Disappointment, anxiety, and vexation are all definitely a part of life as a part of a touring band, but a person forgets that this job can also take a brutal toll on your body.
I am positively wracked with sleep deprivation, for one. The New York jaunt got all of us with different strains of rhinovirus, Nicole bit down on a nerve in her tongue, I lost my voice like a pesky set of keys, and it never seems like there’s a chance to get caught up. After six days out to Manhattan, I spent four in the hometown working opening shifts at the coffeeshop (you know, because I want to be as cliche a musician as possible,) which means 5:30am wakeup calls as opposed to my regular noontime meanderings. And I’m in the back of my buddy’s Element writing this on a way to my second gig of the weekend where I’m still pounding DayQuil and recovering from my 4am bedtime last evening. But sweet Lord do I love it. Even my dear friends with the best desk jobs still have jobs with desks. And I am anti-desk to the core.
Two Wednesdays ago, Jacob, Michael, Michael’s wife Nicole, and I loaded up the ol’ Quest and battened down the hatches for a hefty drive out to Canton, OH, to play our first set of the mini-tour. We were all jazzed about packing Billie Corgan up to the gills (that’s our Van’s name, like the Smashing Pumpkins guy but a girl), and we may or may not have spun the new Taylor Swift record more than once on our way. Canton nearly crushed our spirits to a pulp. We’ve played three hour gigs before to pay the bills, but this was the most vehemently we had ever been ignored. My throat gave out on me by the third hour and the boys covered for me, but I didn’t feel much like talking the rest of the night anyway and I text-vented to a friend about quitting the dream after throwing a chunk of concrete at a dumpster and sullenly slumping down in the shotgun seat.
Thanksgiving was nice though. Jacob and I have some cousins out in western PA, and Brother Bear and I are used to small, immediate-family-type holidays, so it was fun and sort of cinematic to be around twenty-some distant cousins laughing and singing and slinging food all directions. But Friday was sort of blacker than usual. We had a show booked in Philly but the bar burned down. It was supposed to be moved to another spot but the talent buyer dropped contact with me. Then my college buddy Adam tried to set us up two different shows in Youngstown, but things just didn’t work out, so we begged the hospitality of cousin Scott for one more night. I bought a flannel shirt on sale and we all saw Interstellar, which meant that we three boys would have a good two hours of conversation on the next day van ride about fifth-dimensional beings and just how Jessica Chastain could be so doggoned intuitive.
Oh, and I watched the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer about twenty-five times.
Grove City to Brooklyn was a haul, but David Foster Wallace and the new Copeland record kept me company, and we parked our car without event, opting to take the piss-stained, much-photographed subway into Harlem and Manhattan for back-to-back shows. Somehow playing two hour-long shows is harder than a three-hour show. But Rockwood Music Hall was straight magic for our second year in a row. Old friends transplanted from Vero Beach warmed out hearts, and a green room with short tumblers of bourbon warmed our bellies. We slept in our dear friend Jared’s crammed Brooklyn apartment where a dog left souvenirs all over the floor and the heat never kicked on and we had to get up at 8:30 (woof) to drive 12 hours straight to Dayton.
Blind Bob’s is one of my favorite spots, and seeing our slew of Buckeye friends is always a treat. Both guys in the band all but begged me to cancel the gig because we were all strung out on our last legs, but I cracked the whip and they forgave me eventually and it ended up being a great show, even if Nicole did have to beg the salty door guy to give us our cut without waiting ’til the end. Seriously, we always try to stay to watch the other bands, but twelve hours to the gig and two hours home from there—we were done.
So that whole trip was a veritable roller-coaster of emotion, but you better believe I’ve never been so happy to stumble into my bed with a down comforter and a white noise machine and a bottle of cold medicine and NPR One.
Last night was The 86 Club in Cinci with just Jacob and me, and tonight I’m running solo out to LaSalle Tavern in South Bend to open for my friends in The Bikewalk. And we have one more week of downtime before our month-long Christmas run down to Florida, out to Texas, and back. All whilst trying to get final grades entered for the class I teach, coffee sold at the shop, and a new record written for January’s tracking. I’m tired, y’all.
But I love this work and I love every one of you that believes in us and comes to our shows and make us feel more loved than I often feel I at least deserve. But for every bad show, I’m digging in to my reserve of grit, and for every good one, I’m planting a metaphorical kiss on every one of your foreheads. We love you. Stick with us.
Greetings from the blissfully autumnal Midwest!
Sometimes I think we get thinking about when life will slow down and we put things off until then, failing to realize we’re all sixty years away from that, and even old folks seem to keep busy somehow. I know I do. Being back in Indiana has been cathartic in a lot of ways. I love having a packed bookshelf instead of a milk crate with rotating ammo. I also dig having an actual kitchen with a cast-iron skillet rather than a cooler and a consistent diet of sandwiches. But in some ways, the grass is always greener and I end up missing the haggard, endless road.
Not to say we’re not still hitting it. From solo shows at the HollerFest up in Michigan and one-offs in Mishawaka and Anderson, to an infamously ill-fated Illinois weekend and the glorious Midpoint Music Fest in Cinci this last weekend. We get to add Sun Kil Moon, OK Go, Real Estate, and Miniature Tigers to our resume of shared bills. (Okay, so they were at different stages. Same festival. Go with it.)
Something we’re doing differently right now though is practicing. Living on the road, shows were practice. Now that we’re mostly just weekend warriors, we’re getting together in the vacant room in my basement apartment (my roommate and I don’t have enough furniture to designate the room as anything) and workshopping the new material. We’re slowly but surely building the material that we’ll release next year. We’ve recruited our longtime friend Jonathan Class to produce our new full-length at Varsity Recording Studios here in Anderson, and we’ll be hitting the faders at the end of January to scrape out about ten new songs.
You may have heard a couple of them if you’ve caught us live in the last few months. “Cave of Clouds” is a ballad of isolation, “The Farmer and the Viper” is an adapted Aesopian fable about misplaced compassion, and “Birth Control” is a new favorite that strangely has nothing in the world to do with contraceptives. And I’m writing lyrical drafts just about every day on receipt paper at my barista job – you know, because I wanted to be as cliche a musician as possible.
I wanted to write you all to let you know we’re still hard at work, and to apprise you of our upcoming Midwestern dates. We’re playing pretty regularly for the rest of the year, and you can see all those dates on the sidebar of this here website. Getting all the way out to New York at Thanksgiving!
Tiernae Salley took some new photos for us of the old/new lineup, and we’re always thrilled to work with her, as well to have Michael back in the band. We wish you all the best as we’re all digging the fall weather together, and we hope to catch you at a show soon.