by Kim Kelly w/ photos by Samantha Marble

Zoroaster at The Khyber

Writer Kim Kelly has completed her (epic) journey on the road with the Summer Southern Burn Tour aka the indomitable team of Zoroaster, Black Tusk, and Dark Castle. She kept a diary along the way, revealing the first part a few weeks ago, and now the conclusion! (below) - BBG


June 26th - San Francisco, CA @Thee Parkside

We had a hella short drive over from Oakland to San Francisco, so we all splintered off and made the most of our semi-free day. Black Tusk, Zoroaster Dan and I hit up Nation Burger for breakfast, then Dan and I drove over the Bay Bridge (twice - thanks, GPS) in search of records and decent grub. Every time I find myself in the mighty Amoeba Records I know I'm going to drop a bundle, and Dan is an even worse vinyl nerd than I am; he had a fucking stack of at least ten slabs of vintage country/rock'n'roll, while I was just stoked to find Blasphemophager's 'Nuclear Empire of Apocalypse' on picture disc and grab the new Thou/Moloch split alongside a couple Skynyrd and Scorpions tapes for the van. He split to go check out the barbecue that everyone else had been chilling at all day, and I met up with my friends Erin and Kyle and Andrew from Black Tusk for Thai food (he got green chili catfish - you can take a boy out of ol' Dixieland, but you cannot take ol' Dixie from a boy), then after wandering around Haight-Ashbury for awhile, Andrew and I headed over to the venue to kill time at the bar before load in. Everyone else moseyed in about an hour later, and people started piling in shortly thereafter. Tonight fucking slayed - packed house, good sound, a rad promoter (Whore for Satan rules) and a bunch of great friends came out. I was particularly stoked to see my friend Arthur von Nagel from Cormorant and his adorable lady Amber, and a bunch of Zoroaster's buddies kept things lively. We ended up staying with the latter after the show, and tried to grab a few hours of sleep post-party, pre-drive. Thanks for showing us a hell of a good time, San Francisco! This show was just the morale boost we all needed; tempers were flaring and spirits were sagging pretty low up until this one.

June 27th - Chico, CA @Coda Café

Black Tusk's merch babe Chloe (who screams bloody gore in NYC's Atakke) grew up in San Francisco, so when we woke up the next morning she took us out to her favorite burrito place, and to Whole Foods to stock up on van food. I can't stress enough how important it is to stop at grocery stores on tour. The nonstop menu of gas station munchies, fast food, and Waffle House starts to take a heavy toll after a couple weeks, and it's cheaper, too - a box of granola bars and some apples costs about as much as a Big Mac, bro! We've been trying to eat healthy on this run, but finances, time, and general laziness makes it pretty hard. Generally, Rob and Ben will eat any deep-fried monstrosity they can get their hands on while Stevie and I scrounge for Cliff Bars and string cheese (though I did see Ben eat an orange the other day, and swore it had to be a mirage). Living like this makes us even more appreciative of venues like the Coda Café in Chico that made it a point to offer up some decent food when we rolled up. We were there for a pick-up show that'd been added to fill in a day off, which ended up being a pretty laid-back affair. It didn't hurt that the Dark Castle and Zoroaster crews were already in a great mood after having spent a few hours that afternoon drinking beers and swimming in a wonderfully cold river a few miles from the venue; many thanks to Brandon from The Makai for taking us there!

Coda Cafe is small and cozy, with a palate-pleasing menu of gourmet pizza and an appreciative crowd of locals who trickled in once the first band started playing and stuck around 'til the not-so-bitter end. The second local band, The Makai, were fucking awesome - their unholy amalgamation of doom, black, and death metal was executed with merciless precision and unfolded throughout the course of one epic thirty-minute song. Keep an eye on these guys! Their drummer also pulls double duty in Mammoth Tora, the weirdo surf rock band that closed out the night once the touring bands had done their thing. Good show, good vibes, good times!

