By Andrew Bansal
My ‘On The Road With Night Demon’ tour blog series has so far captured the first three weeks of the tour including the October 20 Los Angeles show at the Whisky-A-Go-Go. In Part 5 I’ll recall the events of our six-day trek from San Bernardino to San Francisco. But first, read Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 if you haven’t yet.
Day 24 (10/22): Not Fest
With everyone well rested on the off-day after the LA show, all was in readiness for the next run of dates starting with an all-ages gig at a DIY spot called Black Flame Collective in San Bernardino. For American metalheads, San Bernardino has always been synonymous with San Manuel Amphitheater (previously known as Blockbuster Pavilion and Glen Helen Pavilion). So, for a change, it was interesting to discover its actual local scene. The room was small but still thrice the size of the garage in Santa Barbara last week. Just like that event, merch tables were set up outdoors and I didn’t get to see much of the show. With four grind/power violence/hardcore type bands opening for Night Demon and Raven, it was a strange lineup combining two worlds that rarely ever cross paths. But Night Demon still played to a decent crowd and gave them a special treat by presenting new song ‘Mastermind’, which they hadn’t played since the first week of the tour.
Seeing familiar faces on tour anywhere invariably feels great, and here I got to hang with the Witchaven guys, seeing them after quite a while. Vocalist/guitarist Henry Montoya came over to the merch table and based on his own past tours, offered tips on what to do and not to do in the cities we’re yet to visit on the remainder of this tour. The show ended at around 2 AM and while it wasn’t my favorite show of the tour by any means, it was a new experience nonetheless.
Day 25 (10/23): Free And Easy
The three dudes in Night Demon have more than enough in common to be able to get along as a group and lay the foundation for a successful band, but spending these past few weeks with them has given me a deeper insight into their individual personalities and quirks that bring out the differences between them. Brent: the deep sleeper, a man of few words. Dustin: the glam rock aficionado, always on top of all things van-related, doing most of the driving, and the runaway leader in epic farts. Jarvis: the music encyclopedia, the king of sarcasm and “that’s what she said” jokes, and the man with no ‘off’ switch. Even when he’s sleeping, he makes his presence known by his deafening snores. But it’s these variations that not only keep things interesting on the road but help maintain the band dynamic intact and reflect onto the music as well.
The gig on the 23rd was a free show at Slidebar in Fullerton, leaving Orange County metalheads no excuse not to attend. The last and only time I was at this venue, for the Christian Mistress/Gypsyhawk/Night Demon earlier this year, I instantly fell in love with it and my second visit there was even more fruitful. Los Angeles’ own classic metal group Blade Killer opened this show, a band I’d never seen before, strangely enough, and I was finally able to realize that all the great things I’d heard about them were in fact true. The righteousness of the vocals, lyrics, guitar harmonies and rhythm sections in their music bodes well for their future and is great for LA metal. The Night Demon guys like to surround themselves with bands they truly love and respect as musicians, and the list definitely includes Blade Killer alongside Exmortus and Morbid Eclipse, both bands in attendance at this show. The gig overall was thoroughly enjoyable and the Slidebar is now certainly my favorite OC venue.
Day 26 (10/24): Homecoming
The most eagerly awaited moment of this tour so far had arrived for the Night Demon boys, as they geared up for a hometown gig at Bombay in downtown Ventura. Being in Ventura gave them a chance to gather and realign themselves, and for me it meant downsizing. I’ve discovered by now that traveling light is important for a tour of this nature. But I packed a whole lot of shirts with me when starting out, with no idea of how much I would actually require. And as it has turned out, we end up wearing the same set of clothes until we get to shower. Upon seeing me do three full loads of laundry, Jarvis remarked that my t-shirt collection is bigger than a Hot Topic and that I should start my own distro. So, I offloaded a lot of my clothes and left them behind with a friend in Orange County, and now I’m officially living out of a suitcase for the next five weeks, at least.
Another important aspect of touring in the Night Demon van is packing. The gear and merch is very tightly and precisely packed in the back of this van, and has to be done exactly the same way every time we load in after a gig, otherwise things simply wouldn’t fit. It’s amazing how much we have back there. We have it down to a science, and it enables Night Demon to tour without a trailer slowing down the van to lower speed limits on the freeways and causing parking hassles.
Both Exmortus and Blade Killer opened the show at Bombay. Being home enabled Night Demon to restock on the fast-selling merch items, and they got a new stage backdrop, approximately 10’ X 8’ and a lot bigger than the one they used previously. They also used their own stage lights for the first time on the tour. These production aspects are definitely are a factor in raising the band’s impact on any audience, and Night Demon’s visually enhanced show along with solid sets by the other bands made it a great event for all involved. Exmortus and Blade Killer followed us back to Brent’s house and we partied till 7 in the morning, the 25th also being my birthday because of which I put my sobriety on hold once the clock struck midnight, drank more beers than I could count, and still woke up six hours later with no noticeable hangover.
