Los Angeles California, September 5th:
Finally, the day I've been counting down to for over a week is here. We're back in California! The tour started in LA, but we aren't playing the Cali dates until the end. Bad Manners is the headliner for the final four shows, and this leg is like a separate mini-tour. We even have new laminates. Austin was the last show with The Beat & Chris Murray and the Tucson show was just a palate cleanser. I am overjoyed when we roll up to my house at about noon. A couple of the out of town guys jump off with me to shower and relax before the show. It's cool to be able return the favor to Matt, who put some of us up in NYC, as well as to Pablo, who took care of us in Charm City. Matt and Johnny got to spend several nights in their own beds when we passed through New York, and Pablo got the same in Baltimore. I envied them at the time, and now it's my turn to be that guy. Passing through your hometown on tour is a good thing, but different for me. I'm used to just coming home to no more shows. We've still got four gigs and thousands of miles to cover over the next 5 days. Still the luxury of being able to take the first shower and pick out some fresh clothes is bloody (See Doug, I'm talking English!) exhilarating. This shirt doesn't smell like the RV. And best of all, speaking of the Bounder (and in full appreciation of her faithful service), here's the best part: I'm driving my own car for the rest of the tour! My 3-yr old, reliable, non-stinky AIR-CONDITIONED whip. No more RV. Can I get an amen? A drive up to the Sunset Strip and it's load-in and soundcheck time. Tonight's show is huge - we're headlining one of the "big" rooms, the House of Blues. of the 600-800 seat venues in LA, HOB is arguably the nicest to play. I've seen so many great shows here - Killing Joke, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Lee "Scratch" Perry to name a few. It's pretty fancy. And now that we're the headliner, we get the first, longest soundcheck and the nice dressing room and plenty of eats and beer. It's like we won the ska lottery. God love 'em, but The Beat are no longer in the picture, and we're finally getting some respect. The dressing room is nicer than we've had this tour, and the staff is really nice to us. No one's yelling. I'm fucking giddy. The scene in the dressing room is mad - full of friends, associates and well-wishers. People like Haydee, Justin's friend Greg, Yossi, and motherfucking Cheeseburger!
Cheesy, tour manager Big Mike and I played in a hardcore band called Thretning Verse a few years back. Since then, he's drummed and roadied for Bad Manners. And also got married and had a son. It's great to see my boy again, like I've completed a cycle and we're connected again And my connection with music is strong like it was when we were jamming. Very nice.
This night is huge: Hometown show, all my people will be there, and the buzz is good. We've got two excellent local ska/reggae bands on support, Kingston a Go Go and Viernes 13. It's Labor Day Sunday, which is kind of a weird day for shows. People don't have to work the next day, but it's also a weekend to get out of town. Will we fill the place up? If you weren't there, I won't keep you in suspense: Packed. The. Fuck. Out. Both support bands are good and the crowd's ready when we hit the stage. It's been a long time since I played a show this big in LA. We play a great show, all really excited to be in front of such a large enthusiastic crowd. Afterwards is just a blur of friends, drinks and finally, crashing in my own bed.
San Diego California, September 6th:
Driving down to San Diego with Jonny and Pablo - the sun roof is open, it's gorgeous out, and it feels like we're on vacation, not tour. We make great time and grab a bite before the RV arrives with the rest of the gang. The venue, Sound Wave, is right on the beach. It's part of an artificial wave attraction, Wave House. Pablo and Jonny swear they're gonna surf, and they actually do. Or try to. Pablo is surprisingly athletic in the water and does better than Jonny, but I have to hand it to both of them for subjecting themselves to ridicule by the non-surfing members. Here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwGONkwNTvA&feature=youtube_gdata_player
The club sets a full dinner table for us, and for the first time this tour, we all sit together and eat like a family.
Clockwise from Buster you have: Justino, Lee, Jonny, Josue, Big Mike, German, Matt, Haydee and me. Pablo was elsewhere.
