USA – Winter 2011

PATRON, C’EST MA TOURNEE !
(5 Décembre)

Le bus en cargo improbable, vaisseau fragile fendant la brume du New Jersey. J’y traîne des lèvres gercées et une bouche impatiente de te dire, toi l’inconnu cher ami, toi l’inconnu vieille ordure: je viens te prendre en combat à la régulière, en solitaire, la chanson triste en bandoulière.

De mon trône troué, j’observe la crème des brigands s’acoquiner sur les sièges de notre carrosse périmé, négociant des deals: “j’te file du Whisky, tu m’passes des Pringles”. Pendant que l’un va fumer ses bâtons de morts dans les toilettes au fond du bus en maquillant son délit avec du parfum cheap senteur “rose fanée”, l’une renverse son Dr Pepper par terre en ricanant, poissant un sol au passif déjà lourd de jus.

Ma voix est enfin de retour de son excursion dans les contrées sombres et douloureuses de la Bronchitie orientale, et j’entends bien célébrer chaque soir nos retrouvailles dans un bar différent jusqu’au 17 décembre. Décembre continue de distiller ses surprises, et notre bateau fantôme poursuit sa route à travers le brouillard vers la ville qui dort debout, où elle vomira sa cargaison marginale. Viendra alors le temps du Brooklyn et de son brouhaha bienvenu, de ses sourires familiers, et surtout cette étrange impression que tout le monde a 25 ans et joue dans 4 groupes différents, que l’on peut vivre de burritos, de thé glacé Arizona et de musique.

J’écoute Roland Brou et Mory Kanté comme on va à la messe en Espagne. Je lis Huxley comme on mange quand on a faim. Me voilà enfin à l’opposé de l’ingratitude, au verso du voyage, dans l’ADN de l’aventure.

WHOOPING THROUGH THE WETLANDS
(December 11th)

Dear readers! Been a little while since I got in touch here, the endless road has been repetitive and the cities tend to blend, but I’ve been gathering some rough gems on the path for you to look at.

New York

Welcomed by thick raindrops, we hurried straight to the Trash Bar in Hispterdom/Brooklyn. Not much to mention there, except for the unexpected visit of the mighty Peter “Fantastico” Nevins, back from an inspiring staycation in Europe. The rather uneventful show was followed by lively talks in the massive and gorgeous Radegast Tavern, accompanied by legendary Couchsurfer host David “Awesome” Slone. The usual and infamous Williamsburg street fever was seriously affected by a terribly soaked sky, having me stroll the sidewalks with wet sneakers for two days under never-ending cold showers .

Of course, everything turned into a rush in this city of a thousand moves and I spent a whole day running from one bookstore to the other to check on my poetry books left in consignment this summer. Special mention to Desert Island, amazing comic book store in Brooklyn, where Gabe welcomed my Salade de Crudités with rare enthusiasm. This is where I also get to thank McNally & Jackson in Soho for selling out all of the 24643 books I had left there, making me feel rich and famous all at once. How great it is to reminded that there are still people caring for the written word in this wounded world of ours! It was great to check out the famous store Printed Matter, arriving just in time for the launch of a 1500$ pop up book (my poetry chapbook indeed looked like a cheap joke next to it). I discovered great silk-screen printed books there, but astonishingly, all from European publishers, especially Lubok from Germany. It was then quite enjoyable to head to Harlem and play at The Shrine with its quirky African staff generous in long and tight hugs. The great Leslie Graves had offered to do some back-up vocals and she picked up “I Became Who You Thought I Was” in one minute and nailed it on stage half an hour later, quite the pro. It felt great to share the stage with someone after all these lonely performances. Her show was fantastic in dynamics, lyrics and vocals, and was followed by my pal Anthony’s soulful and heartfelt set of folk and blues-inspired tunes. Fun fact from the evening: Mika met a French girl at The Shrine that was born in the same Tarn village as him and in the exact same year. One gross Falafel and two Mexican cokes later, we were out of the maelstrom, pushing down south.

