Tour Log Day 13 – Raleigh, NC > Myrtle Beach, SC > Washington, DC > New York, NY

Raleigh, NC 

We woke up in an empty mansion and ate beef ramen noodles for breakfast. We bought them because they were half the price of the name brand. Halfway through the meal, we both felt awful. Stomachs growled. Muscles tensed up. Eyes watered uncontrollably.

That’s how bad these noodles were. Our bodies were so unhappy that we began to physically cry.

The worst food I've ever eaten

The worst food I’ve ever eaten

Eric was livid: “This is like a bullfrog mating in my stomach.”

The poisonous ramen made for a painful van ride. It seeped into our minds and made us irritable. Eric shouted at traffic with such vigor I thought he would pop a blood vessel in his forehead. Our digestive systems mounted olfactory assaults on the minivan in an effort to break down the industrial proteins and preservatives. I belched and it tasted like seasoning powder.

Despite our salty condition, we were excited. We had been looking forward to Raleigh our whole tour. Tony, the host we found through couchsurfing.com, had been sending us emails for weeks. “Do you have any food allergies?” “What are your favorite dishes?” “Just had a couchsurfer here last night…He really loved my cooking!” Before we even got there, we knew it was going to be a high point.

As soon as we walked through the door, Tony sat us down and brought out a huge tray of appetizers. I was pretty hungry and I quickly ate everything in front of me. Tony looked at me and said “Your plate is empty. What do you need?” and insisted I take more. Thirty minutes later, we left for our gig, totally stuffed.

Tour has this funny bipolar quality to it. You eat the grossest fucking food you’ve ever had in your life for breakfast and then have an enormous plate of fine cheese, sausage, olives, and homemade salsa for dinner. You play a gig to an empty room for no pay, and then the next day you sleep in a mansion. The guitarist from another band openly mocks you during your solo and then the prettiest girl in the room flirts with you as you pack up your gear. It all happens too fast to process. It’s a rush, and you learn not to get too attached to the way things are right now. Nothing is permanent and nothing is that big of a deal.

The club was pretty empty, but all of the other bands were amazing and friendly.

Brandon Hughes was a fast and solid John Mayer type singer-songwriter. Awesome guy.

Bobby Bryson and the Company stole the show with incredible all-American rock music. They sounded like Counting Crows mixed with an alternate reality Bruce Springsteen that doesn’t suck. The drummer was unbelievably solid, and he played so hard that he told us he goes through a set of cymbals every couple of months. Their violin player was a redheaded überbabe who played impeccable blues lines and sang sultry background vocals. They were one of those bands that’s so good it makes you want to quit music.

Bobby Bryson and the Company

Bobby Bryson and the Company

Tony stayed up late for us to get back so he could cook burgers. He sautéed mushrooms, baked thick sliced bacon, and made enormous French fries from scratch in the bacon grease. Tony takes in couch surfers because he loves to cook but he gets bored cooking for himself. Tony’s house is exactly how I imagine heaven.

Tony, our host

Tony, our host

Tyler, another couchsurfer staying with Tony

Tyler, another couchsurfer staying with Tony

The next day we took it easy, caught up on the world, and ate more of Tony’s cooking. He simmered an Italian pork soup all day, which we took at night with homemade garlic bread. The soup was light, almost like an Italian miso.  We sat and talked for hours with full bellies.

This soup tho

This soup tho

Myrtle Beach, SC

We were short on funds after a couple gigs that barely paid. After asking around, it seemed like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was a great place to play on the street. Since we were already in North Carolina, it was going to be a 6 hour round trip in the wrong direction, but people consistently told us we’d be able to make $100-$200 in a single day. Enough money to get us through to New York. A few people actually told us we’d be idiots not to go there. We didn’t want to be idiots, so we decided it was worth it.

We ate Tony’s internationally-acclaimed blueberry crisp for breakfast and left early in the morning with high hopes. Finally we were going to make some money!

Nope. It was a fiasco. Turns out playing on the street is illegal in Myrtle Beach. Because of this, no bars will let you plug your amp into their outlets. In addition, even if you start playing (illegally), the only people who are there at noon on a Wednesday are old women with their grandchildren who couldn’t give a fuck about two filthy musicians playing on the street. After a few songs it was pretty clear we were not going to make any money. We took it as a loss and go swimming in the ocean instead.

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Washington, DC

The sun had set by the time we rolled into Washington. I have friend from college who I met because we both decided to go swimming on the last day of fall. She has an internship in the House of Representatives, and she graciously invited us to stay in her dorm. We got lost in DC for a couple of hours trying to find her address. At one point we thought we had found it. We parked and got talking with two dudes drinking beer on the street. Clean-cut guys who work in the senate now, they told us all about their college days playing in touring bands. Then they told us we were on the complete wrong side of the city.

Eventually we found her, passed around some bottles, unrolled our sleeping bags, and called it a night. It was 1:30 am and we had to be up at 6:30 the next morning to move our car.

