Chocolate chip granola bar. Key lime greek yogurt
Stale dinner role. Chocolate chip cookie. Cheetos Puffs. 6 inch BMT from Subway.
Big plate of Indonesian food from venue- braised beef over rice with veggies. Pomegranate Izzy Juice. Local amber ale.
Guacamole Takis. Cranberry chocolate chip trail mix.
Yesterday was the longest drive of my tour. There was no show at the end of it, and I’m thankful for that, because I was able to take my time to keep sane. Reno, NV to Salt Lake City. 518 miles. The night before that, I drove 115 miles after a show in Roseville, CA to Reno. I’ve stayed in a couple dozen motels on my tours, but this one was probably the worst. The towel felt like cardboard. There was nothing on the walls but dust. No soaps, shampoo, anything like that. Checkout time was 10:30 am, and at 10:15 am, the manager called my room to ask if I was out yet. I told him I needed to take a shower still. After that, he was knocking on my door at 10:25. “Packing up now, be out in a few.” I was out by 10:35, and he was waiting impatiently outside my door. I slept for 7 hours, cut me some slack. I hit the road, and discovered that Reno was home of a Jimmy John’s. Haven’t seen one in weeks, I jumped at the opportunity for a good, cheap sub. When I got there, their computer system was down, so my sub was free. Great way to start a long drive.
Nevada is a weird state. I didn’t end up with a show there, and I kind of understand why. That being said, the mountains mixing with the desert is quite pretty. The road was long and winding. It was the warmest weather I’d felt since Arizona in June. I got bored pretty quickly. I called some friends to say hi and to help pass the time. Most of them didn’t pick up, and the ones that did were subject to me losing service every few minutes. About 5 hours in, it started to get significantly prettier. Minutes after, I saw the sign that said “Welcome to Utah”. Figures.
Crossed into Mountain time. At the second rest stop in Utah, there was a trail up to some rock faces. I hiked up that for a while and watched the sunset. I spent 30 or so minutes up there, which set back my pace, but it was worth it. When I got back down, I saw the sign that said “Beware of snakes and scorpions”. I was wearing open-toed shoes. Oops.
At about 9:30 pm, I pulled in to SLC. I was staying with Mike Zusi, an old family friend. I hadn’t seen him in a long time. He was off seeing a concert, so he told me just to let myself in. It took me a while to figure out with apartment was his, and when I did, the door was locked. Sent him a text, “Door is locked, is there a key anywhere?” I didn’t hear anything for a few minutes, and I really had to use the bathroom, so I drove up to the Whole Foods around the corner to kill some time. Once I got there, he texted me back apologizing for forgetting to leave a key. But he told me his back window was open, and that I could climb in.
His building was wide, and there wasn’t anything in the back to denote which apartments belonged to who. All I knew was that there was a fan in his window, it was hard to figure out exactly where I was since the building was so long. I found one with a fan blowing and the lights off. I could have texted him to make sure it was his, but he probably wouldn’t have seen it for ~15 minutes so I decided to just chance it. The way my tired brain saw it, there were two possible outcomes. Either I picked the right window, or I was going to be shot at for intruding. I removed the screen and the fan and prayed for the former. I flicked on my phone flashlight and looked around. On a shelf by the window, I saw some 2014 World Cup ticket stubs, where I knew that Mike had just come back from. I let out a sigh of relief.
Mike told me there were some beers in the fridge and to help myself. Gladly. I laid down on the couch, drinking a tasty IPA, and waited for him to get back. I drifted off for a few, but Mike and his friend Caleb came back and saw me through the window on the couch. Mike let out a loud “WAAAhhhaoOOOouUUUU!” I’m not sure what it meant but it scared the life out of me. I got back up to give him a hug, and he cracked up several more beers for the three of us. We hung out and talked for a while, but he saw me start to drift again once 1 am rolled around. He told me I could take his bed, which I was very reluctant about at first. I felt terrible about him sleeping on the couch, but he assured me it was something he does all the time. I thanked him excessively, crawled into the queen sized bed, and slept like a rock.
"Bar gigs" have their benefits, and they have their drawbacks too. On one hand, they generally pay pretty well. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a meal out of it. And usually, there will be people there. But on the other hand, the majority of those people probably won’t be paying attention. The ones that are paying attention will mostly want to hear cover songs. And lastly, you almost always have to play for three hours. That is the main characteristic here. While I’m perfectly capable of this every once in a while, doing it several nights in a row can be exhausting. The strings of my guitar become indented into my fingers. My voice starts to fade. And mentally, I’m just no longer there.
My attraction to the American southwest has grown strong since I first toured through last fall. But for some reason, I am only able to book bar gigs in this part of the country. And some of them can be quite good. But when five shows in a week are bar gigs, I’m going to be drained. After playing three of them in a row, I was about ready to cancel last night’s show. Not to mention, my show count is outnumbering the number of days I’ve been out for. I could barely even hold a conversation. My fingers cringed at the thought of picking up a guitar. But I reminded myself of the new tires I would have to buy soon. I literally couldn’t afford to cancel a show.
