Hoag’s Tour Diary (Fall 2013, entry #3)

Over the past year and a half Full Service electric-style hasn’t done much touring. We’ve done a lot of living room/backyard touring (aka the “20 Tours”) that features the stripped-down, acoustic setup, we spent months making a record, and of course we put a lot of time into planning and executing the 2013 Full Service Circus. So this tour finds us digging back into the club circuit with our electric setup.

So we knew this tour would be a little different in that we’d have to fill some dates in some places that we’ve either never been or only been to once. With a 20-Tour it was never about “filling dates”. There’s at least one fan in every city and they would book us to come play their house and every show would technically be sold out. (There’s only so many people you can fit in a living room or a backyard, and there’s also sort of a threshold of people that when exceeded makes for a less conducive listening environment. Hence 20-50 is the perfect number, with exceptions—ahem, Jon Adams’ luau-au and Hammer and the Hare’s Ahk-Fest).

Long story short, though we knew we’d have killer shows in our usual markets, we also knew that this tour we’d be playing to some light crowds. BUT…there’s one thing you should know about us. We’ll play our arms off for just one engaged fan the same as we’d play for hundreds of engaged fans.

Roanoke. A place called “Corned Beef and Co.”. Sounds weird, but it was actually a very nice place. Great beers on tap (I had a Pumpkin Porter and a Northern Lights IPA) and good vibrations pervaded the room. And not that we don’t have ANY fans in Roanoke, but we can count them on one hand. Among them, Chandler, Joe, Matt and Scott. And of course the venue itself attracts a walk-in crowd, so we had people to play for, but it was a different sort of show. Though we played acoustic, it was not a 20-Tour situation where people sit down and watch us quietly. And though it was a venue, it was not an electric-style situation where we are up on a stage rocking loudly. So we walked a balance beam that night.

It sounded great though. So what if we were tucked into a corner next to the front door of the bar? There were people dancing, and our handful of fans seemed to know every single word of the songs we played from the new album “Carousel.” That was pretty excellent for morale. We have a great recording of the two-hour set that will be for sale after the tour.

Of course, I can’t wrap up the Roanoke diary entry without first mentioning the “Go Outside” festival we stumbled upon a few hours before the show thanks to a tip from fansaw Chandler Lamborn. Carnival meets Circus meets camping meets State Fair. After Bonesaw and I had a go on the rock-climbing wall (way harder than it looked, considering the ease with which the 8-year old girl scurried up) we threw the frisbee for a while, raced miniature bikes, and attempted to swing these little rings onto hooks attached to a wooden plank. (Maybe you’ve seen this game. It’s difficult. Sunny seemed to lock in very well but for the rest of us it was pretty frustrating).

Bonesaw and Sunny racing mini-bikes at the “Go Outside Festival” in Roanoke, VA

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Bonesaw climbing the rock wall.

 

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Smell just chillin’.

 

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Me dominating a parallel parking job near the venue in Roanoke. They always call me in to parallel park because I have a savant-like ability to get it done every time with just two turns of the wheel.

 

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So Roanoke was fun. If you ever find yourself there, go grab a Pumpkin Porter at “Corned Beef and Co.” and—if it’s October—head over to the “Go Outside” Festival.

Next stop: Wilmington, North Carolina. Last time we were in Wilmington was 2005, our first ever tour. It was here on the beach before our show that we met famed fansaws Mark and Jen, aka “The Newlyweds”. 8 years ago we were handing out demos to people on the beach, trying to get people out to our show that night, when a man and woman over by the dunes hailed us over to talk. They were in town on their honeymoon and were looking for something to do that night, so we suggested our show. They came, rocked out, and they’ve been fans/friends ever since. They were also the first fansaws ever to get a Full Service tattoo. They are obviously Hall of Famers.

But, as I mentioned, they were only visiting Wilmington, so we knew they wouldn’t be at our show in present day 2013. In fact, we had no idea if anyone would be at our show in present day 2013. We hadn’t played here in 8 years, our one family friend the Platz’s were sadly out of town, and we were playing the gig without an opening band. Yikes.

Anyway, we got into town pretty early so we had time to hang out on the beach for a while and take a dip. As we crossed the bridge towards the water I couldn’t help but relive one of my fondest memories from early Full Service touring. It was that day back in 2005, and Twinky-P and I were putting up stickers all over Wilmington. Our journey took us across the very bridge we were now crossing in 2013, and we stopped about halfway to tag a big telephone pole when all of a sudden we saw a big black SUV screech to a halt in front of us, sirens wailing (whaling?). I looked at Twink, eyes wide. He looked at me the same.

“I’ll give ya TWO CHOICES!” says the big, bad, bald police officer marching towards us.

Jesus, I hope there’s a choice I prefer in this scenario.

“Take that sticker down from that pole or get hauled off to jail.

Phew. I strongly prefer choice number one.

“Ok we’ll take it down,” says Twinky-P.

