This journal takes place over the course of eight days in February 2006 in the Midwest and East Coast. There were a lot of cold nights and sold-out shows on this tour. We got to play in front of a lot of new and different kids which has always been a goal of this band. This is a small sneak peak into the world of Stretch Arm Strong
Chris McLane, vocals
David Sease, guitar
John K. Barry, drums
John Albrecht, sound engineer
02.21.06 Last-minute tour preparations:
I get the 8 a.m. wake-up call at 8:15 from Chris. We’re having to make sure the van is serviced properly from Goodyear Tires. We had to have the tires rotated and balanced, as well as aligned. These are one of many essentials in maintaining a touring van. However, once that was accomplished, I had to drive to Charleston, South Carolina, to pick up a case of T-shirts hot off the press from Rock-It Printing. It was only a three-hour round trip, but not something I wanted to do when facing a 14-hour trip in just a few hours.
It is now the dreaded 5 p.m., and being that I have the van, I start to make the rounds picking everyone up at their homes and to load up the equipment. At 8 p.m., we’re northbound to Detroit. -John K. Barry
02.21.06 Detroit and Beyond
Here we are, in the van, headed to Detroit to start the Silverstein/Stretch Arm Strong/Spitalfield tour. We figured on a 14-hour drive, so we left good ol’ Columbia, South Carolina, around 8 p.m. We need to be at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit by 4 p.m., so it looks like we’ll have some time to spare. We intended on leaving earlier last night… We always intend on leaving earlier, but as we were leaving our practice space, we realized that we were short one lock to lock up what’s left behind, so we ran up to the store, picked up a cheap lock and some treats for the road, headed back to the practice space, locked ’er up, and took off. Munching on my salted/roasted/in-shell peanuts and swigging from a diet Cheerwine (for the taste, caffeine, and for keeping my boyish figure), we rolled up I-26 through the mountains of North Carolina, all the while hoping that the transmission in the van doesn’t fall off or out, blow up, or shut down. We got news earlier in the week that our transmission has seen better days, and looks like we need to fix it. Well we didn’t, being the optimists, we figure that it will make it through this tour! We rocked a little music, but mostly talked and slept our way to Georgetown, Kentucky (about halfway). We decided a little sleep was worth the 37 bucks we spent on the cheesy hotel room. At about 4 a.m., the six of us packed into a room built for two and slept. Up and at ’em this morning at 8:30, we changed driving shifts and headed north! We stopped at Taco Bell for some food. I got a tostada, burrito, and cup of water and made it out of there for $1.97 and only a small stomachache.
Tonight is the first show of the tour, and we are looking forward to seeing/meeting the guys in Silverstien and Spitalfield and rocking with them for the next 8 nights. For a few nights, we will be treated by the lovely sounds of the gentlemen in With Honor. Looking really forward to seeing those guys again. Tonight, our bro Kevin (Sick Of It All road crew and Scream Out vocalist) is having his debut as frontman for With Honor, and we are stoked to see it! Should be a really good time. I have a love/hate relationship with Detroit. We have some cool friends from Detroit, and have played a lot of cool shows there, but we also broke an axle in our old van there and were stuck outside of the city for 5 days. I’m sure that everything will be cool! -David Sease
02.22.06 Onto Chicago
Hello fans, this is John Albrecht, sound engineer for Stretch Arm Strong. For those who don’t know what the sound engineer’s job is, I am the guy that stands in the back behind that thing with all the knobs on it, complaining about the PA system, and waiting for the band to finish playing so I can get drunk. But no complaints about the PA system tonight. We are on the way to the Metro in Chicago, one of my favorite venues of all time. They have a great console and a mighty sound system, very cool staff, and a great location with lots to do, eat, and drink within a block or two. I look forward to tonight. But first I will elaborate on last night’s show. It was the debut of Stretch’s new guitarist, Glen, and to make it a true trial by fire, it was in front of almost 700 people. He performed admirably though, and will no doubt make a solid member of Team SAS. After the set, Glen and I almost got caught in the human tsunami of bouncers breaking up a fight and “escorting” the culprits out the door in headlocks. Oh well, these things are to be expected sometimes when you have that many people and that much booze.
