Monday, October 29, 2012

The Mid West

I don't remember much about the city of Omaha because we didn't get to see anything of it. I remember the club being a small, square room and the stage being low. It looked like a school assembly hall. We were in a suburb somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Outside there was nothing but a small parking lot and streets lined with houses. It was dark by the time we'd finished load in. For the most part we hung out by the merch tables that were lined up down one side of the hall. After another wild night we were once again feeling a little subdued. It was by now a familiar pattern. Hangover. Play show. Drink. Hangover. Play show. Drink. Hangover...

Chris, Soilent Green's road manager, asked us if we would like to contribute a song to an Eyehategod tribute album he was putting together. We told him we'd be honoured and after some discussion we decided we'd do 30$ Bag. There were going to be a lot of decent bands on the album and I have to admit, being asked to be involved gave me a buzz. Not only because I'm really into Eyehategod, but because it would piss off a lot of the snobs in the UK underground scene who we'd taken shit from over the years. People who'd given us shit for apparently being nothing but an Iron Monkey/Eyehategod rip off band. It's a long, silly story to be honest. Of course these bands influenced us in the beginning but then who has ever started a band that hasn't been influenced by someone else? That's the whole fucking reason you start a band, because someone or something else inspires you! Funny thing is, Brian from SG/EHG told me that when Eyehategod started out they got a lot of shit for being a Melvins rip-off. Anyway, to say I was chuffed that we were asked by Chris and Brian to record a song on the album would be an understatement. To top things off, we decided that we'd actually get the cover together whilst on this tour and Brian would play it with us. All of a sudden, the sombre mood that had been hanging over the van like a bad fart all day had dispersed.

We had a good show in Omaha too, at least by this tour's standards. Nobody booed us off the stage or spat at us, which made it a fuck sight better than the show in Denver the night before. Actually, the small crowd that was in the building when we played was receptive, even getting into a mosh now and again. We all had a good time blasting through the by now trimmed down twenty minute set.

It's amazing how a gig can eradicate all signs of a hangover, leaving you instead with a sense of revived vitality and a thirst for beer. Just a half hour before, I'd been tuning my guitar feeling pretty ropey, just concentrating on getting through the set and getting the fuck out of there. Now, gear packed down and van loaded, I felt great again. We all did. We were more than in the mood to drink a few brews and watch the rest of the bands. We hung out with Chris and watched Soilent slay the place as per usual, sharing a bottle of whiskey with him that had arrived from Christ knows where. By the time Hypocrisy came on stage we were all pretty boats again, in true keeping with the pattern.

I wasn't a big fan of Hypocrisy before this tour, but playing every night with a band for a few weeks can change that. Indeed, they'd been nothing more than a source of amusement to us at the start of this run. They had this huge hairy bloke on guitar who looked like a lion and then the singer Pete would do this cheesy move where he'd simulate blowing his brains out with his hand in the shape of a gun during a certain song. Me and Jay thought it was funny as fuck when we first watched them but by now we'd been genuinely converted. They turned out to be really good guys as well, and that always helps. So me, Jay and Gords were in the crowd, pissed as farts singing along to Hypocrisy when Tommy from Soilent Green comes up to us, “Some dude just pulled a knife on your bass player!”

We follow Tommy out to the car park into the midst of a full on commotion, with Daz right in the middle of it, looking pissed and sheepish. Chris, Brian and John have this longed haired guy circled. Apparently he'd found his girlfriend messing around on our RV with Daz. To be fair, Daz had no idea that this girl was with somebody else, he'd just been approached by her and went along with it. The boyfriend then shows up and Daz being drunk, tells him to get to fuck. Obviously the boyfriend takes offence to this and a scuffle ensues. It spills out into the car park and quickly gets broken up by John and Chris who just happened to be around. They're trying to settle the guy down when he sneakily pulls a knife from his jacket, although a split second later, before he can do any real danger with it, John has spotted it and disarmed him. Of course, then Daz starts mouthing off over the protective barrier that is John and Chris and things flare up again...

