Monday, September 18, 2006

Free Beer, Flying Bodies, Sewer Grates, and Snake Attacks!

What a weekend.
Boy, was it ever.
There's one question that rolled continuously through my mind on both Friday and Saturday night: "Why, oh why, did I forget the video camera?"
Actually, I shouldn't even place the blame on myself. Everyone in the band has a brain and a mouth, anyone could have said something.


Friday night after we all got off work we hopped right into the van since we had a 2.5 hour drive down to Bradenton to play at the venue Rockerfellas. Let's fast forward a bit here... two and a half hours later we arrive in Bradenton and realize that the directions I had printed out from good old Google Maps are completely useless. This was the first time we'd ever come to a fork in the road and both sides of the fork had the same roadname. We ended up having to just drive around for 30 minutes going back and forth trying to find the venue. We called them and they provided absolutely no help. We continued to wander. Eventually Bert and Doug (who had taken up post in the front seats) got so utterly frustrated that we had to stop at a gas station (that we had passed 5 times going both ways) to ask for directions. JoAnna ran in and thankfully, the guy at the counter had some idea of where the bar was and gave us a decent description of which roads to follow. We then went down a nice selection of dark alleyways and back streets until we ran across the venue. We then did our load-in thang and waited a while. Then we soundchecked. Then we waited some more. This is probably a good time to mention that we played first. The crowd was sparse, but receptive, and they seemed to have a good time. People actually came up to the stage while we played. That never happens.
We played our set and life continued as normal.
The local band "Stalling Dawn" played after us and were very good. JoAnna compared them to Thrice. I trust her opinion there because she knows Thrice music very well and probably likes them more than you do.
During the last band whose name escapes me at present, we found out that the venue was not going to pay us the money we had been promised, and instead decided to pay us in drinks. Fantastic. Last time I looked, drinks didn't fill up the van's gas tank. Doug took heavy advantage of getting paid in drinks and became a walking, talking, shell of a human who had nothing interesting to day. Mid-way through that band's set, JoAnna, for some reason unknown to humanity, decided it would be a good idea to tackle Doug in hopes of starting a moshpit. She got some running distance from the other side of the Pool room and collided with Doug at high velocity. I think I heard a break in the sound barrier. As I'm watching, I see JoAnna leap through the air, hit Doug, whose feet also leave the ground and they collapse into a heap on the floor. JoAnna gets up, and runs off in fear of retaliation while Doug lays on the ground wondering what happened. It took everyone in the bar a second to figure out what had just happened, and the band on stage was laughing so hard, the members could barely keep playing. This all brought JoAnna a lot of praise, and we started selling CDs. I think she'll have to do that more often.
Bert stayed sober and drove us home. We made some good time, but didn't make it back to Winter Park til nearly 4am.

Consider this your intermission, as we still have to talk about Saturday night's show at the Liquid Cellar in Orlando.
Go pee, get yourself a snack, whatever, but come back and keep reading soon.

We'll continue on to night #2.

