A bright blue Dodge van sporting the Holiday Inn Express logo pulls into a small venue in any city and is instantly translated as: Bad Luck is here to play! Dominick Fox (vocals), Jake Kneer (drums), Joseph Fox (bass/vocals), and Steven Rodriguez (guitar/vocals) bought the van for $1,000 so they could take their new band on the road. Little did they know at the time, but that van, meant for transportation only, would become a rolling diary of life on tour for a quartet of punk rock musicians from Florida. And more importantly, the van would become their home.
Life (and the van) isn’t pretty. There are some bumps and bruises on the Bad Luck Holiday Inn van. The large scrape on the driver’s side was a miscalculation in a small space. The windshield has a crack that happened in the beginning, but never got any worse. Every square inch of the exterior has a dent or ding, fondly remembered and categorized by who did it on what tour. Except for the dent on the rear passenger fender. There is some controversy as to who was responsible for that one, although they are sure Joe put it there, he denies any knowledge of a collision while he was driving. In defense of Bad Luck’s home away from home, the van has never left them stranded on the side of the road, nor has any driver of the van been ticketed for moving violations. The bottom line is that the van gets them where they need to go, every time.
Connection is individual. The most compelling part of Bad Luck’s music is that each listener connects to it in a different way. Each song has unique meanings, related in numerous ways to their own experiences. To me “Willoughby” is particularly compelling. Growing up in a family that was more concerned with the illusion of perfection, than actually caring about each other, the lyrics strike a chord. The words, “Is there something wrong with me/Nobody wants me back home/Nobody loves me at all/I will be dying alone” are the same words I uttered to myself years ago, traveling alone, and wondering if I would ever find a place to belong.
Home is an endless stretch of highway. For a band like Bad Luck, living on the road becomes more familiar than life at home. A different city, state, or country each night makes them adaptable to all situations. There is no radio in the van, but the guys hooked up speakers that plug into their phones, because no music is not an option. An added bonus to the low tech stereo is that it can also power a small tablet or laptop. This way they can have movie time before bed time. A mattress on a wooden platform in the back serves as a bed, and the hole underneath, where rust has eaten through the metal floor, is duct taped to prevent water from soaking the clothes stored inside. They replace the gas cap regularly, because it keeps getting left behind at refueling stops. The driver’s door is broken and must be strapped shut. The windows get stuck, one must be taped closed to keep the cold out. It is not perfect, but it is home.
Last night, the Bad Luck van pulled into The Outpost in Kent, Ohio, hitting the concrete wall (adding another scrape) before stopping to unload for the show. Like the Holiday Inn van they drive, the music of Bad Luck never lets me down. The stage show is high energy, loaded with emotion, making it fun, yet serious at the same time. Dual vocals by the Fox brothers perfectly complement each other with contrast and feeling. It is impossible not to react to the music of Bad Luck and not a single audience member stood still. There is no fancy staging, no light show, the focus is on the music they play. Dominick puts his entire heart and soul into each note, taking the listener along on the lyrical journey with him. Kneer keeps perfect time on the drums, while Rodriguez adds a soulful quality with a semi-solid body F-hole guitar. Signed to Tragic Hero Records, Bad Luck headed off to Canada after the show, promising to return to Cleveland next month. Be on the lookout for the blue Holiday Inn van, which will bring Bad Luck, and the music we love, to your town this Summer.