“You think you guys can just litter up Wilmington like that, what’s wrong with you boys?!” as we scrape and scrape and scrape.

It’s hard to get across the incomprehensible level of intensity this officer displayed, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was a terrifying experience that neither Twink-P nor I will ever forget.

I made sure to snap a photo of the bridge and text it to Twink as we drove over it 8 years later. He responded with many “LOL”’s.

 

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So we did the beach thing for a couple hours—jogging, shell-collecting, Frisbee-throwing (Dylan hit me in perfect dive-stride into the ocean to cap it off)—and afterwards we dined on some Japanese food at “Kyoto”. The craziest thing happened. The waitress came up to me and goes, “I’ll give ya TWO CHOICES! You can have the SUSHI, or you can GET OUT!” No, just kidding. But I would have been ready for it.

Showtime later that night. The moment of truth. Would anybody come out and see Full Service in Wilmington? Lo and behold, as we pile out of the van to unload, who is standing on the sidewalk but new fansaw Jim Fox. Dude flew in from Houston! Immediately we had our one engaged fan! The night would not be lost no matter what.

Still, as we started our set the floor in front of us was completely empty, as Jim was in the back playing pool with an old buddy of his from high school (I say this not to call you out Jim—in fact I totally support the pool-playing—I’m just setting up what happened next).

There was an older couple—(not “old” really, mid-50’s)—listening very closely and smiling and shouting politely “You guys are great! This is excellent stuff!”, and in fact they stayed the whole show without planning on it, so that was encouraging. But the point is, the place was pretty much empty.

And then…out of the blue…when we thought the whole show would go by with the floor in front of us completely clear and without need of an after-show sweep from the venue staff…JUSTIN GAINES comes charging up to the “front row” with a buddy of his and starts jamming out HARD. This picture really says it all (thanks Jim, for capturing the moment).

 

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I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. We have the best fans in the world.

After Wilmington we had two days off before playing a show in Asheville, where we’ve never been. Everybody we run into on the road always says “Oh you guys gotta go to Asheville, you’d love it there.” I’m pretty sure Bonesaw planned these two days off so that we’d have plenty of time to explore the place.

The first day we were there we all kinda split up. Bonesaw, Sean and Dylan went on a huge 11 mile hike in the Pisgah National Forrest, and Smell and I decided to take a veg-out day and sleep in until about 1pm. We later walked over to a nearby movie theater. (We were feelin’ that kind of hike that day. Urban style. Even had to duck under some trees at one point). It was a good flick, Captain Phillips. That Hanks is a master of his craft.

But like I said, the other dudes hiked and came back with a story that made me and Smell feel like a couple of lazy goobers. Apparently the guys hiked up to a landmark called “Shining Rock” that the Native Americans believed was the gateway to Heaven. Smell and I sat in a movie theater and the other guys visited the gateway to Heaven. Pretty sure we lose that one.

Dylan and Sunny at Pisgah National Forrest

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After the movie the guys picked us up and we headed into downtown Asheville to see what all the fuss was about. Bonesaw’s old friend Semper showed us around. Had some tasty local beers, listened to some street musicians, and wrapped up the evening with a quiet dinner at an Indian place.

The next day I decided to get in on the hiking action. This time it was Sunny and Smell who stayed behind while Dylan, Bonesaw and I hiked up a mountain with a huge cell phone tower at the top. Yesterday they got the “Gateway to Heaven” and today I get…a cell phone tower. No matter, though. The tower was very impressive. And besides that, there was the view. A multifoliate ocean of mountains wrapping around us 360 degrees. Many thanks to the man-made viewing deck that made this experience possible (erected in 1979 by the Youth Corps of America). It is also on this deck that I learned that “James loves Rebecca”. I wonder when that was written and how the two of them are doing now. I like to think that they have a couple young children and maybe once a year they all hike up here and revisit the scene of their inscription.

 

Me at the deck railing.

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Dylan, stoic.

 

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In short, we found that Asheville lives up to its hype. And though it was our first time playing in town, we had a great show at a place called One Stop. We decided to play acoustic since it was an early show and somewhat of a mellower club, and we even set up a live stream that fans from around the country could tune into. If you missed it, there’s a link up on our facebook Full Service band page. Check it out! I think my jokes went over pretty well, and the musicianship was on point too, if I do say so myself.

Many thanks to the fansaws that travelled hours to come see us that night, among them Cirro and his wife, Oscar and crew, Justin and Shock, and Chandler. And thanks also to all the local Ashevillians that came out on a whim and showed us love. Welcome aboard! We’ll be back soon.

Now before I end the Asheville portion of the diary, I have to mention the send-off hike the morning after the show, led by Justin and Shock. These dudes know the Appalachian Trail, having done “probably 200 miles so far this year”. They came prepared with a destination they wanted us to see (Max Patch) proper attire,  hand-warmers, stuff to start a fire, the whole shebang. We, on the other hand, were wearing shorts and thin long-sleeved shorts. Sunny and Smellman were wearing sandals. Justin and Shock asked if we wanted to maybe change into something a little more…serious…but we brushed them off. Then we begged them for gloves and hats and jackets when we got to the trail-head and felt the 36 degree wind-chill.

