We spent two days off in Vegas at RJ’s house, enjoying the company of his roommates and a small cow they try to pass off as a dog. On the second day, Artifex Pereo and Eidola hopped on a headliner show with Hail the Sun at Eagle Aerie Hall, proving empirically that if you cut off the head of a Blue Swan, another will take its place in the majestic yet schizophrenic fashion people have come to expect of the genre. After the show, the tour package rendezvous’d at Carlo’s apartment for the first boner-fried intermingling of the bands. If this night of shop talk, Mortal Kombat, and drinking games is any indicator of the potential rapport between bands this tour, the next month will be the most unforgettable tour for the next five weeks.
We awoke to tour manager Angelica (endearingly dubbed and henceforth referred to as Gus) shouting at Carlo to rouse and roll downstairs and into the van for a six hour trip to Tempe, AZ.
We met at 51 West, a coffee shop moonlighting as a music venue that turned out to be surprisingly appropriate for this tour package. I spent some time exploring a nearby thrift store where I found several creepy dolls, including a wedding topper of two toddlers getting hitched. I just wasn’t sure of this message that this sends (“We are emotionally infantile and have trouble with toilets. Let’s enter into religious and legal contract for keeps!). Icarus the Owl met us as well, hopping on the tour for the next five shows. My long-time friends and excellent musicians each, they recently signed their brand of math rock with pop sensibility to Blue Swan, with another album already in the pipeline.
The 10-year-olds in us all rejoiced watching local Buried For A Day set the stage with their interplay of guitar and Game Boy samples. The show concluded with the tour package in much higher spirits, due in no small part to free bottomless coffee. That and musical kickassery all around.
We spent most of our day off in Sergio’s hometown in coffee shops while I tried [successfully] to recover photos for the Tempe bands. One such place was Coffee House, a coffee shop composed of storage units with coffee so bad Gus refused to drink it.
The bands rallied at Sector 7, a dampy, musty downstairs nightclub that somehow offered the best show of the tour — not necessarily in turnout but crowd response. Texas has lots of love for Blue Swan, and El Paso’s crowd was dense with long-time fans. I saw each member of Stolas talking with concert goers that have become firm friends over their three years of touring, and I think the shows that thrive in makeshift venues rely on the support of such relationships founded by both the musicians and the people who truly connect with the music they make.
After the arduous 10-hour drive from one end of Texas to its physical and spiritual center, we arrived at Gus’s house to breakfast, a living room meadow of air mattresses, and thankfully little fanfare (because no one wants to make introductions on zero sleep). Hoorah for southern hospitality, brother.
I visited Alamo City Music Hall with Stolas two months prior on the Instant Gratification Tour, and I felt much more impressed with the smaller room they played this time around., The aluminum siding, bright Texas flag, and sprawling and immediately accessible bar felt far more inviting than the larger room with its bare concrete and dark corners that seem to say, “Hey, guileless college student. What was that noise? Better wander off from the group and check it out. Over here. Oh, and leave you glasses.”
Closing out another excellent Texas show complete with boisterous sing-a-longs, Stolas crashed with long-time friends David and Lauryn. They attended the first Stolas shows in the area years earlier and welcomed us with the tiniest of cats and best pulled pork (hopefully unrelated). They also introduced us to Crabs Adjust Humidity, a supplement to the popular card game that seems to deal exclusively in those cards that elicit laughter as part of your soul burns away (e.g., “Boners of the Elderly” and “Giving Anne Frank a drumset on her birthday”).
After resolving not to say up until 5:30AM playing video games as we had in April, Carlo, David, RJ, and I instead stayed up until 5:30AM inventing and playing Hangers, a variation of shuffleboard played with, as RJ puts it, “a table, a bottlecap, and four things (sic).” I’m still impressed with how calmly and judiciously we crafted the game and its governing rules considering how drunk we were. We awoke a few hours later to the smell of homemade biscuits and gravy, inhaled our repast, and set of for Dallas.
RJ’s hometown. Are we calling this the hometown leg yet?
Sons of Hermann Hall, a VFW Hall resting in the ever-hip Deep Ellum, is probably the only VFW Hall I’ve seen that’s appropriate for a rock show (ignoring of course the nightmarish load-in up a two-story, 30-step staircase). We dizzied ourselves on a misplaced merrygoround in the venue courtyard before grabbing 2 for $7 pork sandwiches at a nearby barbecye joint. I’m honestly not sure we chose the right order for those two events.
Looking back at the photos from this night is especially entertaining, as we see the tour’s first document Marquez motorcycle pose (Carlo has to pose on every parked motorcycle he sees. I’unno, man) as well as photos from a Stolas fan who insisted on individual pictures where she pantomimed stabbing each member. Don’t worry, she let them choose how they each were stabbed, so it’s not murder. I think?
Confused at what Dallas is all about (consensual manslaughter?), we booked it overnight to stay with RJ’s grandparents in Houston.
The next morning saw us greeted by a breakfast of fresh fruit, hummus, and coffee. We pranked Gus by snapchatting ourselves sticking fingers in her coffee, letting her take a sip unaware of this, then finally sending her the snaps. This subsequently birthed idioms about fingers in coffee to convey ruining someone’s morning (e.g., “Wanna wash your hands before sticking your fingers in my coffee?”).
With Gus sufficiently taking this in stride, we headed to Walter’s, a venue just skirting downtown and home to some of the tour package’s most supportive fans. Stolas had high expectations for all of Texas, but Houston was easily the most anticipated. And for good reason: local openers Vox Vocis and Mosaic Dream (abbreviated Mo’ D) gave stellar performances, providing excellent compelment to the Swancore-heavy showcase. I immediately understood why the load-in was spent mostly with the tour package catching up with local friends on everything from new video games to family developments. It was like watching a large house filling with family for a holiday meal. Oh yeah, Tim from Icarus the Owl is from here, too.
We celebrated Artifex guitarist Jamie’s birthday with cake and a sing-a-long during the Stolas set. Carlo later smooshed Jamie’s face into the cake (naturally), covering him head to toe in iciing which his bandmates then licked off ceremoniously. He ended up looking like he’d run headfirst into a claymation Barbie film, and if that’s not an austere way for a man to turn 25, then I just don’t get the kids these days.
While the rest of the tour package rallied at Vox Vocis’ house to give Icarus the Owl a proper send-off, Stolas reconvened at RJ’s grandparents’ house for the best ribs I’ve ever had in my life.
This point merits no elaboration: There are no better ribs out there. You need to accept this, and move on with your life.
With spirits high and gas tank full, we set out the next morning for our first drive day of the tour: a 24-hour trip to Tampa, FL.