Festivals for Days: Part 1- South By So What? Day 15

Gronk! woke me around 7am, saying he already checked in with the venue and we would need to dump the merch soon. I opened my eyes in a daze and looked outside the window. We were parked in the middle of a muddy field with nothing but open sky and one or two buildings peppered throughout the grassy knolls.

“I know we’re in Ft. Worth, but where are we?” I asked, trying to remember just what-in-the-hell we were doing that day.

“Some baseball field,” he replied. “It’s ‘South By So What?’ today, so it’s going to be a long day.”

Indeed.

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South By So What? is the metal answer to the infamous South By Southwest festival. But instead of being a week-long festival that takes place in downtown Austin like its namesake, SBS? Is a weekend at a minor league baseball stadium seating several thousand people. It was by far the largest venue A Band of Orcs have played along with several of the other bands.

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a shot of stage 1

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Between the stages

Since no one was awake yet, Gronk! and I decided to walk around and check out the digs. On the playing field there were two large stages and a third, smaller stage, on the side. Band members from Story of the Year, Hawthorne Heights, Revocation, Battlecross and more were all walking around with the same idea, drinking coffee, smoking the morning cigarette and trying to avoid the mud.

I started this tour listening to the latest Goatwhore album, Blood for the Master but every time they play Santa Cruz, I seem to be out of town and always kick myself for it. I didn’t know they were playing SBS?, so my metaphorical music nerd boner was probably showing when I heard, “Hey man, I’m Ben” and turned around to see the lead singer.

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Louis Benjamin Falgoust II

The morning progressed as more and more bands began piling in. Gronk!, Oog and I grabbed the merch and found our table nestled next to Battlecross’. The festival’s merch manager was a short, bubbly, early 20-something named Shelby, who could talk a mile a minute and reminded me of any character Parker Posey has played. Within the first ten minutes I already knew about her three jobs, where she’s lived and why she’s a horrible Texan (she hates barbeque and has never rode a horse, in case you’re wondering).

Here’s the deal for those of you who have never worked in a venue. Just like in Vegas, the house always takes a little something. Bands usually receive a guarantee from the venue (or a portion of the ticket sales) and always have to give a cut of their merchandise to the club. Normally, it’s 15-20% and only on “soft” merch (t-shirts), but every once in a while, the house might go all in and ask for a cut of everything. Luckily, we had Shelby.

“So, do you have a lot of non-shirt merch? ‘Cause if you do, tell me and I won’t count it or take a cut.”

Of course my answer was, “We have tons, almost too much,” and that was that.

All-day festivals are too goddamn long to work, but fun as hell. Along with all of the various bands’ merch, there were you usual festival booths selling jewelry, glass pipes, and a wide variety of different t-shirts.

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By far my favorite shirt and the newest in my wardrobe

As the hours progressed, we all began wondering where the audience was. Half way through the day, there was only about a thousand people watching the various stages, leaving the stadium with a very empty look. Turns out Korn and Five Finger Death Punch were playing a sold-out stadium show RIGHT NEXT DOOR to us, draining much of the SBS? crowd. The bass player for Five Finger Death Punch, Chris Kael, was at SBS? earlier in the day, telling people he “felt sorry” for us because of the diminished crowd.

Screw that.

I feel bad for whoever went to the other show because those bands suck and we had metal legends.

With our all-access passes I was able to get pics and video of A Band of Orcs, Iron Reagan, Whitechapel, Goatwhore AND San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal legends, Death Angel, all from the photo pit.

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the sensual Iron Reagan

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A Band of Orcs with Yard Bone

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Ben & Sammy of Goatwhore

Dave Brockie (lead singer for GWAR) and I even rocked out together for Goatwhore by sitting behind the baracade, right in front of the speakers so we could literally feel the intensity.

“Fuckin’ amazing sound!” he screamed giving me a fist bump.

By nightfall it was time for dinner, and hospitality had barbeque catering with some cornbread, salad and mashed potatoes for us wimpy vegetarians, all lined-up in the stadium’s penthouse skybox. Gogog and I made our way up to the box where Hulg, Cretos and Jesse already were. After some food and a few glasses of real, Southern sweet tea, we walked onto the balcony and smoked some Cali green as 3 Inches of Blood belted out their high-pitched power metal.

