Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Americans. The rest of you – well, hey, it’s never a bad thing to be thankful.
Okay, so I started writing this tour journal in August right when we finished the tour. I jotted down quick notes, trying to keep all of the key facts in order. In mid-September I actually started writing it in more of a narrative form. I worked on it probably 5 or 6 different times between then and now, and finally got it all finished. I wanted to include some pictures with it, but Josh David still hasn’t found a way (re: tried) to get some of them online, and, uh, I’ve been in front of computers a lot lately and didn’t feel like getting the rest. I probably will add some pictures in the next couple days. All right, so here’s a nice long Plurals tour journal to distract people when they’re at work/ avoiding their families this weekend. Enjoy!
“I May Not Be A Smart Man, But I Know What a Teenage Dream is Baby! Yeah! : A Summer Tour 2010 Journal” By TommyPlural
As I start to write this, and it will no doubt take me many attempts as I’ve been meaning to write this for several weeks now, it is a comfortable late summer day. I sit on the porch of the GTG House, celebrity cat Chauncey on my lap, drinking a High Life that somebody left in the downstairs fridge after our Neon 9/11 party, and I try to write. To kind of tie things together, I got home about an hour ago from my Anthropology capstone course (i.e. the class that I have to pass in order to get a B.A. in Anthropology), where today’s topic was how important it is to write, even when you don’t want to; writing just for the sake of writing helps hone skills and ideas. As I was sitting in the class, my mind kept returning to this tour journal that I wrote an outline for but never actually wrote. I’m of the mind that if I didn’t write it while it was going on it’s not really a “journal”… but the shows that The Plurals played on our late summer tour were pretty great, and I feel like I owe it to myself to write about it. So, here goes. I hope you’re happy, proponent-of-writing-for-the-sake-of-writing college curriculum.
The curtain opens on August 8, 2010. While not part of the tour proper, we did play our first show since the 2010 edition of GTG Fest, and, in my mind, the two shows we did prior to tour were warm-up dates that allowed us to stretch our legs a little bit, and were close enough in proximity to the tour that my mind just kind of includes them. Our show on August 8th was perhaps the most unique show I’ve ever played, as we were performing for a group of deaf kids (ranging from the ages of 8-14 or so) at a camp for kids with disabilities outside of Lapeer, MI. Erstwhile GTG House roommate/ ex-Really Cinematic drummer/ owner of Ori/ general friend of ours/ certified sign language guy James Spreitzer was working at the camp and asked us to come play because the previous band booked had fallen through (oh, how I wish I knew what they were called so I could type it here) because there wasn’t enough money or “exposure” involved. I thought getting the chance to perform music for deaf children was a cool enough experience in and of itself, and current GTG House roommate/ Frank and Earnest singer-guitarist/ ex-Lansing mayoral candidate/ general rabble rouser and friends of ours Ben Hassenger agreed and decided to tag along with us to the show. We had to bring our own PA system, so we loaded up the gear in Hattie’s parents’ van, Ben in tow, and made our way towards Lapeer, MI. We got almost all the way there before we realized we had almost no gas, to the point of briefly stalling out in the middle of an intersection while trying to drive towards a gas station. Crisis averted, we continued. We then drove around winding dirt roads trying to find the place, before Hattie just decided to call the camp director we had been talking to, as Mapquest had led us astray. Finally rolling up to the camp, I was glad to see that the camp itself was very nice and didn’t seem to be struggling with budget cuts or anything of the sort. All of the people working at the camp were friendly, so we started loading the gear into the rec hall that we would be performing at, before promptly discovering that we had left the PA head (the thing that powers the speakers and that you run the microphones through and which without renders microphones and speakers essentially useless) back at our house. Before I could torch the van in frustration, someone working at the camp thought that they might have something we could use, and soon enough, a couple of A/V looking guys (not to stereotype, but…) unlocked a closet and rolled out a mixer and some power supply stuff (and speakers, which meant that we didn’t actually have to bring our own PA… oh well…) that was actually nicer than the stuff we would have brought, and we were once again ready to roll.
The question I’m sure people are asking is, how did we play music for deaf kids? Well, we didn’t do anything different besides play our instruments one at a time at the beginning of our set as the camp workers signed to the kids what we were doing. All of the kids held balloons, which helped them feel the vibrations of the music, and by playing the instruments one at a time the kids were able to get a better feel for which instrument made what particular vibration, and then we crashed together into our song “Crush” and got the set going. After “Crush” we played “Sheep Dive” and the kids got up to run around and dance. I recall that I was nursing a shitty mid-summer cold, so it was nice to play a set and not have to worry too much about singing well, as the audience couldn’t hear me! The whole thing was a really cool experience, and after we ran through what would be a normal set time, they wanted us to play more, so we did. Then we tried to stop, but they wanted us to keep playing, so we did… eventually, after exhausting most of our rehearsed reportoire, we closed out the show with the Ramones classic “Blitzkgrieg Bop.” James made a valiant attempt to sign the lyrics to our songs, and the only edit we made was changing Nich’s refrain of “he don’t wanna hurt nobody he just wants to fuckin party” in “FTS” to “he don’t wanna hurt nobody he just wants to eat and party.” Wow, now everyone can enjoy our music!
