Almost Infamous: The Unband/Def Leppard Tour Diary


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Editors' note: Mike Ruffino is the bassist for the Unband. Eugene Ferrari is the drummer, and Matt Pierce plays guitar. Last summer they went on tour with Def Leppard. They are currently working on their second album.

 

First Leg


There is no question that having the run of an arena will be a curious thing. Quite possibly, it makes no sense at all. But neither does most everything we do, and besides?this is catered. And it's summertime, and the lawns will be smattered with people getting anesthetized on quilt islands, smeared with pizza grease and feeling each other up. Nice, like when they show The Wizard of Oz in the park.

It's hot as hell and though we've only been driving for a few hours, it feels like we've been doing this for a week. Best I can figure this tour will take us around 25,000 miles, give or take?loosely once around the Earth.

We have more guys with us now, augmenting the well-soiled Machine that is Steve the tour manager, Eugene, Matt and myself: Safety-Bear very much comes from Vermont and is recently married. Steve performed the ceremony, having been ordained in some mail-order church just before a previous tour (Note: Steve also gave him the nickname, for reasons which did not become clear until Safety-Bear later quit following some very unsafe behavior.) He is handy with things and hammers and is one of this planet's Nice Guys, as it were. Peeler is a delinquent from Chicopee named for his strip club addiction who can drive without sleep for days on end, tech the drums and, not least, is a crackerjack B & E man. Neither of them has been on a rock tour?or out of New England for any other reason?until now. Mr. Taylor has got a week or so off from a more timely sort of summer tour and is doing sound for the first few shows. No idea what we'll do about FOH after he leaves, but he's the only guy who's ever been able to mix us just right and he's got some pills I think.

We're traveling in two vehicles now. This one, a Dodge conversion van, used to be white and inconspicuous. Now it looks as if the shades are closed for a very good reason, which is nerve-wracking on the open highway because they are closed for a very good reason. The VCR's busted, but it's some comfort to have one: ballast. Like most of our amplifiers. But all in all, considering what we put this thing through, we can't complain, and there's a fairly good chance it'll make it through this tour. May we load the dice. For some reason we have also a Ryder panel truck. I believe we were all under the impression that there was another van coming along, but I don't see one.

We also have acquired a, how would you say?giant red hand. I can't recall whether it's a right hand or a left hand at the moment, but I know it's around 8 feet tall inflated. We had it designed by some parade-balloon company in the Midwest. It was kind of a joke idea we mentioned at some kind of meeting, then one day the fucking thing showed up. It grows out of a big black box when plugged in on cue and you can make it sign any number of ways. We generally have it throw the goats. Obviously.

The Hand is a lonely prop for such big buildings, unless you count the usual pyrotechnics, which are just fireworks taped to the instruments. We get them at this airplane hangar jammed with cheap explosives off of I-70 on the way to Chicago. All fireworks here are called things that have been painstakingly translated from the Japanese: you have your Violence Ammunition, your Hard-Killing Mobster, your Disco Maimers and Explosion Face Policeman. You've also got your Roman candles and your bottle rockets, but in my experience those are of little use if you're not on a beach down the Cape. Everything costs about 50 cents, and since we'll be playing half-outdoor shed-type places for the next few months, I brought along some extra Rape Volcanoes.

Every place on the itinerary is named after a soft drink or a computer company and frequently something worse. As right as it once seemed to rag on the Stones for taking dirty beer money they didn't need, the phrase "Budweiser Presents" implies a certain kind of party that diarrhea medicine does not. Now it seems if you want to see anybody of size at all (or?fuck?us) you will see them at the Imodium Center and that's the end of that. If you're talking to ladies or anyone, you maybe just call it the local enormo-dome.

It's seven hours to Darien, NY?which is Rochester to some, Buffalo to others.

Now how about that _______ somebody talked me out of.

