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Music: Go West, Young Band

With hopes as high as the Colorado sky, Homunculus heads west

By Sarah Hawkins · September 12th, 2002 · Music
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  Homunculus' Kevin Shima and Christopher Ellison (bottom-top) lead the group during a gig in San Francisco
Homunculus' Kevin Shima and Christopher Ellison (bottom-top) lead the group during a gig in San Francisco



Make me feel good, rock 'n' roll band
I'm your biggest fan
California, I'm comin' home

Joni Mitchell's melodies floated through my head about three weeks before my trip to San Francisco. I hadn't played Blue in months; the song just came to me on its own. I couldn't wait to get to California. In addition to visiting friends and relaxing for a week in the west coast sun, I'd get a rare opportunity to bring a bit of Cincinnati to San Francisco with me. My trip coincided with Homunculus' west coast tour. Although it's a stretch to say I'm their biggest fan, I have been to many a show ­ here in Cincinnati and in Chicago ­ over the past five years. So I was truly looking forward to seeing them in San Francisco.

I've been to California many times ­ first at 18 for a National Lampoon's-esque family vacation, at 28 for a marathon, at 29 just because. In the back of my mind, beyond Joni Mitchell's warbling and vistas of fog rolling into San Francisco in a thin stream along the Golden Gate, I thought surely by now the thrill would be gone.

But of course that wasn't true. When I stepped off the plane, immediately I knew one thing: anywhere in California is more my home than Cincinnati will ever be. The Golden Gate Bridge will always thrill me; I'll always be amazed by the way waves and sunshine make shiny happy people out of us all. I will move to California, and I knew that at 18. Now finally I'm ready, both personally and professionally, to make the big move. As it turns out, Homunculus feels the same way. We're at the same crossroads, ready for the next phase. Several years ago, one of the band members said they wouldn't travel to California and play for the labels until they were truly ready. That time has come.

On Aug. 20, I stepped out of a plane in Oakland, California. That night, Homunculus' van cruised across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Berkeley. The band was booked for two shows in San Francisco, two in Los Angeles (the infamous Viper Room and The Mint), and one in San Diego. Label reps would be at their shows in Los Angeles. The band would meet with their former manager (who now works for a division of EMI) and A&R representatives from various labels. One broke BareNaked Ladies. Another had signed No Doubt.

Homunculus was ready. To grow, they had to leave home and go west. Along the way, Ben Doepke, Christopher Ellison, Adam Schoen and Kevin Shima would write of their travels, goals, fears, fights and dreams. Homunculus' trip west, in their own words. A long-awaited journey, for a band whose time has come.

Saturday, Aug. 17
On the road, Cincinnati to St. Louis -- Adam Didn't get to bed till about 4:30 a.m. or so. The last night at the Mad Frog was really good ­ hopefully that sets the tone for the West Coast trip. The crowd was not only larger than expected, but very vocal and supportive!! Thought we all played a tight show together ­ Kevin seemed to have some issues with Ben's key's covering up his guitar on a few songs. But, other than that, all good! I tried to explain to Kevin that it's a stage volume problem not an arrangement problem necessarily ­ I heard them both great from where I was standing....

Finish off the packing, finish off some wedding stuff and Kelly helps me pack shit into her car before we head to the band house. She's sad and it makes me sad too ­ we really didn't get to hang out as much as I'd like before this trip ­ all the wedding stuff, her graduate classes, work etc ­ now it's Saturday Aug. 17 and we leave. I know she's happy and excited for me and it's a great feeling. Kelly's very supportive of this entire trip ­ so it makes it a lot easier on me to leave for two weeks during wedding plans.

We say our good-byes at the band house and I start loading stuff up with Cupcake (Christopher Ellison). Ben left for St. Louis with Sarah earlier that morning. Rawle set a 1 p.m. departure time ­ of course that was to get everyone there early: it's called the "mock ETD" ­ usually used for Kevin or Cupcake who sometimes show up when we are supposed to leave, then spend some time getting stuff together. Kelly had already left so unfortunately I wasted over an hour when I could have been hanging with her. Oh well. The band set's sail about 2 p.m.

Rawle takes first shift ­ I get out the portable CD player and crank up the last minute CDR mix I made. All the classic songs that crack us up: "Through The Years" (Kenny Rogers), "Roni" and "My Prerogative" (Bobby Brown), "Jungle Love" (Morris Day and The Time) and some Peabo Bryson ­ hells yes!! Come on!!

Cupcake writes in my journal: "And Adam really is the greatest of all times! But then again, Ben's mom's sideburns are pretty nice too". Thanks, Cupcake, for that excerpt. Anyway, drive is long ­ I drive from right outside Indy to St. Louis. Hit Cicero's and miss sound check. No biggie ­ we put our back line-up behind the opener's stuff. they are called Thos. We order a couple of pizzas from the club. They are quite tasty.

Not many people at the club. We do two sets. I had the pitch problem again ­ it had been a while since that had happened last. This wash of sound comes from the bass amp. I can hear the bass, but can't decipher specific notes and what the pitch of the note is. Makes singing extremely difficult -- even if I am singing perfectly, I can't tell that I am. I play softer during the second set and push the volume up a bit ­ this seems to help slightly. After the show, we decide to take Mark and Hannah (Ben's girlfriend's sister and her husband) up on their offer to crash at their pad. Extremely generous of them.

