Thursday, 28 July 2011

Who Knew Idaho was so Perrty?


I wake up in the van, Cb was driving and he has stopped. Ususally, this means van trouble, I peek outside to investigate. He's outside taking pictures, and suddenly I realize where we are… or at least, the nature of it…
He had pulled off the side of the road en route to Missoula. It was dawn. Cb and I are often the first and only ones up in the morning, so we end up sharing a lot of moments like these. He smiles from a ways away and I look around and see why. We are next to the most pristine picturesque mountain stream, surrounded by steep mountains peppered with evergreens and brush, the sun kissing the river side and great mountain shadows shielding their western faces from the morning. The air was crisp and cool, everything was so perfectly still, and you could hear the water running below us. We immediately get to snapping pictures.
Cb just smiles like an ol' wise man. Words really can't express what we saw, it was pretty darn divine.

From here, Cb drives until he's ready for some sleep. His trucker DNA affording him heroic acts of geographic transportation of our little circus, he's been known to take the longest shifts of all of us. I take the wheel to get us closer to Missoula.

We are driving north through Idaho, and in case you've never been and just imagine potato fields, let me take a sec to describe it. This is my 3rd full United States tour in this van, I can say at this point that I have seen quite a bit of the states and I've been around. This was the most beautiful stretch of road I've ever seen. At this latitude in Idaho, the geographic vocabulary is like Yellowstone… the famous park itself being only a bit to the southeast. These roads were winding through huge mountains and are always flanked by rivers trickling, washing, raging over rocks. The sky is cloudless, the water deep blue, the rocks are unreal in their contrast and ruggedness, and the trees are lush and seem to go on forever. I was constantly beside myself at the wheel.

We were all a bunch of bedazzled tourists with iphone cameras glued to the windows through Montana.
Check the album for pics…

We get to Missoula and pull into a walgreens to get some supplies and contact our contact!
When we get back to the van, our rear driver's side tire is flat!!!!
This is the "new" tire CB replaced in Denver. What a miracle it happened here and not in the middle of the mountain passes we just came though!
We drive to a Firestone and they patch it up and put it back on.
Off to the venue - Zoo City Apparel, a silk screening / arts collective that inhabits a huge showroom and warehouse in downtown missoula. We get burritos, the band splits up, brandon works on getting a new phone, cb sleeps in the van, and evan and I walk around town and chill.

When we all reconvene to play the show, the tire is flat again. All places are closed, tomorrow is a sunday. We miss the first band's set because we're all outside doin' what we do on this tour - change tires!
We place the full-sized spare on the van and head inside to get ready to play.

The show turns out to be awesome, we met some new friends, played well, put all that vehicular frustration into loud guitars and drums and screaming vocals and jumps and strums and headbanging. some cans of shocktop are passed to us, we shake hands, smiles are everywhere, all is well again.

We retire to Josh's house (THANKS AGAIN FOR PUTTING US UP!!!) and clean accommodations.

another day, another dolla' into ol' blu

less money, mo' problems


We drive to Boise without problems. Straight to the Visual Arts Collective, which is a beautiful space with an art gallery, a huge stage, pro sound system…
We played there last fall, the sound is amazing, everyone on staff is a sweetie.

As if we needed any more hardship, Just before our set the Rhodes Piano, which was previously fallen upon by a giant naked guy and had its stand broken, collapses on the rigged stand that I "fixed" with a master lock. The piano falls so hard that a plate on the stand impales the keyboard and when Brandon and CB lift it up they can't see the stand because it is stuck on the bottom of the rhodes. I was in the bathroom, Cb comes to me to break the bad news.

We sub in a lighter stand and soldier on. What else can you do?

The show goes great despite our disbelief in the continuous flow of bad luck The shows are always amazing. Everyone is focused, intensely in their own world and yet all together and orchestrating this wall of sound we call our set. Its all we got at this point, but its the reason we come out here.

I"m exhausted, I pass out on the floor after the show in between keyboard cases. Brandon finds me and laughs and wakes me up. The band drives to a diner to fuel up and make an overnight drive to Missoula MT. I stay in the van and pass out. hopefully when I wake we're alive and makin' our way to MT!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

666 Devil Child - pt.2

7.20.11 - 7.21.2011

666 Devilchild Part 2

at this point we are all in with Derrick. He has our trailer on his truck with over $10,000 worth of music gear inside, our van in a parking lot in his town, and all of us in his truck.
Not one minute in his truck and he's out of the gate firing…
"So let me give you a little background about myself, I just got out of prison about a month ago…"

At one time, one of the top 4 (high school ?) wrestlers in the country
"I learned to fight really young, my grandfather would send me to Spokane with a one-way ticket, and I'd have to fight for money to get back home."
Gun owner, but prefers hand-to-hand combat
Served in the United States military in Iraq as an army infantryman, was shot just under his arm during his service (lifted shirt to produce scar)
recovering Oxycotin & other prescription pain pill addict
Dirt bike racer & daredevil stuntman, endorsed by the Coca-Cola company. He has a 450cc bike amongst others that he practices with. In August, he will be jumping two adjacent highway overpasses, the police will be shutting down traffic for the event! His racing name is 666 Devilchild.
Is not a racist. "I own a color T.V."

He asks what kind of music we play. I seem to sense everyone gulping and thinking really hard, really fast. We never even went over this. He has a fancy bluetooth stereo in his super truck and wants to hear either our music or something we have on an ipod. "Its, like, rock, y'know"
Evan quickly produces a no-b.s. song from his collection with an edge and a sweet beat to fill the air. We all quietly sigh in relief.

He worked as a roofer for a company that screwed him over, he promised to create his own company and in turn blow them out of the water. This was his current job.
His truck was filled with disassembled picnic tables.

