Shiny Toy Guns
"Ghosts? Which room?" we ask as she darts a look to me and pushes Carah Faye’s room key towards me. "This one." Tonight suddenly became a different sort of interesting.7 december.
1000hrs. seattle, Wash. looms on the morning horizon, a short drive from our gig in Spokane the night before. A quite unusual show ahead, the promoter and radio station behind the event had already changed the venue and show times several instances in the past day and a half. Still running without a permanent tour manager makes things like this very worrisome.
1300hrs. we check into the one hotel room provided; with only one bed. There are eleven of us. : ) But it's Seattle, so off to the pier and record stores and shops. A good place to spend time.
1730hrs. the show begins to piece itself together. We are to perform at the El Corazon, an underground dive-style 400 capacity rock room which is all-ages with a separate bar next door. Our show alongside the band Sparta is actually an after party for another show in another part of town -- and after a metal show that’s happening literally minutes before we play at El Corazon.
2000 hrs. the final drone of guitars dropped down to an unspecified key begin to fade away and our crew works in the dark on stage right... piecing together our light shows and backline because there is no sound check, no lighting program time, and just enough time to get everything positioned before the band goes on stage.
2130 hrs. right on time our equipment falls into line as if we were there all day. It’s not always like this, but today was a day without airplanes and everyone was rested. The show was incredibly fun and we walked away pleased on all fronts.
Still a bit curious though ... the station/production entity asked us to play here, for free, which we never have a issue with. But we solved all of the show problems, and no one ever even came up and motioned a hello, goodbye, or a “thanks for playing our show” from the promotion or radio. I’m sure they were busy... and it made me think about being busy, and forgetting to do something simple like say “hi” to people who deserve it .. and how far even just that little two letter word will take a relationship between anything and anyone.
2215hrs. NIGHT BURN. our favorite? not exactly. A crew who worked all day and night now faces a terrible 15 hour drive with the two trucks .. through snow, punishing high winds and the winding pass ways of the Cascade Mountains.
2300hrs. sleep? for some.
0800hrs. we are no where close to San Francisco, CA, our next city. Driver shift three has to pick up the pace, though that’s really not possible pulling 7,000 lbs.
1200hrs. we send alerts to the venue, hoping our tardiness won’t stop a much needed sound check; the show tonight is a lot more profile than usual.
1500hrs. Matt Lindsey, a former tour manager of ours and a nightclub and concert promoter from Las Vegas, lands in San Francisco without us to pick him up, unfortunately. He will be the new marketing and strategist assistant for the band on tour because I can’t even begin to keep up with the work at this point.
1730hrs. we arrive in San Francisco, right in the middle of traffic. Really, really slow traffic.
1800hrs. way past our allotted time, but the stage manager is cool and everything is fine. We load in and begin to set up for the evening. Most of the band and crew retires to hotels for a while; we don’t play till nearly 1:30am.
0000hrs. we arrive showered to start prep, and we are met in the upstairs lounge of the venue... a posh new room called Mighty Club Mighty just off the center of downtown SF. Spin Magazine's web team from Spin.com is waiting there for an interview with Carah and I. Members of bands The Killers and The Shins are walking around, evidentially this show is more of an artist/industry after party for a large concert earlier on in the evening presented by our favorite radio station, San Francisco’s Live105 FM.
0200hrs. we are still nowhere near going on stage. A lengthy delay has thrown the entire event back almost 2 hours, and our opener, UK singer Lily Allen has still not even taken the stage yet.
0315hrs. lily Allen is just finishing .. and some people are starting to leave. This event is 21 to enter, and the sad thing about these age requiring shows is that no matter if the Rolling Stones are next, when that alcohol bar is done, so is the evening in a lot of ways.
0325hrs. lily Allen’s British tech and road crew don’t seem to understand that “rented equipment” does not entail the rental company coming back to the stage and removing the gear from the stage for the next band. After searching the full-to-capacity club for her tour manager and the promoter we finally got them to slowly remove her stuff so our guys can get ours ready for performance.
