Tour 2: Winter 2009 (Intro Hooch)
We just discovered footage on youtube from Boston and New York on the last tour! Both are Sunshine. We also have an iPhone recording of “Rock People” from Ell’s in Oklahoma, although the quality is fairly low.
The first thing I do when we get to a club or bar, especially one we have never played at, is assess whether I get the feeling that this will be a good show or a bad show. You might wonder, what makes a show good or bad? There are several criteria. First, in my opinion, the most important thing necessary for a good show is the amount of people present. The more people the better because we feed off the crowd’s energy and it makes us play better. Also more people mean more potential new fans and sales on merchandise after the show. Other factors include the amount of money we make from the show whether it be from the club and/or sales, impressing the staff of the club so that even if there isn’t a huge crowd they want us to come back and will make the effort to get us on a good bill next time, and also just the opportunity to tweak our live-set. This last one can be a good factor if it’s an off night before a more important show.
The 9th through 11th days of the tour were all in South and North Carolina. Two of those shows were at places we had never played before. We all hoped that Friday and Saturday would be big shows because they were weekend nights, but things don’t always go that way and you have to find the silver-lining. Both weekend shows did not have a ton of people in attendance, but this didn’t deter us from having some great shows, and furthermore great nights. In Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina we played at a place called The Village Tavern. The Village Tavern has a reputation as a cool venue, and the room sounded amazing. As part of our pay we got dinner (bonus!) and some of my family friends who live in SC came out to the show. There wasn’t a huge crowd, but we met some really good people and we sold a good amount of merch. One person we met before the show was actually really cool—he happened to be the father of the lead singer for the band Band of Horses, Ben Bridwell. He thought it was so great that we were on the road and doing our thing. He told us about traveling with his son’s band and how he wanted to sell t-shirts (I instantly recalled the thousands of times my dad jokingly (half-serious though) said he would sell t-shirts on my tour). It was cool meeting him, and making some new fans out of the people who were at the bar. The real fun began when we met up with our couch-surf hosts for the night in Charleston. We stayed with two girls, Kayla and Billie-Joe, and their amazing friends who were all chefs. They first fed us these gourmet tomato pies that tasted remarkable, and then we proceeded to play card games and Taboo into the wee-hours of the night. The game of Taboo was exceptionally funny with Hooch and his partner Kevin being the two worst Taboo players I have ever witnessed. They brought tears to my eyes and pain to my abs because I was laughing so hard. The night in SC was an example of a show that on paper was not so awesome, but which turned into a great night.
The next night we played in Asheville, North Carolina and stayed with more couch-surfers. By the way I love couch surfing now, it’s fucking amazing—the people you meet are great and so generous. After our hosts made us dinner, we headed over to the show at a place called The Root Bar. The Root Bar is a pretty cool bar that has its own backyard game named after it called ‘Root Ball’ which is a combination of horseshoes and bocce ball. Once again the crowd was relatively small (we later found out that the entire town was at a concert put on by local rock-star Warren Haynes of Allman Bros and Gov’t Mule fame), but we made the best of the situation. The people at the bar were all really into our grooves, and we played what I thought might have been one of our best shows on the tour. We sold a bunch of CDs and made some new friends with people who are immersed in the local scene. Also the venue loved us and decided to take care of us by giving us all of the bar sales for the night—the bar actually lost money but because they are good people and felt bad for the small crowd on a Saturday night they took care of us. It’s things like that which redeem a seemingly shitty night, and even gives me a little more faith in people.
Sunday night we played at The Busy Bee Café in Raleigh, which is part-owned by one of Jordan’s friends from Rice, David Meeker (who’s dad is the fucking mayor of Raleigh! The funny thing was, that not even Jordan knew about that little tidbit of info and he and his wife came to watch the show—the mayor at our show!). We played here on our last tour, and just like last time it was a nice show for a Sunday. You can’t expect too much from a Sunday crowd wise, so the comped gourmet food and the pay from the bar make it all good. We did play for a few people who are very in touch with the bar scene in Raleigh, however, and they all enjoyed us so that was also a bonus. We capped off the night sampling fine beers at Meeker’s apartment, one of which was a Belgian beer that weighed in at 8.5% alcohol content (cheers!).
Over all these shows weren’t the best ever, but between the people and the connections we made in each city and at each venue they were all pretty great. The last week of the tour is upon us now and I am especially psyched for the last two shows in Boston and New York!
Most people don’t know that Karaoke is the Japanese word for tone deaf. But I don’t think that definition really works for our nights in Atlanta…. Both nights in Atlanta we decided to take part in the sport they call Karaoke. We stayed with Hilary (a friend of Ryan G’s) and apparently she’s almost as big a fan of karaoke as I am. The first night she took us to ‘Southern Comfort’. The best way I can describe ‘Southern Comfort’ is “trucker bar.” The bar sits right behind a big truck stop and when you walk in the shag carpet and wood paneled walls say “the 70’s are back baby!” Ryan G. sang “Cheap Sunglasses” by ZZ top and well the pictures tell the story there….
