The following are excerpts from a diary I kept during my days on the road with the band Crazy Town. Prior to the band signing to a major label, they were a struggling act that toured relentlessly and partied relentlessly, as well. Little did I know when I answered that Craigslist ad for a roadie what I’d be getting into. Due to the length and amount of hours logged into my tour diaries, I’ll be breaking this up into several chapters and separately releasing each. Godspeed.
A purple dildo. That was the breaking point for Shifty. In the last few weeks, I’d seen so much insane shit that you’d think a sex toy wouldn’t phase me in the least. And Shifty’s moods were so unpredictable that we could never tell what would set him off into one of his rages. But everyone has their breaking point and we would soon learn Shifty’s comes in the shape of a dick.
We were more than half way through the tour. We just needed to survive TheBeat 98.4 Fest, then we’d have a day off and I planned on getting far away from this fucking traveling drug den for a full 24 hours. I had almost reached my breaking point yesterday when I almost overdosed after taking aspirin. But of course, it wasn’t plain old safe aspirin. It turned out to be animal tranquilizers hidden in an old aspirin bottle. This had been happening too frequently. At this point, it would take me years pass a piss test since I have been running around the country with a lunatic that’s apparently impervious to drugs… and always expected you to keep up.
And man, was he already on one! Shifty had stayed up all night telling our driver he was going to fuck up that “pussy bitch in Incubus” while they both did rails of cheap speed I was forced to score them in Chicago. It was as pointless trying to explain that he was going on and on about the wrong band. He was convinced 311 and Incubus are actually the same entity. Even though he saw the advertisements that nicknamed the festival ‘311 Fest’, he still ranted on about how much Incubus sucks and he was going to fuck those guys up. We needed to calm him down somehow.
Dylan offered Chump Change a thousand dollars to put Shifty in a choke hold and knock him out to ensure we could enter the fairgrounds without incident. Almost on instinct and before Dylan even finished saying “one thousand dollars”, Shifty was out cold. I felt a little bad the way we stuffed his practically lifeless body into the cargo hold while we were parked at a truck stop. But, we needed to make sure he couldn’t get loose before we got our parking pass. Everyone assured each other that he could totally breath in that compartment which was designed to hold luggage and had no visible ventilation. I reminded myself that he’s survived much worse.
Once we reached the grounds, our tension increased. Everywhere we looked, we saw something pertaining to 311. Omaha’s favorite band was the biggest part of the festival and they had just released a new album. We were in a bizarre 311 universe and we had a lunatic who wanted to hurt them locked up inside our bus. This wasn’t going to end well. Then again, not like much had on this tour. Our pile of bills for property damage and misdemeanor infractions had already exceeded any money the band made on the tour. I had basically given up hope for any monetary gain. I was trapped on a bus with my employer, the insane ringleader, who was paying me in drugs. Somehow, this had become the norm.
Once the bus was parked and the coast was clear, Chump Change checked in on our Sleeping Beauty. He was still out cold, which gave us a window of opportunity to handle the administrative shit that we never seemed to get done when Shifty was at DEFCON 1. Dylan went to deal with production and I took on gear inventory. The rest of our circus stayed in the bus and slept, which was fine by me. I was burned out on all of this chaos. I see now why so many quit before me.
Dylan returned an hour later with the set times. We wouldn’t get a sound check because we showed up too late. This didn’t matter since Shifty never showed up for them anyway. But we were informed that we would be closing the show. Even though 311 was the main act, some of the members had to catch a flight. So the band pushed their set back to an afternoon slot and since Crazy Town was a late addition, 311 took our space. Of course, they didn’t promote this fact. Instead 311’s management sold it as if the band wanted to play early and then watch the rest of the show with their fans! It was a bunch horse shit but the audience seemed to be buying it. Fucking Rock Stars.
Upon receiving the news of Crazy Town’s headlining slot, Dylan and I went into panic mode. Shifty was out of the cargo hold and awake now. He was in the back of the bus getting high with his crew and they had yet to hear the good news. Once Shifty was told that band got bumped by 311, all bets would be off. No choke hold would solve that disaster. We had to find a way to keep Shifty busy while we figured out a plan. Chump Change seemed to be an ally at this point, for a price. So Dylan gave him another thousand to keep Shifty preoccupied in the back of the bus. He added that he should hide any coke or speed. Chump Change nodded and lumbered back onto the bus. Meanwhile, Dylan and I took the opportunity to catch some of the show from the side of the stage and meet some of the bands.
Alien Ant Farm was onstage butchering a Michael Jackson song when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was (NAME OMITTED) from 311. I didn’t know who it was at first because, like Shifty, I often confuse 311 with Incubus. He was flanked by two similar looking Midwestern frat boys. Both of them looked ready to stomp on Dylan and me at any moment.
“Hey, look man. I know your boy has a beef with (NAME OMITTED). But we don’t want any trouble. We are all here to have a good time!” (NAME OMITTED) said.
