The typical punk rock thing to do is to tour in a shitty van. It sounds glamorous and is probably the best thing to do for bands, but vans kind of suck. They cost money, they guzzle gas, they break down in the middle of nowhere, etc. Touring solo, I didn’t have to haul much gear around. I had a guitar, a pack on my back, and that’s all I needed. I figured out I could do the first half of the tour all on the AMTRAK and it only cost me about $60. It was too good to be true. Sadly, riding the rails has its pitfalls, too.
One being that cramming everything I needed into one pack meant I was lugging around about 100 pounds everywhere I went. The other being that they tend to stick these train stations in weird fucking locations that don’t have much to do with passenger convenience. I didn’t quite think this one through, but when I rolled into Tacoma it dawned on me that I was going to be hiking all the way across town with a heavy ass backpack on a hot day without much time to stop.
After a long, sweaty hike I rolled up to this place known as The Bomb Shelter. It looked like a normal suburban home from the street, but as I let myself into the backyard where the party — affectionately known as ASSFEST — was being set up, I realized that this was no white picket fence affair. If the Hendo House is a punk house, The Bomb Shelter is a punk palace. To say that it was not particularly clean is an understatement. I didn’t use or see the indoor bathroom because the convention was to go in the bushes behind the garage and piss on the fence, and, y’aknow, when in Rome… The living room served as an indoor venue for music, and also a crash pad for touring bands and party-goers.
It was great.
I dropped my gear and introduced myself. Then just kind of milled around awkwardly because that’s what happens when you’re actually on time to this sort of thing and you’re in a weird place where you don’t know anybody. Eventually I got to play; first, I think, which meant I got to work all of the kinks out of the system. Such as my mic stand randomly falling over part way through my second song. That didn’t help get things off to a good start of my set, but whatever, you just roll with it. It was fun, and the people were pretty rad, so it didn’t much matter that things were a little sketch. In fact, sketch was par for the course.
After I got done I started bullshitting with one of the guys from this band called El Escapado, on tour from Nashville. I’d played a cover of Via Munich by Tony Sly and he’d recognized the tune. When they got on stage they did a cover of NUFAN’s Justified Black Eye, which he dedicated to “that dude from Alaska”. They were a pretty cool bunch; as it turns out, a bunch of fellow dad punkers. We traded some merch and I got one of their koozies.
This was convenient because, predictably, ASSFEST featured several kegs and encouraged consumption. In fact, it was a bit of a contest. Everyone in attendance got a little white rag pinned to them, and every time they bought a drink they got a tally. However, musicians drank free. I wasn’t sure I would be getting paid any money for this gig, so I made sure to handsomely reward myself for a job well done in free beer. I stopped counting after 12, but I’m not sure that’s where I stopped drinking. Needless to say, the koozie came in handy. There were lots of other cool acts on the bill, including Jasey Fuckin’ Kay (another great solo artist who I’d played with the night before) and the Lead Fed Infants who I thought had a rad set. After that things got kind of hazy so I don’t remember much about the other bands, but I had a pretty good time nonetheless.
At some point after that I felt compelled to lay down and lose consciousness, but the only place indoors that I could find was on the top of a long dresser. At some point someone came and put a Lion King blanket over me, which was kind of them, because it was a little bit chilly. I awoke when someone announced that they would be performing piercings in the bedroom, but thankfully I couldn’t decide what I wanted pierced. I think by that time the bands were done playing in the living room, so I took my Lion King blankie and crashed out on the couch. Some time during the night some other dude came and snuggled up under it with me to keep warm.
Like a true dad I woke up at a “reasonable hour”, meaning before anyone else in the place regained consciousness. Having no sober, wake ride to the train station I took a test walk to the corner store to make sure I was sober enough to make it myself. I got loaded up on some caffeine, grabbed my pack, and off I went. I made it to neighborhood of the station with plenty of time to spare, then realized my train would be delayed by another train that broke down ahead of it. As I sat in the donut shop across the street, I realized that the train station in my next town, Olympia, was also about a zillion fucking miles from the venue, and the same situation was going to unfold. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll.