BRAT consists of Liz Selfish on lead growl, me (Brenner Moate) on guitar and backing yells, Ian Hennessey on bass, and Dustin Eagan on drums. Writing for the initial BRAT songs began in February 2020 after a fateful karaoke session now etched in legend. This culminated in the recording of two EPs in May 2021, then released in August ’21 (Mean is What We Aim For) and January ’22 (Grime Boss).
Here lies the recounting of the third BRAT tour, in support of New Orleans sludge lords Eyehategod. Joining us were fellow hometown hell rockers Total Hell. For this tour, we and Total Hell were to accompany Eyehategod for a week on their way up the East Coast to NYC to meet up with Venom Inc., where they would together embark on a full U.S. tour. After that, BRAT and Total Hell planned to do some dates further inland to take a fun roundabout way home.
However, a week or so before we were to leave, we received a call from EHG’s manager Zac that Venom Inc.’s visas had not gone through and that their tour had been canceled. He was scrambling to re-book an entire tour for EHG after the planned meet up date with Venom Inc., which he successfully managed to do in a day or two.
Everyone met up at Elizabeth’s and my house in Gentilly the night before leaving for the ceremonial packing of the van—merch, gear, and all. We had Dustin’s girlfriend Maci along on the tour for merch slinging. We were all packed in tightly but Hennessey in particular nested neatly into the one seat in the back row that wasn’t entirely claimed by merch boxes. Ever the optimists, we were hopeful we’d sell enough to give him a little more real estate at some point.
The drive up to our first show was calm and uneventful, although one of the longer ones of the whole tour. We made it to JJ’s Bohemia, which I had heard was a small venue. A long but narrow room, upon arrival I began to understand the reason for the 150 person capacity. We met up with our boys in Total Hell and EHG. All of us except for Hennessey had only ever met Gary from Eyehategod, so we made our first introductions in the parking lot. While setting up our merch booth, I heard that Hennessey wasn’t feeling very well. He didn’t seem too terrible at the moment but when he barely drank his free beer and turned down our offer to pick him up some food, I knew something had to be amiss. Toadsmoke and Gumm were two awesome locals that opened up the show and got people hyped up. Total Hell then took the stage (my first time seeing them) and I could quickly see why EHG wanted to take them out on the road. They were badass as hell, flowing with over-the-top “fuck you” energy while belting out songs about Nuclear Satanic Warfare. We all became fans of the catchy riffs and were singing their songs in the van the rest of tour. Our time came about and we took the stage in front of a completely packed, tiny room. We started our set with a Backstreet Boys sample into “Bought the Farm” and it was game over. The crowd was amped and the mosh proceeded to go off. Someone apparently stage dove off of the bar immediately to my left during our set but I somehow missed it. Liz was pushed into the drum set as she maybe had a foot of stage in front of the kit. It set a truly high bar for the tour, as these kinds of wild shows are what we live for. Eyehategod made their way on stage after us, and during their set it truly began to dawn on me the opportunity that had been bestowed upon us. We were not only playing a show with legends, but touring with them. I’d seen Eyehategod back home multiple times before, but this was different. Seeing them on the road, in their truest element as seasoned road dogs, and knowing that we could be a part of it to this level, will always mean a lot to me. This was a special show, one I’ll never forget. The only downside was that all of the bands got parking tickets even though the venue said we were good to park in the lot next door. We threw that shit out, though.
We crashed at a friend of a friend’s, which was a nice spot. Her roommate came home the next morning and wasn’t stoked on our presence, and the heated conversation that began in the next room sounded a lot like “time to leave.” So that’s just what we did.
We woke up the next morning, and Hennessey was feeling BAD. It was then I started to worry. He was looking extremely pale and clammy, not to mention downright feverish. We learned later that Hennessey’s roommate had a bad cold which was going around at the time.
We headed to Bojangles to get some food before making the short 1.5 hour drive to Knoxville, where while we ate, Hennessey sat passed out at a nearby table, fading in and out of consciousness. I think he weaved through several layers of hell in that Bojangles dining room. As we were getting back into the van, one of the employees showed us a stray chicken living in a bush outside. She called her “Bo-Lady.”
