Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Back From The Dead And Ready To Party North American Tour Part I" Recap, Part III. I mean, part three of the recap of part one of the tour. Or does that sound even more confusing? Ah, fuck it.

North American tour recap, part the third, in which our heroes return to their native soil, none the wiser from their extensive trials and travails...

Well, after much procrastination, I realized that I need to finish the tale of our last tour, because we're about to start our next one. This has been a really busy year for Exhumed, which is great, but touring really cuts into my time to catch up on my pet projects, like updating the blog, posting old live bootlegs from my VHS tapes on Youtube, organizing my urine and hair into jars labeled with the time and date of collection, reading comic books, hanging out with friends and family, and learning macrame. But alas and alack, that is, as we say, a rockupational hazard. At any rate, where we? That's right, our intrepid sextet of loveable misfits was traversing the wild and unforgiving northern wasteland that is Canada... So, without further introductory fluff, let's dive headfirst into the third and final chapter of this crepitous chronicle- and I promise that, as far as third chapters go, it will be at least as much of a let-down as Return Of The Jedi.

We were headed west from Calgary to Kelowna, British Columbia, through some of the most beautiful forests and mountains in the world. So of course, I slept through it all, hung over and totally exhausted after our two days in Alberta. By the time I was coherent, we were practically there. Since we drove straight through, we arrived in Kelowna about noon or so. If you haven't heard of Kelowna, BC, don't feel bad. I've been all over Canada, and I'd never heard of it either. That said, it is a beautiful spot, nestled in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies with an abundance of lakes. We grabbed breakfast / lunch at McDonald's (sorry, punk rockers!) and then hit the grocery store for picnicking supplies. We rolled up at a nearby lake whose name totally escapes me, laid out some blankets, waded in the chilly mountain-water, ate some snacks, and dozed off under a shady tree. After killing a few hours that way, we headed over to the venue, which was literally a Knights Of Columbus Hall in town. Now, you may ask yourself, what the hell are we doing playing a Knights Of Columbus hall in a small town in eastern British Columbia that no one has ever heard of? Aren't we a “proper heavy metal band with a record label and all that stuff”? Well, the answer is simple. When criss-crossing the globe, you're inevitably going to run into areas where there is a lot of ground between major cities (aka “primary markets” in the parlance of our booking agent and record label) and you end up playing some pretty random spots in between. The alternative is a day off, and for us, a day we don't play is a day without pay – see how I did that rhyming bit? Pretty neat, huh? And a day without pay is to be avoided whenever possible. About one day off per 2/3 weeks is what we try to shoot for to avoid killing ourselves on the one hand and going broke on the other. At any rate, we arrived at the venue about five or six in the evening, and were greeted by the hospitality of the very nice Kristina, who had promoted a show of ours a decade earlier in Penticton, another, even smaller town in eastern British Columbia that you've never heard of. Like a lot of small-market promoters, she is really enthusiastic to get bands to come through and puts a lot of personal work into the shows. She and her family had whipped up a big ol' buffet of burgers, dogs, potato salad, veggies, soft drinks, water, and of course, beer. After eating and napping a bit more, the other bands began to arrive, and after load-in, Rob, Deedee and I headed over to Kristina's house to grab showers before showtime.

The turnout was definitely better than I expected, considering the remoteness of the show. Brandon, an old friend of Wes' actually lives in Penticton (about 70 miles away from Kelowna if I remember correctly) and came out, which was cool. The last time we were in Canada (in '05), we ended crashing at his place and I stayed up really late drinking beer and recording a terrible Sunset-Strip style cock-rock song called “Hollywood Ninja”. We never recorded any vocals for it, but we all thought it was hilarious at the time. At any rate, back to the more-recent-past... That night in Kelowna, we played on the floor, with no monitors, triggers, or anything remotely fancy. It's fun to do shows like this every once in a while, really raw and primitive, right there with the kids. We all had a good time, and headed back to Kristina's to crash out before heading to Vancouver the following day. The next day was the Monday of a three-day weekend, which made playing in Vancouver (one of those “primary markets” I mentioned earlier) on a Monday slightly more logical, but what we non-Canadian types failed to take into consideration was that everyone vacations near Kelowna and would all be heading back to Vancouver that day. Needless to say, progress was excruciatingly slow. We planned to be at the venue around 5 or so (somehow we always end up leaving at least an hour later than we plan to), but with traffic we didn't make it there until 8. This of course is the height of unprofessionalism, but at least we had been in communication with the club and the other bands (who were also late, but not as late as us) while en route, so everything was basically cool. We totally missed soundcheck and of course loading in our gear and merch was a bit of a clusterfuck, but as Dismember once said, “and so is life”... or something like that.

The dressing room at the club was about the size of a walk-in closet, so Rob, Dylan and I headed into the Vancouver-y night for a walk to check out the town. Of course, the club we played, the Rickshaw Stop, is in the absolute worst part of Vancouver – right next to the needle exchange for heroin users. In fact, that may be the grossest, most ghetto part of the whole country of Canada. But it does have character. Luckily, the club had security near our van the whole night, so we felt pretty good about taking off. Within a half a mile, we were out of junkie-town and into Chinatown, which was much nicer. I remembered eating at a really good noodle house in the area where Leon sharted his pants back in '05. Another mile and we were near the harbor, in a pretty nice part of town. After taking in the maritime sights and making fun of the D&D nerds fencing at the nearby sword fighting academy (as a D&D nerd myself, I feel totally justified mocking those dudes – and I took fencing in high school, so there ya go), we cruised back to the club. We saw a bar with a sign that said “Vancouver's Favourite Country and Western Bar” and Rob and I couldn't resist nipping in for a minute for a drink. We had a beer at one of the most depressing, down-and-out bars I have ever seen. I can confidently say that Rob and I were the best-looking people in the whole place- including the women (and the transvestive hookers) which should give you an idea of just what a bummer the vibe was that was happening there. But it was an appropriate, endearing, bummer vibe. The guys playing guitar and singing Hank and Cash songs with a drum machine were actually pretty good and the beer was relatively cheap, so all in all, it was 15 minutes well spent.

