Ghost Story #8 – On the Road with Kowabunga! Kid

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I’ve been in bands for the last 14 years, and one of the major goals that each of my bands has shared was to experience an expansive, country-wide tour. The longest I’ve ever been able to get away with a band was a week-long jaunt with Earth Witch in the winter of 2014, during which we visited Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville and St. Louis. All of the other weekend tours that I’ve been on have also been during the winter or early spring.

It was an ironic and welcome invitation that I received from Kowabunga! Kid to go with them on their two-week summer West Coast tour, so that I could help them out with their long drives, moving equipment and selling their merchandise. It took me about 10 minutes after Aaron (Shults), Kamila (Glowacki) and Jake (Mott) had asked me after a show at the Dingbat Dungeon to realized that I have to go on this trip. Although, I am not actually playing in the band (except for the Wolf Luv set that would happen in Denver), I still get to do hang out with some of my best friends and travel the country — mostly for free!

It all began last Friday at around 4 p.m. with a relatively simple drive to Columbia, Mo. The show turned out to be in a DIY space in an old warehouse, where four bands rent out the building and have built separate practice spaces and a stage. The walls displayed show fliers and graffiti, and the furniture inside was mostly benches taken out of vans and hand-me-down futons. This was the fourth time Kowabunga! Kid had played Columbia, with the previous three all being labeled a success by the band. There was a pretty good turnout for the show, which also featured local acts Pinkeye (a four-piece punk band that played some quick songs and a Black Sabbath “Paranoid” cover) and It’s Me: Ross (total rippers who killed their first show with a bunch of songs that felt like a mix of Sheer Mag, Thin Lizzy and a sprinkling of solos that felt like they were written by The Allman Brothers).

After hanging out for a little while after the show ended and visiting a gas station (the attendant was amusingly shocked that Aaron, Jake and I passed up on tobacco, liquor and soda), we hit the road again at about 11:30 p.m., opting to drive the entire night so that we could enjoy some time in Denver. Prior to going on this trip, I had personally never traveled further west than Kansas City. Despite having some problems with our GPS, we passed Kansas City by 2 a.m. and began the task of driving across the boring state of Kansas. I took the first driving shift before being relieved by Aaron at around 5 a.m. I awoke a couple of hours later to a bizarre sight that Midwestern eyes had never seen: rolling hills with no trees in sight. About an hour later, a faint hint of a wall of mountains appeared on the horizon in front of us.

I think we spoiled ourselves during our time in Denver, which was only our second day of tour. We ate some calzones and sandwiches, drove and hiked up a mountain (luckily the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy it), and hung out with old friends all day, despite our collective fatigue from driving all night. The show that night was at a place called Club Scum, which was in large garage behind a house located in an industrial area of Denver. The first performer was a noise act called Julien, which compared to other noise acts I’ve heard over the last few years, was really, really bad. After waiting for the Asswolf to arrive to the show (I heard he was chasing cats away from the nearby Purina cat food plant), Jake, Kamila and I joined him for our Wolf Luv set, which felt more taxing than usual due to the high altitude. Kowabunga! Kid powered through their set shortly after Wolf Luv finished, and Goon closed out the show with their raw and unrelenting punk songs (featuring former C-U dudes Luke Strorm and John Menchaca). We went back to Menchaca’s house shortly after the show so we could get five hours of sleep before making our longest jaunt of the tour.

The ride to Boise, Idaho was beautiful and grueling. We all woke up without complaint shortly after 5 a.m., packed up our things, and made our way out of Denver as the sun was rising. Our route took us through Wyoming, which featured the rolling, treeless landscapes with more quarries in sight from the interstate than cities, followed by beautiful rocky mountains that featured plateaus and cliffs, with snow-capped mountains eventually appearing as we crossed into Utah. Utah led us through vast valleys with a couple cities settled snugly up on the base of the mountains, as well as a short glimpse of the Great Salt Lake from miles away. Idaho featured more mountains and the familiar sight of crop fields.

Boise had a very Champaign-Urbana feel to it, as when the students are gone for the summer it seems like not a lot of excitement occurs. The show was at the “legendary” Shredder (some guy walking by said it was legendary, then proceeded to take an unguarded pair of sandals from a vacant parking lot). The venue was primarily a bar, but it was pretty large and featured probably 20 video game cabinets and pinball machines, as well as a wall that was almost completely covered with show flyers ranging back to a Braid show from 1997. Due to this being a Sunday night, Kowabunga! Kid opened the show to a crowd of about 10 people, including myself and three attendees from Montana that moshed and danced for all of the bands. The Murderburgers, a pop-punk three-piece, also played to the lackluster crowd. A few more people showed up in time for The Atom Age to play, who played some power-pop, surf-influenced songs, as well as a sweet “Uncontrollable Urge” Devo cover. Bad Cop/Bad Cop, an all-female four piece on Fat Records, closed the show with their uber-energetic pop-punk songs. We all hung out after the show, exchanging merch and taking pictures while watching old punk music videos on a projection screen. We decided that we hadn’t driven enough that day, so we drove another hour before finding a cheap Motel 6 off of the interstate and settled in for the night.

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