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Day 118 - Sept 18 Day off Saskatoon

I new city, hurray! At this point in my touring career, actually doing a show in a new city is few and far between. Actually having a day off in one is rare indeed. Though Saskatoon is not renown as an epicenter of excitement, no city is without it's share of surprises. Finding them, now that is the challenge. Furthermore, the fact that people in Edmonton were making fun of the Saskatoonians was not a good sign. One local actually told roadie Scott a joke that went something like "Saskatoon is flat, in fact it is so flat the if your dog runs away in Saskatoon you can still see running for ten miles." Not sure why or if that is funny other than the smiling at how being less flat seems somehow to be an advantage Edmontonians are proud to posses.

After a quick glance around at the available things to do, nothing really pops out. Let's see, movie theater across the street, a few restaurants, plenty of bars, a pawn shop, a 200 foot long three story high water slide inside the hotel and a walking park at the river nearby. Hmmmm, nothing out of the ordinary here. Nothing to see folks, keep moving on. Wait, did you say water slide? Well of course, why wouldn't there be a water slide inside the hotel?

Like dogs running away from Saskatoon, Nick the Fly and I make a beeline for the merriment.

And check this out:

Here you can see NTF bored to death as he is propelled by gravity and warm water at breathtaking speeds:

And I, of course was helpless to resist the fun:

After about fifteen trips up the three flights of stairs like a couple of ten year olds, Nick the fly and I were worn out and had a wonderful day off in Saskatoon!

The always serious

Dave Rat


Day 117- Edmonton Show

Ithought this was a cool shot of the busses:

**** Roadie Research ****

Roadies are quite adept in the art of camouflage. Born with the instinctual ability and desire to seamlessly blend in with their surroundings, roadies are practically invisible when residing in their natural habitat, the rock show. In the photo below, roadie roadie Leif demonstrates his incredible chameleon like skills.


**** End Roadie Research ****

**** Old Punker Lap Story Continues ... ****

Laying there rolled up like a taquito, any movement just created mini drafts that chilled my frozen body further so I just spent the time clinging to the involuntary shivers running through me. At some point we must be getting closer and I bet the punker house we crash at next will have a big heater, they must. The illusion that things were still ok, though insanely miserable, was still holding strong, at least it was until I heard the sound of the van engine stopping as it meant that what little heat it pretended to make was now gone. The silence was eerie and without the glow of the dashboard lights, it was now pitch black as well and all that could be heard was the coughs and moans of our sick crew member.

This was my first tour, everyone else here has done this before, so it must be ok. It is my vehicle I am laying inside of and it is relatively reliable for the most part, usually. Painted flat black with a roller and with its primer gray bumpers, the windowless cargo van had been trustworthy enough to haul the Rat PA around town but but like me, this tour was the biggest adventure it had ever experienced. The day before this tour started I was laying drenched in tranny fluid underneath this same van trying to get the transmission attached back to the motor. Who would have knew that changing a leaky freeze plug would be such a pain in the ass? Not to mention the phenomenal greasy mess it left in my girlfriends parents driveway.

A sleeping bag was one of the recommended tour items, not owning one, I opted for carrying a queen sized comforter blanket. By spreading every piece of clothing I am not wearing below my van spot, I was able to add an extra inch of thermal insulation between my body and the carpeted sheet of plywood laying on the metal van floor. By rolling into the blanket I was able to become a mummy. Ka-chunk, the van door slams and I cannot believe that Kira just left the van. I can imagine no quantity of piss that would inspire me to leave this van right now.

And moments later the sound of the door slams again, followed by a struggled 'gajuuu gajuuu gajuuu' of the starter motor attempting to spin the engine. Slower, slower and even though I pushed every ounce of mental energy in to helping it out, the dreaded sound of rapid clicks sends prickles through my bones. Dismay. Click click click click click, over and over as if somehow it will change it's mind and actually start. Laying there in frozen denial dredging around for hopeful thoughts of someway to make the engine spin again. Earlier when we were actually moving the van engine was getting so cold that is was stalling at highway speeds, Kira had to keep slowing down to stop the stalls.

