Just in time for recovery from SXSW, ETB had a 5-date string of regional dates starting:
Thursday March 21
Headhunters, Austin TX
Rob was questionable for this string of dates but by Thursday he was feeling up to playing, more or less. ETB played Headhunters inside with Tiebreaker from Norway, a very good young band. Damn they kicked ass. 5-piece rock/blues, drums/guitar/bass/organ with a singer reminiscent of Joe Cocker. All of them 19-20 and excellent musicians. Wow.
They asked ahead of time to borrow our amps and drums, which we were totally fine with as they were a great band, a long way from home, and it'll make set change that much easier. Judging by their smiles, they were pleased.
Our set was short (for us). Didn't feel like we were firing on all cylinders, it happens. But not a terrible set. I could tell Rob was taking it easy on his back, and having him behind me on that corner stage made it harder to be in the pocket since I couldn't easily see him without doing an impersonation of Linda Blair in 'The Exorcist'. That and now I'm trying to get used to Eric without the beard he'd been growing for 6 weeks or so, which suited him. Not that it was affecting my/our playing, but I didn't really get the chance to call him 'Weirdbeard', heh.
Still a decent night, but on to Dallas in mid-afternoon for the next show.
Friday March 22,
Sundown at the Granada, Dallas TX
A trip anywhere on I-35 north of Waco means one thing: Czech Stop!
Boss Hoss was being problematic on the way up. Engine jerking and misfiring, the occasional backfire with a report like a 12-guage shotgun blast. After gorging ourselves on kolaches, Eric popped the hood in the Czech Stop parking lot to czech a few things. Everything czeched out.
Back on the road. By the time we got to Dallas the engine belt had frayed and made a God-awful sound. Eric detoured to a gas station. We had a spare belt in tow, but Eric was able to make-do by cutting the frayed part with a razor blade. Eric Tessmer can fix anything from a tractor to a tank, so van problems are rarely a problem.
Rolled into the venue on time for load in, tho the Hoss had now also began stalling. Guess the new computer replaced after SXSW did not fix that. Fuck it. We were playing the after party to Jimmie Vaughan on the Granada main stage, time to go to work. Sundown is a great venue run by great people. This was our 3rd visit there.
Show went very well, good crowd and we felt back on track vibe-wise, if that makes sense. Rob's back improving, Eric on fire. Great show. Some of our Dallas friends help us load out end of the night. Which was awesome because Boss Hoss refused to start after loading everything in. So we loaded what we could into our friends' SUV and pickup, and pushed the Hoss backwards into the Sundown parking lot.
Sundown at the Granada:
Well shit. A there-and-back-that-morning trip became overnight stay, with an uncertain ETA for our very important Saxon Pub gig back in Austin next night. So our friends put us up, bought some beer, and Eric got on the horn with the mechanic who replaced the computer. He drove up that night and by late morning he and Eric had the van back up and running. An early morning reload and back on the road.
Everything was fine until we got to Round Rock (just north of Austin). Stalling again. Eric pulled the dog house and from the driver's seat messed with something. That got it working. He handed me a power strip: "When I give you the signal, hit the coil with this. GO!"
And it fucking worked! We made it back to Austin laughing our asses off, me hitting part of motor with a power strip, windows rolled down to air out the engine fumes, the bare engine keeping us warm despite the very unseasonable chill. You can't make this shit up. I would have taken some video with my iPhone but if I dropped it, it would have clanked thru the engine and onto the middle lane of I-35. Awesome.
Snow in March. Welcome to Texas.
Saturday March 23
Saxon Pub, Austin TX
We were a little delirious but in good spirits when we convened at the Saxon Pub to load in. Eric showed up in Boss Hoss. He had replaced the engine belt, coil (what I was banging on with a power strip) and the helix (whatever that it is, hell I don't know what either of them are). Not only has the main problems been finally solved, but Boss Hoss was running better than it had in years. Wow.
And our Saxon show was awesome! Played after bluesman WC Clark. Had the biggest crowd I think we've had to date. It was amazing. We were on fire. Rob's back feeling better and he absolutely slayed. Eric was amazing. I had a blast just trying to keep up! Great crowd and we knocked em dead. Fans passed the tip bucket for us, much appreciated, Eric had them laughing with tales of our crazy Dallas trip the night before. Wow. Amazing show.
Sunday March 24,
Scout Bar, Houston TX
And holy shit, Eric was right. Boss Hoss was running better than it had in years. The trip to Houston I am pleased to say was without incident. We were still laughing about the Dallas trip, and all very grateful that when trouble arises we all take it in stride rather than freaking out, panicking or getting angry. Rob: "Screenwriters in Hollywood could not make that shit up." Me: "Yeah. Or as we like to call it, 'Friday.'"
It is definitely a trip driving through Bastrop County and the burned out sections from the huge wildfire in 2011, which burned out of control for a week. Driving east on Highway 71 there is on the crest of a hill this big smiley face water tower, grinning apocalyptically amid the blackened skeletons of the Lost Pines. Crazy. That and getting passed by a convoy of at least 7 Lamborghinis was noteworthy as well.
Stopped for burritos before arriving at the Scout Bar without incident. Van still running great. Loaded in and got to work killing time, as procedure was to load in and get some amps onstage before the first band started. We left Austin early to allow time for van problems, now it's 9pm, first band starts at 10pm, we're on at 11pm. Lotta "hurry up and wait" in the industry, we're used to it.
Sunday nights at Scout Bar are sponsored by The Buzz 94.5. So they are heavily promoted and draw good crowds. This night was no different. First band sort of modern scream-metal. Young and pretty good at what they did. Crowd really digging them, so wonder what they'd think of us...
Watching them, I leaned over to Eric: "Start with 3/4?" "Yeah." A high-octane instrumental to come out swinging. Discussed a tentative extra-face-melting set, and we usually don't write setlists. This was also a very short set for us (45 mins) so yeah we had to plan it out, heh.
ETB came out with all guns blazing and did great. Crowd really dug us, or as far as I could tell with my hair in my face, heh. We were on fire and squeezed as much ass-kicking and face-melting as we could into the short set. And I will say this, if I haven't said it already: 45 minute sets are more tiring than 4 hour sets. Seems counter-intuitive but that's the troof.
Band after us were locals Downfall Rising, and this was their EP release show. They were really good and had a strong female vocalist. By this time I was almost too tired to enjoy their set. Drive home to Austin was uneventful, or was for me since I was asleep on the back bench.
Monday March 25
Friends Monday residency, Austin TX
By Monday morning the ache that had been running along my right humerus/shoulder/elbow for the first part of the weekend had eased up and settled into my elbow, and that was greatly diminished as well. Same tendonitis I had back in December, but not as bad. Advil and Zyflamend didn't work but Tiger Balm took care of that shit real quick. Writing that down so I remember next time. Arm/elbow feel great currently as I write.
Rode down to Friends with Eric in Boss Hoss. Our friend JT Coldfire doing a stripped-down set instead of the usual happy hour act Dave Scher Trio. As Rob was setting up his drums over by the soundbooth, JT had him join them onstage. So he threw his kick and snare up behind the amps and jumped right in with a trainbeat. During the song he got my attention to set up his hi hat and bring it onstage, and Eric added a floor tom. Awesome!
Not the usual weekend crowd we often draw on those Mondays, but a great crowd nonetheless. We were on fire from 4 gigs in a row, and everyone stayed during our set break. Dug out "Voodoo Child" for the first time in months and knocked it out of the park. Fun set. And by the end we were dead.
A very good run of shows, and now Tues-Fri off until our gig at Poodie's Hilltop this Saturday. Much needed rest.