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Made in America Tour Journal 5: Skidrow Shakedown
Sleeping in these parking lots is getting really old, really fast. This time we were in or around Coachella, CA. This would be cool if I gave any sort of fucks about that festival. Just a bunch of rich people running around pretending to be “wild and free” before going back to the real world, never knowing what it truly means to struggle. And this isn’t even meant to imply that I know what it’s like to really struggle, but I know I’ve never been able to afford the kinda cheddar it takes to go to a festival like that. I don’t know why I’m being so salty about this right now. I’m poor, some people aren’t, being poor is my fault right? Whatever. I took a whiz in this nice ass Wal-Mart and we set off to finish the drive to Los Angeles.

The eastern side of California is pretty barren. It’s basically the desert extending westward. Towns/places to stop at are few and far between, however there was one very important gem on this route that we were stoked to stop at:

So this is Carbanzo Dinosaur Park. Home of the world’s biggest dinosaur. Lets set aside the fact that these representations of dinos are probably scientifically inaccurate and just marvel at the pure Americana of this spot. Like, in order to get into the gift shop you had to climb the stairs up INTO the  butt of a Braccliosaurus (broccolisaurus? Brachiosaurus?) One of this might be right, but I’m talking about the one with the long fucking neck. Like how cool is that? 

We didn’t have the time, nor the finances to drop $20 to get into the park, but it was a fun 10 minute drop in before we got back on the road to L.A. Would I come back here and actually go through the park? Yeah why the fuck not? If this writing starts to take off I may do solo adventures or something like that. I don’t know. If ya’ll would read them, that’d be sick. Basically anything I can do to not get a real job the better. Enable me, and I’ll repay you with some entertainment.

The rest of the drive seemed familiar, yet foreign. Like the last time we drove through here it was night time, so I don’t really remember seeing anything in particular. But this time I was awake and could see everything. 

Then it hit me. These windmills, this mountain, the terrain. This was the northern part of Los Santos in real life. (For those who are like “what the fuck is he talking about?”) Los Santos is the fictional city the game Grand Theft Auto 5 takes place.) Like I know that L.A was an inspiration for Los Santos, and that the city skyline is well represented within the game with pretty realistic detail. This was the first time I ever really took into account how much effort went into making this game. Like in the game there’s a cable car you can take to the top of the mountain, right? Well we drove past that cable car. I know it’s silly and probably a bit nerdy, but it was pretty sick to me, knowing how much work goes into making a video game and to see the lengths that team went to make the best game possible.

Anywho, we got into downtown L.A. with little-to-no traffic. And that’s when everything went to shit.

I should preface this next tirade the way shitty bloggers/vloggers preface a review. I hate Los Angeles. That already kinda negates my ability to give it a proper review, as I’m already pretty bias. But you don’t come here for my reviews do you? And traditionally, despite hating L.A. I’ve had a decent time when I was there. Today fucking sucked. Let’s start with the debacle of trying to find a place to park. Spoilers: it was next to impossible.

It blows my mind when venues (especially ones in densly populated downtown areas) bring in a tour package and do absolutely fuckall to help with parking for any band but the headliner. (Like, yes, absolutely give a spot to the headliner, that makes sense and that’s how it should be in terms or priority.) Fuck man, we were in downtown L.A on a Thursday afternoon. Not only was it purely metered parking, but most meters were 2hr max, and/or made it so you couldn’t park there after like 3pm. Like we had to be there until fucking 11pm at the absolute LEAST, and here we were circling the block trying to decide how much we are willing to risk by parking further away from the venue. Because as much as I would like for someone to be at the van watching it the entire time, it’s just simply not feasible. At some point the van is going to be left alone, and in that moment is when any number of things could happen. After 30 minutes of circling blocks and not really finding anything, we came across 2 consecutive open spots on a one way street. 

We were fucking stoked.

Problem is, when we pulled up, we noticed there were some people hanging by the corner. They looked a little rough, but it’s whatever, they’re people. When we hopped out to pay the meters that’s when things started to get a little weird. One of the dudes walked up and offered to handle the meter for us. He then proceeded to pull out a coffee stir stick with a dime taped to it and jam it in the meter a bunch of times until it was full. Like he really didn’t give us a chance to say “no we’re good,” he just fucking did it. And while he was going on about that his cohorts were scooping the van, looking in it as we opened the doors, slyly surveying the whole thing. While our kind meter fairy finished up giving us the max amount, he mumbled out something that I think only I understood. The sentence was long and rambling, but the gist of it was that he was asking for money in exchange for his cool trick. Also slotted in there was a very real threat that was basically us being extorted. See, if we threw him a couple bucks he’d make sure no one fucked with our stuff. Suddenly I realized why these particular spots were opened when everything else was full. We’d later find out that this is known as a Skidrow Shakedown, and it’s something that happens all the time. I was right to assume that buying our protection meant we were protecting our shit from the very people who I was giving money to. But for $5, I’d say it’s worth it. (I think the spot cost $10 to max out both meters, so we actually saved a bit there.) Before we walked away I talked to Ted and we decided we should employ our standard tactic when it comes to encounters like this. Pay for their protection, and then go the extra step and promise them even more, in exchange for extended protection. We did it in Seattle when we gave a group of crust punks a case of beer for watching our van while they camped out under the bridge. So I walked up to the potentially dangerous group and introduced myself. I promised him a bottle of whiskey (something that is on our rider) if our van was untouched for the night. He happily agreed and even told me that I could wind up getting a ticket for parking there, and might get towed. He said he’d come to the venue and let us know if we needed to move the van, like if they were about to tow it. We never got to test out whether or not he woulda done that, but after talking to him for a bit I felt like he was genuine. Small acts like that to humanize myself in his eyes may have ensured safe passage for our van in that area. 

