Thursday, November 18, 2004

one thing... leads to another

Vieta, thanks for the Prison Pete link. Folks, here it is.

So I started to read it but very quickly got curious about "Pete's Blogroll" and it's what it sounds like, a listing of blogs picked by Pete. I don't even remember which one got me to this site, Similar Minds, but it was a pretty cool find. All kinds of personality tests and a few just for fun.

For example, I started with the "What Classic Movie Are You?" And it turns out I am "Hollywood Boulevard". I haven't seen it but guess I will now! And the results of my "Famous Leader" test turned out with me being Che Guevara. Oh my! I didn't even know much about Che but found a little site and turns out he was instrumental in Castro's guerilla campaign in Cuba. Well, I don't know what that says about me, except that I am perhaps a secret revolutionary. Not that I'm planning to pick up weapons of war or anything! It was pretty fun. And all from a random choice. Hooray for random! If you take some of the tests, that will make even more sense.

The other moral of this story is that I am spending too much time online. I am still able to surf via my unknown neighbor's cable connection, using my wireless dealy on this Mac. I tend to get caught up online for a few hours each night. I am avoiding some things, though getting the most important stuff done.

But right now, for example -- I need to figure out what to wear (indeed) for the show in Winfield tomorrow night. (Ah, finally Wilders content!) We are potentially going to be on camera during this show. A National Media Group (that's all I'm allowed to say for now) will be filming the O'Brien Family Band, who invited us to come play the show with them. Nate will be playing bass with them, so he's definitely getting camera time! We have known the O'Brien's for many years now. I think the year we actually met them was at the Winfield fest ca. 1996? I think it was the first year Ike came down with me & Phil. Dan (the dad) was playing guitar outside his camper on Sunday morning and his little girl, Maura, who was about 3, was dreamily running and dancing in circles in front of him. It was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. And besides being sweet to watch, they turned out to be one of the nicest families ever. So, anyway, tomorrow we'll see them for this show and oh how I dislike being on camera. I've never been comfortable being photographed, even. Hmm, guess I'd better start getting used to it, if our road to success is as paved as we hope!

I guess the real moral of this story here is that I have some things to consider when it comes to being comfortable with myself. Isn't it ironic -- I am most of the time quite confident and happy onstage, and actually enjoy performing so much, and yet I feel a little trapped in the physical body and personal limitations that I have to live with... well, there's no better place to let it out lately than here... it feels like a private journal when I'm writing, though I know it's not. It does seem more like a family place right now, though, with comments limited to a few dedicated, loving, sweet souls such as yourselves. That translates to a thank you to you sweet souls. And to all a good night.

Winfield 2004-4

Sunday, November 14, 2004

And if you like old photos....

Check out Snapatorium on blogger! I found it while browsing one night and spent about an hour looking at every single photo. There are some great finds. And funny titles to go with the images -- in some cases the picture you see will surprise you compared to the caption.

check it out here!

Recent Photo(s) #3

Winfield 2004-5

Here is a quick capture of Nate's bass' neck... that was such a shocker. This bass was given to Nate by his great uncle, and the real shocker was that his Uncle passed away about one hour before the neck of the bass broke off. Nate didn't find out about this until after the festival -- his folks didn't want him to be too upset with all the shows we had to play. His uncle passed very quickly and is now at peace and I'm sure is very glad that his nephew makes such great music on this old instrument.

Recent Photo(s) #2

Winfield 2004-2

Here's another one -- I liked this a lot for two main reasons... first, Phil is actually smiling, which is awesome! And second, you can actually see all 4 of us, which is rare!

Recent Photo(s) #1

Winfield 2004-8

Thought I'd post a few photos from this year's Walnut Valley Festival (aka Winfield)... taken by our pal Mike Beauchamp.

HEY -- if anyone out there has photos of us performing, or hanging out even, please send them to -- I love collecting them and will post some of them here or eventually on wilderscountry (once we get set up for that).


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Help Wanted: Must have audio/visual experience...

Ok, it took our traditionally silent partner, Ike, who wrote a whopping 25th comment on Betse's last blog to finally get me to write something new. Why? I guess I've had a serious case of writer's block. While the leaves are quickly dropping from the trees, I find myself in a complete flux. Here I am, suddenly at home with all my old responsibilities, put-off projects, overdue library books, and so on to deal with. On the plus side, I'm taking of advantage of precious time at home with my patient wife, smelly black lab and geriatric cat. Unfortunately, this joyful time is interrupted all too often by an annoying thing called work. With absolutely no adjustment period, I climbed out of The Chief in August and plopped right back into my old mediocre world of pushy teachers, aloof administrators, and needy students. And I wasn't ready.

Although touring this summer was often very difficult, I grew used to the rhythms of the road life. Each day was a new set of circumstances, an open road map, a new crowd to play for. When I finally turned in for the night, I was able to go to sleep in my bunk knowing that the next day would surely be the same- but completely different. I also got used to living with these three eccentric partners of mine. After a few weeks in The Chief, we all learned to anticipate and look out for each other's mood swings, how to share a very tight space, how to laugh off the small annoyances and how to sit down and talk about the bad stuff before it overheated to boiling and burned us all.

So here I am back at my stupid job and I'm bummed out. I miss it. Yes, I know my summer blogs were the ones most likely to get comments like, "hang in there, Phil. You're almost done!" and, "You'll look back someday and laugh!". But I never really meant to be a complainer. I was more interested in documenting the "real" story for everybody who was keeping tabs on us. Now that I look back at it, I guess I can see why people thought I was unhappy. But I'd trade endless meals at Subway and endless miles in The Chief for pointless committee meetings and passive/ aggressive emails any dang old day.

So, I am happy to report that I have decided to take the ultimate plunge. Our booking agent magnifico, Mary, has a full slate of shows for us in 2005. Prior to our summer tour, I had been holding out for assurance that the band can really do this full time. I found out that even under the worst circumstances, we can live and even thrive on the road. I've also been holding out for self assurance that I, personally, can really do this full time. Well I did it, and lived to tell the tale. Plus I did it, and now that I'm not doing it, I miss it. That's assurance enough for me right now. So, without disclosing too much in the way of detail, I can report that my seemingly endless 9-5 desk-job days are quickly falling off the calendar like so many leaves from the trees. Soon enough, I will be bare and cold and exposed to the elements. But spring is just around the corner. And I will welcome the warmth as I begin to embrace my new life as a full time Wilder. Keep reading. There's gonna be a lot more stories to come.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

IBMA: What it stands for, why we went, how it's important to our future and where it's going

IBMA = International Bluegrass Music Association

IBMA conference = I've Barely Made it Alive conference

Yes, that's what a lot of folks call it! And oh boy it's true. Folks, I barely had a chance to use a computer, let alone write to you with updates. This was an extreme case of the best intentions with no way to fulfill them. I have a bit of time before our Zona Rosa gig, so I'll give you some highlights.

BY THE WAY, though, first, I must tell you that sadly this local gig is not a public one. If you want to spend $75 for a ticket, though, come on down!! Geez! It didn't say it was a ticketed event on our contract, so I'm sorry for any unintentional misleading. I'd better send a quick note to the list with my apologies. So I'll be right back with my post. Go get a cup of coffee. Or, just read on, because it'll all follow right here!

