Friday, December 5, 2014

THE CARDIFF REEFERS - "The Art of Touring"


When you travel with a band for a long time you find yourself looking for new and creative ways to amuse yourself, anything to break up that long stretch of road ahead. With the Cardiff Reefers it was always easy, a nicer and more talented group of individuals and musicians I have never met. We logged a lot of miles together over a 3 year period, largely regional touring like the Pacific North West, Colorado Rockies and Southern California. From time to time we would strike out through the desert areas like Moab in Utah on our way to The Rocky Mountains. Over that period of time we played numerous late night shows in relatively small venues with a lot of miles in between.
I recall one late night after a gig we were traveling in our band van and the equipment truck through some pretty desolate desert surroundings and it was hard to keep focus after a long gig... I was sitting next to Andrew Rosales, the bands drummer who was at the wheel. I suggested that we pull over at the next gas station to fuel up and get a late night snack and within minutes we were signaling the van to follow us in. Half of the band was stretched out in the make-shift bed in the back of the van so only a few got out to stretch and refresh. 
It was a quick stop but me a fun one, I had found a large bag of multicolored glow sticks, the kind you crack the glass inside and the colors light up! After we had purchased our fuel and snacks we headed back to our respective vehicles and resumed our late night drive. It was a beautiful clear, dark desert night drive, lots of stars and next to no moon present. No one else knew that I had purchased the bag of glow sticks and when we climbed back into the truck and I pulled them out to show Andrew my bright idea he smiled ear to ear. "Watch this", I told as I tore open the bag and grabbed a handful of the sticks, these are nontoxic and if you crack the glass and then cut them open we can spray the colored rainbow all over ourselves the trucks cab, we'll be glowing like the Blue Man Group! We laughed at ourselves for even considering the possibilities and the mess of the clean up the next day, but late night antics won out and we quickly broke open a dozen or so sticks and started spraying the liquid all over us and the cab... It was an amazing sight and quite a potent effect... red, green, blue and yellow colors everywhere, against the dark night sky we were so bright that we might of been visible from outer space.
We were still following the van as usual when we applied all of our glow stick colors, except for 2 that we retained to use in our mouths to achieve that glow stick smile! As we sped up and pulled along side the van and gave the guys a chance to take a look at us... all eyes were wide open and you could hear the laughter all the way from the other lane. Granted, it was a messy late night goof but those fun moments are the glue that sticks all the friendships and travels together into something more memorial than just a job.


As my kids would say... "not the deer story!" It was another one of those late night drives after a long drive earlier and then a long show afterwards... if you repeat that formula and repeat it frequently you will become aware of a few interesting things, your frame of reference and center changes daily, what you held in your hand today might not available tomorrow. Time passes either very quickly or very slowly... I kept a day planner, more of a coloring book journal to keep track of the important details of my day. Anything and everything could go in it as long as I could carry it. I used multicolored markers to make most of my entries and drew as much as wrote. My Tour Journal allowed me to sort out and keep track of some of the more interesting experiences and fortunately I have all of them still.
One of my more unusual tour experiences came in the form of a late night out of body experience. It seems more often than not most of these occurrences happen in the after hours, late night driving, semi wake state still in motion. The Deer Story is a perfect example of that out of body feeling that most of us have had at one time or another in our lives, in my case it was more of a projection in time. On the night of this occurrence, the truck was leading the crew van on a dark highway somewhere traveling through Colorado. I was sleeping in the loft bed that we had made at the very back of the bus which was still following the equipment truck. 
All of a sudden I woke up, sat up quickly! "The truck just hit a dear" I told everyone in the van, "they hit it one right front passenger side and broke the headlight and then the dear limped off into the woods." Everybody looked at me liken I was crazy, or dreaming but no sooner had I said that than the truck signed quickly and pulled over to the side of the road. Matt and Andrew got out of the truck to check the damage and a couple guys from the van ran up to check in with them. "We hit a deer" they said, "It just leaped out of the woods hit our front headlight and disappeared back into the woods."
I think dumbfounded is a good word for how I felt after we all got back underway and I had a chance to reflect on what had just happened to me.
I see it like this, when you spend most of your time as a heated ball of energy generating around the planet daily your body tends to adjust or shift it points of reference to the real world. I believe what happened to me that night was a case of me astral-projecting into the future, maybe only a shift in time by milliseconds and certainly not a physical form shift... but merely an overlap in time caused by my constant forward motion. "Are you done yet" my kids would say.


