It's 2 p.m. and I'm drinking at work! Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer. I love beer. It makes me fat, and when I drink too much, I hit on ho's and get my ass kicked by their boyfriends. That's why I love it! I may become the first person in white collar Kansas City history (recent, at least, and not including city officials) to need a cab ride home — from work!
If you want to get you some beer this weekend, then you should do it at these shows (or any of the ones already in print in this week's music section:
Reach & Ataxic + Pharcyde at the Record Bar
True, we did write about this one already, but I wanted to give Reach a shout out. Homeboy (if I'm even allowed to use that term) is one of KC's best and hardest-working rappers, and with Ataxic backing him up on the decks, he's unstoppable. I'm disappointed that he didn't get nominated this year for a Pitch award. He deserves it, totally — the numbers just weren't in his favor. If he's your fave, write his name in on a ballot. Go ahead. Buck the system.
Golden Republic, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk, Ad Astra Per Aspera at MIKE'S TAVERN
Holy shit! This is one of the best rock/pop bills imaginable right now, and it's at Mike's of all places. I've needed an excuse to go to Mike's, and, frankly, the booker there hasn't given me much of one — until now. Golden Republic is fresh back from a tour de France (not the Tour de France, a tour de France, but, like Floyd Landis, their testosterone was off the chart the entire time). Baby Birds is hotter than hogshit, and Ad Astra just inked a record deal with Sonic Unyon. More importantly, they're all really good bands. The '90s are dead (don't tell 96.5 the Buzz). This is today's KC music, boy.
IN OTHER NEWS!!!
1. Ann Coulter is a deadhead. Bitch is even more wack than I thought. (Thanks, Rebecca, for that tip.)
3. Canned tuna is the primary export of American Samoa.
A lot's been going on in the cyberspace portion of the local music scene. I know that's exciting to people like YOU.
First of all, our friendly neighborhood eccentric singer-songwriter Forrest Whitlow has drawn the attention of the one and only Neil Young, whose Web site features a page of contemporary protest songs. You'll find Forrest and his band, the Pickles, standing tall at #49 with "Cocktails and Machine Guns." Way to go, Forrest.
Secondly, our Lawrencian friends the Harvey Girls, who, sadly, are moving to Portland soon, have posted a brand-new album on their Web site. And best of all, it's all covers! The song choices alone (Blue Oyster Cult, Billy Idol, the Bad Brains) make this a contender against Namelessnumberheadman's EP "Pauses, Ums and Eyebrow Raises" — available free here -- for Best Cover Album By A Local ElectroPop Band. (OK, so there are only two — so what!?)
...and, that's all I got as regards local cyberspace. So I only had two again -- lay off, man!
Now, for all you Panic! at the Disco fans who were unable to attend last week's show at the Uptown, my great pal Annie Zaleski of the Riverfront Times in St. Louis sent me a review of the show that went down there, through which you can live vicariously. And if you don't like Panic!, you should read it anyway because she uses the word "pussy."
i saw panic! at the disco tonight. the venue where they played has a balcony that's for over-21's, and it was comfortably empty, thanks to a floor crowded with sweaty teenagers rabid from the heat and the promise of 75 minutes of baroque pop-emo-punk. kids started lining up at about 8 a.m., no lie, to get in.
the stage had a giant, light-up panic! at the disco sign, a moon, a windmill and, inexplicably, a tree without leaves. there were two auxiliary musicians helping out the band, along with three burlesque/vaudevillian performers for 'comic' relief.
with such trappings, it wasn't surprising that the band did a faithful cover of smashing pumpkins' 'tonight, tonight,' as the stage set was rather 'mellon collie and the infinite sadness' influenced. (so was the ruffly shirt worn by lead singer brandon? brendon? urie.) alas, i felt older than dirt when most of the teeming masses in the pit had no idea what that song was; nor did they seem to recognize/care about a cover of radiohead's 'karma police.'
but they did scream as loudly as a new kids on the block show when the band came out. and continued to scream and sing along to the piano stuff and to the guitar-based stuff. the burlesque show sort of took away from the songs and seemed pointless; there was a "set break" wherein polaroid pictures of band members and, more amusingly, drumsticks were tossed into the crowd. sure, let's throw sharp objects into a crowd of teenagers.
