Scene and Heard

Band gives new meaning to ‘traffic jam’

6:30 a.m. hit me like a bucket of cold water. My alarm blared and my head ached, but I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for the chaos that was soon to begin. Ordinarily, you would never find me up this early on my day off — ever. But this morning was different and after I slipped on my white low tops, grabbed my camera, and stepped out into the grey morning light, my anticipation began to grow.
The Morning Riot is a four-piece rock band consisting of a few guys from Cardiff who just wrapped up their second album, “Carmenita,” in DIY fashion without the help of any record label or expensive producer. They’re also a band who knows how to get attention.
Two years ago, The Morning Riot received quite a bit of press from the local media for a stunt they pulled on the side of the 5 freeway during morning rush hour traffic. The band had set up on the side of the freeway and played to an audience of bespectacled morning commuters who had unexpectedly become revelers in an unusual show. The band fired off about two songs before quickly breaking down and speeding off just before CHP was called to the scene. The stunt caused traffic to back up for miles and a SIG Alert had been issued — the guys could’ve been cited or even arrested for numerous violations but instead they received great press.
I drove to Cardiff that morning to meet up with the band’s drummer, Josh Arend, who had invited me out to participate in the band’s latest stunt. When I got there, I found the rest of the guys in the alley behind their lair, scampering about a flatbed truck feverishly.
I took quick note of the drums, guitar, bass, amps, mic stand and generator all sitting atop the flatbed, resembling all too closely a stage setup, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out what was about to happen. It was explained to me that the idea this time was instead of playing on the side of the freeway, they were going to be playing on the actual freeway itself.
The guys in the band were once again trying to make the point to everyone that we all live very mundane lives, falling into complacency and indifference while life passes us by and our dreams fall by the wayside. Waking up and jumping into the back of a flatbed truck and playing an impromptu show while interrupting the morning rat race is an example of living your life to the fullest and stopping at nothing to seize the moment and every second you have of life. It’s also a great way to introduce your new album.
After testing the equipment, they fired up the generator, and they all hopped in. Josh looked at my camera and asked me if I thought I’d get better pictures from inside of the flatbed instead of taking shots from one of the follower cars; I reluctantly said yes.
I jumped in and hoped I made the right call. Life is a series of chances and bad luck — one wrong thing happens and it’s game over. None of us were strapped in and as I said before, the only thing between us and the quickly moving asphalt was a removable black wooden fence. But it was too late now to worry about things like that, so I let go of any reluctance; there was no turning back now.
We started picking up speed as we got to the onramp at Palomar. As our speed increased, the wind lifted up and began whipping all around us and I could see the oncoming cars and their drivers as clear as day. Suddenly, the boys all popped up, instruments in hand, and it was game time. They cranked into their first song as we started to merge at about 30 mph. Cars started veering around us while others broke and rolled down their windows as they passed to hear what kind of music is made by crazed maniacs like that.
I aimed, snapped, and shot my way to calmness. A school bus passed along side us, kids faces pressed to the window eyes as wide as saucers. Big rigs rolled past, yanking down on their air horns in approval; cars in all lanes slowed and stared, some waved, some scowled, but all of them noticed. The boys put on a great show — at times moving and jumping around as if this wasn’t actually a moving vehicle at all.
It seemed like only seconds before the stunt was over and we were pulling off on La Costa Avenue, but the moment stretched on in my mind forever. I can still see singer Tony All’s face with his hand in the air, suspended triumphantly high from the last note having been strummed, smiling ear to ear with disbelief and satisfaction of what they just pulled off.
Check out The Morning Riot’s MySpace for downloadable tracks of “Carmenita,” at as well as videos from the latest freeway stunt.