Tour Blog YAY!

Tour blog or something, almost entirely un-proofread so bear with me.

It was my first tour, it was Mallory's last, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, etc. etc. I'd had a few brief but intense hangouts with the kids from Mallory thanks to a random series of occurrences instigated by The Official Suckers when they were last on tour in the states, and had only a few random encounters with them afterward, but somehow I knew we'd be compatible touring buddies, and I was right. My only worry was that I'd never done this before and that I wouldn't be able to adjust to the trappings of touring, but it wasn't too far removed from my traveling days (in which I wore the same pair of overalls to, and past, any ordinary expectations for a garment, slept on floors or vertically in buses, etc.). I traveled with Niko, Justin and Andre of Mallory, as well as Haley, a current(?) Hampshire student who I'd met at various shows in the valley.

Our first stop was in Brattleboro, where the gig we'd gotten had fallen through just a few days before we departed. The idea was that we'd busk to make up a bit of gas money and take some valuable practice time, during which I learned some Mallory tunes (I had the honor of trying to sing Sofia Albam's part on "The House You Were Raised In," which was pretty difficult.) and during which Mallory learned a few of mine. That set up a pretty good dynamic for the rest of the shows we played, ensuring that at least one person in the audience could sing along to the other's material. Brattleboro is a cool town, which I had for some reason never been to before - it reminds me of Northampton circa 1993-ish, before various chains and franchises had started to move in, and the tremendous hilly-landscape of the downtown strip was fun to navigate. But it was a Tuesday, and there weren't a ton of folks out walking that night, so we didn't do too well. Finally we called it in, spent the little money we made on a beer special at the Brattleboro Co-op, and decided to go camping. Of course, the first place we found to do so was a cemetery, where a sign said Active Sporting permitted. The grounds were huge and we found a quiet corner near a rail-yard to pitch tents, build a small fire and chill out before the drive to Portland the next day...until around midnight, when the police rolled up, informed us that the sign actually said "Active Sporting _NOT_ Permitted" (The "not" had faded away) and very nicely asked us to leave. It was probably the least unpleasant police encounter I'd ever had, mostly based on the fact that the first cop reminded me of Mr Magoo and the second cop actually drove her cruiser into a grave by accident, which we both swore never to talk about again. Rather than pay 11 bucks for a campground and try and re-pitch our tents in the dark, we decided to make the drive that night to Portland. Along the way, we stopped at a gas station - I had started to fall asleep but was woken up by Niko who told me there was something I HAD to see. In my just-woken haze it looked like a fairy careening around the canopy of the gas station, until Haley named it as a Luna Moth, some enormous lime-green creature with about a 5-inch wingspan. A local drunk named Joe (apparently a regular at that gas station, since the attendant was calling him by name) was trying his damnedest to catch it, which he managed to do quite gently given his vigor. He held it still long enough for a few of us to get pictures, and then walked inside the convenience store and accidentally(?) set it loose. The attendant simply shrugged as she grabbed the broom to try and corral the moth back outside, as though Joe set large nocturnal insects loose in the store on a regular basis.

We made it to Portland at about 4AM the next morning, at which point Justin, Andre and I choose to try and catch a bit of sleep at the top floor of a hospital parking garage. Niko and Haley went to go exploring Portland and catch the sunrise, which I was altogether too exhausted to go along with, so when they came back around 7:30, we all switched - Haley and Niko tried to sleep for a bit and Andre, Justin and I went to a greasy-spoon diner to get a little something to eat, which was in hindsight a terrible idea. We all felt pretty queasy afterward, but strangely sated. We killed time for awhile, then tried to find Coyle St, the house that we were playing the show at that night. Once we did, we went busking at the local Farmer's market. Portland's Farmer's market is truly epic, taking up a full block of an enormous sidewalk, and we did extremely well, then took a walk around with one of Coyle St's former residents, Ariella. We found some food, then Ariella took us to this dilapidated dock that seemed to be entirely constructed of burnt timber, which made all of us a little nervous; but it was a sunny, breezy day and we all enjoyed the time spent relaxing before the show. At some point along the walk back, the tour had a name - "Champagne the Pain Away, 2010," a coded reference to a Cud Eastbound song which only meant for us that we'd try to drink a bottle of cheap sparkling wine on every stop of the tour. (This didn't last for long, once we crossed into Canada where the champagne was half as strong and all the alcohol was twice as expensive.). Armed with the cheapest alcohol on tour we descended upon Coyle St for an awesome show. If you ever hear that the Pattercubs are going on tour, check them out and fucking book them. They're awesome, loud folk-punk with violin, bass guitar, banjo, mandolin, a really sick inventive drummer who plays trash as well as a kit and lots of three-part harmonies. They played a great set that set the mood for the night really well. My set got people dancing, which set in motion the theory that Portland, ME has an unhealthy obsession with acoustic punk, and when Mallory played people were moshing and crowd surfing, which proved the theory pretty well. The show closed with Glade Swope, a truly unique individual who played an hour+ of solo thrash at low volumes accompanied by a rhythm track on CD. Not sure what else to say but the dude seems to be something of a local legend in Portland, totally consumed by metal yet wearing a baby-blue Hawaiian shirt. a living contradiction. Look him up, cos' I know you don't believe me.
We had a hell of a ride ahead of us the next day, so we woke up early to make the drive quickly and coherently. All of us had discussed our "story" for the border crossing in order to avoid customs/taxes for performing in Canada, and we had both mailed CDs across to avoid that becoming an issue. Again, this was one area where Mallory had some previous experience, so I deferred to them for the inspiration, though since the car was registered to me I did most of the talking. Aside from border guards taking issue with and confiscating pepper spray that was labeled "defensive spray" and not "bear spray," (though the ingredients would've been the same,) we crossed without incident or much delay. We drove about 1 1/2 hrs to Fredricton to pick up our CDs, and then two hours north of there to Moncton to play an outdoor show in a skate park for some really enthusiastic folks. We were more than a bit exhausted and were considering skipping the Moncton show (our hosts in Fredricton told us that Moncton was the heart of Nazi sentiment in New Brunswick, which made me glad i'd brought steel-toed boots, but thankfully we didn't encounter any of that.) On account of not realizing the time-zone shift, we were a bit late and missed the first act, but we got to see Josue play, the guy responsible for putting the show together. We ended up getting to see him play that night and the following two, in Fredricton and in Halifax, and got to hang out with him and his roommate Gumby after the show, which was the last night of Champagne the Pain Away in practice, if not in theory. It was a fairly low-key evening, and we got the chance to recoup a bit.

