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.
We had just reached the Nevada border when I was jarred from my slumber by way of a boot being thrown at my head. I was startled awake, which was good because I was still driving the bus. The anticipation of the crew was palpable as we careened through the desert. Everyone couldn’t wait to get to Las Vegas… everyone except for my boss. Shifty was still very quiet. He had holed himself up in the back of the bus doing god knows what with the two remaining members of his crew, Chump Change and Whitey. We lost track of Pito and Freddy D days ago and since they’re not band members, we decided to press on. The actual band had always kept their distance between themselves and Shifty’s crew. The band hated those guys, but Shifty didn’t care one way or the other. Those were his boys and everyone had to deal with it.
The tension between the members of Crazy Town and Shifty seemed to have eased slightly now that there were two less people in the cramped bus. The bus… that we had completely robbed of any resale value. At one point, we had stopped in Holden, Utah for a piss break. Since I was the only driver, everyone was at my bladder’s mercy. I got up to use the toilet on the bus and discovered it was gone. Completely gone. Just a hole in the floor where I could see the ground underneath. I pissed in the vacant space where the toilet used to be and got back behind the wheel. This was normal now and there wasn’t much that shocked me anymore. As I walked back to the driver’s seat Shifty passed by me, and rammed his shoulder into mine.
“Trust is something that’s important to me, bro!” Shifty said and kept walking to his bunk.
I had no idea what he meant by that. I just assumed he blamed everyone but himself for the 311 Fest disaster. I left that alone and we carried on towards Nevada. I could hear Shifty going on about his buddies Marky and Robby and how we were going to party with them at the strip club in Vegas. According to Shifty, they were rich and they didn’t give a fuck. Everyone was going to get fucked up and laid. Or in Shifty’s own words:
“Everyone’s getting fucked. Nobody’s beating off in Bitch Boy’s socks tonight!”
Since Gary was no longer a team member, it was safe to assume that I was Bitch Boy. That would also explain why all my socks kept coming up missing. This was just another thing I would need to block out once the tour was over. I was planning for years of extensive therapy after this. Dylan had completely checked out after the Omaha debacle. He said he was going to quit his job with the label as soon as we got back to LA. This bus was starting to feel like a scene out of Apocalypse Now. We’re all wounded and bleeding, just trying to complete our mission. Except the mad man we were sent to dispatch is actually the ringleader of the circus.
Once we were inside the border of Nevada, a familiar sound began wailing aloud just behind our bus. It was the Highway Patrol and apparently they needed to chat. Defeated, I pulled the bus to the side of the road. I felt my tension starting to rise and gobbled down a couple Valium I had stashed away. I advised everyone on the bus to start eating all the drugs they might be holding. I couldn’t spend another night in a jail cell with these motherfuckers. I think we spent more time in jail than the band had been onstage. After getting through this one last show, I wasn’t planning on driving the bus back to Los Angeles for the after party. My plan was to hop on a flight back and try to forget everything. I didn’t even care about getting paid anymore. It’s not like I’d seen any money yet; I’d gotten used to being paid in drugs and Shifty’s cast aside women. Going into this, I knew this was a thankless job. I just didn’t know it would become a battle to survive.
And now, once again, I was going to have to try to sweet talk a member of law enforcement. Dylan was in full panic mode. He failed to inform us that he was carrying a loaded and unregistered hand gun in his briefcase as well as other “incriminating shit” that would likely get us twenty years in prison. I didn’t ask what that shit was. I told him to hide it and I didn’t care where. I jokingly asked Chump Change to help Dylan hide whatever it was up his ass. Before I knew it, Dylan was dragged to the back of the bus and the door to Shifty’s room was slammed shut. There were a few muffled shouts and then silence.
