My Names Eric Schwanke and I am traveling with Just Surrender during their current tour
with Bowling For Soup. I am posting a blog post almost daily through my eyes of the tour.
Hope you enjoy!
Day 1 “The Abbey” Chicago Illinois - Sat Jan 16th
I started my journey at 8a.m in La Crosse Wi waiting at the Amtrak station with a one way ticket to Chicago to meet up with the Just Surrender/Bowling for Soup tour. If you have never rode on a train it is quite the experience let me tell you. It stops at about 15 different stations between La Crosse and Chicago and the trip took from 10:45am until approx 4 pm. Along the way there are signals on the track that will automatically stop the train and call for an inspection of the engine/wheels etc because it kept saying it was not working properly. Of course nothing was ever found and the train kept trucking on. After arriving at Union station in Chicago and getting my bag from the luggage pickup I was in a cab and off to The Abbey. 6 miles and 17$ later I arrived to the venue before Just Surrender had arrived. I hauled my bags inside the pub and had a beer, orange juice, water, and alcazelzer. The band arrived and gave me my all access passes for the journey and the best part of the night, free bar food! I ordered fried cod and fries and was greeted by the band carrying 2 24 pack of Miller Light Bottles to the green room. There catching up from the time I had seen them last and also sharing stories of “friends” they have met in chicago and who they wanted to guest list. Todays show is rather late compared to normal shows, doors are at 8pm and Just Surrender doesn’t hit the stage until 10pm and Bowling for Soup to follow. The Show ended pretty late, by the time we had the trailer packed and leaving it was around 1pm.
Day 2 “Intersection Live” Grand Rapids Mi- Sun Jan 17th
We started the day in a pretty ghetto super 8 motel outside of Chicago. We had 6 people sleeping in the hotel room and Dan and Jay slept in the van. (Dan because he passed out drunk after the venue and Jay was upset that we didn’t stop for food so he wanted to show the tour manager a lesson) I slept between the the dresser and closet so I have 4 feet of space for my 5’6” body. I was so tired to be honest I didn’t even notice. After all 8 of us showered and out of the hotel room by 11am checkout we began our journey to Grand Rapids MI. Of course we couldn’t drive without hitting the first Taco Bell we came across. We got stuffed on our T-bell fill and continued on and shortly passing out from the t-bell induced coma’s… I have come to realize that I am carrying my camera at all the wrong times on this tour, I was sleeping and they were laughing in the van and wondering why I didn’t have my camera out… I am learning, day 2 of a 30 day trek so I will have it down by the last day. While driving we had to stop at a town called Wyoming MI about 6 miles from the venue to go to guitar center so Steve could replace his cymbal. Once we got to the venue we immediately scoped out the best place for food in Grand Rapids, Luckily landing us only 3 blocks from the venue at a place called ….. where we all partook in 3$ 24 once beers and 50c wings. Dan was infatuated by our waiter and wrote her a note and left Hammer’s number for her instead of his own. When we left the venue for food there was approx. 15 people waiting for doors and by the time we arrived after food the venue was packed with 450+. After the show we packed up and waited to leave from the venue. Steve and Dan were in the green room drinking with Bowling For Soup and decided they were going to ride on “Soups” bus. We carried on our journey and stopped at a gas station where we met 2 really nice state troopers that asked if we were in a band. They bought 2 t-shirts from Just Surrender and gave us directions to the nearest taco bell. We continued on our journey to a town right outside of Detroit Mi to stay at a friends.
Day 3 “Headliners” Toledo OH- Mon Jan 18
The next morning we woke up and didn’t have to leave for Toledo Oh until around 3pm. Shortly after everyone was awake the members all had picture messages of steve passed out on Bowling For Soups bus with stuff drawn all over his face. It has been a running contest since the tour started that Just Surrender can’t drink and only talk a big game… Well lets just say they have been making it a point to show them every night how much they like to party. But unfortunately Soup got the best of Steve because he passed out with his shoes on in their bus. After arriving at the venue called “Headliners” we went inside and got some food and 1$ bud-lights before having to unload the trailer. This was a last minute show added to the tour and we weren’t sure how the turnout was going to be. The venue started filling up and by the time the show started there was anywhere from 200-300 people. Not bad for not even being advertised on either of the bands myspace pages. After the show we were headed to Dayton OH to spend the night with Matt from Hawthorne Heights and Nick from Nightbeast. We arrived to beer and shots of tequila and the craziness continued until almost 5 am until everyone started to drift off to their sleeping bags and pass out.
