The Wanderer Tour: Part II

The first show on our tour was a very different type of show. One of a kind. When we pulled into the venue (which wasn’t a venue at all) we were welcomed with Trump lawn signs along the street. It was a chilling reminder we were in America. The show promoter stepped out in his bare feet and greeted us with a big smile and an emphatic arm wave. Initially we wanted to pull into the driveway of the “venue” (which, if you haven’t already figured out, was a house) but the neighbour’s treetop grew onto our side of the driveway. Backing in almost destroyed half the tree. It definitely took out a few branches, so we decided to park in front of the neighbour’s lawn across the street. The one with the Trump sign.

For a strange reason, we were wary of parking at that particular spot. Maybe it was our ignorance of the Country, maybe it was the common knowledge of how we portrayed Trump’s supporters in our head, or maybe it was the fact we knew nothing of this neighbourhood. We parked and stepped out to formally greet ourselves. Wesley the promoter/homeowner was one of the kindest people we had met, and had nicely set the tone for our first show. He’s a very calm, laid back man with a soft voice and poised with gentle gestures. He was also barefoot. Wes took us to the entrance where we were set to play. We went inside and downstairs to be welcomed by an overwhelming scent of cat urine, beer cans everywhere, a life-size cutout of Aragorn from “The Lord of The Rings” and a bunch of melted candles on a desk. We helped him clean the mess in preparations for the night and freed up some space in the process. Other bands started arriving for their load-in time. We exchanged pleasantries as we talked about gear sharing, how shocked we were at 24 hour Walmart, the venue’s reputation (which was actually really good) and how painful it was to lug the RV around. That’s when they arrived…

For a long while I’ve heard about this particular group of people. “Hampton Hollow” had been the name Lauren passed around ever since the initial tour-planning stages. It was hard to gauge whether or not I wanted to tour with them at first; Lauren was very persistent on touring with them (I usually trust her judgement), but at the same time they had nothing previously released. Nothing I could sink my teeth into! Before the tour began I had got in contact with their drummer Jordyn. Online, she was a total sweetheart and very easy to talk to. Jordyn’s online persona dispelled any preconceived notion I had about American bands (and how some of them can be pretentious). When the van rolled in and parked behind our RV I ran over to Lauren inside the house to let her know they’ve arrived. We both stepped out and made our way over to greet them. The band of 6 approached our RV to do the same. Dom stepped out of the RV and greeted Hampton Hollow with Lauren and I. The entire band stood in front of us together with gleaming smiles across their faces. After a quick countdown the band pulled out Nerf guns and pelted us with what seemed to be an endless supply of foam bullets! That was the first moment with our touring partners and I’ll never forget it.

During our loading, Aleksei had forgotten a specific power supply for one of his pedals, which really got under our skin. We had always known Aleksei was the clumsiest, spaced out person in the band- but to forget something so simple after much preparation (we made ourselves an incredibly extensive inventory sheet, as well as a check the night before) was highly inexcusable. Every Yin had a Yang and where meeting Hampton Hollow was a positive moment, Alseksei’s unaccountably highlighted a negative one. One that left us with a sour taste in our mouth for hours. Because of this little inconvenience we were forced to cut one song from our set list. The song “Trespasser” specifically required this pedal, and without a way to turn it on- there was absolutely no work-around to playing this song. Our first US performance also lacked the “ideal” sound system, as it was a very DIY show. The result was that our set would have no playbacks, no booms, none of the bells and whistles that added towards the overall “feel” of our set. We would have had to go raw with this set, like the good ol’ RHD days.

The night went on as it did and I was unable to watch HH’s set. I felt bad that, for our first show together, I didn’t watch them. Instead I sat outside doing merch while trying to focus in on the muffled music behind the doors. I assumed it was a good set. Then it was our turn to hit the stage. Everything we had been planning for months culminated in this first test. We played in front of other bands, our to-be best friends as well as some fans we had been in contact with for a long while. The first show was magical given the conditions we were in- a stripped down set with one less song in a sweaty basement with a foul smell. After finishing the night we slowly packed away our things back into the RV, and HH (Hampton Hollow) packed their gear into the trailer they had rented. We were both playing a game of Tetris trying to reconfigure the best spots for each of our pieces. For RHD, not many of our items went out to be used on stage- a lot was provided for this show. HH had brought along a hefty amount of items on tour, which caused some difficulty packing up after the show. HH left to stay at a friend’s place nearby and we were planning to join them. Wes had offered his place to us several times throughout the day in case we didn’t feel like driving overnight.

When we got into the RV to finally take off, we experienced our first vehicle-related issue: The seat belts weren’t working. The first thing anybody does before turning on the car was buckle in their seatbelt. The belt on the driver’s side wasn’t feeding itself through and so we were unable to pull it out. We thought that maybe the belt had locked itself up as a safety feature, but that wasn’t the case. The harder we tugged the less likely it was budging. Chris placed a call to AAA for service and a possible tow. Wesley had also stepped out a few times to try and help. During the wait for their service vehicle, I decided to thoroughly investigate the issue with a flashlight and a Swiss army knife. About an hour into poking the seatbelt feeder with a knife and light I was able to temporarily fix the issue (I forcefully slid the seatbelt back into the feeder until it had reset its position). We finally drove out of the neighbourhood to realize it would take us an extended amount of time to reach the meeting point with HH. We turned into a Walmart to debate whether it was worth the gas and mileage to make this trip, or to turn back and stay on Wesley’s street overnight. We decided on the latter and drove back.

The weather was moving and early signs of rain were appearing. Aleksei and I decided to stay in Wesley’s house overnight where he also offered to make us spaghetti. I’m not lying when I say this, but for a very kind man living in a very (very) dirty house, he made the best spaghetti I’ve ever had! Aleksei and I sat on the couch eating spaghetti while watching “Luke Cage” with another housemate. He was hitting a bong while watching the Netflix exclusive. It was amazing to see a home that accurately portrayed what a “stoner’s house” looks like in a typical american teenage movie. Dimly lit with beer cans everywhere, a bong by a tube television, VHS tapes scattered across the floor and an N64 tucked under the piles of clothing.

When I woke up, everybody had been in and out the house waiting for their turn to use the guest washroom. Jessie had just finished showering, and Aleksei told me he lost a piece of his in-ear monitor. While I waited for the washroom to clear out, I helped him search the entire house, stage and even garage. No sign of the piece. Clumsy, clumsy Aleksei. Once I was finally able to freshen up in the washroom (it was a long wait since waking up) we got back in the RV and headed off to the nearest Walmart for breakfast. Everybody went in to shop and I stayed outside. Dom bought him and I a bucket of chicken for the car ride. It was cheap, full of protein, and gross for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted great! I took one last look at the seatbelt feeder and poked at it again with a knife. A piece of rubber had fallen out. Eventually I pulled out what was a broken, worn out piece of rubber. I’m not entirely sure what the piece’s purpose was, but it obviously didn’t do its job well, and has since been mangled. This time I took the wheel, and with a dangerously speedy exit (I forgot speed bumps exist) we headed to our next destination in Warren, Michigan.

All photos by Jessie Lau