On the road with vocalist Zach Quinn of Pears
I wake up with my girlfriend in a Motel 6 in Fargo. After a month in Europe, I feel worn down, thin. I feel like a dirty dishrag, one that’s been used to clean ancient filth from the corners of kitchen equipment. I’m not sure why our room can’t be a smoking room. I know that they all are intermittently—or at least, I think they are—and maybe they just become non-smoking rooms so they might have time to air out any evidence of someone else who may or may not have been chain-smoking with their head in their hands, tired and wishing for rest. Though, like the convenience of a smoking room, I am not afforded rest. We shall forever spread the gospel of whatever the hell we’re talking about. It’s a funny thing to believe so passionately in nothing.
So, I’m sure I don’t need to express the juxtaposition experienced when you travel from Paris to North Dakota in two days. I may feel it more had I not been too sick to go out and take in Paris after our show there. I have been sick since Amsterdam the day before. I wonder if I will be able to get well. I sit drinking coffee, watching my girlfriend and a buddy of ours play a pretty weird game of Scrabble. They drove up from New Orleans with our van and gear, as we had been using rented gear in Europe, and they will be flying out of Minneapolis a couple days later. The turns in Scrabble drag on for an eternity, and a girl at the table beside us sings along to the terrible Jason Mraz song that faintly pulses through the awkwardly large coffee shop. As I listen quietly to arguments about made up words, I wonder how anyone can live here, and then, how anyone manages to live anywhere.
It is odd now to be in America. I unwisely became quite accustomed to the safety of the silent culture divide and language barriers. In my mind, I was allotted a larger margin of social error in Europe, and it was quite comforting. Now, as I prepare myself to perform for the first time in the United States in 2015, I am more nervous than in a long time. Here, everyone will know what I am. Everyone can smell the fear that has soaked and dried a thousand times through my clothes. A boy tells me Gretzky is God, and we now have 47 different t-shirts for sale; act fast, we have one of each. The show is all right. Off With Their Heads are a fucking great band.
We get to the Triple Rock extremely early, so we join hands, begin to hum quietly, and hang our heads. We do this for three days, until it is time for load-in, at which point I immediately leave for coffee. I eat the innards of a sandwich with my bare hands. Fun show. One of my favorite Pears shows ever, but I look kinda dumb. Oh, and there is a guy with face tattoos who keeps getting onstage to help us host our set. Thanks, guy! I sit after our set and talk in the bar with my girlfriend until very late, and when I walk back into the venue, it is completely empty and an absolute mess. It’s so strange to see a place full of people and totally buzzing with life, and then abandoned, with only reminders of our night adorning the floor. Ready to call it a night and get to a motel, we call a cab, and much to my delight, the cab driver asks to use my phone’s maps app to get us to where we are going.
The next morning, we see our New Orleans companions off and head to Green Day. When we get to the venue, we order pizza at the bar without realizing it will be frozen pizza, which is a huge relief. After thoroughly enjoying our high-end meal, we step outside to smoke and meet a couple of kids who are super stoked to meet us. That is really bizarre and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s just so strange for everyone to finally realize how cool we actually are. I try to do some writing at this show; I write something about candles. For the most part, I’m having a hard time finding a headspace clear enough to make observations. I feel mostly like things are just happening to me, and I’m blank, empty, hardly reactive. I feel like a conduit, like I’m carrying things that do not belong to me, like I haven’t a real stake in anything. I am thoughtless. The show is really fun, but I’m getting sicker and I have a significantly troublesome time breathing during this set. For a town called Green Day, I gotta say, it sure lives up to its name.
Next up is The Brauerhaus in Lombard, Ill. This place is like a weird punk rock Applebee’s. I am excited upon our arrival, because the place is just full of people I can tell came to see the show. I am prepared for the show to be good, but not as great as it is. We have a room to hang out in and an alley to smoke in as well, which is where I would spend most of my time were I not sick. Everyone is really friendly. If you ever have a chance to go to this place, you absolutely should. That’s basically all I got for this one. Great spot.
Now, The Brass Rail in Ft. Wayne, Ind., is a really cool venue, but boy is the layout strange. The stage is in the corner of a long, thin area, and the stage is more or less sideways against the wall, so the physical space in which I can do my cool moves and be active is more like a catwalk and less like a stage. It’s weird, and every time we play here, I feel like it throws my performance off. I know a lot of folks here; there are the Flamingo Nosebleed guys who we play with every time we come through town—they play this show too; love these fuckin’ guys—and people who set up shows for us, and wrote about us. It is really cool to actually be in the same building as so many friends we have made doing this thing that we do. Our intro music starts while I am peeing, and I have to run through the venue and rip my shirt off to get on stage on time, only for Alex’s bass head to not work. We borrow Robbie’s, and the next day, we pick up a free one that a guy just gives to us, because that’s how cool and helpful everyone we meet is. Also, after this show, I am introduced to “hardstyling” pictures, but I want my hand to be held like a princess instead.
Today is our day off. We drive to Lansing and get to our hotel. OWTH bought us a room, so we wait for them to arrive to check in. We sit in the lobby and enjoy the free coffee. At this point, my mind is locked on one idea: that we still have nearly three weeks left on the road. I’m so exhausted physically, still so very sick, and exhausted mentally, as well. Every night before our set, I think to myself, “Tonight’s the night I phone it in. Too tired to want this,” and the second the music starts, I just can’t. Half-assing this isn’t an option. I sync up with the band, these songs that I’ve been singing for a year straight spark something in me, and I find myself sacrificing my body and denying any feeling of defeat I may have toted with me on stage. But here in this hotel, I feel beaten. I wish for home. When we get to our room, there is talk of bowling, pizza, so many really fun things that I just don’t have in me. I stay in. I do jerk off a lot, though. Oh, and I rename one of our new songs from “Geppetto” to “Snowflake.”