 


Six Flags Darien Lake Amusement Park
The Something-Something Video Store Amphitheater
Darien Center, NY, July 22, 2000

I-Am-A-Gettin'-It

Took a _________ last night just as we got underway. Got through a glass of scotch and a glass of wine and woke up here, to rollercoaster sounds: screaming, metal on metal. Parking lot has the four Def Leppard buses and two semis, our van and our mysterious panel truck, and a Free Beer and Canapés tent. We're parked behind the stage. Sixteen and a bit elephants could stand up there comfortably; this place holds 20-something thousand. For contrast, the last place we played was a sports bar on a stage that could fit possibly a lute, a midget and a plastic flamingo.

Made very fancy dressing room signs for us before we left, but forgot to make any that did not include the word "motherfucking." Had to do some folding and scotchtaping before posting them because everybody in the other bunch has got their kids with them.

Had a bit of breakfast (a peach and some tea with scotch), read some Condé Nast atrocity for a while, drank the last of the wine and went back to sleep in the van. Woke up around 12:30. Ate a lunch of tuna salad, coffee, two beer, and watched the lighting guys swing around. It's all very impressive, but this is why people would eventually start sticking fish into the groupie. Down time. Let's put this in a nice syringe, or, how much you give me if I get that chick to ________ on that _________ and then __________ it. But that's all been done. We can be entertained by much more wholesome enterprise: there's an amusement park 10 feet from us that will keep us occupied. If we take enough ___________. (We do.)

Joe Elliott burst into the room a few minutes ago to introduce himself and to say 15 hilarious things and to warn us that though the weather looked nice right now, his band "wasn't the luckiest band in the world exactly," and that it would probably rain for the rest of the tour. He just left saying he wants to find the people and tell them that we don't have enough foodstuffs on our card table. He's right, we don't: we have a bowl of crab apples and some paper cups. No matter. We're taking some ________ and going for fried dough.

Upon returning from the haunted flume ride, it is discovered that our dressing room has been amply stocked with food and booze and beer and doily things as well.

 


Tweeter Center
Mansfield, MA
July 20, 2000

Pyromania

You would have to look a ways back, but our band is actually from Boston?and whatever is the opposite of the Key to the City, we have that. I remember being flung by giants into the Fenway while someone who looked like a John Gotti and a rocket pop cursed me from his depths through a hole in his throat (God rest his soul), cinematically tossing a red velvet jacket and a guitar cable after me. That was around seven years ago. If there was a gig in Boston after that then it was nothing memorable. This is as close as we've come. This place used to be called Great Woods until some money geeks came. There are two catering tents and I was brought in a golf cart to the one that has beer about 20 minutes ago. It's a cloudless 80 degrees.

Our room is a locker room but with leather couches, a clean carpet and separate shower stalls. There's a lot of shrimp. We have piles of ________, thanks to a very good friend who is always showing up like a redemptive meteor when we're "tired." Matt's whole family is here, including a couple cousins and the like. They all look confused and proud. Monahan is here, too: drinking fruit juice with no vodka in it, trying not to talk about his novel to the guy who's not doing the video. He keeps wandering outside to not talk about his novel with more people. There are Northampton people along to help out (helping: guy offers to roadie and do lighting; gets a free ride here, some woman he wants to fuck gets guest-listed with her six friends, they all have brunch for the first time in their lives, while the main guy drinks everything in sight, eats the dip with his hands, insults somebody's girlfriend and passes out in the can before we even load in). Old friends from this immediate vicinity in various stages of pronounced liver failure are shotgunning a Bud suitcase every 30 minutes. The buffet looks less like it has been classically ravaged than like someone at some point dropped a Buick through it.

Someone in the Leppard crew came in a while ago to ask the room if anyone wanted to put in an order for the "cigarette run," everybody piped up, and now the runner has returned with a carton of each brand and nobody has any money. So we're into the Leppard for a hundred something, and we have two cartons of so-and so's fucking honey-nut-menthols eating up our per diems.

We tried to get our fireworks bit okayed by Def Leppard's road management with this warped audition on the loading dock.

"So it'll just be that I light this fuse here?"

"And what happens, exactly."

"Something."

"What do you mean? What is that thing?"

"It shoots fire."

"Uh-huh. What kind of?fire?"

"Chinese. We get them at a place."

"You're fucking kidding, right?"

"Um. No."

