Hello from the Hampton Inn in Kearney, Nebraska.
It’s five a.m. I’m pounding coffee and wiping the fog from my mind. We are halfway through this seven-week spring run, and things are rolling slow but steady. Thirty-three shows across the southern Midwest and West Coast—this one is a barnburner. We are putting some miles on these tires, folks.
Last week was the end of a 10-show week in Los Angeles (nine high school shows and a stop at a killer Irish bar, Molly Malones) before heading up to play a school in Oakland and the club Hotel Utah in SF. The Utah is a haunted 100-plus-year-old building that survived the great San Francisco earthquake and has vibe for days. It was a hometown show for Eon, and the energy in there was off the chain.
On our day off, I got to hop over to a town that looks like it is right out of The Neverending Story—Carmel, California—and visit my great-aunt Esther, who will be 100 years young in just three weeks. We then drove 19 hours from Santa Clara, California, to Thermopolis, Wyoming, to start this week’s six-show Wyoming and Nebraska run.
Thermopolis was a very pleasant surprise. It boasts the world’s largest natural hot springs (the locals weren’t sure that is true, but it’s written on the mountain nonetheless). The town looks like it is nestled in a national park with red and brown layered mountains on all sides. The students here were as kind as could be. Huge thanks to John Coyne III with Big Horn Federal who has put on concerts all around northern Wyoming with us the past few years and is constantly trying to bring light to the charity we work with to put on these shows (fundingthefuturelive.org). (Last week’s post sums up much of my interest in bringing music into schools around the US.)
We had a great lunch with John and our good friend and FTF founder/board member Michele Dehoff, and then it was off to Casper, Wyoming, where our friends Fred and Kim Devore once again treated us like queens and kings. We had a little get-together (and far too much red wine) and had a little jam session in their living room with an Argentinian exchange student by the name of Francisco Deluca. Remember this name, folks, as this young man is fire on the guitar. We dueled it out, and then the band jammed “Because It Hurts,” “Texas Rose,” and “Last Train Out.”
We rocked Natrona High early yesterday, then had an eight-hour drive to Nebraska, where I sit right now. I returned some calls/texts when cell service was good, read some of the new David Goggins book (killer), and listened to Mark Knopfler (who I’m obsessed with right now- more on that soon). Our amazing friend Jennifer Davidson has booked another round of schools here in Nebraska this week-—Sargent this a.m., Kearney tomorrow, Broken Bow Friday, and then the Zoo Bar in Lincoln that night. We are hoping no cancellations with the oncoming “bomb cyclone” weather system. That sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?
Closing this week out at the Zoo Bar is a gift. The Zoo is one of the coolest clubs in this entire country—soot-black walls, worn old music posters, neon signs, and strong whiskey pours from the bar. On their stage you stand on the backs of giants. So if you bring your guitar up here—you need to bring it—they aren’t booking five bands a night playing 20 minutes and hoping for five friends each. It’s one of the last true old music venues on these Midwest highways. This was a stop for tons of blues musicians making the trek from KC or St. Louis out west, and when we lived in Colorado, we used it as our starting stop every tour to try out new material and get our sea legs.
You ever wonder who the hardest working people are in the music business? It’s the tour managers, folks, without a doubt. Depending on how big the band is, they load, they run sound and lights, they book hotels, they drive, they have 55 jobs—and ours is solid freaking gold: Mr. Tyler “Colossal” Cossel. He is originally from Nebraska, so we better get the lead out at these next few shows.
As each week of a tour adds up, you build a little residual fatigue. No one is above it, no matter what you do or how happy you are when you first light out. You get enough four a.m. calls in the lobby and then go to bed at three a.m. after a club show, and your mind and body start to twitch a bit. When you think you have 30 minutes to yourself, it’s time to get your suitcase back in the trailer and hit the highway. That’s what you signed up for, so deal with it. My solution for this has been the same for years. As Killer Mike says, “You gotta sweat today so you don’t regret today.” Get up a little earlier. Water. Work out. Be grateful and stop whining. I preach better than practice, but as I have mentioned here before, Willie Nelson had it right in the tour bus—there’s a five-dollar fee for whining. 🙂
No matter how tired you might feel, you get a rush from the shows and then a pretty steep comedown. If you have looked into the eyes of a few hundred people and signed till your hands are covered in Sharpie, you need a minute to reset. Doesn’t matter if it’s a huge venue or a tiny club or a high school in the middle of nowhere—once you get lost in the music, it takes a minute to get back to “real life.” My way of finding that balance is in making sure a certain amount of things get done every day, no matter what. Discipline or disappoint, choose. Some reading, calling loved ones, some social media (SOME :-)), writing in my journal, working on new songs and lyrics whenever confidence is high.
The rest of the tour is laid out clearly before us. We play OUR FIRST CIVIC CENTER ever in Des Moines in a week, busing in kids from several high schools at once, which is the next level and goal for FTF. We then hit tons of schools around the Detroit area (basing in Flint, Michigan, with our amazing friends Colleen and Dave Schon, the most salt-of-the-earth folks you’re ever gonna meet), and finally close the tour out at the gorgeous Strand Theatre in Pontic, Michigan—the very city where I saw one of my first concerts ever, Kiss with Cheap Trick opening. We play that show with another group on FTF, The Reminders. They are fantastic live, and we can’t wait to hit the stage with them.
Thanks for checking in, you fine people. See you next Weds. As always, please hit me at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and we will keep the music and the road stories heading your way.
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