You Know You’re Back In California Because of the Higher Quality Kooks. Day 6

I awoke with a ferocious jolt out of a deep sleep, flying somewhere through the Andromeda galaxy from the night’s previous cupcake.

“Need a Weed break?” laughed Jesse. “Welcome to the rest stop.”

We had stopped in Weed, Ca. to change drivers, stretch our legs, and take the mandatory, juvenile, stoner pictures with the Weed sign. The sun was just creeping up Mount Shasta over the horizon and everything was baked in a golden hue warm enough to thaw your marrow. Our home state’s own welcome just for us. We’ve missed you too, baby.

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After a quick smoke and stretch we hit the road again, this time I road shotgun to keep Gronk (the bassist) awake while the rest slept. We twisted through the mountains listening to Bad Religion and Metallica in honor of California, discussing our favorite albums and catching glimpses of whatever lakes we were passing. We were on our way to Chico, and the quicker we arrived the more hours to ourselves we would have.

We pulled into town around 10:30 hungry for food and adventure. While Gogog, Hulg, Gronk and Jesse slept in the RV, Oog, Cretos and I went to explore Chico in search of some trouble.

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More inland than most routes on the streetkid transit, Chico is still a frequent transient stop up and down the state because of it’s small, college-town vibe and large, flat spaces for people to crash in the open air. Large groups of squatters littered the streets and I couldn’t help but feel almost at home.

The main area of downtown Chico is somewhat larger than Santa Cruz, but smaller than Santa Barbara and easy to get around, and we quickly found a great sandwich deli that built the bastards to the sky. For under ten bucks I had enough food to last me  until dinner and enough change to afford a pipe for the road and a present for a certain someone.

After a fruitless search in the local record shop, we walked back to the RV, where we spent the next several hours bullshitting around, smoking, drinking and enjoying an actual moment of downtime on a breezy California day.

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The Senator Theater is an old movie house that has long since had it’s screen removed. The entrance is a grand hall, garnished with ornate murals, mirrors and once-gold-but-yellowed-with-time trim around the molding. One could imagine all of the timeless films opening there throughout cinema history, as the building slowly aged and the town around it began to expand until finally the movies were out and blood-spewing metal was in. C’est la vie.

Chico is also the home to our good friend, Tessara, who Oog and I know through the Stellar Corpses, who she does merch for and also dates the singer, Dusty. She showed up a couple hours before the show, just as we were loading-in, so we were able to catch up for a bit and get her in to watch the sound check. She filled me in on the happenings around Chico, the closing of the good dive bar, the 411 on the fans, who was who in the local scene, and all of the other important things to know about the city you’re in.

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About 30 minutes before the doors opened, we received our daily payment and immediately Jesse and I set out for dinner while the Orcs finished their soundcheck. There was a Woodstock’s pizza a few blocks up but we were sidetracked the first time because of faulty directions, and a second time because of the local kooks. Within minutes of turning around, a bowl-cut dready with a few weeks of baked on dirt and a pen-n-poke Juggalo Hatchetman tattoo on his arm, came riding on up his bike.

“Hey! You guys look like you’re lost. What can I help you with?”

“Uh, Yeah,” I said, all the while thinking, ‘Shit, here we go.’

“Where’s Woodstocks?” I replied.

“Oh, man, just go up too blocks and make a left,” he said with a toothless grin. “No, wait, just go down the block to the end, and make a left, THEN go two blocks up.”

By the time he was finished I had already taken my GPS out and discovered the REAL route, quickly turning to walk away. If you’ve ever had dealings with a kook, you know not to look ‘em in the eye and walk away as soon as possible before you’re dragged into a full-on tweaker rant about how his baby’s momma is a stripper but she won’t be stripping no more now that she’s pregnant with his kid and can he have $5 for food when the baby comes and definitely NOT crack because he’s done with all that now (*side note: that was a real conversation with a crack head as we were leaving Portland. The more you know. . .*)

“Well, wait!” the dready yelled, riding up to his.

“Ye gods, what did we do to deserve this?” I prayed.

“So,” he said slowly and deliberately, trying to remember his whole pitch. “I’m not asking for money, but I’m starting this new thing called the Positive Manifestation Station and you’re my first clients. I’m just giving out cigarettes to everyone but I don’t want any money. Just a donation of change so I can keep this up.”

“Got it,” Jesse repeated, “Money bad, but donations good.”

We didn’t give him any change and we didn’t take any of his smokes, but that’s a damn fine sales pitch if you ask me. Hell, the churches have been doing it for years.

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Besides the usual brand of GWAR fanatics all in new, white shirts or red stained tees from previous tours, there was one other fan who stood out and that was Shitty Titties.

