Cops and Hippies: Buzz Osborne's Tour Diary, Part Two
The Pacific Northwest is full of memories of Mudhoney and asshole cops.
The last time we talked to Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, we asked him what he thought of Miley Cyrus and Mumford & Sons (spoiler: not much). Now, King Buzzo is out on an acoustic solo tour called This Machine Kills Artists. Since he seemed trepidatious about the whole idea to begin with, we asked if he could send us some dispatches from the road. After sharing the first installment about his trip up the California coast, he's back with dispatches from the next leg of the tour, through the Pacific Northwest.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
We sat in traffic for over an hour at high noon waiting to pay a toll to cross the fantastic brand new Bay Bridge. This is exactly as is expected and designed unfortunately. Interestingly enough they've built an entire new bridge across a massive expanse of water but can't or won't figure out a way to get cars more efficiently through their infernal goddam toll booths. Apparently those of us who have the audacity to actually want to drive into San Francisco should be punished. It's as if the powers that be who run the greater Bay Area don't think the lives of car commuters are worth the trouble.
I'm sure that's true, and fuck them all for it.
This whole mess puts me right on the verge of a vicious, psychotic episode which stays with me all the way across the city until we're parked in front of the Great American Music Hall. I love this club and have enjoyed playing dozens of shows here for more than two decades. It's a beautiful venue, and I couldn't wait to set up and get ready for the show that night.
Buzz, Brian, and Dave
Dave and Brian are working for me on this trip. I like those guys, and I've worked with them both for years. We get along great, which is a plus, and they have a very realistic and fun attitude about our lot in life as traveling minstrels or traveling idiot gypsies. There's a fine line.
We took off toward Sacramento after a great San Francisco show, and all I could think about as I drove at top speed across the Bay Bridge was how the entire music business seemed like a weird form of demented insanity filled with wretched lies and talentless, dumb fuckups. It's like the entire world is a sick giant writhing in its final death rattle, and here I am on a goddamn acoustic tour...
Are we almost finished?
Are we about to be destroyed?
I suppose it could be true, but I doubt it. I doubt it because we're clearly not done suffering yet.
We rolled into Eugene, Oregon, which is a home to hundreds of dirty looking hippies and all I could think about was Alice Cooper. Eugene is one point of the hippie Bermuda Triangle, which is composed of Eugene, Boulder, Colorado, and San Francisco. Hippies young and old enter this vortex and get trapped in an endless cycle of pointless meandering between these three unfortunate cities. In the good old days before Jerry Garcia died they would occasionally leave this triangle to follow the Grateful Dead around whenever they decided to hit the road, but, ever since Captain Trips Garcia croaked, the hippies are stuck in this void forever and now make life for any non hippie inhabiting this area a living hell of filthy, barefooted, panhandling hippie wasteoids. What a treat...
But what does this have to do with Alice Cooper? Well, Alice always said the point of the Alice Cooper band was to try to drive a stake through the heart of the peace and love generation. Now you're talking—but where is Alice when we need him the most?
I was playing at the WOW hall, which is a venue I've done shows at for more than 20 years. Backstage after sound check I mindlessly thumbed through a few of the local Eugene arts and entertainment rags and discovered, much to my surprise, that they were exactly like every other weekly publication all over the country—meaning they're filled with political confusion based in pseudo communist flavored bullshit, and anyone who dares question these highly intellectual view points at all are immediately branded racist lackeys walking hand in hand with the imperialist ruling elite. AND they write about music! Ha!
Nestled among this pointless insanity, I noticed a couple of enjoyable articles about me and my show that night which were very supportive and nicely written. Thank you Eugene for that! The show itself went great, and I had a blast. Fortunately the audience was very receptive to my new acoustic endeavors. This is good.
We loaded up the van and drove north towards Portland with Jimi Hendrix as a soundtrack and not a cloud in the deeply dark starry night sky. Hendrix was the perfect choice for our escape from Eugene, and his deeply religious Voodoo Chile Slight Return set me back on track with the right kind of hate hippie thinking.
PORTLAND, OREGON, AND SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
I have fond memories of Portland and Seattle. We always had great fun running wild in both cities. I knew these shows would be good, and they were. I asked Steve Turner from Mudhoney to open both gigs on acoustic, and I'm glad I did because he was great. Great and totally different to what I was doing, so it was a full night for everyone.
