By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Some background here. Two weeks before setting sail, Jason had quit his comfortable lunchtime cooking gig and headed to tiny Granbury, Texas, just outside Dallas-Fort Worth to begin intensive training with his father to become an RV apprentice.
He'd learn to steer its 30-foot length less by looking at the road ahead than by keeping the lane lines in his side mirrors. He'd be driving 65 miles an hour, just inches from mad-dog truckers.
Inside, the RV presented Jason with its own challenges. Our four amps (one spare), drum kit, boxes of merchandise and various packed bags all bogging down the back bed area meant he would have to take turns gingerly so as to not topple the gear.
Being a roadie meant he'd also be required to do much of this while inebriated and shirtless.
His father left no stone unturned. In addition to teaching Jason to navigate the beast, he opened up its insides. Jason was taught the finer points of RV mechanics, the trouble spots, how to change a flat, to monitor her gauges closely and, generally, to make sure no situation became too sticky.
As in Quartzsite, Arizona, where Jason noticed we were dumping too much fuel. He sniffed out the problem: an old and cracked fuel filter hose. He'd purchased a hose and filter days earlier only to find, after crawling under the belly of the RV, that it was ill-fitting. We couldn't let the problem go. Gas was simply too expensive to spill for hundreds of miles. Jason used the wrong-sized hose, a pocket knife, a bubble gum wrapper and paper clips to MacGyver the fucker, casually commenting, "I hope we're not cruising down the interstate in a 30-foot Molotov cocktail." We didn't know it then, but aside from being a kick-ass roadie, Jason Kerr was also one helluva prophet.
But back to our present dilemma.
"No biggie," he assured us. It had busted right by the seal. He could cut it and have it reattached in about an hour. Only trouble was, we were pulled over in the midst of a brutal rainstorm on the shoulder of an overpass that could barely contain our RV's massive width. Jason could work on the hose, but only if he wanted to risk being upended by one of the crazy 18-wheeled trucks that weren't slowing down.
We had no choice. We had to push the RV backward down the overpass in the blinding rain to a wider part of the shoulder. Two words came to mind: 1) Fucking; and 2) Terrifying.
We did it, all happy the rain obscured the urine that also soaked our pants. Fromage got to wrenching on the hose, and we were up and running.
Got to the Painted Lady around midnight, missing This Moment in Black History's set and disappointed that we'd risked our lives to get to a show that was so poorly attended. "Oh, well," we thought. "It is pouring outside." Even if we'd believed our own bullshit, it still didn't make us feel any better.
September, 23: Chicago, Illinois
If bands had siblings, our brothers in arms would be Cleveland freak show artists TMIBH, whose bouncy, bass-heavy Devo-cum-WTF!? is a perfect match for whatever the hell it is we're trying to do. Like cat urine and Febreze, we're made for each other. (One guess as to which band is the cat urine.) Last summer saw us touring the West Coast together until their van choked to death slowly from a leaky exhaust. This go-around we've teamed up for three dates across the Midwest, tearing a new one in Clevo, grinning and bearing it in Satan's anus, Detroit, and capping it off in da land of da Bears, Chicago.
Before even stumbling down two flights of treacherous stairs with our gear at tonight's venue, Chicago's Subterranean, there is talk of someone crazy enough to host us all for the night, which is mind-boggling considering we're rolling 11 deep. Turns out a sweet Texas transplant named Lacey has a couch, lots of floor space and a deep-seated yearning to make horrible decisions. One of her good friends climbs aboard our RV and we're off. "Down North, up California, take a left here, you can park in the tiny lot behind the apartment building," she says before describing in agonizing detail the work she does for the United Way.
We squeeze the RV between two cars in a mud pit, hike up three flights of stairs and are instructed to make ourselves at home. I drink a few, hug TMIBH good-bye and head back to the sinking RV to text my wife.
The next morning I awake ready to take advantage of some shower action. Our lead singer, Shawn Adolph, joins me. We gather up our towels and sundries before heading up the three flights of stairs. It's barely 10 a.m., an ungodly hour on tour, but the sun has coaxed us out of our respective slumbers.
We knock on the door. No answer. We knock harder, to no avail. We dial Mike in hopes he'll answer to let us in. To our surprise, he's awake. He also happens to be up the street grabbing some coffee. "No one is in the apartment," he informs us. Really?