Fall Tour Pt. 17: Politicians in My Eyes

Posted in Features on October 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

sky from bridge

10.30.14 — 4:17PM — Thursday — Johnny Brenda’s, Philly

“We got a call about a suspicious van…” — The Cop

The smell of barbecue sauce is immediate and pervasive upon walking into Johnny Brenda’s. I’ve said many times before that I’m a huge dork for Philadelphia, and there are a lot of times I miss being in Philly more than New York since I moved away last year. Even being a two-hour drive from this city, just knowing it was there was reassuring. The area around Johnny Brenda’s is much the same as I last left it — hasn’t been that long — if incrementally more gentrified. Someone should set up a camera on Girard Street and do a time lapse for the next five years. You can see the property values being raised in real-time.

A knock came on the hotel door this morning and it was Carl saying we were leaving. Like now? Like now. I took a quick shower anyway — there was time — and hit the Flying J for coffee, iced tea, orange juice and some Tylenol Cold and Sinus. I’d woken up coughing pretty viciously and needed to get that shit under control. Still feel better today than yesterday as regards tour ebola, better than in Pittsburgh. Coffee was alright, which was fortunate because I bought a 24 oz. cup of it, and soon enough we got going. Carl’s had an abscess on his leg for most of the tour and yesterday it became clear enough that it wasn’t going to go away on its own and something needed to be done about it. By something, I mean a lancing and draining of pus. Pop.

He and Steve had tried to go to an urgi-center this morning near the hotel, but to no avail in terms of the place taking Carl’s phillyinsurance, so we had to head north a bit into Jersey to find another spot. I think we were somewhere around Cherry Hill when we pulled into the parking lot and he went in, set about filling out forms and all the rest. Steve and Jim Pitts went for a bite of pizza and C-Wolf, Rob, Aaron and I just hung around by the van. It was going to be a while, and yeah, that’s how it worked out. Rob went down the way to CVS and bought a devil mask that he may or may not wear tomorrow night in Burlington for the Halloween show, and I started the review of last night sitting in the parking lot using the place’s wifi so as not to eat up data in the van. My hope is it was vaguely coherent, but I have my doubts. The whole idea for today was that since there wasn’t a long drive — we’ll have five hours tomorrow, give or take, up to Burlington after two-and-a-half tonight to Steve’s place outside NYC — we’d just kind of loaf around the Comfort Inn until it was time to head to Philly. Didn’t quite pan out.

Carl had gone to the CVS to fill his prescription when the cops showed up. Two cars, two officers, said they’d gotten a call about the van. Fair enough. School kids were crossing the street by then and legitimately, it’s a van full of weirdos and longhairs. I mean, in a perfect world they’d be too busy locking up ass-grabbing crossing guards and shit, but I get where they’d want to ask a question and confirm what we were doing there. Steve explained to them that we’re just souls whose intentions are good and asked that we please not be misunderstood. It was an easy enough interaction but any time the cops are involved it could just as easily go the other way, so yeah, a little tense. We picked Carl up in the CVS parking lot and headed out at a perfectly normal speed. Nothing to see here, folks.

In the spirit of Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar, Johnny Brenda’s is a small place that does good shows. The difference is there’s also a bar/restaurant downstairs here. The gig is sold out, so I expect it will be good and crowded offstage as well as on. I should probably get some food between now and then, or I could just sit here and continue to cough.

 

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Fall Tour 2014 Pt. 15: Ape is High

Posted in Features on October 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

into baltimore

10.29.14 — 5:22PM — Wednesday evening — Soundstage, Baltimore

“He is an epic failure.” — Aaron Bumpus, about anyone, ever.

Tour ebola is better today, or at least that’s what I’ve been forcing myself to believe as I mainline vitamin C and DayQuil. Tried to pick up some more Advil as well at a truck stop along the way, but failed. I wound up trying to charge an orange juice and had to buy a York Peppermint Patty to get past the two-dollar minimum for credit cards. Feels good. Rock and roll.

camden yardsJim Pitts picked up some Who and Thin Lizzy CDs and we listened to them in the van. Probably the right call as we made our way through cold, grey, bum-you-right-out Pennsylvania. I don’t know how many different weather systems we’ve seen — it was like 75 degrees when we got to Cleveland — but it’s been at least three so far, and there are still five shows left. It’s a small wonder the van resounds with coughs.

