Thursday, September 10, 2009


From the tour journals

October 1
4:26 PM

We're marooned in L.A. rush hour traffic on Rt. 5 South. On a Friday. This is our punishment for leaving late. Ray graciously offered his floor to us for a few nights. We'll spend the next week and a half in California. I can think of worse states in the union to spend 10 days. The weather is stereotypically mild and wonderful. Last night's show was unremarkable. A guy in one of the other bands somehow fell off a pick-up truck and broke the fall with his skull. An ambulance was called.

As I stare at the stalled motorists surrounding me like a scene out of an impending apocalypse film wherein every resident of the city under siege attempts to flee in one long motorcade of belching horns and frantic drivers, I recall two episodes while stranded in such traffic involving me, my bandmates and restroom needs.


When the band last traveled to California, we found ourselves idle in a similar roadway juggernaut. If you will recall, we utilized Greg's minivan. Since it sat four, one of us always had to join the Lickgoldensky van. On this particular drive, Greg took one for the team, forsook his automobile and drove with LGS.

One member of our team who shall remain nameless was stricken with a terrible pang to pee. Our van did not budge. Any hope of reaching a restroom was dim for hours. The victim- a connoisseur of gadgets and toys (he brought a bag full of goods, including a portable stove to heat tea and canned goods)- had nothing on hand to help his problem. Of course we made fun of him until all of us were in tears from laughter.

"Alright," he concluded. "I have to go. I can't wait."

Sitting beside him in the back bucket seats, I glanced over to discover his solution. He pulled his trusty Nalgene bottle from beside the seat.

"No fucking way are you using that!" I exclaimed.

The front seat passengers shot shocked looks back and exploded in guffaws and roars. Our fearless bladder-hurting bandmate coolly remarked, grinning, "I have to go." He reassured us, "Don't worry, I'll clean it."

“ARRRGGGGUUUGGGAAAAHHHH,” went the van in a symphony of grunts of disgust.

He rose from the seat and shuffled to his knees. It looked like he was kneeling at the pew, supplicant towards the urine god. The zipper went down and he held the Nalgene bottle below himself, facing the sliding door. The driver swerved the van maniacally.

"Cut it out! I'm going to get it all over the van!" "

"Wait til we tell Greg you pissed in his van!"

He tried with all his might to force the golden stream. I watched as his face clenched like he lifted weights or biked a marathon. He made straining sounds like a porno actor.

"I can't do it," he finally conceded. With that, traffic eased up.


The first time we played LA in October of 2003, we obviously sat in stifling traffic. We left Sunset Boulevard, where we enjoyed a fulfilling meal at California Vegan. As we inched along the “freeway” (highway in California-ese), I began to experience the wrath of the freshly devoured feast. I felt the incredible need to relieve myself- and not in a way that involved standing.

Every second seemed to bring the act closer and closer to requiring prompt resolution. Billy had the van rolling with his impressions from Silence of the Lambs. “Put the fucking lotion in the basket!” And I was giggling and almost crying because I knew I would lose myself to the horror of soiling my pants.

I tried to focus on the gritty environment of whatever not-so hot neighborhood we crawled past. I fixated on the Non-prophets CD Greg put in the player. Then “Can you help me with this couch?” and I was laughing and gripping the seat until my fingers went white.

Somehow I managed to persevere until we reached our destination, Koo’s Café. Everyone jumped out and I sped towards the entrance. I approached the first kid in sight: “Where’s the bathroom?” He seemed startled. Perhaps it was my look of total despair: “Next door,” he said. “But you have to wait, they’re finishing up an art show.” I disregarded this and ran into the adjoining room. I found the bathroom, grabbed the knob and it didn’t budge- some motherfucker occupied it in my time of need! They came out, I rushed into what was a surprisingly clean restroom for an art/punk venue, all was then well with the world and we played a fantastic show.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Desert Thoughts

