It’s definitely been a while since I’ve last checked in here. Obviously, life hasn’t stopped for me. On the contrary, it has barreled forward like a freight train, leaving little time or ambition to work on one of the few things that actually brings joy to me: writing.
Not to say that I haven’t been exercising any creative muscles over the last months. Back in the spring I actually had a weekly radio show with my friend Steven Nathan, which was an amazing outlet. It was kind of like writing, but with the ability to cover multiple topics in a free form environment, without the self imposed scruples of editing that hit me when I write. The show was very off the cuff, and allowed me a chance to practice more free flow thinking.
That ended about a month ago, when our show was unceremoniously pulled from the air for what I can only surmise was a misunderstanding that was never even brought to our attention. We are currently taking a few weeks off and are planning on bringing the show back with a vengeance, in podcast format. I’ll definitely keep everyone updated on when that’ll be back on track.
Now, though, it’s time to take that experience and apply it back where I belong: here. Buckle up, I’m back!
Breakout Tour: Days 24-26
I have a bad habit of waiting a few days or more after tour is over to write the last blog, mostly I think because I find myself wishing that tour wasn’t over. No matter how many miles or how many cities we stop in, I still have that thrill of being on the open road, never knowing what to expect along the way. Also, for me, until I’m headed on my way back to either Massachusetts or Colorado, well, tour really doesn’t FEEL over. I need that few days to collect myself and wrap my head around the fact that it’s time to go back home.
This time, letting go was a little worse on that front, I think. We’ve basically been on the road for 3 months, and even though we had tiny respites along the way, it all felt like one great big long tour. This was the end of a long journey that started on March 21st in Waterbury, Connecticut, went all the way down and then back up the east coast, shot clear across the country to the Pacific Northwest, down the Pacific coast to San Diego, across the desert heading back east to Texas, on then Mississippi and then back to New York. From there we continued on, crisscrossing the lower eastern states and into the Midwest and back. But, as it always does, we came down to one last show, and this one was in Wilmington, NC. Now I’m finally back home in Massachusetts and I can reflect back with a clear head. So here we go, a week late, but still fresh in the mind…
To start off with, to be completely honest, I’ve never even heard of Wilmington, NC before this tour. I will say though, for a small city, and one previously unknown to me, it wound up being an amazing spot to end our tour.
Not wanting to take any more chances on the traffic situations, we woke up that Saturday morning and checked out of our hotel then began our trip north. It was only about an 8 hour drive from Rome, GA, and we had 36 hours to get there, so we weren’t in a huge hurry but we still arrived in town the night before the show. Load in wasn’t until early evening on show day, so we slept in as much as possible, then headed to a Starbucks for one last afternoon of office work.
When it was time, we headed downtown. Wilmington, NC is an old port city on the southeastern shores of North Carolina. It’s downtown area is peppered with historical buildings and the like, creating a vibe that is a great mix of the old and the new. Restaurants, pubs, tattoo shops, and boutique stores all commingled together to create an almost unique environment that set it self apart from many cities that we had visited.
We loaded in to the venue at about 7:30pm, and then found some parking in a lot directly across the street. The Whiskey was another ‘dive bar’, but not the type that you were ashamed to be in. We brought in our gear and then had some down time because the first band didn’t start until 10.
Nate and I set out to explore the city and to find one last tour Mexican restaurant, which we found down by the city’s river walk. The food was tasty and the waitstaff super friendly, the D.J.’s sweet 16 playlist, well, not so much. After dinner we headed back to the club by way of another exploratory jaunt around the historically laced streets.
Since this was our last night of the tour we had planned a gag of sorts to pull out on the Dive guys. End of tour pranks are kind of a tradition among tour mates that are usually pulled on each other, but we honestly couldn’t decide exactly what to do to mess with Dive. So, we fell back on an often discussed but never implemented gag.
When we were out with Miggs Nate came up with the idea that he wanted me to go up and sing a ridiculous 80’s song on stage as an end of tour gag for our last night with them. Now, I’m not a singer. I’ve never performed on a stage like that before. I’m actually not even that much of a musician. I know that you’d think if I have been traveling the country for so long with musicians that I’d have picked up a thing or two but time while on the road is a weird thing and it seems as if there’s not ever really the time for anyone to teach me to be proficient. Anyway, I digress. The fact is, up until we were stuck in Yreka, CA I had never really even sang at karaoke before. I did however agree to Nate’s request, so I left any shred of dignity I had at the door and gave it my all and used the karaoke bar to practice. The sad part of all that is that the final show of our run with Miggs was canceled, so that never happened. Until Wilmington.
We had run the song through a few times that afternoon on the bus, but I still had tons of apprehension about actually getting up and singing in front of people. I had a few shots of whiskey to ease that a bit (I needed a few more, but oh well!), and tried to get in to a clear mindset.
The guys took the stage and time seemed to fly by as they breezed through the set list. Last minute, they pulled a Crazy Ivan and skipped the second to last song from the set, which threw me off because things were suddenly 4 minutes ahead of what I was planning. As the final notes of ‘Bang Bang Bitch’ rang out signaling the end of our tour, Mochello began playing the drum beat to Quiet Riot’s “Cum On Feel The Noize”, and that was my queue.