Slow start to the day, but the good news is I slept and slept hard. I didn’t necessarily feel like I had a choice in that — it was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not — but I’m glad it did. There was about an hour to kill before we left out of New Stanton, where we stayed last night, and headed to Baltimore, so I nodded back off after showering as well. The more the merrier, even if I continued to wake myself up coughing, and likely Carl as well, who has the misfortune to be sharing my room.

Trip to Baltimore was uneventful in the extreme except for Aaron introducing all of us to Mandrill Is, the 1971 second album from NYC’s Mandrill, who ran a line between funk and soul and rock and about five other genres before they were done. I was way into it. Pretty expensive on CD, but I’ll keep my eyes open for a copy. We stopped at a music store so Rob could get a backup head for his kick drum, and there was a barbecue pub right next door so the pentagram soundcheckpre-show meal was had there. Early dinner, I guess. I had yet another in my ongoing series of chicken caesar salads. Chicken was good but the salad itself had almost no dressing on it. I didn’t care. I’ll take raw ruffage at this point. As long as it’s not from a gas station. Jim also bought dinner for everyone, which was very kind, but I threw in cash for myself since it didn’t feel right. Dude certainly doesn’t owe me anything and it’s not like I’m in the band. I don’t know.

Baltimore’s own The Pilgrim are opening the show tonight at Soundstage, so it’s five bands. I remember their self-titled CD from a couple years back was cool, so it will be interesting to see them live and see where they’re at now. Pentagram were soundchecking when we got here and I got to hear them do “Walk in the Blue Light,” which was right on because it’s a good song and though it’s written on the setlist for each night, they haven’t actually been playing it, I guess opting for the Animals cover instead. No complaints there, but if it was one or the other, I’d probably take the original. Whatever my druthers are worth in things like salads and Pentagram setlists.

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Fall Tour Pt. 13: Heaven and Hell

Posted in Features on October 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

pittsburgh

10.28.14 — 5:52PM — Tuesday evening — Mr. Smalls balcony, Pittsburgh, PA

“I am Dr. Remulak. I am Dr. Remulak.” — Chris Skowronski and Rob Sefcik

My head feels like it’s going to cave in. Not in that good, rock and roll kind of way either, like when I watched Beast in the Field the other night. Like in the my-sinuses-have-revolted-and-are-trying-to take-the-rest-of-me-down-from-the-inside kind of way. I could feel it yesterday (was that yesterday?) when I woke up at Postman Dan’s, but it started to get real bad overnight last night, tossing and turning, unable to breathe and all that wonderful at vanhaving-a-cold stuff. Traveling sick. I used to call it SARS. I guess if I wanted to be current I’d call it ebola. Another day, another plague.

I had a cold the week before I left to come on this tour, but was pretty sure I’d gotten over it, so I think this is just another round from the road time, lack of sleep and so on. I got maybe four hours of sleep last night, nodded off at 3:30 and woke up at 4:45 just in agony. It sucked. I shit you not, I walked outside the Red Roof Inn to see how far away I was from the traffic I wanted to go play in, but I was too far to even do that. Fucking brutal. Today I’ve been a full-on booger fountain, and coughing, and the pressure in my head pounding away. I claimed a spot on the balcony at Mr. Smalls — which as a photographer I met in Cleveland last night told me, is an awesome room in a converted old church — and plan to stay here for the duration, but even so, I might not make it through the show before I go back and lay down in the van. Aaron was kind enough to give me a pack of Halls he had that was apparently a spare, and I bought some severe strength DayQuil and have taken Advil in an attempt to bring the swelling down in my sinuses, but nothing’s given me any real relief. I’m also warm as fuck and think it’s probably a fever. My Ron Burgundy impression has taken a real hit as a result.

