Your Band Probably Shouldn't Be Getting Paid to Play.

And it's likely that if you may not be good for you. Let me explain.

I'm back here on ready to trigger you into tears over the fact that your band is actually worthless. Before you start accusing me of being some kind of old timer, Millennials are bad, man yells at cloud asshole, back in my day we walked uphill in the snow both ways grumpy pants - I would advise that you listen with an open heart.

It is very, very, very, very, very likely that your band (or insert whatever creative endeavor you may pursue) is worth little to no money in true market terms. However - and this is all anecdotal and totally lacking real data - it seems that more than ever in my lifetime of creative pursuit, artists feel that they are OWED something for their art simply because they exist.

Please hold your comments about "well I'm not like that." I'm sure you're not. No, no, no...this post can't possibly be about you. But every time I see a tweet, facebook post, or read a comment about how artists should be paid for their work, I think...bullshit.

Maybe I'm lucky. Maybe it's my privilege. I've never once, ever in my life felt like I should be getting paid when I wasn't. And on the flip side, when I figure out my value, I do everything I can to make sure I don't take a penny less than what I'm worth. But I'm seeing a trend of unknown artists believing they are entitled to $ simply because they exist. Why is this?

I have my theories. Maybe it is a problem with our generation. Maybe our parents did make us feel too special and then when we chase a dream that quite frankly is unattainable for 99% of the population (getting paid to create art) and we find out that nobody wants to give us money, we sit baffled and post about how the "system" is against us and try and convince our 187 twitter followers to #VOTEBERNIE because if only Bernie were president, society would discover our true value as artists.

This is...very bad thinking. And it's hurting you. It's decreasing your actual value and slowing you down towards arriving at a place where you truly are worth the money you so desperately want to be paid. I have a real world example of this.

Music festivals.

Now I just recently got back from a music festival where I was selling BBQ. I won't name the fest, but if you know much about what I've been up to lately, you will know the fest. I really enjoy this particular fest and see a lot of potential. I've been the past three years for some amount of time working in some capacity, and it's a damn good time. But it could be better. And you know who is stopping it from being better? Your small little band that isn't worth the price of a ticket.

This festival is adamant that everyone should get paid something. EVERYONE. SOMETHING. It's a nice thought. Because bands need gas money. They need to eat. We have to take care of them. They are ARTISTS DAMMIT AND THEY ARE DOING THIS FOR US. Well, if this festival really wants to help small artists trying to break through, they will STOP paying them to play. Immediately.

Using the general knowledge that I have about the music industry and what bands typically get paid to play, I would venture to say that at LEAST five thousand dollars is spent paying very small bands to play this fest. Furthermore, I would guess that if you added up all the people that are playing in these bands, that number would be bigger than the theoretical tickets these bands sold. In other words, if you've got 400 band members I would be surprised 400 people bought tickets to see those bands...combined. Why? Because most of these bands don't have actual fans.

So where should that $5K going to the small bands be allocated? One, maybe two bands that are worth the money. Yes you heard me right. Take all the money being given to the poor and give it to ONE GOOD BAND.

$5K goes a long way towards getting a good and relevant - key word relevant - headliner to play a small festival like the one I am talking about. If you are a savy talent buyer, you will find two or three bands that are a bit newer on the scene and just breaking through, but haven't quite reach headlining status and would play for $1500 - $2500. Just to be transparent, a band like As Cities Burn wouldn't even consider playing a festival like this for less than $4000. And I am confident that As Cities Burn sells more tickets to this festival than all the small bands combined. Actually, it's a mathematical certainty.

But what about the small bands you say? How are they going to get by. Well, getting by is a relative term. The first 2 years of As Cities Burn really only saw me surviving. There was no money going in my pocket. And it was fucking awesome. Because we got to play fests - many bigger than the one I am referencing - for free.

You show me an indie band who sells $2500 in merch and I'll show you a band that doesn't give a shit that they didn't get "paid to play". Book as many headliners as you can afford and all the small bands will fall in line. A small band should be way more concerned about playing for a full tent/room than whether or not they are getting $300 to cover gas, food and hotel room. LMFAO. A hotel room. If you are buying hotel rooms and you are making less than $1000 per night to play then your band deserves to go out of business you fucking dolts.

Full tent. Put on a bad ass how. Sell t-shirts. That's the formula.

Cornerstone 2005 was about one week after As Cities Burn's debut record came out on Tooth and Nail/Solid State. We sold over 4,000 copies of that record and had been touring for two years straight. We got paid $300 to play... front of 2000 people. Then we sold $10K in merch. How many fucks do you think I gave about how underpaid we were for that show?

Your band isn't worth $300. It's probably not worth $100. And every time a festival pays you more than you are worth, know that they are hurting your band. They are making sure that you play in front of less people. They are making sure that you sell less t-shirts. They are making sure that you make virtually no progress on gaining fans at their fest.

You don't deserve anything. You probably haven't even quit your day job yet. You don't make it to the NBA by straddling chasing a dream and "living responsibly". Put it all on the back burner and play for nothing. Not getting paid is the best thing that will ever happen to you and your pursuit of art as a profession.

Christian Music Sucks...Bono Said So!

And now, this can become a mainstream idea in the Christian bubble.  There is NOTHING Christians love more than when a legit celebrity that has made their success on actual talent (as opposed to where if you say you are a Christian band, you are entitled to success because you are ON A MISSION) comes out and comments on Christian culture. Like if Leo (DiCaprio duh) came out tomorrow saying he is an evangelical Christian, Facebook would be overrun with memes and mom posts about how great it is to see a celebrity follow Jesus. Nevermind the fact that Leo is probably fucking a super model somewhere, out of wedlock, and working on his next roll which involves him snorting cocaine out of a girl's ass...AGAIN. The Christians will LOVE LEO. Praise him oh Lord for the work he does for the Kingdom! Meanwhile, don't dare be a worship leader and get caught smoking a cigarette drinking a Budweiser in your backyard while grilling. You will be fucking excommunicated you sinning degenerate. Cigars and craft beer are ok though...cause like moderation and shit.

In this article on Huffington Post, Bono basically said he thinks there is a lot of dishonesty in modern Christian music. Bono fucking nailed it. Of course he isn't the first to say it. There has been under ground "Christian music" for years that attempts to maintain artistic integrity while also connecting on a spiritual level. Tooth and Nail Records put out a generation's worth of music that sought out to accomplish this. Because amazingly, being Christian doesn't mean you have to fucking suck at making music. What is "Christian" music anyways? You know who owns all the big Christian labels? All the big Devil music labels. Jesus money trickles up baby. There is an executive in Los Angeles right now fucking porn stars and snorting blow thinking about how much he loves Christian music because it makes him so much money. He's probably listening to Marilyn Manson. There is no "mission" in Christian music on the macro level other than to make money. There is a market for "safe" music. Tooth and Nail bands were able to do what they do because nobody was trying to get their song played on "The Fish 94.7 FM: Safe, Shitty Music for the Whole Family!" The soccer mom needs something to make her feel good about life. The millennial needs a rip off of a U2/Coldplay/Mumford and Sons song to sing on Sunday mornings so they can "connect" and "engage". 

So when Bono comes out and criticizes the modern Christian music industry for lacking depth and being dishonest, people are going to latch on to that and the executives in LA and Nashville will notice. In fact, I am willing to bet that on Monday morning there will be a meeting somewhere with some suits that ask this question - 

Who do we have on the roster that we can market as "honest and real?"

If they think that's what Christians want to buy, they will make it so. Which hey, that's the free market man. That's what I would do. But don't for one second fool yourself into thinking that it is about anything other than money. The industry does not care about you. Maybe David Crowder cares about you. But the collective of everyone working in Christian music is there for the paycheck.  Many musicians playing in the Christian bands probably hate the music. But it's a paycheck. The sound guys and the merch guys and the guitar really think that many grown women and men are like DOWN with Toby Mac and Newsboys? Of course not. 

I have a lot of friends and acquaintances that work in Christian music and many of them would rather not. Either it was a good way to get a career going and they ended up getting stuck, or they participate unashamedly just for the paycheck. I would. I would go play drums for any Christian artist for a relatively low amount of money. Because playing drums - even for a shitty Christian artist - is a whole hell of lot better than driving fucking Uber. SIGN ME UP. At least you will know I am only doing it for the money. At least I am honest. 

I will hear the same old, tired, criticisms for this blog post. The cursing, the obnoxious writing, the whiny baby and the "dude you sound angry". Well...

Fuck those people. 

I am angry. I'm angry that being a Christian has become synonymous with being a joke in the realm of art and creativity. I'm angry that being a Christian is a free pass to make shitty art and still make a living, because churches will pay abhorrent money for you to play a youth conference where you feed bullshit like "True Love Waits" down the throats of horny teenagers. I'm angry that quality, meaningful art isn't a priority for the church. That we don't demand it as a culture. That we accept "Over the mountains and the seas, your river runs with love for me" as good enough. I'm angry that we even have to have a separate market for the safe music. That we have pigeon holed ourselves into a bubble that we dare not venture out of lest we actually hear somebody say something real. 

I don't need the outlier examples of the "Christian singers that are actually pretty cool"...You know what the fuck I am talking about, and it can't be disputed. There is a machine at work, and boy I wish I could stop it. I think the world would be a better place. Maybe me and Bono can go on a mission to bankrupt the Christian music industry and make people listen to U2 exclusively on Sunday mornings. In which case Bono would get even more rich, because the people that write those songs you sing on Sunday morning make shit tons of money in publishing royalties. I bet maybe, just maybe some of those people were even DRUNK or HIGH when they wrote them, because that's what music people do sometimes. You know...get the creative juices flowing. Now if the "creative" part actually became a reality...

BTW I am a massive hypocrite because my band As Cities Burn got a massive royalty check from "CAPITOL MUSIC GROUP: CHRISTIAN DIVISION" last week. Go fucking figure. 

ROCKETOWN: "We're Only Chasing Safety." Now That's a Damn Headline if I Ever Saw One!

Thanks to my friend Caleb for the awful headline pun idea. Also that is not an actual quote from Rocketown.

I'm back bitches. I've been holed away not finishing a book about my dumbass friends in Emery and attending a community college where I feel like "A Beautiful Mind" that somehow got caught in the middle of "Idiocracy". See, I've already turned into one of those elitist intellectuals that you hear about on Fox News. One semester of kind of sort of college level math and I think that I'm the first person that's ever heard of a Venn diagram.  Bow down and worship my intellect and then make sure and come back to this blog when I post my literary criticism paper on William Faulkner and the roles that fathers play in shaping the path of their children's lives...

Enough clearing my throat. First thing's first. Go buy my book if you haven't. If you are an Underoath fan that has found your way to this blog post, I mention Underoath precisely 13 times in my book so you will LOVE it.

A lot of what I'm writing about I didn't see with my own eyes. I left the show early and am going off what I've heard from friends, other kids at the show, and the band themselves as well as videos that were posted online.

To start - Underoath are serial rule breakers and should burn in hell.

Earlier this week Underoath stopped through Nashville, TN to play a sold out show at Rocketown, an all ages venue here in town. I wanna say that sellout there is around 1600 but I can't be sure. Point is it was a big show. Rocketown is sort of a Christian venue, which in general means - Rocketown is sort of a lame venue. It's all ages and they have lots of "rules" that are totally unenforceable. One of them being no crowdsurfing.

Underoath hasn't toured since 3 years ago when they abruptly announced an incredibly short farewell tour that my band happened to be a part of. It was...pretty cool. Insane amounts of free beer and sex. Ok just kidding about the sex. That part wasn't free. This current "Rebirth" tour has almost totally sold out across the nation - something like 30 out of 33 shows sold out. It's huge for the genre and some of the venues they are playing are double the size of those they sold out on their farewell tour. Needless to say that people were fucking stoked for this tour in every major city across the country and Nashville was no different. Surprise, surprise...people *gasp* crowdsurfed.

Big deal I know...damn rule breaking kids virtually burning the venue down doing something that yes, Rocketown lawyers and board members (yes they have board members) and insurance probably doesn't love. But it ain't the first time these rules have been broken at this venue.

I can tell you something else that isn't a first - ASSHOLE security guards. They are everywhere. Being a security guard at show where kids half your size scream along to songs and have fun is a prime opportunity for exerting your force and fulfilling your dreams of kicking a kid out of a show for the unforgivable offense of crowdsurfing. They typically don't understand the culture of a hardcore or punk show and are quick to act - or should I say overreact.