We made it back to the venue as the night was getting underway, and the turnout was pretty good, which always makes doing a good show easier. Another thing that made the night memorable was that someone had overflowed the toilet in the backstage area, so the whole floor was wet, and it didn't really smell that great while were getting dressed for the show. We were a bit over-tired that night, but after meeting up with some old friends like Justin from 3 Inches Of Blood, who we played with years ago when he was in Allfather, we were ready to rock- soggy, urine-smelling shoes notwithstanding. The show went over well, but we were anxious to get into Washington and a) get the border crossing over with (believe me, it can be a hassle getting back into America too) and, b) get the three-hour drive out of the way so we could get some serious rest- in a motel, in an actual bed. We hit the border at the Peace Bridge and had literally the quickest, easiest border crossing in North America I've ever experienced, and drove most of the way to Seattle before stopping at a Denny's and Motel 6.

Canadian money is adorable. And, bizarrely valuable in today's failing first-world economy. 

We piled into the hotel and proceeded to crash the fuck out, exhausted and happy to be back in the good ol' US of A. We woke up the next day, hit a Bank Of America to deposit the meager amount of adorable Canadian money we had accumulated (I love the Canadian $5 bill, it has a picture of kids playing ice hockey on it) and get going into Seattle. Mike wanted to check out Pike's fish market, so we headed out to the touristy part of town. It was a gorgeous, clear, warm day in Seattle- perfect weather to watch a couple of dicks throw oversized fish at each other while a throng of families from the Midwest watched and took pictures. Elsewhere at the fish market, we ended up randomly meeting up with a dude from Scorched Earth who worked at a non-throwing oriented fish stand there. He recommended a good restaurant nearby (I think it was called Athena?) that wasn't totally exorbitant, and we had an amazing lunch. Something about incredibly fresh seafood and Pacific Northwest Microbrews seemed to revitalize us. There was also an amazing comic book store nearby where I found a few back issues of Jack Kirby's run on “Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen” that I didn't have yet (I'm still missing 2 Kirby issues) and we all left happy campers. We already had confirmation from the other bands that their border crossing was similarly simple and we had all re-emerged in the US without incident. Macabre would also be reunited with their tour manager, Eric at last, which would help things move more smoothly and punctually, so it was shaping up to be a good day.

This is the kind of crap I spend my very limited disposable income on. And amazingly, I'm single. Who would've thought?!?

I was excited because we were back in the states, we had a huge shipment of merch to pick up at the venue, and our intrepid booking agent, Dan Rozenblum of the highly reputable Pantheon agency would be coming out to the show to celebrate his birthday that night. We were playing Studio 7, which is kind of near the Mariners' stadium, and a pretty big venue for us. I was a little nervous about being able to fill the room, to be honest. It's never good when the one show of your tour attended by your booking agent tanks. We got settled in and unloaded, and Wes and I headed off to the Pyramid Brewing company with the Cephalic Carnage guys, where we ran into Luke (World Under Blood, Sleep Terror) who had played guitar with Vile when we toured with them and Cannibal years ago. I totally didn't recognize him at first, not only because it had been a long time and I wasn't expecting to see him there, but also because the dude is fucking yoked these days! It was great catching up with him for a bit, watching some baseball and enjoying some of Pyramid's Hefeweizen. When it was getting close to show time, we headed back and I was pleasantly surprised to see the place filling up nicely. I got to hang out with Terry from Scorched Earth which is always a pleasure, and old friends Renae and Joe from Skarp (Joe is also in Theories, Book of Black Earth, Splatter House, and probably about 10 other bands I can't remember right now). I also did a double take when I saw Renae – last time I saw her she was a drunk crust-punk chick, but now she's a mom and really looked like a proper, adult, lady! Always good to see friends doing well. At any rate, the show was awesome, great vibe, loud kids (even the folks upstairs were making a lot of noise) and a lot of fun.

You know it's a good night when everyone is happy. Not just the audience, not just the bands because people showed up and we got a lot of beer, but even the promoter of the show and the bartenders at the club were stoked with how things went. When the guy paid me, he was totally psyched (that never happens). He was so happy, I should probably have hit him up for more money. The staff ended up letting us stay in the bar and party really, really hard. Wes was the first to crash out, at around 2am. I went out to the van to sleep at about 5am, and I think Mike and Rob finally made it out at 7:30am or so. Rob in particular was over-Jagermeistered. He passed out practically on top of Wes, and despite me trying feebly to pick him up, he wasn't budging. Wes wasn't exactly pleased with this development, and finally shoved him off, before leaving to get some food as people around the neighborhood (the club is near a lot of industrial type businesses) were arriving at work. As soon as Wes returned, we headed for Portland. Like I said last time, I am so incredibly thankful we had Dylan to drive on this tour, because we had all been reduced to oblithereens the night before. After we got on the freeway, out of nowhere, Rob stood up in the van, obviously still blackout drunk, and began to mutter incomprehensibly. It looked like he was about to blow chunks all over the interior of the van, so we pulled over on the side of I-5 to let him do his thing. He got out, stumbled onto the grassy shoulder and proceeded to conspicuously piss in the general direction of heavy traffic. Then he turned around, walked a few paces the other way, and promptly laid down in the grass to sleep. Needless to say, this turn of events was not to our liking. We started yelling and throwing empty cups at him, Mike went out and nudged him with his foot, but he remained laying there like a giant, impassive sack of shit (and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible) on the side of the freeway, totally wasted at about 9:30 in the morning. Finally, Mike suggested that I pour a bottle of water on his face. This finally roused him, and we got him back in the van where he passed out immediately, with his face on the seat and his body on the Dorito and hair coated floor. Classy, but hilarious. The rest of the brief drive passed without incident, thankfully.

