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Europe Tour Recap

We are back from Europe– it was a great time as always, although it got slightly hairy a few days in. I posted a handful of quick things on Facebook while we were over there; they are collected here for your reading pleasure. – Nate

 

April 21
First day in Paris was a blast. Lots of walking around, vaguely jet-lagged, in perfect weather, up along the seine and through the neighborhoods. Kind of a cliche but hanging out under the Eiffel Tower drinking cheap beers we bought from some guy walking around with a bucket was pretty awesome. I think if we had another round we probably would have purchased one of the laser pointer toys he was also encouraging us to pick up. We also spent a stupid amount of time at a random Irish bar next to our AirBNB, where we learned a great game called Guinness Percision. You take a single sip/gulp and try to get the beer line (not the foam line) to rest exactly between the harp and the Guinness text. See attached photo. Took some practice! But Joe got it twice, Jeff once, and Danny once. I was pretty bad at it. On to Lyon! Playing at Ayers Rock Boat, hope to see you there!

April 23
Our first show ever in Italy ruled. Really fun time. I slipped on a lemon peel after the show (really) and totally messed up my knee, so that’s lame. Definitely the worst thing a lemon has ever done to me; usually I like them. But besides that, it’s been awesome here! Had some excellent Pizza and beers next to a lake, and then checked out a castle. Two more shows here, and then on to Slovenia

April 25
Man, Italy was so much fun. Had another great show last night. Such a friendly, enthusiastic crowd. Hung out on the patio until 3am drinking beers and discussing metal records, and I realized the “duh-nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh” system of expressing metal riffage is truly universal and transcends language. We were also trying to recall Megadeth lyrics and I only came up with one, “You take a mortal man / and put him in control” (followed by the aforementioned duh nuh nuns) How many can you remember, top of your head, no cheating? The Megadeth Lyric Challenge. Maybe it’s easy and I’m simply not a metalhead. Anyway: Great times! Slovenia is up next – Nate

April 26
In case you weren’t sure, let me confirm it: Slovenia knows how to party! Also a rad looking country; you can almost see the venue from this photo

April 27
Thanks, Budapest! Another great show in another beautiful city. Special shout out to our new friend who drove all the way from Serbia to see us. Walked around for 5+ hours today and it was great. And at the end of the walk, I was able to eat my first taco since leaving home. It wasn’t a bad taco, either. Day off today. Going to check out Off With Their Heads in Vienna. See you there? After that, three shows in Germany. Looking forward to it.

April 29
Yesterday, traffic was at a standstill and a truck bumped into us as we nudged into their lane. Not a big deal, their fault, but minor, and then… These two screaming truckers are running up to the van, ripping open both the driver and passenger doors and waving around wildly like they’re going to start punching us. Lots and lots of screaming in rapid fire German. We shut the doors. They opened them again. Repeat. One of them then ripped the driver mirror down. Broken. Finally we pulled away, assuming they were going to follow us off the exit, but there was a cop car there so they just continued on. We talked to the cop but didn’t get their license so we gotta eat the cost of the mirror repair I guess.

And THEN — after being stuck in standstill traffic for a couple hours — the van started making weird noises, died, and suddenly we’re stranded on the side of the damn autobahn! Sun’s going down, cold out, and there are cars zipping by inches from the van at 100+ miles an hour.

Kind of crazy day! But then we called a tow truck, got towed to a mechanic, got picked up by OWTH, got to the venue and played possibly the best show of the tour. Thanks, Nurnberg! Now we’re hanging out waiting to hear from the mechanic. Hope we can make the show tonight, wish us luck! Oh yeah, also breakfast in Vienna was really good yesterday. So that was cool. First guacamole of the tour, nice

April 29 Part Two
Update: the van will not be fixed today. Secured a one-day van rental here in Nurnberg. While we picked it up, the other guys started bringing all our stuff down from the apartment we were staying at to the street. Idea being, we’ll pull up and take off right away for Weisbaden. We show up, and find out that somehow the door closed behind them while taking a load downstairs. The guy’s only key is locked inside. So now we are driving to his grandparents’ house to get the spare key. 40 minutes round trip.

Once we get the key, and get back to his apartment, and get the rest of the stuff, and get on the road, and get to Wiesbaden, and then get back to Nurnberg after the show, and then (hopefully) get our own van fixed tomorrow morning, we will be back on track!

April 30
So, two days later and the mechanic still has not fixed the van. Stranded in Nurnberg again. Looking like we are going to have to rent two mini vans to get to Uncle M Fest tonight, and the hopefully Groezrock from there. I don’t suppose anyone is sitting on an awesome solution here? Like, you live in Nurnberg and have a new touring van you were hoping to break in? You’re the inventor of a tour-by-helicopter system and would like to test it on someone? Let us know!

May 1st
In a 48 hour stretch we had three rental vans, one tow truck ride, three cab rides, three shows that we barely got to, one near fist fight on the highway with some angry truckers, one hour on the side of the autobahn, one stranded box of vinyl records, six or so hours of standstill traffic, one van engine that turns out to be completely destroyed, one key accidentally locked in an apartment, one half-drunk late night conversation about 1970s snare sounds versus 1980s snare sounds, one viewing of Terminator 2, and so much more.

And after all that….. we’re on the road about one hour from Groezrock. Boom. Let’s party!! We play tomorrow but will also be selling merch today. Stop by!

