Sunday, November 11, 2012

Get in the SUV: Eight things I learned in five days in a Chevy Suburban with four other people, 3 amps, 3 guitars and a drum kit

*I wrote this several months ago for a publication that didn't run it, so here it is. 

It’s incredible how fast five people can make an SUV smell like shit. Shitty like the inside of a gym sock filled with beef jerky, dipped in coffee and body spray, rolled in sunscreen and burger grease and lightly dusted with weed and warm, sleepy breath. We — two Denver, Colorado bands, Night of Joy and Lust-Cats of the Gutters — are an indeterminably funky bunch, and it took us just nine hours to spice the fuck out of the monster truck we rented for our mini-Southwestern spring tour.

Beyond putting a time frame on the stinking capabilities of five fairly clean people, I learned a few other important things. Over the abbreviated trek — from Colorado to New Mexico, Arizona and back again — we tackled four shows in five days, drove a couple thousand miles listening to The Misfits and Dan Savage Lovecasts, and met some strange dudes along the way. Here are the eight most valuable things I learned on my third small D.I.Y.-ish tour in the last three years.

  1. Lying to a rental car company is the best way to rent a van for your smelly punk bands to tour in
Embarking on Night of Joy’s now second annual jaunt with our sister band the Lust-Cats, we dropped a good amount of cash to rent a 2012 Chevy Suburban, and play a long weekend of shows in Albuquerque, Tempe, Phoenix, and Flagstaff. The hardest part of touring for us, at this level of self-funded band experience, is securing a vehicle. No one wants to loan dudes in bands their van, even other musicians. Buying one is too much of a commitment for people who don’t make very much money to begin with, not to mention general maintenance, paying for insurance year-round, and running the risk of a vehicle breaking down on the road (i.e. like our friends TacocaT, whose van died mid-tour a few weeks ago, forcing them to buy one off of some shady dude on Craigslist in order to get home to Seattle.)

So we rent. The first rule of renting a vehicle for touring purposes is, do not tell the rental company that you are in a punk band that will be using the van four touring purposes. Instead, putting a “just a couple of ladies taking a much needed girlfriends weekend!” spin on your story works the best. Not that Lisa at the rental desk even asked, but you know, if our L7-ish hair and large sunglasses worn indoors came off a little sketchy and vagabondish to me, I’m sure she too was wondering what in the hell was really going on.

But our “omfg besties road trip” routine worked, and we were given the keys to a ride only Beth from Dog The Bounty Hunter could make look cool. (I tried, for the record, to channel her boobs/energy the whole tour, wearing nothing but stretch pants and leopard print tube top dresses.) Plus, this thing had XM Radio. Dude, have you ever listened to Hair Nation or Ozzy’s Boneyard? Two stations I highly recommend.

  1. Just because you can smoke weed in public in Colorado doesn’t mean the rest of the country has also adopted Amsterdam status
By the crack of Thursday, morning we were on the road, where I quickly realized Google Maps doesn’t account for the amount of stops a group of fidgets, chronic pee-ers and weed smokers needs to make before arriving at a plotted destination. Meaning, the drive from Denver to Albuquerque went from seven to nine hours. Plus, since we come from weed country, there are certain behavioral adjustments to be made — like, as we learned last tour, one cannot just stand on any corner of Main Street, USA, with a joint hanging out of her mouth. Being discreet is key.

Also, taking breaks from driving so passengers can smoke weed is best done at rest stops. For some reason, when we try to make such a stop at a gas station, someone in the caravan inevitably lights up near a gas or propane tank. Sorry, mom.

  1. Dudes who hang out at strip mall bars are weird and dudes who just got out of the army and hang out at strip mall bars are weirder
While we try to stick to playing all ages venues, basements and D.I.Y. show spaces, sometimes, we play in bars. Our Tempe stop included a night at the Yucca Tap Room for Fox Vag Fest, a lady-centered weekend of music we were invited to play last year. We had such a rad/bizarre time, we said yes to a second invite in 2012.

Strip mall bar clientele creates an audience like none other — we’ve encountered guys in leather Betty Boop jackets, dudes who claim to be pro-skaters named Don Knotty, and this time around, a gentleman who wanted us to stay at his house. Like, really, really badly.

Don’t get me wrong; we so much appreciate when anyone offers to let us stay with him or her, but this guy was intense. Have you ever checked out a dude at a show, a bar, or a party from afar, only to talk to him hours later and realize, he may be cute, but he’s a little off? This guy had that vibe. He wanted us to stay with him, but in this overwhelmingly pushy, possibly serial killerish kind of way. I told him thanks, but we were going to stay with some friends, to which he anxiously said under his breath, “It’s so hard to make friends in this town.” I asked him if he had just moved to Tempe and he informed me that yes, last week. After getting out of the army. Yikes.