Zoroaster at The Khyber

June 28th - Portland, OR @Satyricon

The drive from Chico to Portland was absolutely beautiful, but hellishly long. This tour's been littered with 8+ hour drives, which has given us all a lot of time to catch up on reading and fight over music selections. We alternate between Stevie's iPhone, my laptop, and the radio, which yields a pretty ridiculous mishmash of sounds that no one can ever agree on. Stevie likes slow, depressive stuff, Ben's a firm advocate of dirty Southern gangsta rap, I'm an elitist prick, and whenever Rob's driving he wants to hear something rockin', which doesn't work well when my laptop's plugged in. "Do you have any Metallica?" "Fuck that." Saint Vitus' Born Too Late starts wailing out of the speakers. "I need something I can sing along to!" Okay. Mercyful Fate goes on repeat for the next couple hundred miles. "Don't Break the Oath, motherfucker!"
Portland's a wonderfully weird city surrounded by breathtaking natural surroundings and populated by a bunch of our good friends, so we'd all been looking forward to this show for awhile. Chloe and I snuck off to Voodoo Donuts before the show for some maple bacon bars and picked up a dozen (chocolate on chocolate and decorated with pentagrams!) to celebrate James (drums, Black Tusk)'s birthday later that night. The Satyricon is an all-ages venue with an adjacent bar, where my friend Zack from the insanely awesome Nux Vomica happened to be bartending and hooked Andrew and I up with some free drinks. It's always surreal to see young kids wandering around, but the bassist of the killer local band Tenspeed Warlock had brought his ten-year-old son to the show and the kid was a total badass! Our buddies Mike and Aaron from YOB came out to hang, and Nate Carson from Nanotear put us up in his awesome house afterwards. A night to remember (for some of us, anyway; a couple of us got into a fight with Jim Beam and Johnny Walker, and lost. Badly). As Athon said, "Girl, you lost your knees!"

June 29th - Seattle, WA @Funhouse

After enjoying a lovely (hungover) breakfast with Nate and some friends from Subarachnoid Space, another long, scenic drive deposited us at the Funhouse in Seattle - right under the Space Needle! This is a pretty merch-heavy tour, and the merch crew has had a hell of a time fitting our assorted bags and boxes into the smaller bars/venues. I'm already dreading trying to fit all three of our setups into the miniscule merch area at the Khyber in my 'hood. The three of us (me, Chloe, and Zoroaster's road dog Nick) took over the joint's lone pool table and laid out our wares, reveling in the luxury of having an actual space for all of our stuff. The Funhouse was one of the raddest venues we've encountered so far. In addition to the merch corner, they had plenty of room for gear, a cozy backstage room, and a basketball hoop outside, where Steven from Kreation Records fucking rocked all of us!
The metaleros in the opening band, Sin Dios, unleashed some high-quality black/death metal fury, but had a sense of humor, too - at the end of their set, the singer cracked "There are a lot of bands from the South playing tonight. We're from the South, too - South of the border!"
Our original plan was to crash with Stevie's friends in Galder and Grey (two killer Seattle metal bands) but we and the Zoros ended up staying with Steven (an old friend of Dan's) at his tricked-out doom mansion instead. His record collection was about as jaw-dropping as one would expect from the guy that runs one of the bets metal/stoner rock record stores on the planet (he had a Deathspell Omega 4xLP box set that still haunts my dreams). Dude had a SAUNA in his bathroom, and you bet your ass we all crammed in there and sweated out the toxins we'd accumulated during the past two weeks of hard-livin' and hard-drinkin' (there was a LOT of sweat!). We stayed up 'til 5am listening to Om records, drinking port wine, and appreciating Steven's hookah. Totally surreal, and totally awesome.

