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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Towards Disastour Blog Vol. 9: I knew I shouldn’t have made that left turn in Albuquerque…

Man, these night drives are killing me. We had been warned by one of the gentlemen from Havok that when driving through the Southwest it is best to travel overnight because with the intense, hellish daytime heat, the roads essentially become a river of lava and you run the risk of your vehicle overheating and your tires melting and popping. To me, night driving in a packed van is like ancient Chinese water torture. You can’t get comfortable enough to sleep but your mind just screams for sweet, delicious rest the entire time. We drove all night to Albuquerque, New Mexico to play a show at a tremendous venue called the Launchpad. When we pulled into town at around 8am we headed to the house we were to stay at, and to our weary apprehension, the house was full of people still fired up, drinking and cranking classic 70’s jams from an all night booze and drug binge the night before. We clumsily moseyed down to the wet, unfinished basement and spread out on the rough concrete floor while Van Halen’s “Jump” cranked on the loudspeaker, rattling the bare floor joists above us. We all fought tooth and nail for some rest, and later that afternoon we reluctantly arose to get to the show.
Its funny how we seem to have the best days after those uncomfortable and restless nights. We headed early to a park and played in the sun all afternoon. We had a marvellous BBQ and played ultimate Frisbee until it was time to head to the Launchpad. So far, the Launchpad was my favourite venue we have hit on this tour: great sound, big stage and awesome lights. Afterwards, we were sure as hell not heading back to the party house, so we got a motel room, crammed all 10 of us in and had an incredible evening. We all got hammered drunk, and sat around watching cable TV well into the morning. I love everything about cable TV. I think I just enjoy handling the remote control and the power that it wields. It’s like a magic wand that makes reruns of Married… With Children appear. Every half hour you can start all over again. Anything can happen in cable TV land. Especially when you have 10 dudes in tow to relentlessly make fun of everything you see.

Thank goodness we got rest because we had to push through an arduous 10-hour night drive to Tempe, Arizona that lay ahead of us. I made the second half of the drive as the sun was coming up. I got to appreciate navigating through the beautiful mountains and desert, littered in dry trees and cacti while listening to hour after hour of my favourite radio show, Opie and Anthony. When we arrived, we went to sleep on a jam space floor that was supplied by the Arizona thrash band and all-around great dudes Warhead. We slept like sardines until the late afternoon and we headed to our gig at the Red Owl. In a plaza adjacent to the bar there was an astonishing record store called Asylum Records that was almost more of a rock and roll museum than anything else. They had classic memorabilia, original signed guitars from Paul Stanley of KISS and Dimebag from Pantera, and a hypnotizing Led Zeppelin live DVD playing on their big screens. I could have gotten lost in there for days. We got our pictures taken and framed on the wall next to fellow Canadians Anvil, which is a great honour.

We played an extremely enjoyable Tuesday night set. I got nice and loose. I even called out for our cover of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, for which we have an up-beat and dynamic arrangement with improvised elements. It’s a jam we have had in our arsenal since we were young; the whole point is for me to abruptly play 20 seconds of a completely different song at each instrumental break of Hocus Pocus. As long as I pick a song in the key of “A”, (or “EH” as we call it in Canada), it comes across as a musical magic trick. For instance: at the beginning of each instrumental break I will just start playing something like “Cat Scratch Fever” or “Seek and Destroy” or any song I can think of off the top of my head, and it sounds consistent as long as it is in the same key. Then I can seamlessly bust back into the Hocus Pocus groove by calling out a “1-2-3-4!” count to the rest of the band. The beautiful part is that my band has no clue what songs I am going to play until I play it, so it keeps us all on our toes and displays sophisticated musicianship. It’s a high-risk endeavour that could fall apart at any moment. Whenever we nail this song live it creates an air of spontaneity that you can almost feel in your bones.  To play it unsuccessfully and fall flat is a fate worse than death where the audience wonders why you wasted 10 minutes of their lives and you feel like a silly billy for the rest of the night.

We ended up going to the talented sound guy’s apartment to crash, and ended up bringing about 300 people we met at the show along with us. I recall having a very slippery grip on my actions on the night in question, and I am not afraid to admit that I was in full-fledged “Goat Boy” mode. Thank goodness I am not an angry drunk, instead I just wandered around the party squinty eyed, cracking jokes, and hugging everyone I saw while sporting a shirt with an entire drink spilled on it.

Spencer “Advil, please” LeVon

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Towards Disastour Blog Vol. 8: We’re all goin’ to Dallas! We’re all goin’ to Dallas!