So anyway, after a short drive to get us the hell away from Detroit, we hit up a cheap motel and performed our usual drill of cramming everyone into one double room. I slept great but kept getting woken up this morning by the stupid phone beeping every few minutes. So I decide to beat the rush and grab an early shower. Only problem is I can’t get the hot water to come on. Fuck it; I’ll just stink today. There’s no one in Chicago I need to impress with my lack of body odor. I walk down to the gas station for some coffee, and when I get back, the shower is in use, apparently with plenty of hot water. I guess the shower needed some special touch that I don’t have. Okay, everyone pack up your shit, get it into the van, and let’s get to Chicago. The Metro awaits… -John Albrecht
02.23.06 “ Ditka, By One”
The show in Chicago last night was, without a doubt, one of the best shows we have ever had in the Windy City. We got in early and hit almost no traffic coming in. We got our stuff loaded in and had a little time to hang out and get some lunch. Magic John, Glen, and Jeremy walked across the street to Wrigley Dogs and got, well, Wrigley Dogs. Apparently they were good, so there were at least 3 very happy patrons. I on the other hand made the trek down to the Pick Me Up Diner which is about 7 blocks down the street. Treated myself to a sweet veggie wrap and then finished it off with a vegan Oreo shake. Not too bad at all. I was definitely stuffed. Doors for the show were pretty early (6pm) so we were not too sure how it would go. With Honor hit around 6:45 as the room was still filling up. They set it off right off the bat which is really cool to watch. I think a lot of the kids are not to sure what to think of these guys right away, but its cool to see them slowly warm up to the band. We went on right after WH to a much fuller room and there were still a lot of folks coming in. The balcony was full and so was the floor. A lot of kids singing the new songs, but most of the crowd was seeing us for the first time. It took only a song or two before they were getting into it and rocking with us. I love that feeling of turning on new people to what we are doing. We had a really good set and got a really positive reaction. Right after we played, I headed downstairs and went to sell some merch. Met with a bunch of kids and signed some stuff at the table. Spitalfield was up right after us and from what I could hear of their set, it sounded really good. It’s their hometown, and they definitely had a lot of energy tonight. I missed all of Silverstein’s set, so I need to make sure to catch them tomorrow in Cleveland. We packed up and got rolling a little after 1am. We are now on I-90 heading east to Indiana where we will catch a very brief night’s sleep. So far, so good. -Chris McLane
02.24.06 Hello and Goodbye Cleveland
Well, last night we returned to the city by the lake. This time we played the House of Blues in lovely downtown Clevo. We always love playing the HOB venues, and last night was no exception. There is always plenty of space for gear, plenty of loaders who are eager to help, plenty of space backstage and last but not least, plenty of hospitality. Sweet times to say the least. The show got started around 6:30, and the band Dropping Daylight started it off. Never heard of or seen these guys before, but they did a really good job starting things off. Reminded me of Ben Folds Five with a lot more gas and emotion. With Honor were up next and they worked the crowd out of their dormant state and brought them back to life. It was the last night of the tour for them, so we were sad to see them go, but I am sure we will see them again sooner than later. That’s one of the cool things about being in a traveling band.
We were up next and the crowd was pretty ready to get it going. Again, a lot of new kids who had never seen us before and they were dancing, rump shakin’, and generally having a really good time. I think we finally hit our stride tonight and had a really good set. I was feeling good all night, and the crowd really kept me stoked. Cleveland has always been a good city for us, and tonight was one of the better Clevo shows. Our good friend Derek Hess (www.strhess.com) came out and hung with us for most of the night. Always good to see him and catch up on what’s been happening. Silverstein played a little bit of a longer set which the crowd was definitely pumped about. My favorite part of their set was watching them do their cover of Lifetime’s “Rodeo Clown”. They did a really great job of covering that song. Crowd was psyched. Show wrapped around 11pm, and we got packed up and started making our way to NYC. Drove about an hour and stayed in Youngstown, Ohio. Woke up at 8am, showered, got some coffee which I rarely drink, and made our way to the door. We are rolling I-80 towards NYC as the snow is beginning to fall… Sold out show tonight at Irving Plaza. This is our first time playing that venue and we are pretty excited. Should be a good time. The Syndicate (our management team) are coming out, and it looks like we will be making a visit to the veggie paradise that is Red Bamboo. Looking forward to getting my hands on some tasty treats. More to follow. -Chris McLane
02.25.06 The City That Never Sleeps, or Us
We got the chance to play the world-famous Irving Plaza last night. One of the clubs we have always wanted to play in NYC, and we finally got the chance to rock it. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a tough night for us. We had some technical difficulties and my throat was a little raspy due to the weather outside. Fighting a cold is always a bummer while on tour. The response was still really good, which is a good sign. Before the show, we were treated to a nice dinner at the Galaxy Diner. Got to eat and hang with Steve, the Rev and Jackie P. Got to catch up on some business stuff and eat some really great food. Ate way too much, but what are you gonna do? The Syndicate crew was out in full force, and we got to hang with them for a while. It’s always bitter weet playing NYC in that you only have a limited time to hang out with all the people that come to the shows who are friends of ours. We got out of the club around 1am and headed for Philly.