"You aren't even really sure what that's gonna do. Are you."

"It's okay. It's got duct tape on it. Watch."

The dock is showered by a 20-foot, totally uncontrollable arc of dimestore napalm that immediately ignites a plastic No Smoking sign, curling it into a charred tube. The whole dock smells like shit. A Southie cookout gone terribly wrong. Some guy doing things with boxes down the end goes what the fuck. Not union-approved standard issue equipment, but it does the job.

"That looks like a 'No' face."

"Close. It's a 'No Way in Bloody Hell' face. And what exactly does this Hand do again?"

Our attention is drawn to a treated rubber pad that covers about 90 percent of the stage, so that you're standing on a 20-foot Def Leppard logo that prevents splinters and, presumably, grounds your band in an electrical storm. They are very touchy about it because it cost 11 billion dollars. "Nobody lights any fucking fires on this." They are watching us.

Absolutely high as jackasses when we get onstage and the crowd is silent and frightened. Every once in a while someone way back on the lawn yells out "Faggit!" The response to this is to guess what the guy is wearing (you'd be right), single him out and then fuck with him from the Jumbo-Tron. I think we got a rise out of the people once when we shouted "Aerosmith!" for no reason. Toward the middle of Def Leppard's set, during "Photograph," our friend from Hudson, MA, wandered obliterated from the dressing room out onto the stage trying to eat a mangled roast beef sandwich through the hair in his mouth. Security, etc. As we were loading out I saw a little bit of roast beef and some Thousand Island dressing on one of the Leppard guitars.

Noted: Mansfield is a suburb of Framingham.

 

 

On Through the Night

Safety-Bear got us so stoned on marijuana that we were able to make shadow puppets under a streetlamp in a rest area all night long. We had a bit of the vending and drank a case of beer and slept in the bushes.

 

Jones Beach Amphitheater
Wantagh, NY
July Something, 2000

Joe Elliott Had A Mott the Hoople Tattoo Before You Did

Today we were told some Rules. Behind Behind the Music. Def Leppard are "cleaned up" now so we're not supposed to be "drunk in catering," which seems impossible and is. Ian Hunter came out and sang "All the Young Dudes" with Leppard as an encore. Brilliantly. We met him in catering. Drunk. What.

 


Blossom Music Center
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Aug. 2, 2000

Sitting in a dressing room that looks like the common room at a hippie college. Orange couches, white cement walls, brown-gray lockers. I'm licking ________ residue off of some absolutely fucking inexplicable Little Mermaid wax table coverings. Def Leppard is upstairs sound-checking. F-F-F-Foolin'.

The huge hospitality room down the hall has a video arcade that is entirely free, ping-pong and a putting green, a jukebox (also free), and huge windows that have you looking into a dense elfin wood. There'd be a perpetual Renaissance Fair on the patio if Certain Types ran the place. The helping people tried to serve us some kind of sloppy joes for food. This was not well going. And though these kitchen people are very friendly I find that I would not like to eat their things. I hear now behind me that there is some more _________ left over from last night's atrocious binge. There'll be no bother about eating at all.

There is a parrot here who doesn't give a shit. He rides around on one of the Lep roadies' shoulder. People give him grapes and such. He's frequently alone on one or other of the tables in catering with a paper plate of melon rinds in front of him?just thinking I guess. Right now he's sitting on the pinball machine. Thinking. I don't know what his name is. It is good to have a pet animal on the road. Especially a wise-ass one with his head around things and some command of English.

The show here is a good time. Three Def Leppards were laughing?at or with, doesn't matter?in the wings while we played "Quiet Riot" for the 8000 people. Joe Elliott had specifically asked for that to happen. We were also laughing because we don't know it that well. No one else was laughing all that much?because we don't know it that well. (I know there were at least 400 pre-glacial musical geniuses sitting there fuming, going Who the fuck are these assholes? I could fuckin do that. Yes, but you're not.) This place is 1980, dethroned. Everything is a blinding anachronism. Except the _______.

The Ryder truck has disappeared and the rental van has shown up. It is immediately broken and sent to Assy McRipoff's Auto, while the most important equipment?the Hand, couple guitars, some leftover chicken?is put into Def Leppard's truck.

