Koffin Kats 2014 Winter Tour – Update #4 (Birmingham, Champaign, Mishawaka, Kalamazoo)

Well, this is it!  This is the final update of the exploits, shenanigans, and happenings on the road with The Koffin Kats on their 2014 Winter Tour.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the first few posts, and based on the feedback we’re seeing on our Facebook page and Twitter feed, it seems a lot of you have been following along as we work our butts off out here on the highway.  Now, settle in and get ready for the grand finale!!

Those pickled eggs have really gone to Vic's head.
Those pickled eggs have really gone to Vic’s head.

As mentioned last week, on Monday night we stayed with some of Eric’s family whom he hadn’t seen in years.  After being treated to pizza and movies, we crashed out.  We woke up the next morning to discover that the winter weather warning we received the previous day was no laughing matter.  Sylvania, Alabama got hit with their first snowfall in around five years.  Thanks a lot, “polar vortex”.

We made an attempt to leave very early that morning, but decided to wait it out until the snow stopped falling and the roads were somewhat cleared.  Being that we were up in the mountains, we didn’t want to get stuck on an incline—we’re big fans of being alive.  Just after noon, we piled into the bus and took off . . .

HA!  I wish.  Instead we got stuck in the mud near the house and had to fight our way out for close to thirty minutes.  We used kitty litter to increase the traction under the tires, but to no avail.  Luckily, a neighbor happened to be driving by and used their Jeep to help pull us out of our predicament.  We thanked them profusely and rewarded them with a couple of free CDs, then headed out toward our next stop in Birmingham, Alabama.  (Note: Within five minutes of leaving they had posted on our Facebook page how much they were enjoying the CDs we just gave them!  Good times.)

Teamwork in Sylvania, Alabama.
Teamwork in Sylvania, Alabama.

Once we arrived in Birmingham we were all very hungry.  Vic’s mouth was watering for Chinese food, so we stopped at a local restaurant for a meal that really hit the spot.  After eating, we drove to the night’s venue (The Nick), parked the bus, and laid down for a food coma-induced nap.

Chinese chow in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.
Chinese chow in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

Upon waking, it was time to unload the gear into the venue.  The Nick is another one of these classic DIY punk rock venues, replete with the requisite stickers and Sharpie scrawling all over the walls.  It also has a ton of posters and press photos of bands stapled to the ceiling, and by just looking at some of the names of the bands it’s easy to see that this venue has been around for years.

Ian lost in thought outside of The Nick in Birmingham, Alabama.
Ian lost in thought outside of The Nick in Birmingham, Alabama.

Since we were in Alabama, I felt it completely necessary to show off a little bit of my roots and put on my dad’s old Alabama (band) jersey shirt from the early 1980s.  I had a guy come up to me lavishing praise for wearing it.  Thanks, dude!

Repping my 3-year-old self in my dad's original 1984 Alabama band shirt in, well, Alabama.
Repping my 3-year-old self in my dad’s original 1984 Alabama band shirt in, well, Alabama.

Once the opening bands were finished warming up the crowd, I set to work getting the sound board ready for Koffin Kats and placing microphones for the show.  The sound system was kicking, and though the gear was somewhat foreign to me, I received compliments from Vic on how the show sounded.  The sound guy must have been quite pleased with the job I did (and not having to worry about running sound for a band) because he was very forthcoming with offering and getting drinks for me.  (Thanks for the Bulleit bourbon, Allen!)  Once again, I was able to join the band on stage for the high backup vocals in their cover of “Maneater” by Hall and Oates, plus lay down the drum solo during “Buzzkill Bitch” while the guys got shots for us to do on stage.  My shot gets poured into my mouth while I play.  WOOHOO!

We loaded out from the show, and headed to another Wal-Mart parking lot to stay in the bus for the night.  When we rose the next day, we found out our show in Memphis, Tennessee at The New Daisy Theater had been cancelled by the venue due to weather.  I put the word out on Facebook to my friends that we were looking for a place to stay in Nashville.  With that floating out there, we went to the gym and had a great workout.