He's punching his turbo throttle, swearing at truckers trying to pass in the right lane, gunning it in his truck, talking about the runaway truck lanes, sinking in the sand, making jokes about our little trailer in the back, always with a quick wit and an edgy sense of humor geared to keep both smiles on our faces and the suspense in the air quite tangible.
He must have smelled our apprehension and desperation, and he ran with it. I wish I had an audio recording of our ride to SLC, he had us laughing the whole time. Something unmistakably charming about his manor, whether it be Coalville swagger, general small-town way with people, or just magic in the man himself. He was an endless well of stories, and had an aggressive "me vs. the world" shell around him that belied his bewildering generosity. He insisted that he didn't care if he got into the show or not, he'd wait outside with the trailer while we played and drive us back to Coalville and our van afterwards. Then he'd put us up in his house, his family is out of town, he has plenty of beds, a shower, and he can help us in our quest to fix the van and get to Boise.

We make it to the venue, he helps us unload, we get in the front door and the bouncer is checking ID's. Not only that, but in crazy Salt Lake fashion he's running our ID's through a scanner to verify them. Derrick is either sneaking in or getting an official exception. Due to the intense scrutiny at the door we decide to plead his case with the bouncer. He says no go, but we can ask the owner when she arrives. Derrick doesn't care a bit. We offer him some cash to get something to eat while he waits, he doesn't want it.

We played at a venue called Deluxe, it was huge!
We loaded in, checked on Derrick here and there, felt bad about him having to wait on the sidewalk, but he insisted & his truck had a movie theater in it, so he could keep entertained.

The show was weird. Hardly anyone was there, but of course, BATTLES was playing elsewhere in SLC, so there was that! X-/

we were all strung out and discombobulated from the craziness of the day, but we played through and began loading out. Derrick helped once again, we said our farewells to the show promoter, whose band we were playing with the next night in Boise. We hopped back in the truck with Derrick, who snorted some snuff and rocketed his turbo sleigh along with our exhausted asses back to Coalville and our van. More stories, more 75mph swerving and truck racing! We get back safely, grab our sleeping bags from the van and head back to Derrick's to crash.

He lives in a nice little house with a huge basement with lots of rooms and a huge entertainment center. He cleans toys off the rug, unfolds a couch bed and takes a mattress out, shows us the bathroom, shower, basically opens his home to us and hooks us up with generous accommodations. We were incredibly lucky to have happened upon him, and we couldn't thank him enough. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have made the show and we'd be totally lost in an unfamiliar town in the mountains.

We set our alarms for 8, everyone is up early and showered. Evan and I emerge from the basement and have coffee with Derrick.

He tells us about his family, his girlfriend who just broke up with him, not believing in his rehab efforts. They had a beautiful wolf/huskie puppy together that she took and won't let him see anymore. His family is gone for a month or so, his birthday was in June (Gemini… you knew that already, right?) and he's alone for his birthday every year. He takes prescription meds to deal with pain pill withdrawals. He seriously opens up to Evan and I, and I get the feeling we're getting a side of him not many people get to see. He makes us coffee and shows us his 450cc bike that he practices on, this is the bike he'll be making the bike freeway jump with in August. He cranks it up and I videotape him doing a 10' jump off a dirt ramp in his yard.

Now its time to deal with the van. Derrick takes us back to the gas station where it sits, insists that he follow us to a mechanic he knows before he has to be at work around 2ish. The mechanic isn't around, so Derrick pushes the possibility of us taking the cover off the bottom of the crank case off ourselves. I'm ready to hop into action, its all we've got at the moment, and Derrick has tools and apparently a couple of ramps he's welded himself that we can drive the van up on to work under it. We buy a small socket set from NAPA using Derrick's company's discount and I get under the van with a 3/8" socket. We get the case off and we start the van up… NO NOISE! the gear in the crank case has been brushing against the cover all this time! This means we don't have a broken transmission!
We head back to Derrick's house with the van, since he has the ramps, more screws and bolts, and general tools to try and fix the cover so the gear doesn't hit it. We drive it up on the ramps and Brandon & I get underneath to take put all four screws in to secure it properly. It still grinds when we start it up. We take it off again, our hands covered in grease and dirt, all under our nails, dirt falling on our faces. Cb and Evan continue to provide encouragement and support. Derrick is throwing out ideas all over the place.

In the end we work for a couple hours, hammering the case out, putting it back on, still grinding, take it off, space it from the block with washers, put it on, still grinding, take it off, Derrick takes out a hand saw and suggests we cut a big channel in the case where the gear grinds it. He tells Brandon to hold it down while he's holding this saw. I offer Brandon my leather gloves, he's like "here go right ahead!" I'm seeing hands and blood flying everywhere in my head. But this is the whole experience with Derrick. Despite all of your brain's projected disastrous outcomes and cautionary red flags, this is all we've got. And Derrick is so insistent.

I put on my gloves and hold the cover down while Derrick takes the electric saw to it. "Watch your eyes!"
Sparks fly everywhere, I'm squinting but also trying to look closely at my hands, one slip on Derrick's part and I'm missing fingers, maybe a hand. I can feel sparks hitting my face.
He cuts a frankenstein jagged smile into the case and I have all of my fingers on my hands, which are also still attached to my arms. It all happened so fast, I barely had time to reason.

We replace the cover, but AAAHHHH!!!!! its still grinding!!!! WTF!?

So, in the end, we decide to just take it off and search for salvage yards or mechanics further up the road who might have the part. The van runs fine, its just a little dicey having a gear exposed under the body.

Derrick is telling stories about his biking, injuries, apparently he wrecked really bad once and had to get a metal plate in his head, 100's of stitches…

Brandon and I are struggling to take the cover off one last time. I heard Derrick say to Evan, "You like adrenaline rushes?"
Evan: "… huh?… as much as anyone else I suppose…"
The work under the van continues, but EVERYONE is thinking the same thing. Oh SHIT…
Derrick: "Take your glasses off."
Evan, takes glasses off slowly…
D: "Give 'em to him."
E: "oooohhkaaay…" Hands glasses to CB.
D: "I'll be right back!"
CB: "What the fuck did you get yourself into!"
I'm under the van covered in shit trying to get these bolts and washers off thinking Evan is really in for it, whatever it is!

The bike motor starts up, and up rides Derrick!

E: "OH, no, sorry, I'm not doing that."
D: "oh yes you are!"
E: "I don't think so, sorry man"
D: "Look, your trailer is still here, your van is okay, you just have to trust me."

