by Rob Mathews
It’s day six of tour, and that means we are officially over the hump on this jaunt. We left New York this morning with mostly all of us exhausted and a bit hungover from that city. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here’s what’s happened so far:
Day 1 — Sioux Falls, SD
We packed up the gear and luggage and left Omaha for the easy three-hour drive north to Sioux Falls. We’ve played SF a few times before and from those gigs we landed a headlining slot at the Downtown Sioux Falls Block Party. In order to make this show happen, we had to beef up our set list to be able to cover two hours time — something not very ordinary for a band like ours, but we had it licked in frantic rehearsals before we left.
When we finally arrived in SF, it was about 105 degrees — hot, hot, hot. And it was to be an outdoor show. We checked into our hotel and made our way downtown to have dinner at Jacky’s, an awesome Guatemalan place we’ve eaten at before.
Arriving at the gig, locals Peace by Revenge were doing there thing on stage. We could tell right away that this was going to be the most people we’ve ever played for… there were already hundreds on hand, and people continuing to stream in. All in all, I’d estimate that the crowd ended up at 1,000-plus. The weather began to cool down by the time we were to take the stage, which was great. By the time we were done playing, it was probably 20 degrees cooler than when we started. The crowd was great and we made a lot of new friends.
Afterwards, we went to hang out at Latitude 44, the venue we have played at before. Cindi, the owner, is awesome and there was no way we were going to go to SF without checking in with her. After a couple of drinks, it was back to the hotel — we were wanting to conserve energy for the days to come.
Day 2 — Dubuque, IA
We played Dubuque for the first time in February, and we were looking forward to going back and playing at the Lift. It’s a cool little town on the banks of the Mississippi with a quaint downtown area composed of shops, restaurants and bars.
We pulled into town around 5:30 and checked in with the promoter of the show — he was allowing us to crash at his place for the night. This was to be the beginning of a string of nights sleeping on couches, floors and air mattresses.
The Lift is in the basement of a 100-plus-year-old building: dank, dark and seedy. Everything you’d ever want in a live music venue. The show opened with Shady Grady & the Nobodies, a blues-rock outfit from Chicago and closed with locals River Glen. Blue Bird was sandwiched in the middle and we were more than happy to be back to the standard set length. One thing to know about Dubuque: People get fall-down drunk here. We did our best to keep up hanging out after hours at our crash pad, but not sure we were able to go ounce for ounce with them.
Day 3 — Chicago, IL
After a rather late start, we hopped in the van for the 3 1/2-hour ride into Chicago. This was our fourth time in the Windy City and we managed to snag a pretty good gig at the Double Door in Wicker Park. We didn’t get in until about 4 p.m. and headed straight to our home for the night on the south side. Maggie and Justin of the Bears of Blue River were kind enough to put us up. Maggie also had a few friends in town staying over so by the time we all got there for the night we had a total of 10 people crammed in a small two-bedroom apartment. It was so crowded that I actually slept in a closet — a first for me and hopefully something that never happens again.
Our show at the Double Door was simply great. DD is probably the most “together” venue I have ever played. Everything about the gig was perfect. Easy load in. Every band gets their own green room in the basement with hospitality (i.e. drinks). Nice sized stage with a great light setup and killer sound, including a dedicated monitor tech to complement the front of house soundman. The crowd wasn’t the largest we’ve played for in Chicago, but the 75 or so on hand were extremely receptive and very loud in showing their approval for the music we made.
Day 4 — travel
Monday was a 15-hour haul to NYC — complete brutality. We finally got there around 2 a.m., and I was set for my first drive across Manhattan and into Brooklyn, where we were crash for the next two nights. I was a bit road weary and the GPS wasn’t processing fast enough so I ended up driving the wrong way down a one way street in Manhattan trying to find my way around. Thanks to the cabbie who flashed his lights at me to let me know.
With New York came one of the coolest things that have ever happened to us on the road. We were planning on staying with a friend up in Astoria, Queens but that fell through due to her roommate nixing that idea. About 5 days before we left I took a chance and posted an ad on Craigslist asking if anyone in the area would be willing to put us up for a couple of nights so we could save money. I actually got a response and after a few email exchanges we had plans to crash at our new friends’, Jonny and Stacey’s house in Park Slope, Brooklyn. They had really great accommodations — an entire floor just for us.
And a recording studio complete with a baby grand piano in the cellar.
Up next… New York and beyond.