actually, the funniest part was when the woman dancer in sparkly gold panties and a black bra did a lapdance [Link NSFW, but still a damn good song, imho. Also, the comments below the video are funny —Ed.] for the singer. on the singer? whatever. it was odd to see a stripclub break out onstage. that whole scene was also strange, though, as the "dancer" was shocked and appalled that mr. urie didn't seem to care for her advances, and the guitarist ignored her, too. what a metaphor: PANIC ARE SERIOUS ABOUT THEIR MUSIC. NOT SEX. (either that, or they're not into the pussy. who knows?). there was lots of metaphoric dancing, lots of symbolism that i felt too far removed from high school english class to understand.
i left after about 45 minutes, as you couldn't even hear the vocals from where i was standing. and it was pretty much sensory overload. they had cute t-shirts, though.
Saturday afternoon's Super Black Market, Architects and the Bronx show at the Record Bar was badass — but one member of the audience tried to take his own sense of badassery too far.
The show began at 6 to a mostly empty house with Super Black Market tearing it up like they just didn't give a fuck. (It was an all-ages show and the last stop of the Architects/Bronx tour, so I imagine the last-minuteness of it all led to the early show time because there was a second concert already booked that night). Singer and bass player Sonny has the most savage smile of any frontman in town. When he's not ripping screams into the mic, he's slinging his Fender P around like a single fireman trying to control a gushing hose, taking wide-legged steps all over the stage and front speakers and, of course, flashing those teeth like a deranged Viking. My first impression of the band and their stellar debut on local label Minnow, titled "...will sell anything," is equal parts fun and fury. They cry out against the war with as much energy as when they sound the party call, and there's nobody else like 'em in town.
Next, the Architects threw down a better set than I've seen in a while — probably because I haven't seen them play for more than 20 minutes lately (more on that later). A friend I ran into at the show insists that Revenge is American Idiot part 2, and he means that as a compliment. I would agree, except I'm grateful to the Architects for not writing anything similar to that one generic stinker "Boulevard of [*yawn*] Broken Dreams." My main thought during the show was, how do you hold an electric guitar and make is sound that good?
The third band was the Bronx. The most striking thing about this LA-based band is that the singer, Matt Caughthran, looks about as much like a hardcore frontman as Bob Balaban does a porn star. Balding on top and clad in a long-sleeve shirt, Caughthran erased all doubt as to his worthiness to hold the mike when he began unleashing sharp howls and jumping down and busting through the wired audience all the while wearing a knowing grin that seemed to say, "betcha didn't know I could do that, fucker." The sonic machinery of the Bronx tore through the RB's concrete foundation, and a solid core of moshers kept the dancefloor refreshingly unsafe the entire show.
However, the third-or-so song brought the ejection of a guy up front who was evidently being belligerent. As bouncer Cartoon led the black-haired, older-looking (say, late 20s) guy out, Caughthran voiced dismay, but within minutes, the show was rolling again.
It wasn't until the end of the show that hell broke loose. First, some guys I knew found out that the guy who had gotten kicked out (let's call him the Miscreant) was waiting outside to fight. The guy whom the Miscreant had started shit with had torn the collar of the Miscreant's shirt and had not gotten thrown out, and evidently the Miscreant wanted revenge. I looked outside, and, sure enough, the Miscreant was there, leaning against a pole facing the door, waiting to throw down. Then, an ambulance arrived because someone in the crowd — all signs pointed to the Miscreant's girlfriend — had passed out, either because of an overdose or a diabetic attack or just because of the sheer drama of the evening.
It was dusk outside, and I waited on the porch, helping the Architects load up gear and waiting to see if there would have to be a fight. I really hoped there wouldn't. It looked bad enough for the Record Bar that an ambulance was parked outside. I didn't want there to be police cars and news vans as well. I didn't really know either of the parties, but if there was a fight, followed by a surge from the Good Guys to break it up, I was going to join the peacemaker squad. I will also confess to having journalistic interest in the proceedings, but, hey, before I'm a reporter, I'm a Protector!