0350hrs. finally we are able to go on stage... at 4 in the morning almost. Those of us who drink had already had enough a long time ago. Those of us who do not are fighting everything to stay awake; playing at 4am goes against every physical and emotional clock that we are used to following.
0430hrs. surprisingly enough many hundreds stuck around this late for the show, and the show was perfect. Now amped beyond normality circa Red Bull, some DJ’s from the club POPSCENE, myself and a cab full of girls from the show race away to a secret San Francisco “speak easy” of sorts. Inside were live DJ’s, a still-open bar and tons of hipsters and club-goers from all over town. Not entirely interesting, but enough for a half hour before returning to the hotel.
1200hrs. bus call. the trucks line up and we depart for Reno, Nevada.
1330hrs. The drive from San Francisco to Reno is an eye tease. Once you adjust to the vehicle-slowing Sierra winds and rolling flat hills of central California suddenly you are climbing these impossible mountain peaks loaded with snow... it is massive and majestic. Lake Tahoe stops your thinking about shows and sends imaginations to snowboards. But before you get excited, you are in the high desert of Nevada -- where everything is brown and dead. It’s like getting woken up for school.
1500hrs. But all sadness is gone when you see the neon. The “biggest little city in the world” is just around the turn. We are playing again with the San Diego band Angels and Airwaves and we are locked into interviews for the rest of the afternoon with the local modern rock station. The show was in one of the newer casino hotels in the area; called the Grand Sierra Resort. Formerly used for magic shows and whatnot, our dressing room was hilariously larger than a lot of venues we have played, including the ones here in Reno.
1730hrs. fan meet and greet. An important one for us because, for some reason, all of our other Reno gigs have been 21+ to enter -- and we have never gotten to meet or hang out with anyone in this town who enjoys our music that wasn’t that age or older.
2045hrs. stage. I mean STAGE. As in this stage is in the Guinness Book of World Records because it’s the largest indoor stage in the entire world. Not really exciting for us though, it’s not near as fun when your band mates are tiny dots in the distance and you can’t go see them because you would rip your guitar cord out of the amp half way there.
2150hrs. the show was great. We got to hang out with some new friends that won backstage via the radio and we ended up walking around the casino and hotel with them, losing money rapidly. We are not capable of gambling for some reason.
0300hrs. sleep comes and goes. Its hard to make your system switch constantly from day to night... it takes the perfect balance of Unisom and Red Bull to make time zones and rumble strips fade to grey ..
2 days off in a row? It had to have been 5 months straight when this happened last. An early morning wake up and the trucks rolled towards a new destination... a beautiful huge house in Phoenix Arizona, with swimming pools, BBQ and malls and movie theaters nearby and the silence of the high desert to listen to under a full moonlit night… Without radios and stages and bouncy highway naps... Close friends from a former local band called Embercoast were gracious enough to give this off to us. To them it was letting us crash on their couches... to us it was a vacation in Tahiti.
The Phoenix Coyotes Ice Stadium, home to the desert area professional hockey team was now home to AFI, Plain White Tee's, Okgo and Shiny Toy Guns.
1200hrs. we roll into the rear of the building and pull our tired RVs up next to the million dollar tour buses in the bay doors. I mean, we rolled up in the beat up trucks we owned before our record deal and parked beside giant steel tour support leeches sucking dry the very budgets that could be used for marketing bands in better ways.
1330hrs. remaining members of the band who took time off in Los Angeles arrive by plane.
1500hrs. sound check is right on time and with all of the production and the windows of potential delay... somehow we are right on schedule.
1745hrs. the venue is packed to the gills with kids young and old. Once again it’s another display of sound and lighting that you can only find at these radio station super-shows like this around the holidays. The show went extremely well; the only thing was the shortness of performance, as most of the artists were only allowed 30 minute sets.
