top of page

THE FINAL HT ENTRY: Spontaneous Combustion & Final Thoughts

     The last hour in the belly of Jerry’s Pizza [underground], after Hurt Hawks had finished playing, I remember sitting in the green room with the boys in French Mouth, staring at the red brick walls, which were nearly painted over in multi-color scrawl of various band names (including French Mouth). In that very moment I knew that I had accomplished something great. These moments are few and far between for someone like me – a product of my upbringing – so I’ve learned to hold onto them as tightly as possible when they do occur, making a conscious effort to feel everything: the dankness of the cluttered green room, the stick beer-stained floor, my brothers eye shadow and OD-green shorts, James’ ability to forever shred with extreme precision, Brandon’s humble demeanor throughout the entire tour, Hurt Hawk’s dedication to his performance art and the boldness he exudes, the talented musicians in Mommy Mommy and friendship they extended, the gentlemen in Cadigan who gave us their show money in an act of support for the tour, the anarchy that is Casa Weon in Portland, Oregon, the last minute show that Shell-Shock utterly killed, the brothers in Keddies who stole our hearts (French Mouth’s favorite band of the tour), the owner of Central Saloon who is the personification of gorilla-radio, the fellow vets in Kids on Fire who like us are doing the damn thing!, the members of Laamb who are coming into their own, the lovely members of KIM [the band] and their love for all things DOOM and GLOOM, and all the new friends we made along the way.

     I returned home safe and sound in the afternoon of March 10th, somewhat regrettably so. Where were my battle scars? The bumps and bruises that tell the story of where I had been the last 9 days? Sitting at home on a Friday afternoon after returning from Bakersfield, I remained anxious as if I’d be rushing out the door at any moment. It’s the feeling of having a mission – a collective goal that needs to be completed and the feeling of accomplishment that follows. These ideas ping-ponged back and forth in my head as memories from the tour slowly returned in greater and greater detail. They made me laugh mostly, and some of them made me sad because I had no idea when I’d be able to do this again. Then I thought about the arson girls….

Back at the Ivy Room in Albany, the members of French Mouth made quick friends with the lovely members of KIM [the band]. Aside from being friendly and helpful with the stage setup, they also poised themselves as fellow veterans of the music scene. If you’ve been playing music long enough in any local scene, you’ll realize how demoralizing it can be, so friends like the members of KIM [the band] are diamonds in the rough. Our conversations included stories from the road, favorite musical acts, and even the possibility of going on tour in the future, but the real treasure was not found within the conversations inside the venue. Instead, it was found within a journal: Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.


     Standing tall in a gray fur coat that covered her from head-to-toe, lead singer and bassist of KIM, Jessica Calvanico, is truly an intimidating figure. Combined with her howling, guttural vocals onstage, it made it that much harder to inquire about a social media upload she had posted back in December  8th, 2021. Perusing her Instagram, I couldn’t help but notice that one of her articles had been published in a famous literary journal. As tour journalist, I made it a point to request said article – something was tugging at my heartstrings – so, at my behest, Jessica provided it in full. It was then I realized that I had been handed a type of hand grenade, a written piece that would reshape the perspective of my own journey: Arson Girls, Match-Strikers, and Firestarters: A Reflection on Rage, Racialization, and the Carcerality of Girlhood by Jessica R. Calvanico1.


     The pages spoke of stories from the past, a history that extends into today’s world, and dissected the ways in which women, or girls more specifically, fight to break through the heart-shaped box we have placed them in (girlhood and its carcerality). In this manifesto, Jessica focalizes on arson girls, or those who “burn[ed] down buildings as revolutionary political acts and/or methods of political resistance.” Furthermore, the manifesto speaks on ways in which the common-woman (or man) can still fight against the system and the carcerality that it has imposed on us. I encourage a full-read of this which you can receive upon request…

     I am not an arson girl, though I found myself incredibly inspired by them. The idea that in order to break free, or inspire true change, is through radical means has always resonated with me, though I don’t always have the stomach for it...

     For the rest of Friday afternoon, I pondered the idea of fire-starting, and wondered how I could challenge the status quo, break the mold, inspire others like the arson girls, and Jessica Calvanico. The answer did not come to me then, but it did come to me the very next day when French Mouth and Hurt Hawks played their final show of the High-Tolerance tour at the Goldfish in Highland Park.

     I was back in familiar territory, and the anxiousness from the day before had dissipated. The crowd was slowly filing into the venue while French Mouth and friends sipped on some local LA brews. Sour Tongue was scheduled to open, French Mouth was second up, then Hurt Hawks, and finally LA local Shamon Cassette as a headliner. The night played on fast forward, and everyone I spoke to sounded like a high-pitched chipmunk as I sped-talk through every conversation. Like going to the gym and putting in the reps, French Mouth was onstage again doing the damn thing. This was the end of a 9-day stint on the road. We’d been playing these songs and refining things each night. This was no doubt our best show musically, and it showed. The love on the road was great, and if I’m being honest, it’s always much more receptive outside of my hometown, but that night at the Goldfish everything clicked. We had washed the stank of tour off already, but it was still very clear to the audience that we were salty veterans. Hurt Hawks screamed his guts out for one final show-date and gave it all he had. I will forever be impressed by his love for the arts. Sour Tongue, whose singer is from Seattle, brought that style down to LA and we’re all the better for it. Shamon Cassette is the next big thing, mark my words, and it was an honor to play alongside him and his crew of brilliant musicians.

