On the Road with the Stellar Corpses – Days 4, 5, & 6
by Mat Weir
It’s a nine-hour drive from El Paso to San Antonio, Texas, the next stop on the tour. The plan was to wake up early and hit the road after a hearty breakfast but we woke up late in the afternoon and had to get on the trail as soon as possible. Dusty called the promoter to give him fair warning in case we were late but he quickly got a weird look on his face.
“Uh, no,” he scoffed. “Don’t cancel it, we’re driving eight hours to get there. We’re going to play.” The phone conversation ended abruptly and we all could feel the uneasy tension.
Driving through Texas is a strange experience. The whole state is a vast horizon of nothingness, pimpled with pockets of major cities between the blackheads of country towns that would be the perfect setting for the next installment of “The Hills Have Eyes.” At any moment I was ready for a pickup truck of plaid clothed rednecks bearing loaded shotguns to pull in front of us and say, “You boys ain’t welcome herr’” with toothless grins. (It never happened, but I was prepared.)
The great thing about travelling with the Stellar Corpses is their easygoing nature. I’ve travelled with other bands, some short distances and some long, and there was always at least one major blowout between band mates. Someone had a chip on their shoulder, didn’t get enough sleep, didn’t get laid the night before or all three, and they would take it out on the first person to open his mouth.
But not the Corpses. They all have a mutual understanding that we are in this together and the only important thing is the music, above and beyond any petty difference or hurt feelings. Pondering this, I realized it really boiled down to a mutual respect that they have for one another. Each person has their assigned job—publicity, contacting promoters, loading gear—and they all take their turn driving in shifts. Instead of acting like this is a vacation, they treat the band for what it is—a business. And a well-oiled machine works at maximum efficiency when every cog is working.
As we pulled into the suburbs of San Antonio, I wanted to be surprised at the similarity to California’s suburbs, but as anyone who has lived in middle-class America knows, everything is the same. The landscape was littered with the usual chains—Chili’s, Applebee’s, Subways—and the architecture was the same Western Ranchero style that has spread throughout all of Southern California like the culturally devoid cancer that it is. Thankfully, the closer we drove to the downtown area, the scenery became more unique and I felt like I was somewhere I have never been by the time we pulled up to the venue.
We crawled out of the van, but before we could even stretch the promoter, a guy who could be Kevin Federline’s clone, complete with a bad fedora, baggy parachute pants and horrible gold chain, came walking up and we all braced ourselves for what came next.
“Yo g’s, I pulled the show.”
“What?!?” Kyle exclaimed, his face quickly growing red.
“Well, you know, like, the opening bands cancelled and I’d have to pay the club if you play. So I just pulled it, sorry.”
The band’s guarantee was supposed to be a few hundred bucks, but K-Fed only offered $100 and to nobody’s surprise, only paid $80. But all was not lost, thankfully, because there was Steve Salcido and his lovely lady, Hannah Gore, both old-time fiendish friends of the Corpses. They had recently moved into a new house and offered to let the band play in the garage. When the venue’s sound tech heard that, the thought of losing whatever money he could still make was too much for him, and he convinced the manager to let the band play in a different room. The only catch was the Corpses had to play for free to bring in bar revenue.
Bond’s 007 Rock Bar is just that: a rock bar. The walls are covered in memorabilia from bands that have played there to shrines for fallen heroes. As a tourist, the first things I noticed were the two signs welcoming patrons: the first stated that the bar did not provide a non-smoking area, and it was pinned next to the sign reminding patrons that possession of a licensed or unlicensed weapon was a felony and backed by a minimum 10 year prison sentence. Welcome to Texas! Bond’s was broken into two rooms, one for the four pool tables with the blacktop bar stretching from one end to the other in the space next door. The wall across from the bar was psychedelic nightmare. A giant mural of Jimi Hendrix in neon colors that glowed under the black light was painted in the center with horrific swirls filling in the negative space. I understood what they were going for, but cringed for anyone who saw this while tripping on mind-altering substances. It would be impossible to erase from an open mind and unquestionably the cause of many bad trips.
Since K-Fed had cancelled the show, there were no opening bands. Once again, Steve stepped up to the plate and called his old band, The Saturday Nite Shockers. In a similar vein as the Stellar Corpses, the SNS is a fast-paced horror-punk outfit whose ghoulish songs cover topics that live in the shadows of the soul. However, what made this particular performance a real treat for everyone is the Shockers broke up in March of this year. Truly stand-up guys and professionals in the first right, they were a little nervous but showed their true rock star colors to the excited roar of the crowd. Punks and death rockers clad in ripped fishnets, home-altered shirts, chains and wild make-up stomped their steel-toed boots from the beginning of the set until the end when the Shockers closed with their cover of the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary.”
The Stellar Corpses were just as energetic, ripping through the flesh of their hour-long set with added intensity that was a mix between anger at the promoter and a passion to prove to the bar’s manager that they should be asked back. The staff had worked with that particular promoter before and wasn’t surprised at what had happened. So they were already sympathetic to our cause, buying shirts to wear beforehand to help promote the show in whatever way they could. However, by the third song in, everyone in the club was rocking out so violently that even the bartenders across the room had to stop by the merch booth for some sort of memorabilia. By the end of the night, they had given us more free and nearly free booze than any of us could handle and the manager even paid the band an extra $50 out of his own pocket commenting on the “jackass” of a promoter.
K-Fed, by the way, continued to show his impeccable character that night by drinking himself into a stumbling mess of slurs (with money he still owed the band, mind you) and then proceeded to talk trash on the band, the venue and anyone that came in eyesight, all while trying to help us load the equipment back into the trailer (for what reason I’ll never know). Everyone ignored him and I had to bark at him several times to go sit on the curb. When he finally realized he wasn’t welcome, he wandered down the street muttering about how “this isn’t how he does business.” One can only hope that he was arrested for public intoxication and had to spend the night in the drunk tank next to a couple of nice skinheads who would want to take turns being the “big spoon.”
With everything packed and ready to roll, we followed Steve and his friends to the nearest WalMart for food and then back to his new house. Even after everything that had happened that night, Steve still made the entire household a hearty meal of spaghetti while we talked about previous shows, horror movies, and the finer things in life until the first rays of the sun began to show.