Ok. I did the deed. Sure hope there are not a lot of angry folks due to our ignorance!

Now for the rest of the story. Yours truly spent each day working the trade show, shaking hands and charming the big guns of the bluegrass industry. Our agent extraordinaire, Mary Brabec, introduced me to who knows how many of these big guns. The list includes festival promoters, concert presenters, other agents, label reps, and radio programmers. Whew! And that was just during the days. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, we played showcases for big guns and faithful fans. There are big stage showcases at IBMA, but so far our applications to perform have been denied. So, along with the big stage bands and those trying to break through, we played late night shows in hotel suites.

The Galt House in L'ville is an excellent place to hold these showcases as many rooms are in fact like one bedroom apartments. A standard suite has room for about 25 people, if you move furniture around and put in some straight back chairs. And if the band is really cranking, you end up drawing a crowd outside the door too. We played twice in the suite where I was staying with Mary, and then played three other showcases in bigger suites. Our biggest one was in the Larryfest king size suite on the 12th floor. This is a 3 bedroom place with a huge living area and dining area. There were probably 80 people there, maybe 100. Last year we scored a much bigger crowd, but we had more time to advertise. This showcase was late Thursday night and we didn't decide to do it until late Wed. night. But our L'ville pal, Zach, helped to get the word out and the place was filled with sweet young L'ville punkers, right along with some of the big guns and other fans mentioned previously. I love to play a crowd like this. It's good proof that music can bring diverse people together.

It's a crazy way to do business. Get up in the morning, have some meetings or attend a special session. Try to get interest from the buyers. Go to the trade show in the afternoon and try to get some more interest, and spread the word on the showcases. Do some playing in the lobby for more word-spreading. Collapse for a bit, maybe get some dinner. Maybe go to the big stage showcases in the early evening. Get ready for late night playing, which starts at 11 pm. (our latest showcase was a 2 am show! And there were probably 30+ people there, filling about 80% of the chairs in that particular suite. Plus folks standing in the back and also hanging out in the hall outside. That's a good turnout.) And you can't just go to sleep after you play a showcase, especially if you're a Wilder. The adrenaline is all pumped up and it's impossible to sleep until you unwind a bit, which usually involves a few beers and some hall wandering, finding other players and jams and sometimes music that just absolutely blows you away. You may never even see those people again, so when you find some great music in the halls or in a random room, you have to check it out.

It's like the biggest festival you could imagine, with music everywhere, all night, and all the day business that you wish you didn't have to do, but you have to. Just like last year, I was the only Wilder registered for the conference. It's really expensive. So the trade show working/schmoozing and other related tasks fell to me. That's okay, though, because I kind of get in to this type of challenge. Plus I really like meeting the big guns, especially if they just caught us playing the night before. This year more than ever, I got a lot of recognition when folks met me, because they can't help but love the band. And even if they hadn't seen us, more often than not they had heard good things about us. I am sure there are promoters who don't like our show. That's only natural averages. But I think I can safely say that we were one of the main bands being talked about and I can definitely say that we got ourselves a whole lot of work out of this one week. Where else can you get all these buyers together at one time? And what other kind of music has an event this big where you can accomplish so much? It's pretty dang cool.

OK. Specific highlights. In no particular order.

The John Hartford Memorial Cruise, on the Belle of Louisville steamboat. Friday morning. With on-board entertainment.

A late night (ca. 3 am or later) discovery of a three-piece group playing like crazy by the elevators, with no one around until our group found them. The girl fiddler was out of this world. Reminded me of myself with her energy and "go for it" approach, but her chops and technical ability far surpass my own. Don't worry, no jealousy, just admiration!

Julie Lee. My soul sister. A songwriter with the most expressive voice. We played together and sang (though my voice was nearly gone with all the talking of the week) and I truly believe we were supposed to meet. I will be seeing her again and making beautiful music. And you will be hearing about it.

Zach. Our young friend in L'ville. He plays manager for us and makes a pretty good one, too. And he has crazy looking punker friends who are really fun to play for.

Curly Seckler. Used to sing and play mando with Flatt and Scruggs. Honored by the IBMA at the awards show. A sweet, charming, FUNNY man who pretty much stole the show. I'm going to buy some F&S album now, just because I saw Curly. (I don't own much bluegrass, you know!)

Art Stamper. I didn't get to see him, but he did get out of the hospital to receive an award prior to the show, and was on site. I wish I had seen him but was so glad to hear he was moving about and I will send him another letter this week.

Oh, there are more, but these come to mind the quickest. This coming week is going to be very busy, Mary says, because she fully expects to be inundated with phone calls from presenters desperate to get the Wilders to their venues and festivals!

SO -- we Barely Made it Alive, due to the sleep deprived short nights and long days, but oh boy it was worth it.

The saddest thing? That was the last time the conference took place in Louisville. It's moving to Nashville next year. Sigh.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I promise I'll try to do better


What took me so long? Wish I knew, exactly! This is what the last couple of months have been like for me:

Get ready to leave for the next show (laundry, mail, email, phone)
Ride to show in the Chief, trying to not be too bored*
Get to the show/festival and check in, figure stuff out, etc.
Play the show/festival and try to get some rest for the next day's sets
Ride home in the Chief, trying to rest and not be too bored*
Rest up for a day. Teach some fiddle lessons.
Get ready to leave for the next show (laundry, mail, email, phone)**

* if I had my own computer and a way to upload journals, I might have done better... well now I do! I am in fact writing this now on my cute little iBook which I got thanks to a clearance at Phil's dept. at the Art Institute (thanks brophil) and even better, I am sitting on my couch and am on a wireless network! Apparently someone in my apt. building has one, and that means I do too. Whoopee! Thanks to my mystery neighbor, I was able to do some updating on the web site that I just couldn't stand to do on the old dial-up. I hope they stay online long enough for me to finish this entry, because I am bound and determined to actually post something.

** thanks to brotherphil for the inspiration on the circular format listing...

I did start a heartfelt post about MBOTMA, while staying at friend's place while we were at the MN state fair... Brotherphil has admirably taken care of that fest, and all I want to say about that was I missed my dear friend, Art Stamper, who was to be there. Art is fighting a second bout of cancer and if you want to think a kind thought or say a prayer, it can only help. You can visit to learn more about this incredible fiddler and super man.

Since so much time has passed, I must move on from those past performance notes and look ahead. I think in general this is a good way to live; it seems to be on my mind lately. With that in mind, I am looking forward to next week in Louisville. It's IBMA time and last year, we went to the conference with the goal of finding an agent. I had my doubts, having had some interaction with some of the big-time in the acoustic world agents. They didn't seem to think too much of us. However, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Mary Brabec on the first day. What followed was a week of getting to know this great gal and after she'd seen us play several times, by the end of the week we were asked to join her roster.

This was probably THE best thing that has ever happened to the band. After us getting together to begin with, that is.

