HMXHellion is Senior Writer/Producer at Harmonix. When not touring with her band, HMXHellion enjoys eating spicy food and then complaining that it is too spicy. She is also the inventor of the new, superhip catchphrase that all the kids are saying on their social networking sites these days: "Oooh, girl, don't MAKE me smack the Cajun off your waffles."
About two years ago, my band VAGIANT was approached by our Number One Superfan, an affable chap named Wes, about playing a show in a hotel for his birthday party in Virginia. Naturally we obliged, because Wes is of the "writes VAGIANT a pledge of allegiance and refers to himself as our 'Roadie B**ch'" variety of superfan, and not of the "wear a blonde wig around the house while blasting 'Seven,' crying hysterically, and furiously paddling one's own canoe" variety. For good, solid, only-vaguely stalker-y fans like Wes, you make a trip to Virginny.
So it was the third night of our tour (1), and we arrived at the Marriott where Wes's party was to take place, only to find it crawling with pubescent girls in cheerleader ensembles sporting those stupid, boingy ponytails with the deceptively innocent ribbons in them. Upon seeing a group of haggard, leather-clad ne'er-do-wells, the cheerleaders immediately determined that someone in our group was famous. Probably due to his leopard print Mohawk and wealth of foolish tattoos (2), the cheerleaders singled out Razors in the Night guitarist Todd Wilson as "most likely to cause long-term damage to self-esteem and infuriate one's stepfather" and hence the most attractive. (3)
Not surprisingly, this resulted in scads of scantily-clad cheering specialists hanging out hopefully in the hotel hallways and lobby, waiting for Todd to walk through, so that they could surround him and scream (4). What was surprising was the number of "young ladies" who casually whipped out their IDs, handed them to Todd, and calmly stated "I'm 18, so it's legal."
Now I am certainly not implying that anything untoward happened in Virginia, but I think it is safe to say that it was around this point in the tour that it became clear that trouble was like a swimming pool full of hickory bacon, 'cause we were gonna get in it.
It was ALSO around this point that we started picking up on a few simple tricks and techniques that will help prevent your bandmates from being sent to jail and, and which, more importantly, will prevent you from having to pay anybody's bail. Because I am a kind and generous soul (5), I thought I would share just a few of these tricks with you.
LESSON NUMBER ONE: the single most important phrase that any band can have in their arsenal while on tour is "We are a band and we are on tour."
It sounds so simple and innocuous, and yet this obvious concept got VAGIANT and Razors in the Night out of some really tricky situations. Think of this as the musician's equivalent of "aloha" (6) in that it can mean a vast number of things. Here is a list of some of the ways in which we employed this phrase while on tour:
- Please bear with us, we are very tired.
- We are also very poor.
- If you have any drink specials that you could give us for free, we are not above sampling concoctions that involve butterscotch schnapps, Midori, and cocktail onions.
- Please don't mind my friend Ian who is currently urinating into your file cabinet – he is only a musician and doesn't know any better.
- Please try to give us hotel rooms that are far away from all the other guests, because no amount of wall-knocking is gonna make us turn down the volume on the Hall & Oates dance party we are going to have (and later deny) at around 3 AM this morning.
- We do not know the laws of this foreign land – climbing a water tower wearing nothing but a pillowcase diaper with "SMELLO BUTT" written on it in lipstick is considered perfectly normal and legal where we come from.
- Look babe, you're sweet, but don't get attached or anything 'cause we leave in the morning. Also, you look boring when you frown like that.
- Heads up: more than likely, you'll have to hit a free clinic in about a week.
- Heads up: these jeans smell like a dead parakeet at the bottom of a bag of Jax cheese curls. (7)
- It is totally okay if I call your obnoxious 11 year-old son the "High Commissioner of A**hat Island" in front of you in the elevator because this will make a hilarious cocktail party anecdote for you in years to come.
LESSON NUMBER FOUR: make friends with security.
This really cannot be stressed enough. In order to help you plan out a speech with which to melt the heart of any security professionals you encounter, (8) here is a handy Mad Lib style exercise which you can print this page out, take on tour, and fill in your own details for the underlined portions.
