Tour, Travel, Tired & Tips for PackingMay 10, 2013
It’s been awhile since our last travel entry. Too long. We’ve been hitting the road, rehearsing, and planning our upcoming album. It’s been a great couple months and we’re about to lean into a dense summer schedule.
Last week Style Weekly posted an article called “Road Tested” asking touring Richmond musicians about packing tips and lessons learned. (The original article can be found here) This article is especially topical for us since we just had our van broken into in New York City. Luckily we only lost a couple of bags. It was still a hard pill to swallow with a couple hundred dollars worth of personal items stolen. It was an annoying amount of theft, enough to piss you off but not enough to file a claim and pay the deductible.
Steve Berlin of Los Lobos sitting in at The Cutting Room in New York, NY – 4/20/13
This got us thinking about what we bring out on the road and how we pack. I’m always amazed when I see musicians bringing their “babies” out on the road. This is the instrument or piece of gear that would be virtually impossible to replace because of rarity or price. If you love something, don’t take it on the road. If something travels enough, it’s certain to meet one of the following fates: it’ll be lost, stolen, broken, wet (most likely soaked in beer), or it’ll meet other unseemly atrocities. The key to happiness with touring (and life, for that matter) is simple: KEEP YOUR EXPECTIONS LOW. You’ll be elated when you come home with half the stuff you left with.
On a recent trip to West Virginia I asked each band member to share a couple packing and traveling tips. The number one travel tip: bring less clothes. According to Mason and Bobby you should always bring extra boxers and socks. Hunter, the eternal napper and writer, suggested pillows and a notebook. Our keyboardist Andrew touted the virtues of bringing versatile clothes such as cowboy boots and a blazer. I always have to have sunglasses and baby powder. Other obvious good habits include getting to bed as soon as possible, bringing extra strings, and grabbing naps whenever possible. Sticking with our low expectations theme I find it best just to let go. Let go of the notion that you have any control over what happens when traveling. Getting frustrated or angry over things beyond your control will just wear you out.
This attitude is what leads to great shows and happy band mates. We’re still trying to figure it out so we can do this for many years to come. While on most runs our nights still blend into the morning, maybe we’ll trade on less beer for one more salad the next time around.
Winter Tour – First LegJanuary 16, 2013
Wednesday, January 9 – Sullivan Hall – New York, New York
This is my first run back with the boys after finishing school and coming on full time. I started off the morning in Richmond servicing the band van: getting the oil changed, inspected and cleaned. Fast forward to 3 o’clock in the morning parked in Brooklyn, the van is back to its original condition littered with Budweiser cans and fast food wrappers. It was nice while it lasted.
Playing in New York City is always a logistical nightmare. This time around it went off without a hitch. Free parking at the venue and where we were staying in Brooklyn. Big score. We had an hour set at Sullivan Hall in the Village. The show was a blast with a lot of old friends coming out to support us. Getting people out on a Wednesday night is tough and coupled with playing in the city is another challenge. The sound guy was awesome and gave us a recording of the show, reportedly a $75 value according to the venue’s website. Another score. The trip up was worth it.
We finished up the night and headed to “decompress” in Brooklyn. In some sort of cruel retribution our friend Dan (who mastered our record) brought us to his ex-girlfriends house to stay for the night. A member of the band may or may not have slept walked into a roommate’s bedroom to sleep. The truth remains murky. Long story short, Dan got out of dodge and is now on the road with us acting as de-facto manager and sound man. His return date is uncertain.
Thursday, January 10 – Triumph Brewing Company – New Hope, PA
After grabbing some lunch and catching up with some more folks, we went and toured Engine Room Audio in Manhattan where our record was mastered. We pulled up outside and had an intern keep an eye on the van while we looked around one of the slickest studios I have ever seen. Besides having a great live room it also had a sick roof deck overlooking the city. We piled back in the van and made our way to New Hope, Pennsylvania to play at Triumph Brewing Company.
Although we had a thin crowd, we still had a great time. The room sounded real nice and the micro-brews kept everyone in high spirits.
Friday, January 11 – The Bayou – Washington D.C.
This show was booked as an anchor for the rest of the run. Reaching out to new places means you don’t necessarily make what you normally do so its good to have a sure-fire gig that you can count on to draw people out and make some dough.
The Bayou did not let us down. I am not sure what the capacity of the room was, but I am sure that the fire marshal would not have been a happy camper if he saw this room so packed. It was a high-energy show with the whole crowd dancing and actually listening. We had a couple guys from Pigeons Playing Ping Pong come sit in which was the highlight of the night (besides the droves of beautiful DC girls).
It was a pretty great night and the cherry on top was staying at the Marriott. Clean beds and a solid breakfast was a great way to start of Saturday morning.
