This is the account of Casual Burn’s third tour. We formed back around August 2015 and self-released our first recording, Talk Bad, in the spring of 2016. Casual Burn is me (Monet Maloof ) on vocals, David Sabludowsky on guitar, Carlos Knoop on Bass VI, and Nathan Bluford on drums. This tour was mostly spent around Florida and a couple other places in the Southeast in a little over two weeks.
It always starts the same way: staying up until the small hours of the morning walking around the house like a zombie. Pick up a book, put it down. Rummage in your underwear, misplace a fistful of socks. Wrap and label a hundred shirts. Forget your toothbrush. No level of planning can get you on that highway when you think you’ll be. Which is fine because we always pad the time we’re leaving with a healthy dose of lies. And besides, we were only driving as far as Mobile.
We finally got on our way around rush hour, heading east and cranking up the makeshift sound system we’d put together using a power inverter and a portable P.A., which we dubbed The Tailgater. It took up a bunch of space in between the two front seats and the convoluted spaghetti of different cables looped and tangled through the milk crate it sat in, alongside smashed bags of bread and an avalanche of tapes—still a huge improvement over the same couple dozen CDs or crackling radio, exhausted over the thousands of miles already spent in this shimmering brown Astro Van.
We made it to Mississippi just before sundown and stopped at the Giterdone gas station, one of those places that makes you realize you’re not in New Orleans anymore. A wall of ceramic animal wine bottle holders and sweeping images of lightning storms and grasslands were posted right above the roller grill, hot dogs limpidly turning to leather on their spits. We peed and greedily grabbed the first round of many greasy snacks like we’d never been to a gas station before.
We got to the venue early because we always get to the venue early. If you’re looking for a rowdy and reckless account of a band that doesn’t give a fuck, well, we ain’t those big ol’ baddies. We were playing a place called the Blind Mule that night, and from outside it seemed to be just a restaurant with a small bar. I nervously walked in and immediately backed out, getting stared down by a salty looking group of young kids and their parents who seemed to be celebrating some kind of gymnastics competition. Varying sizes of trophies lined the middle of the table and the kids picked apart their sandwiches. Eventually, we found out that the venue was actually upstairs and began loading in through a courtyard where dudes in boat shoes refused to move their patio chairs even an inch as we lugged equipment up a narrow staircase behind them.
Upstairs, the mood was a lot better. Our friend Neil was DJing as red light poured through the room. We heard one of the members of the opening bands was puking in the parking lot because of food poisoning. Sure they were gonna drop, I suggested they could play sitting in a 40 gallon trash can, just letting it all loose; but they insisted on doing it the old-fashioned way and just holding it together. Little did I know this joke would come to haunt the remainder of our tour.
In the morning, Neil made breakfast while a bad CGI heavy sci-fi movie played in the background. We were going to be in Pensacola that night, playing an anti-prom party. I was stoked to hear it was an all-ages venue and that actual kids ditching their prom were going to be there. My dreams of being a prom band like in the movies was nearly coming true. Better yet, Neil was meeting a date in Pensacola, half way between their cities, and taking her to the prom. None of us had ever been. We started the day on a mission to be dressed for the occasion.
Hours later, we arrived in the parking lot, popping open the van doors like a Polly Pocket dressing room. We cracked open cold beers and compared looks while putting together makeshift dollar store corsages and boutonnieres. Inside, Carrie was playing on a projector and last minute decorations were being hung from the ceiling. Jared, who put the show together, had gone above and beyond. We were super excited to see his band Splatter open it up, a two piece consisting of him and his bad-ass mom, and they did not disappoint. By the end of the night it seemed Neil’s date was a total success and in my imagination everyone was dancing. In reality, most of the room had probably cleared out as I lead a wasted sing-along to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Classic.
Three days in, we were already headed to my parents’ place in Panama City. They fed us a bunch and we went to the beach. The water was perfect, in spite of huge birds circling and diving at fleshy bits floating in the foam. At some point, Carlos got knocked in the face by a wave and swallowed a gallon of water. We got back to the house and he tried to keep it down, but it turned out he had gotten saltwater poisoning and vomited in the backyard. Even so, he rallied to make it to that night’s show. I think my parents were under the impression it was gonna be a real rager, and if anyone knows how to bring it, it’s them. They kept asking me if people were going to try and knock them down and I said if anyone tried, I’d kick in their teeth. Of course, it was an extremely sleepy Sunday night show in mostly desolate downtown Panama City and the only people raging were them. They drove their RV down and kept making recreational visits out back while Carlos recovered in the bed until it was time to go on. Occasionally he would make it to the sidewalk, only to spew more bile. Well meaning, my mom tried to give him massages and reiki as he hugged a city trash can, a lit cigarette and cold beer in her free hand. The next day, we laid low and drove around the sherbert nightmare of clean edges and neat lawns that make up much of PCB. We forced ourselves into the ocean before it got dark, even though a storm had rolled in the night before, making the water too cold to stay in for long. On the way out of town a stranger gave us bags of chips and oranges at a gas station.
