July 23rd, 2011
For the past few days I’ve been immensely exhausted from the heat wave reaching across America. Doyle keeps showing me news updates about the heat killing over 2 dozen people. We’re all beginning to lose our minds. Randomly breaking into theme songs of television series’ of our youth, continually quoting Slayer’s “Angel of Death”, and whomever in the passenger randomly screaming “RAMMING SPEED!” between the horrible, sweltering exhaustion-death-naps. We left for Chicago after Lake Villa and played decently for a small crowd but I feel like the real loss of the day was the disappointment found in a local Pizza place recommended to us. As a self appointed and insatiable pizza coniesseur, I was disappointed to say the least Chi-City.
I drove until quarter to 5 that night with Doug in the passenger seat as my moral and mental support. We ended up stopping at a rest area and napped for a few hours. I woke up in a cold sweat and realized I’ve been getting sick. After everyone wakes up I drive for an hour and relinquish my driving duties to Mike. I fall asleep for what seems like forever. It’s at the point where I couldn’t even bother to sit up and look at the new scenery I would immensely enjoy under normal circumstances.
The heat had been killing us all day. Back home in Jersey, the heat index was bringing the temperature to 109 degrees and over. In Missouri, it was already 106 by mid day. I also forgot to mention in the last blog that our air conditioner has begun to be rather tempermental with us. It doesn’t blow air out of any of the vents facing the two front seats. So if you’re in the first two rows out of three seats, get ready to sweat…all day. When we finally make it to Tulsa, OK; I was blown away by the two other bands we shared the bill with that night. The Dirty Mugs opened the show and was more a traveling punk side show who happened to play instruments. As a 7 piece band complete with an accordion player and two back up dancer/percussionists, they stole the show no doubt. We played second and played in the hottest room of tour so far. After we played I ended up spending twenty minutes throwing up anything I consumed in the 30 minutes proceeding that. I got my bearings together and managed to catch most of The Last Slice’s set. Easily the best Ska band I’ve ever seen. Most Ska bands I’ve seen are a bad joke born at a frat party consisting of band geeks and one guy who thinks he’s smooth enough to be the front man. The Last Slice had the slicked back hair, Rude Boy dress of black and white, and best of all they were fucking awesome.
Earlier that night we ended up reserving a spot to sleep in at “Tron’s” (Dirty Mugs’ bassist) home. Before we departed from the venue, a friend of the Mugs had asked me, “So you’re staying at our trailer tonight huh?”. Immediately in my mind I said, “Did he just say trailer?”. I don’t find myself to be a judgemental person and I am often easy going and more than forgiving of others (especially when I haven’t seen a floor or a shower in days) but he said “trailer” and a red flag already began to rise. I asked Christian if he had any idea if it was a trailer and not an actual home we were sleeping in and he said, “I don’t know dude. Any place is better than no place at all.” As soon as he said that something in my mind would tell me we would be eating those words later that night.
So we leave the show and after about an hour drive out of Tulsa I start to pull up to the neighborhood we’re staying in and my suspicions were correct. We were in a desolate trailer community in the middle of the woods and were stuck with our more than generous host who resides here. We bring our bags in to find a trailer with a hand full of people snorting muscle relaxers at the kitchen table complete with kittens and cats running around the house freely. A poster board in the kitchen read, “NO DIPPING, NO DRAMA, HAIL SATAN”. This house was run down, falling apart and inverted crosses proudly adorned the walls. I already knew we were in a sketchy place but when Christian returned from the bathroom I was reassured of this fact. Doug asked Christian where the bathroom was and Christian replied in a whisper,” If I were you I’d just man up and wait until we get to a Wal-Mart to use the bathroom.” The next day Christian would tell me that the sink was literally filled to the brim with human hair, mounds of it. The toilet? Christian’s description was “a hole in the ground”. I slept in the van that night in 96 degree weather after fearing the van would be robbed. Besides, my sighting of several small cock roaches roaming the linoleum floor was the final straw for me. We left the next morning and I wrote on a plate in sharpie a small thank you for the hospitality on one side and a huge pentagram on the other doning the number of the beast and inverted crosses.
We left the trailer en route to Arizona for a show on the 25th. We have two days to get there and merch money has begun to slow down with the last minute shows and cancellations. We ended up finding a Lake on the way out of the state and bathed in it. At some point after leaving the lake I had said something in the van to everyone along the lines of, “You know this has literally transcended past being a normal tour and has become one of those experiences that punishes you until it’s over and ends up changing who you are….like prison.”
