Joystick! started in the winter of 2008. Since then I have lost track of how many tours we have been on. Each one has progressively gotten better, though, so I guess we must be doing something right. Last summer we got signed to Stomp Records, a ska/rockabilly label based out of Montreal, Canada, and released our fourth record, Sinceriously. This was our second tour after that album came out and one of the strangest. Cast of characters: Duck on vocals (that’s me), Mickey (guitar), Clay (bass and backing vocals), Kyle (drums), Josh (trombone), Shanghai (sax), Andrew (trombone), and Garrett (trumpet).
Earlier than any of us would’ve liked, we packed up our van—a 15 passenger Ford Econoline—and headed out. We stopped by Courtyard Brewery in the Lower Garden District and picked up a growler of “Sinceriously,” a new IPA they graciously named after our latest album. I myself don’t drink but from what I am told it is quite delicious. As we started driving south into Florida, the roads were becoming increasingly bad until they became impassable. What roads Hurricane Irma hadn’t destroyed were still flooded. After hours of detours we made it to our destination, Lucky You Tattoo. The venue was tucked away in the corner of a strip mall filled with sports bars and pool halls. The front of the building hosts all-age shows while the back is a tattoo parlor. Needless to say, being Friday the 13th, the place was packed to capacity. It was then that we met Pilfers for the first time with whom we would be spending the next nine days with. Before we played, Shanghai and I got matching tattoos. We play around these parts quite often so when we took the stage, the crowd went nuts. Everyone was dancing and singing along and then a string on Mickey’s guitar broke. Little did I know the curse had begun. Never start a tour on Friday the 13th.
I woke up early, well-rested and relaxed. I grabbed a bite to eat and hit up an AA meeting at a local clubhouse I like to visit when we’re here. Afterwards I took a long nap and headed to the venue for soundcheck. The bar, Will’s Pub, was nicer than your typical dive. The show went off without a hitch. We played with Control This back in July on our summer tour. They kicked ass then and they kicked ass this time.
We arrived in Gainesville on a gloomy, overcast day. It has been years since we’ve played here and it was good to be back. We had a few hours to burn before load in at Loosey’s so we took a walk down memory lane by checking out all the old haunts we used to play and party at. Another great night in a wonderful town. Our next show was back in New Orleans so we decided to drive all night so that we could be home for just a little bit longer.
If you’ve never been to Poor Boys, it’s small, dark, loud, and fun as fuck! Our manager, Dante, had just gotten back into town from touring Europe with Joey Cape. It was really good to see him. He also plays drums for Betty White Tit Fuck, which is hands down the best band in the world. Pilfers went to Bourbon Street during the day and by the time they arrived to the venue were feeling pretty fuzzy. New and old friends filled the dive as the night went on. The ska scene in New Orleans has fluctuated a lot in the last decade but recently has been seeing a revival.
We left very early to knock out the 8 hour drive to Dallas. I grew up in the DFW area and cut my teeth playing shows in Deep Ellum. 20 years later, it’s a lot different but the shows are still good. We’ve played here enough to have a following and it’s always good to see familiar faces. We’ve played with Rude King several times and I always enjoy them. I was bummed to hear that this was going to be their second-to-last show but glad I got to see them one last time.
After hopping in the van we hit up a store to buy lunch meat, cheese, tortillas, and fruit. Joystick! has been known to survive for weeks on cold-cut tacos and van bananas. After the mandatory stop at Bucc-ees, we arrived at Satellite Bar while the sun was still up. I hastily chowed down a cold-cut taco and passed out in the van. The room that night had a super positive vibe and it was infectious. After the show we drove to Austin to find seven various air mattresses laid out haphazardly around a friend’s house. We were warned ahead of time that one of them was recently pissed on by a drunk.
I woke up in a small loft next to a snoring bassist. It was then I realized I had lost the game of “piss air mattress russian roulette.” I sleepily stumbled downstairs to find the rest of the band still out cold. I took this alone time to reflect and walk two miles downtown to an AA meeting. That night we played at Flamingo Cantina on 6th Street. I love it there. It’s a green, yellow, and red bar that hosts primarily reggae, ska, and dub acts. Perfect for a band like Joystick! After playing there it’s always a tradition of mine to grab a slice next door from Hoeks Death Metal Pizza. We got back to our friend’s house pretty late that night. This time Clay volunteered to take the piss bed. What a great friend.
