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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!”
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.