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Death Angel

Even though the first day of SBS? was a bust for the promoter, it turned out to be basically a giant metal music picnic for the bands; providing us with a chance to see some awesome music, rub elbows with other musicians and have a semi-relaxing day. Which was needed, because the next day would be the Housecore Horror Festival and we had no idea how crazy of a shit-show that was going to be.

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Another Day Off & Houston: Party in the Parking Lots. Days 13-14

I don’t remember much of the night drive out of Albuquerque, probably because I was asleep for most of it. I’m actually getting a surprising amount of sleep this time around, followed by spurts of 2-3 days of 3 hours or less. Not bad, but a writer shouldn’t have “sleep” in his vocabulary.

At some point in the early morning we hit a gas station, which brought me wide awake and ready to take on the navigator role. We drove throughout the day, taking our time and enjoying the Texan scenery and local life at each gas and food stop.

One of the things I loved about Texas the last time around is everything is exactly how you’d expect it to be. A gas station isn’t just a convenience store but a full on Cowboy blow-out complete with Texan flags, cowboy hats, belts, steer horns and even stuffed armadillos. It’s a smorgasbord for any collector of useless oddities that would rather have people turn a questioning eye of strange fear than impress them.

And then, out of nowhere, the Golden Check and crossed palm trees of In-N-Out. Yes, that’s right, Texas now has In-N-Out and it was ass-spankin’ new. Of course, being true-blood Cali-for-ny-ayans, we had to stop. It was almost like being back home, and for a moment we were standing inside any other In-N-Out, until the stares and several of the other patrons began talking loudly about their particular Christian denominations.

After several more stops along the way, we finally pulled over in a Home Depot parking lot and set up camp. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches were made, lawn chairs were opened, beer was consumed and we all blew off some steam. Thankfully, the digital age had our backs and we were able to play some tunes and pull up our favorite YouTube videos to share with the rest of the guys.

Day turned into night and band members began crashing out one at a time until it was just Jesse, Hulg and myself, eating Nutella with Wheat Thins (surprisingly good).  We only moved once when the lawn sprinklers started and nailed us somewhere around 2am.

Hulg and I got on a rant about old times in high school with old friends and continued on it until we realized Jesse had disappeared. We found him fully clothed, face-down on the sofa– probably passed out for quite some time–and decided it was time to pack it up and retire for the night.

We hit the road early in order to make it to Houston with enough time for stops along the way. The most important was Guitar Center, as a couple of the guys needed to restock on supplies. So we found one, and as they were shopping, the rest of us were in the parking lot, tailgating it up once more. Texas is vast & sunny, the perfect place to work on that tailgate tan and bask I did.

The Warehouse Live in Houston is a happenin’ spot. Located outside of downtown in the industrial area, it’s surrounded by freeways, bars and possibly project housing. Normally a pretty sketchy area, but perfect for a venue, giving everyone a little more freedom to loosen up.

We parked near the rest of the bands and got out to stretch, explore and scavenge for the day’s coffee and donuts. The Warehouse Live had the coffee, but not the food. C’est la vie.

However, they weren’t lying about the venue. It’s a giant warehouse with a separate, side stage, and two bars along the perimeter. And that’s it. No lobby. No ticket booth. No real anything. Where else in America are you going to find THAT kind of honest advertising?

Once I was set up and had some time to kill, I walked next door to Lucky’s pub where a. . .uh, buxom. .. .blonde with a beautiful peacock sleeve tattoo served me a Jameson & Coke and we talked about local artists. Everyone needs 5 minutes of “me” time, and I took 10.

Holy Hell. Houston, you are something else.  There was already a good sized crowd to see A Band of Orcs, and people kept piling in even up until Gwar played. Just a bunch of drunk Texans, hanging out in a Warehouse on a warm Autumn night with nothing to do but fuck shit up. God Bless America.

And drunk they were. Texans know how to party and the place was filled with every type of personality you could imagine, there was even a late 30, early 40 something year old in a business suit, hanging out in the back near my booth.

Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s the rowdy, take-no-shit attitude of Texas, or maybe it was just the booze combined with all of it, but HOT DAMN Texans are some cheeky people. I witnessed all sorts of sexual passes, making out, people getting hit on, and I was even groped several times while just trying to do my job.

