Notes from the Rock ‘n Roll Expressway Volume III

Asthmatic Giant! Tour Diary
By Darren Delmore

12/31/08 – Lompoc, California

A New Year’s Eve gig in the Santa Rita Hills? We couldn’t believe it. Opening up for Oysterhead in SF, maybe, but not a gig in the high end heartland of the ripest, dankest, Pinot Noir grown in the Golden State. Shlune confirmed via fax that Asthmatic Giant! would indeed be finishing up our Year of the Giant 2008 World Tour on a Grand Cru Chardonnay and Pinot Noir site for a private party. Someone saw us at the Troubadour and the word got out. The big news to us was that our bearded, devoted manager would not be there to toast away 2008, as he was obligated to a high stakes poker tourney on a yacht deep into international waters. “The fiscal future of the band depends on it,” he warned us. “I’ve got a big night, dude.” This left the Giant, yours truly, and roadie Pat Patten to pack up two tour vehicles on the morning of the 31st and head straight for J-Lama. We’d draw a cool five grand plus some merch sales from the show. Heinous Chanus’ rider demanded barbecue and mini-verticals of heavy hitting Pinot Noirs. Mine and Pat’s merely requested easy women. We were all out of keychain inhalers after the Hot Tokyo Nights! leg of the tour and were down to posters and the crotchless Asthmatic Giant! G-strings that were designed in Hossegor. The fluorescent ones blew out all across Asia and funded a major, mutual sashimi and Riesling fetish. Women proudly wore them to the next gig, and a visibly soiled pair was flung at the Giant’s face in Singapore as he twenty minute solo’d out on “El Corazón de Pete” with his eyes closed (or more likely unconscious).

Windswept Jalama Beach had provided much of the inspiration for our hit song “El Serpiente”, but after playing it 200 nights in a row around the world to full capacity crowds, we were losing focus. Widely reported in the tabloids, the band had angrily broken up in May, only to reform in August with an offer we couldn’t refuse. And now at the tail end of 2008, raw nerves were exposed once again. The Giant would only speak to me through his attorney, and I’d gotten wind of his talks with Michael Mann about producing his instrumental film score for an upcoming Al Pacino heist flick behind my back. All of this after making my life hell on our last show of our five night run in Quebec, when he fucked up mid synth solo on “The Upper Bench” and smashed the Yamaha in two, leaving me and my acoustic onstage with nothing but Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” to cool the tempered, Canadian crowd.

We needed to get back to our roots. Back to the illicit rhythms and simple pleasures of our Irie Mondays era. Experiences. By the time our heels hit the warm rocks of Tarantulas reef and a chilled bottle of 100% Trebbiano was popped and poured into stemware on the rare 75 degree winter day, spirits were heightened and thirsts were quenched. We murmured our band’s prayer in an emotional huddle before hitting the icy waters for a surf. P. Patten conjured forth the spirit of George Greenough out there on the kelpy right hand reef pass, while H.C. kept it to the shallowest pockets. I played it cool on the shoulder and got some of the longer, lumpy ones. By sundown we were laughing at our luxury, and ready to once again bare our souls through broadcasted folktronica.

Then came the three car pile up. As my tour bus slowed to make the left hand turn across the oncoming lane on Highway 246, the stony L.E. followed suit and took a fifty degree blow from behind! The impact sent the chronic dust of P. Patten’s nearly rolled blunt to the wind. They in turn collided into the back of the tour bus, causing thousands of dollars in damage by erupting a case of 1989 Cristal and ejecting a crate of live Maine lobsters out onto the side of highway 246.

The Giant’s Ray Bans lay broken on the steering wheel. The new Yamaha mysteriously played an E minor organ note – unplugged – then caught fire. An instant Walgreens prescription for unlimited slammies materialized out of thin air in the Giant’s bloodstained palm, and he acknowledged the heaven sent miracle with a tooth cracked grin. A back injury from Pat’s days as a spandexed personal trainer in Cambria was rekindled. The man at fault’s engine spewed fluids onto the highway, flattened in half and immobile as cars roared past the scene at 65 miles per hour.

As all parties got out of their vehicles, there was a primal roar of some bull elephant seal or maybe an enraged Grizzly bear. We watched as the Giant ripped his thrashed bumper from the rear of the Element and heaved it across the highway. The family at fault cowered across the highway. I knew where this was going. I flashbacked to the fate of Tokyo Tony, the pimp and uppers dealer that failed to come through with H.C.’s Oxy purchase on our Japanese tour. We spotted him on his way into the raw bar we were chilling at after the gig, finishing a 17.1 percent alcohol Melville Viognier with blue fin and yellowtail plates. Now they call him Tony Pepperoni ’cause the Giant ripped the man’s nipples off in the back alley and they turned up crispy on a disturbed customer’s Domino’s pizza the next day. I’d never seen H.C. with the look of a lockjawed pitbull before.

As Babylon arrived on the scene of the accident, various Ziploc baggies went sailing off onto the roadsides. Even ground squirrels were chucking their shit. The reports were given. The Giant was given roadside I.V. sedation once the cops ran the check that mentioned how his fists were registered lethal weapons. Once the scene was diffused, we got word that the show would go on.

The 30 acre vineyard with its double wide trailer arena, outdoor space heaters and fire pits welcomed us with open arms. Burgundy Riedels were stuffed into our shaky hands. On the liquor table, a vertical of Clos Pepe running from 2005 to 2007 lay in waiting, as well as a vertical of Arcadian Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir from 2004-2005. Also represented: The La Vie 2005 Rasta Rita Pinot; three new Santa Rita Hills area releases from Loring Wine Company; the Cargasacchi wines; and Flying Goat’s “Goat Bubbles” sparkling . The vigneron himself Peter Cargasacchi was there, and he demanded that we try the bacon wrapped gopher that was on the outdoor grill. “There is no other meat that shows off terroir,” he added, and after grinding on the skewer of it, we had to agree.

Midnight. Fireside. Time to perform. We came on acoustic with “Cazadero”, then headed straight into the Dead’s “I Know You Rider” with our rhythm guitarist and guest fiddle player chiming in. The crowd went nuts for the stripped down sound. Without the usual technological luxuries at hand, the Giant’s God-given gift of percussion shined through, and for the first time in months, I noticed him smiling as he impeccably slapped on the bongos. Clos Pepe’s Wes Hagen came on as guest percussionist on “Dire Wolf”, as the audience was grooving to the Grateful. He and H.C. high-fived mid-simultaneous drum solo and then we roared back into it. By then the baked goods were well ingrained in Pat’s skull, and he went AWOL into the darkened Santa Rita Hills in search of a supernatural Ms. Right. The Giant and I shared a smiling nod as we pounded out “El Corazón de Pete” and a woman ripped her tank top off. Typical show. It was time to finish up 2008’s tour with a song that rocked the Toobs anniversary party back in March: Merle Haggard’s “Branded Man”. Absolutely killed it on that one, even without a screaming drunken Eskimo in attendance.

We packed up amid wails for “One more!”, and “Hot Tokyo Nights!” and decided to join the crowd for a 2003 Vintage Port before the new frosty blackness of 2009 set in.