Highly Suspect: Tour Diary 6

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So I guess I have a lot of ground to cover. Haven’t spilled my guts since we left Los Angeles. Since then I’ve partied in Vegas, showered in desert rains, fallen in love (again) at least twice, been arrested in New Orleans and was on the run again from police in Tulsa. Shall we get into it?

Las Vegas, NV – This is an extremely easy night to explain to you. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I will let you use your imagination. What I can tell you is that I drove in with a lump in my throat the size of a softball from having to leave California and left with the hangover that only Sin City can provide.

Tempe, AZ – Our drive through the desert was exactly what you’d expect in a van that doesn’t have air conditioning, rolling 6 people deep. Hot. Hot as fuck. It’s a good thing we didn’t let Kyle go home because he was genius enough to develop a sprinkler system that would cool us all down. He achieved this feat of modern technological wizardry by jabbing water bottles with a knife and squeezing them at everyone. It was honestly a lifesaver. Cacti are pretty wild. Some of them stand about 15 feet tall and they look like they’re being held at gunpoint. We were treated to a desert rainstorm of epic proportions. Epic in Arizona terms. It would be the equivalent of a light shower in the Northeast but they are so incredibly rare in Tempe so we felt pretty lucky. This night would be the point in our tour when we would say goodbye to ‘Black Map’. Those dudes are solid as hell and we hope one day to rock with them again. After a strong performance in a Tempe we headed to a bar and feasted on two-dollar drinks. The kind of drinks that made it seem like a good idea to play William Tell in front of a dart board. Just throwing darts at your bros face. No biggie. The challenge was that you couldn’t shut your eyes. I slept in the van that night and woke up pretty sweaty and dehydrated. Onward to Texas.


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Lubbock, TX – Ah Lubbock. Lubbock, Lubbock, Lubbock. The first time I heard the name Lubbock was on HBO’s “True Detective”. The second time was in the movie “Dallas Buyers Club”. Naturally I fantasized about spotting Matthew McConaughey on some dusty road. It didn’t happen. What we did find was a slaughterhouse with a stage in it. That’s right. We played in a slaughterhouse. And it was dope. We could smoke inside, the show was killer, the people in a Lubbock are really friendly and it made for a wonderful night. But that wasn’t the only show I would play that night. Apparently there was a bar down the street with an open mic, so I formed a new band with Tour Manager Tim and Merch Girl Madge from the Brooklyn Punk trio Whiskey Bitches. Tonight we would call ourselves The Schlubs and I would play the bass while Tim provided the beats. Madge was our front woman with a 6 string in hand and we let it rip as best we could. That type of shit is always so fun.. The unknown. Straight music, no pressure, no expectations. It’s funny though how you can go from really being a pro musician and feeling like one, to suddenly traveling back in time to that era when you were a 12 year old kid in the basement because you’re not playing the instrument you know. I mean Madge and Tim killed it, but I SUCK on a bass. I was the true schlub. And I loved it. Made a lady friend that night and met up with the crew the next day. We drove to Dallas and had a pretty restful night. I did anyway, the rest of the crew checked out a local band before retiring. Off to Austin we went.

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Austin, TX Part 1 – Oh boy were we excited to have a full night off in Austin. We had been to Austin only three months prior for SXSW so for the first time on this tour we kind of knew what to expect. We didn’t anticipate the torrential rain that lasted through the entire evening though. We’re talking serious flooding in some parts, but it wasn’t gonna deter us from gettin it in. We decided to just head right into the thick of it on 6th street. I’m sure some of you reading this know that experience. Sure it’s over crowded and college-y but we were ready. I rode my first mechanical bull and surprised everyone including myself. I just pretended that I was a real cowboy. That and pretty much every girl in Trophy Bar was a smokeshow so I didn’t want to look like a bitch. One day I want a mechanical bull in my house, it’s addictive. Ryan knocked it out of the park that night with a real beauty so he disappeared for the night. Tim and Rich turned in early while Madge, Kyle and myself just wild’ed out until we couldn’t go any further. Next Stop Corpus Christi.


Corpus Christi, TX – Sweatiest show of our career. My guitar strap smells awful and needs to be washed. CXTX you rock. Definitely see you again. ASAP.

Austin, TX Part 2 – Best performance we’ve had in Austin out of the three times we’ve ever played in Austin. Got to catch up with my longtime buddy Chip from back east. Austin you already know we’ll be back. Stay weird.

