Category Archives: Summer 2010 Tour

Summer 2011 tour part one conclusion / part four part five / epilogue

Photo taken by Ryan Schweitzer at Rhythm Records in Bismarck, ND

Hi there, my little Unis,

I have now finished telling you all about my 2011 Summer tour. Are you satisfied with the information? Well, if you aren’t, I’ve got a little bit more for you before I start posting about recording my upcoming album, “Heavy Jugs To the Moon.”

1. I would like to add a little bit to part one of this summer’s JU blog tour posts:
I wanted it to be clear that [the post] was intended as informational for those who imagine traveling around and performing music as some sort of a non-work-party-thing. I love performing, and while sometimes it can turn into a party, it is most certainly work. It’s composing, recording, contacting people, mailing stuff, making artwork, putting together stuff to be printed, driving, carrying equipment, and for a wonderful 45 minutes a night, performing. There is little time for fun adventures…i save that for my days off (just like when i have an office job during the other part of the year). There is no time for drinking or drugs…I certainly would not be able to do what I’ve been asked to do if I were intoxicated, and it would be difficult to make it to the next gig in a punctual fashion if I were intoxicated after I performed. I am absolutely in love with making music, and I’m slowly learning how to make it work as a career. I don’t want the fact that I live on the road for a few months and “get weird” for 45 minutes a night instead of working a job to be confused for laziness on my part. Soon, I will learn how to streamline some of the work, or perhaps delegate it, and then I’ll be spending just as much time working on something else that I’ve been neglecting. I’m working on turning my music into a smoothly running machine. At some point in the future, I might be able to afford the party lifestyle that goes with some musical careers, but I will not choose it. I will use that time and energy to develop art and other things in my life. Please do not read my explanation of what it’s like as a no-name touring act as a complaint. I’m bringing this on myself for the purpose of learning; learning how to do what I want to do, and learning what other people think, and I don’t even know what else.

2. In the interest of continuing being transparent about things, I will let you in on a little secret about my performing: I always play music that’s easier to play than I am capable of. A short search on youtube will reveal that I often make horrifying mistakes on stage. Many of these mistakes are indelibly archived by people who happened to be in the room at the time. These days, I try for perfection…and that means only playing that which I am sure I can successfully pull off. I do leave about 20% room for experimental material, though. Another trick is that I get the audience involved. Once they are complicit in the performance, I can shift blame to them if anything goes wrong. “Why did I sing a crap note? Because there were at least two guys in sector 3 of the audience who could not hold a tune!” The other good thing about involving the audience is that it lightens my work load. And having an audience do some of my work for me is more cost-efficient. At the end of the tour, when I add up the numbers, I find that I’ve made more money if I subtract the minutes saved by making the audience sing. Also, you may notice that there are times when I stop doing anything for long periods. This serves two purposes: a. it’s my break time, and b. it creates tension for the audience. and when that tension is released, the audience feels like it got something from it. At the end of the show, I have done 30 minutes of work, and the audience has got 45 minutes of entertainment. Now that’s efficiency! And it’s necessary when, like me, you’re working on a very tight budget.

3. I’m a “multi-instrumentalist.” That means, I play many instruments badly. A lot of people come up to me and ask “what’s your main instrument?” Well, that’s a really hard question to answer, because they all seem like secondary instruments to me. I mostly just try to keep my head above water as I struggle to make my fingers press the buttons that will simulate most closely the music I have written. So, I suppose my main instrument is my own brain. In my head, I play music that will blow your mind. By the time it gets to my stupid fingers, it turns into something a little less amazing. Even if I can get one section from my brain to my fingers, by the time I have learned it, I have forgotten the other parts. I guess maybe I can’t answer that question properly. Maybe singing is my main instrument. I wouldn’t have said so a couple of years ago, but it seems to be the thing I have the most control over. It’s certainly the thing I “feature” at my shows. But I’m hardly a “singer.”

4. My second tour is over. It was twice as big as last year, with bigger audiences, and it seems like I even have a fanbase in a few places. The situation looks very optimistic for this music making venture. If you are a fan of my music, please be on the lookout for shows in your area in the next decade. And wear a horn to the show.

