A Spiritual Journey: SpiritWorld’s Stu Folsom’s Decibel Magazine Tour Diary

“Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick,” I thought as I cranked the ignition cylinder of my newest debacle, a 2000 Dodge B3500 15-passenger van. It was almost three in the afternoon and Matt would be showing up any second to go pick up the U-Haul trailer with me. Our lead guitar player Randy Moore had his tour supporting the record he and his brother cut with Dan Andriano for Epitaph get postponed, so he would be flying into the newly named Harry Reid International Airport for our first-ever band practice with all six of us. After we jam at the Alamo, I’m packing up all the gear and having everybody meet at my house at 4:15 am to drive out to Mesa, AZ for our first tour as a band and first show with Obituary, Municipal Waste, Gatecreeper and Enforced. Somehow, the record I wrote in my bedroom two years ago has sparked a little flame in the underground that has landed us an opening slot on the Decibel Magazine Tour 2022. Fuckin’ A.

Strange things have been happening to me the last few years. When I arrived back at my house another weird event transpired. A good omen if you will. A gigantic box of merch was sitting in my garage. These days that is not out of the ordinary. But since I had just meticulously organized all my tour merch, this big ass box stuck out like a sore thumb. I asked my wife Jen what it was, she yelled down the hallway, “I don’t know, but it’s heavy as fuck and bruised my leg trying to move it.” I checked the label: Eddy Lorreda. You son of a bitch. Four years ago, Eddy ripped me off good on some merch for a sold-out show we played with Citizen and Culture Abuse. It got a little spicy and I fully intended on seeing him squirm on Judge Judy, if ever again. Inside the box, he had printed up a ton of dope stuff. Windbreakers, dad hats, some long sleeves, some comfort color tees. So sick. Nothing like taking a name out of the book of grudges. We texted each other and made up. How sweet. Love you, man.

I didn’t tell anybody about the van not starting. Instead, I did what any dude who just spent all their money and countless hours tuning up a band van would do: I said fuck it, PMA all day, let the Norse gods sort it out on the interstate. I packed tools, and with my brother Nick hitting the road with us to play bass, I figured we could fix this lemon up and keep her on the road. We only had to make one repair. The tensioner pulley started squealing and wobbling like hell just outside of San Diego, CA. We pulled into that AutoZone right down the street from the venue and swapped it out. Boom. No sticks, no stems, no seeds, no stress. Cali Style.

Even though we were crowbarred onto the tour and had to borrow cabs when the stages were just too small to backline so many bands. The heavy metal backline was another experience I was unprepared for. With all the gear backlined we had about two feet of room to perform. For a guy who paces five miles back and forth in my living room on every phone call, being confined between Preston’s kick and flanked on each side by Nick and Justin took some adjusting.

Gatecreeper pic by Joseph “JC” Carey: www.jcphotomedia.com

It took me a few shows to be present and enjoy what was happening. Anxiety and psychotic self-doubt can be a debilitating cocktail if you let it keep their hooks in you. The shows were sick. Packed full of battle-vest-rockin’ rockers, stoked on the lineup. On a few shows, people were in line waiting to get in and missed us, but we played some really packed rooms and generally had it popping by halfway thru our set. Much to my surprise, we went over great. Sold out of most of our merch and were met with almost universal praise for our pairing of pearl snaps, rhinestones and hard riffing. I’ve never been on a tour like this. Loading in, sound checking, catering buyouts, green rooms. Real deal venues with beautiful rooms and great sound. A long way from the basement shows and VFW halls I cut my teeth on. It was surreal and humbling, to say the least. I mean, Robb Flynn from Machine Head and Gary Holt from Exodus and Slayer made it a point to tell folks in my band they thought our set ripped.

Mind. Fucking. Blown.

Ryan Waste of Municipal Waste. photo: Matt Schrum

I spent a lot of the shows sleeping after our set, catching a couple of hours nap before loading out, and driving all night. No offense to the band, but I would only let Nick drive the van beside me. Too much on the line to have some dipshit, pining over their honey, wreck my van and kill us all while they try and snapchat Richard/Beaver pics back home. I’m sure it made it seem like I was ghosting or a pretentious asshole to the other bands, but I can only do what I can do. My days of punishing other band dudes or trying to force new friendships into existence are long gone. Sober Stu just stays on the grind, no time for the yappers. Keeps me out of trouble. And if we’re being honest, it is a hell of a lot more difficult to connect with people when you aren’t partying your ass off and raging all night. Is what it is, I guess.

