Snow, spew and other tales from Luna's tour of New York City
By Dean Wareham
Over the course of eight weeks in January and February 2001, New York band Luna decided to promote its new live album by undertaking an extensive tour of its hometown's clubs, playing in a different one each weekend. Up holding the great rock tradition of the tour diary, Luna's frontman Dean Wareham agreed to share his thoughts about his band's exciting travels-and travails.
December 31, 2000
I thought it would be an honor and a privilege to ring in the real new millennium (not the phony millennium) at the most glamorous club in New York, CBGB. We had to shovel a path through the snow - the show took place during "Storm 2000" - so we could load our equipment into the club. After sound check, we all ran home to rest for a few hours before show time. I live a mere two blocks from CBGB but our drummer Lee Wall's apartment is all the way up on West 73rd Street. I took a long nap in the early evening, and when I arrived at the club, there was a long line at the bar. Luckily, club owner Hilly Kristal bought me a drink, and a nice couple gave me a bottle of champagne.
We had decided to have our comedian friend Todd Barry open the show. He was a little nervous about opening for a rock band, so I told him about the time I saw a comedian opening for Ray Charles get booed off the stage at Tramps. Todd asked Sean Eden (our guitarist) and me to introduce him and then told the audience it was the worst introduction he had ever received. He spent most of his time onstage dealing with hecklers, which he seemed to enjoy.
By the time we were ready to play, the crowd was rowdy and drunk. During the second song, a guy (whose girlfriend had been heckling Todd) vomited on the side of the stage and all over the amplifier of our bassist, Britta Phillips. Nice. I heard that someone else got kicked out after he punched his girlfriend in the face. And another drunken fool knocked out the webcast camera by swinging from the rafters; he, too, was ejected. On the positive side, a nice lady got onstage and gave Lee a big kiss. We started our set with "Egg Nog" and ended with "Rock Your Baby" by George McCrae. Some guy kept calling out for "City Kitty", which we never play. By the time we had finished packing up our equipment, it was about 2:30am. It had been along day.
January 8, 2001
Today we recorded basic tracks for some new songs at our practice space. Now I need to write the lyrics.
We rehearsed for our big weekend at the Mercury Lounge. We figured we ought to mix up the set a little, so we ran through some songs we haven't played in many years, like I Can't Wait (Lee always wants to do the fast ones), "Freakin' and Peakin’” and "City Kitty" (which can sound a little murky). At night, I watched the new Pollock film, which wasn't bad. I didn't learn very much, though, except that there was a hot chick in the car with Jackson when he drove it into a tree.
It's more difficult to find a cab going east on Houston Street than one going west, and on weekend nights, the traffic is ridiculous - so I had to walk over to the Mercury Lounge on Friday evening. We like to arrive about an hour before show time, to sit and have a drink or two before hitting the stage. I must say it gets a bit hot and stinky in the club's basement dressing room. The crowd was a little subdued, but midway through the set things started to percolate - right after we played "City Kitty," perhaps. After the show there was some discussion about where we should go for a drink. We ended up at 2A, where there was some discussion about Cheap Trick. I had one too many vodkas and went home to sleep.
I didn't feel so great. I tried to nap all day but couldn't - although I did manage to get a cab to the Mercury Lounge. We were all a little tired, but soon enough, we were back onstage. David Knowles (of Champale) played a trumpet solo on "Bewitched”, and I almost got a little misty. My Buttface fuzz pedal wouldn't work during "Bonnie and Clyde”. I must replace the battery before we play Maxwell's next weekend.
Today The New Yorker came in the mail; it included a nice cartoon drawing of us, which was done by Aggi of the Pastels (a very influential Scottish rock band). I got some phone calls from people who were suitably impressed. The New Yorker, or course, has bourgeois credibility. (Note to self. See if they'd be interested in a tour diary).
At 5pm, we met at my place to drive to Hoboken in my purple Subaru Impreza. Todd Abramson at Maxwell's had said he was going to present us with a special certificate for being the band that has played the most sold-out shows there (breaking the "record" held by the Feelies), but he didn't. The good thing about Maxwell's is that they feed you at the restaurant, but then you have three hours to kill before show time. So you wind up hanging out in the basement, next to the bottles of bleach and urinal blocks and syrup jugs, staring at graffiti that's been there for ten years. Luckily, we could look forward to the Mink Lungs set, which was great-they have hilarious songs and are dynamic performers to boot.
Tonight's crowd was well behaved. One time at Maxwell's a few years ago, some jerk stole a bunch of our pedals right off the stage and ran out the door. Now when we play there, Sean keeps a watchful eye on our stuff-including my Buttface pedal, which sounded nasty tonight (it's supposed to).
The second show at Maxwell's took place as old man winter unleashed his fury on the region once again. We played "Sweet Child o' Mine", as a favor to one of the waitresses at the club. After the show, I sat with Todd in the basement, watching him count the money. He counts money pretty slowly. We all drove back to the city, dropping Lee at the exit from the Holland Tunnel, Britta in Chinatown, and me back at Bowery and Bleecker, trying to smoke a cigarette and carry two guitars while battling the wind and snow.
Luna's tour of New York City concludes at the Knitting Factory Friday 2 and Saturday 3. Live Is out Tuesday 6 on Beggars Banquet.