Once in Portland, we headed to the Relapse Portland office, and had lunch with Orion Landau, Relapse's amazing graphic designer (who painted the Dekapitator cover for us that I totally love) at a nearby bar that served literally the best Pastrami sandwich I have ever tasted. Holy shit, I wish I had ordered the Pastrami sandwich! At any rate, we were all drained and in pretty bad shape at this point. Rob was still a bit drunk, but finally losing steam, and the rest of us were quite the worse for wear. Really we just needed to sleep. It was uncharacteristically hot in Portland that day, in the 80s for sure, so sleeping in the van was impossible. We headed to the club in the hopes that they had a backstage area or someplace we could crash out or at least lay down. When we arrived there, it was still too early to get in, so we dejectedly headed back in the van and headed to a surplus store for some shopping. I found a cool pair of Ferris Bueller-style shades, but not much else. We headed back to the club, which was still closed, and finally passed out for about an hour and a half across the street in the parking lot of some office building. In hindsight, we should have just broken down and got a hotel, even though we couldn't stay in town long due to the 11-hour drive from Portland to San Francisco the following day. We all needed some sleep, myself in particular. When we finally got into the club, I was crestfallen to find that there was no real backstage area (just enough room for gear), no couches, and no AC. The floor was concrete, and the whole interior looked like it had just been purchased from home depot – all unfinished 2x4s. Ugh. There was a second bar area upstairs with a couple of couches, but the dudes running the club wouldn't let us sleep there, which was total bullshit. Luckily, we have a lot of friends in town (who were all at work during the day) who cheered us up. Ryan, Cole, Jason, and a bunch of other old friends were there, as well as Matt, Orion, John and Erica from Relapse. By the time we played, I was beyond fatigued and running on fumes. We got up and started playing, and after Mike made a weird flub in one of the songs (keep in mind, he stayed up even later than I did, so I'm sure his brain/body/psyche were totally fried too), I got unreasonably, super pissed off about it, and started strumming way too hard in petulant anger. I broke a string, which of course pissed me off even more. I grabbed my backup guitar, glared at Mike and yelled something shitty at him while the music was playing (which I honestly haven't done since high school) and continued the set. There was another flub in the next song, and I got really pissed off, strummed too hard again, and broke a string on my backup guitar. Wes Caley also doubles as our guitar tech, and obviously he was right there with me onstage, so it wasn't like my guitar was getting fixed while we were playing. I flipped out, threw my backup guitar into the stand and screamed at Rob and Mike on my way offstage, acting totally unprofessionally and just straight-up rude. I fixed the string hastily and angrily, and came out and finished the set. Of course, in my sleep-deprived, hungover for the past week mind, I thought everything was fucked and the band sounded awful, but people were stage-diving pretty much the whole show and the whole front of the room was a mass of pitting madness, so it couldn't have been that bad. Everyone I talked to after the show seemed to think it was killer, so hopefully they're right, haha! As soon as we wrapped up the last song, I apologized to Mike and the guys for being such an asshole and letting things get to me. I really just needed some rest. We loaded out and headed to Sizzle Pie, an awesome pizza place that's actually owned by Matt Jacobson, the president of Relapse. He hooked us up with a slew of killer metal and rock-themed specialty slices and pies and a great beer selection. By the end of the night, I was buzzed, full of pizza and contrite for my tantrum. At that point, sleeping in the van would be simple. I was so tired I could have slept standing up in the middle of a tambourine factory that was on fire.

By the time I woke up, we were well into California, and we stopped and got breakfast and filled up the tank. I was texting pretty much nonstop all day with former bandmates and old friends, and our guest list was filling up rapidly. Exhumed has always been identified as a bay area band, since we started out in San Jose (aka the Silicon Valley for you non-NHL fans) way back in 1991, when I was but a wee lad of 15. San Francisco was pretty much as close to a true hometown show as we get. That said, we've had many different incarnations of the band with different members from different areas, and no one in Exhumed even lives in the bay area at this point. I haven't lived there for about three years, and I haven't lived in San Jose for about seven. However, Mike and I are both originally from there, and I will always consider it my hometown. I miss the food, the culture, the bars, the proliferation of hot Asian chicks in the south bay, and of course my friends and family. To me, this show felt like there was a lot at stake, as my good friend Mike Sage would say. We would be playing and everyone that recorded “Gore Metal” would be there, and we had already planned to have ex-members Ross Sewage and Mike Beams join us on vocals and guitar respectively for the show closer, “Open The Abscess”. I really wanted the show to be a good one, I felt like kicking ass in our hometown would be a big piece of the “comeback” thing that we'd been doing throughout this year.

Here's the last song of the evening in San Francisco, where we were joined by Ross and Mike  for Open The Abscess.  For those of you wondering, yes, Mike Beams was super hammered here. Ross' "Rasputin the mad monk" look / vibe is also pretty awesome.

