Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good Problems

Tomorrow is the Treasure Island Festival. The next day is my Twenty Third birthday. One year ago today we were in Texas playing the Austin City Limits Festival. I remember curling up exhausted in the front passenger seat of our van in a dirt parking lot listening to Van Morrison singing “Brown Eyed Girl” a couple hundred feet away, watching bleary eyed through a chain link fence as concert-goers trudged to find their cars in far away lots, all sore with the sun and drunk with the music.

I went to bed that night despite the knowledge that the black ARTIST wristband I was sporting could get me anywhere I wanted on 6th street. I was so proud to have been a part of such a thing, I wore it for days and days. I wore it while Joey recounted his night out to all of us as we drove up to Dallas the next day. I wore it that night as we played a side room of some venue whose name escapes me, a handful of kids trickling over from the show next door. I was admiring it on my arm a few minutes before midnight that night when I walked out of the bathroom at CafĂ© Brazil to the entire restaurant singing “Happy Birthday”. I’ve since gone back to that place each time we’re in Dallas, not because the food or coffee is really that great, they use styrofoam cups which bums me out, but because it reminds me of that night. Nothing makes you blush like someone singing a song with your name in it.

We slept that night at the friend of a friend of a girl Bryce was seeing's apartment. She made us food and gave us liquor and insisted on sleeping on the couch and letting me have her bed since it was my birthday. Joey, Will, Aaron, Bryce and I played Dominos and drank and talked about stuff way deeper than we usually get into until we were way too drunk to talk anymore - though there was more to be said I’m sure. I think I demanded that everyone wear silly hats that night in honor of my birth, there was a surplus of them in our van, but that’s another story…

On my birthday proper, we staggered to the van and drove to Oklahoma City. It was raining as we pulled up in behind the venue. That night Tom Petty was headlining the third and final day of Austin City Limits and I would have killed to see him, but we weren’t on tour to see shows, we were there to play them. We took refuge in a record store beside the venue and the band bought me the new TV On The Radio album that had just come out. After we loaded in we discovered a whole bunch of friends we had made on the road that summer had driven out to see us, someone informed the other bands that it was my birthday, and while we played, members of Murder By Death came out on stage with brimming shots of whiskey. After the set people kept buying me drinks, I was of such little help packing up our gear that I was instructed to just go sit in the van. I fought the tugging and spinning of gravity around me and put on TV On The Radio, stared out into the muddy Oklahoma night, feeling complacent for once. I got a second wind at the hotel but made little sense to those around me.

The last year hasn’t felt like actual time passing, it feels more like the memory of a dream than of actual events - I sometimes wonder if it all really happened, if its maybe some big dillusion. The record label we signed to had a big merger and fired a couple hundred people, in the shuffle our record didn’t get promoted as we had hoped, but we found ourselves on amazing tours. I spent a few months in New York. I couldn’t write there, though I found a million things to write about now. I’ve been able to venture down into the heart of it all, into the corner offices of CEOs, into the dressing rooms of icons, across all the main thoroughfares, down the side-streets and back roads, into the ghettos and suburbs, into the homes and apartments and dorm rooms of people of all ages and shapes and backgrounds - and what I’ve found has been disappointingly, yet refreshingly, human.

When we first had a couple record labels clawing at us a while back, we got an entertainment lawyer. The first time he sat down with us, he told us that he was there for our problems but we should recognize that there are "good problems" like which record label to sign to, and "bad problems" like illness or incarceration. It takes a way bigger person than me to not take a good problem for granted. I've been doing way too much of that this last year.

Tomorrow night at midnight, after we’ve loaded up the van, after I’ve finally seen Modest Mouse perform, I hope to be doing something special with people I care about. I don’t want to hit the bars, I know what I’m missing there and I’m glad to be missing it. I want it to have some meaning to me. I know birthdays are just notches on the yardstick of life, just another day, but I need a reason to have a fresh start, a fresh point of view on things, wrongs to right and write about, rights to re-right, and so on and so forth. I feel like I’m on the brink of something good, I just gotta be patient and keep it together.

Cant wait to see everyone on Treasure Island tomorrow.