Our host in D.C.

Our host in D.C.

Eric sees a mirror for the first time in days

Eric sees a mirror for the first time in days

Eric and I had never been in Washington before. In the light of morning, we checked out the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and that big pile of rocks that looks like a dick.

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Jokes aside, it was a pretty incredible feeling to stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the exact place where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. I did 6 or 7 book reports on Martin Luther King Jr. when I was in school, and he’s always been a huge hero of mine. To think about the significance of that moment in history—to think about all of the other people who’ve come to those steps since, looked out on the reflection pool, and pondered what it must have felt like to be MLK at that moment in time, and then gone back home to live the rest of their lives…Definitely worth the price of parking.

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Strangely, the GPS started acting up when we got back to our car. No matter what we tried, it would not accept coordinates. It only started working once we were a few miles out from the White House. I guess that’s the way it goes. Crash The Lights is such a menace to society the government had to jam our communication signals.

New York, NY

Driving in New York is insane. Just crossing the bridge into Manhattan costs $26. Parking is $20. They do not buy you dinner first.

We wandered around the city for a few hours just looking at stuff and trying to find a place to eat our leftovers. We found a park. A clean cut white dude was painting a huge building on a tiny canvas. Crazy homeless men wandered up and down the park muttering to themselves, or sprawled out across the chipped paint of park benches. We ate our day-old sandwiches and soaked in the energy of New York.

We loaded in at the Delancey, and they kicked us out because I was under 21. I should have bought a fake for this tour. They told us we had to get there 15 minutes before our show and then leave as soon as we were done. This was a problem as pay is usually distributed after all the bands have played, and we were the first of four.

The promoter, Terry, was at our show. He was sympathetic to our cause and offered to meet up the next day to deliver our pay. We got his number and had a nice conversation after the show.

A polka band that played after us at the Delancy

A polka band that played after us at the Delancy

A friend of Eric’s came to our gig and offered us a place to stay in the apartment she shared with her boyfriend. Our van only has the two front seats, so I sat in the trunk among the amps, suitcases, and sleeping bags and watched the lights as we crossed the bridge into Brooklyn.

It was a one room apartment, with a beautiful, deeply stained wood floor and nice cabinets. The roof leaked when it rained. A steady stream of chiggers dropped into the toilet from the bathroom skylight. Their rent was almost $2000.

We sat on the roof of their building and drank Mexican beer as we looked out on the city. Both of our hosts were from the Midwest. I asked how living in NYC had affected their day-to-day mindset.

“I’m becoming an asshole.”

“Totally. I’m so rude now. If someone is blocking the way on the subway, I will say something and elbow her on my way out. If I did that in the Midwest, I would be the rudest person in the world, but in New York, it’s really the only way to survive. You don’t say sorry here. That doesn’t exist. It is what it is and you get on with it.”

“Everything is just so dense in this city. Everyone has to work all the time just to get by, and everyone gets set in their own life and routine. Time is the most precious thing you have here, and you get in the mindset of saving as much of your time for yourself as you can. When you meet someone, you both try to get to the point as quickly as possible, and figure out what you can get from each other. If you can’t get to the point, you move on.”

The building was 5 stories tall. Eric stood on the edge and looked down. “This is how tall trees are every day, and we’re just up here for a minute!”

Next morning on the rooftop

Next morning on the rooftop

Tony told us "Everything in moderation, even moderation."

Tony told us “Everything in moderation, even moderation.”

The next day we called the promoter over and over so we could meet up and get our money, but he never answered. So it goes. We drove through Manhattan one last time. The only people on the streets who were smiling were the police. No one else had any expression at all. Everyone looked just a tiny bit pissed off as they kept on walking. It made a lot more sense after our conversation the night before.

And despite all of the negative experiences we had in New York—despite the tolls, despite getting kicked out of an empty venue, despite not getting paid by a guy who seemed nice, despite the harsh state of mind it takes just to get through the day and the steep cost of living, I could totally see myself living there.

The allure of New York.

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Tour Log Day 8 – Nashville, TN > Albany, GA > Marietta, GA. 3 shows, 11 hours of driving, and no sleep.

Me and my friend Eric are on tour for the next 3 weeks, driving around the country in a red minivan and using couchsurfing.com to find places to crash.   We’re touring mostly with songs from Eric’s new album, “Long Fall”. It’s the best album Eric’s made and I got to play leads on the whole thing, so you should check it out. I’m going to blog pretty extensively about the experience so I can remember it when I’m older. If the posts feel too frequent, you should unsubscribe from my blog for the next three weeks. After that we’ll return to our regular programming of never posting anything at all.

Nashville, TN > Albany, GA > Marietta, GA

After four straight days of shows in three different states, we had two days to relax. On the way out of Louisville we stopped at a restaurant called Spinelli’s Pizzeria to get a free pizza in exchange for a CD. The tables were covered in signed albums from touring bands (including Atmosphere and Brother Ali) who’d taken them up on the same deal.

