20 year old savant producer & musician, Tree, debuts live, electronic band. (published May 1-7, 2014. Vol.41 No.4)
I am not a morning person, nor are most of my counterparts. Whether they are literary journalist, photographers, promoters or musicians, our time is the night where we mingle, drink, shmooze, see shows or stay awake surrounded by cigarette butts and too much work with too short of a deadline. We see people with the normal, 9 to 5 jobs, or 6 am wakers as wild beasts; strange creatures we don’t understand and always keep a suspicious eye on.
But it seems that, somehow, when you’re on tour all rules go out the window.
Maybe it’s the bumpy road or the natural sunlight beaming through the windows–or the fact that I’m sharing a space the size of my room with 6 other dudes so sleep isn’t really an option anyway—but lately I have been waking up earlier than everyone else. Granted the times vary, maybe it’s 8am, maybe it’s 11, but it’s still a new experience.
On this particular Saturday morning we were in Austin, down the street from Emo’s a legendary venue in the city of music. It was early, around 8am, but there were already bands arriving for the Housecore Horror Fest.
Thrown by Housecore Records—which is owned by Philmo of Pantera, Superjoint Ritual and more—the Housecore Horror Fest is a four-day long music & horror film festival complete with upcoming and old movie screenings, cult movie merchandise booths and everything else you would expect. It promised the best Austin experience in horror culture & metal music, and we were ready to drink the Kool-Aid.
The Housecore Horror Fest schedule for our day.
We pulled into the parking lot of a complex boasting Emo’s and the venue A Band of Orcs were playing at called Antone’s, and were met by a loveable Bear of a parking attendant.
“Which band are y’all in?”
“A Band of Orcs,” replied Gronk! in a half-sleep daze.
Immediately his face lit up.
“Oh yeah? That’s awesome! I’ve been wanting to see you guys for a couple years now. Pull right on in and park anywhere.”
We pulled up right behind the venue, grabbed our passes and began unpacking the trailer to set up camp. We had several hours before the band played, so a few of us walked inside Antone’s where they were screening a new Asian horror flick called Trunk. Unfortunately, the film only had fifteen more minutes left, so I stumbled back to the trailer where another band had pulled up next to us.
“Dude,” whispered Gogog, pointing to a long, curly haired guy rocking a leather vest with no shirt. “Do you know who that is? Ari, the guy who played the child Jason in ‘Friday the 13th.’”
Sure enough, his band—named First Jason, of course—was opening at Antone’s right before A Band of Orcs. We all gave our introductions and met his roadie, Raven, and bassist, Nepharious, from the band, Macabre. They arrived just in-time for Ari to introduce the screening of Friday the 13th, playing next at Antone’s, which he did quickly before returning to our camp.
Rad Band Van Outside of the Fest
“Who wants to get high and watch Friday the 13th?” he asked. Before anyone could respond, I passed him a freshly packed bowl of Cali bud and the session began. Three bowls, two vape pens and a conversation about their newest smoking gadgets later, they gave us cds and signed Friday the 13th posters before we floated back into the bar to watch some classic slasher movie moments.
First Jason slashing it up
As the credits rolled past the screen, Raven and I set up our booths next to a band called The Bloody Hammers, and I checked out First Jason’s goods. Every piece of merchandise was Friday The 13th themed, from Jason-style hockey mask earrings to movie stills, posters, t-shirts and even mini, plastic machetes. Ari even played a keytar shaped like a machete, singing numbers like “Jason is Watching” and “Crystal Lake.” It was a whole new level of campy fun, excuse the pun.
Up until the Housecore Horror Fest, the Orcs were building larger crowds at each successive venue, but still relatively unknown. Maybe 10 people would be there to see them one day, and then 12 the next, but in general, most people had never heard of them. HHF would prove to be the tipping point.
A large crowd filled the bar in preparation for the Orcs and before they even hit the stage we had sold over $100 worth of merchandise, including a new shirt to the Bear parking attendant. Finally, we were with OUR people. The folks with a thirst for fake blood and excessive, over-the-top gore; the folks who spent their teenage years as outcasts, discussing the finer points of Dario Argento’s earliest works instead of watching the high school football game; the individuals who cast aside the latest episode of Friends for a handheld video camera so they could make their own horror film with their real-life buddies.
Blurry Orcs from the back of my Merch Booth
They. Loved. The. Orcs.
Within the first song lead singer, Gogog, had them eating out of his warty, green hands. When he screamed, “Louder!” the audience would erupt with blood-curling shouts. A massive circle pit opened up in the middle of the bar with lost shoes flying above the crowds’ head. Because it was a festival, they only had 20 minutes to play, just enough to tease the crowd and leave them wanting more.