So after our first summer's worth of touring thanks to Mary, I'm especially looking forward to IBMA this year. Though it's tinged with sadness, because it's the last year to be held in L'ville. Louisville is a beautiful place, by the way. Just a neat old town on the Ohio River. So, guess where it's going....? Of course it's moving to Nashville. Goodbye, Bluegrass State. Hello, Music City. Guess it makes sense, but still, Nash has everything already!

oh, heck. We're not a bluegrass band, anyway, so what does it matter? (we do claim the tag but only because it's so much easier when talking to folks who've stopped on the highway to help us, or at RV parks, or at gas stations, etc.) After all, which is easier for an introduction in those circumstances: "We're a country band that plays crazy old time fiddle tunes and honky tonk songs" or "We're a bluegrass band"?

So, dear Reader, if you haven't given up, let me try to give some hope as now I have my own machine I can create posts on and then post from home (hopefully on the AirPort). And, it will help fight boredom (mine, and well, hopefully yours too). Expect some word from yours truly from that good ol' town, Louisville, next week.

I promise I'll try to do better.

This stands for many things in my life.

It's a work in progress.

Friday, September 10, 2004

It's pronounced mah-BOT-mah! Strange acronyms in the land of lakes...

Let's face it, people in Minnesota love their bluegrass. And even though we rarely play any bluegrass in our shows, they still really seem to love The Wilders. Three weeks into an unusually cool August, we piled into the Chief and set off for our final tour of the summer en-route to the land of lakes in beautiful Minnesota. This would be our second try at the MBOTMA (Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Association) festival at the El Rancho Manana campground just west of St. Cloud. Two years prior, we made our Minnesota debut at this great festival and were eager to give them a second shot.

We arrived (as usual) late in the night, and were guided by golf cart to our site. While my band mates readied their bunks, I decided to break free of the boredom and cramped space of The Chief and pitch my crappy, but luxuriously spacious tent at the summit of Boot Hill. This grassy, tree-topped knob that rises high above the campground overlooking the entire festival grounds was the location of our camp two years earlier and I had prayed that it would be unoccupied. Although there was a small crowd of middle school kids hanging out near the top, I was pleased to find my destination still open for the taking. Why no one chooses to camp here is a real head scratcher, but I quickly laid claim to this fortunate real estate, set up my shelter and climbed into my sleeping bag, shivering but elated.

I slept great and got things going the next morning by munching down a breakfast burrito purchased from a passing bicycle vendor. Then I put on the old suit and boots and got tuned up for our first set. We got ourselves psyched up backstage and quickly we were on and then it was over. The crowd must have really bought our schtick because they lined up at the CD table afterward en-mass to express their praise and encouragement with $20.00 bills in hand. Betse and I then participated in our respective instrument workshops and we reconvened with our band-mates at the food area for some catfish and pork sandwiches.

After a short debate, we decided to drop the suits and play our late night show in street clothes so that we could retain some warmth as the temperature quickly dropped into a damp low-fifties. We were scheduled to play a set called, "Wind Down with The Wilders" which, to anyone who has ever seen us, is both ironic and hilarious. But the idea was that we were supposed to play a non-amplified set for the folks exiting after the main stage show finished for the evening. To save Ike's voice, we broke the non-amplified rule and plugged our microphone into Nate's bass amp and quickly shook off the cold by jumping around like maniacs while the amused crowd began to thickened around us. We pulled out all our usual tricks and finished to an enthusiastic, albeit cold-handed ovation. As the cold began to settle back into our bones, we had a night cap of complimentary hot dogs (with the skin on...very weird) and caught golf carts back to our camp.

It was another freezing night and when I awoke the next morning and poked my head out of my bag, my ears were treated to the sound of four-part accapella gospel harmony. It was the members of Art Stevenson and Highwater warming up for their late morning set. These Wisconsin players were camped between The Chief and my hilltop perch and I lingered in the tent for several minutes enjoying their PRO-fessional rehearsal of country, gospel and bluegrass. But my coffee addiction compelled me to rise out of my nylon cave and no sooner than I got the thermos filled, it was time to suit up for our second main stage show.

Again, we did our spastic bobble-head routine and then hit the CD table for another round of shake and howdy with the people. Afterward, we recessed back to camp where we changed out of our sweaty show clothes and then took a much-needed break in the shade swapping road stories with some members of The Foghorn String Band from Portland, Oregon. Then it was back to the food area for another round of catfish. I decided to try a local delicacy of the state of Minnesota- fried cheese curds, and, in all honesty, I'll report that they are indeed an acquired taste. Although they look pretty much like any deep fried food, instead of being crunchy on the outside and melty on the inside, they are more like soggy on the outside and chewy on the inside- sort of like semi-hardened Elmer's glue-filled donut holes. These curious little balls would have a devastating glue-like effect on my poor gut as I would soon discover. I ran off to the tent to take a nap and give my stomach a chance at breaking down these mysterious objects.

After a fitful hour or so, I awoke to Betse's voice outside the tent telling me it was time to get dressed for our last set. Our final obligation to the festival was to play a honky tonk show for the two-steppers and leg-shakers at the dance tent. Apparently there was a buzz was going on throughout the festival about this band from Kansas City and we arrived to a tent bursting at the seams with new fans and curious onlookers. We tuned up, got to it and got everybody all riled up again playing fiddle tunes for the young leapers and honky tonk tunes for the old swingers. Despite numerous string breaks and exhaustion, we finished the long set with no serious injuries to report. I was straight up exhausted by this time and was soon happy to be bedded down for another cold night with the satisfaction in my mind of a job well done.

The next morning, we grabbed some breakfast and returned to the sound of a gurgling vintage tractor driven by a member of the El Rancho Manana staff. Betse had made arrangements the previous day for us to do a post-festival hay/jam wagon ride through the campground to serenade the folks packing up their gear. We climbed aboard and, at a furious pace of about 1 mph, toured the grounds playing our fiddle tunes and country favorites to the startled festival graduates. Pretty soon another fiddler climbed aboard, and then another, and then another, and then the hay really started to fly. By my estimation, we ended up with something like 20+ musicians on that wagon by the time we completed the campground loop.

One of the wagon hoppers, a young fellow who we will forever refer to as "Honky Tonk John", struck our fancy particularly. This St. Cloud resident has a honky tonk voice and repertoire that I wish some of the current Nashville tight-jeaned pretty boys would take a few lessons from. He's also a fabulous guitarist, luthier and a dang fine fiddler too! He and Ike traded tunes for the better part of two hours while Betse, Nate and I all took turns taking licks and looking on in amazement. Then, after dining on a fantastic meal of venison and elk steaks courtesy of the El Rancho Manana staff, we headed back to the Chief for our last night on the grounds.

As luck would have it, Honky Tonk John decided to stick around and Ike and I enjoyed several more hours of pure 40's and 50's honky tonk pleasure sitting knee-to-knee with John outside the RV until well after midnight. Sleep was, by this time, badly needed by everyone so Ike began work to fix up a makeshift bed for John on the floor of The Chief. I wished them both a good night and hiked back up the hill to my campsite as lightning flashed ominously in the western sky.