So, the Lansing show is at a place called Mac’s Bar. When we arrive, we loade in, and then I go downstairs and fall asleep. I’m fucking tired. I am also good and full after being fed by our new friend Miski. Jarret ate too many tacos, smoked a dude in a race, then got shin splints. Dummy. He is a sweet boy though. Something I think about at this show is remembering seeing touring bands from an outside perspective. When I was a kid, I wanted to talk to bands who were coming through New Orleans, and wondered, “Gee, I wonder why they aren’t more fun to talk to.” I get it now. It takes a lot—specifically this deep into a tour—for me to have a conversation. I’m often worried that I come off as an asshole, like maybe I seem standoffish or something, but whatever. I don’t mean to be.
Now That’s Class. This place is super fucking cool: a really sweet punk bar with a cool stage, good sound, and a bunch of skate ramps that shares the building—and clientele—with the gay bar next door. Rad as fuck. Duh. Here’s the thing, though: I really had no idea just how weird and dumpy Cleveland is. That’s fine; I’m from New Orleans, we’re the kings of weird and dumpy. Well, maybe Detroit. Anywho, icky vibes from passing drug-addled yesterpeople. At one point, I am walking to the deli on the corner to use the bathroom—both the venue’s and the neighboring bar’s were a bit too gnarly for #2—and this girl who is just out of her mind fucked up starts rubbing on me, telling me my leather jacket is super sexy, and her guy friend is walking a few paces behind me, asking if I play in a band. I am absolutely certain that I am gonna get mugged, but I escape the situation into the store before anything happens. Anyway, this show is amazing; I can’t wait to go back.
Howlers is a hooty-wooty. A whole bunch of Jarret’s friends come—he’s from Philly; don’t worry, he’ll remind you—Rachel Taft from Feed The Scene comes and brings all of us food, and Dano from Yellowdog Union, and Morgantown’s wonderful Atomic Grill are here, too. Cool people. Did you know that Jarret’s old band, Push Ups, also has a shirtless vocalist named Zach? Pretty cool. Jarret has good taste. He’s a sweet boy. I talk to my mom on the phone a lot at this restaurant down the street where I escape to before the show. My mom is one of my best friends. Weird.
Southgate. Man, I want to write more about this show, but it is literally the most uneventful show I’ve ever played. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, either. The crowd is amazingly kind and receptive, and every band plays without incident, the whole thing runs super smoothly with no hitches or hiccups. We love you, Cinci. The Dopamines play this show; that band fucking rocks. Also, this venue looks like a huge church. That’s pretty cool. Get pizza at the corner, and the bartender tells me I look like David Spade. I like that?
Holy shit, I’ve been looking forward to the Firehouse show all tour. This place and the people who run it are the coolest. They hook it up so hard. They feed us, let the boys drink for free—I’m 18 months sober—pay us too well, and give each band two hotel rooms. Talk about hospitality. What’s funny is that we played a different pizza place earlier in the day, just a half hour away. This is the first time we’ve ever played two sets in one day; I am concerned about whether my voice will hold out, but it turns out fine. I go and sit at a coffee shop across the street for a while before the show, and get some good brooding time in. I think about the nature of my anxiety, and how I’ve spent a lot of my life pandering to it like it is something that controls me rather than the inverse. It’s aimless, and yet, I find bizarre things to attach it to, ways to magnify and exaggerate the small imperfections of my life so that they totally obscure everything I have that I should be thankful for. I am an unwilling, ungrateful nitwit, but I know what I am, and I desire better. I long for my own freedom, but the longing itself is what keeps me tethered. Fuck it. I get a pasta bowl. This is my favorite OWTH set on this run. They really are great. Fantastic people.
Finally, this trip brings us to The Frequency in Madison, WI. Before this show is a blur. I have been in a panic for a few days. I’m terrified of letting go of my fear. Being away from home for this long has really gotten me thinking. I mean, I have become detached from almost everything else, and it has become clear to me now that for me to derive the enjoyment from my life that I hope I deserve, I have to doctor my thought processes. If there were a way to surgically remove this from me, I would have done it a long time ago; I would even dig my fingers through my skull and rip it out of my brain myself. Sometimes, I just can’t stand it. Even thinking about it as I type this has me near paralyzed; I feel like I’m divulging private information about my oldest of companions, because maybe that’s what this is. How might my life be without the chaos in my own head? Would it even be recognizable? I remember being happy. I remember looking up at the open skies and being wowed by the glory of being a sentient being on this planet, wide open for experience, desperate to feel any and everything possible, to make the most of what the universe had granted me as a human being. Simply the gift of being alive was enough then, but now, more often, the question I have is, “Why am I here? Why do I have to do this?”
We begin to play, and the answer to those questions becomes evident. I am freed by these minutes when we pour our hearts out. One day, I will become reacquainted with calm, but until then, these small doses will have to do. Everybody eats scorpions at this show. Not me. I’m not a crazy man.
Pears recently announced their signing to Fat Wreck Chords, check out more on that here.