Alesana’s Shawn Milke on the Best Things to Happen to Him All Tour (Plus a New Top 5)

Sitting In: the dressing room at The Meridian in Houston, TX
Listening to: “Consequence” by The Notwist
Time of Day: 4:35 p.m. CST
Day of tour: 34
Hours Left Until I Play: 6 hours and 5 minutes

Tour is wrapping up. Only one week left. So much to say, so much to write about.

I had been looking forward to this tour since the day we finished the record. I had dreams of what it would be like to walk out onto the stage to the sound of Fear Before the March of Flames singer Adam Fisher’s voice declaring, “I am here to tell you a story.” The anticipation moved through my body like a bolt of lightning, and there were days when I could not think of anything but playing this record live. As I sit here on this awkwardly large and uncomfortable couch in my dressing room, the realization hits me that I have now performed The Emptiness onstage 33 times (two shows in Japan, one hometown show in Raleigh, and 30 shows on this current tour). The crazy part is that I am still anticipating tonight’s show with the same level of enthusiasm as the first. There is something about this record, about this music, that fires me up. I love our old material with all of my heart—don’t get me wrong—but The Emptiness is my baby. It is my brain-child. The Emptiness is something I have long dreamed of creating and every night when I perform the songs live I am able to relive that dream over and over. To be able to combine my love for writing, music, and theatre into one project is pure fantasy brought to life.

The monotony of tour can sometimes be overwhelming. Allow me to say that this is in no way, shape, or form a complaint. I play music and travel for a living. I consider myself to be both blessed and extremely fortunate. However, like most things in life, the strain of repetition catches up with us every now and again. Restaurants, truck stops, bars, Walmarts, malls, soundchecks; these are things that happen almost every day. The beautiful part of tour are the moments that catch you off guard, whether good or bad. They keep the pulse moving, the heart beating, the mind suspecting. They make you realize that no matter how comfortable or tedious life can sometimes seem, it’s best to keep your eyes open. In addition to the amazing shows and the experience of performing our very own rock opera every night for two months straight, the following four events, be them good or bad, are what will make me remember The Emptiness tour forever.

1. The Very Nice Elderly Lady at the Truck Stop
About two weeks ago, I woke up in the van to find that we were parked at a Pilot (a common truck stop that provides restrooms, showers, gasoline, gas station treats, and usually a fast-food chain restaurant of some sort). I stumbled out into the morning sunlight still half asleep, donned in an old, stretched out Mindless Self Indulgence T-shirt with faded Fear Before the March of Flames sweatpants. The outfit does not match. Not even close. I made my way towards the entrance, all the while trying to decide if I should buy a Gatorade, a coffee, or both. These decisions can make or break your morning, let me tell you. I reached the door at the same time as an elderly lady, and we exchanged polite smiles. As I was raised to do, I opened the door and said, “After you.” She walked through the door and I followed behind her. Once inside, she grabbed me by the arm and said, “I don’t remember the last time a young man held a door open for me. Thank you for making an old lady’s day a little brighter.” Looking back at that moment now I wish I had been wearing a fedora and a dapper three piece suit, complete with a confident smile and a witty idiom like, “Not to worry! A young lady such as yourself should never have to paddle her own canoe, no siree!” Her words were extremely kind but they made me sad. To think that this woman had gone long enough without a door being held open for her by a gentleman to actually mention the fact, hurts my heart. To all you men out there, wake up. Chivalry should be a part of life, not the exception to the rule.

2. The Band Who Thinks They Are Too Big for Their Britches
I am never one to bad-mouth anything or anyone. I wish success and happiness for those who actively pursue their dreams. I try my best not to have an ego, and humility is what I believe to be the most attractive quality any person can have. Unfortunately, there are bands out there who think they are the first group of people to write and perform music and, in consequence, think their existence is far more important than others. Such a joke. I will not use their actual names because that would be wrong and would just be me adding fuel to the fire. We will call them: Homicide Noise. (Hey, I said I wouldn’t throw fuel, but I never said I wouldn’t toss a log or two.) We were playing a festival in Texas as second main support and we had our set cut off after four songs because Homicide Noise felt it was more important for them to play for an hour than for us to be allowed to finish our 30-minute set. The show was running behind because several of the acts before us took too long getting off of the stage and the crew running the show were having a hard time staying on time. Homicide Noise paid no mind to these facts and, despite not having the authority to pull the plug on anyone, went up to our sound guy and verbally forced him from the sound board. We drove 14 hours round trip to play this festival and, thanks to the enlarged heads and inflamed egos of our festival-mates, our fans were forced to leave the show disappointed and confused as to why we only played for 12 minutes. Always remember one thing, Homicide Noise. The Beatles are responsible for modern rock and roll. Not you. Get bent. {pagebreak}