We scarfed down pizza on the road to Nashville and stopped 30 minutes out of town to spend the night with Eric’s family. They were unbelievably welcoming: before we even sat down they said “Anything in our fridge is yours.” When I asked if I could get myself a beer he responded, “New rule: you’re not allowed to ask for anything. Just take it.”

In the shade of a manmade waterfall, we skipped rocks to the other side of the river and awaited the dinner bell. We ate in a spotless living room and watched some comedy flick about cops. Stomachs full, we traded stories from high school late into the night.

The next day we had lunch at an amazing Mexican restaurant, where our hosts ordered us tons of appetizers and sweet tea in glasses the size of pitchers.

Sweet tea

Digestion claimed the afternoon and I powered out a 3000 word blog post laying stuffed on the couch.

Before leaving, our hosts gave us a cooler and filled it with cookies, donuts, bagels, cream cheese, and orange juice. We tried to turn it down because we had nothing to offer in exchange, but they were very insistent so we accepted. With the leftover pizza, it was enough that we wouldn’t have to buy food for a couple days.

One of our generous hosts in Nashville

One of our generous hosts in Nashville

That night we stayed with some more family of Eric’s. They were very welcoming. We were both exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before, and we had an all-nighter the next day, so we cashed in early and slept for 12 hours.

The next day we took in the sights of Nashville without spending money. We took a piss in the Parthenon, wandered aimlessly down music row, checked out Gruhn guitars, and spit sunflower seeds out the window as we drove slowly through downtown to dodge the parking meters.

At Gruhn Guitars

At Gruhn Guitars

A beautiful street in Nashville

A beautiful street in Nashville

After playing a gig for 6 people, we packed up the van at 11 pm and drove 7 hours to Albany, Georgia to appear on a morning TV show at 8 am. I had the first driving shift. With the help of Red Bull, I powered us through to Atlanta and occupied my mind by remembering the best moments of the tour so far. The Atlanta skyline glimmered across the horizon over cheering crowds, whispered secrets, and the crack of beer cans. Eric took the wheel and I stole an hour or two of sleep in the passenger seat.

No one greeted us when we loaded into the waiting room for the Fox 31 morning news. It was hectic and fast paced. We could hear the anchors and guests in the next room over, while a wall-mounted flat screen played the broadcast on a 5 second delay. Guests checked their hair in cell phone cameras until men with earpieces appeared at the door and called them in one by one. Human beings disappeared through the door and emerged in two dimensions on the flat screen.

Suddenly, us. We carried our instruments to the couch. I turned on my amp and plugged into my distortion pedal and then we were being interviewed. The anchor smiled and laughed no matter what we said. It was eerily comforting. Try not to dominate the conversation. Thank you, we’ll be right back with a song from Crash The Lights. Cut to commercial. We could see ourselves on a screen under the camera. Wow did my red shoes look weird. No way to sit that looked natural. Why do I wear my guitar so high?

“10…9…8…7…6…5…” Five seconds of silence.

We played. Then it was over. Eric handed cds to two of the anchors and then we loaded up.

My friend Divya sent us a $50 Starbucks gift card to help with our tour, which has been a godsend. It’s so helpful to have a place to get wifi and caffeine. We set up camp at Starbucks, called home, and caught up on the world.

Another four hours in the car, back to Atlanta and then a little further, to a town called Marietta. We met our hosts and spent about an hour hanging out with their dogs.

Eric and Charlie

Eric and Charlie

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Me and Bella, the most amazing dog in the world. I didn’t even know I was a dog person until I met her.

Our hosts had another couch surfer staying with them, a dude from Italy named Fabio who was travelling around America for a month of rock-climbing adventures. Before our gig, he cooked an amazing pasta dinner for everyone. Though it helped with the conversation, the wine turned out to be a mistake. It hit us in a warm wave of sleepiness, and after 30 hours of nonstop activity, all we wanted was to lay down and call it a night. But we had a show to play, so we headed off.

The pasta had bacon and egg whites in it. Incredible.

The pasta had bacon and egg whites in it. Incredible.

The venue had a sign on the door that said. “No alcohol, no soft drinks, no smoking, all ages.”

“Uh oh,” said Eric.

The turnout was about what you would expect for a teen music venue that doesn’t serve alcohol or anything else at all. But the people were pretty nice. We made some friends and got through it.

We went to a billiards bar with our couch surfing hosts. After throwing darts and playing pool for an hour or two, we got home and passed out. I don’t know if I’ve ever slept so deeply.

