In 2014, Kate Bush embarked on a 22-date tour, her first in 35 years. Bush’s latest release, Before the Dawn is a three-disc, 155 minute documentary of that tour.
The album provides a long-awaited, no-frills overview of the singer’s creativity and music. As Pitchfork reports:
“There are no retakes or overdubs bar a few atmospheric FX. No apps, no virtual reality, no interactivity. [Bush has] also said there won’t be a DVD, which is surprising given the show’s spectacular theatrics, conceived by the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a host of designers, puppeteers, and illusionists. The show, and this release, aren’t credited to Kate Bush but the KT Fellowship, in recognition of the vast ensemble effort. Yet in shucking off half the production, this set…is also the best way that Before the Dawn could have been preserved, allowing it to tell its own story uninhibited by the busy staging.”
by Mat Weir
We started off in high spirits, knowing that the first show was only a couple hours away in Fresno at a bar called Audie’s. I had met up with Kyle, the drummer, in the parking lot of the good ol’ Catalyst. With my suitcase, briefcase and camera bag in hand, I crawled into his beat-up white van between paint-covered ladders, cans and drop cloths. We headed up to Pleasure Point, where he and bassist Dan live, talking about our pet snakes and which upcoming shows should draw the biggest crowds.
When we arrived at their place, Dan was waiting with cold beers in hand. He told us Dusty was still working on last-minute preparations and would be a little while. I looked around the room, noting the various Stellar Corpses posters from previous tours mixed in between memorabilia from other bands, boxes of CDs for the tour and luggage. Half-jokingly, and half out of true concern, I turned to Dan and asked, “So, what should I be prepared for?”
“Ha, wellll,” he said, taking a swig from the frosty beer, “last year when we traveled across the country our trailer kept falling apart. The damn thing kept coming unhinged from the frame. Whenever we’d drive you could see our equipment catching air and bouncing around. We had to get it welded in five different states. But don’t worry—we have a new trailer and even a couple new tires. Everything should be fine.”
“Yeah, all right,” I thought. “Things should go smoothly for a little while. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. The road gods will be with us.” Ho ho.
Soon enough, Dusty arrived and as we loaded our gear he handed a long cardboard tube to Dan. “Dude, you’ve got to see this,” Dan said to me with a grin. He quickly unraveled a thin speaker screen with an eye-popping design by Klem from O’Reilly’s Tattoo. In green, white and shades of purple was a sexy mummy, her bandages blowing in the wind as she sat on top of the band’s name in its trademark horror font. In rock & roll nothing says “professionalism” like a pin-up speaker cover, and that’s no joke.
With everything loaded, we picked up the final key element of the equation, the guitarist Emilio, and headed on our way. Three hours to Fresno, just a quick blast over Highway 152, with plenty of time to set up once we got there. But we were soon to learn that such rebellious pride always catches the attention of the gods—and they are a vengeful bunch.
Two hours into the 152, around 7pm, we started noticing a funny bounce in the back of the van. As cars drove by, they would point to our trailer as they mouthed dreaded words that we couldn’t hear but didn’t need to. Dusty pulled to the side of the road next to acres of green fields and, sure enough, there was our first blown tire, ripped all the way around. I’m a firm believer in the theory that we should fear technology before it becomes our evil overlord, but I have to admit that the iPhone was the savior of the day. Dusty quickly found a mechanic 10 miles away, though we would still be stranded for over an hour since they had to bring the wheel back to the shop. “Well, at least we got the first problem out of the way, right?” I asked, trying to keep the spirits up. My poor attempt was met with groans and half-smiles.
By the time we finally reached Audie’s it was 9:30, but as we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed another funny thing: there were no other vans in the parking lot. Audie himself greeted us in the parking lot with a hearty, “Glad you guys made it, you’re the only band. All the local acts bailed!” Luckily, this also meant we could take our time setting up, and after the previous couple of hours, we needed to unwind.
