\As I write this, we’re about five hours down Route 66 toward tonight’s show in St. Louis. There’s some frosty ones in the bus cooler and Black Sabbath is blaring over the speakers. Tonight we’re playing at Blueberry Hill on Delmar Boulevard – for those of you who’ve never been through the STL, it’s the main drag for their university neighborhood, and Blueberry Hill towers as the coolest venue on that storied street.
I’m still trying to get my head around it.
It was a huge surprise a couple of weeks ago when the Red Bull folks told us we were going on the road with them. Brighton, MA has been touring around the Midwest for years, doing the best that we can, but getting out to L.A. has always been a distant dream.
Even if you’re not personally a musician, you can imagine what the West Coast means to an unsigned band from Chicago. It’s the heart of the rock music industry and the keystone of any West Coast tour. It’s also about 1,700 miles from home. When we got the news, there was no question – we had to do this.
The tour kicked off yesterday at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago. Though we fancy ourselves a pretty well-regarded band-about-town, we’d never played there before. It’s a pretty historic venue, with legends from Zeppelin to the Zombies playing there as they went through town.
BEING A TOURING BAND ENTAILS A LOT OF PRACTICE, A LOT OF SHOWS TO EMPTY ROOMS, A LOT OF LATE-NIGHT DRIVING AND NO MONEY, FOR YEARS.
We didn’t have much of an idea what to expect. Thankfully, every venue is the same at load-in. With the stage lights down and somebody’s iPod quietly feeding over the PA, the pressure is never really on – even when you know there’s studio time and a luxury bus at stake.
We’d met Young Jesus the previous day at a TV interview set up by the Red Bull folks – but only very briefly. It’s easy to psyche somebody up as adversaries when they’re just an abstraction, but when you meet another band, you’re meeting another bunch of people who’ve made the difficult decision to be musicians.
Being a touring band entails a lot of practice, a lot of shows to empty rooms, a lot of late-night driving and no money, for years. We may be competing against them, but we can’t begrudge ‘em for doing what they love, the same as we do. Depending on how heavy the pranking gets over the next couple of weeks I may regret writing this paragraph, but as it stands, they seem to be cool dudes.
Anyway, last night’s show was something special. The rented light system gave a great backdrop to a set that we were all pretty proud of, and having our friends and family come out to send us off on the biggest tour we’ve yet done was inspiring.
Meeting local heroes the Plain White Ts after the show was also excellent – hearing the horror stories from Dave and Demar of years gone by was reassuring. After the post-show interviews, we loaded up at the wall and went our separate ways for the last time in the next week.
The next morning we met up at Buckingham Fountain to find out who was taking the awesome bus and who was in the red tour van (pictured above). We lost to the Jesus on performance points (I’ve been working on my stage moves in the hours since), but text votes from our fans managed to put us over the top – and as a result, we’ve been riding down the Route in luxury.
Personally, I think it’s a little fitting – I thought YJ did a great job yesterday, but this is their first time out of town, and any touring band will tell you that NOBODY has an easy time of it when they first drive out of town. They’re gonna be keeping us on our toes for the rest of the tour, no doubt.
So far the road has been mostly familiar to us, as a band who’s played St. Louis our share of times, but from here on out it’s going to be uncharted territory. We’re out on that open road – and we’re excited to see what surprises the road has in store for us.
Until next time,