He shook our hands. He seemed nice enough. The meatheads that flanked either of his sides were still staring daggers at us. After some small talk and reassurance from our camp that nothing would go down during 311’s set, we all returned to watching the show. The Spin Doctors had just whipped into “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and the crowd went wild. This puzzled me as I always have and always will hate that song with a passion. The audience at the festival, however, seemed to be enjoying it immensely.
Upon returning to our camp, we found that our bus had been vandalized. Someone had spray painted a giant penis on the back and everyone who had been inside was gone. The interior had been completely trashed. I frantically ran around the fairgrounds for almost half an hour before I located Bret and our driver. They said they both fled once Shifty lost his shit. Word had gotten back to him about 311 and the time slots. Of course, he took it personally. Even though all the stimulants had been hidden from him per our instructions, his pure animal rage exploded and he lashed out at the inside of the bus. As far as the spray painted dick, we could only speculate that it was random graffiti. 311 seems like they have better things to do than draw dicks on buses. I’ve always secretly blamed it on the dudes in Lit. But that’s a story for another time.
Bret said the rest of the band and crew went to dinner because they didn’t want to deal with Shifty’s shit either. They were also pissed at me for not doing my job. I guess they expected me to not only be the bearer of bad news, but also to be Shifty’s handler. I told him to tell them to politely suck my fucking dick before I went back into the bus to try and put everything back into some sort of working order. My patience had reached its limit two days ago when one of those motherfuckers Krazy glued my balls to my inner thigh while I was passed out. My goal was to survive the remainder of the tour, go home, and shower for a month straight. But first, I needed to locate the AWOL talent; I feared that he was somewhere on the fairgrounds screaming (to no one in particular) about killing Incubus.
311 was about to take the stage and we still hadn’t found Shifty. We had just about given up and were ready to alert production that we had a problem when suddenly, Shifty threw open the door of the bus and walked inside. He seemed in good spirits for someone who, earlier in the day, had destroyed our ride home with his bare hands. He said he went to blow off steam at the nearby carnival as evident by the four foot stuffed Rasta banana that was strapped to his back which he won playing skeeball. For a brief moment, I saw Shifty as a kid. He seemed genuinely happy and it wasn’t due to drugs. This was a natural state of joy. But that joy was fleeting when the opening chords to “Down” began to blare from the PA system and resonate throughout the fairgrounds. The joy instantly drained from Shifty’s face and he told me to hold his Rasta banana. Then he stormed off swearing he’d be back in time for his set. With 311 on stage I wasn’t too worried about him physically hurting anyone. My guess was that something would be on fire soon. Dylan had started drinking and said he was over this shit for today. The rest of the Crazy Town crew were out by the stage hanging out with the other acts, keeping the peace, and enjoying the show. Things seemed calm for now but I was worried Shifty was going to do something really bad.
I tried to ignore my worry for a while and I sat and watched 311 blaze through their set of reggae infused frat rock. Once they were done, they thanked the crowd and said to stick around for the other acts. Applause roared and if you were too high or not paying attention you may not have caught (NAME OMITTED) say “Hey Seth, where you at punk? Fuck you and your lame band!” I heard it. We still had three more groups before us and I had to manage to find Shifty before he found 311.
I ran back to the bus and found our driver and Shifty hanging out smoking weed, which was funny because Shifty generally didn’t smoke marijuana; he liked the harder shit. But there he was, baked out of his gourd. I tried to play it cool.
“Hey Shifty lemme hit that joint.”
He laughed and said I could have a thousand joints. I wasn’t sure what that meant until he got up and walked into our bus and returned with a huge duffel bag.
“What is that Shifty?” I asked. Please don’t tell me that’s a body! was all I could think.
He just laughed and threw the bag on the ground. I cautiously walked towards it and began to pull back the zipper. I hadn’t initially picked up on the odor because a huge cloud of weed smoke was hanging over the fairgrounds. The duffel bag had about ten pounds of marijuana in it, along with a lot of personal belongings. It was time to pull the dad card.
“Seth! Where did you get this stuff?”
He tossed a half smoked joint and lit another one. “I was walking and I saw the 311 bus…”
I told him to stop talking. I knew where they story went from there. We were looking at some serious shit here. He just laughed. Nobody from the 311 camp or event staff had come looking around or searched our bus yet. I told our driver to hide the duffel bag anywhere else. Then I guided Shifty to the the backstage area where I would hide him until show time. Once we got there, we found the rest of Crazy Town crammed into the green room, waiting to perform. The first wave of rumors of the theft were starting to make their rounds and some were looking in our direction. Luckily Shifty was so baked, he fell asleep in a Porta Potty. I made an Out of Order sign and stuck it to the door.
Third Eye Blind’s set was just starting when I was approached by event security asking me if I saw, heard, or knew anything about the theft. The guard didn’t mention the stolen dope, so it was my guess that 311 was worried they’d getting busted with several pounds of it. It was relayed as a bunch of missing personal belongings and a large amount of feces that was spread all over the interior of their tour bus. A nice Shifty surprise to both the band and to me. The band was probably going to beat Shifty to death and I was at a point where I might even help them.