That is when I succumbed to the reality that I am going to have to leave the van. Bundled and gloved and as cold as if I was wearing clothes made of snow, I popped the hood and tried to illuminated the battery terminals with a frozen flashlight and it's barely visible dim yellow beam. And my mind grabs onto the realization that in my hand are batteries so frozen they are unable perform their task. Frozen batteries. Or perhaps just a bad connection, loose terminal? Thirty seconds out of the glove with a wrench in my hand and I can no longer usefully move my fingers out of the claw position. And "try it now" was just as useless as before.

Time for a pow-wow with all the humans that would acknowledge being awake. The one human that had been coughing has now decided to announce "we are all going to die" and has taken to repeating it in a heart felt panicked tone. This does not help the situation.

To be continued ....

**** End (for now) Old Punker Lap Story ****

The cold just think about it,

Dave Rat


Day 116 - Calgary Show Day

During the west coast part of the tour, Roadie Shaun, the monitor engineer for The Mars Volta had come to me with an interesting request. Cedric, (Mars Volta's' singer) was wanting to sing into a Sennheiser 421 as he likes the way those mics look and feel. Roadie Shaun wants to continue to use the Audix om6's that are working perfectly for his vocals. So the question is, "How can we get the sound of an om6 and the look of a 421?" Now this is the kind of project I love!

While I was at home on break I had grabbed a pile of old 421 parts that I still have from the old days when I used to fix amps and mics to supplement the not so profitable Rat PA income.

Check out the third revision of the Audix om6 inside of a Sennheiser 421 shell. And to start with we have a nice assortment of both old and new 421 parts:

And by cutting the threaded ring off of the om6 grill and screwing it to the back of a 421 grill we get:

and the om6 can now be screwed into the 421 grill

And after boring out the 421 shell with a Dremel tool so the Audix shaft slides inside:

And we end up with what looks like a beat up old 421 but is actually a perfect condition Audix om6!

Now that was an adventure I really and truly enjoyed! Thank you roadie Shaun!

**** Gratuitous Monitor Gear Photo ****

While we were in monitor world I grabbed a photo of Peppers monitor setup:

**** Gratuitous Guitar Pedal Photo ****

For those guitar gear fans out there here is a picture of John Fruciante's guitar pedal world.

Roadie Dave Lee has his job cut out for him keeping all those running flawless everyday.

The loving to fix and create things that make sound,

Dave Rat


Day 115 - Overnight to Calgary/Day Off

Look! All I can say is wow! It is stunning out there!

The drive is amazing. Our driver, roadie Brian rules! Really moves the bus from city to city fast, safe and smooth.What also rules is the fine bus food cuisine that we were so fortunate to have bestowed upon us.

Clearly we are loved and appreciated and the desire to have a bus full of happy healthy well fed roadies is of very high importance. I opt for the potato and as my breakfast veggie of choice to go along with my coffee:

While roadie Daniel clearly prefers a crisp corn treat to start his day:

Home is stupid, I love the road! And that chilly snow covered Canadian tundra brings back yet another Black Flag story, booooriiing! Gather round for:

**** Begin Old Punker Lap Story ****

Lets slide back in time 22 years to the Orwellian year of 1984, December 23rd we are in Winnipeg, Canada. A band of grubby punkers are wrapped in every piece of clothing that is stench free enough to bundle in. As Southern Californians we are experiencing a new definition of the word cold and the wind chime sounds of my long and formally wet hair has turned to icicles. Per diems are $ 80 a week and that means I have just over 11.00 US dollars a day to buy food toothpaste and socks. Hmmmm, why are there power plugs hanging from the front of cars? Yesterday was what we called a day off and all we did was drive 750 miles through snow straight after the gig.

Last night was a good night. I actually slept in something other than a moving van with 7 people cocooned on the floor. Though I can't recall where exactly that was, typically on most non-driving nights found us piling onto the floor of some beer drenched party house where the local punk rockers and friends were all excited to have a Black Flag slumber party. Their local punker excitement was not quite matched by the drained, sweaty and exhausted touring party of 13 or so. They cranked up the tunes and drank exuberantly, we passed out immediately. Upon arrival at each new sleep house, some of us sprinted to share available beds, some relegated to open floor space. Me? well, I figured out a plan early on that having my own room was best so I would seek out bedroom closets and slept right on top of what ever was in there, shoes, boxes and all. Though always lumpy, it reduced the odds of a dog licking of my face all night, it was generally quieter, darker and I usually got fewer flea bites.

Christmas Eve day and we are on 900 mile mid-winter cross Canada trek to Edmonton. Tour planning at it's all time best. I had heard someone was saying 60 below wind chill factor, most likely an exaggeration and it was only 30 or 40 below plus I don't know whether there was a C or F after the temperature it but does it really matter at that point anyway? What did matter was that the large truck stop cup of coffee had frozen solid wile sitting on the engine cover inside the van with the heater cranked to full. What also mattered was that Kira, Black Flag's bass player and the current van driver, really needed to go to the bathroom and there had not been a sign of life on the frozen pitch black icy night road forever in either direction. It was when she pulled off the highway at farm road off ramp as we all lay in various states of frozen delirium and that things began to look less cheery.

To be continued...

**** End (for now) Old Punker Lap Story ****

And you know what? It aint so bad eating chips for breakfast with actually hot coffee on a cozy tour bus!

The past I would not trade away while appreciating the present,

Dave Rat


Day 114 - Vancouver Show Day

Here we go again. A fairly uneventful meet up and roadie gathering in Vancouver. We done all this enough times and little has changed during the break. The trucks dump, the show goes up and at least from my perspective, it all seems to be running smooth.

Have you ever noticed that behind almost every rock stage there is a huge black drape hanging? Often referred to as a "rag" these giant cloth curtains are not only monstrous but crazy expensive. Rumor has is that the one we carry at 80 feet wide and 40 feet high costs upwards of $20,000. Furthermore, with these things being so big and fairly thin cloth, much caution is taken to avoid tearing or damaging it. So I am walking to get lunch and imagine my surprise at seeing three roadies standing on a road case safety pinning a some cloth over a hole that looks like it was hacked out by a three year old. Not my department but overwhelmed by curiosity, I find out that a fire marshall needed a "test swath" of the curtain to do a flammability test. Unfortunately I missed the observing the test or whole episode but somewhere in the back of my mind I get the inkling that there is a slight chance that there could be an improvement in the protocol.

Does every band leave this city with a hole in a $20,000 rag? Is it a Canadian thing? Was it purely a wayward fire marshal reading a chapter on fire retardency testing methods and we were the guinea pigs? Could there possibly be a better way or is this the barbaric peak of brilliance available? Hey, maybe we can set up crash durability tests for cars getting on the freeway and have a freeway marshal on the on ramp and bash in your car fender with a sledge hammer. "OK, fender bashes just fine, carry on, have a nice trip!" Unbelievable, perplexing and I will leave this mystery to be pondered and unresolved.

As far as the big rock show, well I had tons of fun, hung out with and met some great humans and it finished up with Omar from The Mars Volta jamming with John Fruciante for a memorable finally!

The 'can't find my little camera' again, darn it,

Dave Rat


Day 113 - Travel to Vancouver

I love Canada! I love the large clean open spaces, I love the friendly warm natured feel that seems to radiate from the nearly all that I meet here. I love the laid back attitude towards life and I do not love the border crossing. We used to joke that getting into Russia is easier than driving north over the border. But it is no joke. There are few countries more difficult to enter for a US citizen on the planet earth than the homeland of our close and friendly Canadian brothers. I have spent many a 4 am morning shivering in a parking lot as our bags are rifled through as they give their pet drug puppies a private tour of our bus. I think next time I will hide little dog treats in various locations just for fun.

