Part 3: 1990: North American Tour:”It’s not how I pictured it…“
38. 9/21 Rat, Boston
Last show before tour (it starts tomorrow!) The “Hard to Believe” Kiss compilation came out on C/Z including our rendition of “Dr. Love.” Looks good. Anyway, the news: Chris, Ziad, and their girlfriends had all been living in the same loft and had been fighting big time. Finally, Chris gave the band an ultimatum as to whether Ziad was to go on tour with us as our roadie: it was Z or Chris. So we took Z. It took some time to move out of Chris’ loft and kick him out of the band too (he was pretty surprised!), and then we had to rent a space for two weeks to rehearse as a four-piece for the tour. John is back on drums and Slug on bass now. Here we were at the Rat for a sendoff show. I missed pretty much the whole night except our set. Had a very decent crowd, including John and Sue who videotaped the proceedings. First show with the new and improved line-up, and we got through the set with relatively few screw-ups. None of my effects worked at the beginning because a surge presumably fried them, so Jerry wasted time for us megaphoning the audience. We sounded okay but it was hard to concentrate with all the flailing bodies flying around everywhere. Tons of airborne beer as well, much of it from Mark and Chris. B Mac & Co. were completely out of control and kept smashing their heads on the ground and getting thrown out. With a few songs to go first Slug’s and then TQ’s pants came down, and then on “Curse” Z came out pantless to play harp, much to the dismay of the crowd (only kidding, Z). Steve, Tom’s roommate, told Mitch the manager to fuck off (!) and got strangled for his trouble. Mitch, the infamous manager of the Rat for an age, was a massive guy the size of Lurch, with a greasy-looking dog of a toupee and, oh yes, he was also a larengectomy. Frightening dude, believe me. So as he was holding this guy Steve (Tom’s roommate) up by the neck with his feet off the floor, he was holding his voice box with the other hand and saying monotonically,”NOBODYTELLSMETOFUCKYOU NOBODYTELLSMETOFUCKYOU!” “Curse” turned out to be the last song (naturally). Felt awful the next morning, but we gave them a show to remember. Next stop is Burlington, punk mecca of Vermont. 300 + 1 case beer + 200 in merchandise.
39. 9/23 242 Main, Burlington, VT
Started off with brunch at Z & Erica’s, which was nice. Got up to Vermont in a quick 3 and a half hours, far short of my estimate. The place turned out to be a teen club run by a bunch of adolescent skinheads. Didn’t bother with a soundcheck. I already forgot the name of the other band, but earlier one of them came up to us and introduced himself as “Trash.” Hey, “Trash,” how the fuck are you, man? Anyway, we ate dinner and just hung out in the van. Played at around 9:30 to about 25 people. It wasn’t a total washout, but certainly not great either. TQ was good, and they liked the trumpet. A few folks from Boston showed up after we had already finished. I got up way too early this morning and so was dead by that time. 45 + 50 merchandise.
9/24 Near Stowe, VT
Handing out at Slug’s brother Stu’s house today. Slept for like 12 hours last night. Found a gum machine selling “Eyes of Terror” which were gumballs with veins painted on and little skulls for pupils. Later we hung out with a bunch of cows and felt the tongue of one of them.
9/25 Montreal, Canada
Felt queasy after too much of Stu’s bacon. The supplies he got for our visit were lots of beer and a huge side of bacon that he, I think, traded some labor for, or something…Spent most of the afternoon at the border waiting for our work permits to be faxed there. But, they didn’t even check the van, after all the precautions we took (vacuuming, etc.). It started to look grim but we finally got through after paying $150.00 for whatever the french word for “nothing” is. Then it took forever to get to Montreal and we got lost for hours trying to find the stupid radio station where we were supposed to be interviewed. There were ‘Arrêt’ signs everywhere, stuck in places where you couldn’t really see them until the last second. After many phone calls and circling the city multiple times we got to the place. It was an interview with CBC, which is Canada’s national public radio. They have a huge building with dozens of different fancy studios all in one building. Slug signed in as ‘Elliott Gould’ and wrote ‘hell’ in the time-in column and thought it was really funny. The Outlaws did the interview and the DJ also played ‘Gotta Go’ and ‘Die Laughing.’ We got a free cup of coffee but still had no place to stay. We decided to go on to Ottawa, but only after eating since we were famished. We ended up going to some Italian place which was underneath a Karate studio. The ceiling felt like it might cave in on us as we had our ‘spaghetti avec viande’ (Z.: “lasagne with meat”). Had a pretty cool drive to Ottawa; flat and dark the whole way. Z drove for a while but he went 80 by a cop. The guy turned his lights on and pulled out after us, and I got ready to switch places with Z (because he doesn’t have a license or U.S. citizenship. I don’t know why I got chosen to switch and take the heat, though…oh yeah, ’cause I wasn’t drinking). At the last minute we totally lucked out though, because we drove by some guy who was broken down on the side of the road, then we pulled over. But, in my rearview mirror I saw that the cop pulled behind the broken down guy and not us, so I floored it and we got away! In Ottawa we tried a couple motels, but everything here is really expensive, and we’re close to being broke already. Finally all we could do was pull into some parking lot and sleep in the van, which kind of blew. Plus, our collective breath condensed on the ceiling and dripped back down on us while we slept.
