Playing Oddly Named Clubs and Spotting Dead Bodies: Buzz Osborne's Tour Diary, Part Three

Follow King Buzzo in his travels through Cleveland, Detroit, and everywhere else.

Jul 23 2014, 6:10pm

Grand Rapids, Michigan.

We arrived in Grand Rapids the day before the show so we had a whole night to kill.

I turned in early and watched the better part of Laurence of Arabia and spaced out. Spacing out on tour is easy and you have to learn how to do it or you'll surely go insane. Brian and Dave were "antsy" to "do something" and ended up going to what was reported to be the "best" rhythm and blues bar in Grand Rapids. They said from the minute they walked in the place, they were besieged by drug dealers all trying to sell them blow. Finally after what Brian said was by far the best Michigan blues band he'd ever seen they took off for the hotel but not before Dave told one of the pushy coke dealers to "leave me alone narc." Apparently the dealer freaked out and screamed "narc? I ain't no damn narc. You're lucky I ain't got my 9 cuz I'd fill you so fulla holes you'd look like a fish net."

I got up pretty early the next day and did laundry and read part of a John Fante book and thought about a dead guy we'd seen on the freeway between Seattle and Spokane. I was behind the wheel driving through the pass on the east side when all of a sudden, traffic slowed to a crawl. This went on for a quarter of a mile or so until we rounded a corner and saw a guy in a motorcycle helmet laying on the side of the road with his legs turned almost backwards. It was obvious that he'd been thrown over the concrete divider from the other side of the freeway. My god, he was clearly dead. All I could think about was I probably knew he was dead long before his family did.

In my life I've seen my share of dead people but it's not something you ever really get used to. I hope I never do.

One person I met who was way too familiar with death was the Wayne County Medical Examiner photographer who had work stories like you wouldn't believe! He lived in downtown Detroit in a really cool converted store front and the whole interior of his place looked like Kevin Spacey's apartment in the movie Seven. You could tell he was paranoid but he lived in fucking Detroit so it's not like he didn't have good reason plus imagine the extent of the shit he'd seen on the job! Who wouldn't be paranoid after years of experience seeing first hand the ugliest depths of human nature. I was totally impressed with his whole set up. He was a very interesting cat and I love people like that. There were tons of security cameras everywhere and he even had microphones set up outside so he could LISTEN to what was going on out there. I asked him what the hardest part of his job was and he said it was when he got to a homicide and the dead body was someone he knew. Talk about weird. He really should write a book.

Backstage in Detroit

We played a club in Grand Rapids called The Pyramid Scheme. So let's see, so far on this trip I've played a club called The Shake Down, I've played one called Shank Hall, and now I'm playing The Pyramid Scheme. Perfect. Maybe I should open a club in LA called The Stick Em Up, Bitch or simply Club Rip Off and see how many bands I can book. It probably wouldn't make any difference, I mean I booked a show in a club called Shank Hall, didn't I?

The Pyramid Scheme ended up being a really nice club and one of the best shows so far on this tour. Easily the best club ever in Grand Rapids and easily one of the best in the whole country. I can't wait to go back. It's great when you find a new club and you have a fantastic experience playing there.

We drove the next day to Ohio and ended up at a hotel right in the middle of what looked to be the worst ghetto in Columbus. The weird thing is that it was a relatively upscale hotel. We asked the hotel manager how safe our vehicle was gonna be that night and he told us, "Don't worry, we have armed security. Even if the folks around here behave like animals, they don't screw around with our parking lot." Well, that's refreshing.

The show in Columbus was hot. I was sweating like a pig bastard from the first song on. I kept thinking about Frank Booth from Blue Velvet for almost the entire show and I have no idea why. Maybe I've finally gone totally insane. It's a good thing I gave up drinking because when I drink I've been described as a MEAN version of Frank Booth. Dale says it's better for all of us if I don't drink and I suppose that's true but I can't go in reverse. People always want things the way they were. Tough shit. There's no going back now. The internet has changed all of it forever. All hail the internet!

We drove through Toledo on our way to Detroit and it reminded me of the movie Apocalypse Now. Captain Willard says he's from Toledo. I love shit like that. Willard's from fucking Toledo and there he is talking to Kurtz in Cambodia. It's a cool reference.

