Being on the road for a month at a time with the same four or five guys is a lot of fun. For example, one gig in Eugene, Oregon paid us with a bag of grass and free shots of Habu Sake. Habu Sake is a Japanese liquor where they drown a venomous pit viper in the bottle. The viper is still in the bottle when they serve you the shot. It’s the only time I’ve seen a dead venomous snake in the bottle where the liquor is being poured from. I skipped on taking a shot, I was too hungover from the night before. But the other guys in the band say it made them feel like they had super strength.
In the spirit of being paid in marijuana and snake venom shots, this chapter is about a bunch of anecdotes and memories that each of us had at various times.
Hawaiian Baby Wood Rose
Matt Molchany is a pretty funny guy. Put him together with Todd Calvert and you could have a pretty funny sitcom. Some of the greatest bad ideas ever would come to be and so that makes for some hilarious situations. They both like to act like they are so different, but they are more similar than they’d like to admit.
On occasion, we would indulge in doing something a bit more taboo than smoking some pot or drinking alcohol. We were never big into drugs, if anything we drank a lot. But there were times when one or more of us would eat a few psychedelic mushrooms, take a hit of LSD, or snort a line of something. I never saw this as a problem. We never became addicts or let doing these types of things affect our live performance. Let me set up the scenario.
We were playing a few gigs in the Northern Indiana area near Chicago called the Region. One of the guys in a band we were playing a string of shows with had been nice enough to let us stay a few nights at his house. The only problem with that was he was planning on getting married and his bride to be wanted nothing to do with us. I’m sure having a traveling band stay at their house wasn’t first on her list of desires in life. His fiancé made it clear as soon as we stepped foot in their house that we weren’t welcome. Anytime we tried to engage her in conversation, she ignored us and the vibe she emanated was pure disgust with us. Oh well, we tried being nice but she made it clear that we were unwelcome. We tried telling the guy we were going to find somewhere else to stay, but he insisted on us staying. I guess maybe he was trying to draw a line in the sand with his fiancé?…We were always low on money, so we decided to stay even if the circumstances were precarious. We would try and make the best of the situation as usual. Several times I tried asking his fiancé about the wedding, her life, or anything to try and break the ice. But still nothing. I think Matt and Todd finally gave up on trying to be nice and said,
“Fuck It! We’re going to have a good time.”
The good times they had planned for that night were to eat Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds and trip out. Apparently eating the seeds produces quite a psychedelic experience. With the vibes that were in that house, I didn’t want any part of having a psychedelic experience there. I just wanted to drink a few beers and pass the night away. But Matt’s friend had given him the seeds and they couldn’t wait a day or two to take them in a better situation. Here’s Matt’s description of the whole experience.
"Every body pukes" was repeated to Todd and I as a warning not to eat the Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds but we didn’t for the most part listen. You know how you’re supposed to do psychedelics in stable, comfortable situations? We did them at Tim’s house while his angry pre-wife jarred the computer keyboard looking for the perfect dress. So we soaked some of these seeds in whiskey, peeled the skin off of some, and just plain ate some more once Todd and his usually endless reserve of patience ran out. He said they weren’t working for him. I felt a little something. I knew we should stick to the outdoors, especially because pre-husband-and-wife were going to bed at a time that to us was early. I remember Tim smoked a stogie and hung out but went to bed and it was just our band, in a house, in Michigan City after a gig in a high school auditorium and a trip to Denny’s. I have always hated Denny’s but until this night it was purely intellectual. After this night I’d have lots of sense-memory to galvanize it. After I ate a Denny’s veggie burger and fries, I dumped beer on that, then on beer I dumped whiskey and after that, some psychedelic seeds. We were hanging outside and as usual with psyches, they creep up and 90% of the time, you find yourself doing something odd, repetitious, or lost in a vague hallucination. Then you know you’re in for it. I looked up from my new haze and Todd and I were both walking in straight lines, drawing squares with our paths and we were both doing some kind of pseudo-kata with sticks we found. We were getting jacked. From what I remember Todd decided to just sleep it off soon after it kicked in—the process of them kicking in was the real fun. After that point a stream of completely uncomfortable events took place: Todd and I walking into the wrong door and into pre-married couple’s room. Todd spilling water on me. Only country music on their living room stereo. Only one sheet for me to sleep on. And the absolute topper was puking a veggie burger that I swear came out exactly as it went in—like a play-dough factory. I tried sleeping in the basement while his beagle howled like it was being tortured. It felt like murder down there and I thought these people hated us. I felt like the basement was a nine inch nails video and I convinced myself that I just gave myself cancer with all the smoking and drug dabbling. After puking so hard I bled a little. I talked myself kinda calm, crawled upstairs into a room with a table and a chair and curled up under it waiting for insomnia and the drugs to wear off. The next day felt like purgatory until we played at the new java jims. I got some drinks with everybody and honestly, the concern laced with sarcasm and ribbing from all you dudes made me feel human again.”
