Three things were significant about Phoenix. The first is that somehow, someway, word got to DJ legend, Dave Pratt, that a “local boy” was part of Ozzfest and invited us to call into his morning show. Both Thurb and I were interviewed with the other guys on speaker phone on his morning show, on radio dial 98 KUPD, the morning of our show.
Related to that, not an hour or so before we went on, I was invited to call in again. This time, just a quick “how’s it going as you prepare to rock Phoenix”-type thing…
The second thing is that our slot in the running order that day changed, and suddenly we weren’t opening the show anymore; our set time was moved to around 3. Anything was better than 11:00 am. Fact is we were told that all the second stage bands would get at least one opportunity to play the main stage. There was to be a rotating schedule, and at some point in the tour, we were supposed to open the main stage, which was around 2 or 3. That never happened, with any second-stage band, to my knowledge.
The third thing was that my family was there. Everyone was still getting along, and they all joined Sterling under the soundboard tent to watch us from there.
Everything felt different about that day, entirely because of our time slot change. We didn’t even have to be at the gig until around 2, as we didn’t go on until 3. Playing at 3 is a whole lot different than playing at 11 or whenever we had been starting. I remember we got back to the festival grounds, and the entire place was packed. Our crew went about their work and got our gear ready for the stage. I don’t know what we in the band were doing, but as it got closer to show time, Thurb and Willie hung closer to the stage.
Suddenly, it was just Garn and I still hanging in the RV, and I’m not even sure how we heard our intro tape from inside the RV, but at the same time, we both look at each other and yell, “Oh sh*t!” We’d heard the Dukes of Hazzard intro blaring from the stage speakers, and there we were sitting in the RV! We tear out of the RV and make a run for the stage, about 25 yards away. Yikes! We made it with about 30 seconds before the intro ended, and I launched us into “Pa.” (On YT, search Pumpjack, Ozzfest 2000, Phoenix.)
Phoenix was easily the second best, or tied for the best show (with WA) of the tour for us, and I was excited to be able to share it with my family. I also got a bunch of passes for my friends since no one in the band knew anyone else in Phoenix.
It was another in what had become a long list of incredible experiences along this journey, and the guys never said a word to me then about what they saw around my house, or were in any way acting differently toward me. It was Stevie B who much later said, “yeah, the more photos I saw of just you and Ron, it became pretty obvious.” The reality is, if anyone did have an issue with my being gay after visiting Phoenix, they hid it pretty well, because nothing felt different with any of them.
A quick Phoenix tidbit… so the day we actually arrived in Phoenix was the day before our show. But that night, coincidentally, Crowbar was playing at a little club in Tempe. We all piled in the RV and went down to see them. It was our crew of 9 and maybe 3 other people in the venue. But anyway, they played their show for all 12 of us in attendance. After their show, we got to talking to Kirk and told him we were playing the next day with Ozzfest and then in two days in San Bernardino. He said he’d see us in San Bernardino because they were coming to the show. Sure as anything, we’re sound checking a short spell before we begin, and who suddenly shows up, Kirk and band.
We left the day after the Phoenix show and headed out toward San Bernardino, CA. We got a cheap hotel room and then went to the venue the next morning. Other than it being a massive venue and Kirk from Crowbar showing up, I don’t remember much about that final show. They had cameras set up as they were going to record everyone’s performance that night. Everyone but us, it seemed, because we didn’t get filmed. Knowing that, and it being the big LA area show, we figured it’d be a madhouse later on, so we opted to leave rather than try and see if we might be able to meet anyone “in the business.”
We were running low on funds and didn’t want to hang any longer than we needed to. We still had enough dough to get to Taos, NM, where we were going to celebrate having completed the tour. And that’s what we did. We BBQ’d all the food we had left and drank all the booze we had and just had fun remembering the highlights.
I went back to Phoenix and really had a tough time coming back down to reality. It took a couple of weeks to feel normal again. After the tour got going, we found ourselves in that hypnotizing rhythm, especially on show days where we had to be at a certain place at a certain time. And while our slot was short (30 min), it was critical to be on time before and after, to keep the whole show schedule on time.
Our crew was awesome, and we counted on them every day, and they kicked ass every show. From who was going to take a driving shift, to who was going to work the grill (Oh, did I mention the guys welded a grill to the front of the trailer, so we had a grill wherever we parked.), to who had to empty the waste tank, everyone got along for the most part and contributed to the effort of keeping our rolling petri dish operational and livable.
We had a pretty fun few weeks on the road, despite all the ups and downs. Bob, who sold meat for a living, made sure we had plenty of it for the trip by bringing several pounds of steak and chicken and we grilled every chance we got. We ate well even on off-show days.
Anyhow, it didn’t take long to feel comfortable in that lifestyle, and after doing it, even with the struggles we endured, I would have done it again, easily. I still wouldn’t change a thing. The tour helped expose the band to thousands of fans who otherwise never would have heard of the band. It didn’t exactly help Pumpjack get to that next level, but we had a hell of a time while we had the opportunity.
The band of course still exists. They’ve released more records, but have an entirely new line-up of players (Piper, Stroker, Krietz). The only constant, of course, is Thurber T. He’s the lyric master, and ultimately, is the soul of the band. Lance, aka Willie Hicks, RIP, was the aesthetic behind everything Pumpjack. We lost Lance over a decade ago now but he remains with us through his music and art. Lance was a gifted artist and provided all the cool cd and merch art and ideas. Boz is up in northern Arizona with his family.
As much as I do remember, I can’t remember if I ever properly expressed my thanks and gratitude to Thurb for bringing me along on the ride. It only happened because of our friendship. He had his pick of drummers. Lance, the bass player, has a brother, Monty, who is a very capable drummer himself. But Thurb chose me, and for that, I will always remain grateful that he helped give me these fun memories.
Back when Thurb and I first met, we bonded pretty quickly. Again, he has and has had over the years, a seemingly endless amount of friends, and part of the reason is because he has a bit of a magical spirit, without sounding too overly hokey. People are drawn to him, and I am no exception. Heck, even freakin’ Dimebag Darrell was drawn to him, and in my opinion, took influence from him too. I am lucky we grew as close as we did, and tend to forget about the period we weren’t so close for a while. I’m just glad we got the chance to repair our friendship and have enjoyed well over a decade as buddies again. I’m glad I got to see and jam with Willie (Lance) one last time, before he passed, and hear him tell me how angry he was with me when I left in ‘02 (after moving there and trying to give it another go). And I’m glad we were able to talk it out to make sure we were good. I honestly didn’t think any of them would have cared in the least when I left. Figured I’d just be in their rearview and they’d get on, which they did, but I discounted that in addition to pulling out my drumming skills, I was also pulling myself and whatever efforts I may have contributed. In a word, I was pulling my friendship out of their world and causing a disruption again for them. Ahhh, drummers… we’re such a P.I.T.A!!!
I’ve joined Thurb and the boys over the years for a show here and there. Sometimes just a song, sometimes a full show. Regardless, it’s always a good time. I still LOVE Pumpjack music, and still LOVE playing the music. The tour was a fun ride, and I count myself lucky to have shared the experience with them all, but especially Thurb, with whom I’m still good pals (and who will always be Kyle Kaos to me).
And if any of you think it was only me who had this dream of rock stardom, check out these drawings Kyle did back in 1993, when he was in film class (which is on the back side of the note above).