Road Trip

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

September 26: Denton, Texas

Have you seen us live? Did we suck? Chances are, if we did it was because we were drinking too much or you like the Dave Matthews Band. If it was the former, chances are this made Mike mad, because he is the only one among us who sets limits. In the past year or so, in an attempt to climb the ladder up the mid-list, we've had discussions about drinking. How much is too much? Do we have the right to tell someone else they shouldn't have another? What's the point of being in a band if you can't have fun? "I'm not looking to be anyone's mother, but…"

And we've done all right. We've understood it's not worth our time to take six weeks out of our lives to get drunk and play poorly to a roomful of cynics 1,600 miles from home. But sometimes we slip up. It's no one's fault.

Inside the RV there was a certain amount of chaos as 
well.
Brian McManus
Inside the RV there was a certain amount of chaos as well.
Back in Houston, I get mike time with Shawn at Mary 
Jane's.
Daniel Kramer
Back in Houston, I get mike time with Shawn at Mary Jane's.

Like cigarettes in prison, beer is currency on tour. Not only is a case of beer in our contract with each club we play ("No light beer!" it stipulates firmly), but it can be used as a bargaining tool for broke bartenders who want merchandise they don't want to pay for. On a Fatal Flying Guilloteens tour, "I'll give you a six-pack for a shirt" is as common a sentiment as "Turn down!"

Well, not quite.

So it's no surprise that, with six hours and nothing to do in Denton, TX, we got loaded. And it's no surprise that we played poorly. Beyond poorly. Out of tune, out of sync. All in all terrible. And it was no surprise that Mike was enraged by this, confessing to me just after the audio carnage of our set ended, "Brian, I don't think I can finish the tour if we keep playing like we did tonight! I'm not interested in being in a band with Sid Vicious!"

Even half in the bag, I agreed. It was embarrassing. So after we hit the road for a much-needed three-day sabbatical in Houston, we tried to pay some more lip service to the subject. I say tried, because our back-and-forth name-calling culminated with my running the length of our 30-foot RV, grabbing Shawn by his severe haircut and pulling him over a neat, tidy row of our amplifiers, dragging his eye across the top of their harsh and weathered edges.

Shawn, as he should've been, was livid. We'd been best friends for 15 years, a fact he kept yelling over and over as he discovered his eye gushing blood. He would never think of laying a finger on me, and here I was pulling him by the hair, "LIKE [HE'S] A FUCKING CAVEWOMAN!"

I was immediately racked with guilt (I am Catholic, after all). What the hell did I do that for?

As our collective heads cooled, Shawn passed out holding a frozen pack of hot dogs to his face. We were dropped off one by one in silence. I think we all somehow came to an agreement about the future of our band's drinking. Business first, party to follow. Three more weeks of tour to go. Piece. Of. Cake.

September 30: Head West, Young Men (Second Leg of the Tour)

Today we meet at the RV at 4 p.m. for a quick jaunt up to Austin before heading west. Shawn's pack of hot dogs is waiting for us in one of the RV's beds, and he's developed quite the shiner. I'm a dick.

Talk is sparse at first, but on the way up we somehow remember we've known each other for years and it would take more than a few broken blood vessels to pull us apart. Besides, we're headed west, and for us, just as the rhyme implies, it's the best. Both of our labels are based on this side of the map, we've traveled here more frequently, and SoundScan numbers show that we sell more records in these parts.

Chili-diems

Eating on the road is dicey. Usually our band will pay itself per diems so we don't have to go out of pocket for grub. They are often a whopping $5; $10 if we can see in our contract that a club has no intention of feeding us.

You come to learn, for instance, that Burger King 99-cent burgers are better than McDonald's; Carl's Jr. has the biggest fry for 99 cents; Wendy's has the most versatile dollar menu (side Caesar, nuggets); and never, ever, under any circumstances, eat at CiCi's.

Considering the outrageous price of gas and the fact that our mobile home got eight miles to the gallon, turns out per diems made no financial sense.

But paying your own way sucks. We needed a solution. We found one. It came to us, as if in a dream: chili-diems.

We, Fatal Flying Guilloteens, could get a $5-a-day stipend, but could use it to buy only chili. Wherever you could find chili you could spend your per diem on it, but only it.

This was cause for heated debate. Do chili dogs count? How about chili burgers? Can I spend my chili-diem on the new Frito chili burger from Dairy Queen? No, no and no. Chili. In a bowl. Take it or leave it.

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