Cup, Rawle and I split the small bedroom and Kev and Ben take some floor space on the main floor. I wash up, get into some comfy clothes and hit the sack. Long night. Long last two nights. Sleep comes easily.

**Things to do this trip:

-- drink lots of water

-- take vitamins

-- this journal

Sunday, Aug. 18
St. Louis, In the a.m. -- Ben Funny how on these trips, the town becomes a chapter or heading ... even if what happens there is unimpressive. Last night -- or tonight, or whatever -- for instance. Pretty shit set and poor attendance, but if you think about it like baseball, we got our worst at-bats out of the way in batting practice. Hope so. Tired.

70 West, to Wyoming, 3 p.m. -- Ben Ate granola and did quick stretch/ab/push-up for morning wake-up; spent the night at Mark and Hannah's. Good people. Generous and warm. Mark's sister and her fiancée (Jennie and Andrew) were in town last night, visiting from San Diego. We'll see them next weekend. So weird. This trip is rapidly emerging from names, numbers, points on a map to some sort of reality. How does this happen? So peculiar crossing bridge from abstract to concrete. And hilarious -- I still need to call Dayle at the Viper to lock up pretty much all the details for Friday. Yeah, seat of the pants. Boys are in Waffle House/McDonald's/Subway getting 11 a.m. breakfast. I'm just hanging out in the van, parked at the adjacent gas station. Neil Young, windows down after rain, still gray and humid as hell. "Old Laughing Lady." I was concerned about money before the trip, but $30 of dry goods should cover me for most of the trip. I hope. I only have another $30 or $40 for the liquid expenditure. But it's going to be okay. Just want to relax and soak this shit up. Get to Nebraska tonight.

7:52 p.m. Adam and Cupcake are about to get smoked in rummy. Rawle disengaged and K's driving.

8:43 p.m. Cupcake is a bitch. He did not shuffle and went out after one turn. Bullshit.

11:03 p.m. Adam makes up some shit, didn't like his eight of clubs, picked up different card and went out. Debate and hysteria ensue. Cupcake calls Adam out. Adam calls Cupcake's bluff and offers re-deal. Cupcake refuses. More debate and hysteria. Rawle re-engages, back from his nani-nooni. Full re-enactment ... debate and hysteria.

11:14 p.m. Play resumes, Brian Eno "Drawn from Life" plays. Final scores Cupcake: 495, Adam: 1005, Ben: 935

Monday, Aug. 19
Cheyenne, Wyoming, 12:55 pm -- Cupcake We are just now leaving the beautiful town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Last night we arrived in Cheyenne with much excitement. Why were we so excited one may ask? Well why not? How often have you been to Cheyenne? Wyoming is cowboy country and although the road looks perfectly straight and flat, this van seems to be jumping around like fucking crazy making it hard to write. As I look out of the window all I see is rolling hills with dead grass. I am in Wyoming! What the fuck!?! I feel like I am in a cigarette commercial.

Cheyenne, Wyoming, 3:30 pm -- Adam Couldn't sleep last night at all. I had a horrible dream. I guess with the wedding coming up and all the stress associated with it, iit finally came up and bit me on the ass. Can't remember it exactly, but basically was at my wedding ­ the bridesmaids are walking out and I wasn't out there waiting for Kel, so I ran out there through all the people sitting and watching. Looked like a jackass of course. I then realize that none of my groomsmen are out there either! I start freaking out. Next thing I know, all of our friends whisk Kel away to our hotel suite and tell me not to go there for another two hours. Then there's riots and mob rule and other sketchy events. Then, when I finally get to the suite, Kel is nowhere to be found.

Basically, not a good thing to wake to. And to top it off, my damn alarm went off an hour early. I didn't realize it 'cause I wasn't sleeping well anyway. So I got up first and showered. The boys were not happy. That left us more time for IHOP breakfast and a trip to Target. Picked up a cheap pair of cargo pants 'cause I only had one pair of shorts and one pair of pants and it was cold last night in Cheyenne! Feeling a bit sick from the last two weeks of no sleep, tour and wedding preparations stress and everything else. I put in a couple of hours of driving the bus ­ it's absolutely beautiful out there. Flat AND mountains. Amazing. It was a fun drive but started feeling ill. We stopped at the Flying J for gas and I picked up a Rolling Stone mag, Diet Pepsi, a water and a sweet cowboy shirt ­ snap buttons and rose on both front breast pockets. WINNER! I had to get it. Ben takes over driving and pops in a sweet Charlie Hayden disc ­ enjoying the view.

Salt Lake City, Utah, 10:46 p.m. -- Adam Got to Susan and Mike's house in Salt Lake ­ extremely nice people. They went out and bought us some pizza and beer. A few of us went out and played some whiffle ball before dinner. It was good to get some exercise after being in the van for so many hours. Got in touch with Aunt Evie and Dad to confirm our arrival in both the Bay area and L.A. Dad seems pumped to have us stay there with him. The place is small and hot. I hope I can get some sleep. Nyquil you are my god tonight ­ save me.

Somewhere in Wyoming, 1:26 a.m., Cupcake I just saw an oversize replica of Abe Lincoln's head. Random! There are now big hills on each side of us. I think we will be in the mountains soon. I think that I really enjoy different rock formations. It will be a sight to see a lot more.