We're all a little terrified for Evan, but really, what choice did he have? I rolled out from under the van, yelled "oohhhhh shiiiiit!" got my iphone and started shooting. Goodbye, Evan. And good luck.

D: "Now wrap your arms around me, hold on tight, and when I say LEAN FORWARD, you better LEAN FORWARD!!!!!"

The motor roars, and off they go. I can hear him in the distance changing gears rapidly, the 450cc bike roaring like a tiger. In the name of the father, the son, espiritu santo….

3 minutes later they're back, and Evan has a huge grin on his face. He dismounts and is speechless, I'm not sure whether he's thrilled, or has a pair of pants full of shit. He's quiet but smiling. A cigarette can't get into his mouth fast enough.

We call it quits with the van, Derrick shows us to the Gojo soap, Brandon and I scrub up, and Derrick hoses our arms off with a garden hose on the side of his house.

D: "Alright, just one thing left. Matt, its your turn!"

I can't refuse. No helmet, my arms wrapped around this 20 yr old's skinny waist, I suddenly feel as fragile as a twig.
Matt: "Where do I put my feet?"
D: "Just let 'em hang."
Me: "Just let 'em hang" I repeat nervously. There was no reason for me to say it. I just felt death watching over my shoulder and the words flew out.
D: "Hold on tight, and when I say lean forward, you better LEAN FORWARD!"

Off we go.

As soon as he has enough road he guns it up the gears, and my thighs lock to the seat! I remember distinctly the feeling of his ribs in between my fingers. My entire 32 years of life in the hands of a 20 yr old daredevil from Coalville. One ill-placed pebble and my brains on the dirt road. Pure adrenaline. We slow briefly to make a left turn and ahead of us lay a long stretch of back road with a highway over pass in the distance. I suddenly realize I hadn't asked Evan what exactly they did or where they went. Are we going to fly over this highway?

The bike lurches forward and its all I can do to clench the seat with my thighs and his body with my arms. I never do hear him say lean forward, but as God is my witness, I am leaning forward. The wind is a big palm forcing my face backwards, the engine is roaring, I simultaneously feel the terror of a complete surrender of control over my life and the blood-curdling exhilaration of ultimate freedom and incredible speed, my mind going blank, my blood flush with adrenaline and white hot like lightning…

We scream down the road to the overpass and bank up the angled side to make a left turn, and then its back up the road once more! My eyes are squinting for the wind, one more rocket blast down the road and it'll be over, so I really lose myself in this run. I know how to ride a bike and really enjoy it, but there's a big difference in being a pilot and a passenger. When you're in control of your own fate you are earning the adrenaline reward with your own skill. Sitting in back, you hang on for dear life. You're not even balancing, you're just weight. Nonetheless, the feeling was like a rollercoaster rush x1000. Super bonus level-up points.

Derrick slows down to take the turn, we bolt down the road his house is on one last time but its brief. we glide into the driveway, and I take an arm off his waist and shout out to Brandon, Cb and Evan, who is videotaping our return. I imagined myself as a badass who just returned from a fighter plane dogfight. If you look at the video, I'm leaned over pitifully hanging on to this dude for dear life like a sac of beans. It's hilarious!

I yell out again with a huge grin on my face and look to Evan for a little mutual understanding of what it feels like to have survived our little wake up call for the morning.

All this before breakfast.

We wrap up, Derrick gives us a bunch of fruit and veggies from his fridge, we can't thank him enough for everything, and we're off, engine sounding smooth as silk…

We find a little diner and sit down for breakfast. I remark, "I think that bike ride permanently altered something in my brain, I feel like a different person…"

I walk to a grocery store and buy some food instead of ordering at the restaurant. When I return, the ghastlies food still hasn't arrived. The waiter is an old retiree whose all smiles and talkin his sweet time. He tells a slow story about a disgruntled customer...

"Being from texas, and pardon my french, we don't pay attention to shit unless we step in it."

666 Devil Child - pt.1


666 Devilchild in Salt Lake City, Part 1

Brace yourself, dear reader, this is a saga...

On a quiet Denver morning, Cb wakes up before everyone and takes the van to the tire joint to get a new full sized spare for the van. I get up and take a shower and then go back to bed. Somehow, despite last night's events, I am the last one out of the house, when it comes time to leave. We drive to our second home (Yellow Feather) and Brandon and I get coffees and make oatmeal on the sidewalk while CB and Evan go for huevos rancheros.

With the new spare tire, tires rotated, we finally feel like our troubles are over. This is the first tour with Ghastly where we've had to throw in personal $$$ for gas cause our expenses have outweighed the merch & door earnings. Into the west and to the coast, where we finally turn this thing around!

It's a hefty drive from Denver to Salt Lake City, about 10 hours for us. Denver's distant mountain view and endless manure filled plains give way to the mountains, its your first real view of high contrast bulging rock formations in the earth heading west. In past tours, we've had to play denver>boise>seattle, or even denver >seattle, which is an insanely epic drive that must include overnight shifts. Dangerous stuff to do at night alongside semi trucks on steep 6% grades where you have to downshift into D2 & D1 in order not to burn your brakes off. Growing up in Florida and driving up and down the east coast, one has no idea what this even means. I remember the smell of burning brakes as we went flying down a grade in the early morning last Fall on this same stretch of the journey… it's scary... Remember, we're hauling tons of gear in our trailer.

We are finally doing this drive in the daylight hours, and its breathtaking.

Lots of fuel fill-ups and mysterious mountainscapes later, we notice a little clicking sound that used to accompany full-throttle acceleration on past tours - something we thought we fixed last fall when we had a broken piston replaced. Evan was driving, we decide to pull over. We are about 30-40 minutes east of SLC, in the mountains, some little place called COALVILLE…

As we slow down we realize the sound is like nothing we've heard before. Its a bad clanking sound that is directly related to the engine belt rhythm. At idle it clinks along, when you accelerate, it speeds up. We pull over to gas up and investigate. We all get out and listen for the location of the problem, I slip under the van to get a closer look. The belts are fine, its coming from deep inside… Brandon is underneath at this point and has it located further back than the engine block under the hood.

