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Friday, August 21, 2009

Tour in Pictures and Perspective (Troy's that is.)

Photos, recollections, and reflections on our S4 Outing of '09.

We do this when we leave; we do this when we get home, and we do this a whole damn lot in between. Cory and I take loading seriously. We think our first trip with a trailer was a clear success. I open with this photo because it sums up how I see the tour. I kinda even love the labor. According to the cheesily titled "Rock Bible," "You don't get paid to play in front of people. You get paid to sit in a smelly bus or van with your bandmates' collective body funks, listen to your bandmates snore in hotel rooms, eat at Waffle Houses and Mexican Joints, load-unload-setup-and-tear-down equipment . . . and drive all night to get back home to go to work the next day. It's a privilege to play in front of people."

At the Fourth Street Theater, Des Moines, IA

We gave a recital. Imagine more strings and horns.

We brought a little guitar for in-van entertainment.

Captain Jimmie Lee Dalton during our mid-tour sailing expedition on Lake Erie

And we often sang this song:

"Jimmie is the captain of our ship (OF OUR SHIP!)
Jimmie is the captain of our ship (OF OUR SHIP!)
The ship is a tanker, and JIMMIE IS A WANKER!
Jimmie is the captain of our ship (OF OUR SHIP!)"

We changed the name often, of course.

At the Uptown, Minneapolis

John likes to channel the Holy Spirit through the acoustic guitar his wife gave him for his birthday. That bright smear of light there is the spirit. See! It exists, and we have photos to prove it.

Restringing his Guitar, Unknown Stage

There was much less string breaking on this trip. Cory and John finally got some decent guitars.

At the River Music Experience, Davenport, IA

We played with some kids in loud rock and roll bands. Then they all stuck around for this mad accordion drama.

At A.K. O'Connor's in Des Moines
Well, this doesn't happen often. But when it does, I turn red because I'm so full of awesome. John actually held his own on the bullfiddle. I'm thinking a side project is in order.
Our photographer, Jessica Middleton
This is Jess, our merchgal and band business generalist. She loads equipment, sells our stuff, manages the streaming of shows, does on the road finances, and takes photos. We love her dearly.

Summer Tour is Over, and I Don't Like It

A roundup of our final summer shows:

Kirby's Beer Store, Wichita, KS - This is the tiniest most magical place in Wichita. I described it to Jimmie like this: "It's a bit bigger than the van, no - It's like two vans!" The walls, the ceiling, and I'm sure even part of the floor are covered with old posters. Ask Paul the Bartender anything about the bar, and he'll pull down a photo album from the shelves and give you the full illustrated story. Also, it's one of the few bars I've been to where the regulars are real, rabid music lovers. This show was different from past performances there: with some creative engineering, we were able to fit all six band members on the stage. Everything sounded fantastic. Two shows left, and we'd finally hit our stride. Played with Wichita's Chime Owls. They kicked ass. Check them out:

Barn Yard Beer, Lawrence, KS - Barnyard Beer is a home (for now) brewery run by a couple guys named Heath Hoadley and Mike Hummell. Heath (a supercool guy) went to brew school in Germany and has been plying his trade all over the country only to settle in Lawrence. Turns out both Heath and Mike attended IHCC, where I work. This show was supposed to be in Mike's back yard, in front of the barn. Unfortunately, it was raining. Having dealt with that once already, we couldn't afford to set up all the electrical stuff, so John, Cory, Diana, and I jammed acoustic when the rain let up. There were tons of people there, and it sucked to not be able to play full force. Hopefully, we'll get to go back soon. According to Mike, they're going to be doing a lot of these parties and hope to move into a full size bar in the Kansas countryside. We can't wait, Mike. I got to try the Porter and the Golden Ale. I usually prefer whiskey, but this beer was fantastic.

Check out Barnyard Beer: Also, add them on Twitter: and find them on Facebook.