39. 9/26 Barrymore’s, Ottawa, Canada
Everyone felt crappy but we woke up around 9:00 a.m., due more to discomfort than anything else (especially Sluggo, who had to sleep sitting up in the front seat). Found a place with a $2.75 breakfast after changing some more money and scaring the bank employees. John still hasn’t spent the $1.25 he came on tour with. John, Tom and Z went to a ’30-50 Live Dancing Girls Luncheon,’ while me and Slug hung out. One of the girls they had seen gracing the pages of Hustler, and afterwards John got his picture taken with her outside of the place. We parked the van across from Barrymore’s which was where the gig was, and had 7 hours to kill before load in. ‘Keeping Canada Cumfy-Wumfy,’ a stupid billboard in the parking lot said. Later, I went for a long walk on Bank St., a shopping district. We got the promoter to buy us dinner, which was the first decent thing we’d had all day. I caught a cold which wasn’t helped by our worsening situation. We got a lot of beer out of the guy too, and I decided to drink up for a change (pretty good for the cold too I bet). We were in serious danger of outnumbering the crowd, which looked even smaller because it was a big theatre-type place. I think we played to 6 people, including Z. We were begging for a place to stay during the set, and finally this guy ‘Ratboy’ (the one-man-heavy metal opening band) said we could stay if we left really early so we wouldn’t worry his roommates. Things have got to start getting better. At least the guy still gave us the guarantee, which was smart because we would have killed him otherwise. 100 Canadian.
9/27 Lot A-40, Campground near Kingston, Ontario.
Didn’t have to leave Ratboy’s until 9:30 a.m., so as Slug said, it was like sleeping in. Got some more money changed and ate the same $2.75 breakfast again, so I guess that makes us regulars at the place. After a $39.00 fillup (!) we got out of Ottawa and headed west. Today was another day off and we only have $35 left (Canadian). Cigs are $5 a pack so we’re having to ration. About halfway to Toronto we found this campground which is only $14 a night so we stayed there the rest of the day and camped overnight. It was a pretty cool place on a lake, and we were the only campers since it was out of season by now. There were some permanent residents in trailers who looked on suspiciously. Slug and Z went in search of some free food somewhere. Z shoplifted some hot dogs and rolls from a little general store. He forgot his shoes at the campsite so he had only his white socks, and Tom’s giant army coat. This is how you remain inconspicuous if you are shoplifting from a Canadian general store. They also got a case of beer, which was $20 for the cheapest, shittiest kind. Z built a fire to cook the dogs and for us to stay warm, and John decided to move the van to shield the fire from the wind, but to everyone’s horror he accidentally backed the van over the case of beer! Most of it was still okay, though. We stayed up sitting around the fire, just like real campers. I demoed my knee on a rock in the grass that I knelt on really hard, and it hurt for days afterward. Slug burned the poster we had framed to bring to Bill cause we were pissed about what a crummy tour he put together. Slept pretty good under the stars and mist, and took two showers which were great.
40. 9/28 Apocalypse, Toronto, Canada
Considered playing “Blow Me Fucking Canada” tonight. We came up with the idea the other day. Felt a bit better when I woke up this morning, but my knee was totally stiff. We each saved one dog to eat for breakfast, but no rolls left. On the highway we stopped because there was a totally cool looking semi flipped over, so Z took our picture in front of it. Someone thought it was a cigarette truck at first which would have been awesome, since the trucks load was scattered all over the side of the road, but it turned out to be some sort of medicine; nothing good. It was probably wishful thinking. Found the club in Toronto, and this one at least seemed like an official place. Everyone was in a bad mood when we got there, and TQ ripped up all the magazine stands at the entrance to the club, while Slug spraypainted something bad about Canada in the hallway. We had all day to kill so Slug went in search of beer. They have these places called ‘Beer Stores’ in Canada, and they are the only places where you can buy beer. So convenient. I got some Dr. Pepper, and Slug kept lying to Z that it was prune soda. Z, again, believed him. A cop made us move because it was rush hour, so we parked next to some school and later Slug took a shit on the playground in retaliation. We sold our last remaining T-shirts for $15 and $20 Canadian respectively. Went to a grocery store and stole a bunch of sandwich stuff for dinner. Being a ‘Texas band’ according to the poster outside the club, we went around claiming to be from ‘Cowpenis.’