Shortly after we arrive it's all settled down. John orders Daz to piss off from the scene and then takes the upset boyfriend and sits him down on some steps off to the side of the car park. The thing is, Gords and I are both a bit pissed and I take it upon myself to give the guy a lecture on how bullshit pulling a knife on someone is. He looks genuinely remorseful and I then start to feel a bit bad for him. He must have been fucking gutted to find his girlfriend snogging Daz. The poor bastard then starts telling us that we're actually one of his favourite bands! Jesus fucking Christ, we've done nothing but fight with the crowds on this tour, taken bucket loads of abuse from thick as shit metal heads the whole time and then one of the rare people we come across that is into the band ends up pulling a knife on us. You couldn't fucking make it up..

The irony of that really puts water on the previously heated situation, and we just kind of stand there nodding at each other. Of course, it's now that Gords thinks it would be hilarious to bend over and fart in the guys face... I do my best not to piss myself laughing but fail quite miserably. Even John is smirking. The Boyfriend isn't though. What a bunch of cunts we really are sometimes.

The guy is furious and we all end up shouting at each other again. Fuck sakes Gords.. There is no backing him down now though and John is left with no option that to make it clear to him that he has to leave, that he's got no chance in his present situation. He fucks off to his car and we all head back towards the club. Before I know what's going on though I feel the glare of headlights from behind and Brian pulls me to out of the way of the guys car. He'd driven straight at me and Brian, full fucking pelt! Having missed us he speeds off into the night and we never see him again. It was too fucking close though.

Once again the night has taken an unexpected turn.

By the time Dutch wants to leave we're all pretty fucked. All except John, who's pretty wound up over the night's events. He thinks Daz is out of order for hooking up with that guys girlfriend but I don't really see it that way. Daz had no idea, and even if he did it's not his responsibility, it's the girl's. Although I guess Daz didn't help things in the aftermath of it all. Anyway, fuck it, another weird night. Dutch has no idea what's happened as we leave the dark suburb of Omaha and head further east. We're all tucked up in bed snoring like a drunken orchestra of hogs by the time we hit the highway.

I'm woken by John a little while later, who is nudging me telling me we have to get out of the van. I realise after a while that we're pulled over at the side of the road. The Boyfriend had left a little parting gift for us. He'd knifed one of the tires on the RV and that tire has now blown out. Dutch is not happy...

We all stumble off the van in a drunken haze, some of us wearing only t-shirts, kecks and shoes. It's fucking freezing and all. John and Dutch are livid with the situation, and it doesn't help that the rest of us are fawning around the slashed tire offering pissed up advice on how to proceed. Eventually the two of them tell us to fuck off and wait by the side of the road. Hilariously, in our drunken state, we just waddle off like kids scorned by an angry parent and stand in a deep ditch by the edge of the dark highway, something we'll later refer to as “The Trench”, although in reality it's only about a foot deep. We stand there, shivering and giggling in our kecks whilst Dutch and John go about fixing the van. They are both really fucked off by this point. They want us off of the van so as not to weigh it down when they put it up on the jack, but after a while Gords decides he's had enough and climbs back aboard and into bed. Typical Gords! It was that fucker that stoked the fire that got us into this mess. The rest of us stay in the trench, not daring to move.

Eventually the tire is changed and Dutch continues the journey east, silently, lividly gripping the steering wheel. I realise it's no idea to try and talk to him and so I head back to bed. John is more than vocal about the events though and by now he's lambasting Daz on his exploits. It's all I can hear as I drift off into sleep.

The next day we're in Lawrence, Kansas. I don't really remember a great deal about it except that it was a quaint, little university city. The sun was shining and the girls all seemed to be really good looking. I spent the best part of the afternoon walking around with Kev and Dutch, looking for a Western Union to transfer some tour funds into a bank account. Dutch was using the time we had together to appeal to my leadership status in the band, hoping I would be able to reign in the boys and their behaviour. Not likely big guy.

The show was ok. Nothing spectacular, but considering the venue was pretty big and there were a lot of people in attendance, we went down pretty well. I do remember looking at a High on Fire tour poster that was on the wall of the venue. They were playing here too. I remember thinking that I wished we were on that tour instead of this one..