Iron Reagan had several friends at the show (Brian, the Mammoth Grinder drummer was one of them) and they decided to film some scripted footage to use later on in a music video. They asked me to stop people from walking past the merch table, so they could get a shot of them flipping it over.

Easy, right?

Not in Texas.

As soon as I stopped the first person, she thought I was trying to flirt with her and began rubbing up on me. Her friend then began pinching my ass and I felt like a goddamned diner waitress named Martha, working some late-night shift in 1950.

“Goddamn it! Stop, just stand still for two minutes, we’re trying to do a shoot here!” I screamed.

“Look boy,” said the first girl, shoving her cleavage in my face. “Either you want it or you don’t.”

“I’ll pass, just don’t walk in front of the camera. This isn’t Girls Gone Wild.” I responded with piss & vinegar in my voice.

Now, some of you—who know me all too well—probably read that and thought, “Bullshit. Mat telling drunk girls to stop sexualizing him.” I know, it sounds crazy. After all, 2013, right? But I’m not in the business of selling Wolf tickets, just the honest truth, no matter how wretched or weird. Besides, I have a too-damn-cute woman (hopefully) waiting for me back home, near my beloved Pacific Ocean.

Even though it was only 4 days ago, so much has happened since that nothing else about Houston stands out in my mind, except for Wookie.

“So,” Jesse said, turning to me at the end of the night. “ The guy who taught Lexi [his girlfriend, a total sweetheart and amazing artist]I how to tattoo is here tonight. Want to meet him? His name is Wookie.”

Instantly my ears were on fire. Anyone who is involved in the tattoo world knows the name Wookie. He has some of the most detailed work in the business and was a helluva nice guy. His girlfriend, Sabrina, was also incredibly pleasant and seemed just as creative with her wild attire, piercings, and colored dreadlocks to match his long, dark ones.

The four of us sat for a few minutes, talking about tattoos, the show, the road, and everything in-between. After I was able to get a picture with them, I said my good-byes and finished packing the merch so we could hit the curving black snake of a highway once more.

I left the venue that night with a sense of elation mixed with horrible physical exhaustion. Ready to take on the rest of the tour, but wondering if my body would be able to.

Days 11-12: The Sanctuary of Home to Heisenberg’s Albuquerque.

Sunday night I rode with Brian back to Santa Cruz and was overcome with a sense of elation when I saw my front door, and then my bed. I passed out somewhere around 3am, fully clothed, on top of my blanket, with the lights on. It was good to be home.

I knew the guys had to be out early on Monday and I didn’t’ want to be the flat tire of the group, so I woke up early to run some errands and grab some last minute items. I picked up a sack of California’s finest from my homie and met up with Brian for breakfast. The rest of my day was spent relaxing in Santa Cruz, writing, organizing and listening to Brian’s latest record scores.

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“This is why I pay so much for rent.” – Oog Skullbasher

As the hour grew later, I was frantically hitting the band up, hoping everything was alright. Apparently, my relaxing Monday was not shared with everyone.

For starters, Jesse was stranded in Oakland for several hours until my buddy, Greg, could give him a ride (thanks dude!). Then, Hulg was delayed in Santa Cruz and when everyone finally arrived at the RV rental shop, it took several more hours to sign everyone on, switch our stuff from one camper to another, and then drive back to Santa Cruz from Newark. By the time I got the call to meet up it was already 5pm and we still had to go to the band’s shop to dump unused gear.

“Oh, by the way,” Oog said as we were unloading a case, “I found a screw in the trailer tire, but I’m not too worried about it. The tire seems to be holding and I’ve done tours with 2 nails in those things. We just need to keep an eye on it.”

Aye Aye, Captain.

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We finally hit the road around 6pm, with an 18 hour drive to Albuquerque ahead of us. It was a long, dull, drive straight through the heart of Arizona; a state that has always hated me so I must, therefore, hate it. Every time I’m in its soul-sucking desert, something bad happens; whether it be a breakdown, or it’s too damn hot, or the Christian owned family restaurants tell me & my friends (all tattooed and wearing all black) that they’re closed for the day & refuse to serve us when the sign clearly says we have another hour.

And this time was no exception.

We stopped for gas outside of Flagstaff and I went into the station for some coffee and whatever morning processed junk I could stomach. After my purchase I remembered Oog’s warning about the tire and decided I should check on it.