We cruised into town, picked up a bunch of much-needed gear at guitar center on Van Ness street (right down the street from my old work), grabbed an AMAZING burrito at Taqueria Cancun (one of my three favorite places to get the rightfully much-ballyhooed “Mission-style Burrito” that you should have heard heralded as the THE BEST FUCKING FOOD IN THE WORLD) and headed to Slim's. I was stoked to not only pick up more “All Guts, No Glory” CDs, but also to do a really fun radio interview with Ami Lawless of Voetsek (who are a great fucking band you should all check out) before the show. To give even a partial list of the old friends that showed up would be ridiculous, but the first thing Col Jones (our drummer from '91-'03, now drumming with Repulsion, Mortuous, and Cretin) remarked when he saw me that night was that he was irritated about “the long line trying to get in to see my own dumb band”. We had 20 guest list spots, used them all, as well as most of the empty spots on Macabre, Cephalic Carnage, and Withered's lists as well. San Francisco might have been the biggest show of the tour, with over 400 folks piled in. We were all feeling much, much better after Portland- rested, happy to be in our hometown (well, at least two of us), and excited about the last weekend of the tour. The show was one of the absolute highlights of the whole three-week excursion and it seemed like the kids really dug it. I got to catch up briefly with Will from Death Angel and talk about finally recording the slew of Scarecrow songs we'd written together, and Adi from Uphill Battle was in town on business and hung out with us for a little bit after the show. We decided to head to Reno that night as accommodations there would be waaaaaaay cheaper than in San Francisco, and it was a pretty long drive anyway. The night passed uneventfully and I woke up around 9:30 to find ourselves in beautiful Sparks, Nevada. *Editor's note- Since type can't convey tone of voice, I'll just chime in here and clarify that the word “beautiful” in the previous sentence was used facetiously. Thank you for your time* We checked into a Motel 6 that was indeed very affordable and headed into Reno itself to hit a buffet. The buffet was actually pretty decent and we were able to get some rest and clean up at the hotel. Of course, it was incredibly hot in Reno. The highlight of our morning was seeing a dude riding in a minivan with his family drinking a Steel Reserve 40 at about 11am. What can I say, Reno is a classy town.

I'm going to digress here for a minute. Planning a tour is a tough endeavor. Our original plan was to play Portland on Wednesday, take Thursday off, and hit San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orange County on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday respectively. For whatever reason, the show in OC never materialized, and we lost both the Friday and Saturday slots at the clubs in LA and San Francisco. Now, anyone that has ever been to a concert knows that Friday and Saturday are the absolutely most desirable nights for concerts (probably why the venues in SF and LA passed on our shows those nights in favor of something more lucrative / glamourous / sexy / quality / etc.) so having both of those nights as off nights would be ridiculous (see above on why we avoid having days off on tour). Hence adding Friday and Saturday shows in Sparks (which is basically Reno) and Las Vegas. We'd played Vegas a couple of times before, and it had always been at least decent, so I wasn't too worried about that show. Sparks, however, I didn't anticipate being that great of a gig. The only time we had played Reno (back in '97 I think?) a fight had broken out during our set and all 20 or so of the attendees had followed the fight outside, leaving us to finish the show in a literally empty room. Even the bartender was outside watching the fight. Ah, good times.

We relaxed next door to the venue at the Irish pub, watched some baseball, and halfheartedly flirted back at the waitress there. There were definitely a lot more than 30 people at the show, but it still felt underwhelming, especially after the energy of the previous night. The promoter ended up being a cool guy, but the folks at the club were kind of dicks. One of the bands on the tour, maybe Withered, I can't remember, ended up being really late to the show and he was flipping out about it. He also was complaining about our stage volume and wouldn't give us any bar privileges, which was totally weak. The promoter bought us some beer and we resigned ourselves to drinking outside in the van. Yeesh. Anyway, the show itself was pretty fun, low-key and more like a party than anything. The kids that showed up were appreciative, and we headed back to the motel feeling good.

The next day, it began to sink in that the drive from Sparks to Vegas was a bit more intense than we'd bargained for, especially with the heat. It was long, dry and boring. We got to the venue on the edge of town around 5pm, incredibly early for Vegas standards. The sound guy here was a bit uptight as well. He complained that we had our own sound guys for the tour, complained that we had too much gear for the stage, etc. etc. The bar owner wasn't much cooler, doling out an incredibly meager beer allotment for the night. Drinking would have been cheaper if we had just played nickel slots next to a blue-haired septuagenarian from Florida and waited for a tired, leather-skinned, was-probably-hot-in-1991 waitress named Jodi who was originally from Montana to eventually come around and bring us beers in some off-the-strip casino. On a more positive note, I was stoked to see Spun In Darkness, and Rhett (aka Thorgrimm of Gravehill fame) and his lovely lady, my “big sister” Lili were going to be in town as well, so we were gearing up for a fun night. There was a Savers in the same strip mall, and I bought a sweet blue denim jacket, which I figured I'd save for fall / winter, as Vegas in August was fucking roasting. The turnout was pretty decent, and kids were telling me how much better-attended our show was than other Death Metal tours that have rolled through have been, so we felt good about shit by the time we hit the stage. The show went over well, and as I am known to do, I went on a drunken tirade on stage about how disgustingly fake Vegas is (it's honestly one of my least favorite places in America) and how the underground should be diametrically opposed to all that Vegas represents. When I'm drunk and tired and in incredibly hot weather, I sometimes get a bit diatribe-y, which is undoubtedly annoying. So, sorry about that. After the show we went out for Mexican food and birthday cake with Rhett and Lili, but somehow I got a really gnarly stomachache (the food was actually delicious before I doubled over in pain) and went and passed out in the van flatulent and uncomfortable, without saying good night or anything to anyone.