It was super weird to realize that only four days in, we weren’t even 400 miles from home by the time we got to Tallahassee. The venue seemed real shiny, and it was confirmed talking to some folks about its gristlier past, that it had once been a million times cooler. Nonetheless, the bands playing that night were great, and after the show we all ended up hanging out in a carport. We got the impression that people from Tallahassee mean business, as each person who straggled in seemed to have their own case of beer. The next morning I nearly had to shit in someone’s trash can, which was probably vengeance for the joke I made back in Mobile, because I’d ordered some ridiculously hot sandwich (the Hellbury) at The Wilbury the night before and someone was blocking up the bathroom. It was a near catastrophe. I had taken the lid straight off the can and was about to pull off my pants when I heard the toilet flush. Sorry, David Green. I would have taken it out.
Gainesville was a pretty weird show because, moments before the first band went on, I locked the keys in the car and had quietly decided I’d wait to mention this until someone asked for them after we played. I think that lasted for all of two minutes. We finished watching Bite Marks (who positively slayed it) and dealt with it after our set. I was glad we’d have a chance to play with them again in St. Petersburg because the whole key-debacle cast a bit of a shadow on the evening. I was also interested in talking to Amandita (the lead singer of Bite Marks; also the only female in a male-backed band) about the complicated feelings I sometimes have about that dynamic, about the need to feel like you should prove something more (and why, and to who?) even though it’s fun as hell to just writhe around and scream your guts out.
MIAMI / FT. LAUDERDALE
Arriving in Miami shifted the whole electricity of the trip. We became giddy, stupid kids. We got to Churchill’s way too early and decided to go to the beach. The ocean was burbling and gray and full of seaweed and insanely warm. And while swimming didn’t last long, it was the perfect way to come in to town. We drove over the Bay and back towards the venue, where I decided to stay and read while folks went to grab some dinner. The place was exactly what we’d been missing: all cement and pissy bathrooms and smoky as hell. Everyone was so dang nice and enthusiastic. We got to meet Gordo, who put two of our favorite shows of the trip together, and his friend JP who put us up at his house with his cool dogs (Papi and Bummer) and hung out with us the whole next day. The next morning we went to Café Enriqueta and ate the best meal of the trip: dank-ass sandwiches, tostones, empanadas, and colada. Afterwards, JP took us out to a fruit stand called Robert is Here, where we got key lime milkshakes and hung out with goats and emus and lizards and then explored the Everglades (and nearly ran out of gas).
One girl wrote down something in her notebook, tore out the page, folded it, and handed it to me. It read, “Thanks for coming through. Your music makes me feel like I’m not in Jacksonville anymore.”
That night we also had the pleasure of meeting Chuck Loose (drummer in Denudes), a Florida punk legend and total sweetheart. After the show, we all went back to his house and shared around whatever swigs were left at the bottom of various bottles of liquor (everywhere had stopped selling) and listened to pop music. This particular night brought to light something that had been true of the entire tour—the range of ages hanging out was so wide, so natural, and so refreshing. We slept in late, the AC running and the blinds drawn. When we woke up sometime after one, I’d never been more grateful for liquor laws in my entire life.
We played a tattoo shop in St. Petersburg where we drew straws for whose name we’d all get as a tramp-stamp (I wish). As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw our pals from Bite Marks again, topping off slushies with glugs out of a handle of vodka by their van. Us lightweights were drinking Rolling Rock, which until this fateful evening I was convinced was only negligibly alcoholic, like 3% max. The show went over really well, and Permanent Makeup closed it out transcendentally. We got offered to stay with Bite Marks at their friend Sadie’s apartment and go downtown. Someone knew the bartender from high school and before we knew it we were crushing cans in our teeth and double-fisting shots of tequila. During the course of the evening David somehow got the nickname Hercules. After being heckled by the sidewalk dwellers outside the bar, we decided it was better if we headed to the beach where The Tailgater would achieve its highest point of glory during the trip as a portable karaoke station with attached microphone. We screamed stupid songs and swam until the beach security came, then went back to cram like sandy sardines into Sadie’s apartment.
ORLANDO / JACKSONVILLE
We left St. Petersburg after a painful day of getting our shit back together, stopping by a laundromat, and eating huge slices of pizza. Orlando wasn’t too far and the show was set to start kind of early at a place called Uncle Lou’s. The venue was small and smoky, but comfortable, with a lot of milling around, until Wet Nurse had everybody losing it and singing along. We asked around for a place to stay and hit the jackpot with the coolest couple, probably the most hospitable strangers we’d ever met. Plus, they had a pool! In the middle of the night I woke up to pee, startling their roommate who apologetically informed me he’d just killed a cockroach with a bottle of cologne.
