Monday, August 02, 2010

Upalooza, Volume 10: Around the Bend

(Quick housekeeping note: this will be the last post of the tour series.  Next week, we'll resume the usual features, starting with August's Fan of the Month on Monday, August 9.  Song of the Week and the Mailbag will follow, so be sure to send your questions in for the Mailbag.

Finally, look for another blog on Wednesday with a big announcement!)

Hey August!

I often begin blogs with a statement like, "I'm writing you from Milwaukee, but I could be anywhere..."  The truth is, I couldn't be anywhere.  I could only be in this little room in this little town north of Little Rock, because that's where I go when I need a nap. 

I need a nap.  The last show of the tour was Wednesday, July 28, and after a few extra days in Memphis, I'm now back where I started, unpacking my car, unloading my head.  Before we get to the Memphis show, let's check the scoreboard!

The Final Tally:
--23 days
--10.5 shows
--16 states
--2 countries
--1 traffic citation (Baltimore can take my $90 c/o Avon Barksdale.)
--3,894 miles driven
--$36.50 spent on toll roads
--12 tanks of gas
--0 guitar strings broken
--1 guitar pickup broken
--19 Fruit Roll-Ups eaten
--4 local breweries sampled
--2 BBQ joints sampled (1 good)
--9 couches, 3 beds, and 1 backseat slept in
--1 really annoying cold
--45,912 kind of annoying stomach aches
--Countless CDs played
--1 new mix created ("Hot Rocks: Summermelt My Summerface 2K10")
--Lots and lots of memories

Memphis Favorite Moment:
The Memphis show was done "in the round," meaning three songwriters trade off songs onstage.  We played two rounds.  During the second round, a guitarist (Josh Roberts) accompanied us onstage, backing our songs.  To call him "really good" is like calling Usain Bolt "pretty fast."  I didn't know before I started playing "Shine" that he was accompanying all of us.  Two chords in, and I heard that baleful, Tuesday's Gone-ish riff pick up behind me, and my almost started laughing mid-lyric. 

So.  Much.  Fun.

Seriously, I could've covered "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and Dr. Roberts would've turned it to gold.  Next time I just might do that.

Memphis Least Favorite Moment:
My guitar being lame.  Rose acted up during sound-check, eventually needing a slip-in pickup for the show.  Few things worry me more than guitar issues (which I realize is a crazy thing to say/type).  It's the comfort level of getting onstage, plugging in, and knowing what your instrument's going to do, every time.  When a guitar's on the fritz, it's hard to get comfortable. 

Memphis Road Weirdness/Funsies:
I actually heard this sentence in passing (I won't say where): "Give him hell 'bout it...his little brother got a DUI this morning.  On a go-cart."

More Memphis Road Weirdness:
I saw my fifth "sunny rainstorm" on this tour, but this time it lasted an hour and flash flooded some major roads in Memphis.  At one point on Poplar Ave, the water came up to my car's door.  Now that I think about it, I have no idea how Ruby got through that without hydroplaning into Mississippi.  Maybe she's special.  Maybe she's the Batmobile.

In My Stereo (Most-Played On Tour Edition):
Artist: Tom Petty.  I don't know what else to tell you: there is always a time for "Free Fallin'."  There is always a time for "Time To Move On."  And Mojo is, in its entirety, a summertime driving album.  Regardless of time or place, all I wanted to hear was Tom Petty. 

Album: Band of Horses, Everything All the Time.  Still enjoying Infinite Arms, but Everything... makes 70 miles disappear in 5 minutes. 

Song: Lucero, "I Can Get Us Out of Here Tonight."  Between the number of times I played that album, and the number of my mixes it's on, I had it on steady rotation for weeks.  No, it never got old.  Yes, I now own a jean jacket.

In My Rearview (Prettiest Stretch of Road Edition):
I saw a ton of gorgeous country.  Some nominees:
--The "Land of Giants-esque" farmland of ON-401E (western Canada), with its constant hills, oversized farms, and perfectly manicured land.  Everything in Canada--even the sky and grass--looked freshly painted. 
--The Americana-soaked US20E (western NY) leaving Buffalo, winding around the Catskills. 
--Honestly, all of Washington, D.C.  I might be the only person alive who still loves driving in DC.
--Nickajack-lake stretch of 24W between Chattanooga and Nashville.  Remember "The Great Valley"--the idyllic place the dinosaurs try to find in The Land Before Time?  No?  Well, this is what it looks like.

But the winner is:
64E/77S, West Virginia into Virginia.  I realize that some/many of you have never been to West Virginia, and I realize that, to most of the country, it's kind of a forgotten state.  "What's there," people ask.  "What goes on in West Virginia," they seem to say.  I'll tell you what's in West Virginia: some of the prettiest country anywhere.  It's insanely beautiful.  It's "park, take some pictures, and wish Jennifer Garner was there to propose to" beautiful.  It's "this is where God battled Satan and William Wallace should've died" beautiful.  It's unspeakably great, as is all of Appalachia.

But here's the best part: you're thick in a stretch of mountainous highway and suddenly the road leads into the side of a mountain.  You're in a tunnel for a few miles.  The road winds around and you see a light in the distance.  You get closer and the sky starts to open up.  Straight ahead is an absolute postcard of Appalachia: a chain of monstrous blue-ridged mountains in the distance, a manicured valley in the foreground, blue skies, green grass, white clouds, and a giant sign that reads, "Virginia Welcomes You." 

Oh, snaps!  Take that, West Virginia! 

West Virginia and Virginia: constantly locked in a border war for "which state looks more like heaven." 

What I'll Carry:
I got a Mailbag question that I'll answer now: "From the whole tour--the month on the road, all the shows and new places--what will you remember most?" 

Great question, and I can't think of a better way to end the Tour Blog.  I'll remember:

--Taking cheesy self-portraits under the Arch and watching locals laugh at me.
--The left-arm trucker tanburn I got in Illinois.
--Using an Indian's photo ID to break into a Grand Rapids building.
--The golf clinic I interrupted in Canada because I needed a bathroom.
--The man in Buffalo who blows bubbles out his window all day, every day.
--Listening to The National's High Violet and almost falling asleep in rural New York.  Listening to R.E.M.'s Monster and waking back up.
--Having a "virtual experience" with Adam Richman of Man v. Food.
--The day I drove through six states and one concert to get to a party in DC.
--The party I got to in DC.  Being so tired when I got there I briefly fell asleep standing up in the kitchen. 
--Jazz in the Garden with an old friend and a few new friends.  Sweating through my jeans like a stuck pig hooker in church (yep, those exist).
--Seeing the Milams in Belle, WV.  I always remember that.
--Popping Cold-Eez like Jolly Ranchers on the drive to Atlanta.
--Blasting It Still Moves in the Georgia/Alabama mountains at midnight, the first cool breeze since April outside my car.
--Playing the last note of the last song (Big Star's "Thirteen") in Memphis.  Feeling at ease for the first time in weeks.  Feeling at home for the first time in months. 

Mostly, I'll remember you.  If you've read this blog, checked this website, come to a show, bought a CD, burned a CD, or told a friend, I'll remember you. 

If I met you in the last month--maybe pre-show in Grand Rapids, maybe post-show in Atlanta, maybe anytime, anywhere great music fans come out to hear something new--I promise I'll remember you, and I'll see you again soon. 

And finally, to my friends who put me up and whom I put out, I can't thank you enough.  Because of y'all, the last month isn't so much a series of memorable moments but one great, delirious, smiling blur.  It's been great.

Let's do it again.  How's October?

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