[ there's no place like home ]
by Craig Young

I'm with the Band

Sometime this past summer I was exchanging e-mails with J.S. Clayden, frontman for eP faves Pitchshifter, a good friend and an all around ace human being. His band were firming up some U.K. tour dates and I had mentioned how I'd always wanted to come over and see them play in front of their home crowd. I'd seen the band numerous times in the States, but always opening for someone else, never headlining. The loyalty of Shifter's U.K. fans is legendary, and there was something really appealing about seeing them get the respect they so deserve in front of thousands of screaming punters. He said, "You should come," and a week later I'd booked a ticket.

The plan was to try to stay out of their way. "Why?" Jon asked. So the plan was then changed to get in their way -- but only because I would be armed with my digi-cam, a 35mm, and a DV recorder. During the course of my three weeks there I saw 11 shows, shot over 500 pics, filmed the last eight, got sick, had more than my fair share of hangovers, and contemplated giving up both drinking and bread products more than once. It was beautiful.

What follows is a somewhat truthful account of the trip -- a tour diary of sorts. Anyone looking for super-secret dirt on the band will be hard pressed to find it here. The are no hidden phrases or codes to be deciphered. As well, this is neither a detailed examination of the band's music nor a proper accounting of the sets they played during the tour. This is writing recalled from scraps of paper with illegible scribbles on it, faded memories, and the vague sense that maybe it should all be documented somehow. It's long, it's most likely confusing... and it's probably best left that way.

Those looking to gain a better insight into the musical mechanics behind Pitchshifter should check out the numerous interviews we've done with the band over the years, starting with this one, our most recent. Those interested in finding out about the tour from the band's perspective should check out their own online tour diary.

Heartfelt thanks to Jon, Mark, Jim, Dan and Jason for their time, willingness and most importantly, their friendships. Big shoutouts to Elizabeth, Al the Kindhearted, Stilly the Tuscan, Chris, Paul, Gurney, Darryl, Gimli Son of Gloin, and Driver Dave. No one could ever ask for better traveling companions and you are all fondly remembered.

[ he's lost - can you help him? ]
Click for a slideshow

27Sept02 / 14:00 -- Copenhagen International Airport
I'm in the airport... waiting... waiting... waiting... and I am absolute braintoast. Why did I ever decide to buy a ticket that had connecting service via another country? Idiot I. The first leg was ten hours, I haven't slept in 24, and I now have a two hour wait here in Copenhagen before catching the connecting flight to Heathrow. All I want is a cup of coffee, but I have neither Danish kroner nor Euros, so all I have to keep myself awake with is sheer willpower. G'luck. My head bobs up and down as the gravity of being tired pulls on one end while I tug back on the other. It doesn't help any that Copenhagen's airport is weird -- Lynchian weird. It is utterly quiet in the concourse area. Hardwood floors, couches placed about every so often. Very sparse, very calm... very Danish. But outside the terminal windows airport vehicles scream madly by, seemingly without rhyme, reason or direction. Five cars come screeching to a halt in front of each other as they all vie to get past one another and on to wherever they're going. It's a complete contrast to what's happening inside the airport, and is some interesting (and much-needed) stimulation to help keep me awake. But it only lasts so long before my head starts drooping and I nod off, only to jerk myself awake again. One hour and 55 minutes to go...

27Sept02 / 20:00 -- Heathrow International Airport
I've made it, finally. But now I'm so tired that I can't sleep, which doesn't mean I can think straight, either. At least I'm finally booked into the hotel at Heathrow. Out from a hot shower I stare at myself in the mirror. When I'm completely exhausted is usually when I make a mental overhaul of myself. Time to lose a few things -- and best to do it when I'm too tired to convince myself otherwise. I take out a couple of piercings I've had for a few years and toss them in the trash. G'bye. And I shave. G'riddance. I'm so tired that I feel like I'm watching myself do it all in the third person. I contemplate pulling a Bob Geldolf maneuver from The Wall and shaving my head and eyebrows, but I only have a cheap, plastic disposable Bic razor -- no good at all for the questionably mental work involved, and so probably for the best. Must... try... to... sleep...

28Sept02 / 17:30 -- Wolverhampton (Wulfrun Hall)
Finally... I've officially caught up with the band after a train ride where I sat next to a bunch of drunken footballers. They tried giving me a good ribbing but I just stared at them all... very quietly. No one every seems to know what to do when you just look at somebody without actually engaging them and with no expression on your face. Maybe I just look surly most of the time. Regardless, they leave me alone. Catch a taxi from the train station to Wulfrun Hall and the band's bus parked out back. Dan helps me hump my gear inside. This is the first time meeting Dan and I'm immediately struck by his calm, affable personality. Genuine all around. Jon comes sauntering out of the venue and we give each other a big embrace. The last time I saw him was with slits cut through severely hungover eyes last fall in New York. We'd gone on a bit of a binge the night before and in the morning as he drove me to the train station in Hoboken we were too hungover to say anything. His hair's longer, and both it and he look good... really healthy. Better than I'm feeling. On the bus Jase and Mark come down and fix me up with some coffee. It's instant but it tastes absolutely divine at the moment. I haven't seen either Mark or Jase since late summer 2000 at the Gorge amphitheater in Washington state when Pitchshifter were on Ozzfest. I had driven out with a coupla cases of Corona, some golf clubs and a few buckets of balls, and we had spent the evening after the Ozzfest show hitting balls over the hillside near where their bus was parked -- finding out later that the V.I.P. parking lot was over said hill. Oh well. Them's the (windshield) breaks.

