Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Back Pockets tour log: Pt. 6 (Sat., March 19)

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 12:43 PM

The ACAC is in the middle of downtown Little Rock, but in general, it’s a damn ghost town. There’s nobody walking around even in the early evening. A pizza place is the only open restaurant, so we hang there until the show. The venue is an art space too, and upstairs there’s kind of awful graffiti-style art on the walls.
The basement is where shows are held. There aren’t a ton of people there, so we go for round two on Chat Roulette while Haley and Heather paint the band’s (and other people’s) faces. In the middle of Mumford’s set, which is jumpy, folk-with-horns kind of stuff, the crowd gets a bit rowdy. Well, it’s really the Back Pockets who get rowdy—they lift little Lam up to crowd
surf. Everyone’s laughing while Lam, who’s wearing a strapless gold dress and gripping a High Life, almost smacks the ceiling.

Later while Haley and Heather are still messing with Chat Roulette users, they land on former Degrassi character-turned-rapper Drake. He’s in his studio. We all go wild over this, even though several of the Back Pockets aren’t really sure who Drake is. The fun-filled pre-show serves as the opposite of foreshadowing, unfortunately. Despite Trevor and Mon’s extravagant theater work—they shave half of Haley’s long blue hair off during the set—Emily isn’t pleased. She cut the set a song and a half short, stopping in the middle of “Story Song.” She packs up and leaves while Trevor and Mon finish Haley’s hair. The venue turns on the band’s album, and drum sticks are passed out for “Love Like.” The band has abandoned their instruments, but half of them are with the crowd, knocking the sticks on the floor and the water jug and whatever else is around.

I’m not told exactly why Emily cut the set short, and I don’t think anyone else in the band is, either. I know there are issues between her and Billy, and I know she’s a perfectionist, which I completely identify with. What I don’t understand is why she’d rather disappoint fans—the small crowd was really, really into it—than just continue on in spite of imperfections. In six days, they’ve played 12 shows. So maybe it’s understandable that Emily’s increasingly irritable. But the lack of communication she offers her band mates, I’m afraid, is a parasite that could ravage them.

And they have enough to worry about already. They have a strong, growing following, but they have some passionate critics, especially in Atlanta. I heard one talking, a writer in Austin for SXSW, say at Chaindrive that the theatrics are a distraction. They’re a good band, but the theatrics are a distraction. I’ve certainly heard that before. Suddenly ending a set with no explanation, of course, does little to deter such a claim.

But on their good days, the Back Pockets are, as a recent review of a show in Austin
stated, “fucking awesome.” They’ve recorded some absolute gems: “American
Dream,” “Australia” and “Bulla,” to name a few. David’s whooping, Trevor’s climbing on top of the drums no matter the theatrical theme, the whole free-spirited nature of it all—it’s entirely a result of who these people are. To quote Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (I resisted until now), they’re “out-front” people. None of the wackiness stems from acid or any other drug, though. In fact, they’re probably the most sober band I know. It’s simply that they’re explorers, adventurers; a spiritual bunch that’s as real as I’ve ever encountered. Michael lived in Haiti for a while (he even pronounces it with an accent on the ti). Haley’s planning a trip to India to find her guru. David’s been reading the Bible, or some comparison of the New and Old Testament, throughout the trip. Mon’s ready to be some kind of nomad. Trevor made me a necklace from some crystal-looking glass he collected during the tour. They all have amazing stories to tell and these totally out-there goals. They’re genuine weirdoes, and in the most wonderful way.

The showiness of the band—that they don’t play a straightforward set and they don nutty costumes—draws in people who aren’t aggressive music fans. People fall in love with them easily. I saw it happen after almost every set. One or a few people will approach them afterward and express love like their lives were just forever altered. Crowds see the band’s earnest weirdness and wish that they too could be so carefree.

The last note I found: “In some cultures, sustainable houses are wonderful busses from fields of abandoned busses. They run on veggie oil and have two beds, one for snuggling and an extra one in case your sweetie is extra smelly. NO CATS.” I still don’t know who’s responsible for these quirky passages, but it doesn’t matter. It could be any one of the Back Pockets.

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