Guest Post: Chris Wrenn – Champion Australia Tour Journal 2004
I’ve been hounding Chris from Bridge 9 records for a while about doing a guest blog post, but apparently he’s a busy guy (shocking, given the amount of stuff he has going on 24/7). But here it is and the timing could not be any better; 10 years to the exact date! This definitely brings back some memories, and there’s a tiny bit of crossover from my “Van Wars Down Under” blog post I published a about a year ago, so check that one out after reading Chris’ if you haven’t already. Thanks Wrenn!
I joined up with Champion on their first tour to Australia in December of 2004, which was exactly 10 years ago today. The tour was with Miles Away and Against, lasted three weeks, and was one of my favorites – I was close with the guys in Champion, we had just released their “Promises Kept” album a couple of months earlier. I haven’t done much journaling in my life, but when I went on that tour I knew I wanted to document it. Every night I detailed what had happened that day. I can’t say I ‘m much of a writer but this was my firsthand account of the tour, which is only now finally being released a decade later. It doesn’t seem like this much time has passed. I hope everyone that I met on that tour is still doing well and doesn’t mind hearing about it from my perspective all of these years later!
– Chris Wrenn
December 2nd, 2014
Thursday, December 2nd, 2004
My last connecting flight was in Brisbane to Perth, which got in at 8am. Customs was a bit tricky because I was entering on a tourist visa and I had to explain what I was doing with 300 “promotional” CD’s. They ended up changing my visa to a business one but I had to sweat it out a bit. Telling the customs guy that I had only $300 cash on me, was staying for 3 weeks, and didn’t know who and when I was meeting up with the person I was staying with didn’t exactly grease the wheels in customs. I came to learn that my next flight was ELEVEN hours away. I had to kill the entire day at the airport and was bummed. I called Ryan from Common Bond Records (he booked the tour) to let him know what was up, and he called Chris from Against, who came out and picked me up and took me into town. Instead of sitting in the airport all day, we went out to the mall, got lunch, checked out a record store and then the tattoo studio (Allstar Tattoo) that he owns, and went out to the movies and saw National Treasure. I got back to the airport in time to make my connecting flight around 7pm, flew into Perth around 11pm, and met up with Ryan and some of the guys from Miles Away, who we were going to stay with. 40 hours after leaving and I was finally here on the West Coast of Australia. We rolled back to their place, dropped my stuff off, and went back at 1am to pick up Champion, who were flying in from Europe.
Friday, December 3rd, 2004
Slept in for the first time in ages. Hung out most of the day with a few of the guys from Miles Away, who we’re staying with. The show tonight is a few blocks away from the Indian Ocean, so we walked down to the beach and hung out for a bit. The show was good – it was my first time seeing Miles Away and they were good – it was an 18+ crowd but there were a ton of people there. Perth doesn’t have a good hardcore music record store so kids were psyched that I had brought a B9 distro, ended up selling over 40 CD’s. After the show, we all went to some shot party, where we left to go get falafel, head back to Cam’s house and crash for the night.
Saturday, December 4th, 2004
Saturday’s show was at a skatepark, and was all-ages. The place was really cool and the weather was beautiful. Aram and I walked over to get some food soon after getting to the venue and I was almost hit by a car as I crossed the road. I keep looking the wrong way when crossing the streets (Australia has British style driving) and if I DON’T get hit by a car on this trip it will be because of dumb luck. The show was the biggest show in Perth, as it was the only all-ages one, and a ton of kids turned out. Tons of stage diving.
Sunday, December 5th, 2004
Final show in Perth – it was small and 18+. Aram and I broke out for a while and walked down towards Fremantle Beach. Fremantle is a large port so there were tons of huge tankers out on ocean. The show was fun despite the low turnout – during Champion’s set, I was asked to do guest vocals for their cover of SSD’s “Glue”. Couldn’t of been an easier song to sing (only 5 words, duh) but it was my first time ever singing anything on stage, so it was a trip.
Monday, December 6th
Day Off – PERTH
We had the day off today and our flights back to Brisbane weren’t until 11pm, so we decided to head back down to Fremantle Beach. It was probably one of the most amazing beaches that I’ve ever been on, which isn’t much considering I’ve grown up in New England. Big waves, bright blue water, clean beaches, and a strong sun made up the key ingredients. I came unprepared so I had to dish out tourist prices on flipflops and a beach towel. A few hours in the heat, and surprisingly no sunburn (50 SPF helped).
Tuesday, December 7th, 2004
Day Off – BRISBANE
After traveling all night and into the morning, we got into Brisbane around 10am. We met up with Greg Against and got some breakfast, and then went back to his apartment, where we ended up crashing and sleeping for the rest of the day. That night, we all ended up going out for dinner at Sizzler and got $18 all you can eat salad bar. I went to sleep full but woke up the next morning feeling like I hadn’t eaten in days. Soon after going to sleep, I was awoken by the commotion caused by the rain. The beautiful weather couldn’t hold out and a total downpour began, one that would end up lasting several days. We were staying in a basement apartment, and the water began flooding outside the door, and pouring into the apartment. We had to build a wall out of towels to keep the water from getting in.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2004
Greg’s girlfriend, Rachi, is a tattoo artist at All Star Tattoo, the shop owned by Chris from Against. We rolled over there early in the morning, so that Brandon and Aram could get tattooed. I didn’t want to get stuck at their house all day so I went along for the ride. The day was spent between the shop, the mall, and a trip down to a river a few blocks away, where I came face to face with a 3 foot lizard. Brandon ended up getting a kangaroo with boxing gloves, saying “G’ Day Mate.” Aram picked two caskets, one with a lock, the other with a key, for the tops of his feet with the words “Hard Times.” I thought he was crazy for tattooing his feet when he knew that he was going to be playing shows for the next two weeks.
Before the show we went back to Greg’s house to pack up the gear for the night. While I was waiting, I heard what sounded like cats fighting. I walked outside, and saw the bats that come to feed on their neighbor’s mango tree. Bats in New England are no larger than 6 inches wide, wings stretched. These looked like dogs with wings that were no smaller than 3 feet wide. Unbelievable.
This was the first of two Brisbane shows, this one being 18+. I missed the first band, Knife Fight Opus, but got back in for the 2nd band, Just Say Go. During their set I noticed that Chad and the rest of New Found Glory were there. Before the 3rd band went on, I walked over and said what’s up, cause we had been introduced at a Terror / Madball show in San Diego last year. We ended up shooting the shit for the rest of the show. Turned out NFG had just gotten into Australia that morning, heard about the show, and wanted to check out Champion, which was cool of them.
Thursday, December 9th, 2004
Today’s show was in Byron Bay, about 90 minutes south of Brisbane. We got up, watched the Lost Boys, and loaded up in two mini vans to head out for the show. On the way we stopped at some surf spot that is supposed to be one of the best in Australia… Byron Bay is a touristy community with tons of surfers and hippies – we rolled into town around 5pm and parked at the youth center that the show was happening at. We walked into town all got food – I opted for my 4th falafel kebab this week. Aram and I walked up to the beach to watch people surf. We then walked back to the center to prepare for the show. The first band was called New Kid, and the singer was wearing an Outbreak shirt. Real young band, and REAL sloppy. The 2nd band was too singy and screamy and after suffering through a few of their songs I opted to break out and walk back towards the center of town and check out the beach again. Way better listening to the waves than that band (sorry Ryan!). Hung out for a bit and then headed back in time to watch Against, who were good and got a great reaction, tons of singalongs. Champion played and kids went off. It was a REAL young crowd, but kids knew the words and danced a ton.
After the show, we headed back into the center of town, to get something to eat before heading back to Brisbane. We ducked into another Kebab shop that was across the street from a nightclub. It was about 11pm and there were tons of people hanging out on the sidewalks – all sorts of girls, some kids from the show, and these two really drunk guys, one wearing a shirt that said “World’s Greatest Street Fighter”. He was more drunk than his friend, and he was asking people to fight him, because he “was the best.” We stuck around because we figured something might happen. After a minute of no one instigating, we started to get in the van, and noticed that the guys had started talking to some kids from the show. We got in the van and pulled over on the side of the street next to the crowd, just in case the guys started anything with the kids. I rolled down my window, and watched the exchange. One of the girls with the kids from the show pointed at us and told the guys that we wanted to talk to them. The “Street Fighter” stumbled over to our window, and started asking if there were any girls inside the van. Once he realized that there was only guys, he started saying “you guys are fucked, you’re not going to get any girls, you’re all guys,” and out of nowhere, Jim grabbed the guy’s baseball hat off his head through the window, and Ryan hit the gas. The guy tried to get his hat back and held on to the van for a second, let go, and proceeded to run after us. We slowed down a few times, and then sped off, leading him in a chase for a couple of blocks, before we turned the corner and disappeared with his hat.
