Monday, April 27, 2009

Lubbock, TX

The trip from Amarillo to Lubbock was one of the rarest of rare experiences on this tour: A mere 2 hour drive!!! EGADS! WHAT A CONCEPT!

I felt just plain dirty like I was cheating some ominous Circus God looking down disapprovingly as we rolled in to Lubbock Texas only a couple hours after departing Amarillo.

We were parked right on Texas Tech campus next to the arena. There was a huge road construction project underway which confused the hell out of the GPS getting in and out of the place.

After grabbing dinner at Chili's with some show peeps, I called it an early night expecting to get up in the morning and run some errands.

Under normal circumstances, the accomplishment of said plans would've been no problemo. However, we underestimated the diabolical audacity mixed with ignorance of the Texas Tech students. It was assumed that having all the trailers parked in two rows with our trucks parked in front of them that our section of the parking lot was "off limits" for student parking. Not too hard to figure out, right?

No such luck. We woke up to find all of our trucks completely parked in by retarded student dipshits. Like for real...bumper to bumper with us even though it was perfectly obvious there was no way for us to get out. Eventually, Steve was able to snake his truck out and I jumped into the open spot with mine to prevent any more potential blockination.

After that ordeal, both ends of our section of lot was blockaded off but students continually strolled right in between all the trailers and there were at least two cars that made it around the blockade and parked in our lot again. I was very close to organizing the First Circus Car Toss starring Mitko, Vallo, and any other takers but abstained. Little student pricks. That's not to say that the entire student population of Texas Tech were complete fools ....just most of them. I did meet one of the exceptions.

From what I was told, Lubbock is supposedly shaping up to be the "next Austin". I didn't get to explore the nightlife at all to confirm such a claim, but there is a big bike culture there and tons of musicians.

A bi-annual (more frequently?) event is the Bike Pub Crawl. It started with a small group of friends, a ten mile bike ride, and a house party stop every mile. The immense popularity of the concept transformed the event into a pretty big deal with tons and tons of cyclists. The continual increase in participants eventually caused some problems with the free liquor provisions at each stop so it became BYOB. It's not uncommon to see a cyclist hauling a skateboard behind them with a cooler of booze. Unfortunately I was not in town at the right time of year to witness the festivities.

Not much else to report since Lubbock was the beginning of our two back to back split weeks.

Off to Wichita Falls for the weekend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Amarillo, TX

Once again the circus proves it knows how to take over a joint and rock it to the ground.

The venue: The Big Texan Steakhouse

The Event: The Big Texan Super Circus Steak Showdown

If you're not familiar with The Big Texan their main selling point is this: If you can eat their 72oz steak, baked potato, salad, shrimp cocktail, and roll in an hour, it's free.

My boss came up with the concept for the evening. We gathered sponsorships for those willing to tackle the mammoth task and were able to cover everybody's $80 meal so even if the didn't finish, they wouldn't have to pay.

The Big Texan provides free limo service to and from the restaurant upon request. Twas an awesome moment when 4 limos with huge horns adorning their hoods rolled onto the lot between all the trailers. Perpetuating every Texas stereotype in existence, the boot and cowboy hat clad drivers chatted the whole drive offering tips and techniques to the participants regarding the best way to down the mass of meat that was to be placed in front of them.

The restaurant was forewarned about the mass of people who would be infiltrating their establishment but they were still somewhat unprepared when 60+ of us rolled on in. The joint looked like something straight out From Dusk Til Dawn. There was a stage and long table in front of it set up for the entrants. As I was snapping pics of the dudes filling out their waiver forms, my phone went off. It was Mr. Jeff Boudreau who on my tip, was checking out the event via the Big Texan's webcam. I picked up the second time and got the 'you asshole, you can't hang up on somebody when they're watching you on a webcam.' Ha.

When the starting starting bell sounded, they dove right into the steak. Corey had an impressive lead right out of the gate and it seemed as though he'd have the thing polished off in no time. Raffa was holding his own, but screwed himself by sending the steak back multiple times to be cooked longer. Big Mike in his usual methodical manner was in no rush and steadily worked away at the hunk of cow on his plate. Big Mikto (well...the ONLY Mitko but it's entirely necessary to throw the 'Big' in their once you've seen the man haul a 68K lb semi trailer across a parking lot) was steady and methodical as well.

