DJ Hostettler
Cultural Zero

Skirting Death with IfIHadAHiFi (Pt. 3)

By - Sep 2nd, 2009 03:32 pm
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Fig.1: Hey, where's the Wizard's head?

Fig.1: Hey, where’s the Wizard’s head?

5:04 PM 8/29 – I-5 heading toward San Francisco, CA
Current van mileage: 203785
Current band fund: $302

As we rocket down Interstate Hwy 5, also known as “The Highway That Killed the Exploding Hearts,” I find myself pondering the following pieces of information: one, that we had forgotten what a white-knuckle trip it is driving through the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, and two, that I spent my yesterday driving to Portland in a deathtrap van to play noise-rock for strangers, and then talked with my girlfriend on the phone about her first day of pro wrestling training. My life is AWESOME! What did you and your sweetie do yesterday? Watch America’s Got Talent?

On Wednesday our show in Bellingham was canceled, which merely enabled us to arrive in Seattle a day early and meet up with our host and former roommate, Al. Al is Oshkosh people from old times, and loves kitties and model airplanes, which enabled us to get weird with the Rev.Ever BALLER series.

Fig.2: Airplane models for DAYS, son

Fig.2: Airplane models for DAYS, son

Fig.3: Al and Tennessee! Meeting kitties on tour makes me miss mine.

Fig.3: Al and Tennessee! Meeting kitties on tour makes me miss mine.

Since we had time to explore the city for a while Thursday, we visited Easy Street Records, where I was pleased to see our CD for sale:

Fig.4: Sandwiched between Billy Idol and Enrique Iglesias. This is why we started our band name with an "I."

Fig.4: Sandwiched between Billy Idol and Enrique Iglesias. This is why we started our band name with an “I.”

… and was amused to find another CD by a now-defunct band in the dollar bin:

Fig.5: We sing the 99 cent body electric!

Fig.5: We sing the 99 cent body electric!

Chin up, Since By Man guys. We’ll meet you there in a few years.

So after a day of sightseeing in Seattle (during which I learned that after an afternoon of driving through the city, Seattle’s layout makes more sense to me than Chicago’s after driving there for over ten years. Which is weird, since Chicago is a grid and Seattle is … well … not), we arrived at the Funhouse for our much-anticipated showdown with our friends in Police Teeth and The Bismarck. The Bismarck have visited Milwaukee a few times, but since, I don’t know, their albums don’t sound like they were recorded in a tin can or whatever the “lo-fi” thing is all about, no one goes to see them. Aw, our soulmates! Bitterly hilarious dudes who play Wipers-ish Pac-NW rock that will never be popular. I like to think we see a little of each other in our bands, and not just because they have a dark-haired bespectacled singing drummer with a pretentious vocabulary too.

Fig.6: welcome to Chompy the Clown's Rape Emporium

Fig.6: welcome to Chompy the Clown’s Rape Emporium

Speaking of Wipers-ish, we were super jacked to play with Police Teeth because A) we had played with their guitarist James’ old band, USS Horsewhip, back in 2006 at the show where MrAlarm (palindrome stage name of The Fucking Wizard) threw his bass at me and broke my teeth, and B) we’re HUGE fans of their first two self-released CDs, to the point where we basically pleaded our label dude, Dan, to sign them as soon as humanly possible. Whether he actually does, we’ll see.

The only two guys we really knew from PT before this show were James and their bassist Chris, as was evidenced when some dude in white pants showed up wearing the same Mount Vicious t-shirt as me. The first words he said to me weren’t “Hi, nice shirt,” or even “pfft — bitch;” he simply walked up to me and said, “It’s cool, dude. We’ll just wrestle later. Guy who tears the other’s shirt off wins.” Turns out it was Adam, PT’s other guitarist.

The show itself was pretty crazy. Seattle’s always been good to us — heck, we got a full-color photo and writeup in the town’s weekly (and the home base of Dan Savage), The Stranger! See?

Fig.7: Rock stars!

Fig.7: Rock stars!

On top of that, we had a ton of familiar faces in the audience, including our pal Melissa, our old Green Bay running buddy Jordn, and former VITAL Source staff photographer Erin Landry! Yay! Name dropping!

