Tour is a weird place. You know how sometimes you go to the bar and have so much fun the night just kind of slips away from you? Suddenly it’s 2:45 and the Metro is closed and you somehow lost a shoe and need to vomit up your two helpings of Jumbo Slice? Tour’s pretty much like that every day for two months.
I spent a good chunk of my early 20s on the road, and I’ve witnessed a lot of weird shit. In Tampa, a buddy blacked out and fell asleep naked in the lobby of our hotel. When the concierge asked him to return to his room, he did, only to realize he’d forgotten the room number and had to trek back down to the front desk cupping his junk.
In Texas, a band we toured with made a game of throwing hotel amenities off the balcony and into the pool. It started small: travel shampoos, hand towels, but escalated quickly to more significant items, like lamp shades and telephones. Then one of the guys ripped the TV off the wall and we all watched it pinwheel over the balcony and sink to the bottom of the pool.
Tour was all stupid pranks and bad choices; drunken antics that occasionally bordered on dangerous but never really crossed the line.
Except the one time when I was an accessory to kidnapping.
Ok, I’m being a little hyperbolic. Just to make sure it’s clear, I DID NOT KIDNAP ANYONE. You don’t have to call the police or my boss and try to get me fired. NO CHILDREN WERE KIDNAPPED IN THE WRITING OF THIS ESSAY.
But yeah, I kind of did, by accident.
In the summer of 2005, I played guitar in a hardcore band (actually, I played bass, but I need to rearrange some things here to protect the guilty). We’d played a fair number of local shows and done a little bit of traveling, but that summer was the first time we had enough clout to string consecutive shows together.
The tour was amazing. We played to a couple hundred kids every night at VFWs and fire halls, and we crashed on the floors of people we met that night at the show. We snaked our way up the east coast, playing in New York and PA and several shows in Massachusetts, where we amassed a pretty good following thanks to the glory of MySpace.
The show at the American Legion hall in Haverhill (Massholes taught us the hard way it’s pronounced HEY-vrill) was bananas. We opened for two well-known hardcore bands, and they drew a crowd seething with energy and angst.
After the show, we fished around for party plans, but nothing materialized, so we decided to head back to our friend Danny’s house to shower and call it a night. Dave, our bassist, was reluctant to leave because he had just met Kasey, a cute little blonde hardcore girl. We invited Kasey to come hang with us at Danny’s house, but she declined.
“That’s lame,” Dave said. “You don’t want to hang out with me?” Calling a girl lame and peer pressuring her to hang out of course being the closest we could get to flirtation.
Kasey explained even though she was 18 and had just graduated from high school, her parents were still super controlling, and she had a strict curfew when it came to social interactions involving unwashed boys driving around the country in a van.
“Lame,” Dave repeated. “Super lame.”
We ended our night the way we ended most nights, drinking lukewarm cans of Narraganset and curling into our sleeping bags on the hardwood floor of Danny’s living room.
The next morning, we prepped to drive to our next show in Augusta, Maine. We had already arranged to stay with our friend Tony, a guy who used to play my old ska band’s records on his college radio show a few years back. Tony’s family had a lakeshore cabin near Augusta, and we planned on stopping there to drop off our stuff before the show.
We had some trouble getting on the road because Dave refused to get in the van. He was on the phone, pacing in the driveway. Ben, the singer, leaned on the horn. “Let’s fucking go!”
Dave ended his call and jumped into the van. “Yo, can we stop someplace real quick?” he asked. “It’s on the way.”
He directed us down a road that wound through a rural neighborhood whose houses were obscured by endless stands of tall pine trees.
We came upon a girl standing on the side of the road, a gym bag on her shoulder. Ben pulled over, and Dave opened the door for her.
“You guys remember Kasey, right?” he said as the girl climbed into the backseat.
Ben and I exchanged glances. “Yeah…?”
“She’s going to come with us to the Maine show, and we can drop her off on the way back through to Providence tomorrow afternoon. Is that cool?”
