Wolf Eyes Tour Diary by John Olson

If you have yet to experience the mutant fuck-all sound blast that is Wolf Eyes, we at Swingset strongly advise you to seek them out when they come to your town and get yr mind blasted to near infinity. For you shut-in types, their Sub Pop debut Burned Mind is a vicious piece of drone-noise violence that features some of the band’s finest tunes to date. If that’s not enough, you can make yrself crazy trying to track down their hundreds of releases on cassette, CDR, and vinyl. Thankfully for us, Wolf dude John Olson (also of the American Tapes label and Dead Machines-fame) was kind enough to take notes on their recent stretch of road w/Sonic Youth, just for you, our loyal reader. Wolf Screamer Aaron Dilloway took the pics. Killer.

We pack the Wolf Van: Lots of space, put the couch in—rad—as usual. No radio, no heat, no AC, no cig lighter, front seats don’t move/recline, lots of weird lights; rad and tough. So the night party goes until like four a.m. with a nine a.m. take-off to Seattle, and three days to get to Vancouver. No time to waste, no gigs in the way. Ugh.

Day One

We meet at the take-off spot with the parking lot TRASHED from the night before, and with the boyz totally hung over and messed up. The worst way to start a jaunt, much less the drive ,before us. My head feels like a Slayer cover band played by ratz with rotten teeth. My universe is like three blocks in Ypsi, so I ‘m totally not used to being in a car. I realize this about two hours into the first drive, cramped, carsick, hung over; in perfect form for the gnarler. We say goodbye to our ladies and hit the road. We stop for dinner near Madison at around four p.m.At about 3:30 a.m. in Nowhere, North Dakota, it starts to pour hard, and the van leaks all over the equipment and everything. We pull over under an overpass and use our sleeping bags/jackets/whatever to stop it.

Day Two

Sun is up. I play follow with a cop that drives 50 in the fast lane for like an hour. We stop to get breakfast with the crew looking super rough. I first notice when Twig is mentally gone his lips turn white and his face gets pink. Kinda scary. Back to the drive: nothing happens until we hit a tourist joint early in Montana. This rules ‘cause we all get pocket switchcombs and Twig and Nate look at a suit of armor. Twig tries on a medieval helmet. Looks kool. We see an axe. Then I dig around and see it for the first time: The mace. Totally crude with three spiked steel balls and a cheap handle. I swing it. The boys look at me silently. I swing it. The connection is made. “It just feels right,” I say.

First Gig: Vancouver–Commodore Ballroom

All right, I forgot my passport like a dork, so UPS drops it off at 6:30 a.m. No sweat. We leave for Canada at 11, after having a totally killer breakfast with Drew’s shorty, and head for the border. Nervous, we have Dilloway drive ‘cause he looks the most normal. Of course, they have us pull over and check inside the building. Total headache. Took like two hours total, barely able to get into the country, and missing our sound-check.

We roll into the huge club, almost on time, and park in the gnarly alley with drug fiends & porn litter. Didn’t realize Vancouver was so dingy, ‘cause the last time we jammed here was at a dinner joint. Weird. We meet the Youth crew one by one. Finally getting in the zone after such a rough beginning. Gig is sold out, as are all but two on this tour. We joked early on, before the tour, about wanting Coors Light for backstage brew and are in horror when they bring it in and had to go to a special store to get it. So we jam and keep it real loose, our main song focus of the tour being this new threepart “Maggot Face” deal that still is being sculpted, but killer to jam in any mood and flesh out at will. After the intros of the gongs we smell a huge cloud of weed drift onstage so killer we feel the love.

SY have a killer but tame gig and we all hoot and holler backstage and meet the sound crew—all great, hardworking, funny mugs. Me and Dilloway start to grill O’Rourke about not liking Intrinsic Action; he won’t budge. Jim is very sick from a nasty ear infection that bugs him nearly the whole tour. We meet Lee’s son, who is doing merch for the tour before he leaves for school in the fall. I was also introduced to William Gibson but don’t recognize him ‘cause my wax brain is filled with the Black Dwarf discography and Argentinean pressing knowledge.

