“I’ll tell you about my first and only trip to New Orleans…” says musician Bryan Cerenzio, who tends bar at Richlane in Brooklyn and works with House of Vans. What follows is a tale of lust and youthful inhibition while touring in 2009.
In his early twenties, Bryan was on tour with his psychedelic rock band, The Technicolor Victrola, traveling the United States in a Blue Bird school bus that had been converted to run on vegetable oil. The bus, nicknamed Greased Lightning, carried the four members (Bryan, his brother, and two childhood friends) from their hometown of Southern California cross-country to pick up their tour mates, a mix of hippie-punk musicians on the east coast.
After reaching New York and amassing a group of 18-20 people –plus their gear – for the 30-day tour, they headed south in the grease-fueled bus (which had no cots and no bathrooms). “We had to coordinate bathroom breaks for 18 people,” recalls Bryan. “It was pretty awful.” There was limited access to comfortable bathrooms and showers, and many nights were spent either sleeping on the floor of the bus, or on the floors of homes in the towns they passed through.
Following shows, they’d drive in search of a restaurant from which to fuel up the bus, covertly siphoning vegetable oil from tanks around back. “Japanese restaurants always had the best grease,” he notes. Only once were they caught and threatened with criminal consequences; more likely, they’d face unusable frozen oil when the temperatures dropped or trouble finding the resource they needed altogether – all while exhausted after performing.
There were three or four women on the bus, one of whom was Bryan’s childhood friend-turned-girlfriend, a relationship that lasted until precisely the night of their last show on the road. Young, crazy, and partying every night, the couple cycled through constant fights and passionate love, which was exacerbated on a cramped school bus with no privacy or personal space. “We had good days and bad days. New Orleans was the beginning of the end…”
After a show in North Carolina and an especially challenging time finding grease in the freezing March night, everyone was on edge as they made their way to the Big Easy. They arrived in New Orleans in the early morning hours, eager to fully experience the city before their show that evening. A local band met them for lunch, bringing with them a cardboard box of boiled crawfish and corn on the cob, which they all ate hungrily while constantly drinking Hurricanes. They followed the meal up with beignets. Everything was going well.
They showed up to the location of their gig, a building that looked like a church, possibly located in a far corner of the French Quarter, and after setup they had some downtime. Bryan and his girlfriend were having a good day and she approached him to tell him she wanted to spend some alone time together. They boarded the empty bus, only to be met by two local kids asking to come on-board. They let the kids on and set out to find another place to be intimate.
The sun was still out and they were in a neighborhood, but they managed to find an isolated ghost town of a promenade with no one around where they could get busy. When they were finished, Bryan looked over her shoulder to see an “old crackhead guy” with a flip phone out and pointed in their direction. After a heated exchange that ended in threats to call the police on both sides, all parties left the promenade. Bryan was chuckling to himself about the situation; Bryan’s then-girlfriend was very unhappy and when they arrived back at the venue, it was no longer a good day. The two continued bickering and drinking throughout the show and by the time it was 5:30 am and they had reconciled, everyone was gone from the venue except one of their roadies.
The next show – later that evening – was an important one; they were heading to Austin to play SXSW. Thinking they’d been left in New Orleans, the three ate breakfast and proceed to post up in a bar until about noon, when their angry tour manager found them and ushered them back to the bus. After twenty hours of solid partying (which he compares to a scene in Almost Famous), they began what Bryan calls “the shortest walk of shame of all time.” They boarded Greased Lightning with their heads down, avoiding eye contact with 18 angry faces. He calls the ride to Austin the worst hangover of his life.
They made it for the show and were stuck in Austin for two weeks afterward. Bryan and his girlfriend broke up on the night of their last tour stop, the “Welcome Home” show back in Southern California. Two years later, in 2011, Bryan moved to New York. Today he plays in PPL, a three-piece 90s grunge band formed with one of his Technicolor Victrola bandmates. They just released their first album, Post Personality Loss (now available on Spotify), and started their own label, No Hitter Records, a reference to baseball.