Shotgun North

Rock ‘n’ Roll Roving With The Volcom Family
By Ben Gavelda
Photos By Chris Wellhausen

This streak of snowboarding and rock ‘n’ roll appeared in the November ’09 issue. It was the first run of Volcom’s Blizzard Bizarre Tour. It’s 2010 and they’re at it again. This time the tour kicks off in Denver and meanders towards the Northwest. Get a taste of it from the slide show and words below, then go shred and rock your face off.

Draw a straight line from Southern California to Northwest Washington and you’ll find twenty-plus commercial shred locales and countless music venues that stem from this vein. Melding rock 'n’ roll and snowboarding into a tour through this stretch would require both-and no one had claimed shotgun. So I jumped on board. And with venues booked and geography and petroleum on our side, we shoved off-a caravan of snowboard pursuers and musical wayfarers headed toward the Canadian border on what would become a lengthy road tour and a blizzard bizarre.

Peeling down the road in the graphic-slathered, musky Ford double cab, dingy, lo-fi chords mumbled in mono. The rest of the caravan (one giant RV and tow band vans) was elsewhere. The diesel beast had already weathered some tours and just one speaker survived. It provided white noise, and aside from the masked hum it delivered, the live shows were the complete soundtrack for the trip. This was good because we later found that on the road, and inside the truck was the only place you could potentially find peace of mind amidst the madness. Midwestern psychedelic rock brothers Ashton and Caleb Bird, under the guise of Tweak Bird, and the pounding rock of Kandi Coded (headed by shred legend Jamie Lynn) would throttle the stage nightly. They led the charge on the music front, and we blazed trail on the snowboard side with an ever-changing lineup of riders. And everyone somehow met in the middle, because it was “ride every day and f-king rock out every night” according to Volcom head Billy Anderson.

Rattling metal erupted on Bear Mountain’s deck through Kandi Coded’s speakers and into the blistering storm. Jamie Lynn’s growl from the mic pierced the gale of snain, ice pellets, fog, and the occasional kernel of snow. Meanwhile, Zac Marben was sending it up high, through the fog, tweaking melon and catching the last flake of tranny. This is how the tour kicked off-straight screeching into winter. It was our version of breaking the champagne bottle on the maiden ship. We didn’t have champagne, instead cases upon cases of Primo beer, and we know at least one of those bottles of was smashed as a toast.

With maiden voyage curses averted, the posse made it to Las Vegas to play TransWorld’s Riders’ Poll awards show. For the bands, playing at a Hard Rock is like going to the big park at a resort. The heavies have been there, strummed the lines, plucked the cliffs and pounded the bowls-left their mark. For Jamie Lynn, he’s already, and continues to permeate into snowboarding by way of art or a signature method, but watching him brew in music along the entire tour revealed his deep aspirations toward sound. With one full-length album under his belt, and a collaboration with producer Jack Endino-the so-called “Godfather of Grunge”-pouring over a guitar and mic is his current focus.
Ravaging Vegas wouldn’t be complete on this tour without a surprise guerilla show by Tweak Bird in the Miracle Mile Mall, nor without Skylar Thornton’s stage rush during Travis Rice’s Rider Of The Year award. With Vegas festering in commerce and the shows wrapped, the crew receded towards the hills and found that if you itch to jib, Las Vegas Resort has three lifts just under an hour away-and yes, they do get powder days.

Onward the convoy churned to Mammoth and Tahoe. There we were rejuvenated with new riders Tyler Flanagan, Johnny Lazzareschi, Steve Woolworth, and Daniel Brown. We were also met with rowdy music hungry crowds and overzealous bouncers in these quiet mountain towns. And still, no snow. We hadn’t seen any moisture or clouds since Bear and were beginning to think maybe the bands’ wail had shut Mother Nature up that first day. Northward we continued.

Midway to Bend, Oregon the droning speaker started to sink in. The crew nodded off, heads weary, bobbling and stinging from late nights smashed by throttling guitar strings, cracked open by crisp, cold, mountain mornings. The night was ink black, as trees and asphalt blurred through the headlights’ dim glaze on the narrow highway. Getting rest became futile and after staining some thousand miles as a scatter of snowboard and musical counterparts, the truck’s cab was now our cave. The road was the only place serving rest, so we gobbled it up while we could.

Once we arrived in Bend, the Price family commune acted as a staging point-it’s also where we picked up momentum and new travelers. Lucas Debari flew in for the night’s show and Curtis Ciszek rallied back from Jackson for a proper 21st birthday celebration. Josh Dirksen joined in and the weather was clear and near spring like at Mount Bachelor. Jamie even came out to ride with us and showed everyone a proper method before the show. That night the show didn’t end at the bar as they normally had. Instead, we packed the RV with stragglers from the Summit Saloon and pointed it back to the house. At 2:00 a.m., the encore started. Skylar ripped into the guitar alongside Kandi Coded, reverberating the walls of the quiet neighborhood late into morning.

What came next was a dreary rush. One show, cloudy drive, dizzy hangover, then sneaking more riding into the conditions we were given. It became as cyclic as the wheels rolling beneath us. We tore through Mount Hood and Portland and emptied stowaways. We also found that gin makes Lucas breakout in splotchy hives and also that bras, panties and other road souvenirs make for perfect vehicle enhancement amidst piles of snacks and garbage. Getting lost at seven in the morning with a growling stomach and headache can also be blessing because we drifted into some posh resort with a tableside waterfall full of swank on the dreary way to Summit at Snoqualmie. Then, staggering around the Fun House in Seattle, gazing under the Space Needle’s glow, Tweak Bird’s ring squealed through the mics and along the low walls of the night club:

“Fourteen…spaceships…out in the desert.
One symphonic drone.
Voices…singing, bury the treasure,
I’m digging a hole”

It was fitting, the last two weeks had felt like space travel. We had torn from the desert, chasing the drone of snow and sometime late after the Seattle show we had 125 miles between the final destination and us. The vehicles were fully littered with smells, trash, and a familiar feeling that would soon be lost.
Fighting through the pull of sleep and mist we quietly rolled into the Mount Baker parking lot around five in the morning. The Baker Banked Slalom started at eight. We had made our destination. Opening the RV door to a rush of cold air and newly fallen snow-the first since we left over two weeks prior-signaled an end to the beginning. But not before one last show and a dip into newly fallen snow. The bands rumbled one more gig from the deck of Joowanna’s Café that evening and the ringing in our ears lingered, as did we, on the road and into the thick of a blizzard.

Tweak Bird
These two brothers from Carbondale, Illinois continue to usher a breed of heavy, staggering, psychedelic rock. Now based out of Los Angeles, they’ve put out a few EPs and vinyls and continue to tour with the likes of Tool and Big Business. Their first full-length album is set to drop this fall.

Kandi Coded
This loud rock band hails from Seattle with snowboard legend Jamie Lynn at the helm on guitar and vocals. Famed grunge guru Jack Endino handles the other guitar while Johnny Graziadei pounds the drums and Sam MacDonald beats the bass. The band is currently working on their second album Fell For The Gift.