As time rolled on, the sweat starting pouring and the looks of enjoyment turned to sheer determination. The Russian Acrobat (apologies but I don't know how to spell his name) starting struggling early on. Corey, who had an early lead soon began to slow down. Raffa, Mike, and Mitko all seemed to have a handle on things with Raffa being the underdog.

I should mention as a side note that on this particular evening, there was a god awful pseudo Vaudville/retarded Hee-Haw troupe that was trying in vain to entertain the crowd. I think it was their 'audition' for future performances at The Big Texan. Unfortunately for them, the timing couldn't have been worse with our entire crew there cheering and crowding the table. They were barely heard (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). The crowd around the combatants was three deep at one point when this old woman came up to do her bit on the stage. Halfway through her "act" Mitko was close to finishing off the meal. So began the chant of "Mitko! Mitko! Mitko!" completely cutting the woman off and bringing her act to a grinding halt. She was none too pleased. To everyone else in the joint our chant probably sounded like "Meat Go! Meat Go!" which incorrect, but still appropriate.

Corey bowed out waving a napkin stuck on a knife with an extremely pained expression on his face. The favorite along with Mikto, Big Mike, wasn't able to pull it off. It wasn't a matter of him being full, he just found himself unable to swallow the steak. A dipping sauce was provided but he took one sniff of it and pushed it aside which was probably his downfall.

At this point, Mitko had forgone the provided utensils and was gnawing away on the steak with his hands. With about 8 minutes left in the allotted hour, Mitko popped the last bit of Steak into his mouth and our crowd went nuts once again bringing the unfortunate performers' act to a screeching halt.

When the MC came over and asked Mitko for his winning words, he replied: "I need a dessert!". A huuuuge hunk of Carrot Cake and a 32oz beer were provided and quickly vanished. The manager took a guess on how to spell "Mikto" on his shirt and the Wall of Fame. He will forever be immortalized at the Big Texan as "Meat-Co". Awesome.

The instant the the hour was up, Raffa made a B-line to the bathroom taking out an old lady on his way and recycled a good portion of the meal. The stall next to him was occupied by a similarly suffering Russian Acrobat.

Another successful outing.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

College Station, TX

Since we weren't allowed to arrive on the lot in College Station until 12:01am Wed there was no point in taking off Sunday night. So we spent one final glorious evening in Corbin, KY.....

Our goal for Monday was to reach the Memphis KOA, knocking out a bit under half of the 16 hour drive to College Station. Usually daytime drives are no problem to knock out but we had shitty weather more or less the entire drive. Nothing too brutal, just overcast annoying rain that put a major strain on the eyes. We rolled into the campground a little before 7 (after the time change) and I was done. It was tempting to head into Memphis and hang but being there before and knowing Monday nights weren't that happening, I just vegged.

We were back on the road the next day around 12:30 to push on trying to time our arrival with the designated allowance bestowed upon us. Even after killing as much time as possible at a Flying J, we were still going to be about half an hour early.

Around 9:30 or so while driving an endless stretch of Texas Highway I noticed a sign that read 'Caution: Smoke Ahead". Sure enough, we were almost immediately engulfed in a heavy heavy Spy Hunter smoke screen that drove visibility down to nothing. Looking into the woods on either side of the highway there were trees burning freely. Five minutes later, the smoke subsided and a gorgeous Texas night sky opened back up. Weird.

On the outskirts of town we ended up behind a show RV. We took our exit and merged onto the highway and he blew right past it by mistake. It seemed only appropriate being in Texas that the road he stayed on was the 'high' road. We half expected he was either going to cut us off at the pass or leap Indiana Jones style off his "horse" onto our "tank".

Our exit into downtown came up shortly after and as we pulled on to the main drag we were suddenly surrounded by 4 other RVs from the show pulling onto the drag from all directions. It felt like a combination of the scene in Desperado when his buddies show up to kick some ass and an RV version of the Reservoir Dogs slo-mo walking scene. An accompanying Mighty Mighty Bosstones soundtrack completed the feeling of "we rule this town" bad-assness.