Hitting a wall of tiredness at the billiards bar

Hitting a wall of tiredness at the billiards bar

Eric with our wonderful hosts in Marietta

Eric with our wonderful hosts in Marietta

The next day we had off. A guy we found on couchsurfing.com offered to let us stay in an empty mansion he’s planning to turn into a Montessori school. It was an unbelievable stroke of luck and he was remarkably generous and trusting. On the phone he said, “I don’t think I’ll make it by tonight, but I left the key in the mailbox!” We spent the whole evening hanging out alone in a stranger’s mansion, eating bagels and shooting YouTube videos to post in the future.

We had this to ourselves.

We had this to ourselves.

Tour Log Day 4 – Muncie, IN > Bloomington, IN > Louisville, KY

Me and my friend Eric are on tour for the next 3 weeks, driving around the country in a red minivan and using couchsurfing.com to find places to crash.   We’re touring mostly with songs from Eric’s new album, “Long Fall”. It’s the best album Eric’s made and I got to play leads on the whole thing, so you should check it out. I’m going to blog pretty extensively about the experience so I can remember it when I’m older. If the posts feel too frequent, you should unsubscribe from my blog for the next three weeks. After that we’ll return to our regular programming of never posting anything at all.

Decatur > Muncie

I don’t know if I’ve ever been so hungover in my life. My head was throbbing and the white road lines kept leaping from the pavement to stab through my eyes. I wrote a blog post between waves of car sickness. The olives and mayonnaise from my subway sandwich shifted and curdled in my stomach, refusing to go down without a fight.

It was bad enough that I haven’t gotten intoxicated in any meaningful way since.

We rolled into Muncie at 5 and load in wasn’t until 8. Not only was I still profoundly hung over, I was running on 4 hours of sleep, and all I’d eaten in 24 hours was a bowl of cereal and half of a sandwich. We found a secluded park and I laid in the grass with my eyes closed and listened to the birds. I tried to read the first few chapters of On The Road, but the words and ideas kept blurring together, which may have been more Kerouac’s writing style and less my physical condition.

I went back to the car, where Eric was sitting abnormally still behind the driver’s seat with a guitar in his lap, tapping on its spruce top, eyes fixed on the tree line ahead.

“You alright, man?” I asked.

“I’m watching these squirrels,” he said, “and I’m drumming to them—Whoa! Look at that one!” A squirrel darted. Eric doubled the speed of his tapping and hit accents to match the its jumps. The squirrel disappeared into the trees and he took up drumming to a bunny instead.

One day in and the tour was already taking its toll on us.

Muncie

The venue, Be Here Now, catered to hippies, artists, and outcasts. Everyone who worked there was a musician. The bouncer told me about his metal/bluegrass band as he drew an X on my hand. The walls were painted in wild colors and filled with corny thrift-shop knick knacks: clay owls wearing star-shaped sunglasses, glossy spiraling wind chimes, a computer print-out picture of the Olson Twins. Sugar skulls and rhinos lined the I-beams across the ceiling.

We went out back to see the outdoor stage we were gonna be playing. It was a real stage in a fenced-in cement patio. In one corner there was a twenty square-foot patch of astroturf.

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Be Here Now

After a while a skinny kid in a tie dye shirt stumbled over to us. Pretty quickly, I realized that he was more stoned than any person I had ever met in my life.

“Hey guys, whattup man I’m John-O…”

“John-O? Good to meet you. How are you doing?”

“I’m uh…I’m looking for something.” John-O spun in a circle and then took of for the bar without another word. A few minutes later, he came back empty handed and teetered in front of us. He seemed to be in a constant state of being off-balance.

“Hey guys how’s it going for you today man?” he asked.

“Good,” said Eric. “We went to a park.”

“…Was I there?”

Eric paused. “No. Uh, I mean I don’t think so…Did you go to a park today?”

“…Naw…”

“Oh. Right on, man.”

John-O stared at us absently for twenty seconds or so and then disappeared.

The show started about two hours late. The guys running the place were waiting for the crowd, but the crowd never came. Between memorial day weekend, kids going home from college, and the Indie 500, the turnout was pretty small.

Some highlights from the night:

- I overheard some of the people who worked at Be Here Now talking about their “Reggae-core” band. I couldn’t stop laughing for long enough to tell Eric why I was laughing, which happens all the time now. Eric says he’s laughed more on this tour than ever before in his life.

- The band City Mouth was very good. Their lead singer, Matt, is a brilliant lyricist. He’s like a pop-punk Townes Van Zandt. Like Townes, Matt’s songs deal with very heavy feelings of loneliness, and like Townes, his banter between songs is mostly little jokes which effectively lift the mood. One of their songs began, “It’s 10 am, and I made you late to church.” I bought a cd from them for $1 that had a handmade jacket made from a paper bag and some paint.

-I Dream in Evergreen also put on a really good show. They were incredibly tight, with complex harmonies. They had three guitar players playing totally separate lead lines that come together perfectly. l It was interesting because their set is planned out to the note, to incredible effect. Our set is improvisational all the way down to the set list, and it ends up being totally different each night. There are a lot of different ways to make music.