A couple of stupid hardcore bands played in front of us. Then we did our set in front of about 60 people and nobody liked us, I guess cause we have long hair, or maybe just because Canada sucks? Slug and TQ did really scare them anyway, by using the Louisville Slugger and the 40-pound sledge- hammer on Sluggo’s fried tuner (and they were unable to break it!), suggesting the possibility of attack on the crowd. Forgot to play “Blow Me Fucking Canada,” which was just as well since we still haven’t tried it out, just talked about it. John got totally drunk, and after the show he somehow wound up getting the money, and he ran around with it and finally threw it at Sluggo. John was trying to find a piece of his drums, which turned up the next day anyway. Slug was getting really impatient with him. This band/household, called ‘Bunch of Fucking Goofs’ said we could stay at their loft, and this guy named ‘Thor’ was waiting to lead us there on his bike while we waited for John. Slug was getting real mad cause we couldn’t find John, and when he did get in the van they got into an argument. It went pretty much like this:
S.: Fuck you!
J.: That’s good. Let it out.
Anyway, a little later we went into the loft and checked it out. These guys (as written about in Spin) are supposed to be some kind of politically lefty communal group in the style of Crass, but actually they were just budding little capitalists. They make their money primarily by selling beer at double price to underage kids (Slug had to pay the guy $24 for a 12-pack).
Slug and I hung out for a while but gave up soon (due on my part to boredom). We stayed up in the van for a while trying to figure out what we should do about this fiasco of a tour. Resolved to play the Muskegon show and then go to Tom and John’s grandmother’s house in Iowa for a week, blow off the stupid Madison show (8 hours driving for $50) and pick up all the merchandise we can in Indy and Dayton. We have no intention of paying Bill back for it at this point. He’ll be lucky if we dont drive out to Arizona and murder him. It was tough sleeping cause some asshole kept throwing rocks or something at the side of the van. 215 Canadian + 35 merchandise.
41. 9/29 Icepick, Muskegon, Michigan
We felt awful again waking up due to lack of sleep. Had to get up early because it’s an all-day drive to Muskegon from here. We stopped at some crappy Canadian donut shop for some watery glazed donuts. I ended up being the only one awake all morning ’cause I was driving. Went west through London, Ont., on the way to Port Huron, MI. Pretty desolate the whole way. Smoked the last of the Canadian cigarettes going over the bridge into Michigan. Naturally the customs guy tagged us for inspection, so we filled out of bunch of forms while the guy went through the van, which was real smelly and dirty by this time. While I was waiting for the other guys to come in the office, the official behind the desk says to his pal, “Man, take a look at these guys.” I immediately had visions of the dreaded rubber gloves being snapped on for bum inspection. But they didn’t find anything except a bunch of smelly clothing, so they let us go. Went immediately to get money, a carton of Marlboros, beer, gas, and food (in that order), dancing with glee all the while to be out of Canada. Of course, that didn’t last long. After getting pretty lost trying to find Muskegon and waiting by a deserted Port-O-Let while Z used it (we thought of tipping it over while he was in it, but John reminded us that we would have to be in the van with him the rest of the day, so we decided against it), we checked out a totally ugly beach butting up to Lake Michigan, which was full of huge oil tankers. When we finally did find the place we couldn’t believe it. It was just some old abandoned, boarded-up building. When we got out to check it out some drunk up on the second floor whipped a full 48-ouncer out of his window at us, which just missed us and smashed all over the ground. We loaded in and went out to Burger King for dinner, totally depressed. Then, back to the club. It was a really small, totally spray-painted place with a fake little stage. After a while we noticed that most of the stuff on the walls were Nazi epithets and white power messages. Some bad farm-boy band opened. Head count of club revealed a big 30 kids, all under 18, most under 16 from the look of them. But we played our whole set anyway and the kids dug it. It was weird that this was the first crowd that’s really liked us so far. Maybe something’s wrong with us. I would have thought we were demographically the total opposite of aryan youth. Afterwards we drove around trying to find a motel so we could take showers (we were all pretty dirty at this point), which we did, and we even got to watch Saturday Night Live! 60 (but at least they’re U.S. dollars!).
