'Acid Doom Over America' Tour Blog - Part 1
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
This has been a long time coming. Those of you familiar with the pre-record-label and pre-concert-promoter years of Metal Assault might remember that I toured extensively across the US of A with bands like Warbringer, Enforcer, Exmortus, Huntress, Night Demon and a few others. I used to document and share my experiences on the road in the form of tour blogs. I’m delighted to be writing the first blog installment about my first tour in two years.
For my past tours, the aforementioned bands hired me to travel with them as merch seller, tour manager, and in some other capacities such as lighting engineer and even a costumed mascot (Night Demon fans remember). The big difference between those and my current tour is that this time I’m traveling with a band I manage, a band that is on my label, on a tour for which I booked and set up all the shows. The band is none other than Los Angeles based psychedelic rock / doom metal group Old Blood. The band is currently on the first leg of the ’Acid Doom Over America’ tour, promoting their latest album and spreading their brand of heavy music, both named Acid Doom.
Acid Doom, the album, was released in August 2020, and has done extremely well in sales, streaming numbers and the overall response from listeners, but thanks to a global pandemic, there were no live performances possible until very recently in 2021. Finally, Old Blood is out on their first tour promoting this album. As the “pandemic era” proved emphatically, Old Blood is a band very much capable of surviving and thriving based on the strength of their studio recordings alone. But the live stage is certainly where this band shines, and it was high time they got back to doing that. Following consistent rehearsals, and a string of successful local and regional comeback shows through the late summer and early fall, Old Blood was more than primed to conquer audiences in every city and state they would perform in as part of ‘Acid Doom Over America’ Part I. And so it began …
The touring party: The Old Blood band and crew consists of a total of 7 people for this tour; vocalist Lynx, guitarist Cole Donovan Gunner, bassist Octopus, keyboardist J.F. Stone, drummer Diesel, Ron as the driver, lighting engineer and stage manager, and yours truly as the tour manager and merch slinger.
Day 1 (10.22): Palmdale CA
“Where is Palmdale”? This has become quite a common question a lot of people have asked me in recent weeks. Up until four months ago, in all honesty even I did not even know where this city was in relation to Los Angeles. Transplants Brewing in Palmdale has been one of my favorite venue finds in recent times. It’s a real oasis in the California high desert, a fantastic live music venue plus brewery that treats bands well and provides a pro-quality stage that clearly inspires bands to fully express themselves and put on their best performances. My first booking at this venue was in September, a Metal Assault Records showcase featuring Dawn Fades,Old Blood and Circle Of Sighs which turned out to be a great time for all involved. So it was only fitting that the Old Blood tour kickoff show happened to be at the same venue.
I also booked this as another MAR showcase, featuring Through The Oculus and Solar Haze as support acts. All the bands put on a stellar show, and Old Blood got to play their full headline set which was a good way to dial in the show for the tour and iron out any last remaining kinks. I was manning the Old Blood merch booth, and it was great to see and talk to people coming up to me and asking questions about the tour, wishing me and the band good luck for the tour. Going on a tour such as this, in these times, is quite a commitment from a band like Old Blood, and I could tell that people recognize and respect that. After the show, one of the employees at Transplants was gracious enough to host us at his house overnight. And just like that, the tour was off to an auspicious start.
Through The Oculus singer Sarah Gamblin strumming on Gunner's guitar during the Old Blood set (photo by Jennifer Bayers)
Day 2 (10.23): Santa Cruz CA
Arriving too early and struggling to find a place to park the van + trailer is an all too common occurrence for touring bands,specially when coming to a venue that’s in the heart of the city, such as the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz. But we figured it out without too much hassle. This venue was set up such that the bar area was separate from the live music area, so you don’t pay a cover to get into the bar but you pay if you want to see the bands, very similar to how the good ol’ Loaded Bar in Hollywood used to be. The locals hanging out at this bar appeared to be in high spirits, partly because the Dodgers were about to lose to the Braves and get eliminated from the NLCS. A couple hours later, the show started and the audience for the show started rolling in. Local opening act Claire on a Dare got the night off to a great start, and San Jose trio White Fuzzy Bloodbath were superb. When Old Blood hit the stage, the room was dark and foggy, and things took a heavily psychedelic turn, which was very well received by the crowd. A fuse blowout cut out the vocals and keyboards for the last song-and-a-half, but even that couldn’t lessen the impact of the performance, being that the crowd was already deep “in the zone” by that point.
