Entry 4

[This entry was filed Thursday, April 1.]

“Are there Jews in Fresno?” asks the guitarist, one of two Jews in the band, including myself.

“There are now,” replies one of the singers.


The Big Raisin.

“You know, you guys are the Big Apple. We’re the Big Raisin,” said a guy outside Club Fred, the neon-signed venue where we played tonight to at least 19 people. They have a “Wall of Freds” there. Apparently if you have the patience, knowledge, and inclination to name all the Freds correctly, you win a prize. Since the club’s policy was to not give drinks away to the band (“What if you’re not in the band? Do you get free drinks then?” asked the singer), maybe the prize was a free beer.

Le Wall du Fred
Le Wall du Fred

We got to the hotel, and I got a call from the 6-foot 5-inch dreadlocked keyboardist who had driven down from San Francisco and was at the club. He told me he accidentally started driving the wrong way down a one-way street and some old guy pulled over and yelled at him, “Fucking hippie!”

After the show, a local (in college, at illustrious Wesleyan University, we called the locals “townies”) told me that Esquire magazine had recently named Fresno the sixth most rocking place to live in the United States. “Wait, no, I think it was the WORLD! The sixth most rocking place in the WORLD!”

Apparently Esquire magazine has either never been to Fresno or was being (insert air quotes) ironic.

I am being too harsh, maybe. We actually ended up having a decent show, despite the low turnout and abysmally low amount of money we made—or rather, lost, after the van rental and hotel room. If you take the three CDs (at $10 per) plus the four hotel rooms (there are eight of us traveling on this tour) plus the van rental and gas and subtract it from the $80 we made on the show, I’d say all in all we only lost $130 tonight.

At least some people danced. At one point I counted 15 people dancing.

So why on earth do we do this?

Despite the fact that most people never see a dime from music, it seems everyone is in a band. There are numerous reasons for this. One: The means of music production have gotten so economical to acquire that almost any 15-year-old can program beats and make CD-quality tracks in his or her own basement. Two: My generation (and those younger than me) grew up having more attention paid to them than any generation prior—Super 8 cameras, video cameras, still cameras were all stealing our souls and getting us addicted to the cracklike sensation of fame. Three: Of course you can’t have a list of sources to blame for the ills of the world and not include MTV.

In theory, people join bands because they want fame, money, sex, drugs. The last two are generally easier to come by.

Though not in Fresno. At least not for us.

Singing girl
Singing girl

Surprisingly, the band is getting along rather well. In the van on the way down here (eight people and all of our equipment) we played guitar and sang Beatles songs. That was the most fun I recall having in the tour van. Maybe our getting along is attributable to the fact that certain members of the band have decided to simply stop speaking to other certain members of the band. We’ve had a lot of fights, all of us.

I once wrote an e-mail to the lead singer that contained a paragraph composed entirely of a single word: asshole.

I was referring to him.

We hardly speak, he and I. He did come to the barbecue I had for the band the other night. He was cordial. There’s an unspoken pact of non-speaking. It just makes it easier. If only I could remember why it was we don’t speak.

I recently had the strange experience of reading a book by the former drummer of a band I used to be in called Calamine. (You may remember us from Cartoon Network’s Sealab 2021 theme song?) During the time in which the book takes place, the band was called Stephonic. The book, titled Baby Plays Around, describes the author becoming the drummer in Stephonic while her marriage simultaneously falls apart. It was eerie—as if I was reading a diary of two years of my own life, written from someone else’s point of view.

There was a particular night described in the book where I made a snide comment to her about an upcoming show for which we were one of the supporting bands. I told her she should know who Richard Lloyd is because she is a music journalist, isn’t she? Apparently it made her so mad she called the singer that night at 4 a.m. and threatened to quit the band.

What’s funny is that I, too, hadn’t known who Richard Lloyd was—I knew the name but had to look up which band he was in.

Nonetheless, the incident made me realize how much things we say or do can upset people without us having any idea. In this band, I think we do this a lot. I am often surprised to find out months later that one or another member has been pissed at me for something I did three months ago.

Tomorrow we drive to Oakland for what promises to be another delightful evening.

Other highlights from today: lunch at Denny’s. Why is “Moons Over My Hammy” always funny?

In the van I thought of a good name for a lesbian band: The Outskirts. Lesbians out there—just give me a percentage.

Les Sans Culottes
Les Sans Culottes

Finished the night with a breakfast burrito from Robertitos taco shop, open 24 hours. The other clientele looked as if this was their first stop after just having been sprung from prison.

Oh, and of course leaving the club, a girl said to one of the guys in the other band, “I’d love to go home with all of you tonight, but I just can’t.”

“How about with some of us?” I asked.

She declined, and I don’t think she even got the joke.

Ah, Fresno …