In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, the rock duo, In The Whale, talk about some of their crazy moments from touring. You can check out the feature, after the break.
During the Spring of 2015, we were on what seemed like an endless tour, about 74 shows in 85 days across the US and Canada. Show number 5 was Reno, NV, or what Eric likes to call, “the honest Las Vegas.” There’s no faux-sheen like Nevada’s other gambling destination. Reno is a place where you could walk into a bar/casino/Walmart at noon stepping over a guy passed out at a table or see a prostitute in the middle of a parking lot yelling at a dissatisfied customer, “GET BACK HERE WITH MY MONEY!!,” at 9 in the morning on a Wednesday (those two incidents actually happened during this visit, witnessed with our four eyeballs). No glitz, no glamour, but real people dealing with real life stuff… just like we describe our band, In the Whale.
So, as always, we booked ourselves the finest hotel/casino in the land: Circus, Circus Reno. We’ve never stayed anywhere else. A clean and affordable hotel is the key to living on the road.
We were about half a mile from the hotel and we hear a loud bang come from the engine, the ‘check engine’ light flashes and needless to say, we broke down. We coasted the van to a nearby mechanic, took a seat in the waiting room, and crossed our fingers. We like to arrive early to gigs and we figured whatever it was, we’d have time to get it fixed and be on our way to the gig. Nate has a vast knowledge of cars and keeps the van in tip top shape. So much so that the running joke in the band is that Black Betty (that’s our van’s name) is the highest paid member of In the Whale. After 30 minutes, the mechanic came into the room and looked like a surgeon who had to notify the family that grandpa didn’t make it out of surgery. “Your number 7 cylinder is dead.” Well, that sounded pretty serious. We figured we might have to cancel the next few gigs while they ordered a new cylinder. Bummer. “No no no. You guys need a new engine.” Those last four words sent us spiraling through the five stages of grief no band should ever encounter.
DENIAL: “No way this is real. This is a mistake. We treat this van like a queen!”
ANGER: “HOW THE F*** COULD THIS HAPPEN!? WE TREAT THIS VAN LIKE A QUEEN!!! WHAT DID YOU DO, NATE?”
BARTERING: “Hey man. What can we do for you to get this handled? Like for real! What do you need? Want a shirt or some CDs?”
DEPRESSION: “What are we doing dude? We’re in Reno for god’s sake! Now we’re stranded in Reno… we’re gonna end up working at Circus Circus and never leave!”
ACCEPTANCE: “Dude, start calling rental places now.”
Thankfully Reno is a small city. We were able to walk to our hotel and push the van to the venue. We were NOT going to miss a gig. The bar staff was amazing, calling their friends with vans, calling mechanics, we’d never met these people before but they had sympathy for us and treated us like family. Remember that part about honesty? Here it was, people helping people in tough spots.
We wish we could tell you that the show went well, but honestly, we have no idea. We were too worried. After our set, we exited the venue to pack up to find three showgoers doing drugs off of Eric’s drum case. “Great f***ing show guys! I got a CD and a shirt! When are you coming back!? Where’d you get this thing? I’ve been looking for stuff like this for my students. I’m a high school music teacher! Want a bump!?” Again, that “honesty” thing… doesn’t get more real than that.
The next morning, we pushed the van back to the shop and they told us it would take around 4 weeks to order an engine and install it… costing more money than we could even fathom. We were able to put the deposit down and we figured we’d just bum around Reno for the next month and cancel a portion of the tour. Maybe we would have to get jobs at a casino to start paying off the balance, we’d probably grow accustomed to life in the “Biggest Little City In The World”, give up on music and work our way up the ranks at the casino. From blackjack dealers, get promoted to pit bosses, and eventually floor managers, before making a deal with the Italian mob to provide loaded dice at our craps tables. It wouldn’t be long before we became FBI informants and it wouldn’t be long after that that Luca, the underboss of the LaMotta family found out, whacked us, and left us for dead in the Nevada desert.
Thankfully for us, our tourmates, Agent Orange, intervened. Over breakfast at Waffle House (remember the prostitute in the first paragraph? This was the parking lot), getting ready to say our goodbyes when Mike Palm spoke up. “We talked and decided we don’t want you guys to miss out on the shows. We just can’t have that.” They offered to let us ride with them and use their gear so we wouldn’t miss any of the shows we had with them, and we’d be able to make the money needed in order to pay the rest of the engine off. It was the kindest gesture anyone has ever made on our behalf. Not only were they giving up van space (more precious than gold) but letting us share equipment. The next 34 shows went swimmingly, with us acting as roadies and getting to know the Agent Orange guys, people we now call good friends.
The van was fixed and ready by the time we were just starting our southwest portion of the tour. Nate hopped on a plane to Reno, got the van, and met us in Tucson, AZ the day after that.
Since then we’ve put almost 94,000 miles on the new engine from touring. We look back on that tour with smiles on our faces. It’s a reminder that we’ve been to the bottom and came out alive, better than ever. Now when something is going wrong, someone in our camp will eventually chime in and say, “Hey! This is nothing! Remember when the engine died!?”
So what should you take from this story?
– Be nice to everyone you meet on the road, you never know where generosity will come from when you need it most.
– Take a breath before jumping to conclusions when bad situations come up, or as Nate says, “Take a beat”.
– Drugs are bad. Please don’t do them on our road cases.
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