Sunday, April 24, 2016
We were recently offered some dates with Eyehategod that we unfortunately didn't have the needed time for. Too bad, it would've been a pretty great run. However we were able to salvage one date with them in upstate South Carolina town of Spartanburg...
Spartanburg has a deep rooted history in the legend of Southern Rock as the hometown of the Marshall Tucker Band. It also the neighboring town to the city of Greenville, location of the last concert Lynyrd Skynyrd played before their tragic plane crash. It also was also the birthplace of bluesman Pink Anderson, inspirational namesake of Pink Floyd. Additionally Spartanburg is home of the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, where Jim Crockett Promotions would regularly tape their Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling television shows. So clearly for ANTiSEEN, there is a lot of kinship and appreciation for the "Hub City".
The club is called 'Ground Zero'. It has been in operation in one form or fashion for over twenty years. Once housed in a larger building it recently relocated to a smaller building directly next door. It basically caters to a heavy metal and punk rock clientele. I was never particularly fond of the larger location as it was too large, awkwardly arranged and usually stifling hot in the summer while brutally cold in the winter. The bathrooms were swamps of piss, vomit and god knows what else. I'm talking the epitome of a dirty rock club. I think the owners sorta took pride in its notoriously gungy reputation and admittedly it had it's own charm, but I personally much prefer the building it now inhabits. It is smaller, cleaner and more hospitable. The bar is located at one end while the stage occupies the opposite end. We load in very quickly and easily with plenty of room to store our gear before setting up. The guys working there are all very helpful and cool. The sun hasn't yet set and the night is already shaping up to be a good one...
We sojourn out in search of food and find a Bojangle's Chicken. For those not privy to our regional delicacy, I assure you Bojangle's is just about the best fast food restaurant chain in the existence. I joke that I single-handedly keep them in business as I can eat Bo's multiple times a week. I decide for protein and carbohydrates, ordering a streak and egg biscuit. While eating we discuss adding our cover of the Ramones 'Commando' to the set for the night. It is the anniversary of Joey Ramone's passing and we wanna pay tribute. We've practiced it once recently but never added it in, so Barry and I discuss the arrangement and feel confident we can pull it off. We scarf down our food and return to the club.
We return to find there is already a crowd gathering. Some familiar faces and old friends pop up. Jeff Howlet has driven down. Jeff made the cool documentary "A Band Called DEATH" and is currently working on another project that he seems pretty excited about. We make small talk for a while. He has brought along his ten year old son - his first concert. I ask him if he enjoys the loud rock & roll and he eagerly nods. Hope for the future, yet.
The first band has come loaded for bear - their backline is a massive wall of amplifiers. I feel reasonably certain they could be heard in outer space. They are called 'Heathen Bastard'. The next band is called 'Fight Amp' who are touring with Eyehategod. Their approach is a little more straight forward. Both bands are cool people and make some seriously loud assed music.
We set up our gear and do a line check. I crank my amp a wee louder than normal because, what the hell - after the volume of the other bands what can anyone say? I also ask the sound guy to jack my volume into my monitor. We get everything ready and launch into the set. The volume hits me and I'm almost immediately in the zone - that magic spot where it feels like you can do no wrong. The only distractions are a TV blinking behind the bar and my monitor clipping out occasionally. The TV is a common occurrence, a distraction that too many bars employ. The monitor, however, is another matter. It nearly knocks me outta the zone. I play through it. It still beats the dismal sound we endured in Charleston the week prior.
Although technically not "our" audience, they know who we are and are very into it. Many of them crowd around the front of the stage below Clayton with fists in the air. Behind them people slam dance. When we knock into 'Commando' the place erupts. Everybody loves the Ramones - and those that don't are liars. We circle the wagons with the trudging sludge of 'Nothing's Cool' before tearing off once more with a steady barrage of time honored favorites climaxing with the inevitable closer 'Fuck All Yall'. It was a short, tight, powerful set that I personally feel is one of the best I've played since I've joined.