-The turnout wasn’t enough for any of the bands to get paid, which was disappointing since we drove 4 hours to get there. However, the bar owner offered for us to stay at his house in the “band room.”

Bloomington

We left in the morning and laid low all day. For food we got a big $4 sub from walmart, a $1 loaf of French bread, and a tub of hummus. We split the sub, saved the rest, played catch, wrote music, and waited for the show to start.

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CD’s we’ve collected so far

Two bands we had played with the night before were on the schedule with us again: The Mighty Ships and City Mouth. It was fun to see some familiar faces. When you’re on tour, you meet so many people and then never see them again. We hung out in front of the venue shooting the shit.

“Did you meet John-O last night?” asked a guy from one of the bands.

“He was stoooned.”

“He gave me these energy crystals. Check it out.”

Uh oh, I thought. “Energy crystals” sounded like a damn good euphemism for crack, meth, or another dangerous drug that I had never encountered before.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out some ordinary rocks. “They’re just ordinary rocks. John-O calls them energy crystals. He finds them on the ground and collects them.”

Our set went well and it was our biggest crowd yet. Eric told me to focus on smiling when I played. I had so much more fun!

After the show we sat down on a couch in the back opposite this girl. We got talking but the music was too loud for us to consistently hear each other. She motioned for us to come over to her couch. “What are you guys doing all the way over there?”

I stayed where I was. Why should I be the one to get up and move, just because I’m a guy? “What are you doing all the way over there?” I asked.

We each held our ground and smiled back and forth, challenging one another to cave. I got up and went to the bathroom, and made eye contact the whole time as I sat down on my couch instead of taking the opportunity to join her. She laughed.

We started writing notes back and forth on a piece of paper. I’ve never had someone hand me a pencil with so much attitude.

Eventually one of us caved (okay, it was me) and we had a great conversation. She was bright, playful, and honest. She invited us to crash at her place, and we stayed up talking late into the night.

Our host had off work the next morning, so she offered to show us around Bloomington. We got brunch at a killer restaurant called the Runcible Spoon. She also showed us an amazing waterfall. We climbed rocks and hung out and I forced everyone to take pictures. I stepped under the waterfall and let it drench me. It was a beautiful moment. Showers are hard to come by when you’re on tour.

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We took off in the early afternoon. Load in for the next show was at 5.

Louisville

We parked in front of the Haymarket Whiskey Bar and ate the French loaf and the hummus from the day before. My water bottle was empty, and the heat was almost too much to bear. I lifted bread to my mouth in mechanical movements and tried to focus my eyes.

“We gotta stay hydrated tonight, man,” I said. “Wake up with heat stroke?…No.”

One of my most profound moments for sure. But the laughter helped snap out of the daze.

We loaded our stuff in and got talking to the sound guy, Lloyd. He was a full time sound guy who put together shows all over Louisville. He took us to Jimmy Johns and bought us some sodas while he told us stories about putting on concerts in abandoned warehouses without permission.

It was a multi-genre show. So refreshing to see so many brilliant and varied acts. Shadowpact was a rap duo like a white Black Star—great performers with unexpected rhymes. I talked to them about rap music for an hour or so. They were really supportive of our music and we shot around some ideas about future collaborations.

One of the stand out moments of the night was Cher Von, an experimental songwriter who used strange instruments and looping on her first song to create the sounds of a nightmare and then the release from the dream. It took about twenty minutes and it was unlike anything I’ve ever before heard. The crowd was small but extremely receptive, and the end of her song was met with huge applause. A guy smoking a vaporizer said “That’s the weirdest shit I’ve ever heard but that was rad as fuck,” and the crowd applauded in agreement.

I asked Eric to describe the last band: “After we played, Call Me Bronco took the stage with a cow-punk, militia-style force that got even the most timid of audience members thrashing their heads. The audience kept literally feeding them drinks in the middle of songs. After their first or second song, the lead guy broke his high e string and shouted ‘Good thing I don’t use this thing at all—no purpose!’ After another few songs he continued on to break the b string and the tuning peg off the head of his guitar. His guitar totaled, he came down from stage with a microphone and sang the rest of the set dancing in the crowd. None of them were wearing sleeves. At one point he said ‘We are here today to celebrate sleevelessness!’ and offered a free cd to anyone who would cut their sleeves off and ‘liberate their biceps from their fabric prisons.’”

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The turnout was pretty disappointing. It was the end of memorial weekend and there was a Skrillex concert the same night, so none of the bar’s regulars showed up. However, Lloyd was extremely generous and made sure we got paid, which was a huge relief because we had made a total of $30 the two nights before. Lloyd was cool as fuck. By the stage, he had a subwoofer made from a whiskey barrel and a 24 inch speaker. When everyone left he said “You guys want to see what this thing can really do?” He put its amp (it had its own amp) at HALF volume and hit play on a song with a crazy, rolling bass line. You could feel it in your chest. The whole room shook. After a few seconds he said, “I guarantee they can here this three blocks from here,” and turned it off.

