Throwing Muses
Kristin Hersh
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"Tour Diary - Part 9 - U.S." by Kristin Hersh, July 25 2007
(originally published on

Best signage on the way to LA: Space Is Limited

Orrin shows up at the El Rey theater with a new joke template. It is addictive. It gets stuck in your head like a melody ‘til you can’t think about anything without trying to fit it into the template. It goes something like this:

“I used to work in (blank), but I was (blank), so they (blanked) me.”

For example: “I used to work in ceramics, but I was always getting baked, so they fired me.” Or: “I used to work in lingerie, but I was barely there, so they gave me the pink slip.” Or Wyatt’s: “I used to be an ice cream man’s apprentice, but I was tired of playing second banana, so I split.”

This goes on all afternoon.

During the McCarricks’ set, Jonathan and Dav Dolorean and I get stuck backstage, unable to get to the dressing rooms (to the beer) without crossing the stage. We play out various scenarios in which we are able to sneak past the musicians and the projector and the screen and the equipment, while remaining invisible to the audience, but Jonathan is jumpy, having just the night before, leapt onto the stage during Martin and Kim’s set and spilled Jack Daniels all over the cello.

At one point, he hisses, “Cover me!” and crawls on stage between the screen and the projector, shimmying past amps and drums, only to come back dejected a minute later. “It’s no use,” he pants, “the projector is blocking the stairs to both dressing rooms.” This information sobers us in more ways than one. Dav escapes to the bar, but I’m afraid of being talked to out there and Jonathan is too nice to leave me alone.

So we sit. And hum the word “beer”. He tells me that his girlfriend is Kaitlyn from the High Violets, not only a superior Portland person and great musician, but one of the best ladies ever. This makes me so happy, I give him a big hug. A good couple makes a great person.

Tonight’s show is intense. We play hard, like 50FootWave covering KH material. I guess we’re nervous; this is a hometown show for us (one of our hometowns, anyway). Afterward, we load out with the El Rey staff who are so lovey-dovey that we get hugs at the end of the night. Honestly, New York and LA are the warmest, fuzziest cities.

The next day, Billy gets prickly as we enter Monterey. “This is a good place,” he says. “I can feel it.”

It is extraordinarily beautiful. Mountain air, misty beaches and Dr. Suess trees. We park on a lovely little side street around the corner from the club. The Family Bus is so tacky next to these quaint homes, though, that it looks seriously incongruous—embarrassed, even. Poor old dumpy bus in fancy-ass Monterey. It’s like taking your children to a rich kid’s birthday party.

After the show, the bus refuses to start. It won’t leave Monterey. It won’t even go back to the club for the equipment, so we have to leave our stuff there overnight (so embarrassing). Billy actually dons grease monkey coveralls (Bernie: “You look pretty cute in those”) and works into the night. After standing around and handing him tools helpfully, we begin to fade and hand him tools lamely, then I send the band to a hotel in a cab and watch Billy work in the cold (he does look cute in the coveralls). Then Ryder takes over and the little kids and I crash on the couch.

With the help of our LA friend Colin on the cell phone (he speaks engine and doesn’t go to bed ‘til 3 in the morning), Billy convinces the bus to cooperate and it begins coughing back to life. When it sounds almost normal, we sneak out of town, drive to the nicest RV park in the world and wake up to sunshine and horny toads.

Santa Cruz…hippies, hippies and more hippies….sigh. But hippies don’t come to the show. Hippies don’t like me.

We play food frisbee backstage until people start showing up, then we sneak out with dip on our clothes. The Attic is a great club; 50FootWave played here when it first opened. It’s a nice, grown up room, but it doesn’t feel cold.

After the show, Bernie gets stuck in the elevator with a bunch of gear. It’s not between floors or anything, it just won’t open, so we stare at him through the window and he stares back. Eventually, we pry the door open, but he refuses to get back in, so Martin gets in with the next load. Then he gets stuck. We pry the door open again and I take the cello from him but let the door go. It locks and the elevator goes away with Martin on it. He smashes his face against the window as he disappears.

Mothers Day in San Francisco. I am treated like royalty. We’re invited to a friend’s ranch in Carmel for brunch; the boys are on their best behavior. Doony, the boy who isn’t here, calls during soundcheck. I’m sitting on the stage at the Great American Music Hall, taking a screwdriver to my guitar, when B carries my cell phone over, “It’s the big baby,” he says.

I grab the phone. “Doony?”

“Happy Mothers Day. I was gonna send you flowers, but then I didn’t.”

“Flowers are boring.”

“That’s why I didn’t.”

Such a good boy.

Jim Brunberg of Mississippi Studios fame, records the Portland show, at the Aladdin Theater. He hovers behind us with his headphones on all night; whenever I turn around, I get a big thumbs-up from Super Jim. This is such a nice boost, I consider taking him on the road as a permanent member of the bus family.

Portland loved ones fill the dressing room, bring us Thai food and road coffee, Virtuous news, baby pictures, music, homemade cookies…then we gotta say goodbye again. Seems like we’re always saying goodbye. Ryder and his girlfriend get one evening together before we take off for who knows how long; many tears on the family bus tonight.

We are all itching to play when we get to Seattle. After soundcheck, Bernie and Rob and I are still itchy, so we do a handful of 50Foot songs, but it isn’t enough. Dolorean feels the same way.

We have to say goodbye to them tonight; this is their last show of the tour. They have turned out to be brilliant, special, hilarious and kind; I haven’t had this much fun on a tour in a long time. All four Doloreans hang out on the bus before the show to pass around a bottle of champagne and be happy and sad with us. They talk about the day jobs they’re going back to and they have gifts for my children: beautiful books, thoughtfully chosen with each child’s interests in mind. We’re going to miss them.

I put another bottle of champagne on the stage during their set and this proves to be Al’s undoing. As our champagne buzz wears off, he stays happy and sad, then gets very happy and very sad (and very unsteady) and ends the night passed out in the dressing room on my little pink sweater. I try to pull it out from under him without waking him up (Barton: “I don’t think waking him up is what you should be worried about”), but then I feel bad and give up. He looks like a little drunk angel.

Al does wake up during load out–he sways down the ramp and pukes behind a dumpster, comes out triumphant, with his fists in the air. People cheer and blow kisses but nobody wants to touch him.

Everybody’s laughing; even Al’s laughing, but I just can’t. We all do our own version of dumpster puking when music stops. I walk back to the dressing room to retrieve my sweater.