Tour day 1 – Saturday 30 September 2017
Playing at 62 Doors, Minot, North Dakota
w/ Home Invasion, Icarus the Owl, Breakup Haircuts
Damn it’s early.
Is it even legal to be awake at this hour? I mean, I’ve been awake earlier than this in the past – you know, before I was unemployed and homeless – but … time zones? I don’t know, I’m just tired.
Joey’s bought coffees for all the guys. All six of us are loaded into the van and CJ is driving. Driving east seems like a poor decision currently, seeing as we are driving directly into the blinding sunlight. Even with sunglasses and squinty eyes it’s hard to tolerate.
The guys are all having a laugh, sharing stories about previous tours they’d all been on with other bands. It sounds like I’m in for an interesting next few weeks.
The van has a built-in DVD player. Joey has a massive collection of dubious looking horror films that he want’s us to get through by the end of tour. I can’t tell if he wants to get scared or appreciates how funny poor quality horrors films are.
We christen the DVD player with the obvious choice – This Is Spinal Tap. I’d forgotten how funny it is. Hopefully it doesn’t foreshadow anything that will happen to us on tour. Although… as much as I like Mark, how cool would it be to see a drummer spontaneously combust!?
That was one of the longest drives of my life. It took roughly 12 hours to drive from Bozeman to Minot. One of the guys mentioned that we’ve moved into a different time zone. This whole time travel business confuses me.
We load the gear downstairs into the venue. 62 Rooms is a shared studio / art gallery deal. I enjoy looking at the range of artwork hung up throughout the building.
I don’t know what to make of Home Invasion. They’re a two piece. I guess it’s hardcore? They both have cheap, nondescript face masks and felt wide-brimmed hats on. The drummer takes turns between drumming and screaming into the mic out front, while the guitarist builds layers with a looping pedal and sometimes sings as well. It’s loud and violent and the drummer keeps turning the sole light on and off with his left foot, which is disorienting.
Ranges play next. It’s actually the first time I’ve seen them play. Their whole rig is all connected so that the lighting rig syncs with the music. It works well – ambient music coupled with stark lighting.
Icarus The Owl play mathy pop-punk. It’s busy music. The drummer has great chops and I like the three-way vocal harmonies, although the lead singer is very high-pitched and I tire of his voice quickly.
Breakup Haircuts round off the night with some great hardcore styled music. I enjoy what they do, but miss some of the set because I’m helping the band load gear into the van.
We eat at an Irish pub called Ebeneezer’s just down the road. My meal came on one of the largest plates I’ve seen in my life and the band couldn’t get enough of my excited reaction. After the meal we drive on for roughly an hour, stopping to sleep overnight in a town called Rugby.
Tour day 2 – Sunday 1 October
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota
w/ Drumbeat Red, Lions & Creators
Joey’s pretty excited about the venue we’re headed to. Triple Rock is co-owned by Erik Funk from the punk band Dillinger Four. Now that he mentions it, I recognise the name from a NOFX song. The drive isn’t nearly so long today, and everyone is in a good mood. The guys speak fondly of Minneapolis – they have friends in town and all have a story or two from last time they were there.
A storm hits and one of the windscreen wipers gets caught by the wind and flicks off the windshield. Thankfully CJ is able to find a space to pull over and was able to sort it out. I don’t know what we would do otherwise because most mechanics would be closed on Sundays, and it wouldn’t be safe to continue in the heavy rain.
We arrive in Minneapolis early in the evening, with plenty of time to kill before the show. One point of interest is a vending machine stocking guitar strings, capos, picks and drumsticks. It strikes me as a good idea. The venue has a cool aesthetic, with gig posters and band stickers on most walls.
Food seems like a very attractive option after the long van ride, so once you’ve unloaded the gear from the van we head next door to the restaurant area of Triple Rock. The jukebox is playing loud punk music, which prompts Mark to tell me about his musical background. He grew up in New York in and around the hardcore scene. I mention that I saw Gorilla Biscuits play in Auckland a few years ago, which sends Mark down a rabbit hole, mentioning all his friends who played in associated bands. He also knows Vernon Reid from Living Colour, and can’t believe that I interviewed Will Calhoun from the same band earlier in the year. I can only imagine how awesome it was playing shows at legendary places like CBGB’s when he lived in New York. I’m looking forward to the Brooklyn and New Jersey legs of the tour because we will get to meet Mark’s old friends.
Lions & Creators are amazing! Just three guys on stage throwing themselves around wildly. They find a balance between control and chaos and I love it. They also talk about murder sneezes, which is something that more people need to know about.
Ranges play better tonight. Being on a stage and have a black background helps to add gravitas to the set, and the band sounded more confident because they could hear themselves better in the mix (compared to last night). My friend Will watches the set with me and he mentions how impressed he is with the overall setup. He has a point. The band play well and the music from the new album sounds good. But that they’ve managed to build a stage set with a synchronised light show in the icing on the cake.
I miss the last act because I was catching up with Will. The guys in Ranges tell me that I really missed out.
Jared’s best friend Mike lives in Minneapolis so we’re all staying at his place. Most of us stay up well into the night, talking nonsense and watching music videos. At one point Mike’s wife brings out a box of nerf guns. I’m not sure what I expected from tour, but this isn’t how I imagined it. It sure is fun though.
Tour Day 3 – Monday 2 October
Subterranean, Chicago, Illinois
Outrun The Sunlight, Atonement Theory
Chicago is one of the few cities on tour that I’ve already been to. I stayed with Matt from Aviation and the War in August. I rate Chicago as having had the best food in my American travels to date. All the guys say that they’re looking forward to some deep dish pizza.
Joey gets into weird spaces that he calls “second wind”, usually as we enter cities. He puts on a hick accent and starts talking about diesel engines. I’m starting to get used to it, but I doubt that I’ll ever become immune to his silly sense of humour.
Arriving in Chicago is different from the other cities. We hit traffic and have to pay to drive on toll roads – something that isn’t found too often near Montana. The city feels vibrant as we enter, full of all walks of life. There are hundreds of cyclists, and apparently they all have a death wish because they keep cutting CJ off as he drives. Finding a park for a van and trailer is quite the ordeal, but after circling the block a few times we find a space near the venue.
Subterranean is a cool venue. Space is tight so we play a game of tetris with drums, guitars, amps and lights to try to squeeze the gear out-of-the-way.
After packing the gear in, I walked to a nearby taco restaurant just around the corner. Turns out my grasp of the Spanish language isn’t as good as I’d thought it was, because the simple act of ordering two tacos proves extremely difficult. At the taco place I meet David, one of Mark’s old friends who lives in Michigan, and drove a few hours to make the gig. He’s a friendly guy and we chat over our meal.
Turns out the meal took so long to order, cook and eat that I ended up missing the first act! I’m told that Atonement Theory were great so I was sorry to miss them.
Setting up proved tricky with such limited space, so we opted not to use a few of the lights. Jared’s pedal board was also bugging out, so he chose to bypass a few pedals.
Tonight’s set was great. The mix sounded good and I caught the guys flashing grins at each other throughout.
Outrun the Sunlight closed the night with their technical post-metal. It was a wonder to see them pull off intricate melodies that switched time signatures. I stood side of stage watching the drummer make magic happen.
After packing up the venue we went round the corner to Dino’s Pizza. It was a shame to leave Chicago immediately after, but the city had a reputation, meaning the band were anxious about parking the van somewhere with a likelihood of being broken into with their instruments inside.
All words and photos by Joseph James