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The lead singer of Call Me Bronco, Sam, offered for us to stay at his place as soon as he heard we were from Madison. “I LOVE Madison! I’ll get you guys real drunk tonight.” After the show we lost him, found him, lost him again, found him, and finally got him in our van. We only had two seats, so I sat on his lap as we drove around downtown Louisville missing turn after turn. Finally, we showed up to his three-story, Victorian-style apartment building. We carried our gear up the block and up his staircase. When we were finally loaded up he said “Oh shit, I forgot my key. I’m gonna have to break in.” Eric held the window up as Sam climbed through the third story window, onto the roof, and into his apartment. The door swung open and Sam shouted “I swear I live here!” Beer cans, cigarettes, and instruments were littered all over the room, and there was some amazing artwork on the wall.

Sam handed me a beer, and as he entered the living room he tumbled and slid across the floor. Laying sprawled out like that he handed Eric a beer and exclaimed “I’m more drunk than I thought!”

Not drunk enough though, because after he dusted himself off he suggested we go out to a place called the Mag Bar. It was 1 in the morning on a Monday night. I asked to stay behind because I had slept a total of about 10 hours in the last 3 days.

When Eric and Sam got to the Mag Bar there was a country band called Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones playing in the arcade. Sam immediately bought them all shots of whiskey. After they finished their set and got talking, Sam offered them a place to stay.

Back at the house, I fell asleep with the lights on as soon as they were out the door. It seemed I had just closed my eyes when the front door opened up again. In came a dude with long black hair and tattooed arms, rolling a bike. He pulled a tall can of High Life from the bike’s water-bottle holder, handed it to me, and said “You’re gonna wanna tap the top on that a little bit.”

Here we go, I thought.

I laid on the couch drinking, half awake and half asleep, while tattooed people phased in and out of the apartment. At one point, I got in a long conversation with the guitarist from Call Me Bronco about the plot of the Golden Compass trilogy, and a hardcore band that was completely based on those books.

Suddenly, Eric, Sam, and Lara Hope’s band came through the door with about 30 other people. I had tried to stay home and relax, but the party came to me. Everyone was smoking cigarettes and passing around PBR and bottles of whiskey. At one point, Eric was trying to explain to another drummer how to do one-handed drumrolls with a ball point pen. He shouted to one of the guys that lived there. “Do you guys have any drumsticks?”

“We’re playing this game,” he answered, “where you listen to punk songs and every time they say ‘bottle’ it sounds like ‘butthole!’”

“That’s great! Do you guys have any drumsticks.”

The point of the game is you say ‘butthole’ instead of ‘bottle’ because it sounds like ‘butthole.’”

“Awesome, do you have any drumsticks?”

He looked at Eric like, “Are you stupid?” and said one last time. “It’s the butthole-bottle game.” Eric gave up.

At about 4 am, I fell asleep on the couch in the middle of the room. The lights were all on and party was still going on all around me. I faded from consciousness as I watched the cigarette smoke whirl under the ceiling fan.

Tour Log Day 1 – Decatur, IL

Me and my friend Eric are on tour for the next 3 weeks, driving around the country in a red minivan and using couchsurfing.com to find places to crash.   We’re touring mostly with songs from Eric’s new album, “Long Fall”. It’s the best album Eric’s made and I got to play leads on the whole thing, so you should check it out. I’m going to blog pretty extensively about the experience so I can remember it when I’m older. If the posts feel too frequent, you should unsubscribe from my blog for the next three weeks. After that we’ll return to our regular programming of never posting anything at all.

Leaving

We spent a week before the tour getting everything ready: practicing, merch, saying goodbye to our parents, and then like that we were off. The four hour drive to Decatur went quickly as we were both bubbling with enthusiasm.

The show

This is how we started talking to them: Justin was wearing assless chaps. He and Robert were headed home after putting 2800 miles on their motorcycles in a week and a half. The chaps were there over his jeans to protect him in case he laid the bike down, but they did nothing to protect him from being badgered by strangers.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but are you wearing assless chaps?”

“Actually,” said Justin, “chaps are both assless and crotchless by definition. If they had asses or crotches, they’d just be leather pants, which would be wayyy worse.”

“Ha I just wanted to make sure you were aware that you are in fact wearing assless chaps…Wait, but are those bartenders over there smoking weed?”

And like that the conversation began. We were in.

Thank god for Justin’s assless chaps.

It was fun talking to the girls but eventually we went back inside to hang out with our friends. The headliner was The Hawk—an incredible punk power trio with no guitar, self-described as a “fucked up partridge family.” It was a family band, mom a classically trained pianist playing through a distortion pedal, dad on drums, and their son, Cole, on bass and vocals. Cole’s bass was wildly fuzzed out through a big muff and for most part he played power chords in the upper register, making his bass basically sound like a guitar with a little extra oomph. Between a bass that sounded like a guitar and a keyboard that sounded like a guitar, they sounded like a full band.

