Day 10- What Really Happens in Fresno
The road to Fresno was hot and boring. It was about half way to Fresno that I also realized we had not been partying enough for this tour, so I requested that Jeeves (Eric) make a stop so we could get margaritas. As a non-drinker, he hated the idea, but I had spoken loud enough that the other two drinkers had heard and were now set on this plan. We offered to buy Eric a drink, so he pulled off the freeway and we went to some Mexican restaurant bar in some mall in some small town somewhere.
As soon as we got inside, Eric went to the bathroom, but first asked that we order him a Strawberry Daiquiri. I paused for a second as if to let him take back what he said, but he just looked at me like, “I know what I said. Make it happen.” So, I ordered a Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri at the bar and received the same look from the bartender. I said, “It’s not for me, but please make it as girly as possible.” He complied and we got our day buzz going in the air-conditioned restaurant. Eric had sprinkles on his candy drink. This would make the relatively short drive to Fresno much more tolerable. Having an always sober dude in the band has its perks.
Once in Fresno, we were sort of shocked to find that it was a ghost town. Nobody was on the streets. Nobody was driving around. Everything was closed. It was only about 5pm. Sure it was hot, but was that really an excuse? It was kind of eerie.
We checked in at our venue, Tokyo Garden. There was a reason we were so excited to play in that particular place in Fresno. Tokyo Garden is a sushi restaurant, but with a Godzilla theme. They even claim ownership of the world’s only captive Godzilla! Now, as a guy that knows a thing or two about Godzilla, I know it wasn’t really the one and only, but I did appreciate the tribute. Anyway, we were compelled to do the whole Godzilla song, with costumes, at Tokyo Garden. I was excited.
We had some time to kill until the show, so we all started walking around, looking for where Fresno was happening. We went to “The Mall,” which was a series of shops on an open-air walkway. It was mostly closed, with a few bums hanging out. One fat, shirtless bum was laying on a bench, dozing off. As I passed him he asked, “hey, is there a baseball game today?” I said I didn’t know. Jason and Sofia went in to a pharmacy that was open and asked the clerk where stuff was happening. She responded something to the tune of, “Happening? IN FRESNO!?” Then cackled a manic laugh and shot herself in the head. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. Point is, this ghost-town vibe was normal.
Julene and I went down to the end of The Mall. There we found Eric and a baseball stadium. Oh, so that’s what the dude meant. Sure enough, the entire town was out at the baseball game. I briefly thought about getting a ticket, but instead opted to go to the bar nearby.
Club Brazil is this tiny place adjacent to the stadium. I chose it because it was the closest bar listed on Google maps. The entrance is down an alley, and they play music from the bar out into said alley. It was awful. I thought for sure we were walking into a douchey flesh farm. Once I opened the door, though, I was pleasantly surprised to find a tiny dive bar, decorated in bras and panties, and a perky bartender lady who made us shots that she called, “Blackouts.” We had asked for Jaggerbombs, and these were a superior substitute. I don’t know what was in them. Call the bar, if you can find any real information on it. They don’t have a website, but you can find 2 old yelp reviews.
Anyway, it was about time to get back to the venue to get set up. We talked to the other bands outside for a while and I managed to get a couple volunteers to do the Godzilla/Mothra battle. We played second, so we didn’t really move that fast to get our stuff unloaded onto the street, where we ended up prepping to load. It was hot and Tokyo Garden has no back stage, so we just lazily used the sidewalk as the back stage area, moving slowly to minimize sweating. Again, not a common thing in Seattle. Did I mention it was really hot?
–Sci-Fi Caper was first on the bill. I might sound ignorant and old by saying this, but what is Friendcore? Eric tells me that it’s the music movement in Fresno that we happened to be playing with. It sounded like indie pop to me. I’m not trying to be derogatory. I just find it funny whenever a new genre classification comes along. As if keeping my music organized wasn’t hard enough. Anyway, Sci-Fi Caper self-defines as Friendcore. They were toe-tapping, head-bobbing, bubbly fun. They were sweet and easy to listen to. It was a stark contrast from LA’s punk show, but it was enough to get the attention of the patrons at the bar in the back of the room. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that their lead singer is a girl with an adorable voice. I wish people would stare at Eric like that. Maybe we would have more “likes” on Facebook.
-Next was us. We set up on the teeny tiny stage. The bartender is also the sound guy. He’s also not all that into his job, I think. Still, we got adjusted to our situation pretty quick. I had given our volunteers the rundown for Godzilla, and was pretty confident that Julene could handle giving them their cues. I wore a headband for the show, a piece of merch that sold like hotcakes on this tour.
