From July 19-27, I was on the road with my band, Chaos Playground (www.chaosplayground.com). I’ve given the history of the band in a past blog, but just some general stuff, we started back in May 2008 and after a bunch of changes, it’s back to the original trio and we now play punk/pop punk. Our drummer/vocalist calls our music “Punk Revival”, which is a term he made up that encompasses our influences of classic rock, 70′s punk and the 90′s pop-punk. It’s ok, we all think he’s a little crazy.
We named our tour “Go Big, Get Wild”. You might be thinking to yourself, “wow that’s a great name for a tour! I wonder who the brilliant person who thought of that is”. Well, if you must know…I’m not sure. Back in May, we were starting our Kickstarter Fundraiser and we needed a name for our tour. We were looking around the room to get clues, and I saw a poster that said “Go Big, Get Wild”. The poster was for a Boy Scout trip or something that our drummer’s dad was somehow involved in, and the name stuck. Looking back, the name was a good one. We didn’t get “wild” like you might think a punk band would have, but we definitely had a great time.
Let’s start with a recurring theme of this tour. Homeless people. I was amazed at how many homeless people there were in California. They are on every street corner, in front of every Walmart, and some have a few good stories that they tell, and I’ll have them sprinkled in throughout the blog.
First night, we went to San Diego and decided to go to Mission Beach. We find parking (which is a fiasco when you are pulling a U-Haul trailer!) and started walking towards the water. We’re waiting to cross the street, and this man starts talking to us. We figured he was harmless, but we were carrying a stun-gun this entire tour just in case. As we were walking and talking, he started talking about their past. Now I cannot confirm that this next thing is correct, but the three of us all could have sworn that this is what he said. We heard him say that he killed 12 girls. Now we were luckily getting closer to the beach, and he was walking in a different direction, but when it’s your first night on tour, this isn’t the stuff that you like to hear. We quickly walked away from him, and I hope that we all misheard him.
That night, we spent our first night at a CVS…yes, the pharmacy. We found 24-hour CVS Pharmacies, asked if we could sleep in their parking lots (after buying stuff first), and then crashing there for the night. Each one we went to, the people were nice enough to let us sleep there and all of them got free copies of our album, “Crisis”. The first night was difficult. You don’t realize how nice a bed is, or how nice it is to wake up and shower, or how nice it is to not have to brush your teeth in a parking lot. I could go on and on, but realistically, you’re all just skimming through this anyways, so I’ll get on with the story.
The next morning, we got on the road for Long Beach. We stopped in Ventura to go the the beach. That’s where we decided to get a nice band photo at the beach. Mother Nature had other plans…
From left to right: Bassist Paul Carrick, Guitarist Steven Force (ME!), Drummer/vocalist David “Starr” Miller
That’s a picture of us at the exact moment that a giant wave came crashing in. Before this picture, all of the waves were just coming up to our ankles. This one? This one comes in above our knees, and it was cold. And yes, I am wearing my cheap, fake Coyotes jersey, and I wore that a lot in California to keep warm. Too bad I didn’t see any Kings fans…
Back to our trip to Long Beach. That night sucked, but looking back, it is one of the best to talk about. We found out that because of the geography, Long Beach does not get real waves, which means the beach is boring. Then as we ate our dinner of peanut butter tortillas, we watched as a gang walked past our vehicle looking in at our stuff. We were scared. We’re not used to the gang activity that they have in that area, just outside of Compton and LA. Ironically, I talked to my mom about Long Beach, and she told me about how nice it is. She told me how nice EAST Long Beach is. Let me tell you something, as you go further east, it gets worse, not better. So after finding multiple sketchy CVS parking lots, we decided to take the drive to Fullerton to a CVS there. Luckily, it was a nice area and we were able to stay.