Honestly, feeling like shit has been my major activity for the day. We stopped once in Ohio on the way to Pittsburgh and sat in some bridge traffic once we got to the city, but other than stopping for a very quiet pre-show meal — not quite dinner, not quite lunch — at some sub-hipster exposed-brick brewpub in what quickly got referred to as the “Massage District” and getting a chicken caesar wrap and some fries and foolishly not getting a cup of coffee when it was being ordered, it’s been pretty tame. There’s like a 70 percent chance I’m going to take my shoes off as I watch this show tonight sitting on the balcony. Maybe band eatingeven 83 percent. It’s going up by the minute because tilting my head downward to look at the laptop monitor is pushing all the mucus toward my face. Once again, brutal.

It’s worth noting that as of tonight, this tour is more than halfway over. Pittsburgh is the fifth of the 10 dates Kings Destroy are doing with Radio Moscow, Bang and Pentagram, but when you factor in the Lansing show, it’s the centerpiece of an 11-date run and it’ll mean more than half the tour is down when it’s over. A while to go before we get there, since the night hasn’t started, and I won’t say I’m not looking forward to watching the gig, but neither will I mind falling asleep as quickly as I possibly can afterwards and hopefully staying that way for at least five solid hours. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable demand, but we’ll see how it goes.

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Fall Tour Pt. 11: Just Don’t Know

Posted in Features on October 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

michigan sunset

10.27.14 — 2:27PM — Monday afternoon — En route to Cleveland

“She’s not real pretty, but she’s rich.” – Postman Dan, on Senator Dianne Feinstein

I snapped the above picture last night before the show of the sunset in Michigan. If it looks peaceful or serene in any way, then please just imagine the exact opposite for how the rest of the night played out after the show ended. As ever, the party was at Postman Dan’s place — the Postmansion — which is an old converted church that he’s essentially corrupted in the name of riff worship and nuanced horticulture. Radio Moscow, who’d been hanging out at the show, came back as well, and Travis from Hydro-Phonic and two of the other members from Dan’s band Cruthu, and of course Mama Jo, Connie, Jim Pitts and I. Made for a crowded kitchen, but there were drinks flowing and Elonkorjuu playing through Dan’s kitchen setup — Swedish heavy prog as party music: awesome — and it escalated quickly. Charm-laden debauchery. Loud voices. Blatant social interaction. Enjoyment of good people and good times. Terrifying.

Dan had set me up with a bedroom, but once I’d charged the camera battery and dumped the pics from the show, postman dan's streetI abdicated to Steve to let him sleep in a bed and said I’d go crash in the van. Great idea. Believe it or not, it wouldn’t be the first time I slept in a van in Postman Dan’s driveway. I think the third. It was about 3:30 in the morning by then and I was ready to crash out, so I went into the driveway. It wasn’t quite at the freezing point, but it was certainly cold enough that Carl remarked this morning that the beer left out here overnight was still chilled. I set up on the back bench with my hoodie on and my bookbag for a pillow and Mystery Science Theater 3000 playing and managed to crash for about an hour, but by 4:45, I was awake and too cold to really go back to sleep, so I decided to see if I could find someplace in the house that wasn’t yet occupied.

My mistake was thinking the festivities would’ve ended by then. Dan, Scott from Cruthu and Paul from Radio Moscow were up playing pool. I couldn’t see them at first through the window and the front door was locked and my phone was dead, so I had a moment of panic that I was going to be stuck outside for the night, but they were there and Dan let me in, wondering why I wasn’t upstairs asleep. Music still playing, though they’d moved on from Elonkorjuu to something else heavy ’70s. Fair enough. Dan took me up to his room and told me to take his bed, he’d sort something out and it was 5AM and I was too cold and tired to argue. I could still hear the music coming up from downstairs, but I nodded off for about an hour and a half and then set to work sorting pictures around 6:30, which I’d fleetwood dinerfind out later was when the last stragglers fell out. I started writing the show review but was nodding off again soon enough and slept for maybe another hour between seven and eight. I’ve been up since.

