This has been a busy, busy tour. The kind of stage wrangling and crafting we’re doing is pushing our limits. And driving all the god damned time has really put a crunch in my writing. But here I am, about half way through tour, speeding through the swampy mess of Florida ready to bath salts and leave a baby in a hot car. This is sure to be TLDR.
We started tour prep back in February, writing up a list of new props to build, things to buy, and songs to learn. Half way through tour, we’re still trying to check off some stuff from that list. Props are being modified, shit is being bought, and songs have actually been learned during sound checks. One of the biggest things we bought was Rosie, the 6×12 trailer that bafflingly is still filled to the brim just like our old, smaller trailer. On the plus side, when it’s empty, it’s become a back stage at a couple venues. Why buy? We had the savings in our personal accounts and we can just sell the damn thing when we get home. Having capital is the only way to increase it.
We started our trip out at 8 AM. We made it as far as practice spot to pack, which took about four hours longer than it should have. With such organization, it’s amazing we made it to the first show at all. I’d made a camping schedule. We lost ground on that every minute our sluggish van full of people and junk food crawled along the highways. We hit up three camp sites on the way to Chicago, not ever hitting one I’d planned. It was a load of fun making campfires and swilling beer with friends and a great start to the tour. We were pretty unanimous that it would actually have been a great way to not do the tour at all and just camp across America. Alas, our wives and girlfriends would probably not be too stoked on that idea.
I don’t suffer from stage fright. I suffer from parking fright. I was terribly worried about pulling into Chicago for the first show. I’ve had to be parked miles away from the club before. When I saw vape shops and foodies and young mustachioed men on fixed gears as we approached the venue, I got even more worried. I was wrong! We lucked out and were so early, we beat the rush hour traffic to this hipppest of hip neighborhoods. But I did have a great time blocking traffic while re-learning to parallel park with a huge new trailer.
This being a first show, each band was feeling each other out a bit. There’s always pleasantries, but after having toured with some of the most complete racist douchebags and ripoffs over 20 years of doing this, I’m always a bit trepidatious when feeling out (and up) the dudes I’m going to be spending every evening with for the next few weeks. My fears would be unfounded, however, as it’s come to pass I’m on a tour with some of the most laid back and cool metal dudes you could ever hope to be on tour with.
The Chicago show was great, despite the many misfires of our stage show as we worked out kinks. I was pretty damn happy with how we were able clean up our splatterific stage show. With some care from our blood crew and a few work mats laid on the ground (something we learned from GWAR), we were able to have a clean and dry stage for Skeletonwitch to headline on. The only evidence left behind of our slaughter was the multi-colored faces of spectators.
After camping in national and state parks for three days, we opted for a nice hotel outside of Chicago. I can only imagine the bedraggled appearance of our motley crew first viewed by our tour mates in Black Anvil and Skeletonwitch. Our next show was in always-scenic and lovely Cleveland, or as I like to think of it, the shit hole home of Howard the Duck. We played at the Agora Ballroom, a venue that I had not set foot in for twelve years since Impaled had last played. It has not changed at all, save for the management. We had a much easier time at this show, as the stage had ramp and allowed our non-musical players an easier time to make their cues. We started chumming with Black Anvil and were delighted that these tough looking New Yawkers who covered themselves in cows blood every night were absolutely delightful and charming with lots of stories over their long careers in music. I shan’t name names, however, as their myriad tales were either offensive or embarrassing to people… but all hilarious.
This time we did not opt for a motel, but it came to pass as we had no other place to go. We left to Buffalo with low expectations. Sorry to Buffalonians, but I had yet to have a good show ever in their fair city. That was going to change. No that the venue necessarily changed my mind walking into it. Broadway Joe’s is a small space and we would have to share cabs and nix a couple of our larger characters. We hastily re-wrote our set to accommodate some back up antics. The merchandise was set in the back on a rickety deck with rain-damaged tables. Not the most auspicious of beginnings. They were starting up a barbecue and I asked if I could sully their manly grill with some vegetarian sissiness, to which they charmingly relented and even allowed me access to the kitchen for portobello prep work. Then people started showing up and this little show turned into a rager of a party. Buffalo… you gave me my first awesome show in your burg. We’ll be back. And hopefully we’ll be staying again with Chris and Kate, the lovely couple who we partied with late into the morning.