The show in Philly is an early show (2pm) with a 10am load-in. Probably one of the earliest load-ins we have ever done. Got up early and made it to the TLA a little closer to 11am than 10am, but who’s counting? We went to grab lunch at Gianni’s. Heard about this place for a long time and we finally hit it up today with Pulin and Collin from PETA2 (www.PETA2.com) Had the vegan Philly cheese steak which was amazing. Never had it before, but it was such a nice treat. Really tasty stuff. Polished it all off with a vegan peanut butter mousse cake. Need I say more? Enough about the food, on to the show.
We went on at 3pm on a Saturday in the middle of downtown Philly. South St is always a good time, and the show had a great vibe. We are playing to a lot of new kids every night, and today was no exception. It’s cool playing to a new crowd and trying to win them over. Today felt really good, and I think we won them over again. Really good response, really positive vibe, and a lot of energy down front. The room at the TLA has a really cool layout and the stage is fully rockable. Plenty of room to move and plenty of spots to reach out into the crowd. Really enjoyed this club. After the show, we went to the merch area and hung out with some kids which was cool. It’s nice to be able to talk with kids after the show. That’s one thing I really like about this tour is that kids will come up and talk to us and hang out. We signed some CDs and posters and got packed up
After the show we got to hang out with some of our friends from Philly who we have not seen in quite a while. Jarod (Hope Conspiracy /None More Black drummer) was out, Dr. Dan Yemin (Lifetime/Paint it Black), and Mike Ski (The AKAs) all made out to hang for a bit. Was cool hanging with those guys and catching up on stuff.
We hit up Gianni’s one more time as we were waiting to back the vans out of the alley behind the alley. South St. was packed, so getting out of the alley was a real treat, but we managed to make it work. Stopped off in Hoboken to drop off our old friend, Diamond Dave, who had been with us since NYC. Put him on the PATH Train back into the city and were underway. Heading to Massachusetts tonight to crash and John’s cousin’s place. Should arrive around 2am. Sweet times. Every day somehow begins and ends about the same. -Chris McLane
What are we doing here??? Ask any one of us in SAS past/present/and maybe future and you will probably get a different answer. Hell, ask me in five minutes and you will probably get even another different answer. But, for now, at 12 midnight, in the front seat of the van with an awful stomach (wreaking havoc on all innocent bystanders!) unable to sleep even though I’m totally drained, exhausted, but I’m certain what it is I’m doing here. Here… in a van, on tour, driving through Connecticut, through sickness and health, snow, rain, and traffic, I know what I’m doing here. I think it hit me last night in New York City. We braved the city traffic with van and trailer, finally found a spot to park in front of Irving Plaza, and loaded in. Once we got loaded in, we ran across an old acquaintance who has played in several different bands in the New York and New Jersey hardcore scene. Well, of course, we have played together in the past and began talking about old shows, friends, scenes, clubs, and bands. One show that was the focus of most of the conversation took place in Manville, New Jersey, a few years ago. It was one of several benefit shows for a good friend of ours who was paralyzed in a car accident. All proceeds went to his recovery. There were many of these shows all up and down the East Coast. Not to get into too many specifics, but those days, with the bands that played, and the cause in particular really defined an era for us and for many other people and bands also. Terribly important times with amazingly creative music coming together for a cause. They were the “good ol’ days”.