 

Hey, How Come This Is Wet?

Let me say about how we urinate. We go and buy two gallons of water at a place that has a bathroom. We use that bathroom as much as we need/can after we have drunk as much of one of the gallons of water as possible. We put whatever is left into smaller containers, which we put somewhere in the van to get nice and hot for those desert drives, leaving half an inch of water in the gallon jug. Now this is a toilet, or more specifically, a urinal. The jug we have now has a sticker on it reading, Indian Rock Spring Water. "Rock water." I used to sneak around when it was my turn to dump it. Now I just pour it out wherever I feel like and say what the fuck are you looking at. The other gallon jug we dump out and fill with prostitutes.

 

Baptists

Gas station. Somewhere in Missouri. Safety-Bear opens the driver's side door and a few Budweiser bottles roll out and smash on the ground, which is just as well. Matt is throwing up out the back of the van. A jug of piss is leaking toward our neighbor's car: the guy's got one hand on the pump and an expression on his face that I feel no need to accurately describe. Inside, I've knocked over a rack of something blurry and Peeler is giggling at the hotdog carousel. Steve is paying for some Big League Chew with his pants down. His raspberry-glass Kiss belt buckle scrapes along the linoleum as he walks out.

There's a nacho accident all over the counter. A giant black woman is shoveling cheese-food back into its pan under the heat lamp in one of the most retarded operations I have ever witnessed, saying, "There must be a better way to do this, but Baptists don't know it."

Additionally, today was Joe Elliott's birthday. We gave him, indispensably, a Boy Scout handbook copyright 1948 and a stick pin that says "New England: Caring Is Our Way."

Now I'm shotgun in the van back on the highway. Listening to some Mountain. It is proud, proud music.


 

Winks

Sur-fucking-prize, we slept sitting up in a rest area again. As a matter of fact, from now on that goes without saying. I owe any moments of blissful unconsciousness to lots and lots of ________, __________ and wine. And Tylenol PM: that in particular is a good friend.

The place we played last night was called the Smirnoff Center. Or if it wasn't, it certainly is now. So I slept well. When I say sleep I almost always mean pass out. When I say tired I mean need ______, or else a swift death. When I say "took a nap," I mean suddenly collapsed in the middle of doing something important. And so on.

Driving. There is a terrible terrible song on the radio right now. Holy shit. Fucking hell, this is a bad song. We can only listen to the radio a couple hours per day on account of the van's electric is shot and we can only afford batteries for the portable once a week, otherwise we won't have any money for?insulin...or anything. Battery time is much better spent on talk radio or, say, white noise, if you ask me, and no matter what we don't have the resources to sit through any shit music. Maybe we could have radio stations page us when they're going to play a good song?like what that company in L.A. does for people who don't want to miss the car chases. Our thing'd vibrate about three times a month. Except in Ohio. There's good radio all over the place there. Makes you wonder who knows what about anything.

It is 113 degrees today. We're coming up on Little Rock, AR. Or some such fabled kingdom.

 

 

Hail to the Pimp

Little Rock. This is by far the hottest weather ever. It may be slightly warmer at the center of the earth. Maybe. Everyone is moving like the mercury. The heat index is 117. There are gazillion-watt stage lights. It's hard to breathe.

Across the park is a "discovery store" for kids. It's cooled by NASA or some god-machine from the future, so I spend several hours discovering shit. Bug Boxes. Solar Kites. Lil' Elephant Man chemistry sets. A good many of the things to discover involve Bill Clinton in some way: cutout fashion books, What Does the President Do All Day pop-up book, etc. They've got Hillary looking a lot like Sharon Stone, and Bill looks like Superman's more ass-kicking brother. Which he is, by the way.