Well, Underoath didn't like how they saw things being handled and they acted. In the moment. In the adrenaline rush of a sold out show, at a venue they won't ever play again/don't want to ever play again. Before the last song they invited the crowd to join them on stage in a manner of "They can't kick us all out" philosophy and then Tim offered free merch to the first 50 people that made it to the stage. AWESOME! Who doesn't love a free hoodie! Kids* started crowdsurfing and jumping past security and joining the band on stage to mosh, take videos, sing, scream, and have a show experience they will never forget. It was...awesome.

*I say kids as a general term that has nothing to do with the age of the person...we will get to that later, but "kid" is a person at a hardcore/punk/rock show, could be 15 or 30, still a "kid"

Not the first time I've seen the crowd come on stage, and definitely not the last. It was nothing out of the ordinary for a punk/hardcore/metal show. Crowdsurfing was nothing out of the ordinary. Against the rules? Sure. But it's a rock and roll show. Against the rules is kind of the whole fucking point of it all.

Nobody got hurt. Underoath didn't incite violence. They didn't encourage anyone to hurt somebody else. I have known Underoath to be a band that is typically very aware of what's going on in the crowd in regards to safety. If they see some small girl getting crushed or some dude being an asshole in the pit, they will call it out and try and help. They do not have a fuck shit up attitude at the expense of everyone's safety. What they do care about is that kids paid good money to see a show that sold out almost 8 months ago and AINT NOBDOY GOT TIME FOR THAT BULLSHIT.

Let me tell you some things about Rocketown. It's technically a non profit venue that started like 13 years ago. It's not blatantly Christian, but they have rules that resemble that of Christian venues and the board members and founders are Christians as far as I know. They say that one of their main missions is to have a safe place for kids and youth to hang out. There is a skate park, coffee shop, after school activities, basketball courts etc. It's not a BAD place inherently. There are some good things going on, and there is a very strong argument that overall it is good for the community.

But then you have this all ages rock venue that is really what most people associate with Rocketown. And frankly, a lot of bands just don't like playing there. Reason being that a band will do a full US tour playing all sorts of cool clubs similar in size to Rocketown that have bars, and good vibes, and no weird rules where you aren't allowed to curse from stage because MY GOD THE CHILDREN WHAT WILL THEY DO IF THEY HEAR THE WORD FUCCCCKKKKKKK. So you got bands touring around, having fun, drinking beer, saying curse words if they so please, and then you show up to this weird venuewhere the vibes are crushed and the joy is sucked out of the room because nobody can buy a damn Budweiser.

The most telling thing about this situation is that this shit always seems to happen at the Christian venue. You play a whole fucking tour of normal venues and work out whatever problems may arise in a generally professional manner. Then you show up to the lame ass Christian joint and they want to make your merch guy buy a ticket to the show (that didn't happen in this case, but this has happened to As Cities Burn before at a different venue in Chattanooga because they said we only get two "guests". Guest number 1 and number 2 was the tour manager and stage tech so the merch guy was shit out of luck. Fucking asinine.) Christian venues have rules and these rules must be followed or you will burn in hell and get AIDS. Oh and please sign this contract promising you won't break any of our rules lest you not get paid your guarantee that is contracted for real by documents drafted by lawyers and shit.

Yes, Underoath will play 32 other shows on their "Rebirth" tour without incident. And the Christian venue that is just trying to keep the "youth" safe will be the one where shit goes south. NOBODY IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY WOULD BE SURPRISED BY THIS SCENARIO.

Speaking of the "youth" that Rocketown so sanctimoniously claims to be protecting in their carefully drafted statement...they weren't at this fucking show. You know who was a at this fucking show? 25 - 30 year old people who bought tickets within minutes of them going on sale last fucking September. These people have kids, jobs, spouses, lives, and they all drink and fuck and curse and also probably many go to church. And these people never ever go to Rocketown for fun except when the band they may never get to see play again, books a date there because the booking agent took the offer that would make them the most money. It's that fucking simple. Underoath probably didn't have one single thought or opinion about which specific venues to play. Rocketown ended up on the schedule and everyone sighed and said oh well lets get our $30K and hopefully never play there again.

The "youth" were probably in the same place they usually are...the skate park. I would bet my first born child and all of my Braves memorabilia that there weren't even 10 kids under the age of 18 at this show. If there were, they were literally babies and they were secured safe in sound on dad's chest in an Ergo (look it up) with massive shooting range headphones over their ears to protect their little brains from the onslaught of metal. The people at this show - particularly the front 20% where the bulk of the insanity would occur - knew what they were getting into. They've seen Underoath before. Nobody was thinking "Thank God Rocketown is protecting our youth tonight!" It's bullshit and it's all the make it look like Rocketown was taking some imaginary high road of doing a great service to the youth of the nation like that fucking shitty ass P.O.D. song.

To form an opinion on this matter, one only has to look to the great joy that fans took in seeing this legendary, genre and generation defining band perform and basically tell "the man" to fuck off and quit being such a pussy. I have seen many people I know touting their disappointment in the actions of Underoath and exclaiming how disrespectful the band was to this venue that does so much for the community. And "they knew the rules" and "they chose to play there" and on and on and on. What a bunch of fucking pussies. If I didn't know any better and hadn't witnessed some of the show first hand, I would have thought that Dashboard Confessional, Copeland, and The Rocket Fucking Summer played a sold out show on Monday night that got TOTALLY CRAZY OUT OF HAND like the craziest emo show you've ever heard of.

NO. NO. NO. A hardcore band played. Some kids crowdsurfed. Some security guards were assholes. The band pulled a power move and made the show a lot more fun than it was up to that point. It's just not that crazy and the fact that I am even writing a blog about it in opposition to the "respect the venue" crowd is totally fucking ridiculous. There was no vandalizing. There was no fighting. There was no "hate speech". And no the singer of UO didn't drop kick a selfie taking concert goer off the stage like this guy

After the show I ended up a 3 Crow Bar in East Nashville, in my hood. All the Underoath dudes were there, doing as men do. Catching up with old friends, enjoying the locals libations. This whole thing was such not a big deal that literally nobody at the bar was talking about it as far as I could tell. Just another city with another dumb venue with dumb rules and over stimulated security guards. I didn't hear about any drama surrounding the events until two nights later at a church home group where I spoke up in defense of Underoath's actions being the only guy in the room who has ever played a hardcore show in front of 1500 people. Oops...Appeal to Authority, Penalty 15 yards.

I tell you though, those Underoath dudes are big asshole douchebags.  So much is the case that when some fans noticed them at the bar they kindly engaged them and gave hugs and took a group selfie with the group of grown men out having a drink after the show. Based on Rocketown's statement, you would have thought that you were more likely to find the show attendees at home sucking on mom's nips watching Dora the Explorer while snuggling their blanky.

Grown men, in a bar. Hanging and snapping pics with their fans. Man, guys are bunch of fucking assholes. Burn in hell you must.



6 Pack - Nashville Edition

My "6 Pack" series will be crafted as any list should be.  #1 is the best and then it goes down from there.  But I will be putting the #1 pick at the top.  This isn't a fucking countdown.  There is no anticipation necessary.  It's just a list of places I like to eat folks.  There may also be versions of the "6 Pack" adapted to fit into a broader scope of the national food scene.  So don't be surprised when the you see me come home from the corner store with a "12 pack" instead.  You following me?  Cool. 

Best place to start has gotta be Nashville since I live here and get to eat here every day.  As anybody who lives here or visits knows, Nashville is a killer food town.  And it's only getting better, because this town is exploding and new restaurants are opening every week.  Oh and I should mention, that fancy places will be scarce on my lists.  I LOVE a nice restaurant and have eaten at some of the best in the country, but I much prefer the hole in the wall super chill joint.  Also I enjoy actually being able to afford to eat somewhere.  My Nashville 6 pack does however have one nice place on the list.  Here we go:


Not only is this the best restaurant in Nashville, if I were making a list for the entire US (which I will) this would be at the top spot.  This is my absolute favorite restaurant on earth.  I'm not alone either.  Maybe you don't care, but many prominent chefs around town have expressed my sentiment.  Arnold's is the perfect definition of what we call a "Meat & 3".  No secrets in that name.  You get your meat, and you pick 3 sides.  Menu changes everyday except for a few staples.  It's cafeteria style so it's the ultimate democratic experience.  Everybody has to wait in line, no matter your status.  And the line is often LONG.  Go right when they open or right before they close to avoid the crowds.  Oh and guess what?  They actually SEASON their food properly.  I feel that too often, places similar to this leaveyou wanting more in the salt department.  Not Arnold's.  Have a taste before you reach for that salt shaker dude.  This family knows how to cook.  Whatever you do, if you come to Nashville, do not royally fuck up by skipping Arnold's or you shall be shamed. 

My picks - Roast Beef w/ jus, corn pudding, green beans, squash casserole and a corn hoe cake (basically a cornmeal pancake)


Some magazine recently declared Nashville "America's Best BBQ City" which I will admit is bullshit.  There are tons of lists out there declaring all sorts of shit that don't mean shit (including this one I'm making right now).  BBQ is such a hot button topic to begin with because of course everyone thinks their version/region does it best.  While Nashville probably isn't even a top 5 city for BBQ (I personally would have Memphis at the top) it still has some great fucking Q.  Cary Bringle at Peg Leg Porker is playing a major role in the success of the Nashville BBQ scene.  PLP is actually right next to Arnold's, so if you can find one, you can find the other.  I've been going to this joint since right after it opened in 2013.  It's a family run place, so expect a very welcoming atmosphere.  I go here so much that my daughter basically acts like she owns the place.  Great memories at the ole Peg Leg Porker.  Everything is great.  Small menu and very traditional for Tennessee BBQ.  NO BEEF.  Hickory smoked meat.  In this part of the country, pork and chicken are king and queen of BBQ, so don't go bitching on Yelp about how this isn't a real BBQ restaurant.  We ain't in Texas darlin'. 

My picks - Dry Ribs, Dry wings w/ white sauce, Pulled Pork Sandwich (don't be an asshole, get it with cole slaw).  


City House has been around since way before the culinary boom hit Nashville.  Chef Tandy Wilson has been racking up James Beard Award nominations for years, though I don't believe he has ever actually won.  Too bad, because dude has been pumping out bad ass food for a long time.  Way before doing farm to table was the cool thing to do in Nashville.  I fucking hate that term by the way. 

City House is Italian, but really highlights more indigenous ingredients to the region.  It's not the type of Italian place where the chef is from Italy and all the ingredients are from Italy and blah blah blah.  They use Italian techniques and dishes to highlight whats going on in Tennessee.  Wood fired pizza, Napoletana style, but instead of pancetta they use "belly ham" that they make in house.  Catfish has been on their menu for years.  They produce their own cured meats.  They are just doing so much shit RIGHT.  It's my perennial birthday dinner type of place.  It's hip, but not too hip.  Casual enough to not be worried about if you look cool enough.  Plenty of other places in town to worry about that shit, if you are into that thing (ahemmmmm pinewood social ahemmmm). 

You can get out of City House on a budget too.  Pizzas are affordable, and it's totally acceptable to sit at the bar (or the kitchen view bar) and split one with your lady, or man or whatever you are into. 

My picks - House cured meats, Pizza w/ belly ham, chiles, mozzarella, grana padano, cookie plate, WINE


One thing that is truly Nashville - HOT CHICKEN.  Most people from out of town don't know what hot chicken is.  They always think something like buffalo wings.  Fuck off most people from out of town.  We talkin' bout Nashville Hot Chicken.  I've been wondering when this is gonna spread around the country, but it seems to be mostly confined to our great city.  Hot chicken is fried chicken,  Ok that's an awful explanation.  Everybody around town has their own version.  In a nutshell, its your typical piece of fried chicken but after it comes out of the fryer, it gets tossed, or brushed, or dunked into a sauce made with fry oil and a dry rub mix of LOTS of cayenne pepper, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and maybe molasses.  It's really like nothing you've ever had in regards to fried chicken.  And in my opinion it is the BEST version of fried chicken.  A place in a rough part of town called Prince's invented it like 80 years ago.  I love that Prince's and though they invented hot chicken, they ain't making it the best anymore.  That honor goes to Hattie B's in the Midtown/Vanderbilt neighborhood.

