by Jay H. Gorania
Cephalic Carnage is in many ways a product of its surroundings. One could argue that they might not have been as musically eclectic, atypical and weed-centric had they been from…just about anywhere else.
There is more to Denver than overt liberal thought and cannabis consumption, but in terms of culture and law, Denver is proudly marijuana friendly. Drinking some beer at a small establishment tucked away downtown, the patron to my right, a bandana-wearing big dude with a hard, weathered face, was pridefully telling me about the marijuana dispensary where he works.
Some might call him a legal drug leader, I’d just call him a not-too-pushy salesman who didn’t annoy me too much. Glancing down at his cellphone on the bartop, I thought the text that lit up on his screen was probably an overused (but effective) pickup line in the Mile High City.
“Smoke with me 2nite?”
That kind of approach probably wouldn’t work out quite as well in Utah, however, which was our next stop. As soon as I woke and looked outside the van door, the venue’s parking lot and immediately visible surroundings were beyond generic. It could have been Anytown, USA. Yet only a few blocks away at the outdoor mall were meticulously clean, picture-perfect streets. It was too perfect, sharing visual aesthetics comparable to the 1950s idealic image of an American neighborhood. If you exchanged the perfectly lined American flags with red, white and black flags featuring swastikas, similarly dotted alongside a German street in a 1940s Nazi propaganda clip, I’m not sure how long it would take for someone to notice. Definitely creepy.
Yet those deep thoughts were interrupted as soon as I walked into the mall’s indoor food court to find MILFs everywhere. Everywhere! There were dozens of gorgeous women with strollers or young children holding their hands. Sometimes they were botox and silicone enhanced, sometimes they were natural beauties. Whatever the case was, they were beautiful and dolled up to the Nth degree. It was so over the top, you’d almost think they were in constant competition with other women for their husbands’ attention and affection. Oh wait…
At any rate, when the Salt Lake City show was underway, if it can be said that there was a common thread, it was in the use of costumes. Cephalic pulled out the horse head and oversized set of hands, among other things, but the Red Chord took it to the next level with their good-spirited jab at the insanely talented axe-wielder Tosin Abasi and his band Animals as Leaders.
Tosin’s unique sense of fashion may not have been mimicked very well, however he was definitely their satirical target. It took several songs for Red Chord singer Guy Kozowyk to finally peel off the dress shirt he threw on, which was about two sizes too small, and bassist Greg Weeks hilariously stood in place with a dress shirt and cabbie hat, bobbing his head with an unyeilding smile on his face.
Just prior to hitting the highway for a late night drive after the show, we stopped at a Mexican joint to fill our bellies. Of all places visited on tour to this point, it was unthinkable that what happened next was going to be in Salt Lake City. Heading back to the van following our massive meal, we discovered that the door had been opened while we were gone, and Steve’s iPod and phone were stolen.
We scoured the fast food place’s parking lot with no luck, asked every passerby if they knew anything about it. After we repeadedly tried calling the phone, John finally had someone pickup. Asking who it was and offering a few words with a less than pleasant tone, the thief on the other end of the line simply but ever-so aggravatingly said, “Yo daddy.”
By foot, Cephalic’s sound guy Spider and I took to the surrounding residential area to find the goods and serve some street justice. After a brief but intense search, we didn’t find anything, though I did get scared by a racoon near some bushes.
Turning back we were temporarily blocked by a long-ass train. During this little break in our little revenge and retrieval mission I realized we weren’t going to find Steve’s stuff. Everyone came to that conclusion, actually, and we ventured onward toward Helena, Montana for a day of rest.
Late afternoon in Helena, members of several bands embarked on a hike toward some lush, mountainous terrain next to a lake. Granted, a sign did indicate the lake was technically closed, but we drove up the hill quite a distance before getting out to hike. When we finally arrived at the lake, it was beyond satisfying. It wasn’t the most breathtaking body of water by any means, not that it was bad, but compared to the daily atmosphere of a smoky bar with ear-exploding metal music, the serenity offered a welcomed change of pace.
The quickly lit fire was our party’s centerpiece around which we shot the shit and let our hair down, so to say, after some people swam (or bathed, in some cases). Beer? Check. Food…
Conversation morphed into a day-dreaming session about food we wished we could have roasted on the end of a stick (you know, marshmallows or hotdogs). I believe he was innocently throwing out an unintended innuendo, but when Decapitated’s tall, shirtless guitarist Vogg walked up to me and asked, “Do you like Polish sausage,” I couldn’t help but firmly and loudly respond, “I don’t like how you phrase that.” It looked like his feelings were hurt, so I later explained why his words caught me off guard.
Anyway, as we made our way back to the town (the getaway was several miles outside the city), we came together once again for some tangible/actual grub at a traditional American restaurant. The food was good and plentiful, but things got a little, shall we say, interesting when I checked in with Lenzig to see how he was doing with the quarter slots machine.
I don’t know if it was the Goatwhore shirt or the beautiful chocolate complexion of my skin, but I stood out like a sore thumb. A couple of middlle-aged ladies and an older man asked a question that wasn’t bothersome or troubling per se, but it was definitely annoying as hell when he asked, “Where are you from?”
The old guy called me a liar after I hesitated with my response. You see, I hesitated since I’m technically from one city, yet I’ve lived in another for many years. I think my non-verbal behavior led to their apology, which I did accept (though I wasn’t too far from the point of punching the guy’s lights out when he said, “We won’t bite you,” as he grabbed my hand and pretended to nibble on it).
Long story short, they bought Lenzig and I beer, no blood was shed, and no love was lost. On my way out, a waiter and waitress comically extended an apology simply by laughing,: “Welcome to Helena!”
On a less annoying note, a hideous old bar hag was aggressively and inappropriately hitting on Veil of Maya’s 20-year-old bassist Dan. She wanted to “floss with his bandana;” she hugged him; she touched his money maker. She knew no boundaries. I may or may not have been egging her on.
Next stop: Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Before arriving at our destination, however, we had a bit of a snag at the border. There was absolutely no legal wrongdoing, but the large, black-coated drug dog, as cuddly ‘n cute as he/she was, paid some extra attention to Lenzig. So much so that it bit Len’s upper thigh, piercing the skin with its teeth. This led to an hour an a half to two hour delay. Without anything to do other than swallow down a little too much espresso, all I could do was chat with Cephalic (or the Red Chord or Decrepit Birth), or watch the mounted TV set running messages about Canadian border authorities. Aparently they have a Twitter account, but I’m not sure that they need to use every one of the available 140 characters to say: WE’RE DOING AN ANAL CAVITY SEARCH RIGHT NOW!
But I digress. A host of bad and obvious jokes may be doled out since this is Cephalic Carnage we’re talking about (a band that sells shirts bearing the slogan “Kill for Weed,” along with pipes and vaporizers), but since, again, there wasn’t any kind of legal wrong-doing, it was frustrating.
We were permitted to pass, but we wasted two hours, and Lenzig’s friggin’ leg was bit by a drug dog. At the end of it all, the cop hastling Lenzig actually made sure Lenzig’s leg was sanitized. That was cool, but before parting ways with Lenzig, he actually said, “You’re about to smoke the best weed of your life.”