Tour Update 8

by Swingset Showdown on 2013/07/13

Day 11-The Warm Reception

We pulled into Oakland, for the last show of the tour. Almost immediately, and without saying anything to each other, we split up. Julene and Jason just disappeared. Sofia took off in search of transportation into San Francisco to run an errand.

San Francisco’s Pride parade was happening on this day, and as much fun as that would have been, I didn’t have the stomach to deal with the logistics of crossing the bridge for it. By this point in the tour, we had been operating on little sleep, and long days of driving, planning, or partying.

Eric and I were at a loss of what to do, so we headed down to a farmer’s market that we had glimpsed as we came in. It was just as boring as any other farmer’s market. While wandering around there, we received a message from a friend that would change our heading.

Tyler, of the band Death Ray, sent us a message saying that whenever we got into town, we should contact him and try to meet up at a park. Tyler had set up the bill simply because we asked him to. We had met him when his band came to town to play a show in Seattle, and I’ve hooked him up with a couple Seattle shows since then. Anyway, this simple invite was actually a really awesome turn of events for us. I had planned on bumming around in an unfamiliar city until it came time to check in at the venue. This idea was way better.

Oakland Bar with Lots of BeerEric and I decided to find and collect Jason and Julene, then go find Tyler. We found them at an awesome bar called Beer Revolution with a hilariously faux-communist-uprising theme and an insane selection of quirky microbrews. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and bought some bottles to take with us to the park. We loaded into the van and rolled up on the park.

Tyler and his crew were sitting next to a massive tree, just enjoying the sun. He welcomed us and introduced everybody. I forgot everybody’s names immediately, except for “Zombie,” the dog, but that didn’t stop me from trying to make friends. The band and I had all kinds of stories to tell from the tour, so conversation was smooth. We drank beers, sat in the grass, and talked about random stuff; tattoos, tour, dogs, bands, etc.

At one point, a guy came up to our group and said something like, “I don’t care what you guys do, you can do what you want…but we’re going to start playing a ball game in a sec, and you might get some balls flying your way if you don’t move.” It was an odd way to ask us to relocate, but we sat on the bleachers near the baseball diamond, and watched a group of dudes play softball with beers in their hands. It was a really casual game, and it set a comfortable tone that told me to just relax. I fiddled around with my camera, played with the dog, watched the game, drank some beers, and just soaked up the day.

Julene Oakland BallgameYou might be saying that this story sounds just like any other day in the park, and is not worth writing home about. Understand it from our perspective for a second. Since we’d left, we’d been couch surfing, sweating in the car, surrounded by strangers, wandering in unfamiliar places, lifting heavy things, eating whatever was convenient, taking showers in truck stops…you get the idea. Now, at the end of the tour, with just one major show to go, we could finally stop and breathe. Tyler has been on a bunch of tours before. He knows what a band on tour wants to hear. He knew we didn’t know the town, but he didn’t try to cram a walking tour of the city into the day in an effort to welcome us. He gave us permission to just sit, relax, and hang with some locals for a while. In the end, their stories shed more light on where we were than we ever could have learned from some tourist pamphlet or local landmarks.

When we were in Vegas, we felt the need to be out every day; walking on the endless strip, seeing all the sights, drinking all the drinks. It was exhausting in that heat, but we forced ourselves to push through it. When we got to Oakland, thanks to Tyler and company, we just let the city come to us. I really appreciated it.

Still, the lazy Sunday had to end eventually. After all, there was a show to play. Eventually, we split up and said we would meet at the venue. Jason and I got sushi while Eric and Julene continued to relax by taking naps in the van. Before we knew it, it was showtime!

We got lucky enough to snag the parking space right in front of The Night Light. We were going to be playing on the second floor, so we mentally prepared to carry Eric’s piano up some stairs…again. By this point in the tour, I was calling Eric’s piano, “The Bane of my Existence,” or “The Bane,” for short. You think moving drums is hard? Come ask us if we need help with anything the next time you see us loading in.