It pains me a little bit to admit to this.  Hattie B's is like the yuppie, safe, whiter, craft beer, better logo, better part of town hot chicken.  However, in the end, the only thing I give a shit about is the food.  And the food here is so awesome.  Hattie B's has a superior bird, compared to all the others.  Wildly consistent with the quality and spice level of their chicken.  At some of the hole in the wall type joints around town, you will get a dry, overcooked piece of chicken from time to time.  Or sometimes ordering mild is simply a suggestion that the cook may consider.  At Hattie B's, the chicken has tasted the same.  Every.  Fucking. Time.  Also the sides are amazing.  Most hot chicken joints have the shittiest sides imaginable.  Hattie B's is all from scratch.  Another tip on not being an asshole - don't get tenders dude.  Fried chicken is meant to be consumed on the bone.  If you order tenders at any fried chicken joint and have a single complaint about your food, I can't help you.  You fucked that one up.  I tend to go back and forth between white meat and dark meat.  But right now....

My picks - Small White (breast & wing) Hot, pimento mac & cheese, southern greens, beer.  Extra pickles.  


Don't you dare judge me for having two BBQ joints on this list.  I'm a southerner dammit.  We really like BBQ.  Look, it's not all about being fat and shit.  Most the time I go here I just order like a shit ton of meat.  Paleo bitch.  Why is this lower on the list than Peg Leg you ask?  I don't have a great answer for that.  Honestly I struggle with which one I like more.  It seems that the one I like the most, is the whichever one I went to most recent.  Martin's has a WAY bigger menu, which typically for me is a negative.  More shit to execute can often mean you lose some quality.  But, everything I've had at Martin's has been great.  The burger?  AWESOME.  The bbq tacos, although a bit of an abomination in Tennessee if you ask me? AWESOME.  Oh and they have brisket. 

Sure, it's fucking offensive to celebrate the "BBQ" traditions of that oversized, on the verge of secession, Rick Perry electing, oil wasteland that is Texas here in my home of Tennessee.  But man, brisket is awesome.  Beef is good.  I'm not a BBQ racist.  I like it all.  Beef, chicken, pork, goat, lamb or whatever else somebody could consider BBQ.  If there is fire, smoke and meat involved I'm INTO it. 

The biggest selling point of Martin's is that they are rocking whole hog BBQ.  Which if you don't know what that is, well the explanation is in the title.  You take an entire pig- nose, tail and everything in between, split it down the belly, and toss it on a pit.  Depending on the size, it can take anywhere from 12 - 24 hours so smoke.  It is so worth it.  Every bite has bits of shoulder, belly, tenderloin, rib, cheek, ham and so on and so on.  I'm still learning about BBQ in Nashville, but as far as I know, Martin's is the only place you can get whole hog bbq every day of the week. 

My picks - Pork sandwich, brisket, dry wings with white sauce, hush puppies (guys...always get sauce on the side.  if the meat is good, you don't need the sauce.)  


We have burger problems in Nashville.  No I don't mean, that there are no good burgers.  I mean we have a place called The Pharmacy that is one of the most overrated restaurants I have ever been to in my life.  This place has 2 hour waits on the reg.  It's in my neighborhood in East Nashville, and it's THE COOLEST.  I will admit, the beer garden is pretty bad ass.  Except the chance of getting a 2nd round of beers measures out to the mathematical equivalent to winning fucking Powerball.  If you like dry, overcooked, under seasoned burgers by all means, keep waiting for hours on end to be seen at The Pharmacy.  A real HOT SPOT.  But if you care about a good burger, made the way a burger was meant to be made...head over to Gabby's. 

Juicy, greasy, salty, made however the fuck you want it.  That's what I need.  If I don't go through half a roll of paper towels consuming my burger, it must not have been worth eating.  And at Gabby's when I order my burger medium rare, they execute.  This dude, he takes no shit.  One of these shoot you straight fellas, who is too busy to take shit from a dumbass customer.  Line out the door all the time.  Lines are USUALLY a good sign (The Pharmacy is an exception to this rule - besides it's not a line - it's a "wait").  And hey, the fries are great too!  My wife and I adore Gabby's.  She is a real burger fanatic.  She even worked at In-N-Out burger for almost four years while growing up in San Diego.  If she is down with a burger, you know you are on the right track.  Now is a good time to impose my burger building philosophy.  The BEST burger you can possibly construct consists of the following:

Mustard, Onion, Pickle, AMERICAN CHEESE FOOD*, Medium Rare. 

*stealing from my food writing hero, Anthony Bourdain

There is no room for debate.  I DARE you to prove me wrong. 

My picks - The Seamus (pronounced Shay-mus; this is their double patty burger) medium rare with you guessed it - mustard, onion, pickle, american cheese - butter grilled bun, fries and sweet tea

Honorable Mentions: Bro's Cajun Cuisine, Lockeland Table, Chinatown Restaurant, Mitchell Delicatessen, El Jaliciense Mexican Restaurant,  Two Ten Jack, Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, King Market

BBQ Thoughts

I'm done with the regional wars of BBQ.  No longer do I give a shit about style or region or what constitutes "real" BBQ.  Let me clarify.  BBQ will always mean smoked meat, cooked slowly using a wood fire.  BBQ will NEVER mean getting together with your friends a throwing burgers and hot dogs on a gas "grill".  That's grilling man.  That's a cookout.  Or grilling out.  Whatever you want to call it, please stop calling it "having a BBQ".  That's misleading.  Don't be a liar. 

I'm talking about Memphis vs. Texas vs. Kansas City vs. Carolina and any other variation you may want to claim.  Where I've grown up, BBQ was synonymous with pork.  Brisket wasn't BBQ.  It was brisket.  But as we all know, in Texas that ain't the case.  In the Carolinas you have whole hog and chopped pork in vinegar.  Memphis got that dry rub action.  KC with the burnt ends.  Here's the thing.  I LOVE ALL OF IT. 

I used to be territorial about this shit, subscribing to the "BBQ means chopped pork sandwich in vinegar sauce" ideaology.  That's what my dad grew up on in Charlotte, NC and raised us to believe that this version of BBQ was the only version of BBQ.  When we moved to Arkansas when I was 12, I was appalled at the pulled pork and thick, sweet and spicy tomato based BBQ sauce.  So young, so stupid. 

The only thing I care about now?  Flavor.  Does it taste good.  That's the question to be asked.  I don't give a shit where you're from and I don't want to hear about why your city is the only city doing real BBQ.  We are in a new age of BBQ eating, where I believe those actually cooking the BBQ are becoming less territorial and competitive in how they view their particular style.  It should be a live and let live BBQ community.

My buddy Jay is always knockin' one of my favorite BBQ joints as being "White People BBQ".  I'm color blind when it comes to BBQ.  I want my ribs cooked properly and maybe a friendly atmosphere.  Black or white, rich or poor, yuppie location or hole in the wall is totally irrelevant.  Give me the best.  

I ventured into smoking beef short ribs last weekend for the first time, not your traditional Tennessee BBQ by any means.  I consulted Aaron Franklin's (of Franklin BBQ in Austin, supposedly best BBQ in country right now) new cookbook for how to go about smoking these giant, hedonistic beef ribs (4 ribs was 6 POUNDS of meat pre cooked).  I don't know for sure that I liked it better than pork, but it was pretty fucking great.  The coolest thing about his technique was the simplicity of the rub - equal parts salt and pepper.  I got my ass handed to me keeping the pit at 289 degrees for 10 hours, but I am now a believer in the beef.  Doesn't mean I am forsaking my native pork.  I'm only expanding my horizons of BBQ.  You should too. 

Don't be a BBQ elitist based on a region.  Focus on quality.  If a restuarant is making shitty BBQ, by all means make it known to the world (as I do with Phil's BBQ in San Diego).  All BBQ lovers are trying to spread the gospel of smoked meat.  We will be more effective if we stop fighting over the city it was made in. 

Top 5 Favorite Restaurants I Have Eaten at on Tour

A few qualifiers here.  If you want to read about where I like to eat around the country regardless of whether or not I am touring, then stay tuned. That list is coming.  This list is restricted to places I have eaten while I’ve actually been on tour. Thus, I lose the opportunity to gush about many of my favorite restaurants.  

But since most of you only give a shit enough to read my writing because of my membership in the post hardcore/turned indie rock legends, As Cities Burn, I am setting these parameters.  This way you can one day visit one of my favorite tour spots and say to your friend, “This is where the drummer for As Cities Burn ate!  I don’t remember his name, and if I saw him right now, wearing his own band’s t-shirt, I wouldn’t have a clue it was him…but HE ATE HERE!”  

So now onto my mission to become the music world’s version of Anthony Bourdain.  Here are my Top 5 favorite places that I have eaten on tour, not to be confused with places that I WOULD eat on tour NOW.  This list will change…probably later this year.  

In N Out Burger - West Coast/Texas

Ok haters, I don’t want to hear your bullshit that In N Out Burger is overrated.  For the same price of a Big Mac meal at McDonald's, you get a Double Double meal here.  Except In N Out doesn’t start making your burger until you order it.  They don’t have freezers.  Nothing on this burger has ever been frozen.  They even have their own bakery (Puritan Bakery) for which In N Out is the only client.  The buns are only par-baked so they don’t finish until they throw them on the grill to be toasted.  My wife worked at In N Out for almost 4 years, so she has given me the rundown of all their quality control procedures.  No doubt, a well-oiled machine it is.  As Cities Burn would eat there almost every day when on tour out west.  

In N Out actually pays their employees well too, which in turn results in premium customer service.  Do yourself a favor and order your burger the way I order my burger everywhere - Mustard, Onion, Pickle w/ American Cheese…Medium Rare.  Yes In N Out will cook your burger medium rare.  Your complaints are invalid until you order a burger this way…the way a burger was meant to be eaten.  I also want to take this moment to say fuck Five Guys and their overcooked, under-seasoned, unmelted cheese burgers.  

What I get - Double Double with mustard, onion, pickle only cooked medium rare.  

Las Cuatros Milpas - San Diego, CA

Middle-aged-to-elderly Mexican ladies cooking Mexican food in a way you have never imagined.  Tamales, rolled tacos, rice and beans, chorizo, tacos, and the best damn flour tortillas you will find on planet earth.  It’s the epitome of a hole in the wall and always a long line out the door.  You are an asshole if you leave somewhere like this because there’s a line to go somewhere with no line.  You ever wonder why there might be a line outside of a food establishment?  Could it possibly be because it’s gonna be some of the best food you’ve ever had in your life?  If a place looks like a shit hole and there is a line out the door, you best wise up and GET IN LINE.  Places like Las Cuatros Milpas make the world go ‘round for me.  It’s my happy place.  It’s the reason I eat.  

No street tacos here.  The corn tortillas are fried to make crispy tacos filled with shredded chicken or pork, and topped with lettuce, Mexican crema and cotija.  Authentic as hell.  I don’t want to hear it from the street taco nazi's about how these aren't real tacos.  There is more than one variation of authentic Mexican tacos…

What I get - Pork Tamale w/ Rice and Beans, chicken taco (fresh tortillas come with your rice and beans for free!)

Mission Chinese - New York City, NY

This is my trendy, hipster, current to what’s going on in the “food world” pick.  Danny Bowien started Mission Chinese out in San Francisco as a pop up restaurant, and eventually opened a second location in NYC.  At one point Andrew Zimmern (that bald guy that eats bugs on the travel channel) declared Mission Chinese in NYC the “best restaurant in the country”.  The hype led to long lines of hipsters wanting to experience this hybrid experiment of Chinese techniques with American flavors, as well as American techniques with Chinese flavors.  

I’ve been fortunate to visit Mission Chinese when there wasn’t a 3 hour wait.  Since eating there, I have seen Danny post pictures on twitter or instagram of himself hanging with Chris Connely (Saves the Day) and Geoff Rickley (Thursday) at the restaurant.  It appears he grew up being into the same music as me. I secretly hope that there is a chance he is an As Cities Burn fan, and will graciously invite me to come feast and drink with him and all his super famous chef friends that I idolize (my false idols power rankings goes - baseball players, chefs, line cooks, and then way on down at the bottom, basically off the list in the “don’t give a shit category”….other musicians.)

What I get - Thrice cooked bacon, salt cod fried rice, chongqing chicken wings, bbq pigs tail

Mamoun’s Falafel- New York City, NY

We talkin’ about falafel.  I’m a tad embarrassed as an avid lover of meat to have a God forsaken vegetarian sandwich highlighted on this list.  As Ron Swanson said,- “You’ve accidentally given me the food that my food eats.”  There will be plenty of time for me to talk shit about vegetarians and vegans (those of the privileged white American variety), but for now I must praise this East Village staple.  On Saint Marks Place between 2nd and 3rd Ave on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Mamoun’s is walking distance from a number of NYC concert venues, including Irving Plaza and Webster Hall.  