Turned out to be quite the adventure. At the bald summit we met the type of wind you can lean into and be like Michael Jackson with that impossible dance move from “Smooth Criminal”. Dylan’s ears almost fell off and Smell and Sunny’s toes were useless, but soon after we headed down the other side of the summit we found warmth in the woods and were even able to start a 20-minute fire. I won’t ever forget that hike. That was the real deal. Thanks for leading us, Justin and Shock!

 

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“Build a little fire we could put at our feet”

 

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From Asheville we sailed the Whale over to Charlotte, where we’ve played several times over the past few years. We’ve done it all here: a Takeover during the Takeover Tour, several opening slots playing electric at Amos’, a 20-tour show hosted by Will Wooten, and a film screening for the “Takeover!” documentary. So we have some fans here, most of which have turned the corner to being friends.

This time we came to Charlotte to plug in and play the full drum kit, the marshall stack, etc etc. After a deliciously comp’d meal from the venue’s sister restaurant (went with the black-bean burger) and a couple of pumpkin ales from NoDa brewing, we did a quick sound-check and then KA-BLOO-EE! We launched into a 90-minute set of FS songs old and new. From the new album we’ve generally been playing anywhere from 6-10 of the tracks. I think in Charlotte we did 7: Oddball Memories, Evergreen, Honeybee, Flower Boxes, Twangy, Me and the Moon, and Circus Freak.

Oh snap! Carly Simon just came on the hotel muzak radio here in Jacksonville. “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard it Should be”. I won’t be able to concentrate for a few minutes. I’ll be back.

Ok, good stuff. And I don’t want any of you thinking I’m joking about Carly. She’s something special and if you can’t see that then you’re a kind of a doofus.

Anyway, Charlotte turned out to be a great one! Many thanks to our good friends in Of Good Nature for closing the show for us. And thanks for the help bringing the crowd, guys! Ya’ll sounded great.

At the end of the night before loading out of the venue I took this instantly classic photo portrait of all my tiger-kit drum hardware piled high in the hallway. I love this drum kit. I look at this photo and I see an elite team of highly trained operatives all dedicated to the pursuit of rhythmic freedom. Nice work, boys!

 

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And here’s me and Smell with Osiel, a great fansaw.

 

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Speaking of the hardware, before this tour we recently got a new heavy-duty case for all of it. It’s quite the monster, however, and it’s proven very difficult to conceive of a loading-technique that does not put our backs in danger of long-term injury. Everything usually goes well up until the point of actually hoisting it above the 1-inch lip just inside the body of the Whale. Without a fail, there is always a stall at this point. Much grunting, much cussing. In a weird way it sort of brings us all together. Not that I’m usually involved. I certainly have been. And I always watch. But my history of neck-spasms usually gives me a pass.

I don’t know why I’m mentioning all this. Maybe I’m hoping some of you will read it and take pity and construct some type of retractable ramp that can be installed into the back of the Whale. I dunno…Christmas is coming.

Next stop, Atlanta. As Bonesaw recalled during the show, Atlanta has a weird place in our hearts. Our first time there was on Bonesaw’s birthday many years ago, and we played to an empty club. Not a club that had a few people in it. A club that was completely empty. Even the bartendress and the sound guy left to go downstairs. (That hurt). I remember all of us turning to each other with looks that said “should we just pack up and go?” but then we all shrugged a shrug that said, “F*** it, let’s keep rocking.”

But this time, folks…this time people came out. It’s been a few years and we’ve been back a few times, and it meant so much to see so many people come out to The Vinyl to check us out.

So, as usual, there are more interesting things to talk about in this diary than the actual shows we play. Those you will be able to experience when we get home and release them all on band camp (for a small fee). I want to give you guys the in-between stories of tour-life. As such, I will now recount two misadventures from our brief stay in Hotlanta.

First of all, it ain’t “Hotlanta” in late October. It’s “FreezeYourDrumsticksOffLanta”. At least this night it was. But back to that in a moment. Let’s first talk about our parking comedy of errors.

Parking always sucks. Not just for us. For everybody, everywhere, all the time. In the canon of sucky-things-about-driving, parking ranks near the top, right near I-35 traffic, Louisiana potholes, state-trooper robotrons, and Florida’s inexplicable no-left-turns-to-be-found-anygoddamnwhere-at-all.

But with the Whale it’s a little different. We need to first live-park—hazards on—extremely close to the venue so that we can unload our gear. Best case scenario, there’s a place reserved for us. But that never happens. So here in Atlanta we had a situation where there was a line of people extended all along the sidewalk (they were headed to a different show in an adjacent venue, unfortunately, but whatever, our crowd came out later). Not only would all of these people witness the circus that became our parking attempt, but at various points we put several of their lives in danger.

