Written by Adam Troy (SONIC X)
In my last chapter of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I gave you a little teaser for this chapter where I mentioned an armed escort, girls, booze, drugs and a $1500 bar tab. What I didn’t mention was the Kenny Rogers lookalike, the “Mind Eraser” and the phone call from “The Welcoming Committee.” Before I get to that, keep in mind that all of the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent (as well as the guilty).
The following story is one of my favorites because it’s about a part of being a musician that I particularly love…touring. Some like it, some hate it. I LOVE IT! Everything about it appeals to me. The sights, the sounds, the people and the places. For me, everything makes sense on the road. You can tell immediately if a song works or not, and for that matter, whether your band works or not. The road will tell you many things about yourself, and those you choose to travel it with. To me, it was (and is) just fun.
Below is diary of a day in the life of a touring musician. And so it begins…
“Tuna Fish,” Idaho…summertime in the 1990s. We are playing one of the premier clubs in the area, one of the shows in our weeklong run.
Day 1 started like any other travel day when you are on the road. Arrive at the hotel (or in this case the “band house”). Go to the venue for sound check, get a quick bite to eat then get ready for the gig. After the first few hours into this trip, I quickly realized that this one would be different.
9:00am – 3:00pm: Five grown men packed into a 1976 two-door Ford Thunderbird on a long drive to “Tuna Fish,” Idaho. A horrible smell is wafting from the back seat as various arguments about the heat and lack of air conditioning are taking place. Stories of conquest from the previous night, and of course, the burp and fart contest is in full bloom. That is how this tour run started.
3:00pm: Upon arrival at the “band house,” I notice it had a phone. Pretty odd, given that there were no cell phones at the time, and providing lovesick road musicians a free phone was not a good idea. After stowing my gear and inspecting our less-than-stellar accommodations, the phone rings.
Girl: “Hi I’m Kelly, are you in the band Bag of Bagels?” (remember, the names are changed).
Me: “Hi Kelly, yes I am.”
Kelly: “Well, my girlfriends and I are the ‘welcoming committee’…”
Me: “The ‘welcoming committee’? Ok…well, the guys and I are going to sound check in a few minutes. We’ll catch you at the show. How will we know you all?”
Kelly: “Oh don’t worry, you will know us!” (Click…the line goes dead. Off we go to the venue.)
4:00pm: Annoying ride to the venue in an already-hot Thunderbird. Bitching, moaning, and…WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL!?
4:30pm: Annoying sound check, as I find out one of our crew members loaded in wearing a pair of flip flops and gashed open his toe. Off to the hospital he goes. Luckily, he only needed a few stitches. A short sound check was all we could get.
6:00pm: Time to eat as we argue about the gear. Back to the car. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL COMING FROM THE BACK SEAT!? Nobody knows anything. I’m suspicious.
7:00-8:00pm: Showers, calls to our agent, and an ever-spirited question from Carcass (our guitar player). “Where the hell is my suitcase?” No one knew the answer to his question. We find out later that his suitcase was left on the elevator in the previous town’s hotel (8 hours away). He is NOT happy!
8:30pm: The Carcass suitcase disaster was temporarily averted with clothes shared among the band brothers to get him through until we figure where his suitcase is. Off to the show. Carcass is still not happy!
9:00pm: The “welcoming committee” arrives at the show in various states of undress, and with great enthusiasm for the band. They were hard to miss. Pleasantries and numbers are exchanged with band and crew. Smiles all around (even from Carcass).
9:05pm: I have a pre-show drink called a “Mind Eraser” with some fans. I’m told that “you have drink it fast!” I comply, and the four of us begin to drink ….I pass out, from brain freeze or the “Mind Eraser” (hard to say which). For those that don’t know, a “Mind Eraser” is Jagermeister and club soda in a beer bucket with four straws. You have to chug it with three other people. I won! NOT!
9:06pm: I’m back up on my feet…big laughs all around. I go to tune my guitar, feeling lightheaded, but what the hell, I’m the singer in a band. I’ve got this.
9:15pm: We hit the stage. The band, the lights and the sound are all kicking hardcore ass. About an hour into the set, a very attractive mature woman is giving me “the eyes.” I give her my best rock star glance and then move to the next. The “welcoming committee” is living up to their name. The audience is jumping, as is the band and crew. We are in the zone!
