Aug 23 - Frankie and the Witch Fingers in Rochester, NY
Aug 25 - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in Toronto
Aug 28 - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in NYC
Aug 30 - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in Philadelphia
My live-music oriented road trip included four new venues and one city that I got to explore for the first time. In between these four concerts, I had opportunities to catch up with friends from college in all different stages of their lives, from going back to school to going on the one year anniversary of buying their house.
This week-and-change at the end of August felt like the official end of my summer. A break from my new job and my new life to check in with the people who I’m usually reuniting with this time of year. A chance to not let too much time pass before seeing people who are special to me. And a chance to do see King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard a bunch of times. I didn’t quite go to consecutive King Gizzard shows. I missed Montreal and Connecticut in between Toronto and NYC. But I still let them plan my vacation timeline with their tour schedule, and get a chance to meet some of the other people who do. Armed with a bunch of disposable cameras and hand embroidered patches to give away to fellow super-fans, I hit the road on a Friday morning to go back to Rochester, NY.
You can read my reviews of the individual concert experiences here:
Frankie and the Witch Fingers
Openers: ORB and Stonefield
I added an extra day to my Rochester time when I heard that Frankie and the Witch Fingers was going to be playing at the Bug Jar (this was my first concert at the Bug Jar and it didn’t happen until after I moved out of Rochester). I’m really glad I added an extra day, even with that time I didn’t have the chance to catch up with everyone that I wanted to. I was able to fit some people in for just a meal, others just for a random hour here or there. I described it to someone as catching up with everyone at the beginning of a new season to remind the audience where we all are.
For the most part, friends of mine who are starting their new school year have weird, exciting hurdles to jump, new projects and new apartments. I was able to help my ex-roommate move into his new apartment, and we lounged on his porch for a few hours while we talked about what we’d figured out over the summer.
One thing that surprised me was that I thought that going back to Rochester would feel like going back home, but that wasn’t exactly the case. There were moments when I felt very at home, like going to see 10 Things I Hate About You at the Little, or looking for Tear it Up! vinyls at Needle Drop. But on the whole, prowling around town, I felt like I was in the city where a lot of my friends happen to go to college.
One of the highlights of this time was seeing a good friend who has been living in Spain for the past year. The fact that he was going to be in town was a big part of my justification for driving about 13 hours to see a concert in Toronto, since you can’t really miss your friend when they’re in the United States from Spain. We went to the park while we were hanging, stopping first at a Rite Aid to get cans of Arnold Palmer. We had been at the park for about 15 minutes when I tripped over my heels (many people have asked me why I was wearing high heels at the park, a question that I don’t have a good answer for), and fell down on the sidewalk. There was honestly a surprising amount of blood that happened because of this fall, and we ended up going right back to the Rite Aid and buying antibiotic cream and gauze, before returning to the same walking path for round two (this time in sneakers). We chatted a lot about maintaining senses of childlike wonder later in life, and every once in a while I would check on my knee to make sure it didn’t look like there was any dirt in my cut or anything.
And of course in the middle of the Rochester time was the detour to Toronto to see King Gizzard for the first time! We dillydallied on the way out in the morning so we weren’t able to spend as much time bee-bopping around the city as I normally like to, but we did eat some delicious tacos.
Seeing King Gizzard for the first time was amazing, the short version is that they played three of my favorite favorite favorite of their songs: “Crumbling Castle,” “Gamma Knife,” and “Nuclear Fusion.” At the end of the show, in the sort of chaos of the band leaving the stage, a security guard came up to me with a drumstick and said, “I saw your face during the show and I knew you were a superfan.” It was such a stroke of blind luck and I was so so thrilled. I tucked it into my pants and tried not to wave it around too much.
After the show, Allegra and I were lucky enough to be able to meet a few people who are in the band. We went around to the back of the venue after most of the crowd from the show had dispersed, and we waited with about 15 other fans for the guys from the band to come out and say hello. Having the opportunity to meet some of them and hear their speaking voices in real life was a little bit weird, it felt very surreal. I got each of them to sign my denim shirt, and spent the rest of my vacation embroidering their signatures onto it so that they won’t come off in the wash.
Meeting one of King Gizzard’s two drummers, Mickey Cavanaugh, was particularly cool. I’ve admired him for a long time, and there was a bit of time when I was thinking about just embroidering his face onto my jacket instead of song lyrics. His style is one of my favorite things about King Gizzard’s music, and the reason he is so good is the reason why a lot of rock music is really good right now — it’s a work ethic thing. He wouldn’t be as good as he is if he didn’t work at it pretty hard, I think that’s evident in the way that he plays and I respect it a lot. So I was proud of myself for mostly keeping my head on straight when I got the chance to meet him.
