Part 4 – Tallahassee/Atlanta/Chattanooga/Charlotte/Louisa
Tallahassee, FL – The Wilbury
Our original tour routing didn’t include Florida. But like the songs we play, the original concept greatly varies from the final product. We had heard so many mixed reports of touring in Mississippi and Alabama from other musicians, as well as some close comedian friends. Half of them said to skip that area entirely; Our music wouldn’t be appreciated by the majority of those Red States. On the other hand, an equal number of veterans said that we should perform there for exactly that reason. Good music should be universal, and it’s important to get out of your bubbles and echo chambers to challenge yourselves. I’m all for that, so I attempted to book in Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama. When we originally posted the tour map, our Florida fans started complaining we would miss them once again. Well, lucky for them, Alabama wanted nothing to do with our Yankee asses.
Florida can also be a trap for touring. It’s an enormous state that you have to pay attention to all parts equally. It’s over 12 hours tip to tip with a tour van. Jacksonville, Miami, Gainesville, and Tampa are all formidable stops to try to traverse. And with at least 4 hours between cities, you easily find yourself there for a week, quitting music and becoming an exotic animal dealer on the black market, riding a moped and wearing short shorts and a fanny pack without a hint of irony. Be careful out there, man.
I had a friend named Brian that I had been in a band with for a whole two weeks about eight years ago. He told me we should come through Tallahassee, where he was now situated. A lot of people say this and don’t really mean it. They want to be supportive. But he seemed genuine, so I followed up, and he doubled down and put me in touch with Matt from the Wilbury. Without ever playing in Florida, and armed with nothing but a few links and Brian’s say-so, Matt obliged and booked us. Rarely is it that easy.
We arrived at the venue right at load-in time. The air was humid and muggy, and the mosquitoes had a gluttonous orgy on our delicate, northern skin. There was only one other band going on that night. They were an awesome local outfit called Wolf & Witness that fused bluegrass, rock, and roots music. Being on a two band bill can either spell disaster (cough, cough Des Moines) or can be a sign of a well thought-out bill. It was a free show and would also act as a birthday show for Brian, whom originally got the wheels turning for this night. The Wilbury was a great venue, complete with a backyard, bowling, billiard tables, and shuffleboard. It was like Dave and Buster’s without any kids getting snot all over the Mortal Kombat arcade joystick. And I was one step closer to fulfilling my lifelong dream of playing sad cover songs at a bowling alley.
I don’t know what else to say about the show other than it was probably one of the best on tour. Not only were we paid more than fairly, we were comped food (that was actually fucking delicious and not just a buy-out), had a good sound system at our disposal, and raked in our best night for merch sales.
It’s always a little iffy playing to a free crowd. It’s your job to keep them entertained, but never more so when they aren’t even familiar with your band. We did our duty more than adequately well. At one point during our set, a drunk lady started berating us asking us to play Happy Birthday to her friend outside as a surprise. Dealing with hecklers is dicey. My short-handed advice to the heckler is to never pull this shit with a band from New York City that plays in the subways for a living. You’ll lose and look like an asshole in the process. And if you find yourself on the opposite end as the hecklee, there’s a few ways you can tackle it. The obvious way is to ignore these bullshit interruptions or requests completely. Most times these people are drunk and have short attention spans and will hopefully walk away and into oncoming traffic. Sometimes, you have to engage and diffuse quickly. These things happen more often at free shows since these wiener-priests might have just wandered in after they got off work from their jobs as a carnival ride operator. Most of the time they think they are HELPING the show. Just remember: there’s a reason why you’re on stage and they aren’t. Don’t let them get under your skin and keep the audience on your side. Hopefully, embarrassment will get the best of them and they’ll piss off. That didn’t happen here. Up until this moment, I thought the archetype of the loud, minimally clothed, sunburnt, swamp person was just a stereotype. But there she was in all her Floridian glory. Here’s the teleplay.
Drunk Lady: Can I ask you a question?
Me: Well, this is a bit unorthodox but okay…
DL: (long, unnecessary backstory) My friend is an amazing musician, and it’s her birthday, and you should sing her Happy Birthday on your guitar.
