the 1987 tour to hell
So we were pretty ecstatic at the fact that” voltage and violets” had turned out so well and we’d been getting a lot of shows without having to try too hard. For this tour it was my turn to buy a van I guess and I bought a real piece of shit, like a super bad vintage econoline, a really bad hacked together job. The previous owner had some sort of love affair with silicon sealer, it was everywhere, sealing the roof, thewindows, the engine…
I should have known to read the omens when we left Santa Rosa for the first show and started overheating by the time we got to Novato but of course I was too stuck on my plan. We were going to be out for three months. I didn’t have too many shows booked and was constantly at some phone booth trying to track down some promoter who’d skipped town or something. We poured a bunch of water down in the radiator and somehow made it to LA where we played some backyard party. It was my first experience with LA and it’s never got much better than that for us (nothing personal if you happen to live there).
So after LA we went to Fresno to play a hall show with Capitol Punishment and other Fresno area HC bands. The van died in Fresno (head gasket) and we ended up drinking beer and watching Devo videos for three days at the mechanics house in Madera while it was fixed. When it was finally done we had lost a couple of shows so we hauled ass to El Paso to play a show with Bomb who were also on their first tour (four guys and all their gear in a station wagon), The “show” was actually in a barn outside of town. Six people paid to see us but in the ensuing years more than six people have come up to me to say that they were there. Anyhow we ended up hooking up with Bomb for 2 or three more shows. In Amarillo we had a run in with the bar owner who refused to pay us and opened his desk drawer to reveal a gun. Tempers flared, cops were called but we finally got our 30 bucks or whatever. We had a crazy stupid party with Bomb that night which I only remember vaguely, something about Michael Dean in a wedding dress, I don’t really recall…..
We bid farewell to the Bomb dudes and headed off for Norman OK. We played a show at the University there which was cool, promoted by Michelle with the unpronounceable last name who later became our booking agent and then was made infamous as the inspiration for the song “Naive Children” (more later). She was going out with Wayne from the Flaming Lips at the time so we met him too. After the show we went off with a couple of friends who’d recently relocated to Tulsa from Petaluma, followed them all the way there and spent the night it was kinda cold and we were stupid so of course no one slept on the gear in the van. The lived in a fenced apartment complex so it seemed safe. I got really drunk and passed out and went down to the van in the morning to discover that we’d been ripped off. They got my Gibson Melody Maker, my Music Man amp, Larry’s Explorer copy bass, his Peavy amp some money (I told you we were stupid), all of my clothes, all of our roadie Brock’s clothes, all Larry’s clothes. Devon it appeared was untouched, the only thing they got of his was a high hat stand that was already busted. Crushed, we figured out that the only sensible thing to do was get drunk and make a tattoo gun and give ourselves tattoos. We were unsuccessful in our quest for homemade tattoos which in retrospect I guess is a good thing so I settled for shaving my head.
So I hit my Dad up for some dough and we bought some crappy gear at a place in Dallas. While we were shopping, Donovan Leitch walked in looking for an acoustic and Larry started playing along with what he was playing leading us to brag that Larry had jammed with Donovan. We opened for Scratch Acid in Dallas at the Theater Gallery which was a great show, I was a huge fan of theirs. In Dallas we got bombed and left too late for the New Orleans show. We also drove the wrong way, through Shreveport and down through rural Louisiana instead of via Houston. Anyway we were too late for the show. We befriended a couple of gals and proceeded to crash at their house for a week or so since there were no shows. I ate acid in the French quarter and drank a lotta beer, threw up in front of the open air restaurant we’d eaten in and pulled another bud outta my trenchcoat. The next thing I remember I was writhing in pain in the gutter on Bourbon St., thinking I’d been attacked by skinheads. The truth was that I just fell all over myself and twisted up my knee.
I was a fucking mess, me with my bashed up knee, badly shaved head, all my clothes ripped off, hung over, irritable, horny. In Richmond we played with a band called Groupoem, they were from Canada and had financed their tour by all of them participating as human test subjects for experimental drug studies. They were played quite handsomely apparently. Afterwards we went to see the Butthole Surfers play at the Pyramid, and when we heard they were having a party we followed them back to their hotel, again under the influence of psychedelics. Larry and I saw Gibby walking down the hall and when he caught sight of us started running, we gave chase and caught him at the hotel room where they were very obviously not having a party we mumbled some lame apologies. I pretty much had a really bad trip that night, Larry talking me down. I saw the fattest cat I’ve ever seen in my life, I sat on some guys record collection.
We played in Todd Cote’s basement in Philadelphia which was a great show but we knew we were deep in the shit. Not too many shows lots of cancellations. I parked in a two hour zone for two weeks. I spent hours on the phone calling trying to put shows together and it looked as if we would have five shows in a row that would pay well in Canada so we weren’t ready to give up yet. Finally we left Philly and made our way to the Canadian border. The promoter on the other end didn’t have the working papers together so we were turned back at the
border. We scrounged fried potatoes from a shopping mall food court that was closing, bought a case of Busch and got a campground on the shores of Lake Erie and proceeded to stare out across the water at Canada while our five shows that we did have were yanked out from under us. Much frantic phone calling ensued and I extracted a promise from the promoter that we’d be able to get in the next day but to no avail. On the third day we decided to try to cross at another crossing but we were busted by some unsent postcards just as we were about to clear Customs. We were thrown out of Canada and told that we could not return for a period of a year.
To this day I’m always asked about this when I cross into Canada.
Our next show was six days away in Lansing Mi., where fortunately we had a friend. We had just about enough money to get their like thirty-five cents to spare. We hit up family members for money for beer and cigs. We tortured each other with our friend Mark’s sampling keyboard, sampling fart noises and then seeing how they sounded pitched up two octaves. We played a record store.We decided we’d had enough. We had one show in Kentucky across the river from Cincinnati. We opened with” Liars, Pigs and Thieves” our slowest most painful song. We cleared the room. We decided to drive straight home from Cincinnati which we did.
Until Wells, Nevada.
We’d just pulled over to piss but when we tried to pull out nothing happened. The transmission had just froze.
We needed a new tranny.
Devon and I sent Brock and Larry home on a greyhound while we stayed and gambled what little money we had left, drinking watered down screwdrivers from the crappy casino bar. It took three days to fix. We drove home.
We didn’t speak to each other for months. I pretty much figured we were finished.