Saturday, January 11 – Dante’s – Frostburg, Maryland
It was a solid night with great sound and lots of free drinks. We hightailed it back to Richmond after what all of us considered a successful run. No broken gear, showers every day, and no emotional breakdowns. The highlight of the trip back home was playing twenty questions and seeing a car blow up on the side of the road.
September Highlights/LowlightsOctober 2, 2012
What a month! September began with our longest band road trip to date and ended w/ a bang w/ back to back sold out gigs in Washington, DC and RVA! Here are some of the highs and lows of the month:
Sept 1 – 2 Harrisonburg, VA > Joliet, IL
If this routing doesn’t look too appealing on paper it’s b/c it’s not… trust me. We played an afternoon frat gig at JMU on the Saturday afternoon of Sept 1 and then high-tailed it 15 hours to Joliet, IL (a suburb of Chicago where the Blues Brother’s were released from prison in the iconic film) for a wedding gig for a close friend from college. Both shows were killer and we got to see a ton of old friends and poke around Chicago on Labor Day. We got deep dish pizza and… it sucked to be honest. Highly recommend against it.
Take home message: it takes 17 hours to drive a van and trailer from Chicago to Richmond and you lose an hour.
Sept 13 – 16 Charlottesville, VA > Blacksburg, VA > Rock Camp, WVA
We did this run w/ a great band from Baltimore called Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. We’ve known these guys for a little over a year at this point and always have a blast getting out on the road together. We started the run in a funky new little spot in Charlottesville called The Main Street Annex. This is the first music venue that I’ve ever played in that is actually attached to an ice-skating rink (and it felt great sliding around on an empty rink after a few barley pops and sweaty set). Overall the night was a good one.
The following night we debuted a relatively new spot in Blacksburg called Sycamore Deli (see picture above). If one might recall, it’s the old Lantern from 4 – 5 years back when some of us went to VT. The show was at capacity before either band even hit the stage it was also our last show (for a while) w/ McArthur (our light guy) before he hit the road w/ Dr. Dog. Kiiillleeerrr night all around.
After Blacksburg, we headed out to the Pink Moon festival in Rock Camp, WVA. I arrived after the remainder of my band mates only to find that our little club PA was running the entire festival b/c the hired sound guys “were out to lunch” (literally, the left for lunch and never came back). After a little bit of chaos ensued, everyone lent a hand and we made it work out. We ended up running EOTO’s set (see picture of Michael Travis of String Cheese Incident/EOTO above) in it’s entirety w/ very little issues.
We played the following day and all in all, it was an unforgettable weekend.
Sept 27 – 29 Newport News, VA > Washington DC > Richmond, VA
After driving home from Newport News and working all day on basically no sleep, we headed up to DC to try out a spot called Bayou. It was awesome. The place was absolutely packed thanks to a lot of our old VT friends, fellow musicians in bands like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Moogatu, and Deaf Scene, and people who had simply heard about the band thru the grape vine. All in all a killer night and a packed room.
The following day/night we played a day set at spot outside of Richmond called Dorey Park for a “Bark in the Park” event. This was easily our biggest K9 audience to date and we ended up playing 8 songs, getting paid, and rolling straight to The Camel for beers and load in.
Our night gig was for the Southern Belle’s CD Release party and it was an absolute blast. The club was packed by the time we went on and our set featured sit ins from most of the members of the Belle’s. There set featured sit in’s from over half of DJ Williams Projekt including horns, keys and percussion and at one point, there were at least 20 people packed on stage belting out the chorus to Hey Jude in Last Waltz fashion.
Weekends like these are why we do what we do and love doing it. Stay tuned for more updates, shenanigans, and van stories (we did break down a few weekends ago but figured everyone was bored w/ broken van stories).
Halfway Thru the Summer Tour and…July 10, 2012
I currently find myself sitting in a Charlotte hotel room watching the same episode of Sportscenter repeat itself on a loop. They say it’s “live” and “new” but it’s pretty much the same shit over and over again. We just had five shows in five days and we finally got to catch up on some much needed R & R and in a bed no less. Here’s a recap of some of the memorable moments from the tour so far.
July 4th – Washington D.C.
We played a place called Acre 121 in Columbia Heights inside of DC. Terry, the owner of the club, was the man. At set break he escorted us up to a roof top party with hundreds of other party goers and we got to watch 20 + different fireworks displays at the same time. He also waived the remainder of our monster bar tab at the end of the night which was definitely a killer way to kick off a five day run. All around, a solid show where we met new friends/fans from all over the country.
July 5th – Wilmington, NC
July 6th – Raleigh, NC
We played this show with Bubonik Funk (Charlotte, NC) and Former Champions (Richmond, VA). We’ve played with both of these groups before in the past but never on the same bill. This show was also put on by our good friend Mike Little from Mike Little Presents. Overall the show was a success but the night was highlighted in a slightly abnormal fashion. While waiting to load in myself and Hunter walked up the street and stumbled upon an awesome band from Asheville called Jahman Brahman. After meeting a few of their roadies we got some stickers and headed on back to the Pour House which turned out to be a great gig.