The post-show load out was quite an adventure, having to navigate equipment and merch through a large crowd that had flocked to the bar area and was not even there for the show. But the adventure did not end there. A longtime friend of mine had kindly accepted to host us for the night. We had a three-hour drive to her residence near Sacramento. We set out on our way. It was the middle of the night. The road was slick, as it had been raining quite steadily for a few hours. A car came flying past us from our left side, clearly going much too fast for those conditions, and spun out of control. We slowed the van down to an almost complete halt. The car ended up doing a total 360 counterclockwise spin before it stopped and slowly headed to the next exit. How it did not crash into the road divider, I have no idea, because I was fully expecting and bracing for that to happen. Whoever was in that car must thank their lucky stars, and it was a close shave for us as well, the spin happening far enough away for us to successfully avoid any contact. Aside from that, all smooth sailing. What a night.
Day 3 (10.24): Eugene OR
The change in scenery along the highways is a telltale sign that you’re leaving California behind and cruising into Oregon. It is one of the most beautiful drives in this country, without doubt. After a long albeit picturesque drive from the Sacramento area to Eugene, we arrived at Old Nick’s Pub, one of the coziest and most intimate live music venues I’ve been to, and that’s saying a lot. This was the first of three shows that Old Blood would play with Boise, Idaho doom metal group Ghorot, whose bassist/vocalist Carson Russell also happens to be in Metal Assault Records’ own Ealdor Bealu, hence the connection was made and I was looking forward to these shows ever since they were booked. A decent crowd turned up for this show on a Sunday night. Local opening act Red Cloud put on an excellent show to start the night. Old Blood played second and only had a 30-minute set, but were well-prepared for it, as the band had practiced three different setlists of varying lengths that they would choose from, depending on the running order and allotted set length for the given night. For Old Blood, getting the local sound engineer to dial in Lynx’ vocals to be at the forefront of the mix is of utmost importance and the biggest challenge every night. To his credit, the soundman at this venue did the best he could, and he was able to obtain the desirable front-of-house balance at least mid-way through the set. The Eugene locals seemed to enjoy this short-and-sweet Old Blood set thoroughly, blinded by the fog and mesmerized by the tunes.
Ghorot’s set was a different story in terms of the mix. The vocals were completely inaudible through their entire set. At one point between songs, guitarist Chad Remains spoke into the mic and said, “My plan is not working!” Hilariously accurate, and a massive understatement, to put it mildly. But the crowd was having a blast nonetheless.
I casually happened to mention to one of the Old Blood band members that it would be my birthday at the stroke of midnight. Whisky shots started coming my way. Once it was past midnight and the show was over, we magically found another guy who was at the bar, with the same exact date of birth, and the outpouring of shots doubled immediately. Tour birthdays are the best, and the ones I’ve been able to celebrate on tour have been my favorite. Every one of them is an adventure, as was this one. Without going into the gory details, let’s just say I suffered greatly from the consumption of whisky shots, and the band found it all quite hilarious at my expense. After a two-hour drive, we arrived at our host’s house in Portland. This was none other than Erik Erath, guitarist of the legendary Los Angeles horror punk / shock rock / heavy metal band Haunted Garage (also on Metal Assault Records). Upon our arrival, it must have taken less than 10 seconds for me to face-plant into the nearest bed I could find. As they say, all’s well that ends well.
Day 4 (10.25): Portland OR
It was past 11 AM by the time I woke up, having slept in unusually late for my standards, but the night before was out of the ordinary, so I certainly needed it. We had the whole day to ourselves before we were required to get to the venue for load-in, so our wonderful host Erik Erath took some of us out on a little tour of downtown Portland. Firstly we went to the venue itself, the Star Theater. Upon seeing the words Old Blood on a classic old-school-style marquee at the front of the building and then getting a tour of the interior of the venue, the anticipation for the evening grew tenfold. This show was originally booked at a different venue, but due to covid-related uncertainties, the show got moved to the Star, and the band would get to perform on an actual theater-calibre stage, which none of us were complaining about at all. Next, we went to check out a venue called Dante’s, which I’d heard a lot about and seen listed on various tour posters. Nice venue, good pizza. After that, we dived into an excellent record store called 2nd Avenue Records, from where we headed back to Erik’s to start getting ready for the show.
