PHANTOM PLANET IN SPIN (August 2002)
LONELY PLANET BOYS
A tour diary by Phantom Planet
With the success of their second album, The Guest, and its hit single, "California," experiencing, for the first time, what it feels like to be on the road for months on end. This past spring, Spin asked the guys - who've just completed a nationwide arena tour opening for Incubus - to document their adventures by taking pictures and keeping journals. They describe endless van rides, subfreezing cities, grabby airport security, a steady diet of crappy food, copious alcohol consumption, and jet lag that defied imagination. They wouldn't change a thing. These are their stories...
March 14: Washtington, D.C.
JASON SCHWARTZMAN: Tonight was the first of a two-night jaunt with Remy Zero. I fucked up my neck. Whiplash or some shit. I really must stretch, but you can't stretch at a rock show. It's not about yoga poses - it's about kickass poses! I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. I am so tired. Straight after the Philly show, we drove here, got lost too many times, and arrived at the hotel about 5 A.M. i am starting to feel sick. I have to get up in an hour and a half and do three live morning-radio appearances. Piss off!
Later that day:
SCHWARTZMAN: Did I mention that the room Alex and I shared last night only had one bed? He is a good sleeper. Not too loud, not a mattress hog, gives you enough sheets. God bless him. Got up at 7:30 and drove to the first radio show. Alex sang like a champ. I feel sorry for the guy in those A.M. performances! He has to hit that super-high note in "California."
We got back to the hotel in the afternoon, and I literally just blacked out. The throat is gone, the head hurts. I was the guy going up to everyone and asking, "Can you tell me if I have a fever?" Later, after soundcheck, I slept on the bench in our dressing room. Cinjun [Tate] from Remy Zero came in and put his blanket on me. I remember a show in Chicago when Sam was so sick we taped a plastic cup to his microphone stand just in case he had to vomit. Looking back, what were we thinking? Who can puke at a target?
March 15: Somewhere in the Midwest
DARREN ROBINSON: "Driving in a Van" (sung to the tune of "California")
Driving in a van
Driving in a van
Driving in a stupid van
Yes we're driving in a van
Oh we're driving in a van
Oh we're driving in a stupid van
In a va-an
March 19: Madison, Wisconsin
SCHWARTZMAN: Woke up outside our hotel in an icy parking lot. A Ramada Inn today. Walked around a bit, but it was really far too cold to wander aimlessly. Getting lost is always a blast in a new town, but not when it is 30 degrees without the windchill! The show tonight was sold out. Six hundred people in Madison, a place we had never been to, came down on a school night and rocked. Blew my mind. We did an encore - [Beastie Boys'] "Sabotage" - one of the first songs we ever played as a band. No matter how you cut it, it's a crowd-pleaser.
Things to buy for the road:
1. A watch
2. Appropriate plug adaptors for U.K. and European AC outlets
3. The DVD Waking Life when it comes out in May
4. New clothes (socks, boxers, pants, shirts, and a jacket)
March 22: Minneapolis
SCHWARTZMAN: Tell me this: How can the sun be shining, not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature still be 17?!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I pigged out today. I took a cab to a market that I looked up in a phone book. I hadn't eaten a proper meal in days and ate enough to last me until next winter. Cookies, soup, fruit, Diet Cokes up the wazoo! The show was sold out. Alex climbed up into the rafters again. I thought he was gonna die.
ROBINSON: Things to do on the road:
1. Save a little per diem each day while traveling. It will be useful.
2. Get a backup guitar, preferably a Gibson Les Paul with '57s, not P-90s
3. Get more sleep. Feeling burnt sucks ass.
March 26: New York City
SCHWARTZMAN: Tonight we played the Village Underground. My only complaint about the show: FOG MACHINE! WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHY? Why the damn fog machine! I guess it could look cool if...but no...no...it can't look cool!!!!!!!!!!!!
