Thursday, October 30, 2014

Road Journal - Pt Three


Day Four – SAN ANTONIO

After the Austin show we went ahead and split for San Antonio. It was only about an hour away and we had a free place to stay. Our hosts are Phil ‘Whisky Rebel” Irwin and his wife Marla Vee, the duo behind Rancid Vat, another band with a long and storied career. Phil Irwin is a working class renaissance man. Once a child chess prodigy, he continues to compete in tournaments. He also is an author of several books. It’s always fun to talk with Phil. He is versed in virtually any subject you can imagine, no matter how trivial. Their association with ANTiSEEN goes back over twenty-five years, sharing several split singles and a deep friendship with Clayton.

After a good night’s sleep we congregate on the back patio debating all matters of pop culture and politics. Contrary to popular belief the members of ANTiSEEN are not at all rigidly aligned towards one political party or ideology. Nor are we rigidly aligned to any one style of music. It makes for some hilarious conversation. With time to kill Phil recommends a barbeque shack for us to try. It doesn’t disappoint. We unanimously agree it to be much better than Stubbs.  After lunch we return to Phil’s where I promptly fall back asleep. I’m awakened hours later to head to the club. I had been sleeping hard; it takes some time for me to shake off the fog.

The club is called the Limelight. It has an impressive neon marquee and a large gated front patio. Other than that it’s a basic no-frills music room: a long, rectangular concrete bunker with a stage on one end and a bar at the other. It’s a perfect room for music. Nothing to distract attention away from the stage except for a few video game machines by the front door. Although the a/c is working overtime in the front, it doesn’t work at all backstage. There’s scarcely room to sit anyway so I hide my gear and go back out front.

We split up for dinner. Barry, Gooch and I are craving pizza while the rest search for authentic Mexican food. We walk a block or so down to a place called “Joey’s”. It sounds like authentic Italian. We’ll never know because they won’t allow Gooch in since he is wearing a sleeveless tee shirt. I guess Joey’s is a class joint. Can’t be dirtying up a place like that, what with all the people crowded in the place. Oh wait, my fault – it’s virtually empty. I see only a few fat old men silently nursing beer. Class.

We return to the club and order Domino’s. The weather is nice so I sit out on the front patio. People are showing up, mostly milling about on the patio. Here I’m subjected to some of the most vacant conversation on earth. A lady sits near me and launches into some endless idle chatter. Gooch makes a quick escape. She claims to “know all the bands”. I don’t know what exactly she means by this but when I hear Rancid Vat taking the stage I head inside. She stays put, chirping away to anyone who’ll listen.

I’ve only ever seen Rancid Vat once before. It was twenty years ago when they came to Charlotte. The late Cosmic Commander of Wrestling was the singer then. He always had a knack for baiting an audience, and that night he succeeded in getting the band thrown offstage. Despite the antics Rancid Vat has always had some great musicians, chiefly Marla Vee. She can shift gears from oddball atonal stuff into full on classic rock licks. In their current incarnation she is augmented by a bassist that could probably write his own ticket into any gig he chose. The whole affair is gloriously unconventional and a lot of fun to watch.

I’m in a great mood; this is the first show where I’m not nervous. I notice one of the PA columns is clipping out. I mention it to the sound guy. He starts tracing cables and checking connections. It stalls our set. I’m excited and anxious to play, the delay is kinda annoying. He sorts out the problem and his solution is to just run vocals. This is somewhat disappointing but I’ve learned long ago in my old band that the best way to deal with these problems is to knuckle down and play thru it.

We tear into the set and it feels great. I don’t know what the sound is like out front but it sounds killer onstage. People are packed against the stage and sing along.  I’m once again drenched in sweat. It stings my eyes. I love it. We play ‘Masters of the Sky’ and I’m struck with the curious realization that I had played it incorrectly the night before. I don’t know if anyone noticed or not. I laugh out loud to myself. Ordinarily this would really get me sideways, but I realize sometimes too much concentration can be a bad thing. At the end of the day the idea is to have fun. Maybe fun at the expense of others, true, but fun all the same. We add ‘Today Your Love’ and ‘Stormtrooper’ into tonight’s set. I’m almost disappointed when I launch into ‘Fuck All Yall’. It’s the best set I’ve had since joining.

