Maeth Tour Diary pt. 2 – California
Catch up on the adventures of our favorite twin-drummer psyche doom band. Part 1 is right here.
Day 5 – Tempe to San Diego
The ecosystem along the drive from the Phoenix metro area toward San Diego grew increasingly arid, until we were driving through legitimate sand dunes in eastern California. They apparently filmed Tatooine scenes from Star Wars here. I had foolishly purchased a small bunch of bananas right before the border of California, a state that doesn’t allow you to bring in any foreign produce. As we approached the border I had to wolf down the bananas lest they be lost forever to the border patrol fiends. I love bananas, but inhaling them in fear of authority as if they were smuggled drugs is definitely not the prime circumstance to actually enjoy them.
I had been looking forward to the San Diego date of tour for weeks because it was here that I was going to meet both Boy Wonder (Christian Molenaar) and ToH’s mighty editor (Joe Thrash-N’-Kill). Unfortunately, just as we were pulling into town our van’s engine and oil pressure gauge started acting strangely in a way that made us feel a visit to a mechanic was necessary lest we fry the van permanently. I briefly said “hi” to Christian and shook Joe’s teeny-tiny little boy hands, then we hustled to a nearby auto mechanic. They stayed open a bit later than their official closing time to help us out, which we were extremely grateful for. Although oil levels were adequate before we left for tour, we apparently burned a significant amount of oil climbing the rocky mountains and we were running dangerously low. Replacing the oil was obviously an easy fix, and they sent us on our way in plenty of time to eat a dank burrito and catch our gig.
The promoter was very happy with turnout for our show that night, and she seemed to think it was more for us than for the locals, which is pretty dang cool. Even cooler, it was a pleasure to see young Christian shred his guitar in twain as a part of Those Darn Gnomes.
After the show we were riding high and excited to go party at a hotel in downtown, but the extreme dips in the road in downtown San Diego got the best of us. I rolled down one too hard and the van jumped. In addition to the expected knocking sounds, we heard the dreaded shattering of glass. We initially assumed some amp tubes had somehow exploded, until we noticed we were missing a significant portion of our rear windshield. The hard corner of an amp had been flung into the glass, knocking a massive hole out of it and leaving our gear totally exposed to the both theft and the elements. Thankfully we were sleeping in an affluent and safe area, so for once nighttime theft wasn’t an especially huge concern. We rigged up a blanket to keep the inside of the van separated from the outdoors neighborhood, and not raise TOO much suspicion for being a weird-ass van parked in a ritzy neighborhood.
After all this mess, the five of us in the band still got to hang out with Christian and Joe for a bit and share some PBRs. We had a pretty great time shooting the shit, even though I had to constantly work to not be distracted by how small Joe’s hands were in relation to the rest of his body. Poor guy. :'(
Day 6 – SD to LA
This morning was spent lazily soaking up the sun while we waited for an auto glass mechanic to show up and replace our windshield. After scoring some last minute San Diego-style burritos with Boy Wonder and Joe’s shriveled phalanges, we rolled out to Complex in Glendale CA, one of the cities associated with the massive Megazord that is the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This was the most stacked bill so far, headlined by Relapse’s Atriarch and the haunting Black Mare. Black Mare said we were the best rando opening band they’d seen at this venue, and we both liked each other enough to trade CDs to jam in our respective vans, which we considered a high compliment. The music all night was fabulous and the band members were definitely chillers, but we couldn’t help but be amused by just how “L.A.” the people in attendance were. Everyone (no, seriously EVERYONE) besides us was rail thin and dressed 100% in fashionably stark black. A multitude of selfies were taken, and apparently attendance was only half of what was expected because it was raining that night and people in L.A. are total wusses about the 5 times it rains all year.
This was the first night in our band’s history that we couldn’t find a place to crash on the road, so we sadly had to spend all the money we made that night on a hotel room. The first four hotels we called were already full, but we eventually found a motel with one room available in town. Now, four of us needed to sleep inside but the room was only for two people. This required stealth. Two of us paid for a room and another couple snuck in a few minutes later. We actually think the proprietor noticed us creeping in the van, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort to get us to leave. That was still a pretty stressful 15 minutes.
Day 7 – LA to Pacifica
The drive from Southern California to Northern California was full of the kind of picturesque grassy hills they put on milk cartons. Speaking of pretty things, shout-out to the cute lady working at the In-N’-Out in Santa Maria who figured out we were a band and was flirting up a storm with me. Sorry I couldn’t whisk you away from your lame job to a dope show three hours north of your boring hometown. <3
We played Winter’s Tavern in Pacifica, a sleepy fishing/surfing town on the coast thirty miles south of San Francisco Bay. In Pacifica I felt like I was playing an RPG and had just arrived at the stereotypical “fishing town” where everything was ocean-themed, from the stores to the restaurants to the very conversations we had with locals. This show was a pretty big deal to us because the rad guitarist of Giant Squid (AJ Gregory) set it up for us. Not only that, but Giant Squid actually played the show; it had to be a secret because they had a non-compete agreement with a venue they were playing the following weekend, but they still wanted a warm-up gig after several months of hibernation away from live shows.