After Lawrence we headed to Sauget, Illinois, which I think was just outside of St. Louis. We'd travelled through the day since Dutch had made a stop at a highway services so we could do some laundry. It was a beautiful day and the sky was clear blue. We hung out by the van for a while, eating crap food and taking in the sun, waiting for our laundry to be done. There hadn't been any showers at the last few shows so we were taking advantage of the fact that the service station had them, although we were all using the same key and taking turns. Obviously you're supposed to return the key to the lady behind the counter when you're done with the shower and then the next person pays to take it out again. We decided not to do that and just pass the key about between us. There were only two showers at the station though, so it was pretty obvious what we were up to, but the old lady either couldn't be bothered with the hassle or just plain didn't give a piss. I know I wouldn't.

When Dutch called time for us to leave, we returned to pick up our laundry. Amazingly, John had a go at Gords for his laundry still being wet. Gords had actually taken John's laundry for him, although John was last in line so his clothes weren't completely dry. Gords just barked at him, “Take care of your own fucking laundry in the future!”. Cabin fever...

John, as much as I love him, was always the guy in the van that waited to see how everybody else went about their business before acting. He was a complex character, as were we all in fairness to him. But I mean, you need John in a fight and he's right there, he'll put his fucking life on the line for you. And then he's really handy when it comes to fixing stuff, and he's always willing to help. At the same time, he couldn't take care of his own laundry.

There was one really funny episode when John had confronted us about the mystery of this big bag of crisps he'd bought that had disappeared. We were back in the van, heading towards Sauget, watching the box or something and John appears pinching the skin between his eyes and sighing in genuine frustration, “Ok, who the fuck has eaten my crisps?”. Silence ensues, of course. Everyone pleads innocence, and even when a very pissed off John has gone back to his bunk we're all looking at each other for answers, although we're all grinning like naughty school kids. But nobody knows what's happened to his crisps.

A few days later we'd been looking over some of the footage we'd been filming and lo and behold we stumble across a scene where the lot of us, all of us, are crowded around the bunk area, secretly, furiously eating John's crisps. We're all fucking steamboats of course. You can hear on the footage someone say in a panic, “Fuck, John's coming!” as Gordon is literally punching crisps into his mouth! We all piss ourselves laughing and it seems that we're all genuine in claiming that we don't remember the scene. I know I don't. Poor John. We've all been on the end of shit like that though. That little bastard Gordon once fried my phone in a microwave, thinking it would be a right rib tickler. Needless to say, my ribs weren't fucking tickled... Come to think of it, Gords always seemed to be involved in any mischief that happens on tour...

By the time we get to Sauget, it's grey and raining and the temperature has dropped considerably. We drive through St. Louis on the way in and get to see that steel arch thing, “the Gateway to the West” or whatever it's called. When we arrive at the club it's a fucking grim scene. The club is in some desolate industrial estate next to the highway. All there is to see is a large, soggy gravel car park, the warehouse like club and a sordid strip joint opposite it. It looks rough as fucking sin. Of course, Jay and a couple of the other lads are more than up for checking out some tits and happily head over as soon as we've loaded in. I give it a miss. It's really not my scene. I think John keeps me company as I man the merch table.

We have another ok show, but nothing to really write home about. There were a few people who seemed to be in to us whilst the vast majority seemed disinterested at best. Fuck it, it was the norm by this point. We gave it our all, and anyone in the front of the crowd giving dirty looks got a guitar swung at their near vicinity. Standard.

For some reason Lasse had been to the van to borrow a drum stand that hadn't been used from the kit we were renting and made a t-shirt stand out of it. He'd promised Gords and Dutch that he wouldn't forget it after the show, but of course he did. Gords isn't too fussed at first, but Dutch will use any excuse to wage war on Lasse. Of course, the tune changes in the camp when we think about the fact we'll have to pay for the missing stand. Luckily though, one of the other bands pick it up and bring it to the next show.

As instant karma, we pick up Nile's sound guy at a service station in the middle of the night, en route to the next show in Columbia Heights. He'd been forgotten by the Egypto Yanks as they'd gotten out for some nosh. Just drove off without him. He's pretty chilled about it though and spends the night with us on the RV. We make him up a bed for the night and share some beer with him. For once it's an easy night, we just sit around and watch a couple of horror films that John has bought.