Even though the show in Memphis was cancelled, we still had good news to report for the day: the music video for “Giving Blood” from the newest album Born Of The Motor was released, and it’s absolutely hysterical!!

After the gym, we got in contact with a friend of the band who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.  She said she had no problem with letting us crash at her place for the night, so we skipped Nashville and went straight to her house.  As soon as we opened the door, the smell of awesome cooking was in the air.  Our hostess (Monica) had made us homemade egg rolls and chicken curry with rice and bamboo shoots.  Yum!

Once we had our fill of food, we headed to a local pub for a nightcap, courtesy of our hostess.

Nightcaps in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Nightcaps in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Refreshed from a good night’s sleep, we all woke up and tended to the business of the day.  For Ian and I it was learning more songs on guitar and taking showers (separately, you perverts).  For Vic and Eric it was going to the bank and taking care of some financial stuff.  Those two were also able to stop at a coin store where Matt Dinger, Eric’s favorite talk radio host, works.  Many don’t know this, but Eric is an avid coin collector, and it was great for him to meet and get a picture with one of his heroes.

Eric with his favorite talk radio host, Matt Dinger from Coin Show Radio! Vic is holding the silver equivalent of a flight to Europe in his hand!! http://LDRcoins.com
Eric with his favorite talk radio host, Matt Dinger from Coin Show Radio! Vic is holding the silver equivalent of a flight to Europe in his hand!! http://LDRcoins.com

When Eric and Vic returned from their outing, we packed up our necessities and left the hospitality of our hostess (thanks, Monica!).  From Indianapolis we were off toward our next stop on the tour, Champaign, IL.  I utilized the time to once again get a head start on this week’s update.  (Being proactive, FTW!!)

We made it to Champaign, Illinois in no time, parked the bus, and went to lunch with one of our good artist friends, Grant.  Ian and I each had a fantastic burger (The Russell) at Farren’s Pub and Eatery, and then we settled in for the requisite post-lunch nap prior to load-in at Cowboy Monkey.

Cowboy Monkey is a swank venue with a very helpful and courteous staff.  Their sound system was great, and once again the band was treated to fantastic audio for the evening.  This stop also marked the second occasion on this tour which we had a “Superfan”!  Thanks, Justin!

This is Justin, aka @mccartytattoo. He just took advantage of our "Superfan" deal: one of each item at the merch table for only $300!! Thanks, Justin! We appreciate YOU!!
This is Justin, aka @mccartytattoo. He just took advantage of our “Superfan” deal: one of each item at the merch table for only $300!! Thanks, Justin! We appreciate YOU!!

That night we slept in the bus while parked in a truck stop parking lot.  Morning came, bladders were emptied, coffees were purchased, and we traveled a few hours to the Planet Fitness in Mishawaka, Indiana.  I was really happy that this particular PF has stability balls for doing some of my ab exercises.

Muscles pumped, we drove to the venue (Smith’s) and ate lunch.  We all had the same thing: salads with extra bacon and blue cheese dressing, and Smith’s “world famous chili”.  Both were excellent.  I followed up my meal with a few games of Twilight Zone pinball, and won two replays on only $1.50.  Pinball wizardry finished, it was nap time in the bus for Eric, Vic, and me; Ian stayed in the venue and changed his guitar strings.

I woke from my nap and joined Ian upstairs in the venue, where he taught me the rest of the songs in the band’s set on guitar.  Just as soon as I had learned the last song, it was time to get our gear from the trailer and set up inside Smith’s.  Another one of our artist friends, Allen, was waiting for Eric to bring his drums upstairs so he could do some custom artwork on his kick drum head.

Eric with his customized kick drum head courtesy of artist Allen Yuhasz (http://Facebook.com/allenyuhasz). He painted the design by hand in less than an hour with no stencils! Fantastic!!
Eric with his customized kick drum head courtesy of artist Allen Yuhasz (http://Facebook.com/allenyuhasz). He painted the design by hand in less than an hour with no stencils! Fantastic!!

