Babes frontman Rhodes Murphy worships equally at the altars of 9th Ward freakiness and Goner Records buzz fuzz. Together with guitarist Ian Adams and drummer Sam Yoger, Murphy recently completed a ten day tour through the Midwest (in support of their first self-titled album), including a run opening for Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat.
November 5th and 6th (Austin, TX)
We arrived in Austin at 5:30 in the morning because we were so excited to start tour that we decided to pile into the van at 8:30 the night before. After meeting up with our lovely hosts, who were still awake and curiously chipper (service industry people obviously), me and the other Babes piled into a guest room with a blowup mattress and a couch, the latter which I took because I am a gracious friend and couldn’t give less of a shit about sleeping arrangements (I’d take the floor!). Waking up in Austin at around 11, we went to one of our favorite Austin eateries, El Taquito and ate way too much food. Feeling far too full and having nothing to do, we decided to go shopping at a strip mall a few miles out of town. At Marshall’s me and Ian found two great pairs of cheapo black Levi’s (they were a steal) and then we tried to go thrifting but it sucked, and then we went to a leather store which, much to my disappointment, wasn’t a place to buy leather pants but a place to buy leather hides, which is cool if you’re that crafty. After buying new pants we decided to go out for coffee. There are some things about Austin that I don’t understand. For instance, why do people keep renting these little spaces and trying to cram an espresso bar, bookstore, custom seamstress, and a jewelry/trinket/found-junk store into the same tiny building? After getting pressured by some smarmy horn-rimmed barista to buy a tiny cup of four dollar cold brew (“In town for Fun Fun Fun?” she sneered, eyeing our backpacks), we walked back to our host’s house and played her roommate’s PlayStation until load in because we were officially done with Austin. After loading into the club (Red 7) we ate some more food—I think all I really like about Austin is the food, to be honest; otherwise it might as well be San Antonio in a silly outfit. Speaking of silly outfits, I have a lot of them! We went back to the venue and tried to pick out what to wear, finally deciding on a sailor shirt, white face paint, a sequin scarf, and a black cloak! We’ve been burned by Austin before but this time the show was packed. Fun Fun Fun was insane(ly fun), and even though it was Thursday night people showed up in droves. I guess when you live in Austin there is nothing to do but go to music festivals. So much fun! So much fun! After the show we proceeded to substances. We drank enough. Everything was good. I smoked a whole pack of cigarettes in 15 minutes.
November 7th (Memphis, TN)
The drive from Austin to Memphis is insanely long. We left Texas at around 6 a.m. and didn’t touch down on Beale until at least 8 p.m. We were so excited to get to Memphis and finally meet up with Quintron and Miss Pussycat that we barely stopped to pee! Upon arrival, we bought liquor and ate some Thai food before loading in to the Hi-Tone, one of the best venues in Memphis. We made ourselves comfortable with some complimentary Memphis BBQ and huffed the poppers that I still had left over from Halloween. The venue was decked out for the show, complete with industrial grade smoke machines, LED balloons hanging from every surface, and a fully functioning snow machine. We went on first and played our first show in Memphis that didn’t involve a gasoline-powered generator. It was great. Manatees came on next and completely killed it. Then Quintron finally took the stage, igniting a snow- drenched dance party that lasted for what seemed like hours. The show was so fun that me and Ian fell asleep in the van and forgot to collect our payment for the show (woops!). We went back to the house of our wonderful host, Charlotte of the Manatees, and caught some much needed shuteye. (Meanwhile, Sam went out with everyone and partied in a mansion and I am still jealous.)
November 8th (St. Louis, MO)
St. Louis was one of my favorite shows of tour. Little known fact: I actually finished my senior year of high school in St. Louis and swore I would never return. Ironically, since then a lot of our best friends have ended up being from there, so the St. Louis show ended up being something of a reunion. Plus, we have an addiction to unhealthy food, which St. Louis has in spades! I have never seen a better show at a venue that has “No crowd surfing, no moshing ” openly posted on the walls. Seriously, someone must have been handing out goblin drugs because the kids were acting completely insane, foaming from the mouth, and trying to burrow under the stage during the show. I had always thought people from this part of the Midwest were uptight, but clearly I was mistaken. There was also a very special appearance from an impressive goth transvestite named Luna who we partied with after the show at a jello-shot dive bar downtown. She told me she only has a landline and loves smoking blunts. The show was amazing and the bar was forced to stay open well past its closing time.
November 9th (Lawrence, KS)
Lawrence, Kansas on a Sunday night. What more do I need to say? It was intimate. The Replay Lounge was a snazzy little venue/bar filled with great pinball games and a huge fire burning in a cage out back. They offered bands three free pitchers and $3 double mixed drinks all night, so the details of this part of the tour are pretty blurry to me. I know this was the part of the tour when things started to get very cold. I know that we played and it was pretty great. I know that Quintron played and it sounded amazing in the small room. I know I left my keyboard stand here. I know I woke up in a hotel room with a headache.
