Category Archives: Man on Earth

Such Great Heights

Breakout Tour: Days 17-20
Hi-Tone Cafe
Memphis, TN

The decision to leave Freakster’s even though we weren’t in a terrible rush to get to the next show came sometime after a chicken wrap and an Orange Julius. We weighed our options and decided to head out toward Memphis instead of camping out in the venue’s parking lot mostly because we had a lot of office work to do, and also we had to be in Memphis by Sunday night so that Nate could wake up early and work on Monday. Another one of the deciding factors was that we were going to take the time to stop in St. Louis and see the Gateway Arch. We’ve driven by the arch a few times but never had the opportunity to stop. This time, there was no holding us back.

The trip from Illinois to Missouri was a bit of an adventure in itself. Soon after we left Pontiac, dark storm clouds began gathering in the distance. What started as a sprinkle of rain soon turned in to a full on downpour, slowing our progress exponentially. Our decision to not spend the day barbecuing seemed a little better as we continued to crawl our way through the driving rains of the storm. About half way to St. Louis our phones all chimed with warning texts from the National Weather Service that tornados had been spotted in our area. We pressed on, but kept a weather eye on the horizon for any signs of danger. It seemed as if we were going to be flooded out of our Arch trip, but the closer we got to the city, the less imposing the weather seemed.

We arrived in St. Louis around 7pm to sunny skies. The highway that we were on had a detour because it’s bridge that led into the city was shut down for construction. As we worked on rerouting to another bridge it seemed as if the whole city was in some phase of road work. The process of finding another route and crossing the river took over half an hour (even with gps!). I think it would have been faster to seal up the bus and ford the river Oregon Trail style.

We finally arrived at the park that contained the Gateway Arch. We found that busses get priority parking, so we were able to pull almost right up to the steps that led up to the Arch. We parked, took some pictures, and then headed up the stairs to the monument itself.

The Gateway Arch is huge, much bigger than the perception that you get of it from passing by it on the highway. It is also one of the biggest optical illusions, appearing way taller than wide, with the reality being that the height and width are virtually identical. Looking up at the top of the Arch from the ground was dizzying, with the clouds moving quickly across the sky it gave us sensation of falling.

The only ones that went up to the top were Mochello and I. (Yes! That is a true statement! You can go to the top!) Truth be told, it was an unforgettable experience. First, we walked down a hallway that is set up like a museum, containing exhibits and relics from the Western Expansion. The hall leads to a dead end staircase with miniature doors lining one of the walls. When the doors opened we climbed into a small spherical pod about five feet in diameter with five small seats along the outside walls. The whole thing was very reminiscent of a Ferris wheel cart. The glass door closed behind us and we were left sitting, touching knees with three other people in a semi circle. The pod was began to move, traveling upwards inside the legs of the Arch, the steelwork, maintenance stairways and the catwalks visible through the pod’s glass door.

Mochello had neglected to mention that he was slightly claustrophobic, so the assent was all that much more interesting. As the pod was hoisted ever higher I couldn’t help but feel that we were inside of Willy Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator. The nervous chuckles were worth the sideways glances thrown at me from everyone in the pod when I said “We’re going through the roof!”.

After about five minutes, we made it to the top without incident, 63 stories up above the rest of the band. The observation area was about 65′ long and 7′ high, with small viewing windows on each side. The view was amazing and scary at the same time, the whole experience indelibly etched in my mind. After spending about half an hour just enjoying the view we headed back down the to the ground via the pod elevator and met up with the rest of the guys at the bus.

We spent the night a few miles south of the city, then woke up the next day and finished our trip to Memphis. We spent the next two days digging in deep on the office work that is always looming over us. We have gotten more efficient on our office days these past tours, seeing as we’ve had so many. Nate and I went to see the new Tom Cruise movie one of the nights at a theater in what we were told afterwords was in one of the worst neighborhoods in Memphis.

We pulled up to the Hi-Tone Cafe Tuesday afternoon to the realization that the club was just on the outskirts of the ghetto. When we went inside and met with the owners they told us that they had just recently moved to that location and were doing some ongoing reconstruction. We went in to the main room and saw what they meant. The room looked half gutted, with exposed cinder block walls, broken sheetrock, and missing lighting creating the ambiance.

