Nancy is a Punk Rocker: The Hellion’s Tour Diaries, Part 1

HMXHellion is Senior Writer/Producer at Harmonix. When not touring with her band VAGIANT, HMXHellion enjoys smelling grape markers and thinking about the important role that rope ladders will play during the zombie uprising. She is psyched to finally be able to use the phrase "when not touring with her band..." in her bios.

I recently came back from my first tour with my band VAGIANT and the very badass boys of Razors in the Night. For those of you who have never had the experience, returning from tour results in some strange side effects. In addition to actually WANTING to eat salad and go to the gym (1), I have shouted the phrase "You can’t tell me what to do!" approximately six times a day at work since I got home. That’s about two more times than normal. It's a rough transition… and my job already only requires me to be halfway coherent and upright as it is.

In an effort to be prepared to write a series of tour diaries for you guys, I carried a yellow legal pad with me every day on tour in order to "take notes" about interesting things that happened, funny stories, etc. Now, I distinctly remember taking down what felt at the time like copious amounts of notes… but upon flipping through the pad this morning with "ready-to-greet-the-task-at-hand" enthusiasm, here are the copious notes I took, in their entirety, verbatim:

  1. Old Bay chips look like they taste like crab but they don't
  2. Tampons should be called pon pons
  3. Tattoo of bee crossed with cougar – BZZ ROWR!
  4. Things are cool but stuff sucks
  5. Pierogies are my pier-ogative
  6. Ate brokken glass by aciddent – I am dead now??
  7. Bob Evans


So, as you can see, a veritable plethora of wicked useful information.

Our first day started stupid early. We had to be on the road by 8 AM to get to Philly in time for our show there. Tour lesson #1: loading the van for tour IS like a game of Tetris, if Tetris was totally horrible and unfun and resulted in people calling each other "crotch helmets" and attempting to do a sleeper hold on one other. Despite being sleepity as heck, the first leg of the drive was uniquely enjoyable and involved such hijinks as rocking out to Gloria Estefan in a gas station convenience store using boxes of Dots as maracas, chugging clamweiser in a McDonald's parking lot (and subsequent fart contests of impressive duration and magnitude), and being blissfully unaware of one another's snoring issues or the details of each another's bowel movements.

When we arrived in Philly, it became immediately clear that the show would be epic, for several reasons:

  1. We were in a neighborhood called Fishtown. In the immortal words of Aaron Neville, I don't know much… but I know I love Fishtown.
  2. The punk rock kids in Philly DO IT UP. I've never seen higher Mohawks or bigger bullet belts.
  3. There was a ZIP LINE running through the center of the loft.
  4. Since we arrived in Philly around 3 and we weren't playing until last, we had seven hours and 6 bands worth of drinking time.
  5. For the first time ever, my MOM would be coming to see me play.


Now this will come as a surprise to all of you, but I did not spring fully formed from the fecund earth with a doublecut strapped to my back. In fact, I do have a mother (2). To help paint a picture for you, here are some facts about my mom, Nancy:

  1. When I am telling a story that involves quoting my mom, I give her a heavy Midwestern accent. She does not have a Midwestern accent. She basically sounds like me, only sane, and instead of wildly shouting about Dukes of Hazard, she calmly discusses the news of the day. But she seems like she WOULD have a Midwestern accent, 'cause she's quaint as s**t.
  2. My mom is a psychologist. That means that I am crazy.
  3. My mom rocks stirrup pants like they were going out of style. Which they did, fifteen years ago.
  4. My mom does not drink. She tried it once in college (by herself in a lab while taking notes on the experience) and decided it wasn't for her.
  5. I lie and say that the first concert I ever went to was Hole at the Stone Pony, but my mom actually took me to two concerts as a young child: Billy Joel and Phil Collins.
  6. Pretty much the only music I heard as a child was Billy Joel on my mom's tape deck in her Mazda, with my mom singing along loudly and tossing in interesting but totally gross sub-textual analyses of the songs: "See in THIS song, he is trying to convince his girlfriend to have intercourse with him. He really taps into that adolescent boy mentality, don't you think? They sure do have a lot of erections!" (3)
  7. My mom is wicked into Billy Joel. (4)


So that should help give you a sense of the woman who would soon be arriving in a vaguely sketchy part of Philly, at a loft show packed with drunk punk rock kids, with a zip line running through the center. I have never had a parent in the audience, so the fact that I sing lyrics like "You can take this bar and shove it up your f**ing a**" has never been an issue. Nor the fact that during tuning breaks, I tend to discuss things with the audience like how… overly fond I am of Karate Kid, or tell stories about my days as a phone sex operator. Nor the fact that I tend to be… unsober onstage (5). Also toss in that we were on the first night of our tour in unfamiliar surroundings… it was mildly nerve-wracking.

