Monday, December 19, 2005

Holy Crap! The Silver Jews Are Going on Tour

Christmas is coming early this year. First, I get the gift of angry drummer boys and now I have learned that The Silver Jews will be playing at The Middle East in Boston on Sunday, March 19th. The amazing thing about this tour is that The Joos have never toured in their decade-plus existence due to the main Joo, David Berman's stage fright.

So, the question is what happened to change Berman's feelings about playing live. One possiblity is that it is related to his finances. Last summer, in a lengthy interview with Pitchfork, Berman discussed touring and his finances:

Pitchfork: Does a new record that's more consistently upbeat rock 'n' roll than previous ones makes you want to perform live or tour?

Berman: I don't know if the record makes me want to play live so much as it makes me want to play the songs again through a loud amp with a drummer there and some other players going off around me. Whether or not you plan some big "event" around that. I don't know.

Pitchfork: Financially, how do you afford not to?

Berman: Last year, I made about $16,000 from the four records that are in print. Drag City takes care of its own. Everybody who makes records for Drag City is getting the most money possible. The Silver Jews have never bought an ad. Ever. Well, once in Alternative Press in 1994, for The Arizona Record, but it was in the back and...

The last year I made a record, 2001, I made $45,000 from Drag City. This upcoming year I hope it will go up to that level again. In addition, I read at colleges multiple times a year at $1,000 a shot. Various writing projects bring in money. Actual Air brings in $1,000 a year nowadays. I get a dollar a copy, and they've sold a goodly number. And Rob Bingham gave me a $10,000 advance to finish it.

BMI checks are a couple thousand a year. Another couple thousand from foreign licensees. I made a movie with the artist Jeremy Blake last year. There are a couple movies with [Silver Jews'] songs in them that keep playing on Scandinavian cable at 3 a.m., apparently for the last four years.

I've never gotten a grant. Well, that's not true. I had a fellowship to go to graduate school. I never had to pay for tuition while I was there and teaching paid your other living expenses. My father paid for my undergraduate tuition. There's this famous story in my family of when my father took me out to eat when I was 18. I had been too lazy to apply to college so he'd had his secretary apply for me late. To the University of Texas and the University of Virginia (because I romanticized Virginia as a kid).

Well, I got into both (Texas was automatic). The tuition difference was large. UT back then was $350 a semester. Virginia was, what $12,000 a year? My dad likes to make games of things. He told me he wanted me to go to UT so I'd be closer to home and said that if I went to UVA he'd pay my tuition but that would be it until death. And four years of health insurance, I guess. Instead, if I chose Texas he'd pay for that plus give me the difference between the two schools' tuitions to live on. I am frankly amazed I chose Virginia. I don't remember my reasoning.

I worked in the morgue at the UVA hospital all through college to pay my rent. In the 15 years since I've graduated he's loaned me $5,000 two times when I was in trouble. The first one in my 20s, which he kindly absolved, and a second one last year trying to get back on my feet. I still owe him that one and I hope this album will enable me to pay him back because he holds it over my head every single time we get into an argument.

I guess I should add that he did pay for my rehab, which I let him, figuring at the time it was his fucking idea, and what did I care? Also, when I got out, this organization called Music Cares at [The National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences] helped me pay bills. It's a charity, and hopefully I'll be able to send some money back their way once America starts paying me a living wage. It probably goes without saying that I've got a credit card rotisserie system that would dazzle the ancients.

The other thing that may have had an impact on his decision to tour was his nearly successful suicidal overdose and resulting rehab stint in 2003. Surviving those kind of events can change a person's perspective on what is worth fearing.

Regardless, I'm glad this is going to happen. Perhaps to lessen the glare of the spotlight on himself, Berman seems to have built a Rolling Thunder Revue type of tour around The Joos. This is how the press released described the upcoming tour:

The "Love With the Lights On: Ballroom J Tour" will feature "a fiery oratorical performance" by ex-Pavement percussionist Bob Nastanovich, a "‘professional style' multimedia stageshow", and "country comedy" by Kevin Guthrie and Corny Crow.

Bob N. was always my favorite member of Pavement so that's a plus and while I don't know anything about the other guys mentioned, I like the idea of a variety of acts. Tickets go on sale on this Thursday 12/22. I have a feeling that tickets are going to go fast so I'm a bit scared of getting skunked.

Here are the other tour stops:

3-10 Athens, GA - 40 Watt
3-11 Atlanta, GA - The Earl
3-12 Asheville, NC - Grey Eagle Tavern & Music Hall
3-16 Charlottesville, VA - Satellite Ballroom
3-17 New York, NY - Webster Hall
3-19 Cambridge, MA - Middle East
3-21 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church
3-22 Baltimore, MD - Ottobar
3-24 Columbus, OH - Little Brother's
3-25 Ann Arbor, MI - Blind Pig

By the way, the video for The Silver Jews' "How Can I Love You If You Won't Lie Down" is available on their page of Drag City's site.

Silver Jews - Random Rules (courtesy of Domino Rally)
Silver Jews - People
Silver Jews - Advice To The Graduate
Silver Jews - Black and Brown Blues


Anonymous said...

Hey 45th,
For drummers visited you. We're grad students fella, and thanks to you, the semester is over.
Happy Holidays.

Flatlander said...

If it's a grad school experiment, what is the experiment? What class was it for? Why would you choose a post that was a month old on a blog that only 75 people see a day? What was your hypothesis? What were the results?

I'm not buying it. If it is a grad school project, I'd love to post the resulting analysis. Please email me a copy when you are finished with it. I'm guessing that I'll never see an email from you.

Flatlander said...

I called this morning and got my two tickets. So, I'm pretty happy today.