This is probably the greatest thing I’ve ever read. In my life. And it’s a review of a dictionary. And I’m not even finished. And now I’m apprehensive about every single word I type or say. And I don’t care. It’s worth it.
I have been listening to the new David Bazan record at least once a day since I got my hands on it. It’s phenomenal musically and lyrically it hits very, very close to home. The last lines in this song still give me chills.
Canada is stupid. It costs too much. Beer costs too much. Food costs too much. There’s no such thing as a dollar menu in Canadian fast food restaurants. They tax everything to, you assume, pay for health care and socialism and all the secret Nazi programs that come with it, which is great if you live there and get said health care and are a Nazi (which they all are, you heard Glenn Beck insist), but total crap if you’re not a citizen, which you aren’t. Neither is Glenn Beck. Canada puts you on the same side as Glenn Beck. That’s messed up. Seriously. And when you do buy things, you can’t use dollar bills. Know why? Cause Canada doesn’t have them. They have dollar and two dollar coins. Which is both annoying and totally unoriginal (Europe already did it, Canada). So rather than having a sweet roll of dollar bills in your pocket, you just have coins jangling around and falling out every time you sit down or faint when you look at the cost of food at Wendy’s. And speaking of Europe already did it, Canada uses the metric system, which at first seems really cool because you get to drive 100, but then it sucks because it’s 100 kilometers an hour, which is like just a little bit faster than jogging. And then there’s Celsius. That’s just dumb! Everyone knows that water freezes at 32 and boils at 212. 0 and 100 Canada? Really? That just doesn’t make any sense to you at all. Also, Canada is mostly empty. Practically no one lives there. More people live in California than the entire country of Canada. Driving across Canada makes driving across Nebraska seem action packed. And at least there are no moose running across the roads in Nebraska. Not the case for Canada. According to the signs on the side of the road, there are moose everywhere. Do you see any moose? No. But you see plenty of moose warning signs. And that’s practically the same thing. Each time you drive you have to constantly scan the sides of the road for moose, which you hear are the size of tanks. Tanks with antlers. Extra scary! But if you somehow manage to drive across the vast open expanses of Canada a little faster than jogging, dodging the antlered tanks, and you don’t lose all your money at Wendy’s or in the cracks of couches, and you make it to a show and you happen to play that show, well then opinions start to change. When you play a show in Canada people generally seem really glad that they are there, at the show, and that you showed up too. They listen and nod their heads along with the music and some of them even sing the words and smile and you smile because you’re happy to be there and because you know when and if they sing the word about, even though you can’t hear them over the sound of the amps and drums, you know it sounds like aboot and that for some reason never gets old, hearing that. And after the show the Canadians hang out and are really nice people, and you start to wonder if they really are crazy socialist Nazis and maybe Glenn Beck was wrong. They all look pretty happy and healthy and not at all like Nazis. Who constantly yelled. The Nazis did. And then you think about how much Glenn Beck yells. And these Canadians are fun to hang out with until very late at night. And they buy you beer that you can’t afford and you all drink the beer, and maybe it’s the alcohol or maybe it’s the late hour or maybe it’s just that you start to be less annoyed by the change in your pocket and the constant threat of moose and even though Wendy’s is expensive, Tim Hortons is really good and you look forward to drinking coffee and eating donuts and slurping soup, which is extra good because it’s cold out, even in October. But that’s good too, because frankly you were sick of summer and you have to be in Miami in three weeks, which is hot and humid always, and so you walk down the street with your hands in your pockets and stare at your breath as it rises into the gray sky and you feel pretty good about things. And then, after driving across endless nothing, you get into British Columbia and it looks like god took all the hills from Ontario and Saskatchewan and Manitoba and piled them into these giant and beautiful mountains that rise up from the road very sharply and you crane your neck to see the tops, swerving on the road, forgetting about the moose, in awe of the scenery. You drive past lakes that look cold but you want to jump in them regardless. You feel like those lakes would make you cleaner than you’ve ever been. You would get out of them, shivering yes, but smiling and renewed, like you were baptized but without all the doctrinal baggage. Just really clean. And you get used to kilometers, and Celsius makes a little more sense, even though you never get good at converting it. And the shows keep being great. The people nice. So nice. And fun. Then you cross the border back into the States and are happy about cheap food and tacos and dollar bills and miles. But later, when you reach into your pocket and feel a Tooney that you forgot aboot and can’t use anymore, you look back on the last few weeks, and then you look forward to going back. Because. Canada is awesome.