Catering was a fucking joke, though; delivery people from local restaurants were coming and going all day. Costing the promoter lord-knows-what to feed people, the woman's serving macaroni with hotdog bits and pound cake squares with food coloring smiles on them, which in the 117 degrees ran so that each piece looks like it says "die" on it in pink. Lunchlady asked a 400-pound local stagehand if he was a vegetarian as he stood there with two chops and a burger on his plate. He said, "Yes, ma'am!" So she gave him some turnip greens. An old guy brought our beer to us in a mop bucket along with "our" package of Oscar Mayer something and some consumptive grapes. The Def Leppard gentlemen, mind you, live in castles and I've seen their cart and they're not faring much better. I do not wonder why there are sweaty envoys from the local food shacks coming in and out of the dressing rooms.

But as the story almost always goes, the places from which you expect the worst turn out to be the best, and despite the heat and catering, Little Rock was one of these places. A pit broke out, and there was no barrier (or if there had been it didn't last long enough to be noticed) so it felt suddenly more like playing in a club than a shed?albeit a club with 10,000 people and the sun in it. Even the putrid river behind the stage was sparkling as nicely as a putrid river could.

Matt introduced "Everybody Wants You" as a song "penned by Mr. William Squier." Blank stares and total silence. Then, "Um? Billy Squier," and the place went nuts. Them's the peoples.

The promoter girl, Peggy, took us to see Junior Brown. He is the fucking man who plays the guitar. I will wind up telling everyone and my children about the guy. Watching a couple guys in his band mingle after the show, Eugene and I thought of a good pick-up line: "Hey there, ladies. Would you like to come back to my place? I've got tons and tons of heroin, dope and smack, and I'll shoot you right the fuck up." But that is the best guitar-playing I have heard since?the last time I saw him play. I hope he lives long. He does this thing with the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind that I am stealing immediately.

The bar next door is open until 5 a.m. for regular people and then later for less regular people. I didn't make it past 3:40?sometimes you shove pounds of ________ and ___________ into your eye sockets every five minutes for a couple weeks straight and then you have to nap. Steve became something from redneck mythology inside of four beers, as he is wont to do, and he was just about to rock the place with a chair over his head as I was on my way out. Matt wins the prize: a Christian librarian and her mute and even more Christian friend followed him from our show, tagging very quietly along not drinking, watching him booze like a fucking Hun, I don't know if he even tried to talk to them at all?until finally in the wee hours (our hours) these girls sat with their hands folded in their laps on either side of him, while he face-planted on the table in the back of the bar and started snoring. He was soon carried out as they looked on not saying anything, not drinking, hands folded. I don't know what became of those Christians. Off to not drink somewhere else, I suppose. We were off to a rest area somewhere stupid.

 


SOMETHING SOMETHING MEGA WHATEVER
Summer 2000

Huck Finished

Last gig on this leg, tonight. Don't know what's coming next exactly, but anyway I imagine hell being a good deal more pleasant than western Pennsylvania and I know that it's more hip. We're at the Hair Club for Men Amphitheater or something. It has a small, calm (stagnant) pond behind it with a putting green floating in its middle. There are a few beaver, some frogs. Cat-o'-nine-tails swaying around it. Idyllic in a festering, end of the world kind of way. There's a little metal rowboat sitting on the bank. This is noticed and drinks are fetched from the van.

So Steve, Safety-Bear and I are out on the pond (which turns out to be filthier than was promised) rowing around sipping Budweisers, talking, watching the beaver and the frogs choke, and noticing this swarm of huge buzzards circling above the arena. A lot of buzzards, actually (and when I mentioned this to Joe Elliott a little later he laughed nervously). So we're rowing around talking about Kant or tits or something and suddenly there's 10,000 shit-fits coming from the shore. The place goes upside down. Screaming, frothing: "YOU FUCKING DEAD FUCKING ASSHOLES! BRING THAT BOAT BACK RIGHT FUCKING NOW! RIGHT FUCKING NOW YOU PSYCHOTIC FUCKING BAGS OF SHIT! THE SHERIFF FUCKING BLAH BLAH BLAH..." And so on. At some point during the row back Safety-Bear points out that these people are screaming foully at, for some confounding reason, the Artist.


