Five Shows, Four Dudes, Three Cities, Two Beers, One Week. Go!
Hey, I’m Chad Williams. I play drums for the band Western Addiction along with singer/guitarist Jason Hall, guitarist Ken Yamazaki, and bassist Sam Johnson. We just completed a one-week “tour” of the Northeast, ostensibly in support of our new EP Pines, our first release in eight years. But really, we did it for fun.
It’s weird when you’re in a pretty good band for a while with three friends who all like the same music you do. We got to play some killer shows and unbelievable tours with bands we love and respect: T.S.O.L, Adolescents, Propagandhi, and NOFX. We even made an album (Cognicide) that’s arguably not a waste of the petroleum products that it’s pressed on and the forest products it’s packaged in, because—in more people’s view than our own—it’s looked at as a positive addition to the canon of music that’s come before. And we’re really fucking proud of it. Problem is, we were in our twenties and assumed that things would just continue and didn’t quite appreciate exactly how incredible each part of that experience was. So, when nearly a decade later we got another shot at it…
After spending a few months banging off the rust, re-learning old songs and assembling a few new ones, we did what we did ten years previous: we hit the studio before ever playing a show. Kind of backwards maybe, but we’re doing this because we love playing and creating music with each other, and didn’t think it was worthwhile making the effort if we couldn’t have new music to present to the folks nice enough to come see us play. It is with that in mind and a new 7” in hand that we agreed to fly out to the East Coast in October 2013 for a few shows with another of our favorite bands, Good Riddance. We played the East Coast once before in January 2006 with New Mexican Disaster Squad, but stopped just short of New York and Boston. An error we remedied this time around.
One thing about being in your thirties instead of your twenties, your tolerance for dirty floors and sleeping on them is greatly diminished (Sam excepted), and Hotwire (travel website) becomes your best friend. We land in Boston, hotwire a nice but inexpensive hotel room, and proceed to run into Good Riddance there! A nice pre-tour hang with Luke, Sean, and our buddy Gwomper (Avail) got things off to a promising start.
The next day, with little more than an hour to check out downtown Boston—a city I’ve always wanted to visit—we managed some good stuff, seeing the oldest building in Boston, the Old State House, at exactly three hundred years old. Pretty impressive for us San Franciscans—whose architectural history basically begins in post-quake 1906. Got a bowl of the best lobster bisque I’ve ever had and a pint of Mr. Adams’s finest at a bar that claims to have been a meeting spot for Washington, Franklin, and the like. Fuck it, I’ll buy in. It looked really old. And, oh yeah, Sam got interviewed for fucking Fox News! No, seriously, one of O’Reilly’s nitwits was there interviewing for a terrible segment called “Pinhead or Patriot”—as if one can’t be both and as if all politicians aren’t pinheads. I’m sure they saw a group of fuckin’ rockers walk by and figured they’d get something good, and Sam did not disappoint!
Our Boston/Cambridge show was not at the legendary Middle East, but at a great new venue, The Sinclair. I rarely get nervous before shows unless I’m rushed and not mentally prepared. Some band folks hate the waiting and I can sympathize when you’re on an extended tour; those pre-show hours can really lag. I relish those times since we don’t play often. The anticipation of getting on stage in front of strangers and sonically ripping their faces off is a rush in and of itself—aside from half hour we actually get to do that. It’s always a bonus getting to talk to the people who show up early enough to see the opening band. Ken and Jason change strings, tune and tune again. I’ve tried to use a practice pad to get warmed up, but that doesn’t really work for me. Hitting hard and playing fast, the muscles used for that—at least with my style—just can’t get warmed up with a practice pad. So, I stretch as much as possible and then carefully time my two pre-set beers. Less than two, I’m not relaxed enough. More than two, I don’t feel sharp enough. It was a killer show. We played all three new rippers along with ten oldies and felt pretty good about it. So did the dude who bought us multiple Jäger shots. Thanks bud! Next stop: Philly.
