Here’s the short and sweet story: i went on tour for a week. autumn, 2012
developed 100 tiny crushes on 100 beautiful girls
fell in love with music again
Here’s the long, self indulgent story....i am not the kind of person who fits in. sometimes i'm quiet. sometimes i unintentionally make mean faces. and. i have hairy armpits. union station, exterior. friday morning. i sit on the ground with a songstress gypsy named patience, drinking ginseng from a tiny glass bottle. my amp and bag of mics on the curb beside me. when the shiny black minivan pulls up, i am scared. maybe i'm not ready for this. i’m going to fuck up. i am going to be lonely. this is going to be awkward.
JADE dances out of the car. She is a 5’11 patterned glow of dashiki, lock tentrils and shades. She is the mastermind of the Revival, the captain. Then, from the driver’s seat steps ELI: a too-pretty-boy batting eyelashes shyly. Eli is a tour manager. Eli is the muscle. Next. A mow-locked dandy in a green hoodie lifts her bass into the trunk. SOLSIS is the host. Where am I? What is going on? I am running away with a sexy queer circus and i am not ready. still, i stepped into the car, and we drove away.
the drive to brooklyn is mostly quiet. i look out the window and breathe. brooklyn. ok so the truth is. i don’t care that I’m quiet and i don’t care about my armpit hair. the truth is. i was afraid to leave the house a year ago. the truth is. Places like new york used to make my heart beat so fast i couldn’t breathe. Anxiety used to slip into my thoughts and spread like disease. used to cripple me. I am better. I’ve been better. But I worry. we arrive at kyla’s house in bed-stuy. Kyla has a beautiful smile and she is sweet and offers to make eggs. two hours become two minutes and all of the sudden it’s time to go to the show.
The venue is large brick house on the corner, now converted into some kind of school for tiny charebs with locks. Beautiful women are everywhere. setting up the bar, the merch, the chairs. SEKIYA is a blur of sparks. she is hanging lights and running chords and conducting interviews. Sekiya is the filmmaker, the auteur. She asks me about the show. I’m nervous. Pretty girls. Brooklyn! What book am I reading? Salvage the Bones. It’s sad and beautiful. She attempts to disappear, but when her grin turns the camera’s corner, she is too charming. i set up the speakers and mics with Mursi. Mursi is a nerd and she is very nice. Everyone is nice. I am sweating. I am exhausted and excited all at once. I am sitting in a corner, singing my songs to myself. Wondering if this is the right key, will I forget the words??
In. Struts. T’ai Freedom Ford. We’ve never met. But I know who she is. She is the handsomest, sharpest gentleman that ever lived. Shiny shoed, vest, collared and crispy. We shake hands. I am a wisp of smoke. I am disappearing. That’s fine. T’ai sneaks into a corner to compose her set list. People file in. Everyone in Brooklyn is a model. Everyone in Brooklyn is intimidating. The show starts. Jade is up. Who you lovin, who you wanna be fuckin huuuh??? Solsis is up. Make. Me. Feel. Time to go up soon.
I am there. On stage. Talk to them. I’m Be. I’m nervous. Singing “worthy”. The sound sucks. I don’t have enough breath. Singing “just a flirt.” Can people hear this? Are they into it? Singing “blind.” Mental note: the audience is not an army you must single-handedly defeat. Singing. Can’t look at them. Ok. Good. Done. Walking away. Outside. Cigarette. Back in. T’ai’s set is incredible. Sell CDs. Meeting people! A weight is lifted. I am smiling again. I am shaking hands, and hugging nice people. You want to buy a CD? Of course! Thankyou so much for your support. Everytime I say it it sounds cheesy. But I am sincere.
JADE, ELI, SOLSIS and T’AI are socializing. They know people in Brooklyn. I grab the keys from Kyla, walk home alone, and fall asleep.
Three a.m. Brooklyn, street. It is dark. Corner store fluorescent and street lamps color the curb orange. Only two hours of sleep. Eli hops on top of the car, loading the car top carrier. She moves with purpose. Like she just does this. At 3am. Everyday. We scoop T’ai and CHARLA, (thin videographer with a shaved head in allblackeverything). And we are off to Toronto! I read my book until I fall asleep. In upstate New York, the road looks like a blue dream. Now, the sun seeps into a cloudy grey sky. I look out the window in that nostalgic way you look out the window on a road trip. Movement makes me happy. We stop for gas and I take the keys from Jade.
As the van gains speed, my grip on the wheel tightens. Last time I drove a car on a road trip, the engine caught on fire at 90mph... I am not a confident driver on the highway. It makes me a bit nervous, but the trees are redorangegreenyellow and the sky is warm grey now and a light rain taps on the window. It’s beautiful this morning. I hook up my musics. Foreign Exchange’s allroads, Ellington’s little brown book, Sara Tavares‘ ponto de luz, nina simone’s he was too good to me, bilal’s when will you call, and so on. I relax into the seat and cruise for a few hours.
