We ship out for tour in a few hours. I should probably be getting some sleep but I’m not tired so instead I’m watching Nocturno Culto’s “The Misanthrope”. It’s pretty cool; a lot of Darkthrone rehearsal footage. It’s quiet here at 148 India Street; the hallways are dark and I can hear the cats outside scuttling around. Today was a day spent running around getting things done. The only thing left is the band and everyone’s individual taxes.
It’s just me and the cold hard ground.
3.15.2010 Birmingham, AL 22:14
Tonight’s the first night with Graves of Valor; I’ve been listening to their record during the days leading up to this trip and I’m looking forward to checking them out. It’s a Monday night; tonight will be a small show but the guys that organized it seem really cool; I’m just happy to be playing and not having a night off.
We just went out to eat with Byron, one of the promoters, at this barbecue place. I can’t really hang with Barbecue so I settled in with a grilled cheese and collard greens. On our other visits here, we never really had an opportunity to see the city. It looks like Birmingham is a hard luck town; driving in, we saw countless how many burned out buildings. The remains of one incinerated building had been filled with old tires. There was something particularly brutal about that scene, it was decided that the blasted remains of someone’s home was a perfect receptacle for discarded tires. It looked like a scene from some post-apocalyptic nightmare world. The area surrounding the venue is miles of warehouses and 9 to 5 businesses; it’s quiet and still out at this hour.
We arrived in town at about 13:30 and drove down to Charlemagne Records. I picked up “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely” on vinyl. I heard some tracks off of it a few years ago; it’s the one where Frank sound really bummed out and depressed and I’ve been wanting to pick it up for a few years. It was the first record in the bin. Afterward, I checked out the Golden Temple and used their wifi, bought an organic chocolate chip cookie and chilled out for a while.
It’s been non-stop driving ever since we left New York. The first drive was to Richmond and then a 10 hour run to Nashville. Today was an easy 185 miles down to Birmingham but tomorrow is another 10 hour backbreaker of a drive.
It was cool to be in Richmond again. Nara Sushi is gone so we played at this place called Plaza Bowl, a bowling alley on the south side of the city. People were bowling when we showed up. When the show started, they turned down the lighting and fired up these colored lights that illuminated the lanes creating a surreal, carnival-like vibe.
It was Nick’s first show with us. He did a great job; it could have gone a lot of different ways, but he did an outstanding job and, from my position on stage, everything sounded thicker and heavier. The more-intense-than-usual practice schedule to bring Nick up to speed paid off.
Jason Hodges, my old buddy from Suppression / Amoeba Men / Kojak reached out to us through Marc, the Richmond House Shows guy, asking us to play a second show that night at a place called The Triple. One of the other bands on the bill canceled so there was room for us to play. Hodges band, The Bermuda Triangles, also played. We packed up after our set and hauled it across town. Some folks from the Plaza Bowl show came out as well. I felt we played better on the second set. It was tighter and we all seemed more settled in; maybe it was the initial jitters of the first show with the new lineup that was in the back of our minds. The Bermuda Triangles were far out; Hodges bands are always interesting; I’d like to check out a recording.
We crashed at Elway’s place and he played me the new Bastard Sapling recordings. It was only drums and rhythm guitars but it sounded amazing already. I’m looking forward to hearing the full-on mix.
We got a late start out to Nashville but somehow ended up getting to the venue pretty much exactly as the show was starting. It was hour after hour of grey skies and endless miles, reminding me of those brutal European drives from the last tour. To add to the stress, we lost an hour due to daylight savings.
It was day two of a two day metal fest at this diy venue called the Little Hamilton Collective. I contacted Ivan from the band Dawn when we started booking the tour and he set us up on the bill. It was pretty solid; Dawn, Sanctions and Brainwreck were standout bands of the night. We finally got a chance to play with Salome; they seemed really cool and played a punishing set of painfully slow doom.
It felt good to cut loose and play after such a long drive. It made the whole day of stress worth it. I felt like we played really hard.
3.16.2010 Somewhere in Mississippi 12:34
We were up and out at 07:00 this morning. Byron, one of the guys that organized the show put us up at the apartment he shared with his girlfriend. They were gracious hosts. It felt really early when we shipped out.
The show was cool last night, a small group of people showed up but I felt like we played well and everyone seemed to have a good time. There was this really intense painting on the wall behind where the bands set up; it depicted a guy firing a shotgun at this other dude and force of the discharge is driving him backward. There are two women standing next to the shooter, one has blood splattered on the face and has a six-fingered hand. The other woman is crying out in horror. The figures in the painting are almost life-size. I kept glancing over at the painting during our set and the manic stare of the gunman held my gaze unwaveringly.
There’s a story behind the painting. Apparently, the piece was done back in the 70’s or 80’s using real models. Years passed and the painting changed hands; the people that occupy the space acquired it and when they moved in, it was discovered that the owner of the building was in fact, the model for the gunman. That added an eerie intensity to the sinister piece.