This was our longest drive. I guess I should mention at this point that it was a minivan tour for both us and Good Riddance. Both bands flew out from California and borrowed gear from the ever-generous Flatliners. Point being, it was a pretty comfortable ride in the Chrysler Town & Country, but for the first time ever in my touring experience, there was no music played on any drive, at any point. We just talked. Imagine that, adults in a confined space, all music fans, just talking. Odd…
Philadelphia was the only city on our short run that we did hit back in ‘06. It was great to get back. The Voltage Lounge was jam-packed and sweating. For a small band like ours, it’s pretty gratifying when you’re opening for a more well-known band and still get a bunch of people out who know your songs and aren’t afraid to get nuts. We have a few songs with some big breakdowns and those were the ones that the Philly fans really got crazy for. We got the classic circle pit, the slam dance, and even the legendary picking-up-change! What a show! On to Brooklyn.
The next day it was my day to drive, and it was a meaty one. I love being at the wheel in New York City for some reason. We took an unintentional detour on our way into Brooklyn and found ourselves driving right through Lower Manhattan on a Friday afternoon. Jason had an interview at Sirius/XM that afternoon, so we cut through Soho, barging every little opening that presented itself and dropped him off just before we hit the WilliamsburgBridge.
I love New York, all of it, but not all the time. I like to think I might try living there someday, but unless global warming kicks itself into overdrive, it’ll probably never happen. October, however, is a very pleasant month to visit. Sam and I hit a super hipster, old-timey little cocktail lounge where I imbibed possibly the best Sazerac of my life with our friends Vanessa and James after we dropped off our gear at the Music Hall of Williamsburg—where the Fat Wreck Chords CMJ Showcase was that night with Good Riddance, The Flatliners, Western Addiction, Morning Glory, and Night Birds. I had no choice but to forgive the bartender for his beyond ridiculous mustache—at least for a few minutes—while enjoying my glass of rye whiskey deliciousness.
This was a pretty epic show. You can just feel that your night is destined for greatness with Night Birds opening—one of the best bands around and recent Razorcake cover models. They ripped through their set, impressing any rookies in attendance. It was the biggest turnout of the tour so far, somewhere around five hundred. We got a few extra minutes by occupying the sweet spot right in the middle of five bands and pulled out a song from our first 7” in 2003. We love each and every opportunity to play live music, but it can’t be denied that the exhilaration level playing in front of five hundred people versus fifty is through the roof. I gotta be careful not to speed the songs up too much—an easy thing to do with all that adrenalin, an Adrenalin OD if you will!
The Flatliners followed us. Halfway through their set, the fire alarm went off and security herded every single human being out of the huge club and onto the street. Chaos, but no real disorder. The street was packed: bands, crew, bartenders, and audience. And to everyone’s credit, shit did not get out of hand. FDNY arrived and to the cheers of the crowd, cleared the place for re-entry. Sam came up to me, “Dude I swear it wasn’t me. I was smoking backstage but there’s no way that set it off, is there?!” Ha! Good Riddance closed the show out with what seemed like the entire house singing along. We headed to a friend’s house in New Jersey to rest up for the boat.
Yes, the boat. The infamous Rocks Off Concert Cruise. By day it’s a boat that takes tourists around New York harbor. By night, it takes a few punk bands and a few hundred punks out on the water, cruising the East River down around the southern tip of Manhattan, by the Statue of Liberty, up the Hudson, and back. We opened the show and lucked out with some pretty calm water. Playing drums while looking out the window at New York City was really an all-time experience. I just had to remember not to stare too long. We had to mix things up for the folks who had come out to Brooklyn. We changed up the set, even pulling out “Face Cancer”—a rocker we could never get right back in ‘05, but nailed this time around. And because we were playing on a fucking boat, we had to do something extra fun. So we had our buddy Daniel from the Livids come up and play guitar for us on a cover of Agent Orange’s “The Last Goodbye.”
We should probably have called it a tour, toasted its success, and headed home. Instead, we stayed in Brooklyn and played a Sunday show with the Livids—sort of like opening that last beer of the night, the one you didn’t really need and end up leaving unfinished. All the bands were fantastic, with Weird Womb and Livids being the highlights. The paid attendance was in the single digits and we played our loosest set since firing up the show engine in August. Oh well. We got to share the stage with the great Eric Davidson (New Bomb Turks/Livids), even if the microphone spent more time in his pants than in front of his face. Still, mission accomplished, Northeast vanquished. Next!
We were fortunate to be asked to join Good Riddance twice more in December for their homecoming shows in San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Both were absolutely killer and confirmation that it felt good to be back playing music for our friends, for the people, and, yes, for ourselves. So, here we are in 2014 and we’re a band again, and nothing is taken for granted.