After the set there are a lot of people that want to shake hands and whatnot. While loading the van a kid comes up and asks for an autograph on a set list he has snagged from the stage. He asks questions about what we have going on and when we might play around locally again. He's pretty young, maybe fifteen. Again - hope for the future.
Not that I am stuck in the past - nor do I wanna be. It’s funny - the attitude and drive that forwarded the original idea of making and performing my own music is once again what drives me now. It is my own generalized dislike of what passes as ’popular’ and the belief that I can do better. And make no mistake - it's not that I am finding it increasingly difficult to be relevant; I find that it's increasing difficult for relevance to find me. The same piss and vinegar attitude I had at twenty years old is what Istill regurgitate today. Only now I got a lot more mileage under my belt, and hopefully a little more wisdom in turn. Which is to say I may still shoot my mouth off from time to time, but I try to time my punches a little better.
The new split single with HE WHO CANNOT BE NAMED of the Dwarves should be out any minute. I don't know all the exact details, but its gonna be available on two different colors and I suspect its probably pretty limited,so I'd jump on it at www.rustyknucklesmusic.com. I personally ordered one of each color for myself just to be on the safe side. This is my first record with the band so I'm pretty stoked. We also have another release right around the corner... Plus a pretty big announcement you're gonna wanna sit tight for. We are coming back down to Wilmington, North Carolina on May 21 and have yet another little surprise we're cooking up for later this summer, so stay tuned...
Sunday, April 10, 2016
We were asked to participate in a benefit show in Charleston, South Carolina for the family of a young lady who recently passed away. We were honored to do so. We packed up Saturday afternoon and were soon on the highway once more, even if only for the night.
There doesn’t seem to be much of a punk rock thing happening down there; it seems to be mostly Rockabilly clichés and the new-fangled alt/country Americana bandwagon everybody and their cousin is jumping on as of late. However the bands playing at the benefit were more of a radio friendly, melodic modern rock variety. We were clearly the odd band out. Not that anyone was rude to us, everyone was actually very cool. But I personally was kinda scratching my head at the bill.
The promotor has booked ANTiSEEN in Charleston before. I was working merch when ANTiSEEN came down and opened for the Dwarves. It was a classic night; a tag-team combination of snarling punk rock menace. It was also memorable for another reason – I met a girl. And that became a fairly short yet infamous chapter in my life…
She was exactly the sort that always catches my eye; short, black hair and of an indeterminable ethnicity. I thought she might be Asian, or at least part Asian. She was stacked like a comic book superhero vixen, all circles and curves. Tattooed, tight jeans and a clearly radiating an aura of ‘don’t fuck with me...’,
I mean I dream of ladies like this, right? And she looked right at me.
Me, looking at her, looking at me.
She walked right up to me. "Hey" she said, "I thought I oughta ask your name since you been eyeballing me all night." Well well well. What do you say to that? I mean, yeah, I was guilty. I tried to stammer some sort of defense, but she wasn't having it. I nervously looked around for the inevitable skinhead boyfriend that would be whupping my narrow ass in the next thirty seconds... but no, no boyfriend. I realized that lightning was striking and I either should duck for cover or try to catch it by the tail and hold the hell on.
I opted for the latter.
Stupidly, blindly, lustfully I made plans to go back and see her. The first trip started awkwardly but an initially planned overnight stay stretched into days. I had clearly over-reached. She liked loud music, hard liquor and sitting on my face. I got drunk on all three. I blew all my money and almost lost my job by missing a couple days of work on that trip.
I mean it was awesome, I thought I'd found a fiery young lass perfect in most every way imaginable. It was as if my imagination tailored a match and manifested it in flesh, blood and bone - presented to me on a silver platter with a knowing wink. However I caught a flash of her personality that foreshadowed what was to come. She could get darkly angry at the blink of an eye. She was, I discovered, not Asian - but Hispanic.
For the uninitiated, allow me to assure you one does not spell 'Hispanic' without 'panic'....