“Holy shit. Uh. . .guys, You’re gonna want to look at this,” was all I could muster.

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It’s still good, right?

The trailer tire had blown and was completely stripped from the rim. It had been so extensive that some of the trailer paneling by the tire had started to peel away. Who knows how long we had been driving like that.

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Luckily, there was a tire garage only a few miles away, so we stopped there, only to be delayed another 90 minutes. Arizona is a terrible state, and it’s not just my bad luck. Iron Reagan also had a tire blowout and Gwar’s bus broke down for the second time.

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Breakfast of Champions at Brokedown Palace

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I will say this, AZ has some righteous retail.

When the tire was ready I looked at the clock. It was 11am and we had 6 more hours to go, just in time to make sound check if we were lucky.

And we were.

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Made it!

We pulled up to the Sunshine Theater in Albuquerque at 4:45 and did a quick dump of the gear. After setting up the merchandise, we even had time to shoot the shit with the venue’s crew and they pointed me and Jesse in the direction of some good food.

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And look! Immortal Technique signed my table! Keepin’ it real!

A common thread tying this whole tour together has been the savage response of the excited audience. Aside from the fact they’re seeing one of their favorite bands that demands such a reaction, by talking with the locals I keep hearing the same reasons for their excitement.

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A Band of Orcs, straight from Herntoadia

No matter what the state, the music scene is dying across the country.

Everywhere we go, kids and adults tell me how happy they are to have a real, rock show in their town. Hell, I even heard the crew say that at the House of Blues in Boise. They tell me that most of the touring acts are either hip-hop or electronic, and if it is a rock band, 9 times out of 10 it’s a screamo/metalcore/hardcore act. Adding lemon juice to the wound, one after another venues keep shutting down. Even if they kids have a garage band, there’s not much hope of ever playing anything bigger.

Albuquerque was no exception, full of crazed fans hungry for blood and biting at the bit. The crowd was as drunk and rowdy as the rest of the country with nothing to do.

GWAR’s set followed in the chaos. Earlier that evening the guys in Iron Reagan and Dave Brockie went out in a successful mission to find Walter White’s, a.k.a. Heisenberg’s, home from the series, “Breaking Bad.” As a result, Brockie was on his own high that night, shouting “Heeeeiiiissseeennnbbeeerrrggg!!!!” at the most random moments he could think of. And the fun didn’t stop there.

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The Eye of Gzoroth

When Oderus opened GWAR’s set, he dedicated it to “the people of the sun.” Knowing him to be a Rage Against the Machine fan and that his alter ego is actually a progressively thinking individual, this didn’t really stand out to me at first.

“Sure,” I thought. “When in Navajo land, dedicate the music to the natives.” Makes perfect sense, right?

As they got deeper into their set, it be came apparent Oderus had taken something before the set (at least to all of us) and clearly it was working. He continued his “Heisenberg” shout-outs, followed by laughter, rabid dancing and tirades about revolution and Breaking Bad.

“Clearly I’ve gone off script and my band is completely lost,” he chuckled after one particular rant about needing Heisenberg, “But that’s ok because so am I.”

I wasn’t able to capture much video, but what I did will be posted shortly.

The next day, Wednesday, was another day off, so by the end of the night in Albuquerque, the general consensus was to hit the road as soon as possible. There was another 881 miles ahead of us to  Houston, but we weren’t anxious to get there, we were just done with Tuesday.

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Blurry Reagan

If You’re Going to San Francisco, Prepare for Domination! Day 10

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Dave Brockie of the Almight GWAR rocking A Band of Orcs’ shirt before the show in SF. 

As always, here’s your humble journalist, delivering the 4-1-1 straight from the shit itself. We’re currently barreling down the 45 North outside of Houston, TX, on our way to a Guitar Center for supplies and to burn some time before the show tonight at the Warehouse Live. I have an expensive-ass cup of diner coffee sitting next to me and my belly is full with a croissant & scrambled egg sandwich topped with hot sauce and a side of grits. Real country grub is good for the soul, even if you’re traveling with a death metal band and you have to question whether or not you even have the damned thing.

Where did I leave off? Sacramento, right? Well, that was a few days ago, so I’ll do as much catching up as possible and dive right into the last few days.

