Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tour blog, part 2

This is part 2 of 6. Apologies if I forgot your name - it was a long trip and I'm bad at that kind of stuff.

Day 8, Denver, CO:
The drive from Cheyenne to Denver is a short one, so we spent the better part of the morning milling around a Wal-Mart, grabbing some groceries for ourselves. As shitty and stupid as it is, Wal-Mart is a recurring theme on tour. They're always available, we're always scrounging by, and Wal-Mart is cheap/easy to steal from. So we spent awhile there grabbing cheap dried shit that you can make with hot water in a gas station. Road food that fills you up but contains more salt than nourishment. It's better to slowly pickle yourself than to go hungry, I guess.

We got to Denver a few hours before the show was supposed to start, and it was time for an oil-change, so guess where we went? Fucking Wal-Mart. On the way there, a suburban full of cougars kept staying even with us in traffic, honking, and giving us the fuck-me eyes. Too bad our balls stink and we play ugly music that you can't mom-dance to. Sorry ladies, we're gross. We drop the van off, I wander around aimlessly and observe the People of Wal-Mart, and believe me, there were some damn good ones. American Lowest Common Denominator, you somehow simultaneously always disappoint me and never fail to disappoint me. I went back outside and we threw a football around in the parking lot to kill time. 

We pulled up to the Blast-O-Mat around 5:00 or so and parked out front. Nobody was there, so we walked off to a bar down the road, grabbed a pitcher of beer and watched the 1st half of the Boise State game against Oregon State. Yes, we're citizens of The Bronco Nation. Deal with it. We watched the 1st half and then walked back down to the Blast-O-Mat. Reproacher dudes and both local bands, Colors and From Caverns, had all shown up. We hung out for what seemed like quite awhile before the show actually started. The Blast-O runs on a pretty loose schedule, as they can run shows as late as they want - it's in a commercial/industrial type area. It's a really cool venue - it's a house, and they actually run it as a commercial business, but it's operated by a collective. They have a business license in order to prevent the squares from ruining anything - they operate a small record store in the front room of the house as well. Shows take place in the garage, and out back they have a huge half-pipe and general hang-out/lounge around area. Cool venue, reminds me of the Myrtle Morgue here in town, but on a larger scale, and without any shithead neighbors.

The show went well, though we played last and it seemed like a lot of people had already decided to call it a night, which was kind of a bummer. After we loaded up all the gear we proceeded to try to find a place to stay. Reproacher guys had to head back to Wyoming that night, except for their bassist, Jonathan. He wanted us to go with him to a party, but with a 10+ hour drive ahead of us the following day, we wanted to get as much rest as possible since we needed to be up early. So that option was out. Nobody seemed really into it. We were worried it was gonna be a night of shit sleep in the van - not the thing you want when you know you're in for one of the world's most boring drives ever through Kansas the following day. That's a recipe for falling asleep at the wheel. 

Finally, the dudes from Colors had an option - we could stay with them, but it was at a parent's house, and we had to sneak into the basement and be incredibly quiet. Fine, fair enough! We follow them home and proceed to tiptoe our way through the house and down the stairs to the basement. Kasey kicks over a box full of shit, sending it crashing down the stairs at what seemed to be a deafening volume. Smooooooth. 

Day 9, Lawrence, KS:
We got up at the crack of dawn and drove all day. For some, Kansas is home and they love it - we're from the mountains; that's what we know and what we like. It's hard to stay excited when you drive for 10+ hours and don't even have to turn the wheel. You can spin in a circle and the horizon will stay perfectly level.

So we finally arrive in Lawrence as the sun goes down. This was a show that had to be put together last minute - we had a person in Wichita tell us they couldn't do the show right at the 11th hour. Having never been to Lawrence before, we had to scrounge for what we could. The dudes in Cast Pattern referred us to a venue they've worked with before called Duffy's. It's a bar in an EconoLodge. That's right, the cheap hotel chain. Cast Pattern couldn't play, but they hooked us up with a band called Electric Sleuth City. So we go inside, and the crowd is this: the Electric Slueth City guys, the bartender, and 2 hotel guests who were playing pool and listening to Lady Gaga and Nickelback on the jukebox. Right on.

We sit at the bar and one of the ESC dudes buys Kasey and I a bloody mary. Thanks dude. We wait around for a bit, survey the scene, and we all come to the conclusion that it's not very reasonable to play the show. The 2 bar patrons are going to leave as soon as we soundcheck. We have 32 more days of shows to play, we may as well save our bodies and throats. We chalked the show up to being a case of too little, too late. Nobodies fault, these things just happen. The ESC dudes offer us a place to crash, but Morgan has a good friend from his past living in Kansas City now, so we drive the half-hour into KC and crash with him in his apartment. Next time, Lawrence.

