In which the Seattle band sees blood spatter and butts paddled.
BY SNOW AND GARNET KEIM
We began touring using the Book Your Own Fucking Life manual and online community (www.byofl.com) to navigate ourselves around the country. We played anywhere and everywhere, from a roller rink in Katy, TX, to a house space in Portales, NM, a private catholic school in Shreveport, LA, a dorm in Pocatello, ID, and a collective in Birmingham, AL. It didn’t matter where as long as we were moving, having fun and playing good shows.
It wasn’t glamorous by any means and many nights were spent in the van with a 40-ounce and a can of sardines. Occasionally things got so bad we would wait behind grocery stores until the deli food prepared that day was discarded and usually that was dinner. (We discovered most grocery stores have to throw out any food in the deli that didn’t sell that day.) So, we would wander in on a given day around 8:00pm when the deli closed trying to reason with them to just give us the food because we were going to get it anyway. Unfortunately more often than not the conversation would always devolve to something like “We’d like to help but it’s policy, you know?”
So while our egos may have been bruised, we managed to get by and stay fed through some very difficult times. During that period, one incident I recall distinctly was in Fort Worth, TX – a punk show hosted by the teenage son of a wealthy Texas judge. It’s worth noting that also on the property were caged purebred wolves, an arboretum and a huge barn where the show was to take place.
The most notable name on the bill, as I recall, was a band call ANS (pronounced “anus”) with hardcore punk numbers, ripe with idealism and riddled with frustration: “Abercrombie, Abercrombie, Abercrombie army wants you!” and that sort of thing. One of the show goers, a kid who was also in a band that performed, had a fondness for cutting his chest with razorblades while he screamed out his teenage angst. All well and good, except this time with ANS performing he became rather overly enthusiastic, almost to the point of insanity and, with his razors, went deep.
I’d stepped out of the barn for a drink and next thing I know is there is an ambulance beside us! The kid with the razors had sliced very deeply across his chest and stomach and also along his forearms and biceps and had lost a massive amount of blood. While everyone was thrashing and pumping their fists and enjoying the show no one had seemed to notice. Finally at some point the loss of blood must have started to seriously affect him and the ambulance was called. Suffice to say, he made it and we were all happy about that!
Another memorable event from around the same time period occurred in Frostburg, MD. Frostburg is small college town in the foothills of Maryland right near the border of West Virginia. It’s quaint, or at least that is how it appeared to us, from the outside.
It was a cold night and the venue was the Regal Beagle. A dive bar, but a step up from most of the venues we had played so far. The show went well and afterwards the locals who were involved with setting up the show invited us to an after-party at a friend’s house. Being late, I was tempted to hunker down and try to get some sleep but it was 20 below zero; sleeping in the back of a panel van would have been next-to-impossible.
Inside, the party had begun to get lively due to some more folks arriving with missing teeth and homemade moonshine in mason jars. Garnet and Bob had already sampled the hooch and so I needed no encouragement and could benefit from a pick-me-up to right myself from the bitter cold of the van. It went down like fire and made your head feel light and foggy.
The host was becoming concerned that we might wake the upstairs tenant and suggested we retire to the basement or shall I say, padded basement. Now here is where it got weird.
One girl was standing on her head while trying to take shots. Then there were these two guys who were wearing these big, black, punk rock belts with metal studs. They decided to remove their belts and start whipping the ass of another girl who was in a spirited mood. It sounded painful but she didn’t seem to object and, on the contrary, appeared as if she enjoyed it.
It kind of then caught on and a few of the other girls wanted to give it a go. The girls seemed to be having so much fun, one of the guys volunteered to be whipped as well. All the while this was going we were trying to make small talk, drink our beer and generally not pay much attention. That was when the revelry makers seemed to collectively realize that they had an out-of-town band in their padded basement, who had probably never experienced this type of good old fashioned hillbilly fun.
Someone in the room started to chant “The Blakes! The Blakes! The Blakes!”
Oh, shit I thought! Two of the guys grabbed Garnet first and held him while another guy and girl started putting the belts to him. We were way outnumbered, so Garnet took it good humouredly with the expectation that a swat or two and this whole thing would lose its excitement. Next Bob was grabbed and while he squirmed they held him fast and walloped him.
I realized then that that this was my moment to escape! I dodged for the stairs, one the guys tried to block me but I was quicker and ducked him and scrambled up the stairs then out of the house and into the van. It must have been ‘out of sight, out of mind’ because nobody followed and nobody bothered me for the rest of the night.
I guess I opted for the 20 below after all. The next morning I was informed that after some 15 or 20 wallops, things settled back to a relatively normal state. With sore butts, hangovers and hope for the future we ventured on to the next night.
The Blakes’ eighth album Art of Losses departs from their signature blend of garage rock and power pop to incorporate Brit-pop and synthpop influences. Rest assured, however, that it’ll still kick your ass until it bleeds profusely – and leave you with hope for the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Check out the video for the single “Narwhal” below and visit them at www.theblakesband.com where you can pick up the music.
THE BLAKES – “Narwhal”