Everyone was skeptical about the sound system, until soundcheck at least. For a small system it was some of the best sounding gear that we’ve heard all tour. Both Nate and Johnny sang some of the best they have this run since they were finally able to hear themselves in the monitor mix.

After the show everyone was itching to get on the road a bit and put the ghetto behind us. We packed up our gear and headed an hour east to a Walmart, Dive pulling up next to us shortly after.

All The Freaks Are On Parade

Breakout Tour: Day 16
Freakster’s
Pontiac, IL

When the owners of Freakster’s were sitting down, brainstorming club name possibilities, I think they had more than a vague idea as to who their clientele would be. For as cool as the owners and staff were, the patrons were as equally weird.

We began our day a little before the Dive guys, taking off and heading to Planet Fitness. While Freakster’s had a shower on site, eleven people waiting for a single shower sounded just exhausting. Plus, everyone has the workout bug and was looking forward to some gym time. We all met back at the venue after our detour for load in and got our first visual of the club.

The main area was huge, and the speakers on the stage were equally as gigantic. On each side of the stage a wall of speakers 10′ high and 8′ wide sat ready to create more business for Miracle Ear.

We had another night of waiting for the sound guy, so Root, Mochello, and I went exploring the area while Nate and Stevie G took naps. There wasn’t much around, but we managed to find a Dairy Queen before we headed back.

The venue’s actual sound guy was on vacation in California, so they had someone else come in to run the board for the night. The problem was, though, that he had never used the board at Freakster’s before and it was configured very oddly. He spent 2 hours trying to trace the wiring back and figure out the sound boards settings.

As the time for the doors to open drew closer the venue began to worry that things wouldn’t be ready in time for us to start. They recruited Johnny Dive and I to help get things moving. Johnny used to run sound for a living, so he and I jumped on figuring out the sound. Working with the sound guy we were able to trace things back to their sources and get things wired correctly.

Soundcheck took a while, as things were very trial and error on the sound board. Once everything was dialed in and we were good to go we weren’t even that far behind schedule. While Man on Earth played I ran lights and Johnny manned the sound board. When Dive took stage Root came back and kept an eye on their levels.

The local headliner that was on the bill was a heavy metal band that brought an interesting crowd with them. Most of the people were actually pretty cool, but there was that one obnoxious Slayer fan that thought any kind of music that wasn’t metal was a waste of time and he kept screaming for the local band to take the stage. His friends tried to quiet him to no avail. I was actually wondering if someone might duff him out like like a half smoked cigarette, but he finally shut up after being called out from stage by Johnny Dive. We also met an old racist self proclaimed redneck who was intent on having people thumb wrestle him and have them punch him in the face. (I can’t make this stuff up…)

Our friend John, the U.S. Army Drill Sargent, was at the show with his wife and some family and friends (including Stacy, who had introduced us to John in the first place!). I will say that the heckler in the crowd should count his blessings because he had his life saved by a U.S. soldier. I say that, because if John wasn’t an active duty soldier, well, he may have beaten the tar out of the guy. Also along for the night was Michael and his wife, friends that we made on our recent run with Miggs and OAS. We had just seen them in Indiana at the Rathskeller show, which was only about a month before. Time has moved with a swiftness though, and it seems like FOREVER since we’ve seen them.

After the show we hung out with the venue owners for a while. They made us a home cooked meal, and proved that there are still clubs that care about musicians and not just about the bottom line. The venue let us park in their lot for the night and plug in so we went to sleep having comfortability while sleeping.

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Breakout Tour: Day 15
Smith’s Downtown
Mishawaka, IN

Getting back on the road after our time off was a combination of easy and hard. Everyone was ready to get back on with playing shows, but we had essentially moved in to Ben and Gail’s house, so we had to pack up and move out, like disgruntled teens headed out to summer camp.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Mishawaka and the road took us by some of the best smelling Amish farms under the sun. (Sarcasm, if you didn’t pick up on it. I’m not a fan of smelling those odors, let alone having it smell so strong that you might as well be TASTING it… Ugh!)

