The “On tour” blog .....Kingston Mines videos in our new video page!!
If, like me, you prepare for your first tour by reading everything you can get your hands on, related to the subject….you’re going to hear this phrase repeated : “Going on tour is like being married to 3-4 people at the same time”. My solution? Fall madly in love with the band I brought west (Kathy Peterson and Mark Chouinard, who will be on every track of my next album, and Emily Duff, who has been on the last five!). You will read that you need to have the right people with you….again, check--but let me remind you that, if you’re a perfectionist band leader (is there another kind?),you’ll need to focus on that word “people”.....you know, those imperfect individuals with their own hopes and dreams that inhabit our planet. I suggest making a couple dumb mistakes right off the bat, so they’ll know in advance you’re gonna have to forgive theirs (again: Check!) But seriously, my band members were so considerate of each other, and so brilliant at each working their part of the puzzle, it was almost easy. If you decide to tour with two egomaniacs and a whiner, driving 880 miles, I have absolutely no idea how you’re gonna survive . That’s right, driving! They got them some full-sized states out there, not like our little itsy bitsy practice states…..told Em “ Wake me up if we pass a big field of corn, with a little row of trees, and then another big field of corn” She said “Ok, but I’ll be waking you every 8 seconds”. Another time, while the female contingent were asleep in the back, we passed a sign that said “Oil changes, starting at $190”. I said “Uh, Mark?” He confirmed “Tractor trailer”....I said “Where would they find any tractor trailers around here?”....in case you thought goods get to and from the middle of the U.S. by BOAT, you’d be mistaken. There’s a parade of double trailers on every highway in the Midwest (I think they might even sneak in some triple trailers). One of my favorite episodes was the tractor trailer guy who flipped us off in Indiana…..for having Massachusetts license plates! This guy has skipped racism and sexism as too complicated, and conceived a simpler way to determine who the good and bad people are; just check the plates…..done!
On to the music: we played a whole bunch of clubs we can’t wait to see again….and maybe one we’ll see on Bar Rescue. Most of the people did not know who we were, but the response was terrific. You’ll need to bring your confidence that, when you jump off the building they’re gonna catch you, ‘cause you can’t jump off a building gradually (next album title?)....but in a weird way, doing the same show a bunch of nights in a row, where the only change is a new audience, gives you a whole new perspective on what you can control, and what’s up to them. Best audience was Indianapolis, where they still party like it’s 1969, but I was especially pleased in Buffalo, where the club design added the challenge that most of the audience were on the other side of a wall! Going around with the wireless helped, but mostly it was: finish the song….see if they liked it…..start another song….wonder if they’re liking it.
You’ll read in those tour guides “don’t forget to schedule some sight-seeing”....check. I don’t think a struggling kid band could afford to do all this, but I’m glad we did: Rock Hall of Fame, Chess Records Museum, Wrigley Field, Second City Comedy Club, brief stops at 2 Great Lakes….and Muddy’s House. I posted one picture of his brick structure with the big X on it (which warns firemen and other responders not to enter this unsafe building)....I buried the ones of us smiling on the porch, because the situation is not a happy one. In the toxic racial climate in which we find ourselves, it hurts a bit to realize the symbolism that the “off the radar” neglect of this historic site represents. Although I may have heard about this, I’m ashamed that it wasn’t on MY radar...I adored Muddy Waters, as a music legend, but also as the kind of self-assured yet gentle human being showbiz rarely encounters, completely comfortable in his own skin…..there is, apparently, a “mystery owner” who may be planning to renovate---that story is from a 2014 news story, repeated in another news story in 2017….no more recent updates….”DUDE! Put a poster with a GOFUNDME address in front of the building….OR SOMETHING!” Rumors abound that it may be Buddy Guy, whom we did not meet while at his club(he’s touring). Speaking of which:
Bringing your blues band to Chicago involves a special kind of leap of faith. They already have those….perhaps you’ve heard…..and despite my New York-snob teasing of Kathy, it is DEFINITELY a REAL CITY! It’s big enough that you can’t just ramble through it and guess your way to where you want to go (Kathy to the rescue there), parking is BRUTALLY difficult….an the folks there have their own shit going on, in a busy, hard-headed way completely familiar to a New York refugee like myself. Despite that, our reception there was good. Old friend Scott Cashman showed up and shot videos of us (one with Kathy’s pal Linsey Alexander, who also shot a little of us next night at Buddy Guy’s), and you can hear even the world weary bluesmen gasp when Emily Duff GOES OFF! I play great on those videos, but Em pays even better (if I’m outplayed by the princess, I’m actually HAPPY about it, such is my level of admiration)....and, as Bill Belichek would say, we’re on to Indianapolis.
We arrived ahead of our scheduled show, and planned to promote a little bit at their jam night. “Leave all the stuff in the car”, I said. “We’ll go in for dinner and find out if the host is nice….or a jerk” No need to worry there, everyone was extremely gracious (it didn’t hurt that he broke a string during house band’s first song….and didn’t have one! And you KNOW I carry spares)
Our real show started well, and never lost momentum….even the older folks don’t go home after dinner there, they get their second wind and start dancing (perhaps the large selection of Irish whiskeys might be involved). I was on a mission, and the band was really happy and engaged (once again, Irish whiskey might have been involved). We slept fast, and left early for home, arriving in time to rest up for the crazy kid event back home: Shackstock, where our time together sharpening up things really showed, I think. “Look out, young bands! We’re touring pros!” I think we felt. Hanging around home catching up on all the details I missed, I already miss the band (Shouldn’t we be riding somewhere in the car right now?)....a feeling that will only get worse when Em heads back to China after a few more gigs…
favorite memories---Em getting carded everywhere…...hearing the echo of the Chess studio (twice, when they played tracks from there...in there….my Howlin’ Wolf imitation actually sounded like him!) Mark and I rolling our eyes when Em and Kathy said they’d be ready at “the crack of dawn”. Kathy proudly showing us Millenium Park and other sites of her “real city”. And best of all, the musical conversations(both onstage and off) with my beloved band. I certainly didn’t get rich on the deal, but I’m still walking on air (which you know is not me, right?)