After the unique experience of the show on the 8th, August 10th brought us to the (perhaps too) familiar venue of Mac’s Bar in Lansing. It was an early all ages show, booked for the tour that Grabass Charlestons and Future Virgins were on. I was looking forward to getting a chance to play for Grabass Charlestons, as I knew they were veterans of the DIY touring circuit, and, well, it never hurts to have someone like that on your side. Unfortunately, as circumstance would have it, Grabass Charlestons and Future Virgins got a flat tire on their way to Lansing, so The Plurals ended up playing first and the touring bands showed up midway through our set and had to load in and all that stuff, so… maybe next time. Grabass Charlestons played a good set, but I was particularly into Future Virgins, whom I’d never heard of prior to this show. They played a great mix of a lot of the sub-genres across the punk spectrum, but kept strong pop hooks up front. Plus, I’m always a fan of the multiple lead singers approach. The night was closed out by the modern rock band Young Dan Tucker, a band from Milwaukee that has a confusing foothold in the Lansing music scene. Essentially, these guys sound a lot like Nickelback and Buckcherry, but somehow write even more lowbrow lyrics with even more generic riffs. The stuff they said onstage was pretty funny, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t realize that the crowd was largely laughing at them. These guys play in Lansing pretty often, and although I’m glad that Lansing music fans seem to be more into the spectacle of a band that is the epitome of douchey modern rock than the music itself (re: it’s terrible), I still find it kind of depressing that a band like that can headline shows in Lansing.
Minor disappointments about the show aside, the show was a good time all in all. Our set went fairly well (our Bermuda Snowhawk ‘09 holiday song “Conifer Oberst” made its proper live debut) so I was feeling pretty good about the tour that was to start that weekend. One thing that made the show more enjoyable for me was that my brother Robbie was in attendance. Robbie lives in Philadelphia (as a grad student at Penn), but was around for a few weeks of the summer, so he took the opportunity to take in a Plurals show at Mac’s – I’m not sure when he last had that opportunity. At the conclusion of the show, Robbie made his way back to our parents’ house in Ionia, where I met up with him and my mother and father in the morning, and we went to the upper peninsula for a few days. I hadn’t been on a vacation with my family in several years, and there was just enough of an opening in our schedules to make it happen this summer. It was a fairly laid back affair, and Robbie and I were glad to be well-fed for a few days.
I got back into Ionia around 1:00 PM on Friday, August 13th, and after a quick stop in Portland, as it was Hattie’s 25th birthday, we made our way to Lansing to start the first leg of our tour, a 3 day midwest jaunt with Josh David and the Dream Jeans. JDDJ, as the hip kids call them, had recently re-tooled the band as founding drummer Matt Norton had parted ways with the band after GTG Fest 2010. In Norton’s place came Christian Urrabazo, drummer of The Guest Stars and the latest tenant of the GTG House (as of this writing). These three out of state shows were Christian’s first shows with the band, and he came along just in time to get wrangled into providing his van for the tour. With the addition of Christian in the band, the rest of JDDJ – Josh David, Michael Boyes, and The Plurals’ own Nich Richard – was getting re-energized. GTG Records had recorded most of the material for a full-length with Norton on drums, but with things changing, the album had been scrapped and the plan is now to record a proper album this fall / winter, with Christian on drums. For these tour dates we put together the best four songs from the Norton sessions as a demo/ EP titled “Knight Riding a Motorcycle,” which features a sweet drawing that Hattie made of, yes, a knight riding a motorcycle.
When I was getting ready to leave Lansing on the 10th, Christian was about to take his van in for a tune-up, so I came back to Lansing on the 13th with no real worries. As it turned out, during the course of this tune-up, the brakes on Christian’s van got a little messed up, so if you were to, say, slam on the brakes while going 70 miles per hour, the van would fishtail much like if you slammed on the brakes while driving on a very icy road. But we weren’t to really find this out until we were on the road. When I got back to Lansing Christian said his brakes were acting weird, but still worked, we just had to take it easy and try to not hit the brakes too much. With no alternative vehicle and needing to leave pretty quickly, The Plurals and JDDJ hopped in the van and got on our way.
I was riding shotgun for the first drive of the tour, and found out along I-94 near Kalamazoo just how “weird” the brakes in the van were. I started getting really nervous and stressed out about the brakes, so in northern Indiana we pulled off the highway, stole some wireless internet from a hotel, and got new directions to the venue for the show that avoided the interstate. I’m going to try to not talk about the condition of the brakes after this, but I will state that after this first leg of driving, I spent the rest of the tour in the backseat where the bass drum blocked my view of the road. I didn’t want to get anyone else worked up, but I was mildly terrified the entire time we were driving on the interstate after this point. Aside from a little more than half of the first leg of driving, Christian drove his van the entire tour, as he had the best handle on how to drive it. It was definitely a hell of a way to join a band and play his first shows.
Hattie took over driving from Christian after we got our interstate-free directions, and with Hattie behind the wheel we got to see what Gary, Indiana looks like up close (terrible!) as well as go through a ridiculous rain storm (sometimes the rain seemed to come straight up!), setting our already delayed arrival time back even further. We did eventually make it to the venue, and after I got a strong whiskey and coke I was calmed down and ready to play the show. The show was at a bar called Gasthaus in Elgin, Illinois. The Plurals had played at this bar twice before, once on tour with The Rape Babies in 2007, which was an amazing show, and once with The Cartridge Family in 2008, which was a pretty lame show. At that time we had friends in the area, but those friends have since moved away from Elgin, so this show was kind of a shot in the dark, checking in on a venue that had the potential to be cool, and, truth be told, this show was a Plan B show that I booked in case if our Plan A show fell through, which it did. The bar was under new ownership and significantly remodeled, so much to the point that it seemed like a completely different place than the one we had played years before.
Confession time: JDDJ were not actually on this show. We planned to split the set with them, and we had a little routine figured out to hopefully entertain the crowd. After a pretty good grungy band opened (as is the case with every other band that played this show, I have, alas, forgotten their name) we set up, and The Plurals opened the show with “Party It Up Part 3.” Instead of ending this song in the abrupt fashion that we normally do, we riffed on a thrashy jam at the end of the song, during which Christian ran behind the drum set, stole Hattie’s sticks and pushed her out of the way, Michael tackled me and took the bass away before shoving me out of a door onto the street, and Josh presumably came running from somewhere and grabbed the mic (I was outside by that point so I’m not entirely sure what he did). As I stood on the sidewalk talking to the other bands that were hanging out, the bouncer came running out, asking me what the hell just happened. When I replied “they stole our set from us! Can you believe it?” he just got frustrated and walked away. Unfortunately, this was about the only reaction we got out of anybody, as nobody seemed to care about the show, and nobody even seemed to really be in charge of the show. Beggars can’t be choosers, and I was just happy to have a show at all, but if this was a decent example of what the Gasthaus on a Friday night is like, which, from what I gathered, it was, I would advise other bands to just skip it. Oh well, we tried. After JDDJ played four songs, Hattie and I came back in, heckled them, and took our instruments back. We played maybe 5 more songs, but the thin crowd seemed confused and not very interested in what we were doing. This was definitely one of those “pick your battles” moments, and I opted to just let this one go. We hung out in the van, watched the band that had set up the show (a punk/ thrash band from Milwaukee that was good and seemed to be really nice, sorry I don’t remember who they were!), got our $10 payout from the door, and then left the Gasthaus with no intention of ever going back.
Christian proposed that he would buy a hotel room if everyone else covered the gas for the rest of the tour, which we agreed to, so we found a cheapish hotel outside Elgin. Hattie, Christian, and Nich went in through the front doors, while Michael, Josh, and I tried to be stealthy in the parking lot to meet them at a side door so the hotel wouldn’t charge us for extra people. Of course, while we were outside, the dude working the front desk was also out there smoking a cigarette, so our covert attempts were probably immediately discovered, but, hey, he never said anything. The six of us piled in the hotel room, got drunk, and watched VH1 until 4 AM – introducing two of the theme songs for the whole tour, Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls” ( of which I was disappointed to learn that the radio edit did NOT feature Snoop Dogg).
The drive from Elgin to Wisconsin Rapids was a nice drive, free of the stresses of the previous night’s drive. It was a nice summer day, driving through the midwest, listening to some tunes (the only specific artist I remember listening to on this drive being Honah Lee, our musical brothers from New Jersey that The Plurals would soon be seeing for our east coast leg). I remember pulling off for gas, and then just hanging out in the parking lot drinking beer in the van for a minute before continuing the drive. Hey, when in Wisconsin…
We got to our venue around 3:00 in the afternoon on August 14, 2010, for the 8th edition of Wisconsin Rapids’ annual Park Rock music festival. The venue was, indeed, a park called Robinson Park, and the festival is organized every year by our buddies The Ska`tTsmen, whom we initially met in 2008 on the summer Plurals/ Cartridge Family tour. It turned out the schedule had been juggled a bit and The Ska`tTsmen were playing right as we got there, so I’m glad we got there when we did as they’re a cool bunch of guys who play a nice mish-mash of various waves of ska and put on a really fun live show.
Park Rock as a whole is a pretty laid back affair, and I got a chance to mingle with some of the people that we had met on previous trips to the area. I was happy that the rain from the previous night was not present at all in Wisconsin on this beautiful summer afternoon and we were able to just relax and watch the other bands. At some point I began to wonder where Michael, Nich, and Christian were, only to find them walking across the park with a freshly bought gallon of whiskey. Sometimes it’s good to have some sort of warning. As it turned out, nobody got wasted or anything, but we all ended up acting pretty goofy. JDDJ played a few hours before The Plurals, and it was, at that point, the best performance I had seen the band play. Christian fell in line perfectly with the songs and gave them some more muscle, as well as playing nicely off of Michael and Nich so as not to distract from their instrumental parts. Josh, as usual, was a raving madman, quickly shirtless, running and rolling around the whole venue and getting in people’s faces as he sang. People seemed to really enjoy JDDJ’s set, which I had hoped they would as this was, indeed, a “Cartridge Family town.” After JDDJ a great powerpop band from Chicago called the Fizzy Pops played, as well as a jerky post-punk band in matching ninja-like garb from Minneapolis called International Espionage. After these great performances, and a healthy serving of whiskey, I decided that I would perform The Plurals set in cut-off shorts, a too-small black tank top (belonging to Hattie) and cat makeup. Being in a similar state of mind, and not wanting to pass up the opportunity for something stupid, Nich also dressed this way, which meant that Hattie pretty much had to. We were closing out the festival, so we went for it and played a set pulling from our last few EPs and some new stuff.
