Arcata Eye Scene

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Clay Smith: View from the Van – Aug. 7, 2007

Note: This is the second in a three-part report from the road as Blue Lake’s The Rubberneckers tour in support of their new album, Political Songs About Drinking.

Week 2
The road, while fun as hell and a fine place to make friends, is fickle and sometimes downright mean. There are always ups and downs, and this week holds a few more lows than highs. This being the second installment of a three-week trilogy, it’s sort of The Empire Strikes Back week of tour.
Brendan is our Chewbacca.

I even get my hand cut off in a way, but it’s my guitar that does the screaming. We’ve found our rhythm, but we didn’t know what would become of our spirit. Also, we had no idea how many decisions we would have to leave up to the coin. Learning to trust the coin is the hardest part. We pick up in Tacoma, Wash. still on the road with our Portland buddies, My Life In Black And White.

Day 9: Sunday, July 29
Tacoma, WA
11 a.m.

I wake up in a trailer on some property in the middle of nowhere. I have a good friend here who I will miss when she’s gone. It’s that kind of morning: I’m bummed.

I put on my game face as best as I can. The show last night was OK, but not very well attended. The venue, Hell’s Kitchen, was great, and everyone was really nice to us. The My Lifers lead us on a wild ride in the wrong direction to get to this place to stay, but everyone had a bed, and some a little privacy. The show is in Spokane tonight, and Against Me! is playing right up the road from where we’re playing. That should ruin our crowd for sure. Maybe we can go see them.

Spokane, WA
8:30 p.m.

We go on soon. My Life is just finishing up. I managed to get us all in on the guest list to Against Me! because I’m from Gainesville, and I know them. I just happened to run into Andrew their bass player in a bar by the venue. They’re nice guys to get us all in. I haven’t seen them in years, and it will make up for this show having almost no one there.

2 a.m.
Well, now we can say that we got drunk with Against Me! in a gay bar in Spokane.

Day 10: Monday, July 30
Moscow, Ida.
3 p.m.

We just got in to Moscow, and it’s a really cool town. It seems a lot like Arcata. We’re playing at a place called John’s Alley. Big place, nice sound, guarantees, free beer. YES! We drive out to look for a place to relax and end up finding a good place to camp. We asked the coin for directions, and the coin was wrong. What the hell? We might be in trouble.

11:30 p.m.
The show was good. People dug it. My Life is on right now, but I am so tired. I have to go to bed. My hands are in shreds from playing, and my voice is in tatters. I’m starting to have this overwhelming tired feeling. Even if I sleep for 8 or 10 hours, I’m still dead tired. I think we need a day off.

Day 11: Tuesday, July 31
10 a.m.

The sun seems to come up really early when you are sleeping outside. We’re about to head out, and as I understand it we have a crazy drive today to get to Enterprise, Ore. to play a house party. This better be good. Everything hurts, and the sun and heat aren’t helping.

2 p.m.
We’re parked on the side of the road heading up into some hills. The van is overheating. It’s not being very cooperative. I know, it’s old, and it has a lot of miles, but it runs good. The problem is the heat. It’s about 102 degrees out here. As we wait the My Lifers come up the hill so they stop and we laugh a lot.
Andrew suggests that the next time an annoyingly overzealous sound man asks what we want the kick drum to sound like that we say “children’s laughter.” We all crack up. Hilarity on the side of the road.
Suddenly a truck pulls up, and this old guy leans out the window and says, “You guys looking for a fight? I think I could take every one of you.” He laughs as we all laugh, and he drives away, never asking if we needed help or anything. Van cools. Watch out for thieve snakes.
Enterprise, Ore.

5 p.m.
After five hours of driving in 102 degree hell, we find the house we’re going to and pile out. It’s awesome, and these folks are throwing a big party: two kegs and a ton of food. We all get to shower and do laundry. YES!

11:30 p.m.
I had to stop after the fourth song. My hand is pretty beat up from hitting the strings while flying around the stage, and my voice goes out almost immediately. I can’t hit any of the hard notes. I also noticed that I cracked the neck of my Gibson SG, and it’s completely unplayable. FUCK! My Life played first. We asked the coin, and that’s what the coin told us to do. I have to try to get some sleep tonight. We have a day off tomorrow, and we’re supposed to be camping, but it’s a 10-hour drive to Reno. We’ll see how it goes.

Day 12: Wednesday, Aug. 1
Interstate 84 East
2 p.m.

We hit the road a little after noon, and now we are out in the desert. It’s hot. So hot. I bet it’s 110 degrees out here.

3 p.m.
It’s still hot. My brain boils. Everyone tries to keep cool, but it’s tough.

