By Bob Carlton
on tour with a local rock band: cockroaches, car trouble,
canceled gigs, waning label support—and the redemptive joy
of playing music wherever people will listen Day One
so here’s the plan. Get up, get my shit together, say goodbye
to my wife, pick up the band at 11 AM, load up the van, pick
up our friend Steve (he’s playing roadie on this tour) and
be on the road by noon. We’ll race down to Point Pleasant,
N.J., and pick up the new van Gig Records offered us for this
tour, then head to South Amboy, N.J., and play a great rock
Here’s what actually happens: I don’t get to the band until
12:30, then we run around town doing last-minute things. So
technically we don’t get on the Northway until 1:30. We head
down to Jersey at around 65 mph until we hit a real nasty
snowstorm. That slows us down to about 50 mph. By the time
we get to Point Pleasant, the weather has turned real shitty.
Luckily, we get there in one piece. We pick up our swanky
new van with a trailer on the back, and Joel and Steve watch
The Jerk on the TV in the back while I drive through
a complete whiteout. By now, the weather has turned real bad.
We pull over in Middletown, N.J., to call the club and let
them know that we are going to be late. Turns out that the
club shut down early for the night due to the storm, so the
show is canceled. So instead of playing tonight, we sit in
at an Outback Steakhouse watching the snow come in sideways.
Great way to start a tour.
we’re heading to Baltimore to play a show. The only problem
is Gig Records fucked up, so there is no show tonight. The
tour is slowly turning into a disaster. Steve tells me that
when the Clash and the Sex Pistols toured together, they had
more than 20 shows canceled. I remind him that we are neither
the Clash nor the Sex Pistols. We decide to lift morale by
spending the day in Atlantic City. Rachael loses $15, Steve
loses $5, Joel doesn’t bet and somehow I walk away $28 richer.
After spending several hours there, we jump in the van, pick
up a 30-pack of Miller High Life and go to our hotel and relax.
Luckily, VH1 is airing a Behind the Music on the Cult.
Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad.
everyone showered up, we all got into the van and headed over
to Denny’s. Every morning the band members get five bucks
to live on for that day. It’s amazing how far five dollars
will go if you stretch it out.
Today is a driving day for the band. Doesn’t matter anyway,
because we haven’t played a show yet, so every day has been
a driving day. Joel is teaching Steve how to play gin rummy,
and Rach and I spend the evening winding down with some TV.
Eventually we are going to have to make a beer run. So far
the tour has been plagued with bad luck. I’m not sure if it’ll
get better or worse. This is our seventh tour, and I still
have no idea how to make everything perfect.
we hauled our asses to Virginia Beach, Va., only to find that
the asshole booking agent denies ever booking us. I hate the
fuckers who think they have every band by the balls. It’s
people like this guy who make playing music suck. I partially
blame myself, because when I booked the show, I told him that
I would send out the contract right away. He told me not to
bother because he doesn’t like to deal with contracts, so
I didn’t. Lesson fucking learned. It’s just so frustrating—the
band is losing money, I’m losing money, and we’re all itching
to play. And to make matters worse, the club in Chapel Hill
called us to let us know that Edwin McCain canceled his gig
for tomorrow. We were supposed to be the opening act. They
tell us that the entire show is canceled—they don’t want an
out-of-town band playing without a headliner, because North
Carolina and the University of North Carolina are playing
a big basketball game that night. The entire population of
Chapel Hill and its surrounding area will be there. Thanks
a lot, Edwin McCain. Can this get any worse? I hope the fuck
not. To make myself feel better, I advance the rest of the
shows. Everything after Chapel Hill looks good. We eat at
Applebee’s and check into another hotel. After a quick beer
run, we settle into our room to play cards and watch TV. Damn,
Steve is becoming a good gin rummy player.
get to Charleston, S.C., and check into our room. Cockroaches
are pretty common down here, and Joel hates cockroaches. Well,
our room has a few of them, and one of them crawls around
Joel’s bag and then darts off under the bed. Rach and I tell
him we saw it crawl into his bag. It was pretty funny to see
him slowly open his bag and then use his drumsticks to pull
out articles of clothing as if he were in the middle of some
complicated brain surgery. We head over to the club around
8. We’re playing the Reef—pretty big place with a nice stage.
We meet up with the other band, and they seem very nice. It’s
a modest crowd, and most of them are here to see the headliner.