After a nearby parking garage attendant told us to drive through his garage and double-back around the corner to a space he assured us actually existed, we politely asked some people to clear out of the way, confusing them with our probably-unnecessary explanation of “The Whale’s poor torqueing abilities and alignment problems.”

Anyway, so they move, and we pull into the garage. Or start to. We see another garage dude down inside the bowels and he’s shaking his head “no”. I think he’s trying to tell us we are far too big to fit in one of his spaces down there, but we’re wondering whether we’re too tall to even make it under the low-ceiling bar. It says 7 feet, but…here goes nothing.

We clear it! The dude is still shaking his head though. “You cannot park here,” he says, almost laughing. We tell him—without stopping—that we’re “just passing through”, and this seems to confuse him, but he happily returns to his little garage cabin and waves us out. So eventually we’re at the exit, trying to find this mysterious parking spot that attendant #1 told us about, but it’s nowhere. We pull out onto the street and look everywhere, but all we see are people from the sidewalk-line looking at us like “what is wrong with these hippies”. Over comes attendant #1 and he’s shaking his head and smiling. He doesn’t speak much English, but he knows how to say “WHAT you doin’ man? I try to tell you, you need back up.”

“Where?”

“You need back up, there”.

We hadn’t seen the space because of the sidewalk peanut gallery.

“You need back up there, but you have to go round ‘gain. Cars behind you”.

Anyway, long story short, we make another trip through the parking garage, encounter another confused look from attendant #2, more strange looks from the sidewalk crew, and eventually find the spot. Best part is, we ended up handing out flyers for the show to those people in line. Figured maybe they’d come to our show after the one they were going to was over. Even better part is, some of them did. Anything for a fan, baby!

Well, that story took too long. I don’t think I have it in me to recount misadventure #2, the one that saw us walking in the freezing cold halfway across the city to a pizza place after already having found a pizza place in the first 3 minutes of our wandering only to decide there was “probably something better close by, let’s just go a little further”, then going a little further, then turning back the way we came, past that first pizza place, to an office park that google maps told us would have places to eat, but we needed card-passes into the office buildings to get to the places, then walking back towards the club where we started, shoulders locked in muscle cramps from crouch-walking into the wind, and eventually meeting our friends Shane and crew, as well as my old college roommate Dave and his wife Melinda, at a pizza place that was definitely not a step up from the original place we had found 30 minutes ago. I’ll save that story for another time.

On the whole, though, Atlanta treated us very well. A special thanks to Will Scroggin for that tasty diner breakfast the following morning. You’re a great friend will, and a fine ambassador for the city of Atlanta.

Will and Dusty and us after breakfast.

 

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My old college roommate Dave and his wife Melinda.

 

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Bonesaw with Nick and Dusty before the Atlanta show.

 

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Two hours south of Atlanta there’s a place called “Valdosta”. Anybody ever heard of it? It’s a college town I guess, and I think I’d heard of it before knowing we had a show booked there, but I can’t be sure. In any case, a place called “Lucky’s” hosted us and—thought it was our first time there—we ended up playing a very enjoyable 2-hour set to a very attentive crowd. They even liked my jokes! We got a great recording of this performance, too, and a pretty cool video of my drum solo that Bonesaw shot from stage. Check it out…

So now we’re here in Jacksonville Beach with a couple days off before our show tomorrow here in town. We’ve been chillin’ pretty hard. Beach, hotel hot tub, laundry, watching the World Series. (An obstruction call and a pick-off play? As Bill Simmonds said, “This World Series is on drugs”).

 

Beach

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Hot tub

 

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Poolside Reading

 

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After the Jacksonville show we have a 20-tour acoustic show on Merritt Island, and then it’s time for the Rombello Caribbean Cruise! See ya’ll soon!

Oh yeah, since we last spoke I got real into the Bitstrip fad. Here are some of my favorites:

 

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Hoag’s Tour Diary #2 (Oct. 2013)

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Nothing makes you feel older than playing a show at a college party, which is what we did last Thursday at Princeton University. (Maybe you’ve heard of it. SMAHT KIDS!). A family friend of mine and Bonesaw’s hooked up the show for us at his “eating club”, which is what fancy-pants Princeton calls its fraternities. That sounded snide. The eating clubs are actually very awesome (that word is for you, Rich, I know you hate it. Damn, that, too, sounded snide. I’m on a roll).

Anyway, like I said, the “eating clubs” are great. Old houses. A bunch of students. Study rooms, game rooms, a tap room (how do they make sure everyone’s 21? They have “procedures in place”), and a most excellent dining room.