Once when we did a few shows in Europe with Flipper, the guitar player told me he did TWO tours of duty in Vietnam! Said when he joined the army that not only did he not know the US was at war, he didn't even know where Vietnam was. He did two tours of Nam during what was probably the bloodiest years, meaning ‘67, ‘68 and THEN ended up in Flipper! Well that seems like the reasonable choice considering the rage-fueled response most people have when talking or even thinking about that war. It certainly painted my love of Flipper in a new light. It makes me love them even more.

Detroit was a treat which seems weird to say about a city like Detroit but there it is. A well-behaved audience of people who actually seemed interested in what I was doing. This is good! It's basically a godless world with no truth and when you're on stage, there may be even less than no truth, so the least I can hope for is respect, but usually no one thinks about shit like that. That means that when it happens, I really appreciate it and I won't forget how nicely I was treated in Detroit any time soon. That kind of stuff definitely makes a difference to me believe it or not. I mean I'm out there with an acoustic trying to really ramp up the freak meter and it seems to be working. That's all I can hope for. Now, the big plan is to not totally fuck it all up. Ha!

The next day we drove into Ohio for our show in Cleveland and we immediately noticed a shit load of fucking cops. We counted 25 cops between Toledo and Cleveland and that's in only 100 miles! What gives? Here we are driving with out-of-state plates on the Ohio interstate and dozens of cops are pulling over everyone. Great.

Backstage in Cleveland

I was nervous as shit on the whole drive. The last thing I want to have to do is deal with some high and tight haircut fucking cop wearing a Smokey the Bear hat, pulling me over for no reason at all and yelling at me what the hell I thought I was doing or something equally stupid. I don't like that. Not. One. Bit.

We ended up slipping through somehow and I told the story that night on stage and no one gave a shit. This is certainly disturbing to me. Soon, cops everywhere bothering innocent people will be totally accepted and I don't like that idea one bit either. I don't want to have to listen to some "duty"-crazy cop barking at me about insane bullshit. I don't like taking my orders from cops of any stripe in fact who do I take my orders from anyway? That's a good question. Cops make me want to stab someone to death especially when they're dishing out their version of rules and punishment. I'm glad they're there but I'm certainly not the enemy.

July 4 was an off day and we drove to Syracuse New York which was about 300 miles. We arrived in the late afternoon. I changed my guitar strings and watched The Shining. As it turned, out The Shining ended up being the soundtrack to my entire time in the northeastern United States. I woke up early and just laid in bed thinking about almost nothing for half an hour. I'm uncomfortable with that. It's times like those when I feel like I could go way insane and things could get out of hand. I took a shower instead.

The show in Syracuse was great. I loved the venue. It's an old theatre with all the seats torn out. Great sound and great vibe. The Melvins played this same venue last year and I remember a black teenager getting arrested in the back parking lot for waving a gun around. He pulled it on a security guard who immediately called the authorities who sent a ton of cops and even a helicopter. All to capture what turned out to be a 14 year old with a fake gun. What a dumbass. That's the kind if shit that gets teenagers fucking killed. He's lucky one of those cops didn't put a bullet in his head and rightly so. Leave the toy guns at home, kids.

Burlington, Vermont.

Burlington is yet another hippie haven but nonetheless I had a great show and saw absolutely no hippies at all. Good.

The last time I was in Burlington was during our 51/51 tour of every state plus DC and there was a hippie jam show happening in the attached larger venue next door that was packed and absolutely awful. I don't know how these time warp clone hippie idiots can get behind sub-par crap music like that. I know I've never been able to and it seems like trying to listen to it whilst stoned or tripping would just make it all way worse. I suppose if I listened through the entire Grateful Dead catalogue, I could find a few songs that were OK, but the thought of sitting through all those horrible albums sounds positivity horrific. If I had to do that, I'd almost rather give up listening to music and concentrate solely on nothing but talk radio.

These modern day hippies and the new hippie bands they listen to really should get involved in their own youth movement.

Buzz Osborne is a founding member of the Melvins, obviously. Catch the remainder of his solo tour. Also check out:

Trying Not to Die in a Fiery Crash: The Tour Diary of Buzz Osborne

Cops and Hippies: Buzz Osborne's Tour Diary, Part Two

We Asked Buzz Osborne of the Melvins What He Thinks of Drake, Miley Cyrus, and Mumford & Sons

July 23 Birmingham, AL The Bottle Tree
July 25 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jack’s
July 26 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
July 27 Austin, TX Red 7
July 28 San Antonio, TX Limelight
July 30 Tucson, AZ Club Congress
July 31 Pioneertown, CA Pappy and Harriet’s