We played a solid show that made me realize just how tight being on tour can make a band play. At one point, in the middle of our song, “To Be A Robot,” Jason’s bass cut out. We didn’t stop playing, though. Instead, we repeated the part we were stuck at, and I improvised a little song about Jason troubleshooting a broken amp that included jokes about how worthless bassists are. I don’t really remember the details, but I wish I had a recording of it. It went over well.
When we got to Godzilla, Godzilla came out and started terrorizing the sushi-restaurant goers. Due to the heat, he wasn’t wearing the top, and we noticed a big hole in his chest. According to Julene, the volunteer that helped us with Godzilla was so excited that he accidentally poked his hand through the chest as he was putting it on. The costumes had been getting beaten up all tour, though, so I wasn’t really phased. They’re just paper mache, after all. Soon after Godzilla, Mothra came in and picked a fight. She was really early on her cue, though. Julene said that again, the volunteer was just too excited, and ran in past Julene, who was holding her arm in front of Mothra to indicate that it wasn’t time yet. It didn’t matter though. Everybody was psyched to see the monsters fight in the sushi restaurant. Everybody but the bartender. I watched him throughout the show. I thought that of all people, he would be all about the monster fight in his restaurant. Instead, he just looked on with arms crossed and a stern look on his face. Didn’t he know we were doing this for him? Whatever.
–Murder Park closed the set. They also define themselves as Friendcore. I heard Indie-punk myself. They play poppy punk with fast breaks and extended instrumentals. They were exciting and fun while still having some serious tones to their playing. Murder Park has excellent stage charisma and a free-flowing style. There were a lot of people in the audience out to see them, and we appreciated their understanding of how to set up a show.
After walking around Fresno, I was sure that nobody would show up to the show. Thanks to Murder Park and the Friendcore community, though, the show was well-attended and we were well-received. It was a relief to play somewhere that was good to us touring musicians. We even left with some gas money in our pockets. Thanks, Garth (lead singer of Murder park)!
Now, I’ve been mulling over how to talk about this next part for a few days. Fresno was musically very kind to us. Garth was nothing but the perfect host to us while we were there. He offered us a place to stay, and for that, we are very thankful. It’s rough finding a place to stay on tour, especially for cheap, so we were happy to jump on the opportunity. That said, our digs in Fresno are worth a story in themselves, and I think the story is better if I don’t censor myself.
We stayed at a DIY venue called CAFE Infoshop. C.A.F.E. stands for Collective for Arts Freedom and Ecology. I am honestly relieved that it is not an actual cafe. We crashed on couches and played with the kitties as the night wound down. Garth told us that they do Food Not Bombs out of that place, and put on some DIY shows for the Fresno music scene. It reminded me of some underground venues around Seattle.
Initially, it was very comfortable. However, the reality of the situation came on slow, and started when I went to the bathroom. When I hit the light, a cockroach scattered under a crack in a door and out of sight. I shrugged it off and went along with my business. That experience was repeated by everybody else in our tour party, with varying numbers of roaches. There were also roaches on the counters and around the kitchen area, which did not have a working sink. Still, I was not about to complain about having my own couch to sleep on. That was, until I woke up at 6am to find a cockroach crawling on my chest, and flea bites all over my wrists. I had only been asleep for 3 hours, but if there is one thing I can’t do, it’s fleas. I have lived through the torment of fleas, and I was not about to live it again. In the 3 hours I spend there, I got more flea bites on my wrists than I could ever previously recall having at any one time during the great fleapocalypse of my past. I was done. I woke up everybody and said it was shower time. If there were showers at the Infoshop, I didn’t know where they were or how I was going to find them, so we abruptly gathered our things without saying goodbye, and hit the road in search of a truck stop with a shower. Ugh, I’m itchy just thinking about it now.
I just want to reiterate that I am very appreciative of the favors that everybody did for us on our tour. Yes, I am even thankful to the Fresno crew that put us up. However, sometimes you have to draw a line. On tour, I’ve learned that it’s important to stay healthy. For me, that meant not jumping off of high places where I could potentially break a limb that is necessary for drumming, and keeping my hands clean. I did not feel like CAFE Infoshop was good for my health, so I had to take action to distance myself from it. That’s all. In the end, it’s just another road story. I’m not sure how aware the Infoshop residents are of their situation, but I wish them good health and thank them for their gesture of hospitality.
After the truck stop showers, we hit the uneventful road to Oakland. Our fabulous time in Oakland will be recalled in the next upcoming tour update.
If you’ve been faithfully reading these tour updates up to this point, I want to thank you for taking an interest in my band. I would be happy to hear about your reactions in the comments section below.
Update 7-13-2013: I have been informed by several people that “Friendcore” is not a genre. It is the musical “movement” that is being cultivated in Fresno.