 

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We got to campus around 5pm and Mike showed us arou—oh wait, I need to first explain how exactly we know Mike. So about 18 years ago Bonesaw and I and Momsaw and Dadsaw are on the beach in Nantucket and we see this little 5 year-old kid having a catch with his father. Back and forth goes the ball. For like 45 minutes. The dad is starting to look a little tired but bless his heart, he doesn’t quit because the kid obviously can’t get enough. So finally Bonesaw gets up (he was Tim back then actually) and he asks the Dad if he needs some relief. The dad (Rich, to whom I referred above) sighed a big “yes” and handed off his glove. We’ve all been friends ever since, and Mike is now in his junior year at Princeton.

 

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Back to the recap. So we pull into campus around 5pm. Unload, etc etc. Then Mike takes us on a long walk around the University for about an hour. Top 2 highlights were the animal heads and the church. We all posed under our favorite animal, and we sat inside the church and listened to a choir rehearse for what sounded like some type of Halloween-themed concert that must be coming up. The place was pitch black (which made it easier to appreciate the gargantuan stained-glass windows) and after the first song the singers made ghoulish sounds that reverberated into infinity. (I actually shuddered).

 

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After the tour we headed back to “Tower Club” (the name of Mike’s eating club) and were treated to an Oktoberfest-themed dinner from the house cooks. Delicious. Sausages and wursts and a Dogfish Punkin’ Ale for me. Mmm-hmmm.

So up to this point we weren’t feeling too old. It was when we put on some pre-show music to get the crowd pumped that we realized we were ancient. We put on 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”. A great album. A true classic in fact. BUT…we did the math and realized that there were people at the party who were 8 YEARS OLD when it came out. Woah. (Neo—The Matrix).

 

Smell waiting to take the stage at Princeton.

 

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Other than feeling old, it was a great time. Mike is a dear friend and he went to a lot of trouble to make this an enjoyable night for us. It was a trip seeing him in his element, as an adult. The same dude with the rubber arm who never tired of throwing the baseball that one day on the beach. Now he’s a wicked smaht-kid doing his thing at Princeton. Thanks Mike, you’re the man.

Next day we did Philly, my and Bonesaw’s hometown. We were thrilled to see how many people came out to fill the place up. Old friends, many of whom we’ve known since Kindergarten, mixing in with fans we’ve made along the way. “You guys have FANS,” said my friend Jeff, who hasn’t seen us in a while. Yeah dude, and they’re the best freakin’ fans in the world. One group led by Theresa and Nick brought us 12 custom Full Service pint glasses with our Whale logo on them. What?? Thanks you guys.

 

Theresa and Nick.

 

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Played a nice long set, too. One thing I should mention is that we have been recording every show and we’ll have them available for sale on bandcamp once the tour is over. Here’s a little sample. It’s my drum solo from Philly. So enjoy.

 

 

Oh and one more notable thing from the Philly show. Too good not to mention. (Earmuffs, kids). As the opening band was wrapping up, they started pumping up the crowd for Full Service. “Who’s ready for Full Service! They’re comin’ up soon. Also, big shout-out to their dad, who was looking for a parking space and found us smoking weed in the parking lot but was totally cool about it!” Right on Dadsaw, wait to lay off the non-violent drug offenders!

What was after Philly? I’m taking you all through my head in real-time here folks. Gimme a second….hmm…Oh, yeah. The School of Rock in Berwyn, PA. This was a special show for us. Sometime early last week Bonesaw got an email from his old guitar teacher—from when Bone was 15—saying he saw we had a hole in our schedule and was wondering if we’d like to come rock out for some of his students at one of those Schools of Rock. Our reply was obviously “Hell yeah,” so we headed out there and wow…this place was the real deal. If they’d had these when I was a kid…man. I’d have spent all my time there. Huge facility, with a club attached to it that boasted a stage and sound-system you typically only see at a House of Blues. Our sound guy Dylan said it doesn’t get much better than that in terms of a balanced and tuned sound-space.

But besides all that, it was such a blast reuniting with Rik, Bone’s old teacher. Rik had us sit down in front of the stage before the show to talk to his students about “The Biz” and about what it’s like and what it takes to be in touring band. These kids were so well-spoken and confident and enthusiastic. Not a jaded one amongst them. That’s so refreshing. So we had a little pow-wow with them and then we rocked that awesome stage for about 45 minutes. We even invented a game during this show. You might remember from my last diary entry that I am now under-lighting my drums with colored lets. Snare drum is blue, rack tom is green, floor tom is red, and kick drum is yellow. So we had the kids yell out one color at a time, and I had to play that pattern back to them based on the drums. It’s up to them to remember the long sequences they eventually create, and it’s up to me to accurately translate that sequence to my drum kit. And I gotta say, it makes for some killer drum licks. Proud to say I won the inaugural game of “Drum Simon”. (You guys remember that game “Simon” with the colored lights and the patterns they give you?)

Many thanks to Rik for having us by the School of Rock. Rik, it’s very cool what you’re doing for this kids. And kids…keep the dream and the love of rocking alive.

