Smello, you! We’re over two weeks into our tour, and everything has been going swimmingly so far. Here’s the third update in the series of weeklies.
As I mentioned in last week’s update, we had a couple of days off in Fayetteville prior to Tuesday’s show at The Rock Shop. Before the show, Ian took the time to teach me some Koffin Kats songs on guitar, and we all just hung out, taking care of business and booking shows. (See you this summer, Europe!)
5:00 PM arrived before we knew it, and we were off to The Rock Shop for load-in. After a detailed sound check (thanks, Sean!), we headed to Miyabi Japanese Steakhouse for some pre-show hibachi. The food was absolutely fantastic; steak, shrimp, chicken, veggies, and more rice than China has exported in the last decade. While the food was wonderful, the highlight of the dinner was definitely the surprise we arranged for Vic. We had the restaurant sing “Happy Birthday” to him (it was not his birthday), and he was asked to dance “Gangnam Style”. He had no idea what to do, so this is what ended up happening:
Once we were filled to bursting with grub, we arrived at The Rock Shop and set up our merch tables. The venue is huge, with two stages and a pretty good sound and lighting system. The bartender is also a big fan of the band, and did a great job of taking care of us all night (thanks, Christina!). The Kats killed it on stage, and I even jumped up there to do the high backup vocals during their cover of Hall and Oates’ “Maneater”.
Post-gig, Vic took me backstage to show me an unfortunate casualty: his upright double bass had a giant split in the wood of the body. Part of Koffin Kats’ electrifying live show includes instances of Vic or Ian standing on the bass while playing their instruments. It’s visually striking and the crowd absolutely loves it, but sometimes it results in an accident. No matter; Vic is a seasoned touring musician, and he’s got contingency plans for events like this.
Bass glued and taped, we loaded out and headed back to the house we were staying at and partied a bit before passing out. The next day, we hung out, watched Halo and Zoolander, then got in the bus and on the road for the short drive to Raleigh, North Carolina. Along the way, we stopped at a gas station to fill up, and I took the opportunity to fill my big water jug. I couldn’t find a water dispenser, so I asked an employee if there was one available. He took me into the back and attempted to begin filling my jug from the hose they use to fill their mop bucket. The guy lost control of the hose and, through what I believe was some sort of prank of the gods, it sprayed directly toward me, soaking my clothes. After going back to the bus to change, I returned to find my water jug filled. One taste was all I needed; I’ll be buying a new water jug tomorrow.
Impromptu shower notwithstanding, we got to the venue (The Maywood) and loaded in our gear. The Maywood is a good-sized venue, and their slogan is “Bourbon, Billiards, and Bands”. My kind of place! The owner/bartender, Jane, saw to our minimal needs (booze, mostly) throughout the night, and the vibe of the place was wonderful. Moreover, we were bombarded once again with amazing food! Dane, a member of the band Motorbilly, who also performed at the show that night, cooked up a dish of rigatoni with sausage, Angus and Italian-style meatballs, and pepperoni, covered on top with pizza crust. We mowed it down quickly, and holy crap, was it good. Another friend brought us Spanish rice, chicken tortillas, and some kind of cinnamon coffee cake. We saved that grub for after the show and the next day. Fantastic fans, we have. (Thanks, Dane and Cat!)
When we first headed out on this tour, we discussed the idea of me jumping up on stage during the drum solo break in “Buzzkill Bitch” and taking over the drums from Eric so he could go to the bar and do shots with Ian and Vic. Since “Buzzkill” is an alternate song in the set, each night I ask Vic what songs they’ll be inserting. Under the impression there would be no alternates on this occasion, I settled into my chair behind the merch tables, and continued reading my Mick Jagger biography. Next thing I knew, I heard a drum solo happening. (I don’t know the Kats’ older material as much as I know the songs which I’ve recorded with them. Gotta fix that!) I jumped up onto a bench and made eye contact with Eric, who motioned his head for me to get up on stage. I launched into an impromptu drum solo for about 45 seconds, then handed the sticks back to Eric. The crowd really enjoyed it, and I received several compliments.
