Cusses End of School Jam
With Crazy Bag Lady, Makout Club, Grimey
Where: Dollhouse Productions, 980 Industry Drive
When: At 8 p.m. Thursday, May 23
Admission: $8 (all ages show)
The towns changed faster than the color of Angel Bond's hair, but all in all, the 56-show Cusses tour was a rousing success for everyone involved.
"I love to travel," says Bond, the rock 'n' roll trio's charismatic vocalist. "I've traveled most of my life. So to travel and play music was a total bonus."
The tour, like the Cusses album, was a DIY affair, with Bond, drummer Brian Lackey and guitarist Bryan Harder booking the dates themselves.
"The way it works in this business is you need fans," Bond declares. "And to do that, you play live. I don't think you really get us, and really fall in love with us, until you see us live." She catches herself, and laughs a little. "In my humble opinion."
Of course, two months crammed into a silver Sprinter van, piled ceiling-high with equipment, can make even the best of friends fall out of love pretty quick. Luckily for the three Cusses, and their traveling companion Samita Wolfe, the potentially arduous nature of the sojourn had been discussed in advance, in detail.
Longtime sweethearts Bond and Lackey were used to being in tight quarters. It was harder (ahem) for Harder, who left his wife and young children back in Savannah while the band pursued its dreams.
"I essentially had to learn how to be away from them," the guitarist says. "That was hard. I could play music every day of the week, that's easy, but being away from them and making sure that they know I'll be back ... having a good conversation in the van, with everyone so close, isn't easy."
He did fly home over his kids' spring break, and rejoined the tour after a few days off.
Cusses blanketed the east coast beginning in February; on the second leg of the tour, they went to California (playing a sold-out show at Los Angeles' famed Viper Room March 21) then to Oregon, Washington State, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas and on to the Midwest. "Most of my pictures on Facebook are from out the window of the van," Bond says.
Then they wound their way through the southern states and arrived home, safe and sound, on May 4.
In many cities, their music had preceded them. "Receiving a lot of hype and mostly deserving it, Savannah's Cusses dual-twist punk angst/frenzy and down and dirty southern rock like rosy, freshly-pierced nipples," wrote one breathless wag in the Pacific Northwest.
Before a radio interview in Portland, the program manager told them "There's no way that you three are on that record, because you're all too nice and down-to-earth."
In Las Vegas, Harder beams, "There was a couple that said they marked their calendar like two months before the show. They said 'We're so excited to be here.'"
In New York, Cusses sold out the prestigious Brooklyn Public Assembly. "The New York audiences were basically 60 percent SCAD kids," Lackey says. "And we had 14 or 15 SCAD kids at the Viper Room show. Those are the migration places."
Adds Bond: "We met SCAD kids in Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore ... and we had people come up that we hadn't seen since high school."
Not every show was a smash — all bands have to play to tiny crowds sometime — but almost everywhere they went, the musicians say, they made new friends.
Harder: "Part of the highlight, for me, was to meet the type of people that are giving and welcoming, and invite you to stay at their house without knowing them. After playing a show, then 'We love you. What are you doing tonight? Do you have a place to stay? If not, stay with us.' That happened a lot."
Happily, they don't have any real road-horror stories. All the band equipment, except for a few broken cymbals, made it back intact. Lackey broke a finger mid-song because he smacked his snare a little too hard ("I kept going for about a song and a half," he smiles).
In Washington, D.C., a street kid passed out on the sidewalk in front of the club where Cusses were performing. Police and passers-by stood there as he urinated all over himself.
"We had to step over him, and his trail of pee, to unload," Bond laughs. "It was literally going right to our van."
The cops wouldn't allow the band to leave, adds Harder. "They were essentially blaming us because we were playing rock 'n' roll in their town."
The band plays its annual "End of School Jam" show, for all ages, May 23 at Dollhouse Productions. Crazy Bag Lady and two other bands will join Cusses on the bill. They're talking about staging another of their No Control festivals later in the summer — and maybe, just maybe, an inaugural tour of the U.K. in the fall.
Next up is a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a second album.
Vinyl and CD copies of Cusses were big sellers on the tour — the band sold out of them, as well as Cusses T-shirts and their other carry-along merchandise.
"If it wasn't for the merch, we wouldn't have made it," Bond says. "The merch is the only thing that got us gas money. And gas is not cheap."