The next day, we drove up to San Luis Obispo, or SLO as the locals call it. And they have some local pride in that town. We stayed that night in the parking lot of a nice shopping center area. It had a Big 5, Sears, Best Buy and a Ralph’s grocery store. That’s where we picked up a few things that we needed. We got music at Best Buy, since the same 3 CD’s over and over again isn’t that much fun, and then we ventured over to Ralph’s. We had spent the past few days on the beach, and apparently, we didn’t put on enough sun screen. If you look at the picture, you can see that Paul had a VERY short haircut. And the sun wasn’t very kind to him. Since he was peeling on his scalp, we decided to pick up a bottle of Aloe (which gives off a very powerful smell when applying it inside of an enclosed vehicle). We also got our only food groups that we ate while in California, tortillas and peanut butter. And remember that local pride I was talking about? When we were looking for tortillas, we asked a guy if he also needed tortillas since we were blocking them trying to find the cheapest ones. His response was, “I support local tortillas”. Really? We can’t get people to support local music out here, but in SLO, people support local tortillas. Long story short, the local ones were cheap so we decided to give our support to whoever made these tortillas.
After San Luis Obispo, we spent the next few days in San Francisco. This was definitely the best place that we stopped along the tour. Coincidentally, this was also the first time on tour that we had a hotel room to sleep in. Once we got our stuff into the hotel room, we were waiting for each other to finish taking showers (since we hadn’t done that in about 3 days), so we turned on the TV. How tired and out-of-it were we? We were watching George Lopez in Spanish, and we didn’t realize it for a while. When we were all showered and ready to go, we walked around downtown San Fran, and it made me feel like I was in New York. I’ve never been to NY, but I think this is what it would feel like. There was a bunch of cars, crazy people, big buildings and it was loud. The thing that amazed me about SF was that everything was built “up”. If you go to a Ross or Target in Phoenix, it’s one floor. If you go to one in SF, it’s the same size, but 4 or 5 floors. Of course, telling you about SF wouldn’t be complete without stories about some of the crazy people I told you about. This might not be a surprising just reading it, but when we were first walking in downtown, we passed a man (who smelled like weed) publicly urinating on the side of a building. You want to say something or laugh, but you can’t. That pretty much explains the majority of the people we saw walking around downtown. I’m pretty sure I witnessed a few drug deals. Also, a lot of people just stand on the street corner. They aren’t tourists taking pictures or enjoying the scenery, they aren’t homeless people, they just stand there. It was a little strange. Unfortunately, this last story from that night, I was not able to witness. Paul and David went down to the vehicle to get our water heater so we could have a fancy dinner of Ramen noodles. While they were down there, they saw a gay couple arguing. The one man was very angry and kept yelling at the guy about not going to their dance lesson. Welcome to San Francisco!
The next day, we did what any good tourist would do. We went to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. That’s where we did the souvenir shopping for our family. I got my family a bottle opener/magnet. I figured that’s something that they would get a good amount of use out of! I’ll post the videos of David’s YouTube series called “Breakfast at Gringo’s” that showed what we did along tour. The San Fran is one to definitely watch. I also recommend going to SF to experience it for yourself. You know, a town that has something so terrible (SF Giants), is actually a pretty nice place.
Monday night, we drove to Sacramento for gig #1 that was taking place at The Naked Lounge (no, it’s not a strip club) on Tuesday night. Nothing too exciting happened on Monday night. We went to a CVS in Sacramento, and stayed the night. Tuesday morning and afternoon, we spent walking around Old Sacramento. We went into a few of their souvenir shops, but I already got the $4 bottle opener/magnet, so I was set! We went to a military history museum, which was a really cool place. They had bulletproof glass from a windshield used over in Iraq. You can see where a bullet hit the glass, but there was no hole in the glass. Seeing stuff like that makes you feel super-patriotic and you feel all pumped up. Other than that, I saw a Tide laundry detergent box in Arabic. That was interesting. Tuesday night in Sacramento. We got into the downtown area a little early so we drove around some neighborhoods. And what do 3 guys do driving around neighborhoods when they have megaphones? We talked to people sitting outside their homes, or on the sidewalk. That is, until we got scared when we saw a police car. Then we stopped. So punk, right? The gig went well. There weren’t too many people there, and by that, I mean the “crowd” ranged from 2 to 7 or 8 people. It was at a coffee shop that doesn’t have a “license to dance”. What could we expect? There’s a video
We left Sacramento around midnight, and headed to our first truck stop in Santa Nella Village. This was the first time I had spent the night at a truck stop, and it really impressed me. The bathrooms were nice, and there was food other than peanut butter and tortillas. As you can see, it doesn’t take much to impress me. The night was uneventful, but that’s the way we wanted it.
