Monday, September 1, 2008

On the Road with Electric Frankenstein

I’m still decompressing.

On August 29, I joined Electric Frankenstein (EF) for my first-ever tour of Canada. The “mini tour” featured three shows in three days. The EF lineup for this tour was comprised of founding member Sal Canzonieri on guitar, longtime singer/guitarist Steve Miller, bassist Drew Benfante (Fagin’s Choir) and yours truly on drums.

I’ve been friends with Sal since 1995, when Jerry Only first introduced me to him at a Misfits rehearsal in Vernon, NJ.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sal and his brother Dan (a.k.a. Danny Frankenstein) on various things over the years, including our current collaboration in The Kung Fu Killers (KFK). Although I drummed on a couple of EF recordings way back in 1998, I had never performed live with the band before. So when Sal asked me if I’d be interested in coming on board for the Canada shows, it was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. After a small handful of intense rehearsals, we were off and running.

The mini-tour marked EF’s 11th trip to Canada since 1998. The tour began with an August 29 performance at Bar Le Trash in St. Hyacinthe, followed by an August 30 show at Petit Campus in Montreal and a “secret show” at The Katacombes on August 31. The shows received heavy promotion in Montreal newspapers, and I could easily feel a strong “buzz” in the air when we finally arrived outside of Bar Le Trash after a hectic 11-hour van ride. (This included an unexpected three-hour stay at the Canadian border. For some reason, a bunch of unkempt tattooed guys in a windowless van attracted attention. Go figure.)

Bar Le Trash was a nice, comfortable place and a great venue to kick things off. Petit Campus was a much larger, absolutely beautiful club that reminded me of the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. This was the biggest show of the three nights and without question my favorite night of the tour. The last night was at The Katacombes, a great punk dive with skeleton sculptures and various Giger-esque monstrosities poking out from the walls. The place felt a lot like my dear CBGB. And with the grungy food joints and sex clubs surrounding the place, it really felt like the Lower East Side of old.

In other words, I felt right at home.

The area surrounding Petit Campus was extraordinary. Considering the city’s French population, it comes as no surprise that the attitude and architecture of the city felt very much like New Orleans – my all-time favorite city. It felt wonderful to walk outside the venue and witness such life on the streets.

And all the French women looked absolutely stunning.

Montreal nightlife is a sight to behold. A true 24-hour city, Montreal has a healthy club scene that acts a bit like a domino set - as one show lets out, another begins down the street, then another show kicks off after that. If you have enough money and energy, you can easily take in three or more full shows in a given night. Truly inspiring.

Considering the tour wage-supported eggs benedict in the morning and wine and filet mignon at night – and the fact that I got paid to play in one of my favorite bands and have this experience – you can see why I fell in love with this special place as quickly as I did.

It was also interesting to notice how many other American bands were well aware of what Montreal has to offer. We kept criss-crossing clubs with a touring Fu Manchu, while L.E.S. Stitches were in town playing a club right down the street from the Katacombes. Also, you couldn’t walk five feet without seeing show posters for the Misfits and/or Gorgeous Frankenstein. Viva La Lodi!

The tour’s promoter, Eric Cazes of La Bete Rouge, is easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He and his lovely lady, Alex, went far beyond the call of duty to make sure we felt right at home and were well taken care of. Not only were they sweet enough to let us crash at their beautiful home for three days, but they supplied us with more fresh fruit, bagels, juice, coffee, smokes, beer, clean towels, great company and other comforts then we could’ve ever possibly asked for. To be honest, I have never worked with nicer “music biz” folks. It was humbling to receive such kindness and hospitality. Eric and Alex are rare jewels in a sea of liars and thieves. I absolutely adored them.

Of course, being on tour means indulging in many of the common trappings of “life on the road.” Anyone who knows me well enough knows I’m fairly conservative when it comes to partying. BUT…since I was on tour in another country for the very first time, I intentionally decided to let loose as much as possible.

And boy, did I ever.

It’s been many years since I’ve been full-on blotto drunk, but I made up for that with flying colors at the EF afterparty on August 30. I’d love to tell you about the great places we ended up at after the Petit Campus show, but I guess the photos will have to tell that story since I can’t remember a bloody thing. Well, actually, I do remember this: When I wasn't chugging down pints of something, Alex was nice enough to send shots of something else my way.

And according to her, I was green when I first staggered down the stairs on Sunday morning. Good one!

I sobered up in time to join Eric, Alex and the rest of EF for a daylong sightseeing/shopping excursion around Montreal. We visited some fantastic record stores and eateries, while I also found time to check out some of the fantastic fetish and Goth joints in the area. It was an absolutely exquisite afternoon that set the tone for our final throwdown at the Katacombes.

The set changed every night. “Rocket In My Veins” was performed at Bar Le Trash and then disappeared. The Petit Campus show featured the tour’s only performance of “Listen Up, Baby!” and the debut of both “Friction” and a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Never Say Die.” We added “Teenage Shutdown” to the final set at The Katacombes, which also included the only performance of “Devil Dust” and ended with an on-the-spot cover of Aerosmith’s “Draw The Line.” All shows began with a triple shot of “Electrify Me,” “Blackout” and “Speed Girl.” The tour also featured the live debut of “Super Kool” from the brand-new Electric Frankenstein compilation LP/CD, Dead And Back. Right before leaving the USA, we decided to add a cover of Reagan Youth’s “Degenerated,” which went over extremely well at all three shows.

Frankly, it’s a total blur at this point to remember everything else we played, but I do recall playing these songs at various points along the way: “Neurotic Pleasures,” “Get Off My Back,' “Action High,” 'Demolition Joyride,' “It’s All Moving Faster,” “Don’t Know How To Stop You” and “The Time Is Now."

The Grenades from Canada opened the first two nights and fucking wailed. The Petit Campus show also featured an opening band of young guns called The Headshrinkers, whose brand of Johnny Thunders-style Rock/Punk was quite impressive. The Katacombes show featured a band of nice guys from Buffalo called The Snot Rockets and a band called The Evil Boys From Hell, featuring Montreal punk legend DJ Wax on guitar.

One of the best moments of the tour came when I checked out a toy/video store down the street from Bar Le Trash and bought a special Canadian-edition Star Wars Vs. Transformers playset for Shannon's son, who turned 7 on September 3. It felt so great to know that no other boy in the states will get such a cool present for his birthday.

It’s such a short life, and one must always savor moments like that.

There is soooo much more to write about, but I simply can’t process it all at this point.

Goddamn, I wanna go back!

I’m so glad I waited all of these years to tour the right way, with the right band and under the rightcircumstances. The experience was one I will never forget.

Three cheers and a mountain of respect to Sal for keeping the EF fires burning for 18 years now. These guys are the absolute best at what they do, and a fuck of a lot of fun to be around.

I’d tour with them again in a heartbeat.