Talk to anyone who’s ever hit the road in a van with dreams of rock ’n’ roll glory and it soon becomes obvious there’s perception and reality. To those who’ve never been there, four-month tours are an endless rush of packed houses, frenzied crowds, free beer in the green room, and mega sales at the merch table.
What no one ever tells rookie musicians is that few things in this world are more unpleasant than the drive from Thunder Bay to Toronto. And that no one ever got a good night’s sleep on the floor of a van in the middle of a Minnesota winter. And that Mike Watt’s “Piss-Bottle Man” might as well be the only thing playing on the van stereo, because no one is stopping at a rest area unless you’re legitimately touching cloth.
You know who can vouch for all of the above? That would D.O.A.’s Joe Keithley, who’s been piling into tour vans since Ronald Reagan was first making plans to move into the White House. In case that doesn't paint a clear enough picture, that means over 40 years of touring not just Canada and the United States, but nearly every corner of the world. Think five continents, somewhere around 50 countries, and a staggering 4,000-plus shows.
While Keithley has always been the main man at the mike, the support cast behind him has revolved over the years to the point where tracking who’s been in and out now requires a massive family tree.
So what’s life been like in D.O.A.? Well, you can ask someone who’s been there. Or, in the event that you don’t know how to work the messaging part of Facebook, you can hunker down and watch the new video for “It Was D.O.A.”. from the band’s 18th album, Treason.
With Reid Blakley taking care of the animation, things start out with the question “Hey, Man, you ever work for D.O.A.?” And from there, in a ripping and concise two minutes and 38 seconds, everything is pretty much laid out.
The five-dollar-per-day per diem, with a two-buck raise a possibility, but not necessarily guaranteed. The roadside breakdowns, bottle chucking, and battles with the skinhead nation. And confirmation that, should you have to take a leak on the Interstate, you’re doing it in a can, probably while “Piss-Bottle Man” blares on the stereo.”
So what is the most lasting memory for those who’ve spent endless hours in the van with Keithley? Hint, as stated in the song: “My back still aches when I hear that name.”
That’s right, no one ever tells you that human beings weren’t expected to spend 10 hours a day in a sitting position in a van, unless their life goals include having to gobble Robax, Advil, Aleve, Motrin, and Tylenol like they are Skittles. You’ve been warned.