From playing in a surreal yet massive German factory to playing to nobody but a crazed homeless guy in Manhattan, Direct Hit!’s Nick Woods has seen many highs & many lows in his time.
Like any good punk rock band worth their salt, Direct Hit! are a real tour dog sort of band. As such, I just knew that the DIY American band would have had some straight up odd or outright crazy stories from the road to share before they tour Australia later this month. And I do indeed love it when I’m right.
For Direct Hit!’s singer and guitarist, Nick Woods, one such unforgettable memory comes from when the band was touring in Nuremberg, Germany back in 2014.
“We were about a week into this tour of mainland Europe, doing 8-12 hour drives every day in a van where we couldn’t lie down”, recalls Woods. “Most of us were broke, all of us were totally sleep-deprived, and we still had almost a month to go before we finished up. No one was in a good mood, and we were all out of our minds, alternating between exhaustion, anger, deliriousness, etc. We pulled up to this enormous factory in Nuremberg – we didn’t know it at the time, but I think the stat was that it was at one point the largest manufacturing facility in the western hemisphere or something – and had to wait at the gate while someone we didn’t know inside opened the fence to let us in. We pulled up to a loading dock, introduced ourselves to our pal Hans who we’ve gotten to know pretty well since then, and loaded our shit on to a couple of flats, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.”
What probably looked to them as just some giant, seedy, industrial factory at first would actually become one of the more surreal locations that the band would come to play in thus far.
“The ground floor of this building was filled with stage decoration for movies and plays. Just giant mannequin heads, backdrops, props, you name it! Just crazy shit, an entire, world-filling catalogue of it. And after moving through the bowels of this place, going deeper and deeper into its recesses, we ended up on an entire floor, totally abandoned except for 30 or 40 people skateboarding, and walking around with cameras, and drinking beer, and a small office with a stage built in where we played what was one of the most surreal shows I’ve gotten to be a part of. Devon [Kay, guitar] ended up riding an inflatable dolphin over the crowd during our set. Some naked dude disguised in a luchadore mask cleared the pit at one point. The whole place was full of smoke, and sweat, and booze, and the whole time no one came upstairs to complain. We left that show and still see people from that crowd from time to time, but yet to ever feel anything like that again.”
Woods sums up this memory-laden, bonding show by poetically saying that “We’ve made great friends from having experienced it together; like some kind of weird substance that you don’t come across very often.” And while it wasn’t a massive, large scale show, it was nonetheless an unforgettable one for the quartet and those in attendance; a true high.
However, all highs do often have their equal lows. Which is the kind of tale that the frontman details next. A full decade prior to this factory show in Germany, and in a time before Direct Hit! even existed, the singer played a show with an old band of his in some random Manhattan bar in New York.
“On my first tour to the East Coast and back, my friends and I played in this total piece of shit lit by red lights called Siberia in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City”, he says. “The spot’s since closed, but it turned out that a dude squatting in the abandoned building next door had answered the phone when I’d called to book us – he was just in the bar stealing shots off the rail and picked up when it rang. So we showed up, and he greeted us by begging for change before admitting that he was The Guy and not just a mere bum.”
Not a good start, indeed. Now, look, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great but surely it won’t get any weirder for Direct Hit! after being booked by a homeless guy“. Of course, it doesn’t get much better.
“We were the only band playing that night after an open mic comedy thing, and no one stuck around to watch [ouch], except for this dude who asked to jam with us once we’d finished our set. He was dressed in purple velvet, bell bottoms, and gold jewellery and told us he had played with BB King and Jimi Hendrix, and even though we didn’t believe him, we let him onstage with us because all of us were so weirded out by the entire experience. Dude absolutely shredded on this piece of shit toy Stratocaster, and then peaced out, so we followed our homeless dude back to his squat because he said he had weed for us, which turned out to be mostly pocket lint [not cool]. His space was literally a pile of dirty rags in the middle of an open warehouse floor, and it was clear that the elevator we rode with him – remember, this is probably a 40-year old dude with four barely-18-year-old kids – hadn’t been serviced in decades because it kept spitting sparks whenever he touched the circuitry.”
“He took us over to what was clearly an illegal cash bar in a closed diner next door and talked the bartender into letting us buy cocktails, before taking us back to the bar where one of the patrons tried to get our wasted bass player to go back to her hotel room. We asked dudeman to kick him out so we could leave, which he did, then slammed the door behind him and locked it. We never saw him again”, states Woods.
And that was probably for the best too.
Direct Hit!’s latest album, ‘Wasted Mind’, is out now via Fat Wreck Chords, and you can buy it here. The band will be bringing out cuts from the aforementioned 2016 LP as well as their first two albums – ‘Domesplitter’ (2011) and ‘Brainless God’ (2013) – when they hit Australia later this month with The Decline. Dates below and tickets here!