Book Tour Recap: Dixie-Narco edition

It’s been a while since I got back from my husband’s book tour, but a lot of photos later I am finally updating about it. Needless to say it was a blast and it timed well with our 13th wedding anniversary. Got to see a lot of old friends and made some new ones, too.

We did 7 dates in total. Of course, everyone at first thought Ben was also a musician or that we were also in a band. Anytime we saw bands who were clearly on tour at a rest stop, they looked us up and down trying to figure out who we were and our deal was. Every stop on the tour went well except for Birmingham, AL thanks to tornadoes (which being from Michigan I would say they were weak). At the same time I can’t call that night a total dud, because one woman came out just to see Ben, buy some books, and get a photo with him! We ended up at a dive — who weren’t afraid of the storms enough to close — where a man asked me if I wanted to smoke pot with him out of a toilet paper cardboard tube, outside in the rain, near an underpass. He was not happy I said no to this offer. In the end, the lights did go out in the dive, all except the jukebox which was on a Thin Lizzy kick, and we did not complain about that one bit.

Charlotte was a great time as always, and it turned into a karaoke Odessey of sorts by the end of the night. I had some video footage of Ben doing 24 Hour Party People at Snug Harbor, but I deleted it to spare him the embarrassment. Bryan Pierce who runs the karaoke at Snug did a great job of picking songs to go with Ben’s book. He had just tried out for “The Voice” and judging by what I saw, he should make it onto the show no problem! Benji Hughes also came out that night, and he bought Ben’s book as well!

The real start of the whole trip was my brother’s wedding in Chapel Hill. And why yes, my husband and I DID shut down the reception slow-dancing to AC/DC if you must know. We figured a while back that we may as well extend it into a book tour if we were going to be driving anyway; the West Virginia stretch being the most painful. But, driving in the South is a lot more pleasant than any other routes I have taken, and aren’t half as boring. Of course the desert is the best, but I take what I can. After years of traveling cross-country on multiple occasions, I also ate at a Waffle House for the first time ever, in S. Carolina. It wasn’t bad, actually. The only weird thing was people were allowed to smoke in there, and it was so…damn friendly. I’ve learned since that the company is owned by the Ritz-Carlton and this may be part of their success as a chain? If you are wondering, no, I didn’t get a waffle but I did try the hash browns.

Next we went on to Meridian, MS which of course I can’t ever talk about without referencing “Hell on Wheels” and the main character doing his whole “ever been to Meridian?” thing. We were treated like royalty thanks to our friend Bill who owns not only several cemeteries and a flower shop, but did a full-on “Bar Rescue” on a place called the Brickhouse that had 64 regional beers on tap. The bar in it’s previous incarnation was a haven fro bro’s and had a reputation for roofing girls. Not anymore! In fact there was a running joke how the Brickhouse was the werewolf bar and the place across the street was the vampire bar (yes forgive the “True Blood” reference) and thus clear lines had been drawn. Despite the clear sections of poverty mixed with a slight college town feel, Meridian had an almost desolate downtown that looked ripe for a comeback. We hope it will rise the way the rest of the South has been doing.

Onward then was New Orleans (duh!) where we got to meet up with many of our friends, some who flew in to meet us, others who had been there, and some who had just moved to the city. Ben’s book event was at Bailey Smith and Greg Dulli’s, R Bar, which had made up a special cocktail menu just for us. Three Sheets to the Kevin Sheilds was an absinthe base, and the Swervedriver was Ben’s favorite which was mezcal based. If you are into shoegaze music, you get why these were so exciting to us. Sure, Ben was the “opener” for the crawfish boil but that is still better than opening for a puppet show — not to mention he got free crawfish! Terrible street side vegan burritos; brunch at The Columns; nuns at an art show; drinks in the 9th; a brunch fight club I may or may not have joined; poolside at the W hotel; record shopping between Desire Street and Piety Street (that must be a punchline to something); and all the usual we seem to get up to when we visit are just some of what I can remember. This was also my first time driving in New Orleans and I’m happy to say it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Sure we missed JazzFest and NoizeFest, but I was a little sad we missed AzzFest. Only after driving past the Hi-Ho Lounge as the girls lined-up for that event were we a bit sad we didn’t go after all. Next time perhaps?

