I was at the address Will gave me, sitting in my car, smoking a cigarette, and watching as all the families strolled by on their morning walks, feeling like each one was fucking judging me as they walked by. I mean, I did stick out like a sore thumb: bearded, tattooed, and dressed all in black with my Marlboros and a sleeping bag, looking like I was scoping out a new backyard to take residence in while the suburbs were at work. In reality, I was freaking out because this was where Western Settings guitarist Will Castro told me to meet them for the upcoming tour and no one was fucking there. No Ricky Schmidt. No Thomas House. No Will Castro. No Megataur. Nada. Nothing. It was creeping up on 7:20AM and I was told to be there AT 7AM. I was frantically trying to text the guys in a group chat, but my cell service was spotty as fuck, and my SOS was not broadcasting. Sweating bullets, I eventually got the simple response, “at the studio” from Will. Fuck. Did I already fuck up on my first tour? I read the address Will gave me about thirty times. I was in the right spot, that much I could be sure of.
After a solid half hour of panicking, Will pulled up in Western Settings’ tour van, Megataur, hoped out and quickly disappeared into his house without saying a word. He was inside for whatever the standard ‘gotta take a shit’ time is, and was back out, ready to finish loading the van. He was giving me the grand tour of his printing company, B-Street Hill, which basically was opening his garage door, when bassist/singer Ricky Schmidt came roaring into Will’s driveway. He hurriedly threw his shit into Will’s front yard, apologizing for sleeping late and not showing up to help Will load the gear from the studio, inadvertently explaining why everyone was late. Apparently, Ricky worked late at the bar the night before and decided to do his laundry when he got off, about 3 or 4 in the morning. Will didn’t really seem to give a shit, until Ricky plopped down what looked like a milk crate that had been sitting in the hull of the Titanic for the last 105 years.
“You are not putting that fucking filthy thing in the van,” Will yelled.
“But it’s full of really good beers I found in the basement of the bar!” Ricky protested.
I had to agree with Will, the crate looked like it would be the patient zero that finally kick started the zombie apocalypse that proved all the “Doomsday Preppers” are not bat shit insane.
Ricky was explaining every single beer to me as we transferred them from their moldy prison into a cooler. That’s when guitarist Tom House finally sauntered up ready to roll. He had to take his dogs for a walk, which is why he was late. I quickly began to understand why most shows run on ‘punk time.’ Everyone was accounted for since drummer Adam Kissell was sitting this one out, saving his vacation time for future tours AKA probably Europe. We were meeting the fill-in drummer, Reunions’ Shane Hendry, up at his house in Oakland. The time has finally come; we jumped in the van and were on our way north with a cool seven hour drive ahead of us. First stop: Oakland, California.
Except it wasn’t. We made it about an hour north to Temecula before we stopped for some Del Taco breakfast. After we ate our most important meal of the day, Ricky told us the real reason he was up so late doing laundry; he accidentally shit his pants at work the night before. It was an ominous tale for four dudes who just ate Del Taco, but we had places to go goddamn it! Another couple hours passed in the van before we had to stop again for the prerequisite Guitar Center trip, apparently a fucking requirement for all bands on tour. We left a passed out Ricky in the hot van with a window cracked and crossed our fingers he didn’t heat stroke out while Will tried to buy the parts to get his pedal board up and running again. Back in the van, I ended up passing out as well, tuckered out from the stress of the morning. I got a solid forty-five minute of nap or so in before I woke up to Tom yelling about the dead stopped traffic we were stuck in going through the Grapevine.
We were already running a couple of hours behind schedule at this point. But that didn’t detour us from making one last stop at a gas station to get some hot dogs on National Hot Dog Day. I mean, we needed gas too, but hot dogs were the Number One priority on this hallowed day. After debating for way too long about getting nacho cheese on the dogs or not (this was when there was that salmonella nacho cheese scare), we were back on the road Oakland bound, no more stops. Sitting shotgun as the co-pilot, I cracked open the first beer of the tour, a sour with a little monk on the front of it. It was fucking delicious, and I will probably never be able to find it again. Bummer. A couple of beers and a pee break later, we finally arrived in Oakland, California. We pulled up to the address Shane gave us, and honestly it wasn’t in the greatest neighborhood. The van was rife with the sighs of frustration knowing we would need to evacuate every single thing that was in the van. Ricky, the good guy that he is, was telling us to “not judge a book by its cover” and “it’s not THAT bad guys.” Almost on cue, Shane was running down the steps of his house yelling, “You dudes gotta take EVERYTHING out of the van. EVEYRTHING! Don’t even leave any change in the cup holder.”
We emptied the van and headed to Civil War Rust’s practice space so Shane could get some time in on the drums with the band. I crammed in the corner drinking Tecates as they ran through the set over and over and over again. Ricky challenged me to drink a beer for every two songs they went through, and as the guys got better and better, my pyramid of empties got taller and taller. Halfway through a 30 rack of PBRs, the guys collectively decided to add a small ska part to “Old Pain” and I decided it would be a good idea to run up on Tom during “Kicking and Screaming” and scream the “I’m not fucking dead” part with him. My pyramid of empties toppled over.
They finished sometime around midnight. Drunk and tired, we went to Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café, a restaurant owned by Mike Dirnt of Green Day fame. As we ate the mediocre overpriced food, Shane let us in on his secret to figuring out Western Settings songs on drums: He would repeat the name of the track in the rhythm of that song. I tried to choke down my burger as he sat there yelling, “yes it is! Yes It Is! YES IT IS!” or repeated “linesofteethandlinesofteethandlinesofteeth.” We laughed about it all the way back to Shane’s place, where we spread out about his apartment, ready for a “good” night’s sleep.
Tour starts tomorrow.
An ongoing anthology of tour diaries.