Four Thousand Miles From Tempe

Ten days, five cities, chainmotels and a van named Sugar. This is how Dead Hot Workshop doestheroad.

Monday, October 9, 5 p.m.
The band takes a detour to DesMoines, Iowa, to visit Brent's mom, Suzanne, who hugs each member of the band as he emerges from the van. If Suzanne's house isn't heaven, at this point it's damn close. A home-cooked meal, showers, soft beds for all--the Rolling Stones never had it so good.

When Dead Hot leaves for Minneapolis the next morning, its entourage has increased by one--Brent's little brother Kyle, who fronts his own band in Iowa City, decided the night before to come along for the ride.

Downtown Minneapolis. Dead Hot arrives at four in the afternoon, just in time for another live-in-the-studio dog-and-pony show. Things don't go as smoothly this time. Brian says "shit" on the air, and Brent tells the deejay quite honestly that he prefers to get seriously stoned before he writes songs. The jockey ignores the comment and quickly changes the subject.

Tonight, the band is booked into the 1st Ave and 7th Street Entry, made famous as the location for the concert scenes in Purple Rain.

After yet another load-in, Brent, Steve and Brian head to the pad of a friend from Arizona to eat pizza and relax while Curtis goes in search of the nearest pickup basketball game. Whenever he can squeeze it out of the band's schedule, the drummer disappears for an hour or two and returns with tales of full-court warfare.

"The key word is 'play,'" he says of his life. "I play basketball every day, and every night I play drums." Today, he manages to get in four games before the show. While he's killing time downtown, waiting for the rest of the band on the street outside the club, an aggressive panhandler badgers him for change. After repeated statements by Curtis that he has none to spare, the man steps up his pitch and demands a dollar. Curtis stares at him menacingly and slowly reaches into his pocket. "All's I got is this little gun."

The man looks crestfallen. "All I really want to do is listen to some music and drink some beer."

Curtis puts him on the band's guest list, and two hours later the panhandler is seen inside the club, drunk and rocking out.

Tuesday, October 10, 11 a.m.
Four down, one to go.
Last night's show in the smaller room at the 7th Street Entry was a solid comeback from the Kansas City fiasco. The mix was clean, acoustics were excellent--Brent's vocals boomed off the back wall loud and clear--and the crowd of 100 took to the band like kids to candy.

Now it's back to DesMoines for the last gig of the tour at a club called, no joke, the Love Shack. The venue turns out to be more like a large basement than a shack, and, when the band arrives, there are dead smokes and flat beers strewn about the indoor/outdoor carpeting. Evidently, someone forgot to pay the help. The band hurriedly sets up gear and makes a beeline to Suzanne's for some beef stroganoff.

Brent's older brother and sister and their respective families pile into the house for the occasion, and after dinner the singer's dad and brother proudly don Dead Hot Workshop hats. When it's time for the band to leave, the entire Babb clan makes a caravan to the club.

The show at the Shack is a homecoming of sorts for Brent, like playing an old friend's party or a high school reunion. His enthusiasm spreads easily among his bandmates. "That's the safest place in the world," he told Steve once, "when you're up there playing."

After a set break, Brent invites his little brother's band onstage. Curtis sits in on drums, and the outfit does an honorable cover of the Gin Blossoms song "Lost Horizons."

The Love Shack lives up to its name on this night, but all good gigs must come to an end. A frenzy of family hugs, a barrage of photos and it's back to the bowels of Sugar. Steve settles into his seat and muses that it takes ten days for him to get used to life on the road, and ten days to get used to being home after it's all over.

But it's not over. Not yet. There's a 1,100mile-long vein of asphalt between DesMoines and Tempe. Twenty-four hours of going backward.

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