New Heathens

Brooklyn, Baltimore, DC: The Axis of Evil Tour

It’s 5:30 a.m. and the New Heathens 36-hour whirlwind maiden voyage to Baltimore and our nation’s capital just ended. We reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in years, had the honor of playing with June Star – an incredible band – but what we’ll take from this trip is a hard-learned lesson about the potency of a moonshine from Lithuania with an appropriate name.

Andrew Grimm, a phenomenal singer/songwriter and musician who we played three shows with this week including Thursday, Aug. 3 at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, warned us about the hooch.

“It’s called ‘Evil,’” he said. “And it’s called that for a reason.”

With foolish bravado we declared that we couldn’t wait to get to Baltimore and guzzle the Evil, a house specialty at Mum’s, the wonderful dive bar we played Saturday.

We knew Mum’s was going to be good because when we walked in Brian, the soundman and booker, was playing the rare Backsliders live album. The Backsliders, an incredible band out of Raleigh, N.C. fronted by now-Brooklyn resident Chip Robinson, released two albums on Mammoth Records in the 1990s. These we’ve only found on Ebay. The Backsliders also put out a live record. That we never found anywhere. Until Mum’s.

Inspired, we began our set with a cover of the Backsliders’ song “Abe Lincoln.” Domenick and Butch both sang new songs, which sounded great. In the audience were two friends, Heather and Rick, who graduated from the University of Montana and found the New Heathens via Google. We dedicated “July 1, Near Helena, MT” to them. Also in attendance was our buddy John Holl, who came down from Jersey City, and his friend John Fritze, both of whom may or may not work for major daily metropolitan daily newspapers in the Northeast.

The Evil was waiting for us when we finished. Doled out liberally in little plastic shotglasses – like the kind containing pills in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest -- it tasted of cinnamon and apples and was the color of said fruit’s juice. It was, in a word, delicious.

Everyone in the band agrees that was the turning point of the evening.

Details are still emerging, and they’re fuzzy, but here’s what we know for certain: I woke up alone Sunday morning in the backseat of the band’s van next to a plastic bag smelling conspicuously of Evil and stomach acid. A vague taste of apples was on my lips and inside my head was an ache I could have attributed to a wrecking ball.

Allegedly – and I must stress this is all alleged – I ended the evening splayed out on the pool table at Mum’s. Other New Heathens, then with much Evil coursing through their veins, closed the bar and then kept partying, belligerently telling the staff who asked them to leave, “We can’t because our singer is on the pool table and he’s not getting up!”

Photos taken during the times in question do offer hard evidence of bacchanalian activities. Some depict a clothed orgy with a fan who bought a New Heathens CD; the woman looking somewhat confused at finding herself in the middle of the band lovefest. Another shows Dan holding a “New” sign by his mouth next to Butch displaying a “Heathens” sign attached to his tongue. In another, Domenick gives double middle fingers to a New Heathens sign (meant affectionately, we presume). In yet another Eric holds his mouth, as if sickened by our display, or perhaps sickened by the Evil.

Evil, to paraphrase Howlin' Wolf, was goin' on.

My last memory is of dancing vigorously during Andrew Grimm’s scorching set. After that there is nothing, only Evil. Questions remain such as how I got to the pool table, how I got in the van (witnesses claim I insisted on staying in the backseat while others went into houses to sleep), and the precise motivations of the zombie-eyed longhair who sat up from the pool table only to collapse on the shoulder of Andrew Grimm’s beautiful fiancé.

Sunday morning was 100 percent Kris Kristofferson and 0 percent Lionel Richie. Industrial quantities of food in North Baltimore, along the city’s beautiful waterfront and in Arlington, VA seemed to be our only weapon against Evil’s lingering affects.

Mercifully we were able to cast out Evil’s last vestiges with a spirited set at the Galaxy Hut in Arlington, VA. (Where, it should be noted, Domenick annihilated the high score on the video game Galaga). In the crowd was my friend Dawn, whom I haven’t seen since 8th grade – 15 years ago – another friend brought to the Heathens by Google. Our beautiful, tall, half-French half-Russian friend Adriana also came out. June Star churned out a particularly amazing set. What an incredible band, and what a pleasure it was to share stages with them. We look forward to doing it again.

Still, there was a hard learned lesson this trip. As I told the audience at Galaxy Hut the moral of the weekend was a twist on an aphorism: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil and DRINK no Evil! - Nate

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