I jumped up on to the stage with a quickness, and I could see the guys from Dive were both shocked and thrilled. I certainly looked the part of the 80’s rocker, with tore up blue jeans, a Harley Davidson shirt, a red bandanna, dark sunglasses, and that 3 size too small ridiculous denim vest that Root made me that I reserve for such special occasions.
Once I was up there I knew I had no choice but to fully commit. Luckily, the song doesn’t require being a good singer, and Nate also agreed to sing keywords and choruses to help me along. I looked at him, and we visually agreed it was go time.
I was immediately blown away by how little I could hear while on stage. I’ve been on stage before during the set, well, when stuff goes wrong at least. At those moments I was so focused on fixing whatever the issue was that I never bothered to listen to the stage volume.
I was doing my best to sing as loud as I could, but I couldn’t hear myself through the monitors and everything else sounded like auditory soup. (Later I was told that the mix coming through the monitors wasn’t as good as it’s been, so I didn’t feel so bad)
After a few seconds I went in to a sort of autopilot mode. A few times I became a little disorientated and lost my way, but I was able to pull it back by looking at Nate and lip reading where he was in the song.
Soon the song was over and I walked off the stage with a whole new perspective on what is happening up there. I mean, I’ve always heard “The sound on stage is way different than you’d ever expect”, and I’ll tell you, they’re right. What I heard up there was gibberish. The ability to take that and turn it into a non-confusing, referenceable beat to follow is in my mind almost a whole art on it’s own. And then to consistently play the song the same way no matter the circumstances? Well, that’s talent. It really makes me want to learn the sound board better so that when we’re out on the road the guys don’t have to deal with complacency from the sound engineers.
Dive played next, and during their set an over enthusiastic ‘slam dancer’ was doing his best to try to start a mosh pit. He was the only one who was actually in to it, and he wound up crashing in to one woman causing her to break a glass, and also slammed in to Dive’s merch guy, Taco, who had recently had back surgery. I saw him in my peripheral vision, careening uncontrollably on a collision path with me. Subconsciously, I turned sideways and launched an elbow that connected perfectly into his side. He stumbled backwards, away from the crowd and into the waiting bear hug of Root, who had seen the whole thing and who promptly carried the guy to the bouncer for ejection.
Dive finished their set and we got ready to say our goodbyes. They were spending the night in Wilmington, but we wanted to knock some hours off of our ten hour trip home. Touring with Dive had been a fun experience, especially since I’ve known Johnny for such a long time. As we said our farewells there was a bittersweet overtone from camp Man on Earth. This show wasn’t just the conclusion of our 3 weeks with them, it was also the end of our 3 month spring tour. Summer was just a few days away, we had spent the whole season on the road. In contrast to the sadness of goodbye, everyone was happy to be headed back home for a while. We have a busy summer ahead of us, and we would finally have the time to be able to push the new record properly.
We drove until about 4am, stopped for some sleep, and then finished our trip north, getting there before the sun set. This was a long journey being brought to a finish, but I can say with confidence, see you all again soon!
Breakout Tour: Day 23
The Lantern Tavern
We had to wake up early because we were supposed to meet Root’s uncle in Rome, GA for lunch and we were still 6 hours away. Nate and I were up, showered, and ready to go by the time the rest of the guys showed up to the hotel to pick us up. We stopped and grabbed a quick breakfast, and finally made it on our way by about 9:15 a.m. (Central time, that is!).
Things were going smoothly and we were making good time until one point, right before the Tennessee/Georgia state line, traffic came to a complete standstill. There were orange signs pointing to an impending construction zone so we figured we would be stop and go for a bit. What we didn’t count on was being at an absolute standstill for nearly 3 hours. People in the surrounding cars began to get restless about an hour in and got out of their cars and started milling about.
For us, it wasn’t as bad as I imagine it was for some. We have our bunks, so we rotated out the person sitting in the driver’s seat while the rest of us chilled out in our own spaces. I passed the time watching a movie and doing internet searches on my phone trying to find out what was causing the road closure but everyone must have had the same idea because it was taking forever to load the pages on the extremely bogged down cellular network.
When traffic started moving we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were now quite a bit late, but as long as we were able to get moving there was no longer the risk of missing the show. With traffic advancing at a snails pace we finally made it up to the cause of our delay. A semi truck was pushed off to one side of the road, facing the wrong way. Busted guardrails lined the highway, and there were tell tale signs of a worse situation that had already been cleaned up. As we passed the semi we saw it’s trailer, sitting upright, but now in the shape of a V, the middle nearly touching the ground and the top a crumpled mess of twisted and folded metal.
Seeing bad accidents is a sobering thing. With all the traveling that we do we’ve been more than fortunate in that aspect and everyone of us is thankful for such. Seeing situations like the one we passed impresses on us the need for extra safe driving habits, which we practice anyway.