November 10th (Iowa City)
Who knew Iowa City was one of the coolest places in America? It’s like a little oasis of weirdness surrounded by miles and miles of cornfields and cow farms. The venue reminded us of a cross between a Shoney’s and a wedding reception hall. Anyway, all the freaks of Iowa showed up to the show and we were geared up for a pretty great, weird night. And it was! Our set was mired by technical difficulties, resulting in what must have been one of the most awkward and intense Babes sets ever. This approach must have been effective because we sold more merch here than we would the rest of the tour. Quintron’s set was also bizarre, as the sound guy seemed to be addicted to reverbs and high mids. Oh well! Turns out there was more weirdness to be had. We made our host bring us to a liquor store, where we bought champagne and orange juice for mimosas, and we all proceeded to get far too plastered, ending up with the woman we were staying with giving us her husband’s treasured Devo hat (“He’s gonna kill me, but I use it as a candy bowl, just take it.”). Of course, she woke up the next day and forgot, thinking that we had stolen it. I’ll send it back in a couple days, Paige. Chill out. Love you.
November 11th (St. Paul, MN)
Somewhere between Kansas and Iowa our lives became consumed by arctic outbreak Astro. Apparently they name snowstorms up there; this one was named Astro. Cute. Our drive to Minnesota, America’s Coldest City, was accented by the presence of copious amounts of snow. We thought we were prepared when we left New Orleans, but this was not the case. Luckily, the Turf Club in St. Paul is not only warm, but also one of the nicest venues in the Twin Cities. We were treated to an elaborate basement level backstage, complete with snacks and beer. We have played here before and this time was no disappointment. We had a ton of fun and played with a great band from Minnesota, Honeystick! Also, the Turf Club is conveniently located next to a sex shop, where we bought more poppers. After the show, Miss Pussycat treated us all to hot toddies, and we finally felt warm.
November 12th (Milwaukee, WI)
The first thing we did in Milwaukee was meet up with Quintron and Miss P. at the Organ Piper, a pizza restaurant (and “music palace”) with a massive pipe organ built into it. In addition to the massive pipes, the organ controlled a cacophony of singing ducks, an animatronic Raggedy Ann Doll, and a 60 foot American flag that would slowly descended from the ceiling when the organist played “Proud to be an American.” This experience was probably one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. The Cactus Club features one of the best sound guys I have ever met. We have played here before and I have seen a few shows here and he is a genius. Located next to Lake Michigan, Milwaukee was probably the coldest stop on tour but luckily the show was hot hot hot. We played with a great band, The Platinum Boys, and the queer thing really worked in our favor at this show. The crowd was on fire. This was one of the most fun Quintron sets of the whole tour as well—drinks everywhere and the scent of amyl nitrate fresh in the air. Sam played maracas with Miss P! Our lovely tourmate Heather Vennz also hooked it up in Milwaukee, her home town, letting us stay in her childhood friend’s mansion.
November 13th (Chicago, IL)
Day off! The drive from Milwaukee to Chicago is mercifully short, but we were still on a time crunch because we had to make it to Quintron’s Weather Warlock set at Reckless Records with MAGAS and Rex from Cave on drums. Chicago is one of the best cities in the world. At least when you’re cold in Chicago, you’re distracted by lots of things to do. After Q’s set at the record store, which was inspiring, I went to my favorite used bookstore in Chicago, Myopic Books, and bought a book of modern witchcraft. We then met up with our good friend Deirdre in Boystown, where we knocked out a couple bottles of wine and tried to go to every gay bar that would have us.
November 14th (still Chicago)
This was indisputably the best show of the tour. It was so good that comparing it to other shows is a bit unfair. After waiting all day for our friend Mary to arrive in town, we made our way to the venue, The Hideout, which looks kind of like a lower income suburban home transplanted into a lot surrounded by a bunch of warehouses. Grimy! The show sold out within minutes of our arrival. People go nuts for Quintron there. Mac Blackout opened and blew us away, but I had to go apply my makeup towards the end of their set. This was the biggest crowd of the whole tour, wall to wall. For the first time ever in Chicago we actually played a show where people moved. They danced! They really did! It was glorious. I don’t know what else to say other than I had so much fun playing that I almost barfed by the end of it. The Quintron show that night was a celebration. It was almost like being home. People went wild and the set seemed to go on as long as people were willing to keep dancing. After their set we met Cynthia Plastercaster, a famous groupie who made a plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix’s dick, among many others. I hope one day she has one of mine… maybe? After being kicked out of the club (yes, they kicked us out at 2 a.m. even though we all played there) we went to one of the oldest punk bars in Chicago, The Exit, which reminded everyone of Metairie in a way. We ended the night at 5 a.m. eating Mexican food at Lazo’s, a 24-hour joint near the venue. We bid Quintron and Miss Pussycat and Heather a heartfelt goodbye and went back to Deirdre’s.
November 15th (New Orleans, LA)
The long drive home. We woke up late in Deirdre’s apartment and drank some coffee. Heartbroken to go home, we stopped at Chicago’s famous Vienna Beef factory store and bought some of their famous hot dogs before loading up for the 14 hour trek back to New Orleans. We got back at 3:30 a.m. and met up with everyone at Bud Ripps. I stayed up all night and tried to go to work the next morning, but they sent me home.