Road Notes: Sand Section Goes Death Metal (January 2011)

Here is a quick traveling lesson to anyone planning to go out on the road. If you know you are leaving early in the morning, and you know that you have a gig and a party to attend the night prior to departure, do not wait until after you play the gig and go to the party to pack your bag or you will forget a lot of essentials. I forgot a pillow, a sleeping bag, a blanket, a towel, and I walked out the door without even glancing at my snow jacket that was hanging there. I pretty much forgot everything that you need to survive and be a polite house guest when you are couch surfing in the mountains.

All of that aside, our trip up to Tahoe went off with minimal hitches. I say "hitch" because we had a hell of a time trying to get a trailer figured out for the trip. There is only one truck on the planet that U-Haul will not rent a trailer to, and it is a Ford Explorer. We borrowed my girlfriend Alex's car because she has the only car that is large enough to hold five passengers comfortably and still have towing capability. The only problem is, you guessed it, she drives a Ford Explorer. We took it in to three different U-Haul distributers and none of them would even speak the word Explorer for fear they would be fired and/or beaten on site. Apparently there was some major lawsuit due to a few occurrences involving U-Haul trailers that fishtailed and caused Explorers to flip.

Our ultimate plan at that point was to borrow my parents' Expedition to pick up the U-Haul, take it back to our house, and then attach the U-Haul to the Explorer. It wasn't until Tony pulled out his iPhone to do some research that we figured out that we might not be making a wise decision. Lets just say, we took the term "Explorer flipping over" a little too lightly, and we decided against getting a U-Haul. We left in two cars at 8:03am on Wednesday morning en route to beautiful South Lake Tahoe.

Stefan was kind enough to take the first driving shift in our car to allow me to sleep off the previous night's festivities, and I would later take the wheel around the Mammoth area. There is really very little to discuss about the drive because we were split up into a Ford Explorer and and a Chevy Blazer, not all piled in a 1978 Dodge Winnebago. We arrived in snow-covered Tahoe just after nightfall and were introduced to not only the house we would be staying at for the next three days, but also death metal.

For those of you who are unaware with the music genre of death metal, perhaps I can describe it for you. The music can be summed up with lightening-fast drumming, deep and thunderous guitar playing, and a singer that is screaming vocals about death, destruction, blood, and everything evil that our dull human powers can possibly conjure. This is not just any kind of scream, this is the kind of scream you would let out if the power went out in your house and you saw Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) tapping on your living room window with a blood-soaked machete. Needless to say it was quite an interesting experience staying in a house full of death metal fanatics. Just look at some of these band names:

In spite of this music dynamic with which we were both unfamiliar and frightened of, the guys in the house were some of the nicest and coolest people you could ever meet. I would like to give a HUGE shout out to Josh for letting us crash in his living room for three nights! He was above and beyond hospitable, and again one of the coolest people you could ever meet. It is amazing how you can go from stepping into a living room where you fear you might be sacrificed in your sleep, to one that feels like home in just a matter of hours. It took us three whole days, but we were finally able to even listen to death metal without fearing that the earth would shake, the ground would open, and we would be face to face with a snarling demon from the underworld. I'll even admit that a couple of the songs were pretty cool.

Our first gig was at Fallen Angel in South Lake Tahoe, which is a fairly new venue to the music scene. We were teamed up with a band from Minneapolis known as John Wayne and the Payne, who were awesome guys with a pretty cool reggae sound. The only problem with the venue was that the stage was absolutely tiny and could barely fit our whole band. As far as the crowd was concerned, poor Stefan barely even existed as he and his keys were hidden behind a speaker for the majority of our performance. There was however a solid turnout, and even though it was not our greatest performance, we made some good money and the night was ultimately a success. It was especially cool to see a few returning faces who had seen us play up there over Summer and came back for more Sand Section!

The following morning we were introduced the Red Hut, a little diner in Tahoe that has some of the best breakfast you could eat. In fact, we ate there for breakfast three days in a row because it was so delicious. Be sure to look that place up if you are ever in Tahoe! After breakfast we pretty much just had a lazy day in front of the TV escaping the rain and freezing temperatures. We left in the early evening for Sparks, Nevada where we would play our gig that night at the Alley.

The positive side of our show at the Alley was that we played the best we played the entire trip, the negative side was there was essentially nobody there (sorry KT). This has happened to us a couple times before in the past when we have played new areas, so we were not too unfamiliar with the feeling. When you are out on the road playing new states for the first time, it is naive to think that you will have great turnouts at every gig. It is a humbling experience to say the least, and we just look at it as a night to have fun, perfect our set, and try out some new jokes. After we played, we said goodbye to John Wayne and the Payne as they headed back to Los Angeles for a gig. We wish them all the best.

We drove back to our comfort zone in Tahoe after the show and went to sleep. The next morning after eating Red Hut, we all took our first shower of the trip (except Tony who did not shower or change for six days for reasons that were never really explained), and I was forced to dry off with a pair of sweatpants and a jacket because as you recall I forgot to bring a towel with me. Luckily the jacket dried off before bed that night because it was also functioning as my pillow…

After we all showered we realized that we had an entire day to kill before playing in Tahoe again that night, so naturally we hit the casinos. Everyone lost money except myself who raked in $40 thanks to a 4-of-a-kind hand in video poker. After the casinos we headed back to Josh's house and then over to Whiskey Dick's Saloon where we would play our gig that night. The gig went great and the sound was awesome, which was a major relief from the night before. Thanks again to Josh for coming in clutch and allowing us to use his PA and bass rig! We played both acoustic and electric sets, and people really dug our sound.

The following morning after eating Red Hut again, we headed over to Sacramento to play at the Zuhg Life Store in a mall. There was a stage set up in front of the store where we played acoustic music for about an hour in the early afternoon. It was a pretty unique experience to have your music echoing down a mall corridor as shoppers would periodically stop in to listen and grab a CD or two. If you are even in Sacramento be sure to look up the Zuhg Life Store, and you can even grab a copy of our album in there!

After the show we headed to Santa Cruz to stay the night and drive home refreshed on Sunday morning. We stayed with Tony's friend Zane who lives in a Jewish Co-op, where we assumed we might take it easy and not frustrate the other residents of the Co-op. We were definitely wrong to assume because everyone that lives there was just heading out to go party right as we were getting there. Without hesitation we picked up about sixty beers and brought them back over to celebrate the end of our mini Northern California adventure. It is funny how quickly it can go from relaxing evening to raging party in a matter of seconds when you are out on the road. The party at the Jewish Co-op was literally raging when someone ignited a dresser in the backyard to serve as a bonfire for the remainder of the evening. We all passed out sometime around whenever, and woke up in serious pain to drive down to Long Beach for our final gig. Big thank you to Zane and everyone at the co-op for letting us crash!

The drive home was entirely uneventful and consisted of one person driving while everyone else slept. Unfortunately, as a result of our long week, we played like a bunch of zombies at our gig in Long Beach that night. The set wasn't bad, but you could tell the fire wasn't really there. We definitely need to work on conserving energy next time around so we do not repeat a performance such as that one.

For now once again we are home safe and sound, and we will be back out on the road next week. I will certainly continue to keep everyone posted on our future endeavors, thanks for reading!

-Jeff and the Sand Section Crew