BOOK OF BAD DECISION TOUR
By Chris Benefiel
As I packed up my gear, and prepared for a ten day road trip from Michigan to Oklahoma, and back, following and photographing the all mighty CLUTCH the opening track, “Gimme the Keys”, off the new “Book Of Bad Decisions” album seemed extremely appropriate.
The lyrics get me thinking on how many times I’ve done this in the past, and how I still get a high from it. It was hard not to think of all the friends I’d made over the years, and what adventures came from those friends, and the many shows we traveled to see.
CLUTCH became a huge part of my life many years ago, I’ve seen them around 300 times. So how the Hell do I write a show review on them? Will it be fair and accurate? And of 5 shows how will that play out? Tour review? Oh and you know; I can’t write to save my ass! right!?
That’s what Kristin is for! Make it about the photos! All these thoughts started speeding in my head about the same speed I was trucking down the highway at 2 am. See? I’m trying something new, here. It’s no longer even a simple review, I already blew that.
So now I’m attempting to write a piece on what I have seen, and what I know, from a long history of following them. In the expanse of ten days I saw five shows. In all actuality, I’m part of a subculture. I’m not the only fan traveling great distances to see the guys.
Over the years from different social media, a lot of CLUTCH fans interact with one another on a very personal level, we become friends and in some cases family. So this run I knew at the age of 45 I would need some recoup time from the 16 hour drive, and wanted to meet up with people, I talk with online.
Again nothing new about this. I’ve done the online meet up for about 20 years now.
I rested in Yukon, just outside of Oklahoma City, having visited friends for the past few days. On October 17th, it is time to go and I’m “jacked”! For the hardest working band of our generation it’s been a slow tour year. They were still busy working, hard as always but just not touring much.( much for them)
They were off creating “Book Of Bad Decisions”. I’ve been playing and loving the new album, Like madly in LOVE with it. To be brutally honest I was not fully in love with the past few albums. I like them tremendously.Yes, but, madly in love with them? Not like this.
“Book of Bad Decisions” gives me an extremely nostalgic feeling, about all the things mentioned, and the band themselves. Like I wonder if “Ghoul Wrangler” is about the hard times in the early years, with record labels and the lawyers, that eat up time and money. The years of dealing with it, yeah, “Ghoul Wrangler” fits into play.
I think these thoughts, from Yukon to Tulsa, getting more pumped up with each mile and tune from the album. I arrive way before doors, in the hope of selling a few prints to help pay for the trip. In the process I make a few friends, meet some people from online that I have chatted with, and I met a few lionize fans.
So I chat with them, and before I know it, I’m talking, befriending and meeting up with thirty to forty people, at a venue I’ve never been to, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What a trip! Subculture in full effect. Cain’s Ballroom is a very well known Venue. Has a Honky-Tonk vibe to it.
A lot of famous Country & Western star photos lined the walls. The crowd was mellow even for a Wednesday night crowd. It seemed the thirty to forty of us, that was a part of the subculture, was by far the loudest to start out the show. That was weird!
In my neck of the woods in the Midwest CLUTCH! Is chanted before doors open, over a block away in a parking lot. Then I noticed how many Sevendust fans filled the venue. And I was coming in as they left the stage. With 20 minutes before CLUTCH! takes the stage, I start to notice a few new things Like the new Shawn. (merch man)
I had seen him at Earth Rocker’s festival but we never spoke; Super nice guy. Once in the press pit I notice another new guy, And his job is lights. As the new lights flicker and illuminate the instruments, it feels Clutch have come a long way from playing a Bowling alley in Chicago. (With lanes open for play at the other end)
As “We Need Some Money” by Chuck Brown fires up the crowd I snap out of my thoughts. The lights slowly rise with the guys getting instruments ready,and Neil smiling as he scans the crowd. At this point the crowd picks it up a few notches on the crowd response scale. It’s Neil’s night for set list and they jump into it with “Give Me The Keys” at full force.
I’m excited to hear and see the song, as it is “sorta” the theme for the week. I don’t know if I want to dance or photograph things, So I do a little of both. After standing for hours with a heavy backpack, the energy coming off the guys was much needed; not only for me but the crowd.
As I get in photo ninja mode, I not only notice how cool of a shot there is of Dan but just how on fire he is. I’ve said Dan really shines on Book of Bad Decisions” more than a few times,and live was no different. I’ll save future time here for the review part. Dan just kept getting more into it each night, and was on fire every time.
