Thursday July 11, The See tour day 13, leaving Kansas City:

Missouri was rejuvenating.

We stayed and played in Springfield on Tuesday and got the star treatment from Joe’s parents Bill and Peggy— they let us stay in their beautiful home, cooked us a delicious steak dinner, stayed out late to see our show, made us french-press coffee in the morning, and then took us out for Mexican food in the afternoon! Luckily we were also well received by Springfieldonians not blood related to our lead singer. We played at the charmingly hip, if decaying club, The Outland Barroom to a friendly late-night crowd of PBR drinkers and received more compliments (and sold more merchandise) than any other show of our tour thus far. Though my first impression of Springfield was unflattering (the land of strip-malls and mega-churches), I thought downtown Springfield was groovy— I enjoyed some delicious pre-show caffeine at a local coffee shop called the Mudhouse, strolled the spacious sidewalks, and even got to view Saturn through a powerful telescope that a man had randomly set up on a street corner (seriously).

It was hard to leave the fine accommodations, food, payment, and people of Springfield. We were there just long enough to get really comfortable before having to depart abruptly for Kansas City. The touring rock-band experience is highly romanticized*, with uproarious shows, adoring fans, ecstatic partying, and fiery liaisons being the enduring stereotypical images. Yet for us (and I have to imagine the majority of touring bands), touring has included a lot of driving, packing/unpacking the van, sleeping on floors, and eating cheap food. In Springfield the perks of a settled, domestic life were made explicitly clear— never has a bed been so soft, steak tasted so delicious, or a shower felt so cleansing to me. Luckily we were spoiled again in Kansas City by Joe’s sister Mo who gave us cozy couches and beds to sleep on after our early show at the large, sleek, downtown venue, the Czar Bar. We played a short solid set, sold some merchandise, watched the other bands, went to Mo’s house, showered, got a full night’s sleep, and woke in time to watch a comically bad Kansas City morning show over cups of coffee. It was great.

Friday July 12, The See tour day 14, on the road to Denver:

I’m certainly not saying that the comforts of home are better than the fun of touring. The comforts of home are good in relation to the adventure and struggle of touring. A soft bed, morning coffee, frequent hot meals, friends/family, and a regular routine all sound extremely appealing to me right now and I know I will cherish them when I return home… for a while… then slowly but surely these things will become the norm again, I’ll probably begin to take them for granted, and eventually my home life will seem a bit boring; I’ll again crave the thrill of new people and places. Yes it is tempting to dream up “have your cake and eat it too” hypotheticals: What if we were famous and could afford to travel in a tour bus with all the luxuries of home, have a crew of roadies to unload for us, and still get to enjoy the excitement of playing shows in new places? Though I would certainly never turn that scenario down, I know that if we were to gain it, we would lose much of what is making this tour such a rich, authentic, and humbling experience— staying night to night with friends and friendly strangers, impressing new listeners with our performances, eating and hanging out for cheap (i.e. picnics in parks), loading/unloadiing our own equipment (great exercise), and truly appreciating any small temporary comforts. I daresay that I will never be ultimately satisfied by any particular circumstances (e.g. wealth, fame, romance, talent, victory)— every gain in one area is counterbalanced by a loss in another. I think that the only way for circumstances to actually be satisfying is for them to perpetually change. Knowing this, I hope that I continue to have opportunities in my life (both musically and personally) to shift between periods of comfort and adventure, abstinence and indulgence, and consistency and novelty.

*I have no doubt in my mind that in the future I too will romanticize this tour and this time in my life. This is one of those “tell your grandkids about it” experiences, and I can easily see the story of the tour growing in stature as I get further and further removed from it. To be fair, much of this experience has been truly incredible: driving up to so many attractive skylines (Nashville, Louisville, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc.), meeting so many interesting people (Ben, Darren, Valerie, Sarah, etc.), growing closer to my bandmates (Joe, Jason, Tyler, etc.), really hitting a strong stride in our performances, and enjoying the nightlife every now and again. This is likely, and thankfully what I will always remember about this tour. But to only remember the good times will be to create an idealized and inaccurate image of this tour. Yes it has been wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I just want to point out now, while I still remember it, that it’s not all fun and freedom.