The set finished, we packed up and left The Maywood. That night, we stayed at Dane’s house and were treated to one of the best moments of tour so far: HOT TUB. Man, did it feel good to relax in the tub, and our relaxation was enhanced by several beers and liquor. Everyone must have been feeling pretty good post-dip, because before I knew it roughhousing had commenced. Tackles, punches, and strangling occurred, and the next morning I woke up with wounds on my hands. Partying with The Koffin Kats can hurt.
The next day we had another rare day off. During the day Vic and Eric went out and handled some business stuff—including buying clamps and glue to fix Vic’s upright bass, and having a key for our trailer locks made for Eric; his broke off inside the lock when we were in Winchester, Virginia the previous week, and Vic’s copy was unavailable at the time. Ian and I played guitar for most of the day and took naps.
Eric woke me up with some sushi from the restaurant at which he and Vic ate. At night we all hung out in the living room with Dane and his wife while watching shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers, and chatting and drinking scotch.
(I also began the habit that evening of preparing a draft for this week’s update: I do my best to be as detailed as possible without getting into too much small stuff, but I’ve been running into so many people at shows who have been referencing things from these posts. It seems you all actually pay attention to what The Koffin Kats are up to on any given day, and that’s awesome. We are grateful to have you as our friends and best fans in the world.)
And, of course, we went in the hot tub again.
In the morning we headed out on the road to Charlotte, North Carolina. Ian went with Dane to eat and ended up traveling with Motorbilly to meet us at the venue—The Milestone—later. Eric, Vic, and I made good use of our three-hour drive, handling a bunch of business by telephone and making notes for what are becoming “Management Mondays”.
After a time, we stopped at a music store just outside of the city so Vic could buy a thumb plectrum (non-musicians: a plectrum is a guitar pick) to practice clawhammer picking on the guitar. I took advantage of the opportunity to urinate in the music store bathroom and snap a selfie.
We left the music store and stopped at a diner in the same plaza for a late lunch.
Our meals eaten and paid for, we walked to a bookstore near the diner and browsed for a bit then got in the bus for the short venture to The Milestone.
Upon arriving at the venue I was taken aback. It’s a total DIY punk rock bar with walls completely covered in stickers and Sharpie, a minimal sound system, trash-strewn floors, and a chilling room temperature. They did have pre-show entertainment in the form of a Nintendo 64 running Mario Kart near the bar! Eric and I played a few matches together before the venue opened its doors to the fans patiently waiting outside.
Once the show began the venue filled up quickly, and suddenly we had another packed house on our hands. While one of the opening acts was performing, Ian was treated to a gift from Motorbilly.
When Koffin Kats took the stage the audience went absolutely bonkers. Fans were dancing and moshing and thrashing about happily. This was also the first show at which we had crowd-surfing take place, and everyone had a great time. Vic’s bass even took a turn surfing the crowd!
Equipment loaded in the trailer, we made a short journey to a house where Dane had set up for us to spend the night. Before going to bed we ate some potato chips and drank some moonshine, which seems to be prevalent around the Kats for some reason. Sleeping was difficult due to the symphony of snoring in the room among six drunk dudes passed out on the floor, so just after sunrise I relocated to the van for the remainder of my rest.
I woke up to Eric handing me a breakfast sandwich from Bojangles, a going away present courtesy of Dane—a present which would haunt Eric’s digestive system for the next forty-eight hours. On the way to Asheville, North Carolina, we made a stop at the company that handles the embroidery machines the band uses to make their custom patches. We picked up some thread for the machines back home then left for the venue.
We arrived at Lexington Avenue Brewery, or “The LAB”, in Asheville, North Carolina at 6:00 PM for load-in. The LAB is a swank bar and restaurant in downtown Asheville, and it was full with dinner customers when we brought in all of our gear. Because of the nature of the building, there are no load-in doors anywhere near the live music room, which is located at the very rear of the establishment. So, we had to schlep our equipment through the entire building, navigating around disdainful diners and bustling wait staff. Once we got into the actual venue, we were pleasantly surprised to find a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting setup waiting for us. We were able to get a full sound check and take a snapshot of the mix to make for a quick changeover between acts. Prior to the show Vic, Ian, and I were treated to steak and vegetables, which were fantastic.
Eric forewent the delectable dinner due to arising complications from the aforementioned Bojangles experience earlier in the day.
