The Ettes may be based in Nashville, but they are self-described rock ‘n’ roll gypsies. The quartet—vocalist/guitarist Coco Hames, bassist Jem Cohen, drummer Poni Silver and new guitarist Johnny (who doesn’t seem to have a last name)—recently got in the van for a month-long stint opening for Juliette Lewis in support of third album Do You Want Power (Take Root) and its contribution to the Whip It soundtrack. Hames kept a tour diary.
“No Home” (download):
Orlando, Fla., September 26
It is really fun to ham it up at your hometown shows, and since I was born and raised in a suburb of Orlando (which explains my suicidal teen years and complete Disney-fied distortion of reality), Orlando is a hometown show for me. I get to see all of my family and drink way too much with my old friends, and that is par for the course. Thing about us, though, as rock ‘n’ roll gypsies, we’ve got so many hometowns: New York, Lost Angeles, Asheville, N.C. Poni’s folks live down in south Florida, where we also played, and I will say, the folks down at the Culture Room totally have a guest nook for parents, since a lot of rocker parents live down there. Class act! We gave the van to a mechanic and hopped a plane to Los Angeles. But not before eating Poni’s mom’s empanadas.
Los Angeles, September 29
We’re in Los Angeles for the premiere of Whip It, the lovely and talented Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut featuring Ellen Page, Zoe Bell and Juliette Lewis, among others. It is really fun. The premiere is held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I dress up like a roller-derby referee (total fashion-fart coincidence, I just choke when there’s a red carpet involved), and the movie is great! The after-party is a star-studded affair (Judd Apatow! Ed Norton! Steven Spielberg!), and I make only a moderate ass of myself running up to Andrew Wilson to say how much I like him. And he is really nice and says, “You’re not from around here, are you?” because I have a Southern accent, and the smartest thing I can come up with? “I’m from space!!” and grabbing Poni’s arm and running away. Smooooooth.
I go back to the hotel, but Poni takes a taxi to her friend’s house and notices the meter is at $50. Poni is from Queens. She says, “No, sir, I don’t think that’s correct.” It starts that simply. It ends with her getting thrown up against the wall and her purse being stolen. By the cab driver. We know where you park your car, middle-aged Armenian cab-driver man on the east side of Los Angeles. It is a matter of time before we return, stake you out and fuck you up.
To cosmically make up for that, the next morning we get word that we are to perform on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on Friday, so we fly back to Orlando, get our van down from the repair rafters and drive straight up to New York City!
New York City, October 2
On several days’ no sleep, jacked up on Dunkin Donuts coffee (mmmm most of the time, by this point it was like, “Take your medicine! Drink your energy juice!“), we roll up to NBC Studios at 7 a.m. on Friday morning. We load out, park the van and hang out in our dressing room at Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The hallways of NBC are just what they look like on 30 Rock (or in the Simpsons’ characterization of what the offices of Mad magazine might look like), with really interesting artists and writers scooting down the hallways. In one upward glance from my seat on the couch in our dressing room, I see Andrew Shue, Lorne Michaels and A.D. Miles, about whom I am so excited and nervous, I can’t say hi! I can say hi to Lorne Michaels but not A.D. Miles? What a jerk! I am just too excited, you know. I guess you can run into a lot of celebrities in the rock ‘n’ roll business, and most people you recognize and your mind goes, “Cool out, they’re simply talented working professionals and you say, ‘Oh yes hello, how do you do,’ and you just say, ‘Oh, we’re all just working professionals.'” The grind, you know… But there you have it: Coco mega starstruck by A.D. Miles.
Trusting the engineers at NBC is a pretty easy thing to do, especially when you’re standing next to the awesome Roots, who seem very comfortable, so we knock out “Crown Of Age” live on Jimmy Fallon (you can watch it on NBC.com) and have a blast. So. Much. Fun.
Madison, Wisc., October 4
We haul ass from New York to Wisconsin to catch up with the tour with Juliette Lewis and American Bang, and it is fun to be on the road again. By this point, we are officially zombies, which just adds to that lawless feeling you get when you’re on the road, playing rock ‘n’ roll music. So we are quite giddy, actually. The Madison roller girls come out to the show: the Reservoir Dolls, if you want to look them up. The Ettes are in such strong support of roller derby, and Poni and I would rock that shiz so hardcore if we weren’t always on the road. Not that we don’t roller skate and hit each other. Poni says her roller-derby name is Helen Of Destroy. I think I’d still be Coco Motion. Git, git, git gone. I’m fuckin’ fast on skates.
