Friday, January 30, 2009


Gotta mention this as well, my good friend, ex-bandmate and occasional collaborateur Paul Wiesenborn just put out a new record under his CHANG moniker. It is absolutely brilliant. Check out CHANG: HERE

Right in the Breadbasket: Lawrence, KS pt. I: the Replay Lounge

The Replay Lounge – Lawrence, KS

The funny thing about writing up these experiences months after the happened is the incongruities that arise, when did that happen? In what order? Or, in the case of Lawrence, KS I am not quite clear as to why we decided to drive to Lawrence with no shows booked for several days and $20 between the two of us. On a Sunday night. At 8pm. The only conclusion I can draw is that we decided, being the stouthearted, robust fellows that we are, to continue on our path in search of adventure.

Do you know how to spell adventure, kids? K-A-N-S-A-S.

Ok so that’s less than accurate, Kansas may not be the most exciting part of America, the beautiful, but it has its merits. Carry on, my wayward son.

A quaint little hamlet roughly a half hour from Kansas City, Lawrence is also home to the University of Kansas and consequentially, a pretty decent bar/music scene. Jack and I cased the main drag looking for places to busk up a couple dollars, eventually settling on a streetcorner outside of a bar where there was some sort of bluegrass show going on. We figured we would wait until the show was over, set up our instruments and catch a couple bucks from the people leaving the bluegrass show. The door guy informed us the show had another hour or so left so, like the responsible adults we are, Jack and I decided to go spend the last of our money on beer and pool. I was feeling pretty good about my pool game that day as I had actually beat Jack fair and square for the first time earlier that day (this is the one and only time that I beat Jack by clearing the table and sinking the eight ball, which is embarrassing considering how many times we played pool during this tour) so we ducked in to a pub down the street and proceeded to fritter away our remaining ducats. Now broke but with several lukewarm Budweisers down the hatch we meandered over to the door of the Replay and started to play just as the bluegrass band was finishing up their last song.

Nobody left.

We played and played and not a single person walked out the door. We began to realize the grievous error we had committed. So, being the industrious fellow I am, I decided to talk turkey with the club owner, figuring we could just play our instruments on the stage where the bluegrass band had played and perhaps sell a couple CDs. The bar manager informed me that the rear stage (where the bluegrass band had played) was closed, but she would see what she could do.

Subsequently I realized that this woman is the most amazing person in the world. She got the sound guy to transport some of the PA gear inside, set it up for us and sound check us. She gave us free beer and then proceeded to WALK AROUND THE BAR BY HERSELF and DEMAND that people pitch in money for us. She is my hero.

A drunk couple at the bar bought us several shots and the bartender tried to refuse my tip because he wanted us to keep all the money we could. My mind was, consequentially, blown. Never have I seen an outpouring of support for genuine strangers, much less for strangers who looked as though they may or may not be shifty hobos.

The Replay Lounge not only saved our bacon, but it is a bitchin’ bar as well. There are two sections, an indoor area with a small stage (there is a SWEET painting of a superhero on the wall, I felt very superheroic playing next to it) and a full bar and a significantly larger outdoor area with a bar, a big stage and a bunch of seating. Also, in searching for an image for this post on the Google I came across quite a few pictures which lead me to believe that the Replay is the place to be on a pretty regular basis in Lawrence.

Our very own rags to riches story, right there in Lawrence, KS, but that’s not the end of our Lawrence adventure, tune in tomorrow for part two of:

Right in the Breadbasket
or …
Carry on my Wayward Fun?*

*I used a question mark to imply the similarity between my cornball titles and those found at the end of Rocky & Bulwinkle episodes, you know, like where the announcer says, in that oh-so-dramatic voice, “Tune in next time for, “Fear and Loathing in Frostbite Falls or… The Juiced Up Moose Is Loose!” Hope that got across.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

YJ's Snack Bar - Kansas City, MO

YJ’s Kansas City, MO

Welcome, new readers, most of whom, I’m imagining are touring musicians. This one’s for you guys:

If you are ever in Kansas City, Missouri, YJ’s is a must. Local, organic food at a good price. Great coffee. Interesting crowd. Definitely one of the best hidden spots I have seen so far.