Me: Do you see a vocalist or guitar up here? We’re not Bon Jovi; you know that, right?
DL: (hyena cackle mixed with velociraptor squeal and the sound of a thousand frogs dying) It’s her birthday!
Me: And where is your friend currently?
DL: I don’t know, outside or some shit.
Me: Does she know you’re campaigning for her and interrupting our show for this? Wouldn’t she be embarrassed as a musician herself?
DL: …I can sing!
Me: Well, this backfired completely.
DL: Come on, I’ll ask you again soon
Me: Please don’t.
DL: I’ll be back
Me: I’m going to pretend we’ve never met.
DL: You’re rude! (Guy in mullet swoops in to walk her away while she’s angry and slurring insults)
Me: This next song is called Happy Birthday, and it goes out to me on my birthday. It’s not my birthday. (plays another song entirely).
You just handle it. I proceeded to give out birthday dedications for the rest of the set, including a few to Brian since it was actually the day of his birthsplosion. I saw her later, and without my mask, she didn’t recognize me. I’m eternally the one that got away. I thanked Brian for the awesome night. He was a few drinks into his celebration. He commended me for sticking to music despite the obvious obstacles. We had seen a lot of our colleagues since hang up their spurs and go straight. He was also visibly still upset about the recent death of Chris Cornell. He’s still someone that deeply cares about the impact and pursuit of music. It’s people like Brian and Matt that make this all worth it. Nights like this are rare and should be cherished on tours.
We ended up partying until near-sunrise with Wolf & Witness. The fiddle player, Holly, was no stranger to the life as well. We compared and contrasted our genres and tactics to make this lifestyle a reality. She’s in several bands and can only devote limited time to each. My trajectory has been to focus on one project fully. We’re both touring and playing out the same amount with about equal results. It’s just extremely difficult to traverse this world. She had some insane accolades and name-dropped she could have unholstered at any point but didn’t. She was incredibly humble for being such a prodigy at her craft. She finally kicked everyone out in the wee hours of the morning so we could crash before heading to Georgia.
Atlanta, GA – The 529
During our long drive across the Gulf of Mexico, our cellist Nick discovered that his hotspot that he bought for the van was costing him the GDP of a small country. So that was cut off immediately and we had to deal with long stretches of dead zones where we would brainstorm squares for a “Tour Bingo” game I was creating. Throughout this tour, we’ve each found our ways of coping with the monotony of the drives. My drummer, KC, a resourceful, resilient, and often mysterious fellow, would slink into Starbucks on almost every opportunity. Now, it should be noted that he’s an avid coffee drinker but also adamantly on the side of Dunkin Donuts in the East Coast / West Coast / Bloods / Crips / Team Jacob / Team Edward / Starbucks beef. With the stealth of a seasoned Monk, he would sneak in for just long enough to siphon free WiFi and download one or two episodes of the latest season of House of Cards from Netflix. Nick barreled through a couple seasons of the Sopranos or would communicate with friends via Facetime back in NYC like separated, war-time lovers. Mike would edit the previous night’s photos, Chaney would do merch inventory and I would do any business that needed doing. That or I would take naps in the back seat taking turns on what pillow to drool onto. Shit… I ended that with a preposition. Now I broke the fourth wall. I’m the worst.
Atlanta has yielded us mixed results in the past. We had played Georgia Tech University years back and in a rare moment of clarity remembered that not every college is a party school. We played a dismally attended show right in the student hub. We promoted on campus and had heard the 8 pm start time was a little too late on a weeknight. Those students had a bedtime and an itinerary the next day. A bunch of nerdbombers! Let’s see how far those engineering and physics degrees get you. CRY.
We wanted to hit downtown this time. Atlanta has a rich history of diversity and nightlife so we were hoping that Kriss Kross wasn’t lying to us and they would throw down. I contacted Amos from A. Rippin Productions. He’s a well known and respected promoter in the area. I was relieved once again that we had someone competent at the helm; someone with a vested interest in having the show also go well. We arrived early and loaded in and found a nearby park to throw a frisbee and juggle. Yeah, I know… we’re badasses over here. We went to dinner with some new friends from Adult Swim and were spoiled with another decent meal. We best not get used to that. The show wasn’t supposed to start till later than expected and our set time was changed to around 1130pm.
