Blood Witch Tour Day 5: Dragon Music, Fairy Tales, and Chicken Surprises
After driving cross-country in two days, I can't tell you how excited Vajra was to finally get payed off in the form of music making! It has also been incredibly relaxing to get some chill time in LA, soaking in the sun, and getting to witness a very specific brand of crazy. Coming from New York of course, we are no stranger to crazy, but out here it seems to be the stuff of fairy tales. Now, let me be clear that when I say "crazy." My intention is not to be judgemental of these people. My wish is to compassionately observe them as outside of the realm that most people consider to be "normal". We're all pretty crazy on some level though right?
"Crazy" Anecdote #1
Walking back from Starbucks on Hollywood Boulevard, we observed a cute, middle aged blonde woman whimsically feeding a group of pigeons. We were all naturally intrigued by this fairy woman, and as such may have been blatantly staring. As we walked by, she instantly morphed into an evil fairy and shouted at us, "I fucking hate people! I fucking hate skinny asses!" We weren't exactly sure what she was referring to, but decided it was Annamaria, and her "skinny ass." As we walked towards the hotel, she continued casting "skinny ass" spells in our direction, causing us to reconsider entering the room, lest she fairy stalk us. Luckily for us, she flittered onto a nearby bus, transforming back into the "happy" fairy in the process. Real life Siren!
"Loco" Anecdote #2
En route to acquiring a pre-gig salad, I came upon a woman rolling on top of a star on Hollywood boulevard. She jumped to her feet, ran across the street, and grabbed a can that got crushed by her feet. She then yelled, "Sesame Street! It's all Sesame Street," then, "I'M ALIVE!" Now, having had my share of psychadelic experiences, it seemed possible that this woman was tripping. But it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between "sober insanity," and "insanity" brought on by substances. This leads me to wonder if maybe, just maybe, this woman was actually experiencing freedom and bliss. Maybe the rest of us are the crazy ones, playing by the rules society has laid out for us. Who knows right? The government, man.
"NUTTY" (you'll see what I did there) Anecdote #3:
OK, so this anecdote is less about traditional insanity, and more about a life lived out in an arguably insane fashion. Last night, Vajra went down to the legendary Rainbow Room on Sunset Boulevard, for drinks and Pizza. The room is a storied one, with a firmly cemented place in rock history. "Lemmy" Kilmister was known to frequent the Rainbow, and tributes to the late great Motörhead bassist/singer could be seen all over the place. Another regular as we came to find out, is the legendary pornstar Ron Jeremy. Now, before you jump to disgusted judgemental thoughts of this guy like I did, let's all take a second to remember: Ron's a person. The guy has seen a lot, but happened to end up in a field that doesn't garner a lot of respect. He didn't look particularly healthy or happy, and I found myself feeling sorry for him. But a little research shows that Ron, who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the male in the most pornos (2000+), had a recent near death experience that's left him reconsidering his life. The guy is dealing with the same toolbox and search for meaning that the rest of us are. To quote Ram Dass, we are all "given a heavy curriculum, that's it." Ron was given his curriculum, the fairy and Sesame Street lady were given theirs, and you were given yours. Ram Dass again: "This is your work. There’s no blame, it’s not even wrong, it’s just what you’re given. You hear what I’m saying? It’s interesting. Can you all hear that one?"
Ron Jeremy wasn't the only person "of note" at the Rainbow Wednesday night. We also got to meet and chat with Annamaria's friend, guitarist John Ziegler. John plays in the band VOLTO! with Tool drummer Danny Carey, and hosts a weekly jam session every Monday at the Baked Potato. Other than Danny, John, who in his own words loves drummers, has also played recently with Matt Garstka (of Animals as Leaders) and Chris Coleman. As a drummer, those three names alone are enough to be awestruck, but I was especially struck by how down to earth and engaging John was. I've been trying to suss out the differences between the scenes in LA and NYC, wondering if the clichés are true. John seemed to epitomize a theory of mine: the LA scene feels more accessible than NYC. If we compared the music scenes to socioeconomic status, LA has a true middle class, with opportunity to climb the ranks, bridging the gap to elite. NYC on the other hand, has an elite upper class, and everyone else. These are sweeping generalizations of course, and my own opinions, but potentially relevant ones I think.
As I mentioned previously, we got payed off for all of our driving by getting to make music Thursday night, though, payoff is maybe the wrong word. We arrived at Loaded plenty early to leave lots of time to load in and soundcheck. Upon arriving, we were told nobody would be there to let us in until 6:30; information that had not been previously communicated. We waited for an hour in the urine stained back alley, until the stage manager finally arrived around 6:35.
The stage manager was perfectly nice, but we were informed we would have to use the house kit (which he insisted sounded amazing), or I would have to let the other two bands use my drums. I wanted a chance to showcase the Vajra logo on my bass drum, but I didn't want to risk damage to my kit from drummers I didn't know. Turns out it would've been fine as both of the other bands, Varna and Obsidian Silence (and their drummers) were great. The house kit though... didn't exactly sound amazing. The bass drum sounded like cardboard in the FOH*, lugs were missing from the rack tom, and there were dents in all of the heads. What's more, we didn't actually get a soundcheck*, and the sound on stage was not good as a result. Nonetheless, the energy of the gig felt good to me. Sometimes adversity at a gig can create powerful, frustrated energy, that leads to an almost meditative, quiet intensity. This is my favorite place to make music from. As Brad Mehldau states in the title track from his collaborative effort with Mark Guiliana, Mehliana: "You know, I think of it like taming a dragon. The dragon is the crazy dude and if you don't watch out he'll bite your ass hard. So you need old Joe there to set you straight. But Joe knows about the dragon, because Joe and the dragon are a part of you. So you don't try to kill the dragon - you know, the dragon's where you get all that voodoo shit from, that's where you get your power from. You don't want to snuff him out, you wanna tame him, you wanna actually make friends with him and harness his power so you can use it."
There was one more incredible treat in store for me when I got off the stage Thursday night, drenched in sweat and exhilarated in true fashion. My wonderful girlfriend Emily flew in from NYC to surprise me after our first gig and wish us well on our tour. It still feels like a hallucination, I couldn't believe it. It was like the best surprise birthday party ever, because the only attendee is your favorite person in the world. Unfortunately we are heading out of LA soon, and I hardly will get to see her at all. However, the mere gesture was so touching that it will undoubtedly stay with me throughout the tour as this incredibly positive, energizing force. I love you Emily.
That's it for today. Thanks for reading, and check back tomorrow for more stories from day 6 of Vajra's #bloodwitchtour.
*"Front of house" abbreviation
*I was just informed that for our gig at Molly Malone's, we have to pay $35 if we want a soundcheck. What is this world coming to?!?!