Philadelphia

Philly felt great right from the start. Funded in 1682! Wow, for once, lots of old and precious history to dig our teeth into! The massive city hall with gorgeous and huge outdoor statues (the constructor spent half of his life on this building only!) has a quirky little story: there was an urban legend that there couldn’t be a building higher than the city hall because the bronze statue of William Penn placed at the very top was deemed a hovering protection of some sort, looking after the city with a kind hand gesture. Because of natural progress and necessary estate expansion, the need quickly came in the 1970’s to build higher buildings and the city finally agreed that they had to outgrow the old city hall and therefore overshadow the ancient protective figure. The story goes that all the local sports teams never won a title once the first skyscraper was erected. When the highest of all was built, the workers made a joke and taped a miniature version of the statue on top of the roof when it was done. Of course, that precise year, the local baseball team came home with the championship title…

The city had a lot to offer for the tiny amount of time we had: a great art museum, the “Rocky steps” where Stallone raised his arms in Rocky #8 or something, the broken Liberty Bell, the Independence Hall, aargh! Torn by tricky decision-making, we chose to take the southern route, marching through great neighborhoods, checking out the Magic Gardens – a Facteur Cheval-esque art installation, mostly outdoors, involving beautiful mosaïc including recycled objects in a maze of colours, words and matters. It is apparently considered a unforgiven crime to visit Philadelphia without having a bite of a local Cheesesteak, so we went to Jim’s, one of the two most legit establishments who mastered and fine-tuned the culinary technique (the other half of the city, definitely divided on the delicate subject, was shouting: “Noooo, c’mon, go to Tony Luke’s!”). The large and charismatic cook put together the famed sandwich in 10 seconds in front of us, finding the time in there to fit two outrageous jokes, scratch his knee and yell something incomprehensible at his colleague. To my utter bewilderment, it tasted extra-yummy (for what is really, cheese, steak and bread, come on) and it was fun checking out the faded autographed pictures of the movie and sports stars expressing their love for Jim’s Cheesesteaks. I especially liked the random picture of Larry King freefalling with a sandwich in his mouth and with a written quote saying “Jim’s gets me high!”. I can’t imagine the logistics behind that picture, that’s sandwich-love right there. The show at The Fire was quite uneventful again, except for a giant plush toy dog that conveniently guarded my merch while was I was striving to rock out on stage. More rain and trouble finding the right bus, more musical fellows and good encounters. A much-craved load of laundry later, we were gone down even souther to Maryland…

Soon, Baltimore, Wilmington and Pittsburgh! Stay tuned!

AN UNLIKELY KINGDOM
(December 12th)

Baltimore of the same

Blazed by a fantasmatic sunset, we landed in Baltimore with eyes full of sleeplessness. A grumpy cab-driver apparently untouched by the all-around Christmas excitement dropped us off at the Sidebar Tavern, famous for being the “punk bar that refuses uptown”, remaining the only place for live music downtown (which in the US, is commonly synonym for “cultural wasteland of commercial high-rises, maze of grey bank buildings and large deserted sidewalks”. All the cool venues are now uptown, which is understandable, because people actually live there. Sandwiched between an extra-weird strip of shady strip clubs and other video-mega-porn-pizza hubs and closed, empty and ugly towers blocking the last rays of sunset, the Sidebar Tavern was an unlikely sight indeed. Not much to mention about the show, except for some mild heckling and a good size crowd, alas going thinner as it was getting late: it was finals week for a lot of students apparently, but also people came to listen to their local friends’s set and few bothered to stick around and listen to this unknown Frenchman, understandable but unforgivable! We stayed in the pleasant hood of Hampden, swarming with antique stores. One stale burrito and an altercation between a public bus driver and a coked-up passenger further down the road, we were off to the unlikely tiniest state of Delaware.

Wilmington, Delawhere?