This is the bit where I talk about the tour bus. It would be a great bus... if you were a midget. Within 15 minutes of being on board I've banged my head a good dozen times. Bunks (the coffins) are up top along with a back lounge. Main floor is a tiny squeeze of kitchen items, two tables (constituting the main floor lounge), and a forward lounge (table) next to the driver's seat. The bus has been christened the Shed. See also: Incubation Chamber, Sweat Lodge, the Womb of the Undead. There is no private space besides your coffin, a luxurious 6x3x2 bunk. Everyone is always encroaching on someone else's space, and you always feel like a ghost passing through other ghosts. Everything is transparent. However, privacy is not the issue here. It's more that every time you want to go to a different area of the bus four people have to back up to let you through. It makes for some interesting juggling acts.

Dave the affable bus driver hands over a bus key to me and Jon gives me a tour laminate. On the back in black marker it reads: "He's lost -- can you help him?" "This will get you into anywhere," he says. "But what if I want to get out of somewhere?" I reply. We both start cracking up.

Back inside the venue it's the endless wait to play game. Mark's girlfriend Emma has shown up, as well as Jase's parents, and by some cosmic coincidence it appears that a former bandmate of Jase's is the promoter. Go figure. I'm excited to see the band play -- excited like a teenager w/ hormones on overdrive. It's been two years. Weird. "I can't believe it's been two years since I saw Pitchshifter last play," I think to myself. But soon enough the band are onstage... and they sound tight. Like well-oiled "Houston: all systems are go!" heavy tight. The songs from the last two albums were meant to be let loose on stage and I have to say that I'm completely blown away with what I'm hearing. Jon's doing scissor kicks off the monitors while Mark is flinging his dreadlocked head at about 160bpm. Jason is grinning like Animal from The Muppet Show as he hammers away on his skins, and during the solo "W.Y.S.I.W.Y.G." Jim has figured out that the intro to Guns 'n' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" fits in perfectly. It's both brilliant and hilarious and you can see the rest of the band cracking grins throughout. Dan stalks the stage next to Mark and I'm over there most of the set snapping pics of him. He's supposed to be turning in some shots of him playing his ESP guitar to ESP as he's got a guitar deal with 'em, so he strikes poses and I fire away. The crowd, nigh on 1000 screaming, sweaty kids, is going nuts and eating up every minute of it.

After the gig the venue is converted into a dance club, and making liberal use of our laminates we head inside to forage for trouble. Problem #1: I'm still agonizingly jetlagged. Problem #2: the large cup of (mostly) whiskey and (little) Coke that's been pressed into my hand by Chris the tech. Jon's got one, too, so I figure "what the hell" and we let the night commence. As we meander through the crowd the band attract numerous fans who want to have everything -- from shoes to bare flesh -- signed. Some guy even asks Jon to sign his military I.D. card. With the exhaustion and booze the night soon begins to blur. At points I remember Jim sauntering up to folks on the dance floor and trying his best to dance his worst next to them. Shortly thereafter his pants somehow end up around his ankles. Jon sits down and I think he'd be better off if I drag him and his chair through the crowd as sort of an anti-dance. As he's talking to someone I grab the back of his chair and negotiate back and forth through the crowd as he sits back and enjoys the ride. Before long a surly looking security guard comes up and grabs me by the shoulder, stopping the parade. He starts yelling in my ear but I'm so tired, drunk and incapable of deciphering what he's saying through his unintelligible accent that I just nod my head a few times, give him a thumbs up and say "thanks, mate!" While this is happening Jon is still seated in the chair in the middle of the dance floor. Another guard comes up and drags the chair, with Jon on it, back to the side of the auditorium. Classic! Things appear to be reaching the insanity level of last fall in New York, but fortunately bus call comes and we go trundling off to the Shed. As I lower myself into my coffin a few things flash across my mind: 1) I'm deliriously jetlagged, 2) I'm mind-numbingly drunk, 3) I'm going to be really hungover come morning, and 4) I should drink some water... ZZZZZ.

29Sept02 -- Leeds (Uni)
I stumble out of the Shed and head into town with Jase on a quest for food, because the worst place to be when you're hungover is sitting in one place feeling the blood pounding inside your head like so many hammers. Getting out is also a way to get some exercise and fresh air, two things the Shed will not let you have. So each morning setting out on a quest towards the center of whatever town you're in town to find food and record stores (not necessarily in that order) will become the Prime Directive. We breakfast and catch up. Jase has been working for some months now on an interactive drum tutorial CD called Drum-ROM. It sounds amazing [later he'll show it to me on his laptop and, hands down, the thing fucking rocks!] and he's trying to get some distribution set up for it, so one of the things he does in each town is find the local drum shop and show the CD to the people there in the hopes of putting some on consignment. Back at the bus Jon is playing Medal of Honor on the Playstation and not saying a word to anyone. He does this for most of the day -- his way of coping with a hangover. Later in the afternoon Mark and I trek out to find a coffee and on the way back get stopped by two fans on their way to the show. They tell us that they had just been mugged by someone but were still intent on seeing the Shifter. That's dedication, friends. I catch a little bit of the opening bands, The Kennedy Soundtrack and Taproot. The Kennedys are alright, but the riffs from most of their songs sound far too similar to other contemporary music. Taproot have been getting a lot of press on both sides of the pond lately with their nu-metal-with-a-splash-of-hardcore sound, but it really doesn't do a whole lot for me, either. Both bands are extremely nice lads all around and competent musicians. I guess I'm just not in tune/too old/too cynical to appreciate their approach to things. Pitchshifter, hangovers and all, rock it mightily again for an anxious crowd. The venue has so little ventilation that I'm a waterfall of sweat and I have to stop between every shot to wipe the steam off the camera lens. After the set Jim is seen mooning the house crew at the venue, while up in the dressing room there's a contest with cheese and other food items to see how well they stick to vertical objects.

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