[Blog] On The Road With Night Demon – Part 8: Stone Cold Crazy

By Andrew Bansal

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As our lovely tour van rolled through the US mid-west, I described some of it in Part 7 of my ‘On The Road With Night Demon’ blog series, and in Part 8 I’m bringing you up to speed with how we’ve embraced the American autumn. But before you get into it, check out parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 first.

Day 43 (11/10): Down Time

After the Columbus gig, we hung out in town for another day as Night Demon rightly decided not to play the 11/11 Kansas City show. The brutal routing from Ohio to Missouri to Ohio for the 11/14 Akron show would have been a 1400-mile round trip in two days, perhaps too taxing on our bodies, wallets and vehicle. The 11/13 Indianapolis show had already been canceled by promoters, so we had four vacant days ahead of us. (FYI: The 11/20 Pittsburgh show has also been canceled).

Aside from the worst lunch of the tour at White Castle which each of us got fairly close to puking straight out, our stay in Columbus was fruitful and we got lucky with pleasant and sunny weather, temperatures in the 60s. These were the best weather days of this whole tour. Besides, Columbus being a college town meant a vibrant crowd walking the streets. During the day I also visited a record store called Magnoila Thunderpussy, easily the best name I’ve ever come across for a record store. A guy we met at the show on Sunday night was kind enough to let us stay with him overnight, and we left his house early Tuesday morning with three more off-days to kill. I left Columbus with a certain degree of fondness for it.

Day 45 (11/12): Customers Wanted

We spent Tuesday night in South Amherst with Vic Stown from the band Vindicator and his two cats, and I was able to overcome my fear towards that creature to some extent. For Wednesday and Thursday, Vic hooked us up with a place to stay in Lorain with Marshall Law, his former Vindicator bandmate. But we cruised through town for a few hours before getting there, and somewhere along the way it was impulsively decided that we should go to a bar. We found a place called Shirley’s. It looked desolate and had a sign outside that said, ‘Customers Wanted’. We had to be buzzed in to enter the place, we were the only customers there, there was no house music and all they had was an old-school jukebox which Jarvis promptly jumped on, feeding four quarters into it and choosing some ancient songs including Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’. If you’re ever near Lorain, Ohio, you must visit Shirley’s. Tell them we sent you.

Marshall let us stay with him for two nights and one whole day, his house proving to be a cozy shelter for us with his two cats and Siberian Husky dog. Sleeping with those cats gave me yet another opportunity to overcome my fears. Being in ‘purple heart’ territory on veterans day was also an interesting little tidbit. I got to experience snowfall for the first time in my life, and quite honestly I can’t understand why anyone would have anything positive to say about it because I’m definitely not a fan, not in the very least. Granted, the sight of snow flakes falling from the sky looks heavenly at first, but when you have to scrape several layers of snow off your vehicle, walk on snow-covered sidewalks, and your vehicle slides on the roads when you’re driving, it turns into instant hell. Snow is no fun.

Day 47 (11/14): Midnight Demon

After so much down time, it was finally time to wake up with a show on the agenda. Dustin had used this time most productively to finish Season 4 of Breaking Bad and educate our hosts about the ways of ‘Waze’, an underground social media app for the road with maps and all kinds of information on traffic, police vehicles, construction zones, roadkills, toll roads and whatnot. Doing the bulk of the driving on this tour, Dustin has been enjoying this reality video game, picking up massive number of points for reporting things that assist other ‘Wazers’. He has already achieved ‘Knight Wazer’ status and is extremely stoked about it.

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On the drive from Lorain to Akron for the gig, we listened to a live recording of one of Metallica’s 30th anniversary shows from 2011, the portion with the Diamond Head covers. It’s quite possibly the worst piece of recorded music I’ve ever heard in my life. But being strangely fond of bad covers, I was really enjoying Metallica butchering the hell out of those legendary Diamond Head songs.

