The Big Easy was another highly anticipated city on our list, so I forced everyone to their feet early with the usual “fuck you, I’m tired” sentiment spread across the crew’s exhausted faces. The caravan cut through the deep south and arrived in NOLA just in time for pouring skies and broken spirits. I was hoping to scope out some legendary above ground cemeteries and and walk the city, but things weren’t to go my way that fateful afternoon. Instead, half the crew headed to Bourbon Street rain or no rain, while the rest of us chilled in the Garden District, had a few brews, and crushed a Juan’s Flying Burrito. Arriving at the Saint early, a grungy neighborhood punk rock dive bar that does shows, we shared some old stories under the low light and awaited the arrival of the returning drunks. Boasting some pretty ridiculous tales, we easily killed the evening listening to the shenanigans everyone had gotten into on Bourbon. By this point it was evident that tour frustration was in gear, and animosity between our diverse crew was something that couldn’t be bottled. Solution? Rock it. Taking the frustrations to the mic, we played hard, and the show went well. The venue seemed to have a built-in crowd that dug the bands and made us feel well supported, something quite appreciated after the rain out. Before the show it became abundantly clear that Hold Tight’s car needed new rear tires, and that an attempt to drive it to Florida in its current condition could seriously hurt my friends, so the plan was set to wake up early and remedy the problem. After some heated arguments the plan was set in stone, and we rolled outside the city to Kenny’s girlfriend’s parent’s house, where we enjoyed some late night pasta and doughnuts, dreading the morning’s early alarm.
Murphy’s Law proved its validity once again with a failed alarm clock, leaving us scrambling like Kevin McCallister in O’Hare to get the new rubber and make it the show anywhere near on time. With a six-hour drive, plus losing a time zone hour, the three-hour wait on the fix wasn’t well received, but we sucked it up and powered through. It gave us time to hash out some tour tension in the Walmart parking lot while analyzing the fucked up situation we were in. TIYL decided to leave early, taking the role of the welcoming party, while the HT boys waited it out in suburban Louisiana. We showed up to the Shark Tank at just the right time, decompressing from the drive and hanging with the cool dudes from the house. This super tight Tallahassee house show venue had a more legit setup than most clubs I’ve played, with a built-in PA system and an appropriately sized stage. A very MxPx style pop-punk trio opened the show up right after sundown, and we were back in action before we knew it. Minutes later we were posi-jumping and shredding to the thirty of forty college-aged punkers spreading across the side room. Arriving just in time, Hold Tight followed with balloons bouncing across the pumped crowd. They had an impressive reaction with a few crowd singalongs, a mark of a successful show. After the traditional punk bands played, another touring act under the moniker Koo Koo Kangaroo suited up and turned the place into a sweat-filled dance party, rocking the fuck out of all us that could handle the heat. These guys came out of nowhere and were super rad and original, spinning back and forth mc vocals on top of all ages jams. After some internet research we found out that these guys not only tour with The Aquabats, but are going to be on the Yo Gabba Gabba tour and most likely will be featured on the television show. Seeing them in a house show was a rare, unexpected treat that isn’t something you come across often. After the show we chilled hard with Isaac and Jake, two of the gracious hosts, enjoying a nightcap and the staple tour Netflix needs.
Before rolling to Gainesville the next afternoon, we recharged at Waffle House, seeing how much grease we could put down for under five bucks; trust me, its a lot. The short drive to G-Ville passed, and we were on the familiar college town streets by mid-afternoon. Eric, James, and I checked out the deserted University of Florida campus, while Joel flirted with the bartender at Dirty Nelly’s, a Gainesville institution in boozing. The final pre-show stop was Boca Fiesta, the famed upscale burrito shop opened by former Against Me drummer Warren Oakes. The place boasts a nice touch of class, and the creative, heaping portions are well worth the tab. Holding our expanded guts, we dragged back to Wayward Council, the diy venue/record store we would be playing that evening. As with any Gainesville show we’ve ever played, it started super late, and we left disappointed. The night’s only local was the first show by the band called Katie’s Cousin, who opened the show around eleven to the thirty or so friends that filled the space. Twenty minutes later we busted into our first song to our roadie Bill, the dudes in Hold Tight, and one girl from the first band who obviously felt bad that all of her friends had left for watering holes and college parties. Minutes after the “show,” Mike, Chris, and I trekked outside to vent anger when we were interrupted by the smash of a giant truck grinding into our driver-side mirror, shattering it to the street as we watched in dismay as he sped away. I laced up my Vans and sprinted down the boulevard to no avail, as green light after green light led to the asswipe’s successful getaway. Mirror-less, enraged, and broken, we hung our heads low and drove the fuck out of Gainesville, seeking refuge at the Hold Tight Records House in Tampa. We arrived in the early morning to open arms, free pizza, and well-needed Gainesville shit talk.