I opened the door to the bus and slowly stepped out per the officer’s instructions. Two cops were propped behind the doors of their patrol car with guns drawn. I was told to drop to my knees and put my hands on my head. One of the officers began to approach. But something was odd. He didn’t have the build of a cop that would patrol a desert highway. This guy was built like a gym rat. As he got closer, I was better able to see his facial features. In my head, all I could think was that the cop that was about to put me in handcuffs had frosted tips and looked a hell of a lot like Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray. Just then, the Valium was kicking in and everything went foggy. I blacked out.
In my dream-like state, I heard people talking but couldn’t quite make out the words. A swift Shifty kick to the ribs sent me careening back earth. I tried to gather myself while gasping for air:
“What….what happened with the cops? Did they search Dylan’s ass yet?”
My questions were met with maniacal laughter. It wasn’t just Shifty and our crew cracking up, but the officers too. It was then that I realized that Shifty had played another shitty prank on us and the cops must be his friends Marky and Robby. Marky and Robby, better known to the pubic as Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath and Mr. Smooth himself, Rob Thomas. Shifty had decided that we would show up to the strip club in style, police escort style. With the tension of the situation slightly eased, I tried to shake off the Valium fog and went to check on Dylan. He hadn’t come out of the bus yet.
It’s still hard for me to describe what I saw in the back of that bus. Let’s just say Chump Change did indeed hide the evidence. And Dylan wasn’t much in the mood for celebrating our police escort into Vegas. In fact, he wasn’t much in the mood for celebrating at all. He walked off the bus and didn’t say anything. He just started walking down the highway wrapped in a sheet. That’s the last we saw of him. I would have to let the label know that Dylan wouldn’t be returning to the office, as he was on a spirit quest to fish illegals out of his rectum in the Nevada wasteland.
One more crew member down, we forged on and into Las Vegas. I could barely stay awake because of the Valium. But any time I nodded off, Shifty would either run up and punch me in the back of my head or throw something at me if I started to swerve. It was becoming very apparent that this relationship between Shifty and me had become quite strained. And I still hadn’t figured out why. But one thing was certain, I no longer thought he was upset merely about a bunch of frat boys who tried to come original.
It was dusk as we took a detour to cruise down the strip. We were already late for sound check. It didn’t matter. This was more of a party for the band than it was a show for the fans. It was being sponsored by a local liquor distributor and was being hosted at one of Shifty’s favorite places on earth, a strip club called Broken Rubbers.
Bret made his way to the front of the bus and quietly warned me that Shifty had found one of my journals on the bus somewhere back in Nebraska and he was furious that I wrote about his biggest secret. It was a secret he confided in me one night because he was really high and thought I was Gary. I had told him his secret was safe with me, but I did put it down in my journal, which to him apparently felt like betrayal. Bret told me that, at some point, Shifty was really going to tune me up. He said that Shifty was so angry, that it would be in my best interest to immediately leave the tour once the bus was parked. At that moment, I really wished Bret was my boss. He had yet to physically beat me or set anyone on fire. How these two work together I will never understand. Either way, I took his warning with a grain of salt, pulled the bus into the club’s parking lot, and we bounded inside.
Tonight would be my last night on the job and I was not about to be murdered by a guy in jeans with rhinestones on them. I would reason with him, as I had done hundreds of times before. I would let him know that my journal was just a place for me to vent, not to share his secrets with the world. While I fed all these lines to myself, somewhere, deep down, I knew Shifty’s mind was already made up. I could only hope that he would distracted enough by naked women and drugs to forget about me. And we were surely in the right place for that. I have been to a lot of strip clubs and this one really took the cake in regards to desperation, debauchery, and douchebaggery.
Don’t get me wrong, the girls were really attractive. They were way too beautiful for this kind of place. And I soon found out why. The owner of Broken Rubbers runs a Russian mail order bride business. Every one of those strippers was a Russian women, who could barely speak English, working for room and board in the club until she’s married off to some lonely man with money to burn. I detested the entire concept and was ready to let the greasy club owner know how I felt. But then, I noticed the shiny gun tucked into his waistband. I was in Sin City and there are rules. Fucking with this guy’s world wasn’t one of them. So I shut up and proceeded to unload equipment from the bus.