When we get back to the shore, there are maybe six fat guys with eternally unselected penises shaking their drumstick fists at us. Hemorrhaging motherfuckers everywhere. Def Leppard's tour manager, a glum, pear-like man, starts in with the "and another thing, that time you did this and another thing, and what was that crap in such and such a place, and another thing about the dressing rooms, and who do you think you are? You can't get away with blah blah something," between bursts from the local guys about the "sheriff" and the "county lockup." Apparently, Andy Griffith is gonna work us over with a broomstick until the real police get there.

We just woke up and were trying to have a beer in a boat like a human, "sirs," so I'm about to get into it with where they can stick their liabilities and I grew up on the water and I was out ramming sunfishes and pirating commuter boats in a Boston whaler while you were in a basement whacking off to The Dark Crystal, et al., but we learn that one of the guys had just pulled a body out of the pond in question last week following Ozzfest so the place is a little sensitive to our kind of recreation. We didn't know this, and now we've Ruined Everything with our Cruel Prank.

That was hours ago. We've been sitting in the room since then, eating a cheese platter and quietly getting fucked up. Maybe we'll be home sooner, and for longer, than previously thought.

 


Today we were told some Rules. Behind Behind the Music. Def Leppard are "cleaned up" now so we're not supposed to be "drunk in catering," which seems impossible and is. Ian Hunter came out and sang "All the Young Dudes" with Leppard as an encore. Brilliantly. We met him in catering. Drunk. What.

 


Blossom Music Center
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Aug. 2, 2000

Sitting in a dressing room that looks like the common room at a hippie college. Orange couches, white cement walls, brown-gray lockers. I'm licking ________ residue off of some absolutely fucking inexplicable Little Mermaid wax table coverings. Def Leppard is upstairs sound-checking. F-F-F-Foolin'.

The huge hospitality room down the hall has a video arcade that is entirely free, ping-pong and a putting green, a jukebox (also free), and huge windows that have you looking into a dense elfin wood. There'd be a perpetual Renaissance Fair on the patio if Certain Types ran the place. The helping people tried to serve us some kind of sloppy joes for food. This was not well going. And though these kitchen people are very friendly I find that I would not like to eat their things. I hear now behind me that there is some more _________ left over from last night's atrocious binge. There'll be no bother about eating at all.

There is a parrot here who doesn't give a shit. He rides around on one of the Lep roadies' shoulder. People give him grapes and such. He's frequently alone on one or other of the tables in catering with a paper plate of melon rinds in front of him?just thinking I guess. Right now he's sitting on the pinball machine. Thinking. I don't know what his name is. It is good to have a pet animal on the road. Especially a wise-ass one with his head around things and some command of English.

The show here is a good time. Three Def Leppards were laughing?at or with, doesn't matter?in the wings while we played "Quiet Riot" for the 8000 people. Joe Elliott had specifically asked for that to happen. We were also laughing because we don't know it that well. No one else was laughing all that much?because we don't know it that well. (I know there were at least 400 pre-glacial musical geniuses sitting there fuming, going Who the fuck are these assholes? I could fuckin do that. Yes, but you're not.) This place is 1980, dethroned. Everything is a blinding anachronism. Except the _______.

The Ryder truck has disappeared and the rental van has shown up. It is immediately broken and sent to Assy McRipoff's Auto, while the most important equipment?the Hand, couple guitars, some leftover chicken?is put into Def Leppard's truck.

 

Hey, How Come This Is Wet?

Let me say about how we urinate. We go and buy two gallons of water at a place that has a bathroom. We use that bathroom as much as we need/can after we have drunk as much of one of the gallons of water as possible. We put whatever is left into smaller containers, which we put somewhere in the van to get nice and hot for those desert drives, leaving half an inch of water in the gallon jug. Now this is a toilet, or more specifically, a urinal. The jug we have now has a sticker on it reading, Indian Rock Spring Water. "Rock water." I used to sneak around when it was my turn to dump it. Now I just pour it out wherever I feel like and say what the fuck are you looking at. The other gallon jug we dump out and fill with prostitutes.