Now, as I mentioned before, my crappy tent is a monstrosity of a shelter that could easily sleep eight people. I bought it on sale last year for the Winfield, Kansas festival and quickly learned after a heavy rain why it was such a good deal at the sporting goods store. It is, without a doubt, the most poorly sealed, leakiest, roof dripping son-of-a-gun of a tent I've ever had the soaked displeasure of spending a rainy night inside. The "rain fly", which is aptly named due to it's ability to make the rain magically "fly" through it's nylon seams, allows water to drip onto the mesh beneath it. When enough water (about half a teaspoon or so) pools up on the mesh, the water starts to drip- and usually on my head. Also, the corners of the tent are so poorly sewn that water that is just passing by, minding it's own business, suddenly feels compelled to come inside the tent to find out what's going on in there. So, not surprisingly, the lightening flashes that were now quickly approaching gave me a sense of doom that you can only imagine. I spent several minutes contemplating my fate and the arrangement of my stuff- trying to figure out where the impending deluge would drip and pool. I finally decided on a single-column stacking method arranged by most-waterproof to least-waterproof at the foot of my inflatable air mattress. I made sure that every item in the tent was either on that pile or tucked deep inside my sleeping bag. Finally, I apprehensively climbed into my bag and watched the lightning flash across the nylon above me before falling into a restless sleep to the symphony of thunder warming up in the distance.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Does it seem like I'm complaining: Back at the 9-5 grind...

3 months on the road and as quickly as it started, now it's all over and I'm back at my day job. WEIRD! I'd like to reassure all the folks that have responded to my blogs that I haven't given up. Yes, the road life was tough. The Chief was unpredictable at best and damned uncomfortable at worst. My band mates were both a pleasure and a nightmare to live with. I travelled into terrain that made my mind reel in awe and recoil in disgust. I met people who were fabulously talented, beautifully generous and seriously crazy. I played my heart out to the masses, ate crappy food and lived on precious little sleep. When asked, my stock answer to the question "how was it" is "it was an experience". That really covers it-totally. It WAS an experience. Not one that I would trade for anything. Now that I am again waking at a 7am to the annoying alarm and making my lunch for another day at the grind, I take solace in the fact that this was the first, but not last time I will be doing this. To be honest, I can't wait to do it again. Thanks to everybody who gave us advice, believed in us, and wrote words of encouragement. I'm glad that you were along for the ride. It WAS an experience. All I can do is promise to continue to document these experiences and hope that everyone who is reading this gets something of value out of our crazy life on the road. You are the reason we keep doing it. Keep checking back. There are so many more stories to tell...

Monday, August 09, 2004

A Day in the Life...

I've noticed that the blog entries have been few and far between in the last weeks. Betse has tried to keep you updated, but my entries are more fleeting. Why? I'm tired as hell! I'm thinking this is why...

24 hours on the life of The Wilders:

7:45am: Wake up. Realize that I'm in The Chief. Realize that I haven't had any water or food in the last 12 hours. Panic.

8:00am: Actually get out of bed. Try not to wake other Wilders. Know that it's impossible. Say, "screw it" and put away sleeping bag, fold up couch and, in doing so, find dirty socks from the day before while other Wilders pretend to sleep regardless of the commotion.

8:05am: Find clean underwear, T-shirt and towel in suitcase and put on shoes for run to the shower.

8:06am: Nod, but don't speak to Betse, who is also headed out for cleansing.

8:07am: Look back at Ike and Nate- who continue to pretend to sleep.

8:10am: Peel off dirty clothes and wash off in RV park shower. Pretend not to freak out about all the foot fungus that is probably on the floor.

8:20am: Dress, brush teeth, pee and walk back to the RV.

8:25am: Nod, but don't speak to Betse, who is also back at the RV from her shower.

8:39am: Heat up water for coffee. Banish stinky clothes from the day before to the closet.

8:45am: Force Nate and Ike from their pretense of sleep. Remind them of the departure time we agreed to the night before. Lay on a guilt trip. Watch as they begrudingly become verticle.

8:50am: Speak to Betse for the first time. Tell her that the coffee's ready. Pour a thermos full for myself. Sweet coffee. Wonderful coffee...

9:00am: Move chairs, CD product, T-shirt box, maps, backpack, cell phone, Rolling Stone "Top 500 albums of all time" issue, USA Today newspaper from the day before, bass amp, checkbook, Nerf Football, gallons of water, television set, dining room table and other miscellaneous gear from front area of RV back into "travelling location".

9:05am: Watch as Nate and Ike finally get their crap put away and go to shower.

9:15am: Throw away trash, pull electrical connection, check oil and tires on The Chief.

9:20am: Wish a "good morning" to Nate and Ike as they return from the shower.

9:30am: Play "rock, paper, scissors", to see who drives the first shift. I always lose.

9:31am : Leave for next gig. Frequent stops are necessary for gas and urination obligations. Ice, beer and water are purchased and stored in The Chief. Fast food is consumed on the way for minimal nourishment.

7:00pm (sometimes later, sometimes earlier): Arrive at gig.

7:05pm: Enter club and greet bartender, club owner, and sound man (in that order...)

7:20pm: Explain to sound man that we use a single microphone "all the time" and reassure him that "everything will be ok...we are professionals..."

7:25pm: Complete sound check after manipulating club's EQ units so that our mic doesn't roar with feedback while sound man looks on in bewilderment.

7:30pm: Leave club for dinner at local burger/sub/pizza/or unknown recommended restaurant within walking distance.

7:45pm: Order and wait for food, wish for more time to consume it. Eat it too fast anyway.

8:20pm: Head back to RV to change clothes, drink a beer, chill out.

9:00pm: Go back into club to hang out, drink another beer, chill out.

9:45pm: Tune instruments, get one more beer, wait for opening act to finish.

10:00pm: Start show, try to get into it regardless of personal feelings, remember to play tunes that were requested. Try to deal with multiple string breaks and rowdy audience members.

Midnight: Finish set with encore. Talk to rowdy audience members. Try to convince them to buy CD's. Ask them to buy additional beers for themselves in hopes of getting one more "drunken impulse buy".

12:45am: Pack up instruments, CD's, T-shirts, and other miscellaneous gear and load out to The Chief.

1:00am: Change back into sweaty clothes from before show. Hang up sweaty show clothes. Drink water and eat corn chips.

1:15am: Go back into club for "idiot check". Determine that all gear and personnel are accounted for and say goodbyes to sound man, club owner, bartender (in that order...).

1: 20am: Look at map and determine possible overnight RV park possibilities.

1:30am: Leave for RV park destination. Listen to music, talk about the day, talk about the gig, talk about people at the gig, fall asleep in an uncomfortable position in one of the chairs. Wake up and go in the back to crash on the floor.

2:30am: Arrive at RV park. Pay at the "late arrivals" station. Find spot. Plug in. Move chairs, CD product, T-shirt box, maps, backpack, cell phone, Rolling Stone "Top 500 albums of all time" issue, USA Today newspaper from day before, bass amp, checkbook, Nerf Football, gallons of water, television set, dining room table and other miscellaneous gear from "travelling location" to front area of RV. Open fold out couch, overhead bed and get out blow-up bed in preparation for minimal night's sleep.

3:00am: Go to shower, brush teeth, pee and walk back to RV.

3:10am: Say goodnight, try to go to sleep as soon as possible. Know that that the sleep I'm gonna get will never be enough.

7:45am: Wake up. Realize that I'm in The Chief. Realize that I haven't had any water or food in the last 12 hours. Panic.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

And then there was Rockygrass...

We managed to make it out there though the Box was starting to loosen up... in the seams, that is. We had some water leakage issues in a few areas. (Ike & Nate did some work after we got home, so hopefully it's sealed up tight now.)

