Northern Exposure: Days 3-5 – Kitchener, ON / Traverse City, MI / Columbus, OH

Note: We apologize for the massive gap between updates.  We have learned that wireless internet is a rare and valuable commodity not readily available in all places.  Because we never knew just when we’d have access to internet next, we decided to hold off on posting our tour diary until we arrived back home.

Day #3 – Kitchener, Ontario (Continued)

Only in Canada

Danko Jones couldn’t make the Kitchener show, so we got the prime spot directly opening up for Clutch.  It was pretty nerve wracking the moments before we took the stage because this was a sold out show and pretty much everyone who was gonna be there had arrived at that point.  So I went and had myself a good, cleansing crying session and prepared to take the stage.

A band from Toronto named Sin Dealer opened the show.  Super heavy, great riffs.  The dudes themselves were super nice.  The singer, in fact, tried on multiple occasions to give us contraband and seemed like he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  He also brought his 14 year old son to be a roadie, so that was pretty surreal. Canada, eh?

So back to us:  When we went on, the house was packed full of most likely buzzed Canadians waiting to see Clutch.  As the direct support we had to expand our set to 45 minutes.  I wanted to pull out some Vince Falzone covers, but we decided just to stick to Caverns material.  This was our first show being able to watch an opener from the side of the stage and it was definitely a bit intimidating following a band that caters more to Clutch’s “stoner rock” sound.

As we were stretching and waiting to go on, JP tapped Ross on the shoulder, giving him two delicious craft beers to enjoy during the set…  Next thing we knew, Sin Dealer ended their set and their 14 year old roadie/son was doing everything he could to somewhat stand in the way.  Walking out we were greeted by repeated shouts of “Clutch.”  I’m pretty sure I saw a dude giving us the finger as we walked out.  However, lest you think that Canadians are not open minded, after we played our first song (“Spreading Like a Virus”), the energy in the room totally changed and we were rewarded with viking roar the moment the song was over.  The rest of the set proceeded equally well, “I. Fight. Vampires.” (from our latest EP We Lied out NOW goddammit) went over extremely well.  A lady in the audience demanded Ross to take off his shirt.  When he did not comply, she led by example and whipped off her own shirt.  I really hope the dude from Sin Dealer’s son wasn’t around.  I feel that I also must note that Canada was the only stop on the tour where a beach ball was seen bouncing around in the crowd.

After the set we ran into some Clutch fans outside smoking cigarettes.  They were very enthusiastic about our show, especially this one song we played called “I Fuck Vampires.”  I informed them that we played a song called “I. FIGHT. Vampires” during the show.   After considering this for a minute, a young man among them said “You should change it to ‘I Fuck Vampires.’”  I can’t say I disagree.  A few minutes later, whilst packing up the van, we saw the dude who did the monitors that evening.  He was outside just smoking a j in the lot, no big deal.  Shot the shit with him for a little bit about bands with ridiculous stage set ups and egos (sorry no names will be printed here).  Right before walking inside, he gave us a some words of approval and said “and I really really loved that ‘I Fuck Vampires’ song!”

Clutch came out and played another killer set.  It must be nice to be on point every single night. When you’ve been doing this shit for almost 20 years though, I feel like it starts to come naturally.  People actually brought beach balls to the show, no joke.  After the set was over, the drunken masses walked toward the doors and hit up the merch tables.  We’re pretty sure some percentage of our sales are coming from people too drunk to realize that they’re buying Caverns t-shirts and CDs and not Clutch merch.  We’re only touring with bands starting in “C” from now on.

Canada saved the best for last.  At the very end of the night we met a guy named Steve.  Steve was very impressed with our set and also extremely inebriated.   He told us how awesome that “I Fuck Vampires” song was and that we should probably get a singer, but if not it was cool cause were still awesome.

Day #4 – Traverse City, MI

Once again expecting to have issues getting across the border, we traveled in the middle of the night to Sarnia, ON to cross into Port Huron, MI.   When arriving at the Port Huron crossing, we braced to be stopped and searched.  Ironically, two rather normal looking passenger cars in front of us were pulled aside for search and our unmarked white van full of equipment and four unshowered and disheveled dudes was let right on through.  Awesome is right.  At around 5 AM no one could keep their eyes open anymore so we had to pull over and get a hotel room.  We found a quaint, rustic Super 8 motel just off the highway and decided to stay there.  Ross, Pat and I went to sleep.  Ira, like some sort of cross between a Zombie and the kid who isn’t Fred Savage in “The Wizard” went over to the Marathon truckstop next door and played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Videogame until he had beaten it.

I awoke from possibly the worst sleep I’ve ever gotten thanks to the dude in the room next to us that snored so hard it sounded like he was screaming in his sleep.  We showered, packed up and traversed the remaining few miles to Traverse City, MI (see what I did there?).  None of us had ever heard of Traverse City before, but when we got there we realized it was a pretty cool place (though I doubt you could ever go into the water there).  The club holding the show, called Ground Zero, was a roller rink in the 70′s that was changed into a giant club/bar/lounge/old west saloon complex.  It’s located directly in front of the Traverse City airport, which was actually pretty rad. The manager Doug was a super cool dude, even in a V-neck t-shirt.

The show was OK.  We’ve played better, but the crowd seemed into it, so that’s all that really matters.  Pat and I walked outside to find some food and were approached by some dudes who had already purchased CDs and t-shirts.  One of their number said to me “Dude, when you walked up there I was thinking ‘Oh great, who is this band with the fucking accountant playing guitar, but you guys ended up being pretty amazing.’”  It was my favorite compliment of the tour.

We spent the remaining hours at the venue meeting new fans, admiring the bartender’s “Jersey Shore/King Koopa Clash” of a haircut, and having Pat and Ross walk by Doug every two minutes to intentionally get pulled aside for Jager Bombs.  We headed back to the hotel we stayed in the night before and all of us slept pretty hard upon pulling in.

Day #5 – Columbus, OH

We rolled into Columbus in a rain storm.  I’d like to think that we brought that shit with us.  Walking into the venue sorta reminded me of that scene in Gladiator where Russell Crowe first walks into the Colosseum.  The Newport Music Hall is mammoth…sorta like the 9:30 Club on steroids.  The interior vaguely resembled a race track, with ads for sponsors everywhere (tip: don’t ask for a Coke or a Coors while you’re hanging at the Newport, you will be disappointed).   I stood on the huge stage with the place still empty and got extremely nervous.  This had the potential to go really well or really poorly.

After sound check, we rolled to a very tasty bento place, and Ross stocked up on some tasty microbrews at a local beer store.

We hung out with Danko Jones (the dude and the band) backstage and took in the amazing graffiti left by various bands including a personal favorite “Pop Evil.”  Danko has a solid theory that if you leave your band name written on the wall of the backstage of a club, the rock gods decide right then and there you are never going to make it.  There were a lot of names on the walls folks…no one knew any of them (with the Pop Evil exception).

When we took the stage, it was at least 80% full which mean we were playing to well over 1200 Clutch fans.  I was freaking out. There were way fewer chants of “Clutch” than I was expecting, so that helped.  We launched into our first song and the fear washed away.  The crowd was into it, and I felt incredibly relieved that we weren’t going to be pelted with tomatos and change.  By the end of the set, the crowd had fully embraced us and lots of big, sweaty, tattooed arms pumped in the air in approval.   When this band began, not a single one of us would have imagined being in that place that night….  especially when Ross turned around and noticed Neil Fallon from Clutch watching the entire set from behind Kevin’s amp.

After our set, we made our way to the merch booth to meet some new fans, old friends, and enjoy some beers.  During the change over, we accidentally broke a very expensive mic clip on one of Danko’s guitar mics, but after a long apology and a number of beers, their sound guy Corey quickly became one of the most forgiving, and nicest people we have met since any of us have been involved in music.

Ross and I spent most of Clutch’s set sidestage watching JP tear it up.  Very cool thing to see anynight, but especially from where we were standing.  The show ended with an amazing encore from Clutch including “Gravel Road,” “Big News 1″ and “Big News 2.”  Since it was an off day the next day, Ross, Corey, our friends John & Peggy, Chase (Clutch’s drum tech), and Neil were enjoying some of the beer Ross bought earlier that day behind the club.  After the bus left a number of us went to a couple of late night bars/restaurants before calling it a night.  It was the perfect close to the first stretch of the tour.


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