Seattle – Showbox

Get a little sleep and then cruise to the airport to grab VG James, the Wolf manager. We have Americanos at our new favorite Seattle spot, a tiny outdoor coffee stop with a weird circular, stone seat thing that is homage an to a cop who got killed while chasing a dude who skipped out on a five dollar dinner tab. Strange. Upon leaving a bookstore, Twig backs right into a hippy-ish chick’s car and we fear for the worst. The lady is kool and we get talking so we hook her up with Wolf merch and put her on the list for the gig. Easy deal. Could have been rough. Seattle locals are pretty chill.

We head to the gig, which is this pretty packed, smallish joint with nice backrooms and staff. Again sound-check is short and we grip a good one with Twig aiding the soundfella to blast it like maggots on the board crawling the levels up. Jackie O get kinda shafted on a sound-check ‘cause there are like 13 people in the jam. Doors open and the joint is sold out and the kids are ready. See Eddie Vedder hanging out backstage with the Youth crew. Didn’t realize the dude was so short. Our jam is super-violent hell. An early warmup with the mace at Drew’s didn’t get me ready for the mace/sheet metal action, so my hand ends up rough and bloody. No sweat. During the whole jam there is a group of ladies yelling, “You suck! Go home! Bring on Sonic Youth!” until at the end someone yells, “Go back to Old Navy!” and they shut up. Man. SY hit the stage and have a super-high energy strum & klang fest with the whole joint shaking. Killer.

Portland – Crystal Ballroom

Drive is short; nothing really happens. Workers at the club are very helpful and nice. Sonic has massive probs sound-checking this cave beast so we and Jackie O don’t get to grip a check, but we strike a deal with SY soundkiller and awesome dude Jeremy to do sound for us for the rest of the tour in exchange for an iPOD. Sweet deal, smart move.

The Smegma clan comes and things get awesome, chatting with our spiritual leaders. They seem kinda bugged out by being in a big joint for gigs, but what can we do? There is a huge rec store across the street. No time. Sux. So the gig happens sold-out style but we have to climb the stage, set up, check, and jam. Worst case scenario. We rumble through about a 15 minute set of “Maggot Face” and leave, which is the Wolf style; could be long, could be 10 minutes. Probably the worst set of the tour. Sucks to jam light in front of the Smegs.

Oakland – Mile High Club

This is a killer gig because it’s at James’ brother and his girlfriend Lisa’s new club in O-Town. Only non-SY gig of the tour, jamming with Rubber O and Comets on Fire. Guaranteed gnarlers. Wake up early, drive the nice mountains and such in crazy heat, see our first Cali gas prices— $2.60 for regular. Lots of dead bugs on the windows. We roll to the totally nice club, find a fam reunion kinda deal with rad soundman and brews everywhere. Backstage fridge packed with Pabst, Midwest style. Nice to jam a smaller joint after all the thick clubs. Grux & crew jam rad and scattered, with their patented violent style. Totally killer. Comets jam straight into it without a pre-feedback note and ride the night skies thick and loud. Dig my man Noel’s electronics ,and the drummer is always tight/loose/rad. Wicked.

We jam, a totally good time. Twig helps with some stage DI probs and jumps back into the crowd; I lose my mace as well into the crowd, fearing the worst. After a spell someone gently lays it back on stage. After the gig I see my old prom date and ‘91 early American Tapes cohort, Becky, and get totally blasted. After load-out we hit the mission and grip a burrito with the wasted crew. A mistake, as the damn thing sticks with me for more than a week afterward.

SF – Fillmore

Wake up at noon, totally wanting to die. Worst hangover I can remember. I see Nate killing his burrito from last night and want to purge my stomach of the rancidness. Barely able to function. We walk to a grocery store in the Mission, but everything sux. Time clocking down until we have to go to the Fillmore. We pile in the Wolf Van and hit Amoeba like every other fucking band in town, and see Thurston proudly showing off his new cell phone holder—a mini kimono dress thing. Cute. Talk to Thurston about his old tour ride, a van and trailer with Swans and them, packed “slave ship style.”