I look underneath on the driver side and realize that part of the transmission is just hanging open! Its between the oil pan and the transmission pan. I photograph it with my iphone and immediately send them to J, my oldest friend and go-to car diagnostic Guru. Knowing that the sound is coming from / near the transmission unsettles me… a transmission is something that can de$troy a tour like this.

I quickly tried to think of solutions. Clanking noise, hanging transmission piece… must bolt that thing up proper, right? I go into the gas station, where I meet a very amused young blonde girl behind the counter who perpetually looks like she's on the brink of uncontrollable laughter whenever I look at her. She heard us coming… maybe all of coalville heard us clanking' into town, now that I think about it...
"do you have any hardware, screws?"
"nope, just some thangs over ther." (a place with no screws). At this point, I'll take wire too, i can wrap wire around the holes and rig it up until we get to SLC. but nothing here…

I go outside and CB has befriended an old guy coming out of a garage, who gives him a couple lengths of wire, the perfect gauge!

I went back to see if I could wire the cover back on...

I'm not sure exactly when or from where he came, but we were suddenly joined by a helpful kid who talked pretty quick and confidently, offering us advice and options, asking us questions. Things were happening fast, and we were running out of time to catch our SLC show, which meant potential & essential $$$ for this leg of the journey would be lost. He asked about our band, where we needed to be and when, etc. He listened to the clanking sound, suggested it might be the exhaust, problem solved a bit, mentioned mechanics, parts stores, and before we knew it, it sounded like we had a real coalville expert on our hands.

Something dawns on me & I try something before I wire up the cover piece. I slip back under the van and hold the cover tight against the body where it goes and tell Brandon to fire up the engine again, being careful to avoid the smoldering exhaust pipes and other hot metal under the van. He cranks it up, and the sound is almost worse when the cover is where it should be… something banging around in there? Everytime I press up on the cover, the sound gets worse, which leads me to believe the gears inside are clanking against the cover itself.

All this time, I'm trying to get a solid diagnosis, feeding data to J, who I had obviously woken up not realizing the time zone difference between Utah and Florida until I heard his sleepy but nonetheless committed voice listing options.

Meanwhile, this dude from the gas station has offered to hitch our trailer with our entire life as a band inside and drive us to Salt Lake City in order to make our show. He has a Triton turbo charged super souped-up brand new truck and guarantees us he'll get us to the show in time. His level of commitment to our situation was beginning to show, it looked like this dude really honestly wanted to help. Our options were running out.

As I'm still on the phone with J, the band is gathering their personals, and this guy has them unhitching the trailer. I say goodbye to J and get the 411…
We are taking a chance on this kid. We are putting our trailer with all of our gear on his truck. He guarantees our van will be safe in this Coalville parking lot. He has agreed to drive us to SLC to our show, and after our show, drive us back. He has offered us a place to stay too. He lives 3 minutes from the gas station. He moves quickly, talks confidently, he's kinda wild eyed and wiry, he looks like he's 18 years old. The whole group relays the story to me, he goes to get his truck. I stop him and ask "hey man, what's your name?"
He's 20 years old, so we might not be able to get him into the club we're playing. He's fine with that, he insists he'll wait outside.
I quickly shake hands with him - he's kinda not into being all friendly, just gettin the job done - and head back to the van to get my personal belongings.
I change into jeans, grab my backpack, and head over to Derrick's truck, hop in shotgun while ghastlies get in the backseat, and off we go!

Dear reader, we will never forget Derrick. stay tuned for part 2…

Denver Day 2


Denver day 2

I wake up earlier than the group and head off to the Yellow Feather to write, work on video, post photos, drink coffee and get some rare alone time on tour.
I'm pacing back and forth in front of the coffee shop talking on the phone when out comes a barista with a bell jar filled with a fresh iced cappuccino!
"this was a test, I was teaching someone how to make it, enjoy"

Denver is cloudless with the exception of a great billowing wall of cumulus cauliflowering over the rockies off in the distance.

eventually, Ghastly and all our Denver friends are there, I pack up and we head out to Goose Town Tavern for some delicious pizza and local IPA's served up by Chuck.
Across the street from Goose Town is the Bell House, which is an olde-timey looking' theater with neon lights and a big marquee. Battles is playing tonight! Battles, the new project of Don Caballero Guitarist has been following us on this tour, laying waste to all of our turn-outs and, well, making sure there's a high profile main event in every city we play in.
but we love them, so we sneak into the theater to hear the drummer sound check. We eventually get interrogated, and Evan very professionally identifies us:
"Oh, yeah, we're a touring band, we have a show tonight at 3 Kings, just wanted to see (name of Battles drummer) play."
Security politely nods as if to say,
"I don't speak your language, but I'm sure you will be leaving any moment now."
He was right.

The bursting cumulus torrent over the mountains has reached Denver, and it starts to pour…

chuck's shift is up, we load his bike in the van and head over to his house, where we say hi to his fam, drink tea, pass out, watch spiders, and weather the storm.

My sister Erin just moved to Boulder where our cousin Grace lives, they drive out and meet us at Sputnik Bar, which is like Denver's Top (g-ville). After some beers, the best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had [asigao, tomato/pesto, thick crispy bread], & a photo booth that really can't fit a band of 4 though we tried, we head over to 3 Kings down the block and get ready to rock out with Git Some again!

I taped our entire set, which I'll post to YouTube soon. I also taped individual Git Some performances, which were stellar! The singer spent most of this show on the floor & in the arms of the crowd, everyone rocked with a ferociousness. Thanks to Michelle for running our merch table!
Whiskey shots materialized and then vanished, and by the time we got home I was done. I remember Brandon offering a bottle of champagne to me while I was brushing my teeth. I envisioned the massive hangover my bandmates would have the next day and I declined in favor of my sleeping bag. It was 4am anyhow. I have a rule on tour that if a new bottle of champagne is opened past 4am and the only people surrounding me are Ghastly City Sleep I do not touch that champagne. This old man had some dreaming' to do.

