Finding Room In The Van

On the way home from SXSW this weekend the band discussed the idea of doing our next tour without a trailer which we typically tow behind us. We had just made it all the way to Austin and back for far less than we had anticipated despite the outrageous price of gasoline ubiquitous on Highway 10 and we could come to no better conclusion than it was because this time we had no trailer. The wind drag on a hulking piece of metal must add at least 5-8% transportation cost. In a business where we’re stoked to get $200 to make a 7 hour journey to the next town, you don’t need an MBA to understand  the sound business potential.

The thought first came up the day before. Ron Houser and I were talking (sober, I believe, so technically I was talking to Erik Kluiber) and discussing the idea that we could forgo the necessary sleeping space in order to transport our gear in the van itself. We could use the saved money to get hotels in towns where we don’t know anyone with floorspace for us to crash, and with 5 tours under our belt those towns are few and far between. That’s about as far the conversation went. It must have been time to drink, or house, as we say in the Nest.

Coincidentally, Eric Harris brought up the same ideathe next day under the same set of predications. Only this time we were stuck in a van and not thirsty in the warm Austin sun so the conversation begged to go forward. For some reason it took a decidedly darker route than one might expect. After a somewhat town hall “lay your opinions out” civil rapport between the three of us (four if you count Ian’s inane and often redundant interjections) it basically boiled down to debate of style vs comfort philosophy between Eric and Erik (who now shall be simply Ron for clarification purposes). Eric insisted that we absolutely must bring full stacks for guitars because A) it looks cool, B) it sounds better, and C) he’ll have no feeling for playing whatsoever without them. Knowing Eric as well as I do I know when there’s no winning with him. Not because his logic flows effortlessly and true like a lioness racing across the grass to kill for her young, but because he’s as stubborn as the alpha male of a pride. You will have to fight him to the death to get him to move. He’s the reason people get divorces.

Ron, on the other hand, believed that in order to maximize space in the van we would have to downsize to halfstacks. Not only would that provide the necessary room to tour without a trailer but it would save time setting up, put less wear and tear on our aging backs, and who really gives a fuck that we have full stacks? In his view it’s arrogant and in some ways I agree with him. However, he joined a band that he knew makes full stacks part of their raison d’être and his insistence on anything otherwise can be seen as out of line. For some reason though it seemed like he failed to grasp that having space for even halfstacks would require removing most of the benches that we use as beds.

The debate didn’t end well. It didn’t really end, to be more accurate. Eric was able to make his grand exit in the middle of the desert during a freezing cold storm to go film a music video with his other band, his opposite-of-side project. The last words spoken were that we would reconnoiter in a few days back at the studio and go through the arduos actions necessary to see if we could cram everything in the back of the van. The rest of the drive to LA was a discussion of futility, arrogance, hyperbolae, childishness, frustration, and of the myriad of pejorative circumstances one can face when confronting Eric Harris with an opinion related to being in a band. Ron was upset, I was exhausted, and Ian was shrugging off the minutes of the meeting that were business as usual.

Needless to say the shit didn’t fit. Eric’s first thought was, in a vindictive yet self-debilitating tone that only makes sense in his convoluted head, was to forgo the fullstacks, ala Ron’s preference, and not only that, but his entire bass rig as well so we could potentially fit in the bare minimum amount of gear to still forgo the costly trailer. Once I realized this entailed tetrissing even that meager amount of gear I asked, is it not obvious to everyone else that we’re just going to have to use a trailer? We’ve already sacrificed comfort, no sense also sacrificing the integrity of our stage set up for a few dollars. Everyone nodded their heads in agreement and that was that.

I still can’t help but wonder: why did everyone split with their convictions in order to passive-aggressively dig into the other side? It was Ron who originally wanted to tour without a trailer. Why did he start getting so upset when the discussion of giving up our sleeping benches became a factor in the discusion? Where the fuck did he think the equipment would go? And why did Eric, who so earnestly insisted on fullstacks or no stacks not only switch to, ok, halfstacks, but also to no bass rig? Who are these people? Am I really the reasonable, logical, adult one of the group? This is not a thought I relish. Not because I’m afraid that I’m growing up like, some sort of Nickelodeon primetime epiphany, or that I’m bonded to a group of guys stagnant in some kind of arrested development where such assinine and banal debates are to be the norm. I don’t care for the thought because thinking is boring. Stick with your gut no mater how ridiculous you sound.

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