We were the first ones to arrive at the Empire (and last to leave), setting ourselves up for the show within no time as the venue had its own back line, strobe lighting and fog machines. Being a Friday evening, we hoped for a good gig, but as we’ve discovered through this tour, it really depends on where you are and a Friday doesn’t guarantee a good turnout. Thankfully, Akron was a great outing for us and for Raven, as the venue got fairly packed, people enjoyed themselves and spent money on merchandise. Getting to see Raven for the first time in five days actually felt really good to me and I was singing along to every word when they were on stage. They do an all-covers medley to close out their set every night, and their version of Judas Priest’s ‘Genocide’, faster and at a higher pitch than the original, is so gloriously awesome that I can never listen to the Priest version without thinking of Raven.

Quite a few in the audience were seen wearing shirts representing Ohio metal warriors Midnight, which brings me to the most memorable moment of the gig from Night Demon’s perspective. One of the members of Midnight purchased a Night Demon vinyl from me. I had no idea who he was until later when he handed a Midnight CD to Jarvis, telling him, “Here’s a CD of my band. Check it out.” To witness Night Demon’s name spreading amongst metalheads, musicians and industry insiders alike in this manner is true vindication of the band’s efforts.

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It was 3:30 AM by the time we packed up, loaded out and left to head to Cleveland, where I needed to be dropped off to catch a bus to Chicago to rejoin the tour on the 16th after skipping the Toronto show due to reasons mentioned in the previous part of the tour blog. I was extremely upset about having to miss that show, but it is what it is. The scene in Cleveland in the early hours of the morning with snow covering everything, no human in sight and snow-shoveling trucks running through town certainly felt like hell on earth, almost as if we’d entered a war zone. We pulled into a Dennys restaurant with a giant “All-Nighter” sign outside, with spooky icicles hanging down from it. Even this supposedly all-nighter Dennys was closed, that’s just how cold and dead this town was at that time. With nowhere to go, we had no choice but to sleep in the van.

Day 48 (11/15): To Toronto And Back / My Apocalypse

They dropped me off at the bus station at around 8 AM and we parted ways as they went on for the border crossing and into Toronto. Based on what they told me, Night Demon had quite a successful gig in brutally cold but righteously metal Toronto, although it was far less eventful that Vancouver. Members of the bands Cauldron and Axxion came out to attend the gig and Night Demon stayed overnight with Axxion after the show.

I, in the meanwhile, had a very post-apocalyptic hangout in Cleveland for the entire day, and through my attempts to spend the day at McDonalds and Starbucks outlets, I learned that walking on streets when snow has melted into slippery ice is definitely harder than walking on them covered in snow.

Finally, it was time to board the Megabus, which turned out to be a smooth seven-hour ride to Chicago. An hour or so before reaching Chicago, the bus halted at a Hardee’s travel stop for refueling and let the passengers out for 20 minutes. Brent’s favorite snack white cheddar popcorn was the first thing I noticed there and grabbed it immediately. But upon walking back out after 15 minutes, I was absolutely mindfucked by what I saw. There was a Hardee’s of the exact same shape and size directly across the street, and the bus wasn’t where I left it. For a couple of minutes I thought I missed the bus and somehow come out on the other side of the street. But the bus returned a few moments later and safely took me to Chicago, arriving promptly at the scheduled time of 15 minutes past midnight.

Day 49 (11/16): Legend In Disguise

After getting off the Megabus, walking a total of nearly 2 miles in bone-chilling cold wind was an educational experience in itself and already makes me appreciate LA weather even more than I already do. I stayed overnight with Chicago metal stalwart Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Corrections House and several other bands/projects). The next day he took me to the Empty Bottle for brunch and I enjoyed the food and the vibe there quite a lot. I then took public transit to arrive at Reggies Rock Club for the gig and reunited with Night Demon at around 6 PM. Raven and Manilla Road took up most of the room at the merch table and all I was left with was a little corner under a staircase. But every venue presents its own challenges in this aspect and as a merch guy you just need to be really flexible. I set up shop and somehow made it work.