Tuesday, Aug. 20
Nevada, 12:55 pm -- Ben Just crossed Utah to Nevada. Great to see Susan last night. On the way out today, we passed the Great Salt Desert. Stopped and ran 'round out in those flats. Mind-blowing. Totally mind-blowing. Still in the desert, but not quite as salty. Still, loads of beautiful mountains. Just finished my lentil soup and Thai soup (yeah, dry goods!) so the breath is good and strong. Just ask Adam. Or don't--he'll talk to you about it regardless. Here comes the 1 p.m. rummy game, featuring the standard four players, Cupcake, Adam, Rawle and I. Kevin's driving, we're listening to Me'shell N'degeocello's Anthropology record.

3:00 pm Cupcake is losing too badly in rummy (Adam 690, Ben 705, Rawle 580, Cupcake 225), takes over driving, listening to Steely Dan's Two Against Nature. Rummy game finishes: Adam 690, Rawle 800, and I win with 1000!

7:07 pm Another game is wrapped up (Ben 1045, Rawle 1060, Adam 810). Grabbed quick dinner in Reno. Wendy's (two baked potatoes, two peanut butter jelly's from the back seat). The drive has been beautiful. Dayle and The Viper called Adam's cell, left a message for me on his voice mail. She did not give me a load-in time, a money deal or set length. All she said is that we'd been over it and that the soundguy called me. Both of these things are a) irrelevant and b) incorrect. I have not heard from the soundguy and Dayle has given me no numbers (Upon returning home, I found a message from Frank, the soundguy, but nothing from Dayle. I had told Dayle that we'd only be able to get messages on the cell, so why she had Frank call the house is beyond me). This bullshit is the only aspect worse than the money. Everything else is gorgeous. Time to get to the Bay, get out of Reno.

Reno, 7:15 pm, Cupcake I just lost $3 to a Nascar Slot machine in Reno. Damn!

Salt Lake City -- Cupcake I like it here! This city is a place to relax and enjoy life. The mountains outline the city, the streets are clean and wide, people are friendly, the food is good, and the parks are filled with children and dogs. What more do you need? This place seems to be a good place to chill, relax, and enjoy life. The only down side I might see is that it is in the middle of nowhere. I have to come to back sometime. I was charmed by Salt Lake City.

Berkeley, Adam's father's house -- Kevin Last Saturday I had only been to 30 of the 50 United States of America. We traveled on 80W through Nebraska, Wyoming and Nevada, which became states 31, 32, and 33 for me. The appearance of people shift with the land: in NYC they look like skyscrapers, in Nebraska they look like corn, in Nevada they look like cactus and sand. The odd exception was the two German girls who made us Subway sandwiches on the border of Utah and Nevada. "Vut u like cheese unt mayo vit dat?" they said to me and Adam.

The hardest thing to do on a road trip is to not anticipate arrival. To pass time, I like to have Olympic three-meter springboard diving competitions with various colored pens. Cupcake plays video games and Rawle, Ben, and Adam like to argue endlessly about Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and their respective RBIs and ERAs. It would be useful to put a tube in the back seat that could be urinated into and released outside the van.

Wednesday, Aug. 21
Berkeley ­ my town, 12:29 a.m. -- Adam Well, we got to Dad's safe and sound. He was waiting up for us when we arrived. Bruce (our van) took the mountain up to Dad's place really well ­ it's a damn steep incline. It's so surreal being out here, not just being here where I spent summer and winter vacations as a kid, but being here with my band. It's crazy. I think the other guys think I am a freak cause I point out every little thing I see: "There's Shattuck Ave, there's Telegraph Ave, We're in Berkeley now ...

the greatest city on earth!!" I just love it here ­ always have. Always wanted to move here. Utah was hot as hell. Here in the East Bay though, it's so pleasant -- clear skies, clear air. It's pristine. I love it.

Cupcake and I shared some beers up on the patio. I am going to sleep in my old room. Cup and Rawle are in the room next door with the two twin beds. Kev and Ben in the Rec room (Kev on the couch and Ben with just his sleeping bag on the floor). I don't know why he does that ­ I offered him some more padding and blankets and a pillow but he refused. Is he comfy or is he being a hardass?? Proving something?? He is very low maintenance, that is for sure. He drove from Reno to Oakland (and earlier in the day too). He's got a lot of energy, but was the first one to pass out tonight. I think I'll sleep well tonight. I got a bed and a few beers in me and it's nice and cool in the house. Oh yeah, A's win again ­ tied for first place!

Ready to konk ­ tiredness overcomes me. Unfortunately, this bed squeaks whenever I move even in the slightest, even while I write in my journal!!??? Glad I never had any girlfriends out here!

Thursday, Aug. 21
San Francisco -- Ben We met Steve, the owner of Red Devil Lounge. Apparently, he used to drum for Counting Crows and ThirdEye Blind. Pretty funny. He seems like a great guy, keeps a Roland V-drum set up in the booking office. Nice people.