Denver Day 1

Denver day 1

I awoke at dawn, in Colorado. I take out my earplugs, stretch, wrap up my sleeping bag. The air was so wonderfully COOL last night I am in a hoodie and a sleeping bag!
Evan is driving. We stop at a gas station. I buy a starbucks mocha frappacino drink thing and a gallon of water. I pee and brush my teeth.
We drive a little more and pass miles and miles of colorado flatlands filled with corn. Everything smells like cow shit. Miles and miles of cow shit. We burn sage sticks over and over again.

Evan passes the torch to CB, I remain in shotgun. No clouds in the sky. Cooler, drier air than the East. Big puffy hawks are perched on all the power lines.

Slowly, the smell of manure fades and the sight of the Rockies emerges on the horizon. I look back to Evan, but he's asleep. I think to myself that I appreciate the energy of traveling with someone who is seeing many of these cities & states for the first time. There's always new things to see, I'm a window seat person for life, but I have seen this landscape before.

We make it to Denver, land at our old hub the Yellow Feather coffee house, call our friends Neil & Michelle with whom we are staying, and get some time to chill.

Neil & Chuck's band Git Some headlines our show tonight… they're badasses, and the live show is intense.

Before the show Evan and I crash in the van for about an hour, its no green room, but it'll do. We drove straight through from Lincoln the night before, so we were all incredibly exhausted, plus we made the mistake of eating giant burritos and having a beer at about 5 pm, which sealed our fate.

We played at Neil's old space in downtown Denver, the stage was on a half-pipe. Our friends Cigarette were on tour headed back to VA, and passed through Denver & played the show, it was great to see them, really beautiful chill material.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Fording the Flood


Had to wake early to make the 9 hour drive from St. Louis to Lincoln NE. It always takes us longer in the Chevy, since we can only go 65 mph and we're carrying a ton of gear in the trailer. Said our fond farewells to the Hawks' and hit the road.

The trip was mostly uneventful, Evan drove for most of the way, and then I took over. I think I was only 2-3 hours away from Lincoln when we came across a most unusual sight…

As we approached the Missouri / Nebraska border, the landscape changed very abruptly: It looked like waterworld… we were surrounded by water. Trees and rooftops, silos, powerlines… these were the only islands in an unsettlingly vast ocean in what should have been farmland. I remembered hearing about flooding and storms in the midwest about a month ago, but we were stumped as to what could have caused something at this scale.

The further we drove the more dramatic the flooding appeared. A real military hummer was perched atop a highway overpass, and we began to see detour signs along our intended route. We stopped at a gas station on a hill overlooking the floodplain. It was profound enough to warrant some photographs - all you could see was water and rooftops. CB asked a local guy taking pics what the deal was. Apparently, a Dam was released way up north that caused more dramatic water levels than intended, and on top of it all, a great deal of snow melt & storm water combined with a quickness no one anticipated.

info via NYT:

We consulted our iphones, took local advice, and followed detour signs to try and cross the Missouri at a point a little further north.

Despite the grade of the land taking us up in elevation, every westward road we encountered was closed to thru traffic due to flooding. At this point we are way off course, heading north into Iowa on smaller country roads in an attempt to cross the river. The heat was intense, and any time we stopped the van & the 65mph airflow ceased, sweat was just running off our heads, into our eyes. I had to get my towel out just to wipe my face while I was driving. I applied sunscreen to my left arm and took my shoes off.

The landscape was the only comforting thing, as the detour took us from flat farmlands to lush rolling forest & wildlife preserve roads on Iowa's western border with Nebraska.
We wound around, every stop yielding the same: roads closed, river flooded!

We stopped to try and re-route even further north. A mud-worthy truck came down the little road and we flagged him down to ask his advice. I stayed in the driver's seat as Cb, Brandon and Evan approached his vehicle. I heard them ask about crossing the river, and a wide grin tore across his face as he laughed out loud. There was a woman in the passenger seat smiling too. He advised us to go north, then head back east about 10 miles to 275, north to pacific junction, and finally west connecting with I80, which goes to Omaha. We hastened to get the van up to speed to feel the air on our faces again.

All in all we remained about 150 miles from Lincoln for what seemed like 4 hours. We went north, finally crossed the river upstream, passed through Omaha, and finally made it to Lincoln. Tonight was a house show procured by our contact Vic. By the time we got there we were so exhausted and delirious we were joking about calling the cops on the show so we wouldn't have to load in our 5000 pounds of gear!

We finally got it together, hauled it in starving, suffering from heat exhaustion, and morally beaten to a pulp, and were poised to play.

I'm so far in the game this time around I"ve been enjoying being a little more vocal at shows. It's funny, at my age I'm always playing for a younger audience, and well, lets face it, Ghastly City Sleep is now officially a band of road dogs. This is our third full U.S. tour, and altogether probably our 8th or 9th tour en total, so we be seasoned like a cast iron skillet in yo' grandma's kitchen. I recapped a couple of anecdotes from the tour, letting folks know it is a minor miracle that we made it this far… our tire blow out, the naked dude, the great flood, and I thought to myself, this IS a minor miracle that we're here! I asked the audience for a beer and offered $1, but cans were handed out for free and off we went.
The show was really fun, some peeps knew our songs, we ended super strong and sweaty as hell.

We loaded up and drove to our favorite burrito spot in Lincoln and had the best burritos ever. It was more about placement than actual burrito quality, but they were good nonetheless. We were so starving and dehydrated and exhausted! Burritos are like, the ultimate tour food. Beans, rice, avocado, veggies, and if you dare to dairy, queso y sour cream. The majestic earth's bounty all wrapped up in an oiled & sauteed snuggie, bursting at the seams, just lying there on the couch watching TV getting fat and fabulous practically begging for someone to just come along and sink their teeth in and…

I'm gonna stop right there.

Get in the van, pass out, with luck we'll all be alive and in CO when consciousness comes tapping at my window again.



We get up early enough to get a good head start to St. Louis. I get to lounge in the back of the van for an hour or so, then its my turn to drive.
I'm goin for about 120 miles or so when BAM! the right rear tire explodes into a fury of shredded rubber and grinding metal against hot pavement!
I struggle briefly to maintain control of the van, swerving a bit back and forth (thank god I wasn't surrounded by other vehicles!) and bring the van to a safe gradual halt on the side of the road.


