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Monday, June 27, 2011

Mexico City

Wow, looking at this blog, it's a little frightening how behind the times it is. It's still talking about shit that happened in April... So in an effort to get things closer to present time, I'm going to do some rapid-fire updates...

Tonight's episode:

Mexico City – Fiesta of filth

– or -

Viva la vomit!

After returning from the Atheist / Inferno fest / Neurotic Death Fest Europe trip, I was quite excited to give my two week notice at my (very crappy) job. Our schedule this year is way too busy to hold down any kind of regular work. I was kept busy finishing out my last couple of weeks at work and getting everything sorted for the trip, so we only had time for one rehearsal. We were still feeling pretty good after Europe, though, so it wasn't the biggest deal.

May 19th, the night before we left for Mexico, I played with Gravehill opening for Destruction in Santa Ana. I grabbed our humble axe-slinger Wes Caley from his home in Oxnard on the way south for the show. The night was a blast, and I ended up getting really, really hammered. I try to hold myself to a zero tolerance policy with Jagermeister, but after drinking a six pack during the performance (which went down awesome and the kids were great, by the way!) and then meeting very cool dude Matt from Dark Descent Records (who put out the new Gravehill record, which came out pretty killer in my humble opinion) and coercing him to buy me a few more beers (the perks of being a “recording artist”, haha!) I was left vulnerable to wiles of that licorice-flavored Teutonic libation we all know and love/hate. The night got kind of weird from there, but overall a good time was had by all. Wes and I stopped off for some much needed Carl's Jr. to soak up the madness on the way to Long Beach where we were hosted by the lovely and kind Katrina Woehlcke (who also let me park in front of her house for the weekend, thanks again!). Needless to say, the next morning when we got up at 7am to head to LAX, I was not a happy camper. Regardless, we boarded the flight with a minimum of confusion and consternation, especially compared to our last trip. This wouldn't last too long though.

Being in a band like Exhumed is weird sometimes. We're far from rock stars (as our meager bank accounts will clearly attest) but when you go to someplace like Mexico City, you kind of forget that for a day or two. As soon as we got off the plane and into the gangway into the terminal, a baggage handler spotted Leon, and welcomed the band to Mexico. Not even in the airport yet, and we were already rockognized. Odd... Then as we were going through customs, one of the guys there asked us what band we were in, and when we told him, he waved all our bags through the x-ray machine and then played us something from “Anatomy is Destiny” on his phone. Odder... We met up with the very cool guys in Pathology, who would be in the same van and hotel as us, and also had the same flight back to LA. Somewhere between customs and the van, Danny's cymbals were lost, which we realized when we got to the hotel. We were able to figure out in our broken Spanish how to tell the guys from the festival, and they called the airline and figured out where they were. Unfortunately security would have to hold them until Monday morning when we departed back for California, but the festival also had cymbals on hand already, so that was a bullet effectively dodged.

We met a few kids outside the hotel, signed some shit for them, and got settled in before heading out for some food. There was a huge buffet nearby that we decided to check out. Anyone that knows any of us even slightly knows that Exhumed pretty much runs on Mexican food 99% of the time. Everything was delicious, so I ate a bit of everything there – meat, rice, all kinds of seafood, flan, I didn't discriminate. I had three plates of food, it was that good. Wes declared it to be the best meal he had ever eaten. If you're wondering why I'm spending so much time talking about the food we ate, keep reading. It will all become clear.