We've since loaded in, sound checked and dressed and again, I'm sitting at Polk and Clay in the van. The club is beautiful, sound system is decent & all the people are friendly. Hopefully, we can get some bodies in the room tonight, and then again tomorrow night. If that fiasco between these two clubs proves as silly as I think, we'll be fortunate and redeemed (there was some mild upset at the prospect of booking back-to-back nights in the same town). At this point, though, there's no sense in fretting over it. Just play, put something into it and get something out of it. Let's do a good show; that's all I'm thinking, now. Woo-hoo! Finally here, let's make it worth the drive.

4:55pm, Berkeley -- Adam Got up at 10 a.m., hit some internet and showered. Coffee, bagel and banana for grub. Put on the new Flaming Lips album while surfing the net ­ the album is fantastic. I suggest it highly.

Kev, Rawle and Cup hit the hot tub for a bit. Ben squares away some details for the Viper Room show. Supposedly, Ben had worked out a money deal for the show but apparently the person running the club, Dayle, had no idea what he was talking about. So, we're looking at getting screwed with the money deal yet again. Finally find the club, looks like it's in China Town. Or the outskirts of China Town. A's up 1-0!

2:30 a.m., Red Devil Lounge, San Francisco -- Adam Tired now. Gonna head to bed ­ but first a recap: Got to the club. Ben and Rawle met up with the Red Devil booking team. We got a spot held for us right next to the club! Hung around for a bit, then Ben, Rawle, Cup and I hit Poncho's for some fatty burritos. Also $1 mugs of Anchor Steam ­ San Francisco beer. We then get Kev and all head to a coffee joint. It's brisk in the city. Good conversation all around. Wide ranging, from traveling, to oral sex to why Rawle doesn't like coffee (he's a chai tea man).

Load in time goes well. Christopher the sound guy is friends and bandmates with our friend Kevin Seal. Nice guy and the stage sound's really good. Club is small but very nice. We met the owner (Steve) who is the original Counting Crow's drummer and also played drums for Third Eye Blind. He confirms my suspicion that Steven Jenkins of TEB is a jackass. I tell him I thought he was, but his girlfriend, Charlize Therron, is something special.

We're in the area of San Francisco known as The Tenderloin. Apparently Rawle and Cup witness an undercover sting operation going down with a cop dressed as a hooker. Interesting.

A's win eight Straight!!

Get a call from Jorge that David Katznelson, who's releasing Words nationally on his label, Howling Records, is coming out. Also, big meeting on Saturday in L.A. with David, Jorge, Sue and the band.

Talked with Kelly a bit. She's doing well. Thinking of changing her graduate school program. Seems excited about the possibility. I'm behind her 100%. Could be a good opportunity. I miss her a lot and it's good to hear her voice. And her voice sounds happy! I remember talking to her from my Europe trip right after we graduated college and worrying that she was going to lose interest in the relationship while I was gone. Now, years later and on the verge of marriage, I am at ease! She's so supportive and understanding about all this "music stuff." She enables me to do this. I wouldn't be able to do any of it if it weren't for her understanding, support, patience and love. She means the world to me.

Show goes on at 9 p.m. with the opener Dan Durrah from Chicago. We hit it at 10 p.m. Crowd is not so big. 35 peeps maybe? Show starts well for me, then I butcher the intro to "Get Outta The Way." Don't know why the fingers on my right hand will not cooperate. Sucks! Finish the song strong, then butcher some harmonies in "Design" ­ damn! All else good till "OK" when my monitor feeds back in a gigantic way. My head splits and I lose my place in one of the last choruses on the bass. Pretty embarrassing, but I saddle back up and ride it out. Close the show with a strong "Crosseyed and Painless." We get a good applause and we're done. One hour set. With all the stress we caused with the two-night SF mess, the staff here is really cool to us and definitely dug it. Good news. Need a big showing tomorrow at The Last Day Saloon. 60 ­ 80 peeps is necessary!

Friday, Aug. 23
At a hotel between San Francisco and Los Angeles -- Kevin We performed at Red Devil Lounge and Last Day Saloon in San Fran on Wednesday and Thursday. Intimate but enthusiastic crowds on both nights. Serious dancing happened on Thursday. Those moments when the crowd, the music and the musicians are all swimming together make the years of hard work meaningful. It's a feeling I think we can magnify by making ourselves more invisible on stage. Tony Bennett's formula for successful performance is to prioritize the audience first, the music second, and the musician third. Finally, after years of cardinal sin, I am learning to put myself lower down on that list, and it makes breathing onstage a lot easier.

We're all nervous about our show at the Viper Room tomorrow because there will be important record people, record label moguls, and television stars in attendance.

11:55 a.m., Somewhere between L.A. and San Francisco -- Adam What a night ­ and not all so great. Found the club, The Last Day Saloon, and got a killer spot out front. Looked pretty good throughout the downstairs. The club part is upstairs and we couldn't get up there till 7 p.m. Rawle and I played Ben and Cup in darts ­ they won by one bulls-eye. Very close match. Now Rawle and I owe Cup a beer.

We all then walked around town. The neighborhood looked basically like China Town, or as one guy put it, "the functional China Town." Lots of Chinese shops and eateries with chickens hanging in the window ­ ugh. Cup, Rawle and I wrestled some Fish and Chips at a pub. Very, very good, but greasy.

