Flagpole checked in with Reptar this week to see how the band’s big national tour was coming along. The group’s newest addition, shredder Jace Bartet, was kind enough to share portions of his journal from the trip thus far. These few entries should get us up to speed, and we hope to get additional contributions from him throughout SXSW and then through April as the band makes its way up to a headlining gig at Bowery Ballroom in NYC!
In related blog news, Gordon Lamb just touched down in Austin and the other batch of Flagpole writers will be joining him soon… so expect lots of reports and photos from SXSW in this space in the coming days.
And now, on to Jace’s Journal:
**Tornillo – Day 7, Feb. 28 off day (Sunday)**
The guy who produced Reptar’s EP and upcoming album invited us to hang out at a music studio called The Sonic Ranch in Tornillo where he’s working on the new Animal Collective album, just outside of El Paso on the Mexican border. It ended up taking about 13 hours to get there from Austin, and I was enchanted by the terrain pretty much the whole time. Trees slowly shed away to dust and hills retreated to the horizon on all sides into walls of sharp, short mountains. True Big Sky Country was upon us. I drank the sky like water and ate the mountains like brownies. I smeared dust on my brain and laid my spirit down on beds of cactus needles. It was like that. I got a great second wind from a Ferrari red sunset right in the middle of the drive.
I was surprised when we got to The Sonic Ranch because I’d misheard that it was on a 30-acre pecan farm. It was on a 3,000-acre pecan farm. We parked at one of the guest houses, a beautiful 3-bedroom pad with laundry facilities and hot showers. I wandered around among the grimness of the pecan trees in near-total blackness and felt a comforting unreality sweep into my consciousness. The producer guy, Ben, introduced us to Tony, this cool cat who looked kind of like Andy Warhol. Tony owns The Sonic Ranch, which has been in his family for generations. Tony was really excited to show us all around the numerous recording facilities, which were all so luxurious and intricate that I felt like a complete redneck; my wildest dreams about what a huge mainstream recording studio would look and feel like were nowhere near as intense as this place actually. The largest of these we dubbed “the Aerosmith room.” Tony took us to the main hacienda where Animal Collective were really blazed and watching some kind of recent-looking blockbuster comedy.
In the morning, two adorable-fat Mexican ladies made us incredible burritos, and we watched a little bit of Back to the Future 2 before Tony took us to the border just for the hell of it. We also visited what Tony called “the budget room” which was still way nicer and more decked-out with crazy equipment than any music studio I’ve ever been anywhere near. Tony showed us a ’57 Telecaster that used to belong to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Graham plucked a beautiful little dittie on a 1954 Martin acoustic guitar. We got out of there and drove through El Paso, which was intense because you could see pretty much all of Juarez across the border from the highway—just piles and piles of huts pouring out all over the place. In New Mexico, the terrain morphed into crazy piles of boulders and enormous cactii fields (patches?) The sun set directly in front of us, right in the middle of the highway. Everyone’s brains turned into agave.
**Tucson – Feb. 27, Day 8**
About 50 miles east of Tucson, our radiator started barfing radiator juice all over the engine and we had to call ahead to try to find a mechanic that we could leave it with to get looked at in the morning. We were late for our show at this really cool art gallery as a result. After gorging on some incredible lasagna they cooked for us, I met up with my good friend Cameron who drove a rental car in from Phoenix just to hang out. I was immediately charmed by Tucson, even on a lazy Monday night. It was smiles for miles once I noticed that there were like five super-hippies in the relatively sparse crowd because those folks always bring the (good) crazy. I met an Australian dude named Jace and we hugged. Things got a little stressful because the gallery emphatically did not want to let us keep our gear in there overnight, but there really wasn’t any choice. They didn’t seem to get that, while a hassle for everybody, it was a way bigger hassle for us than it was for them. One group split off to stay with some friends while a few of us went with these super nice girls named Katie and Dannah. They let us eat their snacks and provided us with the perfect balance of party and relaxation. We talked about ghosts outside for a long time and then slept like tuckered children, seven people crammed into a small living room. The sight of all of us sprawled out and resting together is one of my favorite parts of this trip.
