It's a rule with our band (and probably with others as well) that the shows that involve the longest drive end up being the strangest and most sparsely attended. You may guess that with an intro like that, one of those shows will be recounted now. Well, i won't be giving you credit for that educated guess, because frankly it was a pretty obvious lead-in.
The drive from New Brunswick to Pittsburgh was supposed to be six hours, but tack on an hour waiting to get through a Pennsylvania toll booth where the lanes dropped down to one immediately after, then another half hour navigating construction in Pittsburgh, and we ended up rolling into Gooski's Bar around 8:15 after leaving at noon. This place was one of those charming dumps: writing adorned loads of square footage on the black walls, band stickers everywhere in the performance room, cheap greasy food, and the Milwaukee Brewers pounding the tar out of the Pirates on the television. I briefly pondered saying something about the Super Bowl or wearing my Packer NFC Championship t-shirt on stage, but think better of it after some online friends warn me that the van may be set on fire if i pull the trigger on my shit-talking scheme.
Band number one was named "Lightweight," and as it happened, it wasn't just a clever name, as their singer was mad slop-nuts wasted. He threw guitar picks at Yale, yelled at the audience, flailed into his band members, and whipped out his penis at least twice--once to drape its limpness (hey, some dudes are showers and some are growers) over his guitar and hump it at the end of the set. Despite how uncomfortable his bandmates and friends were rendered by the spectacle, the actual band sounded really good! Unfortunately, GG Allin Jr.'s antics broke a microphone, leaving the room with two working ones, limiting the HiFi's choice of songs. Ah well.
Sloppy McStaggerstein continued to impress during the Zebras set, resting his chin on Lacey's Moog and grabbing Vince's mic during "Diablo Blanco" and yelling into it, earning him a swift ejection from the premises. The exit from the show of Flashy McWiener and the friend who guided him out the door reduced the audience by 40%, dropping the number of people watching us from five to three (John from Microwaves, who set up the show; Vince's brother Dan; and the drummer from the second band). The HiFi set was a simple, bang-it-out six-song affair with the same number of people watching (like in Nashville, a bunch of people watched the locals and bailed for the touring bands--way to get the most value for your five dollars, numbskulls).
We Fiddle/Arson/Sleeperhold/Take the $/Imp. Walker/NMM (half tempo)
Yes, half tempo. Before we played "No More Music" John yelled out a request: "whatever song you're going to play, play it REALLY SLOW." We acquiesced and proceeded to crack ourselves up rocking out on "No More Music" in half time, complete with Yale and me singing the lyrics at 33 RPM. I'm pretty sure i saw John do a legit spit take with his beer while The Wizard and i would half laugh, half yell (a yaff?) at Yale for constantly wanting to change to the next part early. I'm really bummed that there was no video.
As we tore down our gear, Vince wandered over to us and said, "watch out--things are starting to get tense." A tat-sleeved dudebro was having a very quiet, but very intense conversation with John while the rest of us looked on, confused. When he finally wandered off, John explained, "i've never met that guy before in my life! But he's all, 'you know me. YOU KNOW ME. I know you from 16 years ago. You don't remember me? I was a pro skater. I was on MTV, man.'" What any of this had to do with the guy wanting to kick John's ass, we're not sure, but before the dude wandered away, he had turned to Vince while John had gone to talk to the owner.
"WHAT'S THAT GUY'S NAME?" he asked Vince.
"Uh, i don't really know him that well..."
"HIS NAME'S SHITBAG."
Things kept poor Vince's blood pressure sky-high when the dude walked to his truck to drive away (wisely, given his drunken state)--a truck that coincidentally was right behind our van, and that he needed to walk to as i was walking to our van. After he muttered something about "follow [my] honky ass," i kept glancing back at him until his stopped, threw his arms in the air, and said, "WHAT?" "Nothing, dude!" He staggered past me as Vince nearly had an aneurysm, but we had successfully navigated the "washed up and sad" level of Skate or Die for the Band Wii.
The crowd wasn't quite as thin for Sunday's show at Don Pedro in Brooklyn, but a similar scenario played out in that we got to endure the most white-knuckle drive of the tour in exchange for playing in front of a handful of people (who, unlike Pittsburgh, actually paid attention and enjoyed both bands thoroughly). A two-hour trip from Philadelphia to Brooklyn was stretched to four and a half hours by torrential rain and gasket-blowing traffic that had me convinced that this was my last tour ever as i gritted my way over the Gorgonzola Bridge (or whatever the fuck it's called) in one of two narrow, precarious-as-hell lanes of bumper-to-bumper.
The entire drive on Sunday, as my senses worked at peak efficiency to avoid hydroplaning and colliding with the semis that would pass mere inches from my head, i resolved that the fun parts of touring were no longer worth the aggravation, and this was it. No more after i get home. I quit. Fuck this for eternity.
Of course, as soon as we saw our friends Patrick Walsh and the late, lamented Mount Vicious' Bri Bri and Alli, my resolve to give the fuck up melted away with the rest of my bad mood. Both bands played killer sets and we were treated to some badass Hot Snakes-tinged screamy punk courtesy our friend Steve and his band We Ride. If we hadn't played with Maple Stave in Durham i'd say We Ride were the best band we've played with on tour.
Brookyln: Paulding/Ratings/Pot. Energy/Sleeperhold/Arson/Grace/Telescope/NMM
The only real drag of the Brooklyn show was that way more of our friends promised to make it out than actually showed up, but whatever. We'll see 'em in three years, maybe!
Just as the long drives resulted in low attendance, the shortest drive of tour, Brooklyn to New Brunswick, resulted in one of the most packed and fun. Our friend and PRFer Kelli's basement hosted a birthday party for her bassist Colleen (she turned 23, and i immediately re-evaluated why i was hanging out with a bunch of kids 13 years younger than me), and their band kicked things off, setting the tone for Zebras and HiFi to burn through a pair of high-energy, brief sets with an eye on getting the noise done by 10 PM in order to avoid noise ordinances.
New Brunswick: Paulding/Arson/Imp Walker/Pot. Energy/Telescope/NMM
The basement show may not have had a blasted guitar player waving his dick around and humping his guitar, but it did have lots of excited kids, awesome vegetarian food for us to nosh on, $75 in donations, and quiet time by 11 PM. Perfection in basement show form.
We have four shows left now. The end of this tour honestly can't come fast enough. I've finally started feeling the effects of playing two sets on a nightly basis, and i'm frankly starting to get tired. Goofy facial expressions are now at a premium, and my shoulder is starting to demand detachment from the rest of my body about halfway through Zebras every night. Gotta fight through it now. But at least i know that i can finish the tour, because i got an update on Dad's condition today. While his condition is improving and he's eating soft foods and his infection is clearing, we have confirmation that his cancer has returned to his jaw. Once his infection has totally cleared up, he'll be moved to either Madison or Milwaukee to have another huge chunk of his jaw removed and replaced with a graft of bone from his leg.
While i'm relieved to at least know what's going on, and am relieved that i can finish the tour, i know that in the back of my mind there's a paralyzing fear that i'm not letting myself feel until i get home. The night before my dad went into surgery in 2000 ranks a solid #1 with a bullet on the list of the worst days of my life. I don't want to have to deal with this. I really don't.
But like a raging thunderstorm on the New Jersey Turnpike, i'll fight through this shit, because i have to. Because making it to the next show is sometimes all we have.