Canadian border patrol has has developed a two part plan for effective border control:

1) If a person has done anything wrong ever, make them wait as long as possible and try and make them pay as much money as possible to get into the country. With bus full of traveling nuns, this may not be an issue but shocking as it may be, many roadies and musicians often do not have perfect pasts. Be that as it may, any violation such as a misdemeanor traffic citation or DUI could mean a 4 hour wait or even denial into the country.

2) Regardless of how many times you have been allowed into Canada before, always start from scratch at the last minute while the person is at the border and offer no method of allowing people to pre apply or effectively prepare. I heard that on The Warped tour traveling with 20 or more busses, they called ahead to the Canadian border well in advance "we will be arriving with several hundred people late at night," provided the time, the names, the passports and everything. So arriving at the crossing to find two graveyard border officials on duty and fully prepared to start processing the roadies one by one, from scratch, of course fits right in with the Canadian immigration strategy.

There also is and added bonus of keeping the anticipation level up by letting whomever is on duty at the time have total discretion over the misery level of the border-crosser involved. Fortunately, I am not one of the humans that got harassed, unfortunately the border antics effect us all. Though I personally do not partake, the whole thing is especially amusing when you realize that preventing someone from bringing drugs into Canada from the US is about as ingenuous as setting up checkpoints to stop people from bringing sand to the beach.

All that said, now that I have made it into Fort Canada, I remember why it is so heavily protected, it is truly beautiful here and maybe the underlying plan of preventing Americans from coming over has some merit.

The appreciative of many lands,

Dave Rat


Day 102 to 112 - Sept 2 to 12 Tour Break

Not only was my dad at the show yesterday, so were my daughters as well. Family day and since their mom works for Pearl Jam and is currently on tour as well, the little people have been parentless for a bit. The good part is is that they are well cared for, safe and happy and the downside is that the two tours are awkwardly and consistently overlapping and putting them for longer periods without either parent in town. Regardless, what it means right now is that I step into full time dad mode instantly which is all good. Unfortunately though, I live too way far away from where they go to school so after the weekend I say bye-bye to my home and move up to their mom's place for the break, good thing my bags are already packed.

At this point tour has pretty much become the norm and getting back to home feels more like just an extended set of days off. Time to play catch up until get ready to leave time comes around.

As far as touring schedules go, this is one of the best in my opinion. Three weeks on and two weeks off is the rough pattern we follow. Many if not most bands will do six weeks as a typical segment length with ten weeks out not being too uncommon. My first tours was four months long and in the pre cell phone era, pre internet era, a four month tour meant total and complete disconnection from the other world. At the peak of my touring I was doing sound or PA tech for three bands with interwoven tours flying directly from one to the next. I used to try and call home when I had someone I wanted to talk to in my life but it was pretty easy to spend 1/2 the tour pay on calling cards and hotel phone charges. The largest hotel phone bill I saw was $ 1200. One of the guys had used a hotel phone to talk for a few hours to his gal from Europe. It happens to most new touring humans at least once. That hotel phone just looks so tempting sitting by the bed, so easy, how bad could it be? I have paid the bill of shame myself but where and how much I have long ago forgotten. There was even a "mail day" because our schedule kept changing, as did our hotels and the cities we though we were going to. So any mail was sent to the management and they would then forward it to certain cities. Motion meant disconnecting and that disconnection is both the best and worst part of touring.

In it's purest form disconnection can be one of the most invigorating and wondrous experiences imaginable. Completely letting go of everything. No bills to pay, no car to register, no set schedule to follow. Each day is just a simple set of instructions to follow cryptically written in a the book of life called the itinerary. Lobby at 8 am, eat, set up gear, eat, tear down gear, shower, eat, sleep in bus, wake up, repeat. Each day someone paints a different picture of the world outside the bus and makes it a bit hotter, colder or wetter. Each day the gear comes out of the trucks and each day your focus slips farther down from the horizon to seeing only that which immediately is at hand. It is at that point where living distinctly in the moment is all that matters where the sensation of true freedom solidifies. That sensation is the essence of what I believe is the allure and magnetism of choosing a life on the road.