The festival over, we made a stop at Wisconsin fast-food staple Taco John’s (it’s kind of like Taco Bell but different!) before arriving at the new New Arkham AKA the house that Ekim, Ska`tTsmen member, Park Rock organizer, and cool guy lives at. I was introduced to a game called Irish Poker of which I mostly remember that I had to “ride the bus” and guess the relative position of cards while wearing a construction helmet for some reason, getting increasingly belligerent with every missed guess. I was fortunate enough to have a moment of clarity after my bus ride, where I could choose to continue down this path and get blackout drunk, or sip some water and quietly slip off to bed without a hangover in the morning. I can happily say that I chose the second option, and passed out in a nice little room that Ekim had set aside for us. I slept soundly, unlike Michael, who repeatedly throughout the night struck Josh to get him to stop snoring.
The Park Rock crew made up a big breakfast for us, which was awesome, and after my one shower of the midwest leg of the tour – where the shower head totally midly electrocuted me, I meant to say something to someone at the house about that but forgot until just now – we made our way back down to Illinois to play at CJ’s Lounge in Rockford, IL. This was another one of the venues we had made a contact with on our 2008 Plurals/ Cartridge Family tour, and we were excited to come back as we had played some good shows there. We quickly found out that Rockford is totally dead on Sundays (guess Cheap Trick must have practiced on that day) and, indeed, CJ’s is not usually open. Jason, the promoter, had arranged for the bar to open up just for our show, and local musician Jesus Correa played the show with us. After a minor delay in starting the show due to everyone in the bar watching the celebrity roast of David Hasselhoff, JDDJ opened up the show with a set that was comparable to the previous night’s performance, and apparently in the days after the show Jason had heard from other people in town that a crazy shirtless guy with a microphone was screaming in the street outside of CJ’s on Sunday night. Jesus Correa played a sweet set that had us quoting him for days afterwards, and then it was time for The Plurals once again. There wasn’t a large crowd in CJ’s on this admittedly off night, but the crowd of 20 or so that were there were all paying attention and appreciative. Our friends from the band Quit Your Band/ ex-Almost Argyle, who were the people that we used to know in Elgin, came out to the show, which was great as always and put me in a good mood to play. It ended up being a very “Replacements-y” set consisting of sloppy half-covers of classic rock songs in between our own songs, Nich’s microphone stand refusing to stay in place, and me totally falling on my ass while jumping around during the beginning of “Sheep Dive” (aside from the wicked job it did to my tuning the fall was free of casualties). With the vibe feeling great I was getting really pumped up and crazy, and when Josh asked me to plug the JDDJ EP during the set, I turned it into a “Wedding Singer”-esque meltdown complete with an “I have the microphone and you don’t” rant. What I and everyone else in the bar had felt was an over-the-top performance was lost on the completely wasted Josh David (who had been getting shots from the flirty bartender since we walked in the door), who thought he had offended me and spent the rest of the night feeling bad about it. All in all, it was a pretty memorable show and Jason did a great job pulling off a show for us on a night where we shouldn’t have had much of a show at all.
Christian had slept in the van during The Plurals set, and after we made our goodbyes at CJ’s we set off on our drive through the night from Rockford back home to Lansing. I spent the drive very uncomfortably drifting in and out of consciousness, and Christian chugged Red Bull and started to lose his grip on reality. Christian somehow pulled off the whole drive, and we rolled into the driveway of the GTG House somewhere around 8 in the morning. To cap off the tour, after turning off the van, Christian stumbled out of the van in a daze and vomited up the large quantity of Red Bull he had consumed on the drive home.
Not much happened over the next two days. I know I went to see Narc Out the Reds on the 16th. Good band. We did, however, discover that Hattie had left her purse (with phone and such) in Rockford, in the green room at CJ’s Lounge. We got a hold of Jason the promoter (after a fruitless call to the bar where the stern lady that answered the phone wouldn’t even listen to Hattie because they’re “never open on Sundays.” Ha!) and gave him Tim and Jen Hoh’s address in Ewing, NJ, where we would be staying a few nights on our east coast jaunt. We just had to hope it caught up to us! We hit the road again on Wednesday August 18th, with Nich and I going to a wine tasting at 10:30 in the morning in southeast Michigan. Since we had a whole day before our next show on the east coast we decided to hang out in Cleveland, complete with a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After listening to the greatest monotonous mumbling DJ on a college radio station ever, we exited the interstate in downtown Cleveland right on the Lake Erie waterfront, ready to get schooled in rock and roll. Touring bands get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for free, so we took advantage of that, and I’ll be honest in stating that I don’t think I would spend the 25 dollars or whatever it is to get into the Rock Hall. Being someone who has had a passion for music history since grade school, there really wasn’t much that I could learn from the two paragraph plaques on the various exhibits. True, it is cool to see Freddie Mercury’s stage clothes and whatever, but the most interesting thing to me was the re-creation of the original Sun Studios where rock and roll got its first great shot in the arm. It’s about the size of my kitchen. The featured exhibit was Bruce Springsteen, which was particularly cool as our show the following night was actually in the Boss’ hometown of Asbury Park, NJ.
