The show was moved last minute. We were looking forward to playing an all-ages gig. But, there was a problem with the PA System and the promoter, not being able to get ahold of us, felt it would be better to move the show and have a solid P.A. One of those tough calls. So, it was set to go down at a brand new bar, Siberia, a joint right on St. Claude which is apparently a dividing line amongst neighborhoods. They were not even open yet, but kindly hosted the show and provided beer for the bands. We arrived late but caught the local band. Then loaded the equipment in and witnessed heavy metal belly dancing. Awesome new experience and a testament to the wild creativity of New Orleans.
We played our set well. We threw our equipment out into the van (the club had a door right at the back of the stage- we recommend it for any venue that has the chance for such a design!). Then we drank a beer and a cider out on the streets... just to drink a beer/cider on the streets. It's the little things. We then headed south of St. Claude to the 8th ward. Our host, Christian, kindly let us peruse his immense and well stocked record collection and showed us amazing video footage of the 9th Ward right after the hurricane. It was devastating and brutal imagery. His neighborhood is apparently on the "wrong side," of St. Claude, however it felt pretty chill. People kept referring to New Orleans as the "Third World," and also talking about how much they love it there. We sort of got a feel for what they meant, in the short time we had to check it out. It is really dirty, somewhat rundown, scary and dark, yet all the people we met were nice and welcoming. Someone joked about being able to do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be in New Orleans without getting hassled, but you still need to watch out for random gunfire. It sounds like it has mellowed some, but we did hear stories of random shootings during the enraged and tumultuous after math of the storm. We would like to come back and not have our visit sandwiched between two ten hour drives. We got glimpses of some amazing graveyards, swamps, and architecture but it was not enough. It seems like an amazing place... parades all the time.
Oct 20, 2010:
We rose and found the French Quarter. We took an unsatisfactory walk through this ultra touristy destination. In hindsight, we should have made our way to a graveyard, or historic area not overrun with meandering tourists, some still drunk from the night before. We got a good look at some of the amazing buildings that made up this part of the city. We left early to head to Texas. The drive was amazing, once more through swamp and forest. We were hussling to make it to Austin, but the long drive, long night and heat of the south had us down. The van needed an oil change, we needed about 16 hours more sleep between us and the temperature and humidity needed to drop about 15 degrees.... couldn't imagine what it would be like to tour down there in August.
We were barely holding to our schedule when we hit a monsoon. It was like someone picked up the ocean and dumped it on the highway. Going fifteen mph with the windshield wipers whipping back and forth we still couldn't see anything in front of us. We got away from the long haulers (the true heroes of America), who's enormous wheels only added to the non-visibility, and puttered down the freeway. With white knuckles on the wheel, we hydroplaned our way into Eastern Texas and it finally let up. Hours behind schedule and with frayed nerves we considered the likelihood of actually making the show on time. We decided to go for it and push on, at least give it a try.
The promoter held up the show a bit to accommodate our late arrival. So, we rolled in in time to load in, catch the second band and then set up to play. Austin was crazy. We were expecting a bit of a dead night, as we were playing in the middle of the week. To our surprise there was a club on every side of the block, all with shows, all with people in attendance. We played a "road dogged," set. The sound was crazy, we played crazy, our minds were probably still whirring at 70 mph, then it was over. We whipped everything off of stage, sold some merch to some stoked people, threw everything back into the van and headed to Theron's house who put us up for the night.
We had been considering starting on our next drive that night after the show. But, amazingly, Theron had a nice neighborhood for us to stay in and happens to work at "the best mechanic shop in Austin" (that's a quote... and true as far as we're concerned). So, Juke Auto hooked us up with a cheap oil change and we were back on the road. On to another nine hour drive (who booked this thing? ;) ).
