HiGH is a power rock trio comprised of scene stalwarts Craig Oubre on guitar, Isidore Grisoli on bass, and Josh White on drums. They all share vocal duties, cigs, and a love for Green Day and ZZ Top. HiGH recently went up the East Coast with the Lovey Dovies, currently a two piece with singer-songwriter James Hayes and moog operator/guitarist Kevin Comarda.
As HiGH approached being a band for two years, and having played mostly local shows, we decided to start trying to spread out a little more in 2014. We did a short run of out-of-town gigs earlier this year and they were mostly successful, so we figured we would try our luck with something longer. Nine shows in ten days, about 3,000 miles. The schedule also included a tour kickoff at Banks Street Bar that doubled as a birthday celebration for Izzy. It was a free show with a crowd full of heavy drinkers, which helped to send us off right since our payment came in the form of a bar percentage. With enough cash to take care of gas for the first few days we were anxious to leave New Orleans and play music in some unfamiliar settings. We invited the current two piece formation of Lovey Dovies to follow behind our mini van in their F150 work truck that James converted into a two-man sleeping tour mobile with his carpentry skills. Traveling separately was maybe not the most economical decision but it gave us a little extra space to pack a small vocal PA with mics, mic stands, and patch cables, which would go on to save our asses more than once on tour. There was one other problem that I knew we would eventually face because of our route and the calendar dates. It is the winter. We are all from Louisiana. I couldn’t predict the weather, but I could predict that my band bros were going to overlook how unequipped our Southern asses are for winter on the East Coast, so I packed some extra long johns and warm socks. My intuition was proven to be correct early on, when our drummer showed up to leave for day one of tour with a bag of dirty clothes in hand, and optimistically said, “When we get to a spot with a washing machine, I am going to be set.” So while I was hoping we would score two or three showers in the next nine days, this dude assumed, as only a drummer could, that we were going to have the luxury of washing clothes. So I guess that brings me to my tour advice bit of this recollection: over-prepare a little. If you can bring some PA bits and pieces on a tour that has some DIY shows or sketch venues on the calendar, then it’s probably going to help. If you can think of something your band members are going to forget, by all means, bring it.
I figure every band has a language they speak amongst themselves the way that we do, a language laced with inside jokes, slang, and complete ridiculous bullshit. The joke that really stuck around on this tour and even spread into the Lovey Dovies lexicon was “To have one on deck.” To have something on deck is to have it in usable distance or close by, ready to go. Here is a list of things we like to keep on deck and the proper way to refer to them.
First and most important is the “Wipe on deck” or “Dub on D,” which is to have an individually wrapped Preparation H wipe in your pocket. Truck stops, restaurants, bars, and pretty much every place with a public restroom really tries to save money by providing that cheap one-ply toilet paper. After a few days with no shower you will be glad to have a “Wipe on deck.” It’s your copilot’s responsibility to have your selected “Disc on deck” so you can drive without hassling with the radio. Kevin saved HiGH’s set one night when Izzy’s bass signal kept cutting out by having a quarter-inch instrument cable on deck. “Rawls on deck” would refer to having some prescription strength pick-me-up in reach. If you start to nod out on a long drive, you are going to want to have some “rawls on deck.”
Day 1: Egans (Tuscaloosa, AL)
On the ride to this show we were optimistic. We would be opening for a local band called Baak Gwai, whose music we were already fond of. The venue was on the main drag close to the college campus, but luckily this bar seemed to be the place where anyone who was more interested in seeing a live band than a football game went to hang out. With a sign on the entrance that read “WARNING: Thick Smoke, Dim Lights, and Loud Music,” Izzy and James were stoked to get another night of smoking inside of a bar. We were, however, greeted with some bad news when we arrived. The singer of the local band was knocked down by the flu with a 102 fever. Baak Gwai wouldn’t be able to play, but luckily they were super cool and kept it a secret so as not to discourage their fans into leaving. Lovey Dovies kicked it off once the place filled up and we followed. We had planned for short sets but since the local couldn’t play we were asked to keep it going. Despite being from New Orleans we wouldn’t normally play an hour-and-a-half long set, but we had no choice. Adam, who booked the show, let us crash at his place, where his roommate had a fridge full of expired beers from the distributor he works for.