This post is of course way post-RG, so let's see if I can sum it up concisely:

It rained and rained and rained, until Sunday, when we played. So folks were real up and happy to see us, and let's just say we gave the people what they wanted! Overall yours truly had a terrific time hanging out a lot w/ MB Booker, our trusty and wonderful booking agent extraordinaire. Mary even introduced me to one of my main music heroes, Tim O'Brien. I was a stammering fan on the first intro, but a little later we hung out and chatted. The second meeting was much more mellow than the first, though I'm sure I still said stupid things. Those of you who know me, you know that's not hard for me to do!

Bottom line is this: we played two major fests two weekends in a row (Grey Fox and then RG) and we stood up real well against all the hot pickers and major acts in both cases. It's still fun to be the underdog! And yet I hope that we get beyond being the surprise act. I hope we get to the point where folks are just antsy to see us because they know they're going to see a great show.

I want to express my thanks and appreciation again to you all for sticking with us and for your votes of support. I hope y'all realize how much it helps us. Knowing we have good friends who wish us well goes a long way in the quagmire of challenges and leaks and loss of sleep and broken strings...

And Greg G., I know some of us sure like the cookies you mention... whatever your reason for asking, I'm sure it's a good one! Look forward to seeing you & Carl Friday!

This weekend, after our return to St. Louis, we face another new venue at the Int'l Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky (of course in KY). I'll let you know how it went next week, before we take off for a short Northern stint in MN and WI. Great adventures await us up north, culminating in Larryfest, which is where we discovered at least 18 distinct varieties of beer represented there, last year... that might be some kind of record in itself.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

If you can't say something nice...

I'm propped up against the headboard at the Holiday Inn Express in Boulder, Colorado at 6:30am and I just can't sleep anymore. After the whirlwind of the eastern tour, we had only a single day to regroup before heading right back out west for the Rockygrass festival in Lyons, Colorado. As I recover my consciousness this morning, I am flooded with a stream of memories, thoughts, ruminations etc. regarding the eastern tour. My mom always insisted that, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". So, to stay true to my raising, I won't say anything about the mind numbing traffic jams, the aggressive drivers, the endless road construction, and the lack of emergency shoulders on the turnpikes. I also won't say anything about the suffocating streams of trucks, the brown death effect of acid rain on the forests, or the swiss cheese pavement that rattled and shook The Chief and our kidneys without mercy. I also won't tell stories of heartburn, stomach aches, cramps, constipation and nights on end without sleep or decent food due to the relentless miles that lay before us. And I won't describe RV parks which close at 10 pm (with security gates!), typos in the RV bible that sent us miles out of our way or AAA maps that had more detail than the actual landscape and, as a result, helped us to get MORE lost. I won't relate these experiences because what's the point? It's pretty much obvious that touring the east in an 1982 Winnebago is going to be chock full of anxiety, and discomfort. Case closed.

So, how about some nice things about the east? The beauty of this part of the country is subtle in my opinion. There are plenty of mountains, hills, valleys and rivers. But so often the beauty was so fleeting that you would miss it if you weren't looking. There are lush forests. There are surging waterfalls. There are quant towns with 200+ years of history. There are sooted and steep steel town walkups with gigantic windows to pass on the breeze built in a time long before air conditioning. And there are eastern angels too, who stop to help you just because you have a Missouri license plate. There are vegetarians who take pride in disguising their meatless entrees for us carnivores with wholesomeness and spice. There are amazing bridges which span the countless valleys and rivers with function and style. There is our nation's capital which, when speeding through, seems so small but contains all of the landmarks that you've known since grade school but might not have ever seen- all within distance of the naked eye (depending on which side of The Chief you are looking out of). There is the Big Apple who's perfect subway takes you to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, quicker than it would take you to read a map and find a parking place. And finally there are all the fabulous eastern music fans who absolutely got a kick out of this small town, naive group of midwestern musicians who had the crazy idea that they could take their show out east with nothing more than their sweaty suits, overworked instruments, a tired but reliable 30 foot house-on-wheels, and their relentless enthusiasm to get them through it.

You know, come to think of it, it wasn't half bad...

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

How to Catch Up

This is not an advice column, so don't misread that title, dear Reader.  It just might be a surprise to see all these entries pop up... so if you missed last night's episode, just go on down to "Missing in action" and it'll make a lot more sense. 
That is, if you are interested in chronological reading.  If not, just dig on in and it'll all make sense eventually!
I hope.

Being the underdog... Grey Fox Festival

This is exactly the kind of place we need to play.  One of those festivals you don't want to leave (me, anyway).  We played early shows but word spread and Wilder Fever took over quickly.  When the lineup includes Ricky Skaggs, Tim O'Brien, Del McCoury Band and Earl Scruggs, you know you've either really lucked out to be there, or might possibly be on your way up from being there.  And it sure helped to hear from lots of festivalgoers that The Wilders were the hit band of the weekend!  Being the underdog in this kind of scene is pretty gratifying.  I think it shows us that we have what it takes to make people happy, and that is what makes us happy and gives us more chances for everyone's happiness.
Nate's folks were there, along with their very good friends from Susquehanna PA, who'd never been to a festival like that before.  They had a high time and we were glad of it.  Good to have some family support there too.
Tim O'Brien Band.  He's simply outstanding.  I first saw Tim w/ his sister Mollie at Winfield the first year I was there.  He is one of the reasons I fell in love with old time music.  He's an accomplished bluegrasser too, but he really keeps the old time going too and I am an admirer.  A sweet bonus was seeing Dirk Powell in the band that night, though instead of getting to hear him fiddle, I enjoyed him laying down the bass (yet another instrument he excels at). 
Girl Howdy!  Check out their website.  They rock.  They played a honky tonk dance and really had it going on.  I found myself wishing to play with them for a while.  Dangit, they already have a fiddler (oh yeah, I already have a band).
I visited with Dirk at the zydeco dance (which was a major highlight, great band, great time, great memory).  Of course I did the stupid fan thing and said a bunch of ridiculous things, but we ended up having a pretty good conversation and I hope next time we meet I'm not such an doofus.  I have a long history of being an old time groupie.  Whenever I've met someone I admire in old time music, I just get all dumb.  I say ridiculous things and don't make a whole lot of sense.  I have a lot of dreams about playing music with old time heroes of mine and I so rarely get the opportunity to meet them that I don't get used to it.  I feel like an underdog here too, but I also feel like I have such a long way to go and grow.  If we continue to play more of these festivals, I should have more opportunities to meet these folks I admire so much.  I guess I'd like to get used to it so I don't freak out every stinkin time.  And especially so I might have the opportunity to make some of those dreams come true.

Home of the Highwoods Stringband

This one will be brief... the fiddler was not feeling well and that was kinda tough, but we all managed to kick some anyway... it was like paying tribute for me, imagining the Highwoods Stringband in their heyday in the 70's playing around town and maybe at the Chapter House even, I'll have to find out about that.  Big enough crowd to make it really fun and and a good payday too which really helps at a bar show.  Also some of the Corning Grass Works folks were there, and Mr. Dom Sgro and his wife (see Canyon Country entry), which was a real honor.  A sweet country-dressed older couple got up and jigged a few numbers, yelled out a request for Cotton Eyed Joe and really went to town.  Also lots of young folks gettin' crazy and full of Wilder Fever before the night was over.  We'll be back, I bet.