Black Tusk at The Khyber
Black Tusk

June 30th - Boise, ID @Red Room

We showed up late and had to rush to load in during Pussygutt's set, which was a damn shame because from what I heard, they were fucking awesome. Our dear friends Darcy Nutt and Chad Remains had set up the show for us, and their badass stoner doom band Uzala played second. They are seriously one of my favorite new doom bands; imagine a run-in between Electric Wizard and Saint Vitus with a foxier Jinx Dawson on vocals. So good! Unfortunately, time constraints and set up issues resulted in all three touring bands having to cut their sets short, which no one was too pleased about. Despite the stress, it was a fun show, and the band dudes had plenty of fun scoping out the drunk college chicks stumbling around outside afterwards (apparently, drunk sorority broads love taking pictures with heavily tattooed metal dudes!). The Dark Castle crew ended up at Darcy and Chad's place and stayed up late listening to Saint Vitus records and catching up before crashing hard.

July 1st - Salt Lake City, UT @Club Vegas

We woke up to a homemade breakfast and hung out with Darcy, Chad, and their kickass daughter before heading to their tattoo shop, Chalice, to take a look around. Darcy's work is absolutely unbelievable - there's a reason she's such a well-known, well-respected tattoo artist (and is the sweetest little lady you could ever meet, on top of it!). She hooked Stevie and I up with some gorgeous new jewelry (1" plugs for me, carved wooden weights for her) and showed us around the shop before we had to hit the long road to Salt Lake City. Before we left, we discovered a seriously injured cat curled up outside their shop; Chad made a few frantic calls to local animal shelters, and the couple ended up taking the poor kitty to an animal hospital after we'd left (they called to let us know that the cat was going to be okay!). We got to the club a little late again, loaded in, scarfed down some pizza, and settled in to watch the two locals. Los Rojos laid down a short set of Southern-inspired rock, and Invdrs (not a typo) screeched through some EyeHateGod-worshiping swamp sludge before Dark Castle thundered onstage. Gentry from Eagle Twin came out to hang and check out Dark Castle's set, which was definitely cool. The crowd wasn't huge and everyone that came up to the merch table said they'd loved the set but were too broke to buy anything (hot tip: don't come up to me and cry about not having money while holding the beer you just bought. Fucking dweebs). We all crammed into two hotel rooms, watched some Metalocalypse, and crashed out early in anticipation/dread of the 9+ hour drive to Denver the next morning

Dark Castle at The Khyber
Dark Castle

July 2nd - Denver, CO @Larimer Lounge

One of the most difficult parts of touring is creating and maintaining a positive balance between tons of very different personalities. Oftentimes, personalities, plans, and opinions clash, and clash hard, and it can get mad ugly trying to negotiate a solution. This morning was one of those times for our camp. Things eventually worked themselves out, but for awhile, shit was pretty apocalyptically awful. This has been a really tough, stressful tour for a number of reasons, and it's taking its toll. The fun and positivity always comes back, though; at the end of the day we're all good friends working and playing music together and it's that love that keeps us sane (or something like it). A long drive and shitty load-in (showing up late and frantically trying to steer the entire contents of our van through a crowd of nonplussed hipsters is never a great way to start a show) put a damper on our arrival, but a good turnout and plenty of hang time on the patio smoothed things over; fair enough, Colorado.

July 3rd - Kansas City, MO @Riot Room

Kansas City was lame, but at least we had a baller hotel room to come back to at the end of the night. Dan Zoroaster is truly the King of Priceline!

July 4th - St. Paul, MN @Turf Club

We spent our Fourth of July cooped up in a van with the windows down to save the engine from overheating and rolled up to the Turf Club just in time for a deadly evening heat to set in. Jesus fucking Christ, it was hot! The venue was cool (it had a photobooth, at least) and some of our friends from Wolvhammer came out to hang, but the crowd was what you'd expect on our nation's birthday. Also, I swear the green room was fucking haunted. The "backstage" area was down a rickety flight of stairs, in a dank basement with a secret closed-off bar in the back and way too many dark corners. I don't think any of us were man enough to stay down there more than few minutes! A very dapper gentleman with full-on face tattoos gave me a wink, though, and drinks were cheap, so the night wasn't a total bust. In addition, HeathHammer's dog RULED, as we discovered upon trudging into the apartment he shares with his lady and Rob from Battlefields (who came stumbling in at an ungodly hour, fresh from working the Dillinger Four-th of July show downtown). Crashing with friends always trumps staying at hotels, especially when they live with awesome friendly beasts.

