Tour, Day Eight

I’m glad Lawrence, Kansas was at the end of the tour instead of the beginning. Yesterday will be a hard one to live up to.

We played at the Bottleneck, serving as the opening acts for Sovereign States’ farewell show. I hadn’t heard the emo quartet’s music before this tour, so the breakup doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to Tyler and Harry, but it didn’t take me long to realize that “Tired” is one of the genre’s best songs.

The crowd didn’t really show up until after City Mouth and Mighty Ships played, but for once, that hardly mattered. I spent the time between sets catching up with Rachel and Joan, and then we watched in awe as Baiowolf took the stage. Baiowolf happened to be the seven-hundredth band I’ve seen live, but even without the milestone I would have remembered their set for a long time. They invited the crowd on stage to share their crazy samples (background music from Big and “Our God Is An Awesome God,” for instance), live drums, and over the top, truly ridiculous lyrics, and it was more fun than I ever would have expected.

After Baiowolf, Sovereign States played their brief but incredible final set. Tyler and Harry sang on “Tired,” and the members’ old bands, My Brother, The Vulture and Coronado Left For Dead, even made appearances, but the best part of the night was yet to come.

In addition to playing in Sovereign States, the members moonlight as Taking Back Monday, a pop punk cover/karaoke band. They play the hits from Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Saves the Day, and the like, inviting everyone up on stage to sing and dance. It’s a brilliant concept, and they were blast to see in action. I almost didn’t mind staying up until past 2:00 AM for that, and I’d really like to attempt a similar thing with Movies About Animals in the future.

I haven’t even hit on the rest of our day in Lawrence, which included one more record store stop, where I found a Jimmy Eat World single and some great dollar bin CDs, and a great ice cream cone, which was made even better because there was a Whopper at the bottom.

Today marks the final day of tour, and for as much fun as I’ve had over the last eight days, I’m glad. I miss home and I miss Liesi, and I can feel myself getting sick, plus I’m just ready to finally move and get settled in Chicago.

Tour, Day Seven

We’re a week into tour, and we’ve finally settled into a fairly smooth routine. We all have a spot we tend to claim in the van, and we know roughly how long it takes each of us to get ready to go. We figured out the best way to pack our gear around the pile of luggage and sleeping bags that we’ve affectionately named Stuff Mountain, and we’re getting pretty good at killing afternoons at record stores and parks.

So it’s strange to think that we’re on the home stretch. Last night, we played a small but surprisingly fun show at Lemmon’s in St. Louis, which, it’s safe to say, was our favorite venue so far. Between the free pizza and drinks for bands, a pre-show playlist that included multiple Weakerthans songs, and a bartender who talked to us about The Lawrence Arms, it just felt like a Firehouse show. Even though it wasn’t particularly well attended, everyone who was there seemed very excited about all of the bands and that anything was going on in their little scene. A couple of them even signed up for the City Mouth email list, so we’ll call it a success.

We’re getting an early start today so we can hang out with Harry’s friends in Lawrence, Kansas. Before we hit the road, I’ll add one more tour highlight: Yesterday, I had cookie dough soda, which was not something I had even imagined was possible. It was actually pretty good. If you’re ever at a Rocket Fizz, I recommend it.

Tour, Day Six: A Day Off and Some Thoughts On Jimmy Eat World

Yesterday was the most uneventful but also the most stressful day of tour so far. After a good talk about the post-Beatles discographies with Josh from the Turncoats, we hit Waffle House again (I actually had a waffle this time), parted ways with Dan, and started the drive to St. Louis.

In the meantime, we were encountering two small crises.

First, we realized we were double-booked for Friday. A show in Kansas City that we thought fell through suddenly had an active Facebook event, but we had already replaced it with a show in St. Louis. Second, we had nowhere to stay at the end of our off day. Eventually, we settled on playing the St. Louis show because the KC one had no locals on it and springing for a hotel, but the process was rough, and I’m glad it is only going to happen once on this tour.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, we had one of the best of moments of tour so far. During the drive, Harry put on Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American. A quick survey showed that everyone in the van had had a different experience with the record. Harry latched onto it right when it was released and knew every word and guitar line better than I do. I love the album to death, but I discovered it primarily after Futures was released. Matt knew most of the songs but only through shuffling the band’s discography. Tyler had heard the singles. Charlie was asleep.

Even so, I realized there was something unifying about that album. It was a gateway to punk and emo for an entire generation. As we moved from the blistering opener to Davey Von Bohlen’s obscenely catchy guest spot to the megahit to the deep cuts, I was revisiting and remembering the emotions and moments I had so inextricably linked with these songs years ago, and I could tell everyone else was too. A truly great record can do that. It can sum up the separate experiences of four (or four million) people and preserve them forever in a melody or guitar solo.