I’m not a falafel expert, but it’s the best damn falafel sandwich i’ve ever had.  Perfectly fresh and chewy pita, crunchy and moist falafel, and a tahini sauce that is of the gods.  Careful with the hot sauce.  It will kick your ass.  Best part about this place?  The falafel sandwich is only $3.50 (I think when I first ate there like 7 or 8 years ago it was $2.50).  

I’m sure the shawarma is great, but since I can’t get falafel this good anywhere I have lived over the past 5 years, I always just get falafel.  

What I get - Falafel Sandwich, side of hummus and a water because I’m typically pretty loaded at that point in the evening when I usually end up here.

Central Grocery - New Orleans, LA

Get yourself a damn muffuletta sandwich and continue on with your consumption of Abita Amber in to go cups. Central Grocery is a New Orleans institution that makes a sandwich native to the city, created by Italian immigrants.  Mortadella, salami, ham, mozzarella, provolone and olive salad on muffuletta bread (round sicilian loaf, similar to focaccia but closer to the texture of french bread).  There is better food in New Orleans for sure, but when we play House of Blues, I almost always find myself taking the short walk down Decatur St. past Jackson Square to indulge myself.  You can get it as a quarter sandwich and make it a snack so you can save some room for all the other good stuff New Orleans has to offer.  

What I get - Quarter muffuletta, hot and pressed. 

We've Gone Crazy with the Coffee

Ok, first let me say something in praise of coffee culture in America (seems I am always starting with disclaimers).  I am always supportive of "better".  I LIKE that people care about quality.  I LIKE that people want to make things better.  Of course it's a good thing when something taste better than the other thing we used to get.  Even Starbucks, which I now mostly think isn't that great (but still patronize) made coffee better in America.  Doesn't matter how much you hate how big they have gotten, you can't deny that they have been good for our coffee consumption overall.  Kind of like Food Network MOSTLY sucks these days, but it's still a net positive because it gets people cooking.  And that's common goal in all of this bullshit - Get people to care more about what they eat or drink. 

With that said...the current state of coffee culture really pisses me off. 

How did something so simple and enjoyable become so damn pretentious?  In my mind, coffee comes last in regards to culinary prestige.  How can I clarify...OK.  So a chef for a really bad ass chef...they are at the TOP.  The training and the years of experience and the wide range of skills they possess is quite impressive.  And it doesn't stop at just cooking.  Advanced palates and knowledge of ingredients usually mean they make pretty mean cocktails as well.  I've always heard bartenders say that "Chefs would make the best bartenders" because of that reason.  But why would you ever devote your life to just making drinks when you are capable of cooking at a high level?  Most bartenders and front of house types I've known are pretty lousy cooks, and have very little understanding of what it takes to compose a successful plate of food.  Not saying there aren't exceptions...just the norm based on my experience. 

What's interesting about really good cooks and chefs is that the types of places they really like to eat are usually some hole in the wall, doing a few dishes really well type joints.  Tacos, various types of asian noodle shops, BBQ etc.  Simple things, lacking pretension. 

So where the fuck do baristas and coffee shops get off being so high brow?  Maybe I'm judging harshly, but too many of these joints are in my opinion intentionally putting off this vibe.  These designer aprons,  reclaimed wood with thomas edison/turn of the century (19th that is) lighting, stare at you blankly when you get to register without a greeting assholes need a reality check.  The most egregious offender in my city is a place called Barista Parlour.  Forget about grabbing one on your way to work in the morning unless you have decided it's worth leaving your house 30 minutes early so that you can pay what is almost equal to an hours wage of a fast food worker for a damn cup of coffee. 

I hate to sounds like a "get off my lawn" type of guy.  Because like I said, I appreciate quality.  And I can't deny that they coffee at Barista Parlour for instance, is damn good.  But pouring hot water from exactly 7.4 inches above perfectly ground coffee beans ain't curing cancer.  Hell, it's not even COOKING AN OMELETTE. 

I was a decent restaurant cook.  I don't know if I ever could have made it as a chef (if anything because I don't have the drive) but I was perfectly serviceable and worked hard when I cooked in Louisiana.  Now I would consider myself an advanced level home cook.  Because of my restaurant experience I can knock out some pretty cool shit that maybe a lot of home cooks can't, and I have a healthy amount of tricks up my sleeve to put together a dinner with a "wow" factor to the average diner at a casual dinner party. 

I have ZERO experience as a barista.  But I betcha, I could go start working at a "good" coffee shop today, and pretty much be a serviceable employee putting out quality product within a week or two, if not less.  I do not believe the opposite to be true.  I think you throw a barista into "good" restaurant and they will get their world seriously fucked up.  If you threw ME, with several years of professional cooking experience, into a "good" restaurant right now, I would be royally screwed and probably have a mental breakdown by the end of the first shift on the line. 

So here is my challenge to the barista world - I will come make a cup of coffee using your fancy pour over equipment and wear one of your $200 aprons.  I'll even grow one of those curly mustaches and cut my hair high and tight and use pomade.  YOU come make a proper omelette.  Just a simple, no frills omelette.  I'll even let you use a non stick pan. 

I'm willing to bet my attempt at a cup of coffee will be more successful than your attempt at cooking an omelette.  Maybe I'm being cocky and will have to eat my words one day, but I'm willing to risk embarrassment to prove my point - Baristas and coffee culture in America need a slice - nay - an entire humble pie. 

Speaking of, pie is pretty good with coffee huh?  I'm gonna make a pie to go with my next cup of coffee.  #skillzzzz

#Hamrumors: How I scooped a Major League Baseball free agent signing at a HoneyBaked Ham store.

Yes it’s true.  I have started a baseball blog called Ham Rumors.  Why start a blog based on a hashtag that was popular on baseball twitter for one day?  Why the hell not?  Blogs are started everyday for much worse reasons.  I’ve wanted to do this for awhile so I might as well use my rapid rise through the journalism ranks to get it going.

Before we get to the details of the events that took place at The HoneyBaked Ham in Woodstock, GA on December 24, 2014 I would like to be clear that I have no delusions of believing my role in #hamrumors was important in any way.  I’m not a sportswriter and don’t want to be one.  I don’t even want to play one.  There are too many assholes on the internet pretending they are baseball scouts and probably showing up to high school games with radar guns and using the 20 – 80 scale in everyday conversation.  Being delusional is not interesting.  Or funny really.

I am just an extremely dedicated fan.  Baseball is my first love (before music and cooking – come on people don’t count in this context) and I just got really lucky and had the pleasure of seeing what happens when you scoop a story.  I love baseball twitter.  I love keeping up with all the writers and bloggers and analyst throughout the year in real time.  Turns out being the first to break a story – any story – is really fun.

The best thing about this story is that without the ham, it’s not much of a story.  I mean, of course it would have been reported on eventually.  But it’s A.J. Pierzynski.  Old.  Backup.  Catcher.  For what, 1 year/2 million?  Nothing too out of the ordinary, except for his reputation as a total dick and the narrative of how this signing will affect “THE BRAVES WAY”.  But when the story breaks because some dude’s dad ran into a loose lipped Fredi Gonzalez at a ham store on Christmas Eve, and that some dude has a twitter?  You get #hamrumors.

Here’s how it all went down:

My dad’s birthday is on Christmas Eve, so naturally every year we get together to celebrate in addition to any Christmas plans we may have.  It always starts with breakfast at Cracker Barrel (I’m not proud, but I’m also not ashamed) and then some Best Buy gift cards for all the kids.  This year we headed out to my sisters house in Woodstock instead of the usual gathering at my parents place in downtown Atlanta.  And this year, we were getting a HoneyBaked Ham for dinner.  So mom and dad head out to shop for that fateful ham around 11:15 am.

11:53 am – I receive a text from my mom that reads – “Dad just had a convo with Fredi G.  Got a first to know tip.”

11:56 am – Dad calls and begins to tell me about the encounter.  He says that he had just seen Fredi Gonzalez at HoneyBaked Ham and that Fredi told him the Braves were signing A.J. Pierzynski.

Dad goes on to report that he had waved at Fredi and that Fredi had acknowledged his wave with a friendly smile and head nod.  It seemed that nobody else had recognized him.  Fredi was behind my dad in line (the line was snaking through the store) and when they eventually passed by each other Fredi struck up conversation (that piece of the story is very important. Fredi initiated the whole interaction after the friendly across the store greeting):

(quotes based on my fathers account of the conversation of course)

Fredi – “Hey how ya doin?  Been waiting in line long?”

Dad – “Not too long, maybe 20 minutes…I tell you what my son is a huge Braves fan and he is gonna freak out when I tell him I saw you.”  Fredi apparently responded cordially with something like ‘oh that’s great’ – my dad continues “…well I’m real excited about spring training.”

Fredi – “Yeah me too, you know we just signed a pitcher yesterday…”

Dad – “Oh yeah Grilli?”

Fredi – “Yep…and actually we just signed a catcher today.  Pierzynski.”

Dad – “A.J. Pierzynski?!”

Fredi – “Yeah…actually you’re the first to know.”

Dad – mouth wide open/jaw on the floor (i’m assuming).

12:02 pm – After scouring twitter to see if anybody had reported on this, and discovering they had not, I frantically compose my tweet and send it out, officially solidifying my first citizen’s scoop.  Craig Calcaterra got #hamrumors going a few minutes later.

12:47 pm – Mark Bowman of confirms my scoop and all hell breaks loose in my mentions and notifications.

The rest of the day is out there to find, including most of the major news outlets picking up the story with headlines emphasizing that the story broke in a ham store and that I play drums in a “Christian Rock band” lolololol.

Now to the most interesting part IMO.


Like I said, not a big signing, but I can’t imagine that the Braves wanted Fredi chatting up random men at a ham store about unannounced transactions. (I should say that my dad was wearing a Santa hat.  And everyone likes Santa.)

The way the story was reported by Mark Bowman and David O’Brien was that basically my dad “overheard” a conversation that Fredi was having with his son (my parents seemed to get the impression that Fredi was alone) regarding Pierzynski being an “option” for the Braves (which everyone who reads about off season moves already knew). Obviously somebody with the Braves told Bowman or DOB that version of story.  (Which based on my father’s story is absolutely false).

I have two theories on the way the story was reported as my dad “overhearing a conversation”.

1. Fredi initially told the Braves front office my dad’s version of how the story leaked to which they decided was not a good way to portray the leak.  So they got together with PR or whoever, and concocted the Fredi having a conversation with his son angle.  And since the writers have a working relationship with the team, they take them at their word and print the story as told to them by the team.

2. Fredi hears about the story getting out and thinks, “uh oh i’m in deep shit, i better come up with something here to cover my ass” and he tells reporters, and John Hart and Pierzynski’s agent and anyone else that could possibly be pissed about him blabbing his mouth in line at HONEYBAKED HAM TO A GUY IN SANTA HAT that “you can’t believe everything you hear on the internet and the santa hat guy must have overheard a vague conversation with my son.”

I’m leaning towards scenario # two.

# 2 actually makes my dad out to be like Jason effing Bourne or Batman (My dad is a retired federal agent actually).  Guy in santa hat, staking out ham store and reading lips about hotstove transactions from 30 feet away.  Would love to hear Fredi explain how it got from a casual conversation with his son about Pierzynski being an option to me being 100% on the money about the Braves signing him that day.

All that to say I was really worried about making Fredi look bad or get him in actual trouble.  I totally understand wanting to control the story as much as possible and save face.  I probably shouldn’t expect anything different from people in their position.  It doesn’t really matter.  Either way I still got credit and my dad is now some sort of an urban legend.  The Lunsford’s know what really happened on December 24th, 2014 at The HoneyBaked Ham Woodstock, GA.  The Lunsford’s had a better Christmas because of it.  Lot’s of laughs and plenty of text from family and friends in disbelief, along with acknowledgement from a few of my favorite baseball writers.

It’s getting late and I am gradually throwing grammar out the window.  That’s the story.  I’m certain I’ll never have another scoop, but I am gonna keep this blog up.  Be cool and get on the #hamrumors train now.  Before you know it I will have absorbed Productive Outs and Cespedes Family BBQ into my media conglomerate and be making hundreds – yes hundreds- of dollars on google ads and sponsored Jose Canseco tweets.

Ham Power

PANIC! At The As Cities Burn Show

I had full intentions to write more frequently about this tour.  We all know that the drummer's "tour diary" is the most interesting thing about any given tour.  This has been true since the days of Xanga (that's an old blog website in case you like, weren't alive in 2003).  For years bands have been annoying you with tour journals and studio updates and a multitude of other uninteresting and mundane pieces of "content" or "media".  It's pretty much always awful.  Not funny.  Painfully awkward at times.  I suppose I am mostly referring to videos, but written content can be rough too, seeing as how band dudes can be dumb and the skill of writing is something that escapes them. Totally ok if you include me in this...I have been told my blogs and book excerpts sound like a "12 year old wrote them".