The crowd's a little light, but very into it. A bunch of folks came up from Tijuana to see us, God bless 'em! We were supposed to play a show later in TJ after the Sound Wave show, but it fell through. That's how amazingly cool and dedicated the TJ skins are. Cross de border! Anyways, we give a good accounting of ourselves and the fans enjoy it. My friend Alan comes through and we catch up for a bit. Buster and Pablo head off to TJ for the usual debauchery, but I elect to drive home and get some sleep. Not to wash my vagina, as Pablo claims.
Pomona California, September 7th:
Pomona's a town in the Inland Empire area of Southern California. It's East of LA and North of OC. Lots of music around here and many many punks, skins, mods and other people with funny haircuts. The venue is Angelo's Pizzeria. It's a small (really too small for BM) place, but the promoter Gonzo is such a cool guy from way back, we know it's gonna work out. Getting the 8 members of Bad Manners onto the small stage is a challenge. Lee accidentally steps on my pedals a few times, then I think he decides it sounds cool and does it on purpose a few more times. All in fun. I've been making Matt crack up during instrumentals by standing too close and making faces at him. Now he's wise to me and has learned to kick me away as I approach. It was fun while it lasted. Another good show, and a quick 30-minute drive has me home. Home! So sweet. We're almost done!
San Francisco California, September 8th:
Keeping to my sworn oath never to ride in the RV again, I drive up to SF with Matt. He drives the last 2 hours and we even have enough time to hit Great Wall Chinese Vegetarian and Seafood restaurant in Oakland. Yum. It's weird for the tour to end here, in my hometown. I'm an LA boy now, and was born there, but I was raised in the East Bay and moved to SF when I struck out on my own. Most of my family's up here, and they're all coming: 2 brothers, mom, dad and stepmom. Exciting but nervewracking. I wander off by myself after soundcheck, and hit up a vegan Vietnamese place I've heard about. For the 1st time in a month, I'm actually cold. Good old SF fog!
The venue tonight is the Red Devil Lounge, on Polk Street. Bay Area ska legends Undercover S.K.A. are the support act and they're really good. In honor of Rosh Ha Shana, the Jewish New Year, which is tonight, they do some klezmer/ska, which rocks so hard. Makes me proud to be a ska-loving Jewboy from Berkeley. After a rousing warm-up backstage, we're ready to put this tour to bed with a bang. Instead of the usual "Good evening!" they get "happy fucking New Year!" The crowd is really into it, and so are we. Knowing we don't have to drive 12 hours to the next gig means we can put our all into the last performance, and we do. Brilliant show. We play ALL the songs, including the full 3-song encore of "Baldheads," "Do Nothing" and "Can Can." Then it's over.
After the show we all relax and party for a while. Then it's time for the RV crew to head back to LA. People have flights the next day. I'm staying to visit my family for a few days, so I'll be saying my goodbyes tonight. Matt and Jonny are off to NYC. Buster and Lee head back to London. Pablo's sticking around LA for a bit, so I'll see him on the weekend. Justino and Josue are LA guys, so I'll see them, as well as Big Mike and German. I feel great - we did it, and we did it well. 24 shows in 30 days. Across the USA and back. At the same time, I'm more than a little choked up. I'll even miss that stupid RV! Doing a tour is a little like doing a tour of duty - think "Platoon." There's lots of hardships and bad food, lack of sleep and a lot of sitting around waiting for 45 minutes of action. Probably belaboring the metaphor, but what I'm trying to say is that you bond. You spend so much time together and you play music - even the cats I already know, I feel closer to them. I have a nice warm fuzzy moment with Buster - he tells me some very encouraging and insightful things about my playing and how to improve it. We have a nice long man-clinch. I thought my skin was soft. The man is full of surprises. I load all my gear into my own car, and sit in it feeling bitter-sweet, waiting for the RV to pull away and turn the corner, just like in a movie. Since it's a Bad Manners movie, I get tired of wating for them. It's drizzling as I drive off into the night, my ears ringing from tonight's show. In my minds eye, I can see the RV pulling away from the curb and slowly making the right turn onto Polk, and it's perfect.