Over the course of the next six weeks we'd exchange calls, texts and plan our weekend rendezvous. She'd tease me with suggestive pictures and sly innuendo. And as the old song goes, we weren’t in love - oh no, far from it. It was all libido-a-go-go and it was in full effect 24/7.
She made a plan to come visit me. I was encouraged by this development. It measured a certain dedication to our burgeoning relationship. It meant we might get serious. She could be more than just some long-distance tom foolery and weekend shenanigans.
She arrived on a Friday afternoon. She quickly made herself at home, producing a bottle of cheap whiskey, shedding her clothes and sitting on my face. All was what it was - and what it was, was all awesome. I mean we got irrelevant.
The next evening we decided to go out to eat. After dinner we stopped by a bar for drinks. The barmaid recognized me and said 'hello', took our order, produced our beverages and went about her business. Suddenly, without provocation or warning, the storm cloud loomed. Sensing obvious tension I questioned the matter. "Nothing" she said in a way that clearly indicated it was most definitely something. She remained quiet as we headed to another bar where we met with some of my friends. Her demeanor was icy as I made introductions. After some awkward small talk she announced she would like to leave. NOW. Oh boy I thought, this is not going well.
We rode home in silence for most of the way until she finally sneered "I can’t believe you".
What? What did I do?
"You didn’t introduce me to your friends".
"Uh, sorry but, yes I did".
"Not to that bartender chick. She clearly knows you." What? Was this a joke? I didn’t introduce her to the barmaid?? "I want to go home" she hissed.
"We are going home".
"I mean my home. When we get back to your place I’m leaving."
I looked at her. God she was beautiful. Her eyes were dark and the anger in her face made me only want her more. But I also realized this was suddenly turning into a game I had no interest in playing. I realized that I was dealing with crazy. Bat shit variety. The worst and most hopeless kind.
I gave it two seconds thought and said, "Yep. You most certainly are."
"I’m not playing", she said, "I’m leaving!”
"Oh, I’m not playing either."
We got back to the house and it had started to rain. Thunder rolled off in the distance punctuated with flashes of lightning. The real storm however was working in the head of an ultra-hot young lady whose bizarre sense of vanity had been somehow ruined. She marched off to the bedroom while I grabbed a beer from the fridge. I sipped my beer waiting for her to pack. After a few minutes I wondered what was keeping her, so I walked into my bedroom. She sat at the foot of the bed, her suitcase at her feet. Clearly she was waiting for me to stop her.
"I’m serious. I'm leaving."
"I’m not playing games, I'm gonna leave".
She grabbed her case and stormed past me. I followed behind just to watch her sweet ass one last time.
Then out the door she went.
I opened another beer and sat down trying to process exactly what the hell had just happened and why. I always seemed to find the damage cases. All that beauty masked a bizarre self-esteem issue that I knew I could never relieve or resolve. I had too many skeletons of my own in the closet without worrying about making room for hers. And then a massive thunderclap and blinding flash of lightening tore open a torrential downfall. In that instant a sudden sense of relief hit me - I clearly had dodged a bullet.
Thirty minutes later my phone rang. It was her. She was crying.
"Come find me!!"
"I'm SORRY" she wailed. She was really sobbing. "I didn’t mean it!! I really like you!! I’m lost! Pleeeeaaaasee...!!"
I’ve always been a soft hearted sort, I’ve made girls cry before and I’ve never felt good about it. She almost had me.
"I’m lost and I’m drunk! Come find me!! I’m sooorrreeeeey..."
She was right. She was lost, she was sorry and she most certainly was drunk.
I can’t lie. I thought about it. Sweet Jeezus, she was nine kinds of ultra-fine. I could easily find her, bring her back home and intoxicate myself in her all night long. Girls that look like this rarely give me the time of day. Perhaps I could map out her mental minefield and enjoy endless sexual spoils of victory… However the reality was sharp and bitter. She had tested my patience and challenged my pride. I had done nothing for her but go above and beyond to accommodate and oblige. And she treated me like a fool.
