Thursday, August 18, 2011
"Cool Story, Bro" Tour '11, Part 3: Kindred Spirits
I needed a new head anyway
I am sitting in a hotel room hooked up by our hotel employee friend Steve in Wilmington, NC, after hanging out post-show in the moonlight at the beach, feeling the tide pull the sand out from beneath me. This is why i went on tour, for this moment: stepping into the ocean with tourmates and friends from far away places, letting the earth kiss us with its salty tongue like an animal claiming us as its own.
Only ten people showed up tonight, but that's not important. If the primary purpose of going on tour were to try to expose large numbers of people to our music in a way that encourages memorization of our band names, this would be a wholly inefficient method of doing it. Knoxville on Monday and Athens on Tuesday were delightful; enough people turned out for both shows to allow us to put enough gas in the tank to make it to the next city, and most of them responded positively to our tunes. But as i stood around at the Caledonia Lounge on Tuesday night watching everyone drink, chat, and completely ignore our merch table (save the bartender and Chris Dragon's friend Sarah, who accounted for our first CDs sold in four days), i thought about the hundreds--thousands?--of touring bands i've seen over the years from the Concert Cafe in Green Bay to the Cactus Club in Milwaukee, and i'm sure that many of the ones i've forgotten were damn fine. Do any of the attendees at the Longbranch in Knoxville even remember the name "IfIHadAHiFi?" Or are they more likely to say "oh, man, that band...I Wish I Had A HiFi? They were great," their memories of the bands they saw on a random Monday night in August 2011 already fading into a jumbled mash of beer and feedback? As in love with our self-constructed image of the band too crazy to ignore as i am, i realistically get the feeling that by tomorrow it'll be "those bands with the crazy drummer" and "yeah, that night our pals played with some touring bands" by September, if not Friday.
The hard truth is that bar patrons (or basement show kids, for that matter) do not value touring musicians. Sure, they appreciate that we drove for several hours to play for them, but put a price on that appreciation and you can bet it ranks below that next PBR. Tonight a member of the audience drunkenly told me, "i really like your band," after both the Zebras and HiFi sets (both of which, if i may say so, were the best performances of the tour thus far and featured the most dancing audience members of any show to date). When he said it again post-BLACKS set, i responded, "then you should buy some of our CDs!" He squinted at me and slurred "what you may not know is that i spent all day selling textbooks so i could come here tonight and get drunk."
"And you definitely achieved your goal!"
*squint* "I don't think you believe me."
"I believe that you're drunk!"
"At least i don't have a Jewfro."
"At least i'm not...Jewish."
"Uh, neither am i?"
Puzzling racism aside, it's clear that this dude, whose dancing and rocking out was genuinely appreciated, will forget about us in no time. In an age where the supply of touring bands chokes the demand into a dazed submission, i'm not so sure that being a blistering live act is enough anymore, if it ever was.
But that's why, at 3:30 AM, i'm standing in the Atlantic Ocean with Steve, The Wizard and Lacey, staring at the sky and talking silly shit. I wanted to come to Wilmington and play with Steve and Keith, aka BLACKS, and rock them silly. And then i wanted to hang out with Steve on the beach.
Steve, incidentally, redefined "above and beyond" today. Not only are we sleeping in free hotel rooms tonight, but he used his corporate card to fill our gas tank and tossed an extra $50 from his own pocket on top of the $35 collected at the door. He sort of gets it, you see. He's in a band that his hometown doesn't quite understand, or maybe politely tolerates (not for long, as they're breaking up), but he lives for that moment where his music clicks with someone who's never heard anything like it before. Tonight we swapped tales of minds blown and expectations tweaked, and of hometown shows where no one turns out to see our friends. Wins and losses--we have similar tales of both.
Kindred spirits, connected across the country through music.
This is why i'm out here.