This band seems to be in perpetual motion. Even our downtime is spent preparing, planning and plotting. We are currently working up a project that I personally feel is one of the absolute coolest things this band has ever done. Hopefully all will go according to plan and we can pull this off - because its gonna be flat out killer. I don't wanna divulge too many details but suffice it to say there's some pretty talented people in our corner helping to make it all happen. Meanwhile we've been travelling like politicians on the primary trail; pressing the flesh, kissing hands and shaking babies all the while preaching thee almighty gospel of Destructo Rock and winning over a few converts along the way...
CHAPEL HILL - September 24
Chapel Hill is your typical little college town cozily ensconced in its own festering shit pile of hipster elitism. I've had to travel here on occasion to see bands that Charlotte clubs were either unable, unwilling or too ignorant to book; groups like Radio Birdman, Blue Cheer and DTK/MC5. Of course college towns always prove more lucrative for these bands, although one kinda has to question how relevant any of the aforementioned bands are to the average twenty year old hipster tooling around in Mom's Volvo grooving to a mix of post-post-alternative lesbian techno pop or whatever meaningless obscurities that gives these kids wet panties and hard-ons. Whatever, all I know is if only for a night, Chapel Hill was gonna shudder with the thunder of ANTiSEEN...
The club is called Local 506. It's been in operation for as long as I can remember. I once rode up here to see Cocknoose play. It was a wild night that saw them nearly incite a riot with some self-righteous feminist lesbian types that got a wee too physical when chairs started flying. The 'Noose were told never to return and we rode back home laughing all the way. That was over twenty years ago, however. Now I'm older and more mature.
One of the opening bands features my old pal Brad Mullins. Brad and I started our first band together as teenagers. We were young, good looking, bright eyed and eager. We were also arrogant and confrontational. Our calling card was to smash our gear every show. One memorable set ended with police and firetrucks lined around the club we were playing. We were told never to return and rode back home laughing all the way. That was over twenty years ago, however. Now I'm older and more mature.
Brad helps me out before the show with a little combat surgery on my Telecaster. Its good to catch up with him. Whether it was with my first band, or during his brief stint as guitarist in the Mad Brother Ward thing or just jamming for fun in a practice room somewhere, I've always felt my best work was with Brad. Some people you just sorta have creative chemistry with. Unfortunately he and I have also had the proverbial love/hate relationship that too often accompanies creative chemistry as an unpleasant side effect. Truthfully, it has largely been rooted in pettiness and jealousy on my part; Brad Mullins remains the single most talented person I've ever known.
I kill time upstairs above the club in their 'green room'. Our roadie Brandon, Gooch and I sip beer and swap tales of crazy ex-girlfriends. It starts to rain outside. Suddenly a girl appears with a shady looking guy who walks into the bathroom and slumps on the floor. He seems oblivious to our presence. She disappears briefly during which time he rolls up his sleeve and appears to tie off. She returns and closes herself in the bathroom with him. We all sorta look at each other. Ordinarily I would say something but with all the recent heavy travelling and random stupidity that seems to find ways into our orbit, I simply shrug it off.
When we finally hit stage I'm somewhat surprised to see a strong turnout, about 100 people have braved the gloomy weather. It's good to see familiar faces in addition to the other assorted random locals and college students. Andy Miller and Slayer Doug from KIFF, Jon Adam and several other of our Raleigh friends have driven over. John the Baptist has came up from Wilmington. Jeff's brother Greg is here, as is former ANTiSEEN sound guy Todd Goss. Todd recorded my personal favorite A-SEEN album Southern Hostility. He's one of the few people whose opinion matters to me. I hope I don't disappoint.
It takes a few songs for me to find my rhythm and when I finally do, I break a string. Fortunately I was prepared, my backup guitar sat tuned and waiting. I quickly switch out guitars while the band plays on without me. I keep my wits and fall right back in line and am able finish the song. Its a nice save. We continue on and I have to mentally readjust. My backup guitar sounds slightly different and I'm not as fond of it. The crowd doesn't seem to notice or care. We grind our set out to a finish and are called back for an encore. We hit 'em with three more tunes and call it a night.
