Part Two: Clear in my mind are the unforgiving odors of spilled beer, dirty basement floor and sweaty bodies…The humidity was so thick you had to push through it like a heavy bedspread hanging on a clothes line; this was our gig at The Haunted Kitchen. During our set I remember sweating so profusely that it was hard to keep that little orange pick (or “plectrum” as Saxon called them) between my fingertips. June 28, 2005 in Lawrence, KS. HAPPY BASTARDS were encroaching upon the big C.L.I.T. FEST gathering in Minneapolis.
Jeff and Jamie hosted the punk show at their house, The Haunted Kitchen, that night and they were rad as hell. Jeff could shakedown show money from people like I’d never witnessed. He was a seasoned pro, for sure. Happy Bastards were just a small part in an amazing line-up of bands: SLIGHTLY LESS THAN NOTHING (on tour from Seattle), I OBJECTt! (on tour from New York state), ALERT ALERT! (from Kansas, I believe), and LATTERMAN (also from New York, I believe). As we were playing, I looked out into the hazy, dark basement. Sweat rolled between my eyes and dripped off the tip of my nose. Sean and Saxon started playing that unforgettable rhythm. Four counts in, Shade chimed in the those contagious bends, “Merrr-nerrrr, berrrr-nerrr, derrrr-derrr, naerrr-naerr…” The crowd knew instantly what we we’re playing. CCmuthaf*ckinR baby; it was on! Fortunate Son = basement berserker wildness. What an awesome night!!
I OBJECT! really helped us out. We needed some gigs on our way to Minneapolis and I OBJECT! invited us to jump on their shows. St. Louis was gig I remember quit clearly. Riding in that old Dodge van, only the driver’s window and shotgun’s window rolled down; the humidity cooked my brain. It was 103 degrees Fahrenheit that day we rolled into St. Louie. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. Lethargy owned every fiber of my being. Getting out of the van was better. It was like walking from one large furnace into a smaller, less enduring heater. No breeze. No mercy.
We played in this structure in the back of the house hosting us. It was called The Slaughterhouse. What a cool name for a gig space, eh? Little did I know, but soon came to realize that the gig space was a decommissioned slaughterhouse from many decades before. The stairs down to the spot were steep and narrow. Already zombified by the heat, each band member and roadie gently carried our clunky equipment down. Numerous times I had to come up to the ground floor just to catch my breath. The locals probably thought we were light-weights, rightfully so. Have you ever played a set, and while you’re singing and playing had a thought that this could feasibly be your last moment on Earth? During the set have you ever contemplated that the output of your energy may just be robbing you of your final breaths? This is how I felt that night but, damn, we put on a good show. Maybe it takes pushing yourself to that extreme to really nail home what it’s all about, at least, it was that way for me.
The next show I remember clearly was C.L.I.T. FEST. Wow. I’d never experienced such a well organized, hospitable and caring community. P.E. folk, C.L.I.T. folk, D.I.Y. zine folk; I felt honored. Not only did the show go very well from my perspective, but we were treated like punk rock royalty. I want to thank everyone and anyone that had a part in making C.L.I.T. FEST 2005 such a success. My experience and participation in that event continues to impact my life and my gratitude to this day.
After a few days in Minnie the HAPPY BASTARDS had to get back on the road and gig our way back to Oregon. Some of this is a blur for me…we had vehicle issues. I do remember having a great time playing a show in an outdoor shelter/park called Storybook Island in Rapid City, South Dakota. We played with bands STALIN’S WAR, PILLOW HUMPERS AND DISORDERLY. I don’t know if any of those bands still exist, but it was a blast of a good time then.
Butte, Montana, was a low point for the band. We didn’t have a gig in that town. It’s where the van had some serious health issues. We decided to get a hotel room with some of the gig money we’d earned and I believe we had a show in Missoula scheduled that we had to cancel. The view outside the hotel window was of the small town, a mountain range, and overlooking from the top of the range was a ginormous statue of a woman. Researching afterwards, I learned that this statue is called Our Lady of the Rockies. “This statue seems out of place,” I thought to myself. Then I realized that it was us in that hotel room that were out of place.
Touring bands may be able to identify with this moment on the road; everyone is tired of being around each other. Tired, tired, tired. One little thing like trying to agree on a place to go eat together can turn into an emotional fit-fest. To our credit, it wasn’t easy accommodating the varying diets within our group: vegan, vegetarian, and meat eater. When you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere sometimes Subway chains are the only option for vegan/vegetarian dining. Additionally, if you’re like myself then you have vowed to never give a dime to the Walmart Corporation. Out of protest, you take a stand and try to shop locally as much as possible. However, when you’re stuck without transportation in Butte, Montana, your options are severely limited. You find yourself doing things you would never do, like buy apples from Walmart. To say the least, we were grumpy. We were irritable. We were on the verge of mutiny.