When we all arrived at the lot there were already multiple trailers completely set up, satellite dishes and much for the "enforced arrival time". Ironic how everyone has a complete phone list but no one called anyone to say "hey, you can get on the lot before midnight". Oh well.

The Olsen Field lot was to be our home for the next few days and the setup was great. RV spots lined the entire perimeter complete with power and water hookups. Steve and I backed into two spots next to each other and I leveled and unhitched. As soon as I was done Steve came around his trailer with the report: "There's no power". We tested both spots and nothing.....gah. We walked over to the next two spots and lo and behold: POWER. Of frakin' course.

So....I hitched back up and we jumped down a few spaces, plugged in, and called it a night.

The next day Steve and I got a week membership to the local Gold's Gym and did laundry at Harvey Washbangers, the Laundromat/Sports Bar and Grille. Not a bad idea.

Texas A&M is a huge sports school so we weren't sure what to expect Thursday night heading out after the show. There were a TON of bars and people milling about everywhere. Mainly sports douches and super hot girls with the most piercing and annoying drunken squeals and laughs my poor ears have every be assaulted with. Bleh.

The highlight/lowlight of the night was when we popped into this bar called 315. I ordered a Jameson's on the rocks and received a full honking glass of the stuff for only $4.75. Awesome. It should have been our home base for the next few nights but as we were hanging on the deck that all changed in an instant. A group of black dudes were coming up the deck stairs to hang in the bar. The door guy stopped the first dude and without any sort of subtlety or lowering of his voice announced "Hey man, you can't bring all those BLACK guys in here!". I was hoping I heard the dude wrong but such was not the case. I looked around half expecting some chart that read "You must be THIS white to enter" but none was to be found. WTF. The ended the night immediately. Go Aggies.

The following night it seemed as though we had somehow waltzed into Stephen King's "The Stand". The area of bars that was packed the previous evening was as dead as our show at 31st Pub with The Dirty Sunshine, Project Portis, and Soulharmonic. Those few souls who were there can picture it perfectly. Everyone had apparently gone home for Easter.

Other than that, the show crowds were great, it was a light week, and the lot was great. There were trains that rolled by now and then next to the lot, but they paled in comparison to the torturous blaring we experienced in Augusta.

On Sat morning before the first show, I came out my door and noticed my one trailer tire was flat. It was fine when we pulled in but somehow completely deflated throughout the week.

There wasn't time to change it between shows and I was beat after the last show of the day so I planned on tackling the task on Sunday. It seemed feasible that if I rolled the other tire up on leveling blocks, it would raise the axle enough to change the flat tire. No dice. I broke out the jack, raised it up and swapped tires. This may all seem trivial but realize that I've never actually changed a tire...ever. Pathetic I know but the opportunity just hadn't presented itself up to that point...or when it had I had the AAA crutch to lean on. Hey, you pay for it, may as well use it.

We had a 9 hour drive ahead of us so we rolled out around 2:30 from College Station. We timed things just about right as we avoided any nasty weather. It was freezing though when we rolled into Amarillo and started raining a good bit just as we were finishing setting up. Other the people on the show who left College Station earlier than us didn't have the same luck. They were treated to a lovely storm complete with GOLF BALL sized hail. To quote Nathan Explosion: 'Brutal'. Nobody incurred any truck damage but certain RV skylights did not receive such a merciful fate.

Upcoming plans in Amarillo include The Big Texan eating competition this evening. 4 edudes from the show will tackle a 72oz steak, Shrimp Cocktail, Salad, Roll, and Baked potato with a 1hr time limit. The fleet of stretch limos complete with longhorn hood ornaments will roll onto the lot shortly. Update and plenty of pics to follow.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Unhappiest Place on Earth

An extended drive up through the mountains eventually landed us in Corbin, KY. We were to be only the 3rd Show to perform at the brand spankin' new arena up on a hill behind the town's most popular hangout: Applebee's. Boy shucks howdy hootnanny time to be had! Oh, it was also a dry "moist" county (you could visit a bar or restaurant for booze except on Sundays....because Jesus hates beer).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There were still those haunting 5 words replaying themselves over and over in my head as we ascending the final hill: "We THINK there is power"......