Joystick! has been known to survive for weeks on cold-cut tacos and van bananas.
After four measly hours of sleep we headed to San Antonio for the 10 a.m. check-in at The Korova for Remember The Punks Fest. While some of the guys stayed in the van nursing hangovers, the rest of us took the short walk from the venue to the Alamo. It was way smaller than I remembered. Back at the venue, our buddy Gilbert from The Toasters showed up with some pig tripe tacos for breakfast. We played outdoors on the main stage to a lively crowd of young and old. It was a blast. Because of the location of our merch table we got to hang out all day with Dave Parasite and Kepi Ghoulie. Nice guys. Our time with Pilfers was up. They continued north to tour with 311 and we were to head west alone. That night I stood on the side of the stage and watched The Adicts play. They slayed it. What a great way to end the day.
Besides getting a speeding ticket in Nowhere, Texas, not much happened on our day off except lots of driving. The next day we found ourselves in Tsaile, Arizona. On our Winter 2016 tour we played on the Navajo reservation and were blown away by the amount of enthusiasm the punks there had. It was good to be back. As we drove out into the cold desert night, we noticed it was getting unusually dark. Eventually we came upon a literal wooden shack next to a large bonfire, the only source of light besides the countless stars above. It was then we were informed that the power was out. I laid down in the van shivering under three blankets, watching the bonfire make shadows dance on the ceiling. Right as I was thinking about how lucky I was to be there, the power came back on and slammed me back to reality. The Duh Shack was surprisingly bigger on the inside than it looked. Christmas lights strung up along one ramshackle wall provided just enough light to see the swirls of sand in the air caused from moshing on the dirt floor. The amount of people crowded in there generated so much heat I started to sweat, despite the freezing temperature outside.
We spent the night in our buddy Darren’s hogan (a traditional Navajo dwelling). That morning I stepped outside and took a deep breath of cool, refreshing air, then promptly coughed out a lungful of dust from the previous night. Later that day we arrived at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe. The show had a late start because one of the bands dropped off last minute, but still went as smooth as you could hope for. The Effects took the stage and blew me away. They were amazing. We ended up crashing at our friend Joe’s apartment where we stayed up later than we should’ve, talking about video games and punk rock.
We woke up early to get our oil changed before going any further. At the shop, the mechanic pointed out that we had a tire splitting open and it was going to burst at any moment, so we were off to a used tire shop to get it replaced. Somehow we made it to San Diego with time to spare so we went to the beach and watched the sun set into the Pacific with our feet in the sand. Later, as we loaded into The Tower Bar, I noticed they were playing Frankenhooker on the TV. It’s one of my favorite movies so I took that as a good sign. Kyle and I grabbed some killer Mexican food and I took a nap in the van. I awoke to an awful pain in my stomach and played the show thinking the entire time that at any second I might blow chunks over the crowd. Ugh. Luckily that night we stayed at a very nice couple’s house.
My belly had calmed completely by the time I woke up. We arrived at Evel Pie, the venue/pizza joint and said hello to our friends and old tour buddies Be Like Max. Las Vegas doesn’t have too many all-age shows so when one happens it goes down big. The venue was completely unprepared for the show when over 200 people showed up. By the time we took the stage we were completely encompassed by the enthusiastic mob. A back gate into the alleyway had somehow gotten open and the crowd was overflowing outside to the dumpsters. We got a fancy room at the Plaza Hotel and I passed out while some of the guys went out to party with Be Like Max.
A little past noon on our way to Berkeley we had a tire completely burst on us as we were driving up the interstate. Mickey handled it like a boss and pulled us over to safety. As we were putting on the spare, we noticed yet another one of our tires was looking very thin. The Friday the 13th curse struck again. We told ourselves if we could just make it to the show that night we would get both replaced tomorrow. We somehow managed to get to 924 Gilman in time to play a huge show to a younger crowd than we are used to. I love playing here. It gives me hope for the next generation to see so many open minded youth.
I heard the tow truck guy casually joke about how he could’ve killed all of us. Not funny, dude!
