It was Nicole’s turn to be hungover, so our morning in Spokane got off to a puffy, sluggish start. Eventually we enjoyed an afternoon breakfast in a train car at Frank’s Diner, with eggs, scrumptious grilled biscuits and gravied & onioned hashbrowns.I took the wheel for the sleety trek through the Idaho Panhandle National Forest while the sky made soup. A Sunshine Miner family stood immortalized in black stone as guardians of a mining playground in Wallace, Idaho.Sleet turned to snow crossing into Montana. For most of the trip Nicole remained a blob riding shotgun. I teased her for not bringing any winter clothes as we cascaded down the winding slopes of ski heaven. Giggles emerged from under her layers of hair. We were in Lewis & Clark country, and hugged Clark’s Fork, just a few miles from Lewis’ Melon Baller. (Laughter, applause, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses“, confetti, tumblers, Shriners…) Thank you.
Former Unicycle drummer J.T. (that’s him on Failure) and his lovely wife Karma greeted us with pranks and hugs respectively. We grabbed a pre-show bite downtown. Here’s a dumb rule I seem to have given myself: If I see Scotch Eggs on a menu, I must order them. The Missoula version had them sliced and sprinkled with paprika, like deviled scotch eggs. Hooray for strange dinner choices!So Missoula is a wild town. It’s cowboy hats and blondies. Apple pie & mustache rides. Horseplay, horse shit, and horse spookery. But there’s also room for long hairs and goofs. People seem pretty open to everything as long as they’ve got a good buzz going. While loading into The Badlander, an androgynous alley bum unzipped its coveralls and began either a) peeing [female] or b) pooping [male].
It was Big Lebowski night downtown, so people trickled into the club wearing robes, shiny gold guidowear, and fishing vests. I hate that movie, but it was pleasant to see people come to the show dressed like idiots. Speaking of which, it seems I had left my tiny shinies somewhere back in Spokane. This made for a cranky soundcheck as I poutingly devised a Plan B for my stage clothes.
I Hate Your Girlfriend suckerpunched the night, bashing out bruisy muscle rock. I Listened To Your Girlfriend from behind the stage on a smelly armchair next to a pile of innertubes. Tubing Tip: Open containers are allowed on Clark’s Fork so fuck it, man! Get loaded!
Shahs, one of J.T.’s many bands, got the Lebowskis shaking ass with their crazed tropicalia. Cowgirls scissored their unresponsive cowboys, and simulated fellatio to no avail. Who knew Missoula was Brokeback country?The solution for my missing shorts: I duct-taped a blonde wig to the front of my underwear, creating a platinum merkin. I think the platinum merkin was originally in a deleted dream sequence from The Big Lebowski. The set would prove problematic for me. My floor tom slumped over during the first song, the bass drum pedal mysteriously froze during “Wow Wave”, and at the end of “Oh Rebecca” I put a large hole in the bass drum head. But Jim and Nicole had good shows, filling the gaps with banter while I struggled to repair the drums bent over in my merkin. And I tell you what, those rowdies danced their asses off. I’ll take that over the Chicago-crossed-arms-stare-down any day.Missoula wanted to show Nicole a good time. Someone’s girlfriend took her to a different bar, where they drank water in silence. Later, some fake ID wunderdrunks took a skeezy shine to our bassist, with gross lingering handshakes and pick up lines that didn’t work in 1977. I wasn’t in the mood for these losers. When one glassy-eyed knucklehead gave us shit for not giving him a ride in our overstuffed van, I explained to him that he was in college and that it was time for him to figure these kind of things out.
Feeling sober, exhausted, and anti-social at 2am, I judged the suggestion to hang out at a band practice space and drink beer for 15 minutes. But I was outnumbered and I didn’t want to be lame despite my inherent lameness. So we went. It was what I expected. Dudes, PBR, circuitous conversations, and banging intermittently on a drum kit for an hour.
At one point Jim tried to put his finished cigarette in Nicole’s coat pocket.
“Why are you making me an ashtray?”I pissed in the alley then wandered around town. At 3am The Oxford Saloon was hopping. Animated college kids gobbled down heavy breakfast plates, while Keno zombies reflexively jabbed their misery machines, and a crowded, youthful poker table emitted a slo-mo geyser of cigarette smoke. Channeling the loneliest Albini, I retired to the van and began reading the Big Black chapter of Our Band Could Be Your Life.
Back at J.T. & Karma’s we watched practical joker shows over a hot sheet of zany appetizers and a bucket of our old friend Charles Shaw. It was 4am. I stared into the supple grace of their couch until my dream became a reality.