The Koffin Kats took the stage at Smith’s and things quickly got rowdy.  A fight even broke out on the dancefloor!  Yeesh!  We did the “Maneater” routine again, and I was able to get a video of “Buzzkill Bitch”, including the drum solo.  (AND IF YOUTUBE WOULD ALLOW ME TO UPLOAD IT, THAT WOULD BE GREAT.  Yeah…)

Once the show was over, we packed everything up and went to stay at our friend Carissa’s house for the night.  The boys all stayed up hanging out while I slept away my belligerent drunkenness in the bus.

The following day we went to a distillery in the area to sample some whiskey.  I was looking forward to the experience, but my hangover was not.  We tasted some different whiskeys and gins, and they were pretty good.  Eric bought a couple bottles of Silver Cross, which was our favorite of the types we tried.

Human hangover.
Human hangover.

After the distillery we headed to a local pub for lunch.  Eric ordered ten chicken wings, but somehow his order ended up in the system as just one wing.  I don’t know if the chef lacks autonomy, or if there is a “customer is always right” policy, but if I were him/her I’d question anyone silly enough to order just ONE WING.

Somehow, someway, Eric's order of 10 chicken wings turned into an order of ONE chicken wing. He's still a happy dude.
Somehow, someway, Eric’s order of 10 chicken wings turned into an order of ONE chicken wing. He’s still a happy dude.

After the delicious food, we drove to Kalamazoo, Michigan and checked out the venue, Louie’s.  Koffin Kats had never played there before, and we had no idea what to expect.  It reminded us a bit of a bar back home near Detroit called Beaver Creek.  There were taxidermied animals all over the place.  The stage was only six inches off of the ground and the sound system was just a couple steps up from barebones, but it definitely got the job done.  Stage size doesn’t matter to Koffin Kats, ever.  They put on the same intense show even if they’re on the floor.

The band hadn’t played in Kalamazoo in three years, so there was a big audience very excited for the gig.  Everything worked out well, and the crowd really showed their love for the band by dancing and moshing throughout the entire set.  During the show, I got a shout-out from Vic for doing a fantastic job and working really hard on the tour.  It warmed my heart.

Once we packed our gear in the trailer, I said goodbye to the band and left with a fan I met on Twitter.  He had asked how long we’d be in Kalamazoo, and I told him that the band was taking off to go back home to Detroit, but I needed a place to stay and a ride to the train station in the morning because I   was heading to Chicago the following morning.  He graciously put me up for the night at his place, allowed me to shower, and even gave me the use of his bed (thanks, Greg!).  The next morning, I was on the train to Chicago for a week of relaxation with my queen.

This Friday, I’ll be taking the bus from Chicago back to Detroit in order to be at Vic’s birthday show at Woodruff’s in Ypsilanti.  This show is going to be special, not only because it’s a birthday celebration, but also because it happens to be Ian’s last show with The Koffin Kats…

You see, the reason I’ve been on this tour was twofold: First, I was being tested to see if I could handle life on the road away from my loved ones and normal routine.  Second, I needed Ian to teach me the guitar parts for all of the songs because I am now the new guitarist for the band!!  Ian has personal business to take care of back home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it will take longer than a few months.

I regret that there are unfortunate circumstances which have caused Ian to leave the group and open up this opportunity for me.  I aim to honor his (and Tommy’s) legacy in the group, and Vic, Eric, and I have big plans for the immediate future of Koffin Kats.  We’ve already discussed recording new music, and plan to hearken back to the early days of the band with breakneck tunes and the “wicked pist” vibe.

I look forward to meeting all of you wonderful people during our upcoming tours, and I hope you are able to accept me in the future as you have with Tommy and Ian in the past.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you out on the road!  NOSTROVIA!!!


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4 thoughts on “Koffin Kats 2014 Winter Tour – Update #4 (Birmingham, Champaign, Mishawaka, Kalamazoo)

  1. Seems like every time I show up to a KK show in the area (Mishawaka/SB), there’s a ruckus. Last time (7 odd years ago, sheesh) at the Anchor Inn in South Bend, there was a guy with a knife!

    Guess I’m a bad luck charm. Oh well, was super fun!
    (And Journeyman is GREAT. The Ravenswood Rye is a daily drinker)

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