Boston was another place where I had a fear to park. This is not a van and trailer friendly town… more like horse and buggy since that was the main mode of transport when the place was built. Luckily, the amazing staff at the Sinclair had us covered by blocking loading zones and waiting out the meter maids. I can’t say enough about how awesome the Sinclair. They fed us top notch food from their attached restaurant, they helped us fix a wonky caster, and ran a tight ship all the way round. The venue is new and sounds amazing. This was the first venue where I was able to properly check out Black Anvil, and I have to say, I love this band. Showmanship without the pretension and heavy, catchy riffs that bang the head of he who does not bang. Some crusty kids who had previously asked us to get them in free to the show did create a small ruckus at our merch table until Tennessee Dave, the most peaceable and kind man I have ever traveled with, threatened to cut off his balls and feed them to him. The staff kindly suggested to the kid he give it up, as Tennessee Dave has a gleam in his eye that says “I’m all love, except for all the kill.” As one of our group put it, once you tattoo your face and say “fuck you” to society, society has a tendency to say “fuck you” back. Don’t get me wrong, I love the crusts… let’s just keep things peaceable, folks.
We stayed in Boston with our friend Steve from the inimitable VHS mash-up group known as Whore Church. HIs house is a wonderland where VHS tapes and video game cartridges go to retire.
We left kind of early towards Brooklyn for our next show, while Skeletonwitch and Black Anvil had a day off. Blessed be, there was a laundry near the venue so our early start was a boon for our hygiene. We played at St. Vitus, pretty much the nexus of all things metal in New York right now. Grudges and Mutant Supremacy opened the bill and the bar was packed full of our brand of bacchanalian revelers. We had a lot of old friends there, too, which is always a delight. I can’t say our show went well, fraught as we were with wardrobe malfunctions, but it was chaos embodied as the spew enveloped an all night circle pit. It was definitely our messiest show and a was an absolute blast for the us, the staff, and the crowd. We lucked out that James and Raeph of the Black Anvil crew came out and invited us to stay at their palatial apartment kitty-cornered to the projects where Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z grew up. We lucked out on parking and had a well deserved rest and easy going morning drinking coffee with some swell gents.
We next joined up with the tour in Philadelphia at Underground Arts. We managed some very necessary clean up to our banner and mats with the help of the kind staff. I’m not sure what we expected in Philly, probably just a fun show, but we got so much more. Vektor opened the night up with raging old-school thrash, and I have to say, I’m a little upset when I have to follow a band that just absolutely shreds my face off. It can take awhile to staple the damn thing back on one it has fallen off in awe. The night was a lot of fun/. Having our buddy Branden there to help out as the tar farmer slinging buckets of blood and introducing Gary from Black Anvil as the new Ghoul character Uncle Shitty then he belted out a cover of Victim in Pain were highlights. After the set, we joined the black metal comedian Necrosexual onstage for an impromptu interview. Let me repeat that. The black metal comedian Necrosexual had us onstage for an interview. Nothing in that sentence actually makes sense, but I can assure you it happened.
We drove out to our own Scott Bryan’s old stomping ground in Delaware to stay with our friend Andrea and her boyfriend, Pat. They own a cool bar in Wilmington called the Oddity Bar, bedecked in strange taxidermy animals and Ouija style occult table tops. You might think that we stopped in that bar to drink ourselves silly, but truth be told, we were too exhausted to drink anymore. Sad, I know. The 7-11 was closed (fucking Delaware) so instead Sean and Scott invented a new snack, cheese cocks. Take one tortilla, roll it up with provolone and chipotle sauce, then eat suggestively by shoving it down your throat to make your friends laugh.
Onward we headed to Pittsburgh and Mr. Smalls. Or, as we like to call it, the place with the fucking hill that blew our transmission last time we came through. We routed a slightly different path that none of the staff could tell us the first time we came through and blessedly blew nothing more than our set this night. Our buddy Josh was working the show and made sure all the loading went swimmingly. This was the first night I got to chat for awhile with anyone from Skeletonwitch, as they do things like practice before playing a set. That’s just nuts. But yup, they are cool guys, too. Christ, this tour is almost TOO easy. The opening band was Lady Beast. They impressed me a literal fuck ton when what I thought was going to be crust band belted out some amazing NWOBHM. I picked up their LP and a tee shirt.
We decided to head a bit out of town and get a hotel. In the morning, as we were packing up to leave, Ben (the newest member on guit-fiddle) was beckoned over by a lady working at KFC. He declined the invite to walk an extra 150 feet and yelled, “I’m busy!” Once packed he headed off to pick up some breakfast elsewhere. Meanwhile, this delightful KFC worker came over to us at the van, asked about our band, and told us proudly of her daughter, her pink hair, and the time she took her to the Vans Warped tour. Then she admonished Ben in his absence for his rudeness and offered the rest of us free chicken. Just goes to show, you should talk to random people yelling at you from KFC because you might get free food. Ben seems to have taken this lesson and promptly discarded it with much disgust as he watched free food being consumed by his band brethren.
