That day we left Milwaukee was some Mad Max: Fury Road type business, just with less desert and less Charlize Theron. So actually not really like Mad Max at all, except that we had a lot of serious driving to do. And Adam grunts like Tom Hardy instead of talking.
(This is a long post. Strap yourselves in if you’re not one of our moms.)
We played Bremen Cafe in rainy Wisco and got about four hours of sleep before our 5:30am departure for home, where we were on the 1pm Hotel Tango stage of the Virginia Avenue Folk Fest. VAFF featured Kopecky, Joe Pug, and Charlie Parr, as well as some of our personal road pals like Motherfolk, Von Strantz, Gypsy Moonshine…hell of a lineup. Unfortunately for us, we had to blaze in and blaze out—we grabbed burgers and veggie burgers alike along the canal in SoBro with a handful of our loved ones, then marathoned back up to Jackson, MI, where we played at our oldest Michigan mainstay, the Bifferhaus Brewing Co., where Terry never lets your ceramic mug empty all the way. A wild-eyed old dude videotaped our whole performance with some kind of makeshift phone in a box, duct-taped up like he was warding off alien mind-readers, all the while mumbling off numerics of video resolutions that we figured were probably made up.
Our day off: it snows in May. I cry at a baptism service because the symbolism wrecks me. We watch Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors. We drive back to Grand Rapids to smash a 30-rack with Jonny Carroll and friends, shoveling down vegetarian pasta and engraining ourselves heavily in a debate about the state and merits of pop music.
The next day, our friend Ricky took us out to Rosy Mound in Grand Haven, an idyllic little beach town, where we hiked up the backdune forest and played along the coast of Lake Michigan. That night took us to Lightfast Coffee Bar, a hip little startup with a listening room vibe, where Jonny hosted us and The Crane Wives for a beautifully attentive audience, concretizing Grand Rapids as a staple for our future routes, if only for how many people in flannel shirts bought our vinyl or whatever.
We had one more night of carousing with Carroll and co. over in Lansing at the Avenue Cafe alongside another MI friend-band, Olivia Mainville & the Aquatic Troupe, where the weather started to feel like summer and our friend Doug let us stay in his house that was way too clean for our sweaty selves, before we headed down to the Buckeye state.
Columbus has become another one of our favorite cities and folks really came out of the woodwork to make our show at Spacebar a memorable one. Their trivia night went over time, so we found ourselves battling it out with a bunch of aggressive nerds. (Oh yeah, we totally won one because Jason came up with, “My Big Fat Fleek Wedding” in a pun-based romantic comedy category.) We stayed with my old cellist, Topsy, and her husband Chris (suh dude?,) and we rousted about with their dog, Argo. We played in the lake at Hoover Dam and hammocked in blooming summer, hiding from the high school girls who walked the trail because we were in boxer shorts and not trying to get arrested.
I turned 25 in Akron. My friend Noel lives in Cuyahoga Falls, and he helped curate an exquisite five-star day. We had Indian food, my band members bought me used books on Kerouac and Brautigan, and we hiked the Gorge Metropolitan Park, free-climbing the limestone ledges, building cairns, skipping rocks, and trespassing on a sickeningly high catwalk beneath the bridge that crossed the river. The show in Akron was a full rock show. I’ve never had actual fog envelope me during “Cave of Clouds.” That was pretty weird. But the rest of it was electric. And my friend Tammy made us a casserole that lasted about thirty seconds. Getting older is not as bad as I’ve always thought it would be.
Adam is from Youngstown—if you’ve ever talked to him for five seconds, you know this—and so we usually slay there. Suzie’s is always a good time. Our friend Gator is the only man I’ve ever hugged who makes me feel like a toddler. Uncle Jay is the only horse trader I’m friends with so far. And Mrs. Shuntich cooks the crap out of pierogis/manicotti/salmon/pot roast/strawberry pie/mashed potatoes/spice cake/you get the point by now, so we gained back all the weight we’d lost on the road so far. And Y-town has, oddly, some of my favorite falafel in the world, right out of a weird convenient store in a downtown strip. We spent our next (and last) day off swinging from a 30+ foot high rope swing in the neighbor’s lake and hanging out a bonfire straight out a bro-country song where Adam killed the truck battery playing country radio and getting his cheeks kissed by hometown girls in the headlights.
We’re a week or so past Youngstown now, into stranger country and back in belt-tightening mode, eating cold soup out of cans and cursing the toll booths. But it feels like tour, and I’m tired and I’m really happy.