Maeth Tour Diary pt. 3 – Northwest/Home
Day 11 – NorCal to Portland, OR
After having some good chuckles about my encounter with Redding Police the previous night (and apologies for peeing in my guitarist’s water bottle on his birthday), we made the beautifully misty drive through the half of California nobody makes television shows about into Oregon, and eventually, the famed quaint-opolis of Portland. We of course had mighty fine burritos upon arrival, and even at an excellent price.
This was probably our favorite show all tour. Both bands we played with were excellent surprises, and we played our tightest set thus far. You all really need to listen to Snakes (2-piece stonerviolence) and Humours (proggy noise rock) immediately.
We apparently had a couple long-time fans in Oregon, and they drove into Portland just to see us play. They bought tons of merch and actually overpayed us for it, just to be nice. They demanded the bar give us towels to wipe our sweat off with as we got off stage, which was oddly sweet although a bit embarassing. It was surreal to have someone we’ve never met gushing about us, especially when we exclusively played new, unrecorded material at this show and they were still amped about it.
Day 12 – Portland, OR to Seattle, WA
Before skipping town, we made sure to drop by Voodoo Donuts in Portland and score some tasty carbs. I split a box of a dozen assorted donuts with my bassist and didn’t regret a single calorie.
I had been looking forward to the Seattle show for weeks, both because we were playing with fabulous bands and because I wanted to catch up with my old Minneapolis friend Curtis from Witch Ripper. I looked up to him and his old band Iron Thrones quite a bit when I was a wee little metal fan and just discovering the DIY music scene. I was at basically every Iron Thrones show in Minneapolis for a couple years and was heartbroken when they broke up, but was pleased to know Curtis was still making cool music across the country. It was a great feeling to come full circle and actually play with the guy now that I had a respectable band to call my own, and he felt the same way about seeing the skinnier, less dweeby version of me I became after he left Minneapolis.
Heiress was an absolute force live; my goodness can that man howl. It’s bleak and beautiful agony, which made it that much cooler when they gave us their cut of the door money without a second thought. Even though it’s well-known that Seattle is a cool city with a vibrant music scene, apparently not that many bands actually tour through because it’s far away from basically everywhere else. Heiress thanked us for making the drive and said we should come back, which felt pretty dang great, lemme tell ya. The guitarist also gave me a bizarre compliment by thanking me for my tasteful use of Zil-Bells, which are generally a staple of doofy metalcore drumming. That means the guy was actually paying close attention to our set; feelsgoodman.jpg.
Day 13 – Seattle, WA to Missoula, MT
We finally kissed the West Coast goodbye as we dived headfirst into the shrouded peaks of Washington’s forested Cascadian mountain rainge, arguably the most pants-shittingly beautiful biome we encountered all tour.
This was another looooong drive, but the mountains kept us pretty entertained, whether they were the rainforested Cascades of Washington, the secluded Bitterroots of Idaho, or the majestic Rockies of Montana. I’m a city boy through and through, and cities any smaller than my own tend to give me the willies, but all this natural beauty made me start to see the appeal of living in these small mountain towns. The novelty wore off a bit after a google maps search for “vegetarian food” in Missoula turned up completely blank. I asked for food, and Missoula essentially responded by calling me a nerd and shoving me into a locker.
As is often the case in smaller cities without a big music scene to pull from, this was a very mixed bill. The first two acts were a power electronics duo (False Teeth) and a folk-rock group (Joey Running Crane and the Dirty Birds). There were two drummers among the ranks of Joey’s Dirty Birds, and it was fun to see what they did with extra percussion in a totally different genre than ours. More on-point genrewise were Missoula locals Shramana and Denver’s fabulous Ghosts of Glaciers. We didn’t get to play with Ghosts of Glaciers when we were in Colorado because they were touring themselves, but they had an Idaho date fall through and thus we got them on this show as well. They play captivating, shredding instrumental post-metal with a bit of a blackened flair, and I hope to share a stage with them again someday.
