Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Trans-Texas Tour

Hands up, who thinks that it's way past time Jen blogged about the Trans-Texas Tour.  Yeah, that's what I thought.  I barely got back to Dallas before everything slipped into fast forward, so sorry about the delayitude there.  But hey, I'm here. You're here.  Joan's here (hi, Joan).  Let's do this thing. 
I love this light effect.  That's Mike Peters with the halo.
To begin with, I'd never been to Austin. Or Houston. Or anywhere south of Conroe, for that matter. And I  don't know why Conroe, in particular, it's just as far south as I remember going.  So driving down to Houston was the first and most significant part of the adventure.  Did y'all know there's this giant, ridiculous statue of Sam Houston on the side of the freeway near Huntsville?  For, like, no apparent reason.  I'm sure it's historical and a big tourist draw and all that but it reminds me of carving Mount Rushmore next to Interstate 101 and just like leaving it there, without bothering to tell anybody who the faces are (not everybody recognizes those guys, you know) or why you carved them there.  

Yeah, the blazing sun there kind of ruins this photo, but it pretty well
captures what the Austin show was like. 
Let me put this another, less polite sort of way.  I hated Houston.  Hated it.  It's a great big megalopolis that sprawls all over the place, with octopus arms reaching out to Galveston and Clear Lake and South Padre Island and a bunch of other places I don't know the names of.  It's about 99% humidity 99% of the time.  The people we encountered were shockingly rude, for Texans.  We got there just before rush hour, which was an obvious mistake, and our route took us right through downtown, which was another obvious mistake.  I never thought I'd say this, but the drivers in Houston are crazier than the drivers in Dallas, who in turn are crazier than the drivers in L.A.  Not kidding.  I may never look at the 75 North Central Expressway the same way again.  

Luckily, we weren't going to be there for very long.  I hooked up with Tammy and Tracy, and the three of us headed for the club while Joan went for a well deserved nap.  As venues go, I guess it could have been worse, but the very Houston-ness of Houston was seeping through the walls.  There were three opening bands, each one more irritating than the last, and by 11:15 I was getting heartily tired of everything.  The rumor was going around that Big Country wasn't even there; something had happened to their bus or their equipment van or both, and they were somewhere in Kansas, looking for Toto. Just before 11:30, somebody started playing Flower of Scotland on a Gibson Les Paul and suddenly there they were.  Two old guys, two new guys, and Mike Peters, who's been around forever, but since he's new to the band he doesn't really count as an old guy or a new guy. 

The story, as we found out later, was that the bus had survived the trip from Aurora, Colorado that day. (What idiot tour manager would think Aurora, Colorado to Houston, Texas in one day was even remotely reasonable?! Boys, fire your tour manager. I'm just sayin'.)  But the air conditioning on the bus had not.  Fourteen hours on a bus with no air conditioning.  I just can't even.  And the equipment van hadn't made it to Houston yet, so the band ended up borrowing equipment from the other bands.  (Prompting one hilarious moment when Mark Brzezicki, who's 6'7", sat down behind the drum set and his knees came up around his ears.  Oops.) 
Big Country avoiding the eau de Houston.
In spite of it all, they put on a fantastic show.  And I'm not just speakin' as a die-hard fan here; Tammy and Tracy both agreed that they were worth the wait and even, wonder of wonders, worth enduring the three bands that came before.  And yours truly ran into Bruce Watson (the lead guitarist) on her way back to the car.  (They'd parked the bus right next to us.) I ran over and tapped on his shoulder.  "May I kick the tires in your honor, sir?"  "You can blow it up for all of me," he replied.  Fangirl moment! And me without a grenade.  

The next morning we hauled off to Austin.  Night, meet day.  Day, meet night.  Austin--wow.  What can I say about Austin?  Well, Austin was everything as cool and funky as Houston was sprawly and el barfo.  For one thing, there was a huge demonstration going on at the Capitol. (See two blog posts ago.)  Joan suggested that we maybe skip the Capitol tour, seeing as if I was in jail I'd miss the concert. (She knows me too well.)  Fifth Street is a long series of increasingly weird businesses, from head shops to curanderas to garden shops to ordinary 7-11s.  In between, small apartments, funky condos, rundown crack houses and an occasional unprepossessing concrete block.  Oh, and a concert hall.  Well, lots of concert halls.  This one was a couple of streets down from the Capitol building, which loomed over the whole scene like a pro-lifer with a big canvas--okay, never mind.  

Let's move on.  There was only one opening band in Austin, and thank all the stars and little fishes, they were actually good.  It was 103 in the shade and the concert was outside. Yours truly managed to give herself heat exhaustion bouncing up and down on the patio.  I drank three bottles of water but plainly that wasn't anywhere near enough.  I almost fell asleep at the wheel on the way back to the hotel, and several times the following day on the drive back to Dallas.  Yep, ol' Jen isn't 20 anymore.  

Best part about the whole thing:  It's obvious that the band was having the time of their lives.  Which is a good thing, because I've been in a band and I can honestly tell you that if you don't love it, it will kill you.  Look, I was on the road for all of two days and I almost dropped dead; the band had been out there for five weeks.  Yes, they had guys to carry their stuff, but still.  Besides, I (along with lots of other people) thought that Big Country was dead and buried in 2001.  To see the band come back to life, with such an explosion of sound and energy, is just--just--I ain't got words.  I got pretty emotional. And Mike Peters might be just as good a singer as Stuart Adamson.  No disrespect intended to Stuart, of course.  

Midafternoon Sunday, we finally made it back to Dallas.  I staggered through the doorway and tried to decide if I should collapse on the couch or walk another ten feet to my bedroom.  I was that tired.  There was another show in Dallas that evening, but I didn't make it.  As I was saying, I'm not 20 anymore.  And Big Country has moved on--but they promised they'd be back.  I'm holding them to it.  Stuart would have expected nothing less.

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