I used to have a lot of notions about what New York City would be like. When I was in early high school I read a lot of literary fiction that took place in the city, so I thought it was going to be a glamorous place where noir heroes are waiting in diners, drinking coffee and thinking about where they went wrong. The few times I have gone to New York City, this illusion of the city has worn off a bit and I’ve started to learn that maybe she and I aren’t going to be as close as I expected.
My first night in town was awesome — I don’t think that driving in Brooklyn is that difficult any my friend stood in a parking spot for me for forty-five minutes. A gang of my college friends came with me to get really spectacular tacos, and then we went to an ice-cream parlor where I was able to get cookie-dough/cookies and cream hybrid ice cream, which is the best creation of all time. It made me so so happy.
This was my first time navigating the NYC subway on my own and I will be honest that I have never felt like more of a country mouse in my life. I was wandering around in circles around the same block for about 35 minutes while I tried to figure out how to get around and why my google maps wasn’t being helpful or specific at all about where to find the right platform. I was pretty stressed out while trying to navigate.
Once I got to Central Park for the concert, I was able to cool it a little bit. I met really nice people at the show and had a fantastic time with my friend Jenna, who joined me after she got out of work. We spent this show in the back of the venue instead of my usual spot at the bar, and I enjoyed having the space to dance and headbang a little bit more, without being as worried about my hair getting in people’s mouth. After the show, we went to get NYC slices of pizza. I drank a giant cup of iced tea and tried to get some of my blood sugar back.
I met my college roommate and best friend Cassandra at her house on Thursday morning. This was the first time we had seen each other since graduating, and getting the chance to see one another after so long was another really surreal moment of my trip. Usually this time of year we’re reconvening for another year together, but this time we were visiting. I got to hang out with her and her niece, and we finally tooled around Doylestown, PA together, something we’ve been talking about doing with each other basically the whole time we’ve known each other. That night we went to a screening of Alien at a the County Theatre, my first time seeing the sci-fi classic on the big screen.
On Saturday, the day after the last Gizz show, I was able to be with nearly all of my former college roommates. Being together was relaxing, like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes, as we all fell into our dynamic. We split into teams of “enjoys talking about sports,” and “does not enjoy talking about sports,” and ate really yummy garlic knots at America’s Oldest Drive-In Movie Theatre. This was the part of my vacation where I felt the most at home.
In between my suburbs time, I got to go into Philadelphia for the first time! This is the furthest South I’ve ever traveled for a concert, and getting to explore a new place was fantastic. While I skipped a few of the must-do’s (including a cheese-steak, but it was really hot and I didn’t want to feel queasy at the concert!) I did get to go to Reading Terminal Market which I loved, and the gay bookstore Giovanni’s Room, which had three floors of novelty books, queer essay compilations, and cheap, used non-fiction.
One of the Philly highlights was actually getting to see the Liberty Bell! Me and my roommate got a little bit lost before finding the right door to get into the monument, and skipped the small museum section to get right to the main event. We got to the Bell just in time to hear an enthusiastic history lesson from the National Parks worker standing nearby — he talked about the American Revolution the way I talked about King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. This older gentleman loved history with so much passion, and everyone in the room slowly started paying attention to what he was saying. At the end of his talk, we gave him a round of applause. He is a superstar.
I loved pretty much everything about the parts of Philly that I saw. Mostly everything was easy to walk to from where I was crashing, on the couch of another friend from college. She came along with me to wait in the line for the concert, from 4:30 to nearly 8pm. After the concert we bounced around from restaurant to bar trying to find a place that was still serving food at 1 a.m., until we ended up in a crowded Wawa (I had Wawa every single day that I was in PA). In the morning, I was just a 15 minute walk to my train back to the ‘burbs. I can’t wait to go back to Philly, as a matter of fact.
The last stop of my road trip was one of the most special. My dear friends (who are also part of the band RuckZuck) live in a home in rural PA, and I was able to go out to their house for the first time to catch the tail end of their goodbye-summer party. We played music and ate snacks all day long, catching up and talking about the changing expectations for young people in the United States. They also own a copy of Trout Mask Replica, by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, and I had never seen one of those in real life before.
Something that really made this special was getting the chance to play music, after listening to so much of it. I was with all of my favorite people to jam with, and for the first time in a long time I had fun playing music with other people. It was a fantastic way to wrap up my trip, and sent me home feeling full of life and love and ready for whatever fall has in store for me.
What I Listened To
I had lots of time on the road: here’s some of the stuff I listened to on my journey.
Carrie, by Stephen King
Infest the Rats Nest, Fishing for Fishies, Polygondwanaland, Nonagon Infinity, Paper Mache Dream Balloon, Eyes Like the Sky, and Float Along -- Fill Your Lungs, by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Zam, by Frankie and the Witch Fingers
Amyl and the Sniffers and Big Attraction, by Amyl and the Sniffers
Loopholes, by the Murlocs
Psychonaut, by Brainticket
Double Rainbow, by The Babe Rainbow
Icon, by Mötorhead