By Matt Coker
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By Charles Lam
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And it's all worth it. By the time they hit Denver, Relish has re-defined its stage show. Walker, who already possessed the sweetest vocal chords on the entire tour, has evolved into a far more energetic and dynamic performer, roaming around the stage. Hitchcock's drumming is more powerful, and she's built a deeper rhythmic connection with Walker.
And Guaico has a revelation.
"People aren't here to hear good music or expert craftsmanship. It's all about performing and acting," she says. "They want to see rock stars and animated, exaggerated people onstage. Screw how long you've worked on the songs and the dynamics. They want noise and chaos."
That's what Relish gives them in Idaho: noise, sonic dissonance and weird textures. The crowd loves it. It's rewarding but a bit frustrating. "We spend all the time on this music, and then we give them this fucked-up shit, and they love it," Guaico says.
In San Francisco, Relish receives its best reception. Playing in a parking lot on the edge of the San Francisco Bay with the downtown skyline and the Bay Bridge behind them, it's a perfect setting. The crowd is huge, they're into the band, and everything is right in this small corner of the rock world.
But they have no time to enjoy it. The wind musters itself somewhere unseen and then unleashes its fury on the Volcom merchandise tent. Shirts and stickers swirl all over, and the band has to help sort out the gear.
Immegart, as usual, is unperturbed. One of the hardest-working dudes in show business, Immegart is running the merch booth while at the same time trying to save it. With one hand, he's hawking merchandise and taking money; with the other, he's holding the edge of the tent to prevent it from sailing into the bay Wizard of Oz-style.
One part of making it big is access. Rock stars hang out with other rock stars. But Relish doesn't have time to properly schmooze on this tour. When they're not setting up or tearing down, or performing, or performing daring rescues, they're trying to sleep as much as possible. They do make friends with a couple of the bands on tour, like Flogging Molly and the Toledo Show, both from Los Angeles. They bond a bit with the Lunachicks, and they talk nearly daily to Kevin Lyman, the guy who launched the Warped Tour.
In Quincy, Washington, they kidnap the bass player from Zeke, a Washington-based white-trash speed-metal band that is the underground favorite of many of the musicians on tour. Everybody lines up to basically kiss the band's ass, praising them and wanting to be their best friend. But Relish steals away Zeke's bass player, Jeff, with the promise of partying all night with three hot chicks.
The only problem: there are no drugs, legal or otherwise, to be had. There is no booze. It's after 2 in the morning. But he winds up crashing in their motel room in Spokane, and the next morning, when the rest of the bands find out about Relish's brush with white-trash speed-metal cult greatness, they're the talk of the tour.
"I'm going to get a heart attack if someone doesn't give me some whiskey."
That's Moses, screaming from the kitchen. Moses is an old, balding, wrinkled reformed alcoholic who owns a nameless cafe 100 yards short of the Canadian border in Idaho. Moses is a very sweet, wise an loveable soul. His restaurant is a last-chance stop before the Canadian border, where everything is more expensive.
The four-member Relish squad are the only people in the restaurant. Full steak dinners are $5, and they're delicious. Moses is also the cook; his wife and daughter are the servers. Every so often, he exits the kitchen—cigarette dangling from his mouth—to ask how the meal is going.
"How you kids doing? I don't suppose anybody has a bowl I can smoke. See what I got to put up with? She won't let me drink. Women push me around all day."
Moses lived in a truck outside a bar for two years. He and his wife just purchased this joint weeks before. He adores Relish, giving them better cuts of meat and offering to let them sleep in the restaurant if they come back the same way.
It's not exactly the scene from Good Fellas where Ray Liotta knows he's made it because he gets a front-row seat at the Copa Cabana. But it's definitely a start.
Trip over. Relish returns as conquering heroes, sleeps for days and days, and legions of fans back home shower them with attention and affection.
It's back to work or school or general day-to-day drudgery. The band hasn't made it yet, but this taste of the big time won't be easy to forget. Before they're even back home, they're getting e-mails from new fans who discovered them on tour. Now it's time to plan follow-up gigs, pursue contacts, start recording another CD, and continue to chase the seductive dream. It's about execution, follow-through and hard work. It's about keeping your eyes on the road and your foot on the pedal—and not freaking out when you hit something big.