After Sactown we drove through the night, trying to get as close to home as possible. Somewhere along the line we dropped Jesse off in Oakland so he could be with his lady, Lexi, who lives in the area.

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The city, she burns for me. . .she needs penicillin 

I woke up in the parking lot of a Best Buy in Emeryville, had my morning cigarette, hacked up the day’s lung butter and walked with Oog to Panera Bread for some coffee and the toilet, not in that order. After everyone had their eats and morning ritual, we were hit up by some self-proclaimed, “totally normal” crackheads who were looking for “only $11 so I can buy my medicine,” and I knew we were back in the Bay.

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San Francisco. Ooooohhhh San Francisco. You’re a helluva city, you know that, right? The air had a bite to it like no other. A real San Franciscan October night; fresh with the adventures of the sea, and as old as the ghosts that haunt it.

The tour was hitting the Regency Ballroom, an old dancehall built in 1909 and is a “fine example of Scottish Rite architecture” according to their website. The massive stage, hardwood floors and 22, turn-of-the-century teardrop chandeliers are clearly too nice for modern times, and one can imagine the Regency being a really swinging jazz hall at one time. But tonight, it was home for metal, blood, Orcs, and space aliens. Just another night in SF.

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Hellbillies Representin’ at the Regency

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Matt customizing a Gwar drumhead to be sold. 

From the moment we arrived, it was a hustle to unload, organize, set-up the merch/instruments and the dreaded search for parking in a city built for horse-drawn carriages. Luckily, there was a spot directly across from the Regency, on the other side of Van Ness Blvd. With a little luck and a lot of time playing Frogger as a kid, I was able to maneuver everything into the venue just in time to eat.

By nightfall our friends began pouring in and it was a regular party inside the Regency. Friends, girlfriends, wives, family members and coworkers all showed up to support A Band of Orcs and be splattered in blood. Unfortunately as with every show so far, the ticket times and the actual doors were different and several of our friends missed the Orcs. C’est la vie.

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Inside the Regency

Because the merch room is separate from the main hall, I spent the evening behind the booth, talking with Carlee (Iron Reagan’s merch girl for those of you just joining us) and Wyatt (Whitechapel merch guy), and hanging out with my Santa Cruz friends, Brian, Caroline, Rob & Chris. I was excited to be at the Regency from the crew side. Three years ago I had the chance to interview GWAR at the Regency for Rabid magazine, and while I can’t deny a backstage press pass, it was good to get the crew’s perspective. Truly immerse myself in the chaos, real gonzo journalism.

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Outside the Regency

However, that’s not to say I didn’t see my fair share of entertainment because Will was there; the baldheaded, pill dealer who “swear to God knowns Oderus. Just ask him!”. Jesse and I got our first taste of Will In Sacto, when he walked up to our RV exclaiming, “I’m gonna draw on your vehicle.”

“Theeeeen, I’m gonna call the cops,” replied Jesse.

Will’s face turned as white as his goatee and his eyes grew huge partly out of exaggeration, partly out of real fear and the rest because of the drugs he was permanently on.

“Aaaaawwww, naawww, come on man. You wouldn’t do that, WOULD you??? Not the cops, I got pills and I know GWAR!”

He spent the next ten minutes explaining to us about all of the bands he’s worked with and how he’s more “one of [us]” than we realize. My first thought was, “Ye gods, I hope not.” The rest of the night in Sacramento was spent with Will running around in a drunken ball of chaos with his promises to show up the next day in San Francisco, even though I was a dick to him with every interaction.

He might be annoying as hell, but I guess he’s honest about his promises, “especially when there’s a free show and beer involved,” he later told me at some point in the Regency. I don’t remember if it was before or after he started running around the merch room, chasing after an equally drunk, looked like she was prone to a pill or six, middle-aged woman. She was yelling at him for something and as an apology, Will was throwing himself on  the ground, proposing and begging for her forgiveness. She saw her opportunity and started shouting, “Well, as long as your down there,” spreading eagle about his shiny bald head and missing teeth smile. This went on for several minutes, with her running around the room in a circle, and Will throwing himself down every few feet with a pleading, “Naw, I’m sorry baby! Come on, let’s get a beer! You love beer! Naw, come on.” After 5 laps around the room, she exited and he followed, crawling on his knees with his hands in the air. I don’t normally say this, but sometimes drugs can be dangerous kids. Don’t be like Will.