Here is an approximate timeline of how the evening unfolded:

3:00 PM – Arrive in Philly at Fish Flat venue
3:01 PM – Purchase and begin drinking two cases of Yuengling. Mr. Ling, I don't know who you are, but you make a damn fine lager.
3:45 PM – Someone from RITN writes "PONY BOY" in orange marker on the back of my leather jacket.
3:52 PM – I call my mom to tell her that this show might not really be her scene and that I won't be bummed out if she doesn't make it.
4:00 PM – Some of us visit a music store and are asked to politely to discontinue visiting the music store.
4:10 PM – My mom calls to ask if there are any "nice restaurants in the area." No. No there are not.
4:15 PM – The Yuengling is gone. We move onto Sparks, which is now apparently illegal in MA, but not in PA! Float on, you crazy Pennsylvanians, float on.
4:26 PM – The word "falafel" has started to sound hilarious.
5:12 PM – Hey! Hey hey, remember when you were like "FALAFEL!" and I was like "NOOO WAY!"? That was the best, kid.
5:37 PM – Wait wheresh that helmet, I gotta do somesthin, WHO GOTS DORITOS, getta outtttaaaa here.
6:00 PM – Bands start playing. They kick serious ass (6).
8:00 PM – My mom arrives. The punk rock kids are confused. My mom looks mildly concerned about the pit in the middle of the room and the people zip-lining directly into the chests of random strangers. I assure her that everything is in good fun and that people don't really get injured at shows like this.
8:02 PM – Some kid gets injured. "Gosh, that sure looks like fun," my mom says sarcastically.
8:05-9:15 PM – I spend a lot of time trying to make sure my mom doesn't get injured or freaked out while she makes the frustrated "Terry from Three's Company" face at my tattoos, clothes, beer drinking, and cigarette smoking. I attempt to offset this by pointing out people with more tattoos who are drinking lighter fluid and wearing bondage gear. She is not swayed by my logic.
9:15 PM – Punk kids with liberty spikes wearing jackets that say "Puke Factory" on them start approaching my mom and telling her how cool it is that she is in attendance and how much they wish their moms were as cool as her.
9:25 PM – My mom starts casually tapping her feet to the music.
9:36 PM – "I sort of get it now," says my mom.
10:00 PM – We play, the place is out of hand at this point. A row of giant dudes, including a Pittsburgh native named "Grandpa Skip," line up in front of us to help protect us from being slammed into too much and my guitar cables from being ripped out by overzealous show-goers (7). It is pretty much the greatest thing ever.
10:10 PM – My mom is singing along to one of our songs, "F**k the Kells." (8). My mom! Is singing along!! A boy approaches her and asks over the din what the lyrics are. "F**k the cows?" he asks. "No, f**k the Kells," replies my mom. "F**k the c**ts?" he repeats. "No, f**k the Kells," she calmly reiterates.
10:20 PM – My mom is swing dancing with the extraordinarily foxy Johnny from Hate & War. I am wicked proud and simultaneously somewhat jealous.
10:35 PM – The show is over. I see my mom looking wistfully at the zip line. "No," I tell her. I later regret this.
10:40 PM – My mom seems really happy. She may not be a rock 'n' roll fan for life, but at least she looks like she gets that I am doing what I love. She goes home and I chug some Yuengling as a reward, 'cause you gotta treat yourself sometimes.
10:45 PM – A dude with a septum ring and a lazyhawk asks me for my mom's number. I laugh. He says he isn't kidding. "Yeah, I dunno that you're her type, dude," I politely explain. "Well at least give her my address?" he asks. I chuckle and walk away. "You didn't even write it down!" he shouts as I get into the van.

So, my mom came to see me play and nobody imploded. On the contrary, I feel like my mom understands me a little better now and might (with any luck) stop referring to my band as a "defense mechanism." Or alternately, she'll just shack up with some leather-clad punk kid and majorly get it on. Either way, things turned out pretty good.

As always, I love to read your comments, and stay tuned: future tour diaries will include such stories as "cheerleader convention in our hotel," "how to make hotel security leave you alone," and "how to not beat your bandmates to death in their sleep by shoving pretzel rods up their noses directly into their brains." And don't tell me what to do, neither.

1) Well, for like a day I did. And I didn’t actually GO or anything. I learned to fight just so I could avoid having to ever run.

2) And I obviously sprung from her mommy lady area with a doublecut strapped to my back.

3) See, it's better in the Midwestern accent.

4) Though it might seem otherwise, I want to clarify that Billy Joel has his moments. I mean, the man is terminally uncool, we can all agree on that. But you really can't argue with "Only the Good Die Young" – that song is fun. And the more obscure "Summer Highland Falls" is one of the most gut-wrenching songs ever written about a breakup. So y'all Long Islanders can settle back into your Barcaloungers now.

5) And by "unsober," I mean that you could actually live in a Scorpion Bowl twenty-four hours a day and still smell less like well liquor and impending drama.

6) For those who are interested, we played with FTN and OPS (both from Florida), Hate & War, The Boils, and one band whose name I can't remember, who were cool. All the bands blew my mind. The Miami punk scene fascinates me now – absolutely killer punk music with kinda latin music undertones. Also the singer from OPS was absurdly hot and had my doublecut tattooed on his arm (resulting in me having to work very hard not to shout "WE SHOULD GET MARRIED" at him), so Miami is aces in my book. Hate & War and The Boils absolutely destroyed – I can't wait to play Philly again or at least make a road trip to see both those bands again.

7) I'm a tough broad and can handle my own, but when you sing and play guitar, there isn't a lot you can do if someone inadvertently slams into you. No "pit stance" will help you in that situation – a heads-up for all you moshy types. We love it though. I like when you can actually smell the testosterone. Mostly because pretty much anything smells better than people drank clamweiser for breakfast.

8) If you aren't familiar with our oeuvre (SHAME ON YOU), this song is about a bar in Allston, MA called The Kells. I don't like it.