Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter 2012 Tour Diarrhea part IV: The long and grinding road

After the end of Municipal Waste / Napalm Death tour in Tampa, we were feeling good about how everything had turned out on "If You're Not Wasted, The Day Is" jaunt across the good ol' US of A, even though we missed the Canadian shows. The morning after the Tampa show, Dr. Philthy, who out of necessity as our van driver maintains a sober lifestyle on the road, unwittingly ate a pot cookie, and as he is not a stoner at all, ended up being incapacitated for quite a while, so we hung out, cooked some breakfast and watched football for a few hours. Rob had gone to party at some other friends' house, so we picked him up on our way out of town. Mike was staying in Florida for a few days and flying out to meet us in California for what was supposed to be the last show of the tour in Fullerton on December 5th. But plans were about to change.
I woke up in the wee hours of the third of December in Spanish Fort, Alabama. We had pulled over for what I assumed was a routine piss stop, but the reason for our lack of forward progress was actually an engine problem. As soon as Dr. Philthy restarted the van and I heard how badly it was knocking, I could tell that whatever was wrong with it, it wasn't good. Not that I know much of anything about working on cars, but I've owned enough shitty cars in my day to have experienced almost every possible car problem. We were parked a few hundred feet from a Goodyear tire / repair shop and when they opened at seven am the following day, we were there, bracing for bad news. The news was even worse than we were expecting. They got the van in to take a look at it and quickly surmised that we probably needed an entirely new engine. Whoa. After giving us a ride to McDonald's to get some breakfast and coffee, they referred us to a place down the street, told us we could leave our trailer in their parking lot for as long as we needed to, and didn't charge us a cent to run the diagnostic on the van. Truly some stand up people.
Crash course in van surgery
The van limped down the street to Advanced Transmission. After a little false hope that we would be looking at a $700 problem, they confirmed the earlier diagnosis: we were looking at a new engine. This would be way more than what we could afford, especially after taking a pretty serious financial hit missing the Canadian shows in November. Luckily, we got some crucial help from Relapse - thanks guys! - and signed off on the repairs. To further complicate things, between getting the engine and installing it in the van, we would be in Alabama until that Friday. We managed to reschedule the Fullerton show for February, and since we would be staying in Alabama for a week, we decided to add some shows on the way home to try to stem the financial hemorrhaging we were experiencing. The folks at the transmission shop were also great, they let us loiter there for a couple of hours while we formulated a plan of action and the lady who co-owned the shop gave us her personal car to drive around while we were stuck in town, since both of their loaner cars were already out with other customers. That's what I call Southern hospitality. We gathered our personal luggage, bought a lock for our trailer hitch, and headed off to nearby Mobile, Alabama to set up camp in the very affordable and only moderately sketchy Red Roof Inn there.
They also had to pull out the front console to get everything set up.
Since we were implementing austerity measures, we stocked up on groceries and hunkered down in the hotel for an incredibly boring few days. At least the weather was nice. We took a trip to the site of the Battleship USS Alabama, which was moderately interesting, ate some continental breakfast at much nicer nearby hotels and watched basic cable.
The gang gets America on everyone's asses.
Rob Babcock, dumbass first class, reporting for doody.

The USS Alabama. History buffs... you're welcome.
We found a nearby record store and hung out there for a while, and it turned out that the guy who worked there knew who Exhumed was and actually used to hang out with Felix Havoc and the whole Minneapolis grind / crust crew back in the 90s. We also bought some very goofy records pictured below.

