On The Road: Doom Squad's WigWam Tour 2011, Pt. 2 by V. Rachel Weldon

V. Rachel Weldon is on a West Coast tour with Toronto's psychedelic rockers, Doom Squad. This is her second dispatch from the road. Part 1 is here.
The earliest ones awake are usually the ones charged with some sort of responsibility for the day. In Wolf's case: running lines for a couple of auditions he had later that day for parts in TV shows. Treymor wanted to tighten some screws on the Machine before the evening. But also he slept on the front porch, and construction on the house across the street starts at 7am.

I also slept on the porch, and so was sitting cross legged in the living room, drinking my first cup of joe and going over my excuse to quit my job that morning before I'd have to go in for the dinner shift I had been scheduled for that night during Doom Squad's first show at the Electric Owl in Vancouver.

This was officially the start of Doom Squad's West Coast tour. Treymor had begun shooting his documentary, so the cameras were rolling, and we all had to play our parts in the great movie. Manifest our roles, write our own scripts, direct the movie and drive the narrative forward. Once directing your own movie, you're able write anything you want into your script. It's on you to make it a thriller, a comedy, or a tragedy. You can bring in your cast of characters. Beautiful visuals, incredible plot twists, surprise cameos — you can bring it all together in your own script.

But we did have to keep reminding Treymor to charge his batteries and have a camera on hand to pick up everything. Things just keep happening.

Treymor paces through the room, on the phone with yet another vehicle owner, this time a 28 foot old army training bus turned camper with a hardwood interior, loads of space, stove, fridge and a 6 CD changer. We went and met the old hippie who owned it, a super friendly dude who, because of an accident which left him somewhat disabled, mostly used the bus for a hotbox, save for the odd weekend camping trip. Treymor, Rye Toast, WigWam, Westing Crow and myself sat in the roomy back area of the bus while he took us for a bumpy ride around the block. The brakes needed work, the windshield was cracked and the tires in the back needed re-grooving, but all-in-all the bus seemed like our dreamboat as we bounced around a Richmond suburb. The old hippie called it the Magic Bus, and we could feel it - the magic was real. Plus it would be perfect for the film, a real live modern day "Furthur" bus like Ken Kesey's in the '70s. We talked the merciful hippie down $1500 below his asking price but the bus was still over our budget and kind of canceled out any room for emergencies and repairs on the road. And although the diesel engine was built for army training, we couldn't exactly guarantee it wouldn't break down on the road - and we couldn't afford to wait two weeks in some bum town to wait for obscure military bus parts when the band had dates to play - the next one, let us remind ourselves, was a week and a half away in Tofino on Vancouver Island and we needed a way to get there.

That evening before the Doom Squad show, we were all sitting around drinking wine on the porch when WigWam reminded us the band needed to be at the venue in 45 minutes. It was an early show, starting at 9 pm. Doom Squad was headlining with local group Red Hot Icicles Burning On Fire, but they were supposed to go on at 10:30 pm. The Vancouver by-law thing or whatever it is that says live music cannot go past midnight on weekdays is a frustrating phenomena for Ontarians. I volunteered to work the door for the show, so got in the cab with the band to head down to East Hastings.

When the group went on about two hours later, the rest of our friends had shown up with bells on, twirling on the dancefloor and swinging limbs. Electric Owl is an impressive venue for a sushi restaurant that moonlights as a concert hall. Doom Squad came on stage commanding attention, drawing us in and setting the pace. Aloe on the left, in rhinestoned denim trousers, a short black top and dark purple lips, pounding a drum and harmonizing, moving to the beat of her own drum. The lovely WigWam on the right, on keys, wearing a long skirt and a gold shawl, with her long chestnut hair around her shoulders. Treymor centered the stage, with slim pants and a mop of curly dark hair on the top of his head, manipulating sounds with the Machine and on the guitar. They kept all of us in the audience under their spell, their siren song, an energy drawing us all in, myself ecstatically included when Rye Toast would sit at my post at the cover table, which he ended up doing for most of their set, thank him.

That night after the show, we headed back to Kistilano and sat on the beach for a while, smoked and drank and shot the shit with our happy trance afterglow. Lights in North Van peppered the mountain side across the strait. I breathed happy free breaths, unemployed and uninhibited, I felt and feel liberated and inspired, my opportunism able to reach its fullest potential and the whole road yet ahead.

