DIAMOND HEAD TOUR DIARY: THE FINAL INSTALMENT
Dave Bonney. First Published 2016.
The unexpected day off was mostly spent driving and after an evening meal, a few drinks were imbibed in the hotel bar with Brian trying as best he could to get a decent tune out of the guitar cushions, much to the amusement of everyone else.
The next morning at check out Brian wanted to open the presents under the Christmas tree, but had to relent after being told they weren’t part of the hotel deal.
The five hour journey to Denver, Colorado saw the sun emerge again as we headed west, though it still wasn’t warm. There’s still a long way to get back to the Californian sun. This is tornado country which we found out by the warning notices in the hotel. The land is flat as far as the eye can see either side of the interstate and its very windy again with the van being thrown all over the place, another tough assignment for Karl, one which he laps up as always.
The Three Kings is a quirky venue with weird artefacts all over the walls, and the name got me wondering whether there would be gold, frankincense and myrrh on the rider. Alas not, but there was a fair amount of cold beers to hand, something that one particular member of one of the support bands took advantage of every time he thought no one was looking.
Actually going into Diamond Head’s dressing room and stealing their beer when you have been given the opportunity to support them is not cool and just a tiny bit disrespectful. If he’d have asked he would have been given. A bit naughty that…
During one of my brief stints at the merch stall, almost everyone who bought something left a tip, which went into the merch wallet, and three guys offered to by me a drink. I’m beginning to think this is another audience who are so so glad that Diamond Head are in town. The merch is getting really low by now with the vinyl edition of the new album sold out days ago, patches sold out, back catalogue CD’s sold out and only a few of the new album CD’s left. We have had two extra deliveries of t-shirts since we set off over three weeks ago, and I now have a degree in t-shirt rolling.
The US fans really do love a bit of merch which is great news. I remember the chat we had at the first gig of the tour in San Fransisco regarding pricing policy for the merch and I think Karl’s mantra of “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” was bang on, just one more thing he has got right on this tour. This band are constantly considering their fans, which is exactly how it should be, though not all bands do this.
Another Diamond Head gig, another pit, which is probably the norm now, though this is yet another one that got more than boisterous and another that found Ras in the audience trying to diffuse a situation.
The usual stuff was going on until one crank actually threw a punch, the first time I have ever witnessed this even in the most severe pits. People almost always stick strictly to pit etiquette, helping anyone who has slipped, been pushed over etc, but this was sinister and something I personally don’t want to see.
I moved into the melee myself when Ras got involved and got pushed away by the guy who threw the punch. He should be ashamed of himself picking on the old guy. Like I said before, this is something that has crept into the gigs in the last few years and something I believe comes from the younger fans linking the thrash Metal association to this crazy pastime. It’s great to see the kids going mental when the band are on stage but it’s something I’d rather not see.
Another first for me tonight was witnessing a guy who was on his own (I wonder why!) rubbing both his nipples all the way through one of the songs. It could have been ‘Sucking My Love’ though I could be wrong. Either way it was quite bizarre and brought great guffaws in the van later on when I told the guys.
The next day is the final day off on the tour, though Karl still has to drive almost seven hundred miles on our journey back to Vegas en-route to the final three Californian gigs. This journey provided the most stunningly beautiful scenery yet on our US road trip. Starting off in Colorado and driving through the snowy Rockies then passing into Utah where the terrain completely changed.
We stopped off at a viewing point at Black Dragon Canyon and all got out of the van to stretch our legs and take some photos of the amazing landscape. There was an old rusty blue GMC van parked up, in fact it looked abandoned. If it was painted bright colours it could have passed for the ‘Mystery Machine’ from Scooby Doo, but in its worn out state it looked like the typical serial killers van you see in the movies. There was no one around and the back door was slightly ajar. I joked that there was probably a dead body in the back and Dean challenged Brian to open it up and have a look, so Brian pulled on the door handle and in his best Scooby Doo villain voice said: “I’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!”
Just as he said it, a voice boomed from within: “Hey, what’s goin’ on?”
Startled, we quickly made our way down towards the edge of the rock face and I took an awesome band photo with the canyon in the background. We headed off and climbed high into the snowy mountains again bringing back sub zero temperatures.
Since we left Black Dragon Canyon, we’d been driving for about an hour-and-a-half so Debbie, who had taken over the wheel from Karl, pulled into a gas station to fill up. We all bailed out of the van to freshen up and use the rest rooms and when we got back to the van guess what was parked next to us? You got it, the Scooby Doo mass murderers van!
Now that was kind of freaky!
The last time we arrived at Vegas it was mid-afternoon, this time it’s seven in the evening and from fifty miles away the light pollution is incredible with the skyline being lit up in a hazy yellowy orange. It’s a real spectacle amid the total darkness of the desert.
The plan was to hitch up with Roman (whose band Bravo Delta did a sterling job supporting Diamond Head in Vegas a month ago) at his house where Karl lives and we get there at around eight. We are now on PST (Pacific Standard Time) the journey taking a whopping twelve hours, so massive kudos again to the machine Wilcox, and Debbie who did a stint from Black Dragon Lagoon.