We got up early and went to another used tire shop and bought tire #2 and #3. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as the show was concerned. It was the second day of a two-day ska festival, Skambie Prom 2 – The Revenge (sponsored by Ska Brewery) at The Milhouse. The place was pretty empty at first but by the time the second band had started it was filling up. It turned out to be another killer show. Afterward, we crashed at our booking agent Brent’s house, even though he was out in Florida playing Fest with his band We Are The Union.
After a day and a half of cold-cut tacos and driving, we got to Portland. It was then that I started smelling coolant but saw no leak. We arrived early and shot a few videos for Bridge City Sessions. We arrived at the venue, Twilight Cafe, a dive bar with some incredible eats, and met some of the locals. The ska scene in Portland is pretty small but we still managed to have a great turnout. Even the sound guy said it was never that busy on a Monday.
Halloween finally!!! As we drove north, we found that the coolant level in the van was almost non-existent. We filled it up and within the hour it was noticeably lower. Shit. We made it to the Space Needle and walked around Puget Sound taking in the sights. The place we played that night, The Funhouse, is actually two venues in one. There are two concert halls separated by a small hallway. On our side was a ska/punk show, on the other was Juggalo rapper Boondox. It wasn’t as hard as you might think to tell the difference between a halloween costume and someone who’s down with the clown. At one point in the night I even got to see a couple Juggalettes skanking. Achievement unlocked. That night after a short drive to the place we were crashing at, the engine was smoking. Never a good sign.
Clay and I woke up at dawn to take the van to a nearby mechanic. We bribed the guy a small amount of money to take a look at the radiator. Turns out there was a small gasket leak in the manifold. Once again I blame the curse of the 13th. They told us if they were going to fix it that day it was gonna cost us a grand. Instead of spending a thousand bucks and risk missing our show, we bought some stop leak for four bucks and hit the road. On our way to Boise our van overheated several times. At one point we even put the van in neutral and coasted down a mountain to allow the engine to cool. After the stop leak started working, we filled up the coolant one last time and arrived at Hell House four hours late. We had no idea we were playing a basement show that night. In case you don’t know, basement shows rule! We hadn’t played a basement show in years, and the best part: even though we were very late, people stuck around and waited for us to play! That night I hung out with a bunch of brand new friends and ate my fill of leftover halloween candy. What started out as a crummy day ended up being a pretty great one at the end.
SALT LAKE CITY
I woke up shivering from how cold it was. I slept in the basement and the lack of windows caused me to oversleep. We loaded all the equipment in the van and made the journey to SLC. The Underground was an all-age space located in a building filled with rehearsal studios. Despite the cold weather, the locals showed up ready to party and didn’t disappoint.
We made great time driving through Wyoming by passing around an acoustic guitar, brainstorming ideas. One of my oldest friends, Kyle, lives in Denver. Every time we’re in Colorado he always treats us like family. We arrived at his house to find a veritable smorgasbord. After a quick bite we headed to the venue. A couple of our friends from Tsaile flew up to see us play again. The Seventh Circle Music Collective is very reminiscent of Gilman, which is always a good thing. Ska shows in Denver are just fun and this one was no exception. The large room was packed to capacity and everyone was stoked to be there. After we played we headed back to Kyle’s house where I gorged myself on cold fried chicken and passed out on an air mattress.
We woke up and started heading to Omaha, toward our last show of the tour. We hadn’t even left Denver yet when our van died. It just wouldn’t start no matter what we did. We called Triple A and found out our fuel pump wasn’t working. One of our goals for this tour was to not miss a single show. It was starting to look like that wouldn’t happen. The tow truck guy took one look at us and proceeded to tell us he was an old punk and went out of his way to help us. He hooked up our van to his small tow truck. There was only only room for two people in his cab, so the rest of us rode backward in the van. To say it was scary is an understatement, but what he told us after we arrived at the mechanic was even scarier. His truck was only rated to tow automobiles up to 4500 pounds. Our van weighs twice that without equipment in it. The two guys in the cab later told me that while he was towing us, the two front tires of the tow truck would occasionally leave the ground. I heard him casually joke about how he could’ve killed all of us. Not funny, dude! The auto repair shop told us that they could fix our van but it would be a few hours, which unfortunately meant we had to cancel the last show on our tour. It also cost us $700, which was almost all the money we had made the previous night, so that sucked too.
Joystick! will be opening for The Queers at Santos on Saturday, January 20th. For more information, go to joysticknola.bandcamp.com and stomprecords.com
Cover photo by Holly Homan