Friday, January 24, 2014

The Winter of our Discotheque: Part I

Chapter 1
1/16-17: The Great Exodus and Dallas, TX (Joe)

Frigid, in the malaise of an ungodly am hour, the intrepid Beelzebus is softly purring in diesel-powered punctuations inside a slumbering Chicago neighborhood. Direct Hit!, a collection of Wisconsinites, soft and supple in their cheesecurd fueled forms, arrive on the scene. In a series of elongated o's and interjecting i's where a's formally are, they introduce themselves to the destitute drunkards of Elway. The bands nervously awake the sleeping green giant in a plea to escape the unforgiving polar conditions and seek the warmth of Texas. Braving frost covered roads, the near-strangers break the ice(heyo!...I hate myself), with mickey's grenades, WWF-caliber leg drops, and generous circle jerks.
Only halfway through the imposing 16-hour journey, the gallant road warriors are famished and are in dire need of sustenance. After passing the mighty metropolis of St. Louis, they steer the bus into a road-side Waffle House. The small Missouri town, home to 3,000 people and 3,064 teeth, provides a gracious sampling of it's residents inside the 24-hour breakfast chain juggernaut. Triple hashbrowns: scattered, peppered, covered, and dollar menu egg and cheese biscuits are delivered with expediency despite uproarious redneck crowds slurring demands for late-night caloric glory. Dan from DH! audaciously orders a plate of hamburgers which the overwhelmed waitress fails to deliver to the “chef” because, quote, “Honey, I didn't thunk you was serious.” Well, perhaps it was the hollering mother-of-8-marines demanding “more bacon up in here” that skewed the waitress' sense of reality, but word to the wise, preface your Waffle House orders with. “I would seriously like...” if you expect to eat.
Tired, beat, and ugly, we pit stop in Oklahoma City to imbibe in a several 3.2% Highlifes and set our spinal chords to a tour's fighting-fit-frame, scattering out on the hardwood floor for much needed sleep.
Friday night, Beelzebus triumphantly rolls into the parking lot of the Gas Monkey in Dallas after conquering 967 miles of America's highways. The BBQ megaplex is complete with a giftshop, outdoor stage, beer, and probably its own slaughter house. The restaurant/bar was overflowing with mid-40's patrons sporting suits, ties, and spurs seeking relief from the spurn of a week's work. Red City Radio now in tow, the bands retreat to the green room for dinner and libations. Generous amounts of beer, fireball whiskey, and rib racks are provided from Gas Monkey. Elway's veg crew orders salads and onion rings that somehow require steak knives ( Dan from DH!, in a foolhardy endeavor, feels he can order without saying, “I would seriously like a hamburger.” Consequentially, he watches the bands savagely devour their meals while he once again goes hungry. What a goof, eh? He'll never learn.
Drunken antics ensue backstage. A box of party favors is opened and a chorus of tinseled horns sounds like an obnoxiously misguided ska band. Considering a career change, I (Joe) find the stripper pole and decide to confront potentially hidden talents. Employing RCR's Jojo to be my assistant, he helps me lift my legs above my head in order to perform sexy, star-studded inverted slide down the rail. The weighted fall on my face brings me to my better senses and I decide I should keep not making money playing music instead. Devon from Hit! removes his shirt and does a few twirls while everyone stands paralyzed in wide-eyed awe at such a balanced display of masculinity and grace. The tinseled horns sound once more in a cackle of applause and gratitude. I hate him.
Fat By The Gallon opens the show and warms up a divided crowd. Direct Hit! Follows with unfettered energy and slays. Elway drinks and kinda does stuff and RCR follows with 400 harmonized kick-ass whoas.
The bus follows RCR to their friends' house and we are greeted with tacos and a place to crash. Stoked. We reluctantly wake up, stammering out of bed only with the promise of weed, poppers, and fruitloops. The morning races by as we take turns lapping the block on scooters and raiding the next-door neighbor's yard sale for pearl snap shirts and fifty-cent bags of frozen pina coladas. Warmed by the Texas sun, we shuffle back into the fearless Beelzebus and set out for San Antonio.

