In honor of the newly reformed New American Shame, here starts a two-part story about the very first day of the band's touring experiences.
We were on our way. Figuratively and literally. Interstate-90 east to Chicago - to start our first tour. If Day One in the van was any indication, we were in for a fucking tornado of a ride.
After a relative whirlwind courtship with the major labels, New American Shame found itself with all new gear, a new 15-passenger van and trailer, per diems to feed ourselves, and a monthly, automatic replenishment of notes - to trade for goods and services.
Standing outside our practice space, 11 a.m., when most folks were thinking about what they might eat on their lunch hour, Kelly (bass player) and I paused just a moment before climbing into the fully loaded van. It was the first real, sponsored touring any of us had done - and the moment was not lost on us. That this was THE beginning.
"GET IN THE VAN! WE'RE LEAVING!"
That's what the guitar tech we had JUST met was bellowing at us - the very serious Mr. Brian "row row row yer boat" Roe.
We weren't even in the vehicle and were already getting yelled at by our own crew. Welcome to "the show."
The half-rack of Bud Light Kelly and Terry (rhythm guitar/b-vocals) put away before we got to Ellensburg wasn't at all surprising. Their coasting no-brainer decision to each take a hit of acid a couple hours later...well, that one impressed and scared me.
It was REALLY good acid. It was called Vader. It was a black, almost hard plastic looking, sheet of gel-cap-ish Satan that resembled the headwear of the Empire's most sinister agent. Kelly had gotten it somewhere, and it didn't come perforated. You just had to break off a chunk and hope you weren't taking too much.
By the time we got to the first gas stop the fellas were sufficiently pinched. They had a hard time navigating their way out of the van. Once they HAD extracted themselves, they commenced toward the facility in a manner suggesting their legs had unexplainably become different lengths. Needless to say, it took them awhile to make their way across the parking lot.
I had no such lengthening deficiency. I was in the bathroom having a seat minding my own business when I heard a conversation approaching from the distance. At first I couldn't tell who it was - only that it was two people who seemed to know each other. As the one sided conversation came into range, I realized the voice doing all the talking was Kelly's. It became obvious that the now silent instigator of the conversation had at some point out of earshot (from my vantage point ‘installed' on one of the public thrones) queried Kelly about his collection of, and/or opinion on, tattoos.
To this day, I'm unsure who I expected to see come into view with Kelly as I peered though the cracks of my voyeur's hideout - but certainly someone familiar. This was a truckstop bathroom for Christ's sake. Who the FUCK has conversations with strangers anywhere NEAR the bathroom of a place like this?
They came down the hall and through the door-less entry. I was staring at their backs. They were standing five feet in front of me, pissing side by side at consecutive urinals. The fact that my compadre was higher than a crack fiend at the Grand Canyon did little to convince me that what I was seeing in front of me was not a practical joke or vicious hallucination.
Standing at an angle that could only be (especially given the surroundings) construed as an open intent to leer, listening casually while Kelly blathered on about this tattoo here, and that tattoo there, was a trucker.
I mean that with the absolute worst connotation.
He couldn't have been more than 5'5" - a filthy sleeveless jean jacket with hairy, undefined, turkey leg biceps protruding from the arm-holes. He was so obviously cruising Kelly that from my stall, peering through the crack, as he was "peeing," I could clearly see most of his face. If Zach Galifianakis were to go on a fast food diet for a year, stop bathing, and cease to pretend there is a space between his chin and the top of his chest where hair doesn't grow, you would start to get a resemblance.
I was like the kid from The Shining, face frozen in horror, unable to scream. Somehow the acid had invaded every thing. Me included. Then came what may have been the scariest sequence of words in the form of a question I‘ve ever heard. The greasy trucker troll, at this point practically draped over the divider between their two urinals, asked "Ya got eny tayttoo's on yer bayck?"
Without missing a beat, (or noticing anything out of the ordinary) Kelly said "Nope, just kinda workin on my arms right now. Thinking bout getting some on my neck though..."
It was at that point the trucker may have come to the startling conclusion that this bleach blond, eye liner-ed, tight pants wearing FREAK with a head full of acid was having a genuine conversation while basically crossing swords with a complete stranger in a truck stop bathroom somewhere in the middle of the panhandle of Idaho. I honestly think this possibility may have stunned the trucker into a petrified silence.
It would be days before Kelly would believe what had transpired.
Then we were back in the van and back on the road - in no time crossing into Montana. We'd been on the road for about seven hours. We'd been making good time. The most blood curdling realization of the tour was still a ways off ... just outside of Butte. But we would cross that bridge soon enough.
Drummer Geoff Reading - who writes a bi-weekly online column (Fridays) for the Weekly Volcano called "Holding Down the 253" in addition to his weekly Wednesday music column - has played music in tons of Northwest bands - Green Apple Quick Step, New American Shame, Top Heavy Crush and most recently Duff McKagan's LOADED - to name but a few. He's toured the world several times over, sharing stages with the likes of Slipknot, The Cult, Buckcherry, Korn, Journey, The Sex Pistols, Nine Inch Nails and on and on. He has called Tacoma home since 2005, and lives in the North End with his wife and son.