The long and short of it is, we double booked SF which is basically a no-no. Got called out on it by the booker of The Last Day Saloon and some people at the Red Devil before we came out. All would be forgotten if we pulled in the number we said we would, so the more people who came, the better I felt. My friends Amy, Joel and Ryan (who I hadn't seen for about seven years) all showed up too!

We finally hit the stage about 11 p.m. Show starts well but takes a steady decline. The monitors were great, but my monitor mix was lacking and I quickly had the pitch problem arise from my bass amp 'cause I couldn't hear the higher toned instruments (the guitar and keys). Thus, when I sang, I couldn't tell if I was on key or not. That fucking frustrating feeling all over again. So, I had to bail out of harmonies on "Your Own Design" and was not very strong on the others.

Set break comes. I go straight to the sound guy Mike and tell him what I need in the monitor. I say goodbye to some peeps during break. It's late for some of the older people who have to work early. Rawle tells me to get on stage, the bartender yells at me and the sound guy yells at me to get back on. I run around looking for the other guys. I see Kevin by the stage and search for Ben and Cup. Find Ben near the stairs, says he's ready, still no Cupcake. I feel the eyes upon me from the sound guy and bartender and get on stage, thinking the guys will see me and hustle. Kev is now gone and Ben is in his place in front of the stage. I'm on stage by myself looking like an idiot for a good seven minutes or so. Finally, they all get on stage, but not before Ben and I get in a tiff after I barked at him. He basically tells me to fuck off and we begin the first song of the second set. After the tune, I apologize to him. He kind of acknowledges it and it's now time to move on.

Turns out we basically pulled in exactly what we told the club we would do. In my eyes, crisis over! A very good showing for a Thursday night!

We decide to head down a bit towards L.A. instead of heading back to Dad's in the East Bay. We are taking a friend of the band, Jeff Puma, with us down there, but he disappears for over an hour. While waiting for him, Kevin calls me out about the set break incident and how I got fired up. He said it was me pulling an "old Kevin Shima moment" which hurt my feelings 'cause I heard about those days when he'd lose his shit. I tried to explain the pressure that was put on me, from Rawle and two reps of the club, and how that always happens. The reps always find me and tell me to get on stage. Thus, I am responsible and it makes me feel uncomfortable when I'm standing there myself after peeps have told me it's time to get going. We hash it out a bit ­ then it's done. Puma arrives, apologizes and we all head out towards L.A.

While on 101 South, Rawle calls Ben out for driving too fast and the argument begins. Ben begins to drive at 55 m.ph. while cars speed by us. There's no turning back now. It's a full scale "situation" now. We drive past Gilroy (garlic capital of the world) about one hour from SF and get on 152 East, through the mountains and the San Luis Obispo reservoir. We find a Super 8 and head in. I can't understand at 5 a.m. why they can't give us a damn room for half price considering we are basically taking a freaking nap. We doze for five hours, get up and head to LA.

On our way now. Just stopped at Subway for some grub. Still got a ways to go yet. Ben is driving at a good speed. We're full and happy.

In the a. m., East of Gilroy, CA -- Ben Up in the hills east of Gilroy at a Super 8 just west of I-5. The show Wednesday was great, played our asses of and put 50 people in a club that might otherwise have seen no one. After the show, the van wouldn't start, so we hung out on Polk & Clay waiting for help. Eventually, a gentleman named Kevin stopped to help us with a jump. Late night. Yesterday, we hung out on Telegraph again, ate some amazing Thai food with Kevin Seal (Lemongrass, could we get some more coconut milk? Thai Express, could we get some more vegetables?). The show at Last Day Saloon in the Richmond District was a disappointment. The energy was thin largely because I think we were all a little jittery about the attendance and business issues (which, as it turned out was fine: 80). Still, we had some serious discussion afterward about professionalism, focus and solid communication of responsibility. I think it's sorted out.

Tonight is L.A. and for tonight, at least, I hope the bad show/good show cycle continues because once again, we're due for the good show. We're supposed to meet record moguls from several labels at The Viper Room tonight. Howling Records is releasing a remixed version of Words, and we just had a meeting with Howling Records exec David Katznelson at Red Devil Wednesday. He was very Los Angeles, as were his buddies Wayne & Dave (or something). Very over the top. I'm trying to get focused for tonight so that when we arrive in a few hours, we won't get swept up or discouraged in that environment. We are here to play songs that we know, that we wrote and that we've played hundreds of times. The only necessary task, now is to do it all again, as naturally and passionately as possible. This mean get tight, get on the same emotional page. No bullshit. Any extraneous crap needs to be kept on the perimeter, leaving our circle intact and tightly knit, loosely relaxed and open to each other.

2:14 p.m., on the way to L.A. -- Adam Cupcake's most selfless act ever: Ben asks for gum and Cup hands three pieces up for Ben, Rawle and myself. And he takes none! He's really coming into his own.

Saturday, Aug. 24
The Viper Room, Los Angeles -- Adam What a night. loaded in at the Viper room last night about 5:30 p.m. or so. Met with Jorge at 8 p.m. at The Hustler shop on Sunset for coffee. Discussed some biz and we were all able to relax and have fun. Viper Room was small. Not what we expected, but, fuck, it's the Viper Room on Sunset!!

