Journal

Ill Gotten GainZ

June/July tour 2003

Five days before the tour, Erik, our bassist had a problem with his thumb. Being a diabetic, Erik had to be very careful about infection. His thumb had swollen to about twice the usual size. A friend took him to the veteran’s hospital. They kept him in for a few days and put him on an antibiotic drip. I went to visit him on Sunday. The doctor told him not to use his hand for about 2 weeks. The first show of our tour was that Thursday June 25th. Erik said it would be fine if he didn’t play bass until it was time to perform.

In the final days of preparation for the tour, I was running around like a headless chicken. The biggest task was setting up the tour truck. It was an Isuzu cargo truck I got a while back from a company in Hayward. I liked starting from scratch with an empty box. The first gigs we used it for were rough. George and Erik were in total darkness. They were bumped around like cargo and had to fight the urge to vomit. This time around, George stocked up on Dramamine. I had made a large skylight, a side-escape hatch and a window that looked into the cab from the box. Seat belts, a well stocked snack selection, a Playstation and walkie talkies helped make it more liveable. It much roomier than our old van, “The Dark Whore.”

We set off for Chico on Wednesday afternoon, a little later than expected as usual. This gig was more of a practice since our last time playing together had been 2 weeks before.

The Riff Raff treated bands well; beer and pizza du plenty. The crowd was pretty thin, but we had a good time running through just about every song we knew including a rare encore of ‘Ring of Fire.’

The next day we got off to a late start and things got later after Erik ran off to take a dip in Lake Shasta. Our friend Alyssa was along with us for the ride. It didn’t take long before she asked George for some dramamine. As we got near Portland, I switched driving with Erik and took a nap. When I woke up Alyssa was giving directions to Erik. He was swerving around the twisty Portland streets, grinding gears on every other shift. Miraculously, we arrived without totaling anything at about 11pm. The first band ‘MotorHome’ had played. They were excellent fellows. The place itself ‘Twilight Cafe’ was amazing. Essentially a diner with bands and beer. By far the best gig we’d ever played in Portland. Thanks to Janitor Jon for setting it up.

Afterwards we went out to crash at a local house. Erik and I got stoned. We three fools sat around the kitchen table making up silly acoustic songs till 4am. Erik told the house residents “Hey, you mind keeping it down, we’re recording.” We’ll see if they ever let us into their home again.

Next day we made it off early to get into Seattle before traffic set in. We arrived at Zak’s in the afternoon and took in the Seattle ambience. A homeless guy came up to the truck. I was lying down on the loft pretending to be asleep while George and Erik told the guy how poor they were. “Who’s feet are those?” he asked. “Those look like the feet of a woman.” I ignored him but thought to myself, “Dude, have you ever seen a woman with size 11 feet?”

The show that night at Zak’s was rumored to be the last one ever. The booker was quitting and there was talk of the bar being in debt. It was difficult to separate fact from fiction, but the show itself rocked. A cover band, ‘Skullsucker’ opened up. They were an interesting bunch of characters. Our set got cut short, but we played as hard as we could given the time limit. We thought, ‘hey, it’s the last show ever here, why not go out with a bang.’ But NO! everyone seemed to want to get out of there as early as they could. Girls were screaming for us to keep playing, but we had to pull the plug. The last band (I forget) played a long set. One guy came up after the set and said “It’s not very often that you hear art within these walls.” That was about the best compliment anyone could give.

After packing up we were led through the winding hills of Seattle to the house of one ‘Wildman.’ It was like entering into another world. Walking into the living room, Wildman was swinging on a leather seat anchored to the ceiling. A young tan girl was practicing her pole dance on a small stage off to one side. The next room was filled with old American motorcycles. They were mounted on the floor, the ceilings and the walls. The whole house was filled with dumpstered treasures. Erik and George hit it off with Wildman right off. Wildman shared with us many of his biker adventures. In between stories he showed us some of the gadgets he had throughout the room. On the bar was a rope restraint. “See, you get the girl to put her hands into the ropes here and then you pull on it from behind the bar. The next thing she knows, she’s got her face down on the table and her ass in the air.” He showed us how he put a vibrator in the stage and the stripper pole. “One time I was at a biker rally and this big guy comes up to me, making trouble. But I wasn’t about to take any shit from him. You see, I’m short but I got a mean left jab. Well, he went for me and some of the other riders held him back. I hit him with one left jab on the nose, practically split his face open. He was lying on the ground bleeding and screaming out in pain. One of the other guys said ‘Hey, you did this to him, you gotta stop the bleeding!’ So I’m wondering what to do in the dark, so I ask a guy who just rode up on his Harley, ‘Shine your light over here for a second will ya?’ I take out my knife, cut off his shirt and wrap it around his face, problem solved.” Wildman told us we had to come back to play at his Halloween party. He said it was about the craziest thing we’d ever experience. He let us in on a secret. “When you’re riding a Harley and you’ve got a chick on the back with her tits up against you and her legs wrapped around your waist, you can tell when she’s getting hot. Some girls like the rumble when you’re kicking it in first, cruising slow. Some like the third gear when you’re going about 40. It doesn’t take long to figure out just what frequency gets ‘em wet.” That explained a lot to me about why Harley riders are so devoted.

Bleary eyed and foggy headed, the next morning we found our way out of Seattle and back onto the open highway toward Spokane. We were about 10 miles outside of town when a car pulled up beside us on the freeway. “Somethin, somethin, somethin, somethin lost somethin two miles back.” I pulled over at the next stop and checked the truck. The rear license plate was gone! I turned around and headed back 2 exits. I told Erik to ride his bike along the side of the highway. There was a guy hitchiking to Spokane. I told him, “We’re going to get there, but I can’t say exactly when, we’ve got to find our license plate first. So if you don’t mind helping us look, then sure.” We looked for a while, but didn’t see it. The hitchiker got bored and told us to let him out. George and I went back to the first off ramp. Erik had a walkie talkie. I managed to get a response after I climbed up on a rocky hill. He told us to pick him up at a gas station. As we drove up, he waved the license plate at us. I was more relieved than if I’d taken a fifty pound crap. Then Erik showed us his other find, a bag of green bud. Maybe someone threw it out of their car when they got scared by the cops.

As we rolled into Spokane, I couldn’t help noticing huge crowds everywhere and no parking. They were having their annual “Hoopfest.” The whole center of the city was fenced off. Kids were shooting baskets everywhere. It was a fine spectacle of White Middle American Youth. We passed by the venue, “Mootsy’s” and had to circle around. I took a left hand turn too sharp and the rear wheel snagged on a metal sewer drain. The sound of air rushing out of the tire told me that the sidewall was destroyed. The truck still had 3 tires on the rear axle. After parking, I left the guys and wandered around the B-ball obsessed throngs. Everywhere, teenage girls, tanned, sweaty, nipply beneath athletic brasseries. Must... resist... jailbait!

Mootsy’s was an interesting place. It looked like a Deadhead bar, but plenty of punk bands had their flyers up on the wall. I was suddenly in charge of putting the PA in working order. No big deal. We got a lot of Pizza and Beer, the sustenance of life. That night, the jocks got into a few of the songs. We had a near mosh pit for More Cash, More Speed. I can’t recall the last time that happened. The other band Tripleswift was good. They were a little more mellow, but that helped entice people off the street after their day of hoopfestering. Consequently we got paid well in addition to getting fed and boozed.

The next day’s drive to Missoula was short, but I still had to fix the flat. Most of the shops were closed for Sunday. The only station that was open had a 2 hour wait. I biked around town taking in the hooptiness of it all. When I got back, the mechanic said they couldn’t get the lugs off the truck. He told me to try the truckstop up the highway a few exits (why the fuck didn’t he tell me that from the start?!?)

I left a note for the guys and took off. The truck stop put the spare on in about 20 minutes. Thanks Mr Shell for wasting my day. By the time I met up with George and Erik it was getting late. I was pretty sure we were going to lose an hour going to Missoula. I pushed the truck to it’s maximum 65mph on the bumpy twisty highway. Rolling into town, George was in a wonderland of pain. Erik and I took all the gear up the ‘mine chute’ to Jays. George said there was no way he could play that night. I couldn’t find my microphone and stand. Erik said that he saw it by the bar in Spokane after we had loaded everything else in. “I thought you knew it was there so I didn’t tell you,” he said. The other band that night was Oakland’s ‘Cushion Theory’ (more cushion for the pushin’?). Their bassist offered to play drums for us. He’d never even heard our songs before. I reluctantly agreed. As we started playing, I was prepared for suckage. I didn’t have my favorite drummer in the world and my microhone was 170 miles away at our last gig. We tried a rockabilly song, the Cushion bassist couldn’t get the beat. We floundered around on a few more songs. I was playing as quickly as I could so the horror would be over sooner. “Does anyone in the audience have a gun so I can shoot myself?” I asked, “please put me out of your misery.” I saw the sound guy hold up his finger, one more song. Erik didn’t see the sign. He said “Let’s do Enemy.” I didn’t want to butcher another rockabilly tune so I said “No, let’s do More Cash, More Speed and call it a night.” Erik gave me a pissed off look and let the bass guitar fall to the ground with a loud clang. He jumped off the stage and knocked over some drum stands on his way out the door. At least the show was over. The sound guy said, “I’ve seen bands practice for months together and not sound as good as you did tonight.” I thanked him, but felt like I should be put on trial for musical molestation. At least there was almost no one there to see us.

After the stuff was loaded in, I climbed up on the neighbor’s roof. After convincing them I wasn’t a cop, I borrowed a girl’s cell phone to call up Mootsy’s. They said the mic and stand were still there. I planned to pick it up the next day.

That night we parked out in the same spot by the Library as last year. I checked my e-mail in the morning. I found out that the gig for the 2nd in Laramie was going to come through. Ever since I heard the Barfeeder’s song “Wyoming” it was a dream of mine to get a gig in that state. Now it was actually going to happen.

So then we only had 2 days off. When the guys woke up we agreed for them to hang around Missoula. I would drive back to get the microphone.

It was a long, boring, tedious 6 hours of windy roads and no entertainment. I met the guys back at Jay’s as the sun was creeping behind the Montana mountains. Jumbo’s Kill Crane was playing that night. We talked about jumping on the bill. Erik went up and talked to Harley for a little while. He said that Harley was giving him a cold attitude. Harley had walked into the sound booth and put Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” on the PA system.

We drove out of Washington that night. The next morning I woke up and continued on. Not much to say about Montana except they don’t care for speed limits.

...And so on to Laramie, Wyoming. First stop was Justin’s skate shop in the center of town. The gig that night was at the “Parlor” above the historic bar “The Buckhorn.” Justin said there hadn’t been a show in a month because of an ownership change. Since they had started having shows there, 5 owners had been involved with the place. I wandered around Laramie and bought some cheap Carhartts at a western wear store.

“The Parlor” was a hundred year old whorehouse. Justin said, “In the basement is a tunnel that leads to the City Hall a few blocks away. The officials could come through the tunnel and get some leg then head back over without anyone noticing.” He said, “In fact, there are tunnels running everywhere under this town.”

There wasn’t a stage at the Parlor. The walls were done up ornately in mirrored mosaic framing and turn of the century ‘Gibson Girls.’ The pressed paper ceiling was halfway falling down. In the back room was an entire stage setup that had never been used. Justin said that they needed sprinklers in order to open the room up. For the meantime, it was just a storage area for junk.

The first band up that night were locals. They were a little more rock than most bands of their type with a good singer.

When we hit the stage, we didn’t know what to expect from the crowd. During the other band’s set, no one seemed to move around and act like they were into it. But everyone stuck around. We started playing and a few people left. Like usual, the ones that remained got into it. We were all feeing the altitude. I had to remind myself to keep breathing. They wouldn’t let us quit after the last song. The sound had been turned off. We had start up everything again for the encore. After playing, George told me that he got a really bad cramp during the last song. I helped Justin move equipment down to his van. He didn’t want anything for his effort. He said that the music was enough. He’s definitely the kind of guy that makes it worth living in a small town like Laramie.

That night we crashed out in the truck next to Justin’s house. Erik and George went to the soup kitchen the next day. George said when they saw him, they practically shoved the food down his throat. “You’re too skinny, here take some more of this, I’ll see what we have in the freezer for you.” George came back with enough food to fill up both of our coolers. After the feasting we got underway to Colorado Springs.

A few minutes after pulling up at Industrial Nation, the other band “Big Muff” from Victoria, B.C. arrived. Their vehicle was a midsize yellow school bus converted to run on Propane. In the band were 4 girls and a guy drummer. They told us of the troubles touring from Canada with a propane fueled bus. If they had a “cheater hose” they could just run off the 5 gallon propane tanks available everywhere. But that’s illegal (Gee, why would a less polluting fuel be made so inconvenient?) Here I thought it was tough finding diesel fuel.