It occurs to me later that despite the transient and fluxing nature of Chapel Hill, ANTiSEEN has still managed to secure some deep roots and strong ties. It was a great way to kick off this short run.
BALTIMORE - September 25
After a quick IHOP breakfast we soldier forward on the highway. The sky is overcast and gray but our spirits are high. The trip is pleasant enough and we roll into Baltimore amid rush hour traffic. I've never seen downtown Baltimore before. My limited exposure to the city has been in its rather hellish bombed out ghetto neighborhoods, so its a bit of an eye opener to me. Downtown is really clean and nice. People throng about, many in costumes for what appears to be a comic book convention. We glide though before rolling up to our destination for the night.
The club is called Club Orpheus. It is a industrial/goth dance club. Painted red and black, the room is basically square; a bar occupying one side and a dance floor the other. It is capped with a loft overlooking the dance floor. There is no stage, rather several makeshift risers presumably designed for dancers to perch upon. The dance floor itself is to serve as the stage. One of the opening bands has already set up using the largest riser for their drums.They make noise for no reason readily apparent.
Everyone seems to be dressed as extras from a Marilyn Manson video - even the security are decked out in eyeliner and spiked collars. I feel somewhat out of place and conspicuous in my jeans and flannel shirt; a bright blue interloper amidst black clad Goth rockers.We examine to periphery, noticing what appears to be "torture" devices; chains hanging from the ceiling and wooden saw horses with shackles. A large wooden 'X' looms in the corner close to where we set up merch. I eyeball it curiously and one of the studded security proudly announces it to be the "best built Saint Andrews cross on the East Coast". I assure him I'd much prefer a soft bed and a fluffy pillow. He doesn't find this to be funny and storms off. I I can't help myself. The staff are all pretty cool folks but the whole BDSM thing is just so ridiculously cheesy to me. One fills me in on the rules; the things that are and are not legally allowed. "I've seen some sick shit here", he assures me. I tell him my sex life too, is "sick" - sickeningly normal.
The opening bands are all devotees of rockabilly and the Misfits. "Gothabilly" if you will. They blast away with in all the requisite accoutrements - think The Munsters meets Sha Na Na by way of KISS; lotsa Halloween props and face paint. The locals seem to eat it up. Each band all boast how proud they are to play with the "legendary ANTiSEEN!!!", but curiously none stay to watch our set. Oh well.
We have to move some of the weird risers when we set up our gear. Gooch is set up on the large riser. I personally hate drum risers, too heavy metal for my taste. No matter, we quickly get it together and are soon into our set. People gather around the dance floor as we play. I'm feeling pretty comfortable although am somewhat pacing myself. The PA really isn't suitable, the guy is only running vocals. I think it makes Jeff work harder than he needs to, but we manage to play through it. For some reason we get lost at the end of 'Up All Night'. It kinda shudders and lumbers to a halt. We don't let it derail us, however. We quickly charge forward and its a pretty hot little set. We encounter another problem when the PA cuts out during 'Nothings Cool'. The sound guy makes a quick fix and we carry on. I notice rivulets of blood on the floor. Jeff has opened himself at some point. I seldom notice anymore. At the end Gooch up-ends his drums, a good spontaneous emphatic exclamation mark in counterpoint to the theatrics that have surrounded us all night.
After the show we hang out with some of the locals. Barry and I try to gauge what the best plan would be for getting into Philadelphia. The Pope is visiting Philly and there have been warnings of bad traffic, security checkpoints and closed roads. I also reason it might be hard to find a motel with any vacancies. We get some advice from some locals and try to formulate a plan. I am not optimistic but Barry thinks it's all grossly overstated. He calls it "Y2K like madness". I hope he's right.
