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Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Breakin' the Toilet

When they say that being in a band is like being a family, that is an understatement.  You can at least escape your family from time to time.  When you are on tour, you and your bandmates are attached at the hip 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The only privacy you get is when you train yourself to wake up an hour before anyone else so you can have an uninterrupted bowel movement while everyone else is still sleeping off the party from the night before.  On the road, I always insisted that we have 2 hotel rooms anytime we stayed anywhere.  One room was what I referred to as the "sleeping room" and the other I referred to as the "party room."  If you wanted some peace and quiet, you stayed in my room.  If you came to my room and bothered me or made a bunch of racket, that was your ass.  The reason being is because after about a week of being on the road you start to break off into sub-groups:  "Clancey" our rhythm guitarist and "Mickey" always hung out together because they had a long past being marines together.  It was not uncommon for in the early days of our going out on the road I would be awakened in the middle of the night to those two having gotten extremely drunk and started beating the absolute hell out of one another in the hotel room.  The melee wouldn't end until one knocked the other one out, or they both collapsed from exhaustion.  From that point on, I insisted on a separate room.

I remember a show that we had played at Club Lavilla in Florida on Spring Break in 2004.  It was the typical spring break, complete with MTV in town.  At the club there were skimpy bikini's, wet T-shirt contests and a few thousand "Situation" type douchebags all over the place.  The scent of bronzer and hair care products hung ever so gingerly in the evening air.  We had a great night after the show, people were partying in the backstage area and we felt like real rock stars.  Of course I went to sleep in the van around 2 in the morning because I tried to steal as much sleep whenever I could.  I awoke when we were on our way back to the posh hotel that Club Lavilla's management put us in for the night, and Lonnie was mysteriously absent from the van.  That was no big deal because it was not uncommon for bandmembers to find some groupie to hang out with and eventually have them bring them back to the hotel.  But this time he actually got left behind and had his own adventure making his way back to the hotel, which by the way, he could not remember the name of.  When we arrived, I made my way back to the "sleeping room" and curled up beneath the covers to enjoy being in a warm, comfy bed.

Somewhere around 5 in the morning I get awakened by frantic knocking on my hotel room door.  Brushing the crusties from my eyes I opened the door and was thrown backwards by Lonnie rushing into the room exclaiming "I had nothing to do with it!"  "I'm going to bed and no matter what they say, I had nothing to do with it!"  And with that he jumped into the other bed and immediately went to sleep.  Being no stranger to the usual drunk ramblings of my bandmates, I thought nothing of it.  I got woke up around 7 in the morning by our road manager grabbing me out of the bed and yelling at me to get my clothes on as fast as I can, no time for questions, we gotta go.

Once we got into the van and sped off like we just robbed a bank I finally found out what had happened.  Apparently, Clancey and Mickey met some girls who followed us to the hotel.  They were walking in the door of their hotel room when one of the girls said that she had to use the bathroom.  Clancey being the rowdy jackass that he was, tried to beat her to the toilet yelling that he was first and they both landed on the toilet seat.  The porcelain cracked like an eggshell right down the middle, flooding the bathroom.  They turned the water off and decided not to tell our road manager until the next morning, who then almost had a coronary.  Luckily, the manager of Club Lavilla liked us so much that he offered to pay the hotel for a new toilet.  Our home office at Export Records was still pretty pissed off nonetheless.  It pays to have friends in medium places.

To be continued....

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Times, Bad Times

Being in a working band with two singles on the Rock Charts is a balance.  We were a "baby" band which meant people were beginning to hear our stuff and we were getting some name recognition, but we also had to have our regular lives too.  Bills still came in and we really weren't making any money with the band.  I was lucky enough to have a day job that let me take off whenever I needed, a couple of the other members had similar situations, but the other members just mooched off of us all the time.  While we were signed with Galaxy, we didn't have a steady tour schedule, we would work our usual jobs monday through thursday, then head out of town to play thursday, friday and saturday nights and occasionally sundays.  It got pretty tiresome.   It wasn't until we signed with Export that we hit the road full time.  We got to play a lot of festival type shows which are great fun, but I learned that very few musicians from the popular bands at the time were likeable people.  I remember once when we were playing a festival in Beaumont Texas,  I can't say the name of the band, but I was introduced to the singer and he gave me the impression that he thought that I was nothing more than gum on the pavement.  I took it upon myself to go into his dressing room and "help myself" to all the little extras that were put in his room that most higher up bands get when they play festivals.  Then we broke into their trailer and were watching their dvd's when they came in and promptly threw us out.

You get a lot of illusions shattered when you go out on the road as a "Rockstar."  First off, there were 6 of us riding in the van, but only two of us that had valid driver's licences.  Guess who one of those were.  For the first month it was me and one of the guitar players switching off driving duties.  In that situation, I pretty much only had about 12 hours of sleep that entire month.  I would usually be the one to drive after the show because the other driver would be passing out drunk.  Our road manager/soundman always needed his beauty sleep, so he never drove.  It wasn't until after the first month that we had an employee of Export Records join us on the road to split the managing and driving duties.  This is how a schedule would go:

-show ends, pack up, get on road to next show.
-arrive in town about 7 in the morning after driving for 5 hours and check into hotel.
-sleep til about 11 and then have to make an "in-store" appearance (i'll get to that in a minute)
-around 2 or 3, go back to hotel to take shower and get ready.
-around 5 head to the venue to unload and get promised a sound check, but the headlining band decides to show up an hour late and then spend 4 hours soundchecking.  So by the time you load your gear on the stage you have 15 minutes til doors open.
-hopefully you get a sandwich tray to ravage.
-about 8, set up merchandise table and be the only responsible band member to sit at it and don't get to party.
-show starts around 11.  play show
-after your set, you wait around for headlining band to finish their show so you can load up your equipment and head into the next town.  If you're lucky you get to enjoy the hotel room if the next show is within a 2 hour drive, if not then you get to check out by phone the next morning.
-repeat entire list.

Ah, the beauty of "In-Store Appearances."  When you are on the road all you want to do is sleep, but you have to do many things you don't want to do.  In-Stores are at the top of that list.  I'm sure if you are Aerosmith, or Metallica, in-stores are great.  But when you are a struggling baby band...they suck.  No one goes to them, you may get 5 people if you are lucky.  It is embarrassing.  You go to a store, they have your cd blaring, a table set up with all your merchandise, silver sharpies, you see your own face staring at you from posters plastered on the wall.  Yet there are no lines of adoring fans killing each other to see you.  I dreaded doing in-stores.  I used to pretend that I was just a regular customer and spend the entire two to three hours combing the same sad section of used cd's hoping I would find some hidden gem trying to blend in like I was.

To be continued...