Day 10, Kansas City, MO:
I love Kansas City. There's something about it, I don't know what it is. The architecture, the way the city is laid out, the whole feel of the place I enjoy. I make everyone get up at a reasonable hour, and we head downtown to meet up with Bobby from Canyons. He's one of the most solid people we've had the pleasure of meeting in our travels. We wander around town for a bit, check out the venue, grab some lunch, and head over to Bobby's friends place. I'm so fucking bad at names, I can't remember his, but I remember he was wearing cowboy boots. We hung out, watched stupid videos on a projector on the wall for a minute, people smoked their smoke, and eventually we decided to wander off and check out the sights. We went to some train station that had a dinosaur out in front of it, hoping we could catch some rad museum stuff, but everything in it was closed. Fucking lame. Dinosaurs are always a mood enhancer, in my opinion. We parked the van back down at the venue and explored a good portion of the downtown area.

Our 19 year-old merch guy, Mike
The show was at a place called Scion Lab. Not sure if you're familiar with this or not, but Scion, for some reason, has decided to market its vehicles to fans of aggressive music. They put on a lot of free shows involving bigger-name bands, always in bigger "markets" (Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc). They've opened up a small space in Kansas City that they hold shows at. They don't charge the promoter rent, a guy comes in, opens up a bar, and makes sure you don't turn the TV's playing Scion commercials off.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about corporations like this involving themselves in underground music. I don't think anyone listening to our shit is out there shopping for a wheeled-toaster. I don't think it's a smart business move on Scion's part. I do like the idea of someone putting on free shows with awesome bands, and I do like the idea of small venues that are easy to work with and aren't looking to directly profit from touring bands without doing any work.

In the instance of this show, Scion helped us, albeit indirectly. We're not on the take from Scion. I don't care about their cars. At all. Maybe I'm holding onto some sort of horseshit crust monk integrity thing, but something stinks to me when corporations involved themselves in underground music - they don't care about it at all. They care about one thing, their bottom-line. Once enough market research gets back in their hands and they see that all this support of underground music isn't boosting their sales in the much-lusted-after 18-24 year-old male demographic, I have a feeling it will all stop. I suppose until then, everyone should just ignore the flashy commercials and enjoy the free ride while it lasts. Take advantage of 'em, I say. They're definitely taking advantage of you.

Okay. Soapboxing is done. Back to the really important shit: The show was fucking awesome. We played with Canyons, Sports, Landlocked, and Attention Seeker. All of the bands were fucking rad. That doesn't happen often; I watched as much as I could, even through the window as I was unloading gear, prepping for our set, etc. A huge amount of people came, and everyone stuck around for all the bands - people weren't concerned with hanging out outside and being seen at the show. They were there to see live music. Fuck yes. Our set was a lot of fun; I remember a kid standing next to me and he was screaming so loud I could hear him over us. That's a fucking loud scream. Take care of those pipes dude! And for chrissakes, start a fucking speed-metal band!

We crashed back at Cowboy Boots' apartment, some tattoo artist showed up and started offering free tattoos. I tried to convince Morgan to get a tattoo of a bong with a cobra coming out of it, but he pussed out. Lame. One by one we passed out while Bobby and Punch played beer pong.

Day 11, St. Louis, MO:
We got into St. Louis early and went to the riverfront by the arch. Hung out in the park under the arch for a bit, took some stupid pictures and threw a football around some more. Got to the venue, Fubar, right around load-in time. The venue has 2 rooms, and in the bigger room there was another show going on. Nachtmystium, Zoroaster, Dark Castle, and Atlas Moth. Cool. We played "Loungeside", which is basically just a smaller room with a smaller stage. We played with Everything Went Black, ((Thorlock)), and a newer local band called Strangers Now. Brandon from EWB ran the show and set it up so the bands were staggered, and people could flow freely between the 2 shows. So it went, Atlas Moth, Strangers Now, Dark Castle, Everything Went Black, Zoroaster, Bone Dance, Nachtmystium, and ((Thorlock)) closed the show out. Cool show, very cool lineup. Watching Dark Castle was the highlight for me personally, that band is really fucking good. 2 piece dark, bluesy, sludgy, stoner metal, killer guitar tone, and a fucking enormous drumkit. EWB killed it as usual, ((Thorlock)) brought the stoney jams and got Kasey really stoked with their bitchin' KISS cover.