Friday, December 10th, 2004
This was hyped up to be one of the best shows, and it ended up being pretty good after all. Lots of horrible haircuts and eyeliner on guys. A band called The War opened up, it was their first show and they are a militant straight edge band. Lots of songs about killing emo kids, loving the edge, yadda yadda. I’m not sure if they take themselves seriously, and if it’s all fun and games, cool, but they actually believe what they’re preaching, they’re not going to last too long. The kids who preach sxe the loudest are always the ones to fall the hardest – it’s like an unwritten law. It was funny to see kids with eyeliner looking around nervously though. A band called Live Today played and kids went off. They played hardcore that was more in the ballpark to Champion, with tons of stage dives. The singer had a ton of energy. I missed the 3rd band, xWish For Wingsx, but saw Daylight Curse, which was very Trustkill-esque and little girls were sweating the singer the entire set. Against owned, since it was their hometown and Champion closed it out. Tons of stage dives. During “The Decline” Jim gave up the mic to the singer of Live Today, who is a big Champion fan and was psyched.
Saturday, December 11th, 2004
Newcastle was a ghost town when we rolled in… The drive took all day to get there, including a stop at a beach & a $200 speeding ticket. A band called Taking Sides played, who were pretty decent, but it’s evident that they draw heavy influence from American Nightmare. Since so few bands get to come to Australia, the ones that do seem to have a lot of influence on the local kids… Hopefully the next time Champion comes through there will be some more melodic, straight up hardcore bands. There is way too much metal in this scene. Ryan’s band, Perish The Thought played, which was cool to see him up on stage… They covered Gorilla Biscuits.
Sunday, December 12th, 2004
We didn’t wake up until after 2pm, since getting to bed so late. The area that we’re in is full of little stores and great restaurants – we got to meet up with Graham at Resist Records and check out his store, which is great. Jim and I went to an Asian restaurant called the Green Gourmet, which served good vegan food but didn’t have menus – the wait staff brought out trays of appetizers and we just picked what we wanted to eat. At 6 I met up with Graham as well as Dave from Stomp Distribution and some of their friends, went out for a Thai dinner and headed out to the show. The first band was called Strength Within, and were pretty good. They covered Ten Yard Fight’s “Hardcore Pride.” Against played 2nd and got kids moving around more. The third band is one that I wanted to check out, Last Nerve, because they had released a split 7” with Internal Affairs and were one of the few Australian bands that I knew about before this tour. They had a lot of energy and did a Bad Brains cover so they’re OK in my book. Champion closed it out and played a great set. The turnout was about 100 or so kids – which I guess was pretty good for a Sunday night in Sydney. After the show we went to an all-night Pancake restaurant just across from the Opera House in downtown Sydney with like 30 kids from the show, which included an Aram look-a-like photo contest and a mini food fight that some girl from Melbourne started. We left the restaurant and headed back to the hostile – on the way Chris was shouting out the window, and a few of us began screaming as loud as we could at people walking down the street.
Monday, December 13th, 2004
Day off… Slept till about 11, got up, and went and ate a tofu burger at Burgerlicious, the third time going there. Greg, Ryan, some other core dudes from Sydney and the rest of us drove towards the Opera House area of the harbor, to do touristy site seeing stuff. We first went to the Aquarium, to see the shark exhibit. Spent about 90 minutes walking around, taking pictures of sharks, crocodiles and penguins. Walked around the harbor taking pictures, until it began to rain. We headed back out towards the Newtown area of Sydney and during the drive it was raining REALLY hard. The streets started flooding and it was a mess. As we’re driving, Ryan all of a sudden says “There it is, this is the one” and cut across a lane of traffic towards the curb, where he cut through a HUGE puddle and sent a literal tidal wave over 8 or so people. It happened too fast to fully take in, it was just a blur of people who didn’t know what hit them and had no chance of taking cover. We all had a good laugh (note: we were total assholes) and Ryan reasoned that the work day was over so they were headed home anyway.
After getting back to the hostel, we regrouped and went across the street for dinner at an Indian restaurant. After dinner, Aram, Pete from Last Nerve and I hung out and shot the shit over ice cream. When we got back to the hostel, Jim and Brandon walked back up to the room, Brandon dripping with egg after an apparent hate crime. Apparently they were hanging out on the main road and someone tossed an egg at them from a moving car and said they were “gay.” Brandon didn’t even care because he figured it was karma after our screaming and splashing incidents.
After Ryan, Greg and then Pete left, we were still a bit stir crazy and wanted to go out and take in more of the city. We decided to take a train back towards the Opera House, but for whatever reason the trains went out of service for repairs 30 minutes before we got to the station. So, we hopped on a bus, headed towards the downtown area, and then walked about 20 blocks to the harbor. It was a clear night and the area down there is beautiful, so we wandered around, commenting that here we were in such a beautiful area, with couples wandering around, and we were each with a bunch of dudes. We headed back over to the Pancake house, and then hung out there for about an hour or so. By this time it was almost 2am, so we started walking back towards Newtown. We must have walked about 30 or so blocks, until we realized that we had no idea where we were going… After chasing some animal that looked like a lemur around a park, we hailed a cab and took it back to the hostile.
Back at the room, I made a phone call and afterwards could hear a bunch of people talking down in the pool area. One sounded American so I walked down to say hello. Turned out it was two people from England, one from Germany, and another from Canada, who had sounded American. I ended up talking to them for a while, and I happened to comment on how nice everyone that we have met in Australia has been. I told them about how the bus driver let us ride for free, and the cab driver didn’t want to make change for us so he took a smaller fare because we only had a $5 and a $20 bill. They agreed that everyone had been super nice to them too, but that there had been a few jerks. Apparently they had been walking down the road today during the fierce thunderstorm, and during the middle of all of the rain, some guys had shot across traffic to a big puddle on their side of the road, sending a tidal wave over them!
Tuesday, December 14th, 2004
2nd Day off in Sydney. We got up and were ready to meet Ryan at noon but he didn’t show till 4, I guess in the past day or so Posi Chris and Greg had been goofing off and dented the side of one of the mini vans, so Ryan spent the day trying to get the dent out at a body shop. We spent most of the day hanging out in the Newtown shopping area.
Wednesday, December 15th, 2004
Canberra is the capital of Australia, and is about 3 hours away from Sydney. It’s the smallest scene on the tour – we were told that in January TERROR only did about 62 kids, so we didn’t expect much. Driving into the city, we saw a homeless man washing windows, and tossed him some coin to clean off all the crap that we had sustained from Greg on the road. The venue was called the Green Room, and 3 bands played… Against took the night off and would be meeting us back in Melbourne. The show had a small turnout… but by the time Champion went on, there was 52 kids paid at the door, which was great considering the small size of the scene. I walked around the neighborhood before Champion’s set, just trying to get some time to myself and enjoy the fact that it was warm and I was in Australia. During the show, someone got a few loafs of white bread, and had layered the slices all over the front of one of the mini vans. After everyone was loading out, a bread fight spontaneously broke out.
Thursday, December 16th, 2004
The drive from Canberra to Melbourne was about 5 hours, and there wasn’t much to it. We got into town, and went directly to PBS, a local radio show. Champion was supposed to play live but ended up just picking the play list and doing an interview on the air. I met up with Dave from Stomp Distribution, and he took me across town to their offices, where I could meet up with the label manager, Ben. We hung out, I went into detail about the raw deal that Lumberjack had put us through, and left with everyone having a better understanding about each other. Apparently B9 is only the 2nd hardcore label to really come over here and meet up with people, so it was a great deal to meet up with everyone at Stomp. Dave dropped me off at the station to meet up with the guys, and we headed over to the hostile, to drop off our stuff. We left to go get pizza, and meet up with Against and the Miles Away guys, who were finally meeting up for the final leg of the tour. The food was ok but it was good company – and afterwards we headed over to the venue. It was called Goo, and we had been warned about it from kids leading up to the show. It’s a weird set up – over a thousand kids turn up for their “hardcore/metal” dance night, which is held downstairs, and the bands play upstairs, with their backs to a big glass window, which overlooks the dance floor. There is no stage, and a rail separates the band from the kids, but Champion made the most of it and from what I heard afterwards, had one of the best reactions of a band at that venue. Aram played his guitar while “crowd surfing”, Jim took the wireless mic outside of the upstairs room, onto the catwalk over the oblivious dance crowd, and back. After the show, we were looking for something to do, at first consisted of driving around yelling at people.
