Road Trip

How a mid-list band spent six weeks in an RV, fueled by chili

This, right along with, say, not making any money, is one of the biggest nuisances of being deadlocked in the mid-list. Other bands think you can help give them a boost. This band seems to forget that we're not Coldplay, even if I do look remarkably like Chris Martin (if he were fatter and uglier).

The Band (Part I)

On top of his model good looks, Mike Bonilla is a meticulous overpacker. Perhaps because of this, those who don't know any better might assume he's gay. I've known him for ten years. He's not.

Gear was packed into every available space on the 
Brian McManus
Gear was packed into every available space on the RV.
NYC promoter Mojo is flanked by Fatal Flying 
Guilloteens John Adams and Shawn Adolph on the left, 
and Mike Bonilla and Roy Mata on the right.
Brian McManus
NYC promoter Mojo is flanked by Fatal Flying Guilloteens John Adams and Shawn Adolph on the left, and Mike Bonilla and Roy Mata on the right.

I don't think.

He's gotten better about the overpacking, to be sure. Gone are the days of two separate bags for hair care products, eight pairs of shoes and the Plymouth of a suitcase he used to lug around. Now he packs everything in tiny bags. There's one each for his PS2, his PSP, his toiletries, his medicines for various ailments (Mike himself will tell you he's a hypochondriac), his digital camera and his six cartons of Marlboro Lights.

Mike is seldom seen without a cup of coffee the size of a grain silo. He needs it to wash down the steady stream of muffins, doughnuts, cinnamon buns, Abba-Zabba taffy, chili cheese Fritos and gas station biscotti that constitutes his diet. He wonders aloud why he has trouble shitting.

In band fights, Mike often finds himself in the role of wise sage and mediator. Of the five of us, he drinks the least and is the most stable, levelheaded and sane.

September 12: Washington, D.C. (a.k.a. The Humbler)

We've never played D.C. but have been told over the years that it is an incredibly bankrupt music town full of homers, music xenophobes afraid of anything not homegrown.

Either this is true, or, like Anytown, U.S.A., they just don't spill out of their homes to see music on a Monday. Perhaps it was the weekend street festival the show's promoter kept calling "the Mardi Gras of D.C." that prompted such a low turnout. "Everyone shot their wad this weekend," he told us. I walked with him to the ATM while he withdrew his own money to pay us our guarantee. Depressing all around. We call it "the humbler."

September 14-17: New York, New York

We'd heard from more than one credible source that famed New York City promoter Mojo was, indeed, batshit crazy. He was a veteran of Vietnam. Or Korea. Perhaps both. He'd spent time in Bellevue. He was seven foot-plus, 8,000 pounds and dangled rail-thin indie rock twerps upside down by their ankles for even thinking about crossing him because, oh yes, Mojo read minds, too.

For our four-day stay in NYC we'd booked three shows with him. Day one, Mojo was a no-show. A chubby, bespectacled white kid handed us an envelope at the end of the night, saying, "The door was short, but Mojo told me to tell you guys not to worry about it. He'll catch up with you sometime this weekend to settle the difference."

Settle? We shit our drawers.

It was our third day and fourth show in New York when we finally met the myth. Not quite seven foot, not quite 8,000 pounds, Mojo didn't seem the least bit unstable. In fact, he was an affable teddy bear, slapping us each on the back heartily, squeezing our shoulders when we made him laugh and offering us pulls off his ass pocket of Jameson.

Mojo was great! Turns out he was, once again, short the money he owed us. "Need it for something else," he told us.

He knew this worried us. He could see it in our faces. Don't worry, he'd pay us in full tomorrow at our final show together. Could he really book shows in the largest city in the world for 20 years if he made a habit of ripping off bands? "You've got my number, take down my address," he said to reassure us. To further put us at ease, he offered us his debit card and left. It had been expired eight years.

Saturday's show was at the Ribulaud, a warehouse in Williamsburg that's four stories tall and has 20 different rooms painted in bright colors accented by black lights and belly dancers on the roof. We were playing a rave.

Mojo showed up with some encouraging words: "They've been throwing parties here once a month for about a year, and I've never seen one with less than 700 people." The cover was $10. We might not be so bad after all. "Yeah, man. These parties are freaky! They go till eight in da mornin'!"

This was Mojo's way of telling us "You bitches gonna get paid…but you gonna wait!"

And wait we did. Mojo "settled," made fun of us for ever worrying and offered more Jameson, which, this time, we accepted.

September 22: Detroit, Michigan (a.k.a. The Humbler, Part II)

On the way to Detroit it happened. Pop! What the hell was that? The RV started smoking. Great. Tour was over. Our trusty roadie, Jason Kerr, a.k.a. Le Grand Fromage, eased up the hood to reveal that we'd busted a water hose.

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