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Caroline has been Gwarified

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Rob & Chris return bloody from battle

When the show was over and our friends were sufficiently drenched, I tried to pack up as quickly as possible so I could hang out, but was delayed first by the stage manager for merch pay out, and a second time after loading-in when I discovered my tour laminate had ripped off my key chain. After some frantic searching, I discovered it on Van Ness, but by then it was late and everyone was departing. Brian had agreed to take me back to  Santa Cruz for the night and A Band of Orcs all agreed to meet at the RV rental place the next day in Newark at 11am. After a couple hours there, they’d go to SC, do laundry, empty things in the trailer we don’t need, pick me up, and hit the road in the early afternoon. Ho ho.

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A Crabtree stands alone

Don’t Forget the Joker at The Ace of Spades in Sacramento, Ca. Oct. 19, 2013

I fell asleep somewhere after the Grapevine and woke up the next morning, parked in front of a house somewhere in Sacramento. I staggard from my bench, cold and ornery from my lack of a sleeping bag (my own fault) and walked behind the trailer to return the night’s drinks. Mike emerged from inside the yellow house with white trim, saying we were at an ex-Santa Cruz friend’s house, there was time to kill, the family was cooking lunch inside and the shower was open.

When you’re traveling to different cities, 9 times out of 10 in different states, you learn to rely on the kindness of others for the simple things. The moments in life when you can recharge and enjoy an hour to yourself without a worry.
They are incredibly rare moments and ones to be cherished.

Robert and Bobbie Alvarado, along with their 12 and 16 year old,  welcomed us into their home for several hours to shower, do laundry, eat, and relax in the cool, California air. Rob twisted up a couple of fat joints and passed them around as Oog Skullbasher joined and we caught the Alvarados up on tour life & things back home in Santa Cruz.

After we had recharged enough to almost forget where we had to be, it was time to be at the Ace of Spades.

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A club with the max capacity of 900, according to the locals it’s one of the top rock clubs in Sacto and the only one in that particular area. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived for load-in, all of the folding tables had been snagged so I set up the merch on an empty, “dead,” case from the trailer. It’s not the strongest that survives, but the species that evolves with new surroundings. When in Sacramento. . .

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The show was another gem and the audience responded positively to the Orcs. Not only was there a crowd to see them, but they spent 4xs more at the merch booth than Hollywood. I guess everyone was too broke spending money on booze and blow down there.

The crowd was clearly getting off on the gallons of red blood and blue jizmoglobin as person after person emerged from the mosh pit, covered in the liquids like a bukakke from hell.

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Even though we had friends at the show, by the time everyone was done loading the trailer it was already running late. The next day was San Francisco, then a day off, and everybody was ready to be close to home for 24 hours to spend time with their wives or girlfriends, (everyone except for me, since the certain someone i was thinking of with the emerald eyes couldn’t meet before her work)  and breath in some fresh Bay Area, autumn air.

It was a short drive back to SF but even still, everyone but Gronk! and Jesse was asleep by the time we barely left Sacramento’s city limits.

Rules of the Road

1. Shit happens. Do whatever it takes to get the job done.

2. Always carry a spare tire.

3. Fights will happen but remember why you are here and how luck you have it. You could be working behind a desk under soul-sucking fluorescent lights.

4. When fighting, don’t make it personal unless the greater cause is at stake and the fuck-up needs to be put in his/her place. Other than that, refer to #3.

5. Always carry a spare gas can for good luck. If you have it, you won’t need it and if you leave it, you’ll be stranded.

6. GPS lies. Pay attention to signs, intuition and if in a jam, you can always ask a local.

7. Play more Tetris, it will help when loading/unloading all the gear, merch and half dozen guitars you just HAVE to bring along.

8. 10 minutes of space away from everyone else will spare you 10 fights down the line.

9. Eat whenever possible because you never know where your next meal will come from or when it will be.

10. Don’t forget to bring a towel.

11. Always search your hotel room. Apparently Sting’s bus driver stashes his drugs in the different hotels he knows he’ll be returning to while on the road. According to reliable sources, it’s not just him.