Boulder, Colo., October 6
Boulder is one of those weird towns. Hey, college towns, do you know that you’re weird? I’m talking to you Gainesville, Fla., and Chapel Hill, N.C. And Boulder, Colo. Although, while it’s not necessarily an insult, if you enjoy the weirdness of your college town, you’re probably someone who rocks a bumper sticker that reads “Keep Weird!” And that is OK—you be you. You are youer than you, that is truer than true, and there ain’t nobody who can be youer than you. Really cool theater in Boulder—digging that creepy bar at the end of the block with the super low ceilings. And there is a super weird (keeping with the theme) “green” motel where we stayed that has a killer breakfast with ’50s hits rocking, really pepping us up and putting us in a good mood! Thank you!
Salt Lake City, Utah, October 7
Two facts about Salt Lake City: 1) Yes, extremely bizarre booze laws and watered-down beer (how dare you??) and 2) consistently rockin’ shows! We always have a good (or at least memorably interesting) time in Salt Lake City. Totally crazy metal venue (what is with metal venues? And I love metal! WTF … ) and really amazing crazy people. I am selling merch and this guy is like, “How much for the CD?” I am closing up, so I say, “Ohhhh whatever you want to give.” And he gives me this look and hands me a $100 bill. I’m like, “No sir! No way!” but he won’t take it back! We eat like kings! We love you, Salt Lake City! So much that Johnny hits the dance floor at the Sky Lounge Hotel bar!
Seattle, October 9
There are few towns I love as much as Seattle for good food, nice people and awesome shows. But I can say with absolute certainty that El Corazón in Seattle is the least fun we’ve ever had at a show—ever. Do you know what that means? Of the last five years on the road, of asshole promoters stiffing us on money, of getting gear stolen, of getting punched in the face by drunks at the bar, of getting electrocuted onstage, of shitty sound and shittier beer … you suck, El Corazón. Suck. You still rule, Seattle; we don’t hold that shit venue against you. We hold our bodies against you, in deeply passionate love. We’re sending this guy after El Corazón, though.
Portland, Ore., October 10
As much as El Corazón in Seattle sucks, Dante’s in Portland rules! And yes, we do get the doughnuts. We get all kinds of doughnuts. There’s an awesome doughnut shop across from Dante’s, and which was the group favorite? The maple frosted doughnut with bacon on top. There are some obscene sounds coming from the van when the Ettes eat that one. We hear sounds from each other that make us all uncomfortable. In that way. Speaking of doughnuts, here’s Poni stealing DJ Jelly Donut’s costume.
Vancouver, B.C., October 11
Bronchitis/H1N1/swine/bird/SARS flu strikes the Ettes on our way into beautiful Vancouver, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying all the marvels of the city, including the delightful venue of the Commodore Ballroom. Such a great space, and the people are so awesome. Feel a bit protective of Juliette when the super excited fan keeps screaming, “Mallory! Mallory!” which, I can tell you, doesn’t happen that often on tour. She puts her feathers on and gets into the rock ‘n’ roll space machine and you better hold on tight!
San Francisco, October 13
San Francisco has a lot of things going for it. The food is the best in the country (watch yo’ back, NYC!) and it is just so incredibly beautiful. There’s a lot of passion and madness in the air (it’s all those microclimates from the Bay!) and we feel the vibe at Slim’s: another great time. We eat Mexican food. We rock and roll. Inspired by Juliette’s mad stage moves, I do a ballet-inspired leap off the back steps into the upwardly stretched arms of a guy I don’t know. I do not fall down! Excellent!
Los Angeles, October 17
Remember how I said we have a lot of hometowns? Los Angeles is one of them, since the Ettes met and lived there for, like, three years. Los Angeles knows a lot about us; Angelenos watched the Ettes grow up. If you can call us grown ups now … But it is always fun to come rock L.A., and the El Rey is certainly no exception. Another fun thing about L.A.: Actors you know from the movies and television come to the show! Poni and Steve (from the Sarah Silverman Program, among other illustrious productions) get very excited about each other! Then I get excited! Then I think I scare Ellen Page. Ellen, tell me if we freak you out. Well, I don’t know, we always go to the Drawing Room; it’s a scary place! But we all know the most important thing about L.A. …