Carle was the first to notice her. A veteran to the touring circuit, Carle has toured with a grip of bands, and before working merch for Iron Reagan on this tour, she just finished the Warped Tour with Whitechapel’s merch guy, Wyatt.

“Dude,” she said pointing to a 5’4, curvy blonde girl with a black shirt and blue jeans. “That girl’s shirt says, ‘Poop.’” Sure enough, in giant white block letters across her chest, glared the fecal word in all of its glory. The girl overheard and quickly turned around.

“Yeah, like shit, get it? Just call me Shitty Titties! Wooo! Rock on!”

Carle, Brent Purgason (Cannabis Corpse, GWAR) and I all looked at each other for a minute and just lost it with laughter.

Unfortunately, since the Senator wasn’t initially meant for music, the merch booths were set up along the concession counter, and we were cut off from the bands. Tessara hung out with me during Iron Reagan and Whitechapel, and we talked with the house’s concession girl, Maria, about Chico, the theater and favorite shows she’s seen there.

Chico is no Santa Cruz, and a show on Wednesday night means a relatively small attendance. Their energy was high, and they were friendly as hell—a group of juggalos gave the Orcs a bottle of Jager and a free quarter of weed. FAM-I-LY!—but their numbers just weren’t there.

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During the encore set, GWAR has always done horrible covers that they “turn into metallic gold” according to Oderus and on this tour, that montage has been a mix of Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into my Car” mixed with The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” chorus. The encore is also the infamous moment in every GWAR show when they have their slaves grab some women from the audience and throw them into the giant Meat Grinder on stage with blood spraying the frothing fans.

With such low attendance, nobody had picked out the victims so I suggested Tessara and Maria, which they gladly accepted. The video is posted below. For those of you who know her, Tessara is the first victim.

The load-out was painless and took less than 20 minutes. With our good-byes said, we jumped into the RV, Hulg at the wheel and our GPS set to the Observatory in Santa Anna, Ca.; home of the heatwave, famous for its winds, and only a quick 8.5 hour drive south. Hail GZOROTH!

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.”

The Battle of Seattle

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When my plane landed in Seattle I was running on hour 24 of being awake and starting to feel the zombification process taking over. As Jesse Williams–fellow roadie/merch slave/road dog & my friend/co-worker at the Blue Lagoon—later said, “You might as well start a tour haggard and exhausted, because you’re gonna end up there anyway.” Praise Jebus and pass the ammunition.

I quickly stumbled through the Sea-Tac airport, staring at the flashing, neon signs inviting me into their doors with the promise of expensive shots, fresh fish and a Starbucks in every other stall of the food court. A capitalist foodies Disneyland, nicely accented by the rain-filled skies looming through the airports glass walls.

Grabbing my bag I made my way to the opposite side of airport and jumped on the light rail towards downtown Seattle. Automatic pilot had kicked in completely wiping my mind from registering that I was raining out and probably not the best time to walk a couple miles to a venue I had never been before, in a city I haven’t entered in 20 years.

Any insomniac or crazy will tell you, just because we’re here doesn’t mean we actually are. Once zombification sets in, there are two choices: sleep if you can, or do whatever you can to get the job done. Keep going, rationality be damned.  Once you push past the 3rd or 4th wall, reality slowly turns into a movie showing for an audience of one very tired conscious, slumped somewhere deep inside your brain. The first time it happens you begin to question your sanity, but once you reserve the seat, frequent viewings are much easier to manage and soon you become a functioning madman, all muscle memory with no notice of the outside world, especially one involving a walk in the rain with only a jean jacket.
“Sure,” I thought. “It will be wet, but I won’t even notice from the insomnia. Thank God for the little things.”

No dice.

Five minutes into my 30-minute trek the wind began to howl like a rabid banshee and her shriek crept into my bones with a bitter jolt I haven’t felt since the last time I was tased, and all senses roared to attention. By the time I reached the venue I had racked up three failed attempts to find shelter and a bathroom and I was cursing every last living thing in that godforsaken city down to the last frozen earthworm.

The doors to the Showbox SoDo were, naturally, closed at 11 am, so I decided to walk down the street and try once more to find some form of shelter so I could call the guys and find their ETA. As I walked by a parked RV, the driver began to stare at me and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise. I flashed him the stink eye, holding back no hate for this Washingtonian and his suicidal city and just stared at him with a cold-dead look. After all, who the fuck was he to be staring some poor bastard stranger down, who obviously has no common sense in Seattle, walking down the street like a drenched alley cat.

“Fuck him,” I thought, “Let’s make this real and show him a sense of California.”

I probably stood in the rain for half a minute, staring with daggers, before I realized it was A Band of Orcs’ drummer, Kyle.

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The band had arrived a few hours earlier from Canada and had just woken up after a long night of travel. I set my bags down and they began to fill me in on the previous two weeks list of adventures. The Canadian shows were great, the country’s money is ridiculous; one of the band members had already backed the RV into a dumpster, ripping some of the side paneling; everyone was tired, cold, dirty and ready for clean laundry.  By this point the tour was already 2 weeks in, so the crew and bands already had time to bond and party, so Jesse guided me through the merch set-up, my responsibilities, and introduced me to a blur of people who I immediately forgot in my daze. They set me up with my tour badge so I could feel bonafide and sent me on my way.

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As night fell and I was rounding on hour 32 of no sleep, I fell nicely into tour mode with the rest of them—tired, dazed, chuckling at things that weren’t funny to anyone else but a sleep-deprived soul, and living on a steady diet of cigarettes and fresh coffee from the club.

Beyond that, this reporter can’t recall any specific details about that first night. My recollection is a blurry collage of movement and colors with dialogue floating somewhere in the background–like a TV at full volume in the locked room next door—all showered in a flood of fake blood from GWAR’s set. We packed the trailer, said our goodbyes and headed east towards Boise, Id.

I was so delirious when we left that I agreed to ride shotgun and keep Jesse awake while he drove through the night. Which (probably) would’ve been fine if the GPS had not decided to get us lost down an unlit trail with a cliff on one side and a river on the other, making it impossible to turn our RV & trailer around and leaving it up for Kyle to drive backwards for a mile back onto our original destination.

It was somewhere around hour 42 when my brain finally pulled the plug on my whole plan, and shut me down for six hours of glorious, glorious sleep.

Madness at the Core of Time Tour – Day 1 Pregame. How did I get here?

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“Those of us who had been up all night were in no mood for coffee and donuts, we wanted strong drink.” – Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Easily one of my favorite quotes by the great doctor. The humor is in it’s simple honesty. Some of us need more than the poser pick-me-up of caffeine when the stress-starved teeth of sleep sink into your brain.

Today was one of those days.

While I’m sitting on Southwest Flight 3789 from San Jose to Seattle, the new morning sun is climbing over the hills, on its endless cycle. The sweet, psychedelic sound of Dead Meadow trips through my headphones as I silently type, reflecting on everything that led up to me working the “Madness At the Core of Time” tour, while I wait for my whiskey and coffee.

This is the first breakfast I’ll have before 10am in months.

When Kyle Moore, the drummer for A Band of Orcs, approached me at the beginning of the year about working merch for them while on tour, a couple things crossed my mind: 1) he must be crazier than I thought if he wants to take me on the road again after the Stellar Corpses tour of 2011 and 2) It’s almost a year away, I’ll have plenty of time to think about it and get ready.

HA! Oh be warned ye who tempt the gods of fate.

This year quickly filled itself with work, news, weddings, deaths, and even a couple of music festivals . Soon it was August, and Kyle was creeping around again asking for my decision. It was rash and my answer came quick, “Of course I’ll tour around North America with you guys. Why not? It’ll be a helluva ride.”

In my experience all of life’s best, and worst, decisions are made from the gut and on the fly. But you never know which way the outcome will fall unless you live it. “Everything moves according to the whim of the Great Magnet,” another poignant Thompsonism.

That one decision has rained a whirlwind of welcomed chaos into my life, between my 9-5 day job, my deadlines for various publications and finding an hour or two to sleep each night (which, actually, all sounds about normal to me). Since then I have emailed countless editors, scheduled several flights, hunted down hotels and have contacted numerous friends in various states across the country. I’ve had 2 months covered at my day job; stressed out over social media and getting my website up and running before I leave (still not running, but almost!) and saved every last goddamned, worthless penny I could since I won’t see any new cash for 6 weeks. I’ve filled out government paperwork, missed deadlines and still don’t know if I’ll be allowed into the great white North of Canadia in a few days. Which, needless to say, is slightly nerve wrecking.

Yet come Hell, highwater, or a hurricane, I’m on my way to meet up in Seattle, with coffee & whiskey in hand and 5 hours of sleep in the last 30. I will be working merchandise for A Band Of Orcs, along with documenting the tour via video and written media. We are doing 38 cities in 44 days, 22 states and 2 countries. There’s a total of 4 bands including hardcore act, Iron Reagan, metalcore stars Whitechapel, and GWAR, the homicidal, alien metal musicians complete with their brand of blood, sex and gore.

“Yeah, Jebus, what did I get myself into?” I wonder, finishing my drink and contemplating another shot. Shit, when in doubt, rememer the mantra. “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” Cheers to you, Doc.