After the security left to go shake down others on their list, I went backstage. Crazy Town was getting ready and Shifty was still taking a weed nap. The final chords of “Semi-Charmed Life” rang out and it was time for the change over between acts. I ran to gather Shifty from the john. He was still passed out and I was beyond stressed so I slapped his face as hard as I could to wake him. He was startled but responded with “Is it time, bitch?” I knew he was ready to go.
This was the biggest crowd Crazy Town would perform for to date. The sun had set and the crowd looked like an ocean of people. It was intimidating to say the least and I wasn’t even performing. But Shifty had his game face on. The rest of the group was set up and ready. Shifty and Bret walked out to center stage. The crowd cheered as the announcer said Crazy Town was coming up. Big smiles spread across both Shifty’s and Bret’s faces. For a fleeting moment, all of this insanity felt worth it. THIS is why these guys do this. I felt proud to be a part of their team. That all changed when I looked across the stage and saw (NAME OMITTED) with his frat boy crew. This time instead two meatheads flanking him, there were six. Plus they were armed with security guards too. I wouldn’t have time to run across the stage in case something happened. How would I stand up against all those bros?
“WHAT’S UP OMA-“
Shifty didn’t even finish saying ‘Omaha’ before he got slapped in the face a with purple dildo that came flying out of stage left. Most of the band didn’t notice Shifty getting hit in the face with sex toy as they launched into the first song. But Bret noticed. He ran at the frat boys and then the rest of the band followed. Everyone sprung into action except for Shifty. He just stood there, center stage, staring at the dildo on the ground with a look of total defeat. A huge fight broke out on the side of the stage between Crazy Town, the 311 bros, and anyone in that general area. I stayed out; I couldn’t move. It was like my brain shut down. As the huge brawl went on, the crowd cheered on the fight. People started climbing the stage to get in on the action. It was total and complete chaos. And through all this, Shifty was still standing there looking down at the dildo and it looked like he was beginning to cry.
Small fires were being lit by the crowd in the pit area. Trash and bottles flew at the stage. I snapped back into reality and ran to center stage to rescue my boss. Just as I was about to grab him, a security guard tackled me. Shifty saw this and sprang into action. With tears in his eyes, he grabbed the security guard and threw him off the stage just like he threw Gary off of Janet’s balcony. He picked me up and we ran offstage and back to our bus. The campsite was busy with unknowing people packing up and leaving the property because the show ending. We both agreed that hiding in the nearby woods until the rest of the band came back to the bus was the smartest option. That was when we saw the local sheriffs arrive in droves to try and restore order. We must have hid there for at least hour before seeing most of the band return. We ran onto the bus and did a headcount. We were down three band members and the remaining members of Shifty’s crew. I located Dylan a while later. He gotten into the fight because he was drunk and ended up losing two teeth and had a broken arm. Now, he looked like one of us!
Rescuing the rest of Crazy Town would have to wait. We needed to get the hell off the property and far away from Omaha, Nebraska. Our driver disappeared in the melee, along with the duffel bag full of weed. That was how I got promoted to take the wheel. Dylan couldn’t drive because of his arm and everyone else in the band was too fucked up. Let’s do a quick recap: our bus was still trashed inside so nobody had a bunk to lay on, half the band might be in jail, and Crazy Town’s set never really even started due to a flying sex toy. We weren’t in good shape for our next stop. There were five shows left and we needed to discuss our options.
As we headed to the main road out of the fairgrounds, we saw it was not only congested with everyone else trying to leave, but the sheriffs were checking vehicles for 311’s stolen goods. As soon as I saw an opportunity, I turned the bus around. I drove us back to where we had initially set, right next to the fence of the fairgrounds. I was convinced they were looking for us and didn’t want any of us to see the inside of an Omaha jail. It was still a chaotic scene as we drove back to our spot. I used this to our advantage and floored the gas pedal. Since it’s a bus, it didn’t really peel out. It more or less lurched forward at a reasonable speed. But it was enough to run down the chain link fence surrounding the fairgrounds! We plowed through a corn field until we were back on the main road. We were free! We all let out a sigh of relief, except for Shifty. He was just sitting there sobbing. Because I had been busy driving, I hadn’t realize he was holding that purple dildo. He was just looking down at it and crying. I’ll never know why someone flung a dildo at him. But the act seemed significant to him. Maybe it belonged to the girl at the center of the 311/Incubus controversy. But, Shifty wouldn’t say. He just sobbed.
Dylan and I agreed that getting the fuck out of Nebraska was the first order of band business. He would call the record label tomorrow and have them send a lawyer to get the rest of the group out of jail. We also decided to cut our losses and cancel the next four shows and just head to Vegas. If anything would cheer up a guy like Shifty Shellshock, it would be performing at his favorite strip club. And considering how much damage everyone has incurred on this adventure, a little down time was in order. We filled the gas tanks and I pointed the bus west. Hopefully by the time we’d arrive in Vegas, the rest of the band would be sprung from jail and on a plane to meet us. That was our impromptu plan. What could go wrong? Sin City here we come!
The memoirs of a career roadie.