3. Billy the Kid Is Known for Whistling Melancholy Tunes
I have been a fan of Western films for quite some time. The movie that broke me into the genre, released in 1988, was called Young Guns, starring Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, and Dermot Mulroney. I knew that movie word for word, probably still do. Beware of the spoiler alert, but there were two things that hooked me on the film. One, Sheen’s character dies super early in the story, and, especially at the time, it was almost unheard of for a big-named actor to get bumped so early in a picture. Two, Billy the Kid, played by Estevez. What a confident, cool, cocky, fiery badass. Estevez’s portrayal of the outlaw was so awesome that it made me want to be a cowboy. I remember going to the library and reading anything I could find on the life of William H. Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid. About a week ago, driving in what felt like the middle of nowhere, we stumbled upon a small building in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. It turned out to be a museum that also housed the grave of Billy the Kid in the back. I can now cross that off of the list of things to see before I die.

4. Holy Crap, Is That Scot Shields?!?
Answer: yes. While writing my fourth blog in Tempe, Dennis [Lee, Alesana’s screaming vocalist] comes walking over to me and asks, “Hey do you know who Scot Shields is?” I reply that I absolutely know who Scot Shields is and inquire as to why he is asking. He proceeds to tell me that Scot is sitting outside on the deck having a beer. For those of you who do not know, I am a huge baseball fan and have been since I was a little kid. Philadelphia Phillies red flows through my veins. Scot Shields is a professional baseball player, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Last season, despite spending the majority of the year on the disabled list, he made $5,000,000. He has a World Series ring. I traded for him in MLB 09: The Show on my PSP. Needless to say, I was starstruck. I went over to him and told him that I was a huge fan. He bought me a beer and we talked for an hour. He, for some reason unbeknownst to me, he found what I did for a living to be more intriguing than talking about baseball. He is a starting pitcher for one of the best teams in the American League and he was asking me questions about what it is like to be in a band and travel the world. It is so refreshing to see that there are some famous athletes out there who have not forgotten where they came from, where they started. He was down to earth, polite, and now, more because of his kindness than his abilities, I will forever be a fan of his.

Experience changes everything. Someone once said it takes a man to dream but a dreamer to live. Everyday I wake up and I get to play music. It is my career. But, it was not always my career. I remember I would sit around my apartment, or in class, or at work, and I would daydream about what it would be like to see the world and play rock shows for people who liked my music. It could have ended right there. I could have just kept on going with the way life was and been content with dreaming about what things could be like. I was not content with that. I got up off of my butt and I made it happen. I would not settle for anything less. Life is there for us to grab a hold of, but it will not come to us; we must go to it. What is your dream? When you are driving in your car, or laying in your bed at night, or waiting in line at the grocery store, where does your mind wander? What is that one thing that makes your stomach fill with butterflies when you consider it becoming a reality? Picture it, find it, seize it, and make it happen. It is scary, I know: But so is the thought of never trying. I would rather fail a million times than to ask myself, What if? for the rest of my life. We are all different and if you are happy with dreaming then by all means keep on keeping on. However, if you want something more, if you want that fantasy, it is time to stop dreaming and start capturing. Odds are you will not meet Scot Shields while sitting in your living room.

Postscript

Thank you, everyone, for your Top Fives! I was overwhelmed with how many of you actually responded and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. So many of your answers were great, I enjoyed reading all of them. Also, many of you had some great suggestions for my next Top 5, but it was Laura Core who caught my attention with my Top 5 favorite video games of all time. So here they are! And as always, thank you, loyal readers, for keeping me company.

Top 5 Video Games of All Time
5. RBI Baseball (original Nintendo, epic)
4. Tomb Raider
3. MLB 09: The Show
2. The Legend of Zelda (every installment, all amazing)
1. Chrono Trigger

Shawn Milke

 

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