The rest of our circus was already inside getting drunk and showering the strippers with dollars. The plan was to have the band perform four songs and then a DJ would play music until dawn while Russian women danced to English songs. This seemed easy enough. As soon as I was done loading in I started to get as drunk as humanly possible. I figured I might as well; this was going to be a shit show no matter how hard I tried to stop it. So with a “When in Rome” attitude I finished off a bottled of Jack Daniel’s in several huge gulps. Immediately, I knew I was fucked. I should have run to the bathroom to puke, but it was already so crowded in the club and I couldn’t hold it in or make it to a toilet. Instead, I projectile vomited all over Mark McGrath and his new Russian friend. She screamed. He laughed. Then he punched me hard in the jaw and I went down. I had yet to find out that he would be an even bigger threat to me than Shifty ever was. I tried to scramble up and off the ground, but instead slipped and fell in my own vomit. It was at that very moment I realized through my inebriation that I had hit bottom. I could not go any lower… and that made me angry. There was only one person that I wanted to hurt for all the shit he had dragged me through. I didn’t care how strong he was, didn’t care who his friends were, didn’t care how spiky his bullshit blonde hair was, and didn’t care if anyone knew his deepest, darkest secret anymore. I was hellbent on revenge and no longer minded if I got murdered in the process. Enough was enough and this giant child needed to be spanked. I had twenty minutes until the band went on so I made myself scarce while plotting my payback. This was no longer a ride I wanted to be on. This would be my resignation. I should have listened to fucking Gary!
I went to the bus to gather my things. It looked and smelled like the inside of a homeless person’s shoe. I quickly tore through each bunk to locate my scattered belongings and threw them into a pile on the table. Most of my clothes were gone. Either they were burned in one of the many fires I was witness to or torn from my body in one of the many fights we got into. All I really had left was my portable CD player, a pair of pants covered in cigarette burns, and my journal. That was when something about the journal caught my attention. It felt lighter. Upon close inspection it turns out that pages were missing, the pages where I wrote about Shifty’s big secret. Dread started to sink in as I started to understand why he was pissed. I was a dead man. My best bet would have been to just leave. But part of me felt some sort of fucked up bond with Shifty. I wanted to try to reason with him. I figured after all this, what’s one more ass beating? Instead of running away, I would play it cool. Perhaps I could even trick Shifty into thinking Dylan wrote that.
I headed back into the club and the first person I saw was Rob Thomas. He was perched by the bar and about to walk over to the band’s green room. He was not like the rest of the rock stars I had encountered in my time as a roadie. He was polite, funny, and really down to earth. How Rob got mixed up into all of this will always be a mystery. Mark McGrath, on the other hand, is like Shifty… only scarier. He is a loose cannon for sure. He seemed angry at his band, but wouldn’t go into details. Instead he chose to stuff an 8 ball up his nasal cavity. Rob had no interest in the massive mound of cocaine on the table. He hung back, leaning against the wall, and watched the girls on stage. I went over to him and tried to be a good host.
“Hey Rob, can I buy you a beer? Or maybe get you a couple of bumps from Mount Everest?”
He smiled. He was wearing sunglasses inside the club which seemed a little odd. Then again, he’s a rock star; he can do whatever he wants.
“Nahhhhhh man. I stopped that shit after college. It’s bad for you,” he said. “Plus, I ate so many mushrooms before I came here, I am fucking smooth!”
He said ‘smooth’ a lot. Like way more than anyone should. But I still found him endearing.
