A couple weeks ago, I set off on one of my most exciting adventures so far: a band tour. 3000 miles in a 15-passenger van with 11 other musicians (three bands total), driving out to Iowa City and back to Boston over the course of a week. I guess it was a mini-tour as far as tours go - it wasn't months long and we didn't travel the whole world - but it was a good starting point for our band, which is made up largely of people new to this kind of musical experience.
A few days ago, I showed you what I ate on tour. Today, I'm bringing you the full recap. I promise some of it will be food-relevant; in the video I'm going to share with you in a moment, I do discuss my tater tot obsession and intention to plan a Beer and Tot Hop.
Around Day 7 of the tour, Michael J. Epstein, who lends his name and mustache (and music, guitar, vocals, leadership abilities, immense patience etc.) to our band, The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, decided that we should all get on camera discussing our tour experience. Tanya Palit, possessor of quite a convincing NPR voice, asked the questions. You can view my video below, if you'd like. (Thanks Michael for picking the most awkward thumbnail ever.) Warning: sorta NSFW. I discuss anatomical graffiti in detail. I'm also pretty spacey from lack of sleep.
There you have it! This Beer and Tot Hop will happen. Do you know of any other places to get tater tots in Boston? (In case you didn't watch the video, the ones we already have on the list are Cambridge Common, Garden at the Cellar, Grill 23, 5 Napkin Burger, and Lower Depths.)
Before I get to the day-to-day recaps, here are some of my favorite tour quotes and discussion topics:
- Vajazzling (or is it vagazzling? Based on the two words that make up the portmanteau, it should be a g, but based on pronunciation rules, it should probably be a j.) At some point, we decided to turn it into an adjective. (This tour is making me feel vajazzled.) Oh, here's a link to the Urban Dictionary definition if you've never heard of vajazzling. Apparently Jennifer Love Hewitt is totally into it.
- Animals who are, ahem, doubly endowed: sharks, rays, koalas (two-pronged. Lots of them have chlamydia. Coincidence? I think not.)
- "Are you alert enough to drive? No texting...or sexting." -Shawn's mom
- "I don't want people to take it personally if I vomit." -Tanya
- "It smells awful; it must be made of babies." -Susannah
- "Any band that's fun - I hate them." -Mike
- Poopstruation: kind of like when women's cycles allegedly align, but with men. And poop.
- "I don't want to touch your hot beef sandwich, Dad." -Tanya
- "I don't have terrible taste in movies. I just like terrible movies." -Sophia
- "This is the kind of hotel Dexter murders people in." -Tanya
Day 1 (sort of), 4/20/11: Boston
Venues: Club Passim and Brighton Music Hall (sold out!)
I guess this counts as the first day of tour, although we still got to sleep in our own beds. Some of us actually played two shows this first night. MJEML won a grant from Club Passim's Iguana Fund a few months ago, and they were showcasing grant winners that night, so four of us (plus Sophia quite literally acting as a getaway driver) loaded in and sound-checked at Brighton Music Hall for our main show, sped across town to Club Passim to power through three songs promptly at 8 (except that 8 really meant nearly 8:30), and sped back for an 8:45 downbeat. With some careful ZipCar-ing, this actually worked (because the ZipCars already have designated parking spots), although due to a slight mistake in planning, Sophia did have to drop us at BMH, park about a half mile away, and sprint back with just minutes to spare. (Upon our return to BMH, we might have leaped out of the car from the left lane at a red light, instruments dangling and costumes partially on, but we made it!)
During our set, Joel beer-bribed a friend of a friend to yell that he was hot for flute, a carry-over joke from my encounter with a creepy fan at one of our first shows last fall. That one just doesn't go away.
Day 2, 4/21/11: Boston to Brooklyn to Drums, PA
Venue: Cameo Gallery
On the road! We made a dollar! (Ok, we found it in the grass at a rest stop.) The vajazzling talk began. We also discussed an interesting apparatus, a "portable urinal."
After a few hours of driving, we arrived in Brooklyn and got all our stuff out of the trailer and onto the sidewalk, only to be told by nervous-looking employees at the venue that we'd have to stay outside for awhile. Surprise! The health inspector was there. What followed was several frustrating hours of standing in a narrow hallway, standing outside, standing in a dark basement, not being allowed to unload, not being told what was going on. At one point, it seemed like the place might actually get shut down...so much for our first show on the road! Finally, the inspector left - after all the drama, they got an A - and we loaded in, starting the show an hour or so late.
Aside from the not-so-wonderful start to the evening, the venue was pretty decent. It had an interesting decoration dangling from the ceiling. The crowd was on the small side; I think a lot of people who were turned away at the original start time just didn't come back.
As we were loading out and preparing for our longest post-show drive - 2.5 hours to Drums, PA - Tanya's toothbrush fell out of her suitcase and onto the venue floor. And thus began what we dubbed the "worst tour ever."