I played a pretty mediocre set. I kind of knew I would. Usually I’d say that I made my own fate, but considering the amount that my voice and hands were hurting, I don’t think there was any other possible outcome.
As I was playing my last song, two drunk girls stumbled in from the street. After the song was over, and one of them realized I was done for the night, she got upset.
"WHAT?! No, you can’t be done."
"I’m afraid that I am."
"But… no! We want more! We came in because we heard YOU. C’mon, my name is Lisa"
"Well my name is Austin, but I just turned everything off, and I already played for three hours."
"Just play ONE more."
I handed her a CD.
"Here, you can listen to me ten more songs. I won’t even charge you for it."
She took it and hesitated for a second.
"…but I want to hear one more NOW."
"Fine, I’ll play just a chorus."
I sang the end of When The Rain Comes, completely unplugged, tip-toeing the edge of the stage. She let out a big yell after, and went to the bar to drink more. As I was packing up the bartender walked by the stage and said “You’re such a trooper”, with a laugh.
Lisa left her free CD sitting on the bar. I threw it back in my merch case and called it a night.
It’s four in the morning, and Ray LaMontagne is lost in a strange city. He keeps wandering the streets looking for anything familiar, just wanting to get back to his tour bus to get some sleep. Suddenly, three men jump out of a dark alley wielding knives, and demand his wallet and phone. Ray throws his hands up and slowly takes two steps back, completely caught off guard. “Woah, guys”, he says, “I’m just trying to get back to my bus. I don’t want any trouble.” In unison, the three thieves start singing at the top of their lungs. “TROUBLLLLEEEEE! Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble!” They walk of laughing into the night, and Ray makes it back to his bus unharmed.
I start every tour the same way- with high hopes that I will accurately document it through this very weblog. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through an entire tour. I usually end up settling for just taking a bunch of cell phone pictures.
So here I am in a SoFla Starbucks where I brought in my own jar of honey to put in my tea. I started this tour kinda sick, and my girlfriend was kind enough to send me off with this honey. Gonna recap a bit.
Friday, day one, Gainesville. With two of my three bandmates living up there now, it only made sense to make it a full band show. With Matt added to the bill, we had the four of us ready to go. We ran through five of our ten songs in Sam’s garage before we went over to the venue. Was hoping to get there with time to go eat some free pizza across the street between load in and the opening of doors, but no such luck. The sign said they’d be open until 3am. We would just have to wait until after.
Not a whole lot of people were coming through that door at first, and I was worried that it would be one of those poorly attended shows. These are less and less in frequency these days, but they still happen. Which would have been a huge shame with a stacked bill, me dragging my full band out, and the fact that I’ve played in Gainesville a countless number of times in the past. Luckily, towards the beginning of Matt’s set, people started trickling in. By the time I played, there was a solid amount of listeners, and by the time Ricky Kendall went on, it was pretty close to packed. Crisis averted.
I was super happy with how the band sounded, especially considering the rushed rehearsal, and that we hadn’t played a show together in almost a month. Kyle brought out a lot of his friends, and there was some dancing and singing along.
One of my favorite things that happens at shows is mid-song applauses. Glad to say that we got one after the jamout of I’ll Walk. We never really play the songs the same way, but Matt especially nailed the solo here. After we got as loud as we could and brought it back down for the last verse, a huge grin came across my face as the claps and “woo”s came from the audience.
Ricky Kendall and his enormous band crammed up on the stage after. It was our second time playing with them, and they are quickly becoming some of my favorite musicians and people out there. Stunning covers of Angel From Montgomery and When The Stars Go Blue.
The pizza place closed early on us. Why, why, why. We went to Flaco’s instead. Can’t complain there. We ate Cuban sandwiches with Ricky and Co. and watched the drunks come in and out.
My friend Megan was out of town, but was still kind enough to stay in her empty house. (I did feed her cat though). Didn’t get back there until 3 am, and sleep didn’t come until 3:30. Kind of forgot that I had to be up at 7:30 for a video shoot. Quickly put myself to bed to get whatever sleep I could. Morning came early, and I briefly considered skipping it to go back to sleep. I’m glad I didn’t though. I think this may end up being my favorite video shoot yet. I’ll be sure to post it when it’s up in a week or so.
We went and got breakfast with the video crew after. Biscuits and gravy and apple fritters and yogurt. Yum. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open at this point. Went back to Megan’s to get another hour or so of sleep before heading out of town, and to feed the cat again.