Friday, December 17th, 2004
The day started around 8am, and we faced an 8 hour drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. It’s a long drive with pretty much NOTHING to look at. We had to wait at first because Chris (Against) couldn’t be found, until finally they left a message on his cell saying “get the first flight to Adelaide” and we were off. I was already exhausted from not sleeping much the night before, so as soon as I got in the van, I was leaning over trying to fall asleep. It didn’t take long and as we drove off, I was out. About 2 hours later, I cracked my eyes open, and saw that we were in a city. I knew there was absolutely nothing in between Melbourne and Adelaide, so I came to find out that we had been driving in circles and basically still hadn’t left. I still slept a good chunk of the way to Adelaide, but it was a long drive and there wasn’t much to see. I counted about 5 dead Kangaroos, and had not seen one live since the Perth conserve. When we FINALLY made it to Adelaide it was 8 in the evening, 11 hours from when we left. There were a TON of kids waiting for the doors to open so the show looked really promising. Brandon and I broke out to get something to eat, and had to settle on some shot noodles dish. Getting back to the venue, we came to find out that it wasn’t ALL AGES like it had been advertised, so a lot of kids were turned away. That SUCKED. I also saw Chris (Against), turns out he had flown in from Melbourne and had planned on it, the girl he told to tell Greg never passed the message. There was still a good amount of kids at the show (including the ones the guys were able to sneak in) but it could have been way better. The show was awesome, I did the SSD cover, stagedove, and after the show got to talk shop with some vinyl collectors.
Fortunately the hostile was only a few blocks away from the venue, so we headed back there and dropped off our bags. A few guys went to sleep and I got up to go find a phone to call the states. As I walked out into the lobby, the guy behind the counter saw my “Believe In Boston” t-shirt and he said “You’re not a Red Sox fan are you”… Surprised that someone knew about baseball in a land full of cricket bullshit, I ended up chatting it up with him about the 04 season, as it turned out he was a born and raised Yankees fan, named after Mickey Mantle. I hopped online to check out airfares for the flight back to Melbourne, because if Chris was smart enough not to make that drive, I was down to join him. His flight was only $100 US so for cutting out 9 hours of driving, I felt it was well worth it. I bought the ticket and went to sleep.
Saturday, December 18th, 2004
I woke up with the Champion guys and headed over to the van with them, but as they left for the airport, Chris and I headed out for breakfast. We ate lunch under a tree in a park and talked about his shop, All Star Tattoo. We headed out to the airport and got on our flight, which lasted only 50 minutes. Better than an 8 hour drive! We went to the hostile, showered, and then headed out to the shopping district. We went to a record store called Missing Link, which was cool because it is one of the bigger record stores that carry hardcore music in Australia, and they had a ton of our CD’s. We got something to eat, headed back to the hostile, and slept for an hour or two, until the guys finally got back. The show was at a club called Arthouse, only blocks away from the hostile, and it has been considered one of the most consistent venues in Australian Hardcore. Every band comes through there, and the show looked promising. A band called Hit List played and stood out – Madball-esque hardcore done well. Miles Away and Against did their thing, and Champions set was one of their best of the tour. When it came for the SSD cover, Jim brought me up on stage, and had everyone sing “Happy Birthday” to me, cause it was my 29th. We went right into “Glue”, and I flipped off the stage into the crowd while the kids in the crowd finished the chorus.
Back at the hostile, no one but Jim seemed interested in going out, so we headed over to a bar that we were told had a large black flag poster (like 10 feet wide) on the wall. We sat around for a while, but it was depressing – people who purposely tried to look ugly, horrible music, we didn’t last long before bailing and heading back to the hostile.
Sunday, December 19th, 2004
Today was the last show – and it was an all ages matinee about 30 minutes outside of Melbourne. Van wars have escalated – and soon after arriving at the show, it became known that the Against van had their window smeared with shit. Apparently Greg walked over to the van, and with his bare hands, scraped it up and proceeded to smear it all over the Champion van, tagging it with the word AGAINST. I didn’t see this but was told that when called out on handling the shit, Greg said “Who cares, it’s just shit, it will wash off” or something to that effect.
A bunch of bands played – starting out with a young band called My Struggle – the kids are like 14 years old and have songs about cartoons and stuff. Miles Away and Against both played great sets, and it was sad to see their last sets… The band of the hour was Mindsnare. In every city, kids asked us if we had heard Mindsnare – they have been around for over 11 years and have the respect of pretty much all of Australian Hardcore. They played a good set – and the singer was wearing an old Slapshot t-shirt. They played good, fast hardcore, that seemed less metallic live than on the CD I had heard. Champion closed it out – and their set was great. This was Melbourne’s only all-ages show, so a ton of younger kids turned out. Their set was great but because there was no stage, diving was limited. Halfway during their set I pulled two chairs into the pit, so kids could run and jump off of them into singalong pile ups.
Around 7pm we headed for what proved to be the biggest “Show After The Show” I have ever seen. There was an open call to anyone who wanted to hang out for dinner afterwards, and about 70 or so kids joined in. We hit up an Italian restaurant and what proved to usually be a nightmare ended up being pretty organized dinner, with everyone being served in an orderly manner. Greg got everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. We ate, then proceeded to take crew photos outside of the restaurant. We were against another building so I climbed up onto the window sill above everyone’s heads. As photos were being taken, I jumped off onto everybody but didn’t fully commit and ended up mostly landing on one of the younger kids from My Struggle. He was a bit shaken but took it pretty well. Sorry dude!
We went back to shower at the hostile, with plans to meet up at the Melbourne Crown Casino. We got there around midnight, and played a roulette for a while. I started out by losing $50 on red AGAIN but made it back and then some over the next hour. There were about 20 people from the show left around 1:30 so we all headed over to a strip club a few blocks away. We took over an entire pole dancing table area and threw $20s around to get lap dances for each other. We broke out around 4am, and headed back to the hostile. Jim and I didn’t want to sleep, so after a few phone calls home we headed out to talk around Melbourne in the early morning, watching the sun come up.
Monday, December 20th, 2004
Since I didn’t sleep at all Sunday night, I ended up walking over to Starbucks with Jim to download my email. I went back to the hostile and then walked back over to Starbucks with Aram. I was so shot from staying up all night that I was going to need at least two mochas. We got a late start to the airport, made a few wrong turns, and ended up getting to the terminal an hour before our flights. The Champion guys had one flight to Sydney and LAX, and I had another. As the guys divvied up their bags to be checked, Branden realized that he had one too many, so I ended up taking his cymbals. We checked into our respective flights, said our goodbyes to Greg, Tyrone and Ryan, and headed out. First flight was into Sydney, then an hour layover turned into 3, then a 14 hour flight across to LAX. Somewhere in customs I realized that the worst smell ever was coming from the cymbal case. I guess Greg had the last laugh this time around, because I opened up the case to find a dead fish wrapped in plastic in the case. I quickly dropped it behind some luggage left for flight transfers, and started to head over to my new terminal. On the way out, I heard a baggage handler say “Does anybody smell that? My God what is that smell???” I laughed and headed out.
I was slated for a 7 hour layover, which was shortened to about 5 because of the delayed flight out of Sydney. I figured it was no big deal as I could just go online on my laptop. The 5 hours stretched into almost 9 hours as the flights to Boston were delayed TWICE. I was going out of my mind pacing around, checking email, getting something to drink, and then doing it all over again. My final flight into Boston got in at 3am, and when I got off the plane the cold air knocked me over. 3 weeks of the Australian Summer had worn down my tolerance for cold. My first thought was why the hell do people even live like this? With places like Australia, why does anyone live in New England?
116: the Spirit of NWHC
In 2001, before the age of cell phones and gmail groups, Champion made all our band decisions on a private message board that only we had access to. Some of the posts were serious, some were inside jokes and most were a mixture of both. When we finished recording our second 7”, we took to this forum to brainstorm names for the new record.
Count Me Out had recently released the phenomenal “110” LP and someone suggested—jokingly, of course—that we call it “111,” as in, one more than “110.” From there someone joked about calling it 116, for the number of games the Mariners had recently won, tying the all-time record for most wins in a single season.
Backing up this story a bit, the Mariners went into the 2001 season as a unanimous underdog in the AL West. They had some success in the mid to late 90s, but in recent years, they had lost Junior, lost the Big Unit and had just completed the triple threat, with A-Rod skipping town. This team had some nice pieces, but they didn’t have enough firepower at the plate to compete with the A’s and they certainly didn’t have the aces you need in your pitching rotation.
The 2001 season was a magical ride for Seattle sports fans. The feeling in the air was VERY similar to this Super Bowl season for the Seahawks, with the obvious exception that the Hawks finished the job and won the title. But that feeling was the same through the Mariners’ magical 2001 season.
Everywhere you went, the Mariners were the kings of Seattle. I rode the bus home from work and strangers would ask other strangers with headphones if they were listening to the game and what the score was. Mariners shirts were on every back and M’s hats were on every head. It was a thrilling time for the city. Not only was this the best baseball team Seattle had ever seen, but according to win-total, this was (at least tied for) the best regular season baseball team in MLB history. The fact that they were underdogs heading into the season only helped this all seem so much more exciting.