1830hrs. the fun part of these mega shows is finding unique things to do. You can get lost or you can get lost on purpose in the dark..throwing doughnuts at people walking by. AFI’s drummer and bassist go whizzing by on road case caster wheels, like longboard skaters on a power downhill. Then dinner .. sloppy joes? Whoever channels money for the catering budget was a big sloppy joe fan. But it’s free, so its amazing.
1930hrs. we do a live on-air performance of “Rainy Monday” and “Le Disko” followed by an interview. Much more fun than usual because it was long after we played and we had been goofing off and drinking for a while. Everything suddenly became a lot more comedic than it really should have.
2100hrs. load out .. and into the desert Ramada Inn close to a small suburban town called Peoria, Ariz. Several cigarettes later we read a sign on the door that says "$400 fine if there is evidence of smoking in the room."
We have no idea what you are talking about sir, we don’t smoke.
1300hrs. we depart and drive back into the Tempe, Ariz., area to meet for the first time our brand new -- and hopefully permanent -- tour manager. Formerly of Warped Tour and bands like Ministry and Avenged Sevenfold and Opiate, this time we are more certain than usual that he will go past the 6 week point, which was when we fired our last tour manager.
1330hrs. off to Tucson, now loaded with hundreds of CDs and vinyl that our label shipped in front of us.
1600hrs. load in to Club Congress... a quaint and historic hotel/restaurant/rock venue in downtown Tucson.
1700hrs. our opening acts arrive and sound check is fair and normal. The venue treats us to this amazing meal and gives us 6 hotel rooms. We don’t need 6 hotel rooms, so some fans of the band that we knew had just moved to Tucson from Atlanta and were living out of their car will get free warm beds tonight.
1715hrs. my assistant Matt and I were having casual conversation with the bellhop and desk clerk as they explained to us all of these fascinating stories of old New York City Italian mobsters and gangsters who used to hide out here 50, 60 years ago. And how many people had died here ... and the ghosts they left behind. “Ghosts? Which room?” we ask as she darts a look to me and pushes Carah Faye’s room key towards me. “This one.” Tonight suddenly became a different sort of interesting.
2100hrs. showtime. And it's weird because we knew we were starting to get heavier rotation on MTV but we had no way to feel it or to detect it in ticket sales per say. But tonight something was odd. We had never performed anywhere near Tucson. We have no radio play here whatsoever. The show was on a weeknight. And the show was 21+ to enter. To me this spells instant crap and zero merch sales. But the room was completely full... all the way to the back. And the people knew all the words to the songs. Interesting ... ?
0130hrs. the bar closes early, most of the people had filed out after our performance a few hours ago because of school and work. It was a no-go on something cool to do after the show, so we sat down and suddenly remembered we were staying at a haunted hotel. We crept up the wooden staircase to the very top floor, each step bending with its 90 year history. Nothing special happened, so we came down to the floor where our drummer Mikey, terrified of these things, was taking a shower. With the door to the room open. And all of the lights on. And the door to the bathroom open. And the shower curtain completely open, leaving him wide open, sadly. Our merch girl Leila immediately switched off all the lights and slammed the door as hard as she could. I’m sure the ensuing screams from the shower scared any and all ghosts away from anything fun happening this evening.
0220hrs. sleep for everyone. Most with just one eye open and bathroom lights on.
0439hrs. carah wakes up, half asleep... and hears the creak of the wood floor, in her room, in perfect time as someone walked completely around her bed, and then towards the door. She opened one eye... and no one was there, and the door was locked. Room 242 was Carah’s... and according to the story every night the spirit of a young woman who committed suicide there would walk around the room and simply whispered her name in the ear of whoever slept there .. and the hotel refused to tell us that name, because evidentially the girl asked the hotel to tell no one her name if someone came to the front desk to ask if anyone had seen her.
0700hrs. our interim tour manager Adam Arnkoff returns to Los Angeles, after bailing us out of a jam.
1100hrs. our new tour manager arrives from Phoenix. We depart for El Paso, Texas, the desert border town of Juarez, Mexico and one of our favorite southwest cities by far.