And want more they did.
It was the first time on tour the audience chanted for an encore and it was the entire bar screaming for more. The shouting grew so loud the sound guy cranked up the background music several times before the crowd received the hint. Over a period of a few hours, we sold more merch than the previous two nights combined. A few days later, Gronk! would receive an email from the promoter of HHF saying what an amazing band they were, how they always have a place to place in Austin, and see you next year.
Two more bands played after the Orcs and then it was time for the final music performance at Antone’s before the next movie. We had to pack up the merch tables to make way for the screening, so I did it quickly and caught 80% of death metal power trio, Hate/Eternal’s, set.
Holy Metal Up the ASS!
Blistering solos, grinding distortion and chest pounding double-bass kicks with snare blast beats filled the air with such immense power I had to double-take and make sure it was only three people. I’ll shamefully admit I never listened to them before then, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t make a new fan out of me. Hate/Eternal, check ‘em out if you haven’t, just make sure you have a bucket to collect your brains after they melt out your ears from so much awesomeness.
With the rest of the day off, we explored the expo and unwound from the previous couple of days. Of course, when you’re living this life, time to unwind means drinkin’, and drink we did. The artists’ lounge was fully stocked with various kinds of beer, Gentleman Jack Daniels and bottles of Grey Goose vodka along with BBQ and tacos. We waited for everyone else to get their food and clear out, before Hulg swiped a bottle of vodka and Jess & I split the whiskey.
Next door, Emo’s was open for business and we spent the rest of the day partying it up with the bands on the Madness At the Core of Time Tour and taking shots with Carlee & Wyatt (Iron Reagan’s & Whitechapel’s merch managers, respectively); watching the music from the front row & photo pit, along with another epic performance by Goatwhore. Their band had parked next to the Orc RV after First Jason left, so we were all able to hang out and talk throughout the day. Sammy, the guitar player, and I bonded over my “Follow Your Leader” backpatch with the picture of Hitler committing suicide while I subdued my fanboy status.
But the real treat for the night was a special appearance by the one and only stoner/psych/sludge band, the Melvins. Heroes to the underground, the Melvins influenced everyone from Nirvana to Tool, Boris and Mastodon. With 2013 marking their 30th year as a band, guitarist King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover have reuinited with original drummer Mike Dillard, with Crover switching over to bass.
Louis Benjamin Falgoust II of Goatwhore
Zack Simmons of Goatwhore
Guitarist Sammy Duet of Goatwhore
Since Jesse and I were on one tearing it up, we used our all-access powers to sneak on stage for the full Melvins set, standing only feet away from Buzzo’s giant, white fro. We smoked a bowl beforehand, and let the stoner-sludge fest commence. Everything became a beautiful blur of reds, blues, pinks and greens from the lights above as the sweet stoner riffs swirled in the air like a fresh rip from a clean bong. The venue was packed and we had the keys to the kingdom.
The Melvins from behind bathing in blue
Throughout the night’s performances Emo’s was our homebase and we all took the liberty of using it as such. The real parties were happening outside the club, with the various bands smoking, drinking, getting high and hitting on all the females in the parking lot. At one point I passed by Gogog and Hulg doing a radio interview and threw in my two cents when they waved for me to join them. I don’t remember what I said (you can find the radio interview on A Band of Orcs’ facebook page), but I do remember seeing a devil on stilts and fire breathers.
What’s a Metal Fest without Satan?
Sometime in the past couple of weeks, Jesse had the ingenious idea to have his picture taken by the various famous musicians we’ve played with. Yes, you read that right. He doesn’t take a picture with the person, but instead has them take his photo. You can see all the pics of Jesse on Instagram and Twitter under the #Iaskfamouspeopletotakemypicture hashtag, including the one he got from the man himself, Phil Anselmo. Phil was so wasted he needed two handlers to help him navigate through the hordes of fans asking for his autograph and initially denied Jesse a picture until he realized he wouldn’t actually be in it.
Finally, Gwar walked onto the stage to finish the night. By then, I my whiskey limit had reached its peak so Jesse & I tried hanging out backstage where we could sit and chill, but the production manager said it was closed and kicked us out, right back onto the stage. How the hell we were allowed to hang out ON the stage with Gwar instead of BACKSTAGE where were out of the way, I’ll never know.
Gwar’s Beefcake beefing out.
