We spent a groggy and relaxing afternoon at the Flaster household, arriving about 11am and dozing in the basement until 4pm. The load in at Subterranean was a less than pleasant haul up two flights of stairs. The show was to be with Elders (Scott's new band), our deliciously good pals Lords from Louisville, and the mighty Sweet Cobra. After a complimentary meal from the kind people at the club, we had a joyous reunion with our friends and got ready to rip the lid off of Chicago. We're gonna rip the lid off of it!!! I'll spare you the details of the show on this blog, but for anyone curious you can check out our friend Jesse's review of the show on punknews dot org right here. I may not have chosen the same verbage, but the energy and might of the show is easily captured in his review. Thank you Jesse.
The ensuing activities at Scott's house are somewhat hazy. I'm not really sure how it came to be, but it was a platonic yet physical act of brotherhood and comeradery, a dance of friendship, a physical manifestation to interpret the mutual trials we share as traveling bards. Me and Stan took turns punching each other in the arm. Sometimes referred to as "punch game", "the widow maker", or "death match", the rules of the game are simple. Two trained combatants exchange punches in the same spot on the opponent's arm, continuing until one of the players gives up, at which point all kinds of demasculating comments ensue, the kind of stuff we got called in high school as we blazed between classrooms with our heads low to avoid our athletically enhanced yet intolerant colleagues. Well, unlike Stan, I'm not friends with a ninja kung-fu dude that knows how to kill a person with strategic blows to pressure points, so needless to say I was at a slight disadvantage. I tagged out early, but drank enough to start up again a few minutes later. Chris Owens also got involved, and when I say that I mean he started punching me for no reason completely out of turn. I don't know how much those dudes learned from their wise ninja black belt friend, but they definitely took notes on the punch maneuver that causes massive horrific bruising. I woke up the next morning to find the most heinous blemish in the shape of Stan's fist advertising my sissy defeat at punch game, prominent on my outer right bicep.
The bruise is name worthy, although it has no name. He's like any other gay friend you have, never content with one outfit for too long, always changing colors, gets way more attention from women than you do. Like a sexy, painful chameleon. Actually it looks way worse than it is. Unfortunately blogger is not cooperating and I'm unable to upload any of the pictures I've taken of the baby nebula on my arm, so you'll have to trust me when I say it's kind of like a hyper-color Piccasso under my skin.
The show that night was to happen in Lansing, Michigan. We presumed there was a large time consuming errand to run before we could leave, being that Aaron needed to get a temporary residence visa to play our one show in Canada. We're not smart men, and Scott's internet was down literally paralyzing our ability to acquire knowledge, so I hiked a few blocks to the nearest public library and got the necessary information to clear Aaron's name and get him over the border. This information also included the fact that the Canadian embassy in Chicago does not provide this service, so instead we got breakfast and hit the road, planning on attempting to acquire said document in Buffalo.
The turnout in Lansing was a bit upsetting, as our last show there was well attended. Lords were with us again, as well as the other two bands from the previous night in Chicago, as well as some more. It was Hood Booking's last show in Lansing, so Steven was throwing a barbeque. Apparently cheap beer, awesome music, and cheese burgers aren't enough to get the rockers to come out in Lansing, but we did our thing nonetheless. During the last song Stan, being the aspiring gentleman that he is, threw an empty beer can at me from two feet away. He chose a prime moment to assail me, because as his arm came down to hurl the spent beer, my head (in full rock star glory) came down in a most crucial headbang and the bridge of my nose connected with the beer can before it had the chance to leave Stan's grubby little mitts. So, instead of tossing a harmlessly light empty alluminum can in my direction, the effect was that of being punched in the face with a metal coated boxing glove, leaving a cute little bruise right between my eyes. After the set, punch game made a triumphant return, only this time we were slamming our fists into each other's stomachs as hard as we could. I already got the lecture from Maria so please spare me another dose of morality laced with maternal "you should know better". I know it's stupid, but it makes for a great internet video. It starts with Stan, Nat and I trading blows outside of Mac's, then moves on to the house party where Remis of Sweet Cobra gets involved (an opponent I shy away from with great reverence), Chris and I trade some chest punches, and Stan picks up Nat (maybe the gayest thing that happened all night). In addition to more than enough beer to sufficiently equip a fraternity for seven super bowls, the house we were hurting each other at also happened to have all the leftover meat from the barbeque. So, what else do real men do after drinking beer and fighting? Eat steak. We cooked up a whole mess of steaks and gorged. I think that night was the closest I will ever get to traveling the plains of Brythunia with Conan and his men. Beers, punching, eating the flesh of other living creatures. An eve I will treasure for many years to come. Perhaps one day when I have a son it will be his right of passage into manhood, to punch his father in the arm, drunk, with a beef flank stuffed into his cheeks. The night came to a close with Nat using a discarded Super Soaker to clean some of the meat bits off of Stan's face before he went to sleep. Friendship.
The only thing that was missing from the mayhem were our buddies in Elders who had shacked in a hotel that night. They only get honorable mention because I was informed in a flurry of text messages that they almost out-partied us, ending with one member sleeping naked and another member waking up to find he had shit the bed. Truth? I can't say. Only the four men within those hotel walls will ever know.