Thank you,
Johnald Hibiscus Unicornopoulos

Johnny Unicorn 2011 Summer Tour Part Four Part Two

Michigan, U.S.A. – In the muggy mists of Michigan’s musty west I take a rest. With family, friends and foes from distant pasts I reunite. Mosquitoes thirstily drink my blood. Growls and tiny bleeps in the blackness of the nightwoods betray either terrible animal murder, or something much nicer; I never find out. The lake never has waves; I am forced to wade in still water so cold my feet freeze and returning to shore becomes difficult. Deadly solar heat only breaks for a horrifying storm: rain that sounds like a million frogs falling onto a lake of maple syrup and lightning that is as bright as the sun and almost as frequent. A small pool of swamp water builds on the floor of my car.

Tour: Eastern leg:

GTG Fest part two: Lansing, MI’s GTG throws their second of three shows. It’s Josh David and the Dream Jeans (check out “Aware of the Riverman”), Cavalcade and me. The audience is so good that it’s overwhelming, and I’m not even sure what to do. I fear that I could have done better for them. But they get to see part of the Universe music band. Naomi plays synth for half the set. The Plurals’ Hattie Plural sits in for a couple of the songs also!

Next I go to Lawton, Michigan’s Old Hat Brewery, where I play a long solo show. The audience is the best first-time audience ever. The show puts the whole tour in the black.

Bozart’s (a really cool gallery) in Toledo allows me to perform for unwitting art-lover’s during the city’s artwalk. Some of them enjoy the show. Some seem indifferent. All stay to watch the entire show, which is more than I ever hope for.

Jamestown, New York’s Labyrinth Press Company let’s me play a show at their coffeehouse, opening for progressive metal band Exemption. A great show, but a small audience. Afterward I go to a dance party and regret not dressing up.

Next, I backtrack to Erie, PA and the Crooked I. A bigger music venue / bar. It is their open mic, and they have given me a special slightly longer slot. I perform for a room full of people who have no idea what to expect. And as far as I can tell, a decent amount of them are impressed. The next 8 hours are the weirdest of tour! For legal reasons I will not talk about it publicly.

The next day, I go back to Jamestown to retrieve a cable I left there. Then it’s off to Buffalo, to host “Monday Night Inventory,” an open mic that takes place at Allen Street Hardware…this place has nothing to do with Hardware. There is not even a hardware theme or anything. It’s a restaurant. I spend most of my time being confused about this fact. The open mic allows me to just talk, without having to think about a big set of music. I meet some interesting people and hear some very interesting music. The artist who particularly stands out in my mind is Forevra Evra. just click on the link and listen. You’ll know what I’m talking about.

That leg of the tour complete, I drive through Canada and up to Alpena, MI to spend some quality time with my friend and fellow artist, Jamie Grefe.

More soon.

The Unforgettable Johnny Unicorn Interview 2010

Michigan, U.S.A.

A menacing figure. Johnny Unicorn at Mac's in Lansing. Courtesy of Lansingmusic.tv

A silent drive from Holland, MI to Lansing, MI. Still hung over from the previous night’s nachos and soda, along with some apocalypse television (Neil deGrasse Tyson, thank you for your important work showing us how futile and short-lived our whole existence is, and how there will be nothing to do once a gamma ray burst is inevitably pointed in our direction), I float along the expressway in a haze. The trees, the green grass, the religious billboards, while all welcome memories from my former home, pass through my field of vision like blurry, unimportant, hard-to-notice objects…perhaps like motes of dust, or old crumpled-up pieces of paper that might be magazines or newspapers, but I can’t be bothered to find out.

I think I will have time to relax before the interview, but I was late getting going. I have to drive straight to Mac’s bar, where I get out of my car and stand in the parking lot across the street, wondering what to expect. I can see the film crew a few cars over, preparing their equipment. I’m still in too much of a daze to talk to anyone, so I just stand there, knowing they don’t recognize me and letting the knowledge of that fact give me some sort of feeling of empowerment. After I see them go into the large square building to prepare for my arrival, I set to the task of putting on interesting clothing. For I do not allow myself to be seen on camera or on stage or by anyone in media unless I have on a ridiculous outfit. Today, I chose a yellow suit coat and red button up shirt; an outfit I call “hot dog cart.”