One thing I had heard, but forgotten: Indy Nation requires at least 20 people to pay at the door before they let a show happen. Big Muff from Canada were there and we Bay Area natives were there to play. But the local band “Uncle Scam and the Freemarketeers” couldn’t even make it across town. The owner graciously gave us the go ahead anyway. The place was pretty empty. I made some insulting remarks about the flakey local bands. At least it made me feel better. The bottomless glass of beer also helped. Big Muff played next. They weren’t what I expected. Thick and chunky guitars, but the songs were slow and harmonious. As a promotional item, they had their band’s name printed on colored condoms. The bass player said she had used one the previous night on a medium sized penis. About then I saw a guy rush out the front door being chased by four skinheads. A few minutes later, a police chopper was circling a few blocks away shining it’s lights on the fight. Why do cops do that? Is it so kids beating each other up can see who they’re hitting?

Chris the bartender invited us back to crash at his place. We had stayed there last tour as well. Without Fracas along for the ride, it wouldn’t be much of a party.

July 4th found us without a gig. Instead we headed off to a barbeque at one of Chris’ friends house. The directions he had weren’t very good. Erik decided to ride his bicycle there. On the way, Chris had to call 2 more times for additional directions. It was 4 hours later Erik finally pedaled up to the party. Just in time for the fireworks. The keg wasn’t dry yet either. A girl who lived there lit off two fountains. I thought to myself, “Pretty wimpy stuff.” The third one turned out to be a big cannon. “BOOM!” It went off and shot a big burst 100 feet up into the sky. My eardrum felt like a wet fish flapping inside my head. Not to let the locals intimidate us, we broke out the stuff we had procured at the Wyoming border. I realized I should have sunk all my cash into roman candles. After some small foolishness, we left and went to Indy Nation. Nothing was happening there. With bartenders for friends, who cares? In the parking lot we played a little game of bottle rocket baseball. Chris stood on one end of the parking lot with a trash can lid in his hand. We stood on the other side with an assortment of black powder propelled projectiles. The roman candles worked best for aiming. That’s not saying much. Only a few came close enough for Chris to bat away with his trash lid.

The next day was a short hop up to Denver. Our first stop was Jim “Bread Zeppelin’s” house. It was a refreshing step into the world of air conditioning after our ordeal by metal box. We headed over with Jim to 15th Street Tavern. Parking was scarce. The lot next door wanted to charge $35 to park there. I was suspicious that he wasn’t really the lot supervisor but some crackhead getting his hustle on. The first band was good and heavy. Reminded me of Kyuss. We were on next. I was angry during the show. Not sure why. Maybe I didn’t get my required dose of adversity in the previous 24 hours. The crowd was into us. Two guys who saw us at a Denver warehouse gig last September were there. After we played George said he thought I’d played great. Well, that’s good enough for me. George and Erik took off with our friend Amy N. while I waited at the truck with the Playstation. We had a huge drive ahead of us to Lincoln, Nebraska. Erik took the night shift again and I woke up to drive the next morning.

It was hot and not getting much cooler as we rolled up to the old punk house where the show was that night. Our good friend Scarrie Carey arrived with Jello shots and beer. Thank you very much Carey. The show was in their dingy, moldy, sweaty, poorly ventilated basement. It was making me homesick. The local band played the kind of doom metal sludge we at Burnt Ramen have grown to love. Next up were the Runnamucks from Florida. The crowd was into their energetic bratty punk. As we got ready to play I didn’t expect people to last through our set. The room was excruciatingly hot. Sweat was pouring off our bodies. Why I needed to throw all those fireworks into the audience. Hell, I don’t know. Apparently that was the last show they would have at that house. All the punks were moving out.

We crashed at Carey’s surprisingly normal pad out in the suburbs. With a few coats of flat black paint it would have been liveable. Next day, we made the rounds of the thrift stores. We got yelled at for going through a collection pile in front of one place. I found some vinyl with art that would make a great tattoo back. Erik made friends with a kid who wanted to go to the Bay Area. He had no money, no friends out there and couldn’t help with the driving so we decided against it. The Bay Area is no fun to be out on the streets broke. It was fairly late afternoon by the time we got out of town.

After a day of driving we were going through Utah. I took a stop at Park City because I was getting fond of Subway sandwiches. Next door was a club called Suede. Their schedule later in July; Digital Underground, The Neville Brothers and Steel Pulse. The place had an upscale yuppie conservative lounge feel to it. For Utah that’s “atmosphere.” That night was an open mic. Erik talked someone into letting us play. We hung around for a little while then played 2 songs. The next guy up turned out to be R.L. Burnside’s son. He played guitar well enough to convince me that the blues was still alive. For some reason Erik had left. I thought he would appreciate Burnside’s playing more than me.