Somehow we managed to resist the temptation for the Love Me Chicken Tenders in the Rock Hall food court and got a late lunch at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in downtown Cleveland. We chatted with some dudes from Pittsburgh that were in town to see Slayer, had a few top notch beers, a vegan burger (in my case) and then resumed our trek to the east coast.
I took over driving somewhere around the north east part of Ohio, thinking that I-80 at night would be a smooth drive and we’d get to the Levittown, PA residence of Mr. Joseph “Dim” Wolstenholme and Ms. Jessi “Dimmer” Spreitzer at a reasonable hour. Probably because I was thinking this, we got caught in something like 4 long-ass traffic jams in the middle of the night, adding hours to our drive. I kept my sanity by listening to a Replacements cassette that Mark Laschinski had given Nich awhile ago. Thanks Mark! The ‘Mats cassette gave way to some top 40 radio and we got our Katy Perry grooves on, as well as the summer jam from Nickelback “This Afternoon” that Nich and I sang along to with wild abandon, particularly the lyric about “doing this til 6 in the morning,” as that was when we actually finally fucking got to Levittown. I had passed out in the back seat somewhere along the way (er, after passing along the driving duties), and it was a shitty drive, but I was so happy to see Dim and Jessi (who had been texting and calling us for hours about our progress). I can’t get enough of our east coast comrades, and The Plurals and Dim have had a loving relationship through multiple incarnations of The Rape Babies, Too Much Too Fast Too Soon, and now Honah Lee. Dim made his entrance on crutches, as he had just a couple days earlier torn his ACL while jumping around at a Honah Lee show. Sucks about the ACL, but… fuck yeah for energy. Incidentally, this was not the first time I had seen Dim play a show on crutches, and, as it stands, he owns his own pair of crutches. We talked for awhile, but eventually the drive took its toll and we crashed on the floor. The last thing I heard before falling asleep was Nich half singing and half shouting, “bikinis on top.”
After a lazy afternoon of diner food, doughtnuts care of Dim’s mom, and reading random passages of Gene Simmons’ autobiography, Anthony “Goggles” Catanese showed up to pick up Dim and we made our way to Tim Hoh’s house to start our east coast adventures with Honah Lee. Dim and Goggles were both in The Rape Babies and Too Much Too Fast Too Soon together, but all along Goggles was also in the band Philo with Tim. Philo essentially turned into Honah Lee somewhere around the end of 2008, eschewing Phio’s midtempo “rock” for the more energetic punk-infused Honah Lee sound with the addition of Jim Graz on bass, and the eventual arrival of Dim on lead guitar in fall of 2009 solidified the lineup into a band that I totally love. The Plurals and Philo played together once a few years ago, and we met Tim as early as our first show that we played in Trenton, but we didn’t really become friends with Tim until this past spring when Honah Lee came out to the midwest and did some shows with The Plurals. We didn’t meet Jim at all until earlier in 2010, but we became fast friends over the course of our spring adventures with the Honah Lee boys, so it was a warm reunion of old friends at Tim’s house. Tim’s wife Jen (just married in June!), who we had met for about a total of 15 minutes before, was accompanying us as well and it was definitely a plus to have her around for this series of adventures.
After the standard routine of taking as long as possible to load up and get on the way that Honah Lee consistently lives by, we headed north to Asbury Park, NJ to play at Asbury Lanes. I’ve been hearing about Asbury Lanes for years so it was exciting to finally not only see this place but also get to play at it. The stage is set up in the middle of four bowling lanes, and bowling still goes on around the stage in the other lanes. The decor is a great mix of garish bowling alley aesthetics with punk rock designs, and the snack bar was stocked with tater tots, grilled cheese and all sorts of great terrible food. Hattie and I walked the boardwalk as Asbury Lanes is two blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean, and I also peered into the doorway of the Stone Pony, which is also right by Asbury Lanes. The show got started and the first two bands played. At this point I don’t really remember much of anything about these bands, but I remember that everyone I talked to was really nice. I was playing my guitar through Tim’s amp for these shows, and I had the space of setting up and getting sound levels to quickly get accustomed to the sound. I got it sounding pretty good, but the monitors were blasting and I think the speaker was blown, so all I could hear while we played was my voice distorted as fuck getting thrown back at me. No matter, we were psyched to play, and the stage was about twice as large as what I’m used to, so I jumped around like a jackass while Dim shouted lyrics back at me. After we played Honah Lee took the stage, complete with Dim rocking the lead guitar on crutches, and I was so happy that we were there. I never get sick of seeing Honah Lee play, and when they’re on, they’re really on, and when they’re not on, they’re still one of the most entertaining bands to see. On this night they were definitely on, and they had the crowd dancing and cheering almost the whole time. At this show we met their friend Lori (as well as her husband Brian and their son whom I do not remember the name of), a cool lady that Tim has known since he was a kid (and the person who got him into the Replacements!) who would be accompanying us for the next two shows.
