Road Blog: Saturday October 15, 2022 - Salem, VA
October 15, 2022
Yesterday morning I wanted to go for a run but didn’t quite have the time so I opted for a walk around the neighborhood we were staying in. I walked around a big, hilly drive that was full of houses that looked to be of early 80s or late 70s build. Lots of angles and quirky shapes, but a comforting sense of domesticality to them that landed somewhere between my own neighborhood when I was a kid and Carl’s neighborhood in New Grenada in the film Over The Edge . The trees were turning and the birds were singing songs and asking each other who this unfamiliar, scraggly, crooked guy with the messy hair was doing in their neighborhood. The fenced in backyard hound dogs were doing the same.
We climbed into the van and headed east a few miles to a little German diner Jacob found called Reisterstown Family Diner. Jake is the defacto restaurant and food decider and he’s maintaining a pretty good record. I saw they had scrapple on the menu and, being the guy I am, was tempted to get the regional delicacy, but my better senses clicked in as I recalled the same decision not too far from there on tour back in 2013 with Jason and Gabriel and not liking scrapple at all. As I remember, it was disgusting. Before long we were back on the expressway, toward Fredrick, Maryland, then south into Virginia, just cutting into the corner of West Virginia for a few minutes, through Harper’s Ferry, onto I-81, into the Shenandoah Valley and on to the Roanoke area. The drive was beautiful through the valley and we listened to some PIXIES, Ryan Adams, and WATERSHED.
Our Motel 6 is north of the city by about 10 miles, perched next to the express way on a busy little cross-roads of motels, hotels, fast food joints, and gas stations. We checked in and had a few minutes to chill but an early show and load-in didn’t leave much time so we headed over to Salem. Salem, Virginia is a nice suburb that sits just to the west of Roanoke, very much like how Catonsville sat next to Baltimore the night before. The Olde Salem Brewing Company is right in the center of it, on Main Street. We parked the van out back and talked to the bartenders who said it was up to us if we wanted to play inside or outside. Well, hmmm. Inside would be our comfort zone, but it was a big, brick and wood room, and it was very loud. Put a rock band in the corner and you might have issues. The beer garden has a lot more space, the open air was nice and warm, and it seemed clearly the better choice. We set the doggie water bowl that was on the sage, on the ground next to the stage and loaded in.
Most of the joints we play provide their own PAs and lights, but last night was one of the few that didn’t. I started assembling the pieces of a road-worthy PA right before Covid came and have a pretty good setup now. We generally don’t travel with that stuff unless we know we’re gonna need it – it’s heavy and takes up a lot of room. But every once in a while it’s worth it to take a gig where we need to do our own production, and we needed it for this gig and had it ready to go. We ordered pints of their tasty ales and pizzas from across the street and they came over quickly and we chowed down while setting up. I took a quick walk up main street and called TrooperGirl22 who was in Detroit, dive-bar hopping up the Cass Corridor with her friend Jennifer after seeing a Van Gogh exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Things are good at home and I’m glad she’s got a partner in crime this weekend. Back at the brewery Gabe shared a couple Asian-fusion suggestions that I promptly texted back to the Bronx Bar Babes.
We went on at 7:30pm and did our best to keep the racket to a dull roar. One of the bartenders felt we were too loud, but there was a family of 4 eating pizza and playing Jenga at a table right in front of the state, having a conversation and not bothered at all, so we felt it was ok. I mean…the volume was ok. We weren’t necessarily thrilled that this family had chosen 3 feet in front of our stage for their Jenga tournament, but that’s the way these things go sometimes. At least there were people there! Most of the tables were occupied, many intently listening, others deep in discussions about god knows what, but we gradually and discreetly notched our levels up as the night went along, as bands tend to do, and wrapped up our first set around 9:30. Just before the last song of the first set, a well-intentioned chap walked buy and dropped a Lincoln in the dog water dish, a nice tip for the band, but not realizing it was….a dog water dish. I saw the poor $5 floating there and had a bit of a chuckle. We met a couple locals, sold a bit of merch, dried that Lincoln off, and met Cameron, the manager who booked us. He’s a Michigan guy, wearing his maze and blue Michigan Jacket, so we talked some Detroit and Ann Arbor sports and he was very thankful to us for playing.
As it got chillier and later the crowd started to thin out and we wrapped up, tore down, and loaded out, no small feat with all the PA and lighting gear. It was early, like 11pm, and we (read: Jake) really wanted to find a dive bar by the motel to get a nightcap. After a couple wrong turns and some dark, scary, empty roads, we’d just given up when Jake saw the light and found a place called Don Ho's Restaurant & Lounge , Virginia, a few short miles down the turnpike. Gabe and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes as we walked into the smoky, loud townie bar with a faux and minimal-effort Hawaiian theme, and a crusty old grey fellow with a cigarette in one hand, resting on a mic stand, belting out Ring of Fire not unlike Johny might have done in his later years, just maybe with a bit more talent. Jake ordered us drinks as I was formulating our exit plan in my little, tired, tiny brain, and he disappeared. “If he signs up for Karaoke I’m gonna kill him.” I told Gabe, who laughed as he pointed to Jake, on stage, thumbing through the song list and pointing at one, then shaking the dude’s hand.
The talent was generally less than impressive. The host did the Big Salty Chocolatey Balls song from South Park and that was pretty funny, but there was some nauseating country rap and I was eying up the door when they called Jake’s name. The electric piano of “These Eyes” by The Guess Who kicked in and before my eyes Jake turned into this cruise ship/Las Vegas show singer complete with all the moves and high notes and veritas that you’d expect. The crowd woke up and cheered him along, and he got a better applause than anyone else (and an anonymous beer) when he was done. Hell, Gabe noted that he had a better gig than we did last night. Props to Jake E. Lee, he killed it at Don-Ho’s and it was a worthy stop. I’ll never forget that.
Back at the motel we had some leftover pizza and a small nightcap and crashed out around 12:30. It was a weird night but we met some new people and had a good time and got our music into the ears and hands of some strangers, so we’ll come back one day, and perhaps even make sure to hit Don-Ho’s again for some Guess Who karaoke.
Today we’ll go a couple hours south to Raleigh, North Carolina where we’ve got an early show with Karbuncle at The Night Rider. It’s free, music starts at 7 and ends at 9, so we’ll see ya there!