The band playing the evening show, National Fire Theory link: http://www.nationalfiretheory.net/, began loading in, and the loiterers - all except the Miscreant - trickled away. I figured Good Guy #1 went out the back, so I left the Miscreant and walked home, peeed in some bushes on the way, cooked up some steak au poivre and went to sleep.
My pal Bill took pictures of the concert, viewable on his photo blog.
You should also watch the video for the Bronx's "History's Stranglers." It's fuckin' sick.
For some reason that surely only the Creator of All Things comprehends, the Kansas House of Prayer — I mean, Representatives — has named July 25, 2006, White Whale day. According to a dispatch from Merge Records, the Kansas House issued "certificates of congratulations" to the Lawrence indie-rock group.
Being on fax-only terms with God (He still hasn't gotten back to me re: my 2001 missive "Why does it always rain on me?"), I can only guess why the Kansas Legislature decided to give its stamp of approval to the Whale. Could it be that 10th District rep Tom Holland of Baldwin City is related to White Whale member Zach Holland? Hmmm ... nepotism in the House?
Eh, I'm too lazy to find out.
More likely, it's because the book Moby Dick has been banned in Kansas for the last five generations, thus all the legislators assume the band's name is a reference to the biblical (read: true) story of Jonah and the leviathan -- a fish tale of faith, obedience and the mercy of the Lord. Unfortunately, because the teaching of evolution has also been banned in Kansas, the lawmakers don't realize that whales are mammals and, therefore, the bottom feeder sent by the Lord in the Book of Jonah wasn't a whale (after all, Jonah would've gotten caught in the baleen and drowned had the Lord sent forth a whale) but rather a bloody great fish.
Still, I don't recommend anyone make the Kansas reps aware of this discrepancy. It's not every day a state government awards a random indie band a blue ribbon for coolness.
This week, I'm piling on y'all some of the concert reviews I got from friends and colleagues before I went on my little road adventure (proving in the process that everyone writes better than I do). Here's a great one from a show that took place at a club somewhere on Main Street sometime in early July. It's by hard-boiled Pitch theater critic Alan "a Dale" Scherstuhl.
It wasn't the Martini Madness dance crowd thrown off last night at the slick, silly new Grand Emporium. (Those red lights they have up everywhere, which are supposed to be kinda sexy, remind me way too much of the logo for Cars.) No, the confusion was among the Immobile Indie Guys, those icy rockers who stand around as though they've pissed off that witch from Narnia. They had to knock off their Subliminal Head Bobbing before
Doris Henson got to its big finish (which I hoped would be "The Power") because the band got shut down by Grand Emporium staffers. At 11, the Emporium transformed from Autobot rock joint to Decepticon dance club, with staffers putting up that church-basement wall to separate bar from dance floor. Yes, I know I'm mixing metaphors, moving from robots to Sunday school, and, yes, I know it's unfair to characterize the new Emporium as Decepticon evil, as I've enjoyed some serious ass-shaking there, but we really wanted one more song. Just one. Please. We even waited through mopey old String & Return and its atmospheric mush. (The band seemed oddly out of sync, the drummer never really locking with the rest of the band.)
That just made DH sound better: brash, tight and cocky in that way Matt Dunehoo excels at — the way he always makes it look as though he doesn't give a shit when obviously he truly does, to the bottom of his eternal soul. Powered, as always, by that driving groove from Byron Collum (bass) and Wes Gartner (drums), DH strikes me as the one band of local white boys that actually gets why bands have bass players. You can dance to these bastards!
Not that anybody did, though. The world would be a better place if the dance-club crowd could shake to it instead of haunting the corners and if the Immobile Indies would break from their social-anxiety bubbles and maybe stick around long enough to give Martini Madness a chance.
Back to DH and the new song with the name I didn't catch. (It's not my job to catch new song names.) It crunched real good, built to crazy peaks, and was packed with chorsues more fleshed out than half of DH's staples. A winner.