We have a loft in the back of our van where we keep all our luggage. I was half asleep on the back bench when I was awoken first by Cory hitting the van’s brakes hard, and then by an avalanche of bags sliding off the loft and onto me. A herd (school, pod, pack?) of dear had just run into the road and we barely missed them. Which reminded me of this Louis C.K. sketch. After being dug out from under the luggage, I sat up and watched as, in the next two minutes, we almost hit a whole bunch of horses and then some cows. Apparently it was a night out on the town for farm animals.
This bull was very unhappy with having to move out the way for our van. Either late night rural mountain highway is primo grazing land or he was just stubborn. I’m guessing the latter.
Shivering outside a rural A&W Hamburger joint somewhere in the southern expanse of northern Ontario, precipitation as reluctant snow, falling small, sparse, and fast, much more aerodynamic than the typical flake but softer than frozen rain, disappearing into water on the not yet frozen ground (tundra?), but diving straight through suddenly porous sweatshirts and skin, sticking to bones, I stood watching watching Jon and Cory smoke, reluctant even in that weather to get back in the van. The day had been defined by driving, but even so our twelve hours progress was mocked by the endless emptiness to be traversed between Ottawa and Winnipeg. We had stopped to eat less because we were hungry and more because we simply needed to do something, anything, and eating one of A&W’s mediocre and creepily Dahmer-esque named hamburgers (Pappa Burger?, Teen Burger?) seemed as good of an escape as we’d find in a 200 kilometer radius. We ate in punctuated silence, groggy from the day’s flat drive through scenery lacking things scenic. Dinner was short-lived, burgers and fries piled atop lunch’s unburned calories. Watching people smoke soon lost its allure, I turned the van on to warm it up, and then walked back inside the fast food restaurant to get a cup of water. The woman at the counter kindly obliged and as she handed me the filled, ice-less, orange striped paper cup, she asked, with a look of discussed yet unresolved consternation, “Where’s Virginia?” A tall teenage boy walked from back in the kitchen and lingered in the doorway behind her, anxious to overhear my answer. I told her it was a state on the east coast of the United States, just south of Washington D.C. She silently stared back at me, my general geography apparently too specific. Next I tried six hours south of New York. She smiled as not to be rude, but clearly still wasn’t sticking a pin in Virginia on her mind’s map. Before guessing how far south of Montreal VA was, I thanked her and left, walked back through the snow and climbed up into the driver’s seat of the now warm van. Before this tour started, before actually driving through Ontario, before following our progress on a cheap, perplexingly folded map, I would have been at a loss to locate it. And even now, knowing, almost frustratingly so, exactly where I was on a map, I had no idea where I really stood. It was dark and cold and felt more removed than any part of Europe we drove through earlier this spring, even though here we shared a time-zone and a language (save some comical diversions of pronunciation). But the van comfortable and I was too tired to think much about anything but keeping our tires between yellow and white lines. Cigarette butts were stomped out, doors shut and locked, jackets unzipped, and gears engaged. At an indeterminate kilometers an hour, we made our way across vast and cold Ontario towards friends new and old in Winnipeg, and its crowd’s waiting cold shoulder.
I’ll take the Lake of Fire Jalapeno Nachos and the Weeping and Gnashing of Tea Marinated Chicken and rice, light on the weeping, then I’ll end with the Eternal Dark Chocolate Cake, and I’ll wash it down with a Sisyphus Rolling Rock Lager.
Meet Ray! Ray was A Wilhelm Scream’s original booking agent and tour manager. Since then he’s moved on to managing giant tours (just got of the Marilyn Manson/Slipknot tour) but he still goes out with Wilhelm whenever his schedule permits. He’s out with this tour for the Canadian leg. Aside from being really good at his job, in Medicine Hat he revealed yet another talent: rescuing stuffed animals from their glass arcade cages using only a very underpowered joystick controlled crane. After what I’m guessing was a modest investment of $50 in quarters, he liberated enough stuffed animals to start a stuffed animals football team (adorably violent!). This man is a hero!
Ottawa: Sometimes you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (unless, of course, the cover features hot babes or dragons or hot babes fighting dragons)
Across the street from where I parked the van in Ottawa junkies were gathered listless outside of a shelter, sans two of them who stood a facing each other a foot apart, shoulders back, chest out, gesticulating, yelling, posturing violence as the others ignored what I assumed was an all too common spectacle. Walking through an alleyway towards the venue I passed a man relieving himself, a young woman in the shivering throes of withdraw, her legs and arms a cutter’s collage of scars, and two disheveled men quickly pounding beers before discarding them in the bushes. Two days before leaving on tour I watched this video on Vice TV, which featured interviews with bands who’ve had their gear/vans stolen. I suddenly felt very nervous. Looking at the van parked on the side of one of Ottawa’s lesser roads, the green metal and tinted glass seemed almost porous, the locks flimsy, the gear and merch within, tightly packed from floor to roof, nearly all our possessions crammed into every crack and crevice, felt to me as if they were now for the taking, an invisible neon sign hung above, a brightly lit blinking arrow pointing down, “Free Musical Equipment!” I was worried.