Well now, its over 100 degrees in the hot sun, the whole caravan brought to a screeching halt, we have a show to make in a couple hours, and we're out a tire.
Everyone hops out, gloves on, we get out the spare, and we start loosening the lugs. The jack for the van is a little one-post crank jack that can barely lift the van high enough to get the wheel off the pavement! We jack it up in two different spots, but we still can't get it high enough to get the new tire on.

I was thinking we'd have to get a tow, or hitchhike to the next stop to get a better jack. The jack we had was simply not fit to raise the van appropriately. But we weren't defeated yet, and wouldn't you know this crew of gypsies and their eternally twisted smiles were still managing a few jokes here and there (I attribute it to the dash of irish on board, we'd be laughing down the throats of crocodiles if we were still in earshot) and we surveyed our collection of junk to find a solution.

We tried a number of ideas until we concluded that the best bet was to jack it up as high as it would go, place the old wheel under the brake housing, let the jack down, and shove both a table top from in the van and a 1-1/2" piece of plank wood under the jack to gain an extra 2" of height. We jack it up again, all the while warning each other about appendages and heads under the body of the van as the sheer wind of oncoming traffic shook the van on its precarious little peg leg.

A number of cranks later we had the clearance we needed to get the full-sized spare on. We snugged the lugs, let her down, tightened everything up, and jumped for joy at another seemingly impossible obstacle averted.

We broke the new tire in, stopped at the next gas station, checked all our tire's air pressure, bought ice cream for all, and I took my pants off.

To put shorts on.

An hour later we were passing the Saarinen;'s Arch, the Gateway to the West, landing at Lemp Arts where we enjoyed air conditioning, fruit & salads, & a couple retellings of the days events.

One of my oldest besets friends Dan Hawks, who now resides in St. Louis with his family, met us out at Lemp just as we were about to go on. We spent some time before eth show rigging gear up to work - our broken Rhodes stand got a master lock to hold it up, and CB & Evan used hammers, pliers and brute strength to free up the Rhodes' sustain pedal pole.

It all paid off at the end of the day - we played well, were received well, Dan & I went grocery shopping and caught up while the rest of Ghastly closed up the show, and we reconvened at Dan & Anika's to enjoy delicious gnocchi, salads, beer, Arnold Palmers with Vodka, and home made chocolate filled cakes with ice cream courtesy of Anika… who also gave us a slightly less than sober tour of her garden in the pitch black backyard, and we all crashed on comfy beds with full bellies and exhausted bodies.

Day off in Chicago''''''''


Day off in Chicago!

I woke up early and walked west out to the lake. There was a cool dry breeze peeling off the water and it felt amazing.
Chicago is really pretty, don't get me wrong, but something' about a beach on a fresh body of water turns sand into just plain dirt in my mind.
If there's no sodium in the sediment, I fell like its missing a critical purifying element that makes fresh water seem weird to me.
I was raised on the Gulf of Mexico, so any large body of water that isn't salty and full of bitey whales and sharks is very peculiar.
Having said that, the water was the most incredible deep blue, and seemed to beg you to jump right in. I wandered around this curly cove and found myself looking south towards Navy Pier and the Chicago Skyline…

If you look out into the water, you'll notice a giant building way out there… almost looks like an island with a lighthouse on it.
This is the Wilson Avenue Crib, and its a structure that pumps water from the bottom of the lake to the city for drinking water.

We had the privilege of attending a backyard BBQ where we roasted corn, drank coronas, and ended up in a high stakes ($1/game) hot dice game.
Unlike Detroit Dice, this was the old-school hot dice I used to know, where you roll 5 at a time, 3's are zeros, and you take as many dice from your roll as you like in an attempt to get the lowest possible score. You roll until you have 1 dice left.

I lost two games until I received a magical good luck wish from the ether, and then I won every game until the crowd of 8 players or so got tired of me and walked off or left the BBQ altogether. I was on fire, like Evan had been in Detroit. If only all this dice luck could be translated to Van wellbeing or tour fortunes.

Beggars can't be choosers, especially out here on the road!

Tomorrow we head out to St. Louis to see my old friends Dan & Anika, and their new baby boy Indio Eugene!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Milwaukee Madness!


On to Milwaukee…

We finally dealt with the van not starting this morning in chicago. cb and i took ol' blu to a shop and had the alternator tested, and sure enough, that was the problem. some precious cash and time left our hands and we were ready to head to Milwaukee to play the afterparty of an Underwear Critical Mass Bike Ride.

The drive was beautiful, and the air was dry and cool heading up the lake. We got a late start, so we missed the actual bike ride, but I got everyone to pledge that we were playing tonight's show in our underwear.

the bar… Hotel Foster… was a really cute spot, big room, and John the owner was super accommodating and helpful.
…wish I could say the same for all the rookie bands we shared the bill with, who didn't want to lend out any gear to us but felt entitled to borrow equipment from us!

Evan and I hit the bar, Cb caught a quick nap, and Brandon set up the merch table. That doesn't sound fair, I know.
We immediately made some friends in Brew City and had a great time waiting for the naked ones to show up. We were offered a place to stay for the night, but my cred in that department is shot to sh*t in Milwaukee considering what happened last time I let my flirtations deviate the band from its pre-established place to crash… once upon a time….

We played in Brew City two years ago and we were supposed to stay with Steve (our host and the guy who books our shows here - super rad dude!). I seem to recall meeting this cute girl who dug what you might call a mustache and scruff on my face.
She said we should all crash with her & her roommates, and I had some spirits in my blood and thought it a great idea.

Long story short, we end up in girls pajamas, holding kittens, watching movies and passing out in a pile on a mattress only to wake up to disgruntled roommates who have no qualms kicking us out in the early morning hours. I think they might have even kicked pat as he lay half alive on the kitchen floor in his sleeping bag.

That was the end of my credibility in Milwaukee. So naturally, when we were so kindly offered a floor this evening, I insisted our would-be host clear it with every other band member, and that I had no authority on the subject.

