We were quick to leave Staten Island, and NYC in general, after the show. Melora opted to park their trailer at the ferry terminal and head into Manhattan. They ended up having a wild night with no sleep and showed up in Allentown looking like zombies with a flat trailer tire and some good stories. We chose to head towards Philadelphia to get in some sightseeing there the following day. Friday’s show is actually in Allentown, PA but Philly is a short drive and much more interesting, hence the detour. We made it as far as Trenton, NJ before fatigue set in. We grabbed a cheap room in a Bates-esque motel where Mike promptly broke the air-conditioner. Contrary to popular belief amongst Floridians, it gets equally hot just about everywhere in July so this made for a miserable, almost malarial night. We woke up pretty early and ate breakfast at a Wawa, which we all nominated as the greatest convenience store in the US.We got into Philly at about 11am and promptly sold a CD to a random guy at a gas station. Philly already rules! Several locals strongly suggested we get cheese steaks from Tony Luke’s so we headed there next. I had never eaten there, but I know that any mom and pop neighborhood spot is going to have a better steak than any of the big tourist-y places. The popular demand for a famous spot won out this time though…We all agreed that although it was better than anything we can get within 1,000 miles of home there was room for improvement. We vowed to hit a locals only place next time we were in town. As a side note, I (Jason) had given up eating mammals and had not done so for three months prior to the tour. I knew this situation would eventually present itself and, like any Philly native worth his salt, I caved for this one special occasion. I have since maintained my discipline. After sampling the native cuisine we did a walking tour of the downtown area including South Street, Independence Hall, Center City, and Broad Street. Philly is an awesome town with a good mix of history and modern amenities. Easily one of our favorite places on the whole tour…
When we began our sight seeing expedition, we expected to be in Allentown by 8PM, but we got a call at 3PM saying the show had been moved up to accommodate a bigger act and that we had to be there immediately. We hauled ass to Allentown only to discover that they had gone back to the original plan. This is the first sign that the Croc Rock is going to suck for us. It turns out there are three separate stages within the Croc Rock and all three were hosting simultaneous shows. We were playing the smallest stage in the basement. Not only were we forbidden from promoting our show on premises, but there wasn’t even a sign by the stairs to the basement that said “show downstairs”. We got the impression that the Croc Rock does not give a damn what is going on in the smaller rooms and goes out of their way to sweep these shows under the rug to maximize attendance at the largest stage. Also beware the many rules, tight security, and horrendously over priced beer (even for bands). As a result of all of these issues and a lack of promotions by the “promoter” attendance was pretty awful. One of the locals was a pop punk band that supposedly drew alright, thereby justifying their presence. As far as we can tell they brought two people not in the band. The other local was Dionaea, who brought a handful of people. Attendance aside, they absolutely killed it. Hands down the most creative band we played with on the whole tour. Lots of technical ability and melodic flair… Check them out immediately! After the show we grabbed a cheap hotel and pondered over our string of recent bad luck.
We had an uneventful day of promoting (sending out flyers for our upcoming FL shows, getting in touch with Philly people, etc) at a Starbucks in Bethlehem, PA. We spent a few hours taking advantage of their clean bathroom and free internet before making the short trip to north Jersey. The road is very scenic as it passes through the Lehigh Valley and the Pocono Mountains.
George, the promoter for the Staten Island show, lives right by Club XXXV and he kindly offered all of us a good time at his place complete with cold beers, hot dogs, and some Frisbee action. The lot next to his house is an ancient, dilapidated cemetery. The most recent grave I could find was from 1924, but most were from the 1800s. We took advantage of the creepy atmosphere and got some good pics.
We arrived at the venue late and the first band was already playing. We are the most punctual death metal band of all time, so this was a strange occurrence for us. Club XXXV is a strip club with a venue for bands called the Player’s Lounge on the roof. This means all equipment must be hauled up and down a claustrophobic set of stairs and staged outside prior to load in. This also means everyone has to deal with strip club security, i.e. massive dudes with anger issues. There’s a decent stage and a good PA here, but we encountered several issues that made this the worst sound of the tour for us. *A side note on monitors: we are a technical band. This means our music is VERY challenging to play even in ideal circumstances. If we can’t hear each other on stage things get ugly real quick. Ideally, if there are stage monitors we can hear each other just fine. If there are not, we position one or both of the guitar amps directly behind Mike so he knows what’s going on. This usually works out OK.* In this instance, there were no monitors so we would have put the amps behind Mike. However, there was an acrylic drum shield on stage preventing us from setting up in this way. Supposedly, it’s there to keep sound from escaping into the bustling strip club below. In all actuality, it is doing nothing. To get technical, low frequencies are the ones that transmit through walls and floors while high frequencies just bounce around inside the room. The shield only stops high frequencies thereby having no effect on the club below. All it did was make it impossible for us to hear on stage. We got three songs in and our set was an absolute train wreck so I knocked it over and repositioned my amp behind the drums. The sound guy promptly ran onto the stage and said we could put the shield back up or get off the stage. We opted to keep playing and see what happens. He never shut us down so it was a minor victory for us I guess. Even though there was a $20 cover and there were plenty of people at the show we didn’t get paid. Imagine the promoter that books metal shows at a strip joint in Jersey and you get the idea…We left the venue depressed and angry (easily our angriest night of the tour) to look for a hotel somewhere between the venue and Philly. Everything was sold out or overpriced so we drove to the venue and fell asleep in the car for an hour in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store.