The next day we were back in Los Angeles, which is pretty much our second hometown at this point. Wes, Danny, Leon, and Rob all call Southern California home (even though Wes doesn't live there anymore, he's still from there), and Mike and I are sort of in the middle of SF and LA, living in the San Luis Obispo area. At this point, I spend way more time in LA than I do in the bay area (in fact, the last time I went up to San Jose to visit friends and family, I got a DUI – thanks a lot, jerks!) so I've slowly, begrudingly come to feel quite at home there. I still enjoy detesting the Dodgers and Angels and continually finding things about the bay area that are better than LA (food, public transportation, air quality, weather, sports that aren't basketball, I could go on, but do I really need to?), but I honestly do love it there and feel truly at home in LA and Orange County. I was excited to finally headline the Key Club, where we had played a few different times as a support act. Again, this show felt like a lot was riding on it, not only because it was the last show of the tour, but because we had gotten a few different offers to play down there, and after playing numerous shows in the area with Gravehill, a lot of kids had approached me about wanting to see us play. If the show tanked, then my perception of the band was way off. Honestly, we had traditionally had better shows in LA than in the Bay Area for years before we broke up, so I was anticipating a good night. I know I should try and just keep an open mind and not expect anything in particular, but hey, I'm only human.

Ramblings from a sleep-deprived man in desperate need of a shower outside the Key Club in Los Angeles.

We picked up Dylan's friend from Delaware, Deanna, at LAX, dropped Wes off at his visiting girlfriend's hotel, and headed to Hollywood. I think we were the only band on the tour familiar enough with traffic from Vegas to LA, especially on a Sunday, to understand how fucked it can get. Why do I think that? Because we were the only band (aside from the locals, Enthraller) who were at the venue even close to on-time. In fact, not only did everyone else miss load-in and sound-check, we were the only band that was there when dinner was served later that afternoon. Everyone has a day when they run behind, but to my thinking, LA was going to be one of the bigger shows of the whole thing and having played at the Key Club before, I was well aware of what a tight, professional ship they run there, so I knew we needed to be on top of shit for the last show. To be fair, we totally blew it getting to Vancouver on time, so like Mike Abominator always says, shit happens when you party naked. I didn't even really watch the bands that night, I was busy socializing with everybody, knocking out a couple of interviews before the show, and just hanging out. The last night of tour is always bittersweet, kind of like the end of your junior year in high school. You're glad to get a break, but you're bummed to not see a lot of people for a while that you've worked together and bonded with. Over the three weeks, we had a blast getting to know all of our tour mates (except for Steve and Lenzig from Cephalic, we knew those dicks already) and playing, partying and puking together. We all agreed to meet up at the Rainbow to grab a drink to celebrate / say goodbye after the show and ran into even more old friends there. The show went over really well, we all had a blast, but of course, by the time we finished loading out and getting everything squared away, we got to the rainbow at last call. So the after-party, such as it was, ended up being a little anti-climactic. Luckily, we had already grabbed some beer from the store for later that night. Deedee's boyfriend Jerry came and picked her up, Rob took off, Wes headed off with his lady, leaving myself, Mike, Dylan and Deanna to head off to Rob's pad in Anaheim for a couple of beers and some well-earned rest.

"Through Cadaver Eyes" from the new album, like at the Key Club. 

In case you thought the last video was too melodic, here's some old shit for ya- Slaughtercult and Torso. 

Of course... the next day, Monday, all of us except Rob and Wes headed back up to San Luis Obispo, stopping in Ventura for Del Taco and to pay for the van rental. I was dropped off at my pad in Arroyo Grande at about 6pm to do some laundry, clean myself up, catch up with family, and get packed for our four-festivals-in-four-countries-in-four-days trip to Europe that weekend. And did I mention that we were leaving for this insane European trip the next day at 7am from Los Angeles? Mike dropped off the gear in San Luis at our rehearsal room, and took Dylan and Deanna to Dylan's pad. By midnight Tuesday morning (a mere six hours after we got home), Mike and I were back on the road in the van and Mike's truck, headed for LA. We dropped the van off at last in Ventura and continued south for our excruciatingly early flight to Prague where w would rendezvous with the always entertaining Leon del Muerte, who would be reassuming bass duties for these four shows, But that, my friends, is a blog for another day.

Thanks for reading, true believers!

Harvey and the usual gang of idiots

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Continuing Saga of the "Back From The Dead And Ready To Party" North American tour

So here's part two of what's shaping up to be a tour log trilogy, chronicling the misadventures and gastrointestinal problems of a lovable group of wacky misfits. This is a chapter that I like to call:

Episode II: Return of the Fabulous Metal Bozo Clones
- or - 
The Making of "Great White North II" - the untold story

Okay, so... To pick up where we left off...

After CIM, we were headed to Milwaukee, which would be our first night with all four bands on the tour. We had been freshly re-loaded with merch and had even had a day off, so we were presumably bathed and groomed (for us anyway) when we arrived. The drive from Urbana to Milwaukee really wasn't too bad at all, which makes things a little easier.