     Outside the venue, after the group had finished packing for one final time, Dee asked me what the pages were about. It was difficult to answer him at fist. Speaking in person, I’m never as succinct as I am in my writing. So, it took me a few minutes, after filing into the van, to answer him.

“It was about arson-girls,” I answered.


“Arson girls?” the band questioned.


“It’s about breaking the mold…” I said reluctantly. 


The band looked terribly confused, so I spoke to them in phrases of the old man, a language they’d certainly understand.


“My heart and mind seem to be shifting in the same direction simultaneously,” I started, and then it was the old man speaking through me, “Listen I know this sounds crazy but, meet up with me…back in the last time.”

The members in French Mouth laughed at my response and gave nods of approval. Then James asked me playfully, “Are you an arson-boy now?”

I chuckled and said, “Maybe I am.”


The idea danced around my head as I imagined all the ways I could break free from this idea of me. I enjoyed the road and playing music so much, yet I was back at home with no foreseeable opportunity to do it again in the near future. Normally, this idea would break my heart until I finally accepted the facts, but what if I didn’t need to do that? What if I had the ability to rage against the dying of the light, fight against the subjugation of my free will? Inspiration was all around me – French Mouth, Hurt Hawks, Keddies, KIM [the band], Mommy Mommy, Shamon Cassette, and, most importantly the arson girls – so there were no excuses.

My excitement grew to a fever pitch as we rounded the corner on the way back to my home. I pulled the collar of my shirt and wiped sweat from my brow. It was normal for me to sweat profusely after a show, but never hours afterward. I figured it was the power of the moment taking over, but then I noticed the smoke rising from my shoes.

“Um, guys!” I hollered.

Deep down I was panicking at the sight of my both my feet sending plumes of white smoke up towards my face, but I remained calm and collected. I pointed to my shoes while James and Brandon took a closer look.

“Oh no…” James said lowly. “It’s happening again…”

     Dee turned his head ever so slightly from the driver’s seat and immediately noticed the smoke. The van jerked to the side of the road, and we came to an immediate stop.

“What’s happening?” I cried.


“Get him out!” Dee ordered.


     The heat from my shoes extended to my legs, then my crotch, and up into my stomach. When Brandon and James managed to near-toss me out of the vehicle, I caught a glimpse of my beet-red face in review mirror.

“It’s nothing personal…it’s just a drummer’s curse,” Dee explained to me while gently pushing me away from the van. “We’ll get you some help…I promise.”


“I don’t understand…” I cried.


     Both of my shoes had melted to the asphalt, effectively locking me in place in the middle of the street. I extended my arms toward Dee, James, and Brandon, but they stood at a distance with grimaces on their faces. There was a rush of sudden wind at my feet, like a tiny explosion, and I felt the fire before I saw its orange flames licking at my waistline.


“Help me!” I screamed.


     The fire quickly consumed my pants and started to melt away my flesh as the top of my head burst into flames. A high-pitched squeal echoed through the street as my legs slowly melted toward the ground. I reached toward my friends, but the skin on my fingers dripped away before I could touch them. The flames grew and grew until I was nothing more than a steaming pile of bones.


     The sound of the copy machine whirring woke me from the nap I had been taking at my desk. Inside my cubicle, sitting too close to my three computer screens, I wiped the drool from my mouth. How long have I been sleeping here? Moments ago, I was melting on the street in front of my band, now I was back at work. The small white letters on the bottom right corner of my main screen indicated to me it was February…


“This time off…” someone said to me at the entrance to my cube. “I’m not sure we can accommodate this. Quite a lot going on around here and we need you.”


     My boss stood defiantly before me, his eyes transfixed on sheets of paper in his hands, his glasses teetering on the edge of his nose. This was his power stance. It felt so different sitting in front of him after going on tour (did I go on tour?) and experiencing the rush. His words didn’t seem to matter at all, and it felt liberating to know that.

“I’ve already gone on tour,” I told him.


 My boss pressed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, so I knew he meant real business now.


“So, you don’t need the time off?” he asked.


“No,” I said flatly. “That means I’ve been drunk for a week, playing music with my friends, meeting new people, and making my mark.”


“What are you talking about?” my boss asked, his patience growing thin.

I finally stood up. With a sly smile on my face, and one hand on his shoulder, I told my boss, “I don’t need your permission to do something I’m going to do anyway.”

I pushed past him and made my way to the exit. If the tour hadn’t really happened, and I dreamed all that up, so be it. I was ready to make the trek again, for better or worse. In fact, I hoped that I did dream it up, only so I could experience the juice one more time.

“Oh!” I turned around to face my boss one last time and asked,


“I forgot to ask…Do you like French Mouth?” 


1Jessica Calvanico. “Arson Girls, Match-Strikers, and Fire-Starters: A Reflection on Rage, Racialization, and the Carcerality of Girlhood” in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Volume 47, Number 2, Winter 2022. 

bottom of page