After standing next to Beefcake for part of Gwar’s set, my exhaustion took the best of me, so I swaggered back to the empty RV and passed out. It was an epic hangover the next morning, and I regret nothing.
After a night of metal, I finally found Jesus.
It’s been a few days since a post straight from behind the merch booth; so why the hell not deliver a fresh, hot, live post straight from my gut to your brain? I already have a couple on my computer, ready for publishing, so I’m going to skip ahead a few days and go straight to last night.
We had pulled up next to the venue in Charlotte, NC sometime hours before dawn, having driven straight from Atlanta. I was the first one awake, which has been happening lately and I don’t know why. My internal clock has been completely unwound and built anew on this damn tour, it will be hell getting back on my normal routine, but no matter.
When you’re on the road in a van or RV with 6 other guys, you learn to live out of gas stations. First, they are everywhere. Second, they always have coffee and horrible, food-like processed substances that fill the hunger. Third, there’s always a bathroom and dear Lord, is that a sweet, sweet thing.
After a few days, the gas station routine becomes so regular they turn into a personal kitchen. You just roll out of bed, throw on your flip-flops and stumble your way towards the heavenly caffeine. Nevermind the 50 year old Southern man behind the counter casting a suspicious eye in your direction. Ignore the nice, Christian family staring at your tattoos and bedhead while you wipe the sleep from your eyes, cursing the sun and asking yourself just where in the hell you’re at. Just another morning in America, thanks Ronnie.
Only on this particular morning, the gas station was out of coffee and didn’t have a public restroom, but the lady was kind enough to point me in the direction of a Bojangle’s Chicken restaurant a quarter of a mile up. The air was crisp and quickly brought my senses back into reality. By the time I was at Bojangle’s, my gut was growling for biscuits and coleslaw, which I promptly ordered. With food in hand I made my way back to the RV, stopping for 20 minutes to hangout on a brick building stoop to watch the pedestrians and crackheads walk by.
Gronk! And Jesse were the next to make their way out of the RV. I grabbed my computer and went inside The Tremont Music Hall to charge my electronics and do the journalistic work for the morning.
The Tremont looks like an old warehouse, complete with loading docks, separated into two rooms with the largest holding somewhere around 900 people. The floors are spray painted with “attack lines” and “safe zones” and the walls are adorned with a couple decades worth of pictures of the various acts who have graced the stage.
Gwar was up several times along with Iggy Pop, Green day, Rancid, Hank 3, Death Angel and many, many more. Painted above the front, bay door it read, “Enter At Your Own Risk”. Ominous foreshadowing, indeed.
As the hours progressed, more and more people began piling in and soon everyone on the tour was hanging out, getting ready for the Halloween festivities.
“Since nobody is dressing up tonight, we’re gonna have to get weird,” explained Iron Reagan bassist, Rob.
“Yeah,” chimed in Tony, the singer. “We’re gonna get (Cretos) so wasted he’ll wake up with another teardrop tattoo!”
And weird it got, but more on that later.
I have to mentioned the Tremont’s catering. We’ve been eating amazing food throughout this tour, with most venues catering dinner for us. But the Tremont takes the cake. There was hot brisket for the omnivores and mashed potatoes, lentils with jicima root, salad, grilled veggies, rolls & brownies for everyone else. It might’ve been the first time I got all my servings of nutrients and protein in one meal, so I had seconds. I thanked our chef and she told me about all of the various events she’s worked.
“Yesterday was Alicia Keyes, today is Gwar and tomorrow I’m cooking for the WWE” she said with glee. “It’s only for 300 people but I’m making enough for 600 ’cause those guys can eat!” Well said, kindly grandma figure.
The club stashed our per diem beers in the green room & Jesse skated up the street to grab a bottle of Jameson for the bands. After all, what’s Halloween without Jameson? That’s right, a crappy one.
Doors opened and the costumes began pouring in. The usual suspects were there in full force, from store bought Mario & Luigi’s to slutty kitty, slutty cop and slutty ghosts. But Charlotte has a lot of character & too much down time, so we also saw a guy dressed as a tampon, a rad version of the Scooby Doo Mystery Gang, contestants from the 90’s Nickelodeon show “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and even a damn good replica of Oderus Urungus.
As soon as A Band of Orcs hit the stage, the audience was already in a tipsy state with the sound of bottles breaking against the concrete floor. The merch tables were in the smaller room, but I could hear Gogog riling up the already rowdy bunch as more glass exploded around me. This time, a pint.