In Springfield, VA, we landed our asses at Empire, which I recognized as formerly being Jaxx when Impaled played the place 14 years ago. I’d been filming all our sets on a GoPro camera, compiling footage from each show for… I don’t know. Something? Lo and behold I should of course forget to record the one show where our set and our stage show went flawlessly. God DAMMIT. Ah well, it was a great time with a lot of stage diving madness, including our drummer boldly jumping in the crowd before it was even over. Gary again joined us for Victim in Pain, but sadly, this was his last day of tour before the very capable Travis from Grudges would fill in on guitar for the rest of Black Anvil’s travels. We bid him and Springfield adieu as we headed out late to get to Richmond, VA before morning and cuddle up with our good buddy Jim Stramel.
Jim joined us in 2012 for six weeks of tour with GWAR and our own headlining stint around MDF. He’s a great friend, an amazing proto-human monster, and also the stellar writer-director of Reviled, his new Southern-gothic zombie pit fighting web series. Check it out, dickheads. While Jim and his wife Renee gave most of our crew respite in their lovely, horror-movie laden home, Tennessee Dave and I headed out to run much overdue errands including (but not limited to) an oil change and new trailer tires. Safety first, or this tour can’t finish! Turns out, going over the Rockies and Sierra-Nevada ranges had nearly drained our coolant. I don’t know how long or unsafe we were rolling that way, only that I need to remember to check that shit a lot more.
The show in Richmond was at a club relatively new to hosting rock ’n’ roll shows called the Broadberry. Before that, it was a gay bar. So really, it just exchanged one sausage fest for another. Our Richmond friends were very excited upon entering as Richmond was apparently very bereft of a good mid-size venue for shows like this tour package. We were excited because holy fuck, we got to hang with a lot of amazing Richmond friends. The venue was just a hop, skip, and a jump (and about 100 yards) from GWAR’s Slave Pit, so we headed over to see the only one of the Scumdogs in town, Mr. Bonesnapper himself, Bob Gorman. Bob showed off the improvements they’ve made since last we visited while we took lots of photos so we could steal more of their ideas. In exchange, Bob got to see our own Scott, who has worked for GWAR in the past, suffer on stage yet another costume malfunction. Bob laughed. Bob is a cruel, cruel man.
After the show, our crew partied hard and late at Jim Stramel’s with a host of good friends. I saw this coming and exited stage right for the long haul to Charleston, SC. Skeletonwitch had this day off while we and Black Anvil soldiered on to the Tin Roof. I must admit that I entered the small dive bar with some sadness compared to where we’d been playing, until I realized this is just like so many of the shows we play at home and put my ego on hold for what turned out to be a night of drunken revelry, chaos, and some really cool people.
The strangest addition to the evening was the party enhancers known as the Tier One Wild Hobo Clown Tramps of Charleston, a group of punk ne’erdowells who dress exactly like you’d imagine. They asked us if we’d wear red noses while we played, but then realized they’d forgotten to bring extras. Seriously. What a bunch of clowns. Most of them were cool, but one did bring us as close to a real fight as this tour has come. He got grabby with one of Scott’s props, promptly broke it, and received some well-deserved bops to the noggin in retribution. Nothing hard, but he got pretty testy, this clown. I stepped in and tried to play fun times and grab at his hat and rock out with him, but to no avail. My next step was considering whether or not to boot this fuck head in the face as he continued his belligerence. Though I did not see it, apparently he threw a pint at Peijman but only hit his drums. I’m glad I didn’t see it, because eventually the lad just exited as the most pit erupted and he found he couldn’t handle it. The rest of the clowns enjoyed the set. Outside, the Black Anvil heard the belligerent one trying to egg the others into what would have been the saddest live-recreation of the Warriors movie ever, but the cooler clown heads prevailed. They went on their way presumably back to a circus tent. A gracious attendee of the show approached us, made a few calls, and hooked us up with a discount night at the Holiday Inn Express a scant few miles away.
And now we’re headed towards one of the craziest states in the union, leaving a trail of boiled peanut shells behind us. We’re over the hump, but already dreading the end of what is already one of the funnest and most pleasant tours I’ve ever been on.