It was a catch-22, and with no place to keep it, the cops visited me on a daily basis." He also couldn't find glass that would fit in the windshield, since most of the AC Transit fleet from back in the Bus's day had been sold to Mexico, according to Benson, and it appeared that the only glass available would have to come from there at more than $1,000 a piece.
Fortunately Benson's friends and the noise community-of-sorts came together to support him. Guardian contributor George Chen threw a benefit that raised about $300, and word got out on the message board Spockmorgue that Benson needed money to repair the bus and a PayPal account was started on his behalf. Benson told me, "I did spend a lot of money on new solar panels and new skylights," but what kept him going were the many people "e-mailing me privately, saying 'Keep it up, John. Don't give up. Don't give up.' I just got a huge amount of support from people I don't even know." One Boston member of the message board donated $100 simply because he said he had heard about the Bus through his friends who had performed on it and wanted to help.
An artist friend welded new metal frames to fit the vintage 1962 windshield glass that Benson discovered were the closest fit for the Bus, and after a few months of work the Bus was finally completed at the beginning of February. "It was miserable," he remembered. "We were literally working in rain under tarps, broken glass everywhere, bleeding fingers, miserable. There was a 24-hour paint job with a lot of volunteers. Someone said it was like Fitzcarraldo there were so many times we were burned and bloody and freezing cold in rain, trying to the get floor replaced and carpet. Definitely insane."
Fortunately, work was completed in time for Benson to drive the mammoth vehicle down to Miami for the International Noise Festival, picking up pals and playing shows along the way. Later this spring he'll head back to Florida to do more work on the Bus it's resting in Orlando in a friend's backyard and then drive it north for an East Coast tour. "In terms of love the bus is doing better than ever," Bensons said happily, while eating chicken with his 12-year-old daughter, who's also his Evil Wikkid Warrior bandmate. "Mechanically it's just a little wrinkled." *
TAKEN BY TREES
Pretty! The Concretes' Victoria Bergsman (who contributes vox on Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks") takes to dreamy chamber indie, written around her love of arboreal life, with Open Field (Rough Trade, 2007). With White Hinterland. Sat/1, 9 p.m., $13<\d>$15. Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com
RICKY LEE ROBINSON
The Oakland rock 'n' roller cuddles up to classic '60s and '70s pop values at his CD-release show while playing drums and guitar simultaneously, somewhat like "that sad guy in the straw hat at Six Flags whose eye contact you and your punk friends made sure to avoid," according to Robinson. With the Dilettantes and the Pandas. Sun/2, 9 p.m., $10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com
MAMMAL AND MANSLAUGHTER
Detroit's Animal Disguise artisto embraces a darker breed of death-beat mesmerism, alongside Manslaughter, a "stupor group" including Sixes and Noel von Harmonson. With Chinese Stars and Pod Blotz. Sun/2, 8 p.m., $8. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com
The Philly native gives a few hard hugs to a freewheeling brand of full-band electric folk on his soon-to-be-acclaimed Langhorne Slim (Kemado). With Nicole Atkins and the Sea, and the Parlor Mob. Mon/3, 8 p.m., $12<\d>$14.