While on their first-ever American tour this summer, New Zealand ska-punks the Night Gaunts were excited to play shows with Mustard Plug -- a favorite, influential band of theirs -- and New York's Stupid, Stupid Henchmen. They met and bonded with new groups along the way, like New Orleans' Joystick, and were thrilled to play a show at Shiprock, New Mexico, for kids from the Navajo nation.
"Out of the 51 shows we played, I think at 49 of them people just went absolutely crazy," Pye says. We love house shows, we don't have those in New Zealand. Houston, San Antonio, Boston and Buffalo were the best for house shows."
"In Colorado we played a DIY venue called 7th Circle Collective, and that place was amazing as well," he continus. "Our three shows in Las Vegas were incredible. It was amazing to be a small band from the other side of the world and people knew who we were at every show."
Pye says every member battled some degree of homesickness and sleep deprivation. O'Brien argues the band's consumption of beer rivaled that of any of its American counterparts, even offering formulaic proof.
"I'm not good at estimating large numbers," he says. "We definitely bought our Pabst Blue Ribbon by the 30s, times 51 shows and five members, normally two free drinks each a show: 51x5x2=510. Eighty-two days in the USA, 82-51 show dates =31. If we did some mild drinking on half our nights off, that's about 8x5x(31/2)=620. 510+620=1,130 beers."
The Night Gaunts members say they consider Houston show a highlight among many incredible nights.
"We were only in Houston a very short time, but it is one of the most memorable shows for me," Pye says. "We played a house party, and everyone was going crazy. It was amazing to have so many people crammed into a small room, singing our songs and going mental. A bunch of the roof tiles got smashed out from people crowd-surfing and we had people constantly slamming into us, but it was so much fun."
"Seeing Days N Daze play was amazing," adds O'Brien. "Thirty-odd people singing along to every lyric of every verse was the perfect accompaniment to a sound I'd never heard live, and then the crowd stayed crazy for us, knocking over our mikes and kicking a hole in the ceiling," .
"Houston, my god, that show was one of the best times in my entire life," Jonassen says. "Smiles everywhere. That felt cool and then to have the most high-energy show with everyone dancing and singing along was straight up too cool. Every house show was totally immense but Houston took the cake on that one."
No matter where they played, they felt the love for their music and formed their first-hand impressions of the country.
"The American people are generally not the fat, Bible-bashing, pro-war extremists I was told about, at least not the people we dealt with," says O'Brien.
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"Everyone was really nice to us, but that might be because we have funny accents," Pye says.
"My overall impression was incredibly positive," Jonassen says. "The kids are so into it and have such amazing scenes in every city. Everyone is so active and passionate about life and making things better for themselves and their peers, which then obviously has a ripple effect. I really didn't expect it.
"There is so much power in the youth and it's 99 percent positive," he adds. "It was really inspiring being able to meet so many artistic and progressive thinkers.
"I loved meeting people. That's what life is all about for me. Hanging out with new people, hearing stories and learning new stuff," says Jonassen. "The best part by far was playing a show with everyone in the crowd ds ancing, singing and smiling like maniacs."
Night Gaunts are already writing and recording their next album. They plan to tour Australia next spring and return to America just in time to join all the other bands hitting the roads over another summer.
"We know who the best people are to deal with and the best places to play," Pye says. "We have made a number of contacts that will make it far easier when we do it again. We know that we can do this. Everyone called us crazy, and I think we were, but we did it, and I'm proud of us."
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