After the show we realized we lost our main set of van keys, so we wandered around forever in the venue scouring the floor and the street around the van, with no luck. Luckily we had a set of backup keys, but it didn't have the automatic lock that triggers the alarm. So now everyone has to be extremely careful that we don't unlock the van improperly, or else the alarm will go off and we will have no way to shut it off. Nerve-wracking; our van locks are fucked up and if you unlock the back door without unlocking the front one, the alarm is triggered. If you pull up a lock from the inside and open the door, the alarm is triggered. If you fart while getting in the van, the alarm is triggered. It's weird and convoluted. Here's hoping that Merch Guy Mike doesn't fuck it up.

Day 12, Cedar Falls, IA:
We tried to get to Cedar Falls as early as possible, so we could squeeze every minute of hangout time possible with our friends and old tourmates, Former Thieves, so we left St. Louis pretty early. We arrived just as they were also pulling up to the 1108 House. Good timing! We said all our hellos, gave hugs and kisses and walked down the street to a burrito place that Ben works at for some grub. After eating we walked back to the 1108 House and checked out the basement. Low ceiling with pipes hanging just underneath it. Somewhat cramped and dank, it’s the perfect basement for a show. The 1108 House has been doing shows in Cedar Falls for quite a long time, in part because of cool neighbors, respectful attendees, and people who live there know how to run a show at a house, all important elements that ensure the longevity of a house venue. We hung out, talked shop for awhile with Former Thieves guys, sipped whiskey, and waited for folks to show up and for the first band to start.

Phil and I walked to a nearby gas station and picked up a few beers, and headed back to the show just in time to catch the 1st band, a newer local called Qualia (pronounced kwal-ee-uh). Really promising band, they played a lot of what reminded me of late 90’s / early 00’s Robotic Empire / Level Plane stuff in their musicianship and overall vibe of the songs, but trading the distorted and frantic style for a more somber and reflective quality. After they finished loading out we loaded in and started the set – I didn’t realize it until a few minutes into the set, but holy shit that basement was full – people were crowded along the stairwell because there wasn’t any more standing room. I remember looking over and seeing Morgan hanging upside down from the ceiling pipes and thinking to myself “A: I hope those pipes can hold his weight, and B: I really hope those aren’t shit-pipes.” Overall it was an extremely fun show to play – Cedar Falls kids are all really open to everything, supporting live music and touring bands, watching bands and not just hanging out outside.  Bands from all over have great things to say about that town’s music scene, and for good reason.

After us, Former Thieves went on to play and I swear the basement got even more full; I was stuck on the stairs. You can tell that people in Cedar Falls are very proud of that band, and there’s no arguing that they shouldn’t be. They work hard and they write incredible music, music that is all at once catchy, complex, layered, nuanced, emotionally charged, heavy, melodic, and exploratory. There is a current influx/trend/whatever of “emotional-hardcore” (whatever the hell that means, all music is emotional you fucking music critic goons) that is growing quite fast – Former Thieves may not be the most well known of these bands, but they are easily the best.

The night didn’t end for quite awhile, while most of the show-goers found their way home, plenty of us stayed up late partying; Matt really wanted one of our denim weed wolf vests, so we made him do pushups for it. Totally worth it. Some folks had to work in the morning or had various other responsibilities to attend to the following day, so one-by-one people said their goodbyes and made their way home. Others stayed up late for the long-haul. I wasn’t one of those people. I was feeling drained and sore and needed a full night of sleep, so I found a couch and called it a night pretty early on.

Oh yeah! And we found our missing keys in the trailer, I guess they got hooked on something and fell off Phil’s belt loop while we were loading out in St. Louis. And Merch Guy Mike didn’t fuck up the alarm. You just might be worth your weight, Mike.

Day 13, Minneapolis, MN:
Minneapolis is another one of my favorite cities in the Midwest, and if you’re in the downtown area on a sunny day in the late spring, summer, or early fall, you’ll also see why. You can tell that people there really don’t take nice weather for granted. The show was at a coffee shop called The Beat that opens up their back lounge area to bands at night. Nice place, they gave us free coffee and let us hang for quite awhile. We grabbed some Chipotle (still can’t figure out how to weasel our way into free shit like the Former Thieves’ dudes told us about. I guess we’re not charming or persuasive enough…), and got spare keys made so we don’t end up with any more missing keys mishaps. Should’ve done that from the get-go but I suppose we prefer to take care of shit as it happens instead of planning ahead.

