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On the Road with the Format: Steel City Rules


It’s over! The sickness is finally over. Thanks to the magic of yet another Z-Pak, my antibiotic of choice, I can safely say that I have woken up today without having what has become a very typical coughing fit. Last week when I said that I was feeling better from a rough week, well that was actually a little bit of a lie and a lot of wishful thinking. That’s another problem with being a smoker: once you’re able to smoke again you automatically believe you aren’t sick, which then allows you to smoke, which in return, hinders your ability to get better. So, while I spent last week being active and productive, the accompanying soundtrack was the very unpleasant sound of hacking and spitting. Nonetheless here is a rundown…

For some odd reason Guster has been taking a lot of days off on this tour. Actually, come to think of it, that’s not odd. And they’re actually not that many days off. However, our booking agent, who also happens to be a good friend, a wonderful dude, and the one person who has consecutively kept us afloat for the last four years, can’t read a map to save his life and to make matters worse, sees no problem in us playing nine consecutive shows in eight different cities (an improvement from the previous 14 consecutive shows without a day off). Now, this would be fine…if I was a robot…but I get the feeling that robots don’t produce mass amounts of phlegm. So whenever Guster decides to schedule a day off, we usually head into the opposite direction and play a show of our own.

This week Pittsburgh was the lucky winner. Unfortunately, when I woke up in Pittsburgh, I was in a pretty bad mood and wasn’t stoked about consecutive show number eight. The day changed, however, when I found out that the day was nice and the area we were in was even nicer, and by nicer (which I’m not sure is a real word) I mean that we weren’t in a random industrial area or on a college campus. There were coffee shops and record stores. Even though it really was no big deal to be in an area with such things, the places I had been for the last month had made this particular area feel like Seattle circa 1992. Feeling inspired and wanting to fit in with the subculture, I decided that Pittsburgh was to be where I would receive my very first tattoo.

Twenty-five is an odd age to get a tattoo. You’d figure if I was to get a tattoo, it would have been a long time ago, especially being in a band (as cliché as that sounds) and my assumption is that if you’ve reached 25 and have failed thus far at getting “sick ink,” then you are probably never going to do it. But I’ve always kind of wanted one and being that I was already disillusioned into believing I was no longer sick, this was really my best chance at taking the leap.

Fortunately for me, Sam was ready to get some more tattoos himself, so we both agreed that he would be there to hold my hand while I cried at the sight of a needle. And I would be there for him, to say “No, you won’t regret a tattoo on your wrist.” The other bonus is that the particular tattoo I was getting just so happened to be a drawing Sam had done for the back of our album, Dog Problems. Sam could be there to make sure the tattoo artist didn’t screw it up. Now, I know you’re thinking that it might be a bit cheesy to get a tattoo of your own band, it sounds as bad as wearing your own shirt. However, the drawing was of my dog Otis, so it had a double meaning to me. Not only was it a tattoo from something I was proud of (our record), it was also of something that I love (my dog). Our only problem now was trying to decide which tattoo shop would be lucky enough to take care of me once I passed out from the pain.

After talking with the locals and looking at the pictures in the window, we decided on a parlor called Jester’s Court. The place seemed really clean and the pictures of previous tattoos looked particularly great. The only available artist was a guy named Mike. Mike looked like a pretty tough guy with a bunch of tattoos himself, so I was a little scared that he would laugh at me once I told him I wanted to get a colored drawing of a dog and a bowl of dog food. But Mike was actually really nice, and after talking for a little bit it turned out he was a fan of the band. I found that to be a little weird — our listeners never look that tough, but he showed me the mix CD with our songs! So we put him on the guest list and agreed that part one of my tattoo would be done before the show, then we would all break, go to the show, and afterwards he would keep the shop open late so that he could work on anyone else in the band who wanted it.

I have to say…it didn’t hurt at all! Granted, I got it in a fairly easy place on my arm, I’m usually the type to run away crying. But I was so impressed with the tattoo that I actually got more! Sam got a tattoo of his dog on his wrist. And our guitarist Mike got a moustache on the inside of his middle finger and a bone on the inside of his other hand. If you don’t know already, that means that Mike can have a moustache anytime he feels like it. All he has to do is raise his finger up to his nose and voila! Instant creep.

I have a lot of regrets in life, but the one thing I’d figure to have regretted the moment the needle touched my skin happens to be one of the things I’m most proud to own. Our artist Mike was one of the coolest people I have met on tour and we have actually made plans to work on my other arm when we come back to Pittsburgh this summer. I’ll post his MySpace info next week when I’m not typing this on my cell phone.

At this point, I’d usually wrap up the story by bringing the conversation into a full circle, but I’m feeling a lot better and it’s a beautiful day outside. So instead, I’m going to apply some lotion over my tattoo and go get crushed by Ryan at some yuppie racquet sport. So until next time…

— Nate On the Web:
Campus Consciousness Tour website