The Meatmen seem concerned about the PA but once onstage it all comes together. The room carries the sound great. They’re great as usual. Kevin, the Meatmen guitarist is badass. His style is tight and direct. He knows exactly what to play and where to put it. I find myself envying his playing, which is unusual for me. The rhythm section is killer, too. The bassist, Dan plays foil off Tesco with his one unique character. He’s a funny motherfucker.  John, the drummer has come in at the last minute. He also plays for the legendary Negative Approach. The week before this trip he was in Russia. The week after this trip he was headed to South America.  The Meatmen have their gimmickry and costumes but don’t let it fool you – coz them boys is fierce.    

The place goes crazy when Clayton joins in at the encore. San Antonio is a great town with a pretty cool scene. It doesn’t seem as jaded as Austin or as hip as Dallas, or even as self-centered as our own hometown for that matter. Everyone is laid back and cool. It is probably the most relaxed and fun night of the trip for me. The last time we were here I was working merch. I remember that show being largely the same. San Antonio is a cool place. I look forward to returning.

 

Day Five – NEW ORLEANS

After the gig we had stayed at the Irwin home again. Phil generously hooked us up with copies of his books and Rancid Vat cd’s.  We get up early; it’s a long drive to New Orleans. It’s pouring rain when we head out. I try to get as comfortable in my seat as I can. The van is tightly packed but I at least have some leg room. I like staring out across the Texas scenery. It’s a relaxing ride, but with the rain there is a sense of melancholy. Tonight is the last show of the trip and I don’t think any of us are ready for it to end.

Our route takes us thru Houston, a city that ANTiSEEN hasn’t played in years. I’m somewhat disappointed that we weren’t booked there on this trip. I know people from Houston; they always speak of it as a great place to play. My friend and former bandmate Joe Dead is from there. I take a picture of the skyline as we pass and send it to him over my phone. I hope to play there someday.

The club is called ‘Siberia’. It doubles as a restaurant specializing in “Slavic soul food”.  It’s a tiny place, the smallest place on this trip. However it’s apparently the only place in town that caters to punk rock.  I know the Queers and Dwarves have played there, and their calendar boasts groups like 7Seconds, the Toasters and DRI.

It’s a long rectangular room; the stage is right by the front door. A bar runs the length of one wall. Some pool tables in the back serve as merch tables for the bands. A second smaller room in the rear has a small bar and a corner area for the bands to store their belongings. We take over the small bar and order food. I get a Rueben sandwich. It is excellent, one of the best I’ve ever had. I share fries with Gooch. They are awesome. I get over-full. Now I feel like a slug.

Some of the Meatmen guys figure we’re not far from Bourbon Street. Evidently it’s in walking distance. I somehow doubt this. The neighborhood we’re in is fairly rundown. People openly smoke dope on the street. Even if it is within walking distance, it doesn’t seem the kind of walk I’d care to make. Plus I’ve always imagined Bourbon Street to be a douchey tourist trap. They invite me to go with them but I decline. I feel gross from all the food I ate anyway.

For some reason my nervousness returns. The place soon is packed. I watch the first band play for a bit. They are called the Pallbearers. They opened for ANTiSEEN last time they were here. They play pretty straight forward old-school hardcore punk. The singer is an older dude with long greying dred locks. Their set is short and enjoyable.

Our roadie on this trip is Brandon, a kid I've only recently met. Initially I was a little bit apprehensive about him coming along. Some people seem to think these trips are endless parties and want to act accordingly. The truth is there is a lot of hard work, long days and cramped quarters. Brandon turns out to be a perfect fit. He keeps his shit together while dealing with ours. We all lean on him at different times for different things and he never complains once. He works his ass off and is always in a good mood. We are lucky to have him on board.