In general, the band had a “no girls in the van” policy. It made things less complicated; like, when there’s a girl in the van, what are the rules? Is it acceptable to pick your nose and wipe it on the seat? Throw your empty chip bag on the floor with wanton abandon? Pee in a bottle when nature inevitably calls? But like most bands who are about as organized and communicative as a herd of kittens, this no girls allowed rule was never explicitly stated or agreed upon. It’s not like we formed a hardcore band and drafted a set of governing documents and followed Roberts Rules in our monthly meetings. So when Dave asked if it was cool, we all just kind of nodded and mumbled half-hearted agreements to our new female travel buddy.
Personally, I was less concerned with the presence of a girl and more worried the girl was Kasey, who not 12 hours ago wasn’t allowed to hang out with us down the street. Now she was allowed to stay overnight with us two states away?
“Your parents are ok with this?” I said. “I thought they were super strict.”
“They’re gone for the night and won’t be back until tomorrow morning,” Kasey said. “If they ask, I’ll tell them I’m staying over at my friend’s house.”
This was the type of plan I’d never dreamed of executing when I lived with my parents. They put the kibosh on sleepovers when I started middle school, understanding their potential for deviltry long before I did. But it was my understanding the “sleepover switcheroo” had a reasonable success rate among kids whose parents either didn’t care or grew up in Mayberry.
Also, in my role as band dad, it was generally my job to weed out bad decisions to prevent us from dying or ending up in jail, so I felt obligated to at least make an attempt to make sure Kasey’s decision to come with us was on the up and up.
“You’re sure?” I said.
“I’m 18,” she said. “I’m an adult. I can do what I want.”
“Good enough for me,” Ben said, and we headed toward Maine heavy one passenger.
The trip was a lot less awkward than I anticipated. Kasey was cool and laid back, and she fit in with the band pretty well. Any concern for our boys’ club being invaded by the fairer sex melted away within the first hour of the trip, with the exception of the sophomoric canoodling Kasey and Dave engaged in on the back bench.
Tony’s cabin was AMAZING, an A-frame with a lofted bedroom and large windows looking out on a lake. Adirondack chairs ringed a fire pit in the backyard and a planked walkway led to a dock where you could sit and dangle your feet in the water. It looked like the setting for one of those erectile dysfunction brochures, where the guy is silhouetted against a sparkling sunset with his arms stretched to the heavens in victory. The scene was instant hard-on.
We sat on the shore drinking beers, unwinding from the drive and prepping for the show. Kasey draped herself across Dave on the dock, googley-eyed with the bliss of her infatuation.
The only thing that shattered the picturesque scene was Kasey’s phone, which rang incessantly. Each time it buzzed, she’d glance the caller ID and then silence it.
“Do you need to get that?” Dave asked. “Somebody clearly wants to talk to you.”
“It’s fine,” she said. “It’s just this guy who’s like, stalking me.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Stalking you?”
“Yeah, I mean, we hung out for awhile or whatever, but I wasn’t really that into him. Now he’s like, all over me. He came to the show last night, and when I told him I was coming with you guys he got all upset.”
“That’s not good,” I said. My Spidey Sense started to tingle. Ex-boyfriends and band dudes do not mix well.
“He’s just jealous,” she said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Kasey continued to hit the ignore button for the next hour or so until it was time to get ready for the show. As I changed out of my bathing suit, my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but given I was the band’s acting tour manager and point of contact, it wasn’t uncommon for random numbers to call me. Usually it was promoters or guys confirming details for upcoming shows.
This time it was not.
“Is this Sam?”
“This is Jacob. I got your number from the promoter at last night’s show in Haverhill.”
“What can I do for you, Jacob?”
“Uh, I’m calling about my girlfriend Kasey. We met you guys at the show last night, and today I can’t get ahold of her. She said something about maybe going with you to your show in Maine.”
“Hmm,” I said.
“Have you seen her at all? Is she with you?”
I ran to the backyard, where Kasey and Dave were play-wrestling. “So you’re saying Kasey told you she was coming to our show tonight?” I said loud enough so Kasey and Dave could hear it. Kasey’s mouth made an O of surprise. “Is that Jacob?”
“I’m not here,” she hissed.
In my head, the consequences of my next response zoomed in and out like Benedict Cumberbatch solving a crime on Sherlock. In the end, I felt I had no business throwing this girl under the bus, and that she made the choice to come with us on her own volition. The fact she got in a van with a bunch of strangers to cheat on her boyfriend was her problem to deal with, not mine.