New York, New York (it's a helluva town)

Ok, I just started this blog and I searched for Wilders Rodeo Bar on Google and found this link...;article=595;title=The%20Rodeo%20Bar

Pretty nice!  Guess what, that was from my Dad.  He's the official Big Guy.  Sneaky dude, he didn't mention this to me!  I'm cracking up because I found it on some obscure discussion page.  I didn't even know the Big Guy went on those discussion pages!  HI-larious.

Anyway, here's what I wrote in the Box about NY:

If I have time I will expand on this.  I'll tell you how we got to town, what we did w/ the Chief, where we stayed and what we did on the day of the show in NYC.  I'll tell you about my friend Pat who came to the show and where I know him from.  I'll tell you about broken strings (1 fiddle, several guitar, and I think even brotherphil did some damage) and the enthusiastic audience no matter what happened.  I'll tell you how much I'd like us to get back there and make more connections, raise awareness, raise the roof, etc.

But I'm damn sure gonna tell you about meeting Hank III.

After the show, I was leaving the stage area, while Phil was doing some selling from the stage...  a couple of guys were making their way up towards me, so I helped the first one w/ a sale and howdy-do, and the second one waited for me... he came on up and asked to buy both our CDs (somehow we didn't think it was prudent to lug in the gospel cds to NYC).  I joked a bit with him off the cuff about something, and he played along.  Then after I gave him his change, he shook my hand, said, "I'm Hank The Third, Hank Williams' grandson, and you guys are really great, here's my number..."  I gapsed, said breathlessly, "I'm a big fan..." and looked at his face and in his eyes, with a "ohmygodisitreallyyou" look, and he grinned and said he was undercover that night.  He was hiding his hair under his (ball) hat and he was dressed real simple.  He had happened by after going to another concert and ended up staying.  I then proceeded to enter into stupid fan mode, told him what a big fan of Beck's I am and how I enjoyed H3's part in the DVD movie I got from Beck's website (Hank plays a crazy singing junkyard owner and shares a scene w/ Robosaurus).  Well Hank was real cool and chatted with me for a few minutes, very down to earth and chill and of course I gave him my card too but don't even ask me, I'll never give out his number, but I'm sure gonna call him and see about what he's got in mind!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Not just another House Concert... Pittsburgh, PA

Ok, we actually arrived early for this one.  Had time to do laundry before sharing a great meal cooked by our generous hosts, Ben and Francine.  The house concert was in their house and before showtime, the porch filled up with local hipsters and lovers of all kinds of music.  Among the crowd was a journalist who wrote up a great blurb for us in the City Paper.  Check it out!

I like house concerts because they're less informal, if you want them to be.  We have an informal approach anyway, so it's a perfect place for a Wilders show (besides the Big Stages that we are starting to enjoy, too).  I'm just saying I like house concerts.  If Ike breaks a string (which he did), I feel comfortable doing the kind of things I do solo.  If we end up playing all the big stages we want, I will still want to play house concerts too and not just for that reason.  Especially if the house concerts are like this one!

It was a real good time overall.  After the show, it turned into an after party.  We enjoyed beer from our hosts (well, some during the show too), a local flavor called Steel City.  Real good and in cool bottles, like Red Stripes that got tall.  The party was full of good company, good conversation, and jamming (our host Ben can really sing that country music!).  Yours truly did not jam that night, instead opting to accept an invitation for an awesome scooter ride across the river (Ohio, or Monongahela, hard to keep it straight where there are Three Rivers [as in the stadium]).  And I wore a helmet, don't worry, as did my Expert driver (Top Notch driving, thanks Cap'n America). 

Now that was a good time.

Canyon Country

We had a rough time getting there ... after driving several late night hours from Rosendale NY (thanks again Mark, we loved it there, wish we could have stayed), we arrived at Nate's grandparents' house in Susquehanna PA (not NY, brophil)... we had a whole three hours to sleep there.  Then drove on little windy roads to Hills Creek State Park near Wellsboro, PA.  We arrived about 30 minutes before our first show.  In true Wilders form, we proceeded to play our butts off and the crowd warmed to us as the day went on... our evening set was very well received and we met a lot of super nice folks.  That's always fun after a show, when we have time to meet other folks -- it makes the experience so personal.
It was a pretty little festival in this park, and I'd do it again.  We just need to not get there quite the same way next time!  The Hickory Project band is how we got there this time, and thanks to you guys and gal for that.  We met them at Winfield last year and this fest is in their neck of the woods, literally.  Nice folks and great pickers... we'll look forward to seeing you again!
My personal highlight:  the SGRO Brothers!  A pair of harmonica-weilding geniuses.  They recently played the White House, and they played with Mr. Sinatra back in the day.  I'll try to get more Sgro Bros. stories in another post... they are worth more than a post but at least a book and perhaps there will be a documentary forthcoming from Ken VanEtten... I'll be sure to let you know about that at the proper time.  Their appearance with the Corning Grass Works made the festival for me.

Missing in action

Well, were you wondering?  I know you were... we have made it home and have a whole day off before we leave for Rockygrass.
Internet connections were much more rare than traffic jams and long hours of driving in the east... or else I would have written, I promise! 
For me, even though it was more physically trying to do this tour, I loved the east.  My Mom was born in Delaware and grew up all around the east, so that could be part of it.  (My Dad grew up in Missouri, though, so that's part of my connection here for sure, too.)  Anyway I wished we were out there for longer and just hope we can get back for more good stuff.
I worked on notes for update blogs last night while in the Box (the term we now use for the body which Chief inhabits).  So forthcoming are several posts... they will be briefer than what I wrote out west, mainly because that's all I could do, but also I think the longer posts are perhaps prohibitive for those who just want a quick read!
Thanks for all your comments... I enjoyed reading them just now.  Keep 'em coming!
Kim-e, what was that gospel link you found?  Did you save the website??
A note on what will follow:  I will post the notes in reverse chronological order.  So, if you want to start where we left off before, look for the post on Canyon Country and read up from there.
I will do at least a couple tonight before I collapse into bed... don't look for another post until post-Rockygrass, most likely.  We have hotel rooms, but may not be in them often as they are in Boulder and the fest is in Lyons.  Wish us luck -- I know you all do -- and read on very soon...

Monday, July 12, 2004

2am, somewhere on the way to Susquehanna, PA

You will be glad to know that we did make the gig at the Rosendale Cafe with a few minutes to spare and were treated absolutely wonderfully by our host, Mark, and his staff. The restaurant was strictly vegetarian and we ordered some food before launching into the first fiddle tune of the night. The crowd was quite enthusiastic as we continued on for the next hour doing what we do best. We took a short break to shovel in their excellent food and then quickly got back at it to finish our obligation. Several people got up to dance in the small cafe and we generally had a grand old time glad to be out of The Chief for a few hours. As has been the case for most of our summer tour, we had a long drive ahead of us the next day and decided to leave after the show to drive to Nate's dad's ancestral New York home in Susquehanna. As I finish this entry we are still in transit and will probably get only a few hours of sleep before piling into the RV for the remainder of the trip to the Canyon Country Bluegrass Festival in..who knows where? Anyway, we'll have many more miles to go after that with a stop in NYC and more fun stories from the road. Thanks for sticking with us as we live this crazy life. We're more than halfway through it now.