Knowing we needed a certain level of comfort for the ailing Hennessey, we booked a luxury stay at a Motel 6. We dropped Hennessey off to rest, and I’d return to get him later for our set. We arrived at the BrickYard, a nicely-sized bar and grill in a strip mall. One of the openers, EVIL TWIN, were probably the most unique band we saw the entire tour. A bunch of elderly (probably 70+) gentlemen donning makeup and BDSM outfits playing weirdo punk, making use of a theremin to boot. After their set I went back to the motel to retrieve Hennessey’s bass-playing corpse. He wasn’t doing so hot, to say the least. He stood pretty still through our set, which ended up being another wild one with people falling onstage onto my pedalboard several times. But my boy pulled through and we had a blast. On his way back to the van to get some rest post-set, a stranger told him he looked exactly like her friend who died three days prior, which wasn’t a great thing to hear considering he felt upon the verge of death.
We made the long drive to Richmond (VA) the next day with marginal improvement to Hennessey’s health. We enjoyed the first of many Sheetz stops on this tour and began to see some beautiful fall foliage driving through the mountains. This was also the day our much anticipated hate5six video dropped online, so spirits were high. Upon arrival at Richmond Music Hall, a fairly large and corporate venue, we found out this would be the first time we’d ever have to deal with a venue taking a merch cut, much to our dismay. We saw who we thought was Randy Blythe of Lamb of God talking to [EHG guitarist] Jimmy Bower outside of the venue and yeah, sure enough, it was him. Gary from EHG introduced us later. Randy ended up taking some really cool pictures of us, which was a pretty surreal experience. The show was pretty good even though the crowd was a bit stiff, but people said that was a Richmond thing.
We woke up at a friend’s house in Richmond and ate some pretty good food at Galaxy Diner. Elizabeth and I are breakfast food maniacs and subject everyone else to eating breakfast food for probably 75% of the sit-down meals we have on tour. Sorry y’all. We took a walk around Hollywood Cemetery before making the relatively short drive to DC. After an hour or two of driving followed by an hour of sitting in notorious DC traffic, we arrived at Danny Gorsky’s house. He booked us when we played Baltimore over the summer, and offered to let us stay in his house even though he was out of town. We had heard about his house, a popular local house show spot known as HELL. The basement was set up with cool lights and even a small stage. We got our air mattresses set up for later and headed over to Comet Ping Pong for the show—yes, the same Comet Ping Pong at the center of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. There was even a rule on the show notes from the venue that we were strictly not allowed to mention Pizzagate on stage. The venue was naturally sensitive about it due to a shooting there by someone who took the conspiracy way too far. The place ended up being really nice, with a near endless flow of free pizza for the bands. The show was great, though I had to resort to my backup guitar since the input on my main one went out as we were setting up. We were heckled for the first time on tour by someone in the crowd. After the set, some girl approached the merch booth and said that when she saw some old man yelling at us, it inspired her to buy a shirt. Thanks, old guy.
The next morning, I called around to get my guitar fixed and ended up being connected with a guy named Ryan Clarke, who fixes guitars out of his house 30 minutes from where we were in DC. I made my way over there while everyone hung back at HELL. After sitting in his living room for 20 minutes, he had my guitar good as new. Turns out he’s familiar with grindcore and I left him with a tape and a shirt. Later, we made our way to New Jersey to play The Saint in Asbury Park, on the fabled Jersey Shore. The place was easily the smallest of our shows with EHG, and the owner was a dick, pissing everyone off with major micromanaging. It turned out that he had recently lost his liquor license, so the bar could sell no types of alcohol. This set a pretty on-edge vibe for the show, as we could tell no one who attended was expecting to see Eyehategod entirely sober. Later in the night after our set, Eyehategod was doing their normal jam-sesh-turned-soundcheck, but it went on for a very long time while the band waited for Mike IX to join them onstage. We were quickly brought outside and made aware by their manager Zac that Mike wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t perform. He asked if we knew any of their lyrics, and none of us did. Zac took over for a few songs, meanwhile Elizabeth and Hennessey rushed to learn the lyrics to what songs they could. They ended up each doing a song. Fronting Eyehategod in this shitty little bar in New Jersey is a moment Elizabeth says she will never forget.
