Day 8

I wake up early to find my phone dead again.  I walk back across the park, plug it in and head back to my campsite.  I break down my tent, pack it up and then drive back to retrieve my phone.  I drive out of the vacant park and drive East to Burlington, Iowa.

I make great time and get into town early.  I pull up to The Washington, get out, stretch my legs and approach the front door.  There is a huge full color poster for the show that uses Slap Nevada’s poster art in the window.   The sign on the door shows that the club opens at 6pm so I decide to look around and find some coffee.  I wander around downtown Burlington to discover most buildings are vacant or condemned. On almost every block of the downtown area there is a huge full color poster for the show.

I eventually wander down the Visitor Center which sits next to the Mississippi River.  I am enthusiastically greeted by two elderly women who ask me if I have any questions.  I reply that I am just killing some time and would like to learn a little bit about Burlington.  They make me a fresh pot of coffee and guide me through Visitor’s Center. They explain that every year the Mississippi floods and almost completely submerges the very building we are standing in.  They show me photos of the building buried to the roof in muddy water.  They also insist I check out “Snake Alley” which they claim is the most crooked street in America.

I wander through more of downtown Burlington and find Snake Alley.  I eventually find a restaurant called “The Drake.”   I enter their lobby and wait an obnoxiously long time to be seated.  Eventually someone appears and asks me “Do you need something?” with a concerned look on their face.  I am shocked by the snobby question but don’t fault them because I realize I am basically some homeless crazy looking guy hanging out in their lobby.  I reply that I want a table and they are awkwardly apologetic as they lead me to my table.

I eat a sandwich and check facebook to find out that the headlining band Slap Nevada have canceled.  The Washington declares that “Ugly Head” will still be performing and now there is no cover and there are 2 for 1 drink specials as well as an open mic tonight in a desperate attempt to get people to come out.   I finish my meal and head back towards the club.

I am greeted by a sound guy who confirms that Slap Nevada did indeed cancel and that aside from an open mic, I will be the only performer and I can set up all my stuff anywhere on the stage.  They will work the open mic around my equipment.  This is great for me because my set up and tear down time is horrendous.  I set up everything and charge my phone in the green room.

Eventually a performer shows up for the open Mic.  He is a tall slim guy with a pony tail wearing a western shirt and carrying a black acoustic guitar.  He sings a song about building a table for his wife, a song about snakes (aka people who talk shit) and a song about New Mexico.  They are all surprisingly good.  A pair of very amateur rappers show up and also do a short set over a cd of backing tracks. This provokes the sound guy to do his own hip hop set where he rapped from the sound booth and the bartender sang the chorus to the songs from the stage.

The open mic pays off because a decent amount of people show up later on and I have a good sized audience to play to.  The set goes well and I sell about $60 in merchandise.  I am informed that I do not get paid from the venue because my cut was supposed to come from the cover charge which got dropped when Slap Nevada canceled.  I ask if Slap Nevada has played there before and they say no.  I am puzzled as to why they got the headlining spot and why their poster art got used instead of mine.   Its no big deal because I sold some merch but it would have been nice to get a little extra money for gas.

I drive off into the night and eventually pull over at a rest stop.  It is cold but I manage to fall asleep in my car.


Day 9

I wake up after sleeping for approximately 2.5 hours and my phone is dead.  I have no idea where I am or how to get to the next venue but I figure that if I just start driving towards Chicago I will be able to find a place to charge my phone and use the GPS to get directions.  I am exhausted but the sun is bright and there is no chance I will be able to get back to sleep in such an uncomfortable position.

I leave Iowa and enter Illinois where I am immediately paying cash for road tolls.  There are toll booths that are manned and accept cash to continue on the freeway about every 10 miles, there are toll booths where you need to exact change (coins only) to exit the freeway.  Illinois has the WORST drivers I have ever seen in my life.  Everyone is cutting people off and riding people’s asses.  Every time I slow down to leave some room for breaking between me and the car in front of me an Illinois driver swerves into the space I leave and rides the ass of the person in front of me.  It is a stressful situation all the way to Chicago where I am steadily running out of cash for tolls. I am trying to count my change in one hand so I can pay a toll to exit the freeway while I am trying to drive and avoid asshole drivers with the other.

I find an exit where I can pay only 60 cents to get off. I take the exit and am almost immediately dumped back on the freeway where I have to pay $1.90 to re-enter.  I get change from the toll booth and eventually get off at another random exit.  I drive around aimlessly looking for anywhere I can stop and charge my phone so I can get directions.

