"Terrible" is scrawled backwards in blood across the hood of our van. It’s backwards so you can see us coming in your rear view mirror. Still, as we drive, I can’t help but feel that the signature is not enough. On previous tours our van was decorated with a naked 1979 beefcake named Cobra, genitals covered only by a babe’s hand. Unfortunately, some Chicago prudes scratched him off with angry fingernails before we left and so for now we are feeling dangerously inconspicuous, boring even. This must not stand. Soon we will get some paint.
It’s hard for me to explain Everything Is Terrible and my part within this monster to my family and friends. The movie we are touring with is the third EIT feature, Doggie Woggiez Poochie Woochiez, a remake of Aleandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, constructed entirely out of 3000-plus ultra-mediocre, soul-grating, VHS dog features. My cohorts have worked for over a year on this piece, and though my part in that process consisted only in my contribution of some original music and hosting a six-hour telethon for the DWPW Kickstarter, I am in the Terrible Van, four shows and four cities deep, cruising across the country, performing with my dogs (literally) and screening their masterpiece.
Six days ago I flew from San Francisco to Chicago where we spent three days finishing up costumes, writing, choreographing and rehearsing the live show, packing, burning and mailing hundreds of DVD screeners, and basically just hammering out what this strange tour would be. We barely slept and rarely remembered to eat, so excited were we to be on the cusp of this extensive project long in the making. Also, we’re all old friends and had traveled from across the country (San Francisco, Austin, LA, and Chicago) to come together and shove off. We were giddy to be around each other and working hard on something ridiculous again. I don’t feel like we stopped moving in Chicago, pounding coffee, running errands and gathering supplies. We recorded our opening music in a professional Chicago studio. We stayed up all night rehearsing dance moves, and then did an interview dressed as dogs with the local Chicago news station at 7:30 the next morning.
By the time the kick off show was ready to start, my mind was flooded with psychedelic concern like the beginning stages of a drug trip. Standing behind the black curtain in Lincoln Hall, dressed as a creepy lounge cat, with 300 plus friends and fans ready to experience whatever it is we offer, I sipped a beer and couldn’t help but question everything, “What is it exactly we are doing here? Is this really happening? Are we about to perform ironically? Is this art or comedy or what? Have we all just lost it?” But when the time came to introduce the show and I stepped outside, and the laughs came, the tour had officially begun, the nerves disappeared along side the internal analytics and it all came clear into focus, “Who the fuck cares? This is awesome.”
The first show was sold out, and amazing. Someone brought us 40 Jerry’s (VHS Jerry Maguire tapes to add to our 2000-plus collection) and the crowd was wonderful. We spent the next day packing the van with our costumes, music equipment, special effects, and five of my very best friends. We have a pantry and sleeping gear for two and a half months of meals prepared on the road, and floor sleeping to come.
We have side missions in addition to the 70 shows. The van must be made into more of a spectacle. All the Jerry’s in the world must become ours. All the pooches in the world must be saved from dog catchers. And the ashes of Lady Martin (dog ashes we found in the trash that apparently belonged to a Chicago area attorney/dog lover/also deceased) must be vindicated and scattered across this great pooch loving nation.
We have lots of fucking shit and it took us some time to properly Tetris all of our gear into the van for the first time. This resulted in a late start to Madison. The heat in our van immediately died the moment we got on the highway, an ominous sign for the winter traveling ahead. However, moments after the death of heat, Bad to the Bone came on the radio and though we were cold (and still are) we knew the great dog in the sky was smiling down.
In contrast to the huge kick off show at Lincoln Hall, our Madison show was to take place in a tiny art space called Project Lodge. A singer songwriter was on the small stage performing for four college girls when we made our entrance and backstage a five piece band was hanging out amongst their equipment, preparing to set up after the crooner. We’d been double booked, but before we could even be whiny dicks to anyone, the band strangely decided to pack up their gear and get out of there, perhaps not wanting to perform straightforward music for our strange spectacle-loving audience. This was good news and we rushed to get the space ready and filled with foldout chairs as people started coming in.