All in all, show went well and we are gradually getting to play in front of more and more people in Raleigh.
July 7th – Charlotte, NC
We actually met another rock ‘n’ roll band on the interstate on the way to this show, or so we thought. We proceeded to roll down the windows and chit chat with who turned out to be our friends from the night before, Jahman Brahman from Asheville, NC. We tried to huck CDs to one another but not surprisingly, neither of us had any to spare.
We played the show at the Double Door Inn in Charlotte with our new friends from Raleigh Pseudo Blue. These guys were easily one of the best pairs we’ve ever had and our fans had no problem telling us about it all night. This was are most packed show and it was a killer way to end the run. Mark, the bass player from Pseudo Blue, ended up partying with us after the show and hitting up breakfast at the Gillespie’s the next morning which leads to…
July 8th – Charlotte, NC (again)
We picked up a last minute bar gig at a place called Char Bar still in Charlotte. Ask any band, a paid Sunday show while on tour is about as good as it gets. Only issue we had was that it started pouring once we were set up and we ended up spending the majority of our show time battening down the hatched trying to keep our gear safe. A few electrocutions later, we were off and running for what turned out to be a sweaty hour and a half set for some die hard Shack Band fans.
Can’t wait to get back out on the road this Wednesday. The rest of the week is as follows:
July 13th – Asheville, NC
July 14th – Athens, GA
July 15th – Savannah, GA
July 16th – Folly Beach, SC
“Fifth Member” Josh Crowley’s Take on Life on the Road w/ The Shack BandMay 22, 2012
Five shows and a thousand miles later I have a chance to write about my time on the road with The Shack band. The run has thus far has been lots of fun and has been well attended. Ideally, I would have been posting after every show but looking at a computer screen in the band van was not appealing. Instead I will just hit the high points for you.
May 16- Roanoke, VA
We played this show with the Silo Effect, which is another Richmond band. This was a great club. Free food, free drinks, great sound man. I also ended up sitting in with the Silo Effect, which was a unique experience. They play a pretty wild blend of jam and electronic music. At one point when I was playing with them three out of the four members were on computers. This was something I had never experienced before. But, it was exciting to play such a different genre of music. The night ended up getting wild and we found ourselves staying at a mansion up in the hills of Roanoke.
May 17- Wilmington, NC
We also did this show with the Silo Effect. It was an decent venue in their downtown area. Hunter (the shack band’s guitarist) and I got scooped up at the gas station by my childhood friend Allie and her dad. We were able to hangout and take showers at a clean apartment, which was heavenly. We then rode in the back of another friend’s pickup to the Venue. The night quickly turned into a wild one. Since my mom reads this blog I will spare you the juicy parts. I will just say that my time in Wilmington ended up with us getting asked to leave the restaurant where we were eating breakfast.
May 18.- Raleigh, NC
We opened up for the awesome band Moon Taxi. These guys were really great and I was seriously impressed by their show at the Southland Ballroom. They are gearing up for the gig at Bonnaroo. I was backstage when they were writing their setlist and they were testing out the set they plan to play at the festival. The venue was a huge warehouse converted into a slick venue. After catching most of the set we had to high tail it back to Richmond to grab some much needed sleep and make it to our afternoon show and sound check the next morning.
May 19- Richmond, VA
Our first show of the day was at Richmond’s River Rock festival mainstage. It was a great stage with about a dozen sound men and roadies helping out. We got carted into the main stage backstage area in a golf cart. There was plenty of redbull and snacks to pep ourselves up for this early show. We played and drank some free beers with some richmond friends then went back to the Shack band house to nap before our evening show.
Andrew (the shack bands piano player) and I went back to the festival after sleeping to watch the headliners at the festival. We sat backstage and watched as JJ Grey and Galactic played. I got the chance to talked to the sax player for JJ Grey. He is a great player and we talked shop for awhile. Galactic played some serious New Orleans funk that made everyone get up and dance.
Our evening show was at The Camel in downtown Richmond. The club was pretty thin when we arrived, but ended up getting slamed with folks from the festival that were not done partying. The band was tired of cranking out the songs so they resolved to try out some new stuff and really let loose. It was without a doubt the best show of the run so far. They band was stretching out and playing new stuff and old stuff differently.
As I write this post I am sitting at the band’s house trying to recover from the last couple days. We have one more show tonight in Charlottesville with Peoples Blues of Richmond. I have had a blast on the road with the Shack Band. They never fail to show me a good time and are good guys to hang out with. Adding a new person to a tight knit group is difficult and I appreciate them taking me out time after time. They make sure that I am up to date on crazy road stories and make me sit in the most uncomfortable seat in the van that they have affectionately named “The Crowlzone.” Stay tuned for tomorrows post as this run comes to and end.