I finally find a Starbucks in the late evening.  I am so tired, stressed and have paid about $25 in tolls. I get my laptop from the back seat and bring my phone in to charge it.  I don’t think I am physically capable of spending another night in my car and survive driving in Illinois again so I book a $70 hotel room near the venue bringing my daily spend to $100 (including coffee).  My phone charges. I put in the address of the venue (Swing State) and take off North. 

After a few more tolls I find the exit I need but my phone dies again as soon as I get off the freeway.  I stop at a Mcdonald’s and get some fries while my phones charges again.  I eventually get a 20% charge and get my GPS working.  It dies before I get to the venue but  I am able to find it by guesswork.

Swing State is a really rad all-ages venue with a nice staff and decent sound system.  Once again I am the only performer which is great because it takes a lot of stress away from getting all my equipment set up.  I get free water and coffee.  I play my set to a positive response and sell about $30 in merch.  It doesn’t put much of a dent in the amount of money I spent today but I have my best performance of the tour so far and have gained some new fans so I am happy.

I drive towards the hotel and my phone dies.  I stop at the same Mcdonald’s and charge it again long enough to get directions.  I write them down, take off and eventually get to my destination.  I am exhausted.  I plug in all my electronic devices to charge them, take a shower and fall asleep in a comfortable bed. It is only day 9 and I have slept at 2 hotels and am spending an unexpected amount of money on tolls.  I am going to have to make some serious cash to catch up with how much I am spending or I am going to get stranded somewhere.


Day 10

I wake up well rested and find that this hotel also has a DO-IT-YOURSELF belgian waffle station.  A man wearing an American Flag shirt with the sleeves cut off attempts to educate me on how to use it even though I am completely capable. I grab as many apples from the free breakfast station as I can carry and head back to my room.  I take another shower (I have to make this opportunity to bathe count) and hit the road again.

I stop in Chicago and walk around a little bit.  I find the city to be visually oppressive.  Hard edges and corners, straight lines everywhere. The presence of humanity in its most boring and utilitarian form.  The bent and twisted reflections of the buildings on the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millenium Park create an optical illusion of something beautiful but it is not enough to make me want to explore any further.

I get in my car and head East yet again.

I was supposed to play a show in Detroit tonight but things got fucked up.  The venue wanted me to fill the bill with local bands.  After an exhaustive effort I couldn't find anyone to play and the promoter for the venue stopped answering my emails.  Later on I checked to see if the date ever got booked with another lineup.  It did get booked with all local bands.  Most of who would have been compatible.  Why the booker didn't just put me on the bill and book local acts, I will never know...

It sucks not to be able to book a weekend date on tour. I was not able to find a single venue or party to play so I booked a cheap campsite in Indiana.

I arrive at my campsite at Pokagon Park and it is very cold.  I quickly set up my tent, crawl in my sleeping bag and go to sleep being pissed I am not playing a show.


Day 11

I wake up to a cold morning.  I am out of fog juice for my fog machine.  I locate a music store with my phone and attempt to use the "avoid tolls" function.  I quickly pack up my campsite and head out making quick use of my car's heater.

The music store ends up being a pretty major detour.  By the time I arrive I have barely any battery left on my phone so I punch in the address to the next venue on my GPS (using the avoid tolls function) and try to write down as much directions to the place before it dies.

I drive many back roads and get lost in Amish country.  I speed down the roads dodging buggies and wildlife fearing I will be late.  I eventually find a gas station and ask for directions to Canton.  I am nowhere near my destination. Luckily the directions are simple.  I just need to get to 77 South and I will end up in Canton but I am over 100 miles from there.

I make haste to the venue completely stressed out.  The only reoccuring nightmares I have are that I am late for a show, lost, unable to get there.  The trip is the waking realization of that nightmare.

I finally make it to the venue and the headlining band has set up a huge lighting rig as well as all there insturments and amps on the stage, leaving very little room for the other bands.

I find out I am going on first and somehow fit all my gear on stage.  I start to play my set and the sound in the monitors is loud and high pitched that it is distorting and physically hurting my ears.  I ask the sound guy to turn it down.  He does not.  The set sounds like absolute shit.  There are a lot of people there and I can't get a read on the audience.  I finish my set, punishing my ears with the monitor mix.  I pack everything off and make room for the next band (a two piece).   Their set up is a a guy with a keyboard and a guitar and a drummer. The headling band forces the second band to use their drum kit because it is already on stage.