No shower on the way out, but breakfast at the Fleetwood Diner in Lansing hit the spot — try the Hippie Hash — and we got on the highway shortly thereafter to head for Cleveland. The tour resumes tonight with Kings Destroy, Pentagram, Radio Moscow and Bang and the show is at House of Blues, so should be more like Minneapolis than Grand Rapids, though I’ll take it either way. I expect by the end of the night I’ll smell even worse than I already do, and there are some vicious sleepytime farts floating around the mostly-napping rear portion of this van. Might need to air that out at some point as we roll toward the cruel inevitability of the Ohio Turnpike.

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Fall Tour Pt. 9: Thick as a Brick

Posted in Features on October 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

lake michigan

10.26.14 — 3:30PM Eastern — Sunday afternoon — White Swan B&B, Gowen, MI

“He had twice devised the perpetual motion machine.” – Phil Jackson

I drove from the venue last night through some Michigan back roads. Steve had found this place on Airbnb that he said was a lake house with four bedroom that has bands stay on the cheap, and I was expecting something pretty deluxe, but I don’t think I imagined the kind of space this actually is, all wood floors, granite counters, old photographs on the walls. And as if it needed to be more idyllic, there’s a puppy running around. They call it the White Swan B&B. The guy who owns the house was a rock photographer for years and still takes pictures around here. Easy to see why and how one would be able to keep busy in such a way. thick as a brickBeautiful. I spent some time outside last night after we rolled in, breathing chilly air and just tilting my head back to zone out in the quiet. A few lights around, but the Milky Way easily visible bifurcating the sky. At one point the count was even between shooting stars and vehicles passing around the road out front of the house. Short of putting on YOB, which I only didn’t do because some fucker stole my iPod out of my car before I left to come on this tour, it was about as close to communing with gods as I come. Very, very cool, and very restorative.

When I came down into the basement last night to sleep on the couch, I found a turntable with Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick on it, which I took as an even better omen since that’s been played a couple times and sung even more in the van. Conked out around 3:45 and woke up this morning a little before breakfast, which was likewise lush and prepared by the the housecouple who own the house, Mary Jo and Ray. Unreal. Bacon, spinach and tomato frittata, potatoes, fresh coffee. Afterwards some of the guys went out on a pontoon boat, Lincoln Lake just feet away from the back door. I didn’t go, had stuff to catch up on, but a little quiet time was good too. The last couple days have been so much rushing around that the chance to stay still for a couple hours feels like twice the luxury, though here it actually is. Radio Moscow and the two ladies they’re traveling with, Mama Jo (no relation to Mary Jo) and Connie came through as well and Steve, Carl and Ray went to the grocery store to buy grillables for a barbecue and to refill the growlers the KD guys got from Hammerheart Brewing the other day, two of which were kicked last night. I asked Steve to get me an orange pepper and he did — it was glorious. I could feel the life returning.

The plan seems to be to barbecue, hang out for a bit and then hit the road to Lansing, which is about an hour away. Show tonight is with Cruthu, Beast in the Field and Hordes, all of whom I’m looking forward to seeing. Kings Destroy are headlining and have grillablesbeen looking forward to playing a longer set than they have been, and I’m dying to see Cruthu and Beast in the Field. I’m not sure where we’re staying tonight yet — I don’t think we’ll be back here since it’ll be an hour in the wrong direction from Cleveland, which is where the Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Bang and Kings Destroy tour picks back up tomorrow, but I wouldn’t mind another look at that night sky if one were in the offing. Or, you know, a lifetime considering this is pretty much my ideal of paradise, right down to the ducks out on the lake talking smack to everyone standing and sitting on the deck with the two grills, one gas, one charcoal, fired up with burgers, sausages, steaks, asparagus, kebabs, more peppers, portobello mushrooms and so on. There have been a few tough rides, but it’s not exactly like this trip has been roughing it sleeping on shitty punk rock basements or anything — there’s wifi in the van — but this place is legitimately wonderful, and there’s been music on just about the whole time we’ve been here.