He gave one of us twenty bucks for a bowl of shwaggy, shwaggy weed, and we left him on the curb of the strip mall. Sometimes, you just have to entertain them and leave them, you know?

  1. Loitering is a completely acceptable activity
As a band, we spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting to set up, waiting to meet promoters/people in charge of shows, waiting for other bands to play, waiting to get paid, or in our case, waiting for our friend and Arizona luthier Anna Nxsty to come take a look at our guitars. Regardless of why you’re waiting, you’ll find that it inevitably leads to loitering. For some reason, the strip mall bar in Tempe has been particularly conducive to our loitering.

Loitering can be just that — loitering. Or, if you’re a constructive loiterer, you might use the time to call your mom, roll a joint on the ground, reorganize your purse, count money that’s been shoved in various parts of the van, and, if you’re feeling extra brave, attempt to find the culprit of the current bad smell in the van. This tour, we found a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos, a pair of dirty underwear, an entire carton of once-fresh strawberries and some dried up milk in the bottom of a coffee cup to be possible culprits.

  1. Best road trip game ever invented: Teams
Want to play a game that is inevitably more fun than counting state license plates or punching for slug bugs? Try our game, Teams. The point of teams is to pick from people you see on the street, in gas stations and in other cars on the road to build up the perfect team your fellow travelers. Say you walk into a truck stop and see a guy at a lunch counter with a rat rail wearing Big Johnson t-shirt, or a woman with a tight perm in orange Crocs and aviators. Those people would be valuable additions to your road trip-mates teams.

The only two rules of Teams? You may not pick people for your own team or refuse any team member additions, and you can switch teammates from other player’s teams, just not to or from your own. If Teams isn’t your style, try DIY Spelling Bee, a game where you only use made-up words like for-rizzle and ta-day (to use in a sentence: “I need to get paid, ta-day”.) Basically, use words you can spell any way you want. Everybody wins. 

  1. Sedona, Arizona is for fuckers
Though not a part of our tour plans, we found time between driving from Phoenix to Flagstaff to stop in Sedona, Arizona. Being a group of people who qualify others based astrological signs, say things like “this place really vibes me out” and “she’s acting that way because Mercury is in retrograde” and refer to the Universe as an integral part of our friend group, a place like Sedona seemed like a perfect stop.

As the “New Age Capital of the Known Universe,” Sedona is full of crystal hawkers, aura readers and vortexes, all of which we were very excited to experience. But what we found upon arriving there was nothing more than a bunch of rich people, Segway tours and over-priced organic food served by flippant and flighty hippies. As a woman without health insurance who utilizes both a Shaman and Reiki master’s work for regular consultation, I couldn’t believe how uncool Sedona was.

The vortex at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, however, was cool. And freaky. If you’re into New Agey shit and being Catholic, I highly recommend that vortex.

  1.  Googling all potential tattoos before deciding on getting one is a good idea
At the recommendation of friend and luthier, Ms. Nxsty, I found myself at Living Ghost in Tempe for another tattoo commemorating the trip. Turns out, my newest tour tattoo choice was much like my previous tour tattoo, in that it had an inadvertently alternate meaning.

Last year, I had a piece of “John Candy” inked on my inner right bicep, a reference to a Night of Joy song. I also had a hairbrush tattooed next to it, in honor of a Lust-Cats of the Gutters song, “Night of the Hairbrush.” However, under that hairbrush are the initials “R.H.,” which stand for Ratchet Ho — a term I learned meant an out of control girl you can’t take out to the club. I thought this was an appropriate descriptor of me.

But what I didn’t know was that to act “ratchet” meant I was also accidentally semi-affiliating myself with an East Oakland white girl mob (Kreayshawn, anyone?) 
This time around, I added the words “You go west, young man” above the candy and initialed hairbrush, in black cursive. My intention was to honor a line from the Liz Phair song “Go West” that I had always admired.

Upon arriving home, I was informed that I was actually permanently proclaiming my gay advocacy. I showed my roommate my new tattoo, and she screamed, “It’s so cool that you got a Pet Shop Boys tattoo, dude!” Apparently, I had forgotten about the duo’s hit, “Go West.” A song I later realized was originally recorded by the Village People. I am a gay man.

  1. Ask and ye shall manifest
If you believe in putting good intention out into the universe and thus receiving good back, then you already know about manifesting. If this sounds like a bunch of hippy shit, you’ll think this is total crap. But truly, you do get what you wish for. On this tour, we wished for a place to get chicken fried steak, and a diner appeared. We had a night off in Arizona, and asked the universe to add us to the Nu Sensae show at the Tempe all ages DIY space the Meat Market Garment District, and it happened. We wanted Starbucks at 8:50 p.m. on a Sunday night while driving through Pueblo, Colorado on our way home and boom, we got one. Try it sometime. It works. I swear. You just have to believe, dude. 

1 comment:

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