Music Features
Jul 10, 2007, 08:04

Photo by Steven Walker ©

7.03.07 - DAY SIX

The hotel desk forgets to give us a wake up call, so the girls and I sleep late and miss the bus. We take a forty-dollar cab ride to the venue and start to set up the tent. Almost everyone is hung over.

The show itself is actually pretty amazing. The people in Vancouver are great, really nice and polite.  They are blown away by the Lucha Libre Mexican professional wrestling troop that is along on the tour. These guys are hysterical. I had lunch with a few of them in the catering tent and it is apparent that they have no idea what they are involved in. they seem to be having a good time, though… so it's all good.

7.02.07 - DAY FIVE

Our first day off.  If we weren't on the bus, I'd say that I am a walking zombie. My sleep patterns are officially destroyed, my eyes are bloodshot, and I can't remember my name. The bus is out of water, which means the toilet is useless. The driver refuses to pull over so we can stock up on water or Dr. Pepper. He hates us, I can tell. We finally plow into Vancouver around 10 PM and check into the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The Alt brothers (from SDC) and I head out to the local bar district to go find more weed. It only takes about twenty minutes and we get hooked up with some killer BC shit. Richie Stratton runs into a crazy lookin' guy on a bicycle who offers to hook him up and then takes off with his money. A few minutes later a group of us see the guy and chase him down the street. When we finally catch him, he offers up a twisted little sack of catnip or some shit. We have a good laugh about it and let Richie smoke some of our real pot. We got back to the hotel at 3 AM and our bus call to leave is at 7 AM. Sheesh.

Damn, it feels good to sleep in a bed again, even it is only for a couple of hours. I'm sharing a room with Jaime Wilkins (DJ Addverse) and Jessica the merch girl. All of the other guys on the bus are stuffed into rooms four-deep. Man, I don't ever wanna get out of this shower. It feels good to be clean again.

7.01.07 - DAY FOUR

Woke up at three in the morning stiff as a board in my bunk and I couldn't get back to sleep.   We rolled into the outdoor Mountain View complex around six AM and I went for a walk off site. 

Completely out of Dr. Pepper, I did what I had to do.  The junkie needs his fix.  I found a 7-11 store that was decked out completely like the Kwikie Mart from The Simpsons.  I wasn't sure if I was hallucinating or if I had actually passed into an animated realm of humanity.  (Turns out it was a promotion for The Simpsons' movie.)

The venue here is just gorgeous.  Backstage, they have the giant skull from the Grateful Dead's stage show hovering over the catering patio.  Nice touch.  I've been hanging out every morning in Guitar Center's Wireless Web lab located in the backstage area.  They have a dozen Macs set up in a nice new air-conditioned trailer.  There are guitars laying around for people to fuck around with. 

Let's see… who killed today.  The Vandals were amazing.  The Circle Jerks sounded younger than their age.  I helped Keith Morris load some of their gear into the van after the show.  Had to check out C&C again, I could watch them every day.   Damn, those motherfuckers just tear it up.

Out in the mosh-mall things were electric.  Fourth-gen punk rock kids wandered around looking for water and fish tacos. 

My other bus co-riders are an inspired lot.  This is where the twisted reality show effect comes in.

There is an old school B-boy break dancing group from Seattle called Massive Monkeys who are just totally off the hook.  These four guys are absolutely gifted.  DJ Addverse is a great DJ from East Lansing, Michigan..  I love her style—old school break beats mixed with subversive dancehall reggae shit.  She is totally off-the-hook.  Beautiful too.  She and 23-year-old merch manager Jessica Erk hang out a lot when we're not busy doing our show.  The two of them look kinda like sisters.

There are also a handful of comedians who are performing on the tour.  Mack Linsdey is from Austin, Texas.  Has a very loud, confrontational style.  He screams at the top of his lungs most of the time.  The crowd loved him.  He and I stand around smoking, talking about how much we miss Bill Hicks.  Richie Stratton is a short white guy who tells relationship jokes and looks like a younger Paul Giamatti.  It won't be easy for him to connect with a bunch of kids who have probably never been in a relationship.