I asked Eric to describe their style and he said, “Blastful shouts of raw sound—untapped and never before heard, lifting the gates between the audience and the stage.” They brought the house down.

The Hawk

The Hawk

The show took a turn for the surreal in a break between songs where Cole started shouting “Who wants a powdered doughnut?!” We thought he was joking because he had been screaming abstract shit like that all night. But then he kept shouting, “Who wants a powdered doughnut?!” Suddenly he pulled out a package of powdered doughnuts and started distributing them through the audience. It was  a small crowd and pretty much everyone had a doughnut, but he had one left. Instead of saying “I have one doughnut left, who wants it?” he just held it in front of his face and yelled “Who wants a powdered doughnut?! WHO wants a powdered doughnut?!?!” louder and louder until Eric went up and took it.

They ended their set with a rousing song about real issues that a family band must deal with on a regular basis. It had two lines.

COLE: “WHO’S BEEN HOGGING MY T.P?!”

DAD: “It’s me! It’s me!”

They stretched that song out for about ten minutes, with Cole wandering around the bar getting random people in the audience to yell “It’s me! It’s me!”

When we were talking to the other band after the show and congratulating each other on being great, Eric noticed that Cole was bleeding from his fingers. Eric asked if he was alright.

“Yeah,” he shrugged, “this always happens when I play with my parents.”

The rest of the night

Our set went really well. It was nice to put the songs in front of a crowd after all the time we’ve spent drilling them alone in the living room. We made $50, which was enough to buy gas to get to Muncie and 2 Subway sandwiches that would be our food for the next day.

We lucked out with couchsurfing.com and ended up staying in an amazing house on the lake with a 55 year old bachelor who was extremely welcoming to us. After the show we sat in his Jacuzzi, drank wine, and we watched a meteor shower until 4 am. It was a great way to start off the tour.

Our couchsurfing.com host and lakeview

Our couchsurfing.com host and lakeview

How to Deal with Failure

The pursuit of every goal starts out with the feeling of setting off to save the world. Everyone you meet hears about it. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now it’s happening.” Even though the future is scary and uncertain, the knowledge that you’ve overcome resistance and begun to work towards your goal makes you feel like a superhero.

You start to see some results. It’s a rush. The success-to-be feels more real, more attainable. You begin to imagine yourself as a person who’s already accomplished this goal. That goal slowly morphs into an essential part of your identity, even though it hasn’t even come true.

And then your fantasy smacks into an uncooperative reality. Failure. After months of work. After years. After a whole life (it seems). It’s like losing a part of yourself.

We’ve all been there a bunch of times. Careers, personal projects, relationships, friendships, new hobbies. They inflate like balloons in your mind and burst when they hit capacity. They fly out of your hands. They get ugly stretch marks and you “accidentally” let go, only to regret it later.

It happens.

So you messed up. Big deal. Literally every person who’s ever done anything has failed in huge ways. Shame is useless. The question is, how do you go forward from here in a way that’s meaningful and productive? Here are a few pointers:

1) Stop thinking in terms of “failures.” Call them “mistakes” instead.

“Failure” is a loaded word. It describes this kind of fatal blow to your identity we were talking about earlier. Feelings of failure do not come from having a healthy mindset when it comes to goals. They come from having unhealthy, needy, co-dependent relationships with your goals.

Goals shouldn’t be like crazy girlfriends who call you sobbing at midnight because they need attention. Goals should not become wrapped up in every part of your identity. You should never love a goal so much that you can’t imagine life without it.

Stop framing goals in melodrama and see things for what they are. Goals are not your purpose in life. Errors are not violations of your purpose, because life doesn’t have a purpose. Goals are nothing more than fun adventures that give us meaning. Things that go wrong along the way are just “mistakes.”

“Failure” is too much. It’s too dramatic. It’s not actionable. Save “failure” for special occasions, where a huge and essential system is truly, hopelessly, catastrophically fucked. Nuclear reactors fail. America’s public education system fails.

But not us. We make mistakes. And like Charles Munger said, “There’s no way that you can live an adequate life without making many mistakes.”

2) Rationally evaluate your mistakes

Calmly figure out what role you played in the creation of this undesirable outcome. Don’t do that next time. This is an essential step, which most people don’t take because they expect themselves to be perfect.

Peter Bevelin gives a great checklist for analyzing mistakes in Seeking Wisdom. So great I decided to include it, despite his use of a dirty word.

  • What was my original reason for doing something? What did I know and what were my assumptions? What were my alternatives at the time?

  • How did reality work out relative to my original guess? What worked and what didn’t?

  • Given the information that was available, should I have been able to predict what was going to happen?