 

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Fall Tour Pt. 7: Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Posted in Features on October 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

road ranger

10.25.14 — 2:00PM Central — Saturday afternoon — In van somewhere outside Chicago

“My fuckin’ fist is gonna be ‘solid.'” — Steve Murphy

En route from Tomah, Wisconsin, to Grand Rapids, we hit a truckstop pretty early on for coffee. I’d woken up around seven and taken in some of scenic Tomah around the motel, a truck wash next door called “Power Shine,” the sign of which became I guess the equivalent of a back yard tire for the football. Water tower, parking lot, not much else unless you’re into Long John Silver. Rest stop was next to a porn shack and had an Arby’s and a convenience store. Standard the whole way around. Guy in front of me in line was mumbling some unintelligible shit and when I got to the counter, the woman working said that he goes into the place every day and tells her the perverted things he wants to do to her. Her coworker chimed in that he did the same to her and he was a registered sex offender. powershineEvery day, the same shit. It was a bummer story and bummer coffee alike. There was art outside the porn shack. You take the positives where you can get them.

Then we sat in traffic for a solid hour after making the jump from Wisconsin to Illinois. I don’t think we went three miles the whole time. It was brutal. I didn’t count how many “this fucking sucks” there were, but suffice to say consensus was reached, and rightly so. At least for me, things got pretty fucking dire pretty fucking quick, my head spiraling fast into you’re-33-years-old-and-you’re-not-even-playing-these-shows-what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-here and all the rest of it. Oh, the drama. Tough five minutes until I remembered that I hadn’t eaten since fucking yesterday morning and took out a protein bar from my bookbag. Traffic cleared up, my head did likewise, and life improved. A quick stop was made, I think as much to catch breath and stretch legs after sitting in that construction — the nation’s highways: a vision of America’s future world-stage dominance -superstore with art- as to take a leak and grab food. I took a pass on lunch. Have to feel like it was the right call.

There’s a time zone change between here and Grand Rapids, but a lot of good people are coming out to the show tonight, and so I’m looking forward to that and the place we’re staying overnight looks sweet as well, so sign me up. Was in a pretty shitty headspace for a couple minutes there, but tonight and tomorrow are some of what I was most looking forward to about this trip. There’s a little press because time’s a factor and it was even before we sat for an hour and stewed in it, but we’re hauling ass to Grand Rapids now, so that’s something.

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Fall Tour Pt. 5: Goin’ Blind

Posted in Features on October 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

big trees

10.24.14 — 6:02PM — Friday evening — Mill City Nights, Minneapolis, MN

“…some cherry candies for desert.” [sic] — Carl Porcaro

Little things make a huge difference. Some cold water on the face. A protein bar when you’re hungry. Washing your hands. A private bathroom. Some fresh air and sunshine. Advil for sore feet or just general existential soreness. Talking to your significant other. It was a long drive today from where we stopped in Wisconsin last night to Minneapolis — and as I understand it, tomorrow is longer; there was some back and forth on cutting out of this show early, but I have my doubts it will actually come to that — but a good day overall. Part of it is stir-craziness from being in the van, part of it I think is the band getting the first show of the tour over with — also beer — but the mood was pretty relaxed today even with the hours put in.

adult novelties signWe stopped outside Minneapolis at Hammerheart Brewing, which is run by Austin Lunn of the black metal band Panopticon — his most recent album, Roads to the North, was reviewed here. Lots of very Norse and Viking imagery around the place, bare wood, various smoky smells, elaborately conceived brews. The antlers-on-Mjölnir logo summed up a lot of the aesthetic. A poster for a forest-worship black metal fest said no hate and if you couldn’t behave you should stay home, which I thought was fucking awesome. Some asshole will probably still screw it up, but righteous of them to put it on the show poster anyway. I didn’t drink any, but the consensus was that the beer was quality stuff, and it was cool to see Lunn and company passionate about what they were doing at the place. He was kind enough to give the band three growlers with the stipulation that nobody would “drive tired.” It’ll be about three hours back the way we came to where we’re staying tonight — Steve pointed it out as we passed it on the way here. Pretty sure I’m slated to drive later, and pretty sure I’ll be tired when I do it, but I won’t be drunk, and I think that’s what the euphemism was aiming at. A fair trade in any case.