After that we had a few beers (surprise!) and proceeded to get really bored. We ended up hijacking the dudes in Hirax and hopped in their van to get to the fest, as hanging out at the hotel was getting pretty tedious. We all piled in the back with the gear and anywhere there was room and headed to the “Metal in the Forest” festival. We were all wondering about this fest – mostly we were wondering where the fuck the “forest” was in Mexico City. Well, a one-hour van ride later, we had our answer. It was pretty far outside Mexico City, and in the dark, it seemed very remote. We got there as Watain was playing and headed into the madness. If we thought the response in the airport was weird, being at the fest was ten times crazier. Our journey from the gate to the bar (maybe 60 feet away) was a 30 minute odyssey of autograph signings, pictures with the kids, hugs and handshakes. At one point we were standing at the merch booth with about 20 kids taking pictures and shit and chanting “Exhumed! Exhumed!” Totally surreal. At any rate, before too long we were in the backstage tent (yes, the backstage was in a tent) looking for beer when one of the Watain crew guys (I could tell by his cute little matching vest thing) came up to us and politely asked if were playing next. When we told him that we were playing tomorrow, he informed us that we would have to get out of the tent because Watain would be coming offstage. What an asshole. We were literally discussing the fact that we should go to the bar immediately before he said that, so we took off and headed for less douche-y territory. From there we quickly ran into old friend Antimo from Disgorge (Mexico, obviously) and Profanator. It was great to see him again and he introduced us to Ruben, and our party team was formed! Hirax played and were awesome and then Rage was scheduled to go on, but after a 90 minute soundcheck, ended up not playing at all because of some sort of weird technical issue. That was all pretty humorous (as was the guitarist's mullet, perfectly preserved from the 80s) and we were fairly intoxicated by this time, but it was getting really late and pretty chilly. We realized that if we somehow missed the van back to the hotel, we would be literally stuck in a forest, with no tent, sleeping bag, jackets, etc. So we stuck close to Katon and co. and piled into the van for a hilarious ride back to the hotel.

The next day, we were the last band scheduled to play, so I was very surprised when I was awakened by a phone call at noon telling me the van was here to pick us up to head to the festival. Needless to say I asked the guy if we could catch the next van which he told me would be there in an hour and a half. Three and a half hours later, we were headed back to the venue after eating something very Denny's-esque at the hotel restaurant and a few beers. Since it was Sunday, the festival was scheduled to end at 8pm or so (unlike the previous night, which went on until 2am or thereabouts), and we were supposed to be onstage at 6:30. By 7:40 we were actually onstage, and it was just hitting dusk. The show went over really well, and the kids were awesome. Since the festival was outside in a kind of park / recreation area, the ground it was set up on wasn't particularly level and the front of the stage was sloping down towards the ground, which was a little dicey to navigate, but we grinded out the set undaunted.

Obviously things (logistically speaking) were winding down as we played, and dudes were taking down the lighting rig about mid-way through our set, which was weird. Thankfully the kids stuck it out with us and were awesome. By the time we finished playing, the lighting rig was halfway dis-assembled, and the backstage tent was completely devoid of lighting, so we struggled to find our bags in the dark and amazingly didn't forget anything – except our banner. We were so rushed leaving and there was so much activity with the people taking down the stage that no one grabbed it. We headed back to the hotel to shower, and then decided to hit a taco place on the corner.

We ended up drinking and eating with the guys in Violator and Gama Bomb, a couple of excellent Thrash bands that had played that day. I was wishing Dekapitator was in the line-up as it would have been a perfect fit! A couple of the Pathology dudes cruised over for beers as well, as well a guy from Anarchus who literally just happened to be in the neighborhood. Crazy! Anyway, because we need to get paid in US Dollars, we were waiting to get paid for a few hours after the show, so beers and al pastor tacos kept coming and going, and by the time I finally got all the business settled, my stomach was a bit iffy. I laid down to try to grab four hours of sleep before catching yet another excruciatingly early flight. As I lay there, I could feel my guts a'rumbling. I thought “just sleep a bit and this will pass”. I took some stomach medicine and tried to get some rest. It was not to be. I headed to the bathroom and vomited intensely three times in rapid succession. Now, keep in mind, I had been eating really spicy food all day, and everything came up. Literally. So I had an entire day's worth of spicy food pouring out of my face in three massive inverse-gulps. Tears were flowing, vomit was pouring out of my nose, which was also running, and to top it off, I had extremely bad diarrhea. After that expulsion, I hoped that I had literally gotten it all out of my system, and laid back down. Wes got back to the room and passed out as I lay there tossing and turning. It was gonna be a looooong day.