 

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Next stop: Newport, Rhode Island! What a gorgeous town. Very old, very quaint. Rocky coastline that is different from the wide sandiness of much of the New England seaboard. Our friends in Badfish helped us put the show together at a nice little Tavern downtown, perfect for our acoustic set. The owner was such a great dude. He treated us to many fine beers and also great conversation. His wife even stayed to watch us, which apparently is remarkable because she usually splits once the bands start playing. It was nice to mix in an acoustic set in the middle of this entirely electric tour. And Newport showed UP, man! On a Monday night. Thanks no doubt to a concerted promotional effort from Pat, Joel, and Scott in Badfish. As a thank-you we invited them (forced them) to treat us and the crowd to a tune from their original band “Scotty Don’t” in the middle of our set.

It’s always great to catch up with the Badfish guys, too, so we arrived in Newport with plenty of time to play soccer at Joel’s house, see his kids and wife Amber for a bit (their littlest Brady—6—apparently almost beat Smell in chess. God how I wish that had happened), and slam a nice big taco dinner.

 

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Then the next morning after the show Pat took us to his new burger joint that he co-owns with his wife Ali. They were debuting their breakfast egg sandwich that morning so we were the guinea pigs. It. Was. RIDICULOUS. If you’re ever in Newport, go to “Mission” for either breakfast or a lunch burger. They have great beers too, many of which I have surprisingly never seen before. Ya done good, Pat and Ali. Keep it up.

Us with Ali and Pat outside Mission.

 

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Dylan and the poster outside the Tavern in Newport.

 

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Our stage setup at the Tavern.

 

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After breakfast Pat took us on a tour of old Newport, with all the absurdly huge houses along the beach. I’m talking Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Kennedy mansions. Even the haunted castle of famed occultist Aleister Crowley. Just looking at that thing was scary.

 

 

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Sunny’s shot of the beach in Newport

 

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Me with “Beach Hoag”

 

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Finally it was off to New York City. Who the hell knew how we’d do in New York City on a Tuesday night, but we took it as a good sign when we randomly bumped into legendary fansaws Klawson Borges and Sean Star on the street. Seriously how many freakin’ people in this city and we see them in the first five minutes, like 5 hours before show time?

 

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Didn’t really do much before the show. Hit up a Chinese restaurant, loaded in, ya know. But when it came time to play, we were excited to see that people came out, just like Newport. We played a short set because of the tight schedules surrounding the CMJ Music Marathon, but I like to think we made the most of it. There were some very important people to us at this show. Our first true believer in the industry, Matt Maietta. My college buddy Hannah. My high school buddy Taylor. My cousins Dave and Zach. Sean’s brother Chris. Bonesaw’s old students Ben and Dave. And one of the founding members of comedic rock group “Fortress of Attitude”, Dr. Genius, who told me not to be too discouraged when I don’t get a huge response on my on-stage knock-knock joke interludes. “You’re telling knock-knock jokes. The highest achievement for you in terms of a response is somewhere between a chuckle and a chortle.”

Bonesaw and i with our cousins Zach and Dave

 

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Next day we headed to New Haven for a show at Stella Blues. I would have liked to get into town earlier to check out all my old haunts from college (actually who am I kidding, I didn’t have any haunts, I spent all my time in the dorm basement playing drums), but we did something way cooler; we spent the day in Wilton, CT with my sister-in-law, three nieces and nephew. (My brother Tyler, a baseball writer for the New York Times, was out of town covering the American League playoffs). We ate butternut squash soup, jumped on the trampoline, made an obstacle course, and buried ourselves in leaves. Curious that at Princeton I felt very old, but in Wilton with my nieces and nephews I felt like a 5th grader. Trampolines can have that effect.

So after my sister-in-law sent us off with dinner-to-go (steak tips and rice), we hauled up to New Haven to see what we could do. And AGAIN…people came! What the heck? Maybe I oughta get used to this. I mean I was expecting Chicago and Philly to be great, because we come here a lot, but a lot of these cities we’ve never been to before or have only been to once, or not in a very long time.

Our niece, Rory.

 

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Me and my nephew Mack doing the obstacle course.

 

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The stage at Stella Blues was tiny, so we had to angle the drums off to the side, tuck Smell towards the back, Sunny staggered to the right, and Bonesaw wedged in there in the remaining space. Started off acoustic, which is a bit unusual. I think “Hallways” was first, then “Greettings” and then Bonesaw moved to his electric for “The Pieta”. Had a great game of “Drum Simon”, too. I actually lost! This kid came up with a killer combo. That’s what’s cool about our new Simon game. Just like in boxing, you beat your opponent with a “combo”.

Also, some dude actually got the correct answer to Bonesaw’s “Heavy Metal Trivia”! That never happens! We were stunned. I have a slight suspicion that Bruce (now travelling on the west coast) tipped him off, but I cannot confirm.

Smell performing “Canopy”.