He was very energetic, animated, and not only feeling the music but himself. Dan can be just a little reserved onstage at times over the years, not this tour. Dan came to party! At times I thought we might get a Rock kick out of him. Sadly no, But I think it could of…(shakes head & smiles)
The band play off of him, and JP is pure magic to watch always. but this tour,, Yeah! WOW! A lot of “drum and bass face” going on. At times over the five shows it was down right hypnotic! Dan was snarling and “deep funk face” at times maybe angry. I thought he looked angry at his strings.
Man! His fingers looked like he was 20 years old,and strong and limber as can be. I don’t know how a couple of nights he didn’t bust a string, the way he tore into them with such over use of authority. It was awesome to watch!!!! Dan and JP are my favorite thing about the five shows. I do fave a lot of favorite moments from the five shows.
Okay, back to Tulsa, Dan is rocking the funk out! Neil seems pretty on fire being the buzz bomb he is onstage. The stage was little and Neil was all over it. I had to watch myself while working over to get JP, no room for me to lean over and still be out of the way of him trucking through. The stage had a cap over it.
I imagine to help acoustics for the old Country shows that played there. It was murder for my not so technical self shooting. Murder as in everything was covered in red. But I see I can work with the shots I got; and make my way to JP.
Dead center of the stage with my chest laying on it looking at him in the viewfinder with one eye; and out for dancing, “rock preacher” with the other one. I get a couple shots And Neil trucks past. I shoot him till he is out of the way and go back to JP. As I do we lock eyes; he gets a big smile, and nods a friendly hello.
My fan boy-ness kicks in & I yell, “Hi JP!”, like Forest Gump. As I sink behind the camera. he kept looking dead at me and gave me some pretty good shots. They could of been great if not for the light. I became entranced by his work, as I do so easily. I can watch him none stop for days.
Neil comes back into frame and I shoot more of him, and group shots. Working over to Tim, with Tim you have to be patient for a good shot. He likes to look down, and out at the crowd,with his head down. I settle in to a good spot and waited till I got my shot.
Now I’ve photographed everyone. Probably Neil the most because he is always all over the stage. Now I can go off on how much I’m in my element at this point of time. And I will, but not for each of the five shows. I love being in press pit. Neil screaming over me at the person behind me, the person yelling back.
The feel of the music is different there, it doesn’t always sound best but still for the 3 songs it’s everything I want. The love for CLUTCH is real. I know it! As do many many others. The buzz they provide is the best drug around. And some of the best people I know are “Gear Head Junkies”.
With a massive high I walk out of the press pit feeling alive and recharged in life. This is something else that will repeat four of the five nights.Well all five just one without the press pit part of the buzz. I find a few different spots to take in the show, for different sounds and perspectives, till the show ends.
Then I go meet up with people I have met from social media. We all stay out way to late, and party to hard; just indulging in the the show buzz, riding the high as long as we can. I get up after just a few hours of sleep and start it all over. I do most of this the next four nights.
So lets get to the nitty-gritty, and highlights of each night. Tulsa: I knew someone had been sick in the band just before this show, and so was not surprised when I started noticing how tired Neil and JP looked. Not in actions, they gave 100% probably more by the looks of things, in retrospect.
The spirit looked like it needed a nap. And I don’t know if Tulsa needed to feed off the bands energy, or if the band needed to feed off the energy of Tulsa; But is didn’t happen. Not for a Clutch show. Neil even spoke of a local restaurant being so good he ate to much, and his energy level was low.
Now, don’t get me wrong still plenty of energy from everyone. And everyone had a good time. But Tulsa ranked lowest on energy and crowd feedback for the tour review. The crowd was friendly, the venue was nice, dare I even say neat with friendly staff. Tulsa was a whole lot of fun, just a tad bit on the mellow side.
Crowed reaction highlights: “Electric Worry” seems to be winner in crowed movement for all the shows. No different here. Front to back left to right the heads & hips moved, hands in the air and more voice, singing, yelling. “Prison Planet” got a big reaction. “Marcus” into “Ghoul Wrangler” into Electric Worry” was awesome.
Neil went into a crazy,animated tantrum, that only he can do for Ghoul Wrangler”. I swear, at times he is possessed on stage. I watched in awe, as he gave every bit of energy he had and in not even the closing songs. I am always impressed! I don’t know if it was the performance or the song, but out of new songs from Book of Bad Decisions”, “ Ghoul Wrangler” seemed to be the crowd favorite.