The strippers left the stage and the opening bars to butterfly ring out. It was a familiar scene; the calm before the storm. But, why was Mark McGrath staring at me like he was going to kill me? While everyone else in the club was focused on the stage, his glare was locked onto me. Suddenly, he got up and started towards me. I headed for the door. I was in no mood be beaten up by anyone but Shifty. But, there were too many people blocking the exit for me to escape. In a panic, I jumped over the bar and he was still right behind me. I felt his grasp on the back of my shirt and, on instinct, I swung my left arm around and landed my elbow into his coke filled nose. Blood poured down his face while the band played on, oblivious to the situation. My elbow had stunned him, but it also made him even angrier. Everyone around the bar scattered to other parts of the club to make space for us to brawl. But B’Rubbers was over capacity and smaller fights in the crowd started breaking out. Once again, Crazy Town was bringing down the house. The band still didn’t know what was happening and went into the third song with no break in between.
Chairs and bottles flew across the club. Rob Thomas was still stuck to that wall where we had talked earlier. His mushrooms had just peaked and he was tripping balls. Everyone else was destroying the place and he just stood there. He just stood there being smooth. His antithesis, McGrath, was still on the warpath. He was literally knocking out anyone in front of him. He had quite a right hook. Blood covered his face and he looked like a blonde tipped warrior. And I was his enemy. At this point, I was crawling on the floor, under tables, trying to hide from this lunatic. The band finally realized that there was a riot happening and not just their normal ape shit crowd. Shifty could hear Mark yelling for him.
“Seth! Bro! Let’s fucking kill this kid!” Mark screamed.
Shifty was off that stage in seconds and was charging in my direction with the missing pages of my journal in his hand. He wanted to extinguish me for writing about his XXXXXXXXXX. He, too, was punching people to get them out his way. Now I had two of these fucking lunatics to deal with. Gary didn’t prepare me for this contingency! I had to act fast. I reached around the sticky floor in hopes of finding some kind of rudimentary weapon. The best I found was an acrylic high heel shoe. With the stripper shoe in hand, I rose to my feet to face my attackers. Just as they both reached out to grab me, I swung the shoe at Mark’s pretty face hoping to blind him with the stiletto. It was a great plan except that he apparently had extremely good reflexes for someone on toxic levels of coke. McGrath grabbed my wrist mid swing and twisted my arm behind my back. I was slammed against the wall and I thought that my arm was going to be broken in two. And then it did. I heard the snap. I threw up again. Since I was against the wall, the vomit bounced off and into my face. They both hysterically laughed.
“I found your bitch book, Bitch Boy. I know you wrote about XXXXXXXXXX. I told you that’s my secret, bro.”
There was a sudden, sharp burning pain in my side. I had been stabbed. I was in and out of consciousness as the alcohol and excruciating pain my arm battled for top billing. Shifty and Mark kept hitting me, shouting at me, telling me to wake up so they could kill me. I fell to the ground and that was when their feet started to go to work on me. I was gasping wet breaths, waiting to die. I thought I saw a bright light and the entrance to the hereafter… but it was just Mark stabbing my head with the stripper’s high heel. Shifty said he was bored of kicking my ass, so he just stood there and let Mark finish. But Mark said he had to stop. He was having chest pains. He had snorted more coke in a couple hours than Shifty had done on all tour and his heart was about to pop.
“Seth, Broski! I think I need a doctor!” Mark said between gasps of air.
But Shifty paid no mind to his fallen comrade. He wanted to know where Rob and the rest of the band were. The club had now spilled out into the parking lot. People were either fighting or continuing to party. I was barely able to see due to the damage that had been done to my face. I felt cut up and swollen. Real police – not just rock stars in uniforms – were starting to show up and begin their arrests. Through my right eye, I saw them cuffing the owner of the shady bride business. As I crawled towards the brightness of the door, I felt something strange on my head. That fucker McGrath had jammed that high heel deep into my scalp! I tried to pull it out, but it wouldn’t budge. As I made my way out of the club, Shifty saw me and started towards me. Mark wasn’t at his side this time; he was busy on the floor having a heart attack. The rest of the band had left in taxis. They had left everything behind to escape, even their singer. He was still there, and he still wanted me dead.