By the time Whitechapel made their way onto the stage, the floors were drenched in beer, there were a few stumbling, blacked out girls (more like zombies, really. all because of the booze and not the holiday) and the men’s toilet was clogged with two Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys, which made the urnial flood out. The night was 1/2 way over.
Three songs into Gwar, I saw Jesse leaving the main hall, so I thought it was a good moment to grab some video of the mighty scumdogs.
“Dude, I wouldn’t do that. It’s nuts in there,” he said with a stunned gaze. “I’m not even going back in for the rest of the night.”
Even though he’s not in the business of selling wolf tickets, I had to go see for myself but couldn’t make it past the entrance. 900 sweaty, drunk, blood covered minions were in full rabid mode, raging to the metal and all pressed up against a tetering barricade. The Tremont’s security are all a bunch of biker-built guys but even I could read the fear on their face.
Within moments shouts to cut the power began ringing out as the metal barricade gave way.
“Hey you Motherfuckers!” screamed Oderus. “Calm your fucking shit or we won’t play. I know you all want to fuck us that badly, but we don’t need anyone dying before they can suck my dick!” They’re the Scumdogs of the Universe for a reason, and their brand of raunch was just what the audience needed to hold back and rebuild the wall.
After their set, Dave Brockie walked through the audience, covered in Gwar blood and cum, wearing nothing but a pair of Gronks! tighty-whiteys. Brockie had talked about being Heisenburg for Halloween all tour, but when it came down to it, he had no time for a costume. So the underpant served as part of his “Walter White goes crazy in the supermarket” costume. He ran around screaming “Where’s Jesse? Let’s cook!” so I made sure to grab our Jesse for a candid shot with Crazy Walt (or drunk Brockie. When it comes to Gwar, it’s hard to tell what’s what sometimes.)
“Walt” & Jesse
As we packed up the trailer, it was clear that Iron Regan had succeeded in getting Cretos trashed. But the truth is we all had a hand in bringing that poor bastard to puke. And puke he did, all over our RV bathroom ending with a snot rocket on the window curtain.
All of the bands were hanging out in the parking lot, taking pics and chatting it up with the old school Gwar fans while Gwar switched buses yet again. This was the 4th time for them, each one breaking down in their own way. Jesse, Gogog and I found a guy named Todd who was willing to smoke us out as we talked about metal, white people destroying the government and everything in-between.
As people started to disperse, we saw a very drunk, slutty Predator hitting on Balzac before she stumbled back to the car with her boyfriend and friends. Half-way there she tripped over her platform boots and face planted into the gravel.
Slutty Predator & Dirks with Ben from Whitechapel & Jesse photo bombing
“That’s spousal abuse!” screamed Jesse, loud enough for her to hear.
Immediately the embarrassment hit her and instead of composing herself like an adult Predator, she began wailing on her boyfriend, punching him in the face, chest and crotch. We all stood there, watching and adding ESPN commentary until a security guard joined our group.
“Man,” he said very matter-of-factly. “I’d try to stop it, but that’s what she does. I’ve seen her with at least 4 dudes and she’s beat every one of them. If THAT’S not a red flag, what is? You go for the low-hanging fruit and it’ll punch you in the nuts.”
By now, the bus switch was almost complete and the Gwar guys invited us to raid their beer, fridge and random packs of new socks, boxers and shirts. Jesse and Hulg came back 3 times, each with pillow cases full of comandeered goods. As I write this, we have beer stashed in the fridge, cupboards, under the bed and somewhere in the trailer.
Jesse went back outside to hangout on the new Gwar bus, while Gogog and I put the loot away. When out of nowhere, BAM! the entire RV shook with the hand of God. Or the old Gwar bus, which had hit our trailer and was now stuck on. Hulg watched the whole thing and woke up Oog, who owned the trailer. With some tricky manuevering the driver was able to unlodge the bus and gave Oog $40 for the damages. The passenger side fender was ripped like a sardine can, but remained over the wheels and the hanging metal wasn’t in danger of popping the tires, so Oog chalked it up as a win.
With the old bus gone, the drunk fan goers retired and our ripped up fender, there was nothing left to do but kick it in the parking lot longer, drink beer, smoke some hash oil, and recount the night’s events with sleep deprived laughs.
It was a helluva night. I’m still trying to figure out how the hell all of that happened in less than 24 hours. What a difference a day makes.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
the sensual Iron Reagan
A Band of Orcs with Yard Bone
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hellbillies Representin’ at the Regency
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.
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.
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.
Caroline has been Gwarified
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.
A Crabtree stands alone
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.
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. . .
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.
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.
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.
10/18/13 House of Blues, Hollywood.