At this same time, the underdog Seattle hardcore scene was churning out wins at a similar pace. Champion was starting to tour more consistently and putting out its first release on Bridge 9, a label that was releasing the best records in hardcore at that time. Stay Gold was talking with the almighty Indecision records. Himsa had a fresh lineup with John Pettibone from Seattle’s legendary Undertow now singing and was blowing up with their refined sound. Left With Nothing was at their apex, Contingent shows were tons of fun, Countless Sins put out an awesome demo and there were lots of cool young bands popping up. Excursion Records was experiencing a bit of a rebirth with a few new bands and its Power of Ten comp 7”s, which highlighted some of those newer bands.
We also had one of the coolest venues ever, in the Paradox (the one of the Ave). There were some incredible shows at this spot. But to give you an idea of the kind of excitement of this time period, Champion’s Count Our Numbers record release show at the Paradox drew 300 people. THREE HUNDRED… for an all locals lineup of Champion, Himsa, Stay Gold, Youth at Risk (a really good skate punk band with members that ultimately went on to Aiden, Murdock and Rat Path) and One False Move (young high school kids playing fast old school HC). It was insane… I remember distinctly, during Himsa, standing on the side of the stage and looking out on this crowd with such a sense of pride and enthusiasm that this many kids came to see five SEATTLE bands.
So with that context in mind, you can probably see how the “116” joke could have picked up legs and that the idea that the Mariners 2001 season could be metaphor for the exciting things happening in the Seattle hardcore scene at the time. We ended up calling our 7” “Count Our Numbers,” but the name “116” was used for the song on that record that was about Seattle and included guest vocals from Chad Repp from Stay Gold:
“And the rain keeps coming. I haven’t see the sun in days. I remember the kids that were there for me when I needed them the most. Because of them I’ll never leave this place. My heart dropped anchor, this is where I’ll stay. This is the one place I’ll never be alone, and the only place I can call my home. Coming from where my love gets its start. These grey clouds more than tattooed on my heart. From 15 kids screaming out loud that we want more. We won’t back down. We want more. I look at you and see how we fill these rooms. Can’t you see that it’s ours? Count the numbers, count the hearts. Can’t you see that it’s ours?”
Maybe a year before that 300-kid locals-only show, we were lucky to get 15 kids out. And since that time, there have been plenty of 15 kid shows. 116 is a song written about a time and a place, but the spirit of 116 is not just about a time and a place. It’s about the heart of this place. There was a lot to be excited about in 2001, but there’s just as much to be excited about right now. NWHC is doing some amazing things. At the top of the list, Rain Fest is one of the best three fests in this country. That means on a yearly basis, kids from all over the world WANT to be in Seattle in May. What?!
There are some great established bands in the NW, like Power, Wreck and Ill Intent and there are awesome young bands like Safe and Sound and Singled out who are starting to do big things. Outlook recently broke up, leaving a whole in Olympia’s heart, but Hysterics and Gag and Blank Boys are carrying that torch and running twice as fast. There are sweet venues from Everett to Centralia, and more and more Portland and Vancouver are doing things with Seattle. It’s not just about Seattle anymore, it’s about NWHC.
Hardcore scenes are a fragile thing. There are so many things that can ruin a blossoming scene: violence, vandalism, trash talk, dishonesty… it takes so much work and so much time to build up a scene, but any of these selfish things can destroy everything in the blink of an eye. Like Jim and Chad wrote in 2001, this scene is ours. With that ownership comes the responsibility to make it what we want it to be. It doesn’t matter if there are 15 kids screaming in a room, or 300.
DIY 101: Book a Show
Guest post by Brian Skiffington
If you’ve read the “About” section of this site, you’ll know that one of the main reasons I started this blog was to create a forum to share stories and ideas. Hardcore is a shared ownership in the scene. “Getting involved” can look like many different things; starting a band; putting out a record; showing up at shows and jumping off a stage… This post is the first, in what I hope to be a series of guest blog posts from people who have done an awesome job in taking ownership and doing tangible things for this scene. These people have learned a lot from their years of learning-by-doing. Hopefully these guest posts can give some insights for kids looking to do more.
This first post comes from Brian Skiffington. He’s one of the trio of solid dudes that puts together Rain Fest and he’s been booking shows in the Northwest for years. Chances are, if you’ve jumped off a stage in Seattle or Tacoma in the last ten years, or were in a touring band coming through the northwest, you owe that experience in large part to this dude.
Portions of this post will appear in the next issue of his zine, Kick Start A Scene Issue: 3, as part of a much larger series about booking shows. He tells some of the early stories so you know where he came from, and he added some additional thoughts for anybody trying to book a show.
Four Walls and a PA
4 walls and a PA are all you need to book a show. Understanding that simple concept opens doorways to a million possibilities in every aspect of your life. If you are from a boring town you can create spaces for diy shows just as an artist or writer or photographer can find a coffee shop or space to show their work, start their own blog or print their own paper. Every living room, church basement, alleyway, Laundromat becomes a space in which we can exist. You can plant a seed and watch it grow. Even if you are from a big city that gets plenty of bands coming through, if there is some jerk like me, that tends to book all the hardcore shows, there is nothing that says you can’t book your own or challenge the so called order and shake things up. In the earlier days I made it a point to do that kinda shit. “What? You won’t book our bands? Fine, We are going to do a free all local show the same night as your cool kid bullshit show. Fuck you!” (Also a great way to sabotage a show when the band members playing are known rapists, racists, general turds etc.)
My peers and I stepped up and created spaces for shows to happen in Tacoma when the older scene was decaying and receding into sensible indie rock territory. We worked hard to bring hardcore bands to Tacoma. We had to. It was like our mission. We started venues here; hosted a festival here; did all kinds of amazing things here. I am coming to a place now in my life where my energy and passion need to be elsewhere. I am not moving on, just freeing myself up to do new and exciting things with my time and money and choosing to be VERY selective with the shows I choose to do. With the closing of the Morgue and the Redroom recently, it just felt like it was my time to take a big step backward. Sometimes the whole forest has to burn before its floors can see new growth. I began booking out of necessity and it took me on an interesting journey for close to thirteen years now. Learning how to organize people and promote events; learning how to manage myself and my time (still learning actually). The values I have learned here permeate through every facet of my life.
If you are reading this PLEASE! Somebody! ANYBODY?! Take over so I can fade into obscurity. I want to be a wallflower: a mere (drunk) participant. I suppose that is a pipe dream because I always get roped back into this shit, but really, I don’t really want to do this anymore. I hope this writing helps you.
The First 4 Years
As I write this, close to thirteen years have passed since the first show I ever booked, or that I remember booking. It was in May of 2001 on PLU campus in a student performance space called the Cave. Champion and Breaker Breaker needed a show. I was 17 at the time and had just joined a band called Sidetracked. We had an existing show with some random metal / punk bands and I was able to get the 2 bands added to our show as openers. I didn’t technically book the show. The singer of a band called Runt did. They were students @ PLU but I made some flyers that said “SxT Youth Crew Presents:” and had Champion and Breaker Breaker headlining while the real headliners were at the bottom. The show had about 40 or 50 people in attendance, most were hardcore folks who had driven down from Seattle. During Breaker Breaker’s set, Mark the singer leaned down and smooched this pretty girl wearing gothy go-go boots. The girl was the real promoter of the show’s girlfriend and he was furious. Immediately after this happened and totally unrelated, somebody in BB got hit in the head with a guitar and was bleeding from the forehead. Paramedics had to treat the wound. After Champion played, the whole crowd bailed and Runt was left to play to their friends. I remember the entire crowd drove from Spanaway to Renton and a sort of hardcore hangout party happened. This was the first time I met a lot of people who would end up being good friends through the years, even band mates, and all kinds of other people who booked shows, played in bands, took photos and all that kinda stuff. It was pretty overwhelming.
In 2001 I booked another show at the Cave, which had moved to a different building on campus. This time I knew a student on campus and was able to go through her to get the date reserved. This one I am both proud and embarrassed of. The show was Diehard Youth, No Return, To See You Broken, Reserve 34 (last time they ever played the states) and Blue Monday (very first show). I was pretty naïve at this point in time. I ordered “vegan” pizzas for the bands, which were just crust and sauce with no toppings. I didn’t know any better and certainly didn’t care about what vegans thought tasted good. The drummer of No Return was arrested for reckless driving on the way to the show so I had to fill in and play an impromptu cover set. I destroyed half the songs and kicked a hole through To See You Broken’s bass drum head. This show was well attended though and funny enough that I will always remember it.
In early 2002 I dropped out of Community College with a weeks notice to go on a west coast tour with No Return. A couple of months after that, my band Sidetracked went on tour. We played some of the same towns and venues, but were out for a longer time and went down to San Diego and back. Through these tours I met all kinds of people including promoters who were in bands that were planning on coming up to the NW and started exchanging contacts. This also really opened my eyes to different kinds of shows and venues. We played a church, an art gallery, a warehouse that distributed gym equipment, living rooms, garages, record stores. It seemed like all you needed was a PA and 4 walls.