I'm sitting in The Chief moving at the alarming speed of 30-40 miles per hour in heavy traffic on the New Jersey turnpike. We are on our way to Rosendale, NY for a cafe show and are, of course, late again. We left around noon from our nation's capital to make the 300 mile trip which even at 50 mph. should have only taken us about 6 hours. But the traffic is horrendous and we are doing the best we can to crawl across the east between these monstrous cites with all their people and cars blocking our way. If we have any luck, we MIGHT make it to our destination by show time. This is stressful to say the least and with the open spaces of the American West far behind, I'm going to numb my worries with statistics.

As you followers of the blog might remember, we ran out of gas the second day of the tour in Golden, Colorado. The result of this unfortunate incident was the meticulous recording of miles travelled, gas prices and fuel efficiency in a brown spiral-bound notebook stored in the arm rest of the front passenger seat. Perusal of this journal yields much in the way of information regarding touring the west in an 1982 Winnebago. Betse and I crunched the numbers and with the help of a calendar, the following statistics are submitted for the permanent record:

Number of days on tour: 34
Number of states visited: 15
Total miles travelled: 8249
Gallons of gas purchased: 1310
Average miles per gallon: 6.3
Highest price paid per gallon: $2.30 (Searchlight, Nevada)
Lowest price paid per gallon: $1.82 (Moorcroft, Wyoming)
Total amount spent for gas: $2595.70
Number of fuel filters used: 7
Total bags of ice purchased: impossible to determine but easily over 100
Number of nights-camping: 16
Number of nights-hotel: 12
Number of nights-nice folk's homes: 3
Number of nights-parking lots: 3

Getting Schooled, battery suicide intervention and fans with deep pockets on the way to Washington D.C.

After bailing out our RV from the mechanic (to the sickening tune of $1300.00), we packed up our meager belongings and, with the renewed energy of 7 days at home, we jumped back on I-70 for the long trip to the East. We picked up Ike outside of Columbia and drove until we dropped-stopping in Richmond, Indiana at an RV park just after 1am. Now considering ourselves old pros at RV camping, we pulled into the park, skipped the office (who would be up to greet us at that hour?) and went to look for a spot. After a few passes through the park, we were just lining up to back into a space when we saw a sleepy and obviously angry RV park owner hustling towards us. She asked what the hell we were doing, and ever though it was obvious, we tried to explain that we were just trying to find a camping space. She was obviously vexed and told us that if we would have stopped at the office, she would have damn well SHOWN us where to camp. We tried to smooth things over and finally she agreed to let us camp where we had already decided to camp and let us pay in the morning. This is an example of what we in the band call "getting schooled". There have been many times in the history of our travels that we, due to our lack of experience, ruffle the tail feathers of the locals who then explain our transgressions to us in none too polite words. I remember the time in Nashville, when we were schooled three times by three different people over three different infractions in less than 30 minutes. So after getting "schooled", we prepped the RV for the night and were in our sacks by 2am. I got up the next morning and, after taking a shower, went to face the RV owner who looked a little less angry and a lot more awake. I told her that we were the rude Winnebago hooligans that had crashed her sleeping party the night before. She was still a little mad but I told her, "we're a bluegrass band on our first east coast tour..."and so on until I got her to smile and take our money and forgive our trespasses.

Our destination was Cleveland, Ohio and we set off for another long day of driving. As a precautionary measure, we stopped at a Wal Mart outside of Dayton to buy a new battery for The Chief. For the last few weeks in the west, we had noticed a recurring lack of battery power to start the engine and had relied on our backup battery to do the job until we got home. Since we hadn't had time to buy a new battery while the RV was in the shop, we decided to correct the problem before we got into the east coast hubbub. We pulled the battery and took it inside but unfortunately the Wal Mart did not have a match. We got directions to an auto parts store and without really thinking about it, decided not to hook back up the battery for the one-exit trip (it was dead anyway, right?) Ike pulled The Chief back onto the highway and within 100 yards it died. We realized that, dead or not, the main battery needs to be connected in order for the old guy to run. Ike pulled safely to the shoulder and with the semis speeding past us, we got out to hook it back up. The battery compartment on The Chief is sort of like a big heavy dresser drawer that slides out and I had been nervous for the entire western tour because the pin that holds the drawer shut had been missing since we bought it. We got back on the road and after a particularly violent stretch of road construction, I noticed another RV driver next to us pointing at our passenger's side. I've learned that when people point like that, it's usually not to say, "wow man, nice RV!". Ike looked out the window and saw that the battery compartment had broken it's latches and was trying to jump to it's death in 5 lanes of Ohio traffic. We quickly pulled The Chief to the side of the road and made a quick fix until we could get off at the next exit to fix it properly. With battery suicide thwarted, we got back on the road and within an hour or so and a near thunderstorm miss, hit the Cleveland city limits.

The club, called The Winchester, was a very cool place with a great stage, nice sound and lots of seats and tables awaiting what we hoped would be many eager people. We sound checked and went up the street for some pizza. When we returned, Nate and Betse went inside to set up our product and came back with the disappointing news that there was an audience of about 11 people inside. We figured it was just early and got dressed in our duds for the show. There were two other bands on the bill and when we got inside the second band was just starting. We sat and had a beer and while we were watching, three people left. We took the stage at about 11pm and played for a crowd of 8 people + the club owner and bartender. We shrugged it off and played an energetic set anyway to the "Cleveland 8" who whooped and hollered for more. After the show, I counted our cd sales for the night and realized that all 8 people had bought all three of our cd's!

Since we were playing at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. the next day, we decided to hit the road after the show and try to knock off some of the 8+ hours that we would face the next day. Nate took the wheel and drove through horrific fog for several hours before we finally stopped just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at a Wal Mart for a restless 3 hours of sleep. We got back on the road, badly needing showers and food and through the miracle of coffee, a bagel and cream cheese, and a chocolate milk, I negotiated the perilous Pennsylvania Turnpike for 4 hours while Ike and Nate got some additional sleep. Ike took the wheel next and, like threading a needle, negotiated our beloved behemoth into the D.C. area like a 13-year-old playing a video game. We got to our hotel with enough time to quickly take showers and get dressed for the show. The Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center was a fantastic experience and we were thrilled for the opportunity to play for the appreciative audience. As Betse mentioned before, you can watch the result in real time on The Kennedy Center's website.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Here we are in our nation's capital

Hello friends,

Just a quick short post to let y'all know we are alive and well, but tired and hungry, after doing the Millenium Stage thing. I'll leave last night's escapades to brotherphil for posting. Today was pretty dang COOL. I mentioned on staqe that my folks might have once dreamed of me playing the Kennedy Center, though not quite in this way... (meaning the classical thing didn't become my full time thing... but it got me where I am today, so THANKS Mom!!) We had a real good crowd and we heard from some pals who said we rocked online. So go to the Kennedy Center website and see it for yourself! It's archived, or will be soon.

