It’s been awhile:
Wednesday, Oct. 10th – The Crack Fox, St. Louis (It is also “Stag Night” with $1 cans of Stag beer)
Thursday, Oct. 11th – Firehouse Pub, Normal, IL
Friday, Oct. 12th – Bayport BBQ, Minneapolis, MN, opening for Tav Falco
Saturday, Oct. 13th – Bayport BBQ for the second night, this time me headlining!
Since flying with the one man band equipment is a huge pain in the ass, I figured, why not drive? I could stop by the holler and see the family on the way. Then, thinks I, why not try to get a couple of shows on the way up? The next thing you know OH-MY-GOD-I’M-BOOKING-A-TOUR-WHAT-AM-I-AN-IDIOT? Is four shows really a “tour,” or merely a “long weekend”? Hey, I gotta ease back into this.
Shopping for records the other day, I ran into Omar Dykes. He was my favorite customer back when I was working at the record store. (Omar, playing at the recent anniversary show for Antone’s record shop: “I’ve got 10,000 records – and I still want more!” My kinda guy.) Omar has had the the kind of working-class, journeyman musician’s career that probably can’t exist anymore. He started playing in bands when he was twelve. He’s a good guy, and he knows his shit. Omar was excited because, after fifty years of touring, he was retiring. Fifty years! Omar was excited about the prospect of retiring. He named his new record I’m Gone.
“I’d fly into Scandinavia somewhere,” Omar told me, “be all jet lagged, have to wait around at the airport because the airline lost my guitar, then they’d pick me up in some little station wagon I can barely fit into [Omar is a big guy] and we’d drive three hours to the gig. I’m too old for this shit. It’s no way to live, Schooley!”
The thing about touring is, it’s fun, until it isn’t. After you do it for 49 years, like Omar, I’m sure by the 50th year it gets old. I haven’t done it for a while, so it sounds like fun again.
Setting up this handful of shows reminds me that I’ve played more one man band shows in Holland or Croatia than I have in my home state of Missouri. There are a number of reasons for this. European promoters often have the charming tendency to actually pay guarantees, and European audiences have the equally charming habit of actually going out to see shows. They must have had touring musicians in mind when they made the wise decision to put European cities within a couple of hours drive of each other. Compare that to driving for 8 hours without leaving Texas. And of course, I’ve had labels based in Europe put out my records.
Given these factors, even with plane tickets and pricier gas, I’ve done better touring in Europe than I ever have in the states. My old bands did U.S. tours, but as a one man band, I haven’t really bothered. There was also the added bonus of actually getting to, you know, go to Europe. Eugene Chadbourne knows the score. From his book I Hate The Man Who Runs This Bar (which I find myself quoting a lot):
“I find that telling Americans that you go to Europe regularly produces waves of jealousy and people never treat you the same again. Most people are so frustrated in their attempts to see the world that they become incredibly envious of someone who gets paid to travel, no matter what problems they might have as a result. Don’t bother trying to tell anyone about the problems of a traveling lifestyle. They don’t want to hear it. One friend tells me he “lives vicariously” through me. Of course, he would never want to live vicariously through six-hour practice days, canceled gigs of great financial importance, or other business and/or artistic frustrations. Names of foreign cities and comments like, “It was great!” are what these people want to hear.”
So, yeah, if I tell people I’ve been to Marseilles, they just want to hear “It was great!” They don’t want to hear “Junkies broke into the rental van, stole my underwear, and it was winter so we had to drive in the cold and rain with a piece of cardboard taped over the broken window for the rest of the tour. Also, any money I might have made on went to paying for the damages to the van. But yeah, other than that, France was great!”
Of course, touring in the states has the same problems, and you don’t even get the trip to Europe out of it. I thought I had given up on trying to tour in America. I’ll go play someplace if somebody asks, but I’ve got no delusions about booking a tour and actually trying to make money. At this point, I only want to do it if it is going to be fun. Trying to fill that Tuesday night in a strange town where nobody knows who the hell you are ain’t very fun (notice the lack of a show on Tuesday, Oct. 9th).
The only way to do it is to play someplace where you’ve got some friends who can set things up. Play with their band, and/or sleep on their floor. If nobody shows up, at least you got to see your friends. I’d rather play to nobody with bands I like in somebody’s house than have a show at a “real” club with a big crowd, only to have the sleazy club owner rip me off.
The list of places I’ve played as a one man band in my own country is pretty short, and those shows all happened because I had friends, old and new, who helped set things up and/or provided a floor to sleep on. For this string of shows, I had some friends-of-friends who helped me out. Besides Austin, we’ve got:
New York City
Oh, yeah, and I finally did a couple of shows in Canada, and hit Toronto… and… uh, I may be forgetting someplace, but that’s pretty much it. Well, now you can add Normal, Illinois to the list! See you in October!