Unlocked: Take a road trip to Baltimore with Philly’s Creepoid
It’s Saturday night and Creepoid guitarist PeteJoe Urban IV wants his bandmate Anna Troxell to bring a bigger purse to their show in Baltimore. She’s been roped into trafficking pint glasses from bars the band stops at on the road.
“I’m not bringing a bigger purse than this one,” Troxell says. “I always have to be the one carrying glasses around. I’m not doing it this time.”
Urban looks at me, shrugs his shoulders and gives a look that says, “Well, I tried.”
Creepoid is on a lineup with Amanda X, Crimson Wave and Dinged Up at The Gold Bar. It’s a little less than a two hour ride from their West Philly home. Before hitting the road, drummer Pat Troxell is getting text messages from their friend, Noel Conrad, a novelty toy maker, photographer and owner of Novelty Haus, in Baltimore. Conrad is inviting the band to his studio when they get to Baltimore for an impromptu photoshoot. The band agrees without any hesitation. They later find out that Conrad also wants to bring them in on a progressive packaging idea, pairing their music with his toys.
But there’s still plenty to do here before leaving: the van needs to be packed. That’s Urban’s job. He does it efficiently and clearly has a routine of how and where everything get placed in the back of their Ford Windstar. He knows exactly what goes in first, grabbing Pat Troxell’s bass drum. Everything fits in perfectly without any slack to spare or extra space,.
“I often consider trying different ways to load the van,” he says. “But I always end up going back to the same way every time. You just figure out a way that works best.”
Creepoid has their upcoming album on their mind when they start driving, asking each other if they’d heard anything from No Idea Records, the label releasing the record, about how many preorders they’ve had.
“I don’t know, but people keeping hitting me up to set copies aside,” Anna Toxell says. “If you want a pink one, go online and preorder one. If you want a white one, go online and order one. Don’t ask me to set one aside, I know what that means.”
There’s a grumble and Pat Troxell, Anna’s husband, says he’s been getting the same thing from other people. Specific names of their friends are dropped and it sounds like the band will try to take care of them. But no one is getting a hand-out. The self-titled new record will be pressed to yellow, pink and white vinyl, matching the color scheme of the pictures on the back of the record sleeve. But the colored records are limited to only two-hundred copies each.
Guitarist and singer Sean Miller, is driving the van with Urban sitting shotgun. They’re asking Pat Troxell about highway changes as we’re getting out of the city. He tells them what direction to take without looking up from his cell phone for more than a second, knowing the route like a father that’s taken his family to the same vacation spot every summer for years. It may have something to do with the fact that Pat Troxell has been going on tours with bands since he was fourteen years old.
We discuss the scene in Philly before being on the highway long. Each member of the band agrees that there are some bands local to them that they look up to in a sense. They use their successes to judge themselves against and give them something to aim for. It shows a modest side to Creepoid and speaks loudly about how they see themselves in relation to other bands in the area. Musicians admiring each others’ work, speaks about the sense of community in Philadelphia scene.
As a matter of fact, Pat Troxell’s full-time gig is booking shows in Philly. He later mentions that he’s booked hundreds in 2013. Right now he’s taking a phone call from one of his partners and working out details about one of the three shows going on tonight while he’ll be in Baltimore.
Much of the rest of the ride to Baltimore is the retelling wild tour stories. I’m feeling like I’m the new kid on the school bus and everyone else has been friends for years. And, really, I’m not that far off. But the stories go beyond just being on the road, bringing up old friends and people they know mutually; eventually even detailing stories about family members getting into fist fights in defense of the Eagles.
“Yeah, we take the Eagles pretty seriously,” Pat Troxell says.
Anna Troxell lived in Baltimore while going to grad school. Now that we’re in town, we make a stop for coffee at Donna’s, a restaurant Anna used to work at. She says hello to old co-workers and we get back on the road. Miller’s already in the van, ready to start driving, when we walk out of the restaurant.
Pulling away, Anna gets into dishing her own dirt on some of the prior restaurant jobs she had and the antics that came from working in the industry. One time a cook – not from Donna’s – slashed the tires on Anna’s car over an argument they had about the soup not being ready to serve.
“I was serving and had customers asking about the soup,” she says, getting a little riled up as she tells the story. “But the cook didn’t have it ready and it led to an argument and she went out and slashed my tires. When I saw it, I came back in and started yelling at her and my boss had to actually get between us to stop the fight.”
Next, we head to Novelty Haus, Conrad’s studio, for a photoshoot. He shows us around his small, yet comfortably functional space. But he has a pretty progressive idea to share with the band. He recently developed a coin-like plaster that he wants to include with one of the figurines he’s working on that’ll have a QR code on the coin, linking to the band’s music. They’re really into it, instantly brainstorming ideas of how they can use this new packaging idea Conrad pitched to them. They automatically consider using the song they recorded just two days ago at a Converse Rubber Tracks session in Brooklyn.
“It’s cool because it sort of bridges a gap,” Miller says. “You get something physical with the toy, but the music comes in a non-physical format.”
Conrad begins the photo shoot in front of a white backdrop, complete with a big lighting rigs in front of the band. It’s a very rockstar moment. It’s creating an interesting juxtaposition to witness the band I’d just heard talk about admiring some of the successes of their peers in their local scene to looking like they’re being postured for a major move themselves. And maybe they are. But Urban keeps them grounded, saying, “That light is so bright it’s hot,” while squinting.