The next morning we found that someone had lost their steak into our host's shower over the course of our slumber. A picture is not necessary. It was fucking gross.
After a sad farewell to Sweet Cobra and Lords, we made the jaunt over to Buffalo. The show didn't go too hot. We played with Gongtopia, which was a dude with a bunch of gongs playing pieces that he had written. It was pretty cool, and a welcome change from standard rock/metal band with brutal mosh part x after thrashy speed part y, but didn't do much to bring out the locals to the show. The other band had potential. I think they were called Divine Machine. The dudes dressed in Target bought Jawa outfits, and the promoter had told us that they sound like Goblin (70's band that composed original instrumental rock/funk/ambient soundtracks to a whole mess of absurdly great and timeless horror movies). It seemed like it was a shoe in for a good show, but alas I was saddened at the realization that sounding like Goblin, and wanting to sound like Goblin are two very different things. They opened the set with a cover of the theme to Return of the Living Dead, one of my all time favorite zombie movies. A great song, and a wise choice for a cover. However, one thing I've noticed over the years of touring and playing shows is that more often than not a band's cover of someone else's song is usually the best number they'll play that night, and this was no exception. My excitement quickly waned as their set plodded on, and by the time they were finishing up I was outside slamming a Miller in preparation for another show in front of an unenthusiastic handful of people who probably think I'm an arrogant pre-madonna. After the show we met up with Sarah, a friend of Juan Montoya who plays guitar in the gut wrenchingly good Torche. He had told her to come see us, and she offered to put us up. First we went to a party, where Nat carried the punch game torch with Sarah and another slim, fragile looking female at the party. One would normally be wary of a guy like Nat trading blows with small women, but for some reason everyone was okay with it. I don't want to insinuate any of that girls are weaker crap, I think there are plenty of girls who could take a punch from plenty of guys and hardly flinch. It needs to be stressed that these girls both had the frames of 12 year olds. It just didn't seem like a good idea. This was immediately evident when Nat delivered his first hit in the middle of the party room, and a raucous, drunken dance party went instantly silent with shock, all eyes on the strange man with long hair who had just punched a super model in the gut with the force of an umberhulk. However, they both clocked him good in return and he seemed genuinely throttled. After the party Sarah cooked us grilled cheese sammiches and biscuits with eggs. I fell asleep in the living room watching the Super Mario Brothers movie, which I had completely forgotten is the most insane and nonsensical film ever to be released.
The next day was a day off. The consulate general in Buffalo that was to provide us with Aaron's visa was not open on Sundays, so we were completely shit out of luck. I guess Canadians hate getting their faces rocked off by loud bands from Seattle. Sarah offered to put us up another night and we happily obliged. We got beers and hung out on the deck all afternoon. Yoni took some great pictures, Aaron gave Sarah guitar lessons, we listened to Skynrd, ate some Taco Bell, and Maria and I had an intense phone discussion about the merits of M. Knight Shyamallamma's various works after she saw Lady in the Water. I still say Signs can eat a dick. Sarah's male model roommate was generous with his weed, resulting in me spending a relaxing hour and a half before I fell asleep listening to my ipod with a shit eating grin on my face.
Our next show was in Massachusetts in some shit college town called North Brookfield. We were 4 hours on our way when Michelle called with the heart wrenching news that the show was cancelled due to things getting rowdy at another show that had happened a few days earlier, resulting in everything getting cancelled regardless of the notice needed to give touring bands time to find something to do. We called up our old buddy Nate Shumaker of Dopamine Records / On Fire fame and scheduled a ferocious bro down like the olden times. He knew exactly how to welcome us, hugging us outside with a 30 case of PBR in one arm. I made a run to the store to get some bratwursts, and we beer'd and barbeque'd. Yoni and I closed the evening with a screening of Anchor Man, the best movie in the world.
We hung out in Nate's apartment for most of the morning, then bailed to Boston for our show at Great Scott with Disappearer. The show went really well, and people showed up and stuck around despite our playing at 1am on a Tuesday night. After the show we stayed with our friend Kerry who used to live in Seattle, only we actually slept at her friend's apartment that was being moved out of the following week. The place was a mess, everything all over the floor in preparation for being moved, complete with little bugs and beetles scurrying across the floor from junk pile to junk pile. The last thing you want to see when you're going to sleep in someone's house is insects crawling around on the floor, because invariably those of us that don't sleep in the van or get a couch will be down there with them. In the shit. The front line. Once we stayed in a house that in all seriousness had an ant trail moving through the middle of the living room. The only option when we find ourselves in this situation is to drink so much we fall into a deep, fairy tail slumber as soon as we hit the ground, otherwise your thoughts are plagued with visions of the bug pit scene in the King Kong remake and every little twitch you feel on your skin, be it a hair on your arm brushing against the blanket, the sleeping bag settling against your body, or a pregnant cockroach laying poisonous eggs in your ear will send you into a frantic covulsion of slapping and brushing. We drank and watched Ghostbusters, revelling in Rick Moranis, and by the time I had consumed enough alcohol to blind-side my phobia of waking up in a cocoon I retired to my little gap I had made between boxes, furniture and shelves. It was right next to the wasp nest, just a few feet behind the termite mound.