There were some spots in Tacoma that did occasional shows and carried the scene but they were short lived or at various times opposed to hardcore / punk shows. I saw Against Me! Play in a Tacoma basement in 2001. There were some scattered shows at The Usual and The Kickstand Cafe but the bulk of everything was happening in Seattle: Graceland, RCKNDY, The Paradox, The Punkin House, Qyn’s Garage (editor’s note: this was actually in Lynnwood), the downtown YMCA, The Vera Project (on 4th & Virginia), Miller Community Center, 2nd Ave. Pizza… and the list goes on. In Tacoma we really just had the Lake City Community Center. The LCCC was a great spot while it lasted. I only booked a couple shows there. Most were around 2003 and 2004. Certainly got to play my fair share of shows though between 2000 and 2004. This space was a huge gymnasium in a community center and it always smelled like vinegar. You would be loading in for a show while karate lessons were going on. I have some wild flyers from here. LCCC definitely has some good Tacoma Hardcore history around the late 90’s / early 00’s but much of it was before my time. Pretty sure AFI played there! Ha! (editor’s note: Yep! It was one of Mark Manning’s “Unity Fest” shows)
Club Impact was a Christian venue on Puyallup Ave. owned by World Vision and would let secular bands play with a no swearing policy. Totally whack when I think back, but at the time it felt like it was one of the few things we had. I did a show there in December of 2001 for Figure Four, One Of These Days, Diehard Youth, Sidetracked and this Facedown Records band called Through It All. John Lockjaw from One Life Crew was in the band and the rumor was that they dropped off the show because Powerhouse was in the area and had a beef. The only other hardcore show I remember booking at Club Impact was a record release show for Sidetracked in March of 2002. The other bands were No Return, Brutal Fight and xWeapon Crewx (which you will have to ask Posi Chris about sometime).
In June of 2001 I did my first show up @ Ground Zero in Bellevue. Left With Nothing, Brutal Fight, No Return & Sidetracked played. It was great. In the beginning I used to cut out magazine clippings and my weird little doodles and do cut and paste flyers a lot. Before I explored the wonders of MS Paint.
1227: The New Era
Hell’s Kitchen was a bar on Sixth Ave. that opened around 2001 and did occasional all ages shows in Tacoma. Later on they would only do 21+ bar shows, but right off the bat they catered to punk & metal shows. I saw Mastadon and DRI play there. One of my bands played with Chiodos there to about 25 people. One of the first shows I remember booking there was in 2004 and had only 12 people paid… Annihilation Time, Knife Fight, Iron Lung, Sidetracked. I was given $18 to pay bands. When I think back about it though, I don’t think the turn out reflected my promotion as much as it reflected Tacoma in 2004. The night before, I had booked Annihilation Time, Knife Fight, Cold Sweat, Sidetracked @ The Vera Project in Seattle. There was a much better turn out. Closer to 50 attended.
I didn’t book another show @ Hell’s Kitchen until 2006. About 30-40 people were in attendance to see Lords, Ed Gein, Last Priest and Sidetracked. I wasn’t the only person booking “proper” Hardcore shows in Tacoma. Oddly enough, Staygold booked their last show with Champion, Terror, Allegiance and a band from DC whose name escapes me there in 2002 (editor’s note: This was actually Stay Gold’s second-to-last show: the one where they announced they were breaking up. I booked this one.). Around that time the established Tacoma bands like Harkonen, Divinity Of Truth and Left With Nothing were all on their way out. Things were starting to shift.
What originally inspired me and my peers to start booking shows in Tacoma, was that all the bigger hardcore tours and shows that we wanted to see skipped us and went straight to Seattle. It was always me and the same 3 or 4 people cramming into the canopy of our friends pick up truck and mobbing to shows up North.
In 2004 some things started to gel. There was a Tacoma crew that started to form around the 1227 house on N. Oakes. The basement room, which began as a jam spot for Greyskull and a bunch of joke bands, began hosting shows. The people that lived at or revolved around the house became sort of a DIY show collective that began hosting touring bands frequently. All of us were in the local bands that played these shows. We all supported each other and overnight a DIY house show community flared up. The 1227 house got listed as a venue on http://www.BYOFL.org (book your own fucking life) so we played host to many an odd duck. The Hill Street Stranglers anybody? Ripping.
That summer, Spencer who now plays in Trash Talk was a UPS college kid who came to a Hit The Deck show I booked there. By the end of the year he had moved into a house down the street called The Waffle House and began hosting hardcore shows in his living room and basement. One crazy show that happened there in 2005 was Set Your Goals, Animosity, Set It Straight & Stop At Nothing. All of us who booked at the 1227 house continued to book at a series of subsequent houses that kept springing up. The 1227 house moved to an aptly named spot called the 4511 house. We hosted Tacoma Fest there, which featured one of only 2 known performances by the band Universal Annihilation. Everybody from Seven Generations, Fucked Up, Daggermouth, Set It Straight, Iron Lung and so many more played at that house. We just kept booking shows. Things were set in motion that we couldn’t shut off. Too many connections and currents. People heard we did shows in Tacoma and the bands kept coming.
In the summer of 2005 several of us moved into a house called the Bunny Ranch on N. 8th & Stevens. We booked everyone from Lords, Daggermouth, Guns Up, Dangers, At Risk, Jealous Again, Set It Straight, Requiem and a ton of others. All the other roommates booked shows there too… and we pretty much spent the whole summer entertaining bands from all over the world. Taking them dumpster diving and getting into general mischief. At one show a firework fight erupted and the fire department came with lights flashing and threatened a $5000 fine. That ended that real quick. There was an infamous show I did that Dangers, Final Fight, Guns Up, and others were supposed to play. A crew/gang called FSU had a beef with Dangers that had followed them up and down the West Coast. They were forbidden to play the show in my basement backed up with threats of violence. Dangers and Final Fight opted to leave the show. It was a really weird and lame situation. Lords, The Helm & The Assailant would be the last show we ever did there. The landlord came during the show because of noise complaints and said he wanted us to move out in front of 20 people sitting on our front lawn.
On a positive note, these house show years… the way we treated bands, did payouts, gave people floors to crash and food to eat shaped the way I view touring and booking shows still. What my peers and I created in Tacoma from scratch, in my opinion directly led to almost ten more years now of All Ages DIY Tacoma shows. A few people filled a void and picked up where previous generations had left off. We set out to rob Seattle of their touring bands and overnight a little scene formed.
Starting A Venue
In October of 2005, myself, and two idealistic friends got a little in over our head. We signed a lease on a small building that had previously hosted open mic nights. It was a tiny hole in the wall in Midland in a completely blank boring space that had originally been a picture framing business. Midland is over 100 blocks from downtown Tacoma. We were literally going to park an all ages venue in an old timey farming community with zero history of punk / hardcore / DIY culture. I remember my band Barricade played a show the day before the Trial reunion in 2005 to raise money for Blake from Parallax and a group of his friends who had passed away in a terrible accident. We got invited to play this huge packed show and I remember announcing that we had just signed the lease and were opening an all ages venue in Tacoma and people erupted into applause. It was as if all the combined energy we had set into motion in Tacoma was finally focused and heading in the same direction.
The Frame Shop lasted for less than 6 months… (haha.) We hosted so many shows in that tiny room though. I booked Go It Alone, The Geeks, Champion, Health, Circle Takes The Square, Tera Melos, Set Your Goals, Alcatraz, The First Step, Bloodhag, Sinking Ships and so many more. We hosted every possible kind of music. I recall some particularly punishing harsh noise artists. Even an Italian pop band played! The venue staff was comprised of me, I mainly did booking and occasionally showed up to volunteer for shows that weren’t my own. Randy, our Sound Engineer just stopped showing up all together after the first month and Rachelle, who had been an accountant in a past life and booked a lot of shows. She also practically lived at the venue and volunteered at every show. What finally sealed the venue’s fate were direct complaints from the landlord saying we had violated our lease based on parking issues, graffiti and loud screaming in the bathroom on one particular occasion, which allegedly terrified a sleeping baby late at night. Rather than fight this, we pulled out of the lease due to the lack of overall participation and interest from the three of us and avoided any legal repercussions. It was fun while it lasted. A learning experience for the days to come.
Later that year a short-lived venture sprang up in South Tacoma called the Junkyard. They only did 3 or 4 shows in that big empty warehouse but were eventually shut down for having no toilets, fire exits or running water. I only went to one show there on my dinner break to pass out flyers. Even though the Junkyard was shutdown by the fire department a new group of young kids were beginning to organize shows. A VFW hall in University place called The Hall opened up and started booking regular shows. I did a few shows there including a cool Fourth of July show with Set It Straight and Shook Ones. I ended up doing a festival called Summer Hippie Fest because 5 separate tours needed the same date. Every promoter has probably dealt with a summer show like that and I haven’t agreed to book something like it since. It was a mess. The Hall brought a lot of new kids into the fold. People from University Place and beyond that I wasn’t aware of. There was a whole new generation of crazy punk youth organizing shows and starting bands. All this energy set the stage for the Viaduct and the Redroom in turn. I am glad to say I had a small hand in building that progression of events.