The bands had a decent green room area which spilled out into the parking lot. One of the opening bands, Zruda, was having their debut show. It was sort of a supergroup of seasoned veterans of the ATL scene. Their bass player was from the insanely awesome and popular Lazer/Wulf. I was a bit star-struck and taken aback that not only had he heard of us before but really dug our last album. He introduced me to his drummer and called us “Road Dogs”. It might seem small, but it was a huge compliment. I want this band to be taken seriously as career professionals. My heart continued to flutter when he showed me their band van. It had two steel-reinforced cages inside to deter theft. If I could make love to one vehicle, it would be this road-ready van. Complete with a vanity license plate and on-board WiFi, it’s what separated my band from the next rung of the ladder. Every time we tour, we drop a few thousand on a van rental. With the amount we are on the road, it would make more sense to invest in our own chariot. The reality of upkeep, maintenance, parking in NYC, and insurance is also a force to be reckoned with, though. The point is to find what’s best for your own band. Maybe we’ll just book a rickshaw tour next time and really save on gas.
Before we went on, I started feeling very faint and dizzy. It was near vertigo and room-spinny. The last couple weeks have caught up with me. Call it exhaustion, malnutrition, morning sickness… whatever. Mike sat me down and got me some Gatorade and a Cliff Bar. Eat as nutritiously as possible on tour. If you don’t, it WILL catch up to you. That might be in the form of feeling light-headed as you’re setting up backstage or more likely in the form of explosive diarrhea at a single bathroom truck-stop in rural Missouri.
The show was packed, and the music was superb. Really, one of the best caliber nights for sonic sensibilities. I felt like I was going to faint mid-set and had to brace myself in a fighting stance to maintain balance. We had a recently transplanted fan from NYC come out to the show so she wouldn’t feel homesick. I had some friends from my high school years show support. We hadn’t seen each other since graduating. It’s always strange to try to condense up to two decades in a few minutes. Do you bury the lede and tell them about the rampant self-doubt, rejection, setbacks and crying in the bathtub, or do you keep things light? I’ve obviously never been good with tact, so they got the whole shebang. However, I’m really glad they got to see us on a good night of music. It’s one less night of bathtub crying, ya know?
Chattanooga, TN – Pedalboard Rebuild + JJ’s Bohemia
During the show in Atlanta, I was unable to use some of my modulation pedals so I was glad we would be finally diagnosing the issue. Today would be probably the shortest driving day for the entire tour. Clocking in at under two hours, the haul to Chattanooga seemed like a long errand as opposed to the daily quarter-days we had gotten used to devoting to travel. We were staying with a childhood friend named Chris that I was in my first band with at the age of fourteen years old. He was a guitar pedal nerd back then, and while both of our hairlines had started their mass exodus, I’m glad to say things were mostly the same otherwise. I needed an expert if we were going to be fully stripping the board and starting over. Chaney and Chris helped me start gutting as the rest of my band and Mike went to explore downtown Chattanooga.
As an added bonus, I was getting a new pedal shipped to his place. When we played in Louisiana, unbeknownst to me, watching our show was the husband and wife team behind the wildly popular and regional Rougarou Pedals. I saw that they had liked one of our Instagram posts from that evening’s shenanigans. I immediately followed up because we hadn’t spoken at all at the show. That’s like having a friend pass out on a plane but not asking if there was a doctor on board that could help. I’m pretty sure that analogy is terrible but just go with it, okay? We chatted and I explained to them that I was having issues and that I wasn’t happy with my MXR Overdrive pedal acting as a clean boost because of its inherent dirty nature. Having a clean boost pedal gives you that extra edge during particularly layered parts, like during a solo or when you’re at rehearsal and your drummer won’t stop playing Wipeout! Rougarou had an awesome looking BOOSTHULU pedal in their roster that they had just inked a deal with Guitar Centers around Louisiana to distribute. It was compact and packed a hell of a mid-range punch. I wasn’t angling for a sponsorship but at the same time, I would love to represent a company like theirs: handmade, grass-roots and boutique quality. We kind of both came to the conclusion that an endorsement would make sense and they were kind enough to overnight the pedal to Chattanooga to find its new home on my board.