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New Orleans, LA – Oh boy. Where do I even begin? I guess we’ll start with the 10-hour drive we had to make immediately after Austin in order to make it to load-in on time. Kylor beasted the entire trip behind the wheel. That warlock straight popped an Adderall and just did it. Hauled ass and drove through the entire night while we slept. I can remember vivid dreams during that haul. At one point a neon robot peacock named Natalya flew into our van and struck up a conversation about the best dog walking park in New Orleans and said that Ryan and I had to keep our eyes peeled for the dogs that stood on each others backs, sometimes stacked ten high. Rich was driving a disco themed fan boat with Tim. Madge and Kyle were nowhere to be found until the van stopped and they had apparently been riding under it? I would like to tell you that would be crazier than what really happened down there, but it’s not. As I awoke in the car we were driving through a flooded forest. A 22-mile bridge through this gorgeous gator laden swamp. When you get through that suddenly you’re in New Orleans. It was good and time that we hit a Laundromat, so that was stop #1. I didn’t remember to wash the guitar strap. We also didn’t expect to find out that the Laundromat was actually the building that was originally home of J&M studios. Essentially that is the birthplace of recorded Rock and Roll. I mean everyone from Fats Domino to Professor Longhair, Ray Charles to Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby Checker to Little Richard.. That’s where they laid out the hits. It was surreal. We were washing our clothes in rock sauce. Perfect because this would ultimately be the most rock and roll night of my journey thus far.

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After eating some Catfish Po Boys in the pouring Louisiana rain, we made our way to the New Orleans House of Blues. Very cool venue with a banging sound system and a lot of history. The names on the walls made you sweat. Clapton, The Meters, Queens of the Stone Age, Frank Ocean, Grizzly Bear to name a few. I don’t know what was in the air but it was the best performance of our career. Besides maybe that time we ate mushrooms that we turned into a powder and stirred into a bowl of Nutella back at Joe’s Beach Bar on Cape Cod. Space fudge. That show was a trip. Anyway, at the Nola H.o.B, everything just clicked. Ryan and Rich were so tight that Houdini wouldn’t have been able to escape. I felt some type of way and just let go. Painted my heart across the crowd with no chains. That show was legendary. Chevelle really brought the fire too. Whoever was in the crowd that night got their money’s worth. After the show we met these girls that wanted to go out on Bourbon Street with us. One of them was this beautiful blonde that worked at a strip club. I’m not sure where or when it happened, but the rest of my crew decided to do their own thing while I followed the girls. I’m not particularly fond of strip clubs but I figured what the hell, maybe New Orleans could change my mind. Mistake. After being in the club for a half an hour I walked outside the entrance and immediately got punched in the eye. Just like that. One punch, in my eye. Apparently it was the husband of one of these women and they wouldn’t let him in the club so he just waited. Now I want to go on the record by saying I had ZERO interest in his wife but I guess one of the other girls I bought a drink for was also in some relationship with his best friend? I had no idea about this. Not a clue. Sincerely found some fun girls and had a couple drinks to unwind from the show. Harmless. Nonetheless… THWACK.. Eye punch. I just looked at him and said “don’t do that again..” I wanted to hit him, but I’m already on probation in NYC and I didn’t want to do anything that would harm this tour for my friends or our career. I walked away with the other two girls still not knowing why this kid hit me but I was willing to let it go. His wife must have tried to calm him down but it didn’t work. Couldn’t have been two blocks down before I heard the running thumps of an angry drunken husband behind me. So bummed, I knew this wasn’t gonna end well for anyone. Whatever….. Fuck it….. Used my best David Carradine Kung Foo form to use his own momentum against him. That’s when you step out of the way a little bit and kinda flip him over you. I mounted his chest and held his neck down with my left forearm and let the right fist do some work. The cops were on the scene within 30 seconds and ripped me off of him while I got one last kick in. There I was, face pushed into the concrete, right in the middle of Bourbon Street with some 250 lb. NOPD officer digging his knee into my back. The officer ripped my shirt in the process. The shirt I had JUST bought 9 hours earlier. Cuffs. I HATE handcuffs. We were then walked to the precinct, right in front of everyone, my hands were covered in blood, the girls were screaming, and the crowds were staring. Fucking embarrassing when you get arrested. Luckily this kid couldn’t shut up because it made the police respect me more for not responding. I was let go within twenty minutes and I have no idea how long they kept him. I had to buy an NOPD t-shirt to replace my previously awesome black short sleeve button up and spend the rest of my night with this lame ass NOPD advertisement of a shirt and the start of a pretty decent black eye. It’s worse today then it was then, so hats off to that kid for getting in a good one. I’m sure this guy thought he was doing the right thing, love is a powerful emotion. Who knows, maybe he’s a hell of a guy sober, but if you read this bud, understand that I had no intentions of any wrong doing and I hope you at least enjoyed the show. You have a mean right hook. Anyway, I’m really good at making good decisions so it only seemed right to go to another strip club after the cops told me not to get back on that street. Sure officer. Fuck that. I wasn’t gonna let this bullshit ruin my night. We had just crushed the stage and I was in New Orleans with my best friends. Met up with the boys and hit up yet another strip club. Chatted it up with a stripper who grabbed me by the hand and walked me right out of there. She quit her job that night just like that. With my wrist in her hand and her middle finger up to the boss in the other. Drove thirty miles out to some true bayou house for the evening and met up with the boys the next day. New Orleans, you’re a crazy fucking time and I can’t wait to come back.

Little Rock, AR – Stopped in, refused to let myself go out so as to stay out of trouble. Slept damn well too.

