Highly Suspect: Tour Diary 5

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I think I’m losing my mind. No. I know I’m losing it. I’m pretty sure I’ve done too much damage to my brain over the years to be a stable human and I’m ok with that… but this tour? Fuck. Sensory overload. I should probably tell you that I enjoyed Portland and that I can’t wait to go back but I’m not gonna be fake about it. I hated Portland. It’s a shit city filled with zombies and street lurkers. As for the fans at the show, you guys were cool as hell, but I couldn’t care less about anything outside of those walls. Even if the van hadn’t been robbed in Portland, I’d still feel this way but it did. The only thing stolen was our Tour Manager’s backpack. Like WTF? We had everything from cash to weed, expensive leather to iPads and they took a backpack with almost nothing in it? I know this is gonna sound weird but it pisses me off that their thieves aren’t even good at being thieves. Whatever, I hope I don’t lose any fans over this, but I could never return to that city and be perfectly fine with it. That’s my paragraph about Portland and the only negative thing you’ll have to read from here forward.

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Now it’s time to gush. California. I’d like you all to think about your favorite feeling in the world, whatever that may be for you, and pause. Find that feeling, one that makes you involuntarily smile just by having the thought in your head. Now stop reading this for a minute, close your eyes and breathe. I can look you in the eye right now and sincerely tell you that I’ve never had a better time in all 28 years of my life than this week in Cali. California, I love you so much that it hurts. If I weren’t in a van full of people right now I’d be crying about the fact that we will be crossing out of the state border within the hour. I might anyway. So let’s get into it.

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Day 1

Redding, CA. We had just picked up our personal space wizard and grand master, Kyle and crossed into beautiful Northern California. It was easily the hottest day of the tour yet and we don’t have AC, so our drive was pretty gnarly. We wound up getting into town around 10 PM and stayed at the Win-River Casino, a charming establishment that pretty much drained all of Kyle’s money. I think I won 4 cents? We kept it moderately tame that night and prepared for our journey to San Francisco.

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Day 2

San Francisco. I don’t think it’s necessary to explain to you how privileged we are to be able to say we played the Fillmore but let me say this, we played the fucking Fillmore. I still don’t even know if that has fully sunk in yet. When you first walk into that venue, until the moment you leave you can feel the ghost of Janis Joplin whispering a dirty joke in your ear. You can almost see Bill Graham chopping up lines of pure cocaine with Jimi Hendrix and three flowery blonde teenagers in the dressing room. Gwen Stefani jumping 4 feet in the air singing “Sunday Morning” while Bradley Nowell drifts into his comfortably numb daze back stage. I was so excited about having all of my gear in working order after three shows of faulty equipment. I had every pedal fixed, the guitar input jack fixed, new cables… So naturally my amp would blow half way through the set. Why not? Only that night I didn’t care. I struggled for about two minutes while the boys held down a groove. Eventually Black Map’s tech just came out and plugged me into their amp, which sounded leagues different than mine but worked. I swear that was Jimi’s ghost messing with me. Saying “You haven’t earned it yet boy. You want this? Fight for it. Fight boy.” And fight we did. I wouldn’t call the show a disaster, but it certainly wasn’t our best. Regardless, we did it. We played songs that were written from within on one of the world’s most legendary stages.

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Another one our spirit animals, by the name Of Matt “Kingsnake” Dwyer, was in attendance with his beautiful fiancé Atiyah. We’re super lucky to have those two in our lives. Matt happens to have a bitchin’ Fender amp and told us we could have it for as long as we need it to complete this tour. Thanks Matt. Lifesaver. We also ran into our good friend Brandon Eardley. So great seeing him. He played in a band called Roots Down Below back in the day to whom we owe much respect. They kind of paved a path for us back in our hometown and I learned much of what I know from that man on guitar. I used to watch them in awe as a teenager before I ever knew this would really happen for us. I still watch him in awe when he plays. The dude is the real deal. We knew we were in for a 9-hour drive to San Diego and had to be on time for 3 PM sound check so there wasn’t really any sleep. After a quick jam session in Oakland at Matt’s house we decided we would drive through the night. Onward tan chariot.

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Day 3

San Diego. After making killer time on the road overnight we wound up hitting San Diego around 10 AM. This is the California you see in the movies. The California I’ve dreamt about my entire life. Palm trees upon palm trees. Are you kidding me? Palm trees are a real thing? You bet your ass they are. Knowing we had 5 hours until sound check, there was only one logical thing to do. BEACH DAY! The mid-tour reward. We hit up Mission Beach and Tim and I went directly to the surf bar on the beach for some Baja fish tacos and a few cold Micheladas. We are a little obsessed with Micheladas. We call them ‘meeches’ for short. We renamed the beach the ‘Meech Beach’.

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So I guess it’s no secret by now how fond I am of women. A hopeless romantic with eyes as wide as saucers so let’s get into it a bit. What the fuck Southern California? Are you trying to give this young man a heart attack? You stole every hot girl west of New York City and put her into itty-bitty, teeny-weeny, yellow polka dot bikinis before placing them on Meech Beach. None of us even knew what to do about it. That beach was just an oasis of sun, surf, meeches and babes. A modern fairy tale. I’d prefer that beach to anything heaven could ever offer. Growing up on the Atlantic we had always dreamt of the Pacific. I think I mentioned that in Tour Diary 4. So needless to say, swimming in true wide-open Pacific was the definition of a dream come true. I think I could have swam right to Hawaii, no problem. There was a moment that hit me really hard when I was underwater pretending to be a shark. It was just a moment of disbelief- “…Did I really play at the Fillmore in San Francisco last night? And now am I a Pacific coast shark surrounded by palm trees and Barbies? IS THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING OR DID I JUST GET TOO HIGH AND PASS OUT DREAMING!!?? No motherfucker- Get a hold of yourself. You earned this.”