I was first turned on to YJ’s by a guy named Ed who was booking our show in KC in October of 2008. Jack and I had some time to kill. Jack and I killed a lot of time in Kansas City due to our severe lack of funds at that particular juncture. After a considerable break in shows we played one almost impromptu show at a bar in Columbia, MO. No amps, standing next to the old drunks at the bar. We felt like the Blues Brothers just showing up with our instruments and saying, “Hey, we’re the band.” At which point all the rednecks in the bar did that slow head turn, as if to say, “We don’t take kindly to you young’ns.” The crone behind the bar gave Jack a verbal dressing down when he asked her to turn off the jukebox. I was pretty confident that we were going to get beat up and die in a ditch in the middle of Missouri, which is not my preferred way to go, especially after we played a Hank Williams song and one of the kindly bartenders was unaware that Hank Williams, Jr had a famous father. Now THAT’S redneck.

Anyhow, we managed to squeeze a couple of free beers and about 25 bucks outta the joint (mostly thanks to the crone who gave a similar verbal dressing down to the bar patrons when they wouldn’t put money in our tip jar, thanks lady!) After spending a night on the floor at a house which had far too many people sleeping on the floor (I got the last floor space, Jack got the confusingly still available couch?) Jack and I headed for KCMO.

Kansas City is an alright place to kill time. Downtown KC is a nice grid, plenty of free parking, lots of old abandoned buildings to wander around as well as a pretty cool open space by Union Station which is also worth a quick walkthrough if you’ve got the time.

YJ’s tucked in a little corner on the outskirts of downtown on 18th and Wyandotte (it’s there, although it requires a bit of maneuvering to locate it, I assure you, it’s worth it.) Roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes, YJ’s can only seat about 10 people at one time, although it was still nice enough to sit outdoors when Jack and I visited which just about doubled YJ’s capacity. The food was fantastic and, relatively cheap. The great thing about YJ’s is if you order off of the menu, which is generally comprised of one lunch item and one dinner item, you get an entire meal. The first time we ate there, we got a North African dinner complete with hummus, couscous, lamb kebab and a salad for somewhere around eight bucks.

The staff at YJ’s is also extremely cool. Very laid back folk usually playing interesting music. There is a bit of a library in one corner full of weird magazines, books on interesting subjects and local poetry. There is also generally a cadre of interesting kids hanging out at YJ’s and, if you talk to them you could get them to come out to your show (by the time we left Jack and I had about half the café and the girl behind the bar coming to our show).

The greatest thing about YJ’s, though, specifically for those of us who are broke and traveling, is that if you ask them if they have leftovers they will usually whip you up something delicious to the tune of about 5 bucks. So, if your wallet is hurting and you don’t have enough to pony up for the actual dinner menu (which will be delicious and a lot of food) there are other options to get a little food. YJ’s is also open 24 hours (I believe) so if you are just passing thru town in the middle of the night and need a cup of strong coffee before you drive all the way across Kansas it’s also a good pit stop.

Quirky atmosphere, good food, great value. If you’re traveling through Kansas City I highly recommend checking out YJ’s.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Iowa Pt. III: A La Recherche du Paul's Perdu

My beloved Twinnies lost! But did that do anything to quell this man’s Playoffs Fever? Absolutely not. Still sequestered in Dubuque, Iowa I continued on my search for dive bars in which to feed my need for beer and baseball. I heard rumors of a place called “Paul’s Tavern” “Paul’s Tap” and “Paul’s Bar” where one could get a cheeseburger and a beer for two bucks. Now, either there are a lot of guys named Paul in Dubuque who are all trying to corner the cheap drunk market, or Paul’s Tavern/Tap/Bar was the same place. Sure enough, at 176 Locust St. in Dubuque Paul’s Tavern reared its ugly head. A doublewide bar if I’ve ever seen one, Paul’s Tavern has to be one of the narrowest bars I’ve ever been to. It also features the most frightening array of dead animals I have ever seen in my life which are, apparently, “Paul’s Big Game Trophies”.

