Girl Guts: Thrashed voices, scrambled brains

by Andy Beer

For this Tales from the Road, I wish that I could write you a page or two filled with jokes about how we in Girl Guts, the Mich-Consin transplants, have been vigorously touring Bellingham for the last three years. How there’s no venue we haven’t touched. How we miss our midwestern homes, etc. Except I couldn’t really write about that. It’s only half true. We haven’t played the Wild Buffalo, yet (but will on March 7 for the What’s Up!’s 200th issue/17th anniversary party!).

As a band, we have a really hard time getting on tour. The issue is made up of equal parts adult human chaos and poverty. That combination makes it REALLY easy to stay put where it’s comfortable. And believe me when I say: Bellingham is a special place. It is our home now, we are part of it as much as it is a part of us. In that sense, as in any adolescence, there comes a time when you need to separate from the comfort of your home. There comes a time when you need to venture out and make terrible mistakes, drink too much, spend too much, make new friends, make the wrong friends, piss some people off, find faith, lose faith, and somehow live to tell the tale.

I wish the story I am about to write could be that epic. It’s not. But it was a rad rad weekend with some RAD bands.

So to elaborate on how special Bellingham is; we started here for day one of our three-day mini tour. It was a Thursday. There were SO many of you. You, Bellingham, destroyed a keg with us at the Shakedown that night. It was the best send-off we could ask for, and it was only for one weekend! Our friends in Foxhole Norman (an incredible Seattle-based band) had kicked off the show to an attentive and full Shakedown crowd. True to Bellingham form (at least at our shows, anyway) you treated them as if they had been a Bellingham band all along. That’s a really great characteristic of music fans here. I always felt that every music fan in this town treats touring bands REALLY well. Keep it up, word gets out faster than you think. Bands from San Jose, Portland, Laramie WY, and even the UK frequently tell me that their stop in Bellingham is by far their favorite. The more positive words, the more awesome bands come through town. That being said, the bands we have in town are spectacular all the same. STFU Robot, Bellingham’s best musical martyrs, put on a set full of technical expertise and quick wit; and that was just their Girl Guts covers. That’s right, they covered a band that they were opening for. There’s really something special about two dudes who are so talented at music that they get away with committing every musical faux pas known to the world. Besides the joke, they played our songs better than we did. So there’s that. Between beer, music, jokes, and the best of friends, that was very much a night to remember.

One of the good and bad things about Bellingham is that it is a town where residents come and go. For our next stop in Portland, I am quite grateful that we tracked down some former Bellingham residents. The wonderful Alex Minnekar and Chan Benicki played host to us in their humble, teeny, tiny, TARDIS of a basement. Seriously, it turned out to be my favorite Girl Guts performance of the three nights. But before we started to play, tensions were kind of high. The basement looked tiny and we miscommunicated on the subject of equipment. No one had a mic to use. Again I say that Alex and Chan are lovely. They scrambled like hell to find some suitable PA equipment. In the end, we had one mic and a 10 in keyboard speaker cranked against half stacks. I loved every syllable. They each came out audibly distorted, like a blues overdrive. I worry that we blew the crap out of the speaker, but I haven’t gotten a request to replace it yet so I think we’re ok. It was as good as punk shows get – 30 people and a band’s worth of gear crammed into a basement the size of most kitchens. With the band taking up about a quarter of the room space, I estimate the audience filled a space of about 40 square feet; some people went outside and watched from the window, many were on the stairs. All the bands shared one mic.

Foxhole Norman sounded rad and lo-fi as ever. Girl Guts saw some friendly faces who traveled down to party with us in Portland. They are now immortalized on our Facebook page. Additionally, we were extra pleased to meet the wonderful Fools Rush, a super entertaining punk band from Portland. At the time I felt like that weekend we hit the easy button. I never thought tours were this productive. Portland contributed ample amounts to the gas jar, and we were able to spend the following afternoon wandering the brewery scene of northeast Portland before fueling up and heading to Seattle for our final show of the weekend at The Kraken.

Now day three it kind of sinks in that we’ve been going at it pretty hard. While hanging around the Portland breweries, we all kind of realized if we ever tour for more than three days that we’re gonna have to chill out. Our voices were thrashed and our brains were scrambled with 48 hours of whiskey and beer. Some of us try and sleep it off from Portland to Seattle, to no avail. We’re about 20 minutes until show time, and we can barely speak. Luckily, we are playing to friends. The Kraken is a great place to play. It’s a Seattle staple for us. Full of regulars that drunkenly participate, to intent showgoers who look to support you by purchasing merch, there is always a good time at The Kraken. Even if you turn half of your songs into instrumentals.

Like all things, that show came and went. So did Girl Guts. The next day we were on our way home. After the Portland traffic, the 90-minute drive seemed like 30 on the way home. We got back better off financially than when we left. We were kind of shocked by that. I’d say that’s not a normal thing. If you’re reading this and thinking that your band can do it too; they can, but they probably won’t. We’re a pretty lucky band to have the friends we do. Thanks for that, we couldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for you. Once more, Bellingham is a special place. All the same, Girl Guts should spread out and put some energy into new places. We’re definitely making it a routine to head down I-5 for a weekend at least once a month or two. We plan to work for it, make new friends and new enemies.

Published in the February 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine