Of Mice and Men: Dark Matter's most recent road trip got off to an inauspicious start when the group found rodents nesting in its van's engine block, chewing through antenna wires and storing acorns in the breather. Undaunted, the group patched the severed wires, evicted the animals and played shows in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York within a five-day span. "In your face, rats," Tanner gloats.
The Agony of Victory: On April 7, 2004, promoter Jim Kilroy ushered Dark Matter from the Hurricane, where it was preparing to play, to America's Pub, where it accepted an award for Outstanding Band. On its way back to the gig, singer John Hindes jumped for joy, high-fiving an unyielding street sign in the process. He broke a bone in his hand, but the band played regardless. "Singers can get away with that," Tanner says.
Closed Book: "A lot of times, you get to one of these clubs, and there are no fliers hanging and people don't know who you are, even the person who booked the show," Tanner says. "In Omaha, we got to the front door of a club and found it locked. We found the owner in another bar he owned, and he said he wasn't going to open the doors because he didn't see a big crowd out in front. We had a heated discussion out on the street on a cold night, but we had to leave when some guys in long coats showed up and it looked like it could get ugly."
Why It Matters: Ravenous rodents, freak injuries, shady promoters -- Tanner doesn't make the group's 200-show path seem glamorous. "The road to being a financially viable band is rocky, muddy and filled with other vehicles trying to slam us into a ditch," he says. Too goofy for straight-faced metal, yet too riff-heavy for the quirky-pop crowd, Dark Matter lacks commercial prospects, despite its instrumental prowess. But the group still tours, mostly because its songs fill it with missionary zeal.
"The music we want to play for people can only go so far in one city," Tanner says. "And you only live once. We might die onstage tomorrow."
That seems unlikely, as long as Dark Matter keeps moving from town to town before the revenge-minded rats get a chance to regroup.