Chapter 2
1/18 – 1/22 – Texas / The Road / Not Arizona, how could you?

1/18: San Antonio(Garrett)

With the sun at full mast we pushed on down the road to Austin. While counting our pearl snaps and finishing our pina colada rations we watched the yellowed landscape spotted with sun bleached Jesus billboards and paint cracked tire shops soar passed us (this is called foreshadow, guys). Beelzebus Captain Steve of best-luck all-star team Direct Hit had announced a bit of turbulence due to Texas's never ending goal to cover the entire state with a spoon splattered spaghetti web of highways. The shit road blamed rumble grew worse before it concluded with an abrupt explosion coming from under the haul of the bus. A grinding halt on the shoulder and brief inspection revealed that a bursting of an inside dualy tire had shot the nuts off the outside tire, sheering half the pins that hold it on, and laying it to rest almost sideways under the rotor. We were stranded – in Texas.

The gang was now perched in the dead highway grass on phones and debating options. Around us was nothing more than a dull trickle of a fire road and an empty sign referring to an exit ramp some miles up. A dead raccoon lay next to the rear of the bus seeming to taunt our fate. With no way to latch the wheel to the few last sheered threads we called a series of tow trucks. No answer. Unable to haul a mini bus. Out of range. The cackling answers of those we now relied on. Even worse were the ones who could help. Cancellations after an hour and a half of waiting. AAA telling us three hours and two canceled trucks later they don't support our size of vehicle. $500 just for a hook up before the price per mile. We were at the mercy of these people. Meager shells of meat with a few bucks. The prey of Texas.

Night soon set across the dead and trash covered Texas shoulder. The neighboring fire road was being passed with slowing cars and stumbling dark figures. The raccoon grew more smelly. Hands grasping phones grew weak as numbers tired (hah get it?) and bus rations dwindled. A can of chile, a few granola bars, some beers. Direct Hit had set out to find a gas station with food and cigarettes. We were all in this together, but while they were gone I stole some of their trail mix. I swear that I would be the good guy – but at what point must we fend for ourselves? Could I be the bad guy?

I pondered the nature of man kind/myself while staring up at the gigantic Texas night sky and listening to new Beyonce. What were we doing any of this for? Are we still a rock band after six years without enough money to fix a tire? Are we just pushing a half empty cart down the barren and burnt road of life with no end goal – with the admittedly impossible dream of a plush coast before our inevitable deaths? I could hardly remember the world before Texas. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than one would have thought. How much was already gone? The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of reality. Drawing down like something trying to preserve heat. In time to wink out forever.

But alas! We had found a rich resource-filled bunker in the ground. A brief but reviving refuge from the road. A tow truck driver would pick up our bus and drop it off at a shop for $300 and Lance, of Perdition and a friend of Direct Hit's, would pick us up and pack nine of us plus gear in his mini van down to our show. We had momentarily survived the stray wandering intellectually starved predators of the Texas road and were able to play our set for the usual fifty disinterested people and no drink tickets. After the show we celebrated with Red City Radio's whiskey and beer while shooting the empties off the top of some fat entitled Texas ladies SUV with a Nerf gun. Our gracious savior Lance took us back to our friend Austin Ryan Landon's house in Austin to sardine across blanketless hardwood/linoleum floors. Far from the road, in the cold and dude smelling stale air, we finally rest.

1/19: Austin (Garrett)

The next morning I was awoken on the kitchen floor by a loaf of bread hitting me in the face. Breakfast items had been looted from a corner store and brought for the hungry neck stiffed masses. Joe prepared eggies with vegetables and fried potatoes while I lapped the backyard getting in touch with loved ones back in civilization. We finished our breakfast in post haste fashion while watching a movie called The FP - an apocalyptic 90's future based film where gangsters DDR battled for girls, guns, and glory with the premise of “Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished.” A must see for those interested in a way better based apocalyptic story.