We made it through the farmland without anyone passing out an rolled in to Mishawaka just in time for load in. Carrying in our gear promised not to be fun, as there were two flights of stairs between the main entrance and the stage. Dive showed up right after us, so once we had our stuff lugged up we helped carry their gear. The sound guy was running late, so the waiting game began.

The show was an all ages one and soon the room began to steadily fill up…….. with families that had tons of little kids. When I say little kids I mean 4-8 year olds. The rock club quickly developed a school yard recess feel to it, with yelling kids and disinterested parents. This lasted for about an hour and change, until the sound guy finally showed up and set up the mics on the stage and tested sounds for the first band.

The show itself didn’t start until an hour and a half after the first band was supposed to start. Interestingly enough, all the families had brought their kids for the first band, a good old fashioned hard rock/metal band. I think I went half deaf during their set, so I was a little worried about the still yet developing ears of the kids. Then I realized that we were in rural Indiana, and this was no doubt normal and acceptable behavior, and that hearing loss was probably one of the least of the worries that the folks there had. (That joke was for Gail’s benefit, since she grew up on an Indiana farm, haha)

Speaking of Gail, she had ridden with us from her house to Mishawaka, so she also got to experience first hand how boring the waiting game can be. Her family saved her though, showing up just after the first band and right when the second was taking the stage. The second act was scream metal, super loud and aggressive. I lost the pair of earplugs that I had, so I stayed outside the main room during their set. I guess the little kids didn’t have ear plugs either, because as the first few songs went on I saw many of the families pack up and head out. The sound guy running extremely late didn’t help either, because I think the show STARTED past their bedtime already. By the time the smoke cleared, all the kids and their parents were gone, leaving only the baggageless adults.

The club had nothing for lights, so I spent the time hanging with Ben, Gail, and their daughter Cami again. After the show, and the long goodbyes that happen whenever we leave Crawford country, the load out was just as bad as loading in, just exacerbated by being tired. When everything was all packed up, Dive decided to ride convoy with us. We drove about an hour, found a Walmart, and all went to sleep.

Rockin’ The Suburbs

Breakout Tour: Days 10-14
Casa de Crawford
Fort Wayne, IN

Having more than two days off in a row while on the road can be dangerous. Boredom sets in after about 36 hours, with full blown cabin fever striking around 44-48 hours. After 72 hours you run the risk of someone in your crew developing severe homicidal tendencies….

The scheduling for this tour left a five day hole right in the center, which as mentioned, can be a recipe for disaster. Aside from everyone getting irritable, there can also be boredom enhanced stupidity. Both bands feverishly tried to book fill date shows on the time off, to no avail. The routing left us just north of our friends Gail and Ben’s home, so that meant that we would have a home base for the interim, and wouldn’t have to spend the five days trapped on our bus.

It’s nice being able to have a spot to relax that doesn’t involve being stuck on the bus. We spend so much time being cooped up on it that whenever we can not be on it, well it’s refreshing. (That sentiment may not be shared be Mochello and Stevie G…. They seem more than content to be in their bunks than should be humanly possible…. At least they took respite from their caves this week!) Now don’t get me wrong, our bus is home, but fresh air and a change of scenery is really nice too.

Our first day in Fort Wayne didn’t begin until some time after noon. It did begin, however, with Ben’s world famous pancakes and scrambled eggs. That, and the fact that we were able to do laundry set me in the best of moods for the day. (Almost a good enough mood to make me forget that that I was missing my weekend at SPAC!) We spent the afternoon in Ben’s ultimate man cave, shooting pool, throwing darts, playing foosball, and listening to music.

That evening we headed down to Piere’s, one of the larger local music venues, to spend the evening with Sevendust again. This was the second time (that we know of) that our tour crossed paths with their’s in the last month. When bands are constantly crisscrossing across the country like we are it’s inevitable that we will cross paths with other bands they know. Since Nate works with their drummer and they are both constantly on the road, it was great for them to be able to get some more actual face time.