Immediately after the show in Asbury Park, we drove the hour up to Newark to stay with a friend of ours, Diego, who tour manages the band Weedeater. We had only planned to stay with him for one night but as we were getting settled in his cozy apartment, he gave us the incredible news that we were welcome to stay with him for a few days. This was a hell of a blessing since all of our shows the next few days were within a couple hours’ drive.
We woke up the next morning and ate at an unexpectedly fancy diner called Tops for Maci’s birthday. We then made the 90-minute-turned-3-hour drive to the Space Ballroom in Hamden (CT) to join up with what was our last support show for EHG for the main leg of the tour. We wouldn’t play with them again until Halloween in Grand Rapids, five days later. Ringworm was also on this bill. It was another awesome show, but Mike IX once again wasn’t up to performing. Zac performed the majority of the set, pulling out his old school East Coast hardcore roots and making an EHG set feel more like an Agnostic Front set. It was pretty badass. Hennessey got supremely wasted in preparation for doing more vocals, but ended up doing one song, flipping off the stage at the end and hurting himself. We got Taco Bell for the two hour drive back to Diego’s, where Hennessey proceeded to throw up in the drive thru.
OFF DAY IN NYC
We woke up ready for our first off day, though I think it was around this time that Dustin started feeling pretty sick as Hennessey was getting better. Elizabeth had started feeling not-so-great a couple days prior, so this cold was making its rounds between us. We got a nice Wawa breakfast then took the train into NYC. I had an awesome run in Central Park, then we hopped onto the subway to Chinatown for some dim sum. The restaurant was brighter than an auditorium and there was a massive cockroach running across the wall, but the food was 11/10. We were all pretty stoked to have a chill day with no responsibility but to rest.
The venue we were set to play that night was in Montclair, only about 25 minutes from Diego’s in Newark. This essentially made the whole day feel like another off day until the evening. We took care of some laundry and prepared ourselves to play The Meatlocker, a venue we’d heard legends about for a long time. We pulled up to a pretty bougie downtown area in Montclair to find an unmarked door between businesses that leads down into a graffiti covered basement. This show ended up being one of our favorites, with it being our first headlining show and encore of the run. We played with good friends of ours, Come Mierda, who we had played with at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus over the previous summer. Blemish and Bestial Tongues, the other locals on the bill, were also super sick. Some muscle bros from Bestial Tongues bought our bimboviolence booty shorts and immediately changed into them, rocking them for the whole show. Although touring with Eyehategod was a dream come true and we missed them, it was awesome to be back on our own for a second, playing an incredible show with friends we’d made on the road before.
The next morning we were bummed to leave Diego’s apartment, which felt like home after those comfy few days of staying there. We said our goodbyes, got some breakfast bagels, and started on the 7 hour drive to Youngstown, Ohio. The drive through middle of nowhere Pennsylvania was an explosion of fall color, with mountains lining either side of the empty interstate. We pulled up in Youngstown that evening at the spot, which was a house show basement venue known as Hellpit. This, being two days before Halloween, was a Halloween party so most people were in costume (except us). Even the house owner’s dog was showing us up as a pitbull transformed into a spider.
As we were loading in, we got the unfortunate news that Total Hell, who were supposed to be jumping back on the next few shows with us including this one, had broken down in their van. We were incredibly bummed as we were excited to party with our boys again. This was a Saturday night, so there wasn’t much hope that they’d be able to get it looked at the next day to make Chicago the next night.
The venue was one of the most well-put-together house show spots I’d ever seen, with a functioning cash bar and actual sound tech. Coming from New Orleans where most of the house show spots I’d been to were squats, it felt very lux. The show was awesome, but Elizabeth completely lost her voice, as she always does at the end of a cold, and there was a real fear we’d have to cancel our show in Chicago the next day. We crossed our fingers and drove over to our second hotel stay of tour.