We had a well-deserved day off in Arlington, Texas. We had the whole day and night to ourselves, so we started it off by going to a restaurant called Cici’s Pizza. Cici’s is a super cheap place to get tour food because it has a $5 buffet, which means endless pizza, pasta and desserts. Trust me when I tell you, I came out on top in that transaction. I went through some volume, son! We found a table for 10 and showed no mercy as we selfishly crammed our faces full of starch. I can recall this as one of the best afternoons on this tour so far, just because we were acting like a bunch of kids, eating all the pizza we could ever comprehend eating and had no adults around to tell us to stop. There were so many “high fives” and hysterical laughing sessions. We all left Cici’s with full bellies and sore faces from tittering.

After breakfast we got our laundry done, and contemplated our next move. Someone suggested that we check out Dimebag Darrell’s grave because he was buried at a cemetery down the street. So we went. I hope this doesn’t sound like sacrilege, but I thought it was a very strange and morbid way to spend a day off: checking out the burial site of a murdered rock star who I had never met. Most of the guys had their pictures taken next to his headstone, which was even weirder to me, if only because I’d have no idea what face to make: do I do it all somber and respectful, or do I throw up the horns and act all metal and shit?  It just makes me feel silly. I know a lot of people can develop an emotional connection with musicians, but I usually make the separation easily in my head. If I don’t know the person, I don’t think I really have any reason to be at their grave, you know? I may just have a broken relationship with mortality itself. At any rate, the dudes all gathered around the grave and cranked up some old Pantera songs on a portable stereo and paid their respects.
Afterwards we devised our next evil plan over iced coffees. We decided it would be a fun idea to drive to Dallas and see our friends in Havok perform. It was a real treat to get to check out a metal show and not have to worry about any responsibilities. Just enjoy some entertainment without lifting shit, driving, or having to be interesting for 45 minutes. Havok are without a doubt one of the best metal acts around. Their singer David Sanchez was phenomenally charming and enticing, their guitarist Reece put on a great show and wowed the concertgoers with his catchy and memorable leads, but the star of the band in my opinion is drummer Pete Webber. In my eyes, Pete holds the whole thing together with his hypnotizing technique and rock solid rhythm. Great show boys!

In between bands I went for a quick stroll down the block to get a feel for Dallas and maybe do a little people watching. An enormous tough-looking black man intercepted my journey. He pointed to a white bracelet around his wrist with text on it and told me that he just got out of prison and wanted some change, presumably for a new library card or to buy flowers for the elderly. I sheepishly lied to him and told him that I was fresh out of change, and in a foolish sign of good faith I slapped my front pocket only to summon the jingle of a healthy wad of change from an evening of buying drinks from the bar. It immediately became evident that I lied to him because I was basically playing the white-boy pants-pocket tambourine jingo-jango. He demanded that I give him the contents of my pocket and I happily obliged. I would say that it went down as the most casual street robbery of all time, on par with your girlfriend stealing a fry off your plate at lunch.  On the way back to the van, Adam and Mason took in a performance by a local crackhead who performed street magic while telling corny jokes.  All in all it was a great night out.

Spencer “Here's my money, sir” LeVon

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Towards Disastour Blog Vol. 7: The Dudes at Night are Not That Bright, Deep in the Heart of Texas

After our gig in Pensacola, FL. we had a good long drive ahead of us. We were to drive into Houston and pick up our friends in ZH the following morning around 11 am because they were to join us in our tour van and play gigs with us for the next 3 weeks (that’s right, 10 dudes in an 11 seat van). They were taking a 2-day bus ride from sunny California to Texas, and that meant in order to meet them at the Greyhound station we would have to drive all night long to prepare for our gig at the White Swan. We fuelled up with some pancakes and hit the Florida highway at around 4 am. Night drives are absolutely horrendous and I hate them like I hate being stabbed in the ass with the butt-end of a goalie stick. First of all, it is very uncomfortable to drive while you are tired, but it’s also near impossible to get any rest in the bench seats while the tour van cascades towards its destination in the dead of night. So you are damned either way. We made it into town and illegally parked in a lot next to the Houston Greyhound station and waited in red-eyed anticipation in the mid-afternoon sun for our California rock star buddies to pull into town.
I was relieved when they arrived and looked even worse than we did. They had a dreadful and uncomfortable 48 hours in a bus, all with different sets of stories including almost getting kicked off mid trip with all of their gear on the side of the road. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in 2 years, everyone was dead tired, and a little dazed from exhaustion. We went for burritos and blinked at each other in restive stillness for 3 or 4 hours until we were set to play. Despite the mutual fatigue, we both played crushing sets to an enthusiastic crowd of young headbangers. The crowd was so rowdy that a fight even broke out during one of the sets.

