The recent flap between the Dickies and War On Women at the Warped Tour got my brain bone squirming a bit. This sorta ridiculousness pops up every so often and always makes for low comedy. I'm not much a fan of either one. I respect the Dickies as originators of American punk rock, even if their humor is a little overbearing and sophomoric for my taste. Of course it was the same-said overbearing and sophomoric humor that got them in trouble with War On Women - who themselves are about as unique and interesting as a bottle of Cheeze-Whiz. And as equally formulaic. But of course music isn't the agenda with bands like War On Women. It never is. They may well be very intelligent and well-intentioned, but holy hell does the music suck balls.
Oh sorry, was that sexist...??? Or homophobic? I have a hard time keeping up with the rules and regulations.
See, I generally don't count myself as "political". I have friends all across the spectrum. I'm all for civil rights, mutual respect and individual liberty. But even in the worst taste, there is a difference between a poke, a rib and a jab. Clearly I am not the go-to guy for answers but it would seem to me that this disconnect and war of ideals is predicated on the paradox of subjugating one's own individuality to the will of a collective. And naturally confusion and confrontation is the only result. Everyone just tries to shout each other other down. Nothing is learned and nothing is affirmed other than the unconscious knowledge that people are generally stupid and selfish.
And stupid music offends me worse than selfish politics.
We were back out on the road recently and were able to showcase a bit of the new material. Here's what happened:
ATLANTIC BEACH - June 29
We all met up at Barry's place early in the morning. Roadies Brandon and Todd are also along for the trip. We are loaded for bear, fuel up the van, pick up some coffee and donuts, a few bottles of water and soon are on course for Florida. Our destination: Atlantic Beach, a suburb of Jacksonville. I work a night schedule, so sometimes when we take off for these trips I pretty much go straight from work and get in the van. It is about a seven hour ride to Jacksonville, Florida, so I made the most of it buy sleeping as much as possible. I didn't do too badly, either. The van isn't exactly the most cozy or comfortable place for more than a light snooze, so it was something of an accomplishment.
We arrive around 3pm. A friend of the band have invited us to his place for barbecue. He is called "Country" but I think he said his name is Aaron. His place is really nice, situated in a neighborhood built along a canal that mazes up to backyard docks. A bunch of his coworkers and friends arrive and we soon are stuffed on barbecue and mac & cheese. A couple of the guys here are in the opening band, 'Walk With Wolves'. They are former members of Ringworm, a Florida band I remember from way back in my MBW days. They are all cool folks.
We have been given some motel rooms at a Holiday Inn from another friend of the band. It might sound silly but this is a bit of a treat from our usual Motel 6! We are all pretty grateful for this act of generosity. We check in, change and have a bit of time to kill before our scheduled load-in time. We reconvene in the lobby before heading out to the club. It has started to rain lightly and I hope we can get there and loaded in before it picks up.
The club is called The Harbor Tavern. It's a basic square cinder block building. The bar is along one wall and is sorta dived off from the other half of the building by a small half-wall that is about waist high. The other half of the building is set up for bands. The stage lines the front wall. It's pretty small and cramped. There isn't enough space to backline, so the bands have to store their equipment along the far wall. We load in just before it starts to pour.
Walk With Wolves are really cool, a no-nonsense punk rock band with some hardcore leanings. Their guitarist has a gold sparkle Telecaster that I envy. I watch most of their set and dig it. Some people are slam dancing and accidentally fall against my amp case. Fortunately all our stuff is cased up good, so the risk of damage is pretty minimal. In fact the damage risk is to the people that hurl against it.
I usually feel anxious setting up, but tonight I feel pretty comfortable, taking my time to get ready. It's a tight fit onstage with no room to move around much, but then I ain't much for moving around. I'm given the ok to actually turn up my volume, which I happily oblige. Truthfully, my sound is kinda dialed in - changing it even slightly can alter the tone. But it still sounds ok, so I figure the hell with it. Jeff takes the stage and soon we are into the set. By the third song I can't see, my eyes are stinging from the sweat that pours into them. I instinctively lean into the volume, jack-hammering my guitar harder than usual. I stare into the crowd but everything is a blur. I sense the motion of the slam dancing. I make a mistake of playing a song out of order. We recover pretty easily but I get mad at myself for the misstep. I take it out on my guitar during the encore. It's a pretty hot set.
After the show I meet Brandon Fergus. He's the roadie for the Murder Junkies, Sham 69 and a bunch more. He drove 800 miles to catch this show, and I'm pretty humbled. Brandon caught flak several months back from some skinheads in Seattle, getting rolled by a bunch of them. Typical skinhead shit, 6 on 1. I was impressed by Brandon's fortitude; he didn't back down or quit. He just got stitched up and kept moving forward. I told him I didn't know if I could do the same. Back in the old days I once aggravated some skinheads so bad at an ANTiSEEN show the band had to back their van up to the stage door to get me out. Another time they surrounded me in the parking lot and one of them roughed me up a little before cooler heads prevailed. Of course, I probably deserved it. I was such a prick when I was young. Anyways I was lucky. I hope I never have to be forced into a situation like that again. So hats off to Brandon Fergus.
HATTIESBURG - June 30
When this run across the Deep South was first scheduled, we had a date in Birmingham, Alabama. Unfortunately the show fell thru, so we were quickly rescheduled for Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This was ok by me, as this is home of Walt and Heather Wheat, longtime friends of the band who always generously go above and beyond, opening their beautiful home to us and feeding us like kings. This stay was no exception. Ribs, sausages, macaroni, green beans, roast beef, homemade pie... it was a nonstop smorgasbord.