Suited up right after our meeting with Jorge. Jeff Puma was interviewing us for an article he's going to write for a paper in the Northeast. He was interviewing me while I was suiting up. I hope he got enough. I see my friend Laura through the windows. She was waiting on her brother Kevin who is on the show Alias and his two friends Trisha and Keely. Kevin, Keely and Trisha arrive with other friend Mike who was on the show Party of Five and in the movie Leaving Los Vegas.

Crowd was great. A packed room of strangers, fans and industry people. Sue and David of our label were there too supporting! Our set order was written by Jorge. We felt uncomfortable by it, but we had to fight threw it. Set overall: not great, but not terrible. David liked it and said the other industry people there liked it too, so we did our jobs. Afterwards, I walked around with samplers and made Rawle pull the mailing list out of the trunk in the trailer, It had been packed in. I signed a few people up on the list and handed out samplers to people who were really, really excited to get them and (who said) that they were going to come the next night at the Mint as well. They said they could get the samplers out to others and bring more people to the Mint. Rawle motioned me to load, but I figured getting people on the list and promoting us to people warranted them picking up my slack for a bit. Obviously not. Rawle was upset at me on van ride home saying, "When I tell you to load, you have to do it." I see his point, but I also drove out here to spread the word about Homunculus. I was talking to five people on network TV. Those are important people to have on your side. You never know who knows who. The exchange with Rawle put me in a bad mood.

Got to Aunt Eve's and Uncle Russ's place late -- house was spectacular as always. Eve and Russ and cousin Judd all got up when the dog's started barking. They set us up in the bedrooms and sleep comes easily.

Sunday, Aug. 25
Los Angeles, Adam's uncle's home , (big, beautiful and on top of a hill with a breathtaking view) -- Kevin L.A. is a different planet. I feel like we're part of the cast of the Truman Show. This house has palm trees, a pool in the back yard and a great view of the valley. We owe a lot of thanks to the people that have opened their homes to us over the years -- we've been very, very lucky.

The Viper Room was a lot less intimidating than I built it up to be. The sound guys were cool, and the horror stories I heard about all the plastic L.A. snobs were not accurate. The place was packed with our audience and the audience of the opening band Supremium. I liked them because they reminded me of Elvis Costello. Apparently their guitarist used to play in The Romantics.

The most outstanding characteristic of the people out here is that they are unafraid of interacting with each other. If I hold a door for someone they say "thank you." If I say "thank you" they smile and say "you're welcome." Eye contact is very comfortable, and seems almost mandatory. Out here, I feel comfortable revealing myself, my sex, and my personality. In Cincinnati, I feel afraid.

On Saturday we swam in the Pacific Ocean and I kept thinking north was south. Ben ran around the beach in a black bathing suit that was slightly less inner-thigh-revealing than a bikini brief, but held his manhood just as compact. It was hard to tell if the hottie sunbathing girls were freaked out or turned on. Hopefully for Ben it was a combination of the two.

Calabasas, north of LA at Adam's aunt's house, 1:00 p.m. -- Ben Kind of figured I wouldn't get in a whole lot of writing once I got down here. Friday, we left the Super 8, got into LA around 5 and hit the Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard shortly thereafter. My first impression of the club was "What's everybody's problem?" Dayle, the booker was immediately dismissive and the two soundguys--Frank and Joe--were just curt and unaffected. Told to load our equipment into the club. We were then told to load about half of it back into the trailer, for "spatial considerations." Turns out that everyone had a soft underbelly as Dayle told me I was a big pain in the ass, but that it was okay because I'm cute. After the show, Frank and Joe lightened up amd the whole club seemed to warm up. There was great attendance, though only 60 showed up specifically to see us.

After the Viper Room show, we learned that one record company mogul had stayed the entire time annd loved it. We'll see what that means. After the show we drove the hour up to Calabasas. They live in a gated community, and the guy operating the booth was so bizarre. We gave him a cookie and he didn't even blink as he took it. Incidentally, he accepted a sampler disc and a granola bar last night in the same manner.

Last night at the Mint was cool, but again only about 60 showed up. In both cases, the club seemed pleased, but I'm admittedly a little disappointed. The show was fine ­ short. but fine. Hung out with the security man, Dexter, who dropped all kinds of rules-of-the-industry knowledge on us. Prior to the show yesterday, we played on Hermosa Beach. Ate dinner at Karalyn Shima's friend Lance's spot. It was beautiful. Got to watch the sunset. Today, we go to San Diego--more beach! Feeling so good and healthy, I've been getting in some good runs every day. This weather is ridiculous. okay, quick jump in the pool (overlooking the city, mountains and valley) and grab a bagel. Then we're out.

On the road, Los Angeles to San Diego, 5:45 p.m. -- Adam Just pulled over by a cop ­ Kevin driving. Apparently, we have to be in the far right lane and can only go 55 because of the trailer. No ticket given. Sweet. We are on our way to San Diego from L.A. Got up at 11 a.m. today and just hung around the house. Aunt Eve and Uncle Russ were so great to us ­ we had a blast. Talked with Kelly. She was a bit upset on the phone. There is a lot of stress and pressure on her right now with everything ­ wedding, grad school, honeymoon, me being away. We miss each other and it will be good to get home. I feel guilty about being out here sometimes and sticking her with all of that wedding stuff while I am traveling. But, this is my job and she knows this. I am extremely exhausted ­ can't wait to have a couple of days of no shows to rest my voice. A's losing 7-2 in the 7th inning came back to win. Unbelievable ­ 12 in a row!

