Fri Dec 23rd Cleveland, OH 8pm @ DAG House w/ Northwestern / Tin Armor / The Sidekicks
On some Tremont streets, the Christmas lights are historic markers on the neighborhood houses. They hang like vines of flammable, primary colored strawberries. Cat’s crowd around the empty ‘luxury’ condos near The Dag House. Someone’s ‘development’ idea has gone to the felines. There is a museum for “A Christmas Story” near by and I walk past it and the house that the movie was filmed in. The film is supposed to take place in Hohman, Indiana for its proximity to Chicago.
Oh Cleveland. I can’t explain the sense of home that a cold Cleveland nite seems to vibrate with. Though I grew up in the ‘burbs, something makes sense here. I think it’s a sense of people surviving in a city with such a down and out reputation. It’s the feeling that people understand defeat. They remember history. They gather around each other and something small and name it home.
The show was crowded with old friends and new younger faces. A bottle of whiskey was passed around at one point and when my brother got it, he took a swig. The fact that he is a non-drinker is so well known in that community that a mix of cheers and surprise audibly traveled through the audience. We played in the concrete block basement on the ground almost totally surrounded. My friend Matt (Drums, Tin Armor) decided to jump off of a speaker during an old song we played, slipped and landed on my head. We finished the song. I thought I was knocked out for a second. The next day I had only the hint of a bruise above my eye. I felt shorted.
WV to Richmond – The Appalachian Mountains roll. The van works for every hill. The houses and trailers group in the grassy valleys or on elevated flattened plots. Small churches and post offices rival but do not out number mid-sized trucks in any given driveway. Every thing seems simple and practical; born by the mountain.
We pass Biscuit World. My stomach would love to humor this theme. Later we pass Silk Stockings Rock N Roll Adult Entertainment. It is in the dip of a mountain in a glorified barn trailer. Hiawatha’s sells boots/gifts/apparel while the young Indian Princess stands out front, looking ahead. We wind in and out of small towns. GPS decided the best route to Richmond was through the snake roads of the mountains at drastically varied speeds, the engine grunting and our brakes burning. The beauty is startling and I’m glad I’m not driving. I imagine owning one of the homes on the river where a hand-made footbridge and slightly more stable driveway bridge is a requirement to get to and from home. We go through Seneca Rock “Unincorporated” (a region of land that is not a part of any municipality) and I mentally note that I may like to visit Seneca Rock and The Smoke Hole Cavern at an unspecific future date. We drive on. It becomes apparent that my brother does not know what Abbey Road sounds like and he’s been in a band for half of his life. He also has the strong tendency to sing along (anything of his choosing) to songs he doesn’t know. We tell him he does this. He keeps doing this.
We enter VA and the first thing I see is Stonewall Jackson’s B&B. Stopped at a light I spot a sticker of Calvin peeing on Obama. Have you ever read the comic people? We’ve gone below the Mason Dixon Line.
Mon Dec 26th RICHMOND, VA @ Strange Matter w/ The Max Levine Ensemble / The Haverchucks
In a college town the day after Christmas, the foot traffic is light. The parking; on the street of your destination. The show; not as populated as if it were a week and a half later. The bar did an all-ages early show. It boasted arcade machine classics. It was 50% off food and a free pitcher of beer for bands if you claimed it. The bathroom was the only low- “I DARE YOU TO SHIT!!!” I didn’t.
We played on the ground in front of the 4ft. high stage while people stood safely 6ft. away. I don’t even know what number show it was on our career count- It didn’t seem to matter. I felt amateur. Exposed. Sometimes you rock and the crowd is right with you. Sometimes, you are plainly watched and you must try to perform. You feel like the bartenders who you’d assume have good taste in music cannot stand you. Your banter sounds like a teacher’s in front of a disinterested class. It might just be a shy crowd response. Maybe it’s entertainment, as in, you’re in the band… entertain me… I can just stand here… Fair enough. I feel like that sometimes. We sold a few records and t-shirts. At times it’s strange to be the seller and have a transaction that feels like nothing more than YOU GIVE $. I GIVE GOODS. Bye. I’d like to feel a personal connection between the green.
Karl of Sundials put us up. Recently through his work at a fake Irish pub, he met a table full of A list actors who had just finished shooting the Abe Lincoln film in Richmond. See, it pays to be a musician.