Onward to Nashville! I had never been and we met up with an old friend of mine from high school who showed us around. We were staying a bit out at Opryland, which is a bizarre site that seems a bit like the Trinity Broadcast Network campus mixed with Graceland or Six Flags. The good thing was the free shuttles and the fact that cabs can be found everywhere as means to encourage tourists to go downtown and beyond. The bookstore Howlin’ Books was amazing and also part of the infamous Grimey’s record store. A music town it is for sure, not that I expected less. We toured the Johnny Cash Museum which is small but somehow perfect. We also went to Jack White’s Third Man Records which was nice enough but gave me a creepy Scientology vibe! It didn’t help that the women on staff all had the same red color and hair style to go with their uniforms (yellow and black is his new white and red, btw). I never got around to buying some cowboy boots, but we’ve been invited back to the bookstore for the next tour, so I’m sure I’ll find something when the time comes.

A typical Tuesday night at Robert’s in Nashville, even my husband got up to dance for a moment. I was surprised not only how crazy it was on a Tuesday on all of Broadway, but also the fact that at 3am we had cabs lined up to take us back to the hotel! We met some interesting rockabilly guys from Germany who were on a tour through Vegas, Memphis, and Nashville, so of course we shut Robert’s down with them. But I tell you, that’s the last time I let a couple a Germans buy the beers late at a honkey tonk; my head was pounding fierce the next day.

The last stop was in Cincinnati where we got to hang out with dear old friends. I feel dumb I didn’t get a picture of us all. The DJ for the event played all the great old and new shoegaze-inspired bands, and I think I had one too many bourbon and ginger ales! I liked that the venue had a medical theme going on as well. Someone who my husband hadn’t seen in 30 years even came out to buy a book. Crazy.

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The Rake’s End in Cincinnati.

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The Verve print at our host’s home.

At the distillery for the liquor we got each other drunk on the weekend we got together, 14 years ago that week. Romance!

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If you are thinking of doing a book tour I would suggest to make it coincide with a vacation you had already planned, or other trips you feel you could tie it in with. I have heard from some very well-known authors and very not well-known authors about how your experience and the sales can be all over the map. For instance, the Meridian, Mississippi date was the most sales because a book club was meeting and librarians came; I expected that date to be the dud — not Birmingham. I’ve also noticed people just really don’t dig book signings the way they do rock shows or even art shows. It just isn’t exciting. We did our best to make it about rock ‘n’ roll and have raffle prizes and drink specials in the non-bookstore venues, and I think those went way better. So, unless you are a best-selling author or a cult hero, I’d look at your book tour as a vacation. We were lucky in that we knew people in each city who helped us decide on venues and all of that — especially cities we didn’t know well. It is much like being a touring band: get a thick skin and if a city is a dud, you go back next time anyway! Every book store and venue treated us well, so there is no reason not to.

Also be prepared for crummy amounts of press no matter how far in advance you do it. Calendar listings are fine, but the fact I sent out review copies of the novel that were requested and I got no results was annoying. This was to both to every arts & culture events blog I could find (most did at least post a listing), as well as print media to the literature editors and the music editors. Then again, one bookstore owner told me that when a rock critic starts to write fiction — let alone gets it published — those who are also music writers or rock critics get resentful and won’t write about it or promote it because that’s what they aspire to do. A musician writing a book seems to be no problem, but music writers writing a novel apparently isn’t welcomed by certain journalists. Hmmm.

Whatever the case, it was nice to hear people had read it in one sitting or gotten copies for their friends. As a rule men tend to not read novels as much as women do, and it was funny to hear over and over again, “no you have to read this, I know you don’t like books but you’ll actually like this one!

It’s All Rock To Me, Anyhow

If you like shoegaze, indie, straight-up rock, psychedelia and all those things in-between, then here are some of the various bands and songs I’m liking right now. Some are current, some not.

Wooden Shjips

Smashing Orange

Singapore Sling

Weekend

S.C.U.M.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Loop

So You Say You Were A 1980’s Indie Kid?

Have I mentioned lately that you should purchase the novel “Wivenhoe Park”? Because you really should. Just look at all the reviews! You don’t need to take my word for it just because I did the cover and he’s my husband.