After the gig the ZH boys and us headed to a motel for a snooze. To save money, all 10 of us crammed into the same room and conked right out. Thank goodness we had the next night off and were free to slob the day away and go camping in the outskirts of San Antonio. The spot we ended up at turned out to be where they filmed the Patrick Swayze movie Parenthood. This ended up being our first big party blowout with ZH, and we had an absolute blast. The night was spent making fires, cranking James Brown music and playing Frisbee in a scorpion field and sleeping in tents under a tree. It was the perfect way to get reacquainted with old friends.
I could not be happier with having ZH on the road with us. It is very strange for 10 dudes to be sharing each other’s space while avoiding conflict. I think the reason is that both of our bands function in a world of positivity. No matter how bad things get, we keep each other laughing and energized, and when things are good we are all there for each other to savour it as a family. Every conversation we have is fodder for a sidesplitting joke, or a milk-out-the-nose laugh that will catapult you into a schoolgirl-like titter for miles and miles.

The next day we went for a swim and headed into San Antonio for our gig at a club called the Korova, which was a Stanley Kubrick-themed rock club. Before our set I went for my pre-gig walk and vocal warm up looking quite haggard. I was running out of clean clothes at the time, so I was wearing black Daisy Duke cutoffs and a black tank top. My brother Mason remarked that I looked like an Australian Goth. I also had a patchy, shaggy tour beard that made me look like a real asshole. After our gig a dude came up to me and said that he thought I was a homeless lunatic because he had seen me walking past the bus station singing to myself. That assumption was completely justified, because at the time I looked like Saddam after they took him out of that hole. 

Spencer “I smell worse than I look” LeVon

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Friday, August 02, 2013

Towards Disastour Blog Vol. 6: Loco in Cocoa

DSC_1351On this tour we played a handful of dates in Florida, but the one town that stands out in my mind is when we spent a couple days and debauchery-soaked nights living within the depths of chaos and depravity in a bar called the 321 Local in Cocoa Beach. It all started when we pulled into town the night before our gig. We had nothing to do, and nowhere to go. So we decided to go to the venue we were going to play the following night and start our night that way. To kick things off, we had ourselves a tailgate party complete with beer, BBQ grilling and George Thorogood cranking on the stereo in the parking lot of a Baptist church around the corner. We went in to check out the bar and met the owner Kevin and the booker David. We had nowhere to sleep and couldn’t afford a hotel, so the owner of the club offered for us to just party all night long and fall asleep on the floor of the bar. We heartily obliged. The next few hours are a blur of air drumming and table dancing until late the following morning.


I found a hot piece of floor beside the pool table and time traveled to the early afternoon the following day. The hot Florida climate has a way of just drying you out. Nothing makes you feel like less of a winner then waking up next to a bar-sports apparatus with pool chalk in your hair, feeling dry as a wine cork.  I was so dry that I pissed sand. I was so dry, only British people thought I was funny.  I was so dry, I found a bunch of camels traversing my beer gut.  Oh, if only I had the foresight to grab myself some morning water and rest it beside my soon-to-be unconscious body lovingly. That’s a real treat isn’t it? When you awake from a late night of liquored-up lunacy only to find that drunk you left hung over you a chilled Snapple or a 2-liter Fresca?  If you can find someone that does that for you, you marry that person and impregnate them immediately to pass on that trait to future generations.

I waddled over to the men’s room to freshen up and saw Adam sleeping on the stage, snuggling up to the subwoofer. The other dudes begrudgingly arose from whatever man nest they created for themselves and we began talking about heading to the ocean for a quick splash just to wake up and get psyched before we needed to perform later that evening. We went down to the beach with the club owner Kevin as our tour guide, and he pointed us in all the right directions and made sure that we had a beer in front of us at all times. He had us in stitches with his wild sense of humor and stories, as well as his positive and earnest attitude towards living the life he loves to live. “It’s a hard life, but it’s our life,” he kept saying to me.

It’s amazing how a nippy dip in the ocean can set your mind straight. After playing in the waves like a pack of soft-minded imbeciles, we brought a ton of food back to the bar to cook in the massive kitchen and to get our powers back to full strength and play a power set. About an hour after we played, I felt so loose that I decided to go back up on stage and play a last call jam session with Eytan and Mason with me on bass. We took requests and jammed out until it was time for another well-earned pool table nap.

Be well friends,

Spencer “it may be time for an orange” LeVon

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