Monday July 8, The See on tour day 10, at a club in St. Louis:

I’m blogging right now from the back of The Firebird in St. Louis. The band in front of me is as loud as anything I’ve ever heard. Even though it is inordinately loud, I have know idea what the music is saying. I hear some wholehearted “woos” from the crowd at the end of the set, so maybe they know. We were tacked on to this four band show at the last minute so we had to play a short opening set before two local bands and the main event, Brooklyn based three-piece Lemuria. This show would have made much more sense if we had played third in the line up. These first two bands are at a much more amateur level than The See. Yes that statement probably sounded snobbish and judgmental, but I’m not trying to be harsh. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that most every band sucks when they first start playing. It takes a large amount of desire, trial and error, and practice to simply not suck. The See has been putting forth great effort at home and on tour, and I feel confident in saying that we do not suck. I try to resist focusing on rewards (to be able to play music should be a reward in itself), yet it is hard not to wish for higher populated, higher paying shows when we are pouring so much time and energy into this project…

Whatever, I want to talk about Chicago. We played there the past two nights at two bars right down the street from each other. Saturday we played at an old, dark, dirty dive bar called The Mutiny (most every Chicagoan I talked to gave a mischievous, knowing smile when I mentioned I played there). The sound quality at the Mutiny was low as expected, on par with the sound at our first stop of the tour, The Nick. Yet whereas at the Nick we sort of folded under the dual pressure of poor sound and an apathetic crowd, we rose above the circumstances at the Mutiny and played a great set. Encountering such different crowds and environments every night has provided us with the crucial realization that we should only worry about what we can control: our performance. Luckily playing every night has naturally sharpened our performance. Sunday we played another solid, streamlined set a couple of blocks down the street at Quenchers, a newer, cleaner, better sounding venue. It was also helpful and energizing that for both of these shows we played with my favorite band (personally and musically) of the tour so far, Planar Ally (yes that’s a Dungeons and Dragons reference). Planar Ally played precise, melodic, rhythmically-advanced instrumental Indie-Prog-Rock comparable to Battles (but unique all its own— check them out!).

Quick side note: Instrumental Indie-Prog-Rock? That may seem like superfluous genre labeling, but as more and more people around the world play and share music, musical subcultures are becoming more and more specialized. We can either try to lump these musics into broad genres (i.e. Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, Blues, Jazz, R&B, Soul, Classical), eschew genre entirely, or get more and more specific in our genre labels. I’ve certainly met musicians and bands in each camp. Because I believe that music is a multiplicity and not a universal language (with every instance of music inseparably linked to its own specific cultural and historical context), because I believe that specificity is better than generalization, and because it is just a fun game, I prefer to get particular (and yes a little facetious) with my genre titles.

The See’s genre? Atmospheric Indie-Mystery-Rock. It’s brand new. Get with it 😉

Tuesday July 9, The See tour day 11, on the road to Springfield, MO:

In Chicago we stayed with Planar Ally’s stellar drummer, and overall cool guy Ben Simpson. He composes a lot of the music for Planar Ally electronically, using Ableton Live, creating complex, multi-meter drum-beats that he then learns to play live on the drum-set. I admire this process because it doesn’t limit Ben to simply what he can play at any one moment. It frees him to compose in accordance with his musical imagination (rather than his muscle memory), and eventually increases his drumming dexterity as well. Listen to Wolf Lover for one of Ben’s creations. I’d like to adopt this strategy of composing and performing going forward, because as much as I feel like a relatively good guitarist and musician, I do get stuck sometimes playing through the same old patterns that my fingers know so well. I want to shift my musical output away from what is merely physically convenient and towards new tonal possibilities.

Overall Chicago was a great experience. It was extremely refreshing to simply stay put in one place for longer than a day. Though we didn’t get to explore much of the city, it was inspiring to see such great musicians and to be surrounded by so much cultural achievement.

Wow, that sounded like the ending to a seventh grade book report. I’m sorry y’all. I’m going to level with you, this was a difficult post to write. The lack of sleep is catching up with me. I’m happy that I’m posting this because I told myself that I would keep this blog going on tour, but man, this blog has seen better posts. Catch you next time.