May 4th
Man, Groezrock was so much fun. Had a great show and it was a blast checking out other bands and just wandering around running into people. Never really checked out Refused before, to be honest, but watching them from onstage was pretty unreal. Special shout out to Kate and Alexander for bringing us our missing box of vinyl all the way from outside Nurnberg. Totally saved us.

Eindhoven was also great, despite the fact that all of us felt like we had been awake for 11 years in a row. Nick, the promoter, was an excellent host– showed us around Rotterdam and schooled me in FIFA on XBox 6-0. I was pretty proud of myself for keeping him to single digits.

Now we’re in Paris for the final show of the tour. Despite all the van chaos in the middle, this has been a really really fun tour. Lots of fun shows and great sights and incredibly friendly people.

Oh, also we just paid a parking meter a little bit ago and couldn’t tell if the printed receipt was saying it was successful, or that the transaction failed. So I tried to speak the French into Google Translate and it returned, “It brings ancient beasts. Fear watch is kept on the bird.” Ruh-oh. I pictured placing it on our dash and having a parking attendant start screaming, “N-no! NO! You don’t realize what you have done!” So anyway, apologies if we just unleashed the apocalypse but stoked for the show tonight!

Europe 2012 Part 2

Here is installment #2 of a multi-part blog/diary of our 2012 European tour. This covers day three. – Nate

Day Three: First Show, Green Shots

There are many differences between traveling and touring, but the biggest one for me is how you experience a city. When you’re traveling, the entire purpose of being where you are is to go check things out, and that’s what you do: you wake up early and walk around, wandering through different neighborhoods, popping into cafes or restaurants or bars, peering or at least glancing at local architecture, seeking out anything unique the city has to offer.

When you’re touring, though, more often than not you wake up late and spend a sizable portion of your day in a van, occasionally trudging outside (perhaps observing, “Ah, my legs hurt!” as you take the first few zombie-like steps) and into a gas station to use the bathroom and get an energy bar or something, but for the most part you’re in that van and then around 4 or 5pm you get to the club you’re playing at, where you load equipment in, sound check, set-up merch, figure out what to do for dinner, and now holy crap it’s 7pm and the bands are already starting. At this point, maybe you’ll walk ten blocks around the club and back, but that’s about it–sometimes, you just stay at the club and you don’t go anywhere. You can fool yourself and think, after a six minute walk from the club and back, “Cool, I got to check out Sacramento. It has streets, and also buildings, neat,” but compared to traveling, you really don’t get to soak in cities the same way when you’re on tour.

I want to be very clear here: I’m not complaining. I’m just pointing out the differences. There are clear positives to touring too. When you’re traveling, you don’t get to play music for people every night, and you probably don’t get to meet as many strangers. When you’re playing a show, there is definitely a sense of, “Every person in this building has something in common”, and that can lead to great interactions. That doesn’t happen as often when you’re traveling, unless you’re like, “Whoa. Every person in this room has something in common. We all felt like eating vietnamese food right now.” (And then you stand up, go interrupt a couple eating and ask them, “So when did you guys get into Pho?”)

To sum up this long-winded rant in a more efficient way than the previous three paragraphs: touring and traveling are both great; they just have their own advantages and disadvantages and general differences. And usually, one of those differences is that you don’t experience a city as deeply when you’re on tour.

But: not always! The main reason it happens that way is the whole spending-hours-driving-from-city-to-city-every-day deal, but every now and then you wake up and you’re already in the city you’re playing in, so you can spend the day doing whatever you want, basically the same as if you were a traveler/tourist.

On paper, that was the case in Monchengladbach. Weeks earlier, we had realized this. “We’ll be waking up earlier, because we’ll be taking it easy and going to bed early on purpose the night before. We can take a train into Dusseldorf, walk around for a few hours, and then head back for the show. Sweet.”

When I opened my eyes at 3:30pm and saw that no one else was up yet, I realized we would not be taking any trains to Dusseldorf. Oh well. Next time.

I got up and I felt reasonably good, I guess, but in a bizarre way I had no idea what time it felt like. I knew what time it was, and I knew it didn’t feel right, but that was about it. It certainly didn’t feel like 4pm, but it also didn’t feel like 9am, which is what my body was supposedly still used to. It was some weird time that didn’t make any sense. F PM, or something. This was a bit discombobulating. Maybe food would help.

Marius set out a nice, simple breakfast and we dug in. I felt a little better. As we ate, someone called and informed us that Joe’s wallet had been found, and it would be at the club, and also that his mom said Hi. This was all good news.

—–

We headed to the club, which was about 3 minutes away. Nice; none of us felt like walking too much further than that. We set up merch and then Heike, our driver for the tour, showed up with the van and all our equipment. (A few people asked me this when we got back: did you guys drive yourselves? Did you bring all your amps with you? No and no; we hired a driver and rented equipment. Both things were super awesome! It would have been absurdly sucky to fly with a bunch of amps; I can’t even imagine trying to negotiate that with a Delta employee or whatever; “Trust me, this cabinet will fit in the overhead bin, just let me on!” And Heike was an excellent driver, but more importantly she was just super rad and fun to hang out with. Hopefully I didn’t spoil too much by telling you all of this. I guess maybe it would have been cooler and more suspenseful to reveal that Heike is super rad later in the blog, but too late now.)

The equipment all appeared to be good. Last time we toured Europe I had a monstrous 8×10 bass cabinet inside a heavy, awkward case and it was kind of a drag to haul out every show. This time, I had requested to NOT get that again, and now had, instead, a much smaller and nicer bass amp that would still be able to keep up with the guitar amps. This was a relief to see.