Roll to the gig at the famous Fillmore; a bunch of fucking lunkheads “helping” with load-in. Never understood why big gig joints always have the worst chumps working security and EQ and shit. Get to the stage for a long sound-check and deal with the most inept monitor chick, totally edgy and nervous. Seems like she is new to the game. Sound ain’t right, but of course they try to push us off the stage. Jeremy and crew figure it out. SY have the same monitor problem all through the night. Great joint, but very difficult to grip the sound. Go chill backstage but the boyz are still wrecked from last night, so tension is low mo. XBXRX do their freakout good vibe thing and are joined by the village of SF freaks, and me and Steve Shelley watch the monitor chick just move shit around, Merzbow style, to no sense. Whatever. We jam a totally stoned-out slow-mo set which is a nice diff from last night’s bomber style. Feels good to hit it 8 rpm on a huge P.A. when the kids wanna see action. SY hit the stage, sounds killer, but have some sound probs. We load up and jet early cause of the long drive to L.A. and wrecked brains.


We have two L.A. area gigs; one tonight in a suburb at the Glass House, the other one, at the Henry Fonda downtown. Still nauseous and take to eating a constant flow of Tums and ginger ale to kill that fucking burrito. The L.A. period is kind of a blur. The smaller gig totally ruled. SY totally killed it and did their first feedback hell version of “Teenage Riot” as the closer, which, of course, ruled. Our sets in both joints were totally diff but felt killer, so rad. Dug the smaller one cause the kids were less downtown and hyped. The first nightbackstage had us all together, so we had awesome family-like time with the Youth & XBXRX. Stayed at Justin Allen’s both nights; totally nice crib by the stadium. Slept on a Japanese mat that ruled, like the floor giving you a hug. Second day just chilled, had killer L.A. breakfast and got bugged out by someone who put Deep Throat in the VHS, which was totally weird.

Still wanting to throw up & have a massive headache. Got ready for the gig with some serious, vicious sound from the P.A. to back us. Jammed super-heavy style with totally awesome curtain intro. See Mike Kelly; the dudes from Hole; some other rocker that I had no clue who it was;, the Red Kross people; and the second of two people I need to meet before I die, Raymond Pettibon (the other being Gary Panter). I eye him in the alley but am too shy to say anything. Still rad. SY had another killer set: intense style with encore of “Kool Thing” with the XBXRX joining them. Everyone wasted, but I am too stomach-wrecked to join. Hang with our man John Weise and do a followup pic from the 7”, classic tough style. Dude rules. Go back to Justin’s and have a puking fest with myself and another lady sick. Checkerboard style. Gross.

Phoenix – Marquee Theater

Get to the gig late, so no sound check but the kids are fucking ready!! XBXRX hit the stage, and kids go bananas.The Youth here rule!!!! Invited my dad, but no-go. We hit the stage in full inzanity mode and hit ’em tough. No intros, nothing. Start static. Awesome. Played like 15 set full NASCAR mode and got out. Played the Dennis Rodman story before we jammed—a tour favorite, especially the Madonna-oral bits, but the kids were confused. SY totally kill it. Kids flipping out big-time. On their first encore we put a “Tune Me” sign on Thurston’s back, but he sees it midway and the sign goes through the entire band. They do another version of “Teenage Riot” and blow a P.A. speaker on fire. Swear this version was like 45 min, no shit, totally amazing. Big-time fun night. One of the best on tour. Any noise/sound kid in the AZ definitely got their eardrums filled that eve. Leave for the gig to Las Vegas and try to grip a hotel numerous times until we find a weird one in the middle of nowhere at three a.m. with seemingly no one around.