I explained my signal chain and effects in part 1 of this diary. It was more or less going to stay the same, but we needed to better Tetris the board as well as properly power all these pedals. Chris was in charge of finding all the milliamp draws out of each pedal, something that I failed to do the first time. Chaney was in charge of any thing that needed toolin’. My isolated power bank has 10 open ports: 7 were 100ma, 2 were 250ma and 1 was 500ma. I had 15 or 16 pedals and one LED light source so it was obvious I would have to daisy-chain some of these pedals. That is FINE as long as the draw doesn’t exceed the power port. I know, I’ve lost half the audience with this nerdy tech shit, but bear with me. We had a pretty easy time rearranging. But remember this is a Temple Board. That means perforated holes to fasten pedal-plates to. No velcro means we’d be relegated to quarter inch movements in any direction. It’s like the King’s movements in chess. You find the placement, then you attach chain cables and then power. We had two cameras shooting the process as well as a GoPro taking time lapse photography. The whole process took over 3 hours. By the end, I barely had time to test everything out. We brought in one of the amps that weren’t blown to test out the new rig. Gone was the hiss and hum that plagued my first setup. I also had the Ernie Ball volume pedal at the beginning of my chain so I could enjoy the swells of distortion and delay, complete with moody trails. Here’s my new signal chain, complete with new additions:
8 String bass —> TC Electronics Spectra Compressor / Ernie Ball JR Volume Pedal (Passive) / BOSS TU-3 Tuner / Mooer Black Secret (RAT Clone) / BOSS PS-6 Harmonist / MojoHand FX El Guapo / MJH Colossus / Mooer Slow Engine / Mooer Mod Factory / BOSS OC-3 Super Octave / MJH WonderFilter / Electro-Harmonix Nano Clone Chorus / BOSS PH-3 Phase Shifter / Rougarou Boosthulu / Cusack Music Tap-A-Delay / Rougarou Banshee Reverb / BOSS DD-7 (Looper) —> Amp
We packed up quickly and headed to a Mexican restaurant that our cellist, Nick, swears by. It was quite superb, and the service was extra fast. That last part is essential because there happened to be a terrible night of bar trivia going on for a church group, complete with Christian-friendly, bar-crawl t-shirts with that day’s date on them. Maybe they would all end up going to the show? And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.
We played JJ’s last Fall on Halloween, and the place was packed. It was a great dive bar with an awesome built-in crowd. I planned this show to be on a Thursday and linked up with our touring friends in Deaf Scene. We had a headliner for this show that not only dropped the ball on advertising or promoting but just straight up bailed on the gig two days before we got there. To add another kink in the plans, it was game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, and Nashville was in it. I didn’t even know Nashville had a hockey team. Seriously, I had to Google it because I hadn’t kept up with hockey since the second Mighty Ducks movie came out.
We had experienced a really good run of shows on this part of the tour. Almost an entire week since last Friday starting in Texas, in fact. Because of that, we knew we were due for a dud at any moment. And yes, that night was tonight. It was a sad night for turnout, as well as being plagued with technical difficulties. The amp didn’t sound right on stage during our set, my looping pedal completely shit the bed (I went into battle with an untested rifle) and the newly purchased fog machine just didn’t work at all. If there was an emoji for a muted trumpet, I might type it now. BUT, we got to see Deaf Scene kill it as usual, the staff loved it, and the few fans that came to see us got a very intimate show. The point is, if you’re going to bomb, you might as well do it in front of good friends. Deaf Scene ended up crashing with us at Chris’s place after not being able to secure a location. We talked shop, diagnosed my pedal problem, traded horror stories from the road and passed out. These nights are inevitable so it’s at least good to have some friendly faces along the way.