The Tampa show was a celebration of sorts, marking the one year anniversary of the ironically named Hold Tight House, with a barbeque and afternoon punk show, followed by an improvised rager. After the tour’s second visit to the mall, I met up with my uncle Drew for some veggie fajitas, while the rest of the crew barbequed by the house. The show started around four, with a super awesome band called Ink & Sweat opening, featuring passionate, inviting back and forth female/male vocals. They ruled hard. We played second to a packed house of sixty or seventy faces that seemed stoked as fuck about what we were doing. It’s always nice to look around and witness some heavy head knocks and smiles across the room. Hold Tight, the band, followed with a heart pounding seventeen minute set that was one of their best received of tour. The house band of sorts, Criminal Culture, closed the show with a short, tight melodic punk rock set. For some odd reason I thought these guys were going to be super hard, but I was surprised and impressed at the intricate guitar melodies and Lifetime-esque vocals bursting through the air. After the show the hangs continued, lasting all night. The booze was definitely flowing, and at one point a random Tampa drunk known only as ‘Detroit’ stumbled by the house and invited herself in to sing us all her favorite songs into an unplugged microphone. She was a short framed thirty something woman dressed eloquently in a blue sun dress, with plenty of vocal power and pizzazz to leave us all in awe as we tried to analyze what the fuck was going on.. We all watched in hilarity as she danced the power-less microphone around the room, singing and cracking jokes on the punks filling the room. Just as she entered, she slipped away never to be seen again…except probably on Youtube, as Iphones were documenting every move. To finish the fun-filled night we took a trip to the Taco Bus, an appropriately named immobile unit that serves Mexican delights 24/7. If you ever get to go, try the fruit water…it’s magically delicious. Tampa was my favorite show of tour, and I can’t express my gratitude to the radness of everyone who lived their and came out to support.
Next on the map was sunny Orlando, FL, where we would be playing with our good friends in Go Rydell. Before embarking on the short drive, we swung over to the Gulf Coast to get a solid sandy hang in at Clearwater Beach. The packed sea-side shore featured bath-water warm currents and soft, white sand…we had arrived. With rejuvenated tans and new burns, we headed straight to Orlando’s Will’s Pub, a mainstay punk venue of the area. Arriving early, we exchanged high-fives and hugs, and got a head start on the $1 PBRs available til’ eleven. Four chord, straight-up punkers TNT opened, with You Blew It spilling out noodly jams right after. We tore up the concrete floor next, leaping and pouring sweat to the crowd of familiar faces. In proper tour routine, HT followed, and the pumped crowd was feeling it hard. Closing the night was Go Rydell, our Kid Dynamite worshiper amigos from central Florida. Seeing them at home was fucking amazing, with kids piling on, singing every word, and going all out for Scaduto and the boys. They ripped Will’s up. After the show we headed to the suburbs to hang at Jeff from Go Rydell’s house (he lives in the laundry room…pretty cool in my book). It ended up being a pretty wild, fun evening with upwards of twenty-five people hanging out til’ late in the morning. Around four I dragged my bag upstairs and found a corner of solitude, beat from the day’s fun.
We awoke later than expected on Tuesday, pounded a burrito with Chris Rydell, and set sail for Miami. The drive was brutal, with traffic locking up on a frequent basis, and etas going through the roof. We pulled into Churchill’s Pub around seven to scope out the scene, with show time starting sometime after nine. Churchill’s is a dilapidated British Pub with loads of character that was opened in 1979 in one of the worst neighborhoods I’ve ever hung out in. Before we could even enter the dusty bar we were hit up for change by numerous fucked-up locals, and witnessed a steady flow of roosters running through the streets (maybe this is normal?). With nothing appealing to kill time in the neighborhood, we crossed the bridge to Miami Beach for an evening swim-sesh that would change our minds about the town for good. With few souls left on the beach we charged into the salty, warm, crystal clear water and had one of the best hangs of the tour, cracking jokes and tossing the disk until sundown. It was a well-needed cleanse (zinger). Returning to the pub after the spectacular beach was hard to do, but we are on this tour to play shows and all, so we sucked it up and got amped to rock. The show itself was fun, but nothing to write home about. With no locals on the bill, we played to the bar crowd and oddly enough a few friends from Richmond that were working in Ft. Lauderdale for the summer. With no place to stay and those sandy shores on our minds, we opted to chip in and do it up nice, cramming ten dudes into a beach front Best Western in North Beach. We tore Miami up that night, rocking the jukebox late at the Days Inn bar cleverly named ‘Beaches,’ as well as enjoying some super late-night sea-side hangs with everyone who was awake. I slid to sleep in beach-filled bliss.
With a short drive to Ft. Meyers, Florida, the next afternoon, we woke up in time for checkout and hit the beach for another afternoon of frolicking in the sand. Around three we shed a tear and left Miami behind, taking the famed Alligator Alley highway across the everglades to Ft. Meyers…I fell asleep and witnessed no alligators. The show that night was at a vegan friendly coffee shop/ice cream joint called Cool Hand Luc’s, run by two dudes in the band Let’s Go Exploring that would share the lineup that night. The owners were super nice to us, pumping us full of caffeine and homemade ice cream, and letting us lounge around their shop until show time. We took to the compact stage around nine and played for the twenty-five or so faces scattered across the shop. Hold Tight followed to friendly but stagnant coffee shop crowd, gaining applause but few fist pumps. The hometown heroes in Let’s Go Exploring wrapped up the show with their blend of No Idea style melodic punk with an early emo twist, even throwing in a well-executed Cursive cover. After the show I put down two scoops of vegan peanut butter and chocolate cream’, and we were out the door again. With no place to crash locally, our caffeinated eyes carried us a few hours north to Kenny’s girlfriend Mandy’s unoccupied ranch in central Florida. Lights out.