Photo: OctopusBesides this being Old Blood’s first show ever in Portland, I was looking forward to this show for a few other reasons. Sea Sleeper, a Portland-based death metal band that I signed onto MAR last year without getting to see them live, were on the bill for this show and I’d finally get to see them in the flesh. Also, Erik’s new psych rock / doom metal project Nyxora was playing their debut gig. The setup at the Star was absolutely exquisite. As Old Blood prepared for a soundcheck, I went about setting up my merch booth. Every night is different when it comes to this aspect because every venue has a different kind of space for merch. I enjoyed the copious amounts of space I had at my disposal here and I used it to the maximum for my merch display. (On a side note, in addition to the Old Blood merch, I’m also selling Metal Assault logo t-shirts and giving out free MAR label sampler CDs on this tour). The band had a solid soundcheck and were in a good mindset for the impending performance.
Local openers Cobra Thief kicked off the evening with a righteous set of heavy rock, followed by an impressive debut show by Nyxora. Old Blood went on stage next and played their “Set B”, which was the 40-minute set, shorter than the full headline set. It was a proud moment for me to get to see this band on a stage of this size and calibre. In an ideal world, they would be playing such stages every night, but in the meantime, all they can do is conquer every stage they set foot on, no matter what size, and gracefully make their way to the top. Bringing the big show to the small stage is perhaps Old Blood’s best quality as a live band, as many people have seen at Los Angeles area venues such as Old Towne Pub and Frogees, and on this tour at places like the Blue Lagoon and Old Nick’s Pub. For local / regional gigs as well as on tour, the band brings along Ron, the lighting engineer, who installs and operates a full gigbar of various lights and lasers every night. He also operates two massive fog machines that augment the Old Blood concert experience. This is why, when the band does get to play a big stage occasionally, the transition is seamless, as evident from the Palmdale and Portland shows of this tour.
Octopus, Lynx and Diesel signing autographs in PortlandIt was clear that the attendees of the Portland show loved every moment of the Old Blood set, judging by the number of autograph requests the band was inundated with at the merch booth after the set. Having never even played in Portland prior to this show, this kind of response was extremely exciting for the band. Old Blood is a band that fits the Portland heavy music scene like a glove, and will no doubt play many more amazing shows here in the near future.
Sea Sleeper ended the night with a crushing set and I was just as excited for their set as I was for Old Blood’s. These dudes are a group of crazy talented young musicians that delivered a stellar debut album to my label this year, and I look forward to working with them for a long time to come.
Sea Sleeper x Metal Assault Records
And, this being my actual birthday, the Star Theater’s soundman was kind enough to let me curate the house music before and after the show and between the bands, and I ended up creating a Spotify playlist of some of my all-time favorite jams. The Old Blood band members were socializing with the local patrons for quite a while after the show and everyone was having a great time, having played a good show. My personal experience on this visit to Portland was unfortunately soured at the very end of the evening, as a woman started hurling racist insults at me while I was loading out my merch and minding my own business. My silence only encouraged her to keep going and get more aggressive and insulting in her verbiage. She was basically implying that just because I was seen loading a couple of merch boxes onto a cart, I must be here to serve as a slave to the band. As an immigrant, unfortunately this is something I’ve experienced in the past, but it seemed far more vitriolic this time. I suppose things have changed around here. This incident had me in low spirits for at least two days after, but this aside, Portland was awesome and I’m already looking forward to coming back soon.
That will do it for the first installment of the tour blog. Stories from the next four shows in Olympia, Seattle, Boise and Salt Lake City will follow in the next blog installment. Thanks for reading!
Old Blood band and crew with our Portland host, Erik Erath
(Promo photo at the top of the page by Jack Lue)