Then our conversation continues, and by and by, I find out that Leeway and the Bad Brains are playing over at CBGB’s, which is literally right down the street! I start freaking out. Now these bands may not mean anything at all to you, the reader, but they sure as hell mean a lot to me. They also define an era in my life. They were bands that spoke to me. They helped me find a place when I was a skinny, dreadlocked, baggy-pants wearing, skater/surfer punk-rock kid in a rural town in South Carolina. They were part of my soundtrack that constantly played through my adolescence (no pun intended).
In all honesty, I battled with the desire to run down to CB’s to check out the show, and probably would have dipped out on our own show to see it, but obviously, a sold-out show at Irving Plaza took precedence, and I had to let it go… I was about to miss another opportunity to see two bands that influenced me greatly.
Today in Philly, the feeling of purpose grew stronger. As we were getting ready for our set, I look out at a sold-out TLA. Kids packed in and got ready for something to happen. We were busy, taking care of all the stuff that needed doing, from sitting behind that merch table, loading in, and basic guitar tech stuff, when finally it was time to all come together and rock. It may not have been our best set ever, but I can honestly say that we gave them all that we had at that moment.
After the set, we’re rushed off stage and into the alley behind the club where we’re parked to load up. I look around, and it hits me as soon as I see a nice handful of great friends crowded around our trailer. These are friends who live hundreds of miles away from Columbia, South Carolina. These are people who live hundreds of miles from each other… And more importantly, we are all hundreds of miles away from anywhere that we “should” be….but we were all there. These were folks that put on shows for us many years ago. They were people that played in other bands we toured with. They were people who loved the music that we play. All these friends, and we all had one major thing in common. It was punk rock and hardcore. Through punk rock, we’ve shared thousands of miles and endless smiles along the road that meanders between Houses of Blues, houses of Ill Repute, houses that we crashed in, and houses that we all played in. Dudes that all came together to just say “Yo… What’s up bro?” even for just a few hours in an alleyway in downtown Philadelphia. These guys and gals make up our home away from home, and our extended family, that we see sometimes more than our own families.
With this in mind, it was coming together. I realized for the first time in a long time, that we have a chance to be that band for the 1000 kids inside. We had a chance to be the soundtrack for these people who are certainly struggling to find their place in the world. We had a chance to be part of a soundtrack that could help these kids feel something that the rest of society cannot tell them. We had a chance to be part of an era of these kids’ lives. With all of the faces in the crowd, the chances are pretty good that someone has been moved by five dudes from S.C. at least for 30 minutes of one day. Maybe they will even be so moved as to get a guitar or a drumset. Maybe they will start a band. God forbid, but maybe one day they will go on a tour. They will be hungry, broke, and lost, but they also may get that one moment of clarity that is very elusive and visits very sporadically and very temporarily. They too may feel it. They may find the reason that they are here too, like I’m feeling right now. For dudes like us, we won’t find it in an office. We won’t find it at a country club. We find it in sketchy alleyways, in smoky bars, and in busted-down vans pulling anxious trailers with friends making music. -David Sease
Hey, this is John Albrecht again. My good buddy Chris from high school came out to the show last night at TLA. Sold out in advance, 900-something tickets. Last time I was at this place was on my first tour, way back in 2003 with a band called Boxing Day. The show went well, even though the board had a channel crap out in the first song, and I didn’t really have enough compressors and gates for my usual setup, but it wasn’t really that big of a deal. I love South Street. Lots of cool bars and restaurants, interesting shops, and street performers. After the set, Chris and I started pounding back shots around the neighborhood. We even walked down to Penn’s Landing and drank on the big ass pirate-looking restaurant ship. Long story short, we got shitfaced. I seem to remember trying to get onto the old WWII submarine but the gate was locked and I was too drunk to climb over it. And according to the pictures on my digital camera, Chris was climbing on the rigging of the restaurant ship at some point.
