By Andrew Bansal
On September 29th, I set out on a two-month North American tour with Ventura CA based NWOBHM trio Night Demon, comprising Jarvis Leatherby (vocals/bass), Brent Woodward (guitar) and Dustin Squires (drums), trekking across the continent as sole support act for British classic metal veterans Raven, not only in my capacity as journalist to document the tour through words and images but also to handle merch and roadie duties for Night Demon. Through the next eight weeks I’ll be bringing you a series of blogs to share my on-the-road experiences. Night Demon’s first show of the tour happens to be in Atlanta GA on Saturday October 4th, so this inaugural part of the blog is about our journey to Atlanta, and even though we didn’t get to do any shows along the way, it’s been an extremely eventful period as we went through the same cities and states we’ll be returning to very soon for actual shows later in the month, only this time we had plenty of chances to indulge in some touristy activities which was an interesting way to start the tour.
Day 1 (09/29): California Cruisin’
The Night Demon tour van arrived at my Hollywood doorstep at around 4 PM and we set out on our path, the band collectively deciding that we should make a pit stop at the Grand Canyon in Arizona on our long way to Georgia, which is approximately a total of 2200 miles away from our starting point. So, day 1 was all about cruising through California’s evening traffic. The Night Demon van is set up in such a way that the back of it (cargo area) is separated from the seats by a make-shift wall, so the music within the confines of the sitting area gets loud and the air conditioning remains highly effective. Although I had a clear idea of their main influences, day 1 was my first chance to get acquainted with the Night Demon dudes’ musical tastes. With them busting out some classic Iron Maiden tapes on the cassette player in the van, we were already off to an ideal start. Plenty of other music was played throughout the evening, but the pinnacle was reached when an alternating sequence of UFO and Oingo Boingo songs was played simply because Jarvis’ iPod grouped the two bands’ identically named ‘Anthology Disc 1’ albums together and it turned out to be the weirdest but an oddly fun combination to listen to. Synchronicity in the musical tastes of all members is an asset for any band and right from the get-go, the three Night Demon guys have seemed comfortable with each other’s musical choices. Besides, I’ve also enjoyed the music in the van, as someone who prefers listening to albums rather than single songs I love that these guys are on the same page, and they’re yet to play an album I can’t tolerate.
Day 2 (09/30): Heavy Metal Sandwich
We parked the van at a rest stop in Arizona at 4 AM, slept in the van for a few hours and then set out to visit the Grand Canyon. The place was noticeably crowded even at 9 AM, so we kept our stay short and absorbed the scenery, took a few photos and exited. To gaze at the depth and vastness of this natural wonder eroded by the Colorado River through millions of years into its current form was breathtaking, definitely worth the pit stop and an apt way to get this tour going.
But soon after, we stopped at a gas station for refueling on our way out and got hit by a sudden and unexpected setback. While Dustin was standing in front of the van cleaning the windshield, an RV filled with German tourists backed straight into him, and he was sandwiched between the van and the RV, yelling in agony. Upon knocking on the RV’s doors and windows and motioning them forward, its occupants finally relieved Dustin but he was in pain, his legs throbbing from the impact. He put an ice pack on the right leg and we carried on, and as of now he seems fully recovered, but it was quite a scare for all of us and could have been far worse. Pictured below is Dustin and the RV after the incident:
The rest of the day was all about driving to get closer to the destination, going through Arizona into ‘the land of enchantment’ New Mexico, as we drove into the city of Albuquerque to stop at a Mexican restaurant called Frontier for their delicious Green Chili Stew, and on the way there saw a Jesse Pinkman lookalike on the sidewalk, dressed in a Metalachi shirt and looking like he was under the influence of Walter White’s baby blue. Following the meal stop we continued on, entering Texas late at night, passing by a giant cross lit in white and emitting black smoke from its top, and were greeted by a long unending streak of lightning in the sky. It looked like it had already rained and a storm looked imminent, but we powered through it on our way to Oklahoma, Jarvis and I occupying the front seats and geeking out over Megadeth albums on the stereo while the other two slept. Good music is of utmost importance in keeping the driver and his shotgun rider awake during overnight drives, and Megadeth’s ‘The System Has Failed’, ‘So Far So Good… So What?’ and ‘Hidden Treasures’ albums did it for us longtime and die-hard fans of the band.