Dreary doom of Delaware…Funny that the lowest point of the tour should happen right in the middle of it, as if predicted by a classic arc of natural progression. Before laying down the crapola, I should warn that there’s a happy end: it all went uphill from here, as it could have been foreseen as well. First of all, we knew we were in for a trip when until the day of, none of all the Couchsurfing hosts had answered our requests, first time the otherwise-amazing community failed me! To spice up this initial state of stress, we naïvely followed the ridiculous Googlemaps “Public Transit” directions to the venue, taking a train from the Greyhound station and stopping in the most middle of the most nowhere I had ever encountered. Picture this: we’re the only ones coming down the already-poorly packed train, a thick mist is flying off a few inches from the grass, a few cars are scattered in a gloomy parking lot, a silhouette is yelling in the distance (at us? at itself?), sirens go off blaring in the near dark resembling wolves’ howling their welcome at us, it’s pitch black, there is no sign whatsoever to tell us where what is, the backpack straps are painfully digging in our shoulder blades. This country is definitely not optimized for people who don’t own cars and who have never been there before. We then walked through a semi-forest/semi-suburb (there was no sidewalk of course, who would ever walk there?) in order to get to a big road consisting of a classic line-up of junk food chains, grim supermarkets, somber walk-in clinics…

We had an hour walk in front of us, and ô miracle, we randomly came across a shopping cart that was chilling across a high school wall on our day down the wretched commercial road, which fit most of our burden and offered much-appreciated relief for our suffering backs and exhausted minds. There was something quite eerie about pushing a squeaky cart full of luggage through this endless queue of burger joints. When the firefighters’ christmas parade popped out of nowhere, with their unrehearsed and cacophonic symphony of strident sounds and elaborate light show, it was the peak of total random, our point of entrance into the kingdom of extreme unlikeliness. Santa Claus waved at us from the top of a truck and I was hit with one of those strong and bold “What am I doing here?” moments.

The beaten-down and spooky rock/heavy metal club was finally reached after tricky parts of handling the cart down steep hills through crazy cracked-sidewalks. The combination of untrained cart-pushers in a pedestrian-hostile environment was a dangerous cocktail for sure, but after buckets of back-sweat and cheerful driving, we saw the Mojo 13 sign in the distance and exhaled a sigh of extreme body relief. But that was just the end of the first stage of bad surprises… The creepy decoration involved badly drawn sort-of-sexy women, scary-as-hell clowns and circus monkeys, all in all doing a great job at making you feel uneasy the whole time you’re surrounded by them. The booker/bartender was no less than a jerkface and thought that giving me free coke was a fair compensation to my show instead of the money talked about beforehand. The sound guy saved my weary soul that night by being dedicated to giving me the best sound. The rather irritating night in this gross dive bar in disgusting suburbia-land ended well when we went from stranded to saved, thanks to Tim’s (awesome bass player) kind invitation to put his up in his Newark home. I have to state the the headlining band was the worst band I had ever heard in my short life, cumulating musical bad-taste and assholeness in a highly dangerous and inflaming mix, grinding my gears for good after all these troubled trips. A trip to Wawa to get a sandwich wrap wrapped up this sore night out, and we had fun chosing our toppings for our sandwich using a digital screen at 3 am.

Indianapolis is calling for more adventures now, but you shall soon here about our Midwest joys with stories from our stays in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati very soon! Stay tuned. Stay hydrated. Don’t drink and drive.

HIGH AND LOW TIMES IN THE MIDWEST
(December 16th)

Pittsburgh

Oh, bleak and odd pockets of the Amerika! You notice you’re entering the Midwest like a slap on the face, a gentle slap though. Ok, a friendly tap on the back. As I experienced before, as soon as you exit the East Coast and start pushing inland, everything gets a little weirder. The good side of weird, mostly. A fun sign of change is always the shift in tone and length of the Greyhound driver’s introduction talk after we leave the station. On the East Coast, drivers are short and straight-to-the-point, but there, the speeches there tend to be longer, beefier and rougher, sometimes involving humor of some sort, as for example: “Keep your conversations on the phone short and at a low volume, no one cares about what you gonna do and who you’re gonna do it to wherever it is that you’re headin’ “. These legendary speeches (often coming through long-time broken speakers in a concerto of feedbacks and mutters) sound as dated as if they were recorded in the 80’s sometimes, as for example a very often stated: “If you happen to use some of those electronic devices, CD players or K7 players, please keep the volume low in order not to bother the other passengers…” What? K7CD player? Who uses that in 2011? I love you Greyhound drivers, old-fashioned, rough-around-the-edges beasts in uniforms, i love leaving the driving to your reliable hands and eyes… It makes me remember that as you go South, it gets even weirder, weirdness is geographically exponential! I remember this Texas driver last year actually telling jokes all throughout the ride, even when passengers kept calling him out on his outrageous unfunniness.