PHILADELPHIA - September 26
We catch a Waffle House breakfast before making a side trip for a music store. Seems when Gooch knocked over his drums he managed to sever the lead cable to Barry's bass. I take the downtime opportunity to research traffic reports out of Philly. It's only a quick two hours up the highway but with all the Pope hysteria it could take much longer. I discover a website with live feeds from DOT cameras around the city. Things don't look bad at all, in fact the highways look practically deserted. We had determined an alternate route but instead decide to gamble it on the interstate.
We sail straight up with no problems whatsoever. Entering into Philly we see where the roads are closed but it has no bearing on where we are headed, a place on the north side. Unlike South Philly which is rather innocuous hardscrabble working class neighborhoods, North Philly is more run down and sketchy if not outright ghetto. We maze our way thru one-way streets lined with old tenement houses, dirty corner stores and shady looking bars. I figure even Rocky Balboa would probably side step this place.
The venue is called The Compound. It is not a legal licensed club, rather an old warehouse that occasionally hosts shows. Ralph Miller's Rusty Knuckles outfit is staging an event called 'Freedom Road' as the finale to a bike run. Unfortunately the run was cancelled due to weather and most folks in Philly are unaware the event is taking place because they cannot advertise what is essentially an 'illegal' show. it doesn't deter us, however. It takes a minute to figure out our way in, but we are soon parked in a little alleyway behind the building. On the opposite side there are some folks with tents, presumably they are camping out here. There is barbecue and a small bar serves drinks. I reckon the idea was to stage a small scale semblance of the Muddy Roots Festival.
After quickly loading in our gear we have plenty of time to kill. We locate a suburban mall to go see a movie. Barry and I decide to skip the movie and instead walk around the mall. Its a giant place, larger than any mall I've ever been to - an endless labyrinth of Foot Locker, Victoria's Secret, FYE and food courts. On the opposite end there's a music store and I decide to get a few little things. They have a cheap Telecaster on sale. It looks like someone dropped it; a long ,deep gouge scars its face and the tail end is dented. Barry suggests I could probably talk them into a deal but I decide it would still require too much money to bring it to my personal specs. We wander over to a giant arcade place and wind up dropping a chunk of change on some games before joining back up with the others.
After returning to the Compound I wait it out in the van until show time. When given the 'OK' we load our gear onto the tiny stage and it leaves no room for Clayton. As with the night before, the PA is inadequate. A tiny monitor sits on the floor but is useless. We simply remove it and get down to business. It's a small turnout, maybe about 30 or 40 people. Barry and I stand at the lip of the tiny stage while Clayton takes to the floor. Everyone crowds around and we blast though the set. I'm in the zone, feeling really confident and having a good time. Suddenly a flash of fire erupts above us. Someone is on an upper balcony above the stage and blowing fireballs. The lamp oil is misting down and soaks the floor. Personally I find it annoying and distracting. No sooner is that over when suddenly a girl appears with a large firework stick in her hand. She's trying to ignite it. I look at the oil-soaked floor then back at her and think, 'this is not gonna end well'. Fortunately someone else sees her folly and quickly spirits her away before she kills us all.
The set is great, I feel really good coming off stage. I towel off and quickly tear down my gear and load out. I meet some cool folks after the show. I discover some people have travelled down from some French Canadian province to see us. It's this kind of dedication and devotion that gives ANTiSEEN its own unique aura. I feel lucky to have been included in it.
Pretty soon we pack up the van and are back out on the highway for another all night drive home...
October is gonna be largely devoted to recording and writing. We are playing a special free show at the Thirsty Beaver in Charlotte on October 30th. Its a tiny place and is sure to pack out, so get there early. We have our old pals Self Made Monsters opening and trust me when I tell you they are not to be missed. We also have a few little 'treats' cooked up for the Halloween holiday and it gonna be a whole lotta fun... no tricks!!