Oct 21, 2010:
By now we were delirious with the swift load-ins, ploughing through the set, throwing gear into the van, getting a cat nap and then back on the road. Moving at 70 mph for that many hours at a time must warp the mind. Texas was an amazing place to have our minds warped. It is a beautiful expanse. The landscape of Austin was more lush than we'd expected. Then, Western Texas took us out into the range land we'd been imagining. We caught a glimpse of El Paso (sang some Marty Robbins) and Juarez Mexico, across the river. At night, it appeared to have no high-rise buildings, but was just one sprawling expanse of electricity. It was an ocean of lights at night (sang some Kraftwerk). Then into New Mexico, "Land of Enchantment."
The night brought us to an all-ages show in an industrial area of Las Cruces, next to a trainyard, hence the venue name "The Trainyard." It was a nice space, a good, down-to-earth place to land after the whirlwind that brought us there. The show was a diverse lineup. Acousto-noise, Indie, Doom all intermixed. Yazata played well, thoroughly honest heaviness. We loved it. The crowd was awesome. Everyone was really intent and focused through our set. Brittany pounded her drums into dust... almost. Half way through Serpent, things were amiss. Britt snapped a part off of her kick pedal and proceeded to attempt to play the kick drum part on one of the toms. Despite the spastic, out-of-control, thrashing set, everyone seemed blown away. It was most excellent to triumph in the midst of our road delirium.
Oct 22, 2010:
We ate breakfast overlooking the beautiful "Organ Mountains," just East of Las Cruces. They are named because of their resemblance to a pipe organ (very vertical shoots of rock). We like to imagine that it is for a more gruesome reason...heh. The rest of our morning was spent tracking down a replacement part for the kick drum pedal. Ah, the glamour of tour :). We found a place in Phoenix that had the correct part. The drive brought one of the most beautiful sunsets ever...
This show was in another industrial district. The place was so underground it didn't even have a name. We were excited for this show, we had heard good things about GOG. It turned out to be another big and diverse bill full of noise, indie pop, drone and us. We got the low-down on the line-up and load-in. It was a pretty lacks schedule, even with five bands, so we went to work fixing the kick pedal.
What should have been a quick, fifteen minute fix: unscrew six screws, replace the part, and screw back in said screws, turned out to be a whole adventure complete with a "The Man From Another Place," look-alike, an 18th century coffin, an expose on custom framing, modern art, the roles of man and woman in modern life and the human form in coitus. The mysteries and wonder of life on the road really took hold in this circle of storage spaces in the Arizona desert. Long story short, the pedal would not be fixed, the screws would not release the broken part. After several minutes of pounding on the thing with hammer (because when all else fails, hit it harder), "The Man From Another Place" look-alike appeared in a wheel chair to lend a hand (no, not a joke). He proceeded to try all the things we had with no avail. Then he took us into his shop to get some better tools. As he worked on the pedal for us, we began making conversation. Partway through our casual chat, he looked up with great intensity to inquire, "Do you like coffins?!" Brittany responded with, "The band or the boxes?" HA! He then directed our attention to what turned out to be an 18th century coffin stored beneath a long table that was a make-shift desk. Weird begets weird. He finally got our kick pedal fixed- thank goodness for mechanic friends and friendly small people along the road!
GOG did not disappoint, save for playing WAY to short of a set. All the same a transforming 15 minutes. Our set went well. The PA, a stripped down set up again tonight, sounded amazing. It was good and loud- that's all we really ask from a PA, just that you can hear it over the guitar stacks. The diversity of the bands brought out quite a motley crowd. Gutter punks, to indie rockers and drone weirdos all intermingled.... in a parking lot. Our performance seemed to reach some who were totally rivetted throughout the set.
Oct 23, 2010:
This fine day in Arizona brought a day off. We considered our options. At the top of the list was coffee and nourishment. Our search for caffeine, the dark and heavy-handed mistress, brought us to Cartel Coffee Lab and THE best coffee we have ever had (though, our opinion could have been skewed by two weeks of the worst coffee ever). It was like a magical oasis. Yes, it was that good. So, we spent most of the day there. Brittany got wrapped up in "taking care of business" (mostly writing part 2 of the tour diary) and Blake played several games of chess with the shop chess wizard.