11:00pm: The show ends; the people leave the venue. As I’m on my way to settle with the promoter (accompanied by my sound engineer, Sven), I run into the very attractive mature woman who was giving me “the eyes” earlier. As I greet her, she is giving me her best “I want to fuck you!” look…
Me: “Thanks for coming to the show. I hope you enjoyed it.”
Her: (smiling) “Yes, very much so!”
Me: “Could you please excuse me? I have some business to attend to. It was very nice meeting you.”
Her: (smiling, but disappointed) “You as well.”
12:00am: I secure the band’s fee for the show. Sven and I are laughing it up with the promoter when the promoter says…
“That attractive mature woman you were talking to…well, her husband is not happy.”
Promoter: “The Kenny Rogers-looking dude. He’s pissed. You’d better protect yourself. He carries a gun. Watch out!”
Me: “WHAT? Whatever!”
12:20am: I have a pocket full of cash, a head full of “Mind Eraser” and “Kenny Rogers” wants to take a shot at me. What the fuck! Sven, on the other hand, is cool as a cucumber…
Sven: “I’m carrying, so no worries.”
Me: (shocked) “Carrying?”
Sven: “Yeah” (he calmly opens his brief case to reveal a chrome 45).
Me: “Holy shit, Sven! I had no idea!”
Sven: “Now you do. Let’s go. I’ve got this.”
1:00am: After a few more drinks and talking to some fans, I grab my guitar and head back to the dressing room. As expected, there is a bit of “crazy” going on in there, so I head for the van with Sven.
1:15am: Walking outside the venue to our crew van, I see “Kenny Rogers,” and he sees me. Seeing this, Sven steps right in front of me and gives Kenny the “I don’t think so” look. By the way, Sven is a very intimidating dude. I’m thankful he was willing to be there to cover my narrow ass. Kenny gives me a dirty look and leaves. Sven and I laugh, and head to 7-11 for some beer, where we run into a few more fans. Good times! We head back to the band house.
2:00am: The “band house” is lit up like it’s Christmas with a ton of people. There’s a poker game going on when I get inside. There’s one stripper on the card table and another one dancing by herself snorting God-knows-what off of the counter top. There’s “that smell” in the air. One of the ladies from our crew was seducing some young, nervous-looking guy on the nasty couch. Some random guy was wearing sunglasses and a sun visor, speaking what sounded like Spanish on the house phone. The “welcoming committee” had come and gone before I got there, so I missed that freak show. No matter. I see Sven retreat to the closet under the stairs as I stood there taking in the scene. I couldn’t help but think to myself…“what the hell happened tonight?”
Laughing out loud, a lot of questions ran through my mind about that night…
“Did I pass out before we went on stage?”
“Did I almost get shot by a Kenny Rogers lookalike?”
“What IS that smell coming from the backseat of the car?”
“Why did Sven sleep in the closet below the stairs in this decrepit band house?”
“Was the ‘welcoming committee’ really welcoming?”
“Where was Carcass’s suitcase?”
So many questions, but the thing that I never questioned is whether I would want it any other way.
We rolled into “Tuna Fish,” Idaho on gas fumes. The week before, the band went without pay, due to one of our brothers running up a $1500 bar/food tab that we had to cover. We didn’t care because were out on the road.
As for Carcass’ lost suitcase, it was retrieved a few days later along with a $100 shipping bill. He was happy and angry all at the same time when he got it back.
I found out that the smell from the backseat of the car was from chocolate milk that somebody poured into the backseat pocket. I still don’t know why.
The “Kenny Rogers” incident turned out to be an overly jealous husband who was pissed that his wife was giving me the “I Want to Fuck You!” eyes.” Scary!
I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Sven. If you’re reading this, you know who you are!
This was Day 1 of 7. Days 2-7 were equally eye-opening, and chaotic as the first. That trip is still burned in all of our minds as being one-of-a-kind. We didn’t really care about the drama because it was all part of the journey, one we all saw through different lenses. For me, it was one step of many on “My Rock and Roll Journey.”
Join me next time on Chapter 4 to hear how I got the gig with Sonic X, and moved to Canada to get an American record deal. WHAT???
Till next time…..Cheers!
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