From the tour journals

Sept. 28
11:49 AM
Everyone but the driver and I is asleep. You sleep a lot in the van. What else are we going to do, engage one another in philosophical discussions? We're like cats- we spend most of our time asleep. We played at a great youth space last night called Warehouse 21. Maybe 20 kids came to the show. I wonder if many kids attend any shows there. Josh suffered unending technical snafus. That marred the set somewhat. Both of us have had our share of amp problems. Maybe on the west coast we can find a reliable dude to solve our issues. Tonight's show will probably be lightly attended as well. It's Tuesday, who wants to go to a show on a Tuesday? The unwritten rule is that Mondays through Wednesdays are bad nights for shows. You have to eliminate your expectations. Nothing goes the way you think it will. Greg is good at this. He can be rather negative, assuming every show will be a colossal failure. Yet there is merit in this steely outlook because you can never be disappointed.

12:37 PM
Driving through New Mexico is like cruising the moon. This is alien landscape. The yellow-rock hills hiding pueblos and pick-up trucks. The long stretches of green grasslands with shrubs, campers, mobile homes and more pick-up trucks. Everything here is Mexican. Our forefathers stole this land from them, but it's still Mexican. You can take the land from Mexico, but you can't take Mexico from the land. We hide our secrets out here in the southwest: our bombs, our nuclear testing, our UFOs, our bloodstained legacy of genocide and imperialism. This is the closet full of skeletons and their bones creak against the hills and their moans swim in these winds. They can try but we can't silence the ghost stories of ancient crimes. Ours is a nation eternally haunted by the poltergeists of the past.

Sept. 29
11:38 AM
As much as I could never fathom living here, there's no denying the beauty of Arizona, with its lush evergreen trees in the north of Flagstaff and Sedona down to the bare, brown hills and craggy cactus-lined sand outside Phoenix. We played in a bar last night. Previously, we've always played the space Modified Arts, but another show prevented us from playing there. I hate playing bars and clubs. Maybe it's my antipathy to smoke and alcohol. I'm just never comfortable in those settings. We'll be playing a rock club in L.A., in contrast to the usual kid-run DIY space. Apparently some kids intend to boycott our show at the rock club. It's rather absurd. While I'd rather play the DIY venue, it's amusing that kids become so riled up about the type of venue we perform within. I usually have more fun playing the DIY venue with the bad sound than the rock joint with the pro-sound system (more times than not, the sound guys at such places make us sound even worse through their top-of-the-line equipment).

12:35 PM
Wherever we are looks like Mars. Strange, gnarled trees with spiny green tips jut out from the red dirt. Are these Joshua trees? There is nothing here but these and hills and rocks. I am so far away from home.

12:43 PM
Everything out here is surrounded by fences. Fences enclose mountains, desert, lakes, farms, forests. I want to run outside and climb these desert hills. I want to spend days wandering in the blinding unknown waiting just beyond the van window. But we cannot trespass.

2:13 PM
Food ravages my brain. It's the lack thereof- the malnutrition hijacking standard cognitive function. I remember dining out with the family when I was young: Pizza Hut, McDonalds, diners. I grew up on fast food, Spaghettios, Beef-a-roni, Mac n Cheese, Kool Aid. Maybe this is why veganism appealed to me later on down the line. I grew up in the tall shadows of New York City. I was obsessed with the city as a kid. I drew pictures of its skylines, daydreamed of scaling the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building or the Twin Towers. My mom never wanted to take me, though this was the 80s and NYC was a far different place then than it is now.

Sept. 30
1:26 PM
Now we drive towards that cultural holy ground known as Bakersfield. Why we plan to arrive three hours early is a mystery to me. Last night's show occurred at Balcony Lights, the same record store we played in not even six months ago. I enjoyed myself. Kids seemed to enjoy themselves. Yet the rest of the band felt is was a sub-par show. We never agree on the quality of a show. Everyone experiences the set in their own unique way. The slightest thing can throw me off. It is extraordinarily rare thing for us to agree unanimously on how we played, though we tend to concur when a set is a disaster. So we continue our drive through the eye-squinting bright desert with the heat blasting full bore due to the van being on the verge of overheating.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hell Paso

From the tour journal

27 September 04
2:05 PM

We’re leaving El Paso, which is an interesting place. A lot of it reminds me of the sprawl stretching out beyond Las Vegas, with strip malls bathed in gaudy colors built upon desert. Then there are mountains surrounding the city and the billion tiny lights of Mexico to the south (as we saw last night).