PJ PA System, Boston

The price paid for disconnection is that when the tour ends and reality is crushingly dropped back into your lap, you have no where to stay, all your worldly belongings are scattered in various garages, the battery is dead in your unregistered car. Motionless is depressing. New cities and music and crowds of excited humans all gone. I used to dig through all my stuff stored at home and rediscover things I tucked away and forgot. Drive somewhere, I guess, eat food and begin to miss the endless string of adventures that had presented themselves daily. Instead I sit with four walls waiting for the phone to ring and take me away from motionless stagnation.

After about 16 years of touring and around 5 years ago, I made the conscience decision to try to learn how to be a normal human and try and adapt to a more normal life. I wanted to learn how to not to travel and also to be happy at the same time.

The enjoying my time off,

Dave Rat


Day 101 - Sept 1 - LA Forum Show #2

**** Begin Pondering Rambling ****

It is so strange, this place used to be so huge. I remember the way it felt in the sheer awe of being herded through the various sections to my seat 29 years ago more clearly than the events themselves. Loge 21 if my memory serves me, just off the floor on the left side, maybe row K? I remember how insanely excited I was in that sensory overload awaiting the big rock show and savoring every nuance. Flipping between being wrapped in the music and making mental notes of things to tell my friends that I wanted to remember. Jimmy Page playing Dazed and Confused with the violin bow and then there was and that spinning laser cone. It like totally surrounded him and was a just a single green beam at first. It started waving into a triangle and three more triangles sliced down forming a pyramid of green eerie light that began to spin around him into a glowing cone as he hammered away at the strings. And finally the blinding green dot of the laser hitting his bow he swung in a circle around his head brought the entire audience on top of their seat again to be put down by security.

If there is one clear sacrifice I made by entering the music industry as a way of life, I would have to say it is the dilution of exactly that anticipation and thrill. I realized as it happened. Slowly my perception of bands and enjoyment of their music began to weigh heavier as the lines blurred between rock-show and job-site. Where I used to enjoy listening purely to the songs created, I found myself equally concerned with the 'whom' I was listening to. As I worked with more artists I found it increasingly difficult to enjoy the music created by knuckle heads. Or worse yet, listening to the music of a sonic-monopolizing ego-maniacal artistic dictator surrounded by minions as I have met quite a few, became nearly unbearable. So I graciously avoid those entities both musically and professionally.

As a replacement for what I have lost, I have found something enjoyably unexpected. That exuberance has somehow developed into an awareness. Just as the less than enjoyable humans devalued their own music in my ears, being exposed to inspirational and intriguing humans elevates my taste for much that I had previously overlooked and now with that clearer insight I have an added enjoyment of their sonic creations.

*** End Pondering Rambling ****

Today my dad came to the rock show. Today I gave my dad his first full tour of what goes on at a large concert and for the first time my dad actually watched a rock show and for the first time I actually think he truly grasped what it is that I do. He is not much of a music guy, best I can remember hearing from him was some recordings of 3 old guys playing recorders (wooden flutes) and a few classical albums he never listened to. Also I am relatively confident that he was not too thrilled to have me huddled in the corner of his living room for hours and hours on end, headphones blasting. I started with a used Beach Boys live album and quickly ramped up to Pink Floyd, Sabbath and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the help of a friend named Raggs who lived down the alley. I am pretty sure that career choice was not quite what he had envisioned but none the less, today my dad came to the rock show. And the best part is that he liked it.

**** Highlight of the Day ****

Watching my dad fully immersed and focused in watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers grand finally encore jam.

**** End Highlight of the Day ****

Oh, and he definitely enjoyed it a bit more than his very first rock show and though he has bragging rights to say he actually saw Black Flag in 1985, I do not think he fully appreciated the significance. My mom on the other hand, well she think that Henry Rollins guy is cute and once showed up at a 45 Grave/Channel 3/Godhead show with a birthday cake for me. Imagine my joy of having mom running around at a punk rock show with a pink birthday cake and candles, singing away. Like many things in life, it often takes time to fully appreciate.

And so concludes US tour leg #1.

The looking forward to home,

Dave Rat