I enter the bar and am immediately hit in the face with an undeniable and unavoidable cloud of thick, fresh air. That’s right, since I last left the great Pleasant Peninsula (I’m referring to the lower peninsula. The upper peninsula is a dangerous land overrun with bandits and marauders), the state government banned smoking in business establishments. Finally, I can perform a show in a club without my equipment being damaged. Smart thinking.

The daylight through the thin cracks of the windows would normally cast dull beams of light that do not illuminate their surroundings, on account of the smoke of the daytime patrons. Those usual people, on account of the new smoking laws, are out in the street, standing in the gutter, thinking about different things they can smoke and different ways to smoke them. One man, with half a beard, dressed only in burlap sacks and pants made of pieces of reusable grocery bags, discusses the possibilities that could be opened up by holding a cigarette with the middle and ring finger, palm-out, upside-down. Another man argues about the feasibility of a personal smoke-filled tank and other ways to survive in fresh air environments. With them gone, there is no one in the bar except for the most prudish of Lansing citizens. People with glasses and sweater vests. Unobstructed by smoke, the yellow sunlight shines freely and brightly on the floor and walls of the room. While at night, the club is a fun, happening place, during the day we can see the dirt and scum from years of tar and shoe dirt. Human bones litter the entry way to the bathroom. A spider the size of a Buick (Skylark) with glowing red eyes waits hungrily, licking its enormous lips with its surprisingly bovine tongue, in a crevice by the pool table. The green of the pool table, it turns out, is actually moss. A slime mold behind the bar mixes drinks for a couple of people who must have gotten out of work early.

I see the crew fiddling about with some electronic equipment in the corner. I approach them menacingly, positioning myself in just such a way as to allow my shadow to look many times larger than my actual body. As I approach them, the intensity of the background music heightens, their knees knock together, and their teeth chatter, as they stutter, in search of something in the English language to make sense of this approaching monster. I hear such passing phrases as “dog man,” “man ghost,” and “hot dog.” Upon realizing I am in fact a flesh and blood man just like the three of them (and only partially like the fourth of them, who is a woman), their knees relax, their teeth stop, and the tense looks of fear on their faces melt away into looks of relief. Once again, their lives would be spared and they would receive the gift of another day of life. But what horrible fates await them tomorrow?!

A man named Sean asks me innumerable questions about such varying topics as my likes and dislikes, my political stance, my religion, what kind of underwear I wear, who do I think I am, and an uncountable many more. He drills me on topics I am not prepared for. He takes me to task on my unfulfilled promises. Unafraid of me (now that it is clear I am not a man ghost), he reveals to me the dark heart of true journalism; the saliva-soaked jowls of the insatiable hunger of the journalistic journey for truth. I present to you here now, for your enjoyment, the fruits of his informational crusade. For what man is afraid of a mandog who himself is a dog of a man?

You can quote me on that.

Watch the video by clicking here.

Johnny Unicorn Tour – Reflections

Here's an ostrich. Picture by Johnny Unicorn.

Hundreds of years ago, my ancestors traversed this vast continent, in search of the secret treasures and mysteries of the ancients. They traveled by foot and by chariot, along dangerous trails, defeating anyone who tried to keep them from completing their quest. Also taking their stuff and killing a lot of them. But it wasn’t long before they gave up their search for underground cities of gold and the high technology of the ancient civilizations, and turned to more immediate goals, like building shopping centers and learning accounting. Today, the drive to explore is all but gone, a fading glimmer in the distant memory of a modern society.

But that desire to explore lives on in a few of us, who wander the country in search of the dreams of our ancestors, and the lost secrets of old. I carried on this search in my Summer 2010 music tour. Only this time, the road was my trail, and a car was my chariot, and the engine my horse. A guitar was my gun, and a synthesizer my other gun. Instead of stealing the possessions of the native people I encountered, I stole their hearts. I killed them with my music and laughter.

