Tour Day 4 – Tuesday 3 October
W. Cross Station, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Man Mountain, Vision Explored, You Rest, You Joy Life, Hollow Paradise
We drove out of Illinois up to Michigan the night of the Chicago show. We watched another of Joey’s horror films on the way – one called “Strangers”, staring Liv Tyler. The hotel that night left a lot to be desired – the guys swore that it had bed bugs, and the complementary breakfast was stale. I slept in my usual domain – atop the loft in the van – so it didn’t bother me.
Next up was a trip to Guitar Centre. Mark managed to crack his 16″ crash cymbal at some point over the past few days so was keen to replace it, choosing a slightly bigger (and hopefully more durable) 18″ crash to replace it.
I remember chatting to Joey when I first met him a month ago. He mentioned that the band was going near Detroit, his eyes lighting up, He pulled up an article on his phone and showed me some statistics about crime in the area. “We’re going to get stabbed!” he proclaimed excitedly.
Ypsilanti seemed relatively non-descript. Not a big city, but not too small. Not as rough as Joey’s stats would suggest, and certainly not as rough as the area we’d been in, in Chicago the night before. Loading in and setting up was easy. I don’t have a lot to say, except that the songs playing over the PA were way too loud, and the food at the bar was exceptional.
I wasn’t feeling it that night. Man Mountain were great – good music, good beards, friendly dudes – but I wasn’t in the mood for loud music and just hung out in the back.
Tour Day 5: Wednesday 4 October
Voltage Lounge, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
w/ Tides of Man, This Patch of Sky, VEXES, The Sound of Rescue
Pennsylvania takes a long time to traverse. We spent virtually all day on a free way. Let me tell you, it’s not cheap either! It cost almost $100 to take the toll roads to Philadelphia all day.
Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love – the greek translation. Joey set about making the most of the setting by chatting to the guys in Tides of Man – the headliners – who happened to be one of Joey’s favourite bands. The ToM guys were super friendly and it was great to see a “big” band acting so down-to-earth. Maybe this brotherly love thing has clout?
Voltage Lounge – the venue – had a cool feel. Decent sized, with a mezzanine balcony and ample backstage area. Every square inch was covered in graffiti or band stickers – something that I like in venues because it adds character to the place. Oddly enough, the sound guy was friendly and supportive, breaking the stereotype.
First act, The Sound Of Rescue, played post-rock. It was ok. They didn’t push the envelope in any way, but it wasn’t terrible.
VEXES were great. Energetic and heavy, in the vein of Deftones and Thrice. I was getting annoyed at the red lights on stage – something that makes photography a lot harder – so started playing with my camera settings and began shooting in black and white. So thanks to VEXES for helping me evolve my photography skills.
This Patch of Sky came with big expectations. Having recently signed to Equal Vision Records, and released an album to rave reviews, they’d developed a reputation. unfortunately they didn’t meet the hype. Something sounded out-of-tune for the first two songs. Granted, they had a fill-in drummer, and it was their first night of tour. Kit the frontman is interesting to watch. He throws himself around the stage with abandon. Sadly, the rest of the band didn’t match his energy. It didn’t help that half of them play seated. I’ll be seeing them a few more times over the course of the tour so hopefully they fare better in other cities.
Tides Of Man slayed. It was instantly clear why they are headliner material. They played four unreleased songs, as well as content from their album Young and Courageous. The combination of memorable melodies and sheer talent means that there is no way you could dislike this band. That is an objective statement.
Following the gig we tried to navigate Philadelphia’s tight one-streets and went to buy cheese steaks from Pat’s, as you must do when in Philly. There was no parking for a van with trailer, so CJ drove around the block a few times while we picked up the food.
That night I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in the van on the drive to New Jersey, and remained sound asleep in that spot until around 7am. I remember removing my glasses, and in a groggy moment of decision-making, placed them down beside me to be “safe”. To my horror, come morning I discovered I’d slept on top of them and broken the arm.
Tour Day 6: Thursday 5 October
Dingbatz, Clifton, New Jersey
w/ Tides of Man, Gatherers, VEXES, Fence ≇
The hotel we were in was a mere 20 minute drive from Dingbatz, so we made the most of the relaxed morning. Mark and I spent some time in the “fitness centre” – that is, a gym – followed up by a soak in the pool and hot tub. Lunch was at Red Rooster – connected to the hotel – and then we headed to the venue.
Dingbatz was not great. The space to store gear was limited, and the sound guy came across as a total dick. He did play some good music over the PA between sets, including Jakob – which made me feel homesick – but there is no excusing how he treated people.
Tides of Man finished their soundcheck and invited me on an adventure. A quick google search of “things to do in Clifton” revealed a tunnel system a few miles away nicknamed “The Gates of Hell”.
I was super stoked to be in a setting other than a tour van or music venue. I handed out flashlights (I call them torches, and I have an incurable addiction) and we climbed down into the abyss.
The guys loved it. We walked through large drains, trying to avoid stepping in any water and inspecting the graffiti on the walls. I’ve done a bit of draining and caving in the past so it was nothing new to me, but still really fun to explore. We chatted on the way. Turns out Tides of Man toured with Australian band Karnivool a few years ago and we bonded over a mutual love of the band.
Back at Dingbatz, after a few beers with the VEXES dudes (Iron Maiden Trooper beers \m/), we watched local act Fence put on a grunge tinted set. They didn’t seem to take it super seriously, but I liked the music.
