Shatterproof's Up In Smoke tour could be a sequel to National Lampoon's Vacation. The rock band, based out of Fort Collins, started planning its first tour in March. By mid-July, Shatterproof was ready. Its bus, named "ShatterBus," was not.
Things started to go south at the first stop on the tour, in Salt Lake City at a venue called the Loading Dock, as vocalist Branson Hoog attempted to drive the ShatterBus under a max height sign in a parking lot.
"I don't think any of us voiced it, but we didn't think we would fit," TJ Wessel, violin player, says. "Branson just went for it, hit the gas, and then there was just a boom, and a scraping noise as the whole front of the van just went "eeekkk" as we slid right under."
Women sitting on a patio nearby paused from enjoying their ice cream to put their hands on their mouths in disbelief. "They were laughing by the time we got out of there though," Wessel says.
The next day, the band was on the road again, heading to Seattle, Washington. Things went wrong again just a few miles from the venue. Smoke filled the top of the van and burning rubber smells filled the air. "Our van literally went up in smoke. It made our tour name very ironic," says Josh Schoeing, who plays bass. After an hour of calls and panic, they got the van to a Firestone, and friends helped high-tail them to soundcheck.
A whole day passed with the van in the shop. Shatterproof earned $80 busking on the streets next to the space needle. Their sign read "Help Fix Our Bus for 2k". They didn't raise the repair fee, but they did sell a few CDs.
Twenty-six-hundred dollars later, Shatterbus was back on the road, just a hiccup or two between the band and the open road.
Until four in the morning, that is, when the van was once again filled with smoke. Firestone hadn't fixed the right problem, and the company agreed to pay for the parts required to try again, but it was going to take two days. This was on a Thursday, and they had a show in San Francisco that night and another in LA on Friday.
The band considered its options, ultimately booking plane tickets to LA leaving that next morning. They found a friend of a friend to stay with and, the next day, abandoned most of their gear in order to make it to the last show of the tour.
"And this is when everything turned around. We started living the high life," Wessel says. He and his band mates' families helped out with a hotel room and transportation to the venue: Whiskey A Gogo, where the Rolling Stones and the Doors have played.
Shoeing, who turned 21 that day, ate a cupcake on stage with the crowd singing "Happy Birthday," and the band played to its best crowd of the tour.
For the next two days after their favorite gig to the day, they spent time on a beach house with family and friends. "We knew we were going to hang out in California afterward, but we had no idea it would be like this," Shoeing says.
"It was so weird going from being broken down and miserable to that," Wessel adds.
Three members flew home, and Branson Hoog and Shoeing went to retrieve ShatterBus. The van was repaired, but the drive home wasn't without incident.
"I could feel the tire pop, and I saw chunks flying out the back," Shoeing says. When they pulled over, they saw rear driver's tire was shredded to bits. They made their way to a tire shop nearby, where they found some sympathy. The shop's owner's sister is an up-and-coming country artist on tour with Brad Paisley. He showed them photos of her and they swapped stories of road life. He had most of them, having been a roadie for her before. "If you give me a CD, your tire and service is free," he said. They gave him a shirt too, for good measure.
They made it home with just a day to spare before playing Warped Tour for the first time.
"We're the luckiest unlucky band around," Wessel says. Still, he says, "It was probably the best time of my life."
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