Sonic Temple

Week Seven USA June/July 2001

Baton Rouge, Corpus Christi, Austin, Dallas, Houston and El Paso.

The busiest week of the tour – six shows in seven days, and five of em in the midsummer heat of Texas. But also, the last week of this tour before we go back to California and the home state gigs. We’ve been on the road since the beginning of May, and we can smell the few days off in LA that we have coming.

The week starts with some bad news. Mark Miller, our monitor engineer, has been hospitalised in Baton Rouge, after being seriously beaten up and left in a ditch. Apparently, the crew got to Baton Rouge a day before us, and after going out in town for the evening, he was found lying in a ditch with broken ribs, a fractured skull and needing twenty stitches and an operation to rebuild part of his face. All I can say, is that the mentality of the testosterone-filled assholes that did this, is beyond my understanding, and that maybe the guys that beat Mark up, will one day either grow up, or realise how pathetic and sad they really are. Unfortunately, they probably won’t, and will continue to live for their strip clubs, beer, and violence. Nice one, guys……very clever.

So we arrive at the venue in Baton Rouge to be told about Mark, and obviously that means that we will have no monitor engineer for our onstage sound tonight. Barney, Todd and Randy (all part of the sound crew) help us through a soundcheck of sorts, and in the end, we just decide to do the show with whatever we’ve got. Ive gotta say that those guys pulled it out of the hat for us, and whilst the onstage sound was different, it was definitely ok to play with – the show was cool, and the audience loved it. Tonight was a club show, put in to replace a cancelled Texas show, and the place was packed. The Witch felt really good tonight, with Ian getting everyone jumping, and War, Nirvana and Love Removal finished the night off perfectly. Our thoughts go out to Mark as we pull out of Louisiana and make our way to Texas.

Corpus Christi is the show that replaced San Antonio, and the venue is a complete dump! The dressing room is miles away from the stage, the actual open air arena is just a huge concrete area and right next to it is a sewage works……pools of shit festering right next to the stage. Nice!! The heat is unbearable and we are still working without a monitor engineer, so the mood is not exactly Disney Club! Mike goes off to see the aircraft carrier that’s moored in the harbour, Ian is nowhere to be seen, Matt’s talking to the new support band, The Flying Tigers, and Billy’s on the bus, resting up. I don’t really know what to do with myself, so I amble about from stage to dressing room to bus in the sweltering heat, until its time to warm up, and then its stage time. What a fucking nightmare!! Last nights show was a club gig, so having no monitors wasn’t too much of a problem. Tonights show is open air, in a place that holds thousands of people, with a huge stage. Tonight, having no monitors IS a problem!! It’s a bad show, one of only a handful that we’ve had, and we all hold on tight, pound our way through, and get out of town as quickly as possible. The less said about Corpus Christi, the better.

We are joined in Austin by some journalists from the UK that will travel on the bus with us for a couple of days, and the journey from Corpus to Austin is a chance to get to know them. Billy does an interview in the back lounge, and I sit up front playing cards……..Oh god, the excitement is killing me!!! You have to understand how living on a bus can get to you – a game of cards actually becoming the highlight of my journey makes me worry about myself!! I’m feeling a bit low today – maybe I’m going down with the flu or something. So I retire to my bunk to lie around, feeling sick and sorry for myself. But we arrive at the venue (which is a very cool open air venue, kinda like a western type scene) and our new “A” list monitor guy is on the stage, working away already…..within five minutes of soundchecking, my onstage mix is a million times better than it has been in the last month. I get a B12 shot from the doctor and I start feeling better and very positive about tonights show. And I am not disappointed. The crowd tonight is on fire, one of the noisiest, loudest audiences we’ve had on the tour. From Rise to Sanctuary, they are jumping, singing and giving us the energy that we feed on. Tonight, we play Bridges Burn, from the new album for the first time. I love the song and it goes over really well. Its nice to have a new one to play, and maybe we’ll get a few more ‘alternatives’ to have in reserve – who knows??!! Anyway, it’s a cool show in Austin, and everyone is smiling as they leave. Onwards, troops…..and to Dallas!!