Day 14 – Missoula, MT to Billings, MT
Did you know that some states are pretty big? States like Montana are pretty big. The two largest cities (Missoula and Billings) are 5 hours apart from one another. Where I come from, a 5 hour drive means that I’m two states away from home, not the next city over. Thus is life in The Treasure State, though. People that choose to live somewhere between these two cities are of a… fascinating breed. For example, an older lady at a rest stop saw our van, beards, and tightly fitting trousers and adorably asked if we were on a “music road trip”.
We arrived to great fanfare in our final destination of Billings as the friendly punx we were playing and staying with were throwing a pre-show barbecue. There were hot dogs and PBRs aplenty, not to mention this used condom chilling under a milk crate.
The country bar we played that night had the nicest, biggest stage we played all tour. Touring metal bands are uncommon so people were excited, but the crowd was thinned by the local Metallica cover band playing a different venue down the street. (Lolbuttz, amirite?) The Billings metal scene is something else, man. They seem to really dig B-side bands; I saw both a guy with a Damageplan shirt and a lady with a Soulfly tattoo. A SOULFLY TATTOO. I was half-expecting a surprise announcement that Stone Sour was going to close our show.
In retrospect, it was a good thing this was our last show of tour, both because my bassist melted his speaker partway through the set and because of the… troubles that came the following night. After the show we partied with the nice punx back at their crib, but not TOO hard since we had a 12 hour drive all the way home the next day.
We got going early the next morning and left before 9, hoping that with gas fill ups, food breaks, and a time zone change included we could be back home by midnight. We stopped infrequently and didn’t waste any time at rest stops; we were on a mission. The mountain ranges begin to flatten in eastern Montana and disappear completely before the North Dakota border. We were officially in the Midwest; boring, lifeless plains that stretch into an eternity of interstate highways and pitiful stripmalls. No matter, though; this was our runway back to good ol’ Minnesota, and we’d just had enough scenic drives to last a lifetime. Spirits were running high as we approached Fargo at dinnertime; we made the plan to end our burrito tour of the US with some terrible/awesome Taco Bell “stuffed grillitos” or “Doritolickables” or whatever the hell they call their most recent bean & tortilla abomination, then beast it home across Minnesota as the sun set behind us. But then… the inevitable happened.
Our poor Chevy Astro had spent all tour pushing its V6 engine to the limit, hauling the five of us and all our heavy gear up and down mountains, hills, and across highways. It’s a glorified minivan that wasn’t meant for this kind of strain, and it finally met its and as its transmission exploded 15 miles west of Fargo. It was a sobering moment, but also a hilarious one in a macabre way; we had just been talking about how we actually profited on the tour and the shows more mostly really good, so we definitely jynxed ourselves by talking about it. This isn’t even the first vehicle breakdown we had in Fargo; the last time was when we opened for The Atlas Moth, and it was in the dead of winter with subzero temperatures and howling wind trying to kill us with every step. Our two previous shows in that city were a complete bust, and this time the promoter at the only nightclub in town was stringing us along with the promise of a confirmation “soon” for weeks before he stopped responding to emails, leaving us with no show and not enough time to re-book elsewhere. Remember what they say, kids; “Fargo – not even once.”
Our breakdown timing was brilliantly shitty, because all the auto garages in town were closed for Memorial Day weekend, so no mechanic could even look at the van to determine if it was officially Shrek’d until 3 days later. (Spoiler alert; it was.) A tow truck brought us to a garage in the city, and my other drummer’s heroic girlfriend drove the 3.5 hours to come pick up him and half of the gear. The rest of us rented a minivan and loaded the remaining gear inside, still determined to get home that night, no matter how late. We eventually rolled into the Twin Cities at 3 AM, with barely enough remaining energy to unload into the practice space and finally return to our homes and beds.
Night driving jams.
Thus ended the most fun and absurd journey of my life thus far. In the end, it was worth every bit of trouble, sickness, and van death we experienced. We played killer shows with musicians we’ve admired for years, we saw old friends, made new fans, and just generally had a diaper-wearing good time. (Don’t ask, just trust me.) I look forward to more tours and more shitty vans and even shittier inside jokes, but until next time, this is HessianHunter, signing off from the road and back into “real life”.
All photos courtesy of the author.