The Perfect Mixtape Segue #4: A Month on the Road with $100 and a T-Shirt
by Joe Biel
How do you describe the rollercoaster experience of touring? Pour it all out into a zine — especially if zines are the whole point of the tour. An obvious choice, but one that still posed a problem for Joe Biel, owner of the Portland-based indie press, Microcosm. In writing about his 40-city zine tour, Biel wanted The Perfect Mixtape Segue #4: A Month on the Road with $100 and a T-Shirt to be more than a travelogue, more than an itemized list of places “where we ate and shat.” Finally, after Biel had scrapped draft after draft, the light-switch flicked on — demonstrate to his readers that just as anyone can make a zine, anyone can go on the road. The only necessity is having the desire (and the willingness to go into a bit of debt).
In addition to a can-do attitude, touring and producing DIY print media share another thing: it’s better to not work alone. Illustrated over and over in the retelling of Biel’s road trip, friends (or lack of them) determine the success of missions with more heart than mighty dollars. Help can be a map to the venue (the hand-drawn maps Biel collected from the tour illustrate his zine), or help can come from friends also willing to brave bad road food. In the van with Biel are Dave Roche who reads from his book On Subbing: The First Four Years, Nicole Georges who presents her zine “Invincible Summer” via overhead projector, and Jack Saturn, author of We Ain’t Got No Car. But headlining is $100 & A T-Shirt, the documentary Biel produced on zine culture.
Since Biel and his touring gang resemble spirited seniors more than raging rockstars, the name for their tour, “Cocoon: The Zine Tour,” came from the 80s sci-fi movie about elderly folks acting like teen folks. Unfortunately for Biel and company, life on the road guarantees prodigal bedtime hours and disrupted eating habits. Biel also translates the suspense of touring, making it easy to finish this zine in one sitting: Which shows will be a success or a bust? Have the promoters hung flyers? Will the staff show sympathy or indifference? Will Biel with his racehorse metabolism ever get to eat again? The Perfect Mixtape Segue #4 captures not only the pain of sleeping on sofa beds but also the glory of showing small-town youths that self-expression is as available as the nearest blank sheet of paper and copy machine.