“Yeah dude, she’s not with us,” I said to Jacob. “If she turns up at the show, I’ll let you know.”
“Okay,” said Jacob, audibly deflated. “Thanks anyway.”
I hung up the phone and Kasey mimed wiping sweat from her brow. “That was close,” she said. “Thanks for covering for me.”
“It’s okay,” I said, “but you need to call this dude and get your shit straight. I don’t want him barging up here in the middle of the night thinking we’ve got you tied up in the basement or something.”
Tony laughed. “We’re in the middle of nowhere right now,” he said, giving the whole situation a horror movie vibe. “He’d never find us in a million years.”
The show went fine. I kept expecting Jacob to come through the door with a gang of Massachusetts meatheads to beat us within an inch of our lives and haul his girl out on his shoulder, but he never did. Kasey’s phone rang with the frequency of a pizza place on Friday night, voicemail after voicemail piling into her inbox. Kasey, I called your parents, Jacob said in one voicemail. They know where you are, and they’re pissed. Call me as soon as you get this.
Jacob also started inundating MY phone with voicemails. I know Kasey is with you. I need you to call me back.
I tried my best to ignore the situation, not wanting to jump into the dramatic fray of a girl whom I had no real vested interest in. But things got a little more serious when I got off stage and found a voicemail from Kasey’s father in my inbox.
Dad stopped short of expressing he possessed a special set of skills, but the tone of his voice had an edge to it that leaned heavily toward Liam Neeson.
“I’m done,” I said to Dave. “This girl is bad news.”
Dave, who at this point was horned up from an afternoon of heavy petting and had all logical thought routing through his balls, reasoned with me.
“What are we going to do, leave her here at a VFW in Augusta two hours from home?” he said. “We’re bringing her back in the morning anyway. I say we turn our phones off, enjoy our night and drop her off tomorrow. We’re in it now.”
Tour logic at its finest. We’re in it now, might as well see it through.
We packed up and drove back to Tony’s cabin, all of us agreeing to power down our phones and do our best to salvage the evening.
It more or less worked, the beautiful lake and the good company distracting us from the day’s drama. Even I, whose anxiety-riddled thought spirals often rivaled Randle McMurphy, was able to unspool my nerves and have a good time.
Dave eventually got what he’d been aiming for after we all went to bed, but not before somehow locking himself out of the cabin naked while retrieving a condom from the van.
The next morning, we drank coffee on the dock and watched the sun rise over the treeline and took our time getting on the road. We reluctantly packed the van and bid goodbye to Tony and started the trip back south.
It wasn’t until an hour into the drive I realized my phone was still off. A dozen voicemails waited for me: half from the cuckholded Jacob and the others from an increasingly intimidating Dad. The last one, though, left only 20 minutes before I turned my phone on, made my veins freeze.
Good morning Mr. Hedenberg, this is Sergeant Tupelo of the Massachusetts State Police. We’re looking for a missing girl named Kasey and understand you may have some information regarding her whereabouts. Please call me as soon as possible.
The phone nearly dropped from my hand. I looked back at Kasey, intertwined with Dave on the back bench.
“Yo,” I whispered to Ben. “The state police just called me looking for Kasey.”
Ben glanced at the runaway in the rearview mirror. “Well she’s fucked, huh?”
“I mean, she’s in our van. Aren’t we the ones who are fucked?”
Ben, always cool under pressure, shrugged. “We’re almost there. It’ll be fine.”
The next hour on the Mass Turnpike was one of the most excruciating drives of my life. I scanned the highway for cops like a coked-out Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, knowing it was only a matter of time before a Statie caught up with us and flipped on his lights.
I can’t describe the relief that washed over me when we turned into that rural neighborhood. We issued hasty goodbyes, opened the side door, and deposited our kidnapping victim in the same place we found her the day before.
We never heard from Kasey again — not even Dave — even though we played in Haverhill several times after that. I can only imagine she’s either reconciled with Jacob and they’ve decided to leave her lost weekend in the past, or she’s spending her days in a convent somewhere high on a hill.
The van was quiet as we wound through the tree-lined Massachusetts streets, but once we got onto the highway to Providence, I turned in my seat to face the rest of the band.
“I think we need to discuss some ground rules for having girls in the van,” I said.