At 6am or so, after throwing up a couple more times, we woke up. I told the guys I was feeling ill, gave Leon all our money and told him he was in charge. We piled into the van with the Pathology guys and headed to the airport. I rode shotgun with the window open and a bag in my hand (that I thankfully didn't end up needing on the drive), ready for the worst. When we got the airport, the line was huge, so I posted up near the bathroom, and left the guys to their own devices. After about an hour or more, and several agonizing trips to the bathroom for me, someone from Pathology had the wherewithal to discover that we were in the completely wrong terminal of a huge airport. Bad news. We headed to the correct terminal, all of our crap in tow, with me bringing up the rear. As sick as I was, I had to stop every 50 feet or so and rest, and I was sweating profusely. Also, I had to go the bathroom at least every 15 minutes. It quickly became clear after a 10 minute tram ride to the other terminal and yet another bathroom break for yours truly that our chances of making the flight were getting very, very slim. The Pathology guys, unencumbered by a shambling, vomiting albatross of a band member such as I had become, sprinted on to the finish line and boarded the scheduled flight. We however, didn't even reach the gate until the flight had been closed for 20 minutes.

Our options were to wait until tomorrow and catch the same flight, which would have cost us $400, but allowed us to get a hotel (which of course would have cost even more money) and some rest and try again the following day, or to wait in the airport for 7 hours and try to get on stand-by for the full flight that afternoon. Being in state that was at best incredibly tired and frustrated (everyone else) or vomiting and shitting profusely and practically non-stop (me) we headed downstairs and found some benches (which were thankfully located very close to the bathrooms) and crashed out for a few hours. Somewhere around 1pm or so, I finally hadn't thrown up for about 45 minutes. It was time to try to keep some water down. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a bottle of water that much in my life, even though I could only handle small sips at a time. By this time I could at least talk a little bit to the other guys and find out what was going on. Up to that point, I had been pretty much oblivious. We planned to head back to the counter at 3:30 to see about the standby flight. I finally got some solid sleep until Wes woke me up so I could see a guy holding a “Ted Bathing” sign in the airport that got a few laughs. I looked at my phone and it read 3:35 – which I found a bit distressing as Leon and Danny were nowhere to be found. I swear, I get sick for one day, and all hell breaks loose! Anyway, I texted Leon, who was of course a) with Danny, and b) at the bar. They hurried back and we were at the ticket counter by four. Thankfully there were four seats in the exit row (score! Extra leg room!) available and it would only cost us $25 each to change our flights, since it was the same day. Frowns were turned upside down and I even ate a little on the plane ride home. So, as the bard once sagely intoned, all's well that ends well. We headed home happy and relieved. However, my stomach was still bothering me even a week later at MDF... but that's the next exciting episode in the never-ending fight for truth, justice and the Armenian Way– or whatever the fuck it is that we're doing with ourselves on these ridiculous adventures.

MDF recap coming soon!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

More about Europe - and not the "final countdown" one, even though John Norum is totally rad

Where were we.... Oh yeah, still in Europe. Since posting part I of our European Vacation - yes, that's a Griswald reference - we've been to Mexico City and Maryland Death Fest, but those stories will come later. Also, I have a bunch of photos I'll upload next time. Anyway, here's the exciting conclusion of our last saga - four dumbshits let loose in the old country - or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Europe.

Leaving Italy and heading back to Germany, we drove through the alps once again, and I actually was awake for most of the drive, taking in some truly breathtaking scenery, and taking over the iPod for the first time on the trip. That was a nice change of pace. I had finally almost got over my jet lag, now that our trip was winding down of course. Exhumed has always had our most solid following in central Europe – Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Holland. As we headed into the home stretch, we were playing to our strengths – drunken Germans who love blast-beats and presumably shit-porn. We had never played in Munich itself, and we were all psyched to be in the beer capital of the world. I personally love German beer, it's my absolute favorite, with Belgian beer being close behind, and the beer in Munich was exactly what I love about German beer. Not too heavy, refreshing, mildly effervescent with a full, but not overbearing flavor. So delicious. The club had built in accomodations (not totally uncommon in Europe) so we weren't going anywhere until the following morning. We posted up in the bunk room and got ready for the show. The stage was a little weird, very long and horizontal but not deep. It didn't really matter though. The place filled up quickly, and we saw a lot of Rotten Sound, Napalm Death, Dead Infection, etc. shirts. Always a good sign for us. We tore into it and the kids were loud and obnoxious, just the way we like it. One of the better shows on the whole run for us for sure. Also ran into the drummer of one of our old favorites - Dead. A split 7"was discussed, and hopefully the project will actually materialize and not just be drunken yammering. Admittedly, it'll be impossible for either band to top the cover art for Dead's "Orgasm Through Sleazy Vibes" EP.