1430hrs. we drive east on the 10 freeway, right alongside the American-Mexican border. Every so often, and more than necessary, we see the green lights on top of $65,000 brand new SUVS loaded with border patrol officers racing down dirt roads and patrolling fields of cacti and desert roses. Money that could be spent educating and putting diapers on babies who don’t have enough food in their bodies. Another issue for another day?
1800hrs. after fighting through Christmas mall traffic and listening to the entire Bloodhound Gang album (why?) we arrive at the Lucky Devil’s Saloon... already covered in a massive line of hispanic kids decked out from head to toe in black and hot pink hair. El Paso kids ALWAYS dress up and it’s hot.
2030hrs. our good friends open up for us .. a local band called Rome To Paris. This band is quite unique, loaded with samples and synths and a dark, almost twisted infectious pop-meets-darkwave vocal approach to songwriting. We immediately discuss possibly taking them out with us on a radio tour in late January because they need to get exposure outside of El Paso.
2300hrs. we take the stage. And there is not an inch of room left in the building. Next show will not be at this venue, we have just completely outgrown it with 2 years of repeat El Paso shows. As we move deeper into the set every security guard in the room had to band together to form a human shield for the stage; but still tiny bodies were getting smashed into the edges of our monitors and lights. At one point we had to stop playing and let everyone calm down, things were getting crazy. But everyone was having complete fun with eyes bright, and that’s exactly the point.
0130hrs. i run over to a fans house for a short hello for the concerts’ after party... have to go, we have another push tonight and our departure is 2:00 in the morning.
0200hrs. NIGHT BURN. 15 hours of spinning wheels and trucker pills. Las Vegas is no where near El Paso. Our booking agent disagreed with the atlas though, they must have gotten in some sort of an argument. Again the atlas won.
1100hrs. and its been hours since our phones worked, our EVDO satellite internet cards silent as well. Of course there were label phone meetings all morning. Of course there was tons of internet work to do as we drove through the dead dry heat of Arizona where only foxes and rattlesnakes are having a good time. We are cut off from the digital world until right before the Hoover Dam.
1600hrs. and we don’t like the Hoover dam. Because we have a trailer, one that they had to open and empty to look for bombs and immigrants or whatever they were searching for. If it would have been an educated police officer with a higher degree of logical sense it would have been a much easier situation; instead we were stuck with an unarmed private security guard pulling $8 an hour who insisted that our trailer covered in stickers from rock venues and cities everywhere and clearly loaded with guitars and speakers be completely emptied. Load in moved. Sound check now heavily delayed.
1900hrs. radio interview with Las Vegas’ first modern rock station in years. They were the promoters tonight, and the show was nearing sell out in advance which was a first for us in this market. The interview was great, and even better when the jock accidentally played the uncut version of le disko to 400,000 people. Oops? Hopefully no one heard that...
2130hrs. back to house of blues, inside the majestic Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort. Pimps strolled up and down the always-awful Vegas carpet. Little old ladies with white hair were furiously pumping quarters into slots dotted everything in every direction. Large people with large portions occupied the 100 foot long buffet lines. Inside the House of Blues though it was home sweet home... over a thousand screaming friends from all over the Vegas area jammed into our favorite sin city arena. The show was something to remember, and we spent the next half hour meeting and talking with new faces from the night.
2300hr. Vegas baby. Starting with Minx, then the Palms, then everywhere. A caravan of cabs piercing the neon night.
repairs and rest. New windshields, oil changes, new water hoses, and new DC/AC power systems installed and readied for the coming drive... which is what we are doing right this very second as this is written. Pushing through the mountains of Utah, the Valley of the Gods, in a frozen snow storm in the middle of the night at about 30 mph. It’s a task .. you have to slow down with your transmission and with the contour of the land, because a sharp brake will put our everything plummeting down 70 foot embankments to the sharp rocks below - -
we want to be a story to remember, but not on our first album .. ... ...