After a two hour drive, car and gear swap, a tea, a coffee, Jimmy John’s, various snacks, and another three hour drive, I made it down to Boca Raton around 11pm. I was staying with Andrew and Alison. No show that night, I wanted to get down there ahead of time since I was playing at 2pm the next day. I was anticipating a quiet night in, but Andrew was set on going out. I reluctantly agreed. It had just been a long day. But after we arrived at the local bar, I ran into some 20 familiar faces, and I was glad I went out. Only a few of them knew I was rolling into town, which made it all the more interesting. After staying out until closing time, it was another late night with another early (not so much this time) morning a few hours away. I slept on the pull out couch, a rare surface for me. Where are all of these disappearing to? It’s like the most practical piece of furniture ever made.
Not much sleep to be had again, this time because of strange dreams. Alison woke me up, as I asked her to, on her way out around 10am. “Austin, wake up. I’m off to work, have fun at your festival.” Hopped in the shower and I was off.
South Florida Folk Festival, Ft. Lauderdale. I think I might have been the only performer that was a millennial. Or maybe even the only one at the entire festival. Not that this is a bad thing. I played early in the day on the smaller of the two stages, which was underneath a giant, cool looking tree. I wanted to cram as many songs as I could into my time slot. But I couldn’t not talk at length about how nice of a day it was. My song Revealed really seemed to hit home with my listeners.
An older gentleman came and found me in the performer hangout area as I was putting my guitar back in the case.
"Hey, can I get one of those CDs?"
"You said they’re only five bucks? That’s so cheap, most people charge ten or fifteen."
"I know, I like to keep them affordable."
He quickly handed me a five. He started the conversation back up.
"Is music all that you do for a living?"
"For the most part, yes."
"Do you do okay?"
"Um, well.. I do alright I guess."
"Just alright? Well, here, I can help some more. I really liked your songs."
He reached into his pocket and gave me a twenty, on top of his previous five. Talk about generous. Stuff like that keeps me afloat.
(For the record, the “just alright” response was strictly in regards to finance stuff. I am so thankful that I am able to do this, even if I’m just barely scraping the bottom of the barrel. Every tour gets better. Every day I wake up with a huge grin knowing that I am traveling and sharing my music with people. Everything else seems trivial after I take that into consideration.)
I went for a hike after my set, late in the afternoon. Ended at a park bench along the intracostal. Laid down and fell asleep to the sound of the slowly passing boats and waves hitting up against the sea wall. Woke up a little later to a beautiful sunset, and it was much colder. Put on a jacket, and went back to catch a few more acts at the festival.
So far, so good. Another video shoot awaits tomorrow morning.
I’ve been on this tour for a little over a month now, and I still have a long ways to go. Thanks to everyone who’s made it great so far.
Wells River, VT
Back road in NY state
Still grinding away at Florida, and will be for another week. Florida is being kind to me as always, but I’m definitely ready to start trekking north.
After our show in Ft. Myers, Chris and I said our goodbyes and parted ways. I’m sure we’ll end up sharing a car and shows again soon. I then ventured into the land of Southeast Florida, SoFla. Quickly greeted with the harsh reality that I could no longer sleep while Chris drove. I guess that means I have to learn to sleep at night.
After several attempts, I had never been able to set up a show in Miami. Finally got one for this tour, a backyard show. It ended up being my most southern show ever. Earlier in the summer, I played my most northern show in Fairbanks, Alaska. Which is 5,000 miles away. My head started to spin at this realization. The house I played at was a cool one. There was a horse, chickens, cats, dogs, and even honey making bees. It cooled off just enough to have a bonfire too. I played a fun set standing on some stair-like structure by the fire. Afterwards we talked about Florida from anthropological points of view. Lots of ideas were tossed around, but we all mostly agreed that Florida is a very interesting and diverse place.
I wanted to explore Miami the next day since my drive was only an hour. But I didn’t realize how overwhelming of a place it is. I explored for a few hours and found some good Cuban food. But man… it’s just such a BIG place. It really is just huge. And traffic is scary. But for some reason, Miami overwhelms me more than most any other big city. More than NYC, Chicago, Philly, Atlanta… I decided to get out while I still had my skin and sanity in tact.
That night, Monday, I played at Dada in Delray Beach. It was another nice evening for an outside show, made even nicer by night-blooming flowers emitting some nice smells, a cool breeze, and some funky lighting. I played to a small but enthusiastic crowd of a dozen or so friends and a few kind strangers. At the end of the night, I sat at the bar to enjoy a cocktail after most everyone else had left. I’m glad I did, because I struck up a conversation with some strangers who were so very kind. They missed the show, but were still enthusiastic and interested in my music and the tour. We ended up hanging out until the bar closed.
Couple days off after that, hanging with Andrew and company in South Florida. Possibly the highlight of tour so far- a drunken game of H-O-R-S-E at 3 am with my friend Mike. I had an epic come from behind win. Didn’t know I was such a baller? To be honest, I didn’t either.