Photo By Darren Snow

These “Trophies” range from deer to mountain goats to small varmints all stuffed and neatly arrayed in large, neon-backlit glass cases that line both walls. Remember when I said Paul’s was one of the narrowest bars I’ve ever seen? Well huge glass cases full of dead animals encroaching from either side doesn’t help that sense of claustrophobia.

The television in Paul’s is a tiny remnant of the Carter administration, crouching under the glassy gaze of a mountain goat in the farthest rear corner of Paul’s. As it coughed up the only game that the Sox won in their series against Tampa I ordered what was to become the first of many $1 beers from a bartendress who looked like a 90 year old shaved cat that had been smoking Virginia Slims since the Titanic sunk. The beer? Old Style. Classic Chicago-baseball-watching beer. Now, Old Style, for all of you beerficionados out there who don’t drink yard beers with us plebeians, is not, I will admit, the greatest beer in the world.* However, THIS particular keg of Old Style had, apparently been sitting in the basement of Paul’s Tap since the last time the Twins won the World Series.** AND, apparently the way that Paul’s Tap could justify selling Old Style for $1 was if they doled it out by the thimbleful. After roughly 18 Dixie cups of Old Style I was ready for a burger.

The Paul’s Tavern burger was probably the most blatantly unsanitary thing I have ever consumed in my life. This is saying a lot coming from a guy who eats off the floor to keep his immune system on its toes. Nefertiti’s Mummy pulled a pre-made hamburger patty out of a cooler which I could’ve sworn was sitting open since I walked in, tossed it in some sort of grill/oven which was so crusted over it looked like a topographical map of the Appalachians, looked annoyed/bored and said, “One dollar, sweetie.” Now I suspect that the crustitution of this particular grill/oven thingee had something to do with how delicious this particular slider was. Whatever the case might’ve been, it was absolutely delicious. And only a dollar! How magical.

Several more walnut shells full of Old Style later I engaged in conversation with a drunk, nearly deaf man who proceeded to yell at me for roughly a half hour about being in the Ironworker’s Union, how much he hated the Sox (yes, ladies and gents, this man was a dirty, dirty Cubs fan) and how he was going to try to get fellated by his across the hall neighbor. Good luck Lazy-Eye.

Towards the end of the night the Sox won, all was right with the universe and my tab ended up being somewhere around $12. Money well spent, thanks Paul’s!

I spent the rest of the night singing Italian arias down by the Mississippi river with Jack and Sabyre. I brought Sabyre a bag of oranges which she adopted as her baby. I also fell and ripped my jeans, so now I have a pair of jeans with a hole in the knee and look much cooler than I would otherwise. Great!


Paul’s Tavern
176 Locust St.
Dubuque, IA

Tap: Old Style (comes in tiny, tiny glasses)
Bottle: Didn’t get a chance to inspect the bottle selection, wouldn’t imagine it’s that great.

Delicious sliders from a Cold War grilloven.

TVs: At least one which probably displayed the Moon Landing.
Bar Games: I believe there was pinball and perhaps Ms. Pac-Man

Old drunks. Guys with lazy eyes who talk about their peckers.

Jukebox: I seem to remember them having some sort of jukebox, but baseball was more important…
Live: None

Scary, scary dead animals, everywhere!

The beers weren’t that huge but they were only a dollar and the burgers were pretty good and I walked out of there with a pretty slim tab. 8


Paul’s is, apparently, an old drunk institution in Dubuque. If you are looking for a cheap in every sense of the word time, Paul’s is the place to go in Dubuque. Also, it is a good place to watch baseball.