After making a food stop at the last Sheetz seen on this tour, we began our seven-hour trek through Ohio and Indiana towards Chicago. It was a dreary day but Elizabeth’s voice had been feeling a little bit better. We arrived in Chicago and stopped by Elizabeth’s friend Vanessa, who we’d be staying with, before heading to LiveWire Lounge. This was the day before Halloween, so it was another costume party. The mood was light and fun but we got the unfortunate news that Total Hell would once again not be able to make it due to their van. We met some people who had driven three hours from Wisconsin just to see us, which was pretty wild to me considering we only play for 20 minutes. This was another favorite of mine, as the crowd was hype, and so were we, powered by the ever-flowing Malört. Elizabeth struggled through the set, but managed to pull through. After the show, the bar owner and promoter fed us many more Malört shots than we actually needed, but when in Chicago…
The mood started off poorly at Vanessa’s, as we’d awoke to news of not getting on another big support tour we had hoped for. Things were lightened a little bit by us getting some dank ass Rachael Ray-approved French toast at Ann Sather’s Swedish breakfast joint. We made our way to Grand Rapids, to meet back up with Eyehategod and Ringworm to play at The Pyramid Scheme for Halloween night. We found out that Total Hell had a blown head gasket and their van was toast for the time being. They had to head home early, a super unfortunate turn of events.
After arriving at Pyramid Scheme, we walked into what would be the coolest venue, and probably the best show of the entire tour. EHG and Ringworm played the best we’d seen them, and we got to hang out with EHG for a good while after the show. We were sad to part ways, as we’d be on our lonesome for the couple shows left.
OFF DAY IN CHICAGO
We made our way back to Vanessa’s place in Chicago the next day to check out some stuff in the city. We ate lunch at Kuma’s Corner, one of my favorite burger spots in the world. While Elizabeth and I went for a run on the shore of Lake Michigan, Hennessey and Maci walked to a vintage store, Belmont Army Vintage, where Hennessey got a discount just for looking swaggy. They also posted him on their instagram as “customer of the day.” For dinner we made a two mile pilgrimage to get some deep dish pizza from Giordano’s.
We said goodbye to the Windy City to head to Louisville (KY). We checked into a seedy motel near the airport and made our way to Portal. It was definitely one of the coolest venues of tour but also by far the least attended, made that much more glaring by the massive room. A hundred people could have been in there and it still would have felt light. Every single other show of tour had been incredible and packed though, so we weren’t perturbed at all by the low attendance. The small group that was there was extremely spirited, however, and demanded we play the only other encore of the whole run. We ended up having a great time.
Elizabeth had a funny experience at a nearby gas station buying Kleenex, when the cashier explained to her Joe Biden’s supposed new law about requiring an ID for Kleenex purchased due to the weird things that teenagers were doing with it. He said he was joking when she gave him her ID, but then he asked what we were doing up there. She told him about us being in a metal band when he asked if she was familiar with the band Millions of Dead Cops, so that was pretty unexpected.
After the show, we realized that our little motel was smack dab between two large abandoned buildings that were actually big squats. Out of worry for the van being broken into with all our gear, we stole away into the night, getting another motel an hour out into the sticks of Kentucky. The forfeited $80 for the first hotel was a small price to pay for peace of mind about thousands of dollars’ worth of gear.
We only had an hour drive now since we drove a bit into the night, so we took our time before leaving Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. We ate at a Cracker Barrel, walked on a nature trail, and checked out a rock and gem shop.
We didn’t have crazy high expectations for this last show of tour because we found out a couple days prior that due to a mix up with the promoter, this show hadn’t been booked. It was put together with two days’ notice; and despite reassurance that this house venue, CXR (CROSSROADS), had a built-in scene, our hopes were not high. The promoter had managed to put together a five band bill in one day, including locals Bazookatooth who we’d played with in Nashville before, and School Drugs from New Jersey, also on tour. We’d played with School Drugs in New Jersey for our last tour, so we were looking forward to hanging out with some familiar faces.
We pulled up to a sizable crowd that was rapidly growing in number. When the first band started and people went buck wild, we quickly realized this show was going to be insane. This house truly did have a built-in scene in which there were folks who went to every single show, two days’ notice or not. Surprisingly, it became a tossup for best show between this and Grand Rapids.
And that was it. The final show was done. The walls of CXR were covered in posters and setlists. I took my set list that I’d been using all tour, and added it to the wall with all the others. I have a decade-and-a-half of performing under my belt, and a number of tours now, but I’ll always remember this as my first support tour. I’m happy I could share that special milestone with my favorite person, Elizabeth, and two of my best friends, Dustin and Hennessey. We made the long drive home the next day, leaving behind us a trail of success and great memories.
Top photo: BRAT at Richmond Music Hall (photo by Randy Blythe)