Stories From the Road – Let’s Hear Yours

So, my band is planning a short weekend jaunt into Californialand. All of us are over 30, married or with significant others, and in various stages of employment. We’re old, settled, and don’t do anything more than drink a few beers at the show. Zeppelin we are not. So, for us, this is a “tour”. Two days out is fun. Five days out is fun, but more than that is not. Sharing the same car space and hotel rooms and restaurant booths with the same people for days at a time breeds a strange kind of contempt, no matter how close you are to them personally. At least, it does at my age.

That’s not to say that we don’t have our share of stories from the road. For instance, we played a show in San Francisco a couple of years back. The show went off without a hitch. The venue was full, we didn’t suck, and the crowd was great. As icing on the cake, punk-rock legend Jello Biafra was in attendance, and we all got to spend a goodly amount of time shooting the breeze with one of our idols (he’s nicer and much less caustic than you would imagine him to be). Cloud nine. At the club, we met a guy who talked us into playing his “underground club” in San Jose the next evening. Sounded like a good idea when you’re still running on adrenaline, but the next day, it didn’t sound too fun. After some serious soul-searching, we opted to play the show instead of just monkeying around SF.

We drove the hour to San Jose. The “venue” was a shed in this guy’s backyard that was filled to the brim with tweakers, addicts, and the most unfriendly kids in the Bay Area. During one of the opener’s sets, a kid fell down in the pit. Punk-rock decorum dictates that you help up people who have fallen down. Not this crowd. The kid got kicked in the head, a brawl ensued, and “security” (the guy who owned the house and his brother) threw the miscreants out. Our set was a nightmare. There was no stage, which meant that we were playing in the pit. “Security” tried to help us, but they were only two people. I got a gnarly cut underneath my fingernails when somebody was thrown into me, hitting my hand and causing the guitar strings to go up under my nails, bamboo-style. Our bass player was pinned against the wall for the entire set by a sweaty 250+ pound girl (that was actually pretty funny). Our drummer nearly got into a fight with a couple of people whom he suspected were planning on stealing some of our gear. Our pay for the night? Eight bucks and a disposable lighter.

I know that a lot of musicians both present and former read MetBlogs. So, what are your best road stories?

10 Comments so far

  1. brewcaster (unregistered) on February 18th, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    All I can offer are storied revolving around broken down vehicles. On my first tour with Ester Drang, we spent the first night at a Waffle House in Kansas. Some slept in the van or the parking lot. The rest of us drank coffee and smoked cigs all night. I hate touring. Hence, I have not even touched a guitar since moving out here. I do miss it sometimes…. hint hint hint…. anyone?

  2. brewcaster (unregistered) on February 18th, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    All I can offer are stories revolving around broken down vehicles. On my first tour with Ester Drang, we spent the first night at a Waffle House in Kansas. Some slept in the van or the parking lot. The rest of us drank coffee and smoked cigs all night. I hate touring. Hence, I have not even touched a guitar since moving out here. I do miss it sometimes…. hint hint hint…. anyone?

  3. Steve (unregistered) on February 18th, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

    Laughing Iguana, Des Moines, 1989 (?)… summer night, hot as hell, upstairs room, no A.C.

    Crazy lady strips down to her lingerie and tries to flirt with me from the dance floor. She hands me a Herman Melville book. "I have laryngitis," she rasps in my ear as she hands it to me between sets. There’s a picture of a young boy tucked inside. "My dead son," she tells me. She gave me a ring, too, in a clamshell.

    Worst. Gig. Ever. The next time we were booked into that hell hole, the date was canceled because some biker got knifed the night before we were to play.

    Then there was some dive in Eugene (maybe it was called the Butte?) where the regulars refused to pay cover, and there were dogs running in and out of the club all night. In the third set, some drunk lady kept yelling "Play something good!" (Which is better than "Play something you know," but still….)

    I had the domain reserved for a while, but never did anything with it. Coincidentally, a klezmer musician I know had a very similar domain registered, but he never did anything with it either.