We headed back on the road escorted by our former Fort Collins friend Austin. Cautious in our travels, we were quick to realize Austin (the city) is a refuge of Texas in itself – a small island of progressive forward thinking liberals fortified by the fear by the rest of the Texans that if enter they will turn gay or something. We take a tour featuring collaborative public art projects, colorful cafes full of attractive people, and a hotdog cart that if you ask for the “special” you can supposedly find hard drugs. We are dropped off downtown, to where we get bored quickly, and walk back to the area of the hot dog cart.

Though we don't make it to the cart, the gang splits up and has a lovely afternoon shopping and drinking in the warm sun. We reunite at a bar called the White Horse and reminisce of the bus, human kind, love, and whether or not we are wasting our lives. We draw no conclusion from the years of often carelessly booked shows, personal sacrifices of time and money, and countless errors and costs. The one thing we can tell is that you won't survive for yourself. We know because we would have never come this far. A person who had no one would be well advised to cobble together some passable ghost. Breathe it into being and coax it along with word of love. Offer it each phantom crumb and shield it from harm with your body... Some more words were said after all this but I choose not to remember.

We walk the roads to the venue of the show. We load in the few pieces of gear we recovered from the bus into the venue totted by another Austin buddy named Austin and wait. The goodness of human kind was revealed in the form of delicious grilled chickpeas, potato salad, and a ton of eighteen hour smoked meats that mostly Direct Hit consumed. To kill time a few of us and Garrett of Red City Radio went to shitty bars with dollar cocktails and hits from the 90s. Loaded and ready we stumbled back to the venue in time for us to go on.

The show itself was played mediocre and received great. A lot of people came out, danced and sang. The bar tender completely ignored the single drink tickets we presented in hand and lined up seamless shots of whiskey and cases of beer. In the midst of after show shenanigans/chaos we managed to meet a lovely Texan named Morgan who quickly made it into our hearts by shit talking Texas with us. We made five way date plans with her for the next day and sped off via a Bulgarian taxi driver who told us to his surprise he much prefers communist Bulgaria. “When EU came in, I can no longer afford beer after work!” With sorrys for the imperialist teamwork and thanks we pack in and retired onto our new found friend Shane's floor.

1/20: More Austin (Tim)
The distorted ding of my alarm clock harkened back to a time where I would awake only to be slung once again into another daylong journey through the land of work, familiarity, and in a certain sense, comfort. Today it bore with it the recapitulation of the past few days' misgivings and that, by fate of a late night game of dice, I would be responsible for waking up in the ungodly sepia-tone of the Texas morning to sort details with the beleaguered beelzebus. Shane reticently woke up to drive me the 30 miles to the shop in San Marcos. A mechanic named Randy insisted to me there that we would be on the road by day's end without issue. This meant good and bad things. We weren't as fucked as our cynical assessments from days past may have suggested, but we would have to cancel our show in El Paso, something we have never done in 6+ years as a band. We return to Austin to go about what we would have accomplished the previous day had we not the issues at hand. Garrett, Joe, Shane, and I left Direct Hit behind at the house to meet Morgan at Veggie Heaven for delicious vegan food and a brief respite from the now quite burdensome stress looming aloft our heads. Shane returned home and we spent the remaining daylight with Morgan doing the only thing we know how to do without fucking it up. We drank. I consumed a bloody Mary with habanero infused vodka that kicked the shit out of me in the sort of way that was felt like a beautiful penance delivered from the last just corner of god's otherwise-merciless soul. The phone rang, we finished our libations, Morgan drove us down to San Marcos, (my second journey there in a day), we recovered the bus, hundreds of dollars are reluctantly exchanged, the bus still shudders and vibrates suspiciously, it needs additional care, we're half-drunk and fully sick of this shit. Shane gallantly offers his home for another night to our sorry asses. The necessary loosening of ties manifested itself in the form of bargain vodka and whiskey choked down along with the gringo glory of Torchy's Tacos. We spend the rest of the night steeped in a drunken levity that is equal parts waxing comedic about new age yuppies clad in fedoras and toe shoes and the sort of existential rhetoric that could only come from 7 years of peering into the moneyless abyss of touring our way across the ashen inbetweens of an unsympathetic america. We're it not for the altruism of people like Lance, Austin #1, Austin #2, Shane, and Morgan, we would've arrived upon the inevitable conclusion that we are hopelessly and unabashedly doomed forever and ever long ago. We lumbered off to sleep unable to amble these sentiments from our liquor soaked jowls, so I must recant my utmost thanks by light of foresight. Christ...