Richmond to Greenville, SC – The wipers push the rain. It’s grey and cold. I can’t seem to get warm or energized in this day. I smell yesterday’s burnt breaks and cigarettes. I want to feel connected but something in me is shoving off my surroundings. I am overwhelmed by the familiar seeming to be barely in my peripheral. I am always sitting under my expectations for tour and all things for that matter. I need to relax. I need to just be a person on a trip. There are places and people. Some I will like; maybe even take a picture with them. Maybe I’ll like them so much, they’ll eventually make me crazy. I must be the traveler. The passing lanes. The solid yellow. The face on the window with eyes following the hills. The need for company and a place to sleep.
Reflecting on the first show, I think that to demand so much response and attention for being in a band is absurd in current times. Most people hear music without choosing to. Liking something can be about proximity and what someone or a small group may say or think about it and share with you. As an artist you must trust your inspiration and disregard what you might perceive as people’s measurement of it. You must be stubborn and conceited enough to believe that there is something interesting about you while also being humble and open to criticism. To bury my visible desire for approval and praise has always been a challenge. I’m getting better and more realistic. You must create for your sanity’s sake; for your soul’s desire to extend. You must perform or present because you find value in your art.
Tues Dec 27th GREENVILLE, SC 7pm w/ The Max Levine Ensemble / Rubrics / The Soap /
Somehow, this show saved me. It gave me something powerful I could never deny. This punk house– As if I’d never been to one. Mattresses stacked over the windows to block sound; an assortment of PA speakers standing as wobbly pillars of distorted messages- young kids passing a 40. We are fed fresh garden veggies meant to be crammed into a tortilla and sauced. The living room is furniture-less; the trade for a cleared wooden floor that flexes under bouncing bodies. The room is packed and hot.
The first band begins. Coat, hat and gloves still on, I forget to care because it is so loud and I start dancing. It’s screaming some part of me to me. It’s a borrowed sound but in new hands. Sometimes I’d pass; walk around or make a phone call; but I felt something connect and ignite. This band has so much energy right here and now; the potential and the kinetic. They are part of a scene that’s saying that the world you grew up in is not the world you should trust, so now what? What will you make that matters to you? That will always be important to me. Kids launched off of a mini-trampoline into the crowd. We felt a part of something larger than ourselves.
We play and we sweat. Afterward, people are friendly and approachable or willing to approach in a way I want to deem as Southern. Too many bands play in the best way. Loading out I hear a debate over if someone puked or not.
“No man. I didn’t puke!”
A bit later-
“Dude. I think it just smells like puke in here. Sorry man.”
I get st*ned with people I just met and hear a story about a b*ng at an old show space that was a glass torso with an erect penis. You took the hit from guess where? Apparently, the show space was busted by cops. The glass penis bong was also busted by cops. Fools. We eat pizza. It’s flavors are all I want. We stay at a home with cats so cute that I almost cry. Thank you Greenville, SC. Even though I can’t write super fast punk songs anymore, some piece of a home is in a night like this. The energy and potential of DIY punk will never be exhausted.
Weds Dec 28th ATHENS, GA @ Go Bar w/ The Max Levine Ensemble / Wyatt / Scum of the Earth
Greensville, SC to Athens, GA – Our hosts gave us a continental breakfast of everything bagel with pumpkin butter. We had mate through the coffee maker and home brewed kombucha flavored by chai tea. Good start.
What would America be without bowling? A question that you could humor or not. I just know that anytime I do it, it feels like the right time and that it’s been too long. Thanks to the Golden Park Mega Fun Center in Simpsonville, SC for providing a perfect venue for Delay to shame The Max Levine Ensemble in a bowling match for the sake of competitive spirit. The Max Levine Ensemble wins most fun band to tour with award. They are also thoughtful, intelligent and dedicated to playing their razor sharp melodic political-pop-punk at full blast each nite.
45 Minutes from Athens when our luck sprints out of sight. For the third time in its life, the ECM (Engine Control Module) in the van malfunctions. The early 2000’s trend of everything in your car plugging into and depending on this unit that fits in two hands has been our curse. Something must be causing it to go from problem free cruising to failure in seconds. We made to Athens only losing power in the van once but we knew it would only get worse.
We decided to ditch the skull chromies that an unknown party put on our air valves when we first got our van. We ultimately concluded that they must be the source of our curse. We left the red-eyed-demon-chromies around Athens and may god help whoever picks them up.