Anyway, we drove most of the way to Boston last night and stayed with our drummer John’s cousin. Tonight we’re at Axis in Boston. Doors open in about an hour and a half, so I’m off to get some food. -John Albrecht
02.25.06 Drive to Boston
We left Philly en route to Beantown around 8pm. First stop, Hoboken path train to drop off Diamond Dave Owen; ETA 10pm. We picked him up the night before at the New York City show as he was enjoying himself a little too much to drive home. I was beginning to wonder if he still was having a little too much tonight as well. Either way, we dumped him off to ride the train in lieu of us having to drive into the city on Saturday night. Next stop, somewhere Massachusetts to stay with my cousin Michelle; ETA 2:30 am. Around midnight we stopped for gas, pee, and to switch drivers. I had been singing, “No Sleep till Boston” in my head, but that lasted until New London, Connecticut. We finally arrive at my cousin Michelle’s house as expected. It was a nice treat for us to have a warm and cozy place to call home for the next two nights. We said our greetings and were sound asleep at 3am. -John K. Barry
We woke to the smell of breakfast cooking and treated ourselves to a home-cooked meal. I had my cousin Eric come over to greet us and join us for our scrumptious meal. Eric would later come to the show and bring some friends.
We load into Axis at 3pm to what is now the coldest day of the trip by far. Everything that followed was pretty routine, but our performance was one of the best so far. We had a blistering set and finally had the set wire-tight. Got to hang with Pike and Merrick for a brief moment (these are the guys that book our band) Always too short. Good to see them anyway.
As predicted, loading out was insane. The temperature had dropped to around 13 degrees and I couldn’t even feel my hands to break my hardware down. We left the show to grab a quick bite to eat at Spikes before heading to WFNX 101.7 (fnxradio.com) to do an on-air interview in Lynn, Massachusetts, with Steve Theo. We get there about 11:45 and have 15 minutes to say what’s up and air “The Sound of Names Dropping” and “Faces”. It was cool, but we were much too tired and had another hour to drive back to my cousin Michelle’s house to crash for the night. -John K. Barry
Woke up around 11am to the sound of people going in and out of the shower. Had another awesome night sleep at Michelle’s house. Michelle and Keith had stocked the fridge for us and we were treated to a nice lunch because of it. We had some time to kill so we watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which David and I had not seen yet. Really, funny stuff. Definitely a good movie and it made for some comic relief. Cleaned up the rest of the dishes and shoved off for Toads in New Haven. Never played this club, but I knew it was supposed to be one of those clubs that a lot of bands have been through. Got there a little late and paid the price: nowhere to park our van. We finally decided to double park which ultimately irritated 7 cars behind us. We dumped the trailer, and I proceeded to find a parking spot as the guys set up the gear. Drove around New Haven for, I kid you not, 30 minutes searching for a spot. Finally found an opening near the club and slid in. Sweet. Got to the club and helped set up the rest of the gear. We went on a little bit later tonight and played to full crowd. We had a really good set tonight free of any technical difficulties. We rocked really hard and I think we won the crowd over by the end of the set. Bill from Silverstein came out on stage after I asked him to because a girl in the front row kept yelling, “I love Bill!” I told him to come out and invited the girl on stage. She was psyched. Bill was true sport, and obliged the girl with a hug. She gave him a kiss, and as Bill was leaving, we kissed. Seriously, he slipped me the tongue. Filthy Canadian.
Anyway. It was all fun, and the crowd seemed to get a kick out of it… It was a shameless prank on my end. Bill had no idea I was gonna do it. I laughed.
We got out of New Haven around midnight and made our way to Southington to crash for the night. Squeezed into the Motel 6 that was home for the night and tried to sleep. No luck. I was wired and could not sleep. Too many Diet Cokes too close to bed time. I was wide awake and John was taking up way too much of the bed for me to get comfortable. Sometimes, I go a little crazy trying to find my own little space in a very cramped hotel room. Got out of bed, got on the floor, but no luck. Still no room… Did I mention we were crammed into the room? Oh well, sun started to come up so I guess I fell asleep somewhere between a snore and a heater clanking all night. This is my life. -Chris McLane
02.28.08 Oil Change, Lunch, and New York State
Got out of the hotel around noon. Checked out of the hotel and asked the receptionist if she could recommend a good Mexican eatery. Sh