Charlotte, NC – Hattie’s Tap and Tavern
We woke up to zero power at Chris’s house. A tree had fallen a few houses down sometime after we arrived and ripped down power and phone lines. Some of our phones that were charging were dead and any plans to watch VHS recordings of Murder, She Wrote were completely dashed. We had to get out of there. We had a six-hour drive through the Appalachian Mountains. We would be playing with Deaf Scene again tonight at a place called Hattie’s Tap and Tavern. While booking this leg, we both put out APBs for a band to headline in Charlotte. Collectively, we went through about three dozen bands, and all had responded with either silence or a negative. So, it was just us two touring bands on a Friday. But our guarantee was being met, and it was a weekend, so it HAD to go well. Plus, anything after the previous show was bound to be on the right trajectory up.
The drive was both beautiful and uneventful. I had made a habit of taking a panoramic video every time we stopped for gas or flipping on one of the GoPros when we were passing through particularly scenic views. Admittedly, I have no idea what I’m going to do with all this footage. As a band, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle to produce content. It can become an obsession for some bands or a burden to others. I was hoping we could leverage some of this B-Roll into some Patreon footage. Then the sharp realization of the hours and hours of editing, sighing at software updates and cursing long rendering times made me want to wait for another tree to fall on me. I often think of bands back in the 70s and how they would do if they had to worry about coming up with six pictures a day for Instagram, witty updates for Twitter, engaging Periscope shows or, AHEM, well thought-out, long form, tour diaries. They were able to focus on just the music. I was worried I was becoming too bogged down with the behind the scenes bullshit. When I was setting up the stage cameras, fog machines, banners, lights, and merch table, maybe I should have just focused on making sure my sound was good? It’s a constant back and forth struggle. There isn’t a right answer either. Industry types will tell you a strong social media following is more important than being tight live. They sell your singles, not your live shows. Perhaps it was the end of tour creeping up on me.
My mom and surrogate grandmother Connie made the trek to see me play. They asked where we were staying and I gave them the hotel information. But I was sure to include the disclaimer that we are on a tight budget and that they shouldn’t feel obliged to stay at the same place. I wish she had listened. Normally, we don’t name names, but I’m totally calling you out, Motel 6 Airport in Charlotte. I’m almost positive outside of my family and my band, the entire rest of these hotel rooms were rented out by prostitutes and Johns. HOW do we know this? Because let’s just say they don’t have much candor or subtlety you come to expect from the oldest profession. There was an argument at the front desk about how they upped the nightly rate five dollars from the ‘guest’ in front of me. He was none too pleased. And his pimp waiting outside was also not happy about the financial turn of events.
We toyed with the idea of finding another hotel but ultimately didn’t. We were hoping if they didn’t mess with our business, we wouldn’t mess with theirs. We went out to eat at a cute southern food place. It’s one of those places where you have difficulty understanding the local dialect, and you wait an hour for your food because you know it’s just one tired grandmother in the back making everyone’s food while catching up on her stories.
We arrived at Hattie’s and were more than impressed with the venue. Not only was it a LGBT bar but it was also a DOG BAR, y’all! You were encouraged to bring your dogs and hang out. Fuck. Yes. I’ve missed my own dog immensely while on the road so being non-monogamous on the road with OPP (other people’s puppies) was essential. We were up first tonight as we always took turns with Deaf Scene when touring together. We set up all of our various odds and ends, including the industrial fog machine. I was in charge of the foot-switch. I mean, it’s just another pedal, right? During our set I would accent our musical cues with a little fog for added effect. Truth be told, I wanted to hate the fog machine. But I ended up really liking the mystique of it. The crowd was a little low due to all the dogs being on the back patio so the hazy mist in the air made it feel like more of a show. I can remember actually thinking to myself, “I’m killing it with this fog machine… Nice and subtle.” Now, here’s some professional advice: If you have a fog machine, make sure it is pointing BEHIND you as opposed to straight into the crowd. In my defense, after each song I looked back and could see my drummer clearly. I logically thought the fog was dissipating at a quicker rate than I was pumping it out. Due to the lighting in the venue, concentrated liquid, and my amateur fogging skills, I didn’t realize until the end of our set that the entire bar was a thick, smoke-filled mess. Visibility wavered after a few feet and the bartenders were complaining they couldn’t take orders properly. Oops. They opened up all the windows and doors and brought out an industrial fan to air the place out. The lingering chemical smell in the air, along with the confused looks and laughs from my band made me infamous that night. It would also be the last night that I was the Captain of the S.S. Fog Machine.