6 ft 5, 300 lb. brother Jimmy Mar was once a writer on Dave Chapelle's show, now he holds court in the tent where we've been performing.  The dude is huge.  Smokes a lot of weed.  His voice sounds exactly Method Man's speaking voice.  Mustapha is another brother, originally from Washington DC, who lives in Los Angeles.  I like his style.  His material is pretty clean, so I'm not sure if he's going to connect with a bunch of punk kids with braces and DOA shirts.

These guys all spend hours on the bus during the daytime writing material, working on routines, booking night gigs, etc.  They seem really inspired to maximize this opportunity.  It seems far more interesting than doing the comedy club scene.

We stay up late and swap stories about past gigs.  Mack pops in a DVD of a documentary film that he and an Austin filmmaker named Kevin Booth made on the War on Drugs.  We smoke all of our weed because we're headed to Canada and the border checkpoint is an almost guaranteed search experience. 

When we arrive at 3 AM they gather our passports and run each of our names through their database.  Mustapha has a Muslim birth name, so they pull him from the bus and interrogate him for a half hour or so.  The rest of us stand around and wait it out.  Finally they let us through and we head north. 

6.30.07 - DAY THREE

We're in Ventura, California today.  Looks like another sold out show.  We got the technical end of the Mix Tent up and happening and everything was going great—up until a dozen cops and paramedics administering CPR wheeled a guy by on a stretcher.  He didn't make it.  Apparently the guy had a Pacemaker put in a little over a week ago and he decided he was ready to go to a day-long punk rock festival with 30 bands playing.  Not a good choice on his part.

As far as the exciting sets of the day, the Street Drum Corps were just amazing.  Adam Alt, his brother Bobby Alt, and Paul Zummo are really onto something.  I'm riding on the bus with these guys.  Three drummers (no, they aren't painted blue) who play call-and-response arrangements that incorporate power saws, electric sanders and an odd assortment of metallic objects.  Their shit is like a cross between Stockhausen, Test Department and the Broadway show Stomp.   The crowd really digs it.  I want them to back me up when I'm performing.  I've gotta hook that up somehow.

On the main stage, Pennywise totally shredded.  Never really checked them out before, but I'm sold on them now.  Fucking amazing.  I haven't listened to a whole lot of punk rock other than that original first batch of bands who I consider defined the genre.  I ditched punk rock when it showed up on MTV and became what it had originally railed against. 

Pennywise's set came as a pleasant surprise.  They totally ripped.  Yellowcard were badass too.  I wish I had more time to check out the other bands, but we're still getting the Mix Tent together and I really need to hang close to our space for now.  I'm sure there will be plenty of time to check out all of the other bands over the next two months.

We leave at eleven tonight and head for Mountain View, which is near San Francisco.  Everyone on the bus is still trying to remember each other's names.  The driver, an admitted redneck named Thomas, doesn't seem to care for any of us too much.  He talks to us like we're little kids.  When he finds out that someone had been sitting in the driver's seat while he was at the hotel, he goes absolutely ballistic and starts screaming at everyone.

This ain't good.

6.29.07 - DAY TWO

The first official tour date in Pomona, California and we're totally sold out.  17,000 people kickin' up some serious dust at a horseracing track at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds. 

Everything here is an exercise in extremity.  It's blazing hot outdoors, but freezing cold on the tour bus.  God, I can't believe how small my bunk is.  I can't even roll over.  It's like laying in a coffin on a fuckin' rollercoaster.  There are 18 people on our bus.  An odd collection of DJ's, break dancers, poets, percussionists and merch vendors… it's sicker than any reality show you'd ever see on VH1.  I'll give you a little more insight on each one of them in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, glazed Pomona kids in torn black t-shirts wander around looking for shade.  It sounds like there are eight bands all playing at the same time.  There are corporate logos plastered on everything, including the tent where we perform.  Our performing area is facing a monumental wall of portable toilets.  We've had a few tech issues, simple shit that I'm sure we can fix by tomorrow.

I wander around for a while and check out the adolescent Petri dish.  The crowd is really blown away by Coheed and Cambria.  Their show is just mind-boggling. 

