Tales from the Road: Black Beast Revival
by Zack Van Houten
As I write this we have been home for a week. A week spent re-acclimating to what our lives were before, picking up the pieces, and booking the next one. Six weeks was just long enough to get used to it, just long enough to forget what 9-to-5 looks like. It’s hard to even begin to explain what happened.
The last show we played before leaving for SXSW was opening for a live karaoke band on a Monday in Santa Monica. The venue had apparently forgotten they’d booked us but we made the best of it, melted faces, and it was good. Brice got back on stage for his karaoke fix with Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose,” a real crowd pleaser. We conked out for a couple hours on a friend’s floor in Venice Beach and crawled into the van at eight the next morning. Thirty-two hours of non-stop driving later we picked up our Ninkasi rep/recording engineer and good friend James from the Austin airport.
I can tell you we went to SXSW, the awesome shit show that it is. Thousands of people in the middle of Texas having a blast. Lone Star and Shiner Bock flow like water and do everything they can to cool the Texas sun. We shotgunned Lone Stars immediately and it was official. We were in Austin, Texas. We played three shows in the four days and had somehow saved 18 of the 30 cases of Ninkasi we picked up weeks back in Eugene. These disappeared quickly into the thirsty masses.
Our last show was an 8-minute set. 8 minutes! After getting his first dose of the beast, the promoter we were working with realized his fatal mistake. He had neglected to book us for Saturday and was willing to do whatever he could to get us on stage. As a result we had a 10-minute window, playing gear already backlined on stage belonging to our friends Rare Monk from Portland. These guys are rad and I have to say a word because their van was taken from them in Austin by a careless driver. Everything is fine one moment then the next shit is fucked. Thousands of miles from home and your van is scrap metal. The dudes made it out just fine though and finished the rest of their tour with the help of an Avis rental car.
I digress, we jumped on stage immediately after the monk, before people had even stopped cheering.
One.. two.. go.. we start Phoenix Cool. Bass drops. As the drums trickle in, Wolf hits the mic and I vault off the monitor onto the bar striking my guitar with reckless abandon. We rock, we rock hard, a fluid transition into one last song, Demon Bitch, not stopping the energy for a moment. People went APESHIT! There is a video up of Demon Bitch that our friend Pete from The Long Con took. I’d have to say the best show I’ve played was that 8-minute show in Texas.
Tour is a true test of one’s grit, manhood, and gear.
Our beloved van (we call her the Whiskey Beast)is the vessel that made it all happen. That white early 90s chevy conversion van. You may know her. Bill and I tuned her up to the best of our abilities the day before we left Bellingham. Right off the bat on our drive to Seattle, we have problems. With just shy of a bill and half to our names, our margin for error was slim… DIY or die, baby! Our catalytic converter was clogged, filling the cab with exhaust and choking the engine. Hardly able to hit 55 and burning gas like it was going out of style, we somehow were able to make it to Eugene, OR where we had access to a auto shop. A couple passes with a sawzall and some welding, we were good to go. And we did go… for a while. Jen and Jesse, we will always owe you one.
We ended up rebuilding our throttle body in Chris from Hooves friend’s driveway in Phoenix, Arizona on our way back to the coast. Let me tell you, Arizona is fucking hot. Oh! I forgot to mention at that point we were broke. The throttle body was draining our MPG to about 6. That’s right… 6 miles per gallon… Hella shitty. Luckily, a few fans chipped in and bought some merch and it set us straight. At least the drive between AZ and CA was beautiful. With just enough gas to make into San Diego on fumes, we roll up to our first gig there, where Sarah Day surprises us. How’s that for awesome? SURPRISE! Strung out from the road and boom! Girlfriend! Stoked!
West Coast… Sweet, sweet, West Coast.
Scenic Idaho was amazing to look at. There was a bizarre moment while driving from Missoula to Great Falls Montana, rolling through the stellar hills and mountains, when someone puts Coldplay’s “A Rush Of Blood To The Head” on the stereo. We all look at each other trying to get a grip on the situation and then all start singing the lyrics. I don’t care what you think, try that shit. It was one of the best moments of the trip, don’t ask why just go with it.
I can’t put into words how much the help meant to us. You know who you are and we thank you a million times. We do it for the people and people like it when we rock the fuck out. Its a win-win, but tour is about so much more than just the shows. I’m convinced there is no better way to see this vast and awe inspiring country than through the windows of a band van.
Thanks to all of our friends, old and new. It’s you that give us our drive. If you’re reading this and you were one of the people that put us up or came to a show again thank you. Everyone was so rad and accommodating. Hey I got an idea! Let’s invite four smelly dudes that live in a van into our home! A home cooked meal and a couch goes a long way.
Every day was a new adventure. Steak dinner in San Jose, finding a box of baby chickens in the middle of the night in Grants Pass, the greatest action figure collection I’ve ever seen in Montana, the diversity of tree species in Sactown, Corn Dog hats. The stories go on forever. I haven’t even scratched the surface. You want more? Come find us and buy me a beer!