Fear not, intrepid reader! There is a good show on the horizon! I’ll get to that momentarily... We were awakened at dawn by a parking lot re-surfacing crew and forced to find a new place to crash. Too tired to make a rational decision we drove around for over an hour before deciding to head to Fairmount Park. This is where they keep the art museum and other highly cultured things. We pulled into a shady spot under a tree and got some more sleep. Eventually, as often happens, the Earth rotated and left us in the sun. When the heat became unbearable we got up to explore the park. There are hundreds of statues scattered across the premises, especially near the museum which is an impressive structure. We ran up the steps of the art museum and stood triumphant at the top. We then laid down in the grass beside the Schuylkill River and enjoyed a pleasant breeze until such time as we could check into a hotel and get some actual sleep. On the way to the hotel we stopped and grabbed another cheesesteak at a place called Jim’s that was much better than the one we had previously.
The Rusty Nail is actually located in Ardmore, PA which is one of the nicer suburbs of Philly along the Main Line. It’s weird to find a dive bar that supports metal in this neighborhood, but it’s there. We can definitely recommend the Nail to touring bands. There is a small PA that we used for vocals only and no stage monitors. However, it sounds pretty decent in the room and if you are capable of running the simple PA the bands keep every penny from the door. Just be sure to communicate effectively with the owner and staff, it seemed like a weak point. There was some confusion as to the cover and ages allowed but everything worked out OK in the end. This was easily one of the top shows in both turnout and talent. The local bands Lethean and Doomsday Machine Schematic were not only incredible, but actually brought some people out. We managed to bring some people too. The majority of my (Jason’s) family is based in the Philly suburbs so my aunt, uncle and two cousins came out. To our surprise (and maybe theirs as well) everyone had a great time. The only downer of the night was when we were the target of a drive-by donut attack. Dennis was struck soundly by a donut traveling at no less than 35 mph and the little punks were gone before we could do anything about it. Why waste a perfectly good donut? This show was a much needed morale boost after a string of bad luck. Philly is a metal town and it seemed like people genuinely cared about music a little more than most of the other cities we played in. We retired to our hotel room feeling much better than we had in days.
Live in Philly!
The 'N Friends cracked us up.
Armed with a toll avoiding back roads map of the mid-atlantic supplied by my grandfather, we began our ten hour drive to Jacksonville, NC. The drive was pretty uneventful but thankfully seemed to pass pretty quickly. The only pictures we got on the way were of the welcome signs in the various states we passed through as we officially reentered the south. We arrived in Jacksonville (which seems like the most isolated city in NC btw, it’s like 110 miles from any interstate), checked into a fleabag motel, and met up with the Stabbing Eden dudes at a sports bar where we attempted to promote the show, but mostly just drank. Stabbing Eden are our kind of people with a good sense of humor and just the right amount of awkwardness to make for a good time. Look at the pic below and you can imagine we got along swimmingly.
We woke at a leisurely hour and ate brunch at a Golden Corral with our Stabbing Eden buds. We then headed to the Jacksonville mall where the promoter had arranged for us to have an in store appearance at the Hot Topic. There was an awkward moment when the promoter wasn’t there and none of the staff were expecting us. Surprisingly, they still let us move around their shelves and set up our merch table in the middle of the store. They even let us put our CDs on kind of loud. It’s surreal to walk through the mall and hear Choking A Sloth from several stores down. Eventually the promoter showed up and things got less weird. We mostly sat at the table in shifts harassing passers-by while the rest of us terrorized the mall. Amazingly, we sold a little merch and gave more away including a shirt and a CD to an adorable eleven year old girl/metalhead. Kids are great fans. They genuinely like music for what it is because they haven’t yet been corrupted by trends and scenes. We wish all ages shows were more common, but with most venues also being bars they are pretty uncommon in our experience. We also got a few people to come out to the show.
For a Tuesday night, the show wasn’t terrible at all. The Orleans House is directly opposite the entrance to Camp Lejeune, so Marines are coming in to drink and pick up girls regardless of who is playing. The stage was huge and the sound system substantial. There was a really low cover (like $2) so people were happy to pay it even if they weren’t super excited about the bands. We played in front of a handful of people who were interested and quite a few who didn’t give a damn. Usually in situations like this we try our hardest to confuse and frighten the regular patrons and this show was no exception. The diehards get a kick out of this too, so everyone has a good time. We actually made some money at the
door and sold some stuff at Hot Topic earlier in the day so Jacksonville ended up being a good halfway point on our journey from PA to FL. The show ended fairly early so we spent a good bit of time hanging out in the parking lot with the guys and took the opportunity to get individual pics of everyone on the tour. Three weeks in we were starting to get pretty rough, but we were all pumped enough to do another three weeks, easily.