But I digress. Pittsburgh it is. Strips of snow scattered across the magnificent land, bare naked trees letting the pale winter sun through their scraggy arms, hitting us with low light and weak heat through the bus window. Because we exited on the wrong side of the bus track (yes, never seen before: there was a special one-way lane built only for public buses, on top of now-defunct train tracks), we got lost in a ghost neighborhood, very Detroit-like: huge houses as decaying remains of a glorious industrial era, now broken-windowed, boarded-up and with a ridiculously lush backyard. We went into a burger joint to ask for directions after having been misdirected a couple times and the rude and obnoxious burger-maker got upset about the fact that we couldn’t give him a cross street to work with, giving us rough and useless talk as quoted: “C’mon guys, you’re from fucking France! Well I know where fucking Paris is, it’s by the fucking Eiffel tower or something! See, I know my fucking geography. Now give me a fucking cross street for Christ’s sakes, how do you reckon I can you help you lost dughs out without one fucking cross street? How the hell do you travel like that? Help me help you dudes!”. We thanked him kindly and left before he would yell louder and attempt to put us through his meat grinder for some free French-imported burger patties. The tricky part was to leave without seeming to rush, going for the door in a gentle, very gentle move so that it didn’t look like we were totally just fleeing that loonie’s den.

A creamy soup was waiting for us on a stove after our hour walk through these depressing neighborhoods and we could head to the Rock Room with a restored soul after having recovered from those erratic walks. Located in Polish Hill, a interesting mix of bad-ass punks and resting grannies, this venue was on the good side of weird. Thank god, the show room was separated from the bar room, where giant HD TV screens were showing with cranked-up volume some awful “America’s most violent home videos” type of show consisting of footage of people beating each other up, breaking things or hurting themselves. The line-up regulars were cheering in joyous “oohs” and “aahs”, often in sync, when someone’s car would get smashed by a baseball bat or when someone’s nose would be punched inside his head, or some romantic scene like that. We tried to convince the tight circle of bleached blonde women playing the casino machine in the corner to come listen to live music from abroad, but gambling on a screen still sounded more fun. Famous for its 15 cents perogies on thursdays and lively characters, this was a quirky and oddly charming spot, mixing neighborhood bullies, self-conscious hipsters, notorious drunks and plain old hippies for the same purpose of partying, except with different ideas about what it exactly means.

Also, our hosts had this pretty-awesome bumper sticker: “In 1492, the Native Americans discovered Christopher Columbus lost at sea”. Garett showed us the Harry-Potter like Tower Of Learning or something alike, owned by some university that takes indoor decoration very seriously (I guess you have to justify the insane student fees), and one bagel later, we were out of the Burgh.

Columbusted! Columbus stop

Between deep and agitated naps on the trembling bus window, I managed to catch glimpses of Ohio: flat as a pancake, just like we were warned it would unravel. Under the chalky grey skies of this wearisome winter, I have to admit that this zone didn’t look too inviting, and after getting my soda pop at the gas station for the usual 10-minute stop, I would rush back to the bus illico presto to ensure I was not to be left out in these repellent areas. Quite crazy how everything blends when you move every single day. Where were we yesterday again ? Who did I say that too ? Did I dream this dream in a bus or on an inflatable mattress ? I’m constantly striving to find ways not to repeat myself when I talk about my music project, my tour, my girl, my dog, Montreal, France…A good exercice for a writer, I guess. When the bus dropped us off, we faced another one of those downtown vortex that sucks out all life of the streets after 5pm, and got involved in another public transportation frenzy to find our ways to our host, but we were the welcomed with amazing warmth, in the form of strong hugs, homemade grilled-cheese sandwiches and board-games fun.

