Now that the Western leg of our 2008 tour is done, I’m finally able to find some semi-fond memories of our time in Sturgis! The heat, the flies (they bite!!), the rain, the dust, no showers for 3 days, 4 guys sleeping in a van for 3 days…ahh what a time! I was recently reading a music magazine, and they were interviewing some rock bands about touring during the summer, doing festivals. Basically, it came down to this; they get paid a lot of money, play short sets, tour on nice buses and play to huge crowds…and, according to them, it’s a pain in the ass!
Here’s the other side of the coin, (not bragging by any means, just putting some muthaf***in’ perspective on things!) We started our last tour leg in Jackson MO, played 4 hours, and drove overnight, straight through to Sturgis (14 hours). Due to the bike rally, there were no hotel rooms being provided by the gigs (…umm riiiight…) We finally find and check into a room at the Motel 6 in Rapid City (30 miles from Sturgis), paying double what we normally pay for a Motel 6 room, (remember, 4 guys, one room) effectively taking our entire motel budget for the week. This will be the last bed, last shower, last real comfort we have for the next 4 days. We proceed, over the course of the next 4 days to play 4 outdoor shows, in varying weather conditions (one night’s super hot, the next night has a rain storm with 80 mile an hour winds…)to sometimes less than enthusiastic crowds. Actually, while there were some small crowds, (one night very small!) there was only one sort of less than enthusiastic crowd on the last night, and that’s just because we were too loud…at a motorcycle rally…outside…too loud…bike rally…get it? The way the average day (if there is such a thing) works is this; you load-in in the afternoon, working up a decent sweat, play the gig (usually four hours), load out at the end of the night, get in the van and drive to a parking lot somewhere to go to sleep, sleep until you run out of positions that aren’t so numb you can’t fall asleep, get up, trying to get out of the van by crawling over everyone else and try not wake them up (although they’re not really asleep either), brush your teeth with a bottle of water in said parking lot, change shirts in said parking lot, find coffee and try to get through the next several hours before the next load-in. In the warm weather, you seek out places to loiter that are air-conditioned; malls, coffee shops, libraries, gun stores, etc. At one point Marshal and I went to the movies essentially to “buy” 3 hours of air-conditioning! After the last show, we drive 8 hours, overnight to the next gig in Nebraska, where we had to wait for the hotel rooms because of a mix-up in the reservations! We did make it into the rooms eventually and let me tell you showers never felt so good! Remember, that’s just the first week! We still had 2 more to go. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we were threatened with jail (!)by a club owner (hereafter known as jack “Q” ass) when we asked to be paid after playing an extra 2 hours at his request ( I will write about this creature in a future blog when I can figure out how to fully describe his repugnance without revealing his true identity, but trust me this guy was a real piece of work…he’s probably in jail as we speak!), we had the rear view mirror knocked of the van in a hit and run situation in Denver, we played multiple gigs some days, at one gig we loaded in, came back to the gig that night and had to tear down and move all of the stuff to another room, had another 22 hour drive…I could go on, but the point is during the entire 3 ½ weeks, no one complained. No one bitched about the lack of rooms, the lack of showers, the long drives, the little money, and the long nights of playing whether people were listening or not, nobody in the SHB whined at all! This isn’t acceptance of the situation, none of us, (me included), doesn’t want more of everything, more comfort, more money, more guitars, more attention, better shows, more people, etc. This is very much the art of being a warrior in a campaign. You get up every morning, prepare for battle and go to war. When you lay your head down at night, you know you were true to yourself, your art and your fans. Duct tape and Krazy Glue become your best friends. You learn to live on 4 or 5 hours of sleep per night (sometimes not all in a row!). You learn that while three square meals a day is great, you can live on one (or sometimes none!). Sometimes, you don’t get a motel for the night and you might think, “Any motel is better than no motel!”, then you get a motel that blows that theory out of the water!
I know that everything is relative and I’ve been in the “tour bus/four star hotel” situation and I definitely cried about the bad catering, bad view from the terrace of my suite or that the water in the dressing room wasn’t chilled, but having been there and then been truly blessed by God to have the reality check of having all of that taken away and find that none of that was why I do what I do, and that not only could I live without that stuff, in some ways I’m better off! That’s not to say I’m not trying to work my ass off to get it all back and then some, but it’s important to me to know that my aim is true. I know for a fact that there are plenty of musicians out there on the road, leaving blood on the stage every night doing what they believe in, whether they’re being rewarded financially or materially or not, they are being rewarded spiritually. My supreme respect is given to those fellow warriors for the love of Music. We didn’t invent this life, we just live it.
Life on the road, in any capacity, is life in a bubble. You are surrounded at all times by an almost static environment and whatever that environment is becomes your reality. Things make a sort of bizarre sense, because it’s all your really know. I learned from Buddy Guy who in his career has traveled, with a full band, in a car to the deep south on bald tires, had guns pulled on him, been cheated out of his pay, been pulled over and hauled before the judge by Mississippi cops in the middle of the night, seen people killed while he was playing and had to keep playing! I learned from his stories about legends like Earl Hooker, who while trying to entice workers in a field to come to that night’s performance, was ordered at gunpoint to, “pick up a hoe!” The road is littered with cautionary tales that transcend success. Elvis, Hank Williams and Robert Johnson all died basically scared and alone. Those are just three names that you might have heard of. There are plenty who didn’t gain that kind of notoriety who met similar fates. So to the new breed, I say, “what’s the matter, your Xbox 360 not working right? iPhone got you down? Are your free guitars not showing up in tune?” Shut the hell up and play!
As I finish this, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the “excellent” things that happened on tour; My friend Chuck MF Lanza and his lovely wife met up with us in Denver, I got to hang out with Buddy for an hour or so one night, my friend Kempf MF Poole came out and traveled with us for 10 days or so, we ate at the original Chipotle’s twice, met a bunch of our old friends across the country and made some new ones, discovered a new favorite beer in Salt Lake City, saw The Dark Knight for a fourth time in Denver on the IMAX screen, I finally found Jason & The Scorchers first album on CD at Twist & Shout, went hiking, made amazing music with two very dear friends, got to play loud at least 92% of the time, I even got to play my “big amp” on the last day of the tour, and then got to come home to my girls! I am truly truly blessed!