Fully satisfied, and buzzing, we headed into the desert for a camp out. After a couple hours drive, we found the spot. The saguaro loomed in the pale moonlight. We set up camp along a desert ravine, red cliffs burning against the dark starry sky. It was perfect, rattlesnakes and all. Our desert sanctuary treated us well. We got a good meal and a good night of rest.
Oct 24, 2010:
There's a saying, "Like begets like." The weirdness of our desert stay could only get amplified as we made our way into Las Vegas. Can you say "Fear and Loathing." Well, it wasn't quite on that level. But, any visit to the City of Lights is gonna be tinged with a bit of strange.
We drove through the strip and rubbernecked at all the monstrosities of architecture. Then, we made our way to the "Fremont Street Experience." It was a drunken country fair on steroids. We got to drink a beer on the street- always liberating. Then it was time to make our way to the club.
We were booked to play Brass Lounge. We were stoked as they have a reputation for treating their bands well. They did earn their reputation. The manager (who happened to be from Northern Idaho), explained his philosophy on booking bands. He stated that the bands get paid no matter what (good turn out or bad), they get drinks and food as well. His reasoning is that, if the bar has a slow night, it's not like he doesn't pay his bartender because only a few people bought drinks. So, why would he not pay the band, even if it's a low turn out?
The manager showed us up the long obstacle course load-in. Back to band olympics. We parked in the loading dock. Then had to load as much gear as possible, Jenga-style, onto carts. Then haul everything down four long hallways to the elevator. Then up the elevator, through a wild-west bar (complete with mechanical bull) and into the joint where we would play. The club is part of four restaurants and lounges, all with the same loading dock. This is also where all the garbage and grease traps for the four bars are kept.... the smell was indescribable, vomit-inducing rotten meat. And it would only get worse as it came to the end of the night and time to load gear back into the van... ugh! That smell still lingers somehow despite several loads of laundry.
We were looking forward to this show, just to see what playing Las Vegas would be like. On this two-band bill, Dead Neon, opened. They were pretty awesome... a concept band, based on a novel by guitarist/vocalist, set in post-apocalyptic Nevada. Good stuff. We played to a small crowd of really intent, intense and earnest people, plus some folks who saw Brittany carrying her violin around in the street and followed us up to the club... huh.
After load out, we said goodbyes to the new friends we'd met and headed to the Nevada desert for more rest. Our drive took us way out along a winding road, leading far into dark-walled, majestic canyons. An owl ushered us along our path and the stars blazed in the dark sky.
Oct 25, 2010:
The morning revealed the canyon to be ablaze. The tall canyon walls were made of fiery, red dirt dotted with blue and green grasses and shrubs. It was tough to pack up camp and leave this peaceful spot. We had a good sized, six hour drive ahead of us, so we dragged ourselves back to civilization. Visions of home called to us as we made our way into the cold north. Foreboding thoughts accompanied us along the way. We were looking forward to playing with Subrosa, yet something just didn't feel quite right. We were also longing for the rest and relaxation of home before the Northwest leg of tour.
We arrived in Salt Lake City to find a club full of gear and an utter lack of audience. This was not entirely surprising. We'd never played Salt Lake City, despite it's relative close proximity to home. We've just never found a calling to play there, nor the circumstances to make it happen. It looked like we would continue waiting for those circumstances to arise. Booking had gotten screwy. Three more touring bands had been added to the bill and Subrosa was taken off. We took some satisfaction in canceling our performance. It was good to see that we were not meant to play that show... and then not play it. Instead, we headed out for some welcomed pizza, beers and good conversation.
