Part two of Everything is Terrible’s tour journal: where we travel from Minneapolis to Wichita, weird out middle America, steal bedrooms from children, ain’t afraid of no ghosts, and keep moving.
California is home for half of us, and sitting on this familiar couch while sipping an IPA with my feet up makes me feel normal. This is me writing about two weeks ago, but it feels as if I’m writing about the ancient past. We are in the west coast now. We’ve driven through snow and mountains and deserts and though the country has been crossed, we’ve only just begun. We’re less than a third of the way through. Where did I leave off?
Minneapolis had a theater from 1949 waiting for us with Everything is Terrible bright across the marquee. The room was huge and though 80 people came to the show, it felt sparse and open. The theatre owner seemed unsure of us, and what was to come as is the case with lots of these theaters. Sometimes folks that are accustomed to showing Hollywood movies find it odd that people want to perform for the audience on top of screening a feature. The crew sometimes gets scared of the fog machine and lights and keyboard and amp and most intensely they fear what might be asked of them. These are projectionists after all, not sound guys. I like to think we win most of these folks over in the end and either way, we are truly privileged to perform in historic beautiful theaters across the country.
This place was a little outside of the town, which doesn’t mean anything, except for when you walk to grab a beer. The girl behind the counter pointed me in the direction of a local watering hole, and so we all marched through the ice to kill some time before the show, just happy to be out of the van. The closest bar we were directed to was an Olive Garden-sized sports bar that had a local college basketball game on countless TV’s and at the same time, the entire bar of large middle aged locals was playing bingo. We came in looking damn cool, wearing jewelry, gator heads, and a big fucking dumb looking pizza hat (a hat that looks like a pizza). The moment we entered, the proverbial record scratched to a halt and the entire bar silently stared at us, as we stared right back and looked for a table big enough for six. They did not resume the bingo game until we were seated and they watched us walk across the bar and we all tried to read each other’s minds. It must have looked like the Goddamn Merry Pranksters walked into their favorite haunt. Obviously, we picked the wrong place, as often happens when you’re a stranger in a strange town, but it was too late to be choosey. We only had time for a beer before we had to get back to the venue. None of us won bingo, and we heard the lady behind us drunkenly complaining about us being too loud (she couldn’t hear the bingo numbers). But it wasn’t just us bringing her down. She was totally pissed that they only had Bud Light on draft instead of bottles. Oh, the battles of bingo night. Hopefully she earned a row and won a free drink after we left.
The show was great and some friends housed us. We drank whiskey and caught up with the pals, who were lucky enough to have a rambunctious pooch in their home and we played all night. The morning brought delicious breakfast, which is usually where we splurge after good shows. Luxuriously, we double fist juice and coffee and generally amazing (usually vegetarian) cuisine, which makes the afternoon transition from city to city much easier. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and most cliché’s are on point.
Driving to Iowa City feels much like driving to nowhere. That’s not meant to be at all disparaging towards the city and school that helped shape Vonnegut among many others. It’s just that when you’re but a few miles out of the city and there’s still no sign of civilization or even a small break in the long rolling plains and endless farm land, you start to wonder if you’re going the right way.
I attended Ohio University and find that midsized college’s located in the middle of nowhere seem eerily similar. The kids all wear pajamas and sweat suits and most of the sweat pants have words on the ass. The show was in a small basement art space and felt pretty full with about 30 people in attendance. We ended up crashing with the promoter who owned and ran the space. He is a family man and an artist and we drank a beer and shot the shit with him and his wife before crashing in his teenage son’s room. It felt a little bad displacing the kid, sort of banishing him to his little brother’s room, but we were assured it was totally fine, and the kid’s bed was comfy as shit. The room was decorated in homemade art, D&D stuff and fantasy novels. It really brought me back to that strange age where you aren’t really sure if you’re a kid or an adult or which one is preferable. All tucked in and feeling like a fifteen year old again was surreal. And it occurred to me that I’m nearly thirty and still living a pretty transient life style. That ontop of the fact that me and the kid had similar taste in books made me wonder if I’ll ever grow up.
In the morning they left us alone in their home so we could sleep in, and do some internet work in their living room, which is very trusting of a bunch of weirdo’s who dress up like dogs every night, but we try to be good houseguests. It was nice playing their piano and drinking coffee leisurely in the morning. We also had a breakfast of dumpster bread (yes one of us dumpster dives, and well, yes, we eat most of what he finds…most of it).
Then it was off to St. Louis where the show was really in the middle of nowhere, right there on the river in a huge old run down warehouse, illegally converted into a home and art space. The place was truly awesome and despite the legal problems and I’m sure what must have been lots of work, we wondered why we each didn’t live cheaply in a huge mansion sized fun house of sculpture and stages and recording studios. We set up every chair we could find in the place and hooked up our projector. The warehouse filled with the most rowdy audience as of yet, and the merits of BYOB and DIY were obvious and appealing. They were loud and fun and the room was filled with pot smoke and crushed High Life tallboys.
We left the place stoned, and excited and crashed with a fan who is now our friend, Bill. He let us cook a late night meal in his kitchen and played us records and kept his skull bong packed and we lived like kings, as if Bill was a long lost family member who just happened to be into all the same shit we were. In the morning he drove us around from thrift store, to video store, to an Indian buffet and we even shot a quick teaser in his pimped out black light room. That afternoon we left him with Jerry’s in our hands and tears in our eyes, singing his praises every ten minutes on the road to Wichita, “Man that guy was awesome!”
The theater in Wichita was a giant haunted mansion, like Ghost Hunters haunted. The promoter warned us that it was a little tough to bring people out to shows in Wichita and that there was a surprise Murder By Death show that night, which would take some of our audience, but all I could say in return was, “On a scale of one to ten, how haunted is this place, and can we sleep here?” The answer we received was ten. Everyone had ghost stories, and we were able to sleep in the old Women’s League mansion that was apparently famously haunted (seriously it was featured on Ghost Hunters). We did our show in the giant hall for, count em, 9 people. On top of that the electricity shat out on us and my keyboard and amp would not stay on. But the people who did come seemed enthused and the promoter took us out to a local sludge metal show for pizza and beer weed. Pulling the Terrible Van up to the tiny rock club brought us more open mouthed stares and we pushed our way through the confused bar dwellers to order a pizza and booze. Then it was back to the haunted house to sleep with the ghosts. I tried really hard to stay awake and keep my eyes and ears open for any ghouls while on the floor in my sleeping bag in the admittedly very creepy living area (that no one lives in anymore) of the hundred year old mansion. But alas, we couldn’t fight the exhaustion of constant travel and we all fell asleep without a single ghost experience. The spirits must not have liked the show or maybe they were disappointed in us for having no draw in town.
I just realized that I’ve skipped over the part where an older local meth head screamed at me and charged me and shoved me at the metal show, and it occurs to me that I have too much to say, but maybe not enough time or energy to say it? Perhaps that aside should have gone unsaid. Maybe I will have to get a little better at editing myself because I have not yet gotten to the strippers and saloons or the snowstorms in the mountains without van heat. But for now I have to pack up and head out to another show and though we’ve been doing it for three weeks now, I’m very excited. There is no been there done that when it comes to performing for cool people. I’m no longer nervous before performing, however what does make me a little uneasy is that this is still just the beginning. So, bear with me. We have a long way to go.
Brian Kamerer is a writer and a musician and a lover of dogs. See the tour dates here. Read Brian’s fiction here and check out Brian’s music here.