Beer flows at the BBQ (photo by Kim)
Summer Southern Burn

July 5th - DAY OFF

To make up for our aborted Fourth of July, we decided to stop at a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, halfway between St. Paul and Chicago and have a barbecue. Needless to say, we left the joint in an absolute shambles. All the madness, blood, and mayhem that went down later that night can be traced back to a single event - Nick and Andrew returning from Walmart with a grill, tons of food, three cases of beer...and a gigantic jug of rum. Hotel security kept creeping in and giving us the hairy eyeball, but since none of us were actually doing anything wrong, they couldn't do a thing, and were forced to leave us to our own devices. Imagine twelve heavily tattooed/pierced people jumping around a pool and swigging beers in the hot tub, periodically wandering off to check on Athon's grilling techniques and ducking back inside when it started to rain - and repeating the entire spectacle for about four hours. After they closed the pool, we ended up at the hotel bar, then up in our rooms, and then things got really fucked. Someone ended up nearly slicing his thumb off, a hole got punched in a wall, earrings were lost, more booze was drunk, people disappeared and reappeared, shit got broken, and, after witnessing just a fraction of what was going on, instead of kicking us out the dudes at the front desk seemed genuinely worried about us. Our theory is that they thought we were actually a big deal famous rock band and were totally cool with us trashing their hotel. We found out later that they'd moved every other guest off of our floor because of noise complaints, and left us alone (which was probably the worst idea they could've had, but hey, at least no one ended up dead.) Most of the crazy stuff happened before midnight, proving that day drinking is NOT good idea, no matter how much rum you've got to finish.

"What's up, bitches! I found the secret entrance!" - Rob Dark Castle

July 6th - Chicago, IL @The Empty Bottle

Chicago rules, and we have a ton of friends out there, so it was no surprise that tonight's show was a fucking blast. Bruce from Yakuza was behind the bar and dudes from Nachtmystium, the Atlas Moth, Lord Mantis, Indian, Twilight, and Blood of the Tyrant came out to hang, and the crowd was killer. The lady behind Metalcakes showed up with 'Black Tusk cupcakes' soaked in SoCo and studded with pecans, which were happily devoured (thanks again!). Chloe Puke has been doing guest vocals with Dark Castle almost every night by this point, and Stevie's been singing "Spirit Molecule" with Zoroaster, so it's turning into quite the family affair. We all ended up going separate ways after the gig, which as per usual led to some confusion the next morning when half of Dark Castle was across town with Zoroaster and the rest of us were at The Atlas Moth World Headquarters in the 'burbs. It's impossible to keep track of eleven other people, but even keeping tabs on the rest of our van is a constant struggle!

Chloe Puke on stage with Dark Castle at The Khyber
Dark Castle

July 7th - Newport, KY @Southgate House

This was hands-down the biggest surprise of the entire tour. I expected Newport to be a let-down after the awesome time we'd had in Chicago, but the Southgate House show was absolutely amazing. The staff was super nice, tons of kids came out including some old friends of Black Tusk's (shout out to Mollie Hatchet!) and we were kept busy at the merch table all night. The only bummer came right before Dark Castle's set, when Stevie discovered that her guitar had finally succumbed to a crack it had sustained during their last European tour. After trying in vain to make it work, she had to quickly borrow Andrew Black Tusk's axe to get through DC's set. Dark Castle have had THE worst luck on this tour, but they still manage to bring it every damn night.