The set itself went off without a hitch. The sound quality was spot on and the whole room was singing, dancing and whooping it up as much as they could on a Thursday night. The Corpses ripped through a bunch of crowd favorites and the new songs were a hit. People who had never heard them before scrambled to the merch table, like the photographer the guys dubbed “Dr. Wario” for his uncanny resemblance to the video game character, who ended up buying one of every item.
After everything was packed up, we realized none of us had eaten, so it was off to Denny’s for a 1am meal. Afterwards it was off to their friend Sonia’s house, by which time all communication was exhausted, and with a couple of acknowledging grunts, we passed out, wondering what tomorrow would bring.
This article originally appeared on the Santa Cruz Weekly blog.
Live Fast, Die Young and Leave a Stellar Corpse
by Mat Weir
Like every good American kid, the first time I heard the crunching bite of rock & roll, I was hooked. But even at that young age, I knew it wasn’t just about the music. Sure, I would sit in my room for hours geeking over the bands; wondering why they chose certain lyrics over others and then trying to decipher what they actually meant, learning the histories, etc. But it was the idea of rock&roll that really captured me. To think, a kid from the ghetto of Detroit could become Iggy Pop, or that a gang of petty-criminal misfits could pick up instruments and become the Ramones. Everything enthralled me: the lights, the noise, the rebellion and the touring. Each city bringing its own batch of weird problems and situations that most people wouldn’t even begin to fathom, much less want to tackle. Sleepless nights spent driving all-night, trying to find the next venue, only to drain yourself on stage for the deranged hordes of fans, drunks and all that one creepy couple that seems to be in the corner of every bar across this great land. And once they’ve given their all, it’s back on the road just to sacrifice themselves in the next grimey spot.
With ideas of grandeur and screaming women floating in my head, why the hell did I become a writer? Well, sometimes in life the path chooses you, afterall, you can’t outrun destiny. But that idea of the open road and all of the mysteries it contained when mixed with the passion of rock&roll remained to be like that person you always wanted to ask out in high school but never did.
So, when Santa Cruz’s favorite psychobilly sons, the Stellar Corpses. asked me to roadie for them on tour, well, “no” just wasn’t an option. Since 2005 the Corpses have been serving the scene with their adrenalin-fueled, nightmarish sound. Originally established by singer Dusty Grave and stand-up bassist Dan Lamothe, they soon grabbed old-time friend, Emilio Menze, on guitar. Drummer Kyle Moore, with his spider-like playing joined in 2009.
By blending punk and psychobilly with their personal influences of rock, goth and various pop, they have created a danceable sound that literally spans the age gaps. Their first two albums, Respect the Dead and Welcome to the Nightmare contain everything from tongue-in-cheek numbers (like “Hail Bop,” a 1950’s style sock-hop song about the Hail Bop cult) to songs about b-movie themes, the dark side of psychology, and even a love ballad or two complete with a horrific twist.
For 2 ½ weeks we will be driving in their 16 passenger van, (modified to an 8 seater with a DIY bunk bed in the back). With a massive equipment trailer in tow and a “I’m Proud of My Eagle Scout” sticker on the back, we will be delivering the ghoulish sounds of rock&roll to the good people of Colorado, Texas, Utah, Arizona and of course, California. Even though they have toured countless times before, nobody really knows what we have in store for us (last year, for instance, none of the guys knew they would have to weld their previous trailer in five different states—but they did).
But no matter what the road decides to throw at us, you dear reader, get all the benefit without the hassle and old beer smell (remember what I said about destiny?). For the entire tour I’ll be writing constant updates about anything the tour throws at us, from the good and the bad to the odd and depraved. So keep checking back with this weird journalism to find out the trials and tribulations of a DIY band as they work for their next meal on the desert streets of America. Actually, keep checking back to make sure that none of us need bail money — “always be prepared,” right?
This article originally appeared on the Santa Cruz Weekly blog