But, also, if you want to try a crack at winning on of three copies, the amazing music site Slicing Up Eyeballs is having a contest that ends on Friday!

Saturday, December 7th from 2 to 4pm is a book signing with Mr. Vendetta at my favorite place for books in Cleveland, Loganberry Books.

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We’re plotting a book tour from Chapel Hill down through New Orleans in the spring. These won’t all be at bookstores necessarily, but at cool venues where a DJ and beers will be involved, so stay tuned (and if you would like to host a party or know a place that sounds perfect, fill me in!)

“Made of Stone” at Capitol Theater

Last night was a one-time showing of The Stone Roses documentary “Made of Stone” by Shane Meadows here in Cleveland. Of course, this movie was playing to sold out audiences elsewhere, but not in Cleveland baby! I think there were 20 of us. Granted, most suckers were at the Johnny Marr show on the other side of town, but they could have done both. My husband was like a Twilight fan girl giddy with excitement, and even won a compilation CD. A great way to spend a Wednesday night!

I had seen the documentary “Blood on the Turntable” and although it lacked interviews with some of the band, it was a fun and crazy look into the management the band had dealt with. Music industry typical BS –you know how it goes. Honestly, I thought “Made of Stone” would have delved into more interviews; the forming of the band, and why other members had left and so on. Although there is some great footage dating back to their scooter days and shows at the Hacienda, the information on the band was lacking. I understand it was a film partly about the comeback, but it was treated in a way where you had to know who the band was already in order to get the fullness  of why all these people are running in the streets when they hear via social media that a free gig is happening and they have to show up to the box office with a piece of Roses memorabilia to get a wristband.

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Shane Meadows is a fan first more than a director. It shows when he reacts to seeing the set lists written in the rehearsal space, and by the fact he stays back and doesn’t want to rock the boat after Reni walks off stage in Amsterdam; an explanation is never really given as to what went on, only headlines that he had quit. John Squire and his drug problems are never brought up, it’s all very skimmed over aside from the legal troubles with Silvertone Records. The interviews with fans is more revealing I suppose, so maybe other than a few voice overs here and there an in-depth interview with the band wasn’t needed. The look on a fan’s face when Ian Brown grabs his cell phone, takes a selfie, then hands it back is pretty great.

This is a live concert documentary more than anything, which is great if you see it in the theater with the sound. Lord knows they aren’t the best live band as a rule so this was actually a great way to see them! The songs shown in rehearsals are pretty great, as well as the concert footage of “Fools Gold” and others. In the end, I still can’t understand a word Mani says, John Squire is simply adorable, Ian Brown seems genuinely amazed and happy, and Reni is still able to rock his Kangol hat at times. I’d say “Made of Stone” is perfect for the super fans and perhaps those Americans who want to understand how deep the love of this band goes if they didn’t know who they were. If you want a funny, ridiculous, look back at the history of the band and the amazingly crazy manager they had, get “Blood on the Turntable” as a follow-up.

I am not kidding you that during the live footage, both men I was sitting with in the audience teared up. This band was their scene, as they missed Joy Division and New Order slightly, and were already a bit older by the time Britpop had hit big. The waitress at the bar across the street asked us, “so who are the Stone Flowers?” which was strange since I can’t imagine she was much younger than I was (then again I was debating between a Stone Roses or a Depeche Mode poster for my room when I was 12!). So, we told her. How they invented Britpop pretty much and for many people, they were their Beatles. “Oh, I’ll have to look them up” she said.

Trench Coats, Book Covers, and Portraits in L.A.

I am featured on The Style Letters, all about spring wardrobe choices  — it finally is looking like spring — and my love of trench coats. Also the story of my new Dolce & Gabbana trench.

My husband, Ben Vendetta, has his debut novel coming out later this year. He can’t decide on a cover, so he is asking people to vote for their favorite over here at the Elephant Stone site. It takes place in 1985 and there are slutty goths, stupid jocks, thrills, pills, and Bobby Gillespie! So based on that, go over and select your favorite design!

I couldn’t go, but family and friends took some photos from the reception at WWA Gallery for “Eye Candy” in L.A., the show is up now, so go check it! Cartwheel did a little recap as well.

See, no more sad posts about my health or videos of my family that make people cry (sorry about that).