As I went back to the truck, Erik said “Watch out for the cop over there. I think the gas station attendant called him on me.” Erik told us about the gas station. “I asked the clerk if I could heat something up in the microwave there. He asks if I got bought it there. I said ‘no,’ and he tells me ‘Just this once it’ll be okay.’ So I say ‘This will be the last you ever see of me in this backward inbred Mormon state.’ Of course he was shocked. So I walk outside and there’s a yuppie couple getting gas so I yell at them, ‘Why don’t you make more babies you Mormon fucks!?’” So I said, “Let’s get the fuck out of here!”

By wednesday night we were back at the Ramen. Thursday, the Bulemics (one of our favorite bands) was coming over to record a live set on the Burnt Ramen stage. It was good, but the show that night at BP Psycho’s warehouse was better. That night was Fracas, Hot Plate, the Bulemics and The Eddie Haskells. If Mike ‘Oppressed Logic’ had known we would be back from tour, we could have jumped on as well. It was a great show. Something about the Bulemics is just pure Rock and Roll. Can’t figure out what it is. This time there weren’t any knock down drag out fights. You can’t have everything though.

After the show I brought out a big rocket from my stash in the truck. A guy I had met once before ‘Spider’ said he wanted to shoot the rocket out of his ass. I said I’d light it for him. At 5 feet away the buttstink was enough to keep any attacker at bay.

I lit it for him... the rocket didn’t exactly shoot out. It was stuck in the mud. Sparks engulfed most of his body. The expression on his face was surprise mixed with pain. Right before the thing exploded he pulled it out. It got five feet away before exploded out in all directions. The smell of burning ass was in the air. George said it was one of the funniest things he’d seen all year. Anna and JTBaker also bore witness to the spectacle.

Friday morning I got up early to get the truck ready for the gig that night. I almost tripped over Spider sleeping on the soiled carpet in the Burnt Ramen workroom. By the time all the errands were done it was about 3pm. I looked at the directions. They said it would take 7 hours to reach the club in Corona (East of LA). We made it down with only one stop but that wasn’t fast enough. The venue was Angel’s Strip Club. They had the strippers in one room and the bands were next door. The manager said we were too late. They had already asked the other bands to play longer sets. There was still time, but the last band ‘The Irritations’ took over a half an hour setting up. Then they performed a long set of bland “irritating” punk. I had driven eight hours non-stop. I didn’t even have enough energy to go inside. My body was wrecked. The guys met some dude at the club who led us on a wild goose chase looking for diesel fuel. Finally we parked somewhere and they went over to hang at his house.

Saturday morning, we found fuel and made our way to Santa Barbara. The show that night was at Art’s Bar. Arnocorps showed up at 7pm. The first band “Damaged Goods” brought some PA pieces. I had to set up the Burnt Ramen amp and some speakers borrowed from JoAnn. Those not familiar with the BR PA, it’s actually a 4 channel car stereo amp. It’s pretty loud, but tends to distort at high volume. Also, when the levels are peaked for too long, the power drains out of the whole system. It takes about 30 seconds to reset itself. In the meantime, the singer is usually trying to sing out of the guitarist’s mic (to no avail). For Arnocorps, the volume was cranked at much as it could be. The vocals sounded like a barking dog. Arnocorps made an attempt to get the crowd into shape. “You are all soft like marshmallows.” Holzfeuer said to them, “It is a good thing there’s not a campfire around.” Then he led the audience in a few sets of jumping jacks.

After Arnocorps played, we were up. Stacey Amputee told us that they decided not to play that night. The opening band got such a late start that there wouldn’t be time for the last two bands to play.

During our set, I broke a string (only the second time onstage for that guitar). We we out of tune, but picking up momentum for the last few songs. George finished the set with a firecracker salute and a chaotic jump through his drumset.

We didn’t have anywhere to go so I hung out for a while, playing pool with the bartenders. Erik made some comment about riding home on his bicycle up the coast. George and I crashed out in the truck. The next day we waited for Erik to return. It was after 3pm when we decided to leave. We had used the truck’s power inverter too much. The battery was dead. Luckily, Art’s opened up again. We got a jump from one of the guys that worked there. We gave him our thanks and a CD and headed back home. On a stop along the way, George and I headed into a gas station. There were two young girls behind the counter. One asked George, “Are you a rock star?” We told her a little about our trip and the music. She asked us to sign her breasts in front of the security camera. I guess she didn’t like her job very much. Well that’s rock and roll!

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us. I’ll keep you posted on our next tour. Now it’s time to head into the studio and record our sophmore effort. Don’t jinx it!

Myk

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