Mike arrived Thursday night, and to celebrate we went and watched the Raiders / Broncos game. I should have put "celebrate" in quotes, because that game was awful for the silver and black. We shrugged off the disappointment that has been the constant burden of Raider fans for the past several years and prepared to be reunited with our van the next day. That Friday afternoon, at long last, our van was back in action with a brand new engine and we were headed out to Lafayette Louisiana to start playing our way back home. Honestly, just to be heading westward was an incredible feeling. The show was predictably small, but we were just having fun playing and not being stuck at the Red Roof Inn. We were also treated to some delicious homemade gumbo and crawfish which was great. We partied with some locals afterward, and ended up grabbing an acoustic guitar and entertaining everyone with some off-the-cuff country covers, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, and a few others. Bud is a killer harmony vocalist, so that made us sound like we knew what we were doing. We then crashed at the promoter's house / compound which was awesome and had tons of room  before heading off to Space City the following day.
This dude was delicious.
Hangover hijinks with Body Bag Babcock in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Houston was an ideal situation because we jumped on the Bastard Deceiver show that was already happening. I was stoked to see them play again, especially since the sound wasn't all that great when they played with us in Tampa. They were predictably great. Frank from Turbokrieg set up the show, and they fucking ruled as well - great straight up powerviolence / grind. The guitarist's other band Cervical Mucous Meltdown played right before them and they were also excellent, more of ROP-era Carcass thing. The place was pretty damn full and people were raging. All in all, it was a great night. Even the guy who owned the club was really stoked and gave us a bunch of free shots at the end of the night.
We rolled out that night for Austin, Texas. Austin is one of those places that everything runs really, really late. We didn't even have to be there until 7:00 PM, so we had quite a bit of time to kill. Mike got tattooed by John Zig, whose killer artwork should be familiar to just about any Death Metal fan. I drank 7UP and worked through my hangover. While Mike was wrapping up, we headed to the venue and loaded in. Now that we were headlining, we could actually hang up our banners properly, which was cool. Before we played we grabbed some food at "Peruvian Creole" food truck called Llamas that was ridiculously good. I ate a cow heart. Yeah, a fucking cow heart. It was so good I went back there before we played so I could eat one of their sandwiches after the show.  The show was pretty fun and I got to catch up with some old friends, T.A. from Hod and Ancient Wisdom, Jeff from Birth AD and JT from Dixie Witch, and we headed back to Zig's place to crash out.
Medusa Tattoo in Austin.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, why did I forget to frame the shot so my stupid reflection wouldn't be in it?

Fucking cow heart. Yes!!!  Soooo tasty!

Hamilton in the chair and Zig on point, Medusa Tattoo, Austin Texas.

Finally, the correct way to put up our banners.
The drive to San Antonio the next day was pretty short, so went out to lunch at a sit-down Mexican place in Austin that was pretty good and then hit the road. We were playing downstairs at the Korova, where our old buddy Beer from Hod was working the door which was awesome. We also met Adrian from Cannibal Bitch who brought some much-appreciated barbecue and swag. The show was a little underwhelming, but we usually only play Austin or San Antonio, not both, and considering how last-minute it was, it wasn't a surprise. Regardless, it was fun, Pillcrusher was really good, and we crashed at Adrian's place. He works at the long-running and excellent Hogwild Records and had a prodigious record collection that we enjoyed nerding out on well through the night. We left early the next morning for Midland, Texas.
We had met the promoter, Jay, in Fort Worth when we played there in November (and where Mike broke the hotel fountain for no apparent reason) as he was a friend of our on-again / off-again merch-slinger Kevin Stewart-Panko. Jay was a stand up dude who put us up in a local motel and brought us beer, water and snacks there. The show was in a totally DIY space, and the only drawback of that was that it was seriously fucking cold. The show was pretty fun, not a barnburner, but far from shitty. And it was in Midland Texas, so we weren't exactly thinking "Wacken Open Air" going into it. We crashed out in the hotel briefly and got some rest for the long drive to Albuquerque.
The last drum head art I did on the tour... This one actually turned out to be my favorite.
Again, we didn't have to be in Albuquerque particularly early, since the venue, the Launchpad was hosting a wedding for the day / evening. We got there in the early evening, got our usual meal vouchers for the excellent Blackbird Buvette down the street (one of the many nice things about playing the Launchpad) and chowed down before the show. I started getting back on a healthier eating track after all the cow hearts and Texas barbecue I had rashly consumed the preceding week. The show was pretty good, especially considering how last minute everything was. We were all getting anxious to get home at this point, so we headed straight from the venue to Arizona to return our trailer to the U-Haul we had rented it from in Chandler (right near Arcane digital recording) and exchange it for another, one-way rental, trailer for the last few days. That wouldn't have been too bad if we were headed for LA like a sensible band, but we were playing Vegas that night, so it was definitely a detour.
Gas Station in Roswell, en route to Albuquerque. UFO conspiracy idiots - you're welcome.

Dr. Philthy, a not-so-little green man, and Rob.

There was also an awful lot of this on the way home.