Day 4 “The Mad Hatter” Covington Kentucky- Tue Jan 19
We woke up in the morning and hung out at Matt from Hawthornes house until around 3:30pm since the venue was only about an hour away from Dayton OH. Once we got to the venue we immediately loaded in the equipment and went our own ways to find beer/food. I found out in my iphone you can search directions by using current location and “directions to” destination you can type in “beer’. Works like a charm! After getting the beer everyone hung out in the van and drank until it was time to play. Dan makes it a point every night when he plays to make sure everyone knows he will be at the bar after their set and you can feel free to buy him beers/shots when you see him there. Unfortunately he got a little too sauced this night and was playing around with PJ, Just Surrenders merch guy, and threw a chair at him. Well shortly after he was kicked out of the venue and told that Just Surrender isn’t allowed back… Come to find out this is the 2nd venue in the same town that Just Surrender has been banned from. It was approx. a 5 hour drive from Covington KY to Columbia OH the next day so we got in the van and drove for a few hours until we found a reasonable priced motel 6. Of course the room was not booked for 8 people so we had to once again sneak through the back door to our hotel room. Just Surrender’s tour manager Justin informed me that for the first time the room they booked us was right next to the entrance. Had to be extra sneaky. That night Jolly (JS’s Guitarist) must have gotten food poisoning from the food he ate at the venue. A place called “Lee’s famous recipe style chicken”. He was throwing up in a trash can in the hotel and also had to make frequent trips to the shit’r through the night.
Day 5 “The Blue Note” Columbia MO- Wed Jan 20
Everyone was pretty tired in the morning and was a little late for the 11 am checkout. We left the hotel and hit up a Taco Bell across the street (the band is endorsed by T bell #feedthebeat so it is the main place we have ate). We arrived to the venue around 5 pm and loaded in through the alley right onto the stage. This venue was amazing! Used to be an old vaudeville through the 40’s and a picture theatre through the 80’s until they started hosting shows. It was been great, every venue has had a bar. Also the green room at this venue was on stage through a staircase behind the drums. This show was especially great for me as a photographer because I had an upstairs balcony and great backstage room to shoot the band live. After the show was over for the night we tried to decide what we were going to do for the next 5 days because there is a break in the tour. We drove to Kansas City that night and arrived around 3am at a Walmart and slept in the van. 8 people sleeping in a 15 passenger van is not a 4 star hotel by any means. People are sprawled on the bench seats and floor all covered in blankets because is was around 15 degrees at night.
Day 6-10 Jan 20-25
We woke up in Kansas City and did our usual football in the parking lot and ghetto showers in the Walmart bathroom sink. We drove to a fellow named David in Oklahoma City. With 5 off days in a row the band was posting bulletins on myspace/twitter looking for a place to stay for 8 people and it does not always work out. We rolled into Dave’s at about 8 at night and loaded into his 1 bedroom apartment. Everyone got settled and relaxed with actually having leg room to sprawl out rather than being stuck in the van. A couple of the members including myself decided to hit up a nearby bar with 1$ domestic taps. We found out shortly after arriving at the bar that it was karaoke night. Jay sang the usual “moving out” by billy joel and had enough to drink that he got talked into the male part of b52’s “Love Shack”. The next day we drove to Amarillo Texas to stay at a Walmart parking lot. We made several stops on the drive to pick up some alcohol for when we arrived at the parking lot to pass the time. An argument shortly broke out about how many cigarettes were left and who was going to go get the next pack. This conversation lasted 1 1/2 hours until several dollar bribes were made and Dan representing the cause and receiving 10% commission from the cigarette deals (which came out to .10c)
We woke up the next morning to one of the trailer tires being flat and realizing the trailer shocks were broken and we probably shouldn’t be driving on it. We decided we were going to stay at Walmart until we could get the trailer fixed. After Justin (js’s tour manager) made a few calls the closest repair shop was in Albuquerque NM. After some short deliberation we were going to rough it at Walmart and leave to albuquerque the night before the show. We had everything we needed right around us anyway so it was a prime spot (except a shower… definitely didn’t have that) We had a mcdonalds close by, star bucks, whataburger all within walking distance. I spent a lot of time drinking coffee and hanging out at Mcdonalds because they have free wifi there. the days really blended together while we were there all filled with wondering Walmart/football/coffee/ and Hammer and Jay always challenging each other to get drunk, including a afternoon filled with a 7$ liter of gin that they drank pull for pull until it was gone. Again the conversation was brought up and continued about the cigarette deal the previous night for another hour before everyone decided to go to bed.
The next day is what the band had been waiting for, the Jets game! upon waking up they immediately started googling then calling bars around the area to see where we could watch the game. We ended up stumbling upon a bar that lost their liquor license and was BYOB. This was awesome because it involved us spending the least amount of money. we purchased 65 beers and headed to the bar. It was located in a pretty sketchy neighborhood and were warned several times by the bar owners that we should back our van to the building so it wont get broken into. We watched the jets game and the bar and staff were so awesome we stayed for the next football game as well. The bar was called “Land sharks” and definitely a hidden gem in Amarillo TX that is going to be visited again on the next trip through.