Giant Squid is extremely influential to our band and we look up to them quite a bit, so we were trying our best to not spend the whole night fanboying. We didn’t quite succeed, but AJ took it in stride and kept the atmosphere fun the whole night, including after the show when he and the bar owner took us on a walk to the pier and got us righteously drunk on Hamm’s, the traditional blue-collar lager swill of Minnesota that they somehow also had in small-town California.
It’s a good thing we figured out a designated driver early in the night so that we could make the drive to catch last call for burritos at Taquerias El Farolito, a famous late-night restaurant in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. We’d been eating multiple burritos every day, including this day, and this was still handily the best burrito I’d eaten in months.
Day 8 – SF/Oakland
Aaaaaaaand this is where tour officially got weird. 3/5ths of this band is originally from San Francisco, so those people got to sleep in their childhood homes and hosted the two others as guests. We had two Bay Area shows lined up for two nights in a row followed by a day off due to a cancelled Sacramento show, so we almost had a mini-vacation back in the guitarists’ hometown right in the middle of tour. On the first day there we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into a pristine park area with breathtaking views of both the Pacific Ocean and the mountains that help create the Bay’s continuously temperate climate.
That night’s show was a technical death metal “festival” at Oakland Metro with 5 brutal shred bands… and us. We had high hopes for a big weekend show headlined by The Kennedy Veil and Inanimate Existence, but that big room was very sparsely filled. The promoter definitely lost money on the show. The most frustrating part was that in the small room next door there was a much better attended, more genre appropriate show featuring Lycus and, once again, Atriarch. We chatted with the Atriarch dudes about the coincidence and our goofy circumstances, but it was too late to get us on the show last-minute. Sneaking next door to see Lycus was still a great treat.
Day 9 – SF
Our timing for having a spare day in San Francisco was either incredible or horrible, depending on your perspective. The city was held in the grips of an event called Bay To Breakers, a 10k run across the city from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean breakers. In addition to being a legitimate race, the event has steadily grown over the years to become an enormous drunken party where costumed revelers follow the race route until they get too tired/bored/drunk to continue toward the ocean.
I had the distinct pleasure of spending the day with my cousin Bjorn, a recent San Francisco transplant. He was rolling with a group of friends dressed as bananas and monkeys, while I was dressed in a sweet Norwegian shirt getup as it was also Norwegian Constitution Day.
In the late afternoon, I dipped out from the 80,000 person public rager to chill at the famed Amoeba Records with my bandmates. The clerk was very nice about asking me to leave my 12-pack of PBR at the front counter while I browsed the surprisingly large store. Our bassist picked up some sweet panflute music and Arabic jazz from the discount CD bin.
We were set to play a really doofy pop-punk show in a coffee shop that night, but the venue’s sole proprietor/employee called in sick at the last minute. We suspect he actually just got too hammered at Bay To Breakers earlier in the day. We weren’t super bummed honestly, since we expected nothing from this show and just had that much more time to chill with homies.
Day 10 – SF/NorCal
This final day in California was a planned day off, since our Sacramento show for this night had fallen through a couple weeks previously. I yet again spent the day with my cousin, this time biking off our hangovers. Like me, he works part-time as a bike courier, so we were able to tackle some really fun/nasty hills with relative ease. We went through downtown and around the coast toward the Golden Gate Bridge, which we crossed amidst gaggles of commuters and tourists. All in all it was a 25 mile ride, which felt pretty incredible after a week cramped in the van. The number one thing I miss while on tour is riding my bike, so this was the best possible way for me to spend an afternoon in a new city.
Alas, our Bay Area vacation couldn’t last forever, and we had to play in Portland OR the next night, an 11 hour drive. We decided to split the drive in half by leaving this night to drive a few hours into Northern California and complete the rest of the drive the following day. It was once again my turn to have a “van party”, where I slept in the van to protect our gear while my bandmates posted up in a hotel. I’ve done it plenty of times previously so didn’t think anything of it, but apparently a hotel worker didn’t have the same mindset.
Police were called at 3 AM about “suspicious men” near a U-Haul trailer in our hotel’s parking lot. Our van was parked right by said U-Haul, and I was awakened in the dead of night by police tapping on my window. I was pretty nervous because in some states it’s illegal to sleep in a vehicle and I definitely wasn’t looking to get a fine for just trying to protect our gear. The cops were actually very understanding though, and didn’t give me grief about anything. I explained why I was sleeping in a parking lot, and they said I was being smart, as there are a lot of vehicle break-ins in small-town California. Then they started asking me innocuous but annoying questions about our what our genre was, whether we wanted to “make it big”, etc. I typically don’t mind answering clueless questions about my band, but in this case I had to urinate VERY VERY BADLY so my patience was wearing thin as I sat shoeless on a curb explaining what it meant to be a “psychedelic metal” band. After they left I was nervous to pee outside, so I jumped in the van and relieved myself into my guitarist’s water bottle. It was his birthday. Sorry about that, Sam. :'(
Lessons learned in California; if a cop ever asks about my band again I should just say we’re a Christian hard rock group, and sometimes your heroes turn out to have palms the size of dollar coins, like Joe Thrash-N’-Kill. (I still love you, Joe. <3)