The next morning, feeling crusty and hungover after another night on the front porch, Westing Crow and I sat around and sang one of the songs he wrote as he strummed the guitar.

"The sky surrounds us/
space-time allows us/
to find reality/
because mind is fantasy"

WigWam was on the phone with Phil working out a way to get us all onto the boat camping trip that night. Phil owned a beautiful big boat he kept on Granville Island, and after some last minute last-night drunk plans and some hurried daytime planning and packing, we were all going on the boat and heading to beautiful Gambier Island that afternoon. Take them as they come, and keep the plot going. Let's bring our movie to the ocean, let's bring it onto a boat and over to an island, decompress and connect to one another. Understand fully what we all want out of this trip, and the vehicle that will take us there.
We hauled our packs and gear through Kits to Granville Island where Phil's boat was docked, gassed up, and set off, sailing past snow-capped mountains and shining sea while the sun swam over our hot skin. Rye Toast was especially dazzled, being from Australia originally and never having seen the mountains of B.C. But I've said it before Rye Toast, there's nothing quite like Canadian wilderness on this whole planet my friend.

Treymor and Phil consulted the GPS. "Whoa, that island is called Finnisterra." Treymor told us that means the end of the world, also the name of the village where the Camino de Santiago that he did last summer terminated.

We pulled up to a public dock on Gambier and brought our stuff over the short walk around the bay to a campsite. Treymor had found a perfect one right on the water across from an island in the middle of the bay. We set up camp, ate quinoa salad and swam in the ocean. We drank when the sun went down, me my preferred bottles of La Fin Du Monde beer from Quebec to start, and cheap tequila to drive the plot forward.

The next morning, waking up late and hungover, we called the mechanics back in Vancouver. We had taken in the Magic Bus that we had seen two days earlier for an inspection before we purchased it. The news wasn't good: the price of the repairs for even the most necessary maladies on our dreambus, the A to B non-negotiables, was, well, massive. That plus the price of the vehicle would blow our budget out of the high tide. We had to look at our other options and make a decision - remember, Tofino, now one week away. Time crunch. Our alternative, the best one we saw, was the well-running, fit to haul RV owned by the angry Eastern-European . It surely wasn't as glamourous as the Magic Bus, and some of us wanted to proceed with the bus, see if we could get a really good price from the old hippie who sympathized with us nomads in a way that the Eastern European man never would.

"Look, guys, we have to remember that this vehicle wasn't supposed to be the thing. This tour is about music and the film. That's primary. Transportation is secondary, really." WigWam, you're totally right. As much as the journey is as important as the destination, we were taking about a month to cover a distance by vehicle that would take three days directly. So we wouldn't be spending a hell of a lot of time in the thing anyway. And, hey, our destination is Burning Man. As much as we wanted that Magic Bus to take us on a trip, we had to stay grounded in our budget.

We voted. Twice. And decided to proceed instead with the RV.

After spending the whole sunny day on the rocky beach at low tide, and resolving that we wouldn't be able to see a mechanic until Monday anyway, we decided to stay another night on Gambier Island, and boat over to Bowen Island for a few more supplies, booze and dinner.

After eating a comparatively lavish dinner to our dirty ass selves on the touristy Bowen Island, we boated back to Gambier as the sun was setting. Westing Crow had stayed back to hike the island, scavenge for water, and build a fire, thank him, so we sat around the embers and had some more libations. We tuned into nature and dropped out of society again. We sat around the fire all night and shot the shit, talked shit, saw shit. Some of us dropped out and found a place to lay their heads on the grassy knoll. I was falling asleep on Lamb's shoulder, curled around the fire in the dirt below the bank of the shore, happy as a barnacle on a rock in the sun, when the most surreal thing happened to us.

Low tide, and getting lower. I was sitting beside Aloe, with the fire in front of us and the bay beyond that. We were tucked in between a big log and the high tide line, singing blues songs a capella, covered in dirt and ash. Looking out at the bay, we saw the boat come in. The men were shouting, singing stupid songs at the top of their lungs, the sound of their drunkenness echoing across the glassy lake and reverberating off the mountains. Their boat had three lights on it in a pyramid shape, a white one at the top, a red one on the bottom right, and a green one on the bottom left. The colour and light reflected beams all along the distance of the water between the boat and the shoreline. The voices got louder and the lights got closer, the beams across the bay bigger still. Phil shined his flashlight out and we faintly saw the large cedar boat, not much further than the island in the bay. The lights kept approaching and the beams bigger and brighter, now auras, paths of energy that were drawing this boast closer to our site like they were under of a spell of a siren song. Phil shone his light at the boat when the sputtering of the boat's motor got louder, as it powered towards the piece of the shore we had called home for the past two nights.