We played at GO Bar up on a very small stage, maxing out the Peavy PA speakers. A disco ball showed its scales on the walls as we powered through our set. All in all it was a good show with a good turn out (small spaces create this facade). We had to sell merch outdoors and believe it our not, the south gets cold too.
Thurs Dec 29th BIRMINGHAM, AL @ The Firehouse w/ The Max Levine Ensemble / Hurl Yeah / Younger Siblings
In Athens, some slept on a living room mini ramp. Me; I found some floor between three on a bed and lots of records. We were up early to get shuttled up to Kroger’s (24 Hr) where our van sat sad amongst better vehicles right where it had given up the nite before. It miraculously rumbled to a start. We drove. The hope was to get at least 19 miles so we would enter the grace of a 200 mile free Triple A tow to Birmingham for our show.
Stubborn and stupid; that’s what driving that van was. On a two lane 65 MPH State Route, it gave up before the red light where two State Route’s crossed. We weren’t in the intersection which was the only good thing. The light turned green; we were not going an inch. I turned the key hard again and again as cars flew up from behind. Our hazards were on and Austin and I were flailing our arms out the window so people would see that we were stalled. “They don’t see us!” I said. We couldn’t get out of the van. We were stuck hoping no one would slam into us from behind. A car swerved quickly out of the way. Then a truck. Finally the light turned red and everyone deployed like an army and pushed to safety. There’s a voice of reason in everyone. For some, it may sound like your mother. Listen to it.
The tow man was there in about an hour. He hooked us up and said,
“Whose hippie hash on the seat?”
“What?” I said.
“Hippie hash- gotta’ take it off the seat ‘case we get pulled over.”
“Oh, it’s just cigarettes (tobacco pouch)”
“Left hand, right hand… just a cigarette.”
I don’t know what that meant. Before he arrived Austin said,
“How long you think it’ll take for our driver to say something racist?”
I said something optimistic and alluded to unfair stereotypes. It took 10 minutes. He asked me if all the Mexicans were invading Ohio too.
I answered. “Columbus is a very diverse place. Not too expensive so a lot of families find a good start.”
From the back my brother mentioned that I was a percentage Mexican. By looks it’s very unbelievable and by my blood it is factually untrue. But it was Austin’s attempt at re-steering inevitable conversation that could last up to 4 1/2 hours. I did not correct him. Our jolly Southern, smoking driver drove on.
He got better. I saw a woman driving a full sized truck towing horses. She had one hand on the wheel, the other on a fork with a chunk of steak on the end. It was my duty to point it out to all.
“I couldn’t do that and drive” I said.
“I see women textin’ and puttin’ on make up all while drivin’ ”
He cough/laughed and continued,
“I just want to do MY MAKE UP!”
We laughed and relaxed a little.
He stopped at a gas station so Jesse could pee. He came back with a Styrofoam tray full of fried “Taters & Gizzards.”
“Have at it” he said as we drove off.
I ate a tater. He didn’t want us to be starved so he offered again.
“I dare you to eat a gizzard” said Austin.
Of course I did it. It looked like fried cat shit, was honestly the consistency of it, may have even tasted like it. I had a stomach ache the rest of the way just thinking of the texture. At our exit, racism returned with a few N words and a bad joke.
“What do a Mexican and a cue ball have in common?”
We didn’t say what.
“The harder ya hit em’ the more English they speak.”
No laughs. I think he got it then.
“What if they hit you back?” said Austin.
“Then you get outta there” He said.
“I bet there are just as many jokes about us” said Austin.
“Oh I know, I know.. I heard em’… I take em’. Jokes is just jokes” he said.
I respect my brother. Always one to speak up when others throats close.
We wondered, would he tow an African-American? A Mexican family? By his talkativeness and because fate delivers him someone different up front in the passenger’s seat every day, we thought he’d have to. I’d bet he’d give them decency and laughs from his chubby red face. This leads me to question his language choices. Was it for white solidarity? We weren’t responding to it. What context did he imagine his words sat in? What did he mean? For us, the drive was too long, the conversation; a careful balance of personal ideologies and the ways in which we verbalize common ground or a lack there of.