Roman showed us around his Snake Jam studio in the basement and went through all his basses with Dean, and Ras and Dean jammed a duet on a couple of ukuleles before we all headed off to Hooters in town for a nose bag, before making our way to Buffalo Bill’s on the edge of town where myself, Ras and Dean lost a whopping $10 each on the pontoon table before retiring to our rooms.
The next morning we set off for our second gig in LA and Brian was looking forward to meeting up with three drinking buddies of his from back home. Scott, Merv and Steve, The Stourbridge Massive, from Wollaston had flown over from the UK specially for the gig. We were also expecting the two ex-pat Coffin Dodgers to be in attendance again, this time without the other two deteriorating, moribund old gits who had miraculously made it back to the UK without having to get measured up.
We headed up Sunset strip with a sense of deja vu taking hold and pulled up outside the Whisky A Go-Go. Like I said a month ago, it’s got a great vibe and I really like the place. The staff however are something else. I suppose it is LA and the culture is different but they are so far removed from anywhere else on the tour it’s crazy. Security are short sharp and straight to the point, the point of almost being rude, in fact not almost, they were rude, full body searches, even the women. These guys seemed to enjoy being rude. But that’s not the end of it. Where do I begin…
Theft of 20% of the soft merch sales, with constant checking up at regular intervals with Debbie on the merch stall for sales figures, this was almost to the point of bullying. They wanted $25 per camera to film. We had four GoPro’s and a roaming FOH camera, so $125.
I got stopped filming at the first gig because we hadn’t paid the demand. I also got stopped taking the rider at the end of the gig. It was sorted out in the end but bloody hell, a box of beers, come on guys.
They were even taking the same off the support bands, and there were five of them. I realise venues have overheads but at this rate they will squeeze the lifeblood out of the very beast that they rely on to keep their venue open, because without the bands they will not be able to open their doors.
OK, rant over, so back to the positives from the night. Dino from Fear Factory was in the house. I’m guessing he may have caught the bands awesome gig at Bloodstock back in August as they were on the same bill and decided to check out the guys again. Also in attendance was a certain Lloyd Grant who played on the very first Metallica demo who won quote of the day with “I guess you could say I missed the boat”.
Before the gig the guys did a radio phone interview with Rotten Rod, who had drunkenly wandered into the green room at FUBAR in St Louis four days earlier declaring: “Hi, I’m Rotten Rod from Rotten Rod radio. Can I get a phone interview with Brian sometime?” He then looked at Brian and said: “You’re Paul the singer, right?”, to which Brian laughed and replied: “No.”
Rotten Rod asked: “So what do you do?” Brian then holds up his guitar that he’s been warming up on, just to kind of state the obvious. You couldn’t make this shit up.
Both Dino and Lloyd witnessed another incredible set from the guys in front of another packed house, just a month after the first one. It’s fair to say LA loves Diamond Head.
The journey to Corona the next day was short but long enough for Ras to work his magic on some of the filming from last nights gig, of which Brian was really pleased with. Let’s hope some of this is released in the not too distant future.
Tonight’s gig at the M-15 concert club was originally going to be the last gig of the tour until a ‘secret’ gig was added for tomorrow. More about that later.
It was good to see the two Coffin Dodgers turn up again for their fifth gig of the tour. What a sterling effort. It was also great to see James Brady again playing in his other band, The Bred Dogs, who played a great set. After another great gig we headed back to the hotel where myself, Brian and Ras had a few nightcaps and Brian ate some of the Diamond Head chocolate cake the promoter had made, whilst creasing up watching the comedian Jim Bruear do his Brian Johnson impressions.
I’m still waiting for Ras to do the ‘hokey pokey’ at soundcheck as promised.
The next morning we had a six hour drive back to the Bay Area to the ‘secret’ gig at Toots in Crockett. During the journey up, Brian did another phone interview in the van with Ozcat Radio who are now playing Brian’s favourite track off the new album, ‘All The Reasons You Live’, and the guys also did another Facebook live feed from the van. These have proved very popular along the way with fans from all over the world getting involved. These are all still up on the bands Facebook page for anyone who missed them live.
We arrive at Toots at seven in the evening and this cool little music pub has to be one of the most intimate places I’ve seen the band play, a real treat for hardcore fans which serves its purpose perfectly by getting us back up to San Fransisco for our flight home tomorrow. Karl was pleased to meet up with his old buddy Kai, and after a frantic sweaty set I was called up on stage again to be thanked for my roles at rrum duties, van packing skills at grand master level, general dogs body and court jester. Something I’m privileged and proud to have been a part of.
The next day Karl and Debbie dropped me, Brian, Ras and Dean off at the airport and although it’s all over for us, Karl still has work to do with getting all the hired equipment back to the shop and delivering the van back to hire compound. Not long after they leave Debbie sends a video through of the mileometer passing the ten thousand mile mark. We’ve certainly lived every one of those miles.
With our flight being a ‘red eye’ flight, there were plenty of seats available and each of us had a row to ourselves which was a bit of a blessing as we could get horizontal when needed.
We arrived at Heathrow where Ras’ other half Adele was there to meet us. Dean did a short video of the ‘homecoming’ and anyone who has already seen the third and final part of the ‘Evil in America’ video will now understand what Brian’s on about when he says: “Hi, this is Paul signing off.”
God bless America… and Canada.
“Without Diamond Head, none of this would have existed…”
Lars Ulrich – Metallica