Chris Packham is a direct descendant of Pliny the Younger (no, not Pliny the Elder — man, fuck that guy). He used to work at the Cup and Saucer before it closed, and during his tenure there, he authored The Cup and Saucer Action News, which was by far my favorite independent and largely unknown local publication. He has a blog of his own, but for his latest foray into rock criticism, he has presented me with a review of a recent concert for exclusive posting on my blog. If you enjoy it as much as I did, please send Chris some money, because I didn't give him doodley squat.
Mr. Jason Harper,
I attended the Saturday, July 9 performance of American Catastrophe at the Record Bar, as you are well aware, since I saw you there punching in for work. I could tell that you were present in your business capacity of Music Opinion Solution Provider by your suit and briefcase and also the way you arranged your booth with a fax machine and a three-line phone and posters that said: "FAILURE TO PLAN ON YOUR PART DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN EMERGENCY ON MY PART," and "IF IT WASN'T FOR THE LAST MINUTE, NOTHING WOULD GET DONE." I really enjoy that workplace irreverence you bring to the table because it's good for morale.
I am not a professional like yourself, Jason, but I am an enthusiastic amateur hoping for professional recognition, like Grandma Moses. So I was there on my own time, without benefit of a fancy Pitch expense account or a laptop or a three-hole punch. But I did bring my excellent girlfriend and saw lots of nice people. As a nod to journalistic ethics, I will disclose in advance that I have no idea how to write about drummers or drumming, and the paragraph about the drum solo is therefore completely made-up.
I heard that American Catastrophe was only "opening" for some other band called the Belles. I have a Deep Throat anonymous source who tells me that the Belles once had a song played during an episode of a teen drama-type show like Party of Five or Dora the Explorer or some damn thing. I didn't stay long enough to hear the Belles, but my source says they are a fine group with a boundless and sunny future ahead of them. Maybe on the O.C. soundtrack, I don't know. I am not at liberty to disclose the identity of my source, code name "Shmason Shmarper." Keep it on the down-low.
American Catastrophe has a really moody, textured sound that still accomplishes the traditional Navajo art of rocking. If I wanted to listen to an edgy, atmospheric band that simultaneously reminded me of the spooky era we live in, American Catastrophe would be the perfect band name for that band. The Three Tenors and Emmet Otter's Jug Band may be fine musical combos, but they don't evoke the same Patriot Act vibe as American Catastrophe. I'm not suggesting that the founding members got together and said "Let's give this band a name that reminds people of improvised explosive devices and neoconservatism." I'm just saying that their particular sound goes over better in the Bush era than it would have when Dwight Eisenhower was the president.
Singer and guitarist Shaun Hamontree is the Dynamic Frontman. He's so dynamic that he can convey that dynamism while seated in a chair. Normally, I hate it when bands sit down. This was a particular irritant in the �90s, when MTV Unplugged liberated cheesy metal rockers to "take it down a notch" by reinterpreting their stupid power ballads with acoustic instruments. In the inevitably black-and-white videos, they always sat on a stool, and the drummer, bereft of anything to do, would also sit on a stool and bob his head in rhythm to the music. There's a school of thought in American music that equates sitting on a god damn stool playing acoustic guitar with soulfulness and artistry. It probably originated with open-mic nights. Anyway, my point here is that the sheer force of charisma and dynamism generated by American Catastrophe is totally undiminished by sitting or reclining or otherwise making themselves comfy.
Like you, Jason, Shaun wears a suit to his job as Dynamic Frontman. When a rock band's DF shows up wearing a suit, he's communicating his professionalism and respect for the crowd, as far as I'm concerned. Plus, Shaun has a kind of Johnny Cash-country-preacher charisma, until midset when he takes off the dress shirt, tie and jacket. From a business standpoint, shedding your business suit in the middle of a presentation is risky, but Dynamic Frontmen have a little more wiggle room vis-a-vis the corporate dress code policy than your Intellectual Property Lawyers and Music Opinion Solution Providers.