4 p.m.
A rest stop welcome center has a raging air conditioner. We just sit there and moan.
Interstate 95 South

5 p.m.
Still hot in the desert.

6 p.m.
Dinner and a little break. It’s still Africa hot.

7 p.m.
We decide to head on to Reno and take advantage of the opportunity to drive at night. This was supposed to be our day off, but we just have to use it up driving.

9:30 p.m.
We leave the My Lifer’s at a hotel in the middle of nowhere and power on to Reno. They didn’t want to drive at night. Whatever. A hotel in Reno is gonna rule. If you don’t like hotels in Reno, you suck.
Reno, Nev.

1:30 a.m.
It’s the biggest little city in the world! Reno is like Vegas, but there aren’t many people around. We’re sitting in our room at Harrah’s Casino laughing about how good it feels to be here.

Day 13: Thursday, August 2
3 p.m.

We check out of Harrah’s and head over to meet Greg’s friend for breakfast. He buys, and then we head over to his place. I’m on his computer trying to catch up e-mails and other junk.
The heat is oppressive, and my good mood is squandered. I fire off a few mean e-mails, one to a certain scene editor that I’ll probably have to apologize for.
I feel terrible. I feel terrible everywhere. I’m in the tour doldrums now. Movement is gone. Sinking. Sinking. Sinking.

8 p.m.
I can’t take this pissed look off my face, and the venue we’re at does not look so promising. I hang close to the guys looking for laughs, and it seems like everyone is in a similar mood. That drive the day before was pretty hellish, and we haven’t played in a couple days, considering that I couldn’t function for the Enterprise House Party gig. I know everything can’t always be great, but I’m extremely low here. My text message relationship makes me lonely.
3 a.m.
Watching My Life play brought me up, and then we played the tightest and most sober show of tour. The place we played turned out alright, and the folks in attendance we into it.
We all headed down to the strip to go out. I don’t gamble, but I watch as everyone else throws their money away. Brendan won $120 on penny slots. Everyone else lost. I’m going to try to sleep outside at this house we’re staying at, but it doesn’t look like the morning is going to be very fun.

Day 14: Friday, August 3
10 a.m.

I slept as long as I could, but that wasn’t very late. We’re all soggy with sweat and feeling terrible. Greg leads the charge out to find a hotel so we don’t have to stay in this sweatbox without air again. First I have to make an emergency money move because the funds are a little tight due to the bummers that were the last couple shows. Oh,  and the van is acting up. Super.

1:30 p.m.
We’re relaxing in Harrah’s again. I’ll get the van checked out tomorrow. Thanks Dan.

6:45 p.m.
I slept all day. It was awesome.

11:30 p.m.
Andrew of My Life makes a move to jump off of a chair and eats it, guitar in hand. He’s OK. I only got to hear about it. Wish I could’ve seen that.

1:30 a.m.
OK, this is our third night in Reno. Fuck this town. If you don’t hate Reno, you suck. This is like staying in Vegas too long. The show tonight was terrible. We cleared not only the room, but also the whole outside patio and property.

Not that I care.

It was full of a bunch of frat boys and sorority girls. Fuck’em. We’re back at the hotel, but Burton let Greg go out to get cigarettes alone and he’s been gone for a half an hour. Worried, but in a funny way. Good late night phone call, and Jeopardy on TV. The A.C. is cranked.

1:45 a.m.
Greg returns with a slurred, “I got lost.” Laughter.

Day 15: Saturday, Aug. 4
2:45 p.m.

We did a little work on the van, and it seems better. The road to South Lake Tahoe is short, and we are hopeful for a turn around in show attendance and intensity. We’re playing at Whiskey Dick’s tonight.

South Lake Tahoe, CA
6 p.m.

I’m sitting in a house in Tahoe writing this from my notes. If I haven’t sounded too thrilled, it’s just out of frustration. Of course, we need to turn things around, but I have my own conflicts within. Why are we doing this? What is the purpose? Is it for fun? If so, why am I so miserable sometimes? It can’t be for fame or fortune, not only because I don’t even know how to get to that level, but also because I have a complete distaste for anything involving the music industry.

Everything is bullshit. Everything is a commodity to be sold. Punk rock uniforms and wanker-managed everything. I’m conflicted, and it leaves me a little out of it. Maybe the show tonight will turn me. Maybe not. We’ll be leaving after to drive to San Diego and stay with our friend Kim. I just got a text message from her that said, “If you’re grumpy, then stop it. I’ll have whiskey and bacon and coffee and beer waiting for you.”

Maybe things aren’t so bad.

Clay Smith plays guitar and sings in The Rubberneckers. He writes this from the road. Drop him a line at

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