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.