The local folky songwriters Brian, Fred and I found ourselves in a rather rare situation that night: waiting for the booker/owner to open up the venue! Usually closed on a Sunday, I guess it messed up their schedule a bit, so we chitchatted in the biting cold until 9.15pm for the doors to be unlocked, but Yalan and Jarod’s warmth, kindness and music-friendliness made up for this little inconvenient episode. It was fun and weird to have both performers and the (few) friends who came to the show waiting outside for the venue to open so that the show could happen! On top of the wonderful staff, what also balanced out the initial disappointment was the absolute splendor of the tastefully-deorated place, most definitely the most beautiful music venue visited on the tour, with incredible asian-style drapes and exotic objects, hyper-comfy couches, a vintage juke-box, fantastic gear and room sound. Too bad the crowd never flowed in, they would have loved it too. Columbus may be rough to start with but on a sunday night, it was really begging for emptiness and failure. It might be the biggest college town in the Us, but on finals week, the timing was a little off and there was dangerously close to no attendance that evening. There was probably something better on TV or at a sports bar or strip club that night too, working against a successful night.

Fred opened up with a mellow set of songs interspersed with tasteful guitar work, coated with a mastered electric sound and strumming technique. I liked when, out of nowhere, he said with a hard-to-read smile, “I’m so old…”. Brian, of the old protest-song school and a supporter of the local Occupy movement, strums weekly his guitar out in the cold there to warm the occupiers with his topical songs “Come on and join us, we’re the 99 percent!” and consorts. You can’t help but respect his solid dedication to causes, and it’s engrossing to still encounter songwriters who trust in music for carrying a meaningful message to rising generations. Alas, I felt bad he had to yell “We need PEACE, NOW!” in front of…pretty much myself (Mika was on his computer, so it doesn’t count) as the attendance grew dimmer when the night progressed.

A bunch of dollar-store chips were swallowed, words of gratefulness exchanged, a Jimmy John’s sandwich was ordered (my favorite chain of the area!) Fun fact: a friend of our host spotted her through the window when we were in the store at 2am, came in and gave us the longest and tightest hug a stranger ever offered to us, followed by “What’s up bro” and other classic lines. Americans, yo.

Cincinnati

This was a peak of our trip, two days in a very inspiring city, full of surprises and great people. The locals joke about the fact that their city is not that great by having stickers that say “Cincinnati is just OK” instead of the usual “I love Cincinnati“, but if this is OK, then we love it! Luck striked again: we arrived just in time for the weekly Couchsurfing community potluck in someone’s lavish apartment, implying fantastic people, Twister entanglement and delicious home-made dishes galore. Walking through Cincy on our first and only day of the tour without a Greyhound trip (long sigh of relief) was great, visiting high-quality contemporary Weston art gallery downtown (where I read highly inspiring local zines) and spending lots of time in up-and-coming hood called Over-The-Rhine, swarming with gem-like independently owned shops, like the incredible YES art gallery specialized in silk-screen printed books and art. This neighborhood was the craziest contrast ever between very scary people, street corners, totally abandoned old brick buildings and very recent fancy restaurants, beautiful second-hand book and clothing stores, art galleries…It was interesting to witness a neighborhood in the thick of massive transitioning, with the obvious and extreme cohabitation of the old ghetto and the first artification/gentrification installments.

The two shows were fun, first a show in a cool and crowded coffeehouse in the student part of the town, Clifton, with on top of the usual laptop tribe 20-something people from Couchsurfing that our host had kindly rounded up for the occasion of me passing through, then a weirder but awesome late-show in a yoga/meditation center. I got to hear there the impressive sound and technique of Gigawatson, emulating his idol Dub FX with energetic vocals and thoughtful lyrics processed through effect and looping pedals, delivering an entertaining mixture of hip-hop, reggae and electronic music. My guitar work feels like it’s getting tighter from playing a lot but my vocal delivery feels sloppier as I feel like I’m straining to get across noisy audiences in big rooms like the noisy coffeehouse that night (It was a very long and packed room and it was hard not be distracted by the constant back-and-forth of people coming in, the excruciating coffee machine sounds, the waitress flying inches away from my guitar every minute to deliver orders in the kitchen…). How also hard it is to connect with your songs deeply and consistenly when you play every single night! I’ll think twice before blaming Neil Young next time he doesn’t look 100% into it on stage…

Us high-plains drifters had come upon an ideal shelter, and had some time to cough up the dust settled in our lungs from our uneven recent days (Yes, Wilmington, it’s you I’m alluding to), but it was time to get in line for another Greyhound bus, and hear another obese driver yell out “Step ahead please, get your tickets ready, OUT OF THE ENVELOPE!”