Everybody was beyond cool to us. Big shoutouts to Robin, Logan and Rippy for being so kind and helpful. Obituary and Municipal Waste’s crew were all hella cool. I really can’t imagine this being a better experience. It exceeded every single one of my expectations. I am a big believer of “fuck it, dude,” and just jumping into the deep end. Things tend to work themselves out when you put 100% into things and don’t act like a penis. I got to watch everybody’s set at least four or five times. What a fucking awesome night of metal. Jesus. I am such a huge fan of Obituary, it was really special watching them crush it. I owe a lot of my guitar style to them and those early Six Feet Under records. Caveman groove forever, motherfucker.

We were parked outside of the Ace of Spades in Sacramento, CA—we had to pull the van over into an alley a block away, once we finished playing and loaded out—when Matt got the call that Joaquin Romero died. We were riding high, stoked on playing the Rhythms live after months and months in the Alamo working them up. No one was prepared for such a painful blow. Joaquin was Matt’s best friend all through his 20s, they lived together, partied together all over Federal and were inseparable. I stayed at Joaquin and Jandro’s 640 house more times than I can count. My home away from home during Folsom’s touring days. We connected immediately over hardcore punk and boxing, and I hold a very special place in my heart for the Romero brothers. Joaquin was hit-and-run outside of his home by a stolen Hummer that was involved in a police chase the next day. So tragic and senseless. A beautiful soul with so much to give to the world. I watched him build his dream with hard work, a million-kilowatt smile and gallons of sweat. He started a boxing gym in his garage which he expanded again and again, which to date has over 200 members and world-class facilities. Many of whom, disenchanted kids—just like we were—roaming around with no supervision or plan, looking for anything exciting. What better gift can you give somebody feeling lost than discipline, respect, and self-confidence? Tons of our friends and Joaquin’s family rolled out to the Decibel stop in Denver. What a special night.

After our last show in Joliet, Nick and I drove straight back 36 hours, detouring South through Albuquerque to avoid the massive snowstorm blanketing Denver and the Rocky Mountains. I got home at 8:30 am, unpacked, dropped off the trailer, worked on Jen’s car, and hopped back on a flight to Denver for Joaquin’s funeral the next day. Decibel Tour co-founder Nick Storch let me pick what shows we wanted to do on this run. How incredible that I chose the middle and it allowed us to be in Denver to grieve with our friends and family. Sometimes, I really think the universe has decided to smile on me. If I am kind to you, for no apparent reason or support your dream in some way, it’s probably because I know I don’t deserve all the blessings I have been getting lately, and I am trying like hell to share the good vibes and keep it rolling.

Speaking of being kind, I would be remiss to not shout out my desert metal brother Eric Wagner from Gatecreeper. After our set in Denver, CO we played a song from Sin Vida (Joaquin’s punk band). As I left the stage, I gave Matt [Arrebollo] a hug and looked down and Joaquin’s older brother Jandro smiled up at me. It was too much. The song played over the PA as his friends singing along chased me down the steps into the shared green room. I made it through one room where the Enforced gang was hanging out and into ours before I broke down sobbing and bawling right in front of Rippy and Eric. I don’t cry very often, and I hardly ever sob uncontrollably. I was taken aback when Eric pulled me in for a giant bear hug and let me break down in his chest for a solid minute. Thanks, man. I thought I loved Gatecreeper before this but after hanging with Eric and Matt on this run, their place in my top tier of magical, badass bands with great people in them has been solidified forever.

Obituary pic by Joseph “JC” Carey: www.jcphotomedia.com

I could keep going on and on about this tour, but I know people barely read anymore, so I’ll wrap this fucker up. Before I go, I want to take a second and tell all the young rocker boys and girls to believe in themselves. Start that band with your friends, jump on shows, sleep in rest stops, and shoplift your dinner. Rock ‘n’ roll has saved my life on several occasions. There is power in your songs and the riffs of your friends. You will feel it when it clicks. Chase that feeling and nurture it. I need you to make the next record that I live and breathe. Those are the ones that keep me going on the all-night drives when the heavy gloom of reality is chained around my neck like an anchor to the abyss. Those are the records that make me believe that I can do it too and give me the courage to pick up my Telecaster and write a banger.

World Peace. Love you all.

Stu Folsom

SpirtWorld’s debut LP, Pagan Rhythms, is available here for pre-order in a deluxe edition limited to 250 copies