There is fuckin' garbage everywhere.  I smell terrible.  One of the girls on our bus finds me around midnight and says that everyone has pitched in to get a hotel room a few blocks way, and that I should go there and shower right away.  I sprinted there in my Dickies hiking boots and barely made it back to the bus in time to leave.

The plumbing in the bathroom on our bus has sprung a leak and leaked raw sewage into the aisle between all of our bunks.  The carpet is soaked through with urine.  I just can't sleep in that tiny space.  I slog back up to the front of the bus where a few people are watching a DVD of 300 at maximum volume.  Privacy is out of the question.  If it's like this every day, I'm in for a very serious change in lifestyle.

We roll out at 3 am and head for the next stop.

6.28.07 - DAY ONE

It's the day before the tour actually begins. Bands, corporate sponsors, crew members, street teams, tour volunteers and bus drivers are all converging on the fair grounds in Pomona, California. Everybody checks in at the main registration office and most are issued laminated all access passes. Outside the building, tattooed punk rockers whiz by on skateboards, scooters, and tricked out bicycles. There are probably sixty tour buses and semis idling in the parking lot. Old friends gather in the afternoon sunlight around a big grill and reminisce about past tours, catch up on personal shit and talk about the new bands on this year's menu. Corporate sponsors like Van's and Bust magazine pass out free shoes, ice cream and hair products. It's hot as fuck out here. The ice in my Dr. Pepper melted along time ago. God, I miss air conditioning already and I haven't even been here an hour.

I was worried that I might end up being the oldest guy on the tour, but that isn't the case at all—not by a long shot. There are a lot of people here who are my age. Kevin Lyman, the tour's founder and director, is one of them. I listen in as he gives a pep talk at a meeting of all of the band's road managers. (I don't have a road manager, so I figured I would hang out and listen on behalf of myself.) You can tell that Kevin is on autopilot—that after 13 years of putting on the Warped Tour that he has this down to a science. Lots of info about all of the various environmental causes he supports. Bio-diesel fuel is very important this year, as is his efforts to save the Coral Reef off of the coast of Florida. Inspirational stuff.  And when he says that, “we're bringing this thing to over 600,000 people this summer…,” the reality of the sheer magnitude of the impact of the tour on American popular culture is simply undeniable. It's a very exciting thing to be a part of.

A few minutes later, I find the tour bus that I'll be living on for the next two months. I meet a few of the DJs, rappers, poets, comedians and musicians who will all also be performing in the “Mix Tent” and we seem to vibe pretty well. So far, so good. We get together and try and come up with a rough schedule of how we're gonna sequence the acts each day. Lyman drops by the bus and gives us a similar speech to the one given to the road managers.  He's stoked to have some weird stuff that might expand the minds of the punk rock crowd. A few of us head outside for a quick smoke and a search for cold water.

Looking around I see that I'm now part of a traveling circus, a twisted carnival of well-intentioned outcasts and misfits. And even though I'll be living out of a suitcase for the next sixty days, it already feels like home.

  • Jeffrey Liles
  • Cottonmouth, Texas
EXCLUSIVE Cottonmouth, Texas MP3 FREE for a limited time only: SECONDHAND SMOKE 

About the track:

This COTTONMOUTH, TEXAS track, "Secondhand Smoke" will be one of the added bonus tracks on the forthcoming Contraband Records re-release of Anti-Social Butterfly due out later this summer. 

The album, Anti-Social Butterfly was originally released by Virgin Records in 1997 and is currently out of print. “Secondhand Smoke” is one of a dozen tracks that marks the first new material from COTTONMOUTH, TEXAS since 2001, and the upcoming shows on this summer's Warped Tour will mark the first live performances since 2002

Music for “Secondhand Smoke” composed by Cricket Taylor. Cricket is a Dallas based singer/producer. (Cricket is amazing... kind of like Dallas' answer to PJ Harvey. Really raw, emotional stuff.) 

Vocals recorded by Jeremy Morelock at Aquavid Studio in Burbank, CA. The music was recorded at the House of Cricket in Dallas.


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