Bad breath condensates, pooling up on the ceiling until it finally succumbs to the Earth's gravity and starts raining gingivitis. Nasty cascades across everything in the van as it rumbles down the interstate. It was post blizzard cold outside in the middle of night in Illinois. It was absolutely freezing outside but in the van it was warm and humid. Eight people extremely hung over and breathing heavy. When the van stopped the ceiling drool would freeze and turn into gross little icicles. Man oh man; I have ridden in some wild tour vans for sure. It's amazing what bands will do to go on tour. I swear that is half the reason you drink every night is because you don't want to have to climb your sorry sad ass back into that fucking van!
When I was twenty three I went on a two week tour playing drums in a band called Up Yours. We headed out of Denver headed for the east coast. We had seven people, two guitar half stacks, bass amp, drum kit and a dog packed into a 1988 G.M.C. Vandura. This wasn't one of those extended, super extra-long models either. It was a short, ugly little white van. The poor old girl was missing her grill, with spots of rust all over. There was a funnel that connected to a hose, beer bong style that snaked its way through a hole in the floor of the van and drained out on the highway. Yep, no piss stops for us. You would have to crawl down to your knees while the van jostled back and forth all around you. Pull out your drunken dick and try to get it all in the funnel without making a mess. Needless to say, you would always end up spraying piss everywhere. All over yourself and the person passed out on the small space on the floor under three pairs of feet.
Our bass player devised a bed on top of all the gear made out of two by fours. You could wedge yourself feet first back into cubby hole. This is not for the claustrophobic. You couldn't roll over. Once you were in then that was it. You would wake up panicked, with restricted breaths, your whole body screaming for change. All the sudden whoever was up in the tiny cubby hole would cry out and demand to get down quick. Everybody would move fast because they knew the feeling all too well, themselves. The dog had to lay across peoples laps because there was nowhere else for the poor beast to roost.
We were playing in Madison Wisconsin at some vegan restaurant with some pop punk band called Goober Patrol. We got thrown on last second to the bill because we got kicked off some crappy show the night before. Our van pulled up and we all piled out like circus clowns starting our idiotic juggling act. I remember Goober Patrol's van. They had windows all the way down the side and around the back! A super shiny, dark maroon cruising vessel complete with trailer. I remember all of us laughing because the two vans parked side by side were like night and day. Each member of their band had a place to lie down and relax. They didn't even need to find a place to sleep at night. The funniest part was at the end of the show one of their members walked up to us and gave us a five dollar bill because they felt sorry for us.
In 1998 Homesick Abortions, from Denver, and the Clusterfux decided to make our way down to the first Southwest Fest in Albuquerque. We had a van with two full bands in it. The first piece of crap van broke down before we even got out of the city limits of Denver. We should have taken that as an omen but we determined to get out of town to the Fest. The second van we piled all our shit into made it about 60 miles south of Denver when all of the sudden, SLAM, bam, bam, bam, bam! Leo, the owner and operator of the vehicle, declared to us all that when he pushes on the gas nothing happens. The drive shaft had broken, slamming over and over into the bottom of the van until it was flung, god knows where, never to be found by us again.
We rented a giant Ryder moving truck, transferred all our shit into the big bow in back and towed Leo's van to the first exit ramp. We had a tiny tow chain, if you could even call it that. It was a just a bit bigger than a wallet chain! Dangerous was the way of action on that fine day. Most of us were inside the giant box on wheels, in the back with the gear. We propped the door so that it was just barely open, about 6 inches or so. You have to worry about exhaust riding in something like that. Don't want to wake up dead. You could look out as you sped along on the chip and seal highway. Leo's van in tow was only about 10 feet behind the Ryder truck. I was grinding my teeth with fear watching the brake rotors on the van light up molten red. Chips up glowing metal were starting to shred off and disappear under the van. Leo was riding his brakes because he was too close to the Ryder truck. He was scared of crashing into the back of us and so was I. That was fucking nuts.
Inside the Ryder truck the rest of the trip wasn't much better after that. One of the people with us ended up taking his belt and looping it into the inside of the moving truck.. He didn't want to get sucked out while he slept if the piece of rope holding the door slightly open broke and the door popped open. It was pitch black in there but it was home for the next 5 hours. So we just sat there and got drunk as shit in the dark, in the back of a Ryder truck speeding through New Mexico. Late at night in the dark I believe Marc from Homesick accidently kicked my brother in the head and knocked him out. Our big Ryder moving truck ended up being the backdrop for the stage on the second night of the fest. There was a band around that time that crashed into that same stretch of desert. Ebola 95 tragically lost some band members out there.
When I was in the Clusterfux we did a split with a band called Last Priority and decided to do a West coast tour with them. Instead of a van they had a Suburban. They would use our gear for the most part and pack all their shit Tetras style into the back of their car. Plus they decided for some reason to bring two or three extra people with them. It was nuts watching them load all their crap into the back. Needless to say they missed the Salt Lake show because of an inner band fist fight outside the Fun House in Seattle. I felt sorry for them. They looked terrible when we would stop, just all crammed in there like little punk rock sardines. You could tell it sucked but you got to do what you got to do. If you lack proper funding but know that this is what you want to be doing then you make it work. It's that simple. The last couple of Clusterfux tours our singer, my brother, got a killer van complete with trailer in tow. Fuck, that van had a T.V. with a Nintendo in it. Our drummer bought a little bong and we would pass the miles ripping tubes and playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It was downright glorious. The gods of tour were smiling upon us. That was the way to do it.
The Clusterfux rented a van once. It was nice because we didn't have to worry about it breaking down and got a killer deal on it. The problem was it was just a cargo van. We had to rope our gear in and cram ourselves in between the gear and the two front seats. We put a bunch of blankets on the floor of the van to soften the miles upon the miles of bumps. If we would have gotten into a fender bender our lives would have been compromised. That is one of the most unsettling feelings you can have when you're trying to sleep in a in a tight little fist on the floor of a van. The guy who was driving had been a big rig driver and he refused anybody the chance to drive the whole way, so you were cramped like an astronaut strapped in for takeoff. Lying on your back with your feet propped up on the thin metal barrier between the front and the back. I felt like a kid on a school bus wedging his knees into the seat in front of him and kicking back for the ride to school except the school is 2000 miles away.
It kind of sucked but it was a tremendously enjoyable experience at the same time. That’s why so many people do it, no matter how crappy it gets the fact is it’s just too fucking fun. Way too fucking fun. I hear people my age complain about it. Say things like, I’m almost 40 I can’t be doing that shit anymore! Fuck, I did it again last year with a band I’m in called Dripfed.. We didn’t even bother to build a bed. We just set a board across the tops of the amps and went for it. I hope to do two tours this year and can’t wait. Some people hate it but for some people, like me, that’s all they think about.