The last thing I remember was hearing Shifty tell me I was fired. He then ripped up the pages of my journal, shoved them into my mouth, and kicked me in the ribs one last time. As he turn away, I faded off. I felt like I was close to death but I was happy it was all finally over. I was in the process of making peace with my mortality ending when I felt someone pick me up in their arms. I wasn’t sure if this was a dream or the afterlife. Was I on my way to meet the Holy Spirit himself? Or was I on the slow boat to Satan’s backyard? Just for my own clarity, I asked my rescuer if I was dead. He stopped whistling the theme song to ‘Friends’ and answered me.
“Almost, my man. Pretty close, in fact. I managed to take that shoe out of your skull. I filled the hole with gum!”
It was Rob Thomas. He had felt terrible that I took such a beating and decided that he would carry me the four miles to a hospital. I kept telling him we could get a taxi, as we were in Vegas and they are always plenty everywhere. But he said he wasn’t about to listen to a talking dog and that walking was fine. He was still tripping. I asked him what he thought had happened back at the club. He said two big guys were beating a dog up for writing a book about them. I tried to assure him that I wasn’t a talking dog once more before I left myself fade into unconsciousness. I had little will to live anymore but, somewhere, deep down, I still hoped that Rob would quickly get me to a vet and that vet could get me to a human hospital.
I woke up in the human hospital three days later. The nurses couldn’t tell me much, as there was an active police investigation. But I heard whispers about two guys posing as cops, mounds of cocaine in a club, human trafficking of Russian women, and arson. I was the only one left to answer for it. Everyone else had scattered. It was around this time that I noticed I had been handcuffed to my bed. Later on, a detective came in to ask me questions. Apparently, someone had set our bus on fire while it sat in impound. All evidence against the band was lost. The club owner was in custody and Mark McGrath was still a person of interest in the case. Shifty’s name wasn’t mentioned nor was anyone else from the band.
After a few weeks recovering, I was released. I had no money or friends in Vegas. I had no choice but to hitchhike back home. It took me a few days and a few rides, but I made it back. I walked back into Los Angeles filthy, exhausted, and starving. I no longer had the keys to my place, so I broke in through my bathroom window and crawled to my bed. I didn’t wake up for days. When I did, I decided to get up and start rebuilding my life. I still owed money to my landlord and was never paid by the band. I knew if I didn’t figure out where to get the cash, I was going to be out on the street. I went in the bathroom and took a long shower. There wasn’t enough hot water in the world to wash off the memory of what I saw on the road. It changed me forever. As I walked out of the bathroom, I noticed that a manila envelope with brown (blood?) smears had been shoved under the front door of my apartment. I wasn’t ready. Not yet. I got dressed, poured some coffee, and mustered the courage to open the letter. It was from Shifty, of course.
Dear B̶i̶t̶c̶h̶ ̶B̶o̶y̶ Bro,
Look you fucked up by writing about XXXXXXXXXXXX and that’s why I got mad and that’s why mee and Marky had to fuck you up correctly. Your still fired cuz you fucked up but you still earned your money. Imay be a lott of thing but I’m not a thief. So if you think that, fuck you. But yo its cool. You did a better job than GARRy. That fruit is still on crutches!!!!! Hahahaha!!!! Mark says hi! Crazy Town and Sugar Ray are goin to tour soon. If you can get your bitch ass together and not write about XXXXXXXXXXXX in your gay ass diary then you can come back on the road wit us. We got a few new guys in the crew too. We had to let Chump Change go cuz I found out about him choking my ass hahaa. Anywayzzz Ive been workin on a bunch of new tracks and shit. Crazy Town is set to light up the new MELLENIUM!! We are gonna own 2000 my dude. So whatevs, I hooked up your rent for six months, your landlord didn’t want to do it at first, so I threatened to burn the building down if he didn’t take my money. So your pad is paid off for a while. Hit me up if you wanna tour again. If not fuck it, Janet says hi.
The memoirs of a career roadie.