanese. Guessing that the red button was symbolic for heat (red is international for "hot", right?), I selected the red button. Wow. I was immediately assaulted by stereo Tsunamis erupting from the bowl of Hell and pounding and invading me relentlessly. I've traveled in Europe and am very familiar with bidets. This was no gentle French spray. These were two angry nozzles aimed front and back that seemed more appropriate for pressure washing graffiti off a brick wall. I frantically pressed every button in the vicinity in an effort to end the humiliation until the rocket ride finally ended. I limped back to my bed. "What happened in there?" asked drummer Trent Moorman. "Nothing," I whispered.
I don't have to travel to Japan to make a fool of myself; I'm quite capable in the US of A as well. There's a phenomenon called "tour brain" that infects even the smartest of Einsteins after about three weeks of touring in the confines of a van. One afternoon in Idaho, I succumbed. I decided to wash my clothes in a truck stop bathroom sink in the boonies. It was just me and the mountain ponderosa pines, with nothing around for miles, so I took a calculated risk. I decided to clean ALL my clothes – even the ones I was wearing. The van was parked outside, next to the truck stop. No one would see me streaking by if I just grabbed my wet clothes and bolted back to the open van, where I could quickly slip on the dry sweat pants I had waiting inside the van. Easy. The plan began perfectly as I ran back to the van. But then things unraveled. I was banking on Trent being inside the van with the keys. Instead, the van was locked and Trent was inside the gas station talking on the phone. I was frantically pulling on the locked van door when a convoy of NASCAR wannabee truck drivers in their 18 wheelers pulled up. As the trucks filed into the parking area, I hid on the opposite side of our van, using the Ford Freestar as a barricade. Then the trucks came in on the right side of the van. No problem; I'll just hide on the left side of our van. I kept circling the van looking for refuge until Trent finally came out of the gas station and pressed the remote unlock button. He's a great drummer and an even better friend.
But he, too, has had his fair share "tour brain" outbreaks. We played at a really cool art gallery in Santa Cruz last spring. We were loading our gear into the gallery and Trent had the unfortunate song "My Humps" by Black Eyed Peas stuck in his head. We'd been listening to hours of Prefuse 73, Dabrye, Four Tet, Daedelus, and Lymbyc Systym in the van, but now the first stages of "tour brain" were setting in as mainstream Fergie infected Trent. It started with him simply humming the song while loading gear past the wall of photos in the gallery. Then during his vocal mic soundcheck, he started singing the lyrics "what you gonna do with all them breasts, all them breasts inside that shirt? What you gonna do with all them…" Suddenly every face in the room furrowed with astonished disgust. Trent had failed to notice the photo exhibit next to the stage: an homage to women who had surgically removed their breasts and become men. I've never wanted to leave a stage so bad in my entire life. When Trent was informed of the exhibit, he immediately turned reddish purple and bit his lip, his eyes darting for shelter.
Is there a lesson in all of this? Maybe sleep more? Well… I'm not sure sleep is any safer. In San Francisco, I was sleep walking inside a friend's house after a show at Bottom of the Hill, and trying to open a window that didn't actually exist when I woke up a confused Clay Martin. "Dave, what are you doing?" Clay asked. "I'm opening this window," I apparently replied somewhat annoyed and still asleep. "There is no window there," Clay informed me. I woke up standing with my arms extended against the wall.
-Dave Einmo, Head Like a Kite