When I step onstage I notice it is covered in beer and water. I ask Brandon for some towels and try to dry the deck as well as possible. I don't relish the idea of slipping on my ass while playing. I almost had that occur at Muddy Roots. I get my stuff in order and pretty soon we're into the set. It takes a few songs for the sluggish feeling I have to wear off. I’m trying to focus and keep up. The crowd is really into it, slam dancing and singing along. A guy hands me four shots of jager which I promptly spill. So much for drying the stage. Now the smell of jager permeates the air, I'm sweating like a whore in church and trying not to slip and keep my wits. It's an odd feeling standing in front of a couple of hundred people staring at and having the isolated thought of what it is you’re doing, feeling totally alone. There’s just a tiniest twinge of self-doubt. It’s like I'm watching a movie, it almost doesn’t seem real. Suddenly it seems to all comes together; the volume, the energy and excitement. I'm back on point. We charge thru the rest of the set and its killer.

The Meatmen quickly follow suit. They really are blasting away, maybe their best set of the trip. I watch Kevin play and it’s just flat out great. Dan stomps about with his bass on the tiny stage being funny as always. The audience press against the stage pumping their fists and chanting along. Tesco controls the show like the seasoned pro he is. It’s a lot of fun to watch. When they play the encore with Clayton the rest of us ANTiSEEN guys join in singing along. I can feel the heat coming off the crowd. We all take a collective bow... and then it’s all over.

We load out the gear and sorta meander. Nobody wants it to be over, but it is. The Meatmen all congratulate and compliment me. It’s humbling. They don’t have to say these things, so I feel it to be sincere. Seeing them perform every night was really eye-opening and deepened my respect for them. We take more pictures together and say our good-byes.

-------

Epilogue -

The ride home was a long one - crossing the time zone and losing an hour confused things for me. Clayton drove all night and I sat up front with him. It was good to sit and talk with him. The last several months have shifted gears from heartbreaking to hectic. It has largely centered on the band and its continued survival. There was work to be done, schedules to keep and shows to play. Now with nothing but empty highway and a midnight ride ahead of us we finally had some downtime to just shoot the breeze; two old friends passing time with meaningless idle chatter that actually means an awful lot to me.

We ride up thru Alabama as the sun rises. There’s a low fog hanging just above the highway which is lined with long stretches of forest. We cross a river on a high suspension bridge. The view is awesome. It’s a humbling moment for me, riding along in the van carrying the memory of my first trip as a member of the band I grew up loving. The sunrise seems to suggest promise of a future I never expected but am grateful to have.

We stop in Montgomery sometime after sunrise for gas. Clayton asks if I think anyone would wanna see Hank Williams grave. They are all sleeping soundly. I shrug. I wanna see it, so I say "Who cares? Let’s go." It isn’t far off the highway. The boys wake up and don't mind we've made this extra pit stop. We take some pictures and are soon back on the highway.

Coming home was difficult. The harsh facts of reality and all it demands quickly wipe any semblance of ego or self-importance. The crowds may have cheered you last week, but this week you’re back to being another cog in the wheel. You still gotta go back and punch the clock. The bills still need to be paid. The rent is still gonna be due. Still, it feels good to finally get some shows under my belt. The winter forecast for ANTiSEEN seems to be calling for some more woodshedding and songwriting. There are still a handful of shows on the calendar, including a homecoming show in Charlotte in early December. Then who knows what 2015 will bring… I’m sure it’ll be good stuff.

Hope everyone comes along for the ride….

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Road Journal - Part Two


Day Two – DALLAS

We ride out of Hattiesburg the next morning. Our next stop is Dallas, Texas to hook up with the infamous Tesco Vee and his legendary Meatmen.  This is a treat for me. The Meatmen are perennial mainstays, a cornerstone in my awareness of punk rock. Clayton and Tesco shared correspondence at some point in the early Eighties. They finally struck up an active friendship several years ago. The Meatmen invited ANTiSEEN to play their annual ‘Tesco Fest’, then returned the favor opening ANTiSEEN’s thirtieth anniversary. That these two bands should pair together seems obvious. That it has taken so long to make a trip like this happen is not. Fortunately it finally did.