A ThroneThe only other specific equipment request had been by Danny, regarding his drum throne. First off, for those who don’t know, the drum throne simply refers to the thing the drummer sits on. Why do they call it a throne? I don’t know. It seems pretty weird/laughable: not only do they never look like a real throne (the kind you picture a drunk, leering king sitting on while they gnaw on a turkey leg and glare at their subjects, or court jester, or whatever), but it feels like an almost, I don’t know, pretentious word to use. It’d be like me referring to my bass guitar as a “scepter”.

At any rate, Danny’s one request was to NOT get a “banana seat” version of the throne, like he did last time. As we brought the gear in, I saw the throne.
A throne
“That’s cool, looks like you didn’t get a banana seat this time, right?”

“Well, not really. That’s sort of a banana seat.”

Can’t win them all, I suppose. I just tried to find a picture of a banana seat, and found this description of “thrones” from the website Modern Drummer: “The throne is the foundation of any player’s groove.” Throne, Player, and Groove, all in one sentence! I love it.

After some excellent vegetarian chili and bread, we set up, sound checked, and people started spilling in. A lot of people from the bar the night before showed up. Almost all of them, on both nights, kept telling us this would be our best show of the entire tour. “So and so was here last month, and they said the same thing: Monchengladbach was their best show, by far. Nothing else compared.” On one hand, this was exciting; the show was apparently going to be very good– I like things that are very good! But it was also like hearing, “It’s all going to be downhill after this, guys!”

The show itself WAS great. We were definitely shaking off a little rust, but it wasn’t too bad and the crowd seemed into it. This helped to offset any first-show-sloppiness; if people are dancing and singing along and having fun (as opposed to staring at you with stony eyes and crossed arms), it’s a better vibe and a bit of looseness isn’t that big of a deal. We had a great time. Would it be the best show of the entire tour? That remained to be seen (no spoilers, don’t worry).

After the show people started feeding us green shots. They weren’t great, but they weren’t bad, and they seemed to be relatively efficient. They were a local speciality, apparently. I think they were called “Flim”. In other cities in Germany, I would ask people if they had these shots, but I always said it wrong, like “Flem”. Essentially, I’d end up asking a complete stranger at a bar, “So, do you guys do shots of phlegm here? No? Phlegm? We did them in this other city in Germany, and they were pretty good. Shots of phlegm. All green and stuff. No?”, oblivious to the blend of befuddlement/disgust/horror seeping into their faces.

——–

After a couple rounds of flim/phlegm/whatever, we went back to Marius’s place where, among other things:

1. We passed around a few acoustic guitars and played songs. I played an MDC song, very poorly.

2. We, for some reason, ordered 7 pizzas even though only 4 or 5 people wanted any. It wasn’t terrible pizza or anything but afterwards I vowed to eat no more pizza for the rest of the tour, a pledge I’m happy to say I kept. It’s just too hard to tell if you’re getting crappy pizza ahead of time, you know?

3. We had a generally fun time hanging out listening to music, playing the aforementioned guitars, eating the aforementioned pizza, and went to bed extremely late again. Monchengladbach, a city I had never even heard of two weeks earlier, and proven itself to be one of the funnest spots in Europe we had been to thus far on either tour.

-Nate

Next up: an outdoor festival in Germany!

Europe 2012 Part 1

Here is installment #1 of a multi-part blog/diary of our 2012 European tour. This covers days one and two. – Nate

 

Day One: Volcano-Free Flying 

In the spring of 2010 a volcano with the catchy name Eyjafjallajokull erupted in Iceland, spewing a gigantic ash cloud across Europe and disrupting the travel plans of countless people, including us, hoping to fly from Minneapolis to Paris to begin a tour. The entire tour was in doubt right up until the day of our flight, when officials in charge shrugged and said, “Well, the cloud is still here, and is possibly dangerous, but since we’re losing money… eh, screw it” (in so many words). Our Minneapolis to London flight was OK’d that afternoon, but I still remember pacing around an airport bar, drinking (distressingly expensive) coronas and frantically calling representatives at Air France to make sure our connecting flight from London to Paris was not cancelled. Our flight to Europe in August 2012, for our second European tour, had no similarities other than the ‘drinking coronas at an airport bar’ part. No volcanos, no iffy flights, no confusion. It was nice. We had a few beers and one $17 gin and tonic and boarded our plane, excited to return to the land where you can get flaky, delicious croissants at random gas stations. (There are other cool things about Europe, too)

The flight itself was uneventful. Earlier in the week I had read an article about jet lag that said wearing sunglasses the night you leave — at the airport and on the plane — and through the day you arrive, helped to diminish the effects. I wasn’t sure if this theory had any merit or if it bore a closer resemblance to sketchy internet pop-up ads (‘Doctors HATE him… learn his weight loss secret’), but jet lag can suck and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. The downside was that wearing shades indoors at night probably made me look like a bit of a prick, but the upside was that it was easier to pass out. I got weird, scattered sleep (twenty minutes here, five there, totaling to a couple hours), but it was better than zero sleep. Along with it came bizarre dreams: I was in the Triple Rock with Joe (our roadie for the tour) and he pointed up at a chalkboard and said, “Dude, Brorrosion of Conformity is playing soon, it’s going to rule. It’s bros playing Corrosion of Conformity covers.” Brilliant idea. Someone should do that, stat.

 

Day Two: Rest & Relaxation in Monchengladbach After a couple of hazy hours in the Amsterdam airport, mostly spent sleeping on the floor, we boarded another quick flight. The only thing I remember about it is that Danny said, “Water is awesome”, in some context, and one of the flight attendants overheard him, laughed, and said, “Water is awesome? You’re going to love this flight, then!” But the thing was, their water wasn’t anything special.  Well, it was OK, I suppose. Anyway, soon enough were at the Dusseldorf airport, ready to start the tour. First guy I saw was the fellow in the photo there. Awesome.

Knowing that we would be at least somewhat jet lagged, we had wisely set up the tour so we did NOT have a show on the first day. On the 2010 tour, this worked great. We got to Paris, had dinner, Nick and Corey crashed, Danny and I walked around to a few bars, and all of us were asleep by 11pm, refreshed and ready to start playing shows the next day. It didn’t quite work out that way in Germany. Our host, Marius (we would learn later his friends call him Warius after a certain level of drinking gets met; I never really saw this, but it’s a great nickname. Go look up the Wario wiki page if you don’t get it) got us at the airport and brought us directly to a liquor store. If you are a fan of beer, and are a giddy person, this was the kind of building that would cause you to run around, occasionally leaping into the air and clicking your heels. Like so:

I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I could appreciate the options stacked up around us. So many! So unique, compared to America at least! All of us picked an assortment of beers more or less randomly, based on how cool the bottle looked and how badass the name sounded. “This is called KrakenBasher and looks like like the kind of beer an old-timey king would drink!”; that sort of thing. Outside, Marius appraised our choices. Some were good, others caused him to grin and shake his head: “That’s shitty.” I realized this whole scene was probably similar to bringing a European to Minneapolis and watching them emerge from a liquor store asking, “Is this good? This is good, right?” as they hold up a 12 pack of Natural Ice. The difference between America and Germany, though, was that here in Germany we were able to hang out and drink in the liquor store parking lot and no one shooed us away or tried to handcuff us or what not. We were politely enjoying a couple beers, and it wasn’t a big deal; society wasn’t shattering around us. Why can’t we do this in America? (I don’t mean, like, “God, it is SO hard not to crack open a beer immediately upon purchasing it, this is so unfair, blah blah”, I just mean that it doesn’t seem like allowing it harms anything). I suppose, though, that the reason is because no sane politician is going to assume this issue as a rallying cry. Can you picture some guy in a suit climbing on top of a soapbox and yelling to a crowd, “The path ahead is not short, it is not smooth, and it is not easy, but it will be lit by the fires of our desire to come together and accomplish what we have dreamed of for so long: the ability to drink beer in parking lots!”? Not so much.

 

At any rate, it was super fun. It was early enough in the tour where the, “Man, we’re in Europe right now!” realization would hit you, plus given that we were all a bit sleep deprived and stoked to be off the plane, the beers had a stronger effect. My rough calculation (which I came up with years ago when I arrived in New Orleans at 7am after sitting in a van all night, and then going straight to a bar) is: 1 beer = Missed hours of sleep x .5. mathtchrSo I normally get 6 hours of sleep, but I missed 4 hours of sleep, that multiplied by .5 equals 2. Each 1 beer is like 2 beers. This is a rough calculation and is missing many elements. Mainly, this is not necessarily a good thing. It’s not, “Well, I missed all 8 hours of sleep, so drinking one beer is like four… I’m saving money and there are absolutely no side effects!” But it was still noticeable. Actually, now that I look at it, there are deeper problems with the equation. If you only missed 1 hour of sleep, it’s as if the beer is less effective, which isn’t true. Heck, if you missed zero hours of sleep, it indicates that beer simply doesn’t effect you, which is ludicrous. So, uh, consider it a work in progress.

 

After one beer, which truly did feel like two, we headed to Marius’s house in Monchangladbach (where the show would be the next day). We had some truly awesome homemade lasagna and then, resisting the temptation to take it easy and go to bed early as we did in 2010, went across the street to his friends’ apartment. There were a bunch of people hanging out, including some kids from America who were in the army and stationed in Germany. We had a few drinks and talked while the Lawrence Arms DVD played in the background and then we made our way to a local bar. German beer can be — what’s the word? — strong, and even stronger when you haven’t been sleeping (see the flawed equation above), a situation which lead to Joe having what looked remarkably like a beer stain tie within an hour of arriving at the bar, and losing his wallet on the first night of tour. (He got it back the next day, luckily, but it still had to be weird for his mom, who got a call from the person who found it…. your kid goes to Europe and about twenty hours later you’re getting calls from German strangers who have his wallet!)

All Hail!
Overall, we weren’t getting that bombed or anything, just enjoying the feeling of being in Europe and hanging out with new friends without the “We have to play a show in a couple hours” restriction hanging over our heads. I learned a little about Monchengladbach, and we all learned a few German phrases, chief among them, “Prost!”, which is basically “cheers!”. I kept getting it wrong and saying, “Probst!”, as if I was in some weird cult that required me to raise my glass in honor of Survivor host Jeff Probst at random intervals. I was a bit stunned we stayed up past 4am, given that last time we came to Europe we had all been crashed out before midnight. But this was a good thing! We had a great, fun night and were pumped to get to play what was clearly an excellent city the next day. -Nate

New Strap

Originally Posted April 2010 on Tumblr

Left my bass strap in the states. In Northern France I had to make the following choice. I have no regrets.

-Nate

Transmissions From the Show Me State

Originally Posted November 2009 on Tumblr

Last day of the tour was in St. Louis. A bit of a hike from Dallas, so we left early and tried to keep the stops to a minimum. We finally pulled off in Springfield Missouri for gas and grub, and as we did so the van began making weird noises and chugging along, having difficulty going faster than about 30. It also ceased being able to go in reverse, meaning we had to be verrrry strategic about our parking.

Given all of this, we knew the problem was the transmission. Hopefully it was just the same problem as earlier in the tour, when the van was just a little low on transmission fluid and adding some fixed the rattling/chugging problem we were running into on the highway.

But this seemed a little more serious, and alas it was. The mechanic stuck a dipstick in my face. “Smell this,” he said.

“…OK.”

“Well?” he asked.

“Uh, well I guess it doesn’t smell good or anything…”

“It’s burnt. Burnt transmission fluid. You’ve got a problem with the transmission. Sorry, but we can’t do anything for you here.”

All of the transmission places in town were closed until Monday. Presumably, it would be an expensive repair. So, we decided to ditch the van at a transmission shop (leaving a note for them) and rent our way out of town. The car rental places at the airport had one — one! — vehicle between the five of them that would be able to go one-way to Minneapolis. So we had to take that AND a U-Haul for the gear. Bummer. At least we got to enjoy the CD player for a full 22 hours!

However, we were lucky in one sense— had we chosen to take some random, small exit rather than the one for Springfield, there’s no way we would have found a car shop, a U-haul, or a car rental place, and would have almost certainly been stuck in some small town for days.

We hauled ass, still made it the show — which despite being pretty zonked from a full day on the road plus all the van crap ended up being pretty fun.

We drove straight home at 2am when the show got done, stopping for 3 hours of sleep at a rest stop. Except for having to ditch the van, it was an all-around blast of a tour!

-Nate

Texas!

Originally Posted November 2009 on Tumblr

After Prairieville we had three shows in Texas with Dead to Me, all of which were great. Those dudes are all super nice and fun to hang out with, and put on a great show. It was kind of a bummer we only got to play a total of five shows with them.

A brief rundown:

San Antonio: This was the semi-weird one out of the Texas shows. Located in a strip mall, the venue had recently opened and was clearly catering to the metal scene. Called Zombies, a blood-and-guts theme dominated the painting in the various rooms, every single ‘upcoming show’ on the calendar was a metal show (I’m assuming; maybe Cannibal Slaughter is a folk band, who knows) and the majority of the songs on the jukebox featured the use of double kick drum pedals.

Not a huge deal; the staff was friendly and the handful of kids hanging out seem stoked for the show. But there was one problem: the place was huge! Like, absurdly huge! It reminded me not of any venues I’ve played at before, but of a used video game warehouse I used to work at in high school. Just insanely big.

It would certainly have a weird vibe to play for 20 people in a room that could plausibly fit 1500, especially from a large stage that was about five feet off the ground. But then Chicken had a genius idea: have the entire crowd come on stage with us! This instantly made it feel like we were playing in a packed, tiny basement that had been plopped down in the middle of an empty meatpacking warehouse. And basement-inside-of-an-empty-meatpacking-warehouse shows are some of the best.

Austin: Only an hour drive to Austin! Up to that point the tour had had surprisingly long drives, so this was a welcome change. We got stuff done with all this extra time: burritos for breakfast, car wash, laundry, and the installation of a new CD player with a line-in for iPods! This was far superior to the 1991-era tape deck we had been using up to that point. One of my favorite things to do in a van on tour is listen to the comp CDs people give you at shows, grade each song as you go, and then chuck it out the window when you’re done if it’s bad (which, usually, it is!) Previously Banner Pilot has been unable to do this, but now we’ve catapulted our way into modern times with this acquisition of CD player technology!

The show was at this cool club called Red 7 where the stage is located back in an outdoor patio area. Super fun show. Dead to Me were great and had a couple of the guys from Riverboat Gamblers join them for the last two songs.

Dallas: I have to admit, I didn’t think Dallas would be a very good show (at least three people in Austin, when I asked them what Dallas was like, responded with some variation of “It sucks!” The guy who installed our CD player thought for a second and said, “Well, there’s a lot of murders there.” Ringing endorsements!). But, it ended up actually being pretty awesome— more people than I would have guessed, enthusiastic crowd (that sounds cheezy but i don’t know how else to put it), pretty good openers. Sweet.

All in all, I had a blast in Texas.

-Nate

So Long, Tape Deck

Originally Posted November 2009 on Tumblr

We will miss your DNR feature. And the Auto Reverse was awesome. Sniff…

-Nate

We Sound Kind of Like Nirvana

Originally Posted November 2009 on Tumblr

We had a day off after Fest (extremely smart idea on our part!) which we spent in New Orleans (another smart idea!) After that we met up with Dead to Me in a small town called Prairieville, outside of Baton Rouge.

We arrived early at the bar, the Fat Cat Saloon. The waitress asked what kind of music we played. This task — describing your music to someone who doesn’t listen to punk music — can be difficult. If I say something like “Tiltwheel crossed with Dillinger Four and a dash of Screeching Weasel”, their reaction will probably be “Guh?” And with good reason— it’d be like if I asked a hippie what his band sounds like, and he says “Well, we take a bit from Seesaw Orb, a little bit from The Mustard Bottle Project, and then also the improvisational freedom of Harvest Skiddle”…. I would look at him like he’s a lunatic who should be chained up somewhere. It would be much better if he just said “Phish. We sound sort of like Phish.” Then I could say, “Oh. That’s cool, man.”

