Dark Side of the Wall: Jon Barba & Whitman tour diaries, pt. 2

Editor’s note: We pick up the story of L.A. musicians (and friends) Christopher Payne—who performs as Whitman—and Jon Barba—formerly known as Nicole Kidman—as they head back toward home from a gig in Boise, Idaho.

Nothing is for certain when you are on tour except surprises.

And this pair discover many on their journey from one D.I.Y. space to another.

Day 10 – The Closet – Reno, NV
We woke up to another long drive but were able to make it to Reno in good time. When we got there, we asked Elliott from the house where we could go to get cheap food and we were directed to a place called The Awful Awful where you get a giant cheeseburger on top of a pound of french fries for like $7. It was a grease fest but well worth it. We headed back to the house and the show got started.

The folks at the house said they didn’t know what local band to book with us that made sense with our music so they started a new band to play the show. The band was called Sonny Wortzik, which was made up of members of the band Fa Fa Fa, and they played an awesome set of nicely polished new wave gems that came with no shortage of jokes. Our sets were received with tons of enthusiasm. Jon closed the show and got encored into playing an hour long set. After the show ended a girl who lived down the street invited everyone over for an “after party” which turned into a jam session that went on for a while before eight of us crammed into a two-door sports car and drove downtown to Pie Face Pizza. We were treated to some awesome pizza and we couldn’t think of any way better to end a great night of partying hard—Reno style.

Day 11 – Nessie’s House – Santa Cruz, CA
We were able to sleep in a bit before heading to Santa Cruz and it was nice to finally have a drive that didn’t take up the entire day. The house was located in an area populated only by college students and was really large and nice. Nessie’s band, Gay Genius, opened of the show with some complex and very theatrical nerd pop. It was playful and catchy and she had an incredible voice. We played in the middle to a small but attentive audience. Hermit Convention closed the show by playing a set of brilliant pop songs with really clever lyrics which he made by using a bass and looping station. It was beautifully crafted and flawless.

As the show was ending it made the awkward transition from this low-key and homey feeling show into some kind of frat party. We watched as a laptop DJ and a beer pong table were set up, and were left with no choice but to make the best of it and hassle bros for gas money. Once while we were hanging out on the porch, some dude came out for a smoke and we asked him how he was doing. He replied by saying “I’m Chillin’,” and we were like “Oh yeah, what’s that mean?” and he provided us with the following definition of the word: “6 shots, 1 J, 13 beers, and some dubstep. That’s what I’m talking about!” It was quite a night.

Day 12 – Mike Barn – Santa Barbara, CA
The following day we made the beautiful drive down the coast and got to Santa Barbara in time to catch the end of Food Not Bombs in Acorn Park. We hung out at Biko for a while with Josh and Rebecca of Watercolor Paintings and then headed over to the house we were playing at.

Younger Shoulder opened the show with an incredible set of short and humble pop songs. He was definitely a master of the power of brevity and had a great sense of humor. Peter Pants played next with a set of rowdy girl-punk. It was super energetic and had a mosh going for a little while. We closed the show to an awesome and really receptive audience. All in all it was a great show with some amazing people. After things wrapped up we decided to drive back to Los Angeles and stay at Chris’ house so we wouldn’t have to do any driving the next day.

Day 13 – Pehrspace – Los Angeles, CA
We slept in late and then walked to the Peter Pan Market and cooked a big lunch of incredible chicken tacos. We hung out for awhile at the house and then headed over to Pehrspace. A lot of friends came out and it was good to see so many people again. Kelly got to open the show with a really amazing Splinter Cake set, wearing a rainbow stripped ski-mask with only one eye hole. He weirded out crowd by telling them about his first sexual experience through a feeding back contact mic and then strummed some of his most brilliant songs yet.

No Paws (No Lions) played second debuting their new line up as four piece—re-introducing live drums and adding a bass player. Their songs were catchier than ever. Fantastic new wave pop, somewhat in the vein of New Order. We played next and were show tons of support by our friends and home base. Former Ghosts closed the show with an intense and absolutely incredible set with the help from Dominic from Felt Drawings on synth and Yasmine from Tearist doing vocals an a few songs. The show was absolutely incredible.

Day 14 – The Blood Orange Infoshop – Riverside, CA
We got a good nights sleep and spent the day hanging out and eating burritos (definitely a perk of being back in the Southwest). We headed out to Riverside and after about an hour of sitting in traffic the car started smoking and the temperature gage shot to the max, so we pulled over. It was hard to see on the side of the freeway but all the water had boiled out of the radiator. Thankfully were given some roadside assistance and got enough water in the radiator to make it to the next exit. We let the car sit for a good twenty minutes to cool down and then decided to try and make it to our show in Riverside, despite the fact that Jon’s mom thought that might be a bad decision. She said: “I know you want to get to point A, but you might not have a plan B.”

Thankfully we made it to the show and were only an hour late. Unfortunately this meant we missed the opening act, Jon Harvey, but we played to a packed room with an excited and attentive audience. The Infoshop, which had recently opened, was located in one of the rooms in the People’s Gallery in downtown Riverside, which used to be an old boys’ boarding house. There was home brewed Birch Beer that was amazing and, yes, blood oranges. After the show we decided to drive to Beaumont to Chris’ parents so the car could get looked at the next morning by a mechanic familiar with his vehicle.