I still laugh uncontrollably at this story, even ten years later. Here are some memories of food and drink, good and bad.
Memorable Food & Beverages
Being on the road for a long time means most of the time you are eating a lot of shitty food. Anything from gas station fare to free pizzas provided by the venue. But every once in a while, some good food or drinks can bring you back to life.
Todd: “One of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had in my life came from that gas station deli in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. It’s unparalleled. It was a jalapeno cheeseburger. I was hungover, tired, and hungry. I was in a shitty mood. The green chili was spicy and amazing, the cheese melted to perfection. I ate that burger and it changed my whole outlook.”
Joe: “Bloody Mary’s in New Orleans. I was hungover and needed a break from you guys so I ducked into a dark, air conditioned bar for a Bloody Mary. The bartender added a bit of Guiness to it – which I had never seen before. The bar was on the outskirts and I was the only one in there for a couple of hours. It was great. By the time you guys found me, I was drunk again. Then we all drank more Bloody Mary’s.”
Matt: “We received a mason jar of moonshine as part of payment for a gig. Ian and I drank off that for a while. I drank moonshine by a motel pool in Birmingham, Alabama while Todd enlightened some black kids on how to swim. That was my favorite beverage since it was the last batch ever made by some renowned moonshiner in the Appalachian’s.”
Me: “I remember that moonshine that Matt mentioned. It was one of a kind and if you sipped it, you kinda got a mellow psychedelic trip. Eating pizza slices in New York City was one of those lifelong things that you think about. I ate some alligator sausage in New Orleans.”
Going to New Orleans was something I looked forward to when we could get there. There’s something about that place that draws me to it. I still go down there whenever I can.
Bummer Gigs & Strange People
We played some downright depressing gigs at times. It’s just the nature of playing in a traveling rock n roll band. Even the famous bands out there play bad gigs sometimes. We also met some real bizarre folks as well. Here are a few memories of those people and places.
Me: “I think the single most depressing gig ever was playing in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The only people there were a few derelicts and other drunks. I got pissed at you guys and walked off the stage at one point. Not my finest moment.”
Joe: “I remember playing that show in Saint Paul. One of the drunks was a guy who went by Johnny B. That’s what he told us his name was. He was drunk and the gloves had the fingers cut off. He wouldn’t stop talking about his sister. He kept calling her a bitch. He talked in the third person too. He just came up and started talking to us.”
Todd: “I can’t remember what he was calling them, but he was calling them something funny….”
Matt: “He kept referring to them as ‘butts’ or ‘smokie treats’.
Todd: “And he kept saying things like,”
‘You know what, you know what, you know what?’
‘My sister’s a bitch.’
Me: “For weeks afterward, that is how we would ask each other a question.”
‘You know what, you know what, you know what?’
Once while in Chicago, we were killing some time on an off night. We were in a pub called the Pontiac Room drinking and smoking our worries away when we noticed things were a little bit quiet. Where was Todd? He usually was talking about something or to someone. We scanned the room to see Todd at the other end of the bar talking to a stranger. I guess we had been boring so he took off. After a while he came back over to the table we were sitting at.
Todd: “Hey guys, that guy over there gave me an offer I can’t refuse.”
He was laughing while he said this.
Joe: “Oh yeah?”
He nodded towards a tall, well dressed businessman with slicked back hair in a black overcoat. The guy was nursing a cocktail, looking kinda creepy at the other end of the bar. The guy must have noticed the rock n roller looking guys milling around pumping quarters into the jukebox.
Todd: “He says if I let him take me home tonight, he’ll buy me all the smokes and beer that I want! What do you think, should I take him up on it?”
Me: “Hey bud, all the free smokes and beer that you want? That’s hard to refuse. I think you should take him up on it.”
Free beer and smokes, all night… I would have only thought it was a little weird if he had actually taken the offer.
Our friend Billy Jones was on the road with us, helping out with things on a tour. He got his dose of interesting people and good times. Take it away Bill.
“We were staying with that guy and his wife who didn’t want us there. I believe that Matt was recovering from his Hawaiian seed trip the night before. Todd and I wanted to go out and drink some beers.
We walked down the street to some dive in Michigan City.