The drive between Moncton and Fredricton was comparatively short, so we took most of the day to lounge around. I was itching to cook, so I used the kitchen at the Galley, the house where the show was that evening, while Haley and the boys took a walk around Fredricton with Carolyn, one of the residents of the Galley. The show was small but enthusiastic - we played with Story, Cud and Mogli, who all of us knew from their tours in the states just a few months ago, and it was like a beautiful reunion show. The crowd was small but almost everyone knew the words to every song, so there was a raucous choir behind almost everything. The folks at the Galley were quite welcoming and they're one of the cleanest, most organized punk houses I've ever seen which some might take as a backhanded compliment but I mean genuinely.

The day after that, Halifax, only five hours of driving. It is impossible to state how stoked we all were, and once we pulled up to the Orphanage and saw Ryley sitting out on the steps we all started screaming in a way that must have scared most of Halifax. We had arrived in the middle of a scavenger hunt and after being nearly tackled by Rosie when her team arrived I was roped into joining midway - the remainder of the challenges included sewing a Harbour Water fest patch onto an article of clothing (mine remains on my shorts in what was obviously a rush-job), "making total destroy" out of a set of cardboard condos representing the encroaching gentrification of Halifax, and having our team quickly consume a Faxe, a local, extremely potent beer. This took us forever since we all stopped outside of the liquor store to come up with the cash for the beer, and the folks inside wouldn't let one of us buy it unless all of us could present ID, so we had to devise a backup plan that caused us to lose the scavenger hunt. Still, lots of fun and a great way to see a small part of Halifax literally minutes after arriving. The show got started a few hours later after an enormous vegan meal, and it was a series of transcendent moments. I got to see a lot of bands live that I had only heard compressed myspace recordings of, and got exposed to a few bands that I'd never heard of before. All in all the show was extremely well booked and sequenced, although the highlights for me were definitely the riotous duo of Carrot and Sweet Potato, singing some incredibly energetic murder ballads, the mosh pit that started during Ants and Anchors' set (playing some truly incredible tunes), hearing the latest configuration of the Official Suckers playing "Straight Kids Playing Dress Up" which damn near brought me to tears, and the aptly named "One-Hand Orchestra," which picked up on Mallory's final song, which included about a dozen people, myself included. The energy was really riotous, Garlic Fingers (a local snack) were thrown, nearly blinding someone, faces were punched, etc etc etc. It was basically a series of peaks that just kept intensifying, and I was really, really glad to be a part of it. After the last band, Buy Nothing Life, played, we all hung out for a few hours in the adjacent parking lot, fueled on by scotch and homebrewed beer, and had an intense series of brutally honest conversations that brought me up to speed with everything going on between the folks in Mallory, almost everything going on in Halifax, etc. After that, the course of the night seemed to make a lot more sense to me. After a Newfoundlander named Larry drunkenly stumbled over and acted creepy for a few minutes, I was able to call it a night and feel almost completely fulfilled.
The next morning, our party split. Andre and Haley went with Story and Cud to their home in PEI, while Niko, Justin and I chose to stick around Halifax for a bit longer. We spent the next two days in various configurations wandering the city with residents and friends of the Orphanage, including Rosie, Ryley, Rowan Bee, Kelly, Tucker and Tay (saw Jake a few times in passing). I got my first tattoo (a stick and poke), drank some great beer from a local brewery called Propellor, and lost my heart to the city and the folks we were hanging out with. I hesitate to gush and make a fool out of myself in this venue, but it was truly, truly wonderful to see old friends again and meet so many great new ones, busk with some new folks and eat some great food. It was also REALLY hard to leave for so many reasons, the least of which was the double shift waiting for me after the 15+ hour drive.
And that's about it. I'm back in New Haven, facing a brutal 45-hr work week next week and occasionally smiling so widely for reasons no one around me will understand. I promise, y'all, I'm not going insane, and let this blog be the best I can do to explain myself.

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