To whom it may concern,
The road can be an ugly place if you’re not prepared. Tensions rise and frustrations reveal themselves at some point along the way, generally expressed in rude tones and expletives. I’ve known plenty of local bands that broke up while on the road - all the long hours and sleepless nights can create monsters. The effects of this tour are still revealing themselves to me as the days roll on, and our day trip to Eugene, Oregon was the first test of our resolve. It’s easy to love anything when times are good. What really matters is how you respond when things are going under.
Day two in Oregon we ventured to Eugene, a smaller city approximately 100 miles south of Portland. We were booked at the infamous John Henry’s bar for an anniversary show. In fact, we were double-booked with a whole other lineup of bands…and in an effort to salvage one gig from canceling the other, the booker simply combined the two sets. Eight bands in total were on the bill, and by the looks of each crew – clad in black, tattoos on their faces, hair that swings when you flipped it – they came to play some heavy music. The venue was large enough to host the 8 bands, their respective merch, and each of the entourages they traveled with, but it was still a gaggle-fuck of musicians who mostly kept to themselves. People were nice enough, but there was a definite sense that we were the outsiders. The large American known as Hurt Hawks and the members of French Mouth, including myself, stood proudly in our element, quickly laying claim to the pool table and pinball machine. We waited patiently to play (which was extremely late, of course) while the other bands stalked their sections of the bar, looking tough and anxious.
For most of the evening, the venue was filled with the low-end chug of a down-tuned guitar, backed by an overly loud bass, and blast-beats on drums. Vocalists would hang over the edge of the stage and open-mouth screams into the mic. It was fun for the first thirty minutes, and then it got old and tired. Even the kids that came for the head-banging action seemed burnt out after the first few bands, so when Hurt Hawks stepped onstage, it was a welcome refresher. The audience stood confused as the Hawk setup, each of their quizzical faces turning to stone once the backing tracking started. They watched in awe as this large American pressed the mic into his gritted teeth and shouted tongue-and-cheek lyrics at them. Then, before they realized, some were even tapping their feet and twisting their hips. For a moment, they looked around to see if any of their hardcore friends saw them break character, but that’s when they noticed their friends were dancing too. It took only a song for everyone’s mood to change, and by the end of the set the room was clamoring for more. It was clear that the rugged vocalist known as Hurt Hawk had received their stamp of approval.
Then it was onto the next hardcore band…and then the next, and then the next…
Before long French Mouth was called to the stage to meet the soundman. He stared at us blankly and said, “Last band didn’t show up, you’re on now.”
After an exchange of I-knew-it looks between the group, we could only laugh.
“And the drum set was taken, so you need to setup your own,” the soundman added.
No band in the world wants to rush onstage with little time to no time to prepare, or half their gear ready, but the Frenchies and I are a different breed. We came to play and that’s exactly what we did. For the first time that evening we graced the Eugene locals with some melodic hardcore that included elements of hip-hop, punk, and even jazz. Again, the crowd lit up with excitement as the change in music peaked their creative interest. French Mouth never set out to be different, but we are different, and the locals in Eugene drank it up like a six-pack of Rainer.
The next night the band continued their destruction of Oregon with another show in Portland, this time in the area known as Woodlawn at the High Water Mark. Another venue known for its heavy-hitting hardcore and metal shows, the booker decided to host an alternative night with acts more to our style. French Mouth was scheduled to open, which was a welcome refresher from playing so late the night before. Most bands, especially touring bands, would rally against this decision, but not French Mouth. Place us anywhere on the bill and we’ll blow up the spot, but beware – WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR STEALING THE SHOW OR YOUR FANS.
Opening the show, you’ll find us at our most sober, which likely means we’re playing a lot tighter. Hard to say which is a better performance, but I will say that the crowd at the High Water Mark did not want us to leave the stage. We came without a built-in audience and left with a ton of new fans.
Hurt Hawks played third in the evening and again had the Oregonians confused with themselves when their arms and legs started gyrating to the music. It didn’t take long for Hurt Hawks to whip them into a frenzy, and the room turned into a giant case of beers: The audience was the beer, and Hurt Hawks was the one knocking us down one after the other…
These kinds of nights tend to end late and sober. Packing the show takes a long while, then getting back to the hotel and unpacking, and then wandering the dirty streets to find food. It’s actually kind of nice to have these after-show moments, stalking the alleyways in the damp night, shoving fried food down your throat and savoring every last bite, only to do it again the next night…
These moments won’t be forever…