I started my journey in the far west: Seattle, WA. The birthplace of grunge, and currently home to a music scene that is so hip and exclusive that no one has ever heard any of it. To kick off the tour, I performed at a house show in Seattle a week early. Then, I went to:

1.Eastern Washington,
2.Montana
3.North Dakota
4.Minnesota
5.Wisconsin
6.Michigan
Then I joined another band and went to:
7.Wisconsin
8.Iowa
9.South Dakota
10.Kansas
11.Nebraska
12.Colorado
13.Texas
14.New Mexico
15.Arizona
16.California
17.Nevada
18.Utah
Then I was back by myself in:
19.Michigan
20.Wisconsin
21.Minnesota
22.North Dakota
23.Montana
24.Idaho
And finally, Seattle.

It took nearly three months, and I have gained many experience points. In the following few blog posts, I will recount to you a few of the stories of my travels, many of them made-up, that I didn’t have time to include in my blog posts for the specific performances I did. In the conclusion, I will sum up the life-lesson I learned from all of this, which will probably be something about gas mileage or accounting.

Thank you and stay tuned.

Johnny Unicorn Tour Update – Empyrean

Spokane, WA

Gee I wish these wipers would work!

Spokane, as seen from the South

The day started like any other: I awoke with an automobile seat belt buckle pressed into my lumbar vertebrae. The parking brake was, this time, unnoticeable in comparison. My hair was oily, and my skin was encrusted with night dirt. My knees ached from being bent in the same position between the steering wheel and the door for seven straight hours of sleep. Who knows how many spiders were sleeping with me? My breath tasted like a glove compartment, and my neck felt like a door handle. Even though it was mid-morning, there was no sun. There were only clouds and rain. The gentle tapping of the rain on the metal of the Corsica let me know that the necessary outdoor stretching I would have to do would not be refreshing or invigorating, but sticky, wet, and cold, like a Siberian bath towel in a public shower. My last show was only ten minutes away from the rest area I was currently in. My next show was only twenty minutes away.

The first thing I did was get to Spokane and find the tallest hill I could find and take a photograph. The next thing I did was go to Molly’s for an omelette and pancakes. I would eat those pancakes for the next two days, but I had no way of knowing that at the time. The omelette must have had a half a dozen eggs in it, and half of it was cheese. For about seven dollars I got three meals worth of breakfast. The Empyrean, at which I would be performing, was not open until 5pm. So I had to kill time.

The previous night, in Idaho, I had seen a depressingly disappointing comedy film. The theatre was crawling with teenagers…Generation Text. I wish I had coined that term, but apparently I didn’t. I have no problem with teenagers. In fact, I think they’re great. They are so open to new ideas, it can be wonderful. But I felt so out of place walking around with my adult clothing, and a gait that can only come from years of experience existing in a society. I just didn’t feel like I fit in. Plus, I was alone. Anyway, today, I wouldn’t make that mistake again. No movie theatres! So I went to the mall. There, I walked past a hundred clothing stores that were all selling the exact same thing. I spent most of my time there browsing in the board game store, considering getting a “real” scrabble board, and ultimately deciding not to, and playing skeeball in the arcade.

After one too many donuts and an unnecessary soda, I set off for the venue to set up for the show. Joel, the sound guy, once again did an awesome job setting up my sound mixing during the show. He’s very attentive to detail. A bunch of people came out to see me (like Liz, Danielle, Heather, Mimi, and Michelle, the owner of the coffeeshop, even though she was off duty), which was nice. By a bunch, I mean it in the same way as a “bunch of bananas.” It was nice to see a few people come out in a town where no one knows who I am.

Five artists performed that night. The local bands I could not find any information about online, and as far as I can tell the first band was called The Club Scouts, but I could be wrong. They were a drum and guitar duo that did sort of math rock. I enjoyed the chord progressions. The other was a guy named Chad, who did emotional acoustic songs in a sort of nu-metal way. The other two bands were alt-country touring bands from Texas. Warren Jackson Hearn played first, and did solo acoustic songs. Beautiful playing and a deep voice made his set very enjoyable. And I can’t get his moustache out of my mind. The other band was the Thrift Store Cowboys, with Hearn on bass. They were fairly sizable for a rock band. I feel like they had six people on stage, but there may have been seven. They used lots of instruments. Their sound was great and well-balanced. Their songs were good, and I had a great time watching their set.