VEXES did their thing again. I like their style. Gatherers followed, but I didn’t like their intense screaming.
A handful of Mark’s friends had made the trip from New York to Jersey specially to see him. They hadn’t told him their plans, so he freaked out when he saw them. It was cool to see him so excited about catching up with old friends he hadn’t seen in a very long time. And super cool that they’d made the effort to drive all this way, even though we were scheduled to play Brooklyn the next night.
Setting up for Ranges set was interesting to say the least. The sound guy was being a grouch, telling us off because some of the early bands had run over time, putting us late. Mark fell backwards off the stage. He’d thought that it was a wall behind him, but it was just a fabric backdrop. So as I carried a cymbal stand onto the stage I saw him in an odd section between the stage and backstage, on his back with all his limbs in the air, like a stranded beetle stuck upside down. Thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt.
Mark actually played harder that night – probably a combination of a few beers and trying to show off for his friends who had shown up. The rest of the band caught on and it was nice to see them band together and play well, despite the negative vibes coming from the sound guy.
Following the set we hurriedly took the gear off stage, aware that we were running late. Joey, CJ and I got stranded backstage. We weren’t allowed to open the back door while Tides of Man were playing, and it would have felt rude to run across the stage during their set. All being said, I can think of worse places to be trapped. Tides of Man are incredible. It was nice, having some alone time backstage and listening to great music.
After the show finished and we’d packed our gear into the vans we migrated across the road to another bar. Mark was on fine form, shouting and laughing with old friends. The rest of us hung out with the Tides of Man crew, who shared funny stories about past tours.
That night before bed I reflected on how much fun I was having. I’ve grown really close to the Ranges crew over the past week. We have so many laughs together. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to join them on the road.
They’ve given me a nickname: Baggins. And introduce me to their friends as “our New Zealander”. All day they tell me how happy they are to have brought me along. I feel exactly the same.
Tour Day 7: Friday 6 October
Gold Sounds, Brooklyn, New York
w/ So Hideous, This Patch Of Sky and Tides Of Man.
I had been looking forward to this date all tour. Mark has such a larger-than-life personality, and I wanted to see him in his native environment. Plus, he comes from a hardcore/punk background, and kept promising to introduce me to his old band mates and friends who had been involved in the early NYHC scene.
Mark didn’t start the day so chipper though. He’d drunkenly left a bag at the bar and was worried that he wouldn’t get it back. He’s been making an effort to get healthier, so his bag contained medicines and foods like seaweed, dried fruit and nuts, and apple cider vinegar. We rocked up to the bar at midday to see if the bag was still there. Thankfully it was, and I nearly wet myself when I saw the note attached to it. It read: “Someone left their Hippie Survival Bag here Thurs Night”. Brilliant!
The drive to New York had Mark back to his usual self. He excitedly pointed out anything that came to him – where he’d met his wife, a venue he used to attend, where he’d got some tattoos, his favourite pizza spot.
It was surprisingly easy to find a car park for the van a trailer. We took the L line on the subway over to Manhattan and lunched at Katz’s deli at Mark’s insistence: pastrami on rye with mustard. There was a long queue and it was expensive, but damn it was an experience trying to consume such a large sandwich.
It was surreal seeing who had showed up to the gig. Some friends from Bozeman just happened to be in New York on the day. So as well as Wilson and myself (art/merch guy and token New Zealander/roadie), they also had their sound guy and tattoo artist. And there were all the New York locals who showed up to see Mark as well.
They’ve been improving every night, and again, Ranges killed it. Mark went extra hard in front of his punk friends, and CJ and Jared got more physical moving around the stage. Even Joey – not one to rock out much while he plays – nodded his head more than usual. And their light show synced up to the music usually impresses, but tonight it really set them apart from the other bands.
The venue was great. The perfect size to fit everyone. Easy parking, too. Ranges opened for the night, and the place looked packed out. To be fair, it was close to full, but the size of the room enveloped everyone and made it seem more intimate.
Although one major downside was that the only restrooms in the joint were side of stage. So in between sets – when we needed to shift amps and instruments – everyone was queuing right where we wanted to put the equipment.
So Hideous played next. I couldn’t handle the roaring, but I’ll give them credit where it’s due and say that it was awesome seeing a guy shredding on violin.
This Patch Of Sky drew a decent crowd. They played better than in Philadelphia. Guitarist Kit Day snapped a string and ran backstage to borrow another guitar. Dan from Tides Of Man stood near me and watched on nervously. “He better not break a string – I need that guitar for later!” he confided.
Sadly Dan, and the Tides Of Man crew didn’t have a good time on stage. They had issues with their bass cab, meaning that they needed to borrow Jared’s last-minute. And then another amp blew. This pushed their set up time, meaning that they couldn’t fit in a line check, and the mixing levels weren’t to their satisfaction. I can understand that would have been incredibly frustrating, having your gear fail you, and being unable to hear the band as you play.
But, in all honesty, I don’t think it affected their set other than how they were feeling. I loved every minute of it. It sounded great – maybe not perfect, but still fantastic. I could tell that the guys were beating themselves up after the gig, but they needed have worried.
We stayed around until 2am. Mark was reuniting with friends, and the bar had converted to a nightclub, meaning it was hard to pack out gear because we had to push past everyone in the bar. CJ, the trooper that he is, did an all-nighter, driving the five hours to Burlington, Vermont, for dunk!fest. I don’t know how he does it.
Words and photos by Joseph James