It was probably about 45 minutes later when we moved the van to the front of the venue. A much better spot, and the added benefit of having the paid security watch our shit for us. So if you ever should find yourself in a situation similar to this, you’d be wise to toss them a couple bucks, and just be polite, because at the end of the day they are humans too, and I don’t care what their station in life is, they deserve at least a little compassion. (At least to start.) 

When I thought the day wasn’t going to get any more stressful, Waterparks apparently needed to swap trailers for their BandWagon. This meant pulling everything out of the old one, and then moving our van, and trying to hitch the new trailer on the wagon, and then reparking the trailer. It sounded pretty straightforward, but this is L.A., nothing is that simple, right? We were on this busy crowded street, which meant Aj had to stop traffic while I helped the driver manuever the wagon while Teddy watched the curb side. I hadn’t even set up my merch yet. Which also means you’re not getting a merch photo because I simply didn’t have time to do it. But yeah, that was more stress than I wanted it to be. Then after we got it hitched up we helped them load the merch back onto the trailer. To us it was not a big deal, we are always happy to help the people we are touring with, but the crew on the Waterparks end were very thankful. So that’s cool I guess.

Sorry there hasn’t been a bunch of pictures this journal. It’s just one of those things where there just wasn’t a lot of photo ops presenting themselves. Plus we were pretty frustrated with our greenroom situation. And by this I mean the greenroom had literally no lights or electricity flowing to it. Seriously. It seems silly to complain about a greenroom, but it’s the only time we are able to like get away from the van, relax and or nap. For Anam, it’s a place for her to work so she can get pictures edited. For me it’s a place to store my stuff safely, giving me more room behind the table. It almost woulda been better if we just didn’t have a greenroom. We’re used to that. And their Wi-Fi literally didn’t work, so I had to delay another post because for whatever reason this venue was having trouble getting their shit together that day. I wills say that the security was nice, as was the other workers I was around. So I guess that’s something.

This is normally put the merch table pic, but instead I’m going to talk about how we got to have dinner with our dude Johnny Minardi. 

It’s always great to see Johnny, and he was one of the few highlights of our time in L.A. He also runs a clothing company called Good Future Club that you should check out. It’s the only non-Alex Fucking Smith shirt I brought with me on tour if you want a comparison of how big of a deal it is to me. 

I also got to see the wonderful Calista, who brought me an Arnold Palmer before the show, and got the guys what’s possibly the most thoughtful thing we’ve ever gotten. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really read it yet, but when I do I’ll be sure to share with all of you my favorite things about it. Spoiler alert: it includes pictures of kitties and puppers.

Before I jump into the show and tell you how wonderful it was, I need to tell you that late last night Eric left us to go back to Chicago. This was something we knew was going to happen; he had to go back for his sister’s wedding for a couple days. A week ago we had no idea what we were going to do for L.A. and tomorrow in Berkeley. Lucky for us, the label was able to call in a favor and get the drummer of a way bigger band than us to fill in. Let me tell you something about Maxx Danziger. This dude can fucking drum. We went from never meeting this dude, to playing a full set with him in less than 2 hours and if we wouldn’t have said anything I don’t think anyone would have noticed. Special shout out to Eric for sending him everything he needed in order to get the practice in. I don’t know how we got so lucky to get such high quality drummer fill ins, but we are not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Here’s some pics of the show:

This show was the biggest crowd we’ve played to thus far and the fans seemed to legit enjoy every second of the Sleep On It set. New fans every day is really the ultimate goal of this tour. And so far that has proven to be the case. Plus with all the industry folk that show up to L.A. shows, it’s great that the band was able to put on a show and have a huge line for meeting fans after the show. It looks good, and it feels good.

After the show we packed up and headed out. We had another 6 hour drive to the next palce, which means we are going to wind up in a parking lot somewhere. I think we’re in a Carl’s Jr. For whatever reason there’s no Wal-Marts off I-5, so we just gotta make doe with what we got.

During this time though we talked to Maxx a bunch. Getting to know him, learn a bit about his experiences touring, what Set It Off is up to and what’s next. We felt kinda bad having Maxx sleep in the van. Like, when was the last time he did that? (Spoiler: it’s been at least a couple years.) After talking to him for a bit he expressed how nostalgic he was for the van life. In the Band Wagon you don’t really get to have the same experiences we do in the van. And while I’m sure he doesn’t want to go back to it full time, he partook in our nightly Sleepy Juice ritual as we gave him a bench to sleep on.

We only made it like 2 hours outside of L.A. so I’m going to get some rest cuz I’m sure we have to get up at like 8am to get on the road, finishing the drive to the Bay Area.