It was the first night with Graves of Valor. They seem like cool guys and they rip it live. I was told that the bassist and rhythm guitar player are new.
3.17.2010 Austin, TX 17:20
We’re loaded in and waiting to play. I really enjoy being in Austin and this venue is one of my favorite spots to play. Tonight should be a good time, it’s the Relapse Showcase: Voivod is headlining, the comedian Brian Posehn is performing and the rest of the bill consists of Kill the Client, Mammoth Grinder, Howl, and Graves of Valor. Voiovod is a band that I’ve admired for over two decades, I’m looking forward to seeing them. It’s pretty much the original lineup except, of course for Piggy, who passed away a few years ago.
We got to town at around 14:20; I was dropped off at the Convention Center to deal with the check in and registration process. It was a mad house, huge line but the chaos was handled fairly well. It made me realize how vast the South by Southwest trip actually is. I tend to think narrowly, like metal and hardcore are the center of the universe but I learned that a plethora of other music that I know absolutely nothing about is also represented. It made me feel very small and uninformed.
After I checked in and picked up our parking pass, I met the van outside and we drove down red river to Serrano’s, one of the most important restaurants in Austin to meet the Kill the Client crew and some of the Relapse guys. Now it’s time to wait.
3.18.2010 Somewhere 06:10
The whole Austin / SXSW experience happened so fast that it barely seems real. I ran in to some friends; Jason and Fouts from Gates of Slumber, Rich Hall, Austin Lucas, Ron Martinez but only got a chance to hang for about 3 minutes each. It would have been cool to have been in town for another day, played another show, checked out some of the other shows but that’s not in the cards.
Voivod were incredible. I remember more of their set that I do of ours. Chris, Pelican’s soundman on the tours with did with them last year was in town with another band and he mixed us. I felt nostalgic seeing him behind the desk getting levels. Those were good tours and Pelican are outstanding people to be on the road with.
There appears to be an endless amount of Waffle Houses in the south. I’m not a fan; all I can think of is the mob of drunks smoking and yelling at each other that night in Asheville collimating in a drunk girl pissing on her seat. That was my only expedition into the Waffle House world. Give me Denny’s any day.
3.19.2001 Slidell, LA 09:15
I’m sitting in hotel lobby getting into the free coffee, bagels etc provided as part to the breakfast buffet and listening to this older lady talking about her exploits in travelling. We played in New Orleans last night to about 8 people. I feel like we played well; it was a small show, but I’ll take it over not playing. The drives have been brutal; yesterday’s drive was about 9 hours and today will be about 7, we also lose an hour due to time zone changes.
New Orleans is a dark town; it feels like you always have to look over your shoulder. We haven’t really had a lot of time to check out the city on our forays down here, we just show up, play and leave. It would be nice to visit that city with some free time and a looser schedule.
3.21.2010 Brooklyn, NY 15:45
We drove all night from South Carolina and made it back to Brooklyn by about 13:00 and loaded out. Everyone went their separate ways. I went back to the office space to drop off some of my stuff and kick back before heading out to the apartment out on Montrose Avenue. No one is home; it’s as if everything has come to a halt.
Last night in Florence was cool; there was a decent turnout and everyone played well; getting a good night’s sleep the night before made a huge difference, it was a departure from the relentlessness of the week’s travel: back to back 9 or 10 hour drives, very little sleep. I recognized this dude from the fest in Asheville; he told Carson “Thank you for coming to South Carolina”. He’ll never really understand that we should be thanking him for enabling us to travel and play.
It was cool seeing Graves of Valor play in front of their home crowd; kids really got off. They’re a good band and it was good to be on the road with them; I feel like a week wasn’t long enough to really get to know them very well. Pretty much every night, I watched their guitarist, Richard, do fingerboard acrobatics and blow me away.
After the show, we settled up and hit the road. Carson and I were going to drive in shifts. At about 03:00 we came upon this phenomenon known as “South of the Border” in Dillon, SC. About 8 miles out we started seeing signs and about a mile out we saw the neon glow. We decided to check it out. South of the Border is this surreal, David Lynchian oasis off of Interstate 95. It’s all lit up in neon and feels like it has been there for decades. There’s a diner, a taco stand, fireworks store, fuel station and some miscellaneous traveler-friendly facilities. It has the feel of the post-war prosperity boom when the country was doing well and people regularly vacationed. It was mostly deserted at that hour except for us and a few college kids on spring break. We hit the taco stand for food. It had an otherworld quality at night standing amidst the neon cacti and huge archetypical Mexican statues. The colored lights diffused into the darkness of the night sky and the whole scene felt surreal.
Carson and I switched out and I fell asleep; when I woke up, we were in Maryland.