If you are a touring musician or have ever known any, you no doubt are familiar with tales of woe from the road, which to hear most musicians tell it, is never much more than a litany of van trouble, sub-Waffle House food, moronic fans, shady promoters, STDs and broken and/or stolen gear. Take all that with a grain of salt. Even on the occasions when all of that happens on a tour, the road is a huge reason why most musicians get in the business to begin with and then stay there.
But if any band has earned the right to bitch about a tour, it's Oakland, California's indie rock band the Heavenly States. It started, as these things usually do, with a great idea: In full suck-up mode to the United States after Mu'ammar Gadhafi caught a whiff of Saddam's smoldering palaces in the desert breeze, Libya had opened up to the West. Wouldn't it be cool to be the first band to tour there? Think of the very human contacts we could make! Think of the opportunities to be cultural ambassadors! And also to rock out in several of the Roman ruins that litter Libya's broiling sands -- just like Pink Floyd!
Yep, it was a good idea. No doubt about that. But you know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions. Space doesn't permit a full recounting of the Heavenly States' travails there, but click over to our sister paper the East Bay Express, whose music editor Rob Harvilla accompanied the band on this most ill-fated of jaunts (www.eastbayexpress.com/issues/2005-03-02/news/feature.html).
Oh, yeah, the music. Violin-propelled and male/female-harmony-driven, and possessed of a hair-raising ability to shift gears from tender to intense, the State this band calls Heavenly is composed of equal parts political lyrics and aggressive indie-rock and chamber-pop music sprinkled with a pinch of fiddlin' Irish folk. What's more, a reputation for hot live shows precedes them -- but sadly, they built little of that standing in Libya.