The show was a fiasco. It went down in a place called The Junkyard. We cruised down a long lonely road. I expected us to arrive at Earl’s Three. A barbed wire fence ran along both sides and stretched as far ahead as I could see. Everything about it was exactly what I expected of west Texas: desert desolation.

Eventually we came upon the address. We pulled into the dirt parking lot, which was really just a swath of dirt and stones in front of the building. To our not-so unexpected dismay, the Junkyard was indeed a junkyard. Yes, scrap metal, crushed cars, junk- a bona fide junkyard in the middle of desert. We sat in the van gazing at this imposing edifice as well as the grim possibilities for what might occur within it. We were a long way from home in a place none of us had been to before. We had to laugh and find the amusement in this odd turn in the serpentine road of fate.

We jumped out of the van to take a closer look. No one had yet arrived. A pair of kids soon showed up, but neither was the promoter. One, black and clad in tight-fitting Swiss schoolgirl uniform (I am not making this up)- mentioned that shows do happen here. But he added, “You guys are scheduled to play a bar in downtown El Paso.” With a heavy sense of dread, we made a call to our friend the booking agent. As would often happen in times of need, he either did not pick up or responded with quick getaways. “Oh, I can’t talk right now, I am holding a sleeping child” or “Wait, I have to go, there are police outside my door.” This is what happens when you enlist the assistance of friends. We managed to call the club and indeed, we were originally booked there. Somehow someone’s wires were crossed, but someone canceled our show at the bar. We had no alternative but it to see what the Junkyard had to offer.

After a long wait, the promoter arrived. He led us inside the junkyard. “The bands will play here,” he said, pointing to a flatbed truck. “Uh, we can fit everything up on that?” “Sure, we do it all the time.” This made us uneasy. How could we possibly fit all of the gear and us up on it? Greg, always a man of resolution, said, “There is no way we are playing on that.” We agreed and tried to assure the promoter that playing in front of the truck in the dirt was fine. It took some convincing, but he reneged.

As we loaded in the equipment (on the other side of the truck), Josh wore a look of concern. “What’s up?” I asked. “Dude, I just saw a scorpion run from behind the truck.” We looked but couldn’t locate the beast. Things did not improve. After the first band played (Finger of God, who played with us in Odessa), a powerful rain assaulted the roof of the junkyard. Soon rivulets seeped through in steady streams upon all of our gear. We tried to collect as many garbage bags and tarps as we could find to protect our already dripping amps and drums.

After securing the equipment, the son of the yard informed us his band was playing and we would be headlining. This was a common tactic used by some locals. FoG shared some of our equipment and we insisted it would be easier for us to just play after them. A lot of arguing ensued, but to no avail. We managed to slide in at third place, performing four songs to a few dozen kids that attended to drink and party. They had no interest in the music.

The kid I mentioned earlier- donned in Swedish schoolgirl attire- performed after us. His set consisted of pre-recorded music and himself. He stripped down to nothing but a speedo and proceeded to scream and throw himself all over the kids and the ground. I grimaced as I watched this misbegotten soul writhe in the dust of the scrap metal yard. Later in his set, he took a moment to thank his parents for letting him practice in the basement.

We sat through Junkyard Jr.’s awful disco band, and as expected, the promoter claimed he couldn’t pay us. After speaking with a few locals, it became clear we were somehow switched to play here instead of the club. Fed up with El Paso, we cruised away into the raining night.

4:44 PM
Billy called up his boss to inform her of our upcoming tours. She informed him she hired someone to replace him. It happens. Any of us faces this fate. If it weren't the fortune of having a boss who loves music (he saw Husker Du and The Replacements), I would surely be out of a job. Nevertheless, I dread telling him about our upcoming tours. He has to play boss at some point and cut dead weight (me). It's not the greatest job. But it's something. It's secure. The pay is barely enough to live on. Still, I have no idea how I will afford to keep touring. I'm not 20. Living with the parents to play rock dude is not an option. My boss won't like me leaving for two more tours this year when the current one ends. And kids think we're a "successful" band?