My personal “Fave” of the night; “Prison Planet” and “Emily Dickinson”. Tim’s part at the end of “Emily Dickinson” makes me feel funny. I love the album version with Chris Brooks, from Lionize on keys, so I wondered how it would translate. I was not let down!
Night two, Tuesday October 18,2018 Tim’s night for set list at “Pops Nightclub” in Sauget Illinois. I got there much later than I wanted, and rushed up to meet the group of Gear Heads” inside. Right away, I notice the crowd was more lively, and more in the mood to party. Not just the large group of people who met up from social media,but the crowd in general. And I was grateful!
Holy crap I was feeling beat up on., by this time. I have no clue how hard touring bands, such as Clutch do it. It was just day two of shows , but day six of being on the road and I was hitting Red Bull like it was the last can on earth. I knew more people here, and it was a lot of fun chatting with them.
I’d say by the time Clutch was about to take the stage everyone was feeling good, and ready to party. By the time they did take the stage, I believe the guys were grateful the crowd had so much energy to give. I watched them feed off of it and cycle it back. A total symbiotic relationship.
I could see Neil needed it the most. Again giving 100%, and even the hard core fan hadn’t picked up ,on any lack of energy; and the show went off without a hitch. Well, night two of Neil at some point commenting on a little lack of energy, and from the set list they skipped the show one song short. I’m noticing all this but also the fact they are still killing it.
Highlights of POP’s : Crowd! “Give Me the Keys” was the new albums big hit of the night. The crowd loved it! “Lorelei” was a personal and crowd pleaser. Not as big in Pop’s, as other places, but still loved. Another block of crowd and personal favorites. “Spacegrass”, “ El Jefe”, “Emily Dickinson”, “Sonic Counselor” all in that order.
It was Tim’s set list and he was on fire! Of course Electric Worry” was a crowd hit, it lead right into “Marcus” so the crowd loved the encore! I’ll repeat this a bunch; over all a fun night, full of energy,and friends new and old.
Show 3, October, 19,2018 in Grand Rapids Michigan,at “20 Monroe Live” and it was Dan’s set list. Of course, I was up till the morning partying, and didn’t get sleep and got to the show way late. Now this was home turf and I was pumped to see friends I have known for 15 years or more. These are people I met from the old Clutch message board on Pro-Rock.com.
But sadly, not many showed up, and I only ran into a few that did. So I was pretty bummed about that. When you do this for a bit, You really want to meet up with that family member at a show. It’s like Christmas in the sense you only see someone you care about a few times a year.
So feeling a little like Christmas was canceled just a little. I needed a good energy night and I got it! Michigan, gets hyped up for the guys! There was the guy outside yelling CLUTCH! repeatedly as I walked in. As there always is. Inside the place was a buzz of built up energy just waiting to go off.
Side note, Michigan, was the only two shows that had any size of a mosh pit. I was surprised to see so many Sevendust fans in Grand Rapids. They interacted with us Clutch fans more in Grand Rapids, than the other two nights. Everyone was there to party. The venue is new and nice, staff is always friendly.
I did have a bit of time to catch up with a good friend, before I had to get in the press pit. First thing I noticed inside was the stage had room for the big backdrop,of the Eagle and it looked great in it’s full glory. The past two shows couldn’t display it properly. The backdrop and the lights gave me goosebumps.
The buzz from the crowd was high, as the guys took the stage. Neil looked like he had gotten a little more rest. I think he had been already feeding off the crowds energy, pre-show. As the show goes on I realize it’s for sure Dan’s list, they are playing. and as much as he has been on fire every night, “Cheese and Rice” he was killing it.
People ask me how I know who’s set list they play, and I don’t always guess right, but after 300 shows I have an educated guess, and even though I do miss sometimes, I never miss on Dan’s. I can always tell his set lists. Watching him and JP make faces and have a good time.
It was hard to photograph at times because I just wanted to watch, and pretty much all I did after my three songs. Sleep deprivation had took hold during the show. So it was sort of a “trippy” night as weres the next 2. Now the list wasn’t a big drastic mix up of songs, nothing new just songs they have already played.
The arrangement and the ones picked made it a killer set, and felt different than the other nights. There were some technical issues at the start of the show. So we got some time with Neil bantering with the crowd. The guy is funny. He seemed rested and in a great mood.