1/21: El Paso (Tim)
With the bus nearly battle ready once more, we took to the desolate ash tray of west Texas en route to a rally point with Red City Radio in El Paso. Sedentary flocks of blackened oil wells crowded the turgid, reddish hellscape. The daylong venture across the enormous expanse of open space gained in trade for culture barely yielded a moment worth framing with glib musing, though we did stop at a gas station, where a woman who looked like a mountain of ice cream wore what seemed like centuries of desolation beneath a glistening veneer of faux-decadence. So there's that. We ate at a Mexican restaurant in a random outpost town somewhere between The Middle Of and Bumfuck, Nowhere, where it is purported (over and over and over again) that John Madden, by the bidding of Jesus Christ himself, visited and dined while watching the Monday night football game back in 1987. There is a mural depicting this. Madden later went on to tout their wares nationally on television and in print, rechristening the restaurant “John Madden's Haul of Fame.” It was okay. The rellenos had cheez whiz in them. We arrived in suburban El Paso, where we again confided in life-giving alcohol to fend off the doom for another night. The last few showless days left us attended by the anxiety and malaise of inactivity that does little but grind away the traction that propels the machinations fashioned by our usual mode of operations. The next day's return to the familiar cadence of show after show in Tempe would be a welcome one, indeed.

1/22: Tempe (Tim)

How many tire shops must a band take up a temporary, nomadic residency in before the pulsing nervous system of interstate-highways across the US are tackled without incident? The answer is at least one more, for it wasn't even 150 miles out of El Paso before we were violently vibrating against the blacktop again. We exchanged another stack of our dwindling cash for another couple hundred clicks of spurious assurance that we are not to be dined upon by the circling vultures and hit the road bound for the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe. We arrived ahead of the show and began settling once again into the routine of touring. It only took the strapping-on of wristbands and dispersion of poker chip drink tokens to puncture the bummer bubble that had been steadily gaining mass the few days hence. I took this lapse in negativity as a sign and wasted no time in combining a half-full gas station coke with a full pint of whiskey; an act of parking lot sorcery that would deftly preclude the possibility of accurately recounting much of the evening's proceedings. Hangs with Elway blog alumni Erica Harper (Who brought us an upside-down crucifix cake iced with the words 'Elway is Jerks' and Chris Chappell made us feel right at home. The head shop adjacent to the venue in the classic Phoenix architectural staple, the stripmall, was selling cigarettes at the unthinkable rate of 2 packs for 2 bucks. The two local acts took the stage and both ruled. Direct Hit swooned audiences into their increasingly fun set with an intro of pure moods' staple: Enigma's “Return To Innocence.” The sizable crowd danced and sang along to our set and put us right back into the mood we should never have to lose grip of. Red City Radio thundered through their set with an aptitude not typical of the type of drunks they are. Our shows in the Phoenix area just keep getting better, and it was a blast to get to see some familiar folks. We departed the venue and took up an overnight residency at homie Charlotte's house, where we expertly decimated the home's beer and tequila supply in a whirlwind of intoxicated rambunctiousness that culminated with either cross-eyed stumbling off to bed or intimate interludes slathered in British, one-door-opens-and-another-closes-style comedy. Tight power.

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