Since we were early to Birmingham with our feet as our only transportation, we walked off in search of food. It turned into a healthy long, very long walk; the kind that makes locals say, “You walked there??” With sore bodies from hard floor sleeping and cramped legs from the crowded tow cab, we were all cranky and on each other’s nerves. Throw growling stomachs on top of that.
Miles away from home on tour in a new city, your life does not stop being your life. You feel your failure to communicate. You feel your selfishness. You feel dynamics. Your capability and compatibility is stretched almost as far as you drive. Our shirts are fine repeatedly worn and wrinkled, it’s our lives that need ironing. We overwhelm. We get overwhelmed. We realize and respond or we don’t. On we go. I’ve heard 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 read many times as a standard for what love is in America, supposedly in its purest form. It boasts a long list of love is this… love is this… love is that… love is never… It fails to say that love is sad. Humanity is sad. We’re a species of self-gratification and loss. You will never hold love as you first knew it. There are infinite versions of it. You will have named a specific time rather than your current struggle to keep someone close and make them feel that it is worthwhile. They will be so frustrated with you and themselves that eye contact can be to dense of a document to read. Then you flex. You give in, still a form of giving; so that some even ground can be seen ahead. Shall we walk it? I’m willing. I’d like you with me up there. It looks possible. You do not know love, you learn love. You lose control. You carry love places to remember it mostly means to continue.
We walked back exhausted in the fading sun. We arrived at the venue in time for me and Austin to walk down to a gas station and find a 12 pack of Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale. That stuff has kick. Look for the yellow can, red font and buffalo logo. Go for the “Southern Spice.”
Show @ Firehouse – Two local bands opened. Seeing local bands who are integral to a ‘scene,’ however temporary, will always be one of my favorite parts of touring. It was a well attended all-ages show in the bottom floor of an old building. The kids there were warm and willing to engage us and be engaged in exchange. We played well. I had been comforted in what may be a sick way when the owner of the space told me about a van he once owned bursting into flames on the road side during a tour. After thousands in repairs, he watched it burn, new guitar inside. I think he wanted me to know, it’s not so bad.
Post show saw a mass of us sitting around a table on the patio of the 24hr falafel joint we had found earlier. On our walk, we hadn’t seen any Civil Rights historic markers. I asked our host and learned about the part of downtown called The Civil Rights District that we did not pass through. It would have been startling seeing the tragic site of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and thinking about the hate fueled violence that happened there. Unintentionally, we managed to be eating just a block away from the New Woman, All Women Health Care Clinic that was bombed in 1998 by a Pro-Lifer. Are you “Pro-Life” when you kill someone and another is badly injured? Of course this is backwards. Violence isn’t coming in bombs in Columbus, Ohio currently. It’s coming in the Pro-Life legislation conservative republicans are pushing for. They are blatant attacks on Women’s health issues. Caring about a human life means giving care to Americans now. It means accessible, affordable health care to those who may be at an economic and educational disadvantage. It means care for women who have been victims of a capitalist society in which people in power, men for that matter, try to make laws to govern a body that is not their own. You have no jurisdiction; you have no right.
After falafel, we were graciously put up in a giant punk house called God’s Butt. The warmth in God’s Butt was overwhelming. It felt good to meet new kids excited about making music and meeting strangers from Ohio.
American diet in the earth’s curse; a plastic grocery bag.
Fri Dec 30th CHATTANOOGA, TN @ Sluggo’s w/ The Max Levine Ensemble / Rubrics / Zippers To Nowhere
Up early again to use a Triple A tow in the direction of Chattanooga. I was relieved when the driver was not white. He was Mexican; my height but much sturdier. His cab was small so he let two ride up top in the busted van on the flat-bed.
“How many up top?” He said as we drove.
“Um,, two. I bet they are having fun up there.”
He smiled and laughed a little bit, showing his teeth. I felt my tear ducts activate. I could tell he was kind.
He dropped us off 100 miles later in a K-Mart parking lot. We crossed a busy road to lube our stomachs and colons with Waffle House grease. Two young ladies working talked loudly about strip poker and the need to find new guys. I think they were into Pat.
I called for the second 100 mile tow. We made a final plan after much debate and many schemes shot down. We would get towed to the U-Haul supplier in Chattanooga. We’d hope the van would start to drive it up onto a trailer attached to a 17ft. U-Haul. We’d strap it down, drive to the show and drive home the next morning.