Somewhere in the range of 4:30am, we arrived at our first hotel, an Econo Lodge. It really wasn't bad (although the cleaning lady awkwardly barged in in the morning. "She told me you were gone," she said. Nope.) Our room also had a furniture placement fail:
Day 3, 4/22/11: Drums, PA to Cleveland
Venue: Grog Shop
Long drive after a late night. Unloading in the pouring rain. A sit-down dinner at a real restaurant. A visit to an awesome toy store. A green room full of impressive anatomical graffiti. Amazing energy from the crowd at this show; we even played the finale in a circle in the middle of the audience.
Day 4, 4/23/11: Cleveland to Chicago
Venue: Schubas Tavern (sold out!)
Power breakfast at Denny's (Baconalia!), followed by another long drive. Got creepy voodoo doll things from a vending machine at a rest stop.
Awesome venue - free and delicious dinner (with AMAZING tater tots!), a really cool green room, and an overall great vibe from the crowd.
Day 5, 4/24/11: Chicago to Iowa City
Somewhere on the road, we stopped at a rest stop and got a lot of snacks in the Flying J convenience store. We didn't need bags for our stuff. The cashier gave us attitude because this meant she had to put a sticker on every item. We contemplated going back and buying the smallest individually wrapped items and requesting no bags.
Easter in Iowa City...we weren't expecting much of a crowd, and our expectations were met. Coming off of an amazing, sold out show, this was kind of a let down. The venue had cool twinkling lights on the ceiling but no light in the woman's bathroom. One of the monitors wasn't working, so the right half of the stage couldn't really hear what was going on. The 15 people that showed up were into the music, though. And later that night, we went to the world's largest truck stop!
Day 6, 4/25/11: Iowa City to Rock Island, IL to Indianapolis
Venues: Daytrotter.com and Laundromatinee.com
A break from live performances today. Instead, we recorded a session at Daytrotter in the morning, drove about six hours, and videotaped a session in a beauty salon for Laundromatinee at night. This is our Daytrotter Polaroid:
We also witnessed massive flooding crossing from Iowa to Illinois, probably a result of the recent tornado. Tiring, amazing day. Highlights: Spaceballs: The Book. Old school Sonic the Hedgehog. Buying tons of Daytrotter merch. Massage chairs and beer. Tanya interviewing herself on camera. Lowlights: Probably the only drama of the tour. We had to resort to Taco Bell; not everyone was pleased. It was late, nothing was open, people were feeling grumpy and lightheaded. But we survived.
Day 7, 4/26/11: Indianapolis to Pittsburgh
Venue: Garfield Artworks
Best breakfast ever at Taste in Indianapolis. It'll probably get its own blog post eventually. The food porn below was someone else's meal; mine wasn't quite as exciting.
We also stopped by Luna Music, an awesome indie record store. Loooong drive to Pittsburgh. The venue was, well, kind of disappointing. We barely fit on the stage (and heels kept getting dangerously caught in the cracks between the platforms making up the stage). Sound was an issue. I thought we would all be murdered in the basement bathroom.
Sophia went snooping through the cabinets and found a bunch of water bottles full of water (?) with no caps on. Creepy. Also, as we were setting up, we saw this sign:
Since we're touring with Neutral Uke Hotel, this seemed, well, problematic. Turned out not to be an issue, though...
Day 8, 4/27/11: Pittsburgh to Philadelphia
Venue: World Cafe Live (sold out!)
Man, Pennsylvania is HUGE. This was one of our longest drives! At one point, we were actually 11 miles from an empty gas tank. 15-passenger van plus trailer? That would have required a lot of pushing.
The show - our last! :( - was wonderful (and sold out!)
We were down two people (not from the Library, but from the other bands): Andrew and Josh had to leave to tour...with Guster! 18-year-old me would be so excited to hear that 25-year-old me is now one degree of separation from Guster.
Another long drive to the hotel; we stayed in New Jersey so a few people could fly out or take a train out first thing in the morning in an attempt to get to work that day. We arrived at a horrifically terrifying Econo Lodge by the Newark Airport around 3:30 in the morning. Fortunately we didn't have to stay there too long.
Day 9, 4/28/11: Newark to Montclair, NJ to Boston
Last day...just driving. Bagels in Montclair.
An open trailer door; a (successful) rescue mission for the suitcase that had fallen out on the road. Home. Sleep, sleep, sleep.
The first week back in Boston, we actually had four more gigs. I haven't caught up on sleep yet.
Did you make it this far? If so, you get rewarded by a series of videos that we were obsessed with:
Cat flushing a toilet
Chimpanzee riding on a Segway
Baby monkey (going backwards on a pig)
Spaghetti cat (I weep for you)
This is the best burrito I've ever eaten
Also, this one (sNSFW - language):
My full set of photos is posted here.
Our bass sub, Kelly Davidson, also posted photos, and they are ridiculously awesome. Check them out here.
Tour lessons learned? Eat when you can and sleep when you can. There will often be long stretches of downtime, but these might be followed by a crazy rush to load in, sound check, and get into costume in the dingy bathroom of a venue that is minutes from opening the doors. Go with the flow: nothing ever goes as planned! Most importantly, though...have fun. And I did!