Milwaukee has never been a particularly great market for us, and even the show we did there with Cannibal Corpse in '04 wasn't that awesome, I mean it would have been AMAZING for us, but for Cannibal it was a bit of an underwhelming turnout. The fact that all of the bands had just played 100 miles away the night before wasn't great either, and it was a Monday night. However, it was cool to be back at the Eagles' Ballroom, where I had seen Venom at Milwaukee Metalfest '97 and Sodom the following year. We were playing the Rave bar, which I remembered from Metalfests past as “The Relapse Stage”, haha! The backstage was a bit weird, really dark and lit by lava lamps with wall hangings everywhere. Wes was having a hell of a time changing our guitar strings, just with the lack of light and usable space back there, despite it being really big and sort of maze-like.

One thing about the way we do things, we tend to be pretty laid back and give everyone we're on tour with a lot of free rein, we never really keep people out of our dressing room, hoard our food and drinks or make people set up their drums in front of our kit or anything like that. Just because we've been there, and it's kind of a bummer. There are rarely any issues with this philosophy, but this was one of those nights when it kind of backfired on us. The local bands and their friends were backstage, eating all our food, and more importantly, drinking our beer and whiskey. I actually had to take our bottle of Seagram's out of a dude's hand. Also there were like three chicks who were cooks (the food was delicious, I have to say) and some of the people backstage were with them, or something... I really have no idea. Especially since it was our first night with Macabre and Withered on the tour, we weren't sure who was supposed to be there and who wasn't, as Macabre and Cephalic also had a lot of their friends who were local backstage, so I couldn't tell what the fuck was going on. So it was a bit of a bummer vibe backstage. Overall, the promoter was a really nice guy, and he actually hooked us up with a place to stay later that night, but that aspect of the show wasn't particularly organized, and it turned into a bit of a clusterfuck.

Embarrassingly enough, I have to be honest and say that before this tour I wasn't familiar with Withered, except by reputation. I was definitely looking forward to catching them live for the first time so at the very least, I wouldn't feel like such a dumb-ass any time someone asked me about them. All I really knew at that point was that they were supposed to be a doom / black metal hybrid. Anyone that knows my musical tastes knows that, although I enjoy some doom and black metal, those styles aren't my bread and butter. Within the band's first song, Withered really floored me with their smothering, pissed-off brand of blackened doom. The thing that doesn't interest me about most “troo black metal” is that it just isn't particularly heavy – it's all treble. If there's on thing you can say about Withered, it's that they are incredibly heavy. After speaking to the guys I immediately knew that we were going to get along great and I was super psyched to have them on the tour. The Mikes, Dylan, and Beau were all super down-to-earth, hardworking, hard-partying dudes that were a great addition to the bill. I loved the fact that all four bands sounded nothing like one another, but were all super intense and heavy in their own way. I think that helps make it a win for the kids that pay their hard-earned shekels to come out and support, as well as more interesting for me, because I don't want to hear four hours of brutal death metal a night for three weeks straight.

Having Macabre on the tour was great, and really kind of a mind-fuck for me. I remember listening to the “Sinister Slaughter” tape so many times hanging out with Matt Widener and Dan (now Marissa) Martinez of Cretin way back when Matt W. was playing bass in Exhumed in '94. Having a band that influenced you supporting you on tour is really a trip and, I know this word gets tossed around pretty casually, but it really was an honor. They were great, and although they didn't do too many songs from my personal favorite album, “Gloom” (I still want to hear “Dr. Holmes”, damn it!), the set was a killer mix of old and new stuff, including a bunch of my faves from “Sinister Slaughter” and “Dahmer”. The guys were really cool, and made me feel a little bit younger, which is always flattering, haha! Their tour manager Eric was cool as well and gave us a hand changing over which was appreciated, and their effervescent merchandiser, Doug was a total sweetheart from the word go.

The Milwaukee show itself was a bit sparse, but the people that were there were fully into it, so that made it a lot easier to give a good performance. It's really less about the number of people attending and more about the intensity of the vibe. The room was small and sounded good, so all in all, it ended up being a pretty fun show. Our crew and Withered stayed with some really nice friends of the promoter on the outskirts of town, grabbed some grub at a place that was sort of vaguely Waffle House-esque, and had fun playing with our hosts' dangerously affectionate pit bull puppy. The next day, we got up pretty early to head out to the land of 10,000 lakes- Minnesota.

I always enjoy doing shows in the Twin Cities. We've traditionally had good turnouts there, and this night would prove to be no exception. It was still a bit of a mess getting used to setting up our drum kit before Cephalic (we shared backline on this tour) and then taking it down during Macabre's set, having Mike tweak it, and then setting it back up on stage when we went on, but luckily for your humble narrator, that was a problem that didn't really affect me too much. After load-in at Station 4 in St. Paul, I hopped in the van and high-tailed it to FedEx office to print out all of our paperwork for our crossing at the Canadian border the next day, and catch up on some emails and other office-type work my archaic phone didn't allow me to do. When I got back, Mike, Rob, our driver Dylan and I took a walk from the venue to find something to eat. We managed to find a pretty nice bar / grill that had a great beer selection, so I had to grab a Duvel with lunch / dinner. Full and content we headed back to the venue, which was already filling up nicely.

At any rate, the show was pretty damn full, way more so than the last time we had played the same venue, many, many years ago. We got some PBR going at the bar, and shit was basically pretty damn good. Even though we had just gotten more merch, we were already starting to run low on a couple of sizes, which was awesome, but a little scary because we wouldn't be able to get anything else from any of our vendors until we got done with the Canadian dates the following week. Canadian shipping rates are ridiculous. At any rate, I digress... Macabre are great because they're so cynical and sarcastic, they make Wes Caley, our resident pessimist, look like a ray of sunshine. But give 'em a few beers and a good crowd, like they had that night, and you'll see a great band having a great time. I really got to watch a bit more of their set, which put a huge smile on my face.

