Our first night with the Pernice Bros. in Minneapolis was effectively our first show as a three-piece and we were all amped-up to play well and do a good job. We were joining the tour midway and our first show was the last show for the Bigger Lovers who had been the support band up until this point. They were indulging in some end-of-tour celebrations with the Bros. and there was much ass-grabbing posing as back-slapping and other drunken revelry at the end of the night.
The Long Winters are not really a particularly “drinky” band, and so during this first night of getting to know each other there were numerous occasions where one or the other of the Pernice Bros. would offer us a beer or a shot and, for the most part, we would politely decline. Perhaps, thinking back, they also may have attempted to tell one or two ribald jokes to break the ice with us and it is possible that I may have responded to those jokes by just staring back at the person, unsmiling. This is my way of being friendly.
Anyway, one way or another the Pernice Brothers got it into their heads that we were a straight-edge, Christian band. For the next few nights they spoke to us in that hyper-polite way that musicians use to speak to “straight” people, where they open their eyes extra-wide and nod emphatically at every stupid thing you say. As soon as I noticed this vibe developing I played up to it even more, refusing to laugh at even the most innocent joke and making extra-vague comments that suggested maybe I was in the service of a Pentecostal Rock organization. Why not? It beats watching TV.
We all had a good laugh about it later when Joe Pernice finally made a cautious enquiry about whether or not we were Christians and I told him to take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. Good times.
For some reason this tour is turning into the Indian Wars Battlefield tour, as Michael and I made a detour on our way to Indianapolis to visit the Tippecanoe Battlefield. Actually, we stopped to get a sandwich at a charmless gas station and then saw the signs pointing to the battlefield. I vaguely recollected that Tippecanoe had something to do with the War of 1812, and I knew the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!”, but I had no memory of what happened there or why it should have happened in rural Indiana, or what Tyler had to do with it. We followed the road through a couple of po-dunk towns and found the battlefield park off some forgotten road. It’s not such a hot destination anymore.
Well, it turns out that it was another battle between the Army and the Indians who were, as usual, refusing to be put on reservations and continuing to stand in the way of progress, etc. The great Indian leader Tecumseh, (after whom many Midwestern strip-malls and roadside motels are named), was trying to unite the Indian tribes to resist the whites and Indiana was then the Western Frontier. The Indians lost this battle and the US Army burned their villages and declared it a heroic victory and so forth, and many years later William Henry Harrison used his status as hero (!?) of the battle to propel himself into the White House.
Now, I’m a sensitive, lefty indie-rocker with the best of
them, but I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint, popular among the activist set, that the American Government is some monolithic entity which is now and has always been bent on war and enslavement, and that their treatment of the Indians constitutes a genocide on par with the extermination of the Jews, and that it represents a consistent, racist agenda which is written in a secret, leather-bound manual hidden in the pant-leg of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
This version of American history is very popular among high-school sophomores who love Jim Morrison, Antioch dialectics-majors, Germans with “Crazy Horse” tattoos, and New York fashion models whose boyfriends’ friends read “Dude, Where’s My Country?” I guess it’s a more enlightened view than the old ‘50’s grade-school history version, wherein the Cowboys and Indians shot cap guns at each other and then, poof!, everyone went home to dinner and Eisenhower built the Interstate Highways, but this ‘new history’ where Uncle Sam has dollar-signs for eyeballs and is crushing Indians and Blacks under his jack-boots is worse than false, it’s dull and false.
All these battlegrounds that dot our landscape represent a European invasion of America, a pestilential spread of humans from one place to another. It’s what people do, when we’re not building aqueducts and mud-mounds. Travelling back and forth across America you take notice of the fact that every county in the Midwest has a Fredericksburg, and a Louisville, and a St. Wackadoo, and that all of these dried-up old towns sprung up where some German or Norwegian or French settler stopped his wagon and started cutting down trees. Humans are a plague, and determining who’s responsible for the death of the Indians in America is like trying to lick a bee.
Here’s what Tecumseh said, (probably liberally translated by his literary-minded biographer), when he returned to the site of Tippecanoe in 1812:
I stand upon the ashes of my own home, where my own wigwam had sent up its fire to the Great Spirit, and there I summoned the spirits of the braves who had fallen in their vain attempt to protect their homes from the grasping invader, and as I snuffed up the smell of their blood from the ground, I swore once more eternal hatred- the hatred of an avenger.
Yes! Fuckin-A! The hatred of an avenger! This kind of shit makes me cry, my heart filling with doomed glory. Too bad the white people just kept coming with their damn wireless internet. Or rather, too bad Tecumseh didn’t invent the Gatling gun.
Sooo… meanwhile, back on the indie-rock front, shout-outs to our homies in Milwaukee, Chicago and Ft. Wayne, big ups to the Leopold Bros. crew in Ann Arbor, and mad props to Brooklyn and Boston and the Doberman Rescue Society. Word.
As I drive along on the Interstates at night I often find myself in a river of 18-wheelers, coursing through the night without a single other passenger car in sight. It is an amazing natural phenomenon to feel yourself swept up in this stream; the number of semi-trucks in America is too terrible to think about. Such an incredible dedication of resources dedicated to moving Pampers and teeth-whitening strips from one Wal-mart to another. Meanwhile the Airforce has to have a bake-sale to build a bomber. Oh wait… no they don’t.
One night, hurtling along surrounded by these spooky, dark creatures, it occurred to me just how many of them must have been painted by Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer. He worked as a truck-painter for over twenty years at the Kenworth plant in Auburn, WA., and in that time must have put his hands on tens of thousands of “rigs”. That realization made his crimes seem even more grotesque to me, that his killer’s hands were fashioning these paper boats and floating them down the stream to eddy in our rivers for a generation.
We played our own show in Brooklyn with our label-mates Aveo, and all the Barsuk kids turned out: Matthew and Ira from Nada Surf, John Flansburgh and his wife Robin from They Might Be Giants, and the now world-famous Barsuk-mafia. DCFC was in town too and much goofing off and drink-spilling transpired. We love NYC so much it’s always a little sad to leave.
I spent an afternoon in the New York State Museum/Library/Archives in Albany today, looking at fakey dioramas of tenement life in the 1800’s and reflecting on how many of those Irish and Italian manequins must have joined the US Army and shipped off to fight the Indians. The museum also has a Sesame Street exhibit, which kept me transfixed for several minutes and left me with a lingering hankering for applesauce, and a 9/11 exhibit featuring the landing gear from a 767 and a seat-belt/arm rest assembly, both of which were found in the rubble. They were displayed like religious relics and I regarded them with reverent awe.