Stomach expulsion finished, Eric joined the band on stage for their nightly hour-long set of songs. The capacity crowd was full of new faces to the band, which was great. Koffin Kats are in their tenth year of touring and have a wide and loyal fan base in the US and Europe, and having fresh faces on the dance floor is a wonderful sight. The band played excellently, and the sound that night was probably the best of the tour so far.
There was an afterparty waiting for us at a local bar called The Yacht Club once we packed up our gear. Vic, Ian, and I headed there and partied with everyone while Eric stayed in the van to attempt to sleep off his stomach sickness. A well-known Tennessean named Joe Buck was performing at the party, and we took the opportunity to get a picture with him before heading to our friend’s house outside of Asheville to stay the night.
At our friend’s house (Derek and Stacey, the organizers of the show), we were blessed with a beautiful breakfast of eggs and bacon. I. Love. Bacon. We also had some fun shooting Derek’s guns . . .
Ammo depleted, we left the humbling hospitality of our Asheville friends (thanks, Derek and Stacey!) and were on our way to Johnson City, Tennessee to our show at The Mecca Lounge. This venue was a stark contrast to The LAB; tiny dive bar with indoor smoking allowed, no stage, and a barebones sound system (the only microphones used were for the three vocals and the kick drum). They didn’t lack for hospitality, though! We had a buffet of awesome homemade food brought for us including fried chicken (both regular and barbecued), rice and beans, smothered burritos, fresh salad, and some of the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had, and I’m not really fan of mac and cheese.
While the opening bands were performing I spent time playing the guitar and reading my Mick Jagger biography. (I’m not sure if you have ever heard this, but that guy really likes to have sex with different women [and men].) When the band took the floor(!) I dialed in their levels then went back to the merch tables and played along to the first half of the set on guitar. The lead solos are a pain in my butt!
The Koffin Kats did what they do and the crowd responded in kind. After sitting through five acts over the course of five hours, the audience was exhausted and quickly left to their repose. We packed up and drove to a Wal-Mart to sleep in their parking lot for the night. Along the way we ate more of the delicious food from the venue as a late night snack.
The next morning, after using the Wal-Mart bathroom to wash my hands and brush my teeth, we stopped at a gas station for coffee and headed to a Planet Fitness in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Side note: I relish going into Wal-Mart and buying nothing, but using everything.) We all had a great workout, and it was refreshing to push out the toxins from the afterparty in Asheville.
Every time we go the gym, Eric and I have been sharing a locker since I don’t have one. On this day his lock was getting stuck due to a buildup of salt and dirt from having to be used on the trailer in lieu of the pucks we normally use. When I attempted to remove the lock it wouldn’t budge, so I got a hammer from the front desk and hit it in hopes of dislodging it. No dice. (Yes, the combination was correct; yes, it was his locker.) I returned the hammer and requested a bolt cutter; problem solved. “Charge it to the game, Eric!”
Showered and feeling fresh, we drove to Chattanooga for one of our trademark late lunches. Though, they’re actually not late, considering we normally wake up at the crack of noon. From now on, it’s just “lunch” to me. We parked the bus and went to a Mediterranean restaurant, which ended up being an excellent choice. The soup and salads that Vic, Eric, and I had were outstanding, and Ian’s shwarma wrap looked excellent too.
Lunch in our bellies we moseyed to a nearby Ben & Jerry’s for a small treat. We returned to the bus and figured out where to head next, since it was our day off. We ended up getting in touch with some of Eric’s family who live in Alabama along the way to the next venue on our tour. We arrived at his aunt’s house in Sylvania and were warmly welcomed. The family treated us to a pizza dinner and a place to stay for the night. Currently, the boys are in the living room watching Captain Phillips
And that is where I leave you this time around, folks. I must say I’m glad I took the time at Dane’s house to get a head start on this update, considering I’ve been sitting here for over four hours just to finish it! Take care, and check back next week for the finale update of this particular tour. Or better yet, subscribe to this blog and get an email as soon as next week’s update is posted! Do what makes the most sense to you!
Until next week, guys and gals.
John Kay is learning the rules of the road, crossing the lines of acceptable public behavior, and shocking everyone the whole while long. Subscribe to The Real John Kay’s blog to receive an email whenever a new post occurs!
Wanna hear the music John Kay makes when he’s not on the road with The Koffin Kats??? Check out the first single “Dealing With People” from his upcoming debut solo album here.