After we played we retired upstairs to meet with our agent Marco, who works for the excellent Avocado agency. He was a nice, straightforward guy who spoke plainly and directly – what the fuck kind of booking agent is that?!?!? Anyway, it was a positive meeting, we started working on more plans for Fall, and then it was time catch Atheist and get sloshed. Done and done. We just partied all night, and it was a total bro-down, or brodeo. Either way, it was just the four of us and our ever patient driver, Mat. Kelly and Chris from Atheist stopped in for a drink, but soon we were getting stupid and loud. I managed to only break one beer bottle, and graffiti an excellent picture of our personal mascot, Ted Sanchez on the wall. Success!

The next day, we weren't even that hung over, by some blessing of the beer gods, and we headed off to Tilburg. Again, this was well-trod territory for us, having played the awesome 013 venue a few times already. We were sharing a dressing room with Atheist and one of my favorite current Death Metal bands, Hail Of Bullets. Martin from HOB informed us that the Heineken was his, but we could drink as much of the other beer as we wanted. That sounded like a dare. Anyway, I ran to the local music store to grab some new strings and after getting the guitars stage-worthy, met up with the affable American expatriate Pip Soret from Relapse Europe. Got to hang out with a lot of old friends, Harold from Legion of the Damned, John and Kyle from Incantation, Jason from Misery Index, Frank Van Liempd, our old publicist, and a lot of other folks who I can't exactly recall at the moment. The vibe of the whole day was just awesome.

We were pretty warmed up and tight (at least for us) by now, so the set felt great, and it went down awesome. I have to admit, I love playing bigger stages, much more room to run around and interact with the kids and shit. Caught Misery Index and Hail Of Bullets crushing it, drained many, many beers and headed off to a Formule 1 hotel, which anyone who has ever stayed at one will tell you is one of the worst hotels ever. We had two rooms with bunk beds – it was very “Stepbrothers”. You also had to keep pushing the button to turn the shower on every 45 seconds or so, or it would just turn off. Oh, Formule 1, you don't even have continental breakfast.

We got up to fly to Greece pretty early the next day, but our driver, who had up to this point been very on the ball, misread our flight schedule, so we totally missed our flight. Getting this sorted out was very time-consuming and expensive, which Mat very professionally took out of his pay, stand-up guy that he is, since for once- it was someone else's goof that caused the delay! I love it when I get to say that. It's pretty much always our (if not my) fault when things go wrong, haha! Anyway, after a bit of a delay and some food, we were back on track. Wes and Leon flew from Amsterdam to Frankfurt to Athens, and Danny and I were routed through Munich. I actually got a hold of the promoter before we left and gave him our new arrival info and things were back on track. All things considered, a pretty minor hiccup.

