Boy, I sure hate being the designated driver while everyone indulges in booze and gets silly. There is not a more thankless job in this world than to be chauffeur for this wily group of 4 young men with hard-ons. When I am tasked with doing this, I tell the boys right at the beginning of the night: “I will drive us to where we gotta go, but you may as well start calling me Stephanie, I will tell you right now.” Stephanie is the name of my inner fat girl. Everyone has one, that snarky voice in the back of your head when everyone is hammered and having a great time except for you. I always imagine Stephanie looking like Chris Farley from the Gap Girls sketch on SNL.
“Can we go now? I’m bored.” “No, you can’t have sex with that girl, we came as a group we leave as a group.” And occasionally, just an incredulous “Really!?” are all things that can be heard by Stephanie as she passive-aggressively ruins everyone’s night like a serial arsonist of mirth. Did I mention that I also stink at driving? I am famous for absentmindedly spending most of the drive with the cruise control set to 10 under the limit, with only the most tenuous grasp of the wheel at 7 o’clock, cyclically drifting on and off the shoulder rumble strips. You know, those little grooves on the side of the road that make your tires rumble to wake you up just incase you decide to take an ill-advised nappy while on the way to your destination. “BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM” goes the rumble strip, followed by countless crass backseat remarks such as “Dude, you spend more time on the shoulder than a goddamned parrot.” I might have been angrier were it not completely accurate.
But it has been a while since we last spoke, so let’s take it back to where we left, shall we? We left NYC in a state of goofy blurry-eyed bliss and made our faithful voyage to Baltimore. We arrived nice and early and decided to go for a stroll through the streets down to the harbor. While nowhere close to the neighborhoods depicted in The Wire, the areas we were in seemed pretty rough around the edges with loudmouthed lunatics and bullet holes in a few of the storefront windows. Our gig was at a venue called the Side Bar. A cozy underground bar that has a capacity of less than 100. Before the gig started I went for a little walk by myself to clear my weary mind. I bought the local paper and chilled out on a stoop reading and relaxing on my lonesome. I read that Baltimore had 32 murders in the first week of the summer. Holy dog shit. They must really love our band in Baltimore because I found the word “Fatality” written about 80 times before I even got to the funnies. Either that or they are all just constantly murdering each other over there. I also passed by the strip club district. I was drawn to it because there was an almost tangible darkness that hung over the street of sadness. The other thing I liked about it was they had old-school strip club barkers standing in front of every club trying to pull in some business. I saw men in cowboy hats outside of each club sayin’ goofy shit to me like “Hey swinger, looking for a good time and cheap thrills? Girls girls girls, nude and nasty.” “No thanks sir, but I might be back.” As we drove past the same strip after the gig the entire street was blocked off with caution tape and 10 cop cars. I reckon there may have been a shooting shortly after I scurried back to the venue.
We were lucky enough to stay with Eytan’s friend DK whom he lived with during his stint in Israel. DK’s place is in the suburbs in a beautiful white house that was built in the 1800’s. The boys and I spent the next 2 nights there sleeping, eating good BBQ and doing the occasional phone interview. He also had a beautiful acoustic piano that I played and played and played.
Our next date was in Chesapeake, Virginia. This proved to be one of my favorite sets of the tour so far. I can always gauge how good a set is by how seamlessly and comfortably we can navigate through the set. The more relaxed we are on stage, the more engaging and adaptable we become and our set becomes more of a resonating meditation of music than anything else; a tantric expression of love and musical enjoyment. When I am at my best, it’s like I am on autopilot, acting completely on instincts and riding the set like a spirited surfer on a tsunami of sound. This was the first show in a state where you are still allowed to smoke in bars. It was like going back in time to a stinky, slightly yellowed past. The smokers in the band took advantage of this onstage and lived out their Keith Richards fantasies.
Then it was off to Richmond, Virginia: home of many great metal bands such as Municipal Waste, Gwar and Lamb of God. We were scheduled to tape an appearance on a cooking show called Brutally Delicious with Bruce Moore. We called him in the afternoon to confirm, but it seemed he would have to cancel because he couldn’t get a hold of his camera crew to film the episode. We were defeated until Adam chimed in with: “wait a minute, aren’t we traveling with a fuckin’ camera man!?” So we headed down to Bruce’s house and our roadie extraordinaire Sean DeCory saved the day and manned his camera as Eytan gave a great interview while making some picturesque chicken breasts and hot peppers on the grill. Bruce Moore is a great guy, as well as an extremely interesting dude. Apparently he was a mastering engineer in NYC during the 90’s hip-hop boom before moving to a small town with his amazingly welcoming and polite family. He also published a few recipes from Eytan and I in his cookbook “For Those About to Cook” a few years back.
Richmond is a really sweet place. We played on the main nightclub strip and it really came to life after the sun went down; complete with live music spilling out onto the street like sonic contentment from the open doors of the surrounding clubs. We had a great set and hung around playing darts, drinking beer and enjoying the chaotic atmosphere of the crazed party animals slinking in and out of the bars on the strip. After the show we headed to someone’s apartment for some shut eye. When we got there we were surprised to find a rowdy house party in full swing with music uncomfortably loud on a jittery old record player, beer chugging and a whole lot of boisterous and noisy shenanigans. Although we were ready for a good night’s sleep, we submitted to go with the flow and get a little silly with the locals. I was in the party zone and was loud, making jokes and working the room. I remember at one point getting the entire room of partiers singing “I Feel Good” by James Brown as I pounded on a nearby electric guitar. But as the night got later and later, things got weirder and weirder and took a very surreal and dangerous turn.
To be continued…
Spencer “Call Me Stephanie” LeVon
As always please stay updated with our tour photos on our new Flickr page here
And check out the Fatality Backseat LevonCast (podcast) for hilarious stories from the road! Hosted by my brother Mason and I.