The Rob Babcock garage sale extravaganza! We've got oven mitts, we've got headphones, if it's on the table, we'll sell it. Hugs are still free, though.
Detour or not, I was stoked to wake up in balmy Phoenix. The 80 degree weather was a welcome change from the 20s and 30s we had experienced the preceding few days. We didn't end up returning the trailer, they just inspected it and re-rented it to us as a one-way rental which was convenient. After some pho for lunch, we were on our merry way to Las Vegas. Our show was right near the "Fremont Street Experience" at a really nice venue with a great sound system. That said, the room was obviously way too big for us. We were in the same room Soulfly would be playing. The show was okay though, and Spun In Darkness are always killer to watch. We were all really tired by this point, and focused on getting the fuck home. As soon as we were loaded out, we were psyched to be on the road into California.
The next day, we were finally back in the golden state. Before we got into LA, we hit a Bass Pro Shop for our free picture with Santa. Luckily we still had the goofy Xmas sweaters we had bought in Atlanta. I think the picture turned out pretty damn good. That night, we played at the Key Club, and the show was moved at the last minute from the small room to the big room due to a cancellation upstairs. We had our friends in Gravehill, POOR, and Apoplexy on the bill and we were just super psyched to be almost done. We played a really long set that night, since we had our sometimes front-of-house guy Alejandro with us. The show was a little underwhelming, but we had just played LA less than a month before at House Of Blues, and it was raining (which in LA is a totally normal reason to not go to a show - even the Rainbow wasn't that crowded for a Saturday night due to the rain). Regardless we had a lot of fun hanging with friends and draining a bottle of Grey Goose, some Fireball, and some Schnapps (the last two are Xmas booze, in case you're wondering why our drinks weren't manlier). We grabbed a few more drinks at the Rainbow after the show and headed south to crash with some friends in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego.
Talking moose. Yup.
Stupid picture + clip art + logo = win. You owe it to yourself to view the full sized image so you can be blown away by Rob's sweater vest.
We had finally reached the last show of the tour... I woke up weakened - hungover and feeling like I had a cold or something from fatigue and all the different altitude / climate changes of the last few days. After a refreshing barf, I spent the early afternoon hanging out on the couch watching episodes of Cheers on Netflix, which should put anyone in a good mood. We got to the venue, The Yard, around 4 that afternoon. The Yard is the ultimate DIY spot - it's a converted backyard. Luckily, the trademark great weather of San Diego came through yet again and it was pretty nice out for the show. We were all really burnt and laid around the green room (a living room) until it was go time, eating delicious vegan shepherd's pie and catching up with friends from Disgorge and Noisear.  Before the show started, we were all feeling like we should have just wrapped things up in LA and gone home, but once we got onstage, we had a great time. The environment there was really like a party, and the kids were going ape-shit. It ended up being the perfect ending for the whole tour, with Dr. Philthy pouring blood on the kids from the roof. We dropped off Bud at his sister's place in San Diego and headed back to Carlsbad and hit the local watering hole where Rob made friends, then enemies, then friends again with some gang members (a guy with a neck tattoo, bandana, and probably a gun, told me that he loved Rob) and then concluded the night with some burritos. The next morning, we woke up stoked that the whole trek was finally drawing to a close. We ate a hearty breakfast, dropped Rob off at his new apartment in Santa Ana, then deposited Deedee, our merch girl for last two shows, at her home in Los Angeles. Then the good doctor, Mike, and myself continued the drive north to San Luis Obispo County.
Finally, a store that sums up my personal philosophy. Who would have thought it would be in San Diego?
All in all it was a killer tour and a lot of fun. I want to take a minute here to especially thank a few people who made it awesome. First off, Relapse for coming through in the clutch, secondly our agent Dan Rozenblum for throwing two separate weeks of shows together at the last possible second, all the promoters that stuck their neck out for us taking these last minute shows, and most importantly - all the killer humanoids who made it out to in Buffalo, Kent, Denver, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Boise, Lafayette, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Midland, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Hollywood, and San Diego - you guys showed us a lot of love and support when we were in some tight spots and we really appreciate it. Without you guys there, those shows would've sucked!  Anyway, that about wraps up our year. Even though I didn't get to write about all of our misadventures throughout the year, you should have a pretty decent idea of what we're all about and our various trials, tribulations, and triumphs on the road. There are definitely more updates to come, so see you next time, true believers! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
- Matt and the boys.