 

Baptists

Gas station. Somewhere in Missouri. Safety-Bear opens the driver's side door and a few Budweiser bottles roll out and smash on the ground, which is just as well. Matt is throwing up out the back of the van. A jug of piss is leaking toward our neighbor's car: the guy's got one hand on the pump and an expression on his face that I feel no need to accurately describe. Inside, I've knocked over a rack of something blurry and Peeler is giggling at the hotdog carousel. Steve is paying for some Big League Chew with his pants down. His raspberry-glass Kiss belt buckle scrapes along the linoleum as he walks out.

There's a nacho accident all over the counter. A giant black woman is shoveling cheese-food back into its pan under the heat lamp in one of the most retarded operations I have ever witnessed, saying, "There must be a better way to do this, but Baptists don't know it."

Additionally, today was Joe Elliott's birthday. We gave him, indispensably, a Boy Scout handbook copyright 1948 and a stick pin that says "New England: Caring Is Our Way."

Now I'm shotgun in the van back on the highway. Listening to some Mountain. It is proud, proud music.


 

Winks

Sur-fucking-prize, we slept sitting up in a rest area again. As a matter of fact, from now on that goes without saying. I owe any moments of blissful unconsciousness to lots and lots of ________, __________ and wine. And Tylenol PM: that in particular is a good friend.

The place we played last night was called the Smirnoff Center. Or if it wasn't, it certainly is now. So I slept well. When I say sleep I almost always mean pass out. When I say tired I mean need ______, or else a swift death. When I say "took a nap," I mean suddenly collapsed in the middle of doing something important. And so on.

Driving. There is a terrible terrible song on the radio right now. Holy shit. Fucking hell, this is a bad song. We can only listen to the radio a couple hours per day on account of the van's electric is shot and we can only afford batteries for the portable once a week, otherwise we won't have any money for?insulin...or anything. Battery time is much better spent on talk radio or, say, white noise, if you ask me, and no matter what we don't have the resources to sit through any shit music. Maybe we could have radio stations page us when they're going to play a good song?like what that company in L.A. does for people who don't want to miss the car chases. Our thing'd vibrate about three times a month. Except in Ohio. There's good radio all over the place there. Makes you wonder who knows what about anything.

It is 113 degrees today. We're coming up on Little Rock, AR. Or some such fabled kingdom.

 

 

Hail to the Pimp

Little Rock. This is by far the hottest weather ever. It may be slightly warmer at the center of the earth. Maybe. Everyone is moving like the mercury. The heat index is 117. There are gazillion-watt stage lights. It's hard to breathe.

Across the park is a "discovery store" for kids. It's cooled by NASA or some god-machine from the future, so I spend several hours discovering shit. Bug Boxes. Solar Kites. Lil' Elephant Man chemistry sets. A good many of the things to discover involve Bill Clinton in some way: cutout fashion books, What Does the President Do All Day pop-up book, etc. They've got Hillary looking a lot like Sharon Stone, and Bill looks like Superman's more ass-kicking brother. Which he is, by the way.

Catering was a fucking joke, though; delivery people from local restaurants were coming and going all day. Costing the promoter lord-knows-what to feed people, the woman's serving macaroni with hotdog bits and pound cake squares with food coloring smiles on them, which in the 117 degrees ran so that each piece looks like it says "die" on it in pink. Lunchlady asked a 400-pound local stagehand if he was a vegetarian as he stood there with two chops and a burger on his plate. He said, "Yes, ma'am!" So she gave him some turnip greens. An old guy brought our beer to us in a mop bucket along with "our" package of Oscar Mayer something and some consumptive grapes. The Def Leppard gentlemen, mind you, live in castles and I've seen their cart and they're not faring much better. I do not wonder why there are sweaty envoys from the local food shacks coming in and out of the dressing rooms.

But as the story almost always goes, the places from which you expect the worst turn out to be the best, and despite the heat and catering, Little Rock was one of these places. A pit broke out, and there was no barrier (or if there had been it didn't last long enough to be noticed) so it felt suddenly more like playing in a club than a shed?albeit a club with 10,000 people and the sun in it. Even the putrid river behind the stage was sparkling as nicely as a putrid river could.

Matt introduced "Everybody Wants You" as a song "penned by Mr. William Squier." Blank stares and total silence. Then, "Um? Billy Squier," and the place went nuts. Them's the peoples.