Our second night we funked up “The 10 High Club.” The crowd was what I like to call ‘small but fierce.’ After the show we had yet another chance to sing some karaoke at the Clermont. The Clermont is an interesting mix of karaoke bar and strip club. Let’s just say that it’s less than classy and like the bar the night before it screamed ‘the 70’s are still here baby!’ We had a blast singing and listening to some interesting characters belting out their favorites. Atlanta was a blast and I’ve gotta say thanks to Hilary for her hospitality and showing us some places we never would’ve seen.
Our next stop was Athens, GA. The show started off with an awesome local band “Tent City.” With fully instrumental originals and cover songs they totally rocked. We finished the night without out a hitch in our usual funky way, making new friends and enjoying the company of some old friends.
The last stop thus far was in Savannah, GA. We played with several other acts in Savannah including a couple one-man bands that were very entertaining. We gained some new fans and friends and as always had a blast. We stayed with Allison another one of Ryan G’s friends who was a great host. Unfortunately Allison’s fish Charlie passed away while we were there. Charlie will be missed, but I think we can rest assured that Charlie is swimming with his old buddies in a better place.
So far we have sung a few songs on and off the Karaoke stage and just really had a great time meeting new people and catching up with old friends. Thanks for reading and always keep it funky!
Hooch (Ryan Stallings)
Time spent not driving in the car:
Playing Sim City 2000: 28%
Talking on the phone: 3%
Navigating/getting annoyed with the Garmin: 2%
Wake-Up Call: 1P
Drive Time: 4 Hours
Dinner: 7P ish
Chill at a coffee shop
Average Start time: 10-11
Average Load out time: 2AM
Hang out with our hosts until bedtime (note to future hosts, this is not necessary, and we are often available to hang out during dinner/coffee shop time as well)
Longest time without showering: All three of us for three days
Longest Drive: Raleigh NC to Stamford CT (approx 10 hours)
Shortest Drive: New Orleans LA to Pascagoula MS (approx 1.5 hours)
- Breakfast (J+H): Cereal and warm, boxed soy milk for breakfast (R) Bagels, or nothing
(occasionally we get lucky and hosts will cook us eggs and such – thanks David and Allison, amongst others)
- Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly for Lunch
- Dinner: $10 budget per person for dinner
(We also get lucky with some of our friends cooking us something, or free food from the bar/restaurant as part of our compensation.)
- Most commonly consumed beverage (other than water): PBR – we get it free at almost every venue. It’s actually astonishing to this ex bar manager from Texas how cheap these places can sell PBR. A surprising number of venues will sell $1 drafts, and $5 pitchers. Also mind bending is how they call it the “house” beer and put their own label on the tap, even though staff will readily admit to it’s true PBR nature (which is crap by the way).
- Best micro-brew so far:
Jordan: Cold Water from Asheville, NC
Ryan: Sweetwater from Atlanta, GA
Hooch: Cold Water from Asheville, NC
- Sam’s sized bags of Trail Mix Consumed: 3
- Boxes of Cereal eaten: 5
- Water Bottles Consumed: 35 (To the environmentally conscious: We are refilling bottles now and not minimizing our contribution to the crazy trash gyre in the pacific)
- Jordan’s Average Daily Satsuma Consumption (until the remainder were given to a bum): 3.5
- Loaves of Bread: 3
- PB&J’s consumed: 23
Nights couchsurfing: 4 (out of 10)
Nights at least one of us slept on couches: 9 (out of 10)
Below Freezing nights without heat: 2
Karaoke Bars Attended: 2
% of nights ending with Karaoke while in Atlanta with Hillary: 100%
Coffee Shops Visited: 5
Graphs, in large size:
Our third show on this tour was at a bar called The (World Famous) Celtic in Pascagoula, Mississippi. We played there once before, on our last tour, but we had such a different experience this time that I think I’ll look back on this show as the real first time we played at the Celtic. Last time it was a hot, May night and there was hardly anyone there—more or less a fairly lame show. This time was different.
After spending the day in New Orleans with some friends, we headed to Pascagoula with low expectations. We knew we would put on a great show, but I expected it to go on much like last time with a small crowd and a more or less quiet night. We’ve been couch-surfing on this tour (successfully I might add) and we arranged to stay with a guy named David in Pascagoula. He was the only person listed on the site for Pascagoula that would take 3 travelers at once, so we didn’t have much of choice if we didn’t want to pay to stay somewhere and based on his profile he seemed like a cool enough guy to give it a chance.
David and his friends Lindsay (sorry if misspelled your name!) and Michael along with another couch-surfer named Chris all came out to the Celtic to check out our show. We met the group briefly before the show and talked a bit—everyone seemed down to have a good time that night and came off really friendly, but there was still that semi-awkwardness that comes with meeting a new person. I should also mention that I was in a good mood after witnessing one of the closest wins in Texas history over Nebraska, which automatically pushed the evening in a good direction. So we got on stage and fucking wailed for around 80 minutes, even throwing in a cover of “Good Times” by the band Chic. We got off stage feeling like we rocked it, and based on the response from the 30 or so people there we knew we did something right.
