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.

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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Hail, Hail Portlandia!

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Nestled at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, lays the 162-year-old city of Portland, Oregon. Originally inhabited by the Multnomah Indians, the environment provided plenty of fishing, edible plants and berries, and even hunting in the nearby Tualatin Plains, for the local population.

As it usually happens, the natives were driven away by the onset of white pioneers from the Midwest. By 1843, a Tennessean named William Overton had arrived in the area and saw great business potential for the land. White people always seem to look at nature and see “potential” instead of the importance it already possesses. Go figure.

So Overton buys the land for with a business partner, then sells his shares in 1845 for $50 to one Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine, who had recently moved to Oregon to open a general store. Overton then skips out of state for various parts of his life, ending up in Texas to take care of his sick mother, where he we was rumored to have been hanged.

Pettygrove and Overton’s business associate, Asa Lovejoy, couldn’t agree on what to name the new territory, each wanting to pay homage to their hometowns. As with all brilliant moments in history, the decision was settled by a coin toss. Three years later Pettygrove was one of the richest men in the Oregon Territory.

I don’t think either man ever could have imagined Portland turning into the environmentally friendly, progressive, hipster and delinquent haven it is in 2013. But! I already talked about that in my last post, so onward and upward we go.

The Orcs’ usual load-in time has be 2:30, so we rested for a few hours, eating the catered breakfast provided by the Roseland Theater and Voodoo Donuts. Which, by the way, are as amazing as everyone says. Between the Froot Loop topped donuts, the caramel and Oreo cookie ones and the cock ‘n balls donut (give you a wild guess what it’s shaped like), there’s a cream-filled treat for everyone in the family. Oh yeah, I went there. Rumor has it Voodoo also supplied the cream-filled, chocolate, weed cupcakes at the end of the night, but that is neither here nor there and I’ll get into that later. There was also a cake.

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The Roseland Theater itself is a premiere venue for years with a capacity of 1410. Much like the Filmore, its walls are adorned with pictures of a smorgasbord of artists who have played the stage from Frank Zappa to Prince and, of course, GWAR. They have a built-in restaurant where they fed us menu courses like bacon mac ‘n cheese, burgers and mile-high sandwiches. The cheese tortellini with mushroom cream sauce was definitely the best food I’ve had on tour so far. It was even better scarfing it down at the merch table 10 minutes before doors opened.

With a presale of 950 tickets and an eventual 1243 total, the Portland audience was ready for a legendary concert and the bands did not disappoint.

A Band of Orcs shuffled out and blew through their set with an energy that riled up the newly arrived crowd. Immediately when they began the set, a circle pit opened up and kids began thrashing about with an intensity that didn’t break until the Orcs were done.

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There are three times when the merch booth is busy, the beginning of the night, after the band plays, and the end of the show. Once the Orcs were finished I was swarmed by Portlandians asking about the band, all holding crumpled bills ready for whatever merchandise they could afford. Here’s a typical conversation:

Customer: So where are they from?

Me: Herntoadia.

Customer: Ha ha, no, really?

Me: Really. Looks like you could use a shirt.

Customer: Naw, I’m just thinking about a sticker. Well, how long does it take them to put all that stuff on?

Me: What stuff? Dude, a shirt last so much longer and you can’t wear a sticker.

Customer: You know, the masks and stuff?

Me: What masks? You sure you don’t want a shirt?

Customer: Ha, uh. . .*realizes he has been defeated* yeah, give me a large.

Eazy peezy fresh ‘n squeezy.

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After Iron Reagan and Whitechapel brought the crowd to a whole new level of chaos, it was almost time for GWAR. I was sitting behind the merch table when Jesse walked up to me with a professional-looking, chocolate cupcake in each hand.

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“Here,” he said with a suspicious grin, “It’s a special cupcake from Oderus (GWAR lead singer).” Not thinking twice, I unpealed the foil from the stump and bit in.

“Oh shit, they really are special.” I replied tasting that familiar spice of THC. And special they were, within the hour Jesse, Oog, Gogog and myself were watching the spectacular show of lights, blood, crass humor and ridiculously offensive alien costumes on stage; laughing our asses off at the blood-soaked crowd slipping on the floor and making fun of/with the fans in a good-humored way.

Portland is an old GWAR town, and I had a dozen or so people tell me it was their 13th, 16th, or even 20th show. By the third song bodies, legs and shoes were flying through the air, surfing on whatever hands they could find, trying to find the best way in front of the blood cannon on stage.