At one point I looked up, and, swear to God, I couldn't see anybody else in the band. There was enough fog to fill Madison Square Garden. It was like a low-budget nightmare scene from a late-night B movie. Plus, you can't breathe in that shit!
March 27: New York City
SAM FARRAR: CBGB. What a shirhole of infamy. Smells like shit at least. Perhaps it's the toilet downstairs in the men's room, up on a platform stage with no walls or doors, for the whole world to watch.
ALEX GREENWALD: I'm sitting in a stall in the bathroom of the infamous CBGB, fantasizing that it's 25 years ago, and one of the bands that changed my life has just gone on. I have to finish up fast so as not to miss the rest of the show. Running up the stairs, I face the reality that it's 2002, and CBGB is just an empty room. Actually, I'm thinking: I must have just taken a shit in the ladies' room.
SCHWARTZMAN: CBGB. I could say so much about tonight - the graffiti, the toilets - but I fear the importance of the moment would lose its weight in my dumb translation. I will say, though, that after soundcheck, when the place was totally empty, I picked up a guitar and played [the Ramones'] "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" all by myself. Sang it to an empty shrine.
Later that night:
GREENWALD: We just played; I'm sweaty as hell and quite happy. Every so often, we all look at each other and revel in the fact that we have the greatest occupation ever. This wasn't one of those times, but we were all very thrilled to have played a show at CBGB. We are now a part of its history. After the show, we went down to the bar in the basement. I had a few drinks. Looked around, everyone was having a good time. I had a few more drinks. Next thing I know, I'm being attacked by two girls. Then I realized I had had too much to drink. A few moments later I went back to my hotel and puked. I haven't been the same since. I hope the pictures of me with the girls came out, but please don't let my mom see them.
March 28: New York City
JACQUES BRAUTBAR: Tonight I met Al Pacino. Al Pa-fucking-cino! I went up to him and said, "Mr. Pacino, you are a badass motherfucker." He replied with a "Really? Thank you." No one gets cooler than Pacino.
March 30: Newark International Airport, New Jersey
GREENWALD: I have decided that I spend most of my time in airports. Fuck this. I hate securtiy checks. I've been searched twice already. A skinny, effeminate young man wearing a sport coat MUST pose a significant threat to public safety. Well, FUCK THAT.
FARRAR: Sitting on an airplane, flying back to L.A. to tape Craig Kilborn. Jacques just put his head down. He'll be out cold in 15 seconds. Nope. I was wrong. He sat up again. Probably thinking of his debauchery last night. We played the Vanderbilt in Plainview, New York, and were thinking there'd be a couple of hundred people. Try 1,200. It was an amazing night. Had a bunch to drink. My girlfriend nearly threw up on the way back to the city. Postshow, Jacques apparently spent the night on the town with a couple of folks. Uh, girls. He had a puker in his bathroom keeping Darren awake. We don't sleep. We just drive ourselves to the brink of delirium, pass out for ten minutes in a van, ride to wherever the day takes us, and pop awake when needed. As for me, I didn't sleep at all for poor reasons. A girlfriend with a cough. Strange being in love with someone you see for only fractions of time.... What is fun? What am I going to regret later? Oh, how wuss. I should be spitting out tales of threesomes, foursomes, blood, fire, more spitting, and, of course, drugs.
April 1: Los Angeles
SCHWARTZMAN: Back home. Haven't been here in months. We did Craig Kilborn today. I jumped over the kit at the end of the song and really hurt myself. Fuck it. It's TV. But my truly life-changing event occurred only minutes later: I got off the elevator on the wrong floor and was standing in front of the wheel from The Price is Right! There it was, in all its glory. It really is ancient. Up close you can see cracks - the dollar signs are chipped, and the paint is faded. I touched the "100." Boogied before security arrived on the scene. Tomorrow we get picked up at 4 A.M. to fly to Michigan to meet up with Guided by Voices...our heroes!
April 2: Somewhere over the Midwest, 4:15 A.M.