The land on the way to Minneapolis was beautiful and sparse. We got into Wisconsin from Chicago last night, so there was a lot that I couldn’t see — and, presumably, not a lot to see since there were no lights on — but houses dotting rolling hillsides, distant looming smokestacks, gas stations, trucks, intermittent sun and cloud cover, even just enough of a rain splash to give the windshield of the Sprinter a needed once-over, intermittent Heartland porno shacks and fireworks stores, KISS’ Hotter than Hell emanated from the back seat forward as we rolled along, and it was a good time, even if a long trip to Hammerheart and, by extension, here. Different hammerheart logotrees up and around here than were in Illinois and Indiana and Ohio and Pennsylvania. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Midwest, but even the people who randomly said hi at the gas station this morning were incredibly nice and conversational. I think I’m too much of a prick to live with it on a more permanent basis, but it’s nice to visit.

It’s my first time in Minneapolis, and by extension at Mill City Nights. I didn’t see any mills, or at least not current mills — unless The Old Spaghetti Factory counts — but a lot of office buildings, some pretty interesting architecture. The whole town looks new and clean, as if the snow every winter melts and takes the grime with it. The venue is huge on the same scale of Summit Music Hall in Denver, but like the city itself, it seems very new, very recently constructed. Smells like nothing. There’s a balcony that’s crazy deluxe with a full bar, a Red Bull bar, tvs broadcasting the stage, seats and whatnot, and the stage has to be about six feet high in the cavernous space, P.A. speakers hanging on the sides from the ceiling on supported chains. I’m sure it will be plenty loud when the time comes. Not too long from now, actually.

 

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Fall Tour Pt. 3: Knock Three Times

Posted in Features on October 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

morning in ohio

10.23.14 — 4:47PM Central Time — Thursday afternoon — Reggie’s upstairs balcony, Chicago, Illinois

“You guys are dorks.” — Jim Pitts, in response to copious whistling of Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way”

Rolled into Reggie’s a couple minutes ago, a lot of handshaking, smiles and how-ya-doins. A lot of these guys kept in touch after the spring tour, so there’s already a familiarity to the proceedings, at least between the Pentagram camp and the Kings Destroy guys — Radio Moscow isn’t here yet but I’m sure they’ll be along — though I also met Bang and they seem like friendly cats. There’s a kind of happy-anxiousness in the room, but Reggie’s is a cool space, and there’s a balcony, so I’ve more or less already planted phantasmo nerahere while Pentagram does a soundcheck.

Got into (Walt) Clyde, Ohio, in time last night to watch the end of the second game of the World Series. Guys had beers and whatnot, and as there are some tough drives ahead, it was good to crash out relatively early and get up this morning, hit the road leisurely and finish the drive to Chicago. A couple bathroom breaks, a lot of gags in the van, gas station coffee — and, in Rob’s case, gas station hard-boiled eggs — and we still got into town early. I’ve never actually been in Chicago before, just driven through on the highway, which cuts into the city but above the streets. It’s the kind of place you’d have to spend years in to feel like you’d know it, like any city, but at least I can say I’ve been here at this point and not feel like I’m exaggerating.

Because it’s a band traveling, a trip to Chicago’s famous heavy metal burger joint, Kuma’s Corner, was in order for lunch. I had the Kuma Burger, which I guess is the house standard — essentially a bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg on top — and a salad on the side. There were a bunch of burgers named after bands, which is kind of their thing. Aaron had the High on Fire. Had peppers on it and I don’t know what else. Jim Pitts bought a sweatshirt. The place played Pentagram kuma's cornerand Weedeater over the P.A. after a bunch of grindcore and black metal. Cool vibe with some vinyl on a rack, Chicago represented by Minsk, Indian and so on. I dug it, and if you’re ever going to be in a burger coma, Weedeater’s God Luck and Good Speed isn’t a bad way to go.

It was countered in the van by Tony Orlando and Dawn, Cheap Trick power ballads, Frampton, and “Dream Weaver.” Take that, heavy metal. We found Sean and Greg from Pentagram playing basketball in the alley behind the venue when we pulled in, but they and Victor Griffin have started soundchecking now. Bobby Liebling is around here somewhere, he’s been back and forth. I think everybody’s ready to get the tour started, or maybe that’s just me projecting. Either way, I’m glad to be here.

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