The pilsners were poured, and in poured the smelly naked folk with backpacks and face paint and underwear. Any of you who know seth embry and sara jackson might better understand this scene as their worst nightmare. The fun was just beginning.

The first band played, and soon enough the crowd reached about 200 or so. there was a photographer upstairs by a balcony taking group portraits of scantily clad and sometimes naked cyclists with a flash umbrella. We loaded our gear onstage and off with our clothing!

For the first time ever, I looked around the room and saw not only a sea of skin waiting for a rock show to commence, but my own beloved band mates, all skin n' bones, holding instruments in their undies.

It was incredible.

We rocked hard, I was looking' at CB every now and again and saw a big grin all over his face. Evan was super concentrated as usual, and Brandon was in Brandonland, only it was a naked Brandonland, which only made his stage presence more intriguing. I'm not doubting that the audience felt the same way.

WELL…… and here's the big finale….
we get to our last song in the set, poised and ready to go, when all of a sudden some big naked dude tries to climb over a couch flanking the stage, loses what little balance a night of drinking and doing acid and whatever other drugs these hippies were on, and falls flat on our 1970's Fender Rhodes piano, atop of which we have our mackie mixer, effects processors, cables, etc. It all came crashing down as his mammoth nakedness was too much weight for the keyboard stand to withstand.

In one split second, a whirlwind night of amazing absurdity and craziness came to a record-scratching slam-on-the-breaks screeching halt as we all stood in horror, mouths agape, skinny white legs tensed, panties all literally in a twist.

We snap back into reality, drop our instruments, run to the Rhodes, try to resuscitate it (i think its fine), grab it and pull it up from the ground, plant it on the piano stool, gather all our gear and wires from the ground, and call it a night. Our PA was smashed too, laying underneath the Rhodes.

Quite a sobering moment. We broke down our gear as the last band rushed the stage quite insensitively, because time was short and they wanted to play more than one song before the bar closed. I understand it, but we could've used some help and some patience in a moment like this.

Sure, if we were some local band who had some bad luck that night I can see steam rolling over us to try to get a song in, but c'mon dudes, we are from NYC, traveling across the whole nation with all our own gear on a hope and a prayer, barely making gas money at each show, dealing with a breaking down van and trailer tires all along the way, doing all of our own work, and on top of it, covering your cherry-asses when you can't even bring your own mics to your own local bar!

Plus, don't forget, everyone is naked.

Christ almighty…

We got everything sorted and loaded back in the van as the bar closed down, said a fond farewell to John from Hotel Foster, and tried to get our place to stay for the night figured out. At this point Steve, who orchestrated a truly incredible evening with hundreds of crazy folks at a great venue, seemed a bit overwhelmed with tasks and was having a little trouble procuring a place to stay.

We huddled, and decided to hit the nearest diner and high tail it back to Chicago!!!

A few chocolate chip pancakes and jalapeno quesadillas later we were on the road watching the sun rise over lake michigan, the events of the night dancing like sugar plums with skulls branded on them across our brains. Evan cranked some Elvis Costello and might have taken some speed, cause he heroically zipped us down the cost in no time and, dear reader, when this rockstar awoke we were parked outside Sharon & Chris' apartment, ready to sleep more until they woke up for work to let us in.

We finally crossed the threshold and crashed hard on our gracious host's couches once more, the gentle chicago breeze wafting over our sweaty barebacks from a quiet fan in the window…

that's all for now. tomorrow is a much-needed day off, planning for a new st louis show, and then gearing up for our big push out west…..





On our way out of Detroit we stop at a little pub that Rob from Summer Pledge works at.
Rob's hearing is a little messed up right now because about 5 days ago he ruptured his ear drum.
He and a bunch of friends were out swimming at a lakeside beach spot where the currents run strong and the undertow is a little dangerous. A teenager was swept under, and Rob & others dove in to save him. The kid was taken under, and as Rob described it, there's about 20 feet of water and then another 15 feet or more of kelp / underwater seaweed forest, which basically made rescue impossible. Rob swam under as far as he could until his ear drum broke. Sadly, the teenager drowned.

Fortunately for Rob, only 25% or so of his ear was damaged, which apparently means a full recovery is possible with some time. We all wish Rob a swift recovery and commend him for his heroic efforts. I'm generally sorry for the whole situation, it must be tough for everyone surrounding it. Good luck Rob and thanks for the coffee, you'e an amazing drummer. Come to Brooklyn ;)

The drive to chicago was long but scenic. The chicago skyway is always industrially interesting… we played treasure town, which is a huge industrial loft space that some punk kids live in. We played here last fall, but this time the show had a different format - it was a round-robin of 4-5 bands, each band plays a song and then seamlessly passes the torch to another… made for an interesting evening.

We played afterwards, and although we cleared out a significant part of the crowd, we got to play on a really spread-out setting that afforded us room to jump around, always a good time.

Thanks to Sharon and Chris for putting us up / putting up with us! We had comfy couches to sleep on, coffee, tea and lots of hospitality which is always priceless on a tour like this.

Check out tour photos HERE!!!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Detroit Rock City


We leave Sandusky without a hitch and head out to Detroit MI. We'd been hyping Detroit up to Evan the whole trip, and there's a good reason for it. The Summer Pledge calls Motor City home, and we call them friends benz.
They live in a beautiful old house in a neighborhood of ol' auto mansions, they cook us delicious home-made pizza, they're sweet as fuck, even sweeter!!! and they rock so smart I can't help but grinning like an idiot when I see them rehearse and perform. We've played with them many many times over the years, and they just keep getting better.
They had pizzas and Stroh's on the picnic table, a sweet show lined up, a comfy clean carpeted room to crash on, and hot dice all night long.
I'm still buying coffees today with my hot dice winnings, btw.
I hope Evan had a good birthday - if I had to choose a city on this tour to celebrate it in, I would have picked Detroit.
I saw a dice game where Jeremy rolled trip 6's, after which Evan immediately trip 6-ed his ass, doubled down, and then took the pot. Call it birthday mojo, call it luck, it was mind blowing.
Dustin, Andrew, Jeremy, Rob, and Matt - it was seauxe good to see you guys, and we wish you the best till we see you again.

