By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
At the hotel, I point out that we are a block away from where Kennedy was assassinated, and the Flobots, high off their performance and maybe a little Dos Equis and tequila, beeline to the grassy knoll and immediately begin calculating trajectories, studying the path of the bullets from an upper window of the schoolbook depository, the X's painted in the pavement where the bullets hit.
Understandably, no one is exactly chipper at 6 a.m. as we take the tour bus out to suburban Dallas for an interview with Kidd Kraddick in the Morning, a Top 40 radio show on KHKS-FM/106.1. No one seems to understand why the group is doing a radio performance the day after a show, when they're leaving for the next town before playing again in Dallas, but tour manager Christie Osbourne, who has rejoined the crew from Denver, shushes all complaints as the bus pulls up to the station.
Inside, an ebullient Kraddick greets the Flobots and tells them to make themselves at home while they finish up a segment; then the band can load their equipment into the minuscule studio stuffed beyond capacity with interns and drive-time sidekicks. Framed on a wall in a hallway is an article from the Dallas Morning News on one such sidekick, Al Mack. "Al's humility has no memory," the article reads. "Al embarrasses himself on a daily basis — and not just for the show."
As if on cue, the discourse inside the studio shifts to a caller who is frustrated that her man can't put the toilet seat down and has taken to using her feet to do it. "I can flush the toilet with no handlebars," Mack begins singing. The whole studio chimes in, over and over: I can flush the toilet with no handlebars. Jaws agape, the Flobots take it in.
"I definitely wouldn't rather still be asleep," Jesse says to Kenny, whose eyes are barely open.
Seated on the floor reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Stephen lets out an audible sigh.
To his credit, though, Kraddick knows his stuff. He asks the group about their first EP, Platypus, and mentions a clip making its way around YouTube of a Flobots song about Iraq in which every word starts with the letter I, R, A or Q, in that order. There are a few dumb questions, like when Mackenzie is asked which bandmember she would kick out (she says Jesse, because he's the only one with better hair). But soon enough, the mike is turned over to allow the band to perform.
A gaggle of fans have gathered outside the studio window to watch; one has a sign that says, "Flobots, look at me!" It's amazing to see them, losing their shit at being able to catch the Flobots in person. At 6 a.m. On a Wednesday.
In suburban Dallas.
The band works its way through a stripped-down version of "Handlebars," and then, at Kraddick's request, belts out "Rise." The performances are tight but moving, and upon their conclusion, all idiocy and shock-jock antics have ceased. Rather than playing down to their level, it appears that the Flobots have made everyone else rise to theirs.
The group drops www.fightwithtools.org, thanks Kraddick for his time, and begins loading equipment.
Secretaries and interns crawl out of the woodwork to meet the Flobots in the narrow back hallways. Even Al Mack goes out of his way to tell Andy how that was one of the best in-studio performance they've ever had on the show — and this from a dude who once had Denny's deliver his food to him in a bathroom stall.
"I've made the comment on air that if you have 'Handlebars' as your ring tone, you're really missing the point," Kraddick tells me in his office, checking e-mail before going back on the air. "You have to listen to it all the way through. Listeners are getting the point now; they're responding to the whole album. It's actually kind of incredible. I've started playing 'Rise' a few times. You wouldn't believe the response it's getting."
But that's the thing, Kraddick, I think as I head outside the studio to hurry the band through autograph-signing and picture-taking so we can all get back to the hotel and get some more sleep. I absolutely would.