There and Back again with dios

Chris Ziegler spent 25 days on the road with diosmaybe the 25 most important days of their careerand he ended up in a Detroit hospital.

DAY 12: MYRTLE BEACH

Because of the way I was raised, I already knew what a couple of hundred sweaty alligators mucking around in the mud smelled like. Everyone else had to mention it, though. Sold more CDs here than anywhere else.

DAY 14: DAY OFF

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)

We accidentally left Joel and Jimmy on the Grandaddy bus and spent the day out of cell phone range by ourselves. It felt like our parents were gone, especially because we knew that we'd get yelled at when we got back. J.P. and Kevin awkwardly jockeyed for command as we tried to find a store that sold thermal underwear. Jackie and I were the most poorly prepared; I could see us 24 hours later, buried in a D.C. snow bank, stuffing free newspapers down our pants for insulation. As we squirted through the last edge of the North Carolina forests, the cells lit back up. All that time we'd been in the interstate slow lane, the other dios—the glossy media Xerox that glides from promo to publicist, not quite identical to the three slightly smudgy guys eating beef jerky next to me—was getting sort of famous. Dios was in Rolling Stone, had a review in Spin, had a review on pitchforkmedia.com ("If writers were allowed to draw maps, America would be promptly re-proportioned according to its most prosaic cultural mythology"), got a song on LA radio. Once we noticed, we could sense it, certain kids at the front of the stage unconsciously playing canary. The other bands would always say something nice about it.

DAY 15: WASHINGTON, D.C.

The last night with Saves the Day and Grandaddy and Fire Theft: DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ASS ON THE WAY OUT, said the sign. Jason from Grandaddy drew a dios group portrait on the dressing-room wall, and then Joel found a Sharpie and drew some of the Grandaddy guys, and then they got into the club beer and had a big art contest, and when we left, the walls looked like a desk from middle-school detention hall. Every band played a Pixies cover, and when dios got really drunk, they crammed some tortilla chips in their jacket pockets and stood in front of the dressing-room mirror, laughing and wearing sunglasses. I'm not good at goodbyes, so I drank a bottle of Saves the Day's whiskey and let peristalsis work its messy magic.

"Chris, what's wrong with you?" Jackie asked. "There's a demon inside of you!"

I dragged my head back inside the van to look at him, and he was just those glasses and a grin, hanging over the seat.

DAY 16: PHILADELPHIA

Here was a nice park. Joel sat on a bench to read the paper. We kept walking, stopping at a grassy wrinkle of a gully that used to be Philly's municipal sewer system. Jackie flashed a laser pointer at squirrels in the trees. A man in a white North Face jacket jogged briskly into our circle and started shouting: "Hands out of your pockets; get your hands where I can see them!" No one moved. This was the preppiest mugger I'd ever seen. And then four uniformed cops with Smokey the Bear hats and pudgy black pistols at their thighs melted out of the trees and historical markers. North Face had hard little eyes that clacked from side to side as he patted us down and a haircut that started by selecting a setting on the clipper and ended when the sarge said, "Okay, boys, lunch break is over." Someone had called about the laser pointer and thought we had a gun. And Jimmy's heavy beard—graduated from mossy to ursine—probably got a mention, too. The other cops got bored and let their adrenalin flush out their legs, but North Face made sure we all got a little hand time. He asked what a bunch of California beach citizens were doing in chilly downtown Philly, and Jimmy said, so politely and matter-of-factly it should have embarrassed the cops, "We're in a band." Cops always have to ask you the squarest questions when they find out you're in a band (Greg Ginn used to tell them he was a jazz musician; funny because North Face looked like a skinny Henry Rollins), and so North Face said, "dios, huh? That means 'days,' right?" Everybody just looked at the city skyline and said, "Yeah, yeah." At the show, I spilled booze all over one band's posters, but the guilt blew away as they began using unsold T-shirts to open beer bottles. Rebecca never bought the T-shirt—"Not a T-shirt girl," she said with a smile—and a chef and his girlfriend took us home and made us little nests in their living room and cooked us breakfast in the morning. We put a few 10s under the sugar jar, and for future reference, J.P. wrote down the type of air mattresses we'd slept on.

DAY 17: NEW YORK

The industry people had a distinctive kind of skin: scaly and orange from years of smoke blown over them, shiny from the resurrection products they could goo themselves with each morning. They looked like they could talk about Lou Reed for hours. The dios album—recorded in their practice space and mixed in J.P.'s basement—had come out just minutes before, and I overcharged based on customer oiliness. Tonight was the dog show, I guess. Dios had about 25 minutes to demonstrate their potential; to adjust the sentiments of the guy from the Streets, if 50 people in Hawthorne think you're good, then 50 people in Hawthorne think you're good. But if 50 people in New York think you're good, then the whole world thinks you're good. That's why there are bands in Costa Mesa and Long Beach and Anaheim and Lomita that really do deserve to be everywhere—they can't get their shitty cars out of the Pacific Standard zone, and so we get to watch them over and over again for $5 a pop. Feel bad? I sometimes did. But even if the dios guest list had blown out over industry fluff, at least we were in New York. "Starting Five" had a vocal just past the center that went something like, "Make some cash/and buy that classy/lifestyle I been told about." It was the tail of a couplet about space pot or something, but when the doors that kept the bar quieter than the band swung open for a second, I heard Joel doctor the lyric: ". . . that classy/lifestyle I been born without."

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