You’re young, male, in a band, travelling in a foreign country, and you have some time off. Where do you go? You head right to the strip club.
Boredom is a big problem on tour. People have theorized that this is why so many musicians turn to drugs. Eight hours of travel a day, staring out a window. Boring. Waiting for the venue to open up (always two hours later than the time you were given). Boring. Waiting to soundcheck. Boring. Waiting for doors to open. Boring. Playing your show. Well, that’s between thirty minutes to an hour of excitement. Sitting on merch for the rest of the night. Boring. Packing up, loading the van. Strenuous and boring. I’ve got to stop here before it becomes “reading thesenseless blog? Boring”.
But the long and the short of it is, touring is like groundhog day; the same routine again and again and again. We had a phrase for touring : “hurry up and wait”. Everyone would be telling you how important it was to be at the venue at this time, to be at soundcheck this time, to be offstage by that time…but you were always left sitting around waiting because every single fucking entity in the music business is unfailingly late. So you’d hurry up to get your shit together at the behest of someone else, then sit around for ages waiting until they turn up late and mosey on in like there’s all the time in the fucking world. You’d be wolfing down your $1 wendys burger like an animal and sprinting back to the venue for soundcheck, but the PA hadn’t arrived. Or the soundguy wasn’t there. Or the rest of your band had vanished to go have a good time somewhere else without telling you. So when you all get some time off to go enjoy yourselves together, you grab that opportunity with both hands.
That’s how we ended up at a stripclub at a truckstop town in Nebraska in 2001. It was the first Berzerker tour in the US and we had the Alarum guys in the band back then: Evans, Palf, and Racca. It was over a week into the tour. Our tour manager was a big fat Puerto Rican called Tito Piccone. Sounds like a gangster name, doesn’t it? Jesus I could write a dozen stories about this fella. A good half of them would be spiteful, vengeful, and libelous, and I’m sure I’ll squeeze them out at some point down the track, but for now I just remember the good things. He introduced me to At the Drive In’s “Relationship of Command” album which I adored, but the rest of the band hated. We were driving around the US in a splitter van and when he put that CD on I’d clap for joy but everyone else would start bitching. They all wanted to listen to that silly ‘musician’ music like Frank Gambale, or some jazz metal stuff. When I heard the first track ‘Arcarsenal’, to me it sounded like the United States of America, right there.
He was also the first person to play me Deftones and describe the music perfectly.
“Hey Sammy” he told me in his breathy high pitched voice while driving one fine day, “if you’re ever making it with a chick, you stick on Deftones, right? Because chicks LOVE Deftones. And then while they’re getting off on the Deftones, you’re eating them out, and they’re like” – at this point he put one hand on the ceiling, arching his back while driving with his spare hand – “oh! OH Tito, daddy! Oh my god TITO! Oh! OH!” I could see a few rolls of Tito’s stomach emerge from under his t-shirt while he impersonated female orgasm.
Come to think of it, it took me a good five years to try listening to Deftones again after that.
Anyway we were on a big drive through Nebraska and Tito decided that was enough driving for the day. We pulled into a tiny truckstop town. I call it that cause it was like one truckstop, one hotel, a few houses, and a stripclub. I don’t even know if it had a name. I didn’t even realise the stripclub was there at first. I went straight to the hotel room and started washing my underwear and socks in the sink. This was still the part of the tour we could afford hotel rooms. I stuffed up washing my socks in the sink and managed to give myself huge blisters on the inside of both my thumbs, right where they rested against the guitar. I burst them and put bandaids on them, when Palf walked in and told us he’d found a stripclub next door. I’m not sure if we all went but most of us pretty much dropped what we were doing and headed over.
The guy checked our ID at the door and saw we were all Australians. He asked what we were doing in such a remote place. One of us replied we were a metal band on tour. The dude loved this, he thought that was awesome. He let us all in, waived the cover charge, and told the DJ to play some metal for us. I think the DJ put on In Flames. Fortunately it was one of their older albums from back when they were heavy.
It was great. We were the only guys there apart from the staff. The strip club was one room and it smelled a bit weird. We got drinks and sat right up at the stage. There were a couple of mediocre strippers who were finding themselves having to dance sexily to Swedish Melodic Death Metal. I had brought some $1 bills along and coaxed one of the girls over to muster up whatever sexy-dance a $1 bill buys. She was topless and still wearing panties. She danced a bit, got up nice and close. I freed up another $1 bill, then another. I wanted to see them panties off and I was going to dripfeed her dollar bills until they disappeared. I think I finally realised that strippers weren’t allowed to remove panties in Nebraska roughly at the same moment I got a massive shock.
Without warning, around the region of my balls, there was a loud noise. The noise was like savage growling and yelling. Keep in mind this is a guy from a death metal band saying “savage growling” so you can guarantee the savagery quotient of that growling. I was sitting right up at the stage, all the better for the stripper to drape her legs over my shoulders and I looked down to see what the noise was. Underneath the stage was a cage and inside the cage were three german shepherds. The dogs had decided to start barking at me, right up against the cage. THAT’S what the smell was in the place! Dogs. The stripclub smelled of dogs. The owner kept his dogs underneath the stage the girls danced on. I wondered why they were barking at me. Maybe they were jealous.
We didn’t stay there that long. We were tired from travelling and were only on $10 pd’s a day. It didn’t take long to use all of them up, and I was bored again. I thought of one of the pre-tour goodbye parties I’d had back in Melbourne, where we went to Goldfingers. That place was clean, and big, and all glowing and shiny like a little casino. The girls were all hot and in the main room they were all totally naked and convincingly acted like we didn’t repulse them. This little truckstop place just didn’t measure the hell up. On the debauch richter scale it barely rated the thud you get on a sidewalk when you push a small child over.
The next night we were playing in Colorado. We were about fifteen minutes into our set and I noticed the front row was staring at my hands. I looked down and saw that the band aids were hanging off my thumbs, as well as two complimentary flaps of skin. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed them. The flesh looked very, very raw. I think the red mist of performance had sent the pain offstage to get its autograph later. I waited til the end of the song then ripped the bandaids and skin off and threw them into the crowd.