The Bronco Bowl – what an awesome venue…..and we’ve sold it out!! It’s a good feeling, as we arrive and do the photosession with the magazine from England, that we have a sold out show to play later on. Ian takes his kids to see the new Planet of the Apes movie, and I spend the rest of the night threatening them with terrible torture if they tell me the ending!! I’m off to see it in Houston. Ian’s youngest, Che, is getting really good on the skateboard and spends all day and all night scooting around the parking lots of all the venues. And he’s six years old!!! The show itself is just fantastic. As the drop falls and we kick into Rise, I look around at over three thousand people going crazy, and my skin crawls with the emotion of it all. I love playing shows like this. The Saint kicks ass, Firewoman starts the crowd surfing, and Wild Flower just sends everyone, including us, over the edge. Thank you, Dallas, for a memorable evening. I, for one, can’t wait to return. Hours after we come offstage, and all the autographs are signed, and the after show “festivities” are done, we head off on an overnight drive to Houston.

How come EVERY city that we play in has a completely identical Mall? I have no idea where we are, the moment I step into the “air conditioned comfort of an all in one shopping experience”. It’s a scary prospect that retail is as sanitised as everything else in this world. I worry about the next generation – where will they find the space to express themselves when all the music comes from three record labels, all the clothes look the same and the Saturday afternoon shopping consists of Brookstones, The Discovery Channel store and Gap??!!  Don’t get me wrong – I always find things to buy in these places, even if its just a coffee from the omnipresent Starbucks (another example of corporate, homogenised product), but when I was growing up, independent record labels were everywhere, releasing thousands of small scale releases, and there were a whole bunch of small, independent clothes shops that had original clothes – it just felt easier to be a freak, or to be expressive and free.  I wander around the Mall in Houston, contemplating the fate of the younger generations until its time to go to the show. Houston is another killer show – we love Texas!!! Loud, crazy audiences and sold out shows. My onstage sound is now almost perfect, and we play Bridges Burn again, which feels like its settled into the set nicely. Rain gets everyone moving and Ian is on the PA stacks, singing to the whole arena. After the show, I take a picture of our sweet, mild mannered sound guy, Mr Tom (T-Bone) Edmonds (see pic) and we head back to the hotel. We only have El Paso to do now before we get back to California. I go to see the Apes movie the next day on our day off…….has anyone seen it yet? What did you think? I was a huge fan of the originals, and Tim Burton has kinda ruined it for me!!! Anyway, I chill out at the hotel until midnight, when we set off overnight for the last Texas show – El Paso.

Right on the border with Mexico, El Paso is a town that has a lot of pawn shops and I spend the afternoon with Tony, looking at the guns for sale. Most of them look like the sort that would blow up if you tried to fire them!! Muskets, dueling pistols, old Colt 45’s – and all of ‘em covered in rust and dust. Makes me wonder who actually buys them. Maybe a lot of the bank robberies in the big cities would be solved by a visit to the pawn shops of El Paso!! Matt, Mike and myself get the runner at the show to take us to a discount Chippewa Boot Store and we all get really nice boots at ridiculously low prices and by the time we drive back to the venue, its time to warm up and get onstage. The arena is seated at the sides and flat on the floor – they hold the county Rodeo’s here – and from the first note of Rise, I know I’m going to have a bad gig. The guitar is out of tune. I swap guitars halfway through the song and try to get into the show, but in Rain, a wireless cord goes down. I swap guitars again, and carry on, but in Firewoman, I have a wireless battery go down!!! All in one show. Again I swap mid-song, and get through to the end of the show, but we are all tired, and it shows. Six shows in seven days, including a 750 mile drive to get to El Paso. Its too much, and we leave the stage, run to the bus, and we pull out immediately. No autographs, festivities or parties tonight. Everyone just wants to get back to LA as soon as possible and rest up for the last few shows in California.

Its been a long, tiring week, with some of the best shows on the tour so far, but after about sixty shows, we are ready to see home, even if its just for a day or two. Next week will be the last US tour diary, before we fly to Japan and UK, so until then, take care people.


Billy Morrison