Check out tour photos HERE!!!



Wake up, meet Jyoto, head down Penn Ave to Quiet Storm and enjoy some great veggie/vegan food (thanks J!) and on to Sandusky!
….but the van won't start!!!!
We had to find someone to jump start us again, and when we did, decided to drive all the way to OH without shutting the van off!
We played at Cheap Seats - thanks to Cody and Matt of Darger for setting up the show and putting us up!
The stroke of midnight brought with it birthday wishes to our sweet prince, Evan Mitchell, who was at the ready to party like a rockstar. We had a couple beers, loaded out, got really tired, and decided to hold our efforts until Detroit.
We crashed with Cody & Matt.
From the street in front of Matt's house you can see a giant windmill, and at night its lit up in neon colors and strobe lights.
Must have been for Evan...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Ghastly Summer 2011 Tour - Naked Guns


On the Pygmy Ranch, things are slowly & surely changing in old sterling VA… The house and all its lovely inhabitants we call our home away from home is being threatened by stale cookie-cutter development communities.
What was once a lush paradise hit factory with forest, gardens, chickens, goats, bees, ducks, trampolines, bonfires, & dear friends is now being squeezed on all sides by tractors and road blocks. Sterling is getting a big spoonful of gentrification - and has been for a while. Being back reminded me how long ago it was when I first set foot on the property… back in 2007, i believe, and how I got to see, via semi-annual glimpses, the projects bloom, house & band members change, and general porch culture endure just about any storm life can throw at it…
… what a great porch.

We had to locate the trailer, tack on a new license plate, and mocha all of our gear from the van ("BLU" the Chevy 20) and the truck to the trailer. At this point, we have all of our gear in one trailer, and we all ride in style in BLU with no gear. 4 capatin's seats and a back bed-sized bench that could potentially sleep two people of the cozy persuasion.

Our setbacks delayed us significantly, but we made it to Gooski's in Pittsburg just in time for the start of the show.
Gooski's is a long bar with a back room - its on the ground floor but it's usually a tough load 'cause you gotta' walk past the entire bar with your gear to get to the stage.
There were four tiers of olfactory assault - stale beer, patchouli, sewage, and then cigarettes. Loading in means you pass back and forth through these sentinels of swill about 20 times whilst carrying pounds and pounds of equipment. And you STILL gotta' shout "Excuse me!"
But I digest… We had a great time.
We played second, rocked it out, and then cleared the stage for Ed Hockley. As they blasted the room with a wall of amps to the ceiling, a couple dudes in the audience decided to start lettin' their junk swing about, and before you knew it, they were totally liberated of their clothing and bouncing to the music.
I'm talking some serious moves - the rubbery flail, the squat and swing, the side-to-side, etc ad nausea.

Thanks to everyone who stuck around, supported us by buying merch, and just plain paid attention for a sec while we did our thing. We love you. Thanks Jyoto for booking another Pittsburg show and rounding' up door money!

We packed up the trailer, exhausted and starving, turn the key and … no start. Is it the battery? the starter? the alternator?
We decide we need a jump, and Marlin (our angel) is there to be on the other end of our cables… but its only turning slightly still.
Out of nowhere, a Gooski's patron in all white and a panama jack hat wanders up, wasted, and lazily says something to the effect of "You, yousss should connect the ground to the chassis, not the blattery terminal….,,,, ehhhh…"
I look at the battery, the engine block, I turn around and he's floating up the street, already almost out of view.
Some kind of drunken iron city angel, that man.
And wouldn't you know, it worked!

We stayed with Jahn Ahn from Ed Hockley, crashed couches, and went swiftly to dreamland.
Well, most of us, anyway… The next morning the van had been swept & organized, and CB had lots of sweet new photos on his camera!

Check out photos HERE!

Ghastly Summer 2011 Tour - Day 2


Traveling from New York City to Washington, D.C.

We drive to D.C. to pick up a trailer from our friends in Sterling VA. The morning starts a little hectic, we all have laundry to do, last minute packing, checking up on the tour van (a CHEVY 20 whiff captain chairs and poker tables, feathers, sage, mexican blankets, wood paneling, and plushy white fur seat covers!) and lots of other kinks.

I get a call from Brandon and CB when I'm out buying some food to make trail mix.
Brandon lost his wallet with all his tour ca$h last night some time during the show.
first a broken keyboard that's integral to the set, and now this!
I assure him we'll find it, internally wishing and prayin' for a miracle…
…and that's exactly what we got. A very kind altruistic person found his wallet and left a note on a door, which eventually re-united man and money. Thank you, whoever you are… <3 <3 <3

After a late start we finally had a long uneventful drive to D.C., where our nears & dears had pasta warm on the pot and floors for us to sleep on.

Until tomorrow… our first official show away from home.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Ghastly City Sleep Summer 2011 Tour

I'll be writing here as we make our way across the country!


Ghastly City Sleep (Brooklyn, NY)

We are officially embarking on our 3rd full U.S. tour. Today was hectic and crazy…
Our Prophet 600 vintage synthesizer decided to stop working last night at the end of our last practice before tour. We struggled to find a quick solution, but not until the morning of our first show did we land on one. Brandon has adapted most of his Prophet synth parts to a Korg MS2000 we'll be bringing along with us. It's not the ideal solution, but at least we're not completely derailed, and the show must go on!

We played our send-off show in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at Coco 66. I'd like to send shout-outs to all our friends who came out, and those of you who helped put this tour together, lending your time, love, and expertise. Thank you, thank you thankyou! !! !!! !!!! (thank you thank you).
The show was lots of fun, & for you geeks out there we did play some new material…
1. I Never Left my Head
2. Farewell My Friend
3. Looming
4. 33 Leagues
5. Being, or What You Will
6. Billowing

For anyone paying this much attention, we did change the ending of "Being" around a bit - - - ;)

Evan Mitchell (Oh No! and the Tiger Pit, Industries for the Blind) joined us a couple months ago and is now toting a brand new drum kit - a beautiful 1970 Slingerland 3pc - he's sounding really smart on stage…

Hurdling over an endless stream of obstacles… america, here we come again!