We grabbed a pitcher of beer and began to sit and talk like a couple of buds. Some guy kept coming over and asking how we were doing and was kinda loud. He kept coming back and asking if he could have a beer; I said “Of course!” I was on tour and he seemed like a nice guy. I topped off his plastic beer cup and kept taking to Todd. I think we were talking about my being recently single and Todd leaving a girlfriend at home or some BS. The guy came back again and asked for a cigarette and I asked what his name was…
He proudly stated that his name was Dixie. I liked that. Dixie was a black man anywhere between the age of twenty and forty five and had anywhere between thirteen and eighteen beautiful pearly whites. I have a picture with him hanging on my fridge as we speak. I was wearing a Dodgers sweatshirt over my CalTrans shirt…very Californian..and he has a doo rag of some sort on. The owner came over and asked if good ‘ol Dixie was bothering us and I replied “not at all.” That’s one of my favorite memories for whatever reason.”
There were so many people we came across, I could write for hours on them.
Strange Towns Stuck in Time
Then there are places like West Wendover, Nevada on the border of Nevada and Utah. West Wendover is about the most remote place you can imagine. For a hundred miles in each direction, there isn’t anything. There are signs on the highway that say
‘Next gas station, 80 miles.’
The town is about a mile long if even that. But since West Wendover is still in Nevada, they have casinos. So that meant that we were going to stop in and gamble before moving on. We stopped in West Wendover early in the morning. Being in the town felt like we had entered into a mirage that we had been driving towards for some time. It was as if a simulator had created the town for us so we could gamble, drink and eat twenty five cent bacon and eggs. It had a surreal feeling as if we were on Mars when it had a race inhabiting its surface. We ate breakfast for a quarter and drank fifty cent beer at nine in the morning in West Wendover on the planet Mars. All while playing some video poker, roulette and craps.
Todd: “Yeah, I remember being up a little at poker but then lost it all. That town was the weirdest.”
Joe: “That city was weird. Half of it was in one time zone and the other half in another. I got drunk on fifty cent beer at nine in the morning.”
Matt: “We started drinking fifty cent Keystone Light there. Some old lady started making fun of us for some reason.”
As a band, we had a nose for finding casinos. Whether it was Reno, Las Vegas, West Wendover, New Orleans, or St. Louie, we never said no to a little gambling. I had about the best beer buzz you could get at nine in the morning in West Wendover, Nevada. As we drove away from that strange town under grey skies and endless road ahead the tunes were playing on the radio. I was loving life.
Some Alone Time
There are also times when you need some alone time. That can mean taking off on your own for a few hours in a city somewhere or just moving to the other end of the bar. Personally, a great night for me is a good baseball game on the television, cold beer and maybe some writing. Throw some fishing in there, and fuck yeah!
Me: “We usually planned a few days off on our tour to spend in Bethlehem, PA where Matt and Joe grew up. We would hang out with their family and friends for a few days, washing our clothes and having a good time. Joe’s family owns a cabin up in the Poconos Mountains on a small lake. We went up there for a few nights at one point. The cabin was set up nice. It had a television with the Major League Baseball package set up. All the baseball you could ever watch, so that made me a happy man. After the first night staying there, the guys were going to drive back to Bethlehem for the day for some reason. The plan was for them to return later that night. I decided to stay up there by myself and have some alone time with some baseball games and some fishing. It was a glorious day of basking in the sun, fishing off their dock in my boxer shorts, drinking beer and watching baseball.”
One night in New Orleans, Matt was in a bit of a sour mood. The whole day he had been snapping a little bit, probably hungover and hungry. He is vegan so there wasn’t always a lot of options for him to eat.
Matt: “I went back out in New Orleans after we all stopped back at the hotel. Like REAL late. I had just given Todd a bunch of pseudo/half-joking shit for eating some gross hot dog. Out alone, and feeling bad from Todd calling me a food fascist, I sat at a bar and did a few shots, talked to a few people, wandered down a few shady streets until I didn’t feel like being mugged and found my way back to the main drag. I found a hot dog cart and dared myself to do it. I was vegan at the time and challenged myself to house a huge, gross, end of the night hot dog. I did it and then called a cab.”
Todd: “I’m sorry I called you a food fascist Matt. I was young and didn’t know any better.”
It’s nice to see all these years later that at least one hatchet can be buried. Little spats like this would happen from time to time, but we always managed to get past it or laugh it off.
With everything that we went through as a traveling band, there are so many memories filed away in the hard drive. Every once in a while, when I’m by myself or with people, I’ll remember one of these memories and have a little laugh. They’ll ask “What’s so funny?” And I’ll say “Oh, just something that happened to one of my old friend’s years back.”