Day 0 – BUFFALO, NY – SAN DIEGO, CA This year marks the 28th anniversary of the first and last time I ever visited my mother’s country of birth, the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica. There are a lot of things about that journey that are surprisingly fresh in my memory: the hurricane-beaten exteriors of the houses; people playing cricket on the beach; ginger beer strong enough to make your eyes water; that my relatives were the proud owners of satellite television on an island that had one stop light; and the sight of what the natives referred to as an “airport” as we descended towards the island in a plane that had no business being in a scrap metal yard, let alone a few thousand feet in the air. I have no idea what Dominica’s airport looks like these days, but back then it consisted of a somewhat paved landing strip/runway next to which sat a shack which doubled as the “air traffic control tower,” “customs office” and public lavatory.
I mention all this only because I’m presently typing this sitting on the floor of the modern, North American equivalent: the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in Buffalo, NY. A perfectly nice, surprisingly clean and freakily modern-looking facility that offers a whole lot of sweet fuck-all in the way of useful amenities for the weary traveler. Unless you consider forking out $7+ for a personal-sized pizza that even the corporate stooges at McDonalds would consider a rip-off, useful. And just what the fuck am I doing here, why do I think you might care and what does this have to do with metal?
Last summer in Decibel, I wrote a story that attempted to give y’all a behind-the-scenes look at the annual Summer Slaughter tour: the logistical nightmare, trials, tribulations and triumphs facing both the organizers and performers on what essentially amounts to a traveling festival. This summer, I’m getting even deeper into the thick of all things Summer Slaughter as I’m going to be tearing around with Denver’s own Rocky Mountain Hydro Grinders, Cephalic Carnage for the first half of the tour, doing some driving, a little tour managing and experiencing life on the road with this mobile circus decked out in a seemingly endless supply of black t-shirts and camo print cargo shorts. And here I wait, for the humiliation (and not the good kind where Amazonian women in whalebone corsets and studded thongs force you to lick their thigh-high boots – umm, yeah…) meted out by Homeland Security before getting on a plane to San Diego to meet up with the band for the first show on July 17th at SOMA.
I’m no stranger to life on tour. I was in a band in the late 90s/early 00s that spent a fair portion of five years on the road. In a mini-van. Before trailers became as common in extreme music as breakdowns. But, what I hope to impart upon you, gentle reader, are all the absurdities, adventures and observations that are bound to come with Summer Slaughter’s unique design. Not to mention the sheer insanity of ferrying around with Cephalic Carnage. This is, after all, the same band that once had vaporizers available at their merch table. When I last spoke to guitarist Steve Goldberg, he was in the process of getting a stereo installed in “Club Cephalic.” He, however, didn’t mention anything about getting A/C installed in “Club Cephalic,” which, after checking out the Weather Network and seeing that it was 114-degrees in Phoenix yesterday and we’re going to be there in three days, is a little worrying. Moreso when you consider two recent tour diaries featured on the Deciblog (Zoroaster and Woods of Ypres) had a lack of functional A/C as a running theme. They say things happen in threes. Let’s hope the fuck not and that this cycle is broken once I get out of the desolate wasteland of Buffalo-Niagara International where they ironically have the A/C cranked so high that I’ve just had to put on a hoodie.
Wish me luck, motherfuckers!
DAY 1 – SAN DIEGO, CA
The theme today is “always expect the unexpected.”
After arriving at the SOMA club in San Diego at the godforsaken hour (as far as dude on tour time is concerned) of noon, courtesy of Decibel Reader of the Fucking Year, the first unexpected event of the day smacked me upside the head like the sunburn quickly smacking the skin of the pastier of the pasty in proximity to the venue: Cephalic Carnage arrived on time. This is not a hidden dig at the band, but a general observation that every band ever, outside of big mega-bands with PAs and handlers, is generally late for any and everything. What’s not so unexpected, however, is that once the van and trailer are parked, the weed gets burned and the beer begins to flow.