Booking A Show
Lets break down some very simple ideas here. For the most part, most DIY / hardcore / punk / indie shows have an identical format. You need:
-A simple PA set up
So you want to book a show? Start small and local. Don’t take on some big show with touring bands and guarantees. Book your own band or your friends bands first. Maybe bring a bigger band from next town over to play your show.
I like to keep my hardcore shows to 4 bands, pending it’s not already some dreadful 5 band, touring package as is the custom these days with no room for local openers. Lets say there are touring bands? My rule of thumb is if they haven’t been here before, they don’t get a guarantee. Often when dealing with bands or their booking agents someone is inevitably saying something like “well these 2 bands need to get $200.”
I know as a promoter that 50 people paying $5 accomplishes this. So I would be comfortable agreeing to that because I know I can get that with the right local bands. On the flipside, if they have never been here I would also feel fine saying, “hey this is a small town, we don’t get many shows, I will book a good show and the bands can take the door”, which is usually just called a door deal, and give them your honest opinion of how many people you think will come. In the end, the bands need the show more then you do. So fuck anybody that gives you attitude. Be assertive and honest and don’t roll over for anyone.
I like to book a clear and obvious headliner. This should be an established band. Just because a band is on tour does not mean they should headline. I like to sandwich out of town bands between a strong local headliner and solid opening band.
The band with the significant draw headlines. Don’t let the bands push you around and change the order the day of the show. What you print out on the flyer and advertise is the order of the show and the headliner plays last. The opening band in the case of an all local show, should be a young or newer band that hasn’t played much. This gives them a chance to strut their stuff, build a following and show you they are capable of getting people out early.
In the case of a big touring package, the opening bands should have a significant local draw and in my opinion deserve to play with sick touring bands. Local bands should be passing out flyers or telling people about their shows. Promoters will remember which bands work for it or not.
Just as a matter of preference If 3 bands are all slow heavy music, put a fast band on the bill, or something that brings a totally different vibe. Not like a fucking ska band, but mix it up once in awhile. I try and be aware of bands politics, whether they bring a straight edge or drinking crowd, whether the show is 100% dominated by male band members or not. You get a feel for how crowds and bands mix the longer you’ve been booking shows. I like to push for some element of diversity on all of my bills. As a younger kid I was always going to shows and often the band I thought I wanted to see was the worst part of the whole gig.
Physical paper flyers are still relevant. So are social media events. Anything and everything you can do to get people out to the show is valid and worthwhile. Actual tangible flyers are an integral part of our culture. Even if you think nobody is going to be persuaded to attend your show by handing them a piece of paper, there are still going to be those kids that take it home and pin it to their wall. The punk flyer is as iconic as punk itself. It tells our story, our art, our history. So make some damn flyers once in awhile will yah? Drop them off at local record stores. Find out when Hatebreed or some big band is playing a club in your town and go pass them out in the line before or after the show. I spent so many years passing out show flyers, that when I stand on picket lines or pass out leaflets it is second nature. You already know people are into punk or hardcore if they are at a show… it is not scary or intimidating to hand them a flyer and say “hey you punk, come to this show next week.”
2. A ROOM
As a promoter, you have to first know your audience. Know the type of people showing up to your event because you are the one the responsibility falls on. Know your room. Can I book the Champion reunion show in this storage room? No. Should I book Blood For Blood in the choir room at a church? Probably not. You have to be very aware of the room itself and the surrounding area. What goes on outside of the show can still come back on the venue and get it shut down and that ultimately falls on you the promoter. We lost a long running venue, The West Seattle Legion Hall a couple years back because band members and show goers threw up graffiti tags and pieces all over the neighboring businesses and work trucks. The same night holes were put in walls from people dancing too hard. There was no way to foresee this but ultimately it came back on me the promoter. I had to spend the money from a fund I had been putting together to purchase a PA for the venue in addition to taking a collection to pay a drywaller and buy painting supplies. Matt Weltner and I had to spend our time buffing walls to try and keep the space open to hardcore shows but it was of no use. The Veterans that ran the Legion Hall felt completely disrespected by our community.
How do you find spaces? Try a house with a basement. Start out by having a band practice there and seeing what it sounds like outside during the day. Try your first show on a weekend. Tell your neighbors about it before hand and make sure they contact you and not the cops when idiots inevitably piss or park in their driveways, light off fireworks, graffiti their fence and every other stupid thing that happens when booking events for renegade youth.
Our community is always looking for spaces to be developed into potential venues that will house our angry, rambunctious music and audience. It is important to maintain good working relationships with neighboring businesses and communities. Since we don’t want police around, we have to police ourselves. We need to monitor where people are parking. We have to agree to clean up after our shows and repair any damage or vandalism; things that cast our community in a responsible light, because the sound of our music isn’t going to win many folks over. Another measure of responsibility is limiting the amount of strain any one venue has to carry. Move shows around between houses and DIY spots. Otherwise you will be lucky to get one good summer out of a space and it’s gone like that. We need to be thinking long term and developing open, safe, responsible spaces for our community.
What we are doing is truly revolutionary from a societal standpoint. Think about your co-workers or parents telling you about how they went and saw Macklemore or some dumbshit last weekend. How could you possibly convey the notion of a punk show with no rules, no bosses, no middle people, no barriers, no stage and you and your friends dancing and swinging from the rafters to your favorite bands?
A show where if you don’t have $10 but have $7 you are good to go, or better yet, you can help clean up after the show or help stamp hands at the door in return for entry to the show. I get that there may be an unspoken set of rules that tend to be the mantra of our scene… we are often reminded not to be sexist, racist, homophobic, violent, on drugs yada yada. Those I suppose are provisional rules but they are all laid out to make the most people feel comfortable attending a show and truly have the best interest and the long term in mind. Without a doubt, the majority of show spaces I have seen shut down over the years have all been due to violence, underage drinking or graffiti.
3. A SIMPLE PA SET UP
Find a local band with a PA and agree to book them on the show if you can use the PA. Borrow one from a buddy, or if you think you got this booking thing figured out, buy one. A PA is the Holy Grail of our community. If you are going to be borrowing one, treat it with respect and return it in the condition you got it in. Microphones and mic stands get broken, but more often than not this is because of drunk assholes or weird accidents. Make assholes cough up the dough or take a collection at the show. Also, if you own the PA and you book a huge show? Take $25-$50 every once in awhile for a fund to buy new mics or cables. We all collectively use the PA for our shows so why shouldn’t we all collectively maintain this necessary tool?
How about shows at “proper” venues you ask? Clubs with nice sound systems and security guards and all that jazz? Hardcore does fit in these spaces, and some of the more violent, thuggy kinds of shows I have booked I wish I had just dealt with the extra overhead cost for a club show for peace of mind to have paid security. These venues aren’t as common for hardcore simply because they cost so much more to operate. You are paying for sound techs, security, venue rental and there is a whole additional bureaucratic side that makes booking DIY shows rather joyless. I have to reiterate here that we all need to police ourselves and keep violence out of our spaces and community.
Some thoughts on Promoter Profit and transparency.
I believe in creating trust and transparency between promoters and bands. The moment a band is represented by a booking agent the dialogue between promoter and band has been severed. I am now having a dialogue with an agent that could really give two shits about me so long as I come correct for their bands. When this happens I have ZERO problem taking promoter profit from a show. If I have to sign my name and put the terms of a DIY HC show into a legal contract that spells out what a band is going to make, and what their agent is going to make it is like a slap in my face. So you better believe that the contract is going to spell out that I am taking 15% of any overages from the show. What a stupid waste of community and networking to have a middle person represent your band. This is the trend. It is what’s happening. Agents love hardcore bands because they know there is a MARKET here. I would suggest building a solid local reputation before willingly getting pushed around by these hacks. The irony is if bands were dealing direct with promoters and their agents weren’t pulling 10% and negotiating back end overages, the band would have walked away with more money. Suit yourself.
I am from Tacoma, so if I book a Seattle or Olympia show that has a huge attendance with more than enough money to go around, I will reimburse myself $10-$20 for gas and any posters, flyers I made. If a show is in my own town, or didn’t do so hot, I would never consider taking a single dollar. When I do payouts with bands, I always try and get a member of every band in the same room so I can explain the entire financial breakdown of the show. This is a great way to do this because if there are any issues, there are witnesses and open communication taking place. Also if there is extra money to pay local bands it gives them an opportunity to donate their money to the touring bands, which is one of the great parts of this community we are in. Many of us go on DIY tours and understand how it goes. Meeting bands in these spaces isn’t just about a show, it’s about making a connection and creating a bridge to a different city and scene; one that we very well might traverse down the road.