But here’s why it was special for me: There was no longing to go back to where I was when I first heard “The Middle” or the very specific moment that I link to the line, “I would write to you from Museum Mile,” or the time Derrick and I talked about “My Sundown” at the end of high school. I wanted to be right there in the van in that moment. We were all quiet during “Hear You Me,” not quite looking at each other because that song has too much something in it that is always on the brink of overflowing and every Jimmy Eat World fan knows it. I’ve been trying to figure out what the something is for years, and I think I got it. When Jim Adkins sang, “What would you think of me now, so lucky, so strong, so proud?” this time, it meant as much to me as any lyric ever has. I can finally look back at every person I’ve ever opened up to about my dreams and my passions and my pains and my setbacks, every person who has influenced me and pushed me and pulled me back and supported me, and I can say that I’m where I want to be. I’m happy with where I’m at and where I seem to be going. I’m not settled, but I’m not directionless.

Tour, Day Five

Nashville is a special city. There’s really no other way to put it. You can walk down the strip and hear spectacularly talented musicians playing in every bar. You can find relics of music history on every corner. You can put three dollars into a parking meter before an old guy on the street tells you they don’t get checked after 5:30.

Our Nashville exploration was based mostly on recommendations from Dan’s friend Chris from The Scurvies and our own past experiences. We splurged a little on food, eating at cool local places like Café Coco and Jack’s, and we made it to a couple more record stores. Jack White’s Third Man Records was as interesting as we had hoped, with tons of vintage music gear and White Stripes memorabilia on display. The record store portion only sells titles from the Third Man catalog, so I didn’t pick anything up there, but I really wish I could be back here in a couple weeks when Lazaretto is released. Our next stop was a huge record and book store called Grimey’s, where Harry and I nerded out about literature and I found EP’s by The Swellers and The Skies Revolt. My tour total is now up to seven.

For the show, we met up with some old acquaintances in The Turncoats. I had seen and played with them numerous times in Bloomington-Normal over the years, so it was cool to catch them again now that they’ve settled into Nashville. The show itself was sort of a bust, taking place at a dive bar in serious disrepair called Springwater Supper Club. The bartender/sound guy/(presumably) owner was nice, but the ceiling leaked, the regulars were wasted when we showed up and almost certainly hated us, and it’s somehow still legal to smoke inside.

In typical #mightymouth2014 fashion, however, we had fun anyway. We were mostly playing for each other, but City Mouth sounded our best yet on this tour, with Dan’s drum parts really coming together, Mighty Ships rocked like they always do, and The Turncoats showcased their sweet blues rock skills.

Today is our day off, so we’re making a leisurely drive to St. Louis. Unfortunately, it also means we’re saying goodbye to Dan, who has been a blast to hang out with and play with these last few days. On the upside, we’re over halfway through tour with no serious mishaps yet. Three shows and four days to go.

Tour, Day Four

One of the coolest things about playing outside of your own town and your own state is seeing how other local music scenes function, and I have seen very few as vibrant and passionate as Knoxville, Tennessee.

The show was at a house run by members of a local band called Lions, who just got back from a tour of their own, and despite some booking confusion that resulted in City Mouth not being able to play, it was the most fun night of tour so far. There was a fairly large crowd gathered before the bands even started – credit that to Josiah’s smart tactic of charging only two dollars before that show started and full price afterwards – and most, if not all of them, attentively watched all four bands that played.

Even Mighty Ships, a band with no prior foothold in the area, seemed to get a really positive response. The highlight of the night for me, however, was watching Little Big League, an emo/punk group that I had been wanting to see for a while. They sounded huge even in such a small room, and they were great to talk to afterwards about touring and the business side of things.

Speaking of seeing new bands, I’m edging towards a milestone of my own on this tour. For as long as I’ve been going to shows, I’ve kept track of every band I’ve seen, and I’m on track to hit seven hundred later this week.

I think today is the halfway point of the tour. So far, everything has gone pretty smoothly. We’ve had places to stay every night (huge thanks to Sami’s family, Gabe in Cinci, and Matt Kennedy), we’re close to breaking even on gas money (thanks to my parents for letting us use a reliable, efficient van), and we’re only on each others’ nerves a little bit. We’re in Nashville, Tennessee at Springwater Supper Club tonight, but before that, I’m looking forward to exploring the city and checking out some more record stores, especially Third Man.

It’s sort of strange to think of what I’m missing at home. Friends are moving in and out of new places, May Term is wrapping up at IWU later this week, and rad shows are happening at Firehouse. Out here, we’re so far removed from all of that. This is great as a vacation, and Facebook and phone calls with Liesi keep me connected, but I don’t know if I could spend weeks or months as, in the words our host’s former band, a “permanent tourist.” That has been quite a realization.

Tour, Day Three

This will be a short one since I slept later this morning than I ever have in my life. That’s what happens when I spend an entire day without air conditioning (which may not yet have been invented in Ohio) and stay up until 2:00 AM playing a show.