Monday, Aug. 26
Las Vegas, Super 8, 9:53 p.m. -- Ben The boys are out at the casinos. I stayed behind because the stuff doesn't interest me. There is a tangible sadness amidst the flash and glitter, an emptiness that hurts my chest the way my ears and head ripple when the windows open and close as the van shoots down the highways at 80 m.p.h. It's that physical. Walking to the 7-Eleven, I was approached by a lady pushing a baby stroller. She wanted money. Standing in front of the only building between the hotel and convenience store, a casino, this lady needed money. I just feel so strange, surrounded by this casual flipping of cash. None of it feels right.

The show in San Diego had its moments, but the morale has dipped, I think. A fight in the parking lot behind the club was our first introduction to the area. Just two drunks, violent and strange but with this crew, first impressions go far. That and I think everyone's just a little unsettled, not having been out this long before.

The thing is, I'm really enjoying the trip. I think what we need is to get some gratification either from this most recent record's commercial viability or through new material's artistic excitement. Right now, we're not getting much of either, so the professional aspect of the tour seems somewhat hollow. Our sensibilities remind us that we need to put on good, inspired shows..

Rest. Get good and rested for Denver. Long drive tomorrow.

Tuesday, Aug. 27
Los Angeles and Las Vegas -- Adam

Wake to the sound of jumbo jets taking off and landing at the nearby airport and the sun beating down on my face from the window. It's almost 9 a.m. Rawle asks me for the time. I hop in the shower and sit outside. It's beautiful. Ben and Cup were nowhere to be found, but show up wet from the beach. They apparently slept in the van??!!! We head to breakfast with the ladies and get a greasy diner meal. Say our good-byes and head to Vegas Baby! Takes a bit to get there ­ five hours?? And it's good to see the casinos from afar. Was hard to get a hotel with the holiday coming up . We went in and out of three before we snatched up two rooms at the Super 8 off the strip.

Cup and I share a room and Rawle, Kevin and Ben in the other. Cup, Rawle, Kev and I immediately head to the buffet at the Flamingo casino. Takes 20 minutes and $16 to get in but ­ Jesus! I ate about 55 crab legs, 35 shrimp, salmon, red snapper, mussels, seafood ravioli. Delicious. We stuffed ourselves, adjusted and then Rawle and I shoveled down some desert. We were anxious to hit some black jack, so we grabbed a cab to the Sahara for the $1 tables. Got settled in (and) Cup and I started played. The dealer, Joey from Korea, seemed like an ass: didn't talk, seemed angry. Then Victoria came in for a bit. She talked a bit more. Rawle joined us and we were in for the long haul.

Eventually we got Joey talking a lot and cracking jokes. It was more fun at this point. We were betting small and drinking large. At one point, I had two bets of $15 each. The guy playing third base hit when he should of stayed to force the dealer to bust. He got to 21, but the dealer didn't bust and the rest of us lost. If he would have held, we all would have won. I said something like, "You gotta stay on those, man" and he got really pissed and started yelling at me, "I'm a grown man, I can do what I want." He kept getting on me but I just took it, though he basically cost me $30 by playing like moron.

Got up this morning, showered and we head to Colorado. Stopped for some Subway and now back in the van listening to my new CDs that Danny had given me. Some live Thelonious Monk right now.

Wednesday, Aug. 28
Denver at Quixote's True Blue, Shortly after 9 p.m. -- Ben Well, it's Wednesday night in Denver and truth be told, were it not for the drive here, I'm with Kevin, who said, "I feel like I'm in Columbus". Of course, maybe we're in a very isolated neighborhood, so I'm not writing off the city entirely.

Yesterday, we drove all fucking day, until about 1 in the morning. Through Vail into a tiny little town called Frisco. The cutest one-street town I've ever seen, surrounded entirely by mountains. Stayed at the Sky-Vue Motel, which, for $60 featured an oven range with pots and pans, dishes, two beds and a pullout couch! Are you kidding me?

In less exciting news, my funds have dwindled. I'm down to about $20 a bag of granola/currants, a few fried lentil cups and some quick rice boxes. Four days still to go. Uh-oh! I'll be subsisting largely on peanut butter & jellies, granola bars and Mike & Ikes that we got from Sam's Club. I'm disappointed because I wanted to be able to buy Sarah Timm some dinner in Chicago. I'll be lucky to buy my own. Dammit.

Quixote's is very jammy-wammy. It's been Grateful Dead all night so far. Tie-dyes everywhere. That's kind of cool because it's a guarantee that there will be some music ears. It will also be a refreshing change from a lot of the places we've played. The downside is that I just don't feel too comfortable in the psychedelic scene. Our music is not as compatible with it as once it might have been.

But whatever. It's Wednesday night, so if anybody shows up, I'll be grateful. Not dead. Hah! Okay, it's official: I've lost my mind.

All my clothes are filthy and I'm too broke for a focking Laundromat. Maybe we can dump some stuff into a motel's wash here in Denver (or are we staying in Boulder tonight?). Cool thing is that we won't have to do much traveling until Friday. Okay, I'm going to suit up to rock this Wednesday night room. Come on.

