The Tattoo the Earth tour was arguably one of the most ambitious metal tours — hell, rock music tours — of all time. Conceived by Scott Alderman as part Ozzfest-style music festival and part tattoo convention, the traveling event took place between 2000 and 2002 before it ultimately collapsed, and those whirlwind two years were filled with chaos that Alderman details in his new book, Caravan of Pain: The True Story of the Tattoo the Earth Tour.
During the trek's initial incarnation, the dangerous young bucks in Slipknot were one of the premier acts, and in one chapter — from which we're exclusively sharing an excerpt today — Alderman remembers a time that the Iowa Nine played a pyro-filled set in Lawrence, Kansas, that ended up turning a local park into "a post-nuclear scene out of Terminator 2."
This was by no means the only misadventure that Slipknot were a part of on Tattoo the Earth's summer run, which also featured Slayer, Sepultura, Sevendust, Mudvayne and other heavy hitters. Earlier this month, Loudwire hosted a different excerpt from Alderman's book that recalled the time 'Knot percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan was brutally maced by security and injured so badly that he had to be put on oxygen and taken to his bus.
If that sounds crazy, just wait until you read this latest excerpt. Caravan of Pain: The True Story of the Tattoo the Earth Tour is available for order here.
Caravan of Pain: The True Story of the Tattoo the Earth Tour
By Scott Alderman
From Chapter Seven: "The Jockey Shower"
It felt like we'd been on the bus for a month by the time we hit Kansas, and we still weren't sure who was going to be on the bill, though we figured if someone was willing to make that long trip, they were in it for the long-haul. The venue in Lawrence was a small community park, and unlike the racetrack in Portland, which at least had some sort of infrastructure, everything in Burcham Park had to be built from scratch, in a space barely big enough to fit both stages, which made things more cacophonous when both of them were in action at the same time.
There was a huge branch hanging over the top of the stage, and a four-foot spigot right in front of the stage, and we recommended that they bring in a plumber to cut the spigot off at ground level because it would take a hot minute for the fans to break it off. They didn't, the fans snapped it during the first set, and the pristine grass soon became a mud pit. Fans were pelting the stage with clumps of sod, covering all the band equipment with it, and forcing the musicians to be on their toes or get hit.
Tom Araya, Slayer's front man, got hit right in the face with a piece of sod, stopped playing, and wouldn't start again until it stopped. Slipknot had that large scrim that hung in front of the stage, and fans in the pit bombarded the scrim before the band started, and then it was like a wall of mud heaved at the band when the scrim dropped. Later on, they washed the scrim, but let it dry in the sun, and it shrunk and never fell correctly for the rest of the tour.
Slipknot had hired pyro technicians to design and run pyrotechnics for their show, though they couldn't do it in Portland because they didn't get permits in time. The team doing it had experience in the movie industry, but this was their first concert tour. I was standing by the back of the field when they did the first round of fire cannons, and it looked out of proportion for the size of the stage. There was only supposed to be one flash, and the band started to move forward after the first one, then a second one boomed, spitting out fire from the side of the stage for an even longer duration. When the pyro finally stopped, I could see that the stage side fills were smoldering, but fortunately the huge branch hadn't gone up in flames. The crew had broken out the fire extinguishers, and as I rushed to the stage I heard Corey Taylor talking to the crowd.
"You never know if you're going to live or die at one of our shows," he told them.
Once on the stage, I got into a shouting match with the pyro tech, at one point screaming so loud that we distracted the band while they played. Offstage, the guy told me this was part of first night adjustments, and that's why the duration was so long. I told him no more pyro until we saw a plan, and the band backed it up. Clown and Danny Nozell, Slipknot's tour manager, were apologetic, and angry themselves—Clown came close to being seriously burned up there.
Danny was one of the sane voices during the tour, a solid rock amid the turmoil. Zukoski and I met with Clown and Danny on the tour bus, along with Paul Gray, the bassist, and Joey Jordison, the drummer. Clown, Paul, and Joey had founded Slipknot in Des Moines in 1995, and represented the band. Offstage they were soft- spoken, and grateful for the opportunity, and we expressed a similar sentiment. They were never anything but professional and reasonable. On stage, once the jumpsuits and masks went on, it was fucking chaos. Danny was the perfect tour manager for them. When I was a kid, I'd worked a show for the British punk band The Damned that turned into a riot, and their tour manager was the nicest guy ever, in tan slacks and light blue sweater, like your guide for a weekend at an estate. Danny had that same vibe. He never lost his composure, and could work out any problem. Without someone like Danny, the tour would have devolved into an even lower level of hell.
After our show, Burcham Park looked like a post-nuclear scene out of Terminator 2. The entire field was destroyed, and the stage was charred, smoldering, and completely caked with mud.
"We left our mark here, bro," Sean said as we looked at the damage.
I laughed but knew how close we had come to disaster. My greatest fear was that someone would die at one of our shows because of something stupid that we did; I had recurring nightmares about it in the weeks leading up to the tour. Zukoski's recurring nightmare was that no customers showed up. His wife would sometimes find him sleep-walking, looking out the bedroom window and asking where all the people were.
The pyro mishap shook me, and I began to doubt that we could make it through the tour without a major calamity. I checked with the EMS workers to see if anyone got hurt, but there was nothing major. Metal shows usually didn't have serious injuries; the fans are big, and experienced moshers, and it's like a sport for them. Punk and pop shows were the worst, the EMTs told me, because the fans are young, and many times it's their first concert, and they jump into the pit and get the shit kicked out of them.