My Week As a Strait A: A Tour Diary

I’m waiting at the bus stop in downtown Minneapolis after arriving by plane from Laguardia. My reason for being here is simple: To take a week off from my latest temp job, so that I can “temp” with The Strait A’s and slowly make my way back home as they go on tour to the East Coast. My trip out is not bad, though not without a few annoyances, specifically issues with the bus. Two come and go, answering my questions of “Is this a number nine, downtown?” with “We’re not going where you’re going,” until I realize I haven’t even mentioned where I’m actually trying to go. Fortunately, the third driver bears with me, allowing me to finally complete my twelve hundred mile commute (My friend Nick wonders “Maybe they thought you looked too nice to be going downtown,” but I find that very unlikely).

There are a few odd days before the tour actually starts, which are spent relaxing, wandering, browsing Extreme Noise, eating at Muddy Waters, and even enjoying a nice birthday dinner with a taco-pizza hybrid meal. And in preparation for the tour, we have one band practice, which consists of going through the songs once, sans drums. There is also still the issue of what we’ll actually be driving, which for now, is “nothing.”

This doesn’t effect the first show though, a house show with Banner Pilot, Brickfight, The Dopamines and Pretty Boy Thorson and the Fallen Angels.  My friend Nick and I enjoy a Taco John’s picnic in the backyard, just before I see a bunch of friends of mine, as well as make some new ones. It turns out that out of everyone, The Strait A’s are playing last, which both surprises and amuses me. Though I’m a bit confused about having to play after so many other great bands, things are just fine. One person smashes a bottle on the floor while we play, which surprises me even more, since The Strait A’s are very much not a “bottle smashing” kind of band. Afterward, everyone goes to Grumpy’s Bar, where I quietly sit at a table keeping to myself, until Paddy (from Dillinger Four, who is bartending) walks by, simply says “What’s up New York?” places some sort of mystery shot in front of me, and walks away. I stare at it for a moment (unsure of what to do, since I don’t really drink), until I’m practically forced to drink it by my band mate Kat.  I get about half of it down, before immediately dry heaving, and downing a full glass of water. By the end of the night, while trying to sleep on Kat’s couch, I’m fully convinced that the room is spinning, very slow and gradually (like a Price is Right display), and that there is a hurricane outside, until I realize that it was really Kat taking a shower in the bathroom right next to the living room.

The next morning we’re still unsure about a vehicle, so a new plan is quickly thrown together: Kat and Mike will ride to Chicago with The Dopamines. I will ride with Pretty Boy Thorson and the Fallen Angels, and Chris will drive Kat’s car later that night (when he’s finished with work, and the car is finished being repaired). I get dropped off at Paddy/assorted F’n A’s apartment building as they finish packing the last of their stuff and starting the drive. Admittedly, I’m a bit quiet and awkward at first, but everyone is friendly and outgoing enough to make up for it. At one point pants-shitting stories are exchanged, during which I remain quiet and awkward, but am still very amused. In fact, we stop at another Taco John’s just outside of Chicago, when there’s suddenly some scares of new entries.

The shows in Chicago are all part of the Windy City Sound Clash, which is a new three day fest taking place at Reggie’s Rock Club. We get there a little late, unfortunately missing the International Datelines and Daniel James Gang, but still just in time to see a few more friends of mine, and then see the Sass Dragons, who are great despite not having played or even practiced in weeks. I’m also incredibly happy to see The Arrivals, who are another one of my favorite Chicago bands, as well as Toys That Kill, who have flown in for the weekend, and I’ve literally never seen play anything less than a great set, tonight included. After the show finishes up, I leave with my good friend/fellow Razorcake staffer Megan Pants, to stay with her for the weekend, though tonight I’m not the only house guest. I spring for a cab for us back, which gets me the chance to scope out a prime sleeping location, in a side room in between a reclining chair, and a wall.

By the time I wake up the next morning I’m pretty much on my own. I’m feeling a little rough from my recent eating habits, so using the map Megan has drawn for me I find the local “nice” café, and fill up on fruit and veggie sandwiches, as well as lots of water. The rest of The Strait A’s eventually track me down, and we all run some errands around Chicago throughout the afternoon until we head back over to Reggie’s. I’m actually a little nervous, as we’re scheduled for today, and this is easily one of the biggest shows I’ve ever played. Not helping is the fact that we’re right after Tenement, who are an amazing live band, and of course blow everyone away. Our set goes pretty well though (despite a few slip ups on my part), with a nice crowd, leaving me free to relax and enjoy the rest of the show, including a “Minneapolis Block” of The Gateway District, Pretty Boy Thorson, and Banner Pilot, which I’m actually really excited to have been a part of. Both Gateway ladies compliment us on a good job just before I get to actually see them play for the first time, and Pretty Boy Thorson plays the best set I’ve ever seen. On a humorous note, someone tries to start a “Fat Wreck” chant just as Banner Pilot begins, to no avail, and causing him to be infuriated.

I’m getting hungry at this point, so I order some food from the club (at a pleasantly surprising band discount) and eat it in some kind of “back stage” area which is actually above the stage, so that I’m still able to watch The Brokedowns. They remind me that they’re one of those bands with great songs, who are still entertaining as hell to watch live, which is really the best of both worlds. After finishing up I go back down to the floor to watch The Sidekicks, as well as The Copyrights, which I eventually regret – not because I dislike either of those bands (it’s actually great to finally see The Sidekicks, and the Copyrights set is really great), but people start smashing their way up front, which, as someone who’s stomach is still feeling a bit off, I’m not in the mood for at all. Someone looks at me and asks if I’m ok, to which I reply “I feel like a tube of tooth paste; Don’t matter how empty it is, keep hitting it with a hammer, and something’s coming out.” I squeeze through to watch from the side of the stage for a while, when I finally go back down when I realize watching a band like The Underground Railroad To Candyland from the side of the stage, motionless, is silly. As I walk down, I’m approached by Dave from The Arrivals, who asks “Are you Joe Evans III?”