We hit the road for Jacksonville, FL pretty late. It’s weird that we played two shows in a row in a city called Jacksonville. This drive was a little shorter than the last, almost 8 hours. It’s a very boring drive with not much in the way of scenery or
cities, but again it went by pretty fast. I attribute this to the fact that we had several Ipods, a laptop with working internet, and lots of pictures to take at all times. About the only thing along the way of any interest is South Of The Border. They have an entire store that is full of nothing but hats from around the world! Of course we stopped and took more pictures here than we took anywhere else, with the possible exception of Niagra Falls. I think this speaks volumes about the kind of people we are.
It was strangely sad and yet a relief when we crossed the state line into FL for the first time in three weeks. We arrived at Alex’s sister’s house to stake our bed claims then met up with the Stabbing Eden guys again at a local bar. Yes, we even spent our off nights in bars. Then we watched Stepbrothers before bed, which was a great idea because it made us all foul mouthed insult machines the next day.
Interesting men in Jacksonville.
The lack of sleep is starting to catch up with us by this point in the tour. We didn’t get up until after 1pm and then just sat around in front of the TV while doing some online promoting. We got to Endo Exo and found that the show had been moved inside because of the threat of bad weather. The inside room already had another event scheduled later that night so that meant we had to cut everyone’s sets short and haul ass between bands. Despite the surprise, the show turned out pretty well. Nymphomancer and Capracide were the two Jax locals and they brought a good crowd and absolutely killed it. We had a decent turnout as well. The many months of playing shows all over FL are starting to pay off and we see more people every time we play out of town. Special thanks to our friends in Jax bands that couldn’t play for coming out to support. The room was narrow, but deep and this made the crowd look twice as big as it actually was, which was fun. By the time we played, people had started to show up for the later event, which was an open mic rap battle thing hosted by a DJ. Amazingly, some of them hung out for our set so we went out of our way to get them involved. We like to think they had a pretty good time with us crazy white boys and I think Mike even got hit on. The other touring bands remarked that we played our best set yet and seemed to be in our element. Maybe it is good to be home…Endo Exo is the place to play in Jacksonville, especially in the summer. Definitely hit them up if you’re in a band looking to book in Jax. Doozer’s Pub is also cool because the bands run the PA and the door and keep all of the money, but it is un-airconditioned which makes it unplayable in the summer. After the show we retired to Alex’s sister’s house to sleep and dream of getting back into our own beds.
Again, we awoke after 1pm and hit the road to Tampa. Along the way we stopped in Orlando to unload our luggage, use our own bathrooms and re-familiarize ourselves to our now feral pets. Rejuvenated by the stop, we continued to roll down the I-4 corridor. Despite our many weekend trips to Tampa we had never played at the Pegasus Lounge. It actually turned out to be pretty nice. There’s a decent stage and a real PA. Another good spot to play because the house doesn’t take anything from the door, which is pretty rare. We got to play with some of our best buds on this stop. Sorcerer, Eating Infinity, and Must Not Kill are all good friends and amazing bands. They brought a good crowd and we did alright for ourselves. Again, we were in our element and had a good show in spite of Alex’s various technical difficulties. We even tried something new, trading instruments for a song. It sounded like hell to us, but we don’t think anyone in the audience knew the difference. After the show we had an after party in the parking lot where shenanigans ensued. Eager to sleep in our own beds for the first time in nearly a month, we drove home that night.
Epic Facial Hair
It was weird to be home and we all remarked that we were a little thrown off by normal life. We had grown accustomed to living out of a bag and traveling every day. Without the travel and promotions that had been filling our time up to this point we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We got to Liquid Scrips way too early, mostly in a bid to feel like we were doing something with the day. Alex set up the PA and got some inspirational Journey tunes going while we waited for the show to start. Liquid Scrips is awesome. It’s our regular joint in our home town, just minutes away from our practice space. We were eager to get the show started so the other bands could experience our home town and watch some of our best band buddies in the whole world, Abdomen Canvas, tear it up. The show turned out to be incredible. Our friends and families came out in droves and really made it a special one. Combine that with Abdomen Canvas’ draw and it was a huge show, the biggest local show we’ve seen in a while. It was really nice to see some familiar faces and get some moral support. It can be brutal on the road and a good homecoming was key to boosting morale.
After the show we lingered for a long time, hesitating to say goodbye to some awesome friends. We had been with the Melora guys 3.5 weeks straight and we had been through quite a lot of ups and downs together. We had been with Stabbing Eden for only eight of the shows but had bonded quickly, and they too felt like brothers. After trading some merch and getting a few group pictures Stabbing Eden hit the road for New Jersey, Melora began their trek back to Dallas, and for us the tour was officially over. We dumped all of our equipment in the practice space and went home.