Resurrecting the Record Label

So the scoop is that the record label is coming off super-duper-mega hiatus. Reissues and licensing only, no new bands, but still. Things have changed with our distributor, production costs haven’t really gone down much, and really bands have no reason for labels anymore; so let’s see if the business can avoid being in the red! Thankfully we had used the opposite structure/method of major labels, finding ourselves in the black when all was said and done. There were some reissues I wanted to do while on hiatus that other labels snatched up; we’ll see about the rest I had in mind. Things won’t be as active as they were, but Elephant Stone will at least have a faint and steady pulse when it comes to new stuff — if you know what I mean.

We finally joined the 21st Century and you can find Elephant Stone on Facebook

And as always, Elephant Stone on LastFm (some free downloads there)

I’ve also started screwing around with iMovie made my first few videos! Well, slideshows really, but I’ll be getting myself an HD iFlip this weekend. Now I just have to figure out how or if I should transfer all of my footage from college that is stuck on Super8, hi8, Beta, 3/4″ tapes and so forth. For those who didn’t know, I went to art school to study film mainly because I wanted to be a film editor. Why? Because it comes easy to me, I find it fun, and I’m actually really good at it. However, during time spent in an internship at a production company I saw how little control an editor has over anything, and really, it is the orders of the director you have to follow. At least collaborations with other students gave me some amount of freedom in school. This was also in the days when FinalCutPro had barely come out, and everything was still analog or on an Avid; not to mention 20+ students all using the same Avid caused it to crash often. I bagged the whole film thing, after seeing how the production side really was, and how unhappy most editors seemed to be as a rule. Technology has changed so fast too, just about every program or piece of equipment I know how to use is obsolete.

In any event, here are my first two little videos I screwed around with. One is for the band New Planet Trampoline who broke up long ago sadly, but were one of the Cleveland bands the label had signed when we were still based in Los Angeles. I decided to use my photos from a shitty area on the westside in Cleveland. The other was my first attempt at playing with iMovie using my photos from this trip, and I happened to throw on my favorite band, Singapore Sling. It fit the images so well, I decided to keep it. I think it highlights how both beautiful and violent the imagery of the Catholic church can be.

I think they turned out rather well considering I had never used this program before, and it took me little effort and less than 15 minutes to put them both together.

Music Reviews: a big lie

That’s it, I’m done. They LIE. At least they do to me, and it makes me happy that I can at least check out a band’s website and see what a lie the review was. Most of the time I put it down to the fact that most music reviewers are younger and have no sense of history in music. What is now being called psychedelic, shoegaze, or even punk is very different than what it used to be, and the terms are being thrown around in a very sloppy fashion. I partly blame publications and webzines that let any asshole be a “music writer” even though they have no experience in good writing or doing any sort of research; they are what I call promo-sexuals, spewing anything they can think of to get label promos to sell at the local record store. Then there’s the writers who trash a band on purpose either because of something personal (this happens often actually) or just because that is what seems hip at the moment. These piss me off just as much because it means I could have missed out on something cool. I think the tipping point for me was the Jesus and Mary Chain reissues review on Bitchfork (I mean Pitchfork) and a review I just read today describing some wussy crap band as “shoegaze” and like minded of My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless”. Yeah, both were total bullshit. Maybe they didn’t mean to be, but that’s what it was. So I’m done….that’s all….I quit….no more.

One of my favorite things, Chunklet Magazine, has always been right on the mark. Sadly because they tell it like it is and make enemies, it can hurt advertising revenue obviously for a print publication. Brian Teasley wrote a great piece once about how so many reviews led him to bad purchases because these writers lied. Sometimes they lie because of friendships or because they know the label will keep sending them free crap etc. Anyways, one thing I can say is spot on from Chunklet is Brian Teasley’s Band Bio Dictionary. After spending these many years in and around the music biz and getting promo packs, oh yes, his decriptions are spot on. I’m pretty certain that in some other dimension, Brian Teasley and I have mated to create the ultimate hell-spawn Army of the Night.

By the way, the new Stooges song that has been released is kind of weak. Maybe it is the digital compression, but the guitars are hardly there, and his voice is crap. I will still go to the concert though, despite everything I still have my crush on Ron Asheton. Enough so that I did this big ass painting of him, recently published in UK based Plan B Magazine