BRAUTBAR: On our way to Grand Rapids. It's four in the fuckin' morning. Fuck this.
April 3: Detroit
GREENWALD: Tonight was our second show with Guided by Voices. I would have written about our first show with them last night, but those bastards got me completely drunk. It wouldn't have been very coherent.
BRAUTBAR: Detroit. Just my luck, there is a casino three blocks down from our hotel. I love to gamble. Last time I went to Vegas I won $500 playing blackjack. Hopefully I'll have a repeat performance in the Motor City.
April 6: En route to Tampa, 7:30 A.M.
BRAUTBAR: There's nothing like morning at 30,000 feet. Our lobby call was 4 A.M. We arrive in Tampa in the early afternoon, play a radio festival on the beach (or so I'm told), then it's back to the airport to catch a flight to London. That flight arrives at around 8 A.M. Sunday morning. INSANITY.
Later that day:
FARRAR: Ah...beautiful Florida, 75 degrees. Sunny. Clean ocean air. Women walking around in next to nothing. But, of course, we only had four hours here. Felt like a true rock concert for us today. Even had the flashers (tits, if I might make that a bit more clear). A lot of them, actually. And a stage diver. And a large amount of people. Did I mention that ladies were showing us their boobs?
GREENWALD: I don't know what time it is. I am completely disoriented. Now I'm about to get on a plane to London. I haven't slept since the two hours I got after the last GBV show. Fuck. I can't sleep on planes.
April 7: London
FARRAR: We've arrived in London. As a band, it's our first time outside our home country. I'm recovering from a hellish 36 hours, finishing with a smile in a fantastic city that has cabs with backward seats and television with no more than six channels. The next three days will be a test. Can we win over a different culture with our American egos and American take on British pop punk? Fuck if I know.
April 8: London
GREENWALD: Tonight we're playing a gig with Garbage. MTV UK is filming it for a show called Five Night Stand. I have high hopes for our set. Tomorrow night we're playing with a band from Australia called the Vines. We aren't going to spend enough time here. We're leaving in three days.
April 9: London
FARRAR: Tonight was our second show in London. We played Dingwalls - a fantastic club. London crowds are tough. Toughest yet. They're very excited to shoot you down, which is all the more fun for us. We're always up for a challenge. In any case, we did well. They cheered, took photos, screamed for an encore. It's an amazing feeling, turning a bunch of nonbelievers. How can you not have fun doing this? A crowd, lights, screaming, fuckups, and music, glorious music. There's nothing else more satisfying, more thrilling.
April 10: London
FARRAR: A very busy, successful day. Started with a TV interview for the Associated Press, then off to a photo shoot for NME. Did a BBC interview and performance. Yes, Sam, you just wrote "BBC." Fucking Austin Powers even sang about that place. Then we rushed over to soundcheck for our last show at the Borderline. It was our first headliner, and, shit, did it go well! I have to mention that Jim, our soundman, happens to be Radiohead's guru, so we've been drilling him on facts and trying to impress him with our library of Radiohead covers. He reckons there's good money in it. Nobody else is doing it, right?
Later that night:
FARRAR: The rest of the evening: a wall of paparazzi pushing each other out of the way; drunken disorder; horrible Hollywood-style guest lists, including Posh Spice and a couple models I've seen on billboards and in commercials. Very attractive, very inappropriate females to tempt, but not steal, my senses. It might have been that moment when I realized how difficult it is to be with someone and live this lifestyle. How fun it is to flirt, even with someone you won't end up with that night. I will say fuck you to [London nightclub] China White though. I have been seated for six hours and have to pee. Ooh, the pen begins to fade, like the end of Abbey Road. You never think it well end. In my case, you might want it to.
April 11: Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean
BRAUTBAR: I have no idea what the time is. We're on our way home to L.A. I feel like I've been gone for weeks, but it's only been a few days. Reality as we know it ceases to exist on the road. I'm having the time of my life. And you can print that!