First night was a success. We had warm beds at a group of burly bearded dudes’ house with their friendly but horny dog. The next morning James expressed his feelings that the entire tour was going to be this easy and awesome, to which Kevin replied “Now you’re just taunting the cosmos.” So that’s what we named the tour and the hashtag for any social media post was followed with #tauntingthecosmostour.
Day 2: Phat Bites (Nashville, TN)
We were excited to be in Nashville because our last show here was missed by us as a result of van trouble when we were passengers in PEARS’ Old Glory van. It was an extremely cold night. Nashville was colder than most spots further northeast. The turnout was a bit low. The PA provided was plagued with bad cables and dirty channels, so I hooked it up with some bits and pieces I brought along. Phat Bites hooked us up with good food, and bands drink local microbrews for free. David, the promoter, provided us a place to stay after the show and told us we had to try Bolton’s hot chicken for lunch the following day. This chicken is insanely hot. Even the mild is almost unbearable. Josh and Izzy cleaned their plates and I wanted to do the same, but I knew there weren’t enough wipes on deck to cool the fire that this chicken was sure to light in anyone’s asshole brave enough to consume more than one piece. We hit up Grimey’s, a record store with a coffee shop built in. Izzy and I bought a few CDs because our FM transmitter was on the fritz. I copped the new Shellac album, which would become the most spun CD on this tour. We even considered just making this a 2,000 word review of how awesome it is.
Day 3: The Odditorium (Asheville, NC)
The drive between Nashville and Asheville is potentially beautiful, but this is the second time the weather conditions ruined this drive for us. Driving through curving, unfamiliar roads on Pep Boys bargain bin tires in the ice and sleet can be pretty stressful. Unfortunately, this was the weakest turnout of the entire tour. No fault to Sadie and Richard who booked the gig; they had told us it would have to be a late show because the regular time slot was booked and they were having trouble finding a local. On the upside, we had played this venue before and knew it was a legit place with an actual sound guy. Either way, it was a spot to play in a cool city on our way to Arlington.
Day 4: CD Cellar (Arlington, VA)
We knew this show would be good from the start. James booked this gig with Passing Phases, an incredible band with ex-members of Pg.99 and members of Pgmy Lush. Lovey Dovies already has a following in the Arlington/DC area, so that helped the draw as well. Both James and Izzy had old friends come out. We closed down the bar next door to CD Cellar and slept at Mike from Passing Phases’ house. His roommate had a cat named Cosmos. Josh got his chance to wash clothes. I also noticed Josh sniffing around the house like a dog, surveying the ground for the perfect spot to piss. I had my suspicions about why he was looking for a nice quiet spot. By this point in the tour we realized that Josh needed to make some baby boo sweet talk time daily to call his wife. We enjoyed listening to his “relationship voice.” We also realized that Izzy was worthless to us until such time as he has coffee. Try and wake that dude up without having a coffee on deck: it’s not pretty. I, on the other hand, require very little and am just an all-around great guy to tour with who will do most of the driving and fix the PA every night.
Day 5: The Baxter House (Trenton, NJ)
This show was booked by Greg Klein, who does booking at the Millhill Basement. The Millhill was already booked, and Greg worked hard to throw us a last minute show in rapper Wade Wilson’s basement, known as The Baxter House. We showed up early to the house the same way we did for most shows on this tour. With time to kill, we got word that the oldest family-owned pizza place in America was about 15 minutes away. We drove to PaPa’s Tomato Pies and inhaled a meatball pie inside our van, then darted back to the basement. We had some friends who were in town show up for this one. After the show, Greg got us drunk at the Millhill and let us crash in his apartment upstairs.
