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The Van

A struggling band recalls some not-so-glamorous-times gigging with the Lazy Daze.



The Lazy Daze has since become our band vehicle, bunkhouse, bathroom, and storage shed on wheels, and for all intents and purposes, THE VAN. We drive it to all our out-of-town gigs, down to North Carolina, up to Philly, and most of the time it gets us there. There is no experience as pathetic, however, as the times when it does not.

Consider this recent tragedy: One Thursday night last January, we were wrapping a gig at a coffee shop outside Chapel Hill. It's a tips-only ordeal, but you tend to justify things when you can't book anything better: It's worth the new names on the mailing list. We'll sell a few CDs. Bandmates, pile in!

As it turned out, this was one of those really-bad-ideas-in-retrospect. We played to two people and their cappuccinos before taking a long, lonely glare into the tip jar and finding a single dollar bill. Mind you, the Lazy Daze is a bona-fide gas-guzzler, routinely humming along at seven miles per gallon. That dollar was about 1/60th of what we needed to get there and back. I remember my brother pumping the buck above his head in mock celebration just to stress the senselessness of it all.

We needed to leave. We needed to just get outta there, regroup, maybe cancel some gigs, anything to recoup a bit of dignity. In the freezing cold we piled in to the Lazy Daze, and 30 minutes later, with the engine finally warmed up, we drove 20 feet across the street to a Wendy's drive-through. Lee, our bass player, didn't want to wait on foot in the long line of cars. Said it made him feel like an idiot.

By 11:15 p.m. we were on the road. Monty, our drummer, had to be at work in Richmond at 8 a.m., which was imperative considering he'd just announced he could no longer pay his rent. Two-and-a-half hours later, conversation was hard to come by. A fine mist of white danced against the windshield; our headlights cut the fog.

Then, from nowhere, a thunderclap of sound, the agony of metal cleaving metal. My knuckles whitened on the wheel. From a dead sleep, my brother Tom bounced into a kung fu stance; four pairs of eyes bugged as the Lazy Daze gagged and bucked until finally someone screamed, "Pull over!"

At the shoulder, I put it in park. The Lazy Daze shrieked as if we were aboard a giant coffee grinder. The engine sputtered and died. It took almost nothing to diagnose the problem — pieces of our driveshaft had scattered down I-85 for the last 300 yards. Have you seen the girth of those things? Then you can imagine it snapping off at a few hundred RPMs, cleaning every last worthless part from the undercarriage of the RV and carrying it all off to hell.

For a long while we stood there in the dark, 20 miles south of nowhere, next to our dead RV, huddled in the mist in sleeping bags trying to decide what to do next. It was maybe 4 degrees outside. An 18-wheeler blew by, its wind buffeting our cheeks. I crunched the numbers — drive shaft, u-joints, nuts, bolts and 60 hours of labor vs. that dollar in the tip jar. The f-word came to mind.

But these guys in the band, they've got a warped sense of humor. A wrecked van, lost jobs, a pending repair bill in the thousands — Geez, this whole idea of trying to make music anyone gives a crud about — it's all comedy to these guys. Surely there's a lesson to be learned somewhere in this debacle, but so far I've come away with only this: The road less traveled may be a freaking dead end, but together we'll come away with some messed-up stories about getting this band off the ground. S

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