9/30 On the way to Ottumwa, Iowa
Slept through until 10 when Slug came in from the van and woke us up. Took a shower and enjoyed it as much as possible. We went to a Big Boy for breakfast, and tried to demo an All-U-Can-Eat Buffet, but failed. Unfortunately no one was at the counter to take our money so we were forced to leave, but we did leave a tip. I have to admit, 40¢ a person for a buffet is a pretty good deal. We drove and drove after that, through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and then finally Iowa. Pretty much over my cold, but now Slug has it bad. This swarm of flies had been living with us in the van for days, and today they had apparently reproduced: there were swarms of baby flies everywhere. Got to Ottumwa around dinner time. Grandma Moses fed us and we watched “Westworld.” At least it was free.
10/1 Ottumwa, Iowa
Had a band meeting today. We’re pretty much fucked, it looked like. Added up the gas and food costs for the upcoming shows. Sluggo called ahead to the clubs to see what the money was supposed to be like. John wants to bag it and go home. Tom wants to keep going–he’s got nowhere to go back to. Slug has been increasingly pessimistic. I wouldn’t mind going on if we could at least get enough money to live on. Otherwise it means me and Slug are going to spend what’s left of our savings and if we do we’ll be equally screwed. As Z says, “it’s not how I pictured it.” We changed the Canadian money so we’ve got about $120 in the band fund.
Rented “2000 Maniacs” and “Probe Lover” (John and Tom picked that one) last night. Today changed strings and mailed some postcards. Bored. Rented “Near Dark” and “Life of Brian.” Rained late at night.
Rain. The beer tent for Oktoberfest opened downtown today. Had a bratwurst, saw a train go by. Saw a bad cover band. John and Tom knew the keyboard player from high school. Still bored. Slug “ready to kill himself.”
10/4 Dayton, Ohio
Left around noon, but Z forgot his flower-power suitcase so we had to go back. Left again at 1. TQ’s estimate of 4 hours to Indianapolis (to pick up the “Dead Serious” tapes) turned out to be figured at a speed of 150 mph. We only went 70, so it took about 9 hours. Got the tapes after a long-ass drive, then ate at Pizza Hut. Slug tried to withhold $2 from me; had to threaten to get it back. We found the loft that we’re playing at tomorrow. Me and Slug and Z decided to sleep up there but the problem was that there was no one in there. We heard people but no one answered the door. So we snuck into this big loft that consisted solely of huge skateboard ramps. We slept on those, and Z and Slug couldn’t sleep because it was really noisy and smelly around the neighborhood, but I was so tired it didn’t really keep me awake. We were awakened as the sun came up by a huge, harsh-sounding bottle-crushing machine right outside the loft window. Plus, whoever lived next door stayed up until about 5 a.m. watching really loud porno flicks.
42. 10/5 Loft, Dayton, Ohio
Up real early. Ate at some diner that was pretty good. Then we had a short 12 hours to kill before showtime. Slug wants to go home after this show. We continue to lose money. I agree that the financial situation is bad, but I’m also hesitant to throw in the towel yet. Plus, we’re already out here, so why not do the next week of shows and see how it goes? We’ll still end up about the same distance from home. Looks like Z wants to go home, John doesn’t care anymore, and Tom definitely wants to keep going. Everyone except Slug took a walk “downtown” to kill some time. Not much to see here in Dayton. Some little punk rockers stopped us and asked us if we were the band from Boston. One of them, a girl with a crewcut dyed green with purple polka-dots, had been to Boston once and complained to us that there were only “postcard punks” there. I was glad to hear that as I had not realized it.
We had dinner at some burger place, across from one of those drive-thru beer stands they have in Ohio. We called Bill at Toxic again at a pay phone in front of the beer stand, and didn’t resolve anything. Called Mark, warned him that I might be home soon. At the show, an energetic young local band, the Oxymorons, opened. We didn’t play especially great, but then we haven’t played for days, either. Slug was in a bad mood the whole set. Had about 60-70 folks there who liked us, and even danced (never seen anyone dance to Hullabaloo before–they usually just fight!). Probably the best show so far on the whole tour, which of course ain’t sayin’ much. 120 + 50 merchandise.
10/6 Back to Boston
Slug hurried load-out along after the Dayton show, and before we knew it we were headed home by about midnight. I slept most of the way–totally beat. Woke up around 9 a.m., already in New York State. Got back home around 6 p.m. Seems weird to be home. (Total amount made on tour: $1,175; total amount during the writing of this diary: $5,099.)
P.S.: We recorded all the songs we hadn’t put on tape yet, and a few extras, for a new album on C/Z. Slug moved to San Fran with Karey. Everyone else stayed in Boston.
Next time: Back in Boston