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"We were illegally carrying this monster 16-mortar firework cube, 'Deep Impact,' for thousands of miles," says Johnny Verruto of the High Rolling Loners. While in North Carolina on a recent cross-country tour, the band received the fireworks from Verruto's brother...whose family was scared of the thing.

"We weren't sure what to do with it, and we were nervous when we were driving through tunnels in Baltimore and New York City with it because there were huge signs prohibiting hazardous material. The plan was to light it off at a rest area and drive off quickly, looking in the rearview mirror and cheering while videotaping and giggling. After a week, while staying at our booking agent's ranch outside Rolla, Missouri, we drank a case of local wine, set it off at two in the morning."

Even more nerve-wracking, according to Verruto, was the band's gig in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"It was on East Martin Luther King Boulevard, in a really poor neighborhood, in a run-down ghetto, with a bunch of guys hustling for change on the sidewalk. Out in the back, you could see second-story windows with no glass and lots of fire damage, and crackheads were nervously peeking their heads out at us. After the show, while I was backing out of our spot, some crazy mofo started slamming on my driver's side window, demanding change for a hotdog. We tore the hell out of there. I hope I didn't run over his foot."

The High Rolling Loners appear May 26 at Surf 'n' Saddle and May 31 at Winstons.

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