Nov 4, 2010:
After a few days of recuperation and a few hometown shows, we headed north to Seattle. We arrived a couple days early and caught the Monarch/Trees/Samothrace show (epic!). The next day we spent in the woods communing and building strength for the upcoming show.
We were set to play the legendary Comet. It seems to be a pretty neutral ground for show goers of this great city. It doesn't seem to deter too many people and is located to encourage diverse attendance. A good crowd gathered. We back-lined the gear behind A Story of Rats' set up... always nice on the nerves to not have to rush setting up the gear. A Story of Rats opened the evening with new material, most excellent! Intricate Drone worship took over the dank club and everyone was captivated.
We felt a sense of "coming home," playing the Northwest. We've toured these parts often. It was nice to feel a sense of familiarity after a month of complete foreign wildness. Although we've performed this particular set (Blood Seed in its entirety), we felt good about bringing this ultra-refined, rugged and road-wearied version of the set back to the Northwest. We played well, the club held true to it's somewhat harsh acoustics... high-end ripped through the place... but that's live performance, you never know what you're gonna get. Brittany's kick pedal gave out again half way through Wolv. So we prolonged the middle-tro somewhat in order for her to jimmy rig a quick fix and finish the set. It went smoothly considering broken equipment... again, and tweaking the timing of the set. It almost becomes a comfort knowing that something crazy will probably happen each time we play- something breaks, timing gets all out of whack, a cable gets bumped and a cabinet goes silent, amp heads blow up, etc- and you can usually still make it through. It begins to become exciting. Although we were playing the same set every night throughout the month-long tour, it was never the same set.
Book of Black Earth headlined the show and slaughtered the audience. Extremely tight, intense and proficient riffage. It was an enjoyable, well rounded show of dark western heaviness. It was great to see our long time supporters and friends in Seattle.
Nov 5, 2010:
Portland bound, we headed out late in the afternoon... not in time to miss the weekend Seattle-to-Portland traffic. The dark and stormy drive was very comforting. We bumped Biggie Small's Ready to Die, one of the most brutal albums... really, listen sometime (and gross: see samples of sexual activity). With the intensity of nightly performances of heavy music... often times very little metal is played through the van speakers by the end of tour... mostly world folk music, kraut rock, drone, rap, and cult 60's girl groups. That shit is grimm.
We arrived not early, as instructed by Plan B. The venue was new to us and we were excited to be back in Portland. We were just in time to load in our gear and catch Wizard Rifle's set. They played an uber energetic and awesome explosion of guitar and drums. They were good, reminiscent of our early days as a band. Rye Wolves came up for this show and it was great to see those folks again and for a couple dates in a row. They had bigger equipment than when we played with them last, several years ago. Their sound had really filled out and been honed. It was most crushing and excellent. A Story of Rats was unable to play this date... a real disappointment as we'd only gotten a taste of the new material the night before and had really looked forward to getting to experience it once again.
The crowd had been steadily growing through these first couple sets. Nanotear had skillfully crafted this event and booked just the right mix of bands to bring out a good crowd. So, we had plenty of people to wait around during our extensive set-up and sound check. It was nice, however to get a good thorough sound check. When people are willing to be patient with that, it always pays off. It paid off and more this night. The sound guy really had his shit together. He pumped the drums up until they filled the whole space, mic-ed the guitar cabs (seemingly unnecessary, but excellent when someone is skillful with mixing), and pushed all the samples and violins so that, at maximum volume, they hung above the whole mix as if a shimmering reflection off of the heavy undergrowth of smashing guitar and drums. It sounded really amazing from where we were and what feedback we got said the same. It always makes us stoked to have a sound guy that can act as a third member of the band, mixing everything just so to make the whole experience that much more enveloping. The drummer for Lord Dying was kind enough to loan a kick pedal, so we had no worries of broken gear to distract from our performance. Afterward, we shuffled equipment off as quickly as possible amid our haze... It's like auditory PTSD. It is sometimes difficult to function after playing an intense set. When it's really good, and has that particular quality, we often feel transported and grounded in a different reality. It can be difficult to function again in the realistic realm of tearing down gear and talking about merch. So we did our best to relate and got to meet some amazing people. Just like every show should be: crushing, brutalizing, awe-inspiring, terrifying, elating, awkward, fulfilling and exhausting.