Las Vegas – House of Blues

Never been to Vegas. Totally weird zone, kinda bugs me out. Hit some slots. Totally boring waste. Me and Nate head back to chill in the hotel while the boyz win dough and get trashed. They come in around 5 a.m. with strong winnings, each. I wake up early and swim, hang by the pool. Lots of security. Twig takes me and Nate out to breakfast with his won dough. Total gentleman. Has the mentality that “it’s just fake money anyway…” Me and Justin take off to hit the wave pool near the House of Blues. Total summer radness. Stay in the water for like an hour. I’m totally burned but feeling killer. Hit the gig. Weird joint with a serious outsider art collection, like a museum. Lowest turnout for a gig yet. I can understand why. In the middle of a casino. Doing slots with Thurston before the gig, he keeps gripping weird Vegas punks and drilling them about weird shit. It’s the last night with XBXRX, kids weird at the gig. Whatever. We get the curtain going again and get fully weirdo. Fun set to jam in Vegas. We hang with Lee before he jams, and he says he is going to a class reunion for a day and hooking back in Salt Lake. Serious Jet Set shit. Also says there is one dude that totally turned into a chick in his class. The crew goes gambling the night away, and me and Nate just grab some dinner outside of town and chill. Kinda burned out, ready to get the fuck out the desert. Vegas, man. How do people live there?

Salt Lake City – In the Venue

Drive to Salt Lake where things get cooler and greener— Just a little bit. We stop in a small town for the night, get Mex food. Next day is Sunday, Thurston’s birthday. Play basketball, give T his presents: a size small SY girl tour shirt; a bunch of rocks; South American psyche mix tapes; Wolf shit; pics of him all screwed up with other members of SY taking his eyes, face, other stuff; and an orange/light/ashtray plug thing. Ruled. Kids again totally psyched. Just the two bands. Kinda outdoor feel. Meet a killer dude that flew just for this gig from Argentina, my musical heaven, and drill him about Los Gatos, Almendra, Colour Humanon, Sui Genris, Pappos Blues, Invisable, Vox Dei, other greats. He is confused totally but just tells us about underground bands in his homeland that sound like Pearl Jam. Strange. We hit the stage Tempe style, with Jeremy rocking the level to death zone. Totally intense, loud as hell. No one sweats us. Awesome. SY hit it, with the band going totally ape. Everyone is feeling it, going crazy. We do a half-hour version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with everyone and it totally rules. Twig and T totally destroy my gong, going ape. Super fun. Have a nice b-day party for T after the gig and all ends well. Great night, super loud and weird.

Denver – Ogden Theater

Weird day where shit is the worst, then the best. We hear rumors of an after-party at the Monkey Mania joint, so tonight is double time. We roll to the huge gig too early and everyone is stressed about the clubs DB levels. I’m in such a fucked mood that the boys tell me to check myself, which is the last thing you want to hear when you are. We play and have trouble psychically connecting but manage to do a long killer slo mo version of “Maggot Face.” Pack up and head to Monkey Mania where tons of kids who have been waiting all day for the after-party. This rules. We decide to do a whole other set that kills the earlier one. Totally rough and loud. Get done jamming and everyone is ready. It’s like three a.m. and Kim, Steve, and Thurston come in surrounded, and we all jam an hour plus straight. Fucking rad, total abstract confusion with bottom sea flow. Total blast. Total sweat fest. After the jam Friends Forever play and me and Steve are in an alley and some completely wasted chick keeps falling over and telling us how she is going to start killing random people. Steve talks her out of it. Night ends at six a.m. Best day from worst day. Amazing.


This is too familiar and would be too much local talk, so here it is in brief: Met up with spiritual sound killers Hair Police for the Midwest gigs. MPLS/The Quest was amazing. Maced my head and had to go to ER for staples ‘cause we were so excited. Chicago/Vic sucked. Milwaukee/The Rave was amazing. Best SY set of the tour. Columbia/The Blue Note was completely over the top kid/jam style. Lots of dudes on stage and diving and intense sound. Drove home that night to Ypsi totally dead and wasted. Had a day to recoup and had a perf last hometown gig with the crew that apexed with a totally damaged “Inhuman” in Detroit/Majestic. After the gig, it was a total downpour as we said our goodbyes to our total sound Sonic friends. A sad ending to a perfect, gnarly summer.

by Swingset Magazine on 5/22/2012 in Features | Tags: , , , , , ,