Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel
An opening thought for all you readers going down with the ship before my final column commences in the last issue of our dear Maximum Rocknroll. I am sure that this issue will be filled with nostalgia and farewell columns, letters, articles, etc. Personally, I decided to get that out of the way last month since the situation had been weighing so heavily on my mind. This month my column will read as if this thing that I love were not imminently coming to an end. I am holding on to very strong hopes that a core group of us who are still driven by and dedicated to the existence of physical copy print media will get together and start something new out of the smoldering ashes of the once mighty MRR. In the meantime, if any of you dear readers are interested in continuing to follow the misadventures of this somewhat inept weirdo in the form of my fumbling dum-dum ramblings, I will occasionally be contributing columns to the National Teen Set Outsider based out of Rochester, NY which may now be the longest running punk print zine remaining, and I also just contributed a column to the first print issue of The Adam Sandler Appreciation Society of Cleveland coinciding with the First Annual Adam Sandler Fest, the new yearly punk festival/most recent wonderfully idiotically, very-Cleveland event. Hey, gotta scratch this itch wherever I can now that I am no longer needed here at Maximum. But here we are, the tides are turning, the times they are a-changing, now is the winter of our discontent, and by that I of course mean that it is really cold in Buffalo right now and that I am unhappy about the situation causing MRR to leave us.
I have done some incredibly stupid things throughout my years of heavy involvement in punk. I have always been the kind of guy to say yes to just about anything. Sometimes that can get you into a bit of trouble, but I suppose I would rather regret making a mistake than regret not taking a chance. Over the past few years I have adopted the motto “I’ll try anything twice, in case I got it wrong the first time.”
A handful of years ago I was a approached by a casual acquaintance from Pittsburgh about driving his band on tour. We kicked around ideas and schedules and figured out that it would be a good fit. The band consisted of this friend, a former roommate of mine who I had lost touch with over the last few years when she moved away, and two guys I had maybe met once or twice but didn’t know hardly at all. The main problem with the planning of this tour was that it was to take place starting all the way out on the west coast, as their singer would be out there finishing her time working trimming weed. The tour would essentially start out west, work its way down the coast, then zig-zag through the center of the country making its way back to Pittsburgh, PA which is where they all called home at the time. Being from Buffalo, NY, the prospect of starting a tour in Portland, OR that I was driving was a bit of a daunting task, but having never done it before I of course enthusiastically said yes to the idea.
Having this problem where I constantly agree to things without thinking them through, and simultaneously being absolutely awful at scheduling, I of course decided to make this already idiotic idea even more difficult on myself by agreeing to play a gig in Buffalo on the same day that I was supposed to begin the drive. This is a recurring problem in my life. I once agreed to play a gig in Rochester, NY with one of my bands, another gig in Syracuse, NY with a different one of my bands, and was committed to being at a party commemorating the grand opening of the screen-printing shop that I used to run in Buffalo all in the same day, but I digress. Having already agreed to this gig in Buffalo I planned on having the van all loaded up and ready to go so that I could play the gig then just hit the road. Looking back it seems really silly to have rearranged plans and made a trip more difficult in order to play a forgettable hardcore punk set with my regrettable band to a tiny unfazed crowd in a basement almost exclusively used for metal gigs, but in the moment I wouldn’t have changed a damn thing.
We all know how annoying the concept of “punk time” can be, I assume, but it has always seemed to me that at the very least there is a certain consistency to it. With gigs usually beginning roughly an hour to an hour and a half after flyered time, it is fairly easy to estimate when gigs will begin and how late to show up in order to miss whatever bat-shit wildcard may have been thrown on the gig as an opening act. I am, to this day, still incredibly confused by hipster time, art time, and in the case of this story, heavy metal time. There seems to be far less uniformity with all of those realms. I have seen metal gigs start very promptly and on the flip side of the coin have witnessed them beginning an ungodly amount of time later than I ever would have expected. Perhaps this has something to do with all the different sub-genres of metal and them working on their own clock systems. I imagine that death metal time and grindcore time would be similar to all the pots and pans music but could potentially be very different from NWOBHM time or hair metal time. But then again, isn’t it always hair metal time? This seems like a debate that could go around and around and some modern individual has probably made a meme, or whatever you millennials refer to captioned photos on the internet as these days, depicting the differences. Not remembering which subgenre of metal the gig was that my band played, I cannot use this knowledge to add it to a chart of the appropriate sub-genre of metal’s lateness scale, but regardless, this show ran unbelievably late. By the time I finally left Buffalo it was hours later than I had originally intended to leave town. The trip was off to a great start.