 

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So great to see all those people out in New Haven. Martone crew, Whit crew, Axl, Alec and Linnea, Kristen, Sheri, Per, Narwold, and all the rest.

Us with Alec, Linnea, and Kristen.

 

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I will leave you all with this photo I took from outside Stella Blues.

 

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Signing off for now. Next up, Roanoke and Wilmington.

Hoag’s Tour Diary (Oct. 2013)

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Alright, got 3 shows under our belts so I’d say this tour is officially in full-swing. And by that I mean Bonesaw has lost (and then found) his wallet, Sean has gotten violent with his tempermental tuning-pedal, Smell has given myriad speeches on why he hates it when I eat tortilla chips inside the van, and I have…well I have managed to somehow piss off Smell by eating tortilla chips in the van. (For real man, get over it).

We have a have stage manager/sound guy with us this time, and his name is Dylan Jones. I think. He’s a pretty secretive fellow. Often wears dark clothing to more smoothly blend into the shadows. So he says his name is “Dylan Jones” but that sounds an awful lot like a name someone would use as an alias. Anyway, we’ll call him Dylan. (Don’t call him “Dyl” though. The other day while he and I and Bonesaw were exercising in the hotel weight room Bonesaw asked “Hey Dyl, you ever do burpies?” and after a beat Dylan said, “About as often as I let people call me ‘Dyl’”). He’s the type of guy who doesn’t like a lot of attention. So we won’t dwell on him, but I’ll just say that he is a great addition to the crew, and it’s amazing to have someone working sound for us for the first time in our career. Here’s a picture of Dylan fixing something under the Whale. Pretty fitting that you can’t see his face.

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And here are some photos we took from the road on the way up to Omaha.

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The very first thing we did on this tour was meet up with Fansaw Joe Pietro in Omaha, NE for a 5-on-5 full court basketball rematch from when we were in town last year. That time we beat them, but only on account of our superior conditioning. This time Joe had 4 teammates that were 6’3” or taller. (“It wasn’t on purpose! I called all my friends and they were the ones that could make it!”) It was a close game though. We were up 10-7 (game to 15) when Joe called a timeout and held a meeting with his team. Then they came out and went on like a 6-0 run. Joe himself turned into a whirling dervish of point-scoring efficiency. Dude was a professional baseball player not too long ago, so he has that x-factor. That burst of speed. Not to mention four teammates that were 6’3”. But whatever, no excuses.

Here’s us all after the game.

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That night we played in Omaha to a smattering of hardcore fansaws from the region (shout-out to Matt, Jake, Elena, Megan, and the friends they brought). That’s not ALL the people who were there, but almost. We’ve only done one club show in Omaha, so it’s all good. I remember at the end of the night Bonesaw saying to us “Ya know, it’s all about your perspective. You could look at our visit to Omaha through the lens of ‘we got our asses kicked in basketball then went to play a show to 20 people and made $85 that doesn’t even pay for a tank of gas’, or you could look at like “sweet, we got to play some basketball then we got to rock some of our new shit to 20 hardcore fans”.

Here’s how my drums are lookin’ these days, by the way. Underlit, baby!

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And here’s how the amps are looking. (Ya know, “Carousel” theme).

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The next morning we met up with Joe and Elena (and their new baby Bo who is a riot) and Elena’s mom Ellen and Jake Gardner for breakfast at a great diner called “Diner”. Jake even gave us a preview tour of the new “Hive Bar” he’s putting together. It’s gorgeous, and we will definitely play there next time we’re in Omaha.

Next night we drove up to Ames to stay with my aunt Priscilla and uncle Charlie for a day off. Priscilla and Charlie are great for a lot of reasons, but here’s one: As soon as we got there they gave us $20 to go down the street and buy beer. “Just don’t get any light beer”, Priscilla said. I just smiled and walked off. A woman after my own heart! It just so happened that Iowa State was playing Texas that evening, so when Smell and I walked the gauntlet of fraternity houses on our way to the beer store, we were heckled mercilessly by pimply drunk college dudes hanging out their third floor windows. “Hippies! Check it out guys, hippies! Go STATE!” to which Smell stopped mid-stride and said “actually….HOOK ‘EM!!”. The pimply dudes loved that.

A couple other reasons my aunt and uncle are so cool? Charlie got Priscilla a bottle of Gopher Poison for Christmas, which says a lot about them I think. And Priscilla helped us stuff lyric sheets into envelopes for two hours. (Speaking of which, has everybody gotten their packages yet?)

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Here’s some of Priscilla’s art

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Next day it was off to Chicago. We really wanted to do well in Chicago because we’ve been there a bunch, so we were delighted when 9pm rolled around and the place was swarming with high-intensity fansaws. Too many to shout out to. But I’ll try. Nneka, Aubrey, Andy, Shelby, Frenchie, Jon Adams, Jerad, Scott, Jon’s brothers, Dustin, Wing Ding, Wheeler, Dave, our cousin Will, etc etc etc. We did 100 people in a city very far away from home, and it was by no means a passive crowd. Everybody was piled right up front and ready for action. Big thanks to Greenbook for opening the show, and for not being a reggae band. You guys sounded great!