The promoter girl, Peggy, took us to see Junior Brown. He is the fucking man who plays the guitar. I will wind up telling everyone and my children about the guy. Watching a couple guys in his band mingle after the show, Eugene and I thought of a good pick-up line: "Hey there, ladies. Would you like to come back to my place? I've got tons and tons of heroin, dope and smack, and I'll shoot you right the fuck up." But that is the best guitar-playing I have heard since?the last time I saw him play. I hope he lives long. He does this thing with the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind that I am stealing immediately.

The bar next door is open until 5 a.m. for regular people and then later for less regular people. I didn't make it past 3:40?sometimes you shove pounds of ________ and ___________ into your eye sockets every five minutes for a couple weeks straight and then you have to nap. Steve became something from redneck mythology inside of four beers, as he is wont to do, and he was just about to rock the place with a chair over his head as I was on my way out. Matt wins the prize: a Christian librarian and her mute and even more Christian friend followed him from our show, tagging very quietly along not drinking, watching him booze like a fucking Hun, I don't know if he even tried to talk to them at all?until finally in the wee hours (our hours) these girls sat with their hands folded in their laps on either side of him, while he face-planted on the table in the back of the bar and started snoring. He was soon carried out as they looked on not saying anything, not drinking, hands folded. I don't know what became of those Christians. Off to not drink somewhere else, I suppose. We were off to a rest area somewhere stupid.

 


SOMETHING SOMETHING MEGA WHATEVER
Summer 2000

Huck Finished

Last gig on this leg, tonight. Don't know what's coming next exactly, but anyway I imagine hell being a good deal more pleasant than western Pennsylvania and I know that it's more hip. We're at the Hair Club for Men Amphitheater or something. It has a small, calm (stagnant) pond behind it with a putting green floating in its middle. There are a few beaver, some frogs. Cat-o'-nine-tails swaying around it. Idyllic in a festering, end of the world kind of way. There's a little metal rowboat sitting on the bank. This is noticed and drinks are fetched from the van.

So Steve, Safety-Bear and I are out on the pond (which turns out to be filthier than was promised) rowing around sipping Budweisers, talking, watching the beaver and the frogs choke, and noticing this swarm of huge buzzards circling above the arena. A lot of buzzards, actually (and when I mentioned this to Joe Elliott a little later he laughed nervously). So we're rowing around talking about Kant or tits or something and suddenly there's 10,000 shit-fits coming from the shore. The place goes upside down. Screaming, frothing: "YOU FUCKING DEAD FUCKING ASSHOLES! BRING THAT BOAT BACK RIGHT FUCKING NOW! RIGHT FUCKING NOW YOU PSYCHOTIC FUCKING BAGS OF SHIT! THE SHERIFF FUCKING BLAH BLAH BLAH..." And so on. At some point during the row back Safety-Bear points out that these people are screaming foully at, for some confounding reason, the Artist.


When we get back to the shore, there are maybe six fat guys with eternally unselected penises shaking their drumstick fists at us. Hemorrhaging motherfuckers everywhere. Def Leppard's tour manager, a glum, pear-like man, starts in with the "and another thing, that time you did this and another thing, and what was that crap in such and such a place, and another thing about the dressing rooms, and who do you think you are? You can't get away with blah blah something," between bursts from the local guys about the "sheriff" and the "county lockup." Apparently, Andy Griffith is gonna work us over with a broomstick until the real police get there.

We just woke up and were trying to have a beer in a boat like a human, "sirs," so I'm about to get into it with where they can stick their liabilities and I grew up on the water and I was out ramming sunfishes and pirating commuter boats in a Boston whaler while you were in a basement whacking off to The Dark Crystal, et al., but we learn that one of the guys had just pulled a body out of the pond in question last week following Ozzfest so the place is a little sensitive to our kind of recreation. We didn't know this, and now we've Ruined Everything with our Cruel Prank.

That was hours ago. We've been sitting in the room since then, eating a cheese platter and quietly getting fucked up. Maybe we'll be home sooner, and for longer, than previously thought.

 





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