Surprisingly, Steve and I were the first trailers on the lot about an hour or so ahead of the lot manager. Upon inspection of the power boxes which lined the back perimeter of the lot, we discovered dangling wires and no sign of anything up on the power lines. Once the LM rolled in, we were parked away from the boxes under the assumption we would be using the generator all week. It was a freeeeezing night to spend with no power but so it goes.

The next morning, we plugged in and assumed we were set. That's when we noticed the city electric people up on the pole installing and juicing up the lot power.....all the boxes well out of reach of our trailers and only 50amp available to boot (many trailers are only 30amp). The final verdict was that since the lot NOW had power, the Genny was to be shut off and we had to come up with some way to reach allll the way over to plug in....or else we had to tear everything down, hitch back up, and move our trailers. Great way to spend a day off, right? Luckily through the generosity of a couple kind souls, we were able to procure appropriate adapters, splitters, and a shit-ton of cable to reach the boxes. Crisis averted.

A shining beacon piercing through the doldrums of Corbin, KY was a pretty rad coffeeshop just down the road a way. OK, so there were 2 beacons. Corbin KY is also the home of Cumberland Falls. The falls themselves aren't that impressive but they do house a rare natural phenomenon: The Moonbow. It appears over Cumberland falls when there is a full moon. Unfortunately, our week in Corbin did not correlate with and full moonination. However, our visit did correlate with very suitable hiking weather. Steve and I took the trail that led to another waterfall down the way a bit. The trail was surprisingly brutal at times. At one point it seemed to end and empty out onto a huge beaver dam which we climbed over to get to all the huge rocks to climb over to get to the falls. T'was worth it though:

I realized yet again that I really need to get better shoes for such adventures as I was sliding rapidly down a huge rock careening towards the falls clutching my camera in one hand and clambering for a grip with the other. Anything for a good shot I suppose.

The only other claim to fame in Corbin is that it's the birthplace of KFC. Oh yeah, hometown of the Colonel. I was all excited to go to the celebrated "Colonel Sanders Museum" as it was toted as being a 'sit down, old timey cafe':

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and discovered the fabled "cafe" was nothing more than a regular old KFC with a display case of random Colonel shit, and a statue on a bench. May be impressive to dudes named Cletus or Bosephus, but I have higher standards when it comes to commemorating the Colonel. I was also disappointed to see the timeline did not contain mention when they tried changing the name to "Kitchen Fresh Chicken" to create the illusion that this place with was healthy and not "Kentucky Fried".

My parents came to visit with my little cousin so that was cool.

Despite the arena being pretty much packed for every single show, we were stuck with by far the most unresponsive, dead quiet, indifferent crowds I've seen thus far on tour. I mean it was WEIRD. The crowd just sucked all of the energy and vibe out the shows like a big, fat, illiterate, inbred Kentucky vacuum.

The mystery was somewhat solved the next week during the meeting in College Station.

One family who had come to the show was just blown away by every aspect of it. She wrote a letter thanking everyone and giving props to Performers, Musicians, and Crew alike. In the Post-Script, she revealed an explanation for what we experienced crowd-wise.

Apparently studies have shown that people in Southeastern Kentucky are the most depressed in the country. The letter explained that people really did enjoy the show and were grateful for our being there, they were all just too downtrodden, lethargic, and glazed over to even put their hands together or cheer. Yikes.

I'll update this entry with some quotes from the letter the lady wrote. And as per usual with the tour, while were treated to a fullllll week in lovely Corbin, KY, were were only going to be in College Station TX (right on Texas A&M campus) Wed-Sun since we weren't allowed to arrive on the lot before then. Gah.

P.S. On a sadder note, the man, the legend, Mr. Jeff Boudreau left us for his new gig with the Blue unit. He, his laugh, his immaculate Rock Band vocal prowess, and 'Homestretch' call will be sorely missed.

Adios, Corbin.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Augusta, GA

After a l-o-o-n-n-n-n-g ass drive from Pittsburgh, we finally arrived back at the Agrirama in Tifton, GA where the trailers were waiting. T'was a welcome site. However the '24 hr' RV access had somehow been mis-communicated to someone somewhere at sometime......the farkin' entrance gate was closed.....and locked. Gah. We called the security booth (which was for some reason located in the RV lot about 3/4 of a mile away). The dude answered:

"Uh yeah, the gate is locked and we need to get to our trailers"
"Really? It's locked.....:sigh:....are you sure it's locked?"
"Uh, Yeah"
":sigh: well my car's broken so I have to walk down there and let y'all in. I'll be there in a bout 15 minutes"

Great. Eventually the dude makes it down and un-locks the gate.