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Hollyweird Tales: The House of Blues, Battling Cabbies on Sunset Blvd, A Blunt the Size of Your Finger And Feeding Porn Stars into the Meat Grinder.

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Cretos, Gogog and I walked up and down the Sunset Strip, catching stares from the patrons at the chic restaurants.  Their casual lunch faces twisted into looks of disgust as they saw a bunch of tattooed, haggard rockers in black strolling by their boutique dining experience. Muffled voices were followed by slight points and turning heads. I lit a cigarette and we stared twice as hard back, arguing over who had the right clothes for the “cool kids club”. Afterall, they were a bunch of Los Angeles yuppies with overpriced haircuts and $200 ripped jeans, sporting designer sunglasses and complaining about their agents getting a cut of the money (*true story). Welcome to Hollyweird.

We bummed around a few Halloween stores, ending up in one that used to be the infamous Sunset Tower Records during the 20th Century. Now the building remains vacant until seasonal stores need the space, and then move on once they’re done. Very Southern California.

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Cretos wearing a fallen Orc’s face

We decided to keep roaming and I took the guys around to the Viper Room, were their morbid curiosity peaked, trying to find the spot where River Phoenix died. That might sound horrible to some people, but I was more than eager to show them as, well, I’m one of those morbid types.

“What’s up the street?” Cretos asked in a gargled voice, pointing with a newly acquired, zombie lawn gnome from the last store.

“You’ve got the Whiskey, the Roxy and the Rainbow Room, along with Hustler Hollywood,” I replied, already thinking about the XXX espresso shake at Hustler. Whenever someone from L.A. mentions the Rainbow, we immediately mention the obligatory, “Lemmy lives above the Rainbow and you can meet him there for drinks if you play it right.”

“What? No shit?” Cretos almost screamed.

Clearly I had his attention.

The three of us stood on the sidewalk, discussing whether or not we should walk the couple of blocks up to see if Lemmy was there, or just turn around and go back to the RV. After a few minutes of going back and forth, we decided it was already getting late and we needed to be by the gear for load-in.

“Besides,” we all agreed. “Lemmy’s been sick anyway, he’s probably resting or maybe not even in L.A. at all.”

Ho. Ho.

Growing up in Southern California, you have no idea just how different it is not only from the rest of the country, but even from the rest of the state as well. At least my friends and I didn’t, or if we did, we were too busy getting into trouble and trying to numb our brains to think about it. We grew up going to Hollywood on a weekly basis, driving past the prostitutes lit under the neon of the clubs and billboards. A town that promises anything you want with no repercussions, your dreams in your hand, as long as you sign on the dotted line and sell that soul. Don’t worry baby, you’re in good hands with us. We’ll take you up that rollercoaster of life and it will be all downhill, smooth sailing from here until you’re all used up and we can’t make that golden green off you. Shit, they’ll even suck the money out of your corpse, just look at Tupac.

So if you finally move away from the Mecca of SoCal and live life with a different view, you can infiltrate the city in a new way. You know how to maneuver your way around a conversation better than a regular outsider, because you understand the other person’s mindset, sometimes better. It’s a skill that came in handy when we needed to move the trailer and find someplace the park the behemoth on the Strip on a Friday night.

For those who didn’t grow up in LaLa land or have never been to the House of Blues on Sunset, it’s an amazing venue to see a show. The sound is impeccable, the food is great and if you don’t mind rubbing some elbows, the view is excellent. Plus, it’s Hollywood, so EVERYONE plays there. Playing there, however, is another story entirely.

The club is on the edge of Sunset, right on the side of a massively steep hill and the side street ends for 2-way traffic abruptly after the club. We had pulled in early since we were carrying the GWAR guys and parked downhill from the venue. Thirty minutes later, we were told the cub didn’t have any available parking for us and we were on our own. They advised us to ask the hotel next door if we could use their free space.

The first one was a bust, but I straightened my hair, ditched my vest with Hitler committing suicide on the back, and walked into the next one. I haggled my way with the valet boss into letting us park in the taxi zone on Sunset, for $30 less than they normally charge as long as we were gone by 1:30am. Insert your best Jew joke, here.