Iowa State Fair, Des Moines, IA - Last show of the trip - an Authentic Records showcase on the A&E stage. We sailed the van through a shit ton of people to a spot behind stage near the air conditioned trailer (yeah, swanky. Complete with meat and veggie tray). Being the last day of tour, I was broke, and the smell of all that food on sticks was torture. Luckily, Jason Walsmith treated me to a porkchop and the stand near the stage (The Birds Nest) treated us as well. Thank you all. Got to watch Mike Butterworth try to unstick the Nadas' van from a muddy hill. Turns out the parking break was on the entire time. I'd laugh, but that's something we would do. Watched Benjamin Wagner, Mike Himebaugh of Hello Dave, and Fat Andy play some great sets. Our set was the best feeling of the entire trip, and the sound was excellent. After the show, there were hugs all around for a tour well done.

Now we're home. Back to work/debt control. Making big plans. I can't wait to do this again.

Home always looks so good to me until I'm there.


Friday, August 14, 2009


Last night we got to play music and feel like a band again. After spending three days in Houston, dealing with van wreck bullshit and getting awfully snippy with each other, we were able to remember why we're out here.

Let me back up a bit. We had two problems in Texas: a broken van and a broken trailer. We ended up getting the trailer fixed. Mark and the guys at Trailer, Wheel, and Frame replaced the bent axle on short notice for us. We spent all Tuesday at Tennison Collision Center while Jason and Cory looked for a van. They found one: a 98 Dodge conversion thing they found online and then bought from an old Lebonese guy. Shady maybe, but effective. Diana was able to find us a place to stay with Michelle, mother of Ty, one of Diana's college friends. She got us pizza, let us shower, and even asked what kind of cereal we liked. We annihilated her boxes of Lucky Charms and Cap'n Crunch. Wednesday was spent waiting for the trailer and getting the ac in the new van fixed before driving to John's brother's house in OKC. Big thank you to Marvin and Darrell at Tennison for helping is out and making us feel comfortable in their shop.

(That's them on the left. The green machine *sniffle* sits, dead (RIP), behind.)

So, we have a new van:

It's pretty cool. They ac is still a little wonky, but it keeps us cool, pulls our stuff, and got us to Tulsa yesterday. Ah yes, the show in Tulsa: we played at the Agora Coffee House. We played there this winter on New Year's Eve. Needless to say, last night's show was much better attended. It's a big room and has a good Bose pa. Jason ran our sound, and we sounded glorious. Then we sold a bunch of stuff. Love it. A woman doing a project for a class called American Song as Literature even interviewed some of us. We stayed with our friend Stephanie Kellog and her uncle, and she made us pancakes this morning.

Round up of thank you's: Marvin and Darrell at Tennison's. Mark at Trailer, Wheel, and Frame. Ty and Ty's mom Michelle. The ladies at Super 8 for looking the other way while we packed seven people in one double room, John's brother Chad for letting us arrive so late and his great dane Riley for slobbering on me while I slept in the kitchen, Stephanie and her uncle, all the people who electonically expressed sympathy for our plight, and all the venues and fans affected by our having to cancel shows. We love you all.

Tonight, Kirby's Beer Store in Wichita.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Two days ago we were on the freeway into Houston. It had been raining; the roads were wet. The semi in front of us screached to a stop, forcing us to do the same. The van skidded on the wet road, giving us three options: veer into a lane of traffic, collide with the rear end of the semi, or take it onto the shoulder and into the concrete guard rail. Our sensible driver chose the guard rail.

The result is three bent axles, two bent rims, and a bunch of other broken stuff: in short, a totaled van.

(It doesn't look like much, but the tire is bent out and the wheel assembly and axle destroyed.)

A passing tow truck was kind enough to stop and help us out.

We, thank the gods, are all fine. We've spent the last two days holed up in a Super 8, dealing with all the complications of the mechanics' shop and insurance company, becoming very familiar with Whataburger (a "Texas treasure"), watching too much tv, and smoking way too many cigarettes. We've had to cancel three shows so far, and this makes me the saddest of all. I hate that. Right now, we still don't know what we are going to do. We wait.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The P&H, Landy's, and our First Trip to Louisiana.