Someone brought his kids. They were probably nine and ten and sat right up front. It’s unclear as to whether the Dad was just super progressive or unfamiliar with our work (after all, the movie title sounds lots like a kids movie). They made it through a few vaginas, plenty of fucks and shits and a truck load of penises before exiting at the halfway point. Outside the venue we heard the younger brother’s review of the show and explanation for leaving, “…just if wasn’t so weird…” and honestly felt pretty good about the warping of young minds. Maybe one day those brothers will suddenly be filled with the urge to remake The Holy Mountain and not even remember why.
It turns out that the number one party school in the country exists in a town that stops selling beer in stores at nine o’clock on a Friday night. Seems like a strange paradox and should you live there, a reason to stock pile massive amounts of alcohol, but we still managed to get plenty drunk at a dive bar before crashing with a friend.
In the morning we gladly got high, (we travel without drugs but man it’s great hospitality to get your guests high…I cannot stress that enough for our future hosts) ate some delicious breakfast and drove to Milwaukee. Our EIT home base made us promise to hit up what was supposed to be an amazing used video store called Schroders to VHS hunt (as if we don’t already have enough shit in this van).
Calling Schroders a store is maybe a little misleading, although you can technically buy things. Shopping there was more like rooting through your dead grandmothers basement, if your dead grandmother had a serious hoarding problem and a movie fetish. There was no discernable order to the massive amounts of books and videos, stacked dangerously in person sized piles that we kept accidentally knocking over while rooting around. You’d hear a claustrophobic scream and a crash as the stacks toppled, followed by the old lady who owned the joint cackling softly as if we’d set off another one of her precious booby traps. In the end we found and purchased 40 Jerry’s and 40 of the weirdest movies we could find. The little old lady seemed completely unconcerned as to why we would want so many copies of Jerry Maguire and as we were leaving she tried to sell us some porn. I’ve never had an old lady ask me to my face if I wanted to buy her porn and I admit I was a little curious. But we had a show to go to so we had to pass on her skin flick collection. Honestly, it amazes me that anyone still buys physical porno. I thought free intangible porn was the primary purpose and glory of the internet (besides Everything Is Terrible and Splitsider of course) but then I suppose most people think our VHS obsession is odd.
Our show in Milwaukee was at the very sweet River West Co-Op. It’s fun to perform in places that give you free delicious beer, but that can get dangerous. When you spend as much time working in bars as we do, you start to realize that limited drink tickets is often for your own good. The beer was great at River West, and we drank through the tickets and kept right on going, not realizing till it was time to crash that we’d forgotten to eat again. After sleeping on the floor in a big pile of smelly snoring dudes, we cured our hangovers with an amazing breakfast at the River West Café, and then got back on the road.
On the way to Minneapolis we stopped at a Wal-Mart sized thrift store visible from the highway, and though there weren’t any Jerry’s I did make an important purchase. One of the glass cases contained the head of a six inch baby gator (or maybe it’s a baby crocodiles’ head or maybe it’s a caiman?) that needed to be rescued. For eight dollars it was mine, and I immediately used our glue gun and some hemp thread to make it into an amulet.
Now I sit shotgun, staring down at my leathery talisman, writing and heading west. It’s hard to believe that the tour has only just begun. We must continue to circle the country and perform and ride in our smelly van and perform and so on. The whole country (and some of Canada) awaits us. I’m confident the sharp dead teeth of this gator will keep us focused and headed towards your town. So far it’s been pretty easy going, but we will need your support. I will keep checking in here, every two weeks or just as long as I’m sane.
Come to the show in your city and join our traveling pizza party. The terrible van will soon be dressed as a copy of Jerry Maguire. There will be singing and dancing abominable Chuck E. Cheese style dog animatronics named Turbo A.K.A. Radical, Much, and Colonel Whoop. There will be dance parties and birthday parties and pizza parties. Doggie Woggiez Poochie Woochiez is the most psychedelic dog movie you will ever see and the live show is a childish stoner bag of giggles, but don’t take my word for it. Come and see it for yourself. And bring us your Jerry’s! See you soon either at the show, or right here on the internets (how about both). Ruff!
Brian Kamerer is a writer and a musician and a lover of dogs. See the tour dates here. Read Brian's fiction here and check out Brian's music here.