We made good time on the rest of the trip and arrived in Rome, GA about 7:00 pm. We met up with Root’s uncle Kevin who had gotten us hotel rooms for the night. The people that needed to shower did, after which all of us including Kevin headed over to the venue.
While we’ve never been to Rome before, we’ve all heard of it. Rome, GA is the home town of one of the band’s favorite artists, Butch Walker. (If you’ve never heard him, get up on that!) .
The Lantern, we were told, is one of the last beer only (no liquor!) clubs in the region. They told us they wanted to keep it that way too because they were working on building a scene that was more geared to discovering, listening to, and enjoying music, as opposed to becoming another pub where people go to get hammered and the music that bands play is tuned out by drunk ears. It seemed to be working for them, because they had booked some decent mid level acts, plenty of which I’ve heard of.
The guy running the sound, who also happened to be the owner’s husband, was an avid musician and loved to talk about all things music, from instruments he owned to people he’s worked with. He also took great passion in getting the sound right, both on stage and for the crowd.
The local that was meant to play on the bill dissolved their band the previous week, so it was just Dive and us for the night. Nate was feeling almost completely better, having taken it easy for the last few days, so that took a lot of stress out of the evening. The people that came out all made for a high energy crowd, their dancing and cheering driving both bands to play harder.
After the show we decided to head straight back to the hotel that Root’s uncle had gotten us. The Dive guys were going to get a jump on driving because they had a place they were going to spend some time at when they reached Wilmington, NC.
It was a bit muggy outside, the Georgia air hugging us like a wet blanket. We packed up all our gear as quickly as we could, and got set to take off. The hotel room with air conditioning sounded so good that there were no complaints when we said it was time to roll out and head to bed.
Breakout Tour: Days 21 & 22
After knocking out the rest of the drive to Jackson we spent the afternoon at Starbucks getting carpal tunnel syndrome. My laptop is out of commission so I’ve been doing all my writing and office work on my iPhone and tablet. By the end of this tour I’m going to either have to have it amputated or I’m going to be set to join a thumb wrestling competition, not sure which yet.
The show at the Emporium was a last minute fill date so we had no idea what to expect. It was put together by Rock Rage Radio, an internet radio station that has been gaining some steam. They were set up with equipment to record both Man on Earth’s and Dive’s sets and to do interviews for on air play.
Nate was starting to not feel well so he did a light soundcheck and then took it easy right up until show time. The rest of the guys did a more in-depth soundcheck and even goofed around and played a cover of Lorde’s ‘Royals’ with Root singing. What they didn’t know is that the radio station people we already recording, so there now exists a copy of it somewhere in the digital universe. (I hope it reaches my email box at some point….. Fingers crossed!)
While we were soundchecking the Dive guys were outside at their bus hanging out when two lost dogs came wandering up to them. Both were super friendly and had collars on but no tags. The Dive guys leashed them up, and set out around the surrounding parking lots to look for the owners. After much searching they returned without success.
An internet search showed them that we were in an area in which all the local shelters were’t non-kill shelters, meaning that if the two dogs were brought there there was a decent chance that one or both of them would be euthanized. Dive found this to be completely unacceptable. They got the dogs some food and water and called around to find a non-kill animal rescue. They found someone who was some distance away, so they offered gas money to the woman and she agreed to come pick them up.
When it came show time even though Nate wasn’t feeling 100%, everyone, him included, played spot on, which is what you hope for every night but especially the ones that are being recorded for more that just our own benefit. The Dive guys had a great night as well, so, needless to say the radio station was happy with their recording.
After the show the booker and the promoter both came up and said how much they enjoyed the whole show and wanted to know if we wanted to stay and play again the next night and open for the band Boy Hits Car. Neither of of the bands had to be anywhere until Friday, so we both took the gig. We spent the night plugged in to the venue, sleeping until the sun attacked the bus with it’s relentless rays, heating it up inside so that not even the personal fans that each of us have were able to keep us cool. Baked awake, we headed back to Starbucks for another mind numbing day of computer work.
Nate continued to progressively feel worse, to the point where trying to sleep it off on the sweltering bus wasn’t even an option. He found a cheap hotel room close to the Planet Fitness that the rest of us would wind up at, and went to try to sleep away the illness in an air conditioned room. Root and I worked until 6, and then we all went over for our Planet Fitness dailies, after which we picked up Nate and headed back to the club.
The nap had helped him a bit, but he was on the downward spiral of the not-feeling-well roller coaster. We got to the venue in time for him to do his vocal warmups and get ready for sing. The club had let us keep our gear set up overnight, so there was no load in to speak of.
There was a few times during the set when I caught a flash glimpse of Nate looking like he was going to pass out, but he survived. On top of that, it was one of the rare string breaking sets, where Nate broke a string and Stevie G broke two. In three years of constantly touring, there was only one other show where 3 strings broke in one night, so it’s a fairly uncommon thing.
Directly after the set Nate and I found a ride back to his hotel so that we could get a full nights sleep and he could be rested for the show the next night. The rest of the guys spent the evening in the club’s parking lot (again!) with the plan of picking us up in the morning so we could make our six hour drive.