I’ve been putting off this blog post for far too long… Even now, as I am beginning to write it, I’m also playing a TED talk in the background (the one about how body posture influences how we feel about ourselves), grasping at any last shred of distraction and procrastination. Ok, I’m turning it off— I know I can’t write and listen at the same time.
If you’ve stumbled upon my blog for the first time, you should know that I had tasked myself with documenting my shows, activities, and experiences with Little Rock Indie Rock mainstay The See during our two and a half week tour around the country (a component task of the overarching purpose for this blog). For the first two weeks, I did well to post my reflections every couple of days. Then, suddenly, all the loud shows, late nights, long drives, and deficient food caught up with me, and I didn’t have enough fumes to spare for a blog post— I reserved my energy for the stage.
Thus, having not posted anything in over a week, I’d like to give some quick thoughts about the final shows of our tour.
Thursday July 11, Kansas:
This was actually the one day of the tour which we did not have a show. We played in Kansas City the night before and were playing in Denver the next night so we decided to drive halfway to Denver, find a hotel in the middle of Kansas, and relax for the evening. We first stopped in Salina for a delicious hamburger lunch at the famous Cozy Inn (voted best burger in Kansas!) and a game of catch at a local high-school football field before arriving in Hays and checking in to the Ramada Inn. We enjoyed the indoor pool, water-slide, and hot-tub, and then wandered in to the hotel bar to discover that they had a stage… We asked the bartender if we could play a show there that night and she was open to it. Three of us wanted to do it (we wouldn’t be paid— simply the novelty of it was very appealing), but one of us (you know who you are) was adamant about having the night off. We ended up going to see the movie Pacific Rim instead. This proved to be possibly the worst mistake of the tour. Now I know Pacific Rim is actually getting a lot of good reviews from a number of sources, which is why I want to go on record and say that it as actually a terrible film, filled with forced dialogue, racial stereotypes, rehashed movie cliches, plot and logic holes, and mediocre CGI action sequences. Instead of playing rock and roll at a random hotel in the middle of Kansas (and having an awesome story to tell), we saw a dumb movie (which I want to point out, I told my bandmates would be bad) that we could have just as easily seen in Little Rock.
Ok, that’s as negative as I’m going to get in this post. On to better things…
Friday July 12, Denver:
Denver was the site of the first show of this incarnation of The See (bass-man Jason Tedford and I joined the band in March and played at Denver’s Walnut Room in April). It was nice to return to what is becoming a home away from home—we have a number of friends living there (who kindly let us stay at their homes) and now three different venues at which we have performed. This night we were part of a five band bill at a club called Herman’s Hideaway. We were tacked on to this show only a week before, so we performed at the very beginning of the set, kicking things off at 7:00pm. Surprisingly, people began steadily trickling in at this early hour and by the time we finished, there was a decent number of people who had heard us play (albeit, many were in the other bands). We sold some CD’s and met some cool Denvernians; yet most importantly, we impressed the sound guy, bartenders, and other bands enough for them to tell us that they definitely want to have us back. Making a good impression on the people most influential in booking shows was a primary purpose of every show, and we achieved it not only with our stage performance, but just as much by showing up on time, having efficient sound checks, being friendly and cordial, and setting up/tearing down our equipment as quickly as possible (at Herman’s we had all of our amps, pedal boards, guitars, and drums packed up and offstage in only seven minutes). We didn’t expect to make a ton of money or achieve instant fame on this one tour (our expectations were met), yet we do hope that by creating a network of helpful musicians and club-owners in other cities, we will be able to draw bigger audiences and receive more payment for future shows.
Saturday July 13, still in Denver:
Case in point: We played this night at Denver’s Merchant’s Mile-High Saloon, one of the two stops on our tour at which we had previously performed. Having impressed the sound guy and bartenders when we played there in April, the good folks at Merchant’s did a great job of promoting this show. This was perhaps the most well attended, high-energy show of our tour— absolutely the one that made me feel most like a rock star— the audience was clapping, dancing, yelling, and some even singing along to our songs. Feeding off of this energy, we played with passion and joy, savoring the moment, enjoying the zone. My single favorite moment of tour happened onstage during this show: at a particularly heavy moment in a song called Yul Brynner, Joe slammed-strummed his guitar with the force of Thor’s hammer, breaking a guitar string and shaking his guitar out of tune. There was a sudden quiet moment coming up of Joe singularly singing and strumming his guitar so he gave me a wordless look, we both nodded at each other, and when the time came, I played his guitar part as he sang and tuned his remaining strings. The song could have easily been derailed by the string-break (and it probably would have been had it happened earlier on in our tour), but instead we communicated with a single glance, adjusted seamlessly, and finished the song as strongly as ever.
Sunday July 14, Lincoln, NE:
I had never been to Lincoln before, and am not aware of any particular cultural stereotypes about Nebraska, so I didn’t know at all what to expect from this part of the country. What I found there was an attractive downtown, gorgeous weather, and an engaged supportive crowd at Duffy’s Tavern. We played our set and people responded extremely well, buying our merchandise and giving us shots of whiskey, but personally I was unsatisfied with our performance. Had this been our first or second show, it would have been fine, but we honestly didn’t play with a very high-level of rhythmic or technical accuracy. I got off the stage and was happy to meet and greet people, yet it didn’t feel to me like it was time to celebrate. As we play more and more shows, my critique of the band will get more and more demanding and this band will only remain satisfying to me if we continue to improve individually and as a collective. As Joe and I sat in the van that night, getting ready to fall asleep instead of joining the nearby after-party, we talked about what is not working in the band, what is going well, and how to improve. These are always useful conversations to have, but especially important after shows with such a favorable audience reaction. For the temptation is to use the audience as a measuring stick of our performance, but the truth is that many audiences are drunk and uncritical, responding well to any loud noises and high-energy— only we in the band have the perspective and familiarity to know whether or not we have played to our full potential. We simply have to be honest with ourselves, own up to poor performances, and strive to continually improve.
Monday July 15, Wichita, KS:
Kirby’s Beer Store is a tiny, deteriorating, graffitied, stickered-up, unpretentious dive bar, too tiny to host a full band and we just love it there. We love it there because back in April, with only a week’s notice, Kirby’s was kind enough to set us up with a show and a place to stay on our way home from our first Denver trip; we love it because we get to see our friend and stellar singer/songwriter Ryan Stoldt whenever we play there (come to Little Rock Ryan, you’ll have a place to stay!); and finally we love it because the room is so small that if you have seven people in the audience, it’s a packed house. Having such a relaxed environment for our final show and being relatively close to home made for a pleasant end to a long tour. We played well and with poise (sounding like we had indeed played these songs for 16 days in a row), and plodded on through some technical mishaps (the power to my guitar pedals went out mid-song, so I quickly plugged directly in to the amp). After the show, we took our time packing up, drove back to our hotel, watched National Lampoon’s Vacation, slept, ate a terrible breakfast the next day at a local restaurant, and eagerly drove back to Little Rock.
It’s good to be home.