The venue staff were great, the crowd livened up and both bands killed it. Deaf Scene was not-so-sheepishly asking anyone in the crowd for a place to crash that night. You have to admire that tenacity. They say it works nine of out ten times. We got paid, packed up and headed back to Motel Hell for the night. The band unloaded half of the van to take inside, including most of the drums and the amp head. We didn’t want to take a chance of having a smash and grab. There was a creepy guy in a car next to our van tweaking on some kind of drug and my heart sank as I figured I would have to keep a vigilant eye on this. To his credit, he didn’t seem interested in what we were doing at all. I turned off the lights in my room and kept watching. Things got steamy as he started to masturbate in his car. And I’m just watching. NOW who’s the creepy one? I called down to the front desk to inquire what to do. Listen, normally I wouldn’t care about this but seeing open prostitution and drug dealing going on in this parking lot just made me extra nervous. The front desk phone rang for about a minute before someone picked up. “Front desk, what’s up?” said a mildly annoyed voice. “Hi, I’m in room 226 and there’s a suspicious guy in the parking lot,” I said while pondering the amount of germs on this landline talkbox. “What’s he doing?” she asked unfazed. “He’s just acting really shady and weird” I responded trying to maintain decorum. “What specifically is he doing?” she repeated. “Yeah, he’s masturbating in his car and staring at our room,” I finally said. There was a brief pause and a sigh and she said with the utmost pique of nonchalance, “Okay, I’ll get Steve to go check it out”. Steve turned out to be a young, rent-a-cop security guard. Armed with a flashlight and a slight sense of authority, he waltzed over as if he had done this a dozen times the previous night. He shuffled the man to his feet and got him in his room. His room? Mr. Handsy in his Pantsy had a room for the night but chose to pleasure himself in his car? We get free HBO in the room!
I would wake up every hour or so to check on the van. All was well. I got up early the next day to meet my mom and Connie next door at the Waffle House for breakfast. Because OF COURSE there was a Waffle House next door. I hate seeing my family for only a sliver of time on these tours. But you make do and hit all the bullet points while trying to alleviate worry about your questionable life choices. Connie mentioned that she couldn’t take any good pictures the previous night because of the fog. This is why we can’t have nice things. My mom pulled a classic maternal move and slipped me a $50 bill as we were saying goodbye. I did the requisite refusal of said fifty dollars and she acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about. We needed that money for gas that day. Moms are the best.
Louisa, VA – Magstock Festival
Our last tour stop was a video game musical festival called Magstock. Under the umbrella of MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival), this was the 7th year for the outdoor event. As an added bonus, my brother and I would be teaching a juggling workshop for shirtless, lake-drenched and sun-baked gamers. That’s not new territory for us. We had been affiliated with MAGFest for years now but had never played this particular event. It was in the middle of Nowhere, Virginia. Long and winding seemingly single roads separated the campground from civilization. We arrived just as my workshop was about to start. The festival was slap-dash and mostly run on volunteers but had come together in the 11th hour. We scoped the pavilion that we would be playing at as we drove in. There wasn’t any security or check-in, so I got out with my juggling equipment and power-walked to the Slip N’ Slide area.
During the workshop, I got a text through the spotty reception that the van had a flat tire. AWESOME. That might as well be center space in Tour Bingo. We had a ‘cabin’ for the night that turned out to be an RV without an engine. It had two beds and a couple of couches and adorable kitchen that could maybe do a sheet of Bagel Bites if pushed to the culinary limit. It was definitely the end of the tour. We took a walk through the campgrounds and saw the sights. A lot of familiar faces and great friends were present. You try to end your tour on a high note at all costs. Mike was fixing the flat on the van, and the rest of us took a nap before our set. Our sound system for the night was less than ideal, but after playing 20+ shows straight, we were confident in how tight everything was sounding.