Also seated onstage: guitarist Terrence Moore. This makes sense, because have you ever been in a situation where you realized that you were the only person seated in a room full of people standing up? And you had the sense that everyone else was hovering over you? I don't know about you, but that situation always makes me nervous. That's how I imagine drummers feel. So Terrence sitting and playing his guitar along with Shaun conferred an air of equality and mutual respect and camaraderie not dissimilar to the scene where John McClane finally comes face-to-face with Sgt. Al Powell at the end of Die Hard.
Bassist Amy Farrand, on the other hand, DID NOT SIT DOWN. I have a theory about that, which I'll share with you right now: It's because she's so completely badass. Listen, being the Dynamic Frontman does not make you the boss of Amy Farrand. Do you think Amy Farrand cares that you're sitting down while you play guitar? Do you think she cares if she's making you nervous by hovering over you for the whole set? Oh, you don't think that? Then we're on the same page.
I am compelled by the demands of journalisticalesque propriety to acknowledge that I think Amy is cool from prior experience. Also, she's really funny and a good tipper, and she's the best guitar player in Kansas City. There. Now you can reinterpret my review through the lens of that bias.
I don't think there was any more crowd-pleasing moment on Saturday evening than drummer Eric Bessenbacher's eight-minute midset drum solo. All I could see from my table was a cartoony blur of arms and drumsticks. "Dude! It's like the reincarnation of Neil Peart," I said.
"I don't think think Neil Peart was ever de-incarnated," my girlfriend said.
"Really?" I said. "Well, I hate that Objectivist son of a bitch. I thought he died years ago. Now you tell me he's still alive and well and probably hanging around with Ayn Rand and thinking about how to purge the homeless and the retardeds from society."
"Ayn Rand is dead, honey."
"Really? What about Abe Vigoda?"
"Diabetic. He talks about it on TV." My girlfriend knows everything.
Again: I don't know anything about drumming, and I'm unqualified to report on Eric Bessenbacher's work, but I have it on good authority that he's a fine drummer. Now, I don't want my review to trail off here, but I'm not sure how to end it, so I'll make resort to the fine 1980s literary tradition of the Choose Your Own Adventure by offering up three possible endings.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING:
(A) Eighth-Grade Book Report Ending:
In conclusion, I would have to say that the rock band American Catastrophe is a very good rock band with an important message: Do not do drugs or hang around with people who do drugs because they are bad for your mind and body. Stay in school. Reading is fundamental. The end.
(B) Conclusion of a Eulogy:
As I look down at the blessed carcass of Ayn Rand, I think I speak for all of us when I say I will remember her for her lack of humor, for her cunning repackaging of Social Darwinism and for lending elbow-patch philosophic street-cred to a policy of acting like a dick. That's what Objectivism -- and my good friend Ayn -- are all about.
(C) HOW DID ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN KNOW? ending:
Answer: Encyclopedia Brown knows that Wilford Brimley's pancreas doesn't work. So if Wilford Brimley had eaten the entire can of vanilla frosting, as Bugs Meany claimed, he'd have been hospitalized for a diabetic coma!
Jason, I certainly hope you can use this on the Wayward Son blog and that we can get together again soon for another important, business-related rock-and-roll activity.
Your professional acquaintance,
Friday, July 14
I'm finally back in my office, and let me tell ya, it's not nearly as much fun as the Werewolves' van. I mean, you can't even smoke in here. There's no one here asleep who I can bother by cranking Dungen on the stereo. There are no empty bottles of gin or Hustler magazines on the floor — only a bunch of press releases and shit from publicists I've never met. I guess what I'm saying is I miss being on the road. Or maybe I just don't want to be back at work.
Anyway, I apologize for not posting yesterday. I wrote an entry, but we didn't stop anywhere that had wireless, which is really frustrating — I mean, shouldn't the Internet be as available as bottled water and fried chicken nowadays? I don't know how bands on the road manage to keep up their business. Oh, wait, I guess they have full-time publicists and managers working for them. (Note to Werewolves: getcha some a' those.)