Luckily, we pulled ourselves together and rode into Missoula, Montana the next day. We decided to ask around for a place to play since our tour schedule was now a little off track. Amazingly, we met an awesome couple who owned a bicycle shop called the Bike Doctor and they invited us to play in their shop. After about an hour of moving bikes aside and setting up our equipment we were ready to play. Down time on the road can be enjoyable, but playing is the whole reason you’re there. It’s your duty. Your calling. I felt newly invigorated.
Approaching our start time, band members talked to people on the street and at the adjacent bar, inviting them to watch us. As a band, our spirits were once again elevated. We rode children’s bikes up and down the sidewalk. We had a gig!!!
Remember in my last column when I mentioned “squinting with my one good eye”? What you’re about to read will explain it all and it’s certainly a time I will never forget.
So we’re playing our set in the Bike Doctor. An audience had formed and the band was playing quite well. From the corner of my eye I suddenly noticed a group of five or six young adults pile into the shop. They were a train of movement, following each other, never stopping. They weren’t dancing exactly, they weren’t moshing exactly…I think they were trying to skank. However, their version of skanking involved pushing other people they didn’t know and slamming into whoever they could. It became very obvious, very quickly that they were here to crash our impromptu show.
I kept my eyes on them. I watched them clear the space of our audience save two or three people. I watched them act like morons. I watched one of them slam into my mic stand. In slow motion, still singing and playing, I watched that Shure 58 come dangerously close to my left eye. Pop! Sure enough, that Shure 58 slammed right into my eye. Bullseye. I kept playing. I noticed that my eye was tearing up so much that I couldn’t see through it any longer. Tears were dropping to my strumming hand. The idiots were still crashing around. Pain shot through my entire eye socket. That’s when I threw my guitar at them. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to hurt them but I wanted their idiotic behavior to stop. My guitar landed in the middle of their thrash circle. They stopped moving. Knobs flew in opposing directions from my once my airborne guitar had landed. I yelled something like, “That’s fucking it! We’re not playing anymore, especially for you fucks!”
I rushed to the bathroom to check my eye. My eyelids fought against my every attempt to see the damage. The uncontrollable tearing made it impossible to see anything clearly. My right eye experienced sympathy pains. Light felt like a dull dagger swiftly piercing through my cornea with the rusty tip twisting into my optic nerve. Others looked at my eye. It was confirmed; when the microphone slammed into my eye, it cut my cornea.
That night we stayed with the Bike Doctor couple. My eye only felt worse. Without vision I was disabled. They patched up my eye like a wounded WWI soldier and I tried to get some sleep.
So, I don’t remember if at this point we were driving a U-Haul with the dead van on a trailer behind, or if that exciting part of tour happened after the Missoula Eyeball incident. However, but my next memory is that of Portland. I think the venue was called The Food Hole and it was a very tiny, linear place. I had gauze on my eye which aided in the uncontrollable tearing. An Ace elastic bandage wrapped around my head kept the gauze in place. Wanna talk about looking like the crustiest female rocker (with the attitude to match) you ever saw with your own eyes? I made Wendy O. look like she was going to Sunday Bible school. I avoided light like a vampire but bumped into things like a drunk monkey. My depth-perception was skewed.
I played well, though. With the tearing out of my way, I could discern the placement of the mic. The gig wasn’t bad and the guy who set up the show was really nice. I wish I could remember his name…when we went outside to load our gear, we saw them. There were about six young hipster kids sitting and leaning on our U-Haul trailer, the van’s deathbed. How embarrassing for us; those kids leaned with such disrespect, it was like kicking us when we were already down. They had no idea the battles we’d endured. I entertained the idea that HAPPY BASTARDS just rolled out of a Mad Max movie and these kids just went to a Brittany Spear’s concert.
As we moved out gear, these wonderful little darlings didn’t move, didn’t even acknowledge our presence. I’d had enough. I was now a one-eyed monkey, vampire soldier and just the sight of “cute hipsters” made me want to spit. With self-restraining discipline, I squinted and glared at them with my one good eye. “Take that hipster muthafuckas!!!” I said to myself.
To this day, when I rub my left eye in the wrong spot I feel a twinge of pain. I’m not sure if my eye will ever fully recover, although my vision did. I think it took a good month for the band members to practice and really talk to each other again. Everyone needed to decompress. Even though we had numerous up and downs, the ups far outweighed the downs. I miss the road and the great people you encounter out there. Happy Bastards haven’t been a band for some years now, as it should be. I just want you all to know how much of a wild ride it was and I will carry those awesome memories with me, forever.
Take care and stay real,