GRAVELROAD News Good times, bad breaks (& brakes), a flood and killer music

Good times, bad breaks (& brakes), a flood and killer music

September 1, 2014

We are flying back to Seattle.  The tour van is left in Nashville and we are heading home for a few weeks.  This trek was just over a week, yet we covered 3000 miles. I’d go back out tomorrow if I wasn’t incredibly thrilled to also be back home. It’s great to have both worlds.

This was one of my very favorite tours.  We lost money on tour and we don’t care.  It was all about the music and the people.  I’m not one who can linger at home too long.  Getting out for the music and connecting with friends was what it is all about. GravelRoad never sounded better. The road brought out the best in us … again.

I mentioned in my last post that this tour was promotional and not about the money.  That became abundantly evident in Indiana.  The van needed an oil change but I knew something else was not ok. I could feel & hear the brakes acting up. The Rocky Mountains in Montana were probably the killer).

I had no idea the entire exhaust system had holes in it and was about to fall off.  After the work, all of us were like, “Man, the van’s a helluva lot quieter” once the work got done. It seems that all of us just thought the van was rockin’, not breaking down. Loud volume is kind of the norm for us.

Oh, and more tires too.  Our never-seems-to-be-aligned front end and all the weird weight distribution did in more tires.  Enough about the vehicle maintenance.  Let’s get to the Fun!

Our musical and event highlight of this tour – and summer – was the Muddy Roots festival in Cookeville, TN.  Muddy Roots lived up to its name.

We got there the night before our performance.  We’d had a great show with Left Lane Cruiser in Fort Wayne, IN and we wanted to take in the event as much as possible. So many of our friends would be there.  So many great bands we don’t get to see enough.

It was beautiful when we arrived.  We pulled up in the dark of a 70 degree, clear-skied night. We set up tents in a spot we hoped would be ok when the rain would inevitably fall.  Thankfully, a Muddy Roots veteran saw where we were setting up and gave us the lowdown that we were in a bad spot, right by a drainage area.  This would save us tomorrow.

We saw some great music, as expected.  Pokey LaFarge is such a great performer.  We’ve played a bunch of shows with his backing musicians in St Louis when we’d roll through town with T-Model.  Pokey is a talent and a showman.  He killed it.

The Sonics were tight and blew away an audience that was getting a valuable dose of American musical history.  The Monsters, fronted by the great Reverend Beat Man, were undeniably strong.

Exhaustion from the road hit me the next morning.  We moved our tents to higher ground before the rain came.  And in mid-afternoon we would reap benefits from this.

The rain started off relatively mild during the afternoon.  It got heavier within an hour.  I didn’t initially understand the intensity of the storm, as I was under cover at the Merchandise area.  People began to collect by the back of that tent gawking at something.

A river had formed in the low area of the festival grounds.  It was a flash flood.  This was no normal rain storm, it was a tropical depression.

I remember thinking earlier in the day: “Damn, that’s the lowland and people are camping there …. Isn’t there some serious storms coming this weekend?”

Tents were submerged in water.  A Harley was about 1/3-1/2 way underwater as well.  There were cars, trucks, and trailers that were in the lowland too.  Not the place to be.  People went scurrying to try to salvage their stuff.

The shows went on.  One completely open-air stage got shut down but everything else at the Festival went as planned.  Just with mud. A lot of it. For the rest of the two days that remained and beyond. Muddy Roots was all that.

We missed some of our friends performing because of the weather and the recovery from it.  I saw the Ten Foot Polecats hit a big ending and say “good night.” Other people I missed entirely.

Everything was running late.  The Hangdog Hearts were amazing.  They never stopped despite the generators cutting in and out.  Husky Burnette and his new band tore it up before we hit the stage close to midnight, about 90 minutes after planned but perfectly on time.

I loved our set.  It was loose, looser than some of our sets but c’mon, there were people caked in mud in the crowd.  All of us had water-logged feet and clothes. Even changing clothes only provided brief respite as there wasn’t enough cover to protect a person from hours and hours of rain.

I was fortunate to set up on the side of the stage where people could comfortably gather and be under cover. I loved the madness and mayhem that swirled around me.  I’m pretty certain I added to it, egging some fans on and making eye contact and hollering at whomever was around.

The tent was packed.  People were dancing in the mud up front and in puddles around the tent.  We played a bunch of old songs and new ones off of El Scuerpo. I think there were a lot of people hearing us for the first time, at least in person, so it was all new to them.  I had people tell me, “I’d heard of you but I hadn’t heard you.”  They dug it.

We had people express gratitude for us doing something a little different from anyone else they’d heard.  We liked that a lot.  We admit to being weird.  Last week at the Bayport BBQ, we saw them using the quote “We’re not for everyone.” I like that. We like that.  We just might steal the slogan.

We hung out spending time with friends like Gabe and Tammie from New Mexico, a slew of new people who caught the show and Mudhoney after their performance on the main stage.  Good times.

That night we only got a wink of sleep.  The conditions were too wet for deep comfort.  Everyone was stirring by 8am … which stinks when we were all stirring around 4am.

We split into groups and broke down camp.  3 of us went into town and had the incredibly rock-star experience of using laundromat dryers to try and prevent mold on all of our camping gear that’d be packed up for weeks.  Other remained and took care of business & pleasure at the festival.

By midday, our desire to stay all night to watch the Hooten Hollers at 1:30am before racing to Nashville’s airport to fly back to Seattle were soaked out.  Instead, we retreated to the warm and dry home of Ray Cashman – the keeper of our van for six weeks – where we ate a grand dinner, sipped whiskey and told road and music stories.

Oh, and we got showers.  I had lost the ability to smell myself about 24 hours before.  Yet I’m certain I still needed one.  I’m very certain the people on the flight home were (unknowingly) appreciative.

Well be back to these parts in 6 weeks for some shows anchored by the Deep Blues Festival in Clarksdale, MS.  Woo Hoo! – MR