6:24 PM
Taco Bell rots my stomach. I had no alternative. McDonalds? While shoveling the slop down the gullet while at the Bell, a disheveled guy stood just outside the door. He pulled a syringe out of his pocket and began poking it into his leg. Then he punctured his hand with it. A family of four walked quickly past him, aghast. This is Albuquerque.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

West Texas

From the tour journals

25 September 04
10:16 AM

Rt. 10. Desert. West Texas. We slept barely four hours and we’re headed back east to Austin. Last night saw us in Odessa. It’d be tough for the best sci-fi writers throughout the history of the form to dream up a more barren, wasted, Road Warrior-esque place. The show was by far the craziest we’ve ever played- not in terms of kids moshing each others’ faces into walls- but in regards to bizarre episodes all night long.

The show happened in Earl’s Two, some hole in the wall roadside bar. We rolled up, parked in the dirt driveway, and moaned at the prospect of playing a west Texas bar. The usual discussion ensued: should we say fuck it and drive to a hotel somewhere? Would any kids dare peak their faces in a den of sin such as this? But alas, we are here for business, not pleasure. We entered. A game of some sort played on the TV above the long bar. The bulk of the room consisted of several pool tables, a few stationed with scraggly players. This was bound to be a show to remember.

As the evening wore on, the promoter showed up. He at least seemed to know what he was doing. Other bands arrived, a few kids waited to pay to get in, and all seemed like it wouldn’t be the standard disaster. We set up the merch on a table against the far wall adjacent to the floor space where the bands would perform and proceeded to observe. A lot of local bands played, all very young, all not very good. One band, clearly inspired by current chart-toppers Yellowcard, played “emo” with a violin player. The bespectacled fellow had a lass in the audience, but much to the electric violinist’s chagrin, she seemed more interested in a more quarter back-looking bloke. Dude, no matter how you cut the deck, you are playing the violin. I don’t care if Yellowcard rocks a violin- you do not look cool getting into it out of rhythm with your band while wielding a violin.

Quite a mélange of humanity filled out the room, mostly teenagers. Most of them never heard of us, yet they purchased lots of our records and shirts. I’ve never signed so many posters. This wound up becoming one of if not the best merch sales nights of the tour. And I must say that since Baton Rouge, kids have been overwhelmingly appreciative, talkative, and fan-atic.

Several prostitutes milled about the show. Some locals informed us they came from an alleged brothel trailer park nearby. One of them was named Taz. She ended the night by cruising off with a withered customer in a cowboy hat. A younger associate stayed throughout the show. She wore a nose ring and seemed high, crazy, or both. I believe she was the one who showed off her wares- and I mean all of them- to a group of excitable hardcore boys filming the show. They reportedly filmed the wares as well. Someone told me how one of the professionals dabbled in the smoking of potentially illicit substances outside the bar during the show. Evidently a member of our crew grew disconsolate about her sharing in the precious, finite materials, and openly laughed and mocked her when she dropped said materials.

I also saw a large, side of beef kind of guy proudly donning a Bush/Cheney shirt. I’m excited to flee this state. We’ve been here far too long.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


From the tour journal

23 September 04

No sleep, no food, all Texas. This morning was amusing. I fell asleep after 2 AM in our hotel room and proceeded to experience a fractured sleep. Maybe it was the cheapo cookies I hastily shoved in my maw right before hitting the sack.

At 7:30 AM, a banging at our door roused us. As if from the bottom of a sewer drain, I heard Billy shout, “Come back later,” him assuming it was housekeeping. Upon looking at the clock and thinking it strange that hotel staff would arrive at this hour, Billy got up and went to the door. He opened it and a man said sternly, “You hit my car with your van door. Your paint is on my car.” Billy responded, “Alright, I’ll come out and look, hold on.” A conversation with Greg ensued: “How should I handle this?” Greg told Billy to go out and investigate. Billy went out. I sat up and looked at Greg- his eyes were shut. Matt was out cold, probably about to continue snoring. Josh buried himself in his sleeping bag.