A couple of days earlier I'd been walking around Lawrence, Kansas in my t-shirt, enjoying the sun. It came as somewhat of a shock when I stepped out of the van in Columbia Heights to a blast of Arctic wind. It was fucking raw here, the snow slicing through the air like shards of glass. I remember going to look for a phone box to call Jen back home, and when I found one could only bare to stand and talk for a couple of minutes such was the cold. I wasn't really dressed for the occasion to be fair, donning only a thin, spring jacket. I hadn't really been prepared for the wildly differing temperatures on this tour.

I don't really remember much about the show, I think it was another standard affair. The venue for the night was a big pool hall, or what looked like one, but the tables must have been removed. It had that feel about it anyway. It kind of reminded me of the place we used to play in Corby, which was called The Venue, they used to hold annual Battle of the Bands competitions there. Like this place, it was a long, dark, carpeted room with white foam tiles in the ceiling and a low stage at the end with a small wooden dance floor in front of it. There were a fair few people in and I don't remember anyone particularly hating us.

We'd been making an effort to hang out with Lasse at the merch stall a lot more these last few days. Which really, shouldn't have been such a big fucking deal for us when I think about it. I get where he was coming from when I look back upon it. The thing is, we'd paid his flight for him and some of the guys in the band were of the opinion he was here to work. Which of course, he was, but Lasse sometimes seemed to be of the impression that he was here to merely sell shirts for us whilst we were on stage, and then we'd all share the duty for the rest of the night. I guess we should have got that all cleared up before we came out on tour. The main problem is, nobody wanted to hang out in the venue all night listening to death metal...least of all Lasse. Things seemed to be smoothed out on that front now though and we'd all been hanging out a lot more with him these last few days.

After we'd played our set, some of us were hanging out in what was a foyer room in the front of the building. Jay, John and Gords were playing pool when some old black guy with grey hair, right cheeky looking sod, approaches the table and puts his money down to play the winner, which turns out to be Jay. As they break off the old guy suggests they play for a round of drinks, which Jay agrees to, and then proceeds to throw the game in what is the most blatant hustle I've ever witnessed. Of course, he wants a re-match for “double or quits”. Jay has of course clocked on, but to my amazement agrees to play the guy again. I'm a bit shocked because Jay isn't normally too chuffed to buy a round of drinks. By the second frame the old guy has now obviously transformed into Ronnie O Sullivan and is wiping the table clean. Just as Jay is starting to look a bit pasty, unbelievably the old guy, in a horrid stroke of misfortune, knocks down the black ball early, therefore conceding the game to Jay. We all piss ourselves laughing and the old boy is fucking livid. He's demanding another match but by now Jay is having none of it. Hustler eventually grumbles his way to the bar and buys Jay a couple of Jack and Cokes. The look on both their faces is priceless.

Another thing that highly amused me tonight involved Zanussi, the young star-struck bass player in Nile. His girlfriend had turned up to the show to hang out with her guy and his new band. Somewhat fucking incredibly, the other guys in Nile had told Zanussi that the “no non-Nile Triple A Pass holders on the bus” rule even applied to his girlfriend. I have to say, I felt really sorry for him when I saw the two of them sitting out the back of the club in the freezing cold, perched on the curb behind the bus. They looked fucking gutted. I told them they could hang out in our van if they wanted but Zanussi assured me they were fine. Poor bastard. Living the dream eh?

The next show was in Chicago and it was a relatively short drive. Dutch was driving through the night meaning we should have the day in the city. I was really looking forward to it. Lasse and I had been to the booze store and bought some beer for the journey, although we were planning an easy night with a film or two. We'd bought a couple of twenty four packs of some rancid “Lite” beer, purely because it was insanely cheap. I think I got through about two cans before I was forced to give in. It was absolutely foul and after half a twenty four pack had been consumed, the entire gang was complaining of headaches and a weird, acidic burning in the stomach. You get what you pay for I guess...

We settled down in front of a film with a cup of tea instead, although Lasse was offering a bottle of Captain Morgan around. On this occasion he had no takers though...

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