In the end, I had a fabulous time. I could not have found four sweeter guys to hit the road with for so long, roughing it like fuckin' pioneers. There was no drama to speak of between members, and each of them were welcoming as hell to me. I've been on trips like that with old high school friends who turned into assholes on the road. Not the Werewolves. That whole fucking trip was basically all about survival, I mean, when it came down to it, and still everyone got along great. True gentlemen, those 'wolves. For example, it didn't matter what time of night or day it was, if you had to crawl from the front of the van to the back, legs and backpacks would be moved out of your way and excuse-mes would be issued. I guess the Werewolves' mamma just raised her boys right, and that's all there is to it. If I were actually a useful roadie — one who knew how to handle musical equipment and shit — and if the Werewolves could pay me a meager living, then there's no band I'd rather work for. Absolutely.
Below is the entry I wrote yesterday. Thanks for reading while I was away. I'm glad that the city didn't collapse in my absence. If you want any more details, I'll be holed up drunk all weekend in one of our fine local bars. If the cigarette in my mouth is getting close to the filter, looking like it might burn me, just pour a beer on my face. That'll put it out. Don't expect it to rouse me, though.
Thursday, July 13
Compared to the ocean breezes, indoor plumbing and beer gardens of the Ventura Warped Tour stop, yesterday's gig outside Dodger Stadium was the ninth level of Hell http://www.iupui.edu/~engw132/main1.html. The festival grounds, parking, camping, everything was spread across an immense parking lot on the side of a hill by the stadium that was overlooked by giant blue letters, kind of like the Hollywood sign, that spelled the meaningless phrase "Think Blue." Guess it was a Dodgers thing.
When it finally came time to play, we had to roll the Werewolves' equipment at least half a mile across the cracked, hot pavement to the stage, through swarms of sweaty California kids. We loaded in around 6 for a 7:25 show time — dead last on the roster for the day, basically. Originally, they'd been scheduled to play at 5:40. Around noon, we wrote that time on several dozen posters. Tommy and I had postered two rows of portapotties and hit various other visible landmarks (fences, ATMs, passed-out emokids) when Skeet called and said we'd been bumped nearly two hours later. All those posters — worthless.
The reason this happened was because, after waking up in the van this morning, peeing on some bushes, then being told by security to move our van clear across the grounds, and then sleeping some more, we couldn't locate the staff member we were supposed to check in with. It wasn't for lack of trying; Skeet, Shifty and I went in search of the lady (Shannon Saturday was her name) twice before 10 a.m., to no avail either time. So, when Nero finally did find her, well after the day had begun, she had bumped the 'wolves from the schedule because she thought we hadn't shown up. Rather than cutting them altogether, she put them dead last, which was both frustrating and relieving. At least they'd still get to play.
But oh, what a long afternoon we had to kill. All of us were neatly sunburned from the day before. Merely standing in direct sunlight made my forearms sting. I was probably the worst off because when I was a teenager I took this hardcore acne medication that pretty much destroyed my resistance to sunburns. Throughout the day, I slathered so much sunblock on myself that my arms looked like frosted crullers. Rather than sweat out the day on the festival grounds — which, by the way, had not a drop of beer for sale, $7 or otherwise -- we spent a lot of time hanging out in the van with the motor running and the A/C on. It smelled like a dirty sock, but at least it was cool. Both days, Tommy scored a couple cases of Glaceau Vitamin Water, these little 10-oz. bottles of hummingbird feeder juice supposedly fortified with vitamins. We may not have had running water, but, hell, we had the vitamin water, which, now that this is over, I am never drinking again.
Around lunchtime, a friend of the Werewolves named Jason Henry came to hang out with us. He was an A&R guy at Epitaph back when the 'wolves were on that label (they had a different name then). In fact, he worked there when the band was dropped from the label — "he was there for gallows humor the day we got dropped," says Nero -- but he and the Wolf brothers are great friends now. After Epitaph, Henry worked for three years writing sick stunts for Fear Factor, and he had some utterly insane stories from those days. He was part of a team of three stunt devisers: one was a specialist in the vehicular/daredevil stuff, another was a jack-of-all-trades, and Jason Henry was the gross-out man. One of his stunts involved contestants chewing meat off the jawbone of a cow, wading through a trench of cooked cattle entrails, spitting the meat into a grinder and drinking whatever came out. The trouble came when the caterer who was supposed to cook the entrails didn't get them quite done. As the contestants waded through the trench, they got a lot of minor cuts on their bodies, which in turn became infected with flesh-eating bacteria. Also, it was about 30 degrees outside. The next morning, the contestants basically couldn't move their limbs and their cuts were swollen and badly infected. They were taken to the hospital, and three months later, brought back to finish the episode. Ah, what people won't do for a million bucks and fifteen minutes of fame.