We actually play a decent show, considering that we haven’t
played in a while. We hang out till the headlining band finishes,
get paid and go back to the hotel. When we get there, Joel
moves beds to hunt for roaches. He finds at least eight of
them scurrying around the room. I think I’m going to sleep
in the van tonight. We never tell Joel the roach didn’t actually
go into his bag.
doesn’t matter how long we’re out on tour or how well the
tour is going—good or bad, I always find myself being homesick
by the time we’re halfway through. My wife is my best friend
in the entire world, and I’ll be away from her for a long
period of time. That’s not easy. Funny thing is, not only
do you miss the big important things, you also miss the not-so-important
things—how your pillow feels, your couch, the way your wife
slightly overcooks her scrambled eggs. Hell, I even miss the
Today the band traveled to Atlanta to play the Star Bar. We
had a great show, sold plenty of merchandise and had a great
time. The staff treated us with respect and the music fans
were even better. Funny thing is, I would trade it all just
to be home with my wife and her slightly overcooked eggs.
we head into Athens, Ga. We’re first on the bill of three
bands. Tonight’s crowd is a bit thin. I’m surprised because
the local music magazine gave us a great write-up, and in
the past we’ve done pretty well in Athens. The door guy tells
me that in the past couple of years the music scene has changed
a bit. Cover bands now rule the Athens music scene. Unfortunately,
it’s not just Athens. Cover bands seem to rule almost every
city in America, including Albany. Turns out that the Dave
Matthews Cover Band, also known as DMCB (yes, this is their
actual name), are playing down the street. To make matters
worse, indie-rock band Elf Power are playing nearby at the
40 Watt Club. Damn, I love Elf Power. Whatever the reason,
hundreds of kids are at the Georgia Theater to see a Dave
Mathews cover band while we play to a small crowd. On a good
note, Elf Power doesn’t hit the stage till midnight. So after
the Dryer show, Steve and I head over to the 40 Watt Club
while Joel and Rach go back to the hotel. We enter the club
in time to catch Elf Power’s last few songs, two of which
are covers. How ironic.
Sunday, and there is no show scheduled for today. Our next
show is in Birmingham, Ala., about three hours from here.
We decide to do absolutely nothing today and just stay in
Athens. We watch football, do laundry, check e-mail, call
home and catch up on some rest. It’s a nice day. I did want
to spend the day in search of great Georgia barbecue. But
I’ve been told
that you can’t get barbecue on a Sunday, at least not the
good stuff. Well, what the fuck! Sunday is the perfect day
for barbecue. I thought everyone barbecues on Sunday. Turns
out that the best barbecue in Athens is done by the local
Baptists. Well, that sucks for me. Thanks a lot, religion.
tour has one funny disaster story, and this one is no different.
Tonight, while we were leaving the venue, I somehow got the
van and the trailer wedged up onto a curb. So the van was
sitting on top of the curb in this kind of see-saw situation.
For some reason, I didn’t hear Steve tell me that the curb
ahead of us was very large and that maybe I should veer off
to the right. By the time I figured out that he was warning
me, I heard a huge THUMP followed by grinding metal. So it
was 3 in the morning, the van was halfway in the road, the
trailer was still in the parking lot and we were sitting in
the van wondering what to do. Lucky for us, the bar was filled
with plenty of drunk patrons with plenty of ideas. We had
people jack up the trailer, while others tried jacking up
the van. One guy suggested that we take the trailer hitch
and “bust the shit up.” We had cinder blocks under the tires,
tree branches, two-by-fours. You name it, we used it. At one
point there were about 14 people in the parking lot, all trying
to figure out how to free the van. We finally got out of there
and back to our hotel.
Steve, Joel and I killed some time at the Best Buy in Bowling
Green, Ky. Rachael took advantage of our outing to spend some
time alone. Hey, I don’t blame her. When you’re stuck with
the same three people everyday for two weeks, you need to
find time to be alone. Not that we are not getting along on
this tour, we are getting along just fine. As a matter of
fact, I don’t think we’ve gotten into one fight on this tour.
I don’t know what made me think of this just now, but the
other day in Atlanta, a guy came up to me and told me that
I was going to be famous someday. I asked him why, and he
said “I don’t know, I’m drunk.” I love being in a band.
low attendance was affected by several things. We’ve never
played in Indianapolis, it was raining heavily, our label
did absolutely zero radio promotion, it was a shitty Thursday
night, and the local band we played with was playing the next
night elsewhere in town. Some bands will play every weekend
in town and then wonder why people don’t come out. (In our
case, we just wonder why people don’t come out at all, but
that’s another issue.) So anyway, with low attendance and
all, we still played a good show. It was a bit sloppy, but
we had fun. We met nice people at the venue, sucked down free
beer, and got paid to play our music. Everything was fine
until we got to our hotel, when all of a sudden the van did
a weird thing. Yep, the 2000 Dodge van that the label gave
us made a loud thumping sound whenever we turned the wheel.