Day 3 (10/01): “Y’all in a band?”
Once again, we parked at a rest stop and got a few hours of shuteye before rising in Oklahoma on day 3 and journeying on from one state line to the next, driving straight through Arkansas with just the odd refueling stop along the way, arriving in Memphis, Tennessee in the late afternoon to visit Elvis Presley’s home ‘Graceland’ but due to it being closed at this time of day, we just checked it out from the outside and took a couple of photos.
Very close to Graceland is the famous Sun Studio, home to Sun Records which is credited for releasing the first ever Elvis Presley recording among a number of other significant artists that pioneered rock ‘n roll in its primitive stages. The 30-minute tour of the studio that housed some of these records and the actual recording room used by all those artists was going to cost in double digits per person, but Jarvis inquired the girl at the counter for a ‘band discount’, and we were all quite pleasantly surprised that they actually let us take the tour for free just because we were ‘in a band’. The tour guide was hugely enthusiastic in his narration of the studio’s history and all of us really enjoyed the experience. If you’re in a band, the next time you go to Memphis, we highly recommend you to visit this place, ask for the band discount and take the tour.
Next, Jarvis was really stoked to make a visit to the Stax Museum, the former home of Memphis’ famous Stax Records, and owing to its close proximity to Sun Studio, we made it there just before it got dark out, and we were able to get a couple of photographs in front of the building’s historic marquee and outside its closed doors.
We then made a quick meal stop at a Wendy’s, where we got our first “Y’all in a band?” query of the tour as all three Wendy’s employees and customers said they were absolutely certain we looked like we’re in a rock ‘n roll band. In the Southern states we definitely stand out from the pack, quite a departure from Los Angeles where everyone appears to be a rockstar, whether it be real or fake. From Tennessee we went through Mississippi and entered Georgia, making our way to the city of Atlanta to meet up with Night Demon’s good buddies in Exmortus who are crossing paths with us on their own tour, parked outside their friend’s house and since we arrived really late, 4 AM after all the time zone changes, we didn’t wake anyone up and slept in the van yet again.
Day 4 (10/02): Exmortus In Hotlanta
We woke up in Atlanta, or ‘Hotlanta’ as Jarvis and Dustin fondly call it, sometime in the late morning and Exmortus’ friend Amos Rifkin, drummer of the Atlanta-based metal band Death Of Kings who were the support act for Exmortus’ headlining show at the Drunkin Unicorn on this night, invited us inside his house. Having gone shower-less for the past three days and worn the same set of clothes, all four of us were incredibly delighted in equal measure to take our first showers of the tour. Amos told us he has his house set up basically as a home for touring bands coming through town and Night Demon were the fifth band in the past 10 days to stop here. His cat and two dogs made the atmosphere all the more friendly and welcoming. Soon the Exmortus guys woke up from their slumber and Amos took both bands out to visit the Oakland cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest burial site. He took us on a very informative tour of the cemetery. Cemeteries are definitely metal.
We picked up some Greek takeout food on the way out, went back to Amos’ place and soon set out to the Drunken Unicorn in Exmortus’ van. The place reminded me of Anaheim’s Chain Reaction from the outside but looked very much different from the inside with a very decently sized stage, a standing area that could hold around 150 people and an adjoining bar/sitting area. I couldn’t get my head round the fact that it’s legal to smoke cigarettes indoors in this part of America, but at the end of the day it didn’t bother me as a non-smoker of cigarettes nearly as much as I thought it would. The show started at 9:30 PM in front of a good turnout.
The first band of the show was local band Sybaritic, playing their brand of death/thrash metal but putting forth quite a good amount of variety in their compositions from one tune to the next and within each tune itself as well. The instrumental segments of the music were a lot more enjoyable, the guitar harmonies in particular, and Sybaritic certainly provided a great start to this show, warming up the crowd perfectly for the acts to follow.