After what felt like hours waiting for Honah Lee to load out, we made our way back downstate to Tim’s house for a night that I don’t remember. Yep, seriously, I have no recollection the night, aside from Tim dancing around the kitchen, and hearing the song “Shots” by LMFAO (in addition to (thank you!) the Snoop Dogg version of “Califronia Gurls”) for the first time, which would soon become another tour theme song.
After an uneventful afternoon of waking up, showering, hanging out, etc etc at Tim and Jen’s house the rest of the gang showed up, including Lori, who would be driving Honah Lee’s drunk asses to the next couple shows, and Jen’s brother Josh, who was also driving along for the next two shows. After the mandatory series of party store for beer/ gas station for gas/ another party store for cigarettes/ another gas station for people to go to the bathroom stops, we made the 3 hour drive to Kingston, NY for our next show. The drive was pretty uneventful; I spent part of the drive messing with Tim via text message, but otherwise little happened. We got to Kingston, checked out the venue, a cool little bar named Snapper Magee’s, then went around the corner to a pizza place. After the pizza we hung out at Snapper’s for a couple hours, partaking in the nice beer selection, and if I remember properly I didn’t pay for a single drink, as it was a bar that actually takes decent care of its bands. This was one of those bars with no sound guy so we had to run our own levels from the stage, which I honestly prefer in a lot of ways – it’s even better when we’re playing shows with Honah Lee as Jim is attracted to sound levels like a magnet, and he actually has a decent idea of how our songs go. The other band of the night, Bulldozer, showed up at some point and were not particularly friendly. A few of Honah Lee’s area followers, including a really cool girl named Bree that we would be crashing with later, showed up, so the room was decently full before we went on around 11 PM.
I thought we played a good set on this night, no particular songs jump out at me but I remember it being pretty solid. This was the show where I attempted my “joke” where I solely used words and phrases that people in the midwest use that people on the east coast don’t understand (something to the effect of “I called in after going to Meijer and getting too much pop”) which got the dead silent, awkward reaction that I was hoping for. The drummer of Bulldozer deemed it necessary to set up his drums on the floor in front of the stage while we were playing, which is pretty cool I guess. I didn’t really notice this in the moment of playing, but after other people pointed it out to me I realized it was pretty douchey. Oh well. I probably didn’t really notice much of anything happening out in the crowd, as the stage was kind of small (all in all the stage set up was pretty much the opposite of the night before) and during the course of jumping around Nich’s bass head fucking slammed into the back of my head and I wasn’t thinking or feeling a whole lot of anything.
After our set Bulldozer played, and their whole shtick was being antagonistic while simultaneously being self deprecating (i.e. “we’re the worst band you’ll ever see” immediately followed by fast songs where they act like cocky hot shit). At some point the drummer started ragging on us from being from Lansing, and after I grabbed a pick that I had dropped on the floor during our set the singer started picking on me for not having enough money for more picks, money that I would have if I “hadn’t paid for all those lessons.” Nich and I discussed this later, and we weren’t really sure what they were getting at – something to the effect of that we were good musicians, but they were still vaguely giving us shit? Hard to say. I realized then and now that their whole thing was to be antagonistic, something that we weren’t afraid to throw back at them. I told them that “shitty punk bands were a dime a dozen” (and, for that matter, bands named “Bulldozer”) to which they just laughed and looked at the floor, and Goggles started talking shit to the drummer from the floor as well. They were all smiles as they played, but they left immediately after their set was done. Poseurs!
Honah Lee closed out the show (as they would for all four nights of this east coast stand) and once again they were on the top of their game. Tim hadn’t been feeling well, though, and at this show he started to lose his voice a bit, but the set wasn’t hurt for it. Once again we hung out at the bar for a really long time after the sets were over, at one point Nich and Goggles ran off on their own adventure that involved an altercation with an old man outside of a Rite Aid and messing with a passed out dudebro that was halfway suspended from an open door of a parked car. I also remember we were wrestling on the sidewalk outside of the club and the bouncer was getting a little nervous since we were all hyped up and bordering on losing control (an effect that seems to happen whenever The Plurals and Honah Lee are together – just ask Timmy Rodriguez). Eventually we made it back to Bree’s place, and this was the night where I actually called it an early (re: 4:00 AM) night, so I consequently missed out on the party game of “putting shit on Nich while he sleeps,” which was extremely well documented by Jen Hoh’s camera.
We were a rough crew when we woke up on the morning of the 21st of August. I woke up with my head throbbing, the back of my head still aching from where Nich’s bass had connected with it the night before, my thoughts a complete fog and a vague, constant feeling of nausea. I began to get paranoid that I had a concussion, although a few hours later I realized I was just hungover (clearly). Honah Lee insisted on going to a brewery in downtown Kingston, and with nowhere else to go, I sat on a bench inside the brewery bar, feeling like shit, drinking water and reading the free newspapers. Normally I’m uncomfortable if I feel like I’m loitering, but this was one instant where I didn’t care at all. It was during the middle of this hungover haze that the idea occured, somehow, that we should start doing intentionally bad “Austin Powers” impressions. I don’t think I need to go into any more detail than that to give anyone an idea of how grating this was. Needless to say, we loved it and wouldn’t stop doing it, all members of The Plurals and Honah Lee included, but mostly Nich, Goggles, and myself.