"It's coming right for us!"

Lamb scrambled up the bank and away from the shore. Aloe and I gaped at the lights. Finally the sputtering got really loud, the intensity plateauing now, the boat had stopped advancing and wouldn't budge. Voices were loud and close, we were still freaking out about what was happening. Phil kept shining his flashlight at the huge cedar boat, but it was us who were caught in the headlights, moths in a trance by the pyramid of light on the boat.

Finally, Phil went down to the shore and called out to the voices. "Uh, hey, can we help you?"

"Well yeah, you can get out here and push if you want."

So out we went into the ocean at around 2am. Phil and five of us girls, WigWam, Lamb, Aloe, Soleil and myself stripped off some of our warm clothes and went to the boat's base, wedged in the rocks and shells and barnacles in the bay as the tide went down fast. We lifted and pushed, but of course the boat didn't move. It had arrived in the movie, twisted its way into the plot, and was now wedged in our narrative.

After several futile efforts, we all went ashore to get dry by the fire. The boat's pissed-drunk owner included; he felt right at home perched on a rock by our fire, uncorked himself with characteristic ease and practice, and started telling us his stories. He started with stories of the varoius times he got his boat stuck somewhere (something he's no stranger to evidently) but then about ex-girlfriends and affairs in Hawaii, fornicating with girls younger than his own daughters and even withholding from his own unknowing son that he had conceived a child with an old lover, lying to that lover about his ability to conceive. Blaming us for mooring his boat, he said he was he following the light of Phil's flashlight when he got stuck, thinking that this was his buddy's signal from another boat (even though we had a fire, and he had a GPS). It was incredible how deep he delved within moments of approaching, laughing at everything he said like it wasn't as black as it was humour. But what a jolly raconteur he was, if you ignored the miserable content.

"I've always said, y'know guys, that life's a movie and you can write the script and direct it for yourself and, y'know what guys, I'm making mine a comedy."

"Ohhhh man, you don't know how right you are."

We couldn't stop giggling at this strange raconteur, until we got sleepy from that and started singing our lullaby until he left to his slanted boat. He had made his bed, and wasn't going to be lying in our camp.
"Go to sleep ya little babe/
Go to sleep ya pretty baby"

We went to sleep knowing that this crazy dream, that crazy boat, was going to be pretty real in the light of day.

We woke up, packed up and boated back to Granville Island, passing the beached ship, now completely on dry land at the tide's lowest. Exhausted, hungover and unable to fully enjoy the incredible view with a crick in my neck, the return trip wasn't quite as hopeful as the way there. But we had to go see that RV, and resolve to purchase.

WigWam, Lamb and Phil, who's an adept enough mechanic to know more about the durability and longevity of a used RV than all of us amateurs, all went to look at the RV as we walked back to Balsam Ave to clean ourselves up, rest up a bit, and wait for the good news.

It came a few hours later when WigWam called Aloe. The RV owned by the Eastern European man checked out according to Phil, and he talked down the owner to $1800, $700 below the asking price. After insuring it, WigWam and Phil drove it back to Balsam, welcomed by cheering and applauding porch potatoes.

We piled on and checked out our new home, some of us for the first time. Tons of space, shag carpet, sleeps 5, drives easily and smoothly. We quickly got ourselves together and set off for an early evening at Wreck Beach to celebrate with the sunset, hula hooping hippies, drinks and cheap festival clothes' shopping. Despite Rye Toast smacking a vehicle's side mirror on the narrow Kistilano roads within 10 seconds of our departure, we were on our way.

Part 3 here.

Photos by V. Rachel Weldon

V. Rachel Weldon is an arts journalist and English Lit student currently traveling the West Coast of British Columbia and the United States, on tour with Doom Squad. Some names have been changed to protect the subjects, and some just for fun. You can read her all of her posts here or at her blog for full tour coverage Hot Wax & the Ecstatic Sound.


Vancouverite said...


Check the map. Journalism fail.

Anonymous said...

Haha I was thinking that too...

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