After 3 grueling days of sleeping on the van floor and no shower we finally were headed to Albuquerque and had to leave our home in the parking lot. Again we found some people that invited us to stay off myspace. Upon arrival we were greeted with a beer pong table, showers and a slew of alcohol ranging from Dos Equis/tecate/and jagermeister. I will let the pictures explain the rest of the evening on this night.
Day 11 “Launchpad” Albuquerque NM- Tue Jan 26
Early the next morning steve had to go drop the trailer off to get the shocks fixed. We hung out at the same house the next day and just watched TV and relaxed before we had to pick the trailer up at 6 and head to the show. It felt good to have a show after 5 days. Springs you back and makes you realize why the band can put up with sleeping in a parking lot when you show up to a packed venue excited to see live music. After the show we all went onto bowling for soups bus to drink their beer. Shortly after the girl that we were staying with invited us to her bar called “Mbibe”. It was college night and we were all bought 2 long islands right off the gate then sat in a small vip room overlooking the bar and were bought another long island. We definitely did not fit in at this bar, we should have been wearing suits, smoking cigars, and an income over 50k to have a chance at even being double looked at by any of the people there. We still had a blast and made a few video updates while there… All of which unfortunately are not going to surface on the internet after we watched them the following day.
Day 12 “The Congress Hotel” Tucson AZ- Wed Jan 27
We had to leave fairly early the next day because we had over a 500 mile drive from Albuquerque to Tucson. It was actually a very scenic drive filled with mountains and 65 degree weather and thunderstorms. It feels so weird being used to only snow in the winter being from Wi and going through a thunderstorm in January. We showed up at the venue after doors had opened and had no room to load our equipment inside the venue. If you haven’t heard of the Congress Hotel it has a lot of history. It is the oldest hotel in Tucson and is the place where they cough John Dillinger public enemy number 1. I was very interested in this (being from WI and he had a lot of hideouts there) so I decided to wonder around the hotel. The clerk gave me a key and let me inside a room to take some pictures. I really wanted to take pictures in the room where Dillinger’s gang stayed but when he was caught at the hotel in 1934 a fire broke out and burnt the entire third floor where the gang stayed. They haven’t rebuilt the third floor and have it blocked off to the public. After wondering around and reading about the history of the hotel I heard that the police station a couple blocks away had one of Dillinger’s guns on display. Right as I was about to leave the venue to go see the gun it started pouring out and didn’t make it. The venue was extremely small and in a room/bar called “The Tap Room” which was actually Dillinger’s favorite bar to drink at. After Just Surrender’s set Dan and myself set out to find some food. We wondered down the street to a 24 hour diner called “Cafe”. Dan and myself always have mini “dates” and try to check out all the local cuisine while on the road. We got some delicious food and wondered back to the venue through the rain. I wish we had more time to wonder around Tucson because of the history but we had to leave right after the show to Phoenix AZ to stay with Jay’s parents where we were greeted by individual beds spread all over the house.
and here are all the pictures I got of the Hotel/John Dillinger news clippings.
Day 13 Off Day Phoenix AZ
Today was a much needed day to relax at Jay’s parents. It was absolutely beautiful outside in Arizona. Probably around 65 during the day and sunny. We were made eggs and sausage in the morning for breakfast. It was nice to have a house to relax in rather than an off day in a parking lot wondering around looking for a nice place to chill out at. I spent a majority of the day updating the blog and doing some design work that I had been slacking on. I decided to put the computer away and spend the rest of the day outside by the pool and relax. It was perfect timing because Jay and his father had gone to the store and bought a ton of beer and wings for everyone. As it began to get to later out we all had decided to play a card drinking game called “asshole”. I would say we probably played for about 5 hours only stopping in the middle because the parents had made dinner for us. I was really confused because I thought the wings we had ate earlier was dinner. I am not used to eating so much while we had been traveling. The night ended after all the beer had run out and discussing when we needed to wake up to travel to Los Angeles. It was decided around 7-8 we had to be gone because of a 7 hour drive and needing to stop at RedBull and pick up several cases for the video shoot on saturday.
Day 14 “El Ray Theatre” Los Angelas CA
I was woken up by everyones alarm going off at 7am and hitting the snooze button. This happened every 5 minutes for about a half hour until Justin (tour manager) told us we didn’t have to leave until around 10:30 because someone else was going to be picking the RedBull up. We all went back to sleep. This would have been the earliest we had to have woken up on the tour so far. Usually its around 10-11am for the hotel checkouts. I was really excited about todays show because I had never been to LA before. The drive from Phoenix has several security check points along the way since you are so close to Mexico.(must be looking for mexican stowaways). We always get the same questions, where are you headed from? Where are you going? Are you guys in a band? Whats your groups name? Have fun fellas. Its rather funny every time because in the van we always have the same procedure. Hide the booze. Throw out the empties. Shit we are definitely going to get stopped, Jolly’s driving and you look like a terrorist… Random check my Ass.