After nervously waiting around for a few hours, ducking into a coffee shop to dodge the intermittent rain that had followed us from Quebec City, we finally got our gear safely loaded into the venue, and, with my nerves calmed and a few hours to kill, I went for a walk. Up until that point, I was pretty convinced that Ottawa was a total shithole. Granted, I had seen at most maybe three blocks of the whole city, but those 3 blocks had a the sort of resigned desperation of the junkies strewn along its sidewalks, and the shadow cast by this first impression was a long one indeed. And so while I wasn’t too interested to see what Ottawa had to offer, between the drive from Quebec and the time spent waiting to load in, my day had been defined by sitting around doing nothing (read: a typical day on tour), and I was desperate to do anything, even if it was a just a walk through dangerous streets. I randomly picked a direction to walk and reluctantly headed off.
I hadn’t walked more than 3 blocks before it occurred to me that maybe I had been a little quick to judge Canada’s capital city. I made my way through the closing stalls of a a large and really cool looking outdoor market, passed restaurants selling fresh fish (there’s water nearby?), and then up a hill towards a cluster of buildings that, from my restricted vantage point, I guessed was something of a downtown. I guessed right. Ottawa got classy really quickly.
Did you know that Ottawa is Canada’s capital? Yeah, neither did I. I discovered this because at the top of the hill I walked up, I looked to my right and saw this:
It’s the parliamentary building, and it looks like it belongs in some majestic Eastern European square rather than a few blocks removed from the drunks outside The Beer Store. I circled the building’s huge perimeter, so enthralled by its beauty that I almost forgave it for being the political origins of Canada’s incredibly high prices on beer (an unpardonable offense!).
Walking around back I found an overlook and snapped a picture of the water I had previously not known about and a whole other part of the city that I was now intrigued to see.
Though I still had pretty much no idea of what Ottawa was like, I at least knew now that it may not have been the total pile of shit I first thought it was, and I was content at least to know, or not know, that.
The show later than night was great and further supported the “not a pile of shit” claim. Though, sadly, the bunny couldn’t make it. Which is a real shame.
Poutine is very Canadian. Specifically French Canadian. It’s fries, gravy, and (at its best) cheese curds. It’s the the sort of thing you’d want to eat when it’s dark 18 hours a day and the wind is fervently blowing the air towards a not so distant absolute zero. It’s exactly the type of food that I should love. It’s filling and fattening, a plate of outlandish gluttony, the sort of arterial degradation that I, in the twilight of my youth, have latched onto recently as a last ditch declaration of the invincibility I won’t much longer have the luxury of denying. I should love this stuff. But, well, I don’t. And it took me a while to figure out exactly why.
There is, of course, an obvious answer to why I don’t like poutine. It doesn’t taste that good. I tried it, twice, in two different cities, both with the same conclusion. An indifferent shoulder shrug unaccompanied by an my usual desire to finish everything on the plate before me, regardless of whether that is in the best interest of my future self’s required locomotion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I thought poutine was bad, just not especially good. Horrendously caloric food needs to have a certain irresistible call, a siren song that promises a present so replete with delicious pleasure that you just can’t help but repeatedly wreck on it’s rocks. At this, poutine fails.
But simply tasting beige doesn’t justify an entire blog entry. I’m indifferent towards a lot of foods and don’t (mostly) waste too much time talking/writing about them. But poutine is a native food from a foreign land, and in any other case a food defined as such would find me overly eager to give it rave reviews. For the last few years I’ve cleared an larger and larger place on my palate for any food described as foreign and/or authentic. It stems from both my increasing obsession with food in general and my long standing love of pretending I’m better than people. Considering the fact that we eat three times a day, I’m presented with a daily trinity of opportunities to condescendingly say “Oh, you like (insert ethnic dish) from there? Yeah, it’s ok I guess, but if you really want it done right you should (insert description of convoluted cooking process or directions to undecorated and inconveniently located restaurant).”
Given my tendency towards that sort of behavior, I should currently be annoying lauding poutine and writing about how you should only get it in Quebec and only from a poutine cart that is parked outside a suburban convenient store for one hour a day, three weeks out of the year. And it was unsettling when instead of this, I just decided that I didn’t really like fries with gravy and curds.