We headed back south, ending up in northern New Jersey in the town of Warren, where we were scheduled to play at an American Legion Hall that night. In the history of The Plurals and before, I have played plenty of hall shows, but it had been awhile since the last time we had played one, so playing a hall show kind of felt like being a teenager again. The difference, though, was that, for whatever reason, drinking was allowed at this show and the patrons were largely in their mid-20s or older. It was a cool scene, with a cool promoter and every band that played was good and, at the very least, interesting. I should really try to find the info of the show, but I remember the first band sounded a lot like Far, the second band was called Black Birds (whom we had a nice rapport with and are planning on doing more things together in the future), the third band had a guy named Bill in it that was an original member of Thursday, and then The Plurals and Honah Lee. I thought we were in great form this night, rocking out and jumping around, feeling more at home in this DIY environment, and dropping terrible, god awful lines from “Austin Powers” in between songs (example: “You can buy our new record for [pause, raise pinkie to mouth] ONE MILLION DOLLARS!”). Honah Lee took the stage after us, and this was the infamous show where Tim decided to pull a stage move where he emptied a flask (of Southern Comfort, blech) into his mouth during a song, but the flask contained more than twice the amount of liquor he thought it did. This was also the first show where I fronted Honah Lee for their song “Sobered, So Bored” as Tim didn’t think he could sing it where his voice was at. I took the stage, shirtless with “HONOH LEIGH” written on my chest in sharpie, and did my best Steven Tyler microphone stand dance. The set ended with brilliant chaos as they closed with their “Godzilla” sampling rap-rock anthem “Ballad of the Cobras” (in tribute to their Californian friends Mystic Knights of the Cobra) which is way better than it sounds on paper. As per usual, we were at the hall for way too long, but it was fine at this show, as there was an unexplained lawnmower outside of the venue, of which Honah Lee’s friend Mark made great sport of popping wheelies and taking people on reckless rides through the lawn and street. We drove back down to Tim and Jen’s house, and had a great time that I can’t really recall. I think this was the night that The Plurals climbed a big tree in the backyard whilst everyone partied away.
Sunday August 22nd was “Sunday Funday.” I woke up in the early afternoon to Tim Hoh making a round of mimosas (champagne and orange juice) for everyone at the house, which included The Plurals, Tim, Jen, Jim, Michelle (Jim’s girlfriend and a great photographer), Goggles, Josh and additional friends that had been around but I haven’t written about Lauren and Mark (and possibly CJ too, I forget when CJ was actually around, but he took some great pictures of the day and night). The show was at our old stomping grounds of the Mill Hill Basement, very nearby, so we partied the whole day away. Some other friends showed up (including Joe Ewaskiewicz who is notable to us in that we have a video of him biting the skin off another guy’s arm at a party a few years ago) and we alternated from hanging out in the house to hanging out in the yard to hanging out in the shed out back where Tim had a stash of old mixtapes. At one point Goggles decided to lock all of us inside the shed after he and Nich fought with brooms for awhile, but we got out of it somehow. Goggles probably just got bored. I do distinctly recall standing in the yard, getting pretty wasted, with Goggles and Nich, with all of us reaching the same epiphany: we should combine bad Austin Powers impressions with bad Forrest Gump impressions to create the ultimate bad impression of “Austin Gump” (or “Forrest Powers”). Example: “I may not be a smart man, but I know what HORNY IS, BABY, YEAH!!” Oh my god we were just too fucking funny that we couldn’t handle it, and the day just degenerated into incomprehensible inside jokes, rolling around on the ground, chasing each other around the yard, and drinking and drinking. At some point Tim decided it would be a great idea if everyone drew “tattoos” all over him with markers, which gave us a welcome area to focus our energy on, and CJ has some great pictures of Tim’s “tattoos.” Incidentally, Tim’s photo on the Honah Lee website is of him crowd surfing at the show that night, during “Ballad of the Cobras” with visible “sleeves” all over his arms.
