I was fighting sleep; my eyes growing heavier as the green digital numbers passed 3 a.m. on the dash of the Pontiac Torrent, the sound of Jesse’s voice trying to distract me from the fact we have no place to sleep.
My band, The Kamalas, were leaving from our final show in Quebec City after a handful of gigs in central Canada. We had been promised a floor to sleep on by the promoter, but coinciding with our luck at the time, that fell through.
Our attempts at finding a hotel at midnight in August worked about as well as expected; so we took to the highway, hoping to find a late-night vacancy.
My frustration and exhaustion intensified my concerns about the band and touring. Was I ready to commit to driving long hours to play for a handful of people, all the while putting myself in debt? I wish I could say I was able to shake those thoughts.
Ilisha and Tracy sang and played guitar, Jesse played bass and I sat behind the drum kit. We were a punk-rock band from Moncton that developed some notoriety on the East Coast by gigging regularly in Halifax and at home.
In support of our new album, we ventured to some bigger cities. It was our first road test.
Shows were booked for mid-August 2009, taking us to Ottawa, Toronto and Quebec City.
Being the only ones with licences, Ilisha and I shared the driving duties of her mom’s car. There was only one cup holder in the front, so whoever was driving won the rights.
Behind all the book bags and pillows was Jesse who was nose deep in Skeptic magazine while Tracy defeated the third level of Zelda on her Game Boy.
The first gig was a success thanks to The Visitors, the hometown band, and the weekly pizza party at the Atomic Rooster venue. The next day we drove to Toronto to play a small club in Kensington Square which, at best, held 20 people.
The drive from Ottawa to Toronto was longer than I thought. It was starting to wear me down.
Ilisha was coming down with something and had found out that her boyfriend had been mugged back in Moncton. Also, Tracy somehow managed to lose her glasses in Kensington Square.
We all had separate thoughts that night at Ilisha’s brother’s house in Toronto, none of them about the fun we had at the gigs.
The drive to Quebec City was quiet.
The radio was on, but no one was listening. My air mattress deflated through the night and my body was experiencing the after effects of the concrete floor.
As we crossed the suspension bridge into Quebec City, I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. Whether it was my fear of suspension bridges or the gig, I couldn’t shake it.
The venue, L’Agitee, is located in a deserted part of town off the bridge next to an Ultramar. As we lugged our gear in, our attempts at making friends with one of the other bands got us a barely audible “hello” mixed with stares of “who the hell are they?”
We found out about the floor that was no longer available and then took the stage in front of five people, including the bartender.
Once we finished, we discovered a group of paying customers outside who were waiting for us to be done. It was a strange feeling, but I couldn’t help but be amused by it.
Here we are, stranger to the city, no place to sleep, broke, eight hours away from home—what’s not to laugh about?
It wasn’t long before we were in the car and gone. A place to sleep was more important than hardcore ska. A two-hour search in Quebec City led us nowhere so the Torrent took us to the highway.
Every exit with a hotel sign taunted us, but all we found were “No Vacancy” and “Closed” signs.
With Ilisha and Tracy asleep in the back and Jesse recounting Saturday Night Live skits, trying to keep me awake, all I could focus on was my frustration.
At the height of my tolerance level, I discovered Tracy had climbed on the top of the seats and stretched out lengthwise –instant death had an accident occurred.
I pulled over and imploded, but stopped myself before going too far. I apologized.
As it neared 4 a.m., I announced the next exit will be the last stop, vacancy or not. A motel attached to a Mike’s Restaurant in LaPocatiere had a room.
A wave of relief was felt through the car.
We’d come to the end of the road in our quest to find a place to sleep and, even though we didn’t realize it then, our quest for punk-rock fame and fortune.
The band would slowly dissolve over the next few months. But at that moment, we stopped and smiled at each other.