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American heavy metal veterans Manilla Road were also on the bill for this show and were slotted as main support, so Night Demon went on earlier than usual at 8:30. Before them, local opener Ancient Dreams put on a more-than-decent performance, and then Night Demon absolutely destroyed the Reggies stage, playing to an audience comprising of some that were already familiar with the band from this year’s Ragnarokkr gig at the same venue. Their Riot cover has been unanimously popular everywhere on this tour. Their version is so delightfully heavy, it makes me want to wreck everything around me every time I hear it. I couldn’t see much of the show from my position under the staircase but it sounded crystal clear. Dustin’s drums which had an extra pop to them on this occasion. He has downsized his kit from what he started out with, and the result has been great.

I’d heard so many great things about Manilla Road, but unfortunately their performance was extremely lackluster, devoid of energy and made no impact whatsoever. They didn’t even bring their own gear. These days I strongly feel there are a lot of bands that are thriving solely because of the hipster takeover of planet earth. People call themselves fans of a band merely to be perceived as ‘cool’ for doing so. In all honesty, I’ll have to put Manilla Road in the same category because all of a sudden they have a large fan base now and are playing shows all over the world, but based on their live show I’d have to say they’re unnecessarily over-hyped.

Thankfully, Raven rocked the stage. I’d take Raven over Manilla Road any day. My biggest complaint about the Raven set is they play only one verse of ‘Stay Hard’. Somebody please tell them to play the whole song at least once, because they sure as hell don’t listen to any of us.

During the Night Demon set, my heart skipped a beat when I noticed somebody in the audience, a gentleman in his mid-40s, wearing a beanie hat with his long hair tied back. It was none other than the legendary Jeff Walker from Carcass, who played in Chicago the night before. After the set, he came up to the merch table and asked me questions about the CD. He returned after the end of the show and bought it. That, ladies and gentlemen, was my fanboy moment of this tour. But even then, I managed to stay professional, didn’t mention Carcass at all and didn’t ask him for a photo, because he was there as a regular dude, not as Jeff Walker from Carcass.

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After our most successful gig of the tour, we drove to a friend’s place to stay overnight and rocked out to Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans Of Swing’ along the way. The song really ‘hit the spot’ for all of us, so to speak. Jarvis started singing my name (my real name, not Andrew) over the lyrics and guitar solos, and has been doing it a lot since then. As it turns out, my name is so musical that it fits into just about any song.

I had a great 24 hours in Chicago, and most definitely fell in love with the city. If I ever had to move from Los Angeles for any reason, out of anywhere we’ve visited on this tour, I’ll have to pick Chicago.

Day 50 (11/17): Iced Earth

We set out in the early afternoon for the next show at the Brass Rail in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jarvis left behind a coffee mug with some water in it in the van. It was completely frozen when he tried to empty it. Temperatures were in the teens for the whole day with heavy snowfall. We reached the venue at around 7:30 and ran back and forth to load merch and gear just to stay warm, but it was a challenge as the ice on the road made it very slippery. For a Monday night in a small town in Indiana, the show turned out to be great for everyone involved. Local openers Demonwolf were really impressive, and the other opener Valhalla, comprising two members of the band Zephaniah whom we saw in Columbus, were the only band with keyboards we’ve come across on this tour and their music was interesting as a result. The icy load out after the show was no fun at all, but was another educational experience for us California residents.

Overall, this has been a hard week for me because I’ve been able to see Raven and Night Demon only thrice in this period, and I’ve realized that I’m so used to the show now that I actually miss it on off-nights. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be slightly depressed once this tour is done. But until then, there’s still two weeks to go, and I’ll bring you two more parts in this blog series. Stay tuned.

[Read Part 9 here]

IMG_0884_Fotor copyRemaining Tour Dates:
11/18: Detroit, MI @ Token Lounge
11/19: Syracuse, NY @ Macs Bad Art Bar
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
11/26: Atlanta, GA @ 529 *
11/29: Las Cruces, NM @ Green Room *
* = Night Demon headline show