The next morning we were woken by Yoni who had slept in the van. Yoni has Pancreantitus and his health is constantly fluctuating. He had been in pretty bad shape for a few days and wasn't getting any better. He needed a ride to the airport so we got up and took him to Logan. It was a huge bummer losing him, but he was pretty uncomfortable and it was the obvious best choice. We miss him and hope he's doing better.
The three of us continued down to Darien, Connecticut for our show at The Depot. It was pretty disappointing. The Depot is a teen center that does live shows, similar to Ground Zero and The Old Firehouse where I was lucky enough to see live music as a thirteen year old, resulting in me sitting in this here van and recklessly traveling America instead of doing that job thing or that school thing. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for places like this, but as an adult in a touring band it's not the place Akimbo should be playing. Those type of places are for nurturing young musicians and giving them a platform to create their own environment, to take ownership of performing and setting up shows. Those places are not for rock bands with 20 amps that will knock the windows out of their frames. They are not for borderline alcoholics who enjoy a beer or twelve with each performance. They are not for touring bands that can't afford hotels and rely on other bands and people to put us up after shows. The result was us announcing during the set that we need a place to stay, which was 85% a joke, and 15% a depressingly genuine request. I concluded the announcement with "as long as you don't live with your parents" which apparently was completely disregarded because the only offer we got was accompanied with "I'll have to ask my mom." We were assured that she was "cool", which wasn't too comforting. The "cool" factor varies dramatically from 16 year old son in his punk phase, to 25 year old adult filthy from weeks on the road, unshaven, bruised, tattooed, and starving. Miraculously, we were approved, and I can only imagine the regret that must have coursed like the Nile as we entered her clean, air conditioned, febreezed home. Whether or not sheer terror seized her at the sight of us, we were welcomed with an unnecessary amount of hospitality as we sat around her patio table with a few of her son's friends and enjoyed a late meal of ice tea, veggie burgers, pretzels, cheddar cheese combos, and (I shit you not) pigs in blankets. Slightly awkward, but very pleasant. After the kids who didn't live there took off, we were shown to our own bedrooms and everyone went to bed. Yup. We were put to bed. Lights out! I tucked in and watched the making of Jaws on my lap top and had a restful sleep in a guest bedroom under a plaque that said simply in large bold letters: INSPIRE.
We woke up around 8am and were fed coffee and blueberry muffins. I didn't really know how to engage in any kind of casual conversation with these people (my vernacular for bullshitting revolves entirely around video games, horror movies, and marine life) so all I could do was thank them over and over again for being so generous and hospitable. I wasn't being sarcastic or anything, it was completely genuine. But, it was pretty much all I could think of to say besides discussing the best freeway to take on the way out. We got directions and moved on, leaving our host to scower her house in search of any missing valuables and hose down the beds.
The drive to Pittsburgh was long. We got lost in New York and ended up driving all the way through it, out the bottom end and back up to Pennsylvania through New Jersey. The drive through Pennsylvania was gorgeous as usual. The freeways travel through long stretches of green hills, a cool drink of water compared to the dry nothing of the mid west and the 2000 mile strip mall on the east coast. I love driving in Pennsylvania and always offer to "man the carriage" as it were when we're going through it.
It seemed the show in Pittsburgh was doomed from the start. We were up against three notable shows all happening in the city, the worst of which was a free Don Caballero show happening in a small bar in a much more "hip" area of town. We were also informed by one of the local bands at the show that in addition to the hype worthy competition, there were also a few smaller shows happening with local heavy rock bands, so even the troglodite metal dudes that aren't constantly clicking refresh on the Buddy Head gossip column would be spoken for. Only two people came. After two bands they were refunded and the show was called off. The promoter was very professional and still paid us, fed us, and alcohol'd us, and we were grateful for that, but it was a huge bummer. One of those nights where Lady Fate puts on her bitch pants and shits on your face. We packed up, and then Aaron and I waited around while Nat and the promoter talked about jews, being jewish, judaism, and jewish day school. After the jews finished jewing about jewness, we admitted complete defeat and drove to the free Don Caballero show that stole our audience to meet up with John, the drummer of the first band who had bailed after playing so his other band could open the Don Cab show. HIs directions were somewhat spotty, and that combined with three dudes all arguing over which way to go gets you very very lost. We eventually arrived and waited at the bar for the show to finish. I was completely glued t the TV watching that Japanese game show they play on Spike TV. The one where people dress up as bowling pins and get slammed with a giant bowling ball, run up a hill with giant fake boulders bouncing down at them, and run across the pond on floating pads that fall out from under their feet. People always fall over and get hurt, and we all know there is nothing in the world funnier than people getting hurt. You may have seen it. It's called "the best show on TV since MacGuyver". The show ended and we went to John's where I immediately crashed, despite the lack of air conditioning. We had to get up early the next day for Dude Fest, and that is where this post ends and the next begins.