It was smelling like a locker room, there was junk all over the floor/We’re already packed in like sardines, but we’re stopping to pick up more – look out
Despite what my mellow demeanor and musky odor may lead you to believe, I was not a part of the Love Generation, though I do consider myself an old soul and a friend to all animals (excepting the toucan for reasons of my own). For this reason I, like many skateboarders, missed out on seminal 60s experiences such as grooving, turning on, or tripping on the magic bus. Indeed my earliest memories of buses tended to be filled with dread and foreboding, as I associated them with school and the untimely deaths of (analog) guitar heroes.
All that changed of course in the late 1990s when a storm rolled into town. You know the one I’m talking about:
Yes, Osiris’s “Aftermath” tour reinvented the very concept of the skateboard demo tour complete with swishy pants, hip-hop DJs and Josh Kasper. This was an era of excess fueled by multifaceted ledge combo tricks and shoes that incorporated untold bucketfuls of technology to protect the tootsies of Peter Smolik and Brandon Turner as they playfully pelted one another with paintballs. But really it’s pointless for me to try and describe it when New Jershian Chris Nieratko lived it:
I was blue collar, used to touring in cars and small vans, paying for my own meals, smelling of someone else’s ass and being forced to read and reread magazines and books over and over to pass the time on long stretches of road. Suddenly I’m on a tour bus complete with 12 bunk beds, two large-screen TVs, Playstation 2, stocked refrigerator, cable TV, SVD and VHS players and anything else one would need to take on the American highways and feel like king of the world. It was like culture shock. I didn’t know which movie or video game to play first, I wanted to sleep in all the bunks at the same time, I wanted to take advantage of the occasional free meals by ordering everything on the menu.
Flash forward the better part of a decade, and tour bus glory is a thing of the past for those without luxurious Bagel Bites endorsements. And while Osiris continues to defy the odds and stay very much in business, it fell to Circa’s unlikely “Combat” subsidiary to revitalize the tour bus concept for the late aughts. David Broach details in this month’s Thrasher how a former schoolbus was transformed by way of white spray paint and a certain amount of elbow grease, but only after discarding an ambitious scheme to airbrush the vehicle with “a chick with like a big laser, like protecting it”:
We loaded the bus with the essentials before we hit the highway. The first upgrade was a new stereo system: four big speakers mounted in the back. Normal van seats were welded down in a U shape around the back of the bus, and a cooler was purchased to sit in the middle so you could put your feet up and have a drink. Cup holders were taped by every seat and lighters were superglued in every corner. The lighters were all attached to retractable strings – you could pull them down to light whatever needed and then, when let go, they’d snap back into their resting position. Portable ashtrays fit in the cup holders, and magnetic bottle openers were always stuck to the inside in the event you couldn’t open your beverage with the lighters.
A small trash can was installed (wedged) in the front, as well as a couple of clips in the back that held a mop and a broom.* The van came with two small fans in the back for airflow, plus one on the roof that sucked air out. It really felt like you were rolling around in your living room.
Of course similar to the “Beauty and the Beast” situation the Combat bus (dubbed “White Lightning” at one point) eventually succumbs to the power-suckage of various BlackBerries and Blueberries and other nefarious vine-growing fruits, and Broach leaves it unclear as to whether or not it will eventually ride again. But the article does wrap up with a pretty entertaining story of Frank Gerwer overindulging on Britney Spears and evading Johnny Law all at the same time, which is a happy ending for everybody except the other two guys who went to jail.
*Assuming he meant to type “mug” and “bong”