May 6, 2009 at 1:46 am (Music) (, , , , , , )

Hey!  I’m in Houston.  When last I left you I was still staying in Johnson City, getting over some health problems, and ready to head deeper South.

I decided to spend an afternoon in Nashville on my way to Huntsville, even though I didn’t have a gig, because I had never been to Nashville and really wanted to see it.  Unfortunately the weather interfered.  It rained my whole way there, cleared up for about an hour right when I got there, and then shifted into a complete downpour, causing me to give up and leave.  As mentioned before, I failed to get together with my brother (family drama!), and I also failed to get together with Heather Larkin, another singer I know from NY.  I got ahold of her upon my arrival, but she was bartending in a private club so I couldn’t even visit her at work.  I enjoyed a nice burrito at one of the Broadway bars, but by that time, as a vegetarian in the South, I felt like I’d fulfilled my Mexican food quota for the next four years.  I somewhat enjoyed by walk around the downtown area, but the bad weather coupled with hunger/an inability to locate an affordable dinner that didn’t involve beans and cheese and tortillas kept me from fully enjoying myself.  I was happy to see so many working musicians in town (almost every bar on Broadway seemed to feature live music), although would have appreciated hearing more talent and less tourist attraction.  But I can’t say much because I didn’t go into any of those places to give them a chance.  I’m a picky listener!

I headed off to Huntsville to stay at my Uncle’s house when the rain really started coming down, and it only got worse from there.  It went from an inconvenience on the road from Johnson City to Nashville to a nightmare on the way to Huntsville as it rained harder and harder and I faced Stupid Amanda problems.  I didn’t know how to defog the windows, so I had to drive the whole way with them down, even though I was already soaking wet and cold from running around Nashville.  The rain was so bad I could hardly see a thing, and I couldn’t get my brights on.  I knew what you do when you start hydroplaning (pump the break!), but not how to prevent it in the first place, besides don’t drive too fast- but it’s all so relative, how do you know how fast is too fast?  The trip ended up taking about twice as long as it was supposed to, and involved me not seeing a sharp turn in the road close to my destination and hitting someone’s curb so hard that I knocked a plastic guard halfway off the bottom of my car.  My Uncle removed it and put it in the trunk, and he didn’t seem to think it was any big deal, but I’m so afraid they’re going to charge me an arm and a leg at Avis.  I mean, think how much they charge you when you don’t fill up the gas tank all the way!  What do you think?  Should I be worried/try to get someone to fix it before I head back up, should I not say anything and hope they don’t notice, or will they just not care because all they have to do is like screw it back on, it’s just a piece of plastic anyways?  Anyone know?

I’d never been to my Uncle’s house and it was wonderful!  So big and painted such delightful colors, and beautifully decorated.  We got a little caught up, but it was so late when I got there because of the rain that I went to sleep shortly after.

The next day I got up and drove 15 hours to Austin.  It was way too early and way to long but I just didn’t see any other way of doing it.  I had originally wanted to stay with relatives in Mobile, but we couldn’t get ahold of them (seems they were out of town that week), and anyway the extra day I got stuck in Johnson City because of being *ahem* sick meant I had to rush to Austin for my gig on the 3rd.

15 hours is a lot of driving for someone who drives, let alone for someone like me who just a week earlier was telling people they barely even knew how to drive.  And I didn’t take any long breaks- no half hour at Denny’s to enjoy a leisurely dinner, just grab what I need and go.  Including a (TMI warning!) stop at CVS to chat with the pharmacist and pick up some cream- seems one kind of infection had led to another, which she seemed to think was normal.  (I’m so lucky all my doctors and pharmacists this trip have been women- I just can’t believe that a male pharmacist would be so knowledgeable about these things!)  Cranky vagina.

I kind of bumped into the toll booth entering Austin.  I’m lucky I didn’t hurt the car!  Forget about me, just protect the car!  I kind of exaggerated to the rental company how much insurance I’m covered for, so they wouldn’t make me pay extra…

So I had thought I’d be staying with my uncle, but he actually had me stay at a friend’s house, which was totally amazing.  They have this- I dunno what it’s called, but I felt like I was in a Columbian drug lord’s palace.  It was huge, Spanish, castle-like, and I stayed in a separate guest house within the castle gates.  They had a gorgeous pool, two outdoor fireplaces, a front door that looked like a drawbridge, and a really sweet, mellow dog.  Everything was decorated creatively and tastefully, and they stocked my fridge with bottled water and Coke.

The next afternoon I worked out, went to a vegetarian lunch with my hostess and my uncle, practiced Sorcerer, and went to the botanic gardens by myself to enjoy the nice weather.  Then I had to take off for my gig.

The club, Room 710, was pretty cool, with a really neat old round bar.  I met some nice people there who were all hanging out before heading off to hear a math rock band.  One of them was a bass player, and I invited him to sit in with me, which he did.  Awesome!  I love making new bandmates on the spot.  I think that helped the audience reaction, since he knew half the people in the room so they were extremely polite and attentive.  But even the ones he didn’t know were great- one of the best audiences so far.  Not a lot of people, but they were completely focused on us and dead quiet.

