Tour life might seem glamorous and fun, but it ain’t for the faint of heart. Between the homesickness and long drives, there’s also the issue of where to rest your head each night. Up-and-coming bands cutting their teeth playing tiny gig after tiny gig don’t get to ride in a lux tour bus much less stay in a hotel room every evening. Instead, they get to crash wherever they can while trying to save up gas money. Alas, in these dark times, such discomfort may seem like a fond and distant memory, and something that bands would willingly endure again, if only they could get back on the road. Right now, Maryland legends Clutch should be several dates into a US tour that was supposed to start on April 5th in Las Vegas. Instead, their next dates — if all goes well — are not until July. While they may travel in style these days, it is with no little affection that frontman Neil Fallon looks back on those early days.
The Bakerton House
“This was a house we rented in Bakerton, West Virginia. I know the house may not fit the bill, but that’s where we did the majority of our sleeping. I lived there from 1996 into 97. The house was built in 1780 and was originally a plantation owner’s home. It was cheap and there were no neighbors. I never once spent the night alone in that home. It scared the shit out of me. I mean, it doesn’t get much more horrific than slavery. Across the street was a trailer park called “Allen’s Wonderland.” That scared the shit out of me, too. My mattress was directly on the floor. Sometimes mice would run across my chest at night.”
“The Thunderchief was the name of the first van we owned, a 1986 Ford Econoline. It had blue shag interior and TWO gas tanks. JP installed a swinging platform from the ceiling. It was basically two by fours and plywood hanging from the ceiling by four chains. We would sleep up in there. Thing is, sleeping bags are made from very slick nylon. So anytime the brakes were hit hard, whomever was up in the “bunk” would go flying toward the window. Many times I woke up with the dashboard slammed against my scalp. It’s a miracle we survived the Thunderchief. It threw a rod in Virginia and we sold it to the tow-truck driver for 200 bucks.”
The Honey Bee
“After the Thunderchief gave up the ghost we bought a Ford Honeybee RV. We were in heaven. But we beat the shit out of that thing. We took out too many hotel and drive through awnings to count. We tore open the toilet’s holding tank while backing into a campsite. So we ripped it off and would just piss directly onto the highway at 60 miles an hour. There was a shower that we used as a beer cooler. It started to leak and the carpet began going black with mold. We still slept on the floor. It was great. I loved The Honeybee.”
In the bushes of an Oakland auto glass repair shop
“Our first tour was in 1992. We were staying with some friends in San Francisco. JP slept in the van, because it’s San Francisco. Sure enough, two dudes busted the window open but ran off when JP shot up. He pulled the van around and we drove to Oakland at 2 in the morning so we could get our window replaced first thing in the morning. There was glass everywhere inside the van so we slept outside. I put my sleeping bag in-between two bushes. I fell fast asleep. A strange hissing sound woke me up. I tried to focus my eyes in the morning light. A cylindrical black shape popped out of the ground and I was quickly hosed down by the sprinkler system. We played 123 Gilman Street later that day.”
The Marco Polo – by FAR the weirdest place
“On our way to California we had a gig in Illinois. The day before we stopped outside of Chicago to rest up. We were young and very dumb and decided to check into an old motel called The Marco Polo. It was the first time I saw rates advertised by the hour, day, week, and month. It was in a real shitty neighborhood so we pushed all of our gear into the room.
The room itself was laid out like the letter L, with a bed at either end of it. Each had a huge TV that got exactly 3 channels. Straight, gay, and B&D porn. That’s it. For some reason I picked up the phone to call the front desk (again, very young, very dumb). The hand set was covered in some kind of fruit jelly. And ants. I laid my guitar case on the floor and slept on top of it.”
Words by Mörat