The next day we took their recommendation and headed to Blue Springs. Apparently, there are times of the year where there are so many manatees they won’t let you come in to the park, but this particular day, we had the go-ahead. The water was crystal clear and pretty evenly around 5 feet deep. It was also swarming with longnose gar fish. I like nature and all, but almost all moving creatures (even you!) kind of terrify me. These fuckers were huge—like three to four feet a piece!—but in the end, extremely calm and pretty enchanting to look at up close. At the source of the spring, you could float over a huge underwater cave. It was probably one of the most magical things I’d ever seen.
When we got to Jacksonville, we met up with Josh Dunn. It turned out we had a handful of mutual friends and David had remembered a super wild show of his he’d gone to, back when he lived in Tennessee. We went to scarf down huge boxes of greasy Chinese food before heading to Shantytown, where we were playing that night. The entire time we were hanging out, Dunn gave the absolute best accidental tour, the kind of introduction to a city that gives you context for its past and present. He described downtown with the frustration of someone who had grown up watching their city officials make dumb choices, saying it consisted of not much more than a mega church, a jail, and a failed monorail. Other neighborhoods brought up fonder memories of apartment complexes inhabited entirely with friends, shows under bridges, and hole-in-the-wall bars filled with crazy regulars.
That night we got to play with an anarchopunk band, a rapper, and a “GWAR-core” band. After the show, I talked with some folks at the picnic tables out back. One girl wrote down something in her notebook, tore out the page, folded it, and handed it to me. It read, “Thanks for coming through. Your music makes me feel like I’m not in Jacksonville anymore.” It sounds so cheesy to say, but if anyone has ever felt stuck somewhere they don’t want to be, and can come to a show and feel like they got a breath of fresh air (instead of a sweaty stranger’s armpit and a panic attack), well hell: tour is a success.
The next day, Dunn took us to the most incredible bookstore we’d ever been to, the Chamblin Bookmine, and sent us off with a slew of screen-printed swag he’d made (thanks again, Dunn!).
COLUMBIA, SC / ATHENS, GA / ATLANTA
In Columbia, we played a coffeeshop basement. I showed up annoyed that in spite of several attempts to make conversations, I just kept getting shut down. Sometimes if you show up to a gig and start setting up the merch, people don’t give you the time of day until they realize you’re in the band, and then it’s all smiles and high fives. It was the last day of classes at the university there though, and the show ended up being a lot of fun. Afterwards, we got to stay with Dylan (who put the show together and who, finishing their last year of high school, is way cooler than any of us will ever be).
We woke up and headed to Athens on a very rainy day. The temperature had dropped a bunch and we didn’t have much to do with ourselves to kill time before the show. We drank warm beer out of styrofoam cups and read in the van waiting for load-in while it drizzled and kids walked by in graduation gowns blowing in the wind. For a minute, Nathan heckled the graduates with emphatic speeches about the harsh realities of life over The Tailgater as we circled for parking. The show was quiet, but it was a good night of sleep.
On the way to Atlanta we found out our show had fallen apart. After a few failed attempts to figure something out, we threw in the towel and decided to be tourists. We saw the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and drove around town for a long time, eventually springing for a hotel and hitting the town. Strangely, the first bar we ended up at, Star Bar, said they’d had a band drop that night and if we’d only shown up a little sooner we would have been able to play. Instead, an old western projected on a screen over the stage.
BIRMINGHAM / HATTIESBURG
With two days left to go, we were hopeful about finishing strong. We got into Birmingham in the afternoon with enough time to meet up with BJ and hang out over at his house before heading to the venue, an old fire station. The bill that night was going to be about six bands long, mostly hardcore. Even though our set felt out of place, people were still very enthusiastic after we played. The next day, we got to go eat a bunch of free cereal at another venue called Saturn that had a ton of old video games, and go hiking along the rim of a quarry that overlooked the city.
The show in Hattiesburg, the last stop of our trip, was being held at the second out-of-town venue we’d ever played, The Thirsty Hippo. That show ended with the entire block being shut down because a FedEx employee was getting lit at the bar and reversed into a gas line. We had to push the van out of the parking lot in neutral before the cops came, so as to not get stuck waiting around for hours after the show. This time the show was in honor of the bassist in the other band’s birthday. We got our set out of the way, deciding the tour had probably peaked back in South Florida, and stuck around to catch the rest of the bands descend into celebratory madness. By the end of the night, the Grim Creepers had the crowd writhing, a horror movie playing in the background while grown men rode around on a child-size toy ATV, sloshing beer and shoving each other around. Tour had come to an end. We shuffled into the pungent van, turned up the Springsteen, and made the late night drive back to New Orleans.