The Dirty Spot #3: The Venetia Fair’s Joe Brown on The Van Down By The River
Off-days on tour usually go one of two ways. They can be excruciatingly boring, spent in a van on a long drive or in a Wal-Mart parking lot, or they can be surprisingly fun if someone is able to find a place to hang out. That can be someone's house, a pool or a park. On this particular stormy off-day, it was a river in Delaware. This blog entry is strictly a tour story. No life lessons or inner reflections, just a wild time in a river.
In the summer of 2010, the Venetia Fair was on the Wet Hot American Summer Tour with LoveHateHero and Young And Divine. This tour was a bit mismatched from the start. None of the bands really fit with each other. I still can't tell whether this worked for us our against us. Regardless of the mismatch of bands, everyone got along extremely well on this tour. It was a rarity that we weren't spending time with one of the other bands on the tour when we were able to.
Pierrick, the lead vocalist of the now defunct LoveHateHero, was the king of off-days. He always had a plan. His favorites were frisbee golf and lazy rivers. The day before this off-day, he convinced everyone else on the tour that we had to go down this hour-and-a-half long lazy river. What he didn't know was that the next day would bring thunderstorms.
Of course, the Venetia Fair would never be afraid of a little thunder and lightning. We decided we would continue with the original plan of tubing down the river whether we were alone or not. Somehow our overconfidence convinced the other bands that this river needed to be tubed. We headed to the nearest Wal-Mart and stocked up on the cheapest inner tubes we could buy—which ended up having an age limit on them. I think it was around 12 years old. Whatever. We also bought a small inflatable raft made for a child. We decided not to bring a child on the raft,but as much beer and booze as it would hold before sinking.
So three bands pull up to the river and jump out in swimsuits with tubes and enough booze to get an elephant wasted. One of the locals comes up and tell us that the river isn't safe; Someone has died there doing exactly what we were doing. Fuck that. We were determined. We were 18 dudes that were too old to be doing this task, but goddammit we were floating down that river. If one of us is dead at the end, then we will replace them. Mission accomplished.
Pierrick, one of the oldest in the crew, was also probably the most excited. We ran down to the river from our vans. Pierrick was first in the water after finding a rope swing. He emerged with a rash on his body. We decided it couldn't be from the river and it was something else. We played on the rope swing for a while. Our friend Tyler is the least careful person I've ever met. He has no regard for his own safety whatsoever. He was also the only person who used the rope swing that decided to not let go of the rope. He smashed back into the tree about 15 feet up and landed on the ground. He was hurt, but we disregarded his pain, deemed him fine and continued down the river.
We took a few safety precautions for this river. Mr. Chark was in charge of the keys to the van, which he kept in his bathing suit pocket. We had a rope tied from the booze raft so somebody could hold it, along with another longer length of rope tied to the back of the raft that held a floating bottle of vodka for those who were 20 feet behind the booze raft. We also had several chains of tubes hooked up to each other at all times. That was never discussed, it was more of a social precaution than a safety precaution.
About a half hour into the trip, Chris decided that it was his goal to black out by the time we reached the end of the river, so he began drinking heavily, as did Mr. Chark, myself and just about everyone else. 18 drunk dudes floating down a four-foot deep river in a thunderstorm. We looked ridiculous. My band in particular, being the youngest and the most immature, took the drinking to an extreme.
Fast forward to the last five minutes of the trip. Chris realized that he was not drunk enough to black out yet, so he began chugging a bottle of vodka. Mr. Chark followed suit. At some point we realized that Mr. Chark was missing his bathing suit and was naked in a tube. While we were laughing about this, Mr. Chark, still chugging vodka out of a handle, began throwing up all over his naked body. You know how you lay in a tube? He was laying like that just throwing up. It was a horrifying and delightful sight. By the time we got out of the river, Chris had accomplished his goal and was stumbling up and down the river bank. Mr. Chark was naked and realized he lost the keys to the van, and was searching for his bathing suit in the river. He was too drunk to realize that there was no hope for the keys.
We all hopped in LoveHateHero's shuttle bus for a ride back up to the top of the river, where we called AAA, who told us it would be at least an hour before someone could unlock our van for us. Chris passed out on the gravel parking lot in the rain and we just continued drinking. At some point, Mr. Chark decided to pee on Chris' passed out head. This woke Chris, who being too drunk to speak, attempt to swing at Mr. Chark, lose his balance and after stumbling backwards for a good 20 steps, fell down a hill. He crawled back up and passed out on the gravel again. By the time AAA had arrived, everyone was pretty drunk. The AAA guy thought we were hilarious and was joking around with us. Chris at some point woke up and in a fit of rage tried to go after the AAA guy. He thought the AAA guy was breaking into our van. We held him back.
We hopped in the van and all passed out in a hotel's parking lot around dinner time. It was a good day. This was one of those rare days that you could never recreate. It may have been the most fun I've ever had on an off-day. Most off-days are spent worrying about money and gas, but this was just a good ole' dude hangout. Some of us don't remember it and can only relive it by one of the more sober members telling them. I wouldn't say I learned much from this experience, except that you can't trust a drunk person to not lose their trunks holding the keys to the van.