After traveling 10 000 miles (or 16 500 kilometers for us Canadians), playing all across North America, canceling / missing two shows, suffering through two broken windows, and much more, Woods of Ypres is finally finished their independently booked and managed tour. On the downside: “Multiple stolen possessions.” On the upside: “No sickness, disfigurement, or death.” Hell yes. In this final three-day entry, bassist Shane Madden wraps things up.
There were three things to remember from this day:
First, dependence. The GPS was most likely sitting in a Brooklyn pawn shop closest to where it had been forcefully removed from our van, but we didn’t go chasing after it. We crossed into Connecticut and sat in hours of traffic that spanned almost the entire length of the state. “Okay, this is where we are now.” The traffic congealed into a greater distance and delay than over two hours of bumper-to-bumper rush-hour crawl we had experienced in L.A. An hour after the greasiest rest stop pizza ever we began to make some progress, somehow still running close to schedule. “Wait, no. This is a map of the wrong state.” Our reliance on the GPS almost had punishing repercussions. “Alright it’s 90 to 290, then exit 17.”
Second, security. We carried all the heavy gear up the stairs to the second floor, fought for some merch space, and then focused on what to do about the absence of the passenger-side window. “I’m going to roll the dice on this one.” The bags might have been stolen in the venue just as easily as in the van, or that could’ve been the rationale behind the risks of laziness. We taped a black garbage bag over the hole that advertised vulnerability but might deter a lackluster would-be thief. Every part of every town is a different story. Later, double-sided packing tape became a shockingly sturdy window that proved it’s worth for the rest of the tour. No more glass repair.
Third, urgency: business before pleasure. The show was full of energy with a big turnout but despite any exhaustion the decision was made that it was best to drive straight to Toronto, knowing that we faced another border-crossing. We followed a guy from the show to a Walmart, at his suggestion, around two or three in the morning to get another little device to lead us to our indeterminable future. It was empty, strangely void of Wal-Martians, and mildly depressing after a killer show. We got back in the van and on the way. The new GPS never worked right. Walmart sucks.
He had us open the side door so he could see into the van as he looked us over slowly and suspiciously, holding our pile of black and blue passports, as he most likely contemplated what it would take for them to take all that stuff out for a proper search. The line of questioning was focused on where the papers had been acquired, not how, when, or why. “We got the Canadian visas in Sault Ste. Marie and the U.S. papers at the border near Seattle.” The metal door to the little booth slid closed and some interchange was muttered back and forth via radio and then we received “the nod.” It was remarkable that we weren’t searched at either border. Maybe it’s the family-friendly minivan.
For as nomadic as Woods has been since it was started in 2002, Toronto could be considered the closest thing to home. The band was based there for several years when Woods III was written and recorded and the shows there feel like something of a return, even if it hasn’t always been snafu-free, as anyone at the August 2009 show could testify to. This visit was like clockwork: we were a legitimate machine by the second-to-last show, each gear turning just as it should, possibly operating too mindlessly for comfort. Shams/Crossing/Ontario Town/Sun ‘One’…We were far from the need for a setlist; any changes came as audibles.
High on Fire played two doors down at The Opera House but the Woods turnout was very strong nonetheless and there was even some cross-over as more people came in to catch our midnight set. We spent the night with good friends and put off the concept that there was only one more show until this crazy journey ended, seemingly a lifetime from the windshield breaking several hours due west a month ago.
In a nearby parallel universe it went like this:
We were flying on 416 North, multiple hours late, at like 135 km/h, the engine just whining and begging for the end after a month of North American madness, when a Jetta cut us off from the right. We braked then swerved over the rumble-strip, careening into the concrete barrier then rebounding back into the right lane, spinning perpendicular to the flow of traffic. The bellow from the horn of the oncoming truck sounded out loud and baritone, belching “prepare for death!,” as we looked around bewildered, some of us in futile throes of trying to hold back the deluge of falling amps, seconds before the T-Bone impact crushed the van like a school-lunch ham and cheese sandwich wrapped in tinfoil being crumpled in foolhardy, sweaty palms and discarded under the table. A lifetime passed in seventeen seconds.
Fortunately we were at least one decision towards a more sustainable fate. True: we were late to Ottawa after wrapping things up for a video. False: we died in a violent highway mishap. A band from France didn’t make it past customs (see “Woods of Ypres’ Guide to Immigration 2010”) and the promoter began making frantic phone calls as early as 8:45 p.m. exclaiming that the show was in extreme jeopardy. We still arrived well-before ten p.m. and loaded directly to the stage, forgetting essential cables in the van, scrounging and scavenging, and finally letting loose what might have been one of the tightest sets of the tour to a quality crowd that waited for our arrival. We would have killed for that one; bloodshot eyes and rabidly foaming at the mouth for more. There was no chance that the final show would go by the wayside.
We crossed over the provincial border to Gatineau to hang and stay with friends from Fuck the Facts who are, in fact, the coolest people ever. The bars stay open until three where everything becomes French and we went to a karaoke joint where no one was singing. After poutine it was lights-out and everything became vague or vibrant memories forever.
Approximately 16,500 kilometers, or over 10,000 miles, traveled.
One show missed because of a broken windshield.
One show cancelled by a promoter.
Zero mechanical failures.
Zero (seriously) broken gear.
Multiple stolen possessions.
No sickness, disfigurement, or death.
What did we learn? We did it right, but, do it again and do it better.
“The Thrill of the Struggle.”
That was Woods of Ypres’ North American Tour 2010.