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Record Shops, Dead Frogs & Niagara Falls

(The Verge) – Author’s note: Since this past summer, I have been writing about my experiences as a tour manager on the road with the band Back & Forth, over at the website Speak Into My Good Eye. I felt like my fellow students of Monmouth should see my story to see that even though you are still in school, you can still work towards that dream. So here is the final chapter of my Canadian tour journal entries. First, please head over to Speak Into My Good Eye to read the three previous articles to understand the story as a whole.
“YO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!” Matt yelled out to Chez as he was hopping in the van and it slowly accelerated. The apparent trend of Chez almost killing Matt with the van continued on the third day of our Canadian tour. However, the only intention that Chez had in his mind was not really the murder of his lead singer, but instead to make good time getting to Toronto.
Since we had heard nightmares about bumper-to-bumper gridlock that would put New York City to shame, we wanted to head out as early as possible. Which meant plenty of stops at rest stops on the way, (one of which was where I met the love of my life: the Wunderbar). The only way to describe this chocolaty dream was if Reese’s and Twix had a beautiful lovechild that was adopted by Canadians.
After about four hours of Wunderbar withdrawals, we finally made it to Toronto, where we were playing a festival called United Fest. Because we overshot the gridlock, we literally had hours to kill in Toronto by doing what we know best: Wandering aimlessly.
I cannot stress how much I loved wandering around the Canadian city. After a few hours, it made strolling around Red Bank seem like a thing for high school kids…..oh wait. We went to this place called Kensington Square which was filled with a plethora of awesome little thrift shops, unique places to eat and record shops. In other words it was heaven on earth.
While we wandering around this little slice of heaven, we ate at this hole in a wall burrito shop, called “Big Fat Burrito”, which in my eyes put Chipotle to shame. After “Big Fat Burrito” lived up to its name, we continued to wander, which caused us to stumble across a record shop by the name of Sonic Boom Records, which had an amazing selection to choose from and forced me to destroy my finances (but for the greater good). Honestly, how was I supposed to turn down vinyl copies of Death From Above 1979, A Tribe Called Quest and Kiss’s 1981 disaster-piece Music From The Elder?

Photo Credit: Mike Brown

Hours had passed and the venue was finally open for us to check out. As it turns out, the venue was located below a hotel where prostitutes kept running in and out of and across the street from a Tim Horton’s (Canada’s version of Dunkin Donuts), where we were encouraged to enjoy all the free WiFi our hearts desired.
Immediately, as we got underway, I felt like something was wrong. As a former intern at Live Nation in Asbury Park, I had to sit through some awful shows, but none more painful than working The Break Contest in 2010. It was hours upon hours of local bands back to back who all sounded the same and due to scheduling problems often kept me there hours after I was supposed to be there.
This felt like a similar situation. The hours of Metalcore were begging to show its effects on all of us. Chez passed out behind the merch table, Swetal’s eyes were beginning to twitch with the look of an eminent mental breakdown, and I left the table to hang outside after having Vietnam style flashbacks of The Break contest. The only thing keeping me sane at this point was meeting two awesome girls from Florida, who just happened to be on a random adventure in Toronto; so there was a few perks to sitting through this treachery.
Speaking for myself and not the band, I thought this show was a disaster. With all the headliners dropping off at the last minute, Back & Forth were the only non-local act to be on the bill, which typically means once a local band is done with their set then so are their friends that paid just to see them. Back & Forth was supposed to play in the middle of the day, but as time passed the promoter kept changing our set time and eventually the band was set to play last, which for an out of state (or country for that matter) band, it is a sign of poor booking because everyone would have already left.
An image of the interesting city of Toronto. Image taken from: diydays.com.
An image of the interesting city of Toronto. Image taken from: diydays.com.

Luckily, the promoter’s friend was a fan of the band and gathered up as many people as he could and even though the band eventually played at 2am, they had a decent crowd with all the kids singing along to the lyrics, which for a small band from Middletown, N.J. playing in Toronto, completely blew me away. But this was when the night got weird.
As we were sitting in the van waiting to leave (to head to a fan’s house that we were going to crash at), we sat and watched in awe at the simultaneous events that took place. First we kept seeing hookers picking up clients and bringing them to the hotel above the venue. They were dressed in bright pink thongs and were nowhere close to looking like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. As this was happening, a huge brawl broke out just feet away from us. I honestly felt like I had reached that seedy side of town that I always wanted to be in after watching Bumfights and Troma Films all of my youth.
We met this fan at the venue, who was beyond excited to have us stay at his house, and wanted us to play a house show the next day. We took him up on his offer but the sleeping situations were even too punk rock for us. He offered us to sleep in the basement that only had one couch that was already occupied by one of their passed out roommates. Ant and I were about to make a place to crash on the mildew reeking concrete basement floor, until I noticed something odd on the floor. I kicked it just to make sure I wasn’t crazy and as it turns out I was correct, it was a dead frog. That was the last straw for this place and I slept in the van with the rest of the band minus Ant and Chez, who manned up and slept on the dead frog infested basement floor. (I do, however, have to give credit to that basement for having an excellent Beavis & Butt-Head mural covering most of their walls.)
The blistering hot sun and the not so comfortable sleeping arrangements led some of us to only sleep for two hours that night. That morning, the two Matt’s, Swetal, Dean and I wandered around the small Toronto suburb, sat in Starbucks for a few hours and took a short hike in the woods, while wondering if Chez and Ant had survived the night in the basement. We all agreed to not play the house show and just enjoy our last day in Canada before heading back home.
We said our goodbyes to the dead frog house and headed back to Kensington Square, where we met up with some friends who lived in Buffalo. Soon, we had a random idea of heading to Niagara Falls for our final Canadian adventure.
There really isn’t too much I can say about Niagara Falls, other than it really is one of the most beautiful sights that I have ever seen. In all reality, I could not think of a better way to end one of the greatest weeks of my life.
That ride home from Canada, was such a blur to me. After all, I slept maybe two hours the night before and delirium certainly was kicking in for all of us, especially when we decided to stop at a convenience store simply called “Store”, located in upstate New York.
Matt Carlock, spent nearly an hour in “Store” trying to find out if they had any Starburst Mini’s, Swetal & Dean kept bantering back and forth (no pun intended) in southern accents about going to “Store”, Ant was dying from laughing so much, Chez & Good Matt were slowly losing their minds from the endless amount of driving that they had done the past week and I was still amazed to see a store called “Store” that actually sold Faygo Soda (WOOP WOOP!).
When I had finally made it home at 8A.M., I walked in my house with a bag full of records in one had and a bag full of dirty clothes in the other. I gave my mom a hug and headed up to my room to take the best 12-hour nap of my life.
This tour was more than just a group of guys trying to spread the word about their music. To me, it was about a group of guys going out and living the life that they’ve fantasized over. All of us were called “stupid” and “naive” for “wasting our time by going to Canada playing for gas money,” but the memories and bonds that were created over the course of these few days are things that I will forever cherish.
The fact that I can tell everyone my stories in this tour diary is something that is more valuable than any amount of money. When I got home that morning, I was tired, dirty, delirious but most importantly, I felt fulfilled.