When we get asked this question, I usually opt for Green Day. Just about everyone knows what Green Day sounds like, and we’re at least ballpark-similar to them. Usually a safe, good, go-to answer.

The waitress stared back at us blankly.

“It’s punk rock stuff,” I added. I usually avoid this answer because it can invite imagery of everything from Sex Pistols to Good Charlotte, depending on who you’re talking to. Way too vague. But since she didn’t know Green Day, a broader description seemed to be called for.

“So, metal? You guys play super loud?”

Nick shook his head. “It’s not metal. It… it is loud. You might want to wear earplugs. But it’s not like metal really. We sound….” he seemed to be searching for a cultural reference point “… we sound kind of like… Nirvana?”

She shrugged. “Never heard of them. I just listen to country and Creed.”

I opened my mouth and considered saying “We’re kind of like Creed, I guess, in a very broad sense,” but then wisely re-closed my mouth, horrified at the implications of acknowledging something like that.

“I guess you’ll just have to check it out and see what you think.”

She shrugged again. “Oh, I don’t care. My shift is done at 7 so I won’t be here anyway.” she walked away to get a beer for someone.

The only other people in the bar, which was full of semi-cryptic anti-Obama art, were four or five burly men who did not look like they would be familiar with Green Day or Nirvana either, let alone Screeching Weasel. It had all the makings for a ridiculous/hilarious show, but by the time Dead to Me showed up the place had filled up a bit with people who were there for the show.

It ended up being really fun. For some reason I really like playing in small bars. More so than the average ‘club.’ Between bands you can hang out and talk or play foosball or something instead of having to yell over loud between-band music. Plus Coronas were only $2, the cheapest I found all tour.

Dead to Me were great, too. It was only the second show we had played with them (the warehouse show being the first), but I was already recognizing (and liking) some of the new songs.

Still pretty wiped from New Orleans the night before, we went to a motel after the show and got some rest.

-Nate

Fest! Fest! Fest!

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

Egads, there’s a whole 10 days of tour that I was too lazy to write about while we were on the road. Better do it now before I forget about it. After I catch up, I’ll start using this blog to write about the process of writing songs for the next album. This might prove to be rather inane, but we’ll see!

Anyway: the tour. Last update was about Richmond and their tiny-style bowling alleys. After that we had a day off (spent mostly driving and briefly hanging out in the always-fun Savannah), and then we made it to Tampa for the annual pre-Fest show.

We missed this last year but played in 06 and 07, and it was good to be back. Always a blast hanging out in the parking lot with people, and it’s a good way to catch bands that you know you’ll miss over the actual Fest for whatever reason.

While we were hanging around outside some kid tried to jump from the top of one van to the top of another van, didn’t make it and fell hard to the ground. Pretty messed up. Ambulances came and took him away. I never found out what happened to him, but hopefully he was ok and just ended up with minor bruises and what not.

Besides that, it was a good time. The rest of the weekend was spent in Gainesville, of course, for The Fest. Always one of my highlights of the year, and this time was no exception (unless the remaining 6 weeks of 2009 prove to be so awesome that Fest feels so-so in comparison. But I have a feeling that will not happen). This year I caught a lot of great sets: Cheeky, Bad Friends, A Wilhelm Scream, Stoned at Heart, Smalltown, Jonesin’, Too Many Daves, D4, Dear Landlord, Copyrights, The Measure, Good Luck, Panthro UK United 13, Broadway Calls, OWTH, The Arrivals, Tiltwheel, etc etc. Sweet.

As for us, we had a cool mix of shows: 2:30pm Saturday, where people seemed to be into it but were mostly sober or hungover, and then that night at 2:30am in a warehouse, where it appeared that everyone had been tied up to a grain alcohol IV all day, and went nuts. That warehouse show was maybe the best show of the whole tour, actually. We played Skeleton Key live for the first time ever, figuring that if we screwed it up everyone would be too drunk to notice. But it turned out ok! I think!

All in all, a great time

-Nate

Duckpin Bowling

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

Fest ended yesterday— a blast as always. Somewhere in Alabama right now; seems like a good time to update the olde tour blog. Or is that ye olde tour blog?

Last Tuesday we played Richmond at a Duckpin Bowling Alley, where all the balls and pins are tiny. The place appeared to have last been updated in the 1950s and had been designed with a vaguely ‘futuristic’ theme in mind. This was somewhat jarring: a building from the 50s, designed as what the owners pictured the 80s being like, experienced in the 2000s, while music from the early 90s (Salt n Pepa! C&C Music Factory!) played in the background. This was a little like walking into a cafe and seeing a bunch of beatniks dancing to disco music while wearing civil war uniforms.

Luckily the show was ok. We wanted to try the bowling but it was $16 an hour. No thanks!

-Nate

Boston, Not the Band. And Albany

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

When booking this tour I remember thinking that the short drives would be nice. After all, west coast = long drives, east coast = short drives. I mean, that’s a simplification and it depends on the specifics, but generally I’ve thought it to be true.

Not anymore! All the east coast drives took way longer than expected and Philly to Boston was no exception. By the time we got into town we only had time to eat and then headed to the show. Oh well. Right now I’m in a van heading towards Tampa and the next four days will feature a total of two hours of driving. So that should be cool.

ANYway, I sound like a whiny grandmother talking about this, so I’ll stop now. Boston ended up being a great show. The sound was great and the Cobra Skulls and TBR ruled as always.