  4. Dodge Ram (unregistered) on February 18th, 2008 @ 11:41 pm

    When I was a rodi with "the band changed there name like 3 times I was with them" Diamond Edge, Glass Chunk, Chunk now there calling them selfs Craving Theio. But back to my "ture" sorry for the misspelling. We left Portland for Spokane then Cordelane Id, then Salt Lake, then a three day lay over in Reno "picked up a mustang ranch t-shirt" then off to Chino Ca, then LA so it took a week ten days. Now I can say that the rest area when we got in to calf. from Reno they had like four vending machines with damn neer every thing you could need, soda, water, sandwitchs-munchys, small car parts, first aid stuff, all sorts of stuff I was impressed. But as for the LA area hope you don’t need to find a hospital OMG our ture manager was walking away from me and I asked him a question and when he turned away from me he fell over a chain blocking the drive way and landed on his elbow he broke it so I took him to the hospital "no one can speak english thrue 3" of plexy glass" when I did find a hospital I asked the guard where the emergency intrance was and his come back was and I quote "you don’t want to go back there cause they just had shots fired" so I hope that you won’t need a hospital and if you do good luck and cover your ass.

  5. Sloop (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 7:54 am

    In Delaware, we met a guy who invited us to crash at his 100 acre organic farm. It had about a 3 mile driveway through the woods, which was pretty scary at 3am. It was this cabin in the middle of nowhere and it sat on a lake, which he used to bathe in. When we saw the upright bass and recording gear in his living room, I knew he was alright, and not a dangerous hick. We stayed up and watched a lightning storm over the lake. It was a great night of rocking out, kindness from a stranger and the terrible beauty of a lightning storm.

  6. tenstringesquire (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 9:17 am

    Thanks for the stories, all! "Play something good" is actually pretty solid heckling material. I’m gonna have to remember that one (my personal faves are shouting "Thank you, goodnight!" after the first song or the ever popular "Play one the drummer knows!")

    Sloops comment also reminded me how cool it is being completely out of your element in a strange place and seeing something that you normally wouldn’t.

    Great stuff.

  7. divebarwife (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 10:18 am

    Steve – how funny…I spent more than a few nights in the Laughing Iguana beginning in about 1989…avoided it when one of the guys from Slipknot ran the place and they used it as their own personal showcase – but then a few years later Jeff & John reopened it as the second incarnation of Hairy Mary’s and it was a great spot again.

  8. Pete Best (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 10:45 am

    The thing about doing "couch tours" is never knowing where you’ll end up next. We could never afford to stay in hotels, so we’d always hit up people in the crowd or bar staff for a place to crash. Sometimes this worked out great (mansion in St Louis) or not so well (4 people sleeping in a filthy one-room studio apartment). Sometimes you go home with some fans and all they want to do is party because "the band is staying here", but all you want to do is go to sleep.

    It’s always a crapshoot where you end up. I remember waking up to some awkward moments, like the time we crashed at some guy’s apartment only to be rudely awakened early the next morning by his roommate who was surprised and pissed off to find a band sleeping in his living room. Or the time I woke up in Florida and opened my eyes to see a giant pile of dog turds 6 inches from my face. The time we fought to be the one to sleep in the van because the place was so disgustingly dirty and gross. Then there are the sweet people who really set you up, make you breakfast or take you on a little tour of their town. I remember one guy calling us at the next stop of the tour wanting to mail us our forgotten shampoo. Great memories, but I could never do it again.

  9. Nolando (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

    Shady Acres in San Jose was by far our shadiest outing. The mid-afternoon backyard in City Island in NYC was a little daunting at first, too, but that one actually turned out in our favor. Yes, we got a story outta SJ but not one worth experiencing again. At least the bass player who convinced us that show was a good idea got his ass handed to him by a sweaty fat broad. That memory always makes me smile.

  10. morty (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

    It seems like I always got stuck doing the driving, at least in the first ‘real’ band I played in. Sometimes, it bugged me, other times it wasn’t so bad. Summer ’86 we played a gig at Ruthie’s Inn, Berkeley, we were just out of high school and pretty stoked to be out and about playing the I-5 route many of you are all too familiar with. (doin’ the nickel, I heard somebody call it.)
    The gig itself went off pretty cool. Even if the guy who ran the club at the time was a bit sketchy. The late Evil Chuck from Death even showed up. We felt truly blessed.
    We stayed with some friends out in the East Bay, got blitzed, crashed for a bit and had to bail back the next evening.
    We hit Mt. Shasta in the middle of the night. The sky was clear, with way more stars out than you get to see with city lights. Everybody else save for me and a buddy was asleep.
    We took a brief pit stop, did a few rails of somethin’ that left me feeling kind if tingly and a little more awake and look up to see one amazing meteor shower. The drive, disappointingly for once, actually flew by. It was over too soon. With every turn in the road we got to look out over the mountain silhouette, the frequent shooting star blazing overhead. Sometimes, doing the driving wasn’t so bad.

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