In the morning, we left for Stanton. We were coming to the end of our tour, and we couldn’t believe it. All of this preparation and hard work, and it was all about to end. So we decided to treat ourselves to a Holiday Inn in Buena Park, which was about 10 minutes away from the venue in Stanton. You might be asking yourself, “What do rock stars do in Buena Park?”. Well, the answer might disappoint you if you’re looking for a story to back up our “Go Big, Get Wild” tour name. We went to Target to get socks and undershirts, got pizza, drank sparkling cider (which we put “on ice” using the ice machine), went swimming, and watched a show about ghosts on the SyFy channel. That’s how we party!
Thursday morning rolls around, we checked out of the Holiday Inn and headed down to the venue. We played at a rehearsal space that has bands who put on shows in their space. We were lucky enough to get in contact with these people through the band, Pressure Drop. A band that we played with that night, called Primitive Mess, was a lot of fun to hang out with. And I guess I’ll plug the last band too. The guy who let us use his rehearsal space was Jonny from the band, Not A Chance. The room’s AC was broken, and it got hot in there while bands were playing, but for the most part, everyone there liked our music and were great people. After spending 4 or 5 hours getting the room ready, then staying for most of the show, we left again around midnight and headed back. We made it to Blythe around 4 in the morning, and ate dinner/breakfast at Denny’s. We slept in their parking lot for a few hours and hit the road for the last time of the tour to make it back to Phoenix. Paul said it perfectly on the way back. He said, “Yes, we’re going to hell. But hell is home”. We were all very excited to get back home, although almost every day, I wish I could be back on the road.
The first night back, I actually missed my band-mates. It’s amazing. There were times that I wished I could have been home and sleeping in a bed while on tour, but now, I wish I could sleep in the car in a random CVS parking lot. The night before I left, my dad told me to have the time of my life (and of course, be safe and don’t drive off a cliff). I knew I was going to have the time of my life, but I didn’t know that I was going to enjoy it that much. I’m glad I got the chance to tour.
Now, just because we were home, didn’t mean the tour was done. We still had the mud wrestling event for that Saturday night. We got all of our stuff there, while looking at the nasty clouds rolling in. We set everything up, and then what happens? A downpour. Luckily, we got to store our PA speakers inside Revolver Records (where the event was taking place) and there was plastic to cover the other stuff. Everything made it out ok, but it was what happened while the rain was coming down that was the best part. Here, have a look for yourself. I told you that we’re rockstars.
After all of that, we started working on our Kickstarter rewards and had our private show for friends and family called “The Welcome Back Guarantee”. Things have slowed down a bit for us, but we’re still working on writing another album, and who knows, maybe another tour at some point in the future.
You know all of those videos I told you about? Well here they are!
Let’s start with the Breakfast at Gringo’s series. This started on December 31, 2011, and it has been a way for David to share a little of his crazy with the world. Enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed those! The first one (Episode 15) features our friends Westcott Avenue with the first song, and then an acoustic cover of the Friend’s theme song (which is part of our normal set) that was recorded in a gas station parking lot!
Here are a few live videos. The first one is from The Naked Lounge in Sacramento. We’re playing our song, “I Don’t Love You”. The next one is from “The Welcome Back Guarantee” show, where we played one of our favorite covers, “We’re an American Band”, originally performed by Grand Funk Railroad.
Thank you for reading all of this! Or congratulations on finally getting to the end if you’re just scrolling through! You can stop pretending to read it now. I’m starting class tomorrow (8/17), so it might be a while before another blog, but hopefully we’ll get good Coyotes news and I won’t be able to put it off. Until then, goodbye!