The following morning we headed back into Manhattan for a tour of Howard Stern’s studio that we had set up. It was short but pretty interesting. From there it was up to Albany to play at a punk bar called Valentines. Fun show with the exception of this guy who adhered to the “slam your body violently into people and knock things over!!” school of show etiquette. After nearly knocking over the mixing board he was lead outside, where he yelled, “People don’t know how to fucking DANCE anymore!!”

Oh yeah, also: Albany has this weird ‘Block of the Year’ thing. We saw two totally non-descript blocks that were the 1997 and 1998 Blocks of the Year. Just thought i’d share that factoid with you.

-Nate

All About the Benjamins

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

Ok, back to catching up. Where were we? Oh yeah, Philadelphia. Last Saturday. Let’s see….

It was rainy when we rolled into town so we limited the touristy stuff we had planned. Pretty much just saw the Liberty Bell, which I already saw when I was on tour with Rivethead years ago so I’m not sure why I went back. It’s still a bell.

Some fairly interesting history though. Did you know that the big crack is the result of an attempt at fixing a tiny crack? Can you imagine how that poor bell repairman must have felt? “Hey guys? Can you come in here for a second? I, uh….”

Also, some dude rang the bell during a tour a few years back. He went to jail for one year. If I had to pick one trial to be a jury member of, that might be the one.

On the way back to the van we also walked by Ben Franklin’s grave (as well as Benny’s, a restaurant named after Ben Franklin). People throw pennies at his grave; there were tons of them when we showed up. I found this somewhat hilarious because his famous saying was “a penny saved is a penny earned”, meaning that all these people are mocking him by chucking coins on his grave.

As for the show, it ended up being a lot of fun. Probably 50 times better than our last Philly show. It was at some house called the TerrorDome—- decent turnout, friendly people, good opening bands. All around, a good time.

Finding beer sucked though. It took us 45 minutes in a torrential downpour to find a case of beer. Some bar offered to sell us a six pack for $16. Absurd! Maybe Ben Franklin has cursed the city due to their penny-mocking

-Nate

A Cautionary Cheetos Tale

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

9:55 AM

Nate: You’re eating Jalepeno Cheddar Cheetos for breakfast?

Danny: Yeah. There wasn’t much else in the store

10:22 AM

Danny: It feels like there’s little metal shavings poking my stomach

-Nate

Where to Get Pizza in Brooklyn

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

So in Endicott two different people assured me parking in Manhattan is simple. This turned out to be… Not Even Remotely Accurate. Maybe they were thinking about the Grand Theft Auto version of Manhattan. We gave it a shot but it was ridiculous so the other dudes dropped me off and went to Brooklyn.

I met up with Vanessa, Ray from Teenage Bottlerocket, and Joey Cape to do a radio thingie for Marky Ramone’s show on Sirius/XM. It wasn’t quite what I expected but it was neat and pretty fun. I think it airs a week from tomorrow so check it out if you have satellite radio.

After that we headed back to Brooklyn for the show. The sound was pretty weird but I think we played ok. Cobra Skulls were fun; never seen them before. And TBR were awesome despite being sick.

After the show we walked up to Lulus where Pretty Boy Thorson was playing with the Sandworms (who ruled) and Nato Cole. The bar was great and you got a free pizza for every beer you bought. That’s not a typo! An entire pizza! And the beers don’t cost, you know, $16 or whatever. You would expect such a pizza to either be tomato sauce smeared on a piece of soiled cardboard or nasty greasy slop along the lines of CiCis….. but this was actually pretty good pizza! So check out Lulus next time you’re in Brooklyn. Get the fake pepperoni on your pizza, too.

I think that’s about all we did in Brooklyn from what I remember!

-Nate

Endicott Times (terrible End Times pun)

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

As expected, I’ve totally slacked on doing this. Dammit! I’ll do my best to remember what we’ve been up to since Thursday. I’m drinking and selling merch in a loud Albany bar so this will be brief, and possibly vaguely incoherent.

Thursday: With the 18 hour drive from Minneapolis behind us we wheeled into Endicott NY and played the basement of an abandoned used CD store. The only thing left in the store was a single, sad magazine rack with half a dozen aged offerings. I cracked up imagining this was the only thing the store sold: Time magazines from 2006 and Popular Mechanics from nine years ago. “Why aren’t we turning a profit?!” Apparently though the place was recently vacated and will soon be a recording studio. Cool.

Anyway, the show was pretty good. We were a little rusty but that was to be expected I guess. Nancy were great. They played a Slayer cover where half of the band kept trying to give up and the other half wouldn’t let them.

The bass player remained immobile the entire time, staring straight ahead. I figured that was his schtick — “I’m the stoic one” or whatever — but after the show when I complimented him he said, “Thanks. I have the swine flu. I’m seeing tunnel vision.”

Oh noes! It has begun. The Quest to Not Get The Swine Flu Tour 2009. Actually that’s a horrible tour name. Let’s call it…. The Dudes With ‘Tudes Tour. Way tougher.

So, let’s hope we don’t get sick like we did in May. Anyway, Endicott was fun but we had to get to New York early so we took off after the show and got some driving in.

Ok, in case my phone dies I’m going to post this now and do the other dates separately!

-Nate

Instant Banner Pilot

Originally Posted October 2009 on Tumblr

Drove about 11 hours yesterday and stopped at a Super 8. The lobby was probably the worst smelling room I’ve been inside in at least six years or so. It smelled like used floss mixed with low-grade anti-bug spray. I was reluctant but it was already pretty late. Luckily the actual room smelled ok.