Somehow we made it to the Mill Hill, loaded in our gear, and then went upstairs, because Goggles and Amanda Menosky live up above the Mill Hill now! The shenanigans continued, and our old friend Greg Kline showed up to partake in the madness with us. We found a megaphone somewhere and were using that pretty liberally. Goggles made me a strong drink mixing sweet tea flavored vodka with something else, and it was horrible. After awhile we made our way back into the venue proper, and it was packed! Some old friends of ours, including Elissa from Karma Bat, Trenton legend Hippie Steve, and longtime Mill Hill bartender/ promoter Dave Locane were around, as well as our extended entourage that we had acquired through the four shows (with Lori and Brian making their return as well), so it was just one big party. Opening up the show was a band called Bravo Utah, who were playing their first show, and they did a solid cover of “Bastards of Young,” tying in with the Replacements-esque adventures of the tour. We took the “stage” after Bravo Utah, giddy, full of energy, with no inhibitions, and playing pretty tight with the two weeks of shows behind us, delivering what I feel was one of our all time greatest sets. During the extended bridge of our new tune “Happy Songs” Nich stripped down to just a pair of spandex shorts that he had found somewhere, and crawled all over the bar with the megaphone (also found, uh, somewhere) while Hattie and I just riffed on a feedback-laden groove. To pay tribute to our second hometown of Trenton and our great friends that had shown us such a good time on the east coast (and have many, many times) we played a song that Philo used to do called “The Basement,” written about the very Mill Hill Basement we were in. The set was a blur, I was covered in sweat, and the feeling was elation.
Honah Lee closed out the night, and certainly out “Replacements”ed us, as Tim (covered in fake tattoos) and Goggles (who, for reasons that are a complete mystery to me, was wearing a dress and garish lipstick that covered half of his face) were nearly falling over before the set even started. At one point Tim just handed his guitar to Nich, mid-song, who played along for the rest of the song while Tim wandered around the crowd just singing. Jim, soberest of the bunch, tried to end the set a few times, but that wasn’t happening. I once again handled lead vocal duties on “Sobered, So Bored,” with most of the room singing with me, which was definitely a great moment. They closed their rough but amazing set once again with “Ballad of the Cobras,” and it’s great that there was no one else on the bill, because no one else could have improved upon that show.
It was the fastest load out of all the shows, and my last sighting of Goggles was of him running around the street in his Batman underwear, covered in makeup, doing god knows what. Our old friend Dale showed up towards the end of the show, as he had been working, and we made plans to catch some lunch with him the next day before we had to head back to Michigan. We got back to Tim and Jen’s, saying that we were going to party til dawn, but one by one everyone else dropped out pretty quickly, until just Tim and I remained. Out of principle, we stayed up til dawn, not really partying so much as calmly (albeit drunkenly) waiting for the dawn light to creep into the window.
After a few hours of sleep, we made our way back into Trenton around 1:00 or 2:00 on August 23rd, where we met up at the Sunrise (I think?) Diner in downtown Trenton with Dale, Greg, and Johnathan “RoebusOne” Watson, a Jersey rapper who has since made his way out to Lansing on his own tour. Dale and Greg were pretty much the first two guys that we counted as friends in Trenton, and I’m glad that, years later, we still find time to hang out. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hang out for very long (no illegal trips to William Penn’s property or spontaneous splurges at the Princeton Record Exchange this time) so after a meal and a few cups of coffee we made our way back to Tim and Jen’s to say our final goodbyes. As we got near, the road was closed, and we had to find a back way to the house. We found out that a tree had fallen on to a school bus full of deaf children, taking out power lines to the whole neighborhood. Everyone was fine, but it kind of brought the whole thing full circle as we had kicked off the string of shows with a performance at a camp for deaf children. Or maybe I’m just always looking for literary moments in real life. There was, however, another, more concrete full circle moment, because Hattie’s purse finally arrived (remember that?), care of the great Jason of Rockford, IL’s Raging Pervy Gear Promotions, on what was our last day at Tim and Jen’s. Whew!
We bade farewell to Tim, Jen, and Jim, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be long before we saw at least the boys again. And, since I started writing this (mid-September; it is now almost Thanksgiving… guess I’ve been pretty busy this fall…) Honah Lee has been back to the midwest, and we’ve chalked up a whole new set of adventures with them. I can’t wait to keep it going.
We drove the rest of the day and all of the night, armed with a few of Tim’s mixtapes that he could stand to part with. We’ve done the drive across Pennsylvania and Oho so many times that it just kind of drifts by me now. We did discover a great new exit, titled “Jersey Shore” despite being firmly landlocked in the middle of Pennsylvania, that had an awesome shady gas station full of clearly used road maps, odd knick-knacks, herbal medicines, and pretty much anything you could want to distract you from a monotonous drive. We all split a weird ginger root ginseng drink acquired at this strange place called Jersey Shore. I hallucinated the whole way home. I wish.
The GTG House driveway came into my sight at about 6:30 AM on August 24, 2010. Coming home from tour is always bittersweet. One thing that I really took from this tour was the power of shitty music to become amazing when associated with certain events. No, I’m not referring to Honah Lee’s music (and certainly not Bulldozer either), but that of Katy Perry. When I’m driving around Lansing, coming home from class or whatever, and “Teenage Dream” comes on, I turn it up and smile, thinking about driving from Asbury Park to Trenton, knowing that an after party of absurdity is ahead, and thankful for all of these amazing people, both those I have known for years and people I had just met, that I can call my friends that live 12 hours away, or, thinking about six of us crammed into a hotel room, having a great night after a shitty show on a shitty night in Illinois, balking at the oddity that is pop music and music video in 2010, and thankful for all of these people that I see every day and have the privilege to make music with and watch them grow. Let’s get back in the van, or car, or whatever. Either way, I’m going, Katy Perry be damned, because life is like a box of GROOVY, YEAH!!
Wow, what a good read!