Every band has one: the story of a show so spectacularly bad, it’s achieved near-mythic status, either as a cautionary tale or as a series of unfortunate events worthy of a Farrelly Brothers film.
This week, Blair Shehan of punk/indie rockers The Jealous Sound explains the real story behind the “unforeseen circumstances” that prompted his band to drop off a tour with Switchfoot in 2004.
We had just had a really long tour with this band Piebald, and it was pretty good. We came home for a couple of days, and then Switchfoot—you know them?—they asked us to do a two-month tour of really big venues. So we said, “OK.”
I want to preface this by saying I really like those guys—I thought they were wonderful people. I certainly don’t want this to reflect poorly on them. They were generous enough to offer us a tour.
But what happened was…they really aren’t a secular band. They’re a Christian rock band for the most part. So even though they were popular on secular radio…when you would go their shows, there would be church youth group buses and things like that. These kids weren’t normal rock ‘n’ roll show attendees. You know, you’d be at your merchandise booth and someone would be like, “God told me to pray for you.” Just weird interactions. And I certainly have no problem with anyone’s faith—but for us as a band, collectively, we weren’t that band that should be in that space.
So in essence, this isn’t one bad show. It’s a series of four bad shows—and at each one, we’re realizing more and more that this really isn’t the spot for us. We’re really exhausted from touring and touring, and these big shows were just really strange. The crowd, at these pretty much sold-out shows, they really didn’t know what to do with us. [So] we put in the call and said, “We’re not gonna be able to do any more shows. This isn’t gonna work for us.”
So then it’s the fourth [and final] show, which is in Seattle. I’m walking through the crowd, and I see a kid wearing a T-shirt that has a picture of two men holding hands, and it’s got the, like, “No” Ghostbusters sign around it. And I’m like, “Really? This is OK?”
So packed house, it’s the last night [we’re on the tour]…so I get on the microphone and I’m like, “Hey, guys, thanks for coming out, blah blah blah…How many of you guys are Christians here tonight?” And everyone goes, “Yay!” And I’m like, “That’s fantastic. But I saw something that really disturbed me tonight.” And I mentioned this T-shirt. And I go, “If you’re looking to bring people in, intolerance is not the way to do that. Tolerance is a really important thing to have, guys. I think that’s what Jesus would have wanted.”
So then we go to play, after this, and there’s sort of—I refer to it as, you ever seen that movie, The Stepford Wives? Where they’re all robots? There’s a point in the movie where the wires short-circuit: “Does not compute!” All of a sudden there’s these people, kind of moving around, with this really weird, robotic energy, and they’re not knowing what to do with it. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. But we finished the set, and that was it. We came home, got out of the van, intended to make a new record—but that was kind of the nail in the coffin, like, “What the hell are we doing?”
After a long hiatus, The Jealous Sound reunited in 2009 and released their first new album in nine years, A Gentle Reminder, earlier this year. They are just now wrapping up a winter tour that Shehan happily reports is “the best tour that this band, as a headlining band, has ever had.”