During the Portland show I kept thinking about all the people I've known over the years from there who are now dead, in jail, back living with their parents, insane or simply gone. In the early 80s Portland and Seattle were a lot scarier then they are now, with lots of out in the open gutter level depravity and hordes of human garbage infesting the downtown districts. It made for some pretty colorful adventures to say the least. Things have changed, and I prefer it this way. I wonder what happened to the human garbage?
Backstage in Portland
Mudhoney are the last band from the old days who have anything at all to do with us. I like all of those guys a great deal. Mark Arm came down to the show, which was a treat. Mark was one of the first people we became friends with in the early 80s when we first started venturing into the big cities from the horse shit town we lived in on Grays Harbor. I've heard it said that your personal history doesn't start until you leave your home town, and I see no reason to disagree. That's certainly how it's worked in my case. It's funny to think that I've been friends with Mark and Steve for over 30 years. Jesus!
BELLINGHAM AND SPOKANE, WASHINGTON
The show in Bellingham was a first. They let me roll up the back wall so I could play with my back facing outdoors onto the street. Very strange but something I could get used to. I had people on both sides, front and back. Really drunk crowd, though, and they talked loudly through my entire set. It seems fair that since they felt that was okay, then they can't bitch when I come back with the whole band and blast nothing but amplified motocross through my amps for two hours.
The Shakedown in Bellingham
The next day we had a 350 mile drive to Spokane, so we left early. As we dropped over the Snoqualmie Pass and neared Ellensburg, I remembered breaking down there in 1985 when we were on our way to play a show in the Tri Cities area of southeastern Washington. It was about midday when the shitty van we were driving sputtered to a stop as we tried to chug our way towards Yakima. This was years before cell phones obviously, so we had no choice but to try hitch hiking the ten or so miles back to town, which didn't work because no one would pick us up. So we walked every step of the way to a pay phone and called a mechanic friend of ours, who gave us a few ideas about what to do to try to fix it ourselves. We trudged up the on ramp to the freeway heading back and were immediately stopped by a highly agitated and foul mouthed state patrolman who didn't buy our breakdown story at all. He told us to "get in the fucking car," and he'd see for himself if we were lying or not. I'm thinking “great, now we're going to jail,” but instead he takes off in the direction we told him our car was. He drove in stony silence until he said "is that your vehicle?" which we could barely make out in the distance. We told him yes, and he immediately pulled over and kicked us out if the car, letting us walk the two miles or so back to our disabled van. Fucking cops.
Even now it still pisses me off, and I think about something Jack Grisham from TSOL said, which was that he was pro police, anti cop. No shit. Fucking cops.
Spokane boasts the highest crime rate in Washington state, all because they've run out of jail space. The top brass who run that county say it's too expensive to house that many criminals, so they simply hand out early releases to law breakers like candy. Too expensive to keep them in jail? What's the expense to the community to have them loose and running wild in the street? No one knows because that expense is impossible to calculate. Perfect. Needless to say we kept a close eye on our van all night.
The Spokane show went well. There were lots of people and even one loaded mom, who brought her 8 year old daughter and had her front and center during my set. During one of my breaks she LOUDLY proclaimed to me and everyone else that this was her daughter's first ever show. I told the daughter that since it was her first show ever that she needed to understand that what I was going to do was slash both of my wrists and bleed all over the place and then take off my diaper. From then on at other concerts if the performers don't do that, then she'll know she's getting ripped off.
Buzz is still on tour through the end of July. Catch him on one of these dates:
June 30 Grand Rapids, MI The Pyramid Scheme
July 1 Columbus, OH A&R Music Bar
July 2 Detroit, MI Small’s
July 3 Cleveland, OH The Grog Shop
July 5 Buffalo, NY Tralf Music Hall
July 6 South Burlington, VT Higher Ground
July 7 Portland, ME Portland City Music Hall
July 10 Allston, MA Brighton Music Hall
July 11 Pawtucket, RI The Met
July 12 Hamden, CT The Ballroom at The Outerspace
July 13 New York, NY Santos Party House
July 14 Brooklyn, NY The Wick
July 15 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
July 17 Baltimore, MD Ottobar
July 18 Charlottesville, VA The Southern
July 19 Charlotte, NC Visulite Theater
July 20 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle
July 22 Atlanta, GA The Basement
July 23 Birmingham, AL The Bottle Tree
July 25 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jack’s
July 26 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
July 27 Austin, TX Red 7
July 28 San Antonio, TX Limelight
July 30 Tucson, AZ Club Congress
July 31 Pioneertown, CA Pappy and Harriet’s
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