Indianapolis

Repeated trouble finding healthy food and reliable wi-fi. We watched with perplexity the bored waitresses from Johnny Rockets dance the hippy hippy shake in a mall, moving like poorly-oiled robots: if a customer chooses this specific song on the restaurant jukebox, they have to get out from behind the counter and do this choreography… About six people (a hard-to-break record) asked us during our stay in Indianapolis: “But why did you come to Indianapolis ?”. After a while, I started to ask myself the same question. Even locals agree that Indy is somewhat of a cultural black hole at the crossroads of the US (See? I’m not just a French snob). We still spotted some nice architecture and friendly people, always with a faint “Let’s get the f*** out of here as soon as we can” undertone though. Very conservative and religious, it is the city with the most war memorials in the country, even more than Washington D.C.!

The highlight of the stay was definitely accompanying our host’s protest group “Jobs with Justice” to a pacific protest in front of the Republican Speaker of the house of the Indiana State Bosma’s house door, recently locally famous for trying to push a law making unions weaker in the state (summarizing here for course, find more online). Believe it or not, about 20 people drove half an hour in the “suburbs for the wealthy” and parked in front of this big-shot politician’s massive house with the intention of singing Christmas carols (with adapted lyrics of course) at the doorstep until the cops chase us away. We rang the doorbell, and his wife and 20-something daughter opened. They got really excited, thinking we were actual Christmas carolers, but then their smiles turned backwards as they heard the changed-up lyrics: “On the first day of Christmas, Brian Bosma gave to me, twelve billionaires toasting, eleven bankers counting, ten lobbyists shmoozing, nine bosses milking, eight managers firing, seven bucks an hour, six days a-working, life in poverty! foreclosed homes, three part-time jobs, two percent raise and right to work bill under the tree!“. I also liked the “No-Haired Preacher” one : “Bosma says right-to-work sets us free / lower wages mean more jobs you see! / you can choose any job that you please / Wendy’s, Taco Bell or Mickey D’s!” The girl actually looked at her mom and said: “Hey wait, that’s not how the song goes..”. Once they understood they were a facing a bunch of crazy liberals singing off-tune in the rain to piss off the man of the house, they waved shyly and shut the door, leaving us under an increasing shower that soon shortened our protest-performance (not because of lack of dedication of course, they lyrics sheets were just getting soggy, therefore unreadable). The two women were probably itchy to fly the finger but they were on camera, so they had to smile, rule of thumb! Oh, and we had candles too to look even more the part, but the wind blew our efforts.

Chicago

The grand-ma sitting next to me (window seat, jealous!) drew owls frenetically for an hour on a little heart-shaped notebook. It looked like it was her way of releasing the stress of being cramped in a smelly space full of improbable people, from Amish family whispering a slanted German to recently out-of-jailed dudes (easy to spot: always wearing white and carrying a single plastic bag filled with all their belongings). A sharp and strong wind cutting the cheeks like razorblades greeted us welcome, windy city indeed. The bean in Millenium Park, the Macy’s window displays, the fantastic Shedd world-class aquarium and our sneaking in the 40$ jellyfish special exhibition. After another exhausting Greyhound trip, it was utterly relaxing to be around this quiet animal world, like being cooped up inside a Planet Earth episode, even if I should say they could cut down a little on the fake Amazonian jungle sounds (rainfalls, monkeys, got it, it’s the jungle!) constantly blasting through speakers. Otters are my new faves.

I decided to cancel my last show in Michigan because of transportation technicalities and exhaustion issues, so we’ll have more time in Chicago to check out more exhibitions and try out Jimmy John’s sandwiches. I’m sitting on a bathroom seat underground the Reggie’s Rock Club where I just played and where we’re staying in the “green room”, it’s 4 am and my mind is sore. Mika is snoring unshamefully on a leather couch, it’s been quite the work for him documenting all this craziness, we can’t wait to share the precious footage. (You shall seen events that weren’t even mentioned in this blog, wow! Exclusive content on the way)

This jolly journey is then drawing to an end, voices and melodies are ringing in our ears, faces are meshing in our wired heads, miles are printed painfully on our damaged feet. It feels like we now deserve some serious holidays. And at last, not to feel a highway thundering under us every day. Of course, we’ll miss it all as soon as we’re home for a while, stuck in a luxurious and boring bubble of comfort, but isn’t that the whole push-and-pull charm of it?!

SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE VIEWS
(December 17th)

Afterword

Well, it’s about time to nicely wrap up this excursion diary!  First, let’s get it out of the way, for those of you wondering all this time: yes, I only brought two sweaters on this tour. And I wore them all the time because it was cold, which is why it looks like I always wear the same thing, even if I promise I actually wore different things under it. I hope it didn’t make our photo galleries too monotonous…Oh well, I’ll bring a third one next time and will think of switching outfits more often. Inevitably, I smelled a lot most of the time because of this limited wardrobe: my armpits could have furnished an Indian restaurant in spicy yellow curry for a full winter season, but again, I’m French, so give me a break, I’m supposed to come with stinkiness.

For closure purposes, here are some observations gathered from this crazy strip of US gigs, also inspired and backed-up by comments made by fellow singer-songwriters. Even if I did play for lots of friendly, supportive and respectful music-lovers, I have to say audiences felt a little rough this time around, and I want to believe this is more a bad series of coincidences than signs of worse things to come for the consumption of entertainment:

1. There are still well-educated adults in this world who sit with their backs turned to a performer when he’s on stage performing the songs he wrote and brought with passion, but not without efforts, from very far away.
2. There are still civilized human beings who talk very loudly with their friends, even a few feet away from a performer, making him/her feel like a set of speakers, or a entertaining puppet. And I won’t even mention the short-attention span disastrous phenomenon fueled by new technology gadgets, causing performers to give out their heartfelt words to a forest of laptops, ear-budded buddies and other smartphone freaks, checking out their Facebook for the 45th time when you play a chorus or loose them with your stage banter for a second.
3. It’s getting harder for bands writing original songs to get booked at venues, making them feel like a jukebox.”Everybody wants to hear covers now” was a recurring sentence heard among fellow songwriters on the road.
4. It’s still very common for other performers to greet another performer’s after-show with a muttered, automatic and highly ungenuine “Great set man!’ or “Good job!”. I had the chance to get thrown twice my new favorite: “I like your style, man”.
5. It’s still not unusual to spy other performers sharing the bill with you to show up right when they’re supposed to play and disappear right after they’re done without even a sloppy handshake or a half-assed salute to the other musicians. The best combination is when they do that but still manage to pretend they saw and heard your show (see #4). I guess we don’t all value the same sense of community.

But enough with my whiny rant, I had a blast and met lots of great people, learnt great facts, saw cool acts, heard fun stories, and witnessed unforgettable sights! Thanks a lot for following our adventures,  you kind and curious friends. 2000 views with a peak at 400 one day, wow!
Mickael gathered a lot of awesome footage on the road, and after letting it rest for a while during the holiday season, we’ll edit it in January and a series of kick-ass videos from the tour will be released this winter, so keep your eyes peeled!

The Keys’ next step is an exciting tour in France in February with fellow songwriters Sammy DecosterPollyanna and Odran Trümmel so keep your eyes peeled for more road stories, photos, videos and tour dates closer to you! It also starts to feel like it’s time to think about recording my numerous new songs, but time will come when it shall all fall together nicely. 2012 might be the year of You Can’t Beat Me If I’m Not Playing, The Keys’ 7th musical adventure but who knows?

Have unreasonable daydreams. Feed your fantasies daily. Nurture your friends like you would look after exotic flowers. Give yourself a well-deserved treat at least once a day. Spread love like peanut butter on a never-ending toast. Don’t drink and drive. Keep live music alive. Keep purchasing independent music. Serve and protect. Seven fruits and vegetables, two liters of water (Stay hydrated!), eight hours of sleep a day. Lend an ear to the weirdos.

Off to Southern Ontario now to rest my ringing ears, callused fingers and raspy voice,  I wish you a dreary Christmas and a sappy New Year!

Warmly from Detroit,
Boris Paillard.

 

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when there's no public transportation, there is shopping cart. here we come, wilmington.

when there’s no public transportation, there is shopping cart. here we come, wilmington.

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