Tampa, Florida. What kind of bat-shit insane place protects feral chickens that are a god damned invasive species in the first place? A $5,000 fine awaits any poor fool that fouls with these fowls. This is either a side-effect of the heat or the bath salts.
Nevertheless, we had a great time at the Orpheum. The staff seemed a bit nervous about our antics, but the owner really came through and let us stage all our ridiculous shit in otherwise verboten rooms. I know it’s unexciting, but it was another damn smooth show. What the fuck am I even supposed to write about at this point? Ooh, yay, another smooth day on tour. How fucking exciting. Then we went to Atlanta.
We ran late, as this damn tour was ending up very god damned tiring and sleeping in was just too hard to resist. Well, that and a million piss breaks. Sleep, drive, play. Sleep, drive, play. We hadn’t had a day off yet and I think we were all beginning to feel it.
The Masquerade is a great three stage venue I’d played many times before. We were set to play Heaven? Or Hell? Or Purgatory? I don’t know, they have wacky names for all these stages. Death of Kings opened the night with some ripping thrash. When it was our turn to go on… Actually, I don’t know what happened, exactly. For other bands, they just have to worry that they plugged in all their pedals. For us, we have to make sure blowing up guts work. They weren’t working. Our unusually long change-over was getting even longer as we panicked. Like, you know, as if the crowd was going to just laugh us off the stage if we didn’t have all the correct amounts of fake blood at the ready.
We needn’t have worried. The crowd went fucking balls out apeshit. They only thing we had to worry about was the talking to we were gonna get from Mike, the tour manager. I mean, worried or annoyed? We knew we had taken way too long to go on. We just acknowledged it, apologized, and moved on… to the Clermont.
If you’re not familiar with the Clermont, consider yourself lucky. Basically, it’s world famous for being the worst strip joint in the world. There is tale of it being visited by celebrities like Robert DeNiro. But it is gross. For the most part, it is awful strippers known for being either too old or too big. It’s also hip, so add all these polo-shirtted dick bags doing karaoke and you’re set for the best-worst place in the world.
After being handed soooo too many drinks, the next thing I remember is waking up in the morning at Amos from Death of Kings’ house. And a lovely home it was, like a hotel for bands. After delightful morning with breakfast burritos, fresh coffee, nice conversation, and the cutest god damn animal parade you ever did see (I will never get over a pit bull/corgi mix), we left towards New Orleans.
Siberia appears to be the metal destination club. It’s a bit out of the “cool” (pun intended) neighborhoods of New Orleans. There’s a still a bar on every corner, because New Orleans. We showed up as a burlesque show was ending, because New Orleans. The staff at Siberia was super cool and provided us with plenty of drink and awesome slavic food. We were headlining this night as Skeletonwitch took another very envied day off. As such, the show got even messier. With the crusty state of these energetic tigers, though, our spew left them cleaner than when they came in.
After a great show, Black Anvil left with Paul’s ma. We had no idea what we should do. We followed a group of people to a bar that was distinctly not in the French Quarter. Even more distinctly, it was not particularly fun. I drank the half beers I found around the bar. A lovely lass by the name of Gnarly Marlee came through for us and took us to her abode. Her roommate was not stoked the next morning. We headed out and into a raging hot New Orleans morning after three hours of sleep likewise not stoked. Scott and Sean had the extreme displeasure of putting on nasty ass costumes from the night before and recorded a tour update at the insistence of our label and PR reps. The smell. The smell was horrible.
Fitzgerald’s in Houston is a somewhat historic punk and metal venue for the local scene, unfortunately situated in an up-and-coming neighborhood. It won’t last. The night was another raucous evening full of moshing and frivolity. The opening band, Legion, gave everyone an intense lesson in shred and excellent guitar-solo-face. We ended up crashing at an ultimate bohab’s abode, replete with tons of GWAR posters and a Brockie altar. They were super nice and gave up their beds to the weary troubadours. I slept in the van. I was asked if I would like to “borrow a piece.” I asked them why should I? “Well, it’s still Houston.” Right. Geto Boys. I opted for less peace of mind less one piece and to stay on the statistically positive side of not getting shot by not having a gun around. Thanks but no thanks, yo!
Trees was our destination in Dallas, ahem, Deep Ellum. That’s whatcha gotta call this cool neighborhood. Lots bars, tattoo shops, vintage whatever stores, but little in the way of anything useful like a hardware store. We had to trek some distance into downtown Dallas to get materials so as to prep the stage the way we needed. The show looked weak and we were all a little worried. What spoiled brats. We’d had all these good shows in a row. I’ve been on tours before with no good shows in a row. As it turned out, Dallas likewise rocked as the first notes were struck by Black Anvil and it raged onward after that.
Though our van was having a bit of stomach ache going on, we were so exhausted. We decided not to drive through to our friend in Austin who just so happened to be a mechanic. Instead, we ended up at a hotel protected by a feral pack of chihuahuas.
In the morning the tour lumbered into Austin for our last show in the south. You know, Austin, the tiny little island of live music and progressiveness in Texas. Also, the home to more douche bag frat boys and drunk sluts than you can imagine. Before the show, though, we went to our friends’ house. Debbie and Chris are just the nicest little couple you can imagine. And Chris is one ace mechanic, being the co-owner of River City Automotive in Austin. He and I (mostly him) took to being real men and made a 60,000 mile-overdue spark plug set replacement on our faltering van. The trembling upon start up ceased and we upped our gas mileage. Change your spark plugs before tour, I noted to myself.
