The first Hot Water Music tour was as DIY as it gets. I feel confident saying that because I booked it myself, mostly through contacts I’d made either through selling records or hanging out on #punk on irc. Also, we didn’t even have a single vehicle big enough for everything we had to bring so ended up in a convoy consisting of a small van and a pickup truck. The pickup was the lifesaver because not only could we put the amps in the back, but if you were riding in the back you could actually lay down flat and stretch your legs out straight which was something you couldn’t do in the van because it was just too small. In reality we probably could have all crammed into the van, but our friend Canaan had just bought the pickup truck and volunteered to join us on the tour as part driver part roadie and we all liked him so there was really no reason to say no.
Yes that’s right, on the first Hot Water Music tour we spent many an hour sleeping in the back of a pickup truck while it was speeding down a highway somewhere along the east coast. That’s an awesome story in and of itself, but this gets even better.
We’d left town almost immediately following a show in Atlanta because we needed to be in Hot Springs, Arkansas the following evening. I admit when booking the tour I paid more attention to making sure our route was a continuous loop starting and ending in Gainesville with little or no doubling back on itself and less on how far individual shows were from each other. It was the first tour I booked, what can I say.
Regardless, this leg of the trip put us driving through Alabama really early in the morning. Canaan was driving and Chuck and I were asleep in the back of his pickup, and I think Chris was up in the front. I don’t know what it was that initially caught the cops attention, I don’t think Canaan was speeding but if two beardy kids in big pickup truck with Florida plates was enough of a spark then finding two more kids with a bunch of tattoos and band equipment under a tarp in the back of the truck set his attention on fire.
To be honest we probably scared him as much as he scared us. I remember waking up as the truck slowed to a stop on the gravel covered side of the road, I sat up and quickly realized we were being pulled over. The cop, an Alabama State Trooper who I swear was a dead ringer for Boss Hog was already out of his cruiser and telling all of us calmly and politely to stay the fuck where we where and make sure he could see our hands. About then is when Chuck sat up, and coincidentally when the cop decided he’d had enough surprises and ordered everyone out of the vehicle and onto the side of the road.
We were tired and groggy and unshowered but we knew playing nice was the best thing to do so we followed his orders. Right about then Jason drove by in the van laughing at us. He kept going, probably suspecting we were getting a speeding ticket and would shortly be on our way. If only it could have been that simple.
The cop walked around the trunk peaking inside the windows and under the tarp before focusing his attention back on us.
“What are you boys doing out here?”
“We’re a band sir, on tour, heading to a show in Arkansas.”
“Your all in the band?”
“No sir, these two are in the band, he runs their label and I’m just their friend driving them.”
Canaan was doing the talking as he was the only one who had been awake 10 minutes earlier.
“So this musical equipment is yours then?”
“It’s not stolen is it?”
“You boys aren’t in any trouble are you?”
“You boys ever been in any trouble?”
We obviously weren’t talking amongst ourselves, but I’m damn certain every one of us was hoping Alabama police didn’t have a speedy way of checking Florida police records. This was probably ’94, way before the days of laptops in cars and firmly in the radio only days so that was a fairly safe assumption.
“You boys have any drugs in this truck with you?”
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. In addition to having just bought the pickup truck, Canaan had also just bought a new shotgun. If you are going to have a big truck you’ve gotta have a big gun to go with it, he used to say. And even though this was a sawed off pistol grip Mossberg 12ga, it still fit pretty well in the “big gun” category.
“What was that?”
“Yes sir, we do have a weapon.”
“There’s a shotgun in a bag under the drivers seat, sir.”
“OK everyone on the ground, hands behind your heads.”
This was when he called for back up and we realized it was going to be a very long morning.
After reinforcements arrived the first cop took Canaan over to the truck and fished out the gun. The other cops got out IDs and started running us through their system. The shotgun was properly licensed and unloaded, and within a half inch of legal size in Alabama so there was no real problem with that, but this was everything the officers needed to decide that everything else needed to be searched. Had it been a few years later when I or any of the other guys were more versed in our rights we probably would have made more of a stink about this but that morning, out in the Alabama sun with not nearly enough sleep behind us we just wanted to get back on the road so agreed they could go through anything they wanted to.
Piece by piece they took everything we had out of the truck, out of it’s case and dumped it on the side of the road. Our bags were completely unpacked one piece of clothing at a time. We knew there was nothing for them to find that would be any issue so we weren’t really worried about anything except being late to the show. That is until the officer reached into my backpack and pulled out a softball sized ball of duct tape. He held it up and asked if any of us knew what it was. We all said no.
The other guys were telling the truth, but I was totally lying. You see a few days earlier in Richamond, VA I’d crapped my pants. Not like full blown poo everywhere, but like enough that I had no plans to wear those underwear ever again. I’d recently gone vegan and my stomach wasn’t loving the truck stop food options, or the limited bathroom breaks. Lets just say it made for a bad combo. Anyway, we were staying at my friend Pat’s house and I wasn’t about to leave poopy underwear at his place so I figured the best thing to do was treat them like a biohazard and put them in a plastic bag, and then seal that entirely into a ball of duct tape. I’d planned to throw it out at the next convenient option but it had slipped my mind.
And that’s what was now in the cops hand.
The other guys were now getting scared assuming someone in the other vehicle had been transporting something they shouldn’t have and had stashed it with us. I was getting scared because I was sitting there watching a cop pull out his knife and cut into the ball. They thought he was going to find drugs, I knew he was going to find my shit.
And he did.
“What the hell is this??” he asked as he dropped it on the ground. There was really no answer, it was pretty obvious what it was and we’d all sworn we had never seen it before. We told him someone else in the band must have been playing a prank on us and expected us to do the same thing he’d just done. There was certainly no way it could have been planned for it to end up in his hands. Apparently dirty underwear was enough to convince him he wasn’t going to find anything worthwhile and with that he told us to repack our stuff and get out of his state immediately. We were happy to follow those orders and repacked the truck in record time. We sped away and made it to Arkansas only a few hours after we’d planned, minus one pair of crappy drawers (I left them on the side of the road) and plus a tour story we’d probably all tell a hundred times over the next week alone.
* This post is part of a series of serialized posts that would have been chapters in a book I never finished writing. I’m calling it ‘Bits and Pieces’ at the moment. Click here for info about this as well as links to the other stories/chapters.