Day 6: Philadelphia Franklin House
We got to Philly early and were excited about eating food and seeing the city. We ate too much food at Tony Luke’s, a place that was recommended to us by multiple people. The cheese steaks and Italian pork sandwiches actually live up to the hype. Josh had been chewing up antacid tablets, but he went in on a whiz-covered Philly and cleaned his plate (Josh has a real problem with people wasting food. Later, I would throw food away in front of him just to piss him off and prove that I am a bad person. “I don’t need it and you can’t have it.”) We spent the day walking off the massive meal and being tourists, occasionally crossing paths with Lovey Dovies, who were up to the same type of thing. Ruben Polo booked this gig for us. I came to understand that Ruben books over 100 house shows a year and plays in multiple bands, one of which is Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe. Check them out. He booked us with locals Sister City and Whisper. We really enjoyed the sets from both of these bands. Our PA helped out again, and this goes down as one of our favorite gigs on the tour. Both Lovey Dovies and HiGH had friends in town this night, so it was refreshing at this point in the tour to have some familiar faces around.
Before and after the show we drank at the American Sardine Bar next door to the Franklin house. The combination of the juke box and fancy beers in this joint caused us to get pretty wasted, but we weren’t worried because tomorrow was our off day and we were expecting to have a laid back drive to Charleston.
Day 7: OFF
Izzy’s notes say “Hell Ride” in reference to this day. I wouldn’t let anyone else drive and I was guzzling coffee, Red Bull, and doing anything else that would keep me focused for the 15 hour haul to South Carolina. Towards the end of the ride, Izzy was my copilot, Josh was passed out, and we were alternating between Ween and old Rancid records, doing our very best Tim Armstrong impersonations to stay awake. We arrived at the house where we would be staying at 5 a.m. The house was freezing cold. Izzy said he was just going to sleep in the van. He may have had ulterior motives, and I did not bother going all CSI on the bench seat the next morning.
Day 8: John Rivers Communication Museum (Charleston, SC)
About a week and a half before tour started, I was scrambling to fill this date however I could. My friend Matt sent me in the direction of Ashley Wade to help. Ashley booked hands-down the most fun and rowdy show of this tour in less than two weeks: an all ages show at a communications museum on campus with two local acts. We checked out the venue early in the day and were given a tour of the museum. If you ever find yourself in Charleston, this spot is a must see for anyone. Richard, who runs the space, will play cylinder records from the early 1900s for you and give you a complete history on recorded sound. On the way back to the van, we were approached by a famous local chiropractor named Byron. He asked who did most of the driving and informed us that he could tell we were a band. He said he had just the thing for me. He named Izzy “Hog Nuts” and Josh “Dragon Balls.” I believe he called me “Beast nuts.” He cracked our backs for a few dollars. We should not have let him do that.
Later, Ashley took us out for cheap burgers and drinks before the show. There was a no booze rule at the show, but somehow people seemed to be even more wasted than normal. The show was supposed to end on time, so our sets were cut short to allow the headlining local to have time to play a few songs. It was kind of a drag to cut the sets short, but I couldn’t really be upset because the crowd was energetic and the second story floor of the museum felt like it would collapse at any moment. A few more drinks around town in Charleston and we called it a night. Thanks Ashley, sorry for keeping you out so late. Not sorry for the ZZ Top playlist.
Day 9: Little Kings Shuffle Club (Athens, GA)
We knew this would be a good end to the tour. HiGH and Lovey Dovies would play and then close out the night singing along to Little Gold’s set. When we arrived at the venue, we were greeted by my little sister, who had just woken up from napping in someone’s boat parked near by. She had hopped a megabus to catch the final show and spent the day roaming around Athens solo. The PA was great at Little King ’s and even though the monitors were off for our set, we played just fine. After our set, Lovey Dovies dished out their best set of the tour as we sang along. The venue had a special on hot beverages. I think the bartender said we drank 18 hot toddies when I closed my tab but it’s really hard to remember. I passed out in the van and missed Izzy and James’ late night drunken fight. By the next morning they were buddies again and we all ate some vegetarian brunch that provided fart fuel for the entire ride back home. Prrrrrnnnt!