Day 27 (10/25): The Bears
The boxes with the new merch stock were brought to the van, and was somehow added to the meticulously packed arrangement in the back with surprising ease. The new stock was mostly for plus sizes (XL and beyond) of all five Night Demon shirt designs. Plus-sized metalheads in the southern and western parts of America clearly dig Night Demon more than the normal-sized ones. Repacked and refreshed from 10 days in Southern California, it was time for the Night Demon van to hit the road once again, as we sang the chorus lines of Raven’s new song “It’s Not What You Got, It’s the Way That You Do It” in unison, in our best possible John Gallagher voice imitation.
The last two Saturday shows of the tour in Austin and Santa Barbara were stellar, and this one at Sweet Springs Saloon in Los Osos (three hours north of Ventura) was no different. If anything, it was even better. Folks in these offbeat places don’t get a good metal show often and are excited to get one, no matter who the bands are. Night Demon won plenty of new fans, as people were visibly stoked upon seeing and hearing them, to the extent that one of them let us sleep in his house overnight after the gig.
Day 28 (10/26): Smells Like Knotfest
We left Los Osos in the mid-afternoon, a little later than planned, but still well in time to get to the Blue Lamp in Sacramento before the scheduled load-in time of 7 PM. The 5-North was in no mood to be our friend though, as multiple accidents halted us to a standstill for at least an hour. We listened to Megadeth’s ‘Youthanasia’ in honor of its 20th anniversary but soon realized that it’s one album that did not stand the test of time and switched to ‘Rust In Peace’. Once we picked up speed again we drove past a vast cattle field, countless cows grazing for miles upon miles. At first I wasn’t looking out of the window, so the stench of dung made me think someone farted inside the van. I rolled the window down and of course, the stench got even worse. “Smells like Knotfest!” said Brent. (Those that don’t get the reference, look up ‘Knofest camel dung’). Anyhow, Dustin drove non-stop and we frantically made it to the venue at 9 PM, with Night Demon’s set time at 10:15 and 9:30 being the promoter’s absolute latest cutoff for the band to be allowed to play.
This was the fastest merch set up I’ve done so far, and it needed to be, as the doors opened at 8 and there was already an audience. While I did that, the band swiftly loaded in their gear, got into their individual warm-up routines, and promptly hit the stage at 10:15. They absolutely nailed it, and this performance meant a lot to all of us because of the journey endured to pull it off. Sacramento served Night Demon a lot better than expected on a Sunday night. I met longtime pen pal and Metal Assault contributor Jason Coldiron (who later kindly welcomed us to sleep in his house) at the show. After seeing Night Demon, he came up to me and said, “I can see why you’re touring with this band.” Other people at this show said similar things as well. This tour has been quite an experience for me already, and comments like these only further vindicate my decision to be a part of it.
Day 29 (10/27): It’s a Long Way To The Top
The last of the California shows was at the Elbo Room in one of the traditional homes of American heavy metal, San Francisco. On the way out of Sacramento, we stopped at a Halloween store to buy a new fog machine for the stage, and as it turned out it was well worth the investment.
I mentioned some of my pet peeves as the merch guy in the previous blog post, and all those things continue to prevail at every show. I’m contemplating handing out free merch to anyone that does NOT place their drink on the Night Demon display board. You can also add people treating me like a retail store, trying on shirts and not buying them to my list of pet peeves. But there have been some positives as well, like the dude in Sacramento coming up and trying to trade a bag of weed for a shirt. I defer those types of decisions to the band, obviously.
We arrived at the SF venue early and loaded gear and merch carrying it all through a long flight of stairs leading up to the live entertainment hall on the second level. Local support at this show came from HellFire, but they were placed higher than Night Demon on the bill, citing bigger local draw as the reason for doing so. There was some debate over it, but politics aside, this debate was settled on stage as Night Demon completely dominated this show. Night Demon’s decibel level and stage production with the giant backdrop, the lights and the brand new iced fog machine was arena-worthy, and was perhaps too much for this room to handle as the power blew out at the start of Night Demon’s rendition of ‘Lightning To The Nations’. Following a delay of a few minutes, the band made a grand comeback, not starting the song all over again, but at the guitar solo, still playing out the whole set and conquering the Elbo Room crowd.
After the gig we crossed the Bay Bridge to get to Oakland where we endured a ‘Walking Dead’-like scene, being harassed by crack heads loose all over at a gas station. But we safely made it to the friend’s house where we were going to spend the night. Two of us, including me, slept on couches in the house while Jarvis and Dustin slept in the van. I woke up amidst a major freak-out, to the sight of an incredibly friendly cat standing on my chest and staring down at me. We soon left Oakland and as I finish writing this, Brent is driving us through some scenic forests on the 80-East towards the next show in Sparks NV.
From their musical style to touring with Raven, a lot of what Night Demon does is inspired by old-school Metallica, and it is all tying in beautifully on this tour because the reaction of first-timers when they see Night Demon is similar to what I can imagine for people seeing and hearing Metallica for the first time in the early 80s. Night Demon’s tour with Raven is still not even halfway, and as they continue to serve as the modern-day old-school Metallica for the plus-sized metalhead, I’ll be bringing you many more updates and stories.
Remaining tour dates:
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 @ 3 Kings Tavern
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
11/17: Fort Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail
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