It was late, so we figured we’d take care of it early tomorrow
before we left for Chicago.
woke up around 10 today, got some food and then brought the
van to a mechanic. He told us that we needed two parts replaced
in the front wheel, and that if we didn’t replace them, we
would run a huge risk by driving to Chicago. We called the
label, and they basically said we were on our own. Well, thank
you, Gig Records. We realized that the label never ever asked
how the band was doing or how the shows were. Every time we
called them, they just asked about the van. We’re starting
to understand what their priorities are. I really hate our
record label right now. Plus they call me “bro,” and I hate
that even more. How could things get worse?
Well, this is how. The mechanic tells us that the parts we
need won’t be here until tomorrow. That’s no good, because
we need to be in Chicago today. We decide to take a chance
and drive on the faulty front end. The people at the garage
put our van back together and do what they can to make sure
we get to Chicago safely. Well, it works—we get to the club,
meet up with our friend Ashley, and have our first decent
meal in days. We play with a shitty boring band that sounds
like any other crap you would hear on any shitty alternarock
radio station. We also play with another band called Family
Haircut. They rock, but everyone leaves when they come on.
it’s the last day of the tour, and we’re all excited that
we’re heading home. We have one more show in Detroit, and
then the plan is to haul ass to New York. It’s about a 12-hour
ride home. Rachael and I plan on driving the first half, then
Joel and Steve will take over on the second half. Exhaustion
is starting to hit the band. All those late nights, combined
with all the drinking, are catching up to us.
Tonight, we play a place called the Old Miami. Man, Detroit
is such a shit hole. (My apologies to anyone who lives here
or is from here.) The last time we played here, Joel was accosted
by a drunk guy with a peg leg with a radio hanging off it,
who was looking for some money because he watched over our
van while we were loading out. The whole time he just slurred
the words “How about some compensation?”
We pull into the club around 7 PM and load in to what looks
like someone’s basement, except this basement has a stage
and a bar. I guess the bar is an old Vietnam vet hangout by
day and then a rock club at night. I find it hard to imagine
war vets hanging out here, but there they are, lined up at
Rachael and I get into an argument after soundcheck. The first
fight of the tour. It’s funny that it happens on the last
day. I’m surprised that it took so long to happen. We fight
about what song to soundcheck with—how stupid is that? But
that’s what happens when you’re cooped up together for a long
time. I admit it’s mostly my fault, though most of it comes
from being really tired and really wanting to go home.
I decided to take a nap in the van while the rest of the band
got some food. Steve chose to walk to a local pizzeria alone,
but the bartender told him that he shouldn’t walk the two
blocks alone. Steve laughed it off, but after another thorough
warning, Joel went with him. Hanging on the wall by the entrance
is a poster of a former patron at the bar. I guess there is
a $1,000 reward to anyone with information on who shot the
guy. I’m glad Joel went with Steve. I realize that this could
happen anywhere, but for some reason being in Detroit makes
What did Kiss ever see in Detroit?
about 40 minutes from home, and I can’t wait to see my wife.
As for the dog, yeah, I guess I’m looking forward to seeing
him, too. It’s weird because during the tour, two weeks felt
like forever. But when I think back on it, two weeks seem
to fly by and the days seem to smoosh into each other. We
had a blast driving around the East Coast playing our songs
to people, and though we never had big crowds, the people
who stayed and listened really enjoyed us. That’s all that
really mattered to us, anyway. Even if there were only two
people in the audience, we always played as if it the club
were packed with 1,000 people.
Rotten once asked, “Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve
been cheated?” Well, when I think back on our two-week tour,
I start to think the same thing. Have we been cheated? The
business side of music sucks, and Gig Records pretty much
proved to us that it sucks. Our relationship with Gig Records
has rapidly fallen apart since we’ve been home. We haven’t
spoken to each other in a week. As a matter of fact, the last
time they talked to me, they only asked if we had the receipts
for the tire rotation and oil change. Again, they mentioned
nothing about the band or the tour. They just asked about
the van. You would expect a small indie label to treat their
bands with more respect. Guess I was wrong.
So why do we do it? When this band started, I was 24. I’m
32 now. Our crowds haven’t gotten any bigger since our very
first show, we haven’t won any readers’ polls, no one is beating
down our door to pick up where Gig Records left off, and we’re
not making any money. So why does Dryer continue to play shows
and put out music?
Well, here’s the answer. We believe in each other. It sounds
really stupid and clichéd, but it’s true. I’m lucky to be
playing music with two extremely talented people. And we’re
lucky to be surrounded by loved ones and friends who really
believe in the band. That’s what keeps us going. That’s why
we will continue to write music. We’re not going to let some
small shitty label out of New Jersey ruin our dreams of selling