Death Of Kings were next, and played a very entertaining set as their singer/guitarist indulged in some great crowd banter and the band used as many as four bassists to play this set, including Dave Whitworth of Atlanta grindcore supergroup Primate. Death Of Kings’ music sounded like a delightful blend of Mastodon and Skeletonwitch with high-pitched clean vocals in the style of 3 Inches Of Blood. Talking of Skeletonwitch, it was extremely pleasant to see a large number of people in this crowd, and two of the Death Of Kings members, wearing that band’s shirt and/or wristbands. Death Of Kings rocked this crowd with an excellent performance and from our perspective as outsiders seeing them as representatives of Atlanta metal, they did a fine job.
And lastly, Exmortus took the stage at 11:30 for a typically scorching set, but the biggest difference seeing them here was of course the unique experience of witnessing their fan base in a place far away from home. The attendees here were loving every moment of the Exmortus set, drawing nearer to the stage as the set went on and giving the band a great response, probably even better than what they get in LA as people here seemed genuinely excited by the live music and weren’t standing with arms folded. After a six-song set comprising five from the latest ‘Slave To The Sword’ album and one oldie ‘Kneel Before The Steel’, Exmortus played a two-song encore of Ozzy’s ‘Bark At The Moon’, sung by David Rivera, and Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller’ with vocal contributions from members of the two opening bands. All in all, a great night, and it’s safe to say that the land of artists such as Mastodon, Royal Thunder and Lazer/Wulf has a noteworthy metal scene.
After the show we were taken by our host to the Clermont Lounge across the street, a bizarre place where retired strippers that looked like grannies were hanging their tits out on a stage. After some in our party consumed a quick beer, we swiftly departed this building and returned to Amos’ house. Right now, as I finish writing this, the Night Demon guys are happily asleep on Amos’ couches as opposed to the van for a change. We still have one more day to kill in Atlanta before the first show on Saturday. Stay tuned for the next part of the blog, and follow my personal and Metal Assault social networks for more on-the-fly updates from the tour.
[Read Part 2 here]
Night Demon tour dates w/ Raven:
10/04: Atlanta, GA @ 529 Bar
10/05: Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone Café
10/07: New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
10/08: Dallas, TX @ RBC
10/09: Houston TX @ White Swan Live
10/10: Little Rock, AR @ Vino’s
10/11: Austin, TX @ Red 7
10/12: Midland, TX @ Keglers Lounge
10/13: Las Cruces, NM @ The Green Room
10/15: Mesa, AZ @ Club Red
10/17: San Marcos, CA @ Jumping Turtle
10/18: Santa Barbara, CA @ Biko House
10/19: Las Vegas, NV @ Cheyenne Saloon
10/20: Los Angeles, CA @ Whisky A Go Go
10/22: San Bernardino, CA @ Black Flame Collective
10/23: Fullerton, CA @ Slidebar
10/24: Ventura, CA @ Bombay
10/25: Los Osos, CA @ Sweet Springs Saloon
10/26: Sacramento, CA @ Blue Lamp
10/27: San Francisco, CA @ The Elbo Room
10/28: Sparks, NV @ The Alley
10/29: Ashland, OR @ Club 66
10/30: Portland, OR @ Tonic Lounge
10/31: Spokane, WA @ The Hop!
11/01: Vancouver, BC @ Media Club
11/02: Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
11/03: Boise, ID @ The Shredder
11/04: Salt Lake City, UT @ The Lo-Fi Cafe
11/05: Denver, CO @ TBA
11/07: St Louis, MO @ Fubar
11/09: Columbus, OH @ Shrunken Head
11/11: Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
11/13: Indianapolis, IN @ Headquarters
11/14: Akron, OH @ Empire Rock Club
11/15: Toronto, ON @ Hard Luck
11/16: Chicago IL @ Reggie’s
11/18: Detroit, MI @ Token Lounge
11/19: Syracuse, NY @ Macs Bad Art Bar
11/20: Pittsburgh, PA @ Dead Horse
11/21: Brooklyn, NY @ St. Vitus
11/22: Philadelphia, PA @ Dobbs
11/23: Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
11/24: Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
11/25: Raleigh, NC @ The Maywood