On Wednesday, I will start my fourth and final tour of the year. South/Northeast/Midwest. It seriously feels like I just got home from my last tour yesterday. But I am excited. I’ll post the dates tomorrow maybe.
After this tour, I’ll be taking my longest break in several years, then heading to EUROPE in the spring.
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.