As we waited in front of the Big K, a white P.T Cruiser / mini van thing pulled up. A man with a Harley hat and a cell phone headset got out.
“The tow truck comin’ don’t got a big enough cab for ya’ll… you can ride with me $2 a mile.”
I think he meant per person.
Just because this guy thought it was cool that we were in a band and liked all kinds of music (beer and sad country, his favorite) didn’t mean he wouldn’t try to scam us.
“Triple A only covers 1 person riding in the cab of the tow truck, the rest you have to cover per mile.”
This is totally untrue. Why would Triple A try to accommodate your cab size preference? For multiple passengers. Austin and Jesse ran back across the street to try and catch a ride to Tennessee with some ladies leaving Waffle House. No luck. They may have scared them though I believe Austin and Jesse to be two of the least intimidating people I know. I talked to the driver right when he arrived.
“Can we fit two in there? I need to ride because it’s my Triple A and he (Pat) needs to ride because it’s his U-Haul rental to get us home.”
The driver had enough sympathy and let us squeeze, no extra charge. Austin and Jesse decided to squish in The Max Levine Ensemble’s van an hour behind us.
Our next driver speaks on behalf of his truck.
“This’ll shake, rattle and roll but it’ll get us there.”
He was mostly quiet. Wore a dirty hat and a thick mustache over a weather worn face. He had a golf ball sized wad of chaw in his cheek that he spit off into an old McD’s coffee cup. We drove past tornado ravaged sections of homes. He gave them earnest sympathy and then talked about Crimson Tide football. He was GPS-less so Pat’s phone led us. We had to make it before 6pm. Break lights glowed at us with laughter as our full bladder’s sloshed with Waffle House coffee. Traffic thickened and stopped and I thought there was no way we’d make it. Then the highway split and we managed to break free.
“I could use a bathroom myself” our driver said, overhearing our laments of having to pee.
“Once we had a guy who was driving a dump truck. He had to go so bad he jus’ pulled off and jumped in the back and went right there.”
We laughed carefully as to not squirt.
“No one could see him so…”
He delivered us to “Pak Rats” 7 minutes before they closed. Our help there was sent by the gods of rock. He understood rock. He knew our wheels must keep rolling. We were the die hards, living the dream. His handsome grin sat above a beard and curling, grey locks.
“You got some long hair” he said to me.
I knew then, we were connected. Long haired rebels who make clean cut co-workers squirm in their square existence. Duh we play guitar, assholes!
He got us strapped down and rung up in about 10 minutes. He gave us the run down on operations even though they were technically closed.
“I used to roadie for a metal band around here.”
“Yeah?” I said.
“We did a wedding once. All the old people were slow dancing in the back while some guys were up front all head-banging.”
He asked what we played. He was a guitar man too.
“I play a little. Mostly, I just drink beer and get all sad like, awww, I can’t play guitar!!”
We knew he was on our side.
Sluggos in Chattanooga provided loaded burritos for free and dollar PBRs. We had ample space to park our new means of transportation in the back alley. After eating, an intense (very) game of Jenga happened in the middle of our table. Each time it fell, everyone screamed. Since I was not playing or paying much attention, it scared the crap out of me every time. The show brought old friends who proved moving somewhere new means new lists of grievances. New jobs or the hunt for one. New people, in all their glory. They all seem to have found the change preferable though and I must say, the Smokey Mountains have their charm. We were given a thorough tour on foot by two friends around the town.
The show was pretty relaxed. I felt right at home on the undersized stage with Jesse and Austin. What number show was this? It’s just something we keep doing, you know?
I slept in a closet sized laundry room while our host chain smoked with friends and played surf rock records. We were up and on the road by 6:30am, U-Haulin’ ass home. I was in the van behind the truck up on the trailer, hidden in a sleeping bag and lying under a hangover. We stopped in Columbus to drop everyone off and leave our cruise ship. After a total trip of 15 hrs., I was arriving to my parents in Berea, OH with Austin and Amanda. It was New Year’s Eve and the whole bunch of my quirky relatives paraded out the front door banging pots and pans screaming, “Happy New Year!” at 9:05pm. Yes. Happy New Year. 2012. We made it in time for the annual family celebration of needing a new calendar. The year ended with an exhausted and warped sense of luck. I think we still have some. My resolution in no particular order. Floss (3rd year in a row). Be better to earth. Stay out of a tow truck.