The club is called The Tavern. This is where I played my second show after joining the band. It's located in a converted storefront, a very basic layout with the stage along the front wall. We load in and wait it out. I'm surprised to run into an old acquaintance from Charlotte, a guy named Steve Okruhlica. He lives in Mobile, Alabama now, about two hours away from Hattiesburg. He's friends with one of the opening bands, 'Future Hate', so he decided to make the trek up. It was good to catch up with him.
I watch Future Hate and am really impressed. They are a female fronted punk band that aren't afraid to show off their musical chops. After their set I talk with them a bit and learn they also have a side project call CCCR which is the same band with a different singer, our pal and illustrator Jamie Vayda Craw. At any rate they were pretty cool and I enjoyed it a lot.
Our set is pretty solid, again I am encouraged to turn my volume up. I have a bit of a problem with unwanted feedback, but it only adds to the chaotic fury of the music. We really charge thru the set, leaving little breathing room for ourselves or the audience. Its a small town and as such a small crowd, but they show us big respect. I like playing here.
NEW ORLEANS - July 1
It is only about two and half hours from Hattiesburg to New Orleans. This mean we could spend the day enjoying the hospitality of the Wheats. I can tell Jeff's voice is pretty shot. The third day of a trip is usually when his voice gets weak, and true to form this trip is no different. The downtime is probably helpful. Walt took Clayton and the boys out to his backyard gun range for some target practice while I stayed inside and watched old Godzilla movies. After another hefty meal we finally loaded up into the van and headed out.
New Orleans is a seriously depressed city. You can feel the degradation and desperation hanging in the air like the thick haze of smog that obscures the skyline. However the crowds we draw here are always cool - and not a calculated cool like some major cities. The people here seem pretty genuine. I like playing New Orleans.
The club is called Siberia. We've been here several times before, even before I joined the band and was working as a roadie. The club doubles as a restaurant that serves "Slavic Soul Food". I usually look forward to eating here because the food is so killer but I am still stuffed from eating earlier at the Wheat Compound so I abstain.
Sometimes parking here is tricky. We are lucky and get to park directly in front of the club, which makes loading in a lot easier. The backstage is actually a curtained off area in the rear of the club, whereas the stage is at the front. So whatever we cant backline, like the drums, we have to carry thru the crowd to the stage. The stage is deep enough that we could probably backline the drums but we leave the space for the opening bands.
I while away time sitting in the van. Jeff prepares himself for the show, but its pretty clear his voice is gone. He's trying to get it to break enough to power thru. Usually it gets raspy enough he can pull it off. Not tonight. It only gets worse. We are suddenly faced with a dilemma: try to do a sub-par show or cancel? Neither option is appealing. We discuss what to do and can't seem to reach a decision. I tell Jeff he needs to do what he feels right - if he decides he can do it, I'm ready to play, if not, I'm ready to go home. I don't feel it's my place to force him into a decision that could possibly hurt him, physically or psychically.
We get in touch with the promoter and the decision is made to cancel. It's a bummer, but it's the correct call. With ANTiSEEN it's everything or nothing. It would be a cop-out to give a half-assed show just to collect a payday. That would be an insult to not only our own integrity but to the people that paid to see us. I've seen the band make some cancellations before due to illness and bad weather, but this is the first since I've joined. We quickly tear down our stuff and load out. Fortunately the folks here are pretty understanding, if understandably disappointed. We all are disappointed, though none more so than Jeff himself.
The promoter very generously gives us some cash for gas money. We later discover some people tried to claim we took all the money and ran. This of course wasn't true at all. I think that rumor got properly squelched quickly however. We tend to get all kinds of insults and accusations hurled at us, all of which is as equally insulting as it is depressing. But 'thief" is probably the lowest. And if there is one thing this band never does it is rip people off. I don't know how much blood Jeff needs to spill, how much time we need to lose from our families, how many miles we need to put on our van or how much of our own money we need to spend - but fuck these naysayers.
My conscience is clean.
The new album OBSTINATE is at the presses and should be out any time. We will be playing a record release set at Repo Record in Charlotte on July 29at 6pm - and its FREE. So come check out the new tunes we'll be playing along with some of your longtime favorites and pick up the new album while you're there.
The new split with Malcolm Tent is out NOW, so get on it!! We cover one of Malcolms tunes called 'Do It Now' and a Tunnel Rats song called 'Don't Tell Your Mom'. I'm pretty proud of it. Malcolm covers ANTiSEEN on the flip, doing his rendition of 'Animals, Eat 'Em' and revisiting an old song of his own, 'My God Can Beat Up Your God' (which A-SEEN covered many years ago). Malcolm and ANTiSEEN have an association that goes back almost to the very beginning, and he also was responsible for releasing the first MBW record, so it is an honor and pleasure to share vinyl with him.
Also on deck we are playing Ground Zero in Spartanburg, SC on August 19th with EYEHATEGOD and NEGATIVE APPROACH!! This show promises to be flat out killer, so mark your calendars and make plans to be there! Also on the horizon is our return to the MUDDY ROOTS FESTIVAL Labor Day Weekend, so keep your eyes and ears open for the details as always on Facebook and at www.antiseen.com!!