"In The Name Of Gore" live from the land where people still remember Kirby Puckett.

Another highlight of the night for me was getting to catch up with old friends Steve and Allison from Bodies Lay Broken, my all-time favorite Midwestern Grind band (although Wasteoid and Black Market Fetus are close behind!). I remember my first time in Minneapolis- staying at Micha Garber of Bodies... apartment and eating at Perkins for the first time – good times! Micah has since relocated to Japan, and it was a bit weird without him being there to regale us with tales of his prodigious push-up marathons. On a bittersweet note about being back in the Twin Cities after so many years, I had always enjoyed meeting up with Don Decker of Anal Blast (who our old drummer Col had lovingly nicknamed “The Flesh Avalanche”, a name Decker thought was hilarious) and Earl Root of Root of All Evil Records, both of whom had sadly passed away since the last time Exhumed had played in town. At any rate, I tried to honor them with a quick shout-out on stage. The show went over killer and was one of the high points of the whole tour, to be honest. Even though our performance wasn't totally perfect, we had reached the point of being on the road where everything had become second nature to us, and we didn't have to think about what we were playing, we could just lock in and go on instinct. That's when I honestly enjoy playing live the most, when you've “found your legs” and you go onstage every night feeling totally confident and ready to kill. At any rate, after the show, we met some of the kids and loaded out to head for North Dakota, and on to Winnipeg the next night.

We needed to stop in Grand Forks, North Dakota to pick up a very specific and important piece of freight from the UPS store there – a new severed head prop, aka Son Of Ted. After getting the original Ted stolen in Denver, we had notified our de facto prop-master, the very awesome Caleb Schneider of Murder Construct and Bad Acid Trip and he had set to work getting a new one up and running at maximum speed. That Wednesday, it was to arrive in Grand Forks so we could grab it before heading into the Great White North. While waiting for our putrid parcel to make its appearance, we availed ourselves of a truckstop on the edge of town and showered and did laundry. I hit the shower last while the rest of the crew headed to a nearby Wal-Mart (as much as I try to avoid shopping there, when you're on tour, it's just too damn convenient and cheap to have principles – especially in North Dakota where there aren't a lot of other options) to get new merch tubs to get things more organized. We met up and grabbed some lunch and then organized all of our merch, and cleaned the van inside and out, which was long overdue. By this time, the package had finally arrived and we were ready to hit Canada.

Anyone who keeps up with what goes on with underground bands will probably have heard myriad horror stories of Canadian border crossings gone awry, with band / crew members getting turned away at the border, bands getting taxed exorbitant fees, etc. etc. If you want to hear some gnarly shit, just ask Mike Hamilton about what happened to Deeds Of Flesh years ago. That said... I always approach the border with a bit of trepidation. We had all of our paperwork in order, and due to a change in the laws, we wouldn't actually need work permits on this trip as we had in the past, which may have helped get us through more smoothly. Every tour, at least one person in our touring party has a DUI on their records. That means that you have to pay $200 or so for each person with a DUI, just to get them into Canada. You also occasionally get a lecture from the border folks if they're dicks. This time wasn't too bad, we paid our money, didn't get inspected or taxed, and were more or less on our way after about 45 minutes of waiting. When we got to the customs office, the Withered guys were just leaving after getting waved through very quickly, and Cephalic also were admitted fairly smoothly. Our delay ended up being pretty minor, all things considered. Macabre weren't so lucky. Their tour manager, Eric was denied entry because of a misdemeanor charge that was over 15 years old on his record, and the whole band was hassled for quite some time. On top of that, they had to go through US customs to take Eric back to Grand Forks, where he would have to ride a Greyhound to Seattle and meet us there, and then they had to go through Canadian customs again to get to Winnipeg and do the show that night. Oh yeah, and Slayer was playing in Winnipeg that night, too. Like I said last time, I love a challenge.

The promoter, Corey, was also the drummer of our old friends in the awesome Grind band Putrescence that was playing with us that night, and as soon as we got to the venue, he gave us a ride to the beer store to grab some of that sweet, sweet nectar. Wes' predictions came true immediately as we were warned by our Canadian friends to be careful drinking their beer, as it is a whole 1% higher alcohol by volume than American beer. Don't worry, my northern friends, we do this all the time, I think we can handle ourselves. Anyway, Putrescence sounded great, and it was awesome to hang out with my old friend Mike Alexander again. The show was actually pretty well attended, especially considering the other band playing in town that night, and there was definitely a contingent of late arrivals that took the opportunity to create their own metal double-feature. We were looking for a place to stay and were referred to a local kid who was having a party at his place after the show. He assured us he had tons of beer and that all was good. We got to the house pretty late, and there was no beer. I was at that stage of drunkenness where I was ready to seriously party, and having the wind knocked out of my sails like that, I have to admit, made me get a bit pissy. I was being kind of rude, changing the stereo and talking shit about the music playing, etc. so I apologize for being kind of a dick. The guy did buy us all McDonalds and had a huge pad that we crashed at, so I really can't complain. We did have a bit of cheap whiskey that we managed to dig up from somewhere that eased the pain of the night a bit. The next morning, we were up pretty early and headed west to Saskatoon after grabbing some fresh guitar strings.

The only town in the hilarious-sounding province of Saskatchewan with a more ridiculous name  than Saskatoon is Regina - pronounced "Rah-jine-ah". So yes, when you say "Regina, Saskatchewan" it sounds exactly like you're saying "Vagina, Sasnatchewan". And no, that joke totally never gets old to the people that live there. They LOVE it. 