Piere’s holds a special spot for us. It we the first venue that Man on Earth played on the very first real tour that we did back in spring 2011. Going back and seeing a major act playing on the same stage was next-level nostalgic. Sevendust gave us all access passes again, so we spent most of our time hanging side stage and up in the radio station’s private viewing area.

The next few days are honestly a blur. We did go see one of the funniest movies that I’ve seen in a long while, ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’. It’s a Seth McFarland movie, so it isn’t for the easily offended, but if you have a cracked sense of humor, well, let’s just say I literally laughed the whole way through.

Throughout the rest of the week we BBQ’d, spent a lot of time hanging in Ben’s game room, watched some movies, lit a fire in the fire pit…. Oh yeah, and Nate, Gail, and I got tattoos.

After spending hours looking at ideas and checking out the portfolios from all of the Ft. Wayne artists we settled on Black Anvil Tattoos in the downtown area. Gail and I got ours done the first day, but the artist had to spend more time working up Nate’s design so he had to come back the next day.

Root and I took over the basement game room for the nights, and it totally screwed up my sleeping schedule for the duration of our stay there. The windows had heavy curtains on them which and it completely left me disorientated as to what time it was… I’d wake up, see that it was still dark, then surrender to more sleep.

The five days seemed to breeze by and soon it was time to pack ourselves up. Not that we weren’t having fun, but everyone was more than ready to get back in to show mode. We set our alarms for 9am, leaving us enough time to gather our things and make it to Mishawaka for load in.

Rake It Up To Take It In

Breakout Tour: Day 9
Uli’s Haus of Rock
Lansing, MI

I woke up in a melancholy mood that Friday. Being on the road so much means sacrifices, some big, some small. We have all had to miss holidays, birthdays, family events, and countless other things in the name of rock and roll. Personally, those types of things have never been big in my family, but I have been doing my best to create my own traditions throughout my life. One of my biggest is, (judge away!) the Dave Matthews Band weekend at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY. It’s a weekend of BBQing, friends, and music in one of my favorite music venues in the country. I’ve been going yearly since 2005, so not being there put me in a funk.

We drove the rest of the way to Lansing that morning, and then had some time to kill just hanging out during afternoon because Stevie G had a Skype lesson to teach. The extra time was spent at the closest Planet Fitness to the venue, and also grabbing lunch at food court in the attached mall after our workout. The guys did their best to snap me out of my ‘poor me’ mindset (and it kind of worked, but don’t tell them!), and soon we were on our way to the club.

Uli’s Haus of Rock had more of a ‘Hell’s Angels Club House’ feel to it than most clubs we’ve played, with the exception of maybe the Vegas stop that we had on our Spring 2013 tour. (I actually have a reference point for that statement. One of my friends from growing up had family that was part of a local Hell’s Angels chapter, and we spent a little bit of time hanging out there. Good times… Good times….) Sharing the building with the club was a medical marijuana dispensary. The strong, skunky odor of the weed penetrated the walls between the two spaces and hung within the club’s air. When mixed with the smell of stale beer and cigarettes, well, the ambiance was set. (Note to the booking agents for Linkin Park: Probably not a venue for y’all. Just saying!)

Root and I took off for an exploratory walk of the surrounding area but found nothing terribly interesting besides an auto parts store, so we headed back to the club. We arrived in time to greet long time friend and supporter of the band Gianni, from Motor Energy Drinks. While we were talking to him one of the evenings opening acts was in the process of loading their gear back in to their trailer. They decided to last minute drop of the show because the venue wouldn’t let their band’s sound guy touch the house sound board. (They wouldn’t let me touch the light board either…) The first opening act had started late, so this actually helped get us back to our scheduled time slot. I spent my ‘night off’ hanging with Gianni and also Gail and Ben, who had driven up from Ft. Wayne for the show.

We had the following five days off so our plan was to head down to Ft. Wayne to spend the week with Gail and Ben. Dive had some friends up near Detroit, so they went that way. We drove straight there after the show, arriving well after our usual sleep time. There was no arm twisting involved in going right to bed that night, as almost everyone was already asleep by the time we landed.