July 8th - Pittsburgh, PA @31st St. Pub

Everyone's always told me that Pittsburgh sucks, which seems a little harsh. I fully expected to be proven wrong tonight, but no such luck. After choking down the worst wings in the world (seriously. Nick got his money refunded, they were that bad) we rolled over to the venue and did what we do. Pittsburgh is a pretty lame town, but at least its local bands are super nice. We hung out with Vulture all night after seeing them dredge up some seriously nasty sludge - their drummer, Kelly, was one of the coolest people we met on this tour. The show itself was pretty weak, and there were some money issues with the promoter afterwards ($120 for catering? Really? I didn't realize a couple pints of fried rice and some bottles of water were that expensive, bro) so we were happy to get out of there.

July 9th - New York City, NY @The Studio at Webster Hall (pics from that show)

If you think parking in Manhattan is a nightmare, try parking a fifteen passenger van (or a van with a trailer) in the middle of the street, climbing up a flight of stairs carrying a bass cab, and weaving your way through a crowd of hipsters and Jersey Shore extras to toss your gear on the sidewalk and hope nothing goes wrong. Welcome to hell - and welcome to loadout at Webster Hall. The show was fucking awesome (presented by the always rad Rich Hall and Brooklyn Vegan), the joint was totally packed, tons of friends came out to rage and our buddies in Hull started things off with a bang, but once it was over, everything went to hell. Loadout was a nightmare, bad decisions were made, mass confusion enveloped our entire party, tempers flared, words were said, and almost everyone left angry. Everyone except the two members of Dark Castle ended up at Duff's in Brooklyn, where the indomitable Jimmy Duff took us downstairs to a private room, plied us with beer and whiskey, and told us stories about the crazy goings-on that that room had seen (he also pointed out a pair of Peter Steele's prison boxers...). A late night got later and later - I'm still surprised Ben and I made it back to my place without encountering any more trouble. A great night with an awful ending.

Kim Kelly @ the Merch Table @ The Studio @ Webster (photo by Markus Shaffer, more)
Kim Kelly

July 10th - Philadelphia, PA @The Khyber

And, one day away from the end of tour, the stress and animosity that had been building up over the past month came to a head, and Team Dark Castle hit rock bottom. The madness and poor planning of the night before caught up with us once one party made its feelings known to another party, and an explosive, heated argument broke out when we got to the van. Total bullshit. Most of the van ride was spent in silence, punctuated by Ben and Andrew's colorful commentary on the New York passersby. By the time we got to Philly, most of us were in a good mood, and things sort of worked themselves out by mid-show. Turnout was good, a ton of my buddies came out to hang, and the bartender was very liberal with free drinks, so spirits were a bit higher by the end of the night. We crashed with my friend James in his enormous house and tried to mentally prepare for one last battle.

July 11th - Harrisonburg, VA @Blue Nile

Last day of tour. We all knew we were one day away from going home, so everyone just went with the flow and enjoyed ourselves.. There were some real characters in the crowd that night, but they added a certain something to the atmosphere (except the one broad that came up to my table and started yelling at me for trying to sell her "lithographs"). Black Tusk made a point of thanking the road crew (love you boys!) at the end of their set, and to the small but rabid crowd's delight, hauled out an older song as an encore. A few good friends made it out (always a pleasure to see Brandon from Cough), and there was no stress, no drama, just good tunes, good vibes, and a lot of bromantic goodbyes. After spending a month living, eating, playing, and fighting with one another, you can't help but start to miss your tour family as soon as their headlights fade into the distance. Luckily, all three bands tour like motherfuckers, so make sure to catch Black Tusk with Fu Manchu next month, and see Zoroaster and Dark Castle with Nachtmystium and the Atlas Moth in September!


Kim Kelly and photographer/friend of the site Diana Zadlo at The Khyber
Black Tusk