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Tulsa, OK – Here it was. The final show with Chevelle, for now. Our Label and Management set up a live shoot for this show with 5 cameras, audio engineers, the works.. It was pretty weird playing with all these cameras on you. I wish they weren’t on my mind so much because it led to mistakes I wouldn’t normally have made. The boys crushed it per usual. It’s so cool to watch them improve at every performance. Hopefully I do too but I can’t see that from within. I can see them though. They are straight beasts and I’m super lucky to get to play with them. We’re all really excited to see the footage because we think a few of the songs will be good enough to release! Tulsa was a blast and it couldn’t have been a better way to go out. Chevelle did an awesome version of “Twinge” – my favorite Chevelle song hands down. They decided to Rick Roll us and play that “Never Gonna Give You Up” song through our monitors throughout our show. I guess that means they like us ;). Apparently they had planned on stealing our cymbals mid-song as well but didn’t want to fuck up our filming. None the less, We couldn’t let that Rick Roll favor go unpaid so while they were on stage I snuck behind the drums and dropped a burrito on Sam’s snare and then shortly after Rich and I walked across the stage in our underwear with a tooth brush and a towel and just pretended we were in a bathroom. Great shit, I love those boys. Them and their whole crew have become family. They gave us a parting gift.. A bottle of Jameson and a bottle of Cuervo. JUST WHAT WE NEED!! Haha.. The boys and the crew headed to the hotel and called it a night. I had met a girl who shared the same name as my cat. I miss that cat so much. She had a little black dress, which was fitting since our beloved Brooklyn cat is all black. We were in the van when all of the sudden two cruisers showed up lights on right behind the trailer. Great. The old clothes scramble. After waiting three minutes wondering why no flashlights were poking through the windows yet we peeked out the window and saw a man failing a sobriety test. Unbelievable.. Decided there was no need to stop so we carried on. We tried to get into our hotel room but I didn’t have a key and it was booked under Ryan’s name. This jerk of a lobby attendant, a real pink bastard, kept shutting our elevator down and watching us struggle. Letting us ride it to our floor, but not letting the doors open when we got there. When we hit the lobby floor I would watch him run and hide from the desk. Finally I walked over to him and asked him why he was doing this to us. Why? Ok, my mates weren’t answering their phones at 5 in the morning but I can give you all the proof you need that says I should be in that room. I mean really? You see me and think I’m not with the other tattooed boys and girl in the room? With New York ID’s? And a shared business account debit card? And the keys to the van? Rather than listen to me, he called the police. Of course. I said fine, I will wait here and when the police show up they will let me into the room that the members of my band and I jointly paid for. The girl I was with wasn’t gonna let that happen. She reminded me that we were in the Bible Belt and that those officers would take one look at me with a black eye and a tattoo on my face and cart me away. So we ran. Hand in hand like a movie, through the streets of Tulsa. Found a cab and took it to her friends house, but her friend was asleep and I guess her friends BF wouldn’t have approved of us sneaking in. So we played in their backyard some more before finally heading to this hotel room that her and her mother were staying in for the night. Her mom was super cool and gave me a ride back to my crew this morning. They’re on their way to Texas now.


“A pain stabbed my heart as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world” Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

A quote that sums up a feeling I’ve had during this trip more than once. There are a lot of songs about this feeling. Roy Orbison has one called Ride Away. You should YouTube it. Soon there will be a new song to help convey the thought.

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So here we are. The end of one small chapter in the history of a little band called Highly Suspect. One that I’ve taken great pleasure in sharing with you all candidly. I’ve learned so much during this trip. About this country, it’s patrons, our band, and myself. I’d like to thank Static Magazine so much for the opportunity to let it all out. Chevelle for making this possible. Our friends who came with us and sweat it out for the long haul just because they believe. Our label, management, booking agent, legal team. The fans. The van. The memories we’ve made are worth more than anything and this has been the summer of my life. Our dream come true. Next stop is Lollapalooza in Chicago. In the mean time we plan on mozying through the Midwest again. See my little bro bro again in Iowa, write some new songs for the album that we will record next month in California. I’m super excited to meet my pen pal at Lollapalooza. I’ve never met her but we’ve been texting pretty much since the day we left Brooklyn.

I love you Rich and Ryan. We’re fucking doing it, and we always knew we could even when they said we couldn’t.


Stay tuned.

Signing out,

Johnny Stevens

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There are 4 comments

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  1. Chris

    Saw you guys at the wiltern and have to say best opening band ever! Definately stole the show that night. You guys gained a new fan and cant wait for a full album and for you guys to rock los angeles again!!

  2. wiyanna

    We loved yall here in NOLA!!!! Sorry for ur bad luck after the show but hell this is new orleans and crazier shit has happened.!! I was right up front of the stage and came and said hi after the show. Let us know when u come back cause I will fef be there!!

  3. Roz

    Read the whole diary tonight with beers. That is some good shit. New Zealand even got a mention and we love that. Come on back, we’ll be waiting for you Down Under xx

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