As a traveling hobo of sorts, I play about 200 shows per year, so inevitably not all are winners. The term “soul crusher” is used to identify the variables that create that rough day on the long n’ lonesome road.
A “soul crusher” can range from low attendance to a flat tire in East St Louis to eating too much Taco Bell and crapping your pants in your Dodge Caravan. I’ve puked on my shoes, slept on the sidewalk and even had my van stolen in Detroit.
A good friend once said, “succeeding in the music industry is about whoever survives the beatings the longest wins.”
Here are some Wisconsin bands making light of the darkness.
Victor Delorenzo (Violent Femmes)
Carnegie Hall, 1986
My Kill-Joy Tour moment of note: Violent Femmes had sold-out the hall in advance, and a superb concert was underway, when something dream-like happened…We were halfway through one of our rave-ups called "Black Girls," and we were approaching the middle section of the song that has a drum feature. So here I am, with eyes closed, thinking about all the historic music of any race, color or creed that had occurred on the stage where I was now standing. Soon I would add something to that dialogue … something unique, I hoped … and then … Brian tapped me on the shoulder and I opened my eyes to the sight of about 100 audience members on stage with us, surrounding us. The ushers stopped the concert and the audience was read the riot act, literally. The concert was allowed to continue… but … the DRUMS never had a chance to sing on their own… c'est la vie. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Start a folk/punk band."
Nick Woods, Direct Hit
Last December, we stopped in Detroit for lunch on the way back from our last date on tour in Toronto after 2 weeks on the road. That meant that not only did we have a whole van full of gear, but a big envelope full of cash (~$3K), our suitcases with all our clothes and toiletries, our laptops, tablets, and other electronics. We were inside eating for about an hour, and came outside to find our vehicle replaced with a coat-hanger. Soul-crushing is a real understatement there.
Ashley Smith, Whips
Buffalo, NY 2007
Never trust a man from Buffalo. More importantly, never trust a man from Buffalo offering a floor to crash on. Any turkey whose claim to fame is "(expletive) chicks with chicken bones," is full of crap and more than likely lives at home with his mama.
Showed up for sound check at a venue and they were having some “sewage problems." Apparently, there was a pipe that had burst early that morning, BUT they were going to soldier on and keep the show going. Their plan? Smoke enough cigarettes to mask the stench and we'll see what happens! Needless to say that didn't exactly work, I soon passed on their offer to cook dinner as I had lost my appetite and confidence in the overall sanitary state of the establishment. At show time, there was a general feel of nausea that I can confidently say was not due to my performance.
Myles Coyne, (Temple, Ladders, Myles Coyne & the Rusty Nickel Band)
Rockford, IL – 2014
I was on a TEMPLE tour for about a month, on the way down south. It was that January of last when that big polar wind/snow hit the Midwest. After driving though Illinois for two days on a road that wasn't there, we made it to the show. A scary house show… it was called Disaster House. Need I say more? The door knob was a glory hole … literally. The building wasn't heated. The show consisted of a few young party kids, an angry older hardcore angry dude and a metal band. To top it off, there was an older, overweight mentally handicapped gentleman running around the house show completely naked and getting in the bands’ faces. AND his body was covered in scar tissue. Not that big a deal until one of the old hardcore guys leaned over to say "Oh yeah, those are all self inflicted." (That's the edited version of what he told me…. this is 88.9 after all.) He put his clothes back on. It should be noted the crazy guy came up after the show and thanked us for being cool. People are people, ya know?
Lodewijk Broekhuizen – Twin Brother
So one time we played at a place in Philadelphia called Teri's Bar and Grill. I had a feeling it wasn't going to be a great night as we sat there having a beer while listening to the malfunctioning smoke detector system provide a loud "beep" approximately every 30 seconds. I asked what the issue was and the barkeep said, "It's been like that for a month." I felt pretty bad for him as it was driving me nuts after 20 minutes in the place. Well, we played to the bartender and two other disinterested patrons doing our best to ignore the intermittent beeps.
Two days later, as we continued our tour, we heard word that Teri's had shut its doors for good. Good times.
Photo by Kevin Goss-Ross