“Yes.”

“I just wanted to say, I’m glad our record made you feel like a pirate!”

Easily the coolest compliment I’ve ever received.

We talk for a few minutes, until I say “I’m probably going to be quiet and awkward, so I’m going to go jump on that guy over there,” and jump on the back of my friend Nick as they begin “Paint Thin Walls”. At this point in the night I’m REALLY exhausted, so I go to sit down when I get a call from the rest of The Strait A’s, telling me to meet them outside where we quickly go over to an after party at someone’s apartment with a few bands playing. Now, as stated, I’m pretty beat at this point, with no sleeping bag, or anything else that I’ve brought with me (as I’ve left it all at Megan’s). I’m not a big party guy, so I just want to go to sleep. But then I learn that Bible Children, a collaborative effort between Toys That Kill and The Arrivals are playing, probably for the first time ever. And then, I’m really torn – I need to see this band, but I also REALLY like sleeping. I thought it out. The Dopamines play first, but I’ve already seen them a million times in the past three days, so I’m anxious for what’s coming. Finally Bible Children start up, going from setting up gear to going straight into their songs, and I’m overcome with that feeling of excitement that comes from being in the exact right place at the perfect time, even if you’ve just managed to stumble your way there. They finish up, and I quickly retreat to the “quiet” room, so I can try to find a place to sleep that isn’t the hardwood floor for three or four hours.

Having gone to sleep so much earlier than everyone else, I’m also one of the first to wake up in the morning, so I opt to walk around Chicago on my own, in hopes of searching out a place to eat (sadly, that ends up being a 7-11). I’m a little burnt out on music, and I haven’t really been able to hang out with Megan much (not to mention she has all my stuff), so we end up meeting up at a free public zoo, along with a number of people from Milwaukee, Minneapolis, as well as San Pedro, and it’s a lot of fun, a nice change of pace. However, I do eventually have to get back to the fest, and I’m fortunately able to catch a ride back with someone in another moment of perfect timing, allowing me to get dinner at the restaurant next door and then watch Dear Landlord play to a bunch of hollering drunks, causing Jesse “Pretty Boy” Thorson to turn to me and say “Looks like we’ve got a fuckin’ MENSA meeting going on here.” Even though there’s still a few bands left, I’m pretty good for the day, talking to a few people before the rest of my travel-party figures out where we’re staying for the night (at a high school friend of Kat’s).

It’s finally time to head on from Chicago, but there are a few hurdles. First; The two shows on the way to New York have both fallen through, so we’ve decided to follow some other Minneapolis bands to Columbus Ohio, where we can hopefully jump on their show, or, at least see the show. But, as we get ready to leave, we suddenly realize that my guitar is missing. We quickly realize it was used at Saturday’s loft party, and probably left behind in the confusion. So, we figure out how to get back to the apartment, only to find it locked with everyone inside still asleep, leaving us no choice but to break in thanks to Kat’s very small arms, for the hope of POSSIBLY finding it. Fortunately, it’s inside, and we quickly make our way to Ohio, which brings us to problem number three – the battery light, which begins to flicker on and off repeatedly during the drive, especially while stuck in traffic. But we’re able to at least make it to the house in Columbus, where we can enjoy some fruit-chili from our very gracious hosts. The show lineup is a great one, and I’m finally able to see The Manix, as well as Gateway District and Banner Pilot again, and we end up playing a very brief set just before the Dopamines and local glam band (whose name I missed, but did have full on, David Bowie make up and face paint). As I would have expected, I’m starting to become a little friends-from-homesick, but I spend a good part of downtime sitting outside, talking to people I don’t see that often, as well as meeting new ones, before finally going to sleep in the living room under a desk.

The next day has been dubbed “Figure out what’s wrong with the car and then try to fix it” day. The one lucky thing about our situation is that we happen to be surrounded by people who can and are happy to help us out; Carrie from Gateway District is able to diagnose the problem (a loose belt) and another resident of the Monster House is able to recommend us someone who does mechanic work on the side (who, coincidentally, was taught to work on cars by a blind man). So while the others drop off the car, I walk around with the Gateway District and also on my own for a while, exploring as far in the city as I think I can get away with before getting lost. Admittedly, I start to wonder a little bit how, as well as if, I’ll be able to get home.

The car is not ready until Wednesday afternoon, which does not bode well with our show in Brooklyn that night, which is roughly ten hours away. I’ve already looked up Greyhound tickets as a potential last ditch “I NEED to get home at some point” option, but the car is finally ready by 2:30, the cost of the repair leaving us just enough money for gas, and we take off (minus one more scare at the first stop for gas). I’ve already called people back home, saying “Not sure if, let alone when we’ll get there, so do me a favor and make sure the show gets started for me”, seeing as I’d booked it. At this point there’s little else I can do, so I spend the bulk of the ride going back and forth from sleeping to remotely running the show via cell phone. We make record time, but we’re still cutting it very close, and by the time we get to the GeorgeWashingtonBridge, we’re pretty low on gas, and have just enough money to pay the toll, and have to quickly figure out the best way into Brooklyn, for free. We manage to get to the show a little after eleven, as GSD are finishing up, which means we’ve literally arrived in time to show up and immediately play, which we do.

It feels good to be back home, playing in front of my friends. Even though there may have been some rough patches, trips like this are always more fun, and somehow more relaxing than a day at the office.