Day Eight - The P&H, Memphis, TN. When we made it to Memphis and had time to kill, we thought it would be a good idea to at least drive by Graceland. They charge something like $30 a head to go in, so we weren't doing that, as poor as most of us are at this point. As we drove through the neighborhood, our attention was drawn to the circus that's grown up around it. There's the "Heartbreak Hotel;" there's the tour one can take of the King's airplanes. There's the tourists. We wondered "Where's the house?" Then we turned around to head to our night's abode and found it: directly on the other side of the street. I hope this kind of collective lack of attention never results in a wreck. We met our friend Rob at his new house and hardly recognized him. His chest-long beard was gone. "Rob?" I said. "Yep, it's me," he replied. He's the one who introduced us to the P&H last year, which at the time was his neighborhood hangout. They serve cheap beer and cheap food (P&H stands for poor and hungry) and they have a stage and a dedicated group of regulars. Jefferson Fox opened, and he was amazing: great guitar player and performer. I can't wait to put on his record so I can hear the lyrics. Closing the night was Slowclaw, who were super tight and reminded me of a DC band called Q And Not U. Sandwiched in between was us. The show was rockin'. Some places just seem to make us sound louder.

Day Nine - Landry's, Ft. Smith, AR. All the waitresses were wearing our tshirts. They love us at Landry's, and we love them. Loaded in and ate some of their tasty Cajun food. We were a bit late hitting the stage as we have to run our own sound there, but I think everything came off well. After the dinner crowd
cleared, we played a set for the bar staff, including a raw version of a new song we've been working on. It was a hit. Found a Motel 6, did some laundry, and crashed.

Day Ten - Overtime Sports Bar, Shreveport, LA. It turns out Louisiana is a sauna, and the AC at the bar was broken. We spent most of the night dripping. Luckily, part of what was supposed to be a four hour show was chopped off so they could show UFC fights. Cool! We got to watch Anderson Silva kick Forrest Griffin's ass in a about two minutes. Silva's the master. The two hours we played were fun but miserable. The side of my bass was slippery with sweat after the first tune. We came off stage dehydrated and edgy. It was a surprise when Jess asked us why we didn't have that much energy all the time. Energy? Really? Awesome. The last long bar show of the trip is now out of the way, thank the gods. Tonight: Notsuoh in Houston.

- Troy

Ps - I want to sleep, too. -t.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Tour - A Bunch… Pt. 2

Second Leg, Day Two - Chicago, Uncommon Ground. I had a horrible misconception of this place before we arrived. Since the name contains the word "ground," I figured it was a coffee house. Turns out it's the greenest restaurant in Chicago; they grow their own veggies on the roof: pretty badass. They fed us in their basement, which was different and reminded me of stories I've read where they only allow the musicians to use the back door by the dumpster. It was nice though. We all got to eat together around a big table. The food was tasty even if it was only from the "musicians' menu." Oh yeah - the show was great, mostly due to expertly dialed stage sound by soundguy Matt. We got to meet some of Jason's film making friends. A good time was had by all.

Day Three, Cleveland, Hanging with the Millers. The Millers are the reason we go to Cleveland. They welcomed us into their home last year and we've gone back every tour since. This time, they introduced us to their friends Scott and Joyce, who have a cottage on Lake Erie… and a sailboat. God damn it was awesome. We ate sloppy joes and corn on the cob. We all took turns making our way to the front of the boat (without falling off) to dip our feet in the water while Scott and Mr. Mark Miller made the boat heel. After the sun went down, we put on an impromptu show in Scott and Joyce's front yard. The whole neighborhood showed up with their lawn chairs, and we sold a bunch of CDs and tshirts.

Day four - Still with the Millers. Jason bought a mandolin with a built-in pickup at the local Guitar Center. The rest of us suffered through the awful din. Jimmie and I decided that if we thought of the sound of all the teenagers wanking on the guitars full blast as an avant garde piece, it wouldn't be so bad. That worked for about fifteen seconds. Sue Miller made everybody tacos that night, and Jimmie, John, and I had a margarita fueled conversation about god late into the night.

Day Five - Cincinatti. The show in Cincy fell through. The venue was in a terrible neighborhood and it was a Tuesday, so the bands we were to play with told us it wasn't that big of a loss. That may be, butlosing a show still sucks. It results in boredom, and boredom can be expensive. We took our time leaving Cleveland. The Millers were amazing to us, and we didn't want to say goodbye. On our way out of town we stopped by the firestation where Mark works and had lunch with the his crew. Mark gave us the grand tour, and I was viciously attacked by a meatball. That night we packed the whole band into one Motel 6 room outside of Cincinatti and went to a movie - "Moon" starring Sam Rockwell. It was fantastic.