Then I performed. I performed as if there were six hundred people in the audience. This is what I do now. I multiply every person in the audience by 50 before I do anything. It was a good last show of the tour.

Stay tuned in the near future for “Johnny Unicorn 2010 Tour: reflections.”

Johnny Unicorn Tour Update – Calypso’s Coffee

Coeur D’alene, ID

Here is a picture of what part of the coffeeshop looks like.

Welcome to the tiny picturesque hamlet known throughout Idaho as Coeur D’alene. The city is as indescribable as it’s name is unpronounceable. But I will try to describe it nonetheless:

Imagine a dark blue lake, out of which heavily wooded mountains rise toward the tall blue sky, which itself is lousy with crisp, white clouds. Then imagine there was a spot with enough flat land to put a city. That is Coeur D’alene, Idaho. It’s in Northern Idaho, in the skinny bit between Montana and Washington. The part of the state that you miss on your way through because you were involved in a short text conversation in the passenger seat.

I performed at Calypso’s Coffee in the heart of downtown Coeur D’alene (I don’t think there’s any other part). The show started at 5pm and ended before 6pm. I performed for 7-10 attentive and appreciative audience members. We had a nice conversation and then I rested for a bit. It was so early that I had time to rest.

One more day ’til the tour is over.

Johnny Unicorn Tour Update – Pangea House

Minot, ND

Once again I was given the okay to perform a performance at Pangea House, the Minot community collective. There they have zines, art, sometimes food, free wireless, and other things for the local youth and whomever else wants to participate. They also have shows, and I played one. Boy, I sure am having a hard time forming words right now.

Jasmine brought me food, Garrett let me stay at his house, and we had lots of great times…there was even a puppet show. We all had a delicious time and the night ended pretty early, and it was just totally relaxing and cool. Everyone once again was cool.

Someone told me that of all the touring bands that have performed there, I’ve done it the most. I should probably check out some other venues in that town for the next tour, as well as this one.

North Dakota….what a state.

Johnny Unicorn Tour Update – Mr. Delicious

Bismarck, ND

The sign

A cool, crisp, nearly autumn day. First, I drink a juice at Smoothie Operator. Then, I do a radio show with Mike Swenson without any preparation. After that, I rush to Mr. Delicious and start setting up the equipment. A synthesizer; an amplifier; other things. The sun goes down and the audience arrives all at once in single file. They sit down in chairs and eat sandwiches and cheesecake.

The Schweitzer starts off the evening with his monstrous poetry: “Bananarama and the Bangles are broadcastin’ and ghetto blastin’ Burt Bacharach and the Beastie Boys.” DJ Antiquity then spins some soul grooves, and later is joined again by the Schweitzer for some rapping. Then I performed my set. It was a beautiful night.

Then we all went over to the Walrus, where Mike Swenson was performing with his group for their pre-cd-release show. Then there was a jam session at Nolyn’s house, followed by hours of conversations about every subject imaginable.

It was a magical night, once again. Thanks everyone.

Here's what the audience looked like from the performance area.

A Good Time in Fargo

I was just going to check out Fargo for a day and then head to Minneapolis, but I met this band, Nohow On that was going the same direction at me and was minus

Well, that’s weird. I remember typing a big long blog post about this show, and here it is, saved as a draft instead of published…and missing almost everything. Well, I guess you can just imagine what I may have said.

Johnny Unicorn Tour Update – Red Raven

Fargo, ND

The Red Raven Espresso Parlor

The last time I was in this city the streets were empty. It was like that movie, Night of the Comet. Most people were either piles of dust or monsters.

This time was different. There were people in town. It was like a different city. Maybe it was because it was 40 degrees cooler. A handful of those people came to the Red Raven to hear the music. Most of them had never heard the bands that played, and they came out anyway, just to check it out. So I put on the best show I know how to put on.

The other band that played was World History, a folk duo from Seattle that just started a six month tour.  Neil from that band started the website dodiy.org, which is a great resource for small touring acts who want to perform in venues other than sleazy nightclubs. They were great, and afterward we all hung out with Joe and Sara (Joe is one of the coffee-shop people).

Everyone was awesome and I can’t wait to see Fargo again.

An actual brick wall at the Red Raven