Within minutes Billy stormed back in: “Everybody get up. We need to leave right now.” Greg shot up and asked, “What happened?” Billy explained, “I looked at the dent on what he said was his car. There was no way our door hit it, and I didn’t see any paint. It was impossible our van caused that damage. I said this to him- he said his name is Ross- and he said, ‘Alright, we’ll have to resolve this another way. Don’t be surprised if there’s a dent in your car.’ Then he jumped in his white pick up- and this was not the car he said we damaged- and took off. Mind you, he was wearing pajama pants.” All of us quickly got up and gathered our things. “Well, I’m taking a shower,” Josh grumbled. Billy continued, “I went to the front desk and they called the police.” Soon an officer named Jim arrived. He said “Ross” was likely “full of shit.” We felt a little more at ease. But not desiring any potential harm to our van (thus being stranded in the nightmare that is Houston), we took brief showers and fled the Best Value Inn.

We drove to a tire place to replace all four tires on the van. The band’s kitty was rather bountiful (for once) and the van (and our lives) required a new set. We walked to a nearby Denny’s and hunkered down. I quickly devoured a jellied bagel and small glass of orange juice. If there is one tour staple for me, it is orange juice. I drink as much as water. No illness yet, so perhaps it’s germ-fighting powers are true.

With brand spanking new tires, we cruised to Home Depot. To combat Greg’s never-ending drums-moving problem during our sets, he decided to build a barrier carpet. This involved buying some remnant rug, a 2 x 4 and then attaching the wood to the rug. Theoretically this would stabilize the drums. So we built this in the Home Depot parking lot (which felt like 200 degrees) and then made our getaway from Houston.

I find little of value in that city. Yesterday, while my band members devoured a carnivorous meal of Cuban tapas, I wandered the ritzy high-end strip malls, hunting for sustenance. I settled on two bags of soy chips and a bottle of iced tea from Walgreens. At least the show that night at Walters on Washington was fun. Baton Rouge proved a great show as well. That was our first solo on tour. We left our various touring partners in Daytona Beach- Coliseum and Breather Resist. Now we go it alone. Two young girls interviewed Josh and I outside the Dark Room last night, though I can’t remember a thing we said. I have yet to see any of the interviews we’ve done appear in print or cyberspace, though really, it’s not as if we have anything interesting to add to the grand tradition of rock journalism.


Culled from the touring archives...

21 September 04

Another tour. Our fifth in the past year; our seventh total. That makes nine in my illustrious music career. Today finds me in a van hurtling towards Baton Rouge. Currently, we’re nearing Pensacola, though we must detour off Route 10 thanks to Hurricane Ivan. He decimated the bridge that passes through Pensacola. Hurricanes ravaged Florida this year. We witnessed their aftermath in Daytona Beach last night- businesses boarded up, awnings twisted and torn apart, lagoons swelling in streets, driveways and yards. Ryan of Coliseum remarked that it looked like the apocalypse. I heard the roar of the ocean not far from the venue, though I didn’t join the group who went to see its wrath (Matt walked in his slippers).

Just stopped at a Chevron gas station somewhere outside Pensacola. Everywhere is ruins. Trees down, houses collapsed. The store at Chevron had a ceiling bulging brown with rainwater. Despite the natural calamities, our tour continues, now in its eleventh day. Nothing much of note to report- shows, noise, kids, fun, dread- the usual. I’m feeling rather disillusioned with the game. I’m 28. What am I doing with my life? I know, typical gripe from someone in a vaunted position. I play in a band, can go on tour and still manage to make ends meet….barely. I shouldn’t complain. But my brain runs rampant on these long drives. I like what Ryan said last night about the “goal” being the “action.” It’s quite Buddhist- focus on the particulars of living each day and find the meaning in that, not in some distant destination. 34 days and 34 shows left. Perfect. No days off. That, my friends, is a tour.