And the performances? Ridiculous. The Bismarck opened and were solid as always, including my favorite song of theirs, “That One Where They Sing ‘Give Me Something to Stop the Bleeding’ in the Middle.” Our set was sloppy, but in that shambolic, crazy-basement-show way where it just makes things better. Chris from Police Teeth asked to sing along on our cover of Mission of Burma’s “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” and we obliged him during our last song, at which point his glasses rocketed off his face within six seconds and he proceeded to unplug the Wizard’s bass at least three times. The set ended with the Wizard putting his bass on his back and Chris banging on it while hoisting me onto HIS back while I bashed a crash cymbal. Nutty.

hifiseattle5

hifiseattle4

hifiseattle3

hifiseattle1

Fig.8: doing what we think we do best, which hopefully is Not Sucking

Our first time seeing Police Teeth? AWESOME. They describe themselves on their MySpace page as “if you’re over 25, The Wipers meet Superchunk. If you’re under 25, Hot Snakes meet The Thermals.” That’s dead freakin’ on. They’re hard-driving and tight as hell, but not so tight that Adam wouldn’t make good on his wrestling promise by jumping right onto me in the middle of a song. He got an entire beer dumped onto his head for his trouble, and frankly, I was rather proud of the coverage I got with that dumping. Not a drop wasted. At my urging, they closed their set with their ridiculously catchy sing-along “Northern California,” a song about long road trips to play shows. I hopped on stage and helped out with the chorus: “Getting high/Getting drunk/Cranking Bathory in Northern California.”

Seriously, if you don’t check out this band and fall in love immediately, I’m fairly certain you have issues that extend beyond, but contribute to, your questionable taste in music.

By the end of the night we had made about $190 and officially got our band fund back off the respirator. We also saw a ton of friends and made new ones as well, which really is the only reason why we even bother with this touring shit anymore. We’re not making money, and we’re not getting “discovered,” whatever that would entail in the internet age. But we are making friends, and that trumps everything else.

* * *

Even more friends were made in Portland thanks to a killer bill assembled by our good friend Nate Carson, a booking agent who also writes for Metal Edge(!) and used to play in a band called Point Line Plane that we helped out a few years back with some Milwaukee shows. Last night Nate hooked us up at a dive bar called The Know with Rapids and Spider Test, two fantastic Portland bands we previously knew nothing about. Spider Test kept the Wipers theme going, which was even more appropriate in Portland, and Rapids featured the former lead singer of Crackerbash fronting a solidly ass-kicking hard-edged punk rock band.

Fig.9: Welcome to The Know

Fig.9: Welcome to The Know

The members of both bands were incredibly sweet, too. Crackerbash guy kept pushing our merch during their set, coming up to me afterward and asking, “Did you have a good time? Did you make enough money?” Fifty bucks from the door and another $60 from merch sales means that yes, we did just fine. Spider Test’s bassist, Seth, who also works at The Know and booked the show with Nate, was reduced to a very drunk, huggy state by the end of the night, exclaiming over and over how happy he was to have put the show together. New friends!

Because The Know is in a neighborhood where “the people like being in an arty neighborhood only when it’s convenient,” to paraphrase a friend who was at the show, bands start around 8 p.m. and must be done at 11. This suited us fine. Nate led us back to his lovely house and gave us crash space for the night, allowing us to get a solid six or seven hours in before we had to embark on the tour’s first true hell drive — 10 hours from Portland to San Francisco. Which is what we’re doing now.

As I said before, these Cascades are ridiculous. And it doesn’t help that the van began to develop some sort of mysterious wobble in the steering on the way to Portland. Wonder why this journal has been called “Skirting Death With IfIHadAHiFi?” It’s because no matter if we get our vehicle inspected by a mechanic before we leave (which we did — salut, Riverwest Auto!), in the back of my mind I’m always convinced that a freak, firey death is always just around the bend. And it doesn’t help to know that one band already perished on this stretch. More from THE show of this tour — the Hemlock Tavern with MOUNT FUCKING VICIOUS, if we survive. (Hint: if you’re reading this, we survived. If you’re not reading this, we still survived and you just don’t care. Jerk.)

0 thoughts on “Cultural Zero: Skirting Death with IfIHadAHiFi (Pt. 3)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I caught the Seattle show. Was excellent and chaotic. a bit disappointed that you didn’t do “Song For a Dead Millionaire” or “Science Depends On Us” but maybe I just had too much beer and am not remembering things clearly. Hope you roll back soon.

  2. Anonymous says:

    entertaining, as always. and by the way, i have a picture of that creepy clown sign too. the hotel my family spent the night at in seattle was half a block from there.

  3. Anonymous says:

    be safe, and keep throwin down. this blog rocks!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Graham, no we didn’t do either of those songs at that show, but we could have, and totally would have if you asked us to.

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