By this point in the journey we had all but run out of Reptar shirts, so some of us headed to a Goodwill to see about wrangling up a bunch of crud shirts to spray paint. We all fell totally in lust with Tucson and half-joked about moving there to start up a music scene. It was strange passing through a bunch of border patrol drug stops on the way to San Diego. Reed was the driver through one and when the patrol guy asked him where we were coming from, he was like, “um, Tuckson.” I laughed pretty hard as soon as he let us go and was surprised that the guy didn’t flinch at Reed’s doofus pronunciation of Tucson.
**San Diego – Feb. 28, Day 9**
We were so super late for the show in San Diego because we couldn’t get our bus back in Tucson until the middle of the afternoon. We were worried that the club folks would be pissed, but they were very pro about it. It was just sort of a reality that we all had to deal with. The Soda Bar was kind of like the San Diego equivalent of Go Bar in Athens. Small room, lots of demographics of people represented, and minimal, “chic” lighting. Reptar’s good West Coast buddy Ryan King flew in from San Francisco to hang out with us for the next four days. There was something about this guy; he and I hit it off instantly and I just knew that we were going to be good buds. Having that feeling when you meet someone is just about the best thing in the world. The crowd here was kind of sparse, but it wasn’t hard to get them dancing. The notion of “vibes” is really interesting and confusing to me, suggesting a sort of collective consciousness that I find pragmatically unrealistic but also viscerally undeniable. There certainly does seem to be a Southern California *thing,* expressed differently in all the major cities we stopped at… well, okay, so maybe L.A. is way out there on its own. I can’t even come up with words to tell you what the California Thing really is (it’s not as simple as most of the stuff you might have heard) but it never felt like we were in Just Another Town, USA. Maybe that’s all it is, though. Most of the places we’ve passed through/played/eaten at, while all possessing at least some semblance of character and many of them being super cool, have been mostly just some roads and some buildings where people wander around, like any other place. But between Tucson and Portland, every city had its own proprietary vibe.
**Los Angeles – Leap Day, Feb. 29, Day 10**
On this Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2012, The Day that Time Forgot, shreds of every human emotion dusted among one another in the snow globe that was my heart. There are things to note that don’t belong on any web page; from these things, I experienced the true power of friendship and bonding. The kinship that has grown among those of us in Quiet Hooves and Reptar is familial and for life (at least as far as I’m concerned.) That’s all I feel equipped to say about that for now. The triumph was that our show in L.A. at the Echoplex sold out. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more on fire on stage. I think that stemmed from the sense of awe I felt watching a line form and extend down the street at the venue before doors opened. I never thought I’d be on the other end of that, much less in Los Angeles. Also, Andrew bet me $20 that the sound guy was going to be a dick, and based on other cartoons of L.A.-ness that showed themselves in our brief time there I couldn’t think of any reason to bet against him. Andrew would have lost the bet; our sound guy was a total sweetie. We had an opening band before Quiet Hooves this time called Lucious. They had cool outfits and we all really dug their sound. Quiet Hooves were heavy as hell; it was a real treat to get up on stage during “Feelin’ Down” and wear Greg’s keyboard with him, dancing and singing with one of my favorite people in one of my favorite bands on the planet. The energy in the room when Reptar took the stage was almost overpowering. The crowd seemed more captivated than moved to dance; they moved less than any other large crowd we’ve played for, but they stayed packed in and met each song with enthusiastic applause. We translated all of the emotions of the day into a communion with the energy dimension from which all performers derive their great nights. At one point I broke a guitar string and bolted off stage to fix it. A security guard cheerfully arrived to help me with his flashlight. When I approached the stage again just in time to hit my first note in the song that had just started playing, a man who looked like a doppleganger of Vernon J. Thornsberry was holding my guitar cable up for me right off stage to quickly grab. It was like the whole room all at once was saying, “tonight, there aren’t people here and music up there. There’s just the one thing, this big blazing blob of kinetic energy being unleashed and rebottled and unleashed again a million times per second.” That’s what I heard in that room in Los Angeles on the 29th. I am living my childhood dreams.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.