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So after that absolute mind-fuck of a day we headed to the San Diego House of Blues. Guess what? Zero problems with the gear. We tore that stage up hard. Like real hard. We needed it too after 4 shows of technical difficulties. It was time to make the other bands sweat a little bit. Remind everyone why we’re here. Hadn’t felt that good about a show since Montana. The crowd was super receptive and I’m pretty sure we made some real fans.

After the show we hit up the strip. An area called the Gaslamp District, filled with all those girls that were on the beach earlier. It was pretty rad but we got invited to this party like half a mile away. Got to the address but the girl that gave me the invite decided to blow me off and not pick up her phone. I can say with full confidence that this was entirely her loss. We turned around to walk down the steps and there he was. Marcos. A blonde haired, blue eyed Mexican man who could only be compared to that guy from the Dos Equis commercials. The most interesting man in the world. He even talked like him. Out of nowhere, he just invites us into his Baja bungalow for glasses of fine wine. But that’s not even the best part. Marcos tells us of this magical hidden recording studio that we could check out right at that moment, which was now pushing 5 AM. Of course Marcos. Yes, please Marcos. And just like that, bam. We were in. It’s a shame Rich and Ryan weren’t there because it would have been a great opportunity to throw something down but they usually turn in before I do. On this night I was with Madge, Tim, Mark, Kylor and Marcos. There was this totally eccentric couple in the studio making the most beautiful music. Strat and Mouse. You mark my words they will be famous. She looked like Rob Zombies wife, that pretty blonde from The Devil’s Rejects.. So much personality. She acted just like that character in the movie too. Really intense, the voice of an American Amy Winehouse. And Strat.. That boy can play the hell out of any instrument made. Super cool experience meeting them. Humbling. I felt like I was in the presence of genius and I just know that one day they are gonna make the big stage.

Stayed with them until about 7am before doing that morning zombie walk in the previous nights clothes back to the hotel.

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Day 4

Los Angeles. All of my life I’ve only heard two things about LA. You’re gonna love it. You’re gonna hate it. Well? What’s the verdict? Love love love, all day baby. It’s kind of like New York in some ways, but completely different in others. Hard to put that into words unless you’ve experienced both. If you know what I’m saying. If not you should make it a point to find out. We finally had a full day off with not too bad of a drive from San Diego to LA. Tim checked us in to the hotel across from the Wiltern Theatre and then jumped out of the car before we even got there to meet up with his New York squeeze who flew out to see the show. He needed a well-deserved break from us goons so they got a totally different hotel. The rest of us decided to check out the bars. Obviously. And meet up with one of our homies that we hadn’t seen in close to a decade. So good to see you Dave! We went to a really cool bar that I can’t tell you the name of and I’ll explain that a little further on. I met up with a Tinder girl who was a model from New Zealand doing her thing in LA for a bit. She was super cool and we all went to this sketchy ass speakeasy after that which was heavily guarded by who were obviously affiliate members of some Latin gang. They didn’t stab me over my face tattoo so all was well and the night when exactly as it should have for everyone.

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Day 5

Pretty much slept all day right up until the show at the Wiltern Theatre. Ok, so I’m gonna cut to the chase here and just say that the show was top 5 for me. That says a lot when you’ve played 800 shows with your band. But there is no question about it. The energy, the feel.. Everything just hit. We are out of most of our slump and not taking any prisoners. The sound was INCREDIBLE. Both onstage and front of house. I felt like I was listening to some great band instead of just hearing my own voice rattling through the back of my head like usual. It was so great to get a chance to play for some of our LA friends, the Bobal Boys, Dave, Leanne, Jessa, and Audrey to name a few. And the twins’ cousin Jess flew out from Philly but I personally didn’t get a chance to see her. It was tough trying to catch up with everyone in one night but did the best I could. Finally once all was said and done I gave a shout to the bartender that was working at the previous nights bar of which I can’t tell you the name of because she asked me not to. That’s because not only does she work there, but she also happens to be a famous pin up model. Gia Genevieve. The epitome of a modern Marilyn Monroe. Sweet and kind with a smile that could ease the mind of the most hardened of warriors. ‘Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard’- I know what Sheryl Crow was talking about now.

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Thank you LA. Thank you California. You were everything I’ve ever wanted and more. God. The lump in my throat just got bigger. But I guess you haven’t really lived life if you make it through without losing pieces of your heart. Should be in Las Vegas pretty soon. We just found out that we don’t have the hotel room that we thought was being provided for us, and everything everywhere is sold out. Oh well. No fucks given. Gonna wing it. Get weird with it. Shit I’ll tell you what, I plan on hitting the jackpot, buying Gia a pink Cadillac, and driving that son of a bitch right back through this miserable Mojave desert to drop it off at her doorstep.

 

– Johnny




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