That caries after they get started and for the rest of the night. With the songs starting to be the same songs. Highlights are Dan, Dan, Dan & JP, Dan & Tim, Dan & Rick and Rocker, Dan about busting strings, Dan making “angry funk face”, Dan grooving, for real Dan was on fire!
The big hit for new songs in Grand Rapids was “Love a Good Fire”. After the show I was so beat and only a few hours from home. Thinking I could get rest I headed home. But I still only got a couple hours of sleep. I’d been gone and needed to give my dog some time.
A friend stayed over so between making up bedding and looking at photos and dog time, I got maybe four hours of sleep before my phone started blowing up, with people waking me up. Day four of shows and I’m asleep at the wheel, I’m awake but not thinking or functioning properly.
I should of rested but spent the day getting ready for the big night in Michigan, a bunch of us “Gear Heads” were throwing down birthday party style, and all. A bunch of us met up to pre-party. As beat as I was, “God it was fun”! This subculture thing is heart warming at times.
It will give you energy to go on. I needed that! Great time pre-show!!! Much love going around from people from out of town, doing what I have been, traveling show to show to see this band that matters so much and has had such a impact on their life. Again old and new friends bonding over CLUTCH! It’s a beautiful thing to see and be a part of.
Detroit Michigan, October 20, 2018, “The Fillmore” and it’s JP’s set list. The show was sold out, and it felt super packed. The press pit was full. And the energy was off the charts a pretty rowdy crowd in “The D”. There were a couple drunken fights, in the crowd, but nothing to crazy to welcome Clutch to the stage.
The press pit went crazy people shuffling around for good shots created a buzz of it’s own. The crowd was going crazy and Clutch was blazing hot! I truly can see them feed off the crowd for the energy they put out every night. The highlights are basically the same. Energy and crowd. It was another Pro-Rock show for sure. We did get “Peterbilt” in the mix.
“Peterbilt” is always welcomed on a set list in my book. “Sucker For the Witch” was also nice to see and hear. Neil did seem like he was feeling better the last two nights so that was a highlight. But Jean-Paul looked like he was fighting something. Again most didn’t notice and they all gave 100%,so it was another great show in the books.
I’d say “Lorelei” was the big hit out of the new song in “The D”. But when the crowd goes crazy all night for every song, hard to tell. The show is over and it’s time to party again. A ton of us go back to “Birthday girl’s” place to ride the high out. My plan was to call it for the tour ,and stay home, and get rest.
But I was enjoying everyone so much I didn’t want it to end. So at 5 A.M, I decide in my sleep depraved mind,that I got another one in me. So by like 7 A.M I finally get to sleep, and by 11 A.M, the phone starts going off and people wake me up. Time to do it all again. Coffee and Red Bull mixture is my fuel and I get in the car, “God I hate the car” at this point!
As I didn’t have a photo pass I wasn’t trying to work at all. I might of tried to get a pass at points in my life, but not today I wanted to get in the middle of the crowd be with friends and not think about this show. It was for just me to enjoy. My review of it? I did just that Enjoyed ever minute of it with new and old friends.
There were people I knew I’d see again, and people I knew I’d never see, but they will still be my friend and we shared a moment that might go without thinking but will forever be a part of me.
After thoughts of the shows. Neil ended up passing out on the streets a few days later. He had been fighting something that whole time. The man is a beast! and although they had to cancel that show in New York City,the day they took him to the hospital. They picked right back up on tour the next day. That’s Pro-Rock!! Remember I don’t think he was the only one under the weather. “Hardest working band of our time!” Me. If you don’t know Clutch, or are looking for a new favorite band, or just want to be part of a kick ass subculture, I highly suggest looking into Clutch and the catalog of albums they have. I have said for years, They are the best band for fans. They produce new albums and there has never ever been a bad one if you ask me. There is some I like a lot less than others. But none are bad. They tour so much a guy from the Midwest can get around 300 shows. Meaning I average ten shows a year with a couple bumps in there. I’ll get 10 plus this year. For a fan, that’s awesome to have that chance. They are friendly and down to earth, and willing to go out of the way for a fan.
“A fans Band!” And you know, the fans themselves are pretty damn cool. I have met awesome people via this band. It all can and has been life changing, for so many of us “Gear Heads”. Sometimes good things come from a “Book Of Bad Decisions”.