The older I get the more I understand the influence that I have established for myself as somebody that is responsible, trustworthy and occasionally books good shows. When I see things that I don’t agree with like pay to play promoters, or things that don’t belong in our community, I have a more direct platform to leverage my opinions than most people in our community. The more fed up I get with the schisms, middle people and drama inherent in our little community the more I see the importance in keeping my foot in the door to weigh in from time to time. I am more than open to talking to anybody about this kind of stuff, especially if you need advice about booking shows. You better believe I will raise a stink if you or your band are taking advantage of kids or pulling some weird shit. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, just what I have learned from my experiences. These days most of my energy goes into booking Rain Fest and occasionally a bigger hardcore tour or when any of my friend’s new bands roll through town. I get excited when kids pass me flyers at shows. Feels like it has all come full circle.
Best of luck!
Thanks Skiff! If anyone else has any tips to add for booking shows, please feel free to add to the comments section.
Munich: A Place For Covers
One of the funnest shows I’ve ever played had the potential to be a huge bust.
Champion toured Europe with Comeback Kid in summer 2004. Promises Kept was fresh off the presses and Wake the Dead would be released shortly. Munich had a pretty small scene at the time and the show was in a tiny venue, which is usually fun, but the stage had a really weird setup. It was basically just a series of platforms of varying height set up awkwardly enough so that you couldn’t really move at all. The room was too small to play on the floor, so you had to play on these artsy platforms.
The show was supposed to be a three-band bill, but the opening band canceled. So it was just Champion and CBK. We were all a bit apprehensive about the coming show, expecting a really awkward vibe. As various members of both bands recognized the potential for a less than stellar evening, we started to discuss what we could do to make the night memorable.
We threw out the idea of doing some band-member swapping and maybe some punk rock karaoke, drawing out a list of potential covers that individuals knew. Here’s how the plan played out:
Champion took the stage and played two songs. Following which, Jim said into the mic, “We’ll be right back, CBK is going to play a few songs.” We all handed our guitars/drums/mic to CBK who played two songs. Then they handed our gear back to us and we played two more… then they played two more… We each played four of our own songs (two at a time), then the real fun began.
I don’t remember all of the covers we played, but various members of Champion and CBK morphed a number of makeshift lineups and tons of different people got to sing different covers. Marco from Avocado Booking/Paint the Town Red sang Chain of Strength, Peter from Team Killer sang Pride, by Madball. Our roadie sang Minor Threat… we also did Glue, by SSD; Alone in a Crowd; Gorilla Biscuits; Young Til I Die; another Chain of Strength song; Ready to Fight, by Negative Approach… I believe we were one person short of even doing Damnit by Blink 182!
It was such a memorable night. There weren’t a lot of kids there and the stage was a mess. But that didn’t matter. Every kid in that room had a smile from ear to ear as they piled on and sung along.
I’ve never been one to tout my own bands for greatness or anything, but one thing that I’m really proud of, when looking back at Champion’s legacy, is that we had a knack for turning potential bust situations into incredible memories. It was all about the attitude of; we’re going to put everything we have into this show no matter what the circumstance is and we’re going to make this night memorable.
I see so many bands that blow off smaller shows, or let their disappointment show from the stage and that bums me out. If there’s one kid that paid to see your band, or even made the effort to leave their apartment to come watch you play, you need to check yourself and check your ego at the door and play your heart out. If you want to be a rock star, learn a few more chords and play another style of music.
I can say with complete sincerity that Champion never mailed in one single show, out of the hundreds we played. In fact, some of the smallest shows we played, or in the weirdest venues, were some of the most memorable, Here are a few snapshots:
- At a show in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada we played in front of three kids. The opening band was a stand-up comedian…. who wasn’t funny. We were going off so hard at that show that I broke two tuning pegs off of my guitar, after the headstock ricocheted off of Aram’s forehead. When he regained consciousness, we picked up the song right where he left off (though concussed Aram definitely wasn’t playing the right song…).
- After missing a Ferry to Gothenburg, Sweden and arriving at the venue (a boat) hours after the show ended, Champion and The Promise played to each other and five kids who stuck around after hours, in case we showed up. I remember Aram (who had a wireless) running to the back of the long boat, mid-song, then running back and sliding in on his knees, Marty McFly style. Pretty awesome.
- We played a weird venue in Melbourne, Australia that was the upstairs of a dance club. There were tons of kids there, but the venue was set up so the band was playing behind a railing and down below the crowd. It was a very awkward scene and would be easy for any hardcore band to be discouraged by this set up, but I remember climbing the rail mid-song and stagediving UP to the crowd which stood three feet above us. Jim ran all over that club, popping up in front of random people and screaming in their faces. He even went out onto the catwalk on the other side of the glass wall behind us and above the massive thriving dance club. I almost expected him to pull an Eddie Vedder and swing from the rafters above the clubbers.
These are just a few off the top of my head, but putting 110% into tiny shows in tough situations was definitely not exclusive to us. If you have any fun memories of your band playing wild weird shows, please share them in the comments section. Or if you have good memories of seeing great HC bands kill it in less than ideal situations, please share. Would love to read em!
Thanks to Scott Wade for the photos!
UPDATE: Andy found this picture of our covers set list from that night.. We added a few more songs, as noted above, but here it is:
The Ojai Women’s Center
Ojai, California; population: 7,000. Not exactly a thriving metropolis, but in the early 2000s, this little one-horse town was the hotbed for west coast hardcore. The town was synonymous with Carry On, and the southern California hardcore scene’s rise to awesomeness paralleled and symbiotically elevated that band, as the band elevated that scene. And the Ojai Women’s Center was thee venue for that exciting time.
There were other venues; The Chain Reaction in Anaheim, the Living Room in Goleta, Headline Records in Hollywood… but none of those venues quite rivaled what was happening in Ojai.
The Women’s Center was in the middle of nowhere; Ojai was probably a 30 minute drive from the 101, between Santa Barbara and Oxnard. No one was from the town, aside from Graham from Annihilation Time and the young skater kids that were pulled into the HC scene as a direct result of that venue; bands like Beartrap and Built to Break consisted of 13-16 year old kids from the town. But the location was somewhat centralized, as kids from Thousand Oaks to Anaheim called it home.
The first time Champion played there, we played with Whatever it Takes and there were maybe 30 kids there. But, every one of those 30 kids were moving the whole show. Fast parts; 30-man circle pit. Breakdowns; everyone scattered and 30 kids stomped the floor in unison; the Ojai Earthquake. The whole room shook.
Carry On’s “A Life Less Plagued” record release was held at that venue. American Nightmare’s first shows on the West coast were there. Some of Terror’s earliest shows were there. And Champion had a ton of memorable shows there.
The last time we played there was with Bane, 25 Ta Life, Over My Dead Body and more (can’t remember if Terror played that one…). There were easily 500+ kids in this venue that held 300 max. When Bane played, you couldn’t even walk into the room. It was so packed, you had to be floated in.
My favorite Champion set there was maybe our third time. Our van had broken down that morning; we were in Thousand Oaks jumping off cliffs and our transmission blew. It was our first transmission failure (of three!) and we found out before the show that the repairs would cost $2,400. I don’t want to get into exact numbers, but we didn’t have anywhere close to that kind of money.
We called Chris from B9 and he agreed that after the show, we’d figure out how much money we were short and he would float us the money we needed to repair the van. But it was still a depressing situation. We didn’t want to go into more debt beyond the money we owed for merch, not to mention, having to worry about figuring out how to get money wired to us (this was pre-PayPal).
We piled all our gear into the back of Corey Williams’ truck and headed to Ojai. That cloud over our heads was something you can only understand if you you’ve been in a touring band that experienced a breakdown, wreck or van break-in. And it’s not something you want hanging over you as you head to the show that you’ve been looking forward to the most for that tour.
It was definitely a dark feeling. As we watched and pitted for the opening bands we tried to put on a good face and leave the van problems at the door. But that’s a hard thing to do when you’re 1,000 miles from home and don’t know how you’re going to be able to afford gas to get to the next town. We set up our gear that night, still in the worst of moods.
From our opening note that night, the climate change was immediate. 150 kids simultaneously rushed to the front of the stage piling over eachother to get to the mic and to jump off the stage. To that point, it was the craziest reaction we had ever received… by a mile… For 30 minutes, the van and money problems were gone. It was an amazing feeling. While we’ve played many bigger shows since, to this day, that show is in my top favorite sets ever.
After our set, the money problems returned to mind, but the cloud was much might lighter. We were all so stoked on the insanity that had just transpired. Again, I don’t want to get into money numbers, but that night we sold probably 8 times as much merch as we’ve ever sold at another show. We actually made enough to pay for the van repairs and for gas to the next town. What an incredible feeling.