Then with a measured tone, I patiently, deliberately said: "You’re a grown woman. You can find your way home. If you’re too drunk to drive there’s a Motel 6 at every exit.'
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But I don’t believe in hell. I only believe in women.
You do the math.
Fast-forward back to the present. I wondered if she’d show up. We eventually had made peace and held a somewhat tenuous friendship. I made no effort to contact her and honestly didn’t expect her to show. She didn’t.
The club is called The Sparrow. I had heard of this place from friends who touted it as being very cool and hospitable. The girl working the door confirmed the assessment. She was very helpful answering our questions and introducing us to people who also were helpful getting us parked and loaded in. The venue itself was nestled on the back corner of a block populated by assorted bars and restaurants. It was a simple rectangular room lined with a bar and capped by a small stage on one end. Truthfully the clubs we play are largely the same. I prefer them to be functional and hospitable to the bands. Preferably without the distraction of televisions blinking away endless sports programming. Fortunately this place meets the criteria.
We kill time walking over to a barbecue place. Evidently the place has decided to try to stir up business by having a bingo night. It isn’t working. A guy sits in a corner barking off numbers into a microphone to about six people. I’m not hungry so I sit outside while the boys order. I hear the guy on the microphone crack wise about Clayton’s t-shirt. Not a good idea dude. His comment is met with an icy silence. I chuckle under my breath.
After eating we go back and sit in the van a bit. This is sort of a pre-show ritual for me but it’s kinda unusual for all the others to do the same. We sit and listen to the new Ace Frehley album and unanimously decide that its terrible. After a few minutes of torturing ourselves with new Ace, we load in our merch on the recommendation of the promotor. She tells us to get ready to load in soon so Barry moves the van over close to the stage door. It is located beside a cache of garbage cans emitting some rather strong odor. I try to ignore it as we load in the gear.
We set up quickly and do a line-check. A line-check is simply a quick setting of sound levels rather than a proper soundcheck. Of course as soon as I strum my guitar the soundguy asks for me to turn down. I comply, feeling the level in my monitor to be adequate. I would be proven wrong.
We launch into our first song and I can’t hear anything but drums and vocals. I sorta hear the bass, low and indistinct. I try to focus on the song and stay on point. My attitude is to play thru this sort of thing. When you’re at the mercy of a club’s soundguy - someone who neither knows you nor likely cares - sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone. I hope he is able to dial it in better but it never happens. The sound is a wash of sonic spooge that I fumble my way thru until finally breaking stride. I know where my fingers go and when to put them there. I let instinct take over and do the rest.
The bad sound doesn’t throw us. We are well practiced and all solidly locked in together.We blast thru the songs in rapid succession. I like playing this way; it’s a bit of a workout physically but no pain, no gain, right? A few people are slam dancing while the rest stay safely situated towards the back. I stare out against them and on into the wall. It sounds like ass onstage so I can only assume it isn’t much better out front. I try to compensate with intensity. After the last song I make the guitar squeal and drone before leaving the stage awash in feedback.
After our set we tear down and a few people talk to us. They seem really excited we came to play. I purchase a t-shirt that was printed for the event. It has our logo on the back and I wanted it for a souvenir and hopefully contribute to the cause. Soon we are packed up and headed back home.
Another Rock & Roll Saturday Night…
We recently recorded some more new material that’s currently being put together for release. I’ve heard the final mix and its killer – and believe me, this whole package is gonna be something really special. So stay tuned. We are playing with EYEHATEGOD next week in Spartanburg, South Carolina and have a make-up date for Wilmington, North Carolina set for May. Other than that we don’t have any shows currently lined up until summer – and that will be big news, so again – stay tuned.
The plan for spring is to get busy with recording a lot of new material. We’ve been bouncing around some cool ideas and I’m excited to put it all together and on tape. Meanwhile I enjoy hearing from you, so hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or on find me on Facebook.