Hot Damn Scandal enjoys the East Coast

hot damn scandal van web

by Mickey Stylin

Bellingham will remember Feb. 19 as the month that we had the most snowfall that stuck around in over a decade. Hot Damn Scandal will remember it as the launch of our appropriately named Weather Balloon tour. This time around our lineup consisted of Pete Irving on guitar/vocals, Jimmy Austin on trombone, Ani Banani on musical saw/vocals, and me, Mickey Stylin, on Upright Bass/vocals.

Anyone who has driven a 90s van will know that rear wheel drive is not ideal for snowy conditions. Luckily, I purchased a set of link chains, thus converting the van into a tank that could handle any off road terrain as long as it was under 25 mph. Obviously, Whatcom County wasn’t the only place to get hit by all that snow. Moscow, Idaho, the location of our first gig, got it way worse than we did and it might as well have been the other Moscow if you catch my snowdrift. Our other tour vehicle, Velma the Volvo, even caught hypothermia and wouldn’t start after a far below freezing night so we loaded everything and everyone into my van, Big Bertha, and hossed east from there.

The Hotel Crittenden in Coutersport, PA is a new venue definitely worth mentioning. The exquisite food and tasty libations flowed freely for us musicians. The clientele are very friendly, and are always looking for solid entertainment being in a small town. Each band member even got our own individual rooms, which is exceptionally nice considering we’re so used to tight quarters day in and night out. Our buddy, Tyler Westcott, of Folkfaces from NY, just so happened to play at the Hotel the night before and left our band a scavenger hunt to play during our stay. We executed this very drunkenly late at night and after missing one clue, we completed the wild goose chase from the basement to the top story to the courtyard of this historical building. We made new friends, sold merch, slept soundly, and continued our journey the next morning.

This next chapter is a special one for us. Over the last few years, “Half Damn Scandal,” consisting of Pete, Jimmy and myself have been writing and performing music for the play, Dragon Lady, which is Part One of a trilogy. The second is Dragon Mama, with the third being Dragon Baby. Dragon Lady is a one woman play written and performed by Sara Porkalob, an incomparable force who seamlessly plays over 20 characters telling the story of three generations of her wild Filipino family. We planned this tour around performing with her in Boston at the Oberon Theatre, a venue by way of the American Repertory Theatre through Harvard University. During our month-ish residency we got our own studio apartments and had access to the most professional setting a musician could ask for. With a sound engineer, stage manager, sound designer, and audio technician, anything we asked for was brought to us immediately and they locked in our sound perfectly.

In short, that month kind of looked like this: First week-rehearsals, Second week-play performances, third week- northeast tour as HDS, fourth week- both play performances and more shows in the northeast as HDS on our off days. Keep your eyes and ears open for the Dragon Cycle, it is truly spectacular,

The first time we played Hawks and Reed in Greenfield, MA last year, we played in “The Wheelhouse,” which is a speakeasy style venue with a warm, red aesthetic. This time around we played in “The Ballroom,” which, as you can guess by its name, has a much bigger floor and taller ceilings. After soundcheck the cook asked if we could trade him a signed shirt for fish tacos to which we willingly agreed. Before the show, Ben, a co-owner of the venue, filmed us playing one of our tunes in an abandoned marble bank with a huge vault. The acoustics in that room are delightfully haunting. From this, we captured a very pleasing, black and white, acoustic version in one solid take. For your viewing pleasure you can check it out at https:youtu.be/_b7GQmOq0lw or just YouTube Hot Damn Scandal Bare Bones.

Upon returning to the venue, our friends, Pinedrop, played a set.  They’re a bluegrass style band from the New England area. Charlie, their fiddle player, put us up for a few nights while we were hanging out. He lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, one of my favorite small towns that a-way. We played “Cozy Sessions at Dory’s” which is a very intimate house show attended by friends of the scene, only advertised by a private Facebook group and word of mouth, usually more so the latter. Our friend and old HDS member from years passed, Eli Dworkin, opened for us with a solo accordion act, Slow Pony. If you hear that name or his band, Billigerence, I strongly urge you to give it a listen as he is a superb songwriter that utilizes and cunningly executes his Devil given talents.

After completely exhausting the northeast, Pete, Jimmy, and I drove south while Ani flew back west to retrieve her Volvo to drive and rendezvous in Knoxville where we’d play the live radio show, The Blue Plate Special. Many acts, including Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, and David Grisman, have graced this stage and their pictures are displayed in blue, ceramic plates around its perimeter and are hung like trophies. If you’re ever on tour playing in Knoxville, try to play the BPS. Not only do they have a built in crowd that want to buy your merch, they also have many listeners at home making it a great way to publicize your shows for free. On top of that, they record your session and give you a CD of it afterwards for some free, raw recorded music from your time on the road.

Our next big stop was at the Houston Art Car Parade. Business before pleasure. If you are a touring band who foresees passing through Houston, TX, in mid-April, do yourself this favor: Decorate your vehicle in basically any style of your choosing and go to/drive in this parade. Not only is it guaranteed to be one of the most memorable weekends of your tour, but they PAY YOUR GAS ROUNDTRIP to attend their ridiculous festivities. For more info check out houstonartcarparade.com.

The weekend consisted of the Art Car Ball which was complete with live music, a display of some art cars, and burlesque, the epic Art Car Parade with hundreds of cars strutting their stuff and the Illuminated Cruise. The Illuminated Cruise was a delightful night of silliness where many of the art cars drove all over downtown Houston, mostly in obnoxious circles, and occasionally stopping in huge, predetermined lots to admire everyones art and really get to know each other. The following day was the awards ceremony brunch where we completely unexpectedly placed third in the music division. We were awarded the ugliest trophy I’ve ever seen and I love it. My van, Big Bertha, was painted by Ani Banani and is pictured here. One hangover later, it was New Orleans or bust!

The Big Easy is hands down my favorite city to visit in the United States. From the cajun/southern food and hospitality to every genre you can think of and beyond constantly being performed, this haven is rich with culture. Truly a Mecca to artists of all types continuously pumping out fresh material to be enjoyed by passersby from the worldwide. The booked tour for Hot Damn Scandal came to a beautiful end at St. Roch’s Tavern, a splendid dive bar in the Bywater neighborhood. Attended by trainhoppers, circus folk, and locals alike this is where I always bump into a musician I’ve collaborated with or an old friend I haven’t seen in years. As it goes, our two guest musicians from that evening, Kalei Yamanoha and Cole Gibson, are in those categories. Jimmy flew back to Seattle and Ani and Pete drove off to catch that western sunset, leaving me in NOLA to prepare myself for my next tour, that I’m currently on, with The Ditrani Bros. supporting The Devil Makes Three. To read about those shenanigans, grab next months issue of What’s Up! for a good ol’ fashioned Part two. Cheers y’all!