The club is called Three Links. The promoter meets us at the door. He is very cool and accommodating. We are given a great spot to park and load in quickly. A cute young bartender appears and procures our dinner. She is gracious and works hard. The Meatmen were already there when we arrived. We all introduce ourselves and are soon hunkered down at tables in the rear of the club to eat. They are all very cool and laid back. I'm concerned my equipment might be in the way of Kevin, the Meatmen guitarist. He is very cool and assures me my stuff is fine.

After eating I retreat to the backstage green room, which is actually upstairs above the club. There is a small refrigerator filled with drinks. I don’t know if they’re intended for us or not, nobody explicitly said so. I don't care; I help myself to a Gatorade. On my first trip to Texas years ago as a "roadie" I basically stayed buzzed the whole time. I decide that keeping my alcohol intake to a minimum would probably be wise, not only for the sake of performance, but to avoid the long van ride between cities hungover. Believe me, that’s a drag.

I miss seeing the opening bands. Gooch and Barry report that one group, the Swinging Dicks, are really good. While waiting for them to tear down their gear I decide one beer can't possibly hurt. We've been given drink tickets to exchange for beer. Gooch and I go to the bar. In the din of noise the bartender and I can barely communicate. Gooch orders a Budweiser. I order the same. For some reason I'm given a Bud Light. I throw it out and get a Lone Star. When in Rome...

We ready our equipment and are soon tearing thru the set. My nervousness is still present. It’s an odd feeling.  I’ve never really experienced stage fright before. I look out into the audience. They seem into it, but they’re also reserved. I find myself mildly resenting this, but maintain my focus. This isn’t competition; it’s a tag-team effort. It’s an opportunity to win over a few converts. I play harder. We roar thru ‘Cop Out’ and I’m on a natural high. I'm so enveloped with what I'm doing I barely notice the rivulets of blood on the stage. Clayton has lacerated himself.  I step up my game, letting my guitar howl and growl thru ‘Nothings Cool’.  We grind out the rest of our set and the audience cheers approval. Mission accomplished.  

The Meatmen take the stage after us. They are killer, a well-oiled machine kicking out the proverbial jams and taking no prisoners. The costumes and gimmicks are mere icing on the cake. These guys can rock the house.  They invite Clayton to join them for the encore, a bruising cover of the Sex Pistols ‘Bodies’. This would be repeated for the rest of the trip. It was awesome to see Tesco and Clayton together onstage. There’s a lot of punk rock history between them. I feel fortunate to be in the spot I’m in, witnessing it as it happens.

After the show I feel energized. I get to speak with an internet friend, interestingly named - no shit - Ross Ward. Our German friend Marcus appears, he has flown over to follow us on these shows. He has done this many times, probably the most doggedly determined and dedicated ANTiSEEN fan in the world.

We finally load out the gear and retreat to a Motel 6. I shower and crash out watching an old episode of ‘Pawn Stars’.

 

Day Three – Austin

We awake in Dallas. After a breakfast run to Denny’s we decide to swing over to Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was assassinated. This is my second time visiting the spot, however last time we went at night. In the bright of day there is more to see and understand. Personally I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theories, but I still stood behind the fence on the grassy knoll. I wanted to go into the book depository but we didn’t have time. We took some pictures and split.

On the way to Austin I felt giddy. The van can get a little claustrophobic if you let it. Gooch and I banter back and forth in silly voices, making jokes and keeping the mood light. Our friend Kathleen Johnson calls in, she’s writing an article about the band for a Charlotte magazine. She catches me in full tilt stupidity, talking in a British accent and just generally being obnoxious (Sorry Kathleen!).

We arrive in Austin during rush hour traffic. Austin was once a quaint outpost of alternative culture steeped in the traditions of Country & Western, Tejano and Blues filtered thru a rock & roll sensibility. Austin was home, proving ground and spiritual wellspring of diversity resulting in the music of legends such as Willie Nelson, Roky Erickson and Doug Sahm. Now, Austin is largely a hellish cesspool of hipster elitism. You are far more likely to find rooms filled with willfully ignorant masses grooving to some moron with a laptop blasting synthesized bathtub farts thru the PA. Fortunately it remains a stronghold and requisite stopover for bands like ours. Austin all but guarantees a healthy turnout for a package like Meatmen & ANTiSEEN.

I can’t help but feel some nervous anticipation. I played Austin once many years ago as Mad Brother Ward. It was what could be best described as a disaster. I played on an outdoor patio in thirty-degree weather to about twenty people. I’m eager to have some sort of vindication. To do so I need to perform well.

 The club is called Red 7. ANTiSEEN has played here several times before, even recording a live album here. It’s a large place with two stages; one inside and one outside in a large courtyard. We circle the block a couple of times trying to park. The Meatmen arrive shortly after us. We are finally able to park and find out we are playing on the inside stage. This is ok by me; the outside is service by porta-jons which stink after a while. We load in and decide what to do about dinner. We all decide to go to Stubbs Barbecue, which is just another block over from the club. We descend upon Stubbs like a mongrel horde; Meatmen, ANTiSEEN and crew. We are ushered into a back corner room, presumably not to disturb the yuppie clientele.

We return to the club. The opening band has arrived, the Bulemics. They are something of a local institution, fronted by the infamous Gerry Atric. I like Gerry, but he scares me. There is that gleam in his eye that alerts my spidey-sense to danger. He throws his arm around me reciting Mad Brother Ward lyrics, calling me a 'genius'. It's flattering, but he pulled the same routine the last time I was in town. I doubt he has any recollection of it, so I indulge him, but it gets to be a wee much. I go out to the merch area. I see Stig Stench from the internet radio show 'Stench Radio'. We make small talk about Cheetah Chrome, Humungus and other nerdy fanboy shit. I turn around and see Jeff Skipski. Jeff put out the second Mad Brother Ward record. We catch up for a while until the Bulemics take the stage.

The Bulemics play their brand of revved-up rock and roll while Gerry Atric sneers and leers.  He invites Stig Stench onstage and they blast thru the old GG Allin tune 'No Rules'. They finish up and tear down their gear. Gerry comes backstage and I notice that a startling transformation has occurred. It's as if Mr. Hyde has come to possess Dr. Jekyll. Again my spidey sense tingles. I shrug it off and ready my gear. I'm nervous enough. I need to get focused on the job at hand.

We hit stage and crank out our set. I like the set we worked up for this trip, the songs flow together and are a lot of fun to play. The heat is intense, I'm drenched with sweat. I can taste it. My playing feels a bit sloppy but the energy is right. I lean into the songs and play hard. I realize I'm getting comfortable in this role now. I’m gathering more confidence and strength. I suddenly am struck with the realization that I’m onstage with my favorite band, playing the music I grew up with. This line-up is really great, too. Gooch and Barry are responsible for this fact. They are great musicians, providing be a solid foundation to layer my barre chords over. I’ve always loved this band, and now I love playing in it.

The crowd isn’t as reserved as Dallas, but still seems jaded. I make a joke about it and Clayton plays it up. "You mean like Aerosmith, Jaded?" he says over the mic. He seems content to play the heel at the expense of the audience. I like it. "Yeah," I reply, "but not as good". We finish out our set. The plan is to encore with our cover of Roky Erickson's 'Two Headed Dog'.  Brian Curley is supposed to join us. Curley played with Roky for a spell. He also was a member of the Delinquents, the band Lester Bangs recorded with. However the ineptitude of stage manager precludes this as they immediately cue music over the PA and begin striking the mics from our amps. It slightly sours an otherwise strong set.

The Meatmen kick ass. I watch them play from the backstage area. Tesco reveals a giant cut-out of a penis which is rigged to shoot confetti over the audience. When he fires the confetti somebody throws a full beer at him. It looks like it hit Tesco in the face. I can see him wince from pain but he doesn’t miss a beat. After the song ends he announces that it broke his finger. This is a phenomena I don’t understand; the ‘I Love This Band So I’m Gonna Show It by Throwing Shit at Them’ phenomena. I’ve seen it happen to ANTiSEEN. It stopped a set in Lubbock several years ago when a pint glass hit their last drummer Phil square on his forehead, cutting him badly.