We arrived at the venue around 4 pm and greeted by a very helpful staff that was waiting outside to assist in unloading all our gear. Plus a very sweet greenroom with a fridge stocked with heineken/bud light bottles and a table with lots of snacks. The only bad part was the bathroom was a hole in the wall basically that only had a toilet in it and you couldn’t sit down and shut the door because the door would be blocked by your knees. (mind you I am tiny 5’5” and had this problem). Before the show started Dan and myself decided to go on another food journey, this time taking us 1.3 miles from the venue through downtown LA to find a Taco Bell. I really enjoyed the walk and all the cool houses and palm trees covering the yards. We arrived back with about 10 minutes before Just Surrender needed to go on.The show was absolutely amazing! Huge crowd huge stage and the groups label Razor and Tie came out to the show that night and bought everyone drinks at the bar. The show ran rather late and we didn’t end up leaving the venue until around 1:30 in the morning and still need to find a hotel to check into.
Day 15 “Video Shoot” The Annex Studio Los Angeles CA
Today we had to be at the studio at 8am to start shooting for Just Surrenders first single “On My Own” from their record being released in early spring. We arrived to a scene at the studio that looked like they had taken a piece of New York after 911 and replicated it. We got inside and had all the redbull/starbucks/snacks that you could eat and a great room with internet to chill out in. This was a very professional studio like you see in the movies. I would say around 20 people working on the set. HUGE inside studio with green and white seamless backgrounds. Everything you could imagine a video set should have was there. The band was sent directly into makeup where they were covered in blood and bruises on their faces/hands and dirt all over their clothes. I decided I wanted to grab a photo shoot with them all battered up to re-do the bands myspace around the video release in a few months. Shooting for the video began at 9:30 after they finished makeup. I just hung out all day and got pictures and video. I was introduced to a device called “The Flip” by Sally from Razor and Tie Records. Sally is in charge of all the videos that the label puts out and was a blast to hang out with all day. She gave me The Flip to shoot video with and I was amazed at how easy it was to use. It is the size of an iPhone and you just hit the button to record. It holds hours and hours of HD video. All you have to do is plug it into your computers usb port and offload the video. It only takes a couple minutes and its honestly crystal clear full HD video. I shot lots with that and will have a video teaser online shortly. The only break the band got playing was for our catered lunch break than it was right back to shooting. Throughout the shoot the guys were made more bruised and clothes dirtier. The shoot ended at 8 that night and Sally from the label and Lucas Keller (the bands longtime manager) decided to take everyone out downtown LA for some food at a very nice place called the “The Yard House”. This was located only a couple blocks from where the Grammies were to take place the next day. We had a 30 min wait for our table so went to the bar to wait. Most of us got the restaurants famous 32oz beer glasses. (These were HUGE and you needed at least 2 hands to hold onto these beasts) We eventually sat down and ate and said our goodbyes to Sally and Lucas while we continued our journey out of LA and next stop LAS VEGAS!
Day 16 “Hard Rock Hotel” Las Vegas NV
The anticipation for vegas is always exciting. We were all quoting the movie “The Hangover” all day and on our ride into the city. Once we arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel around 4pm we loaded the gear in right away and immediately hit the casino. This is the first time I have been old enough to gamble in Vegas so immediately went to roulette and placed 10$ on red like they do in Entourage. Of course I flipping lost it. Does this mean it was going to be a bad trip? It’s just a TV show so I didn’t take it to heart and carried on gambling after we had gotten dinner. Well it must had been a curse because within 30 min of playing roulette I had lost 100$ and decided to stop my gambling career. Before the show I got to meet up with an old friend Michelle that I hadn’t seen in 4 yrs. The show was super packed and 21+ so its always fun to see the drunk people yelling and dancing during the sets. After the show ended I was going to hit the gambling floor again, this time with only a few dollars to pay 1c slots and get free drinks from the near topless servers. After the show and by the time we had settled into our hotel room it was already 5am so everyone crashed in preparation for walking the strip the whole next day.
Day 17 “off day” Las Vegas NV
Once we woke up we all went outside to the van and emptied water bottles and filled flasks and the bottles with a care package we had received from a very nice gentleman named Bryan Carter. He was an extra on the video shoot the previous day and had worked in the alcohol business for 25 yrs. He gave us a box filled with vodka/crown royal/jim beam/ and Parrot Bay rum. We arrived on the strip around noon and began our journey. I will let the pictures do the speaking rather than having you read every step we took of the day.