Tour Guides from Hell

Tour Guides From Hell: Aborted’s Sven de Caluwe’s Top Ten Places to Visit and Eat At in the U.S. and Canada

Background artwork by Thibault Fischer
Background artwork by Thibault Fischer

Having just wrapped up a U.S. run with Kataklysm, Aborted frontman Sven de Caluwe knows all about touring the U.S. and the insanity that one can encounter at late night pit-stops all over this crazy land. As if he hasn’t been taking Aborted’s own brand of pummeling death metal onto American soil for years already anyway; he’s basically a pro. So who better to ask about the best places to stop while on tour in the U.S.? Sven seems most interested in eating and ogling at weird people, and we can’t say we blame him. 

Aborted are about to embark upon a massive tour of Asia, Australia, New Zealand and eventually Europe. Get dates here

As a touring musician it is interesting and frustrating how you do get to see a lot of a place yet at the same time you don’t get to see shit. One example would be us playing Prague 6-7 times and I’ve maybe seen the city once. You usually end up playing in the shitty part of town on tour and if you don’t have your own means of transportation (meaning if you are on a bus) you don’t really get to see anything besides the venue, the bus and your backstage, unless you have friends. Friends on tour are awesome; people who come out to the show and want to hang out and take you to see places, or even bring you food! Yes, more of that please! You know the saying: “A band is nothing without its fans?” Well this is pretty much true across the board. This being said, drummer Ken Bedene and I have listed some of our favorite places in North America to get fat at or to laugh at people… behold!

1. Walmart (Anywhere, USA): We all know the website People of Walmart, right? Well, it’s there for a reason. If you have never been as a foreigner, GO! Multiple reasons really:

  • Shit is beyond cheap and chances are you are just as poor as we are.
  • Weirdos! Yup, tons of them. Believe it or not the amount of weird shit we have seen in Walmart beats any other place. Old men with assless chaps, someone dressed as Dumbledore from Harry Potter, a half naked fat chick taking a shit in the ice cream isle, or while you take a nocturnal shit-break having a man masturbate violently in the next stall. All priceless touring moments that Walmart provides free of charge. I highly recommend the Supercenters that are open 24/7 for full nocturnal creeping.

2. Melt (Cleveland, OH): Ever dreamt about being a rotund musician? This is the place to be! Great food and ridiculous amounts of it. This is basically the mother of all grilled cheese places and you WILL leave in a food coma, guaranteed, our term for this being “The Incredible Melt Man,” walking on the street like a penguin, a very fat penguin. Our favorite menu item is “The Godfather,” which is basically a lasagna packed in a grilled cheese. Get it with super fries because, after all, you, the touring musician, are not a pussy… right? Who will survive? And how many pounds will they gain?

3. Blackbird Pizzeria (Philly, PA): If you are a vegan (and I am not), this is the place to go in Philly. Not being a vegan and going there with our drummer Ken (who is vegan) made me sceptical at first because: fake cheese on pizza, really? But I wrong: they have some of the best pizza I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my belly. We tried the avocado, caramelised onions and jalapeno pizza with vegan cheese and it was incredible. Sadly we did watch a band with fat strippers play right after that and I nearly threw up the damn thing.

4. Voodoo Donuts (Portland, OR): If you like donuts, this is fatty heaven. Just about a million different kinds of donuts, they’re open 24/7, and there are pretty huge lines even at night, which says a lot about the quality of a place usually. Their “Portland Creme” is about the best creme filled donut I’ve ever had in my life and their decorations are just killer. The fact that you can buy a coffin full of donuts is also metal as fuck so all you touring musicians should go spend your mighty buy-outs there pronto. Def one of my favourite places in all of America!

5. Biker Jim’s Hot Dogs (Denver, CO): Even if I have a feeling most people will now associate Denver with weed, let’s go with exotic weird hot dog place! If you ever wanted to try rattle snake or wild boar in a hot dog, they’ve got it! I tried the rattlesnake & pheasant one and did not know what to expect, but it was pretty damn interesting and good! They even have vegan hot dogs so if you are a hipster or Ken, go check it out! No, they don’t have albums on cassettes.

6. Zombie Apocalypse (Atlanta, GA): This is something we unfortunately haven’t gotten to see first hand since this is a seasonal thing and we’ve never been in the US at the right time, but having friends that work there and having seen some videos this is definitely on our to-do list next time! Basically it’s paintball with zombies. You’re dropped in a warehouse with a paintball machine gun and you get to slay the undead. How much more metal can it get? Marked down and going as soon as we can!

7. Zombie Burger (Des Moines, IA): This might be the single best thing in Iowa. We played Des Moines on our trek with Origin in 2012 and the food was absolutely deadlicious. You walk past a place called Zombie Burger and you can’t be a metal head or musician without walking in and trying it out. Absolutely killer and great choice, highly recommended. Hopefully not made out of human meat imported from Vancouver.

8. The Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver, BC): To continue with what we were talking about above — zombies, or burgers made out of zombies. The neighborhood The Rickshaw Theatre is in would be the place to get some actual zombie beef. Don’t get me wrong, the venue is great and we have good shows there, but everyone that has played there knows that the area has more junkies than cockroaches and you walk around the streets playing footsie with used needles. Also, they have fresh needle vending machines. Never seen that before, and, well, definitely one of the most ridiculous things to see, especially when you wake up in the morning and the first thing you see is an ambulance driving off someone that OD’d.

9. Truck stops (Anywhere, USA): When you are touring in a van you often have to resort to sleeping in it either at a Walmart parking lot — in which case see number 1 above — OR at a truck stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere. These places can offer various forms of entertainment, be it by their ridiculous merchandise (Jesus and America shirts unite) or surprise near-rape bathroom moments. I won’t name the name, but an ex-band member came back to the van terrified after a nocturnal shit session only to lock it about a thousand times upon his return. What happened? He heard someone flush the toilet about 20 times and then shoved their dick under his bathroom stall. The poor bastard sat terrified in the stall for another half hour to make sure the coast was clear of said penis and then sprinted back to the van like roadrunner. This wasn’t an isolated incident either, and for sure brought us many laughs… so go ahead and enjoy the truck stops! PS: shower with flip flops on… Just a tip…

10. All you can eat buffet – (Anywhere, USA): Most of you should know by now that most of us touring musicians are poor bastards, and this isn’t a glory moment, but when you are hungry these places on a day off can be a gift from heaven. THISISWHYYOUAREFAT comes to mind and it is amazing to see how some people actually stay in these places for a whole day. We only go there as a last resort on a day off but if you are low on cash you can get stuffed like a turkey on Thanksgiving for about 10-15 bucks and camp out like a champ. Bring baby wipes, lots of them: they will be needed.

Clearly we’ll find more interesting or shitty places throughout our journeys and perhaps inform you of more. Come to a show, say what’s up and point us in the right direction!

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