Another problem with the venue is their insurance won’t allow their load crew to take anything if it’s outside the property line for liability reasons. The next 20 minutes were spent by the band, Jesse and I stacking cases and riding them up the street and slowly down the hill, all hands on deck. With only a few minor falls and multiple strings of cursing, we got the equipment to the main hall where I departed from the band so they could set up the stage and I could set up the merchandise next to Iron Reagan.

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This is Carle, Iron Reagan’s merch girl, she’s rad and can probably kick your ass.

A few minutes into my merch routine, Missy Knowlton, my good friend, fellow artist and life enthusiast came walking down with her usual warm smile, carrying an iced coffee for each of us. This is why she’s also known as, Momma Bear. We caught up over the coffee and laughs while I finished my duties before I dragged her with me through the labyrinth of backstage to where dinner was waiting.

Since she didn’t have a badge, or even her guest list pass yet, I grabbed a plate with two forks and piled it high with mashed potatoes, salad and grilled veggies. Nicole, GWAR’s merch woman & married to Brent . . .saw what was going on, smiled and gave me the pass. I escorted Missy to the front patio where we inhaled the fresh food and talked with some of the GWAR and Iron Reagan guys. We left the patio through the front and ran into another group of wild and familiar faces that we’ve (“we” being Hulg, Missy and myself) known for over a decade. Spirits were high and you could feel the energy in the air, or maybe it was all the electricity from the Strip.
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Missy & Joe the most loyal kooks you’ll ever meet.

The Orcs’ set went off without a hitch and the House of Blues’ sound was crispin’ like Glover. For my money, it’s been the best sound on tour so far.

And holy Jebus, was it packed.

As soon as their set started a decent size pit opened up and didn’t quit. As it goes in tinsel town, people show up fashionably late, and hour by hour hordes of drunk and crazed fans piled in, screaming, “Ggggwwwwaaarrrrr!!!” at the top of their lungs.

And of course, the Industry was in full force. Reps from Nuclear Blast and Brian Slagel, founder of Metal Blade Records, showed up and word began spreading about a “buzz” around the Orcs. Gwar is the perfect band for the Orcs to open for. Not only do they share elaborate stage shows, but the styles of metal are similar as well with heavy death and classic influences. Ever night more and more people approach the merch booth, telling me they had never heard of the band before that night and can they please have a cd or t-shirt.

Of course the music industry isn’t the only one in LaLa land and soon enough a group of Vivid Entertainment girls, all primped and looking as “LA hot” as possible. And in this town and in this town, there’s a lot of competition. Even Jessie Lee, the seductive siren from Burning Angel entertainment and star of such classic, punk porn cinema as “Cum on my Tattoo 4” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Fuck Alone,” was rocking out and later fed into GWAR’s Meat Grinder like a champ along with several of the other girls.

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See? Would I lie to you? And yes, that is a shit-eating grin I’m wearing. Ok, maybe not the best saying when posing with a porn star.

Never one’s to let good publicity go bad, GWAR premiered their new cartoon before their set, then blasted into the full set, spraying copious amounts of blood and alien “jizmogoblin” (I’ll let you figure that one out) at the crowd. I’ll upload my crappy video of the cartoon soon.

It was a whirlwind of a night complete with fights, 4 fire engines out front (nobody knew why), pissed off cab drivers yelling at our RV for taking their spot (apparently one of them kept yelling “Fuck you, weirdo!” at Gogog which has now become the new insult on tour) and more familiar faces packing into the crowd.

After the show, our friend Joe Riot (who will forever be Stoner Joe in my book even if he stopped smoking 3 years ago) interviewed the Orcs for his radio show and we said our goodbyes to Echo, Lisa and the rest of our friends who had shown up. With the trailer packed, we passed under the neon lights of Hollyweird, slowing creeping through the Friday night traffic, on our way back up to Sacramento.

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It was when we were unwinding in the back of the RV that I heard Cretos yell, “Fuck!!” at the top of his lungs. I jerked out of my sleepless daze and asked what happened, thinking there would be blood.

“Look at this!” he said passing me the laptop.

It took my eyes a few seconds to realize what I was staring at. Lemmy had posted a picture in front of the Rainbow Room, right at the time we decided not to go check it out. That night there was a free listening party of the new Motorhead album for anyone who wanted to check it out, complete with the man himself. The metal gods had given us the opportunity and we wasted it like the mortals we are. Moral of the story: now or never.