We had played in Saskatoon years ago, at the same venue even, with Behemoth, which was actually on our last tour before splitting up, so it was cool to come back on our own with a great bill supporting us. In fact, the promoter, a very sweet gal named Zandra, told me that our gig in '05 was her first show booking international acts! I remembered her being really nice and letting us stay at her sister's place, which was killer because they had a hot tub- nothing like drinking a beer in a hot tub while it's gently snowing! Anyway, enough reminiscence. Zandra was just as nice as I remembered her, and we were greeted with a huge catering spread and a cooler full of ice cold beer, soda and energy drinks. And that was before dinner! Rob and I actually went out for a jog around the neighborhood, Wes got all the guitars re-strung, and life was good. The show was killer, and everyone was happy. I love it when there's a night like that. Of course, I suppose that's not the most interesting read, but the show was a lot of fun. We ended up drinking outside the club and hanging out with some of the staff while watching some of the guys from the other bands unsuccessfully hit on chicks, which is always good for a laugh.

The next day, we arrived early in Edmonton, and we were stoked to see that the venue was smack dab in the middle of downtown – always a good sign. We kicked around town for a while as it rained on and off, and found an amazing vintage guitar shop that was totally mind-blowing and way out of my price range, as sweet as it would have been to come home with a new Les Paul. I was kind of burnt that day, just not really feeling it, so after doors opened at the club and everything was situated, I left and promptly ran into Rob, Dylan and some random Canadians. We hit the bar next door, had some food and drink, and I began to feel better. I also met Mike Brown, arguably the biggest Exhumed fan out there – at least the biggest Exhumed collector. He has more of our shirts, EPs and other shit than I do! Despite the fact that he is obviously a huge nerd with terrible taste in music, he was actually a pretty cool, normal well-adjusted dude to have a beer with. I was feeling even better when we got back and the place was packed front to back. The show went over awesome, and we stayed after the bar closed and got really unnecessarily drunk, doing shots and all manner of other foolish things. We headed to the other side of town to crash out at someone's pad, had a couple of beers, and passed out drunk and sloppy to end what turned out to be a really fun night. The next morning we had to run around town for a while, which took way longer than we thought it would have – the other side of town felt a lot further hung over in daylight than it had the previous night, drunk and rowdy in the dark. We also saw a lot of signs that read "Fatality" marking the spot where a fatal car crash had taken place. Apparently, that's a "thing" there. Thankfully, we don't have those signs in California, because there would be so many, it would just be too depressing / frightening to drive anywhere.

 At the bar across the street from the venue in Edmonton, whatever the hell it was called- Rob and I with Mike Brown and the crazy Canadian guy who was hilarious. Their humus gave me atrocious farts. Atrocious. No, seriously. Atrocious.

At any rate, after some Burger King to start the day, we were feeling good about everything and we hit the road out to Calgary. By the way, everyone in Edmonton had talked shit on Calgary the way that Bay Area residents trash L.A. This was to be another night where Slayer, Rob Zombie, and Exodus were also playing in town. Deedee and I were both friends with the Exodus guys, and she managed to sweet-talk Gary into getting us passes, which was awesome. A bunch of guys from the tour knew the Exodus tour manager, so all the bands were well-represented at the show. Exodus was great, as always. After getting lost for a bit (it was a hockey arena, in our defense), we made our way backstage to drink some of Exodus' beer. I met the super nice Lee and Rob for the first time and got to catch up with Tom, Jack, and Gary. Before grabbing a taxi back to the venue, we caught a couple of Slayer songs, and Gary sounded great playing with them, and visa versa.

Cool shit I got in Calgary. The herpes I got there: not that cool.  

Meanwhile back at the venue... The promoter of the show was actually Eric Grief, who metal nerds will know was the former manager of Death. I had a great talk with him about Death, one of a select handful bands that I know way too much about, and he was a really nice, articulate guy. He even hooked me up with “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Spiritual Healing” patches, which was cool. Our show was billed as a sort of “un-official Slayer after party” event, which meant that it was designed to start and run late, but... It ran really late. Wes and I took advantage of the delay to nip out for a bit of dinner and a drink or two downtown. The most remarkable thing about the place we went wasn't the beer selection, or the food: It was the ridiculous amount of beautiful women that were literally everywhere on the streets of downtown Calgary. Better than LA. Better than New York. Better than Prague. Holy shit, I had never seen such a copious amount of super hot chicks all over the place. It was fucking nuts. After picking my jaw up off the floor about a hundred times, we headed back to the venue where I met up with Dr. Gore from Extreme Metal TV for a quick video interview you can watch below.

If you think reading what I have to say is boring, wait until you try watching it!

If, after reading all the things that we did that night, it seems like we had waaaaaaaay too much time before we actually played that night, we did. We weren't even onstage until after 1am, which is a bit ridiculous. The owner of the bar also got smashed in the face with a bottle and it was very messy. I didn't see what happened, but I did see him bleeding profusely in the kitchen. Anyway, even considering the time we finally played, the show was pretty decent, it being a Saturday night. Not awesome, but far from shitty. We all had a good time, and after load out and dinner at Denny's it was literally after 5am as we headed into beautiful British Colombia to the small, quaint resort town of Kelowna.

But that pulse-pounding suspense-saturated story will have to wait for another day – a day when the world is finally ready for the truth about six morons in a foul-smelling van playing loud, obnoxious music for any audiences foolhardy enough to pay to see and hear it and tasteless enough to endure it.

Until next time, true believers -
- Harvey and the usual gang of idiots