Saturday evening we pull up the Liquid Cellar. I had driven separately, planning to leave after we played to go visit with my girlfriend. As I was walking into the venue, my cell phone began to ring. On the other line was Doug telling me "Uh Wes, we have a little bit of a situation here."
I headed through the venue and out the back door to see my 3 bandmates crouched down looking under the van. So I'm wondering to myself what they hit, what the van could be dragging, or who might be trapped underneath. Turns out none of the above.
As I walk closer, I see that they aren't looking under the van, but instead at a water drainage grate that the van is parked over. Doug approaches me with a defensive smile to let me know that our van key is no longer in our possession, but down within the depths of this grate. Great.
So with no idea of where the grate leads or how deep it goes we start to put together a battle plan to retrieve it. Bert claimed to have heard the key hit something within, but is unsure as to whether it hit water or something solid. At this point in the evening, the sun had gone away, so there we are in a dark parking lot, the three of us staring into an abyss that holds the key to our transportation. Pun intended. We devise a plan to lift up the grate and attempt to locate it. Bert is the only one manly enough to lift the piece of metal, so JoAnna holds it up against the van while Bert and myself try to locate the keyring. We quickly find out that there is not actually a lot of water in the bottom so I figure we should be able to see it with the naked eye. But remember, it is dark outside. We start waving our cell phones around in the dark, the faint light giving us nothing to work with, instead looking only like the worlds cheapest Rave party.
The pit of doom isn't exactly deep, but it's difficult to reach the bottom without lying flat on our stomaches. I decide it might be a good idea just to jump down in there to look around. So I do.
Within the pit I'm greeted with the stench of trash, dirty water and old cigarette butts. Kinda reminded me of the ENY house, to be honest.
So there I am, waist-deep in this grate waving around two cell phones trying to find our key. I notice a small pipe within the pit running elsewhere. I can only imagine what might be running around down there. After sticking my hand into several of the random puddles, I finally locate the key. Upon pulling it up to ground level, water starts to drain from our electronic keychain which arms/disarms the alarm on the van. Great.
See, our van has this little, incovenient twist to it: While the alarm is engaged, we cannot start up the engine. This comes to our attention as we're all attempting to shower in the venues sink. We head back out to the van, hoping that our biggest fears weren't about to come true. Sadly, the keychain is dead and we cannot disengage the alarm.
At this point we do what everyone else would do and begin to panic. We are so good at panicking. It's quite possible that we're better at panicking than playing music.
We head back into the venue and Bert begins dismantling the keychain in hopes that he can dry it out and bring it back to life. Sadly, those attempts are in vain and the situation has not improved. While all of this is happening, the first band begins to play. We are up second. Luckily, we can still get into the van, though every time we open one of the doors, the alarm goes off causing people to come out back to see just what the heck is going on.
I start calling people to figure out what to do. My father laughs at me, Amanda tells me to check the car's manual, and I rig up a few ideas of my own. Once again, I leave the venue through the back door, preoccupied with my own thoughts and despairs, when all of a sudden I see the ground in front of me begin to move, and I am face to face with a random snake in the middle of the parking lot. We lock eyes. We size each other up, and then I run around it like a little girl. I take perch in the front seat of the van, the alarm blazing, thumbing through the manual to the van. At some point in it's life, I'm assuming that the manual was dropped into a puddle itself because the pages are just tearing out as I turn them. It's at this time that I notice JoAnna coming toward me. I tell her to watch out for the snake. She sees it and also runs away like a girl. She keeps a careful eye on the critter while I continue to scan the manual, finding asbolutely nothing about an alarm system. Apparently it was added in by the previous owner.
I'm reading and accidently ripping out pages while JoAnna gives me a snake update. The enemy has now perched itself under the van, right below where I'm sitting. It had slithered around for a bit even entering and exiting the grate where my skinny non-snake-proof body had been just minutes before.

Alright, let's pause for a minute and re-cap what has occured during the course of the evening, just so you're up to speed: (1) The van keys were dropped into a grate. (2) We cannot disarm the van alarm and it keeps going off. (3) We cannot start the ignition of the van because the alarm is not disabled. And most importantly of all, (4) THERE'S A FREAKING SNAKE TRYING TO GET ME.

Good? Good.

I begin calling Triple-A to see if I can't get some kind of service. Turns out all that they can do is tow it. JoAnna gets numbers for some locksmiths and I collect a few as well. No one can help us. Nobody in the Orlando area deals with keyless entry.
Oh crap, we have to go play a show. Everyone is once again panicking, but this time over the random snake. Bert decides to be proactive and tries to tries to move it with a piece of cardboard. It doesn't want to move.
I'm standing a safe distance away from the van on the phone with Triple-A the other 3 are loading our gear into the venue, and I'm doubling as Snake-Watcher. I was supposed to call out if it moved. I'm pretty sure that I was far enough away, parked beside a row of air conditioners that they couldn't have heard me even if I had a megaphone.
So we go in to play the show.
In all honesty, we played pretty well. Not much of a crowd but we had other things on our mind. That may have been the first show where we were so crunched for time that we willing dropped "Girl Like Her" from the setlist.
After playing, we headed back outside. The situation had improved only by the snake wandering off to harass other innocent bystanders.
Prior to playing, JoAnna made arrangements to have her friend Jeremy come to the venue with his gigantic truck to pick up as much of our gear as possible. I called Triple-A for the third time that evening and arranged for a tow. We stuck as much stuff into my car as possible and put everything else in other random cars and trucks. Bert and JoAnna took off to get the gear safely back to the house. Doug and I were left. Left with a two hour wait time. Doug then went off to another bar to drink with an old friend. I was left in the back alley waiting for the tow truck.
Just me waiting in the dark with a broken van and a snake hiding in the shadows.
Around 2:30am, the towing company called to say that they were in the area. Doug had wandered back by this time and we were sitting in my car listening to some tunes.
Luckily, the guy who came to tow the van back to our house was awesome and he built a giant contraption around Van Disel that lifted up the front of the van, and he stuck extra wheels on the back since we couldn't get the thing out of park and into neutral. Around 3am we were on our way home. Finally. Upon arriving back we were greeted by Bert & JoAnna plus a few others. The guy who towed took another 20 minutes to dismantle the monster he had created to lift the van. By 3:45 all was said and done. We were home, the van was home, but the alarm still activated.
If anyone has ANY ideas on how we can possibly fix this situation, please feel free to email them to me immediately.

Now, after reading all of this, I sincerely hope that you can see why I spent these nights wondering to myself: "Why, oh why, did I forget the video camera?"

This is the kind of stuff you only read about on the internet.

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