We made it to Texas tonight and beat the Heat Wave. It felt good to be alive again and I felt better about everything in general. It’s funny how we had to go to fucking Texas to get away from the extreme heat. We’ll drive most of the night, see the stars and hopefully I can enjoy them for what they are.
It’s all worth fighting for.
Don’t lose hope.
July 29th 2011
'Dynamic' is the only word I can use to describe tour when anybody asks me how it's going so far. Yesterday morning I was dying from the sweltering morning heat in a Wal Mart parking lot in Las Vegas and now I'm awake after a hot shower, a night out on the strip, copious amounts of food, and a night in a complimentary suite provided by the gambling tendencies of two members of the band. Before this, we were in California. Our first west coast date was in Anaheim where we spent part of the day in downtown Disneyland (the section where you don't have to pay to enter) and the latter half of the day on the beach and playing our set. The show was at the Doll Hut which seemed to be somehow more lowly than a dive bar. They had some offbeat rules that favored the house garnering up all the door money and with our merch guy, Doug, being only 20 years old (a year short of the required age to enter), Doug stayed outside the entire night. It began to remind me of home and then the bands began to play. Then I felt even more at home realizing this venue didn't give two fucks about who played, what, when, or how. I've played awkward mixed genre shows to no one before but this one was just plain awkward. I won't even go into detail to not reminisce on the awkwardness.
The next night we played Los Angeles which didn’t fare to be much better. The ‘promoter’ of the show was trying to make us feel guilty about not bringing the ‘5 person minimum’ to play this venue placed behind an Astroburger in a back alleyway. Our first time to the west coast couldn’t be more hospitable. The one man who caught our set said he was taking a short cut through the back alley and wasn’t even aware that there was a ‘club’ here. We played with some cool bands that night at least. I really enjoyed this band French Exit, they kinda reminded me of a harder Jawbreaker. We were going to stay in LA seeing as we had the next day off and French Exit was playing a bar made famous for the karaoke scene in 500 Days of Summer. Fate would have it that we had no place to stay again (day 3 without a shower) and a gunshot would ring out seemingly close to the location of the van. We obviously made our way to Las Vegas that night. Mid way to Vegas we stopped in the California desert to set off the fireworks we bought in Arizona. When we got to the middle of nowhere, we saw the stars. It was like looking at a city placed above the world. So many intertwining lines of lights across the sky. It was good to get out of the van (and the heat) that night and just enjoy some good ol’ fashioned fun by watching shit explode under the stars.
I’m pretty certain that this tour has literally become the test for all of us. Everyone’s well being has been tampered with because of our loyalty to the band and the tour. This is the place in the history of any band that separates the fakers and the weak from the passionate and those who belong here. Everything outside of our set has become so secondary to me. I don’t care if I don’t have money to eat anymore. Homeless people still find ways to eat and sustain, so I can too. All I’m trying to worry about from now on is playing well and having fun for 30 minutes a night. I realized that if I can’t even do that, then what the fuck am I doing out here in the first place?
We play Vegas tonight.
It’s Friday. (*omit Rebecca Black reference)
"What happens in Vegas……….No really, what happens in Vegas? I’ve never been here before." - Doug McKeon
August 6th 2011
I apologize for anyone actually reading these and potentially giving a shit about what’s going on with us. Shortly after the last blog, I stopped giving a shit about life for a short period of time. Everywhere we would go would essentially be the same place to me. Another place where the heat wave was cooking us inside of our 15 passenger van. Another place where I could continually only afford bread and water. Another place where we walked around in the sun all day because of our lack of money to do much else. Although that’s not to say there weren’t upsides to all of the aforementioned shit too though. We played St.George, Utah after Vegas and met Last Call. Easily my favorite dudes of tour so far. We all went to Del Taco afterwards and bonded over 59 cent burritos. Talked about Rammstein, St.Anger, and just about being in a band in general. Great guys. I’ll be immensely excited to not only hang out with them but to share the stage in the future.
After that we had some last minute cancellations of shows so we were pretty hard up for gas money. Brett and Christian did an awesome job of searching out some last minute shows for us to hop on and we ended up meeting up with some old faces like Rational Anthem from FL. We ended up driving through the Rocky Mountains and made our way to Denver, CO. We played at 3 Kings with an awesome band called Orphans. Their singer Marcus was nice enough to put us up in his apartment for the night while we figured out our next plan of attack as far as shows to hop on and not be stranded out in Denver. This is probably about the time where everything started to blur together for me. I apologize to everyone I’m sharing this experience with because for the shorter part of a week I didn’t want to be awake. I would have much rather slept for days than feel the hunger, heat, and exhaustion we were experiencing for days on end. Looking back on that I feel ashamed. We’re out here experiencing parts of America that my parents’ parents have never even seen and all I wanted to do was be in a coma until I could be broke, hungry, and tired in the comfort of my own bed.