That day, the Werewolves got neither, but they weren't really expecting much. Questions of the worthwhileness of this trip had already begun to arise before they took the stage to a parking lot full of way more garbage than live bodies. Two screamo bands screeched like pterodactyls and hammered out their immature angst on detuned guitars across the way from the 'wolves stage. At the merch table, I was facing the screamo and could barely hear my band's set. It was a lot better in front of the stage, but I was irrationally fearful people would steal (or perhaps even want to buy) one of the CDs I was guarding, so I endured the screamo to hold down the fort. As always, the Werewolves destroyed, slinging their guitars and sweat, howling and rocking like they were on the Vans main stage before a thousand electrified fans. At least one good fan was present -- longtime Warped Tour staffer, current Epitaph tour gypsy and Kansas City native Keanon Nichols came to the show and brought a few cans of Bud for the boys. Keanon, with his various headwear, curly handlebar mustache, and ready smile was our strength on this tour. A Warped veteran and native Texan, he always had a smile, a beer and friendly words of commiseration to share. The poor guy doesn't get to come back home to KC for another month.
We, on the other hand, have just crossed the border into Arizona. It's 10 a.m. We took showers last night — our first since leaving Sunday night — at a friend's apartment in Hollywood. We left just past midnight, but Nero pulled over the van at a rest stop to sleep for a few hours. It's strange to think we'll be driving all day and night and still won't be home. But at least when we get there it'll be home. There's no place like it, dude.
It's the morning of the Werewolves' second attempt to get noticed by the fans at Vans Warped Tour and ignored by the punks who run this gig and don't want bands like us — mere mites upon the great seething beast of this festival — to take advantage of the abundant food backstage. Well, we foiled them this morning. Skeet and I woke before the others and made a quick sweep of the breakfast tent. Skeet went for a bagel and cream cheese while I nicked a Danish and a nectarine. We both got coffee, that most crucial of beverages.
I thought yesterday's show went pretty well, considering Tommy (guitar) and Shifty (bass) ended up on the wrong sides of the stage and drummer Skeet ended up with an out-of-order set list. I once attempted to help Skeet pack up his drums, basically undoing the very task he'd just done of opening a drum case. My place is at the merch table. Proportionate to the number of people who saw the Werewolves play yesterday, I think we sold a healthy amount of CDs: five total, which was about a third of the crowd. Sadly, that's not even a tank of gas, but still I felt triumphant. And the 'wolves, as always, held back nothing as they played. They showed no signs of having driven 30 hours and hung around in the sun all day. Afterwards, they looked drained. It's no fun being an unknown band in a huge festival, watching crowds go insane to superstar bands then playing at the end of the day when all the corporate retailers are beginning to pull down their tents. You can give out all the stickers and buttons in your box, and people still won't give a fuck about coming to see you play.
We had the misfortune yesterday of being on a stage in the back corner of the campground, facing nothing but the mess hall and the ocean. Adding to the torture was the proximity of the all-acoustic MySpace tent, which was constantly packed full of kids actually enjoying the caterwaul of unplugged emo bands doing a VH1 Storytellers routine, one after the other. The band Gym Class Heroes, for example, doesn't sound good even when plugged in. In fact, most of the bands on this tour suck, in my opinion. The Werewolves, with their old-school hard rock, are so much better, and I'm glad that at least a few people noticed and took interest. I saw one band yesterday, I don't know who, all gussied up in freakish makeup that looked like glam war paint, playing hardcore screamo to an excited crowd. "This song is for anyone who's ever had anyone they love...fucking stab them in the back!" cried the vicious, brokenhearted ass-clown singer. Each generation of songwriters writes about heartbreak; it troubles me that the one coming of age now chooses to do it in such melodramatic, godawful ways.