  • What worked well? What should I do differently? What did I fail to do? What did I miss? What must I learn? What must I stop doing?

Once you’ve gone through this checklist and learned all you can, it’s time to…

3) Let it go already!

Be forgiving. You’re not alone in having fucked up. It happens to everyone, all the time.

But what about the people I hurt? The damage is done, and feeling bad won’t change that.  Even more, the people who were affected by your mistakes are well on the way to forgetting about it. They have their own lives and mistakes to attend to.

One more thing. Don’t think about the mistake in terms of your whole life. It’s an isolated event, not a chapter in a lifelong battle against your own personality flaws. If you find yourself dwelling on your whole back-catalogue of missteps, stop. Your life is not a novel. You are not some unchanging character in a Greek tragedy with a character flaw that ultimately leads to your demise. This is just one honest mistake. You subconsciously weighed the emotional and logical pros and cons and made the decision that seemed best. The universe is infinitely complicated and you are only able to model it with seven thoughts at a time, so you made a little error in your judgment. Now you have a valuable experience that you can use to make more informed decisions in the future. That’s all there is to it.

Avoid brooding. You’re in an amazing place. You’re a bouncer who gets to stand between the past and the future and decide what gets through. You’re still in control.

How to Define Success

Two years ago, I was given an assignment to write about where I wanted to be in ten years. The assignment was to dream. If everything were to go exactly according to plan, where would I end up?

In my paper, I described a person who didn’t own a home and could fit all of his possessions in a single backpack. No family. A global citizen, I called him. I wrote it as a narrative. He had been in Buenos Aires for six months eating steak and studying Argentinian tango, and now he was ready to move on. He took a taxi to the airport, stared at the departures board, and chose a destination right there and then. Germany, sure. Why not? When the plane was in the air, he opened his laptop and—with a few clicks and short emails delivered through the on-board wifi—delegated tasks to the assistants in India he paid to run his business. After an hour, his work for the week was done and he closed his eyes. A little bit of rest, and then it was on to the next corner of the world.

Since then, I’ve learned that the world doesn’t have corners. In fact, it’s round. Like the homer at a baseball game that all of the children in the stands run and hold out their gloves to catch, as the adults just smile and watch.

Six years ago, I thought I was halfway through my life. All of my heroes stopped at 27. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Robert Johnson. All dead. All drug related. I wanted to leave my own music legacy. I would tour the world and then when I was 27 I would follow my heroes with my own glorious burnout. We would be roman candles together, eclipsing stars and blazing trails across the sky until we fizzled out one by one and disappeared into the darkness. I wasn’t going to be a star, twinkling consistent until I disappeared behind the horizon. Not me. I was the schoolyard martyr-in-training, ready to die for that blazing feeling you get in your organs when a firework pops.

Jimi Hendrix died choking on his own vomit. Kurt Cobain splattered himself all over the walls.

Pop.

Speaking of which, I used to make girls fall in love with me a few times per month. I had a particular talent for finding girls who had given up on romance. Girls with beautiful hearts and strong viewpoints and very deep wounds. Girls with histories. Girls most guys were afraid to touch. Through hours of conversation and careful attention, I made them blossom to where they felt they could finally trust someone with their hearts.

And then I left, usually before I even bothered to touch them myself. No explanation. I just turned cold and moved on. I was an emotional playboy, an internal home wrecker. This is what I meant when I said “speaking of which.” That’s to say, it’s not glamorous. It’s my biggest regret.

Sometimes late at night I pretend to be blackout drunk and I apologize to one of the girls I left. I tell them how honored I am to have spent that time in their company. I tell them that growing up I lived in three houses, and I was never in one place long enough to put up posters, but that doesn’t excuse my actions and I am sorry. Sometimes they say they forgive me. I never feel better.

All of this to say, settling down isn’t my strong suit. In fact, I’ve never even given it a chance. I go weeks at a time without sleeping in the same place for two nights in a row. That’s how it’s always been.

But what if?

This week I turned off the world. I took the car keys out of my pocket and set them on my desk. I cooked all my own meals. I responded to every email. I walked to banks to do research for a project I’m working on and then I came back home. I bought a bookshelf and finally took the books from my suitcase. I read. I drank a lot of tea. I had long conversations late at night with my best friends and said no to everyone else. I wrote thousands of words.

I sent an email to a girl I like and told her I missed her.

All the ways I’ve ever defined success have involved leaving. I wonder, was I really pursuing progress for the sake of where I would end up? I was fast talking, fast learning, fast growing, fast everything. All the time.

Well this week I was domestic, for the first time I can remember. I didn’t feel joyous. I didn’t feel profound. I didn’t feel successful. I felt about as happy as I’ve always felt, which is not that much.

But I did feel calm. And I felt useful. And I felt loved. And my keys are still on my desk.

So now I’m going to say something to you that I never would have dreamed of saying in a thousand years.

I think I want to have kids someday.