Maeth Tour Diary 2015 p. 1: Midwest/Southwest
HessianHunter shares some tales of traveling 6 hours a day in a van to play 11 minute songs about dead elephants to confused strangers. This time, in the desert!
Day 1 – St. Paul, MN to Omaha, NE
The day began in St. Paul, MN with us trying to perfect our van tetris for tour. Maeth is a 5-piece doom band with 2 drummers, 3 string players, and 5 tone snobs, so we have a mountain of gear to fit on stage and in the van. Our vehicle is a Chevy astro, which is the very smallest vehicle you could call a “van”; it’s basically like a tall, boxy, choadish minivan.
The advantages of a small vehicle are that it’s easier to park and less conspicuous than a massive 12-person van. The disadvantages are that we don’t really have room to fit a bunch of gear and our bodies inside. We have to pile amps on top of each other and put drums inside larger drums to make it all fit, and most of our personal belongings are under our feet as we broad-chested manly men sit shoulder to shoulder. It’s a good thing we’re such good friends or this level of intimacy would be intolerable.
Thankfully my bandmates are all among the most intelligent, wisecracking, and culturally aware people I know, so we generally always have meaningful and stimulating conversations on the road. At the very least, we’ll share some really dank dick jokes.
Minnesota to Nebraska is a dull, dull drive. The Great Plains of settler times are long gone, replaced by cornfields and strip malls. We played word games to pass the time, and jammed some sweet mix CDs we made before we left, teenage road trip style. This weirdo Descendents jam was my favorite contribution to the mix.
We played in an industrial area on the outskirts of Omaha, in a combination bar/tattoo complex called Dr. Jack’s Drinkery. The Omaha/Lincoln music scene isn’t huge, so people are really happy when bands roll through town. We were a couple hours early to the show, so we struck up some conversation with a pair of Steves at the bar. They asked if we wanted to “make it” and get signed, and we patiently told them there’s a small audience for our kind of music and we do this because it’s artistically satisfying and fun, not because we expect to get rich or famous. One of the Steves gave us $50 just because he liked our moxy, and from thereafter kept buying us rounds of the $1 mystery pints until he eventually left right before our set. He probably would’ve been disappointed that we don’t sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd anyway.
After the show we stayed at another band’s house, and even though I slept on the floor instead of a couch I am certain I scored the best sleeping situation; check out my digs.
Day 2 – Omaha, NE to Denver, CO
The drive out of Omaha was still pretty bland, but as soon as we crossed into Colorado shit got beautiful. Flecks of snow dotted the bushy plains, and as we approached Denver… mountains, bro.
We had a fun time poking around an establishment called Cannabis Station, so named because it shares a building with a gas station. The Indian food we ate right after tasted reeeaaaallllyyyy good.
The venue was a long-running DIY spot called 7th Circle, a charming dive if ever there was one. It’s a cramped warehouse covered in dirt and stickers, but I didn’t feel like a coked out crust punk might stab me. I’d be there all the time if I lived in Denver.
The owner/operator of 7th Circle, Aaron, also ran sound. We’re a complicated band to engineer, with 4 cabs, 10 total drums, a flute, and up to 4 vocal mics depending on the songs we choose to play. We try our hardest to be easy on engineers and tell them what is high-priority to mic and what they can ignore when they inevitably run out of inputs, but Aaron was visibly excited for the challenge of mixing such a complicated band and insisted on getting mics put on every noisemaker on stage, tambourine and jamblock included. We haven’t had better sound at a show in months.
That night we stayed with a Denverite friend named Seth Stone whom I met when his sweet garage rock band Dirty Few came through Minneapolis. I knew he partied hard, but had no idea what I was getting myself into by hanging with the guy in his hometown. He knows everyone and drinks everything and if you hang with him, you will too. We caught a cab back to his house to meet some folks, including a belligerent young woman who insisted on loudly arguing with me 2 feet away from my sleeping bandmates. I’m just going to copy-paste from my status on my personal Facebook account the next day:
Shout out to the drunk lady last night who had never heard of a “DIY music scene” and tried really hard to make me feel dumb for using the term instead of “indie” and kept saying “DYI” and didn’t even drink the free beer she said she wanted. “DYI? What, like you’re gonna build birdhouses or some shit?”
Day 3 : Denver, CO to Santa Fe, NM
We got breakfast in Fort Collins at El Poblano, a charming foodbus with a chef who was downright scandalized when I ordered a burrito with no meat, cheese, or sour cream. Guess they don’t get many vegans on a military base.
My bandmates are native Californians so they take burritos seriously. At El Poblano there was a discussion on whether “breakfast burritos” (featuring eggs and/or potatoes) were a legitimate expression within the classic art form of the burrito, and the conclusion they came to was that breakfast burritos are non-canonical burritos, like Ang Lee’s Hulk movie or the Tony Martin Black Sabbath albums.
Our tour route has lots of long drives, many of which are unexciting, but I’ve actually been looking forward to this particular drive for weeks – rolling through the mountains into the Southwestern desert. High elevations mean the clouds hang low above you, which gives a surreal quality to the already beautiful landscape. Sometimes I would swear I could run over and jump up to grab the clouds. Right before crossing the Colorado border into New Mexico, we remembered how good that Indian food tasted the day before, and suddenly the views got even better.
Santa Fe is a weird place. It’s a historic city whose income is primarily tourism based. A major part of the attraction is that the buildings all look like old adobe huts no taller than 2 stories, save for the old cathedral in the center of town. The people actually living there skew toward rich yuppies, and the downtown streets are essentially a boutique frontier/Navajo-themed strip mall. I’m not sure if there’s a “gritty underbelly” of a city like this, but like always, the few people who DO dig heavy music love when a touring band comes through. I wasn’t sure what to expect on a Monday night in a “secondary market”, but turnout was strong and we even profited after gas expenses for the day. I highly recommend booking with Kronos Creative for any band looking to play New Mexico. Augustine got us a great show, fed us, and made us feel at home. I can’t wait to get back to Santa Fe to hang with him again.
We’ve all heard too many stories about tours ending because gear gets stolen from the van at night. That’s why we always have 1-2 people sleep in the van if we are parked outside, and tonight it was my turn. In an effort to save space in the van, I didn’t pack a blanket or pillow, and my old fleece jacket was inadequately warm for the surprisingly chilly desert night. After running the heater for 10 minutes it got warm enough for me to continue sleeping in relative peace, curled in a ball in the passenger seat. Come to think of it, I probably looked hella cute in there.
Day 4: Santa Fe, NM to Tempe, AZ
Desert. Mountain. Scenery.
All. Damn. Day.
9+ hours of driving, and not a moment wasted.
Yet again, a weeknight show exceeded our expectations drastically. I shared a choice bean and pickled veggie burrito with Toilet contributor Call The Slambulance before playing an all-ages coffee shop with some killer bands, including alt-proggers The Oxford Coma, who put this show together on very short notice. Back home we never sell XL shirts so we didn’t bother to stock up on them before tour, but lo and behold the flyover states cleaned us out of them in 4 days. Sorry to all the chubby Californians we’ll be disappointing; guess that’s a lesson learned for next time.
NEXT TIME: HessianHunter plays with Christian Molenaar’s band and shakes Joe Thrashn’Kill’s tiny little boy hands. Will he successfully hide his disgust? Tune in next time to find out!
All images courtesy of the author.