The sun is now down and we’re en route to Brewer’s Art for some food and a round of drinks. The underground bar is packed. But we find a table with tags and graffitti-like etchings adorning every inch of it in a nook relatively secluded from the rest of the place. Pat adds that they come here all the time when they play in Baltimore.
Suddenly Miller finds a spot where the band wrote their name the last time they were here. Then Urban finds another spot with their name and we all laugh because the band says they don’t remember where they sat the last time they were here. Next thing I realize, Urban already has a marker out, writing their name a third time.
Strangely, no one eats together, all of our meals arriving at seperate times while Pat Troxell is talking about the good and bad sides of being a proponent in the Philly DIY booking scene. He clearly knows it well and also knows how to deal with the inevitable backlash he sometimes gets from bands and musicians that he books. Urban relates, mentioning he’d recently been at work at Whole Foods and dealt with a customer with a bad attitiude.
“The guy came up and asked what spices were on something,” Urban says. “I told him what they were and he asked if dill was one of them. I said yes and he then just grabbed a little piece of dill of out it and said, ‘I hate dill.’ I can’t understand people sometimes.”
Work issues seem to be a recurring theme tonight as Pat takes another call about one of the shows going on back in Philly.
A guy missing teeth and carrying several plastic bags filled with who-knows-what offers to help unload the van when we park outside of the Gold Bar; but is denied the opportunity to help. The band says their hellos to Philly pals, Amanda X outside and takes their gear to the second floor venue. The Gold Bar shares the second floor of the building with another club, The Crown. It’s a little strange because The Crown seems to be a bit more nightclub-like, while the Gold Bar is sort of a dive, with cheap beer selections. But they ran out of the local staple National Bohemian, which was perplexing to me. “How does a bar in Baltimore run out of Natty Bo?” I asked myself.
Even more interesting than the bar’s drink list is the story that Pat Troxell tells about the empty lot on the corner of the block that The Gold Bar is on.
“Really, I can’t believe this is that block,” he says. “I was totally on the roof of the place that used to be here. I’ll never forget [spray] painting up on the roof and noticing the fire trucks down on the street. I ran down the fire escape and I just took off.”
Local fuzz trio Dinged Up takes the stage first when the show started, playing through some of their songs off of their self-titled record. It’s a bit Dinosaur Jr. without the shredding guitar leads and aggressive rhythm section. Amanda X’s set that followed was stellar. They’re a band that seems to get better with every time I see them. That’s why it was such a shame, for me, when the PA kept cutting out during their set. And Kat Bean shows a little frustration as she asks the soundguy for more of her vocals in the mix, understandably so, and it was resolved a little bit.
Between Amanda X’s set and the Baltimore-based Crimson Wave, the Troxells, Miller and I notice and get a good laugh at Urban. He’s sitting in a couch near the bar with his head down, beer in one hand and cell phone in the other – dead asleep. In fact, there was a couple sitting next to him on the couch trying to read what was on his cell phone’s screen. In Urban’s defense, he’s been up since four a.m., to work an early morning shift at Whole Foods. But there’s a good chance that the apple cider and whiskey drink he’d been nipping at all day with him since we left for Baltimore is a factor. But Anna wakes him up towards the end of Crimson Wave’s set of mid-tempo alt-rock, awash in layers of guitar chords, before Creepoid goes on.
Creepoid’s headline set is the heaviest of the night. They blast through “Old Tree” and “Baptism” from the upcoming self-titled record early in their set. The latter of which makes the recorded version sound like child’s play. The four of them seem to be in another world when on stage. They look comfortable but there’s an energy that seems to be moving them and they’re all in sync. Urban tears up his hand, splattering blood across his guitar and is moving in such a way that you’d never would’ve suspected he’d just been asleep. Anna and Pat Troxell are holding down the low-end, looking like they’re about to explode from the release of the tension during the din they create during “Gout.” And Miller can’t even keep his guitar slung over his shoulder during the set as he hammers at his guitar.
“It gets rough up there sometimes,” Miller says about being able to hear himself. “You need to serperate yourself sometimes when you’re playing, so I took my guitar off my shoulder to try and feel that.”
After mingling with the modest crowd they had for the night, Urban’s back to packing the van and it’s time to hit the road again. A stop for some Dunkin Donuts at a rest stop on the highway – I got a bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel, Pat got doughnut holes and Miller bought a coffee to keep him away for the rest of the trip – is bookended by spacey soundscapes coming from the radio. Miller has the volume up all the way but it doesn’t seem that loud and I realize my ears are ringing.
Getting back to their home in West Philly, Urban and Ann who’ve been sleeping for the majority of the ride, wake up. They each grab a couple pieces of gear to take in the house, leaving most of it in the van overnight.
The night’s over. There aren’t any more stories to share, pictures to be taken or work issues to address. And really, morning is creeping up on us as we exchange goodbyes and I – completely spent – look forward to crawling into my bed on the other side of Philly.
Creepoid is the featured album in this week’s edition of Unlocked. Download the single “Baptism” in Monday’s post, read Tuesday’s album review, watch the video for “Sunday” in Wednesday’s post, read yesterday’s interview with the band. And check back to The Key for future installments of Unlocked.