We made it to New Orleans and acquired another comped room on Doyle’s account. I must have slept a near 16 hours. The only thing that came to mind before I fell asleep was that lyric from the Against Me! song “8 Full Hours of Sleep”, ‘When you sleep…you can’t feel the hunger..”. I think the only notable event of New Orleans was when Mike ran into Sylvester Stallone TWICE while in our hotel. Celebrity sightings at a score of 2 for running into Bill Paxton in Los Angeles and then Mr.Stallone in New Orleans.
I drove from New Orleans all the way to Florida. I’ve come to the conclusion that I like Florida. I used to have this bias against it for whatever reason ever since that family vacation to Disney when I was in Elementary school. Maybe I was jealous because Florida had cool shit like Alligators and Disney while New Jersey had………. We began to drive on 10 East for what seemed like a smaller portion of eternity. While driving on the road to eternity I came to the conclusion that I like the East Coast more than the West. Not that there is anything more interesting happening over here but it just seems to fit my personality a little bit better than the west. I enjoyed the fact that a majority of everyone out west was humble, hospitable and downright friendly when encountering them but outside of that the west just isn’t for me. Although, I think one of my favorite moments of tour may have been seeing the stars out west. The stars out in the Californian desert may have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Do yourself a favor and try to experience them sometime. It might give you that much needed moment of clarity while you’re knee deep in mental shit.
All in all, we made it to the last leg of tour and I am more than ecstatic that we are back on the east coast and are gearing up to play some of our favorite places in America.
Tonight we play the Shark Tank in Tallahassee with some of the best bands and people all under one roof.
Don’t Lose Hope. (It’s okay if you do for a while though. Just as long as you get it back eventually.)
August 15th 2011
Today marked the full month on tour. We were driving to Yorkhaven, PA today and I found something I had been looking for since I was young. For whatever reason, a conversation I had with my older brother while we were listening to The Clash’s “London Calling” had stuck in my memory for years. We had gotten to my now favorite song on the album, “Lost in the Supermarket” and he said one day he’d like to drive through the country side in autumn while listening to this song. I closed my eyes for a moment and imagined what this drive would be like. I saw the leaves put on their final coat of color. The crisp wind blowing through the driver side window. The chords of the song capturing the moment. And in that moment, I would experience euphoria for the first time. From that moment on, any day dream of mine would begin on this country side road in the middle of autumn. I drove on that road today and it was just as beautiful as I imagined it to be. I mean this road was nearly the EXACT road I imagined in my mind. It was a mind blowing experience to discover a place I had created in my mind over 7 years ago while driving to a show on tour. Although it wasn’t autumn, it felt like it was on that specific road for whatever reason. The wind was cool and crisp like I planned for it to be and the breeze swayed through my window as we scaled the country side. I’ve been looking for that moment for as long as I’ve known that album and it was odd to finally come across it. I feel like a part of my youth has potentially seen the closure it was looking for and now I’m ready for what’s after this once elusive road.
While on that road I thought about the entire tour but here’s the recap since we left off. Tallahassee was fucking awesome as usual that night. The Shark Tank held the boys in Laughing Gas, Rickety Cricket, the proprietors of said establishment and even the infamous Alex Chops Henry. It was here I realized my alcohol tolerance had kicked the bucket after not being able to afford to drink for nearly a month. I had 4 pints of beer and ended up getting fairly shitfaced. At some point in my stupor around The Shark Tank I had tried reasoning with myself that I had gotten more shitfaced due to my diet of bread and water for the past week. The next day I would just get flashbacks of everything we did the previous night. Drunken ride to the Skate Park. Drunkenly trying to skateboard. Watching Isaac be awesome at skateboarding while drunk. We left The Shark Tank the next day after a group man hug and left for Gainesville. We played the 1982 bar in Gainesville and performed for a decent crowd.
For the previous 4 days or so, I had been down to my last $3 on my debit card so I’d been no help whatsoever with anything at all for a while already (especially gas money). After playing the set, we said our goodbyes to some of our new friends from Gainesville and set off for Leonard Ranch in Lake City, FL. I had met Pearl Leonard on our winter tour and we kept in touch since then via text and internet. This time around she was nice and hospitable enough to house and feed us for two days at her super awesome house in the country side. We essentially did nothing but eat food and watch consecutive seasons of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia during our stay. This is the beginning of where I began to gain my lost weight of tour back. So after two days of gluttony (and playing with her adorable cat) we set out for our friends Ascetic Parade North Carolina.