We stayed up and sorted merch. Danny tried to make cheddar cheese ramen using hot water from the coffee maker but it didn’t work that well and then he realized we had no utensils. After debating the merits of using a key or a sharpie pen to eat ramen with, he just drank it instead. “This is disgusting,” he said. “You guys do not want to be eating what I’m eating right now.”

While sorting the merch, we discovered a blank white t-shirt. Inspired, I used the rejected-as-a-utensil sharpie to make a Ramen noodle-themed Banner Pilot t-shirt. I can’t remember now but I think it has the little smiley face guy and says “Instant Banner Pilot: Chicken Flavored” and, unlike most shirts, advertises that it has no trans fat.

Only one in existence! If you want to buy it, ask one of us at a show and we’ll grab it from the van.

On the highway in Ohio right now; New York is next.

-Nate

Hipster Worm

Originally posted 8/27/08 on our Typepad blog

Man, we must have partied pretty hard the night after Portland– we camped out by the ocean and I remember we had a (loud) conversation about how the log in this picture looked like a hipster worm. As the campers nearby tried to drift off under the stars and ocean mist, they were kept up by rambling slurring along the lines of “This worm would be all like ‘I saw Husker Du in a basement.'” The next morning it just looked like a charred log. Sorry, fellow campers! We thought we were on to something.

The camping spot was neat, though— the next morning I thought there were a half a dozen people admiring our pile of beer cans, but it turned out they were checking out a huge elk a few feet from our van. It was funny because a couple days earlier in a motel we watched some elk hunting show where these two jokers crept through a field (to dramatic music in the background) and killed an elk with a crossbow, acting as if they had just pulled of a crazily difficult task. “Yeah!” they yelled as they examined the carcass. “Oh man, yeah!” Anyway, the funny thing is that this elk by our van barely moved, even as people got within a few feet of it. So what’s so impressive about shooting one? It’d be like bragging about shooting a cow.

-Nate

Portland Etc

Originally posted 8/27/08 on our Typepad page

Let’s see, Portland: we played an okay show at this place called the Tonic Lounge. It went alright for a Sunday show. Hung out with some of the Drunken Boat folks and Mike and Emily from mpls, and then the next day we climbed some big hill east of Portland. As far as hills go, this one was pretty good. Yeah.

What else? I think we walked around for awhile and checked out an old school arcade called Ground Kontrol. I randomly played some weird game called Goop or Gorb or something that featured the sample from the Zoinks album ‘Bad Movie Space Cadet.’ The game was terrible! I remember reading an interview where they said the sample came from an obnoxiously loud game in their local arcade… they were right! It was crazy loud, completely drowning out the great Burgertime soundtrack next to it.

I almost bought an NES Power Pad for fourteen dollars so we could use it as a banner behind us for the remaining shows, but decided against it when I realized that was an extremely idiotic idea.

So yeah: that was Portland in a nutshell.

-Nate

Unicorn Saturday in Seattle

Originally posted 8/19/08 on our Typepad blog

We stayed in Seattle on Saturday and played another show at FBK for Jerome from Snuggle’s birthday party. In theory it might seem ridiculous to play the same show two days in a row, but just like the “theory” of gravity no one can say for sure. In our case, the show was great and even better than Friday’s show. First, they had set up a huge inflatable unicorn jumping thingy for the party. Apparently when the company came and set it up no one knew exactly what they had ordered and at first, as it slowly inflated in the back yard, it appeared to be a big blue house. “That’s kinda cool”, people thought, and then everyone was blown away as a horse head awkwardly pushed itself out. “A horse!” But the inflatable party company wasn’t done yet, and as the horse head filled and straightened out, a unicorn horn popped out and pointed towards the heavens as cheers tore through the yard.

Sweet. So, for this show we played in the backyard– I think it was the first time a band has ever performed inbetween an inflatable unicorn and a fire. Suck on that, Dave Matthews Band. Anyway, the fire was pretty hot, though not as hot as the basement on Friday, but it provided a nice way for me to see the dots on my bass in the darkness. Danny thought his drum throne was going to melt but it held up admirably. We also (sort of) pulled off the J Church cover we haven’t played in months. All in all a great time. Afterwards some idiot started throwing firecrackers in the house and hit me in the ear with one, which was admittedly super punk rock but still kind of a drag.

-Nate

Friday in Seattle

Originally posted 8/19/08 on our Typepad blog

The first show in Seattle was great– we played in the basement at the FKB house with Snuggle and Sonskull. It felt like we were playing in a sauna that was built in the middle of a volcano, but it was tons of fun and the other bands were great. Afterwards we hung out in the backyard and got a rockin fire going (see photo). I think that’s about it? I can’t remember; it was days ago and since becoming a blogger last week my attention span now tops out at fifteen minutes or thereabouts.

-Nate

Gladiators

(originally posted 8/13/08 on our Typepad blog)

The van we have is called “the Gladiator”– not a goofy name we chose; that’s the actual official name the company came up with. It’s funny because once you get inside it has silly purple drapes on the windows and is clearly designed with family vacations and crap in mind. So the name was probably meant to appeal to some tough guy suburban dad… “yeah, got me a Gladiator,” he could say to his buddies as they have a beer.

“Oh yeah? Let’s take a look inside.”

“…nah, right now it’s… full of dead deer…. that I killed.”

Anyway: I assumed the marketing effort failed because I’ve never seen another one. Until now! Five minutes out of town, we’re behind another Gladiator. I wanted to pump my fist at them in solidarity but they exited too quickly.

-Nate