"Hello, Mr. Security Man. We realize that you have just caught us engaging in the ludicrously undesirable activity of trying to drag the vending machine from the eleventh floor into the elevator because it is too hard to pick between Andy Capp's Hot Fries and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts (9). We also understand that you are just doing your job and do not wish to get you fired from your place of employ. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, but we are incredibly stupid and never learned a sense of responsibility. In fact, just this morning we were talking about how incredibly stupid we are while we were touching our own butts and singing Amy Grant's "Heart in Motion" because we suck so much. Given that we are a lost cause and that you are very strong and spine-chillingly handsome, could you let us know how we can continue to be complete idiots without getting you or any of your coworkers into trouble? Oh, you're saying we can eat expired candy bars over here in this alley where no one will be subjected to the pungent smell of the candy smoke, as long as we stay relatively quiet? Huzzah! Let's bump fists and discuss your local sports team in a friendly and cordial manner. Thank you and good day!"
LESSSON NUMBER CHORB: somebody in your band is fireproof (10). Find out who he/she is and always send him/her to talk to the cops.
You guys all know what I'm talking about. You have a fireproof friend – somebody who seems incapable of ever actually getting in trouble despite their propensity for wacky antics. This personal is not always the most charming or responsible member of the group, but tends to be someone with a lot of character in his/her face and who has a "heart of gold." Think "young Lou Diamond Philips (11)." Could YOU give young Lou Diamond Philips a citation for soliciting cheesesteaks from passersby on a busy street? No, you could not. So all you have to do is find that member of your band, possibly through trial and error, and mercilessly exploit him/her. 'Cause that's how bandmates show that they love each other.
Being in a band means added scrutiny, suspicion, and harsh judgment. Unfortunately, you better get used to it, because it's all warranted (12). Take a little time to put yourself in the shoes of the good people working in the venues, restaurants, bars, hotels, and strip clubs that you occupy, and while you're making their lives difficult, at least remember to be respectful. More stories from the VAGIANT/Razors in the Night "I Sold My Hole for Rock 'n' Roll Tour" to come, but in the meantime, good luck out there, future parolees.
- The second night we played at this place called BlondeShells in Maryland. I might write more about it later, but suffice to say, it was pretty amazing. The joint is run by a mother and daughter team who put on all ages shows in their basement and they feed the bands and let them sleep there afterwards. I ended up with a handful of prom dates, whose prom invitations may have been in jest, but to whom I shouted the sweet parting words, "I don't care whether you were kidding or not, I'm GOING to your f**ing prom so get me a corsage, you g**damn sewage parade!"
- Such as the flying hellfish from The Simpsons, numerous ladies in their nakey bedtime suits, a black cat with a dagger through its head, and the word "SPARKS" inside his lip.
- Cheerleaders can sniff out emotionally unavailable musicians even better than strippers. But not quite as well as 'cutters.' Cutter chicks are like kryptonite to guitar players such as Todd. But, like, kryptonite that whines all the time, wears too much eyeliner, and has uncle issues.
- This also meant that I forced Todd to hold hands with me when he walked places so that cheerleaders would, for the first time in history, be jealous of MEEEEEEE. Todd is a good sport.
- A lot like Jesus, actually.
- Hawaiian word meaning "toasted bagel."
- Sorry purists, but Jax have the leg-up on Cheetos.
- The only security guard we met on tour who didn't like us was a 400 year-old stick-in-the-mud named Frank at our hotel in Pittsburgh. Frank was less fun than having diarrhea at a corn dog festival, and actually shook with rage while talking to us in a manner befitting a foiled Scooby Doo villain.
- In order to ensure that Pop-Tarts was properly spelled, I visited the Pop-Tarts website, where I was immediately asked to select "Moms" or "Kids." I actually paused several seconds longer on this screen than I ever did as a teenager on those screens that say "click here if you are not 18." Seriously, Pop-Tarts? Your only consumers are either moms or kids? I am pretty certain that tens of thousands of Coachella attendees would disagree. I forgive you only because your website allows me to buy Pop-Tarts in bulk online, and because you are so devilishly tasty. I can't quit you, Pop-Tarts.
- NOT LITERALLY.
- 'Cause you were already anyway.
- Ooh, I said "warrant." Like a warrant for your arrest? Double meaning! YEAH!