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The Melvins ’51 States in 51 Days’ Tour Diary, Days 36-38: Why Buddy Holly Died

Photo courtesy of the Melvins

Sludge-metal pioneers the Melvins are attempting to break a world record: 51 shows in 51 states in 51 days. Join SPIN for their exclusive tour diary of this ridiculous and completely inadvisable endeavor! Catch up here.

October 10, 2012 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
October 11, 2012 – Knoxville, TN @ The Square Room
October 12, 2012 – Greenville, SC @ The Handle Bar 
38 down, 13 to go

They keep telling us we aren’t really in the “south” yet and they’ve been telling us this since we left Washington, D.C. The “south” wasn’t in Virginia and apparently, if you believe what the locals told us, then North Carolina isn’t in the “south” either. It’s almost like they don’t want to admit that they live in the “south.”

Where is the “south” then? God knows….It’s all the same as far as I’m concerned.

To me, everything outside of Los Angeles is the “south” including places like San Diego. It’s sort of like the saying “everything is God.” Indeed it is. I usually don’t argue with people when they talk about their hometown unless it’s to simply agree that the place they live sucks ass or rules the planet. It’s all the same to me because I don’t want to live anywhere except Los Angeles. Sometimes that’s hard for people to get their heads around because L.A. has this weird stigma surrounding it and seems to be universally hated by all outsiders for reasons I’ve never understood, but don’t expect me to run down a list of all the reasons Los Angeles is the greatest city in the world because that’s something I would never do. If you are too stupid to figure that out for yourself then so be it, I will happily leave you to wallow in your own ignorance.

Anyway…We are in the “south.”

One of the funny things about touring and doing a lot of shows in a short amount of time is how they all blur into a strange vaguely familiar glaring white haze and that never seems to change. It’s not like I’m onstage in Indiana amazed at how much different it is than a show in New York City, actually I’m amazed at how similar the shows all are. Believe me, there is no shortage of screaming morons in so called “progressive” cities like New York, San Francisco, Paris, Berlin, or Tel Aviv.

Stupidity knows no bounds and certainly no city limits, but by and large 99 percent of the people who come to Melvins shows seem to be relatively well behaved….I’m happy and relieved by this.

We played a wonderful show at the Cat’s Cradle in North Carolina. We’ve played there a lot in the last 20 years and it’s always a great experience. Easy load-in and nice people, plus a lot of okay places to eat around the immediate vicinity of the club. Right before we played I watched Cat’s Cradle security talking outside to a very agitated bearded thirtysomething Melvins fan. I didn’t hear exactly what the exchange was but when I asked the security guy about it later he told me, “Man, that dude is crazy.” Perfect…At least he was outside and I hope he stayed outside. I didn’t notice any bloodshed or insanity while we were onstage but there’s usually a lot I don’t notice that’s happening in the audience while we play so anything is possible.

Our Knoxville show was really great as well. We arrived pretty early to find a very well-maintained venue that even had bunk beds in the dressing room! I’m not shitting you, bunk beds. At last we could and did live out our age-old fantasy of all living together in one big “house” like the Monkees! I crashed out on a top bunk and pretended that Trevor was an even gayer version of Davy Jones….

Photo courtesy of the MelvinsPhoto courtesy of the Melvins

Weirdly, as we rolled into Greenville, South Carolina we noticed that almost every business we passed had the word “anal” somewhere in its name. Then, as we were standing outside the venue I asked the Tweak Bird guys if they knew what the hell that big dark building next to the club was. It looked positively spooky, like a cross between a school, a prison, and a slaughterhouse. They told me they weren’t sure what it actually was but the sign said “Anal something…” We’d never played Greenville before and we had a really great show. The club was called the Handle Bar and we expected it to be a biker bar or maybe a gay club considering the name, but as it turned out, the Handle Bar name was actually about handle bar mustaches…which is actually still like a gay bar I suppose. I was kinda looking forward to seeing what a gay bar in South Carolina looked like…next time maybe.

Staring into the middle distance is the best way to describe the overwhelming sensation I have while being on tour, and that has always been the case. If you can’t deal with a huge amount of traveling and an endless amount of pointless free time while being surrounded by people you’ve been living on top of for weeks on end then forget touring. You will be a miserable bastard and you will end up freaking out over something as stupid as not being able to do your laundry. I mean think about it, if Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper hadn’t freaked out about being cold on their tour bus and not being able to do their fucking laundry they would never have gotten on some rickety airplane during a blinding blizzard only to end up with their brains splattered all over a horrible, snow covered backwater Iowa cornfield. As a result of air temperature and laundry, the three rock star freakouts and the pilot all end up dead while the freezing cold tour bus quietly makes its way to the next gig with the non-freakout survivors still present and accounted for…chilly and wearing dirty clothes, but alive, or so the story goes. That is if you believe the tales told by Dion and Waylon Jennings who were both on the tour and who also both claim to have lost their airline death seats in a very “unlucky” coin toss to two of the three soon to be dead stars.

No one claimed to have tossed a coin with Holly for his seat, but then, who would have?

Certainly not me…Ha!

Staring into the middle distance and thinking about everything and nothing…I’ve worked out all sorts of problems whilst staring during a long drive both as a passenger and as the driver and most of that infinite wisdom is instantly forgotten the second I get to whatever club we are playing and we begin busying ourselves with loading in, setting up and sound checking. I usually survey the stage first thing and try to imagine what it will be like to be playing there that night, then I help set up the equipment in what I hope will turn out to be the best way possible for the configuration of whatever the stage layout is.

Photo courtesy of the Melvins

The stage layout is different in every club we play so I’ve gotten used to dealing with whatever is there. Some stages are the size of a postage stamp and some even have one or two giant poles strategically located mid-stage. That never helps but you just learn to deal with it and get along… Some stages are insanely big. On this tour we’ve played on more than one stage that was bigger than the square footage of some of the other clubs entire indoor layout bar included! None of that is a big deal though and certainly no reason to complain, and I’m not complaining. It is what it is and I accept it without question. Why wouldn’t I? We want to be here. I want to travel around the country and make my living playing music. I also try to behave in a way that I would appreciate as a music fan. That’s how we conduct ourselves be it in writing music or playing it live.

I’ve been doing introductions in the middle of the shows on this tour, which is certainly different for me. I usually never say a word and just let the music do the talking, but I have been known to rattle on from time to time. Once on tour a long time ago, we were in New London, Connecticut, and I told the crowd that I was wondering if they could help me find a graveyard where I could steal headstones or even rob graves. There weren’t that many people there anyway and I sometimes like to talk a bunch of insane shit if the idea hits me.

After the show a slightly overweight but still somehow attractive “Goth” looking girl told me that I should stay out of the graveyards around there because it’s hard enough for them in that town as it is.

Photo courtesy of the Melvins