You have been saved from the run of the mill tour journal my own expense.  To be blunt, I have been experiencing somewhat of a mental breakdown on this tour.  In San Diego, on August 5th, I had two panic attacks in the middle of our set.  I don't really know how to go about writing about anxiety and how it has affected my life.  It seems like everyone has anxiety or some kind of disorder related to anxiety.  I can tell you that when I was 10 years old, I had frequent panic attacks that I had been bitten by a black widow spider and was in fact dying.  I didn't know what anxiety was then.  I didn't even realize until a few years ago that the arachnophobia I was experiencing had anything to do with anxiety.  I dealt with that throughout my teen years and then it just went away. 

Skip ahead about 15 years and I find myself in a very bad spot that has been building up for awhile I presume.  My bouts with panic and anxiety over the past few years have increased exponentially.  It's so stupid, but at least part of it has to do with fear of vomiting.  I think I got food poisoning or flu a few years ago and now, multiple times a week, I am worried that I am sick and will at any moment vomit all over myself. 

A lot of self diagnosis here, but the pressures of this tour have gotten to me.  I've basically been As Cities Burn's manager for all this, and it's a lot of fucking work to put even a short tour like this together.  Especially when you aren't a functioning band, with certain infrastructures already in place.  We were starting from scratch.  There are relationships that can be strained at times in this band.  Not for a lack of love or anything.  On these matters I don't feel comfortable going into detail since they involve more than just myself...let's just say that things between band members have been difficult at times leading up to this tour. 

This all came to a head in San Diego last week.  My wife and two kids were at the show.  We had spent the day at the beach with some of the dudes.  I was exhausted.  Mentally and emotionally.  My daughter stood on the drum riser right next to me while I was playing.  I didn't realize at the time how fucking intense that was.  Two worlds colliding type of thing.  I know people on this tour that do not even speak to their family when they are on the road.  It's really difficult being away from your kids, and for some it's just better to almost pretend they don't exist so you can go out and effectively do your job.  Effectively doing my job is precisely the opposite of what happened next. 

After we played "84' Sheepdog", about to go into the "Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest" portion of our set, I ran off stage and to the bathroom.  I thought I was sick to my stomach.  And then the panic started to set in.  At first it was like, "Hey shit happens" (no pun intended).  Figured I would just get back out there with ease.  But as I was off stage I started to realize what was happening.  My chest started to feel heavy and my mind was taking over.  I tried to walk back towards the stage, through the hallways of San Diego House of Blues.  I stopped just before the stage and veered into a dressing room, hanging my head over a trash can.  Matt Carter from Emery came in to try and talk to me.  He prayed for me and calmed me down.  Not enough though I guess. 

When I walked back out the guys called me to the front of the stage.  They were just bantering and talking with the crowd.  They didn't understand or know what was actually happening.  They thought it was just a bathroom emergency.  I awkwardly informed the crowd that I was in the middle of a panic attack.  Cody looked at me with great concern and surprise.  What the fuck do you do in that moment?  On stage in front of everyone, your drummer is having a mental breakdown and you just gotta keep going? 

I was able to make it through 5 more songs before I jumped off the drum riser again to vomit.  Except I didn't vomit.  I was just dry heaving.  I wasn't fucking sick.  Not physically anyways.  As I crouch on my hands and knees just behind our back line gear and video screens, our tour manager is trying to convince me to go back and keep playing.  My mind is too far gone at this point though.  I leave and don't come back.  Locking myself in a bathroom for the duration of the show. 

I was certain in that moment, that I would never play a show again.  Things got worse in the bathroom as I heard the band try to figure out what the fuck to do.  They had a kid come up on stage from the crowd to play a song we had already played.  Cody and Toby (from Emery) did a Tom Petty Cover.  I think Cody played a few more songs solo.  I could hear people talking out in the backstage hall.  "What's wrong with Aaron?? Is he just sick??".  Eventually our TM learned "Bloodsucker Pt. 2" in the dressing room and they ended the show playing the song IN THE CROWD. 

How embarrassing.  To be clear, this has never happened during a show to me.  I couldn't believe that this was now my reality.  Abandoning my band in the middle of a show that was our biggest paying show of the whole tour.  The money, family, the tour, relationships, and 32 years of being fucked up in the head and not doing anything about it all came crashing down on me at once.  This was the bottom. 

After a long talk with Matt and Toby from Emery, I was certain that I would not be playing another show on this tour.  Our tour manager booked me and the wife a hotel in downtown San Diego and our friend CoCo took the kids for the night.  I didn't say goodbye to anyone in the band.  I felt broken, embarrassed and ashamed.  No chance I was coming back. 

I've seen some people on the internet complain about how the San Diego show "wasn't what they paid for".  You can be pissed or feel like you got "screwed" if you want.  I would like to say I'm sorry.  Obviously didn't want to ruin a show.  But at least you got to see something real.  It wasn't a fucking show, I can promise you that.  If anything, it was unique.  I bet you never forget it.  If you still maintain your sense of entitlement and frustration because the show didn't turn out like you hoped?  Eh, fuck you.  Come find me and I'll personally give you your money back.

The next day, I went back.  I played another show.  An amazing show in Anaheim at House of Blues.  Everyone on the tour stood side stage, almost like waiting for a train wreck to happen.  Our TM and Dave from Emery had learned a bunch of As Cities Burn songs that day, so that if it happened again they could jump in.  Everything was fine though.  I played the whole show without incident. 

It's so scary to know that you can be totally fucked one day and then totally ok the next.  Anaheim, I was great.  The next night in Sacramento, it almost happened again and when we got to San Francisco the next morning, I tried to leave tour...again.  I was talked out of it by our TM (his name is Nick).  I told him that if he keeps talking me into staying, and I have another freak out, that I will fucking hate him.  A risk he was willing to take I guess. 

This tour is almost over.  3 more shows.  Honesty only permits me to say that I am so happy for it to be ending.  Honesty only permits me to say that a large part of me wishes we had never done this tour.  All the good things about tour, have been good.  Free beer.  Good food.  Nice bus. Good shows.  But the toll it has taken on me mentally leaves me in state of regret.  Maybe I pushed too hard.  Maybe I should have just let things be with As Cities Burn.  I hate feeling like a crazy person.  I hate the idea of anyone feeling sorry for me. 

I'm going to be really blunt here.  Just because you read this, doesn't give you a pass to bring it up to me in person if you meet me at a show.  I'm writing as a way to relieve pressure here.  Maybe a lot of you have had similar experiences and it helps to know that other people deal with the same shit.  But I don't want to talk to you about it in person.  We don't know each other.  At any given moment, talking about that night in San Diego makes me feel like it's happening all over again.  A handshake and a "thanks for writing" will suffice.  No desire to relive this every time I talk to someone outside of a show, or sign a book.  Leave a comment.  Write an email.  Let's just keep this shit on the internet for now.

Oh hey!  Go pre order my book please.  $$$ from book sales cures my anxiety.  Makes me feel validated.  Validate me.  LIKE ME.

On the Road Again...and the Beer is Still Free!

FIRST, go buy tickets to one of our upcoming shows on, THEN go pre order my book on the BadChristian website.  NOW you can read the words below....

Damn I missed tour.  But this version of tour I am experiencing is very different than tours of the past.  Lets talk about tour buses for a minute. 

So there is an assumption that being on a tour bus means you are just raking in the cash.  I mean sure, I slept on a mattress made of money last night but who doesn't right?  We watched for years as bands we toured with lived the life on their tour buses, having a crew to load in and set up all their gear.  Never worried about drinking too much to drive, since rest assured, their bus driver would be safely transporting them to the next city as they slept in their bunk made of money.   Partying on their bus and watching satellite TV.  All those years I thought, "Man that must be the key to happiness on tour." Tour buses, satellite TV, and reckless alcohol consumption with virtually no consequences to speak of...I WAS RIGHT!

I am having a fucking blast.  I woke up this morning, parked outside the venue, hopped on my phone to find the nearest starbucks and started walking.  Enjoying a very nice morning in San Antonio to myself with my only responsibilities being a sound check at 2:30 and then a show to perform at 9:30.  The rest of my day will consist of finding good mexican food, drinking budweiser, watching baseball, and listening to Matt & Toby of Emery talk shit about life in general.  This is what dreams are made of people.  I can never go back to a van.  Fuck that shit.

Truth is, this is only a "glimpse".  Kind of like that movie "The Family Man" with NIcolas Cage (Seriously a top ten movie for me probably, even more so now that I have a family).  As Cities Burn's tenure at the "top" with the bus and crew and all that fancy stuff will be short lived.  I don't know if we will ever tour again, definitely not with this lineup and playing this record.  This is the end of that.  However, I do know that having a bus and a crew and the luxury that comes with it will end on August 16th in Nashville.  This isn't real.  It's a "glimpse" of that life I witnessed years ago, opening up for bigger bands.  Those bands did this 200 days a year.  We are doing it for 16 days.  Amateur in comparison. 

I live in Nashville, and a lot of my friends work in the music industry.  Mostly with big country stars or Christian music folks.  They all live the tour bus life.  But they all work for those artists.  Crew, hired musicians, etc.  Along for the ride.  I'm not trying to degrade that AT ALL.  I'm super stoked and proud of everyone I know making their way in the music industry, no matter the job.  But in Nashville there is this sense of arrogance to that way of life.  The town is one big circle jerk regarding who you work for or who you just got to tour with, or what TV show or baseball stadium the band you work for just played.  I can't lie...I have a tremendous sense of pride that this time, the bus is mine.  I'm paying for it (along with the other ACB guys of course).  It's our hard work that is allowing us to go out and have a good time...not some country singer.  Even if only for a couple weeks.  Bad fucking ass. 

Of course, none of it matters without you guys.  Yes YOU.  Fans.  Patrons.  Those who buy the tickets and t-shirts.  Hey, I promise somebody didn't just break into my blog to talk nice about fans.  It's me, Aaron.  I really do love you guys, no matter how awkward I might seem to be at the merch table or how angry I may seem in the comments section of various social media. 

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for paying for my big ass bus, free Budweiser and fine cheeses and cured meats from Whole Foods. 

Book preview: Chapter One

This is the first chapter from my soon to be released book, Backstage: How I Almost Got Rich Playing Drums in a Christian Hardcore Band.

Be on the lookout for more info about pre ordering the book and a solid release date.  I WILL have copies available for purchase on the upcoming As Cities Burn tour.  Links for tickets to those show are on or on  Thanks for reading. 


It’s August of 2006 in New Orleans and it’s hot. And humid. Really humid. This was the type of humidity where I wasn’t even sure what the point of showering was. I'm just a sweaty, sticky mess. Not to mention that rapidly accelerating my dehydration is the fresh Abita Amber - a local Louisiana beer -  I just picked up from a bar across the street from House of Blues, that I’m now enjoying as I watch the openers load in their gear through the stage door. In New Orleans, it always seems like a good idea to start drinking early. Never mind that in the morning one may have to get on a plane or take a ride across Lake Pontchartrain on the 25-mile causeway back to the North Shore. Pulling over to blow chunks of jambalaya and hurricanes on that stretch of road is tough, seeing as there's no shoulder to speak of. But it’s the last show of tour. And my band As Cities Burn is headlining a House of Blues show in New Orleans for the first time. We were on the verge of greatness. Riches and fame were inevitable. Abita Amber was the only appropriate action to take.                                                                                          

If I had only known the truth in that moment, sipping my beer, watching our friends in Jonezetta load their gear through the back entrance of HOB on Decatur Street, that THIS was as big as it gets. By the time As Cities Burn would come to an end in 2009, I would be humbled and broken, devastated by the suicide of a friend, a failed marriage, and the collapse of my band. No ill- advised night of drinking in New Orleans could match the metaphorical hangover that my life would become.                                                                                  

It was actually supposed to be our last show ever at the end of a very successful farewell tour. Bands are very narcissistic about their “farewells,” aren’t they? It can feel quite presumptuous to think that anybody is going to give a shit about your LAST TOUR EVER. Which of course, it wasn’t. As you may have noticed I wrote ‘supposed to be our last show’. Turns out that “Final Tour” billing is worth a lot of tickets and a lot of merch sales and a lot of fans spilling their hearts about how important you are to their existence. This all must have been convincing because about halfway through our “final tour” we decided to announce that in fact it was not! We had been so inspired by all the heartfelt gratitude from our fans (and their money): we realized what a stupid idea it was to break up. Besides, we were going to be HUGE once we put out our next record. That was the trajectory we were on. All the other bands on our label were blowing up at the time and we were next in line, so “they” said. We had the right booking agent. We had the right sound. We were getting the good tours. And the fans were damn passionate about what we were doing. There was a connection between As Cities Burn and the fans that was unexplainable, still is to this day. We had to stay together. For the greater good of music, right?                            