I step outside for a minute to catch some fresh air. Suddenly I see several people – presumably bouncers– throw Gerry Atric out. He’s spazzing a bit, drunk, or high or both. A friend of his calms him down. People are passing on the street, dressed like modern day disco dandies, clearly prowling for the nearest dance club. A couple is walking past, a girl in a billowy glittered dress with slutty high heels. She is escorted by a square jawed behemoth, a monster of a man who reeks of obviousness. His expensive cologne makes him smell cheap. I’m sure he possesses more than one ‘Affliction’ shirt in his wardrobe. Gerry isn’t paying any attention; he’s clearly in other world. He lightly brushes against the dress of the girl. The behemoth flies into an instant rage. He clearly was looking for a fight and fate has afforded this opportunity. He grabs Gerry by the neck with giant hands, choking him. It looks as if Gerry’s head might simply pop right off. He looks like a toy in this monster’s hands. “DON’T TOUCH HER!!!” growls the behemoth. He slams Gerry against the brick wall of the club. His head hits with a resounding POP, opening a large gash. The behemoth throws him to the ground, eager for more action. Gerry’s friend scoops him from the sidewalk and drags him away. He is bleeding heavily from the back of his head. The behemoth looks straight at me, beady little eyes crazed with anger. I hold his stare. Although I’m terrified, I don’t show it. It’s probably the only thing that keeps him at bay. He struts off into the night, no doubt eager to brag to his buddies that he beat up a punk rocker. I thought it sucked. It was like watching a puppy get hit by a car.

Bummed, I go back inside reckoning it wiser and safer. I watch the Meatmen carry on with the set. After several songs the drummer, John, stops abruptly. He stands and points to the rear of the room. Someone has grabbed the penis prop and is trying to sneak out with it. They retrieve the prop and finish out their set. The Meatmen are generally good-natured about this sort of thing. ANTiSEEN would probably react in a more angered fashion. I don’t think either response is “correct”, it’s subjective. To me the real issue is why fuck with a bands shit?

After the show we are back on the street loading the gear into the van. The club next door is pounding dance music loudly. It echoes across the street where we see two guys shouting at each other over what appears to be where one guy parked his bike. The people passing eyeball us as if we’re trash. A guy is guiding a very drunk girl around, she asks us unintelligible questions. He swiftly guides her away. Don’t speak to the scary men, dear.

Once loaded we head on to the highway, straight on down to San Antonio.  Although I felt our show was stellar, I’m happy to be leaving. The unofficial town motto is ‘Keep Austin Weird’…

 On this night all I saw was stupidity.
-to be continued-

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Road Journal - Part One


It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. I wanted to make this a weekly thing but I'm prone to go off on tirades and rants about unrelated topics. Since this blog is intended to chronicle my time in the band I figure it better (and probably wiser) to stay "on topic".

So...

Since my debut at Muddy Roots I've gotten a lot of well-wishes, kudos and kind words. Some were from people I wouldn't have expected. I won’t 'out' anybody, but believe me when I say it was very much appreciated. It's been a lot of hard work, especially considering that this was not something I had been planning on. I've not played music since 2010, and that was what could be best described as a hobby. To have been suddenly thrust into this juggernaut of perpetual motion has been quite an experience. Add into the equation the very real and present understanding of not only the thirty-plus year legend of the band itself, but also the legacy of the man whose shoes I'm trying to respectfully fill... Well; it's a lot to deal with.

A lot.

As a “roadie” I’ve traveled with ANTiSEEN many times before. The tour routine is not something new to me. I learned long ago how and what to pack, where and when to spend money and (usually) when to speak and when to stay quiet. Putting six people in a van for an extended period of time can be a gamble. Personality differences become achingly magnified.  Sometimes it’s easier and wiser to suppress your own selfish interest for sake of general harmony. I’ve traveled with people that didn’t understand this fact, and I’ve been the person that didn’t understand this fact. Fortunately, this trip was one where we all got along great. I doubt I’ve laughed as often or as hard on any other trip.