* Before all you Chicagoans with a chip on your shoulder start getting your noses out of joint about Old Style, understand that if you think that Old Style is the greatest beer in the world that you don’t actually MEAN that, you simply think that any attack on Old Style is an attack on the Sox or the Cubs or Chicago. Truth be told it has nothing to do with that, Old Style is just kindof a crummy beer, please act accordingly.

**1991 for all of you cretins out there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Contributions

I have all kinds of wacky things in the works. Some day I am going to finish my Dubuque, IA trilogy (it's half done). Also I have invited some very funny and interesting people to write about their experiences and areas of expertise so I don't have to sound like a dummy when I try to write about beer or Russia or having face tattoos.

I am also writing the great American novel and trying to resurrect Babe Ruth's corpse which takes up a lot of my time, so, geez, give a guy a break, hey?

Monday, January 12, 2009


I am currently hiding in a bungalow in western Florida, a long way from Escondido, California. Imagine my surprise when I entered the beer aisle at the local Whole Foods and found some of the best beer San Diego County has to offer. I am talking about Stone Brewery’s fine cadre of beers which may or may not have been directly or indirectly responsible for me almost knocking out my ex-bandmate’s teeth roughly six times during a show at the Comet in Seattle, WA.

Naturally I had to buy some more.

I just cracked a bottle of the Smoked Porter. At first blush I got a peaty, almost island single malt-y flavor without all the alcoholic bite from this So-Cal brew. The further I get along in the bottle, the peat flavor dissipates and the unground coffee bean and caramel flavors come out. Often, when trying for peat and caramel brewers will overshoot into territory which ends up being grassy or tasting like peanuts. Porters have to strike a delicate balance of being dark but not overly heavy, of having those musty, thick flavors without being a beer you have to chew. Stone has hit a nice mahogany on the outside, black hole in the center bulls-eye with this smoked porter.

Stone Breweries Smoked Porter

Enjoy with:
Dark Berries
A good book
The new Flying Lotus record

Iowa Pt. II

Baseball playoff season has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe it’s because my birthday happens to be smack dab in the middle, maybe it’s rallying behind my beloved Twinnies as they inevitably make it to and then lose in the semifinals, maybe it’s the hot-dogs and copious amounts of cheap beer that are consumed, maybe it’s because, “half passed out, stuffed full of food, with my hand down the front of my pants during the 7th Inning Stretch” is one of my favorite positions. Whatever the case may be, buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks (or an Old Style and a hamburger) and prop me in front of a TV and I am happy as a clam.

As I mentioned in a previous entry I spent a large part of 2008’s playoff season in Dubuque, Iowa for some reason. I watched Twinnies make their inevitable march towards the exit at Breezer’s Pub in what I can only imagine is Downtown Dubuque. Breezer’s is an old drunk townie bar if I’ve ever seen one. Old Drunk Townie bars are one of my favorite places to watch baseball, a couple of wasted old guys sitting at the bar, yelling and cursing at the screen, calling players and umps alike “Ya Bum!”, jukebox full of Merle Haggard and AC/DC, and, most importantly, cheap beer. Breezers had the added cachet of a section of the bar being entirely devoted to a pool table, several large televisions and the largest collection of Hot Babe/Action Hero/Fantasy Scenes 8x10s I’ve ever seen adorning 3 of the walls. Dirty Harry is perched next to Jenny McCarthy in a schoolgirl uniform who is, in turn, situated underneath a heavy metal album cover-esque painting of a barbarian fighting a pack of wolves in a swamp.

Dive Bar Rating Scale

Tap: Poor
Bottle: OK

TVs: Good
Bar Games: Pool, Air Hockey, Big Game Hunter

Old Drunks

Jukebox: 4
Live: None

Movie Posters, Island Scenes, Floor to Ceiling 8x10s of famous people and barbarians.

Happy Hour is $2.75 Budweiser bottles


Breezer’s is a pretty middle of the road dive bar, the beer isn't all that cheap but they do have a pool table and a few TVs so if it's playoff season and you want to shoot a couple rounds, Breezer's fulfills all the right criteria.