The sun was already rising as I made my way to my initial destination of Pittsburgh. Pulling up to the house I was told to meet the band at, I noticed the one member that I already knew walking across the street. Obnoxiously blaring on the horn and yelling out the window at him, without taking into account how early in the morning it was, I started to slightly question my choices of pounding energy drinks and Sheetz soy lattes on the way down. I parked the van and got out to give him a hug and started helping the boys load in their gear and personal effects. It was around this time that my friend informed me that he wouldn’t be joining myself and the two other unknown band members in our trek across the country. Allegedly he had to work the next two days, tho I still have my suspicions to this day that he didn’t want to be in the van for a bonkers 2,500 mile journey, so he would be flying to Portland to meet up with us. Mocking their counterpart for having to work before saying farewell, these two handsome lads piled into the van and without so much as introducing themselves simply said “Hey Biff. Let’s go!” Sure, I could have admitted that I didn’t remember their names, had a brief awkward moment of re-introducing ourselves, and gone on from there, but we had a three day journey ahead of us so I figured I would make a little game out of it and vowed to figure their names out before we arrived without asking them. What can I say, I love games!
I have noticed in my time traveling that one of two things tends to happen between the people in the confines of a vehicle on an extended trip. Either the time spent in tight quarters together can really cement a friendship in a short amount of time making it feel like you’ve been friends forever, or it can put strain on the existing friendship and you end up trying to put as much distance between yourselves as possible within the confines of the van. Spanning the entire country in a three day timeframe was sure to exacerbate such feelings, but which way would it go?
We were underway with a fresh oil change, a full tank of gas, and caffeine surging through our veins. After a few hours of lighthearted chit chat and missed opportunities to learn some first names, one of them asked if he could put on some music. In a scenario like this of potential new punk friends I would standardly pop on something like Shock Troops which has always proved to be something of a great equalizer for punks getting to know one another. Who the hell doesn’t like that album and know pretty much every damn word? Handing over the controls he turned on the first album we would listen to on that trip and of all things what he selected was a score by Ennio Morricone from the 1969 Italian film Metti, Una Sera A Cena, which just so happens to be a soundtrack that I greatly enjoy. Once we had finished making fools of ourselves goofily sing-chanting in our falsetto voices along with the vocalists and playing the dashboard like keyboard together, it started to take shape just what kind of guys I had here. Immediately following that up, the next musical selection was the 1979 Living Room demo by the Feederz and any doubts I may have had just entirely flew out the window along with the bottles of piss being dumped to limit the amount of stops we would make.
The trip began to fly by. Names were learned, states were spanned, very few stops were made other than the necessities of getting more caffeinated Sweet Drank or at whatever Taco John’s we could find to grab another Six Pack and a Pound. The trip went by in a blur. We giggled about absolute nonsense as the sillies inevitably crept in. We delved deep into the realm of discussing in-depth relationship woes. Time seemed to only be told by how often George Noory came on our radio for another Coast 2 Coast AM broadcast. We sat through a four hour discussion on the history of ouija and other talking boards one night, and then one where the guest ranted and raved about the numerous health benefits of magnesium the next. Both broadcasts had us on the edge of our seats. I am not entirely sure how it happened or if the main clock we were using must have been broken or something as it seemed to be stuck on taco time, but we actually ended up making the entire trip in far less time than it should have taken us. My new friends and I sharing the wheel made it so that we pretty much made the trip in the amount of time it takes to do that drive if you don’t stop to rest.
We showed up at their singer’s house around mid-day, a day ahead of schedule. I remember walking up to the door and still chatting and laughing with the two of them as we knocked on the door. When greeted by their singer and asked how the drive was, the consensus seemed to be unquestioningly that it was “great.” The other one of them had only recently arrived from his flight and was napping when we arrived but our caffeine fueled insanity made short work of his ability to sleep. The rest of the tour was a blast and I have some very fond memories of it, including catching up with my former roommate who was in the band in a very intense and beautiful way of sitting on someone’s lawn in Los Angeles and having her give me a tarot reading. It inspired a wonderful conversation and it felt to me as if no time had passed in our friendship at all. When I think back to this tour though, most of what I remember is that initial drive and how, with the right company, a daunting task can turn into a wonderful experience.
Ending on a serious note, farewell MRR, when this issue is delivered to me I fully expect to begin sobbing as I peel open the envelope and dive in cover to cover one last time. If anyone is involved with other punk publications and wants a columnist I am now officially a free agent (Sorry Will, don’t worry, my National Teen Set Outsider column about obsessively tracking down pinball machines to play while traveling will get to you on time). Hit me up at xFeral_Kidx@ yahoo.com for some soon to be much needed punk interaction.