David and Michael came straight up to us after the show gushing about how awesome it was, and we couldn’t have been happier to please our hosts for the night. At that moment something changed. The “wheels came off” and we all started to get along really well. David at one point even said, “We were glad that you guys didn’t suck, cause that would have been weird. Might have had to point you in the direction of the nearest hotel!” That awkwardness from before completely went away and in about 20 minutes from when the show ended the feel was less like meeting strangers and more like hanging out with old friends. Shit! We had a good time! We probably got off stage around 1:20 or so and we ended up hanging out and talking until the bar closed down around 4:30.
It was a night with many hilarious moments. Some how the idea that Ryan, our new bass player, needed a nick name in order to avoid the problem of having a 3-piece band with two Ryans came up. David took one look at him and in a matter of seconds said, “Hooch. Your nickname is Hooch.” No logic, no real reason other than David thought he looked like a ‘Hooch’. The name has thus far stuck and we get a laugh out of it almost every time. So if you meet Ryan now, be sure to call him Hooch!
Eventually it seemed like half the bar was sitting in our circle and just joking and having a good time. I can’t remember a better time with people I had met only hours before. The other couch surfer, Chris, was a really cool guy who is biking (bicycling) across the US. It was pretty cool to talk to him about his treks across the South all the way to Toronto on bike. He even told us a story or a time in Alabama where he asked to join a family in their pool because it was so hot. The mother said yes and he got in. After cooling down for a few minutes there was a ruckus from the porch, and a man (presumably the father) started firing rounds from his gun and yelling, “What the hell is going on!” Chris had to make a run for it that time and narrowly escaped.
Now I have to talk about Mark Twain. Everyone knows who Mark Twain the writer was I assume, and if you have ever read one of his books, namely Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer you know his writing style is in a southern-dialect and vernacular that was common in the South in his time around the mid 1800s. In the Celtic on this wonderful Saturday night was a man dressed in a suit, who looked like he had just stepped out of the “Smooth Criminal” video—fedora hat and everything. This guy was a trip. I went up to the bar to get another pitcher and he struck up a conversation with me. If this guy didn’t sound like he was a fucking character from Tom Sawyer then I don’t know what he sounded like. It was like talking to Mark Twain, hence the nick name he received for the rest of the night. Mark Twain proceeded to talk about his forty-two day ‘tour’ of the United States, where he walked, hitched, and bussed his way to California and back having never left Pascagoula in the twenty something years of his life. I cannot remember his real name for the life of me, but I tell you what, I’ll never forget this dude’s face or his way of talking. It was one of a kind, dated back to the 1860s. Just brilliant!
So after everyone was well acquainted and the bar couldn’t serve us any more drinks, we headed back to David’s (about 7 blocks and a minute’s drive away). We continued to talk and have a good time until about 5 AM. The next morning David cooked us all breakfast and we hung out sharing music until the afternoon. It was also a pleasure to watch Lindsay yell at the TV as the Saints (Who Dat?!) pulled off another astonishing come-back win against the Redskins.
All in all that was the best night on the tour thus far (at least for me), and definitely the best couch-surfing experience I’ve ever had. If you haven’t checked out couchsurfing.org and you like to travel cheap and meet new, interesting people I suggest you do it. We have a bunch of new friends in Pascagoula now and a new one in Atlanta (Chris the biker) as well. What a night!
- Ryan Greenblatt
Today was the first day of our winter tour and we couldn’t have started it off any better. With a great crowd we had a blast in Lafayette, Louisiana at ‘The Artmosphere’. The Artmosphere just oozes soul. It has a nice laid back feel including a section where you can kick back on a couch or recliner. They also have great food. We had a pizza that was amazing. All fresh ingredients made it one of the best I’ve ever had. The music lineup ended up being great as well.
We played with two great bands Sequoya Prep School and The Magnolia Sons. Sequoya Prep School is an Americana band with great lyrics and soul out of South Carolina. The Magnolia Sons are a southern rock band that knows how to rock a crowd and bring a crowd. Gotta give them some love for helping bring out the crowd from their neighboring hometown of Lake Charles.
This was actually my first show with the band playing bass and I had a blast. I love playing for new people that really appreciate music. The crowd in Lafayette was very receptive and energetic. Let’s just say we had them calling our name by the end of the set
We had our first experience with “couch surfing” in Lafayette. For those of you who don’t know, couch surfing is way to flop on a random stanger’s couch and not end up in jail. There’s a website couchsurfing.org that allows you to find places to flop, rate the flopper, and rate the place of flopping. It’s pretty amazing really. Our host was awesome and allowed us to flop even though he had prior commitments and really couldn’t hang out. Really it was all around a great trip to Lafayette and now we’re off to New Orleans! Thanks for reading and keep it funky! Achachay!
- Ryan Stallings (aka “Hooch”)
Check out our 2nd video update, where we talk about kicking off the tour, our new shirts, the leukemia/lymphoma society, and lowering the drinking age.