But then I realized why. It dawned on me that it was counterproductive to praise a food from Canada, because, well, Canada is something that all us Americans are already better than. That same sense of over-inflated self importance that I get from liking more authentic food than others is already present in my heart, in the hearts of all Americans, simply when the word Canada is mentioned. Canada is our little brother that we tease and embarrass in front of girls and punch when mom isn’t looking and diminish the accomplishments of. Whatever Canada does, we generally assume is either unimportant or a knock off of something America does better. Is this actually true? No. Of course not. But it is true of sub-conscious national sentiment. Every country feels this way about some other country. It’s mostly harmless. Sometimes not (see WWII). And it was this feeling, rising up from my depths when eating poutine, which allowed me to not really like it (as opposed to, say, eating tripe in pho). In most any other country I would assume I was wrong for not liking whatever food I was eating, that it was an overt demonstration of my embarrassingly ethnocentric taste buds, that I had a lot of work to do. But in this particular case, my inflated identity as an American actually outweighed my inflated self identity. It was probably the most patriotic thing I’ve ever done.
And before anyone comes to the defense of Canada here (assuming that someone would?), I’d like to point out that our benign indifference concerning the “country” above our northern border is a blessing rather than a curse. Because while I don’t have a great, expansive knowledge of history, I do know that when America is super interested in your country, it’s not always a good thing. In fact, it probably sucks. We like to change things to better suite our needs. It’s just what we do. And our needs are almost never in line with yours (sorry Iran).
So, Canada, before you get all mad and upset (which we just think is hilarious, like satire of anger) because we don’t take you seriously enough, think twice about what you’re asking for. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to have an older brother that teases you (we do, after all, introduce you to a lot of great bands).
And besides, chili fries could kick poutine’s ass any day!
This is our first tour where we have all access passes.
There are very few things in this world more empowering than an all access laminate. I recommend you have one. Even if you’re not on tour.
4 great domestic uses for an all access pass:
- Bypass the item limitations at the express check out lane in the grocery store.
- Drive alone in the diamond lane.
- Fishing/hunting license.
- Double park in a loading zone.
The options are endless! Get creative!
One key piece of advice when using your all access pass is to make sure that you’re a combination of nonchalant and slightly annoyed whenever you display it. You need to convey that 1) you do this all the time and that the repetition has made it almost a subconscious act, and 2) you’re a little shocked that you would even be asked to display your qualifications, seeing as how it should be obvious to everyone that you are important and above the petty restrictions placed on “regular” people.
This isn’t my first blog. I have previously documented my travels around the country with my band over at what we had always intended to be our website, theriotbefore.com, but what ended up never amounting to more than simply a blog and some stale intentions. About 8 months ago that site went a little screwy and in the process of getting put back together, I think the login password got changed and I never got it. So I couldn’t access my own blog anymore. I didn’t try very hard to fix this. I was kinda over it. At that point, being in The Riot Before was a really really hard thing to do. Shows rarely went well. We were all broke. I was still living on my friend’s couches in between the tours that didn’t go well, working two jobs, often upwards of 60 hours a week. It was hectic and tiring and made for an environment that led to some less than optimistic blogging.
Fast forward 8 months and things have changed for the better. We have a new van that (fingers crossed) won’t be as eager to demonstrate the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and whose air conditioning system seems a formidable opponent to climate change.
A little while ago we signed up to work with a booking agent and as a result we are now out on a tour that leans heavily on the professional rather than our usual piecemeal. Donations have been replaced with guarantees, so that now when I look out on the crowd my first thought isn’t how many people are at the show, how many paid, and whether or not that will be enough to get us to the next show, but rather just the hope that those in attendance enjoy themselves, that they have as much fun as I’m about to. And so far it seems like a lot of those people are having a good time. And I am too.
It feels like my band has begun a new chapter of sorts, and whether or not it actually works out that way, I think it’s sometimes a good idea to see it as such, as a fresh start within something established and enduring. Which is why you’re reading a new blog. It felt like it was time to start over. To write disconnected from past words, and to write disconnected from the name of the band. Writing a blog on a site that was the band’s name always made me feel like I was writing as a representative of the band itself, rather than just as an individual member. I’m just me. I have my own opinions and interpretations of the world around me and they do not often represent those of the other 3 members of my band, and I don’t want them to. Here, I don’t want to speak for anyone but myself. Also, though this will primarily be a account of my time on the road, I may no longer limit it to that. I’m entertaining the idea of this simply just being my blog, about my life, which, let’s be honest, is mostly touring, but sometimes involves other stuff. And I may write about that other stuff. Maybe.
As for the name. It is a quote from the final volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. He says that the children of actors often have all the flair and talent of their parents, but lack their drive and work ethic. That seemed like a valid description of a blog. Often extravagant and self important, but at its foundation, a haunting undeniable vacuity.
Nothing called a blog can really be all that serious.
Say the word blog ten times. Start back at the top of this entry and even the best words are Charlie Sheen.