Day 15 – Casa Del Gato – Las Vegas, NV
Chris woke up early and took his car in for repair and it ended up that the motor for the radiator fan had gone out, which cost $290 to repair. This was a real financial hit for us, but they were able to get the car repaired quickly so we could continue the tour. Before we left Chris’ mom took us out to a great, hearty breakfast at the Beaumont Cafe. While we were there we spotted “D Rock,” a member of the metal band Mantiice, who we had oddly enough just read about at a magazine at Chris’ parents house. As we were leaving we got his autograph and talked to him for a minute. He was really excited to talk to us and super nice. After that we headed for Vegas, making a pit stop in Baker to take “thug” pictures in front of the giant thermometer.

We arrived at Casa del Gato in Vegas where our good friend Kristin Mason of Las Vegas Club* lives and spent a lot of good time hanging out and drinking beer and various mixed drinks. The houses name was indeed appropriate for there were seven cats living there, all of which were really awesome and friendly. Only one person ended up coming to the show, but we had a lot of fun playing for one another and making lots of jokes. The local band, Dreaming of Lions closed the night, playing singer-songwriter style songs backed by harmonica and percussive play-alongs. It was a great time that ended with us watching footage of Andy Kaufman late into the night.

Day 16 – Dry River – Tucson, AZ
The next morning was a difficult one to get started but we were made awesome breakfast sandwiches that we ate with some 7-Eleven coffee. The drive to Tucson was very long and we forgot to factor in the fact that there was a time change that made us lose an hour. However we left early enough that we still did okay on time. We dropped Kelly off at his mom’s in Phoenix on the way there, who he hadn’t seen in a while, so that was really cool. When we got to Tucson we set our stuff up and then spent some time hanging out with some Tucson friends. The show was put together by our friend Logan from the band Great Job, as well as countless other Tucson based projects.

Dry River is a collective, volunteer run, D.I.Y. space that consists of a large room that encompasses a small library, a free store, a small kitchen, and computer lab. It’s one of the coolest places to play in Tucson for sure. We opened the show to a small but attentive crowd, a good portion of which was made up from friends of ours from the area. Boogie Nazis played after us and despite some technical problems, played a great set of really catchy, instrumental, surf rock. After the show we joined a bunch of people and went to The Taco Shop, a 24-hour mexican restaurant that’s both really cheap and really good. It’s also pretty much become a traditional stop after all our Tucson visits. We stayed with Logan and Ray and passed out watching a really ridiculous movie called Johnny Mnemonic, starring Keanu Reeves, Henry Rollins, and Ice-T.

Day 17 – The Trunk Space – Phoenix, AZ
We woke up and went out for some coffee before heading into Phoenix. We had a lot of time to kill so we wandered around Roosevelt and checked out various record stores and shops. When it came time for the show, it kicked off with an incredible set by Space Alien Donald, who was an older man, probably in his sixties, who rapped about aliens and recited poetry about guns (which he said he wrote while Reagan was president) over keytar beats and solo’s—wearing a different costume for each song. We played next to an excited and really receptive audience.

Following our performances were a band called Female Trouble, an all girl band that consisted of bass, keyboard, and drums. The members took turns trading off instruments and played a set of raunchy and chaotic punk songs with titled like “I Wanna Fuck” and “Big Bag of Dicks.” It kinda sounded like The Shaggs trying to imitate Crass. Treasure Mammal closed the evening with an amazing show of energetic pop/noise with a large group of backup dancers in sparkly spandex jumpsuits. T-Mammal never fails to bring a smile to the faces of the audience and get the place moving while singing about unicorns and spitting lines like “I wanna be all over you like British Petroleum.” It was certainly one hell of a show. After things wrapped up we joined our friend Jen next door at the Bikini Lounge for a few drinks before heading over to our friend Sean Bonnette’s house where were spending the night.

Day 18 – The Smell – Los Angeles, CA
We woke up and went and got some awesome burritos at Eriberto’s with Sean before heading back to L.A. On the way out of town we hit some terrible traffic that lasted about an hour, and Chris was having a pretty bad allergic reaction to something in the Arizona air so this wasn’t very enjoyable. On the drive back we decided to get rid of our donation change and bought $14 worth of gas in random change. They really hated us. We got to The Smell, and had just enough time to unwind before things got started. Rob Thomas & His Unicorn Warriors (a member of the bend Laco$te) opened the show and played a set roughly five minutes in length amongst a mess of cables, electronics, and origami unicorns. It sounded like a rave happening on a UFO that kept getting interrupted by galactic bursts of noise. It was short, yet effective, somewhat in the vein of the old school L.A. noise scene, when outfits like Men Who Can’t Love and Scum Crew were at their peak.

Casey played next and did a set of elegant pop drone. Loops, swirls, and lush reverberated vocals. Jon played a set next, and did only songs on acoustic guitar while wandering around the venue. Crazy Band followed him with a set of short and sloppy punk songs, while the singer Jesse did things like try and light her pants on fire and swing a mace around. Whitman ended the night, setting himself up in the front room as to block people who tried to leave before he finished playing. It sorta worked. It was a difficult night as we were up against a couple other big events that were happening in town, but we were both exhausted and in a way, it was nice to be home.

Ending note:
We’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone who was a part of this tour—whether you came to a show, helped set one up, played with us, or gave us a meal or floor to crash on. We had a really incredible time and we owe it all to you for making that possible.

Jon returns to Pehrspace on May 16

The next Whitman show is February 25 at The Smell

Read  Whitman & Jon Barba tour diary, pt. 1

Watch a mini-documentary about Jon Barba

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