Thursday, Aug. 29
Another Super 8, but now in Boulder, Shortly after noon -- Ben In spite of everything I might have guessed about last night's turnout, and the overall quality of the show, it was very well attended and we actually played some decent music.

Saw some familiar faces--Jake from my Bloomington Subway Sandwich artist days, Erin Daly from Bloomington and Chicago, and Kate from Cincinnati. All the fans were so friendly and laid back.

We got shafted on the door. Our set took us from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. The booker/doorman Jay Bianchi stopped collecting at midnight. I told him this bothered me after the show. I would have made a real scene right then--as Adam had suggested I should--but considering how well the night had transpired... I will call him next week after the word of our professionalism has sunk in, and after contacting his buddy in New York (and our booking contact up there, incidentally), Howie, for advice. It is definitely not about the $100 or so that we might have missed (Rawle estimated another 20 or 30 came through the door after Jay stopped collecting at $4 a head) but more about the disrespect and unprofessionalism shown to us. It was a blatant display of disregard. And tho' we suffered a similar disservice at the Viper in LA, this was no Viper.

But now, here in Boulder, I'm writing on the steps of our motel, having been woken at 9 a.m. by the heavy road construction only 30 feet away. The mountains are beautiful and tho' my morning run managed somehow to elude any sort of campus center, the mountainous backdrops made for a pleasant morning. Some granola, granola bars, water and lobby coffee have provided the illusion of a balanced breakfast. Now, I await the rising of the crew so that perhaps we can get into town to check things out.

Friday, Aug. 30
Same Super 8 as yesterday, On bench in front of lobby -- Ben Adam's on his cell phone with the rest of the world. Last night's shows crappy. None of our projected people turned out, and the regular club crowd was largely disinterested. For about 20 minutes, we had perhaps 30 people involved. After a half hour break, everyone disengaged. Very demoralizing. We're trying to put that behind us over the next couple of days (all driving up to Chicago) beginning with last night's late Taco Bell. I didn't really have any, save for the tail end of Adam's burrito. But I have my own ways of getting back on the horse. Into the van, on to the road.

Boulder, 10 a.m. -- Adam Pumped to play last show of the tour in Chicago on Sunday at the Wise Fool's Pub. But we found out our boys will be out of town ­ meaning crowd will be smaller. Shit, our last few shows there have had not so great attendance 'cause of the summer slowness. We can't afford it this time. And the bar will not be happy with another bad crowd. Hope we can pull it off. Just listened to the Flaming Lips album again ­ it gets better and better each time!

On the road, Boulder to Chicago, 6:34 p.m., rummy game -- Ben Game stopped short due to shift in the driver's seat, scores stopped at: Ben 735, Rawle 510, Cupcake 545, Adam 835.

Sunday, Sept. 1 & Monday, Sept. 2
The Road Home, Chicago to Cincinnati -- Adam I watched the A's game on the cell again. They won in the bottom of ninth when Tejada hit a three run homer to erase the one run deficit and lead the A's to their 18th straight win. I was so pumped and ready to play a good show at the Wise Fool's Pub at night. We took off for the club, loaded in and hit the diner for dinner. Then chaos. We went through the entire trip with no big problems. Right before we order, Sarah and Ben are roughhousing with the glass carafe of water, when it suddenly hit Ben in the mouth. He chipped his tooth ­ took off almost a quarter of his front right tooth. I know it hurt ­ we all felt bad ­ but man, did he look funny. Looked like a fucking hilljack! He was taking it well while we were all scared for him. He called Dr. Shima who said that it would be a good idea to get it looked at. So he and Sarah took off for the hospital. We all sat there in disbelief as we picked at our dinner.

Went back to the club. Ben showed up a couple hours later with a new tooth! Looked good as new. And he seemed in good spirits. The opening band went on about 10:30 p.m. ­ called Church Dog ­ lead by three women and a male drummer. They were without a bass player as they fired him three days before. The lack of low end was noticeable, but I dug their laid back sound.

We were concerned with not having enough people there, but it started filling up nicely by the time we took the stage at 11:45 p.m. I had some pitch problems early on, but overcame it and we played a solid show. The crowd was there and they were into it and it felt good knowing we rounded out the tour on a high note. Strong show, strong support and we really like all the peeps at the Wise Fool's Pub.

Awoke Monday, showered and ready to get home. We pack up ­ Rawle, myself, Kevin, Cupcake and Heather get in the boat and sail homewards. Stop at a Bob Evans for grub and back on the road. Got to watch the A's game on the cell and see them come from behind on a hit by Tejada in the bottom of the ninth to win their 19th in a row!!!! What a streak ­ what a team. We get to Eden Park about 7:30 p.m. Kelly picks me up. It was great to see her! We head home to say hi to Phoenix and Zappa (our dog and cat) and then shoot out to eat dinner. Of course more Mexican at Don Pablo's. Iit just doesn't compare to that food I ate out west.

Had a great trip, great experiences ­ saw the country, saw friends and family and played with my band. It was a wonderful time. Exhaustion is an understatement, but happiness and the feeling of a job well done is overwhelming.



HOMUNCULUS plays the Madison Theater in Covington on Saturday. The remix of their CD Words, produced by John Curley at Ultrasuede Studios, will be released Tuesday. The Oakland A's ended up winning 20 straight games, a new American League record.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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