The obvious difference about this trip was that I am now an actual member of the band. I’ve been asked many times how it feels. There’s no simple answer to that. This isn't something trivial or an easy ticket to some cheap entertainment for me. I care very deeply about the music of this band; it’s something I take extremely personal. So as the date of my first show approached I suddenly become nervous. It was an odd feeling, because I’ve never had stage fright before. I couldn’t rely on the others to shoulder my shortcomings or self-doubt. It was now my obligation to deliver. So I’ve had to stay focused and work a little harder. And so far it’s been a rewarding experience.

Anyway, this is a rundown of what happened on my first trip as the guitarist for ANTiSEEN….


Day One – Hattiesburg, Mississppi

We soldiered out shortly before sunrise. I tried getting as comfortable as I could and caught a few hours of sleep. I awoke somewhere in Alabama and contented myself to take in the scenery as we drove on into Mississippi. We arrived in Hattiesburg around 4pm. Our hosts were Walt and Heather Wheat. Walt is the guitarist in Before I Hang, longtime allies of ANTiSEEN and our opening act for the evening. He also graciously allows us to stay in their home while in town. We are greeted with a giant spread of amazing food; ribs, macaroni, slaw and the most amazing sausages I’ve ever ate. We stuff ourselves silly before piling into the van to head over to the club.

The club is called simply ‘The Tavern’. Situated in an old storefront its layout is basic. The stage runs along the front wall while a small bar occupies the rear corner. An adjoining room houses some pool tables and another smaller bar. We load in quickly, forgoing a soundcheck. This would set the pattern for the rest of the trip. Soundchecks are usually a waste of time; it’s easier and as effective to do a quick line check before our set.

I’m largely nervous. This is only my second show. I worry about breaking strings and equipment failure, but mostly I worry about making mistakes. I made a couple of blunders at Muddy Roots. I remind myself to stay focused. Trying to relax I sit in the van playing games on my phone. This is another routine I’d come to adopt. Although it concerns me that I might appear stand-offish or antisocial I find that a little downtime alone keeps the nervousness minimized. I overhear some people talking. It becomes apparent they are talking about “the new guy”. I can’t make out exactly what they’re saying. A guy tells a girl something about ‘matching telecasters’ and ‘been around those guys forever’. I can only hope it was positive.

I hear the first band begin, a group called the Grim Creepers. The name suggested a Misfits type deal. I see two girls in ghoul make-up and assume they are associated with the band. I guess wrong – the group is just four guys playing no- nonsense garage rock with some surf overtones. It’s hard to discount a basic rock & roll band, and these guys were pretty cool in my book.

Before I Hang quickly follow. I’d seen them a couple of times before but something about them seems different. I never quite figure it out (still nags as I write this). Their sound was amazing, really tight and powerful .The bassist is playing some sort of oddball rig. I recognize none of his equipment but it sounds killer. They blast through their set with determined confidence. Seeing them pummel through their set I realize they set the bar high.  It makes me more nervous. These guys are old-school ‘SEEN fans. I gotta measure up to expectations.

We finally take the stage. The crowd piles down in front of us. It’s a small crowd, maybe forty people. I don’t know what constitutes a ‘good’ turnout but it certainly seems good for a Tuesday night. I let my guitar begin to feedback and we launch into Queen City Stomp. I’m still somewhat nervous, so I root myself in front of my amp and try to keep focused. The crowd is totally into it. They chant along with the choruses and dance like spastics. I can feel myself grinning like an idiot and can’t help it. I’m having a blast.

Afterwards I get a lot of compliments and well wishes. It means a lot. A guy has an ancient ANTiSEEN shirt he wants me to sign. I’m uncomfortable with it. I kinda knew eventually I’d be asked to sign something with Joe Young’s picture. I never reconciled how to handle it when it occurred. Now confronted with it I suddenly realized exactly what to do. I write ‘RIP JOE’ and sign it. It feels right to me.

We return to the Wheat household. More food and drink is made available and I’m given my own room with a giant bed. The Wheat’s are incredibly generous and thoughtful. I decide to sleep on the floor in my sleeping bag rather than mess up the sheets.
I slept like a baby.

-to be continued-