Trailers were still in one piece and we left the following morning and headed towards Augusta.

The last song we heard on the radio as we pulled up to the gate was "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors so not only was that stuck in my head forever, every time I hear it now I'll be reminded of the good 'ole Agrirama in Tifton, GA. Super.

Parking in Augusta wasn't nearly as treacherous as everyone made it out to be. The one thing they WERE correct aboot though were the trains.....oh the blasted trains.

See, the way Augusta is set up, these trains tracks run all throughout downtown. There are very few legit railroad crossings; mostly just a stop sign with an adjacent sign reading "Look for Trains". This means the trains have to go about 2-3 miles per hour all the way through downtown, blaring their whistles...their LOUD whistles....their VERY VERY LOUD whistles as they approach every intersection.'s just a train, right? Well, the main set of tracks through town ran parallel to our lot.....about 6ft away from the last row of trailers. We were parked in the second row from the tracks. The trains rolled through approximately every hour and a half, sometimes 2 as close as 20mins apart.....24 hours a day.....7 days a week. It seemed appropriate to change the Beastie's "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" to "No Sleep 'Til Corbin" (our next destination). It was unreal how loud that shit was. The worst part was when finally drifting off to sleep and then hearing a faint whistle off in the distance. That meant in about 10-15 minutes, your trailer would be shaking (not in a good way), and the conductors would lay on those whistles probably chuckling away all the while.

The saving grace of all of this was that Augusta really wasn't a bad little town. The best part:

James Brown Statue Photo Opp

Hell yes.

There was a nice area called 'River Walk' where you could...well...walk alongside the Savannah River. The only life in downtown was right around the corner from the Arena where there were a few blocks of decent bars/venues.

Live music highlights of Augusta:

1. Joe's Underground Cafe: Stone Dogs

This was a pretty sweet dive ass bar in the basement of some building. The Stone Dogs were playing that night...complete with homemade wall banner....oh man....

A couple dudes in Polo shirts, a drummer (couldn't see him) with absolutely NO concept of time, and the frontman: Mr. Middle Age "Always gonna be a ROCKER!" bass player that wishes he was a guitar player.

We walked in on set break where they were playing every Pink Floyd hit in existence (there was a touching moment where the frontman slow danced with his woman to 'wish you were here').

When they reconvened on stage totally shitfaced, I had an inkling that we were in for something special. By the time the dude asked the crowd "are there any FLOYD fans in the house tonight?!?", we were set.

They launched into the most overdramatic, retarded interpretations of Floyd classics I have every heard. Their "creative" version of "Another Brick in the Wall" put "Jazz Odyssey" to shame. Wow.

A few minutes into "Comfortably Numb" (complete with human echo effect provided by the guitar player) this older heavy set bald dude started bumbling up towards the stage seemingly headed to the bathroom as "Ok..ok..ok..ok..just a little pinprick" was sung in the background. The dude fumbled up onto the stage and grabbed the mic just as "there'll be no more..." was coming out of the singers mouth and let out a primal "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!" at the appropriate moment, hopped off the stage, and continued to the bathroom. Classic!

By the time "Wish You Were Here" was in full swing, complete with the drunk ladyfriend of Mr. Frontman slow dancing and obviously reliving some late night rendezvous of a bygone era, it was time to leave.

2. Sky City: Modern Skirts

The next night, on a new friend's recommendation, I checked out The Modern Skirts. Now I'm usually not a fan of bands who constantly switch instruments during their set but all the dudes were pretty accomplished on all the instruments so it wasn't too bad. They DEFINITELY relied waaaaayyyyyy too much on laptop backing tracks however. It's never cool to hear a bass line, look up, and realize no one is PLAYING bass. Gah. All in all though, not too shabby.

After our show on Sunday, we closed up shop and got ready for our excursion to Corbin, KY to play a brand new event center where we were told there was power waiting for us.....(foreshadowing? you bet...).

Later, James