GWAR held no punches. I know I’ve only been on the road for less than a week but it was easily the most blood I’ve seen them spray on an audience yet. Pools filled the floor afterward and there wasn’t a single white spot of clothing in the building. The band played an extra-long set, bringing out every character they had on the road, giving Portland what it deserved.

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It was a helluva night that ended with the usual quick load-out back to the RV. When we hit the road the cupcake had been working for several hours and it was time to pay homage to the Land of Nod as we coasted down the blacktop back towards our native California.

Spokan, the Beginning of America, and Portland. Orctober 13-14.

Severe lack of sleep for days straight have brought me behind on the updates. After all, what good use is a writer who abides by his own deadlines? If that were to happen, all hell would break loose and the gods would rain hellfire and damnation upon us poor minions, and then where would we be?

So instead I’m starting from where we’re at and rolling with the road. Bringing you right into the middle of this goddamned thing straight from my cell phone. Welcome to the 21st century, where we do the important things with our thumbs. Tough shit non-primates, get with the evolution.

I’m writing this from the front seat of the rv, a band of orcs– looking as haggard as they sound and smelling twice as putrid–relax in the back after a long night of pillaging the Canadian countryside.

We’re parked somewhere outside of downtown Portland, Or., underneath an intersection of freeway overpasses, with the kooks and drunks, the wretched and the addicted, gather for a peace of mind and a sip of the hard stuff. Whether their taste is for the bourbon or the black.

Portland is an amazingly depraved city selling itself as a progressive paradise. Strip clubs stretch up and down the city streets and scattered in-between are nothing but bars, arcades, coffee shops, and record stores. It’s a fetishist’s heaven and has already stolen a nice chunk of money for my precious vinyl. Not that I’m complaining.

Two nights ago we were in Spokane, Wa. where the Orcs opened for a crowd of roughly 1100 drunk, crazed rednecks and mud worshippers. We had arrived early and spent the day idling around the venue, swapping the night’s road stories with the other crew and band members, breaking to go eat the Knitting Factory’s catering of the continental breakfast and taco bar.

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However, by the time the doors opened and the first wave of pre-game hammered fans walked in, we knew it was going to be one helluva night.

The merch tables were set off to the side in a separate room, so I missed the stage show but caught the real action instead.

From the moment Gogog stepped onto the stage and started yelling at the crowd, blackout drunk individuals were kicked out of the crowd in a constant stream every 10 to 20 minutes. Between the booze and the pit the night exploded in a sacrifice of concert goers to the metal gods. Blood, real and fake, drenched the faces and clothes of the horde as they cheered for more. Watching a spectacle such as an alien demon walking around with a massive alien dick, chopping off celebrity and other alien heads so that an actual fountain of blood can baptize the fans makes one realize just how perfect GWAR really is for the Super Bowl. The NFL commission clearly has no fucking clue why people watch their sport.

But that’s not to badmouth Spokane. The sober people were good folk and the lighting guy sold us some weed for California prices. What really struck me was how incredibly clean it was. A major US city with no dirt or grime on the buildings, no graffiti on the walls, and not even a candy wrapper on the ground. When there’s an island of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, you can’t help but wonder if something fishy is going down in Spokane.

When GWAR was finished and we were packed, the Orc caravan set off into the night towards Canada, where they were going to play Vancouver and I was going to in a trucker motel in Blaine, Wa. on the border because of my missing passport.

Blaine. . .well, Blaine exists. The city has a banner stretched across one street which reads, “Welcome to Blaine, where America begins!” Yeah, and Canada’s dream dies. It’s amazing the kids aren’t all drug dealers. Shit, maybe they are, I didn’t ask. But I did ask what people do for fun and the girl behind the pizza counter casually replied, “sometimes we go over to the island across the bay.” I left her a $5 tip just because how the hell do you reply to that?

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That’s Blaine in a nutshell. A boarded up city along a dead train route as a ghostly reminder.

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But they do have killer whales in their parks.

Which brings me to Portland.

After Vancouver, the band picked me up around 3 am and we hauled it the 4 hours south in the early morning mist. I’m back on a no sleep schedule, staying awake with whoever is driving. But things have been improving. In the past 48 hours I”ve actually slept for almost 6 hours. Just have to keep this up for 6 more weeks.
Continue reading “Spokan, the Beginning of America, and Portland. Orctober 13-14.”