The show went off well, Adam who set up the show is a great promoter, great photographer, and an overall good dude who makes sure to take care of the bands he books. The locals were all good bands – You Wretch, Mourner, and Blue Ox. We played after Mourner, and Blue Ox closed the show out. Despite being unbelievably drunk, they played really tight, which is pretty fucking impressive. After the show we walked over to an Old Chicago with the Mourner and You Wretch dudes to grab some food, and then we went over to some of the You Wretch dudes apartment. We drank a bit more and stayed up late talking about music and other shit – some trivial, some deep. Was a good night, made new friends, saw old ones, played a kick-ass show in a kick-ass venue, in a kick-ass city. All things have to balance themselves out though.

Day 14, Shit Creek, MN:
We had the day off because a show fell through in Madison, WI, so we took our time getting up and getting moving. Went and grabbed coffee and made breakfast at the apartment we’d slept in. It was time for an oil change so we looked up the nearest place. After following some lady around honking at her because she yelled at us for an imagined traffic violation, and a detour because I realized I’d left my phone behind, (last time we were in Minnesota I left my debit card at the venue and we had to double back – next time I’ll probably lose my whole wallet) we headed to the auto shop for a routine oil change.

We unhitched the trailer, gave them the keys, and then went wandered around town; anything is better than thumbing through an Entertainment Weekly and getting heartburn from burnt coffee in the lobby of a Jiffy Lube. There wasn’t much in the area except a few chain stores, so we headed back hoping the van would be ready. As it turns out, we were going to be there for quite awhile. The seals on our rear differential had worn out. They went back to assess what was going to be needed, and left us wondering why our mechanic back at home hadn’t noticed something like that. When the mechanic returned, he informed us that since the seals had gone out, oil had run all along the differential spreading out to our brakes. The pads were completely soaked, and the brake shoes were covered in oil. As you can imagine, a lubed up brake system does anything but what it’s designed to do. So he ran over our options for repair, and drew up an estimate.

Total: $750 for new seals, cleaning the differential, and new brakes. Ouch. We didn’t have that much cash in our band fund, and using it all and adding our own personal money out of pocket was just enough to cover the expense and leave us without enough money for the rest of the trip.  Now we have a rock and hard place situation. We’re only 2 weeks into our trip. We can’t spend all of our band money and start from square one in the middle of the country – from this point on we will be playing in places we have never been to before. We don’t know at all what any of the shows are going to be like. We could theoretically have 2 consecutive weeks of shows that are all a total bust, which leaves us stranded on the opposite side of the country without gas money. We also don’t know what else may potentially go wrong with the van – even with regular and seemingly thorough maintenance, American-made passenger vans are just time-bombs with wheels and seats. Total crapshoot.

We get on the phone and talk with our mechanic – after all, in our minds, the reason we’re in this situation is because of his negligence to notice this problem when we got our van inspected before we left. But those slippery fucks have a way out of everything – these parts aren’t covered or guaranteed by anything or anyone – in a nutshell, you should expect seals to fail over a period of time, and a mechanic can’t be held responsible if he fails to tell you that it’s time to replace them. The failure part is fair enough – we have a high-mileage vehicle, shit gets used a lot. I still don’t see how his fuckup is now our responsibility, but I suppose that’s why everyone hates mechanics and lawyers.

The mechanic guy works over a few things and gives us a new estimate, $722. $27 is the most he can lower it. We talk for a while and figure out how to borrow some money to cover the cost and not leave us up Shit Creek. Borrowing money is the last thing poor people want to do, and loaning it out to poor people is the last thing rich people want to do, but we work out a few things, and by the grace of people close to us, and several promises to immediately pay off the debt when we return home, we are able to take care of the van.

We ended up reading Entertainment Weekly and getting heartburn from shitty coffee until the van was finished at 5pm. We drove to some small town in Wisconsin, and stayed the night with Travis, a friend from southern Idaho who had recently moved out there. Had a few beers and tried my hardest not to think about debt and other potential van problems we may end up having. Can’t be ruining gig life with concerns of home life. Those two aren’t allowed to meet.


  1. i noticed this:

    similarity? me thinks yes.

  2. Next time you're in the Lawerence area, ask around downtown and see if The Love Garden is still open. It's a record store there, I remember it from my childhood. They had cats all over the fuckin' store. Awesome place.
    I wish I could've helped you out more with a show there. My father couldn't get a hold of Jackie or anyone he used to deal with in his pipeline/avalanche days.
    More tours to come though, I imagine. And you can bet we'll be there if you can't get to Springfield or anywhere closer. St. Louis ain't our "Mark Twain Forest, loving" kind of place.