This last show at House of Blues in New Orleans was kind of a dream come true for us. Just one year before we were still playing churches and VFW halls for our hometown gigs. Headlining HOB was a rite of passage for us. It meant we were moving on to bigger and better things. I remember that night we believed we had a very good chance at selling out the show. I don’t remember the capacity at the time, but I believe close to 1,000 people could fit inside. I think it’s less now, but let's say 1,000. That sounds better than 878. So we were expecting 1,000 kids to come to this show. Sure about 163 of them were friends and family but that’s the way it always was when playing South Louisiana. All the members of the band but myself were from nearby Mandeville and Covington, just across the lake, and also attended LSU before quitting to tour full-time. Popular guys and really fun to be around,so there was always lots of people hanging wherever they were.                                 

If you sell out the show at HOB New Orleans you get your name on the wall backstage. I remember being so giddy about the possibility of our band name written on a wall next to Jimmy Eat World or Foo Fighters. We were at the peak of our career and on the verge of attaining the unattainable for a hardcore band from Baton Rouge where frat rock rules all and Zydeco country music is a real thing that people want to see. I dare you to google “Zydeco”.    

As Cities Burn had survived dealing with shady local promoters and playing for free at churches. No longer did we have to work our asses off to promote and sell tickets for shows that we would receive no financial gain from, even though our draw was double that of the touring “national” act. We had arrived. We were legit:   

 “Pay us our money or we take a walk to the ATM buddy! And by the way we requested BUDWEISER, not bud light on the hospitality rider. FIX IT NOW!!!”                        

Truth is we were never like that. Never demanding. Never really that professional. We never took what we were doing too seriously. I think we were mostly surprised that this plan had worked. Dropping out of college and just hitting the road with no help whatsoever. We were surprised and proud. Excited for the future. In the end, our turn to blow up and become the next Tooth and Nail/Solid State Records screaming band to sell $100K records or more would never come. We had reached the peak and didn’t have a fucking clue.                                     

You see we would end up changing genres completely. TJ our singer/screamer decided to go ahead and leave the band to start a normal life and get married. Although we loved TJ we thought, “Well now at least we can write the music we want to write and try and be part of the cool rock and roll indie scene.” Cody, TJ’s brother, would become our singer and As Cities Burn completely reinvented itself. Artistically, it was for the better. Our second and third records were much more in line with the type of music we all actually loved to listen to. But career-wise, it was devastating. Our sophomore release would end up selling half as many records as the first.            

The shows got smaller. The booking agent was gone. The label loved the record, but it was like marketing a whole new band. Half of our fan base left us. Can’t blame them. They liked screaming and hardcore dancing and moshing. You can’t expect an 18-year old kid to go from wearing girl jeans and black t-shirts to within a year becoming an uber cool indie rocker. I was cocky about our transition. I thought that our music would have more mass appeal and that we were going to be the biggest band in our “scene”. Not even close.         

After our third record was released in spring of 2009, the band was basically in shambles. We played one show in support of the record with no mention to anybody that it could be our actual last show. We were still friends, but relationships were strained. There was plenty of blame to go around, including myself. I was on the tail end of an eventual failed marriage that had deeply affected friendships and even my commitment to the band. At times I was selfish: missing practices, bailing out on shows, asking the band to tailor everything to my schedule. Oblivious to what was going on around me, my dream was falling apart and I didn’t do a damn thing to try and save it.         

That summer Cody posted on Facebook that the band was done, thanking the fans for six years of ACB support. None of us even discussed it. But someone needed to say something. So that was it.         

Let’s get something straight about this book. I’m not writing this about those years after our peak. That’s a story for another time. I only mention that part of our history to give you context. This is a band that fell short in a lot of ways. Nobody bought houses with the money we made. In that sense, there was virtually nothing to show for it in the end. The financial success was minimal. We fell short of all expectations I had on that hot August day in 2006.      

Most of this book will be about three of the best years of my life, which also happen to be the beginning of three more years of absolute misery. Even though As Cities Burn embarked on a great adventure from 2003 to 2006, this time period was not without tragedy. Suicide. One could never imagine how many life trajectories can be jolted from their previous path due to the tragedy of suicide. I will write about these things with transparency. Because these things are all too intertwined with my experience in As Cities Burn. I think in some ways this book is a way for me to appreciate that time in a way I was never able to back then. When you are always looking forward to what is next, it’s difficult to live in the moment and realize how amazing those experiences are. With touring and trying to push your career forward, you're always thinking about where the next show is, how many tickets have been sold, are we going to get an offer for that amazing tour, how much merch we should re-order. Always looking forward to the next thing. Never enjoying what’s happening to you right then.                           

Even with all the terrible things that would occur in my personal life, I want to enjoy those moments now. I want to tell you what it was like to come up as an indie hardcore band in 2003, before the internet took over every aspect of the music industry. I want to tell you about playing for absolutely nobody in Brighton Beach, NJ, with a foot of snow on the ground awaiting you after the show as you search for a place to lay your head. I want to tell you about the overwhelming joy that you experience when you find out you sold more than $300 worth of T- shirts! Or the numbness and disappointment you feel when you send off over 100 press kits to record labels and managers and agents and don’t receive a single response. These were the realities of starting out as a touring band in 2003. Maybe this is still true for 2015. I wouldn’t know. I don’t want to know. Well, not by way of experience that is.                 

Maybe this book will be a cautionary tale to some young hopeful musicians that just know they can make it if they try! Or maybe somebody in their early 30s who had dreams of playing in a band and going on tour but never did will feel eternally grateful towards their younger selves that they decided to stay in college and become an engineer. Or maybe some of my peers will read this and declare that I am totally full of shit and starving for attention in my musical “twilight” years where I can no longer make a living doing what I love—that I just can’t hack it in this business and that I am now trying to make a quick buck exposing some things about the music industry and “Christian” bands.                     

My honest to God hope regarding the quality and success of this endeavor is that I just want my wife to like it and maybe laugh a few times. Dammit. That’s a lie and I know it.  I want to sell 100,000 copies and be the voice of a scene and generation of music fans that started underground and slowly made their way into the mainstream.  I want to get fucking rich and go be a panelist on Dr. Drew or Dr. Phil or Oprah.  I can talk about how “difficult it is for touring bands to maintain their mental and physical health on the road” or some bullshit.                        

Outside of trying to get rich and become a famous author, I think this is a story worth telling.  But also, this band has real fans, and these fans might actually find this book interesting! Beyond that I hope that this story can appeal to someone who has never even heard of As Cities Burn. I really don’t want this book to be about As Cities Burn. I hope fans of the indie/hardcore/warped tour  scene in general can find entertainment in this book.                      

My intention is not to create a biographical account of our experience. I plan on writing hardly anything personal regarding the other band members. This is just my perspective of what can happen when kids dare to dream. You could change the band name and it wouldn’t matter. If I wanted to please our fans I would leave out the chapter where I basically talk shit about our fans for 3,000 words. But it’s relevant to this story, to my story. This book is meant for those who long to see how this works from the inside: a firsthand account of an amazing experience by the drummer that kids still don’t recognize even when I’m wearing our own T-shirts left over from tours of the past. “Hey is that an As Cities Burn shirt??? Cool! What’s your favorite record?” a kid asks me at the Whole Foods’ meat counter. No kidding, this just happened yesterday. Oh…and yes I wear my own band’s T-shirts. I’m old; it doesn’t matter.     

I think it’s possible for non-fans to read and enjoy this. Maybe this book can lead to new fans even. (We are on the Internet.) Some interesting and amazing things happen when some 19-21 year olds leave college to hit the road. To many who are not familiar with this world, it could seem like a crazy fantasy novel or something. Others may be appalled at the complete disregard for responsible adult behavior. “How do you pay bills?? Where do you live?? What are you going to do when you have a family one day?” Oops.            

Whoever you are, if you like music I hope you find some level of enjoyment in reading this. And during the parts of the book that are dark and depressing, I hope you are able to find comfort and maybe allow these stories to relate to your own life in a meaningful way. Outside of poverty, suicide, and divorce, being in a band is really fun. We had lots and lots of fun. We lived in a fantasy world, a boys’ club of sorts. It was an escape from all the bad stuff. And if you keep having fun for long enough, eventually the beer is free!             

When I think about myself at 23 years old, sipping that Abita Amber, getting my mind ready for what I thought would be the ride of a lifetime, I wonder if it would have been better to know that the summer I had just experienced was as good as it would ever get for As Cities Burn. Would I have taken the time to enjoy it more, or been riddled with anxiety and feelings of let down and failure. It’s probably wise to submit to the brilliance of Garth Brooks' “The Dance” on this matter. Yes, I like Garth Brooks, and I was in a post-hardcore band. Garth said he was “glad he didn’t know, the way it all would end, the way it all would go.” That’s deep, Garth. I have to agree. If I had known on that day what I know now I probably would have drank too much and had to endure that awful trek across the lake, puking out the window at 55 mph.       

Now at 32 years old with a wife and two kids, I’m able to look back and appreciate it all. The good, bad and the ugly. In the summer of 2006 I was a dumbass 23-year old boy. No 23-year boy old could possibly appreciate that experience the way he should. The way the experience deserved to be appreciated. Now I can. And now, I can write about it.

If You Don't Like Our New Song Well Then Fuck You

*Before you read this, please go to and buy tickets to our show.  We have expensive as shit tickets that get you a t-shirt and poster and all that jazz.  Or you can just wait until tomorrow morning (June 5th) and buy normal tickets.  Links on the site. 

Come on guys, it's a play on a Ricky Bobby quote.  Remember in 'Talladega Nights' when Will Ferrell is doing the Big Red chewing gum commercials??

Seriously though, I don't care if people like the new As Cities Burn song.  Really.  I definitely don't name search our band to seek out negative tweets such as "Is As Cities Burn joking with this new song?" or "The new As Cities burn is making my ears hurt".  Definitely haven't spent the past 4 nights drinking Budweiser till I pass out while I question everything I have ever believed about my abilities as a drummer (which is pretty much nothing to begin with). 

I admit it, I'm pathetic when it comes to staying off the internet.  I LOVE twitter.  I think it's like the most fun place to hang out.  I can't NOT search what people are saying about my band.  Because I genuinely care.  Everyone wants to be liked.  I'm not different.*

*Based on the way I write and how rude I can be to people on social media, one might question the whole "I just wanna be liked" thing.  Seems that I am working towards the opposite.  Just my #BRAND dude. 

Let's talk about the new As Cities Burn song, "Prince of Planet Earth". 

First, no we aren't joking.  I know people are being sarcastic when they say this (I think), but we actually did spend A LOT of time working on this song.  Me and Cody holed up in a practice space in North Nashville a few months ago with the intention of creating new material for our tour announcement.  We felt it was lame to continue to just play old shit and re hash the past.  How fun would it be to release new tunes?! It's fun to release them, but I should be honest that I kind of hate the process. 

For ACB the songwriting process can be excruciating.  I don't even remember this first version of "P.O.P.E" or what it sounded like.  I can assure you it was different.  Just when we would think we were on to something, a new idea would come and change the entire direction of the song.  What you end up with is something that only vaguely resembles what you started with. 

We recorded this song with an awesome producer in Nashville, J Hall.  We had never met him or even heard of him until our old buddy Ryan Rado recommended him.  He had a hunch that he would good for our creative process.  Ryan was right.  J is a pretty hands on producer.  He came to our practices to help with the vision of the song, encouraging us in the directions we were heading.  Getting somebody to start making decisions on where a song is going is so crucial.  It's never been Cody's strength to settle on what a song is gonna be.  That's not a criticism.  That dude just always wants to try and make something better.  He is always hearing more ways for a song to work or different directions it could go.  But eventually somebody has to tell him, "This is the song."  Otherwise his body of work would just be one eternal song, every evolving. 