It is a major feat to tear down my gear and I am really tired and sweaty by this point so I go to the bar and ask for some water.  The bartender charges me $1 for the water and looks at me like I am an asshole when I don't tip for it.  I drink my water and look around the club as the second band starts to play and see a lot of dreadlocks, some girls are painting on canvases, some people are wearing tie dye shirts.  The second band starts playing and it is insturmental songs with mellow complex lead guitars and funky drums.  I make my way across the club to see what the girls are painting and I see a psychadelic assortment of colors behind a terribly painted Grateful Dead skull. I suddenly realize I am at a hippy jam band show.

The show goes on forever.  Mellow guitar solo after mellow guitar solo.  My phone dies so I ask the bartender rudely waves me away and says she is too busy to deal with me even though she is clearly not. The smell of patchouli oil is thick but I am forced to stay inside because it is freezing cold outside and I am wearing sweat drenched clothes.

The second band finishes and another local jam band gets on stage.  They are very young and appear to be poorly imitating hippy jam bands from the past.  They are efficient musicians and they play extended covers of Grateful Dead and Beatles songs.  The set lasts for hours and the crowd is into it.  They finally announce their last song and then play 4 more songs that evolve into dueling funky guitar solos where the guitarists make faces at each other like they are shitting their pants.

Finally the night ends at last call and I approach the door guy about getting paid.  He directs to another guy at the bar who mistakes me for someone with the headlining hippie jam band and says that he already paid the band $450.  I explain that I am from uglyhead and I am touring and have been paid nothing.  He tells me that if I want to get paid I have to ask the local headlining band.  The guy finds the guy he payed the money and asks if I can have any.  A little fit is thrown and I step aside as the guy from the club is able to get $30 back for me.  I finally get a full venue and I only make $30.  I guess my set was awful and I just want to get the fuck out of Canton so I take the $30 with no argument and drive off into the night.

After 90 minutes driving I pull over at a rest stop and fall asleep in the cold night.


Day 12

I wake up and have achieved a whopping 3 hours of sleep.  It’s the most sleep I have gotten while sleeping the car yet!  I make my way to Pittsburgh and find a coffee shop, order some coffee and break out my laptop.

I have an entire day to kill before I have to head over to the Roboto Project for the show at 7.  I look up things to do in Pittsburgh and find the National Aviary.  I shouldn’t spend the money but am huge fan of birds and can’t help myself.  I drive through Pittsburgh and easily find a free parking spot across the street from the Aviary.  Once inside I am given the choice for standard admission ($14) and an all day pass ($20) which includes access to various scheduled feedings and extra shows.  I end up going for the all day pass (I have the whole day to kill…) and head off to the first scheduled feeding.  The aviary is amazing and I get to feed a lot of birds and get a special pin for feeding a Lanner Falcon.  The experience lifts my mood considerably.

Between feedings I sit in the cafeteria and hang out with a Palm Cockatoo and Kookaburra and charge my phone.  It is a great way to spend the day and I leave after the final feeding.

I drive through Pittsburgh to the Mr. Roboto Project and admire the rough and charming architecture of the city.  I really like Pittsburgh.  It is really easy to drive around, it looks amazing, it has a huge aviary and it doesn’t seem overcrowded.  I wish I could spend more time here.

I reach the venue and no one is there yet so I sit in my car.  The weather is cloudy, warm and humid.  I end up unwillingly falling asleep in my car but don’t sleep long. When I awake there are people loading into the venue so I get out and start lugging all of the equipment out of my car.

I am joined and helped by Richard Magnelli from Satyr/Elfheim.  He is the person who booked the show and is a really nice guy!  He has billed the show as CD release for his project to help bring in more people.  Unfortunately not a lot of people show up.  We blame it on the season premier of the Walking Dead.

In my opinion the show was amazing! First up was Bruxist who did an awesome set using a drum machine, various pedals and a dictation machine.  Second up was Requiem who did a massively heavy/doomy instrumental set that had a really amazing progression.  I played third and I thought it went really well. Satyr/Elfheim played 4th and did an awesome set using Stratocaster based noise that starts out melodic but evolves into ear piercing drones.  I haven’t really heard anything like it before. I feel like a lot of noise artists try to have a darker aesthetic but this project has more of a sound based off surfy reverbs but way more harsh than a lot of things I have heard before.

There isn’t a strong turn out and I am paid with a box of Raisin Bran. I sell one CD for $5.  Not necessarily a successful show but the entire day massively lifted my spirits.  A much needed contrast from the night before where I was convinced I found a new or lesser known circle of hell.

There is no place to sleep so I head towards Buffalo , NY and fall asleep in my car at a rest stop feeling pretty satisfied.