A security guard told me that there would be a substitute sound girl running the stage for us. When I asked what had happened to the regular sound guy, I was told that he had been stabbed in the throat. Apparently, he had intervened on behalf of a girl that was losing a fight with some guy out in front of the venue the night before. I relayed the story to Tyler and he said, “welcome to Oakland.”

-The Gash started the show with some electro-voiced, electro-drummed, electro-keyed, dirty rock. They seemed like something out of 90s MTV, but what I caught of their lyrics would have never made it past the censors. Despite the fact that the drummer was playing on an electric set, I was really impressed. Actually, the real reason I don’t like electronic drum sets is because the sound guy tends to turn the drums down and kill the live feel. Anyway, that’s a review for another blog. The Gash is sweaty rad fun that sneaks dirty thoughts into your head with catchy hooks and a slick, 90s rock style. For some reason, though, I can’t find their website. Sorry.

-We got the middle slot. A lot of people were there to see what Death Ray was going to do, so their crowd had to listen to us while they waited.

In most of the other towns we had played, it took people a few songs before they seemed to “get” us. I was getting used to starting our set in a sea of blank stares. Oakland caught on real quick, though. By the end of the first song, we were in the zone, and Oakland was rocking right along with us. Hell, they even got some of the jokes we snuck into our banter.

Needless to say, we played all the hits, including Godzilla. I had again recruited a couple of people to play the costumed parts, and Julene was in charge of their cues. The costumes were already in bad shape, but at this show, they were pushed to their limits. When Godzilla came out, he entered from the back of the room, clawing his way through the crowd, and starting a “fight” with some drunk-ish dude. When Mothra came out to break things up, a brief mosh pit erupted, and broke her neck. She was done and managed to crawl back to her burrow in the back of the room before she died.

After our set, I looked over our valiant monsters. Mothra’s eye was poked out, her neck was broken, and she was full of holes. Some of her fur was stripped off. Godzilla had a hole in his chest and was missing an ear and a nose. Poor beasts.

Death Ray did not perform this evening. Instead, the closers were a Weezer cover band that just happened to look a lot like Death Ray. They had christened themselves “Weeze-Ray”, even though (as many of an astute fan pointed out) an obviously more awesome name would have been “Death Weez”.

Death WeezDeath Ray did a special set of mostly Weezer songs that brought a lot of people to the show. They even snagged a bunch of people off the street that would pass the sign and say, “I love Weezer! How much is the show?” It was rad. Tyler seemed a little worried that people had left after our set, but once they got started playing, The Night Light filled right back up. Tyler dressed as Rivers Cuomo. Joe, the guitarist, was not the usual dude that I see playing guitar in Death Ray. Still, he killed it. Once the crowd was hooked, Death Weez just rocked the house down. I got busy with my camera and captured some really cool pictures of the show, which will be up soon. At the end of the show, Tyler said that they would never ever ever do the Weezer thing ever again, so if you missed it, you missed it.

If I was giving out a trophy for best show of the tour, it would be a toss up between Death Ray and Tartar Control. Death ray is the perfect example of a band that knows how to get a crowd to let loose. They play the way they want to, and are not afraid to show how much they enjoy doing it. It’s a show that is full of hypnotic charisma. Their energy just spreads like fire! That, and I can’t help but dance to those poppy tracks.

After the show was done, Tyler talked to one of his friends and got us a place to stay. It was a little weird, since the friend that we were staying with was moving out the next day. All his stuff was in the living room. We had a really low-key after party at the house, which was mostly just a circulation of compliments and sharing of photos of the show. He had two kittens that were so friggin’ adorable that I refused to take any photos. I wanted to play with them instead. Anyway, the internet is full of kitten photos already. That went on for about an hour before I found a couple mattresses in the upstairs hallway.

As I started drifting to sleep, I was stirred awake by the feeling of two adorable kitty claws and some baby fangs trying to kill my feet. That, I thought, was the perfect way to end such a great day.

-Ike

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