Not god awful were Helmet, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Valient Thorr. After the circus ended yesterday, we crashed a backstage party and met up with Luke from Left Alone, who was a big fan of the Werewolves' previous incarnation, which played this tour numerous times, along with pretty much every major city, minor burg and unkempt hedgerow in the country. Luke's one of those guys who could be great to know in prison because he can score just about anything. He and Skeet and I were in a long, completely motionless line for the barbecue, when suddenly Luke said, "You shouldn't have to wait. I used to be a barbecue man," and disappeared. Five minutes later, he returned with three hamburgers, complete with individually wrapped slices of processed cheese — slightly chilled, no less. We hung out and got drunk
for the first time on this ride, then stumbled back to the van so that a sober Nero (he's the singer, btw, and a demon behind the wheel) could bravely drive us to Dodger Stadium, where we slept like the naked dead
in a corner of the vast parking lot, which is now partially cluttered with the tents, buses and sunburned victims of the Warped Tour, California leg.
Don't be afraid. I haven't abandoned you. I know it's not like your reliable Pitch music editor to simply vanish like this, cutting nearly a week of work and letting a column go unfinished. But I had to go; the gods demanded it of me. When one of the greatest Kansas City rock bands of all time calls to ask if you'll be their roadie on a fast and dirty trip to California to play two Warped Tour shows, then it doesn't matter if your children are starving, your wife's in labor and your mother has gone off her meds and found the key to the gun cabinet. You have to go.
The moon was almost full when I left town at around 2 a.m. Monday with local rock stars the Werewolves. You probably haven't heard of this band, and that's because I've changed the name. If we survive this tour and stay out of jail and make it home not torn asunder by chain-wearing teens with red-and-black-dyed hair and white belts, then I'll tell you who the Werewolves really are (if you can't figure it out for yourself).
The reason that I, a journalist inexperienced in the ways of the rock-and-roll road, was asked to join the Werewolves on this journey is slightly beyond me. Perhaps they thought that, of the many men they knew, I would be among the least likely to annoy the members of the band to the point of bloodletting. I admit that their previous roadie, Virgil Wolf, who was injured just before this tour, left some enormous shoes to fill. He, unlike me, knows how to restring guitars and shit. The best I can offer is a strong back and a hearty liver, plus that most essential of road trip tools — a high tolerance for boredom.
Before we arrived at these fairgrounds in Ventura, California, we had traveled for some 30 brutal hours straight, with brothers Nero, Skeet and Shifty Wolf doing all the driving. I did my part by filling the uncomfortable passenger seat during the past two nights so that the others, including guitarist Tommy Wolf, could stretch out on the van's benches. We're dragging a two-wheel trailer full of merch and equipment, and the van itself is a monument to filth, refuse and uncouth odors. Years-old porn mags and chip crumbs from previous journeys cover the floor, and we add to it whatever rubbish we accrue during the long day. Having spent two nights without clean bed or bath, smoking and removing shoes at will and subsisting on gas-station food, well, you can imagine the rough level of dinge our roving lair has reached.
But now we are here. Skeet, Shifty, Tommy and I have spent the first few hours of the tour stop postering the fairground fences to alert people of our show at 6:50 tonight. We stapled a few posters to the trees outside until someone in line at the gate called us "shitheads." After that, we switched to duct tape — people in California care about their trees, evidently. With the posters up, the band members well-rested, and a liquor store in walking distance, we should be fine. Now, emo, metal and punk bands rumble on the various small and less small stages in the hot SoCal sun. Later, we travel across Los Angeles to play the parking lot of Dodger Stadium tomorrow. Then it's back to KC. I'll keep you posted as best I can.
Until then, give the �wolves a howl, baby. Ain't no one else reppin' KC out here.
This week, the Wayward Son is actually wayward. Last we heard, he was on a two-lane highway somewhere in western Kansas, in a van headed toward California, having been kidnapped into servitude by a popular Kansas City band. Wed' call the Kansas Highway Patrol, but as anyone who's been keeping up with this blog knows, that would only make things worse. We'll report more as we know it. — Ed.
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