Day six - Nashville, French Quarter Cafe. Jason woke up early and took the van to a mechanic. Turns out we have a leak in what they call the pin seal in the rear end. They said it would cost near $1000 to fix, but if we make sure it stays greased up, it should make it the rest of the trip. Here's hoping. Loaded into the French Quarter around 7:00. It was a good room, and they served good Cajun food. We played with the Million Sellers and Leadwood Folk from Nashville. Everything sounded pretty good, and the soundguy Will put us up in his apartment. It was by far my best Nashville experience yet.

More later today.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer Tour - A Bunch of Days

To the call of the green machine's mighty honk, we're setting off again, tank full of gas; tires full of air; shoes full with feet, and hearts filled with hope. (burp). … And guts full of gas.

Playing the Uncommon Ground on Devon in Chicago tonight, then staying in a church gym/home to my friend Jim's theater company. Should be a great Saturday night.

I dropped off a bit during the last few days of the first leg. My apologies, faithful readers. A good portion of the band was suffering from lung infection, so my thoughts at the time would have consisted of various renderings of cough, hack, and spit sounds: not too pleasing to write about. Now, being in a better mood and state of health, I can share some recollections of those days.

Day twelve - Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club, Kansas City MO. Played with the Expassionates, who were great. We got to hear ourselves through the best sound system in KC. It was glorious. The sound guy was all business, and the bartender was kind. She noticed my sniffling and offered me green tea. I sat at the bar with the day drinkers and sipped it from a mug while watching an Obama health care plan speech. We stayed with Jess' cousin Jason. He made us his signature bean and meat concoction, and we destroyed it. Cory and I were facsinated by his magnetized fish tank cleaner, and Jimmie read a book Jason keeps in his bathroom called "What Your Poo Tells You."

Day thirteen - Ottumwa, IA, RAGBRAI show at the Central Park Stage. Mother nature was being an emo goth chic and spat on us. We'd never been rained out before. Now we fear it. We cleared the stage as fast as we could, but the drums and the keyboard got soaked. It all turned out okay, but the at the time we were all melted into soaking rage. We had to haul everything into our house to dry out. The organizers were great though, and we are disappointed that we didn't get to play for the riders. To the the people who came from Missouri to see us: we'll come your way soon. We were interviewed by a film maker working on a documentary about RAGBRAI. We looked and smelled like wet dogs and waxed intellectual on the relevence and viability of Midwestern culture.

Day fourteen - Pop's Blue Moon, St. Louis, MO. Sickness was fully upon us and moods were sharpened. The highlight of the night was eating at a place called Guido's in the Hill district. Best meal in months. Played with a duo called the Big Idea. They were great - guitar and guitar/banjo thing and some strong vocals. We survived the show and slept in a top secret location. We like top secret locations. They have plenty of floor space.

Day fifteen - Cherry Street Artisan, Columbia, MO. Jimmie got a new amp here, a Fender FM 212. It sounds good. We observed tradition and ate at Shakespeare's Pizza. The Artisan was eerily quiet. Drove home for five days off, coughing and tired.

Days off - Ottumwa, IA - for some, it was wives and girlfriends. For others, it was the job. Wives and girlfriends. Yay. Jobs. Buh.

Second Leg, Day One - Live After Five at the Central Park Stage, Ottumwa, IA. Outdoor show in otown, take two. Mother nature finally checked out our tunes on MySpace and found out we're actually kinda good, so she put on a nice blue sky and some puffy white clouds for us. Live After Five is a series of concerts put on every year in July, and it's a big deal in Ottumwa. Everyone brings a lawnchair and drinks beer in the park. We had fun. My mom got smashed. Just so I get it right at least once: thank you to South Ottumwa Savings Bank, Golden Eagle Distributing, and the Ottumwa Childrens Theater (for the kid's games). Special thanks to Pam Kaupins, who organized the event. Whew finally -- I couldn't say that on stage to save my life. Quote of the night, said to merchant gal Jess: "Can you get these guys to play some Jimmy Buffet and turn up the energy a little." Fuck Jimmy Buffet. Sorry… had a little outburst.

Ok. Enough rambling. More tomorrow. This job kicks ass.

Love, Troy.