Looking back through my tour photos, I don’t have ANY pictures from this amazing venue… maybe because I was always having so much fun at those shows, I couldn’t be bothered to snap a single picture.. Most of the pictures and flyers from this post are courtesy of the homie, Marlon Moreno. I was also able to dig up some old YouTubes of some memorable sets there. Check them out below.
A few micro stories:
- One time, our roadie Mark Kelly was MIA. No one knew where he was. He wandered into the club at the end of the show. He had broken his finger moshing. I guess he didn’t want to be an inconvenience, so he walked a mile to the hospital to get his finger X-rayed and splinted, then walked back.
- Our drummer Todd once walked straight into the end of an open door, knocking himself unconscious. It was so abrupt and violent that I thought he was faking. Nope, he was out cold.
- When we played with 25 Ta Life, Rick took a Champion hoodie that a girl had bought and returned it, saying it was his girlfriend’s and she couldn’t afford to eat if we didn’t refund her. He then gave the girl a Comin’ Correct tape and her change from the refunded money. Haha Classic.
- Once a girl baked Jim a pie with X’s and hearts. Aram called it “The Straightedge Love Pie.” Jim had it sitting in the front seat and someone, not seeing the pie, flung a water jug into the front seat, smashing the pie. Jim lost it, to a hilarious level. He was so mad that it was impossible not to laugh… which made him even more furious.
- A million Graham stories… the time he realized his parents were wife-swapping (not really..); the time he told us about how he beat up a 13-year old at his work (the skate park); the time he chased some teenage kids who had allegedly squirted him with piss-filled squirt guns; the time he realized (audibly) “Double the tax, that’s the tip!!!” The time Aram convinced him that some indigenous cultures kill people and skin them, filling their carcass with feces, and using it as a poo-filled piñata. To which Graham responded, “That’s barbaric!”
I have way too many good memories of this place to include them all, but feel free to chime in on the comments section if you have any favorite memories or shows from this venue!
Van Wars Down Under
General Douglas MacArthur (and Vizzini, in The Princess Bride) once famously said, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” I, not so famously, learned in Australia a few years ago, to never get involved in a van war with descendants from a prison colony…
In December 2004, Champion toured Australia for the first time. I can’t begin to emphasize how amazing this experience was. We toured with Miles Away from Perth, and Against from Brisbane. All three bands had a van each and a fourth van hauled around all the gear and merch. Greg, the singer of Against, drove the gear van.
This story begins at an undisclosed gas station off the freeway in the middle of a long drive. Someone—I honestly don’t remember who, or from what band—bought some spoiled yogurt and after one bite, realized that this bad yogurt needed to get launched out the window… at one of the other three vans in the caravan. The yogurt was hurled and a four-van all-out war had begun. Any and every food within reach was a potential weapon.
Thus began an epic van battle that lasted beyond the end of this two-week tour and spanning two continents.
Enter the city of Canberra. Jim and I wandered out of the club and down the street. We found a huge plastic bag filled with bread and roles. So naturally, we covered Miles Away’s van in bread. It was a stupid prank, but stupid pranks are sometimes the best form of tour entertainment.
After the show, a giant bread fight broke out. Every kid at that venue was running around trying to pelt each other with bread wads; everyone but Greg, who was dutifully loading our gear into the van. I felt bad that he was loading our gear, so I called a timeout in the bread war and went to help him load. Greg turned to me with a sinister grin and said, “Ay mate… throw this one…” handing me a wad of bread that was too heavy to be just bread. “Nah, I better not,” I replied, weighing this bread-covered rock in my hand, “I just called this truce to come help you load up!”
At that point, I was beaned in the back of the head with a bread-projectile… all bets were off. I turned and asked evenly, “Who threw that?” A somewhat intoxicated show-goer raised his hand slowly, with a sheepish smile on his face. The truce was broken; it was not only my right, but my responsibility to lob this bread-padded stone, right into his jaw. He frowned, hilariously, and raised his hand to massage his sore jaw.
A few days later, someone in Champion found a dead bird and put it in the glove box of the Miles Away van. They found it the next day and gave it back to us at a stop light. The windows were down and one of the MA dudes ran up and tossed it into my lap.
There were other things that happened in that van war, including a roll of toilet paper tied to Miles Away’s van, which made for a pretty amusing few minutes as the roll unraveled to form a good 50 foot tail that survived a few good miles… But the culmination was Melbourne. We played an awesome day-fest with the legendary Mindsnare and a bunch of other bands; maybe 10 in total. It was a warm one; 100+ degrees F.
We arrived at the venue early and Jim was bored, so he dropped a deuce into a glove he found, then smeared it all over the windshield of Greg’s van. The smell was something out of a horror film. The van was parked half a block from the venue, but on this hot mid-summer day, you could smell it from the front of the club. And the flies… apparently, every fly in the city of Melbourne had heard about this windshield turd and they all showed up to party.
Brandon and Jim followed Greg around for a while, waiting for him to head to the van. When he did, he discovered Jim’s present on the windshield. Greg looked at the windshield, looked back at Jim—who was grinning from ear to ear—looked back to the windshield and scooped up a handful of Jim’s feces with his bare hands, then walked over to our van and crammed the handful under our door handle. Jim’s smile faded quickly.
That wasn’t the end of the story though. The score was not settled in Greg’s mind. He bought a raw fish from the street market around the corner and put the cellophane wrapped dead animal in the pocket of his cargo shorts, waiting for the appropriate moment of revenge. We were all terrified by the possibilities.
The fish, which was not well-wrapped, sat in Greg’s pocket all day… On a 100-plus degree day… in a venue that was hotter inside than it was outside… as Greg moshed for nearly every band on that 10-or-so band bill… and played a set with his own band… through all that, the fish sat in that pocket, it’s rancid-smelling oils seeping through the cellophane and permeating into the fabrics of those cargo short pockets.
Back to the fish in a minute. At some point during the show, Greg decided that it would be a fun idea to draw a curly mustache on his own face with a Marks-a-lot pen (you can make out this mustache in the picture below – white “Drug Free” shirt). He later told me that his tour stubble made it impossible to fully clean the drawn-on mustache from his face… so apparently this grown human man had a Marks-a-Lot mustache on his face for a week or so after the tour…
The Melbourne day-fest was the last show of the tour and that night, we all went out for a celebratory Italian dinner. Greg apparently wasn’t within reach of a napkin, so he used his white t-shirt to clean the red tomato sauce from his filthy face… So, this dirty animal had a drawn-on mustache, tomato stains all over his white shirt, human feces remnants behind his fingernails… all the while, smelling like he spent the night in a fish hatchery.
We took pictures after dinner—as all bands do at the end of a tour—and returned to our hostel. Greg was staying with a friend that night, instead of joining us in the hostel. But because we didn’t want to leave our gear in the unsecure vans in downtown Melbourne, we had to load all our possessions into our hostel for the night.
Before bouncing to his friend’s house Greg helped us load the gear up the elevator into the room. He still had the fish in his pocket some 12 hours after buying it. While loading gear, I jumped on an elevator going up, right after he came down. The elevator smelled so much like rotten tuna, that I was certain he had hidden the fish in that elevator. Nope, that was just the leftovers of his essence from spending 20 seconds on the elevator previously…. And it was unbearable.
We thought for sure, that he was going to stash the fish in our room. But after he left, there were no traces of a smell. We were safe for now… A few minutes later someone opened the front door to our room and before taking a step into the hostel hallway, noticed that Greg left a surprise on the floor in front of the door. Nope, not the fish. This Brisbanian monster apparently squatted and dropped a turd right in the hallway… no glove needed. Classy!
The next day, Greg took us to the airport and we left that beautiful country behind. Thankfully, nothing came of the fish in Greg’s pocket… or so we thought…. But remember, I said this war lasted beyond the tour and across two continents.
We were flying home for a few weeks before starting a tour in Boston and had extra merch that was printed in Australia and needed to redistribute some luggage to get under the two-bag-per-person requirements. Chris Wrenn, from Bridge 9, lived in Boston and was kind enough to take Brandon’s cymbals, which we would pick up at the start of the next tour.
Chris was on a different flight than the rest of us and when he transferred at LAX, he had to pick up his bags and take them through customs before setting them to be put on the connecting flight. He later told us that when he set the bags down he smelled something a bit… fishy…. “No… he didn’t…” thought Chris. He unsnapped the cymbal case and popped it open. Out flopped Greg’s fish onto the floor. The putrid smelling carcass instantly stank up the entire airport. As Chris told, instantly, hundreds of airport travelers started to gasp and cough and curse, “What the $#&@ is that smell?!”
Chris kicked the fish behind some other bags and scooted off to his connecting flight, leaving the LAX janitorial staff to deal with the hazmat situation.
Well played Australia…
12.10.13 edit – Against has a new record! Stream it free here: http://againsthc.bandcamp.com/
7.13.15 edit – Bread fight story updated to remove the names of the innocent.