This story bares mentioning because it ranks as #1 in my longest mileage stretch for a tour in the shortest amount of time and what you can do to amuse your selves while traveling. The Reefers were hired to play a beautiful outdoor festival in Nanaimo on Victoria Island BC, an early morning slot as I recall. The weather was gorgeous and we had ferried over earlier that morning and enjoyed every bit of the journey. Little did we know it was just the start to our own Amazing Race. I don't know why we hadn't been concerned about it, but in the planning of this last leg of a July 4th Holiday weekend tour we had all realized that our next show was the very next night at New Georges in San Raphael Ca. easily a ----- mile trip! Our set finished around 12pm and we hustled are gear back in the truck and van and headed back to the ferry for the mad dash to Vancouver. and the border crossing. 

We were not new at the Canada USA boarder crossing game, a convoy of white Rasta boys from San Diego was fair game for any curious agent. When you travel like this and do busy in other countries you live by some general rules to get in and out safely and hopefully quickly, don't bring your stash or your favorite pipe and always leave your merch at a friends house near the border... the taxes are just to high. On one crossing while we where being detained an Agent asked me if any of the parts in our equipment were from Japan, I swear I don't know how I kept a straight face. Fortunately for us just as we were emptying out the truck and van for inspection one Agent calls to another and says "let them go, we've got something else coming in." as I turned around I saw everyone scrambling to repack the gear and pulling up to the crossing was Pato Banton bus... they knew they had bigger fish to fry!
Fortunately that wasn't the case for the border crossing this time and we breezed right through. I have to mention that this last time the band and I stayed in Vancouver BC we challenged our selves to a bout of Canadian 5 pin bowling. For those of you who aren't aware of the 5 pin method, it's played in a bowling alley pretty much just like the ones in the states, it's just that there are only 5 pins about the size of coke bottles and a bowling ball no larger than the size of a softball. It's a difficult game played this way and for a good reason there are signs posted. "NO LOFTING THE BALL" I know I certainly wanted to throw the ball at those damn pins! As luck and skill would have it... I lost and as my punishment I was subjected to the writings of William Shatner's "Tech Wars" for the entire drive south. Fortunately I wasn't the only loser that day, Andrew Rosales lost as well and since he was a huge fan of cream soda his punishment was to drink 1 cream soda every time we stopped the van no matter what... It was a self defeating challenge, the more we stopped the more he drank so the more we stopped, but it was great for a laugh and I kept a few cans next to my book just in case he ran out!
After crossing the boarder and a quick stop in Bellingham WA. to pick up our merchandise and stash... (thank god) we high tailed south the rest of the day and all night long... the goal, to make New Georges in San Rafael CA. in time for load in! 
Some how we did make the 5pm load in time too, our truck and van had had made there way from a small island off the coast of Canada through boarder crossing and now 3 states to make this gig happen... the unsung code that I have only broken once in my career, more on that later. The gig went great at New Georges and Patrick the club agent and host/DJ always took excellent care of us, even to the extent of a wasabi eating contest with open menu and bar at the local sushi restaurant on the bands last official gig. We ate, we played and recovered from the wasabi and open bar, kissed our loved ones good bye directly after the show climbed back into our van and truck and took off again because the holiday weekend wasn't over yet... we had a 4th of July afternoon outdoor festival gig in San Diego CA. with The Cadillac Tramps and our old friends the Beat Farmers. I cant tell you whether I drove that last leg from San Rafael to San Diego or someone else did but we did make that show and directly after it I checked into a hotel for a couple of days for some R&R... unfortunately the band didn't get that message of my where a bouts and after calling my wife and then putting out an all points bulletin thinking that I had disappeared or even worse... headed to Mexico, but that's another story.

Recorded live at "The Belly Up" in Solano Beach California

Robert Melendez - Bass & Vocals
Peter Todd - Rhythm Guitar & Vocals
Matt Hale - Lead Guitar & Vocals
Gary Otake - Pocket Trumpet & Vibe
Chris Ballard - Keyboards
Andrew Rosales - 1st Drummer
Andrew Diamond - 2nd Drummer
Jon Schimke - 1st Sound Engineer
Randy Teaford - 2nd Sound Engineer

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