We wanted to write something for the fans of the heavier version of As Cities Burn.  There was always a feeling that fans of SILYAYD wanted something else with TJ.  We put out this record that kind of blew up and became influential in our scene, and then we said "Fuck that, we are going to be an indie rock band."  As Cities Burn literally lost HALF of our fan base (judging by record sales and show attendance.)  The 'SILYAYD' version of As Cities Burn has ALWAYS been the most "valuable" version of As Cities Burn.  Even though I am most proud of our work on 'Come Now Sleep' and 'Hell or High Water', I understand that there was something really special about 'SILYAYD'. 

The irony is that it now seems we have disappointed CNS/HOHW fans with the new song.  The criticism has been harsh.  My wife tells me to stay out of the forums and to ignore mean comments, but I can't.  She sends me texts with screen shots of the enthusiastic praise that our new music is receiving from the MAJORITY of our fans.  Yes, I realize that for the most part people are stoked on the new song.  But as always, in the age of social media and every person on earth having a platform to speak their mind, the negative comments are the loudest.  In my ears anyway. 

The most reasonable response I can come up with is kind of a "WTF did you expect?".  Has As Cities Burn ever put out music that wasn't drastically different than a previous release?  We change our band every time we get together.  It's incredibly freeing.  CNS was a product of wanting to break the chains of the HXC world and write music that could get us on tour with Jimmy Eat World.  Going into HOHW, we pretty much knew we weren't going to be a band anymore so we said fuck it and LITERALLY wrote whatever we wanted.  This included writing a song that we thought sounded like Tom Petty and then naming it "Petty", writing a song completely shit faced and hardly changing it at all when we went to record it (Pirate Blues).  Or the last song on that record, "Capo", which literally said I'VE GOT NOTHING TO SAY TO YOU for most of the song.  I set up the shittiest drums and made them sound as shitty as possible.  It was almost a big middle finger to the fans/music industry in general.  That sucks, but that's kind of where we were at the time.  If anything, it was honest.  But we liked the song a lot. 

If you had expectations for what a new ACB song would be, I can't help you.  We have proven that nothing is to be expected from us artistically.  We are in a much better place this time around, and genuinely wanted to write something to reconnect with fans.  We didn't like the way we left things 6 years ago.  "P.O.P.E." was what we came up with.  It's the best we can do. The other song we are going to release soon, in my opinion, is the best song we have every recorded.  We are trying. 

It's ok if you don't like the new song.  I don't really mean fuck you.  Sometimes I do have this fleeting emotion of "YOU CREATE SOMETHING ASSHOLE!!" (jack black anybody?).  But everyone is entitled to like what they like.  I just wanted to clear up any confusion over whether this rebirth of ACB is in anyway a massive troll on our fans.  It's not.  This is our art. 

A GENUINE thanks to all of you who have supported by saying something nice about the new song, buying a pre sale package or just keeping your damn mouth shut if you think we are now the shittiest band on earth. 


Katy Perry Doesn't Suck. You Suck.

A recent conversation with my producer* for a project I am working on right now led me to have some thoughts on talking shit about people in the music industry.  I’m guilty of it for sure.  On this blog even, talking shit about drummers.  But I would defend myself in saying that I try to at least approach my shit talking from a more artistic viewpoint.  As in, I just have some disagreements and opinions about what is cool or what sounds best.  I know Carter Beaufort is a bad ass.  I KNOW IT.  Same way I know Katy Perry is so fucking awesome.  

*that’s such a Nashville thing to say “my producer”.  I feel like you can hear this around town everyday.  “My producer was telling me about this new restaurant…My producer just played steel guitar on a new black keys song…My producer took a shit this morning…”  Fucking Nashville man.  I”m part of it.  

My producer -  there we go again - was talking about just working with bands, usually young bands, that LOVE to talk shit about successful pop artists.  The young, wide eyed and hopeful for his success as a true artists singer for the cool indie southern rock band will say “Katy Perry sucks…I could do what she does so easy.”  Could you?  Then WHY THE FUCK AREN’T YOU.  If it’s so easy to sing and write pop songs and make millions, why aren’t you doing it you cocky, narrow minded, artistically self righteous indie shit head.  

Go be Katy Perry.  Or Taylor Swift.  Or Florida Georgia Line.  Or NICKELBACK!!!!

The proper way to approach this subject is, “eh not my thing, but good for them”.  I’m serious, the idea of anybody making money playing music is amazing.  I am genuinely happy for those that are successful, even if I think their actual music is shit.  Whether it’s pop, butt rock, bro country, The Beatles, Radiohead, Blink 182 or Stevie effing Wonder, I love when artist make money.  

A hardcore band ACB knew (I don’t remember which one) was making a record with Adam D (producer and guitarist of Killswitch Engage) and country music came up in conversation.  Somebody in the band boasted that “they could write a country hit so easy if they wanted to” to which Adam D exclaimed - “No you couldn’t!  Fucking write one.  Do it.  Right now!”  He is so on point.  If you could you would.  

I like Katy Perry.  I think her songs are fun as hell.  I first heard ‘California Gurls’ while driving up the 5 through LA, having days before being smitten by the girl I would eventually marry, a California girl from San Diego.  I was all “fuck yeah California girls ARE so incredible!”.  Katy Perry can sing.  She has probably worked way harder than you to get to where she is.  Same goes for Taylor Swift.  Justin Bieber.  Nickelback.  Everybody you probably think you hate.  

But many years from now, when you are living in Nashville or LA still pursuing a music career and hoping to land a gig as somebody’s touring guitarist or drummer or tambourine player, don’t doom yourself to eating your own words when you get the call to come on tour with somebody you have openly talked shit about in the past.  

“Hey Aaron, this is Dave Matthew’s Band’s manager.  Carter just quit the band and you come highly recommended from my contacts in Nashville.  We can pay you $1,000,000 per year, but one quick question - Have you ever talked shit about Dave Matthews Band??”


How To Build a Career In The Music Industry: PT 2

Oh so you don't want to work for a band?  I'm making it more about money than passion?  I'm destroying the dreams of CHILDREN?!  What an injustice I have done to the youth of today!  How dare I speak the truth as I know it.  It's not like I have been touring/playing/working in music in some capacity since 2003 or anything.  What the fuck would I know about it (and there it is, my first use of the common fallacy of "Appeal to Authority"...dammit.)

Fear not, I am here to appease my dissenters.  You wanna talk dreams?  You wanna know what it takes to "make it" as a band?  You wanna trade stability in your 30's for a real good time in your 20's?  I'M YOUR GUY!  You see, I AM a dreamer.  I'm one of the fucking idiots.  I say that with pride, not bitterness or regret (well maybe some regret, like when the only meal I can afford is a Big Double tray from Cookout.  That's actually not such a bad thing.  That shit is delicious).  I am still dreaming to this day.  Dreaming that I can make it as a drummer in Nashville.  Dreaming that I can make it as a writer.  Dreaming that I won't HAVE to resort back to Tour Managing or worse, selling Insurance (which is the equivalent of being dead according to one commenter). 

It's going to be a little difficult for me to speak to exactly what it takes to make it in 2015, but I'm going to do my best to apply some ideas that should be universal regardless of time period or state of the music industry as a whole.  Let's do this:


When I told my parents I wanted to quit playing baseball, and then eventually drop out of college to go be in a band and go on tour, they were less than thrilled.  After all, this WAS a pretty fucking stupid idea.  But, I had a dream.  A vision for what I wanted my life to look like.  For me that was, go on tour, get signed to Tooth and Nail, and never have to do anything else other than play drums to make money.  I achieved my dream to the tune of like 75%.  I did make some money, but you know not enough to like retire or some shit.  I said fuck the naysayers, I can do this.  And to some extent, I did.  Which brings me to my next point...


If you read my last post about pursuing a career working FOR bands instead of being IN a band, and THAT crushed your dreams and made you give up?  Well then my point is proven.  You don't have what it takes.  You have to be able to filter out those that will tell you it's impossible to have a career playing music.  It made me SO happy to see a kid say - "Great post, BUT I'M NOT QUITTING".  FUCK YES!!  I love that shit.  I want to see that kid make it.  I'm trying to clear the way for guys like him.  If all the pussies get bummed after they read about me telling them to quit their band and then actually quit their band, that opens up some "market share" for those that are dedicated and can't be stopped by a grumpy dude like me.  I seriously, genuinely want success for those that are willing to put it all on the line. 


For me this meant relationships, friendships, family, college, back up plans, birthdays, weddings, funerals, financial stability and physical health (because of all the fast food ya know?).  In 2003 it was drop everything and go on tour.  You know when As Cities Burn started getting harder to pursue and manage?  When people started getting married and going back to college and working on their back up plans.  I'm not saying you can't be married and be in a band, I'm just saying that is a damaging variable to the formula.  The more commitments you introduce into your life, the harder your music career will be to pursue.  Back up plans are probably smart, but there is something to be said for HAVING to make something work.  It's a mental thing.  This band HAS to work because there is nothing else.  This was a reality for pretty much everyone in As Cities Burn for at least the first few years.  We were all on the same page...


If everyone is not on the same page as far as commitment and long term goals, you are setting yourself up for total failure.  Bands break up every day for this reason, among many others.  You must understand how difficult it is to get a few like minded people with a common goal to execute a plan.  Now throw in the whole variable of actually creating art that people care about and the likely hood of a successful foray into the music industry becomes a crap shoot.  If you can't find the right people, go in on your own and retain control of everything.  Hire people as needed along the way.  Control over your art and destiny is not to be undervalued. 


It's going to take awhile to find success in music.  Whether that be as a band, or maybe a songwriter in Nashville, or just a pop singer.  I never made a penny off my band until after one year of touring.  The payout? It was something like $85.  I have been taking criticism that I am only making it about the money.  I take offense to that.  I never did it for money.  There was no money for a long time.  But yes, in the end I wanted it to be my job, not just my passion.  I have stuck with it in some shape, form, or fashion and I still generate income because of my musical talents to this day as well as creating art that I am still proud of. 

Look, I'm really hoping to just save some people from themselves maybe.  When you are 19 years old, you are pretty fucking stupid.  I am 32 and I am still pretty fucking stupid.  Dropping out of college to pursue music is not solid advice to give anyone.  I would never tell someone to do that.  That's like criminally negligent or something.  I absolutely cherish my experiences making music for a living, and touring.  All the good and the bad.  I would not trade it.  I experienced so many wonderful things since I quit everything else in life in 2003 and made myself a slave to music.  I am happy. 

So whatever it is you hope to accomplish in music, I say good luck to you.  I want to see people be successful.  But if you are reading this blog, I am going to be brutally fucking honest with you about what I think.  Key words there - WHAT I THINK.  Take what is beneficial to you and leave the rest.  Comment and discuss.  Tell me to fuck off, but please don't take me too seriously.  I'm having fun.  Love you guys...errr most of you guys. 

How To Build a Career In The Music Industry:

I feel really sorry for those of you who that clicked on this link thinking I would be divulging all the secrets on how to make your band famous.  The truth on that matter is this: 


I’m serious.  Do yourself a favor and throw your hopes of being in a successful band in the garbage.  The chances are slim.  Even if your band gets some fans, like my band As Cities Burn did, there isn’t much long term security in that success.  You know that band Emery?  They were a HUGE band within our scene.  And bravo to them for continuing on as they have. They stuck around long enough to weather the storm of decline.  That may sound harsh, but it’s true.  Their shows used to be a lot bigger.  They once sold like 200K records.  Now they have had to figure out other ways to make a living to coincide with their impressive and unlikely success of their very awesome band.  But you know who will make more money in music than any one member of Emery?  Their fucking guitar tech from back in the day, Trevor.  

That’s right kids.  If you want a career in music, WORK FOR BANDS.  I have outlined the step by step process below.


You probably aren’t good enough.  The market is flooded.  The internet has destroyed all hope of the most talented pushing through to the top.  It used to be that if you hit the road and worked your ass off, you could get a record deal from your favorite label.  Now you have to be YouTube famous.  Even if you are “good”…who cares?  There are lots of “good” musicians.  I live in Nashville.  My barista is better than you at guitar, I promise.  And karaoke at the shit hole dive down the street from my house is like a fucking episode of The Voice.  It’s amazing.  


No, not to play with them.  Sell their merch.  And do it for tips.  Most bands can’t afford a merch seller at the beginning, so work for free.  Make yourself valuable to them.  Eventually this band will either start to climb the ladder, OR you will meet someone along the way that can offer you a better job.  This is the natural order of things.  Merch guys move up quicker than the bands they started with if they work hard.  


You’ve got to get yours son.  As soon as a band can’t afford to pay you anymore they will drop you like a bad habit.  I’m not saying that you won’t find a longterm gig that can work out, but ALWAYS be on the lookout for the next gig.  And if you really care, be looking for the next promotion to another crew position.  Diversify.  Learn how to run sound.  Learn how to guitar tech.  Shadow other Tour Managers.  Then BECOME the Tour Manager.  Don’t think you are qualified???


I got my TM job with Emery by being good at getting them free beer.  It’s the bullshit details that push you forward and even if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, usually the band doesn’t know either.  These are coddled, college drop out, dumb ass band dudes.  Have confidence. Throw in some cool tricks like knowing what kind of burrito they all like from Chipotle.  They will love this shit.  


You’ve got to go mainstream dude.  That’s where the money is.  Sure you can make $1500 a week TM’ing a band playing 1K - 2K cap rooms, but thats only when you are on tour.  And tours in this scene are really long.  You’ve been working your ass off for 3 years now, going all over the world babysitting some Christian Metal-Core band, when there are dudes only touring on the weekends, making just as much if not more than you.  So what do you do?


Country music is the promised land.  I have a buddy here who tour manages a country star and they do about 70 shows a year.  He gets paid a salary of around $75K per year.  Between Novemeber and March, this dude is just straight chilling at the pub down the street everyday.  Getting paid every day.  You are a sucker if you stay in hardcore/punk/indie.  And don’t tell me you can’t transition.  This dude started out as a merch guy for Haste the Day.  Then he went to TM.  Then TM for Devil Wears Prada.  Then TM for Celtic fucking Woman.  Then Gavin DeGraw.  And so on and so on.  



It’s easy to complain about having to tour all the time. Even if it is just 70 days a year.  But know this, you have an opportunity for a career that very few musicians have.  It’s a cool job working as crew in the music industry. Whether you are teching, or slinging merch, or running the show as the Tour Manager, crew get paid VERY well at the top levels of the industry. And there is no reason that if you work hard and apply yourself, you won’t find these opportunities.  People I have toured with or been buddies with over the years have gone on to work for Rihanna, Death Cab for Cutie, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Iggy Azalea, Sia, Vampire Weekend, LIVE, The Civil Wars, Thrice, Anberlin and countless others that I can’t think of off the top of my head.  My friend that played keyboards for All American Rejects years and years ago, told me of a temporary guitar tech they had that worked for Pearl Jam.  His salary with Pearl Jam?  $5K a week…year round.  (Man, imagine what Eddie Vedder must be making.  Maybe crew is a bad career choice...)  It’s legit y’all.  

As a “roadie” you lack control of your schedule and sometimes you may be at the mercy of a crazy artist, but you can make a really good living.  Most of my friends that pursued this path are quite happy (except for the ones that aren’t) It’s blue collar for sure.  But it ain’t working in a factory.  If you can handle missing birthdays and weddings, riding in a luxury tour bus and eventually being well versed on the local ramen shops in Tokyo, this is the career you never thought you wanted but need to pursue.  

Quit your band.  Work for a band.  If you don’t?  Well maybe you will actually make it as an artist because only the stubborn and delusional to go that route.  I fall in the stubborn and delusional category.  Good luck.  

Fine! Fuck Up Your Band's Songs If You Must...

I received some very passionate responses regarding my "How To Stop Fucking Up Songs With Your Shitty Drum Parts" post.  It would seem that a lot of people would agree with the general idea of what I was trying to communicate.  Even if they didn't 100% agree, they were able to understand some aspects of what I was trying to say.  I'm going to refer to that crowd as the "non idiots".

The "non idiots" understood that this was strictly an opinion piece, at times dripping with sarcasm.  The whole bit about striving for mediocrity?  Just a bit of self deprecation.  You know...making fun of myself.  Of course I don't actually think you shouldn't TRY to be the best musician you can possibly be. 

But there was a whole group of you people who took personal offense to my philosophies on song writing and influence.  My OPINION is formed based on my personal music taste and influences.  I don't like metal.  I don't like "math rock" or some bullshit.  But I have enough sense to understand that the parts that metal drummers play are there to serve the song.  The good ones that is.  My philosophies still apply to the dumb ass 21 year old kid in a metal band that is fucking his bands songs up by playing shit he can't execute.  My OPINION is not a take down of any specific genre.  Simply illustrating my ideas based on what I know and like. 

A couple of commenters tried to take a dig at me personally by declaring me to be the weakest link in As Cities Burn.  One guy, who deleted his comment afterwards, said I can't keep tempo and that the drums on our records were always lacking.  He then used the common fallacy of 'appeal to authority' citing that he possesses a degree in percussion.  You know what?  Maybe he is TOTALLY right.  Maybe my tempos live, when without a click, are all over the place.  Maybe I was the weak link.  After all, Cody is a fucking bad ass on guitar and a brilliant songwriter.  As Cities Burn probably could have had a "better" drummer.  Maybe the guy with the percussion degree should have taken my job. 

But maybe, just maybe I did something right.  After all, this guy was the one commenting on MY bands facebook page.  It seems that enough people weren't completely appalled at my sub par tempo keeping.  Would be interested to know how many people have paid to come watch him play a show.  Ok now I am sounding like a cocky asshole.  It's how I compensate for my crippling lack of confidence. 

I understand my language and attitude can be harsh and maybe offensive to some.  Do I give a shit?  No.  I literally don't care about people being offended by language.  Most people in the world can handle a fuck here and shit there.  No time to cater to the ultra sensitive that wish to project their version of Christianity onto me.  Everybody's different.  To quote Ricky Gervais - "Just because you are offended, doesn't make you right."

In the end, I'm just really passionate about crafting good songs.  I don't care about the genre.  And I think as drummers, we have to be mindful of what we are doing, to make sure we are serving the purpose of the song.  I'm not saying don't ever do a cool fill.  I'm just saying at least start with less.  Hold back.  See if you can get by with doing as little as possible and then build on it.  If the song is GREAT without the fill that you so desperately want to display, then save it man.  There will be a chance to showcase your skill level.  Holding back until the right moment is going to make that sick fucking drum part, that much more bad ass. 

I am very pro-drummer.  I hate talking about gear and shit.  But I love hearing a drummer doing good work.  The whole Carter Beauford criticism is not to be misunderstood.  Of course he is amazing.  I listen to the shit he does on the live version of "Tripping Billies" and my jaw is on the floor.  It's ridiculous.  BUT I STAND FIRM THAT OVERALL IT MAKES THE SONG WORSE. 

I say we can all be in this together.  Who can argue with the root of my philosophy?  The simple question of "Am I making the song better?" should be something every drummer - and musician of any kind for that matter - can get behind.

In closing, don't take me so fucking seriously.  I sure as hell don't.  This is all just fun to me.  Writing what I think and people reading it.  That's amazing.  It's great when people agree, but it's 100 times more entertaining when people comment shit like "You probably jerk off to White Stripes beats".  I know I will get better at communicating ideas through writing, but some people just missed the point of that post entirely.  I wrote it, so I guess that's on me....nah fuck that.  Some people just get shit, and others don't. 



How To Stop Fucking Up Songs With Your Shitty Drums Parts

*This post was originally written for and pissed off a lot of metal heads on my bands facebook page. 

This is my first “guest” blog.  I mulled over what to write about for quite some time.  I realized I have never pursued writing about music and my mission as much as I always wanted to and that I should take this opportunity to get a very important message out to the world and that I needed to try and save as many as I could from despair.  And if even one person comes to know Jesus as their personal Lo…..nah I’m just kidding.  This blog is about not fucking up songs with dumb ass drum parts.

Drummers of the world, there is something you need to know.  Songs - you know those things that bands play - are not about you.  Unless you are Dave Weckl, or Carter Beauford* or Buddy fucking Rich, it’s not about you.  You know who gives a shit about insane drum fills?  Other drummers.  Double bass pedal is awesome you say?  99 percent of the time, it absolutely is not.  To the average listener most drum parts probably come off as sounding about the same.  It’s not entirely fair to us, but it’s for the better.  In my opinion, it is more important to not fuck up a song with the drums than to attempt to play what is just a bitching, crazy technical drum part that serves no purpose to the overall vision of the song.  

*ok this is probably going to be a really unpopular opinion but I think out of all of the drummers that fuck up songs in this world that Carter Beauford is by far the most egregious offender.  I actually even had to idea to do a YouTube series where I play drum covers of a bunch of Dave Matthews Band songs but *GASP* I play them….normal.  Seriously the guy is obviously insanely good at drums, but in the worst way possible.

It’s a minimalistic approach that many drummers have failed at comprehending.  I’ve definitely been guilty of this in my life.  The first way to fall into fucking up songs is by not understanding the limitations of your talents compared to your influences.  The best example of this mistake in my life would be my love for none other than Travis Barker.

Travis Barker totally changed the game when it came to pop punk drumming.  The previous drummer for Blink 182 was about as good as any youth group or talent show kid from your high school.  Then Barker came along and was doing shit nobody had ever done with that type of music.  He was so much more talented than Mark Hoppus and Tom Delong that his style was successful in not getting in the way of what were otherwise, even for pop punk, very simple and almost immature songs.  Eventually Mark and Tom started catching up to him in relation to complexity of song composition and content.  

So whats the problem with being influenced by Travis Barker?  Well in terms of drumming we were on totally different planets as far as talent goes.  The gap between him and everyone else who really liked how he played and wanted to emulate his style is so big that is as if we weren’t even playing the same instrument as him.  But alas, I set my drums up like him, all flat and shit.  I had a china.  I wanted a vented snare from Orange County Drums and Percussion.  And I never came close to nailing a Travis Barker signature fill.  Fortunately I grew out of this phase and graduated on to fucking up songs in a slightly less worse way.  Which brings me to Tooth and Nail Records legends, Further Seems Forever.  

When I first heard “The Moon Is Down” it changed everything I had ever believed to be true about what a band should sound like.  It was kind of punk.  It was kind of heavy.  It was kind of jazz.  Topped off with a lot of emo thanks to Chris Carraba.  Once again we have a drummer doing something different than anybody else at the time.  Steve Kleisath played with such reckless precision that you doubted whether or not he possibly could play a song the same way twice.  I was never nor am I currently as good at drums as Steve.  But emulating his style was more of a reasonable endeavor than that of chasing Travis Barker.  

So, I ripped him off.  Over and over again on my band As Cities Burn’s first record, “Son I loved You at Your Darkest”.  I just went back and listened to this record a few hours before I started writing this.  Maybe our band as a whole was ripping them off.  Back then, Further Seems Forever was easily the most influential band for ACB members as a whole.  I can’t remember how many times the phrase “you know how on 'moon is down' they do that thing” was uttered, but we might have had half a record if not for referencing that album.  However, looking back I failed to make our songs better on drums.  And I maybe even made them worse.  I was just playing too much.  

So what do I do?  How do I not get in the way of the song?  I’ll tell you how.  Go listen to “Control” by Pedro the Lion, the best drum record of all time IMNSHO (for future reference that’s short for “in my not so humble opinion”)

If you wanna learn how to write the coolest fucking drums on earth that don’t interfere with the songwriting, this is the record to reference.  Dave Bazan figured out how to take a less is more approach that not only didn’t fuck up his songs, but made them better.  There are hardly any fills on the entire record.  Only when absolutely necessary.  Some songs have the exact same beat through the entire track, never falling to the temptation of showing off.  You see, I can nail every part on this record.  Nothing is beyond my ability.  But I could have never written it back before I understood the concept of “Don’t Fuck Up the Song”.  DFUTS.

Once I discovered this path of influence, a whole new world opened up.  Jimmy Eat World, Nada Surf, The Cardigans, Death Cab for Cutie.  All of these bands had drummers that were wildly successful at serving the purpose of the song while also playing some “cool” beats and providing meaningful influence.  All these players are still decidedly better than me, but at least I am able to pull from their styles without having to exceed my own limitations as an artist.  

I think striving to maintain mediocrity is something to be respected.  What did spider man’s uncle say?  With great power comes great responsibility?  Not everyone can be trusted with the talent or power to do whatever they please.  And I have made sure through laziness and lack of ambition to stay right in the pocket of just good enough to not fuck up your song.  That’s what they mean when they say “stay in the pocket” yeah?

Know your limits.  Be influenced by those that know their limits.  And for goodness sake STOP NOODLING AROUND ON THE CYMBALS EVERY TIME YOU’RE NOT SURE IF YOU SHOULD BE PLAYING OR NOT.  If you are wondering if there should be drums happening that probably means it’s time for you to reach for a beer and shut the hell up.  When in doubt, DO NOT play the drums.  Spread the good news!  DFUTS!!