I should mention here that I don’t partake in activities pertaining to smoking weed or drinking alcohol. I don’t have a problem with people who do, it’s just not my thing. I prefer to think of myself as an observer and someone who can be there to fill in the blanks. And then there’s that little thing about traversing America’s highways and byways in an unimpaired state. Anyway, after a bunch of hanging and sorting out merch, how to sell that merch in extremely cramped quarters, where to store gear when ten bands are trying to share one backstage staging area, it was soon discovered that due to some drama between someone somewhere, the person originally hired to do Cephalic’s merch wasn’t going to be doing Cephalic merch. All eyes turned to the sober dude from Canada, to which I said, in my typical easy-breezy manner, “Whatever, dudes. Let’s do it up.” This was unexpected event number two and one that’s going to impact my entire stint on this tour; not that I’m complaining, just an unexpected turn, yo.
In addition to the usual array of t-shirts, CDs and stickers, Cephalic’s merch bounty consists of some pretty unique items: girlie shirts and thongs on the lower end of unique; lighters and lighter leashes with their logo on ‘em making a step up in the uniqueness department; emblazoned glass smoking pipes making a bigger jump; and featured at the top of the list are weed grinders and a vaporizer. Needless to say, you could pick out the stoners from potential customers by whose eyes bugged out and lit up when they saw heavy duty weed grinders and vaporizers with Cephalic’s logo etched into them. What was even funnier was yours truly, who knows fuck all about smoking procedures and paraphernalia getting into heavily one-sided conversations with dudes willing to share their experiences getting busted by cops for possession, their parents finding and destroying their pipes, wondering what the weed is like in Canada, etc. Even more comedic is the blind-leading-the-blind exchanges I’d get into with people asking what all this stuff does and how a vaporizer works. Good times!
About the bands: Summer Slaughter 2010 features Decapitated, The Faceless, All Shall Perish, The Red Chord, Veil of Maya, Cephalic, Decrepit Birth, Carnifex, Animals as Leaders and Vital Remains with certain cities adding on a band or two here and there. As the merch area we were sequestered into was actually in SOMA’s lobby, I only got to hear very muffled sounds all day/night. Never have I been so close to so much metal without actually hearing any of it. Tally so far: 10 bands played, zero bands seen or heard.
After the last muffled note of the night was squeezed out, the boxes of merch packed away and more hanging out in the parking lot engaged in various recreational pursuits, we were determined to not be the last band to leave – apparently the unwritten rule is that the last one to leave… well, who knows, but the Cephalic guys were determined to finally get the fuck out of Dodge. A perfect idea, until the band’s soundman, Spy, turned the key and…nothing. A whole lot of nothing, until some fans with booster cables, the dude from SOMA who was dispatched to get us the fuck out of the parking lot in the first place and someone with a car with a powerful enough battery to impart upon us the necessary juice to get us functional and on our way. And basically, as soon as we regained the power of forward motion, yours truly passed out until I woke up in a fairly ritzy looking San Diego neighborhood with the urge to piss like a racehorse... but very few people probably want to hear about that. DAY 2 – HOLLYWOOD, CA
Today’s lesson: When you get to venues later than you’re supposed to, you end up tearing around like a fucking maniac looking to cram three hours worth of set-up time into half-an-hour. This was us at the House of Blues in Hollywood. An underestimation of Sunday traffic between San Diego and Los Angeles meant by the time we turned up, sound/line checks were already happening and most of the nine other bands took up the primo merch display spots. Either way, we figured it out, sold a bunch of shit (after realizing that the two cases of glass smoking pipes with the Cephalic logo on ‘em were missing and had probably been lifted the night before) and those dudes reportedly played a much tighter set. I say reportedly because the merch set-up at the House of Blues was actually outside the venue and, once again, I didn’t get a chance to see any bands after 20 sets played in total. I’m sure Albert and Andrew can tell you of some sad-sack ball player who started his season 0-for-20. Let’s see what the desert heat of Arizona does to my average tomorrow.