"We're going to take you on an adventure."
"Really. What kind of adventure."
"...A MAGICAL one..."
Symbolic arrived around 6 in the morning, much to my distaste as I was shaken awake way too early from my furtive sleep on a couch that probably six hundred people had sex on at one point or another. There's no functional shower at the Blue Hole apart from a hose, so opportunities to get clean are slim to none- most of the time we'd just not even bother, or grab showers at the places of friends with proper houses. Sleeping on ratty-ass couches isn't great for your health, nor is a constant supply of fast food and distinct lack of hygiene, but when you're too busy trying to figure out who you're in a band with, none of those seem like a high priority.
But yeah, the guys from Symbolic. They drove down from Maryland in a single 12 hour (give or take) stretch and looked like they were ready to die when they walked in the door. Symbolic (more properly known as Symbolic Tribute, but all their merch just says Symbolic... who knows) are a Death cover band- more importantly, they're a really GOOD Death cover band. I've never heard a group kick out Death tracks in a more note-for-note perfect representation than these guys. Covering at least a single track off every album, the material is varied and exciting, even for someone like me who isn't a great fan of Death. A quick rundown of the members:
Leo aka Lil' Chuck - Guitarist and vocalist. Small, sleepy looking, and with an incredibly thick Bogota accent, he's a quiet and rather unassuming character best known for his completely horrific style of driving. Seriously, never get into a car with him. Nothing good will happen. He can cook eggs like a motherfucker, though.
Tom - Lead guitarist. The oldest member of Symbolic at around 40, Tom is actually a solo prog/shred musician who's also a music professor down in Colombia. His English is pretty dire, but he's one of the most unfailingly cheerful and friendly people I've ever met- and also one of the greatest guitarists I've ever seen. Definitely a remarkable one. The only member who was flown in from Colombia specifically for this tour.
Juan aka Princessa - Drummer. Young, rich, kind of spoiled, but ultimately a good guy. Referred to almost exclusively as "Princessa" because he always acts like a princess; takes forever to get ready to go somewhere, never carries his own stuff, and just generally acts like, well, a spoiled Colombian kid. Still a friendly and cool guy, but definitely aggravating from time to time.
Corey - Bassist. The only gringo in Symbolic, filling in when no one else could. A straightforward, well-rounded, friendly guy who I got tight with pretty quickly. Takes a bit of time to warm up, but after a while, one of the easiest people in the world to get along with.
When you're meeting another band on tour who you've never had any contact with before, it's a weirdly delicate process. It's not like meeting someone at a party; there, you can fuck up and there's no real repercussions- you don't have to see them again and you're not relying on them for anything. When you meet another band, though, you come at it understanding that you're going to have to be around these guys pretty much constantly for two weeks as well as rely on them for support if anything goes horribly wrong. When you meet each other, you sort of circle around each other like wolves sizing each other up in a pack. Without the threat of someone being eaten, of course, and with more idle chat about Deicide too.
Since Juan doesn't have a car, I'm sort of stuck with the position of chauffeuring around Jacksonville. Everyone's hungry, so Juan decides unilaterally (a rather common occurrence, you'll end up finding) that we should head to a Colombian deli-style restaurant on the other side of town. It's pretty quickly that we get on the road and then see that Leo's driving is going to be an issue; the man refuses to even go the speed limit, preferring to operate about 15 MPH under the whole time- doing this in Jacksonville is a questionable thing indeed. However, we somehow manage to get there, eat, and then proceed to the next destination: a friend of Juan's who's going to provide us with showers before the show that night. You have no idea how good it felt after two days of sleeping on a couch and occasionally spraying my hair down with a garden hose.
The Blue Hole typically holds its shows outside in the parking lot area, but this particular day was threatening rain, so the operation was moved inside. An unoccupied practice space across from Extremely Rotten's was used, and it was only when the show started that we realized just how difficult it was to jam something like 40 people into a room that size. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't a matter of space; it was a matter of getting a bunch of drunk people to actually filter in instead of just standing dead center and crowding each other. Spread out, people! Come on! You know how this is done by now!
Neverbaptized and Impurity were up first, and I was pretty significantly pregaming to get the jitters out before my first performance with the guys. The lineup had finally consolidated itself: myself on vocals, Juan on drums, Cliff on bass, and Jim on guitar. This would be our arrangement for the Florida shows, with the rest of the tour up north more up in the air. While the arrangement wasn't ideal, I figured I would just do the Florida shows and see what the plans looked like when it came time to head up north; if there wasn't something more stable in place, I wasn't having it.
Highlights of the night:
-A very odd black gentleman who appeared to be a crackhead animatedly discussing Vital Remains
-Damien, vocalist from Impurity, announcing his band as "Devourment from Texas"
-The barred-out ex-stripper with a black eye who sat on my lap and showed me Iphone video of her kids all night. I'm still not sure how she got the black eye- her story seemed suspect. As well as her name.
Eventually it was time to actually do some work, so we proceeded on stage and managed to crank out a pretty cool set despite the natural roughness of the performance. A bit of a surprise occurred when a dude named Mario was pulled on "stage" to finish up the last couple Extremely Rotten songs as a second vocalist. No one bothered to actually tell me who he was apart from a friend of Juan's- that was actually a pretty amazing revelation that I'd only learn the next day, in Gainesville.
After our set, my night wound down. Too fucked up to really pay Symbolic significant attention, I headed out to Waffle House with the stripper and a couple friends of hers for food before coming back and passing out. Of course, this was just the first and simplest part of what would end up becoming one of the most complicated experiences of my life. But that night, at least, I could sleep without wondering how the next day would go. And, inevitably, things only got weirder from there.