Lord Dying slayed for a packed room. Super cool guys to boot. They reminded us of a "metal" Red Fang (as opposed to a "hard/heavy rock" Red Fang, if that makes sense).
Plan B treated us well with drinks and really good food. We can definitely recommend the salads and quesadilla... I know it's a bar which usually equals bar food. But it was really good. They even had a vegan Rueben sando.
After hanging with many good friends old and new, we headed out for a night of good natured mischief. We caught up with a friend we'd missed in Baltimore and tried some really amazing home brew made by said friend. The night was rounded out with a hilarious, half cohesive conversation. Half of the party was completely wasted and half was still able to follow a train of thought, so it was pretty random and funny trying to hold down the conversation.
Nov 6, 2010:
We dropped ASOR off at the train station after breakfast and headed down to Eugene. More rain and grimness accompanied us along our drive. This damp, dankness called for some warm food! We found THE best vietnamese place ever. Yi-Shen has incredible food. Good tasty vegetables warmed our bodies and steeled us for the upcoming performance. Then over to The Gup, a house/ex-tattoo parlor venue.
We loaded our gear into a side room in the rain that was turning to downpour. Then Vivimancer kicked off the show. A side project of Scrolls, they were equipped with violin, repetitive Philip Glass-esque guitar parts and sparse, ringing drum parts. This was one of their first shows in the current line-up, but their rawness added to the ambiance of the performance. Rye Wolves really dug in and played a heavy set. They seemed very much at home, in the stripped-down set up of an old living room. Those tight spaces where everyone has to pack in can really add to the energy of the show and they fed off that well. Our set was looking like a wild one... with a wonky PA that almost no one knew how to operate and rubber chickens swinging everywhere (don't ask ;) ). It was going to be an odd night. We geared up for the unknown and began weaving. It felt especially raw, hypnotic and spun into space. Brittany wailed on the drums in attempts to have them heard above the guitars and the whole thing felt ripping and aggressive. People were moved and we received some really heart-felt feedback. The ghosts let their presence be known as well.
Nov 7, 2010:
After a morning of shooting the shit with the Wolves pack and Scott of Vivimancer we hit the road up to Salem, OR. We were looking forward to playing Burial Grounds. We played there once before and reveled in the debauchery that ensues at these events. Set on a Sunday night, the mood was a little more muted but the energy built as the night wore on and drinks went down. Amazing food, care of our kind hosts, warmed our bellies and prepared us for the night to come.
Lockstep, Oakland based hardcore/punk/metal group, opened the night with a very brief set. Salem-based doomers, Hell, played next. We'd become fans of their music via tape cassette trades from our last tour. So we relished their live performance. The live rendition was dark, grimm and heavy. Check it.
We hauled the remainder of our gear into the little basement space and began throwing our set-up together. Brittany crouched beneath the low basement ceiling for the violin intro. Grim, eerie and road-worn....still, our set grew into a thrashing swarm of bodies and audio onslaught. Blake attempted to not smash anyone in the head as the first row of bodies flung themselves around and we ripped through the remainder of the set. A good and welcomed end to our tour.
The next day, we took some time getting home. We took an evening hike through the forests of Oregon, found waterfalls, carpets of ferns and wild mushrooms- possibly chantrelles and others we would not attempt to identify. It was a relaxing and reviving excursion after a month of whipping ourselves around the country. The trek back home brought expansive landscapes of rugged terrain and much range land for cattle, a burning church in Burns, OR (of all places), bad diner food, a night of sleep with the coyotes, and rest back at home again.