Before the show, Bonesaw gave an interview with Ian Wheeler of “Wheeler’s Weekend Jams”, so we’re looking forward to seeing that footage crop up somewhere soon. I desperately wanted to sneak up behind Bonesaw and do a pie-in-the-face thing, but there were no pie stores around.

Also, before I end the Chicago segment of the tour diary, I want to mention two things. One, the dinner we had at some Thai food place down the street from the Elbo Room. It was a delicious meal of sodium-packed greatness. The placemat told me that because I was born in the year of the monkey, I would “make a great politician”, but I’m not sure about that. All I’m sure about is that those noodles slammed hard, so thank you.

Secondly, I just wanted to mention a conversation I had with Jon Adams, who hosted the legendary “Lu’au-au” 20-tour show from earlier this year. Jon told me about a kid interning at his company who was battling a difficult depression. I got the impression the kid was sort of an outcast. Jon thought he would enjoy the new Full Service record, particularly the song “Sawdust”, so he brought in a copy to work and told the kid to take a listen. Apparently it really grabbed the kid, and it has helped him get through a difficult period. I thought that was really cool. It may come as a surprise to you, but I rarely consider the fact that our music might be helpful to somebody. I know it helps me a lot. I face my fears and doubts and worries (as well as my joys and loves and hopes) in the lyric and song-writing process, and it’s pretty powerful to hear that somebody identifies with me when they hear a lyric.

Here are some photos from Chicago.

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Also, how cool is it that Jon reached out to a kid in need of some guidance and goodwill? You’re a good man, Jon.

After Chicago we headed up to Sarnia, Ontario for a show at a great club called the Metro. Thanks to Lauren and Greg for putting that together and for bringing out all those people, too. Wow. We also had some people cross the border for us too, led by Sheri, Tony, and Tray. Can’t forget Matt and Lauren for their help as well. Good job all around, guys. What a sweet photo session afterwards on top of the whale, too.

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Perhaps the best part of the trip to Canada was Dylan’s unbridled excitement at seeing a real live “Canadian Tuxedo” in Canada! He asked us to take a photo on the sly as he stood next to the guy.

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After the show we headed back to Lauren and Greg’s where they put us up for the night and made breakfast for us the next morning. And not just eggs and coffee (which would have been plenty). We’re talking P-Meal (Canadian bacon), strawberries, eggs, sweet bread, toast, juice, coffee, tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber. They should run a bed and breakfast. Oh, and thanks for the Whale door-knocker guys. It doubles as a rubber-band gun!

After Sarnia we had the night off on our way to Cleveland, so we holed up in a hotel room and watched football all day. Also drank some beers, too. And made fun of lots of commercials. And each other. Fell asleep, grabbed some breakfast sandwiches and coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, and rolled out to Cleveland. Got into Cleveland around noon, so we had some serious time to kill before our show that night at 10:30. So we did as we usually do about that time…we went to the zoo! It was a good zoo. Not Omaha-level, but a damn good zoo. All the major mammals were represented, and the amphibians too. Sort of lacking in the fish department, but that’s what aquariums are for I guess. They had safari animals too. (It’s weird seeing a giraffe in Cleveland).

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The funniest thing we saw, though, was a pair of monkeys engaged in some kinky grooming. To them there was probably nothing kinky about it. Purely hygienic. But when you assume those positions…I don’t know man. It’s just hard for a human not to laugh, you know?

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And here are some disgusting naked moles.

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Fast-forward a couple hours later and Smell and Bonesaw are seeing a movie, Dylan goes to the shoe store for some new kicks, and Sean and I take naps on the Whale benches. There was also some tortilla-chip eating happening in there at some point, but I could do this freely and without fear of ridicule because Smell was out watching a movie. We both needed that time I think.

Head to the club, set up our gear, set up merch, and then WHAM—the greatest dinner I’ve had in a very long time. Maybe it was enhanced by how hungry and road-worn we were, but man…the potatoes in particular. Out of this WORLD. I went to the kitchen afterwards to thank the chef and ask about the potatoes. “Oh, thanks. Just salt and garlic really,” she said. Bullshit. There was a heavy dose of magically-delicious in those things.

The show in Cleveland was a first for us. We had a painter come up on stage and do a live painting during our set. It was so fun for us to turn around after (or during, let’s be honest) a song and see what he was up to back there. We played “Hi-ho” last and in the time it took to play the tune he had added a big pirate ship to the scene. I’m ashamed to say I don’t think I ever got the dude’s name. Bonesaw, if you’re reading this and have editing capabilities, please add his name.

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Well, you’re all caught up folks! Stay tuned. We’ve got Princeton, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, and New York City coming up in the next few days. Had a day off in Philly today and played some frisbee golf in the yard!

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