Zombie USA Tour Blog #1 -#Throwbackthursday: Tour Memories

Hi all

We’ve been so busy in the first two months of our tour I haven’t even had time to sit down and write this blog. Since the beginning of September we’ve been as far south as South Carolina, as far west as Tennessee, and all the way back up to New York State again. From there we went south to Philadelphia, and west through Cleveland, Louisville and Indianapolis. We’ve put about 8,000 miles on the van and played more than 80 shows this whole year across Canada, and on this tour, New York, Virginia, Baltimore, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The van is holding up well though we’ve had a few fuel filter/fuel pump issues and a few leaky windows (which we fixed with caulking).

I remember our very first tour to Winnipeg and back in 2009. Dave Roberts, who later became our lead guitarist, came along as our opening act. Marlene Lau was our lead guitarist and Marcus had just joined the band on drums. Our first tour van was a super leaky, very uncomfortable white Econoline van. It had leaks all over the place and no interior lining or passenger windows. If you sat up front it was so creaky and loud you couldn’t hear anything and sitting in the back meant you were basically in a dark, leaky steel tube on a bench seat with two other people. VERY uncomfortable. I usually sat in the middle or directly behind the driver’s seat and I brought about seven books, which I crammed in the small space between the seat and the van wall. I called it “the Library” and I’ve always brought a library with me on tour ever since. So far on this tour I’ve made it through “My Inventions”, a collection of Nikola Tesla’s writings, and “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. I’m going to try to blog a book report for all of you about every book I read while on tour 🙂

Our tour to Winnipeg and back was a bit like Joe Dick and Billy Talent’s tour in Hard Core Logo (minus the ending)- there were a lot of fuckups and hiccups. We drove into Calgary in a rainstorm, after which I lost my voice completely for three days, our show got cancelled in Saskatoon (but we begged the venue to let us play to no one anyway) and in Winnipeg a crazy MMA fighter smashed a bottle over his own head and bled all over the place. There was definitely a sense of adventure. Going on tour for the first time, no matter where, no matter how big or small a tour, gives one a sense of ultimate freedom- you’re bringing your art to new places and playing new stages. Of course, we mostly played tiny shows, but it was the sense of the thing that mattered.

Our next tour was in 2010, this time one-way to Montreal. This time we were escorted by our friend and videographer Nathan Skillen. I highly recommend any band that has a friend with a camera to bring them – being able to do tour blog updates was invaluable and a lot of them were hilarious and memorable, like the time we played in Sudbury or Marcus’s first time at La Banquise (the best poutinerie in Montreal – oh, you don’t know about poutine? THATS A WHOLE OTHER BLOG). Once again we faced our share of adversity, like rolling into Thunder Bay after a long-ass drive from Winnipeg only to discover our show had been cancelled. On the 2010 tour I think I only lost my voice for one or two shows, a vast improvement from the three day bout of laryngitis I suffered on the first tour (probably due in part to the leaks and crazy rain storms we faced in Calgary). Coming to Montreal was life-changing; Quebec is like a second home to us. People there really love and support live music and the city is so vibrant and full of culture. It’s also just dirty and broken down enough for the likes of us – when things are too clean and tiny I feel a bit out of place. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a trailer park.

2011 was our most epic tour to date – Dave Roberts had taken over on lead guitar and flew out from Vancouver to join us. Marcus had just returned from Hong Kong and also flew in for the one-way tour west. After not having seen each other for so long, things were sometimes tense; we all got on each other’s nerves. In fact I think it’s fair to say we’re all still a little traumatized from that tour. There was a lot of scrapping, to say the least. We had less shows cancelled but only a quarter of the way into the tour, our tour vehicle (this time a pontiac Aztec pulling a trailer) was totalled by a drunk driver in Montreal. Actually what happened was that he hit our car with his, basically drove up the rear passenger side door and flipped his car onto it’s side. Aside from a dented door we thought we had got away clean, but little did we know that the majority of the impact had been absorbed by the rear axle, which cracked. The body shop in Montreal that repaired the door didn’t bother to put the van on a lift so they never noticed. We drove all the way to Prince Edward Island and back on a cracked axle that could’ve given way at any time and probably would have killed us if we’d flipped on the highway with the trailer. Luckily it finally gave way in Toronto while we were travelling at a low speed. We all nearly lost our minds with stress, none more than Mykel and I. I remember Mykel sat in the parking lot near the dead Aztec for about three hours and just didn’t speak to anyone. We thought the tour was over before it began. It was easily one of the lowest points in my history in Kill Matilda. After a few hours of being totally upset we found a place to stay and got to work – I borrowed money off all my friends, got in touch with the insurance company, we found a van available to purchase on Craigslist within our budget and the next day we took a look at it, took it to a shop and hit the road again. We didn’t even miss a single date. If there’s one thing I can say about our band it’s that we weather some seriously crazy shit but we never give up. Through illness, mechanical problems, financial problems and anything else life throws at us we never let it stand in the way of us being able to rock out. The rest of the 2011 tour was definitely rocky, with a lot of tension between all the members, but the shows were great, the fans were amazing and in the end we all made it back alive.

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After that tour, all the touring we’ve done this year has been a piece of cake. Even though I know we’ve already played 27 shows on this tour, which is almost as many as we did on the 2011 2-month long tour, it barely feels like we’ve gotten started. We haven’t been seriously sick like we’ve gotten on other tours, I haven’t lost my voice, we’ve all been getting along and having fun, though there has been a lot of work. It’s amazing to feel like we’ve “leveled up” in terms of our road experience. We’re a much tighter unit and we know what touring is really about. Rolling up to the venue, getting loaded in, loading out, the driving, the sleeping – everything is like clockwork now.

The shows have been small because we are breaking into all new markets. Audiences and fans have been amazing – the South really stood out to us, but every place has it’s own distinct charm (mostly in the form of places that serve food for $5 like Waffle House, Rally’s and Cookout). Definitely money has been tight and we need all the support we can get, especially because of a few hiccups (like how both my regular guitar and backup guitar broke on the same day, or how insuring this old van was about three times more expensive than we thought it would be). I know a lot of people wanted to help out with our indiegogo fundraiser and weren’t able to so if you still want to support us, some fans suggested we set up this gofundme site for fans to make donations towards gas and meals for us. Every little bit helps so please check it out and help out if you can!