Buffalo. Now everyone is awake. T’ai pulls out her phone. Let’s get wings. Well, sure. Quick trip to the family dollar. Buy a pack of AAs for my loop pedal and a watch for my comrade Taylor. NEXT. The ANCHOR BAR (“home of the original buffalo chicken wings”). Jade nonchalantly orders fifty wings for the five of us, half sweet bbq, half hot. Now I’m licking blue cheese and barbeque honey from my fingers. We talk astrology. Solsis and i are leos. T’ai is an aries. Aries are confident, and creative...cocky. Aries are like leos, but not as cool. Charla is a taurus. Aww! I say and pat her back affectionately. All my first loves are tauruses. They’re sweet. loyal. verystubborn. Jealous. Jade and Eli are virgos. I sigh a heavy sigh. I know about virgos. Virgos are nuts. Cagey. Hellof charming though.
T’ai spits some philosophy. I have a theory about chicken wings. T'ai is straight faced serious when she says this. T'ai's chicken wing wisdom. You know the flat part of the wing? Yea… And the drumstick-looking part? Yea. There are two different kinds of people: flat part people and drum stick people. Apparently, the drumstick people want their chicken now. They want life quick and easy. The flat part people like a challenge. Like the work. I'm a flat part person. Full of chicken, we hit the road again. The border appears. The guard wears her seriousface expertly through the inerrogation. Jade takes over. For our friend’s brithday party. A friend from college. We have a little beer in the back. Just the weekend. And it’s over.
We giggle our way into Canada, handing back our passports. Onefifty kilometers per hour. Drive through Toronto. Past public housing. Past coffee shops and restaurants. It doesn’t look different here. But it is, a little. The car gets quiet. I am getting nervous. Pull into a spot accross from a studio. Kim, our host walks out with a smile. She looks familiar. i know you! you played that show in kingston? with the lost bois? yea. good to see you again? The studio is lovely. It looks like a gallery and a cafe and a home all at once. Walls littered with ink and paint. A dozen empty chairs face a small stage. I am nervous again. Try to breathe slow. Paint a heavy black line on my eyelids. Then blue. I scratch at my hair, squint into the bathroom mirror. Uuuuh the shaved parts are already getting too long. People are filing in.
Toronto is like Brooklyn. But different. Bois and studs and femmes, and wild haircuts and high heels. I see West Africa and the Caribbean. Some white folks here and there too. People smile. Sort of. Apparently, they call Toronto the “scewface capital.” They make a screwface when they see you. Make sure you know they’re not feeling you. Maybe that’s just honesty. I hate that time before a show. My skin buzzes and my throat tightens up. I’m not nice. Solsis frollics to the stage, smiling like the dandy fairy she is. She is warm. The audience is cold. Intimidating. Screwface. I take the stage. The sounds is nice. I don’t talk much. I don’t know much about toronto. I’m too nervous for small talk. So i sing. The audience stares like they do. I try not to look at them. I haven’t mastered that skill just yet. It’s like a stranger watching you cry. Strangers watching you laugh. Strangers watching you come. It’s exciting and terrifying and strange. It’s the last song. Blind. I start singing too fast. I am calm at the end of the set, even when I fuck up. "I have to start over. I’m sorry." Everyone in the audience is made of marble.
The song is over. Pull on my leather jacket and rush into the cold air. A cigarette. A conversation. Two boyish folk lean against the wall. Pass a joint. A tall brown skin Nigerian and a skinny Ethiopian with long hair. We talk about queerness and Blackness. About not coming out. Sacrifices they’ve made for family. The Ethiopian boy spits a verse. Her voice sounds like air and sugar. You have a beautiful voice. I walk back inside and the whole room balances on a tightrope. The thread of T’ai’s voice pulls at every pair of eyes. Now mine are fixed too. When her last word falls, we are all a bit softer. Less screwfaced. I grab a beer and chat. The music starts so I dance. I find Charla and she dances too. We look at each other and laugh. We are both far too tired to stand, but somehow we are riding the bassline, heads bobbing like booeys in the tide.
I don’t last long. I sneak off into dark room. Climb over clothes and things and fall into a tiny bed. The music and yelling keeps my mind going, but my body is motionless. Jade stumbles in sometime after me and we spoon into sleep.
We leave at 6am. Not nearly enough sleep. again. Charla’s seat is now occupied by a beautiful curly haired, dimpled videographer. ANDREA. She is beautiful, and unfortunately under the impression that she’s straight... Detroit emerges in a wide, gray sky. It’s cold today. It’s 11am. Pull up to a bar called Liv. We’re scheduled to feature at brunch. Never played a show at brunch, but for some reason I feel unusually calm. Set up the loop pedal with the DJ. Now the caterers are setting up. Smells like eggs and potatos and fried chicken. Make a plate. Solsis sips on a bellini, Jade lays down in her lap.
I sit on the stage to sing. I feel a bit detached. It doesn’t look like anyone wants to hear live music at 12pm in the afternoon. Is it too early for a sad song on a Sunday? I sing anyways. Singing to a straight crowd is another strange experience. Do they get it? Are they confused? Maybe they’re not, but it feels like something is lost in translation. Applause! Done. Still a bit sleepy, the cluster of us hops back into the black van. No time for celebration. We have another show tonight in Ohio.
this is just a piece of the experience. check out the trailer for more!