Last night’s show was bizarre for a number of reasons. First, the venue – The Rake’s End in Cincinnati, Ohio – had a sign outside, but instead of the bar’s name, the sign was just a bunch of closeup pictures of eyes. It was also full of weird but very cool art. Then there was the lineup: We played with small time country music star with a boy band and some TV appearances under his belt and a band who broke up weeks ago and never cancelled because the member Tyler talked to forgot to tell them it was happening. They were cool and played anyway, which was great because they gave us a place to stay.

In other great news, Dan Bretz decided to hang out with us for a few days and play percussion and saw in City Mouth!

Today, we’re off to Knoxville, Tennessee to play a house show with Lions and Little Big League. Hopefully I can find time to preorder the new album from Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties and spin today’s releases from Masked Intruder, Sad and French, and Junior Battles. Rock and roll.

Tour, Day Two

I’m as far away from home as I’ve ever been with a band, but day two of our tour made the world seem smaller than ever. Ironically, we spent it on a college campus that dwarfs even ISU.

After driving to Bloomington, Indiana and getting to know Indiana University a little bit, we met up with Dan Bretz, a good friend who has played drums at a few Modus Aurora shows and been in quite a few other great bands. Tyler happened to be a big fan of one of those bands, a sweet punk group called Sweater Weather, long before he met Dan. That was cool connection number one of the day. Number two was the discovery that Harry, the Mighty Ships bassist, is friends with Liesi’s sister from school.

The coincidences are neat, but I’m even more impressed with the amount of hospitality we’ve already been shown. Dan let us play his N64 for an afternoon (I’m still awful at every game) and showed us the best pizza place in Bloomington, Mother Bear’s Pizza (apple gouda chicken sausage sounds like a strange pizza topping on paper, but it’s actually excellent). For the second night in a row, Tyler’s friend Sami (whose name I now know) helped us out a place to stay. Her family has been great to us these past couple days, and I’ll be sad we can’t sleep on their couches and floors every night.

Other highlights of the day:

We hit our first record store of tour, a really cool place called Landlocked Music. I picked up Signals by Rush (a mediocre album with one song so good it made the purchase worth it), Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA (because I don’t own any Boss records yet), and Oh, Inverted World by The Shins. There’s a running bet going on Twitter as to how many records I’ll buy on this tour. Here’s how the guesses stand so far:

  • Tony: 25
  • Katie: 20
  • Mike: 11
  • Cale: 6

If we find a store every day that has a solid selection and great prices like Landlocked, I might come home with a pretty sizable addition to my collection.

The band that closed the show at Rachael’s Café was called Caligula’s Birthday Party. I wasn’t sure what to expect from that name and the matching Line 6 Spyder combos, but they turned out to be an impressive, mathy indie band. On another show-related note, thanks to Brad Schumann for teaching me how to wrap cables in a way that impresses the sound guy at a tiny venue in southern Indiana.

I also got to talk to Liesi on the phone for a long time while the rest of the gang ate second dinner. It was really nice, and as fun as tour is, I can’t wait to see her again next week.

Tour, Day One

I guess we’re somewhere near Indianapolis. I’m not really sure, since I slept the entire way here from the show. What I do know is that I’m the first one awake (no surprise) and the basement of Tyler’s friend whose name I awkwardly can’t remember is covered in awesome vintage movie posters. My mom would appreciate Moonstruck, and Matt and I argued about Blade Runner for the third time in as many days.

Some context: I just finished day one of my first real tour. It’s a nine-day trek around the Midwest with a stellar emo/indie rock band called Mighty Ships. Their frontman, Tyler Bachman, set the whole thing up and asked Matt and I (formally known as City Mouth) to play some of our acoustic jams as an opening act.

The first show was at a really neat bar with an outdoor stage called Be Here Now in Muncie, Indiana. We made the true rookie mistake of forgetting that there was a time difference, so we showed up an hour late. Hardly anyone was there anyway, so it was no big deal. The Ball State campus isn’t exactly hopping after school lets out for the summer, apparently. Regardless, it was a perfect night for an indie rock show. The headliner was an Indianapolis group called I Dream In Evergreen, a name that was so familiar that I swore they had played Coffee Nation or something years ago. It wasn’t until I mentioned to their vocalist that their show reminded me of another great Indiana band called Olympians that I saw years ago at Cornerstone that I made the connection. Three fifths of this band was actually in Olympians, which was a really cool connection, so we geeked about the Get Up Kids for a minute because the best Olympians song ends with a referential yell of “You’re still all that matters to me.”

Day one also gave us our first great tour story: Somewhere around the eastern edge of Illinois, we drove by some roadkill. Now, that’s a pretty common sighting along the highway, but after this one, Matt and I looked at each other with a little disbelief. He asked the question we were both thinking: “Was that half of a dead dog?” Yep, it was half of a dead dog. The head and forelegs were there, but the torso down was nowhere in sight.

So far, this is a lot of fun, and I don’t think we all hate each other yet. Today, we’re headed to Bloomington, Indiana, so I’m counting on a Dan Bretz sighting, mass confusion about which Bloomington we’re from (someday, I’ll learn to just say I’m from Normal), and more nice texts from Liesi.