Photos: Aaron Kafton @clovenlife


“Not sure how we’d pay the rent, just knew we had to keep going.”

We were on tour and that was all that mattered. Parents and friends did their part in reminding us of how foolish touring was. Our band had possibly the most unreliable vehicle I’ve ever had the misfortune of driving. Sometimes $900 for a vehicle and big dreams is enough to get you a few thousand miles. The van wouldn’t surpass 65 mph without cutting out. That made keeping up with the other band REALLY hard. We also discovered that the colony of ants in the engine compartment was very displeased with the heat from the engine. For a minor respite from the heat, they joined us in the cab of the van. There were no seats, save for the driver and passenger seats up front. We acquired some nice after market seating that had obviously accidently been left by a dumpster. Sometimes it IS the simple things in life. 


July of 2008 brought torrential rains to Texas and Louisiana. The ground couldn’t absorb any more water, so it stood nearly ankle high everywhere. The sun came out and the lower Mississippi River states became saunas.  Mind you, I hate humidity more than I hate menthol cigarettes, and I really hate menthol cigarettes. So much water was evaporating into the summer sun that it was almost foggy.


We arrived at the venue in Baton Rogue late the evening the day before our show. We were just two vans of punk rock/hippie/reggae/metal head kids chilling out in the parking lot, living our dreams. From the other side of the venue, we heard a distinct noise. There’s a sound that baseball bats and beer bottles make when being wielded as battle weapons that one never forgets.


At that moment my adrenaline removed any thought of the persistent humidity. I’m sure that our minds eye equated our situation to an epic medieval battlefield prior to a charge. In reality it probably looked more like a Spaghetti Western. One of us somehow found the capacity to utter something regarding playing at the venue the next evening. Guards and baseball bats came down and coolers of beer came out. We shared the rest of the evening with our new Baton Rouge friends in our makeshift parking lot camp.


Rats had the privilege of opening for some really amazing artists. Since those days it’s been enjoyable to see many of them carry on to bigger and better shows than the punk clubs in Joplin, Missouri. Of all those encounters, I remember talking with Brian Fallon in the green room (concrete room used for storage) before a show. Either he said one of the most simply profound things I’ve ever heard, or my brain decided he should have said something profound and interjected it in my memory. “We just decided to get in a van and go until it worked out or we ran out of money.”

 Fact or fanciful imagery, I think I’m just going to get in the van and hope it works out.

-Mississippi Jake