With the van sorted, we headed out to Red 7 in downtown Austin for what I knew would be an annoying evening. No, the audience in Austin is always awesome. It’s just… everything else. Red 7 told us to park in a lot near them after unloading in the alley; the alley where we had to wait for half an hour until some other bands for another venue were done unloading. After a bit, I went to check on the van and found a tow truck preparing to tow us. So much for the recommended lot. I shoulda gone with my gut feeling that covering five parking spots with a van and trailer was not going to fly. Instead, I got to go searching for a god damned double parking spot at eight in the evening on a Saturday night. Fuck. My. Life.
In the end, everything worked out. The show was absolutely mad. We had lots of friends in attendance. Best of all, my lovely wife joined the tour from this day out! Upon trying to leave, however, my hatred of Austin took hold again. Some drunk dudes barreled past me complaining about a stolen Uber ride. Some other drunk guys asked if we were in a band and were surprised when I said we were accountants; they were literally taken aback by this revelation. Finally, some assholes who parked out of their spot and too close to the van lost their front license plate as I scraped by. Then there was the interminable waiting for EVERY FUCKING BAND IN THE WORLD TO LOAD OUT IN FRONT OF US. But, I arrived back at our friends’ place to the lovely surprise of a birthday cake!
We tried to leave early the next morning. It didn’t quite work out. My birthday was to be spent driving across west Texas and New Mexico desert. To top off my awesome birthday, one of the new spark plugs we had installed was faulty. So we got to drive backwards an hour or so to the nearest auto parts store and I got to work on the engine… again. The time wasted away and our plan to drive only halfway to Mesa, Arizona and then rest was dashed. Instead, Sean and Ben took the hit and drove us all night to our destination.
Otherwise known as Meth-a, Arizona, the hotel parking lot greeted us with this gem:
And that’s why I parked the van and trailer like this:
We played the new Club Red in Arizona. It’s a lot bigger than the old Club Red and way better. They’ve got parking sorted out better for bands, load-in is a snap, and the AC is… well, not near enough to keep up with this hot ass show. But who’s complaining? Oh, me, right. Holy fuck, the greater Phoenix area is so damn hot. Even people who live here don’t know why they live here. Well, the night was a blast anyway, with openers Gatecreeper turning out an excellent crustified set like some kind of desert Stormcrow. I had a lot of fun watching would-be stage divers slip around on the blood-soaked tarps covering the subwoofers while we played. The Phoenix area may be an affront to nature and human civilization, but the people there are fucking great. Especially the meth-addicts in the motel parking lot fronting us for Cokes and Gatorades and letting us know they just got out of the psycho-ward. What great new friends!
I knew we were going to have trouble in Los Angeles. That’s just the way it is when you play the famous Roxy in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. I have a long history with trouble at this place. Back when I was in Exhumed in the nineties, we protested their then pay-to-play antics by destroying their stage with beer being poured all over me (on my birthday) and kicking over drums and mics. We were summarily kicked out and told we’d never play that town again. It would have been epic the way we flipped them the bird on the way out, if our guitarist hadn’t gotten into an hour long argument with his then girlfriend who was driving our gear. I had to sit passively protecting our gear while getting cussed out by the entire staff. Ugh. Karma keeps biting my ass for that one.
To begin the pain, we got stuck in Palm Springs in super hot weather behind a burning semi. Luckily, I had the Waze app (a touring band must have) that saved us about four hours by diverting us to a side road. So, we were only two hours behind schedule, with the heat on high to protect the engine in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the hottest weather we had yet encountered.
Upon arriving late, I hastily backed the trailer up into a parking lot adjacent to the Roxy that is not controlled by them… so of course, I got an Armenian cursing me out for that later. My wife was running our merch and got stuck in a tiny box with three other bands because of fire regulations. Luckily, Wookie, who was running merch for openers Doesn’t Matter, was super helpful and kept my lady from having an aneurism.
I got into it with a stagehand because though we send out info well advance to cover the monitors, they had not and said they thought we were doing that. Presumably we would do this while doing line-check and running around like chickens with our heads cut off? Then our set started early when the staff thought to raise the curtain as we were checking our sampler. When Woody the tour sound guy said, “Let’s check that sampler,” they heard, “let’s start the show NOW.” I literally grabbed onto the curtain, half in costume, yelling, “noooooo!” like Darth Vader in a vain attempt to pull it back down. Then, the opening sample didn’t work, so I had to go back out on stage in costume. Then my wireless cut out. I don’t even know why, but with two buttons controlling 100s of functions, I couldn’t figure it out onstage. I ran backstage yelling “Give me a cable!” It’s amazing how fast things get sorted out for a guy in a bloody hood yelling shit. After I missed two or three songs, our big epic robot came out sans boots like some kind of Peter Dinklage cyborg. Fuck this show. I’d had it. The crowd, however, did not. They ruled it and the club erupted in 45 minutes of violent circle pits. Thank the gods for numbskulls.
After a respite at the abode of Leon del Muerte, we were finally headed home for the last show. The DNA Lounge in San Francisco has an awesome, movie set look to its stage. Two rising stair cases, a super high drum riser… and a bunch of other shit that makes it hard to put on a theatrical stage show. Luckily, the staff is awesome and accommodated us. They allowed a precarious curtain and stacks of wobbly road cases being strewn about for us to create a very shoddy yet serviceable backstage. Laws broken? Probably many.
The homecoming show was fantastic, featuring Tomes and Connoisseur opening and amazing sets from Black Anvil, Skeletonwitch, and if I may say so, us. It was an epic end to an epic tour (at least for our part) and we had an amazing time.
I took Black Anvil back to me and my wife’s apartment and out for breakfast the next day. That’s when I got a call from Sean and Ben in San Francisco… the brake lines had gone out on our van and it was sieving fluid. Oi vey. That’s a hell of a last show prank to play, Skeletonwitch, you rat bastards. I assume. At least we were home. And them’s the brakes. (rim shot)