After a fairly nondescript flight, we arrived in Athens – our flights landed within 20 minutes of each other's – and Danny and I quickly found Wes and Leon in baggage claim. Amazingly, all of our luggage was already there and things were looking good. The driver was there waiting for us, and he was a super nice guy. He took us by the Acropolis, even though it was closed, which was truly awe-inspiring, even from the remote viewing area where we were. Greece was a breath of fresh air after the sort of stiflingly organized nature of central Europe. Here the city clearly sprung up spontaneously, erupting in tangles of labyrinthine, serendipitous urban quagmire. The streets were dirty, there were weird hookers on the corner, graffiti everywhere, rubble in the streets from a soccer-related riot / street brawl. It was kind of like being back in the Oakland or Hollywood, except without the burritos. I can't wait to come back to Greece, hopefully on vacation and really soak in this amazing place. Again, we had an uncharacteristically nice hotel, even if it wasn't in the greatest neighborhood. We were warned several times about the neighborhood, which was kind of funny. I just said, “Dude, I used to live in Hunter's Point – I think I'll be fine”. Bay Area peeps will know what I'm talking about there. At any rate, the dinner at the hotel was delicious – the eggplant in particular was great. We headed to the venue and had a few beers before hitting the stage. This was definitely an Atheist crowd, who eyed us a little suspiciously at first, but warmed up quite nicely and the show turned out really well. Great to go out on a positive vibe. I had been checking out Atheist sporadically every night, but in Athens I caught their entire set and was really blown away at how good they are – not just at playing their instruments (that too), but they really are a band that sounds like no one else. We interrupted their set to bring them out Jager shots and Danny and Leon even stage-dove during “Piece of Time”. Epic stuff!

After the show, we headed back to the hotel, where Leon crashed out. Wes, Danny, and I wandered around town until we heard some cool-sounding folk music coming out of a basement bar, so we wandered downstairs and grabbed a very large beer and an amazing sausage sampler plate. The music was great, the vibe was awesome, and it was one of those you-can't-plan-this-shit kind of travel moments that makes the whole grind of touring totally worthwhile. I felt really lucky to be sitting in a random bar somewhere in Athens drinking good beer with old friends and enjoying truly local color. Afterwards, we made our way through the hooker-lined streets and got back to the hotel. As Wes and I were heading to our room, I heard some girls in the hallway and poked my head out. They asked me if I was in a band, I said yes. The only thing I could think to say next was “You guys want some beer?” Before we knew it there were three obviously very under-age Norwegian high school chicks drinking beer, chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes and taking shots of Absolut in our room. How random is that? Anyway, no this wasn't some weird “Barley Legal” Letters-worthy encounter (c'mon, I'm 35 years old here, what kind of guy do you think I am?!?!?), but it was a pretty random and funny end to the night. We dozed off about 4am or so and got up around 8 to fly home.

I took a quick shower, rousted the boys and we piled in the van. We were cutting it pretty close time-wise, as usual. It turned out that didn't really matter, though, since our flight was delayed by three hours (exactly the amount of time we would have had to catch our connecting flight). The wait in line took forever, and the wait for the flight seemed to take even longer. In our hungover (as usual) states, we saw a smoothie stand, and invested way too much money in the worst fruit smoothies I have ever seen. Eventually we were headed home. I watched Black Swan on the way back, which was pretty good, and got some rest. I couldn't even drink on the flight this time, I just needed a day off. That didn't stop the other guys, though, but the party vibe had definitely mellowed at last. We hit JFK, went through all the ridiculous TSA bullshit in customs, and barely made our rescheduled connecting flight to LA, where we learned immediately after landing that Bin Laden had been killed. That was kind of a trip, and I couldn't help but be stoked and feel even better about getting home. The last hiccup was that our merch box was lost by Delta, so I had to stay even longer and fill out a bunch of bullshit paperwork. Leon and Danny headed off with their significant others and Wes and I were picked up by the ever-affable Mike Abominator from Gravehill, driving my car which he graciously allowed me to park in front of his house in Orange County while we were gone.

On the way south to the OC to drop Mike off, we hit the closest Del-Taco and I ate waaaaaaay too much. From there, Wes and I drove north to Ventura County (about an hour north of LA) and I continued on to San Luis Obispo County (about four hours north of LA) where I arrived at about 5am and finally got some well-deserved sleep.

My trip:

Strings broken: 1
Beer bottles broken: 3
Pieces of Luggage forgotten by Exhumed: 3
Clothing items lost: 2
Books read: 2
Instances of vomiting: 1
Shits taken outside: 1
Exhumed Tattoos: 1
Favorite condiment: Butter
Travel days: 11
Showers taken: 7
Drawings of Ted Sanchez: 1
Calls to my parents: 4
Band arguments: 0
Farts: 1,000,000