I was opening for Richard Lloyd and the Sufi Monkeys, but at the time I booked I was the only opening act- by the time I got there there were two others after me.  They told me they were charging a cover and whatever money was left after the headliners got their guarantee would be split among the other bands, which was fine with me.  Except it meant I had to wait until the end of the night, at 2am, to get paid.  That was pretty much ok, because I knew the drummer from the last band so I wanted to stay and see him anyways, but man, was I exhausted.  The set was amazing- if anyone has a chance to catch them on tour, DO IT!!!!- but even though I was loving it I was nodding off.  Then as they were yelling at the crowds to leave, the bartender called me over and said they just barely made enough to cover the headliner’s guarantee, so they wouldn’t be paying the rest of us anything.  They tried to be nice about it but I just wanted to cry.  I’m totally in the hole at this point, since I haven’t been successful in selling t-shirts and CDs, wasn’t paid for one of the gigs I expected to be paid for, and had my doctor visit that took all the money I made from the one night I made any.  Plus I had just driven for 15 hours (plus the drive the day before) to make this gig.  And they hadn’t put up my flyers.  They forgot.  But I was less angry when I got a MySpace message from someone who apparently went to the club a few days before I played, and someone there told him to check out my music.  How nice is that??  They totally talked me up to their customers, even before meeting me.  You can’t buy publicity like that.  So now I’m not mad they didn’t put up my flyers.  And at least they were nice to me when they didn’t pay me.  They should have given us free drinks though, instead of this $1 off crap.

Austin was a really great town- it wasn’t as hippie-ish as Asheville, and less corporate-feeling than San Fransisco.

Yesterday I arrived at my friend’s apartment in downtown Houston.  She is a new dog owner, having just obtained an adorable chiuaua a week ago.  The dog is adorable, still getting settled into life in it’s new home, kind of nervous but starting to relax and be herself.

So in Houston I have gigs at three Dunn Bros. Coffee locations- Houston, Katy, and Spring.  The first night I played Houston.  My hostess, Carolyn, came, her friend from Boston who lives here, his friend from church, and a friend of a friend in New York.  So there were people there, even though there weren’t many people in the cafe.  I had a couple people stop to listen, but none of them paid me.  wtf?  Hello, there’s a tip jar, put in a freaking dollar.  Trust me, it’s more money to me than it is to you.

I played my whole set and had fun, and then we hung out afterward with Carolyn’s friend.  They’re charismatic Christians, so that was a little weird, but this is the Bible Belt I guess.  Oh that reminds me, Fox News was playing on the TV behind me while I played.  My friend called it “a little distracting.”  Weird, ’cause most of the places I’ve played so far have been super-liberal, even in these little Southern cities like Winston-Salem and Knoxville.  One tends to think a coffee shop is going to be not so Fox-newsy, but then it was a very corporate-feeling cafe- it’s a franchise, I believe, with lots of branches.  Well, I don’t mind, I’m not a political person at all, I just know what kind of reputation that channel has where I live so I know it’s ironic that I was playing my set in front of it.

Today Carolyn and I decided to be tourists- she’s only lived in Houston a short time and doesn’t know it very well.  So we tried to do touristy things but we kind of sucked at it.  We walked to the Market Square area but it was way too hot and muggy to be outside.  Then we went to the underground tunnels, but they were super-lame and sterile.  Most of the places weren’t even open.  Then we went to the observation deck at the top of the Chase Tower, which was cool ’cause it was free!  Then we drove to Rice Village to check out the shops, but it ended up being lamer than we expected, plus there was a lot of traffic so by the time we got there I didn’t have much time before I had to leave for my gig.  But we went into a really fabulous store called Variety 5 & 10, which the tourist attraction site I had been reading recommended.  It had the most bizarre things (my favorite section was the Jewish toys aisle, with children’s masks representing the biblical plagues and a plush Seder food set), and little toys and trinkets that seemed to be legitimately from when we were like 2.

After that I had to rush off to my gig, and at this point I started to totally hate Houston.  And my GPS.  See, they have these tollways, right?  Which is fine.  I’ll pay a toll.  It’s not like NY where you have to pay friggin $8 to take a bridge.  The problem is, these tollways are ONLY accessible to people who have Texas EZ Pass.  It’s not like other states where there’s a bunch of lanes for EZ pass, and then a couple for cash.  It’s, you either have the EZ pass sticker, or you don’t take the tollway.  OK fine I’ll go the slow way.  Except?  My GPS doesn’t get it.  No matter how many times I ignore her directions to get on the tollway, she keeps directing me towards it, rendering her completely useless, because I can’t get on it and she won’t help me unless I do.  I had to drive all over the place today before I finally got far enough away from the Tollway that she let me go a different route.  I ended up 15 minutes late for my own gig, whereas I usually aim to get there like an hour before.  I was quite frazzled.

So I get there- and I called them to ask directions so they knew I’d be late- and the mic and PA were not set up and there were no customers.  When I wandered back to use the bathroom I saw there was a group of teenagers in the back room, but it was so separated from where I was performing, and they were having a study group so it seemed clear they weren’t going to come join me.

Anyways, I started playing anyways, for the baristas, and eventually the kids in the back got involved, clapping and cheering from the other room.  It was pretty funny, I called them my invisible fan club and they cheered every time I gave them a shout out over the microphone.  And halfway through my set a mom came in with two little kids and sat down at the “stage” area.  She told me between songs that her 5-year-old son was into guitars, so they came to see musicians at the cafe whenever they could.  Fortunately I had gone through the “adult” portion of my set already (that’s how I got the attention of the crowd in the back room), and they enjoyed the rest of my set.  I talked to the kids between the songs, and they gave me $5 before they left which was the only money I made all night.  I played all my originals plus one cover song, and then I got a couple different sets of directions to try to get home on, and after turning the wrong way and driving in that direction for 10 miles before figuring it out and getting turned around, I made it back to Carolyn’s, and we went out for Tex Mex in celebration (accidentally) of Cinco de Mayo.

I came back here and finished my article for CS.  I don’t know if it’ll make it into the July issue, as I turned it in a little late and hadn’t given them a definite heads-up that it was coming.  But it was a big article, in terms of covering important topics and doing an enormous amont of research for it, so even if it has to wait a month I’m glad it’s done with.

It’s been several days and so much has happened that I’m probably forgetting something, but I’m tired so good night!

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