On the Road with the Format: Frat Party USA!

Hello again! If you were bored enough to read last week’s poorly written introductory post, you might remember that it ended with me being harassed by a group of portly, shirtless, 12-year-old white trash kids on bikes. What I failed to mention was that we were on the campus of an ALL MALE college. And it just so happened to have been on a Saturday when the majority of the campus was running around shirtless, playing soccer, tossing footballs, and doing whatever else you do to relieve the tension brought forth by sharing Chem101 (along with every other class) with a bunch of dudes. What were these little kids doing on campus that day? Why were they laying in the grass with their bodies positioned so that they could watch the college boys tackle each other? And with all of that going on, why did they decide to attack the two mid twenty something’s who just happened to have been walking by, smoking cigarettes, and wearing shirts?

Did we block their view? I’ll never fully understand, but upon finishing last week’s post, and feeling dissatisfied with the content (or lack thereof), I realized that I had to go out and get the stories, get the real, exciting stuff about tour. I had to live like people would assume a touring musician would live (It’s really not glamorous…you get sick all the time. Plus, who would want to get drunk on a moving bus with a bunch of other smelly, sick, disgusting dudes?). Fortunately that night, at that very same all male campus, I would assume my new alter-ego and uncover the story of a lifetime…

The show was eh, I’m pretty sure the stage was made of ping-pong tables. But the crowd seemed pretty “pumped.” There was a buzz about this all male campus. Something special was happening. After our set, while walking outside of the auditorium, I was approached by a couple of (gasp!) girls.

“TONITE IS THE BIGGEST FRAT PARTY OF THE YEAR!!! WOOOO!”

“Ever?” I asked.

“EVAAAAAAA! WOOO! YOU COMIN!? EVERYONE IS INVITED! WOOO!!!”

(I think you can tell where a lot of this is headed, and there is a lot of screaming and yelling that would require me to type in caps. And to be honest, I don’t like caps, they give me a headache. So, just assume that any time I’m talking to anyone who might be in “party mode,” than they should be in caps).

(I’d also like to note that I am going to omit all curse words from this story, as my grandmother might be reading. Trust me Grandma: They cussed up a shitstorm)

Now normally, with the girls, I would make up an excuse about how I don’t drink, or that we were leaving in the next couple of hours (we never do, it works every time), but I knew I had to do my job as a bonafide “blogger” and mingle with the good people of random town, Indiana. So, our tour manager, Muzz, got the directions in the form of a really poorly drawn treasure map, and we headed down to “the world’s biggest frat party, of all time, ever.”

I’ll admit, I had my second thoughts the whole time. I’ve never been a party dude. I’ve maybe been to a handful of parties at the very most. For me, an ideal good time on a Saturday night would be basketball games, video games, pizza, and eventually, sex. I’m a “dude” in that sense of the word. However I am not a “dude” in the sense that I’m going to hang out with a bunch of randoms, at a random house, drinking cheap beer in hopes of getting a hand job. That is too much work, too much “so what do you do for a living?” “Oh you want to be a pro dancer?” “Wow, follow your dreams.” I can’t be that guy, it’s just not worth the effort. So I pondered and pondered. I knew I had to get a good story for SPIN.com. I needed to redeem myself (clearly going really well), but was I willing to set aside all of my beliefs and morals for a story that maybe three-dozen people would read.

If I had any doubts they went right out the door the second Ryan [Miller] from Guster stepped on our bus. Ryan made it clear that not only were we all going to the party, we were all drinking — a lot. Now, I’m not much of a drinker these days (I already went through my bloated Janis Joplin phase) but I’ll still occasionally enjoy a good beer, or a nice glass of gin and tonic. But my man Ryan made sure we were ready for an uncomfortable night out. M’man had a full bottle of whiskey. We each took our respected shots and I felt the need to ask Ryan, a very, very well respected and classy fellow himself, why he found it to be okay that we (the musicians, those who are above all) were going to this party.

“Beer Pong” he said.

So beer pong it was.

Me, Ryan, our bass player Don, our merch guy Toco, and Guster’s sometimes drummer/drum tech Scooter stayed behind a little longer while everyone else in each band’s crew read the busted treasure map and headed for “the worlds biggest frat party, ever” (we will call it FIJI — eventually we found out that was the name). After a few shots of whiskey, a lack of map, and pouring rain, it took us even longer to finally make it, but I could see it, in the distance, I could see the tiki lights, I could hear the music, there it was — FIJI!!

FIJI was what some might call “off the hook”. There was a live band playing, there were tons of rooms, there was a crazy punch that had strawberries in it, there was cheap beer, and most importantly there were tons of dudes in cargo shorts giving me high fives. The booze was working its magic through my system. Suddenly I got along with everyone. I chatted it up with some of the people on tour that I hadn’t met yet, and I chatted it up with all of the locals.

At one point a girl even approached me and said “meet me downstairs.” That was not going to happen. I sometimes like to think of myself as a “conglomerate pimp,” but am reminded that I am called that only by the person that has the exclusive rights to me. So instead, I just filled up on more strawberry booze and made my way around the party. But something didn’t feel right, something was missing. I looked around at the group of people I was with, I counted the heads of those five people who had been late in arriving with me — Me, Toco, Don, Scooter, Marko (our guitarist). That’s all five. But something is missing — we’re missing that skip in our collective step. I count through it again and then it hits me. “RYAN!”

He was nowhere to be found. I looked around the room, nothing. I knew he had a lot to drink, but I didn’t know how much, he could have been beat up by a guy with a seashell necklace, he could be passed out somewhere, or even worse, he could have been kidnapped (the things drunk me thinks aren’t too different from regular me).

I alerted the others and we quickly formed a plan that we were going to walk the halls of the building, in a single file line, in search of Ryan. Together, we were going to rescue him. Our mission, of course, was called “Saving Private Ryan.”

“RYAN!”

We searched the ground floor, nothing. We went upstairs, where it seemed a little fishy because there were dudes at the bottom of each staircase acting as security. They always let us proceed. I want to believe it’s because we looked like men on a mission to find a lost comrade, unfortunately I think it had to do with the fact that we were probably the only two touring bands to have ever played their college. We made it all the way up to the top floor — still no Ryan — just dudes peaking out the dorm room doors, wondering what all the fuss was about. We asked about Ryan, they didn’t seem concerned.

Eventually, we ended up back on the ground floor. Defeated. After a little more strawberry magic juice I had remembered that one girl asked me to go downstairs with her. I felt nauseous for a second and then put the pieces together…there is still more ground to be covered in our search! I gathered up the troops and we headed downstairs. No questions asked.

The basement was disgusting — black lights, bad music, and a bunch of college kids grinding each other. I was thankful I never had the opportunity to go to school. I was thankful I failed Spanish in high school and was forced to become a musician. But I was willing to endure these things, if only for tonight, so that we might find Ryan. We searched the black light room up and down, still no Ryan. When in another room downstairs we could hear people screaming and chanting. Was this where they took him in order to execute him? I walked closer and closer to the light.

Come back tomorrow for part two of Nate’s wild night on campus, and find out if Private Ryan was indeed saved — or whether he needed saving at all.

>> Read frontman Nate Ruess’ first entry in the Format tour blog
>> Read guitarist Marko Buzard’s first entry in the Format tour blog

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