That night in North Carolina we were playing a house show and as the first band was about to go on, the PA system had decided to stop functioning. We were watching the minutes fly by while we tried to salvage this punk rock show and all efforts seemed fruitless at some point. It had just hit 9 ‘o clock (when the show was supposed to end) and the opening band packed up their gear leaving any chance of playing our set blowing in the wind. It was in this moment I remembered a quote once relayed to me by my friend Bob.
"When god gives you lemons….You find a new god."
So in defiance of the temperamental PA system, I stupidly (and very stubbornly) demanded that we play without drums and just sang and played our instruments all folk-esque style. We managed to get through most of our set and even put a smile on a few faces. So all is not totally lost in my mind (at least the ignorantly optimistic side of it). Unfortunately, gas money was still continuing to be scarce at this point but thankfully Pearl had geared us up with food and water for the road, so at least one painfully annoying problem was pacified.
We managed to make it Maryland somehow and played one of the best shows of the entire tour probably. We hung out for a while after and talked to some of our new friends about how tour went and about their lives in general too. Every place we’ve gone to I’ve tried to make it a point to talk to people about their lives and anything they felt comfortable talking about. It’s interesting to have felt so disconnected from life and the world in general only to find people all across the country who are after the same goals and share common ideals with you. I guess all people do have the right to have their faith restored.
After Maryland we return to Brett’s house for the second time of tour. We arrived at his home to find an awesome home cooked meal and the usual gigantic plate of brownies cooked by Taylor. The one place the band would relocate to? Pittsburgh, without a doubt. We stayed there for two days as the next night we played Most Fine Wanted Art and would end up driving next to Anne Hathaway on the way to the show. As if sharing the bill with NJ’s Washington Square Park wasn’t nice enough, driving next to Catwoman put the icing on the cake for me.
After Pittsburgh we would join the guys in Shady Ave. for a last minute show out in Brooksville(?) at Dirty Ehrma’s. Free food and beer for bands. This is the second night of tour I would realize my alcohol tolerance was now a pitiful excuse for what it was from 2007-2010. 4 beers and numerous plates of fries consumed before our set = STUPID STEVE IDEA #98455028. I spent twenty minutes after our set throwing up my delicious(ly free) waffle fries. Upside to that, I spent the next day and a half hanging out at Mick’s (Shady Ave. Drummer) house with Ryan (Shady Ave. Guitarist) and the two cutest, friendliest dogs ever. Mick was even bold enough to cook us the largest breakfast I’d seen in years for us that afternoon before we left. I will be eagerly awaiting to share a bill with them again. Shady Ave. is full of some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in general (So you should be even more stoked if you are lucky enough to catch them live).
Tonight we played with Vegas Under Lights at Boondocks in Yorkhaven, PA. Fact: Boondocks is easily in the top 5 nicest venues we’ve ever had the opportunity of playing at. Even cooler fact is that it doubles as a Haunted Spook House in Autumn. Attendees are minimal, so of course it would mean we would single-handedly play the best set of the entire tour. We had a whole hour to play and played everything we knew plus two covers…..and we sounded great. On paper it sounded like a disaster waiting to unfold but we managed to keep our shit together and sound awesome (For the record, I think I may have deemed a set “awesome” no more then 3 times since our two years of existing. So today was a big deal for me if you couldn’t tell). Meredith and all associated at Boondocks were immensely sweet people and I would LOVE to come back in Autumn when the Spook house is in full swing.
Cutting back to driving on Youth and Euphoria Junction, I had thought about all of the ups and downs of tour (or at least all the events that didn’t blend together in my memory bank) and I was actually sad about it’s conclusion. If you ever want to know how important something is to you, just ask yourself if you’d miss it after all the good times, the extremely awesome times, the horribly low points and the low low low points too. We have until Wednesday until tour is technically over but after tomorrow’s show in Philly, we’re all going home.
This tour will ultimately end up as one of the experiences that forced me to look at the world a little differently than I had when I left home. I mentioned in a previous blog that this tour was like prison at times and I’m glad it was in a way. It made me appreciate normal comforts like food,hot water, and a place to sleep a bit more than I had previously. Most of all it made me wholeheartedly appreciate the people at home who I can call friends and more importantly, loved ones.
If you want to know how the last three shows turn out, come and witness them for yourself. The rest as they say is blowin’ in the wind.
Hope you all had fun. I sure did. - Stephen