The show was a bit lackluster, and turnout was so-so knowing the number of people that were there. But how can you compete with a trampoline on a lake or drinking moonshine in a hammock? We knew we would be incidental music at best and that was okay with us. We packed up one final time and headed to another camp for one of the many all-night parties going on. They had Conan the Barbarian being projected on a tent, I played the first game of Beer Pong in my life and won (I don’t drink so maybe I had an advantage) and no one was bitten by a Black Widow spider. So, all in all, it was a successful night. Our RV-cabin hybrid had a nasty egg-fart smell because of the sewage system, but there’s only so much you can do about that. It wasn’t the blowout we had hoped for, but it wasn’t a disaster either. The next morning we woke up ass-early for the 8+ hour stretch back to NYC.
We just crossed back into New York City limits. The mood in the car is quickly evolving from tired exhaustion to restrained glee as we exit the I-278E tunnels to see the lower Manhattan skyline across the river. The rest of the car is stoked to be back. After over an hour of gridlock and at least another hour to go, it’s a small victory. “Now THAT’S a fucking city, kids,much unchartered” remarks our drummer with pride. After encountering so many townes that sport extra vowels, villages, municipalities and counties, the broad spectacle of Gotham is a rare and timeless constant. Amid new developments ranging from the mildly confusing, to the corrupt contractual Lego penthouses, and down to the gentrification eyesores on the borough coasts, it’s still a breathless site. The New York attitude shamelessly seeps out of their pores as we get slammed with one fucking toll after another to re-enter our collective boroughs.
I’m feeling somber. I don’t want to come home. Despite the danger of sounding like a truckstop cliche, my life seems to be on the road. Responsibilities and monotonous side-hustles aside, real life is scarier than performing in front of new crowds every night. There’s always something to be said for the high of seeing friends and meeting new people for a savory increment of time. They see me at my best, commanding a crowd (or bombing), on a time limit, with places to be and shit to do. And then I’m gone. The eternal ‘George Costanza’ of leaving on a high note. I don’t want to go back to the long game. I planned this tour for the better part of five months. We had our ups and downs and most likely came in the red, but I can’t help shake the feeling of loss whenever a tour ends. The only feeling I can liken it to is a nostalgic one that still evokes emotion out of Me: I’m ten years old and getting picked up in the late morning following a sleepover. The car ride back seems empty and the day will inevitably drag on. Nothing can compare to the night before. Life is all downhill after that moment. Silly, I know. But that’s what it feels like.
The band is at a crossroads. Member changes, new material, and climbing the ranks in the corporate music world is not for the thin-skinned. Having a desire to have our music taken seriously as well as me becoming a better bass player and songwriter is never far from my mind. These tours are invaluable to our longevity. It’s scary leaving our bubble of NYC and even scarier coming back to its inherent thankless nature. We traveled farther than we ever have before on this tour as a band. And still, we only hit half of the smuch-unchartered water for this band. It’s a seemingly insurmountable amount of work for each new city. We aren’t collecting refrigerator magnets for these places. Each tour stop is a calculated risk where we will try to cultivate a following for future tours. We’re doing all we can to make sure we don’t fall through the cracks, making powerful strides to solidify our sound and to not get a big ego along the way.
Being back in my cramped one-bedroom apartment in Queens and reflecting on all this seems solemn. Touring is like a drug to me and if I’m not on the hunt for it, or experiencing the high during it, I feel a bit empty. During our off-road times, I empathize with the suffocating shark on the bottom of the ocean floor, stagnant and stationary. Condensing almost a month of travel and work into a simple “the tour was good” answer to requisite questions is difficult. Playing with amazing musicians as well as other bass players is inspiring, and I want to continue that positivity. Mark Twain once wrote:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
It’s cheesy to end something like this on a quote, but I don’t think that makes it any less true. You won’t grow as a human, let alone a band if you stay in one spot. Take the inevitable peaks and valleys of touring and broaden your minds. Just steer clear of Des Moines, Iowa.
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