I was thinking about keeping these things short and since I am waiting on two absent bandmates to go eat, I'll go ahead and cut this off... more details to come on this quick whirlwind tour of the east!

Oh wait, I just have to add... I already love the east. My Mom comes from the East. I've been out this way a lot over the years (though it's been about 30 years since I last saw D.C.). PA is a great state and we'll be spending the next couple of days there. Oh wait, first we hit Rosendale NY tomorrow. Anyway. My point is, reader, that the west was all new to me but this is more familiar and I feel completely different about this trip. Kinda like going to an old home.

That's all I wanted to say. (almost) Someday I hope I'm not exhausted when I write an entry and maybe I'll actually make some deeper observations. So far the depths of what I can observe are HUNGER. And TIRED. And wow, isn't this a nice suite we're in... yes a real SUITE.

Somebody stop me before this turns into another long post! Ok, wait... yeah. I can stop myself.




Thursday, July 01, 2004

Home again, home again... (but not for long)

Readers Dear,

I'm still trying to recover from the hard trials of traveling... we made it home safe but not before the ol' Chief popped a belt. We were less than an hour from home and the alternator belt broke. We were able to get the Chief to the RV shop and left it in their hands. Shouldn't be a problem to fix that, and a couple more things they needed to do as well. Keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be ready on Monday, because that's when we leave again.

It already seems ages ago to think of the last gig, on Sunday night at Chico Hot Springs. We played yet another all-nighter 3 set bar show... the crowd wasn't huge but the dancing was fantastic. Some serious dancers there. The owner even sprinkled sawdust on the floor for added authenticity. The place was an old resort hotel and saloon, with the hot "springs" outside in the shape of a swimming pool. We all felt the germ potential in the unchlorinated pool was worth avoiding, unfortunately. I liked the place itself, though. And the setting... Paradise Valley is quite aptly named.

[Dear Montana: how I love your big skies and deep valleys. Your mountains reign eternal and their snowy peaks blend with the low clouds amongst them. Your gentle streams and racing rivers flow freely and your grasses wave to all passers by. As I waved goodbye, I looked forward to our next meeting. May it be sooner than eternity. May your beauty be eternal and your peaceful setting provide comfort and shelter to all who come to you.]

A little Walt Whitman moment, perhaps... I studied Whitman in college and he was not my favorite poet. However, after seeing Montana, I can get behind the nature-gushing a lot more. What a nice surprise that state was for me!

Let's concentrate now on the future. After the last day's rest, I have a lot of work to do and us Wilders play twice this weekend. It's interesting to me that we are playing a Lewis & Clark event on Saturday, because there were a lot of L&C reminders out west, everywhere near the Missouri or Columbia rivers of course.

Also want to mention that a week from today we'll be playing the Kennedy Center! Millenium Stage, to be exact. And it'll be broadcast on the web. I would put a link but this ol' computer is working real slow and I'm afraid navigating on another page might crash it, so please check our website for a link w/ more info. OK?

So, friends, we'll continue this blog as we head east. Ike and Nate are (obviously) not as web-driven as myself and Phil, but perhaps they will be inspired to write something at some point. I am sure you all appreciate hearing different points of view. And with us Wilders, there are always at least four different viewpoints...

We miss you all, from those we haven't seen in a while to those we won't see for a while. Keep those comments coming -- we really love hearing from you! I always make a point to check for new comments when I visit. I have not responded to many of them, but please know that all of your posts are truly appreciated. May you all travel safely and hope you are all more rested than we are!

all the best to you all...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Missoula and then Helena (rhymes with melon-a)... and a few rambles

Hello Reader,

I left off as we entered Missoula city limits. We got there and it was a cool place. For KC people, we noticed that the Hairy Apes BMX were playing at the same place this weekend, a two-nighter. This place had the feel of a smaller slightly less dirty version of the Grand Emporium (RIP). It was an old place that used to be a narrow room and is now a larger place from breaking down the adjacent wall. One of the best things about it was the artwork on the walls. I believe the artist was J.Remmel... he made these incredible and detailed, high contrasty woodcut prints and they were just magical. The guy who runs the bar told us he thought the guy gave them to the owner to help pay his bar tab. Must have been some tab, because there were at least a half dozen, 5 of which were ~2'x3' and the grandaddy one was at least 6'x4'? There was a moon goddess one, a Leadbelly portrait, one of Woody Guthrie, a couple others... the big one was a tribute to country music. The bartender told us this piece contained all the words to "All Along the Watchtower"... we looked and looked but the only words we saw were things like "Grand Ole Opry" or Carter Family, etc. The piece had large portraits of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, and besides the Carter Family there were also Flatt & Scruggs with Josh Graves, a motorcyclist, some unidentified women (besides Sara and Maybelle and June), and a fiddler I can't say for sure but want to think was Roy Acuff. (Yes, Roy Acuff. The man played the heck out of Black Mountain Rag.) Later the manager told us the words to the song are _represented_ in the piece by the images. I guess I have to go back and listen to the song, because I had no idea it was about country music.

This was another long full night bar show. Not a lot of people, as we found out the Weiser (pron. "weezer") contest is this weekend. That is the site of the Nat'l fiddle contest and just a big shindig from what I've heard. It takes place in Weiser Idaho and that's not too far from Missoula. So a lot of the bluegrassers were absent, but there were a number of folks there eventually. Not a huge crowd, but a lot of them danced and I personally enjoyed the vibe they sent out. A nice fellow named Steve came up to us and said he'd been wanting to see us again since Winfield '99... he moved out west after that and hasn't been back since. He was psyched that we were playing in his town and brought some friends. Thanks Steve.

We played this one for a percentage of the bar take. And we tried to encourage everyone to drink, but it was not a good payout. Ouch. It's the kind of gig we won't want to do again without a guarantee, but how can you know until you try? Plus Weiser killed it and I'm not sure how much advertising was done locally for this show. Now, Big Sky was a guarantee and while it had some hard moments, overall was a better deal for us. However, I hope we can go back to Missoula again, because it's a cool town. (But they're gonna have to pay for us to play...)

So we just finished playing the Helena festival, Last Chance. Last night was a near rainout but the small dedicated group of attendees didn't let it get them down. We had folks dancing in the mud in front of the (covered) stage and Ike said at one point it was like a mini-Woodstock. Good folks there. We played well too and at the end, we had to stop because the cops were coming down on the festival folks for playing past the noise ordinance cutoff time. So Nate suggested we go down on the grass for our encore, which we did. Just like the days of yore when we'd get noticed at a festival for playing out in the campgrounds, right there with all the folks. It was a fitting end to the evening and a good call to make, Nate. We played there this afternoon and it was cloudy but with some sun and a few more folks. At one point there were a number of dancers on a slow song, couple dancing you know, and it was folks of all ages. Some of those folks probably don't do much dancing anymore and it was sweet to see them two-stepping on the grass.

I keep telling the locals how much I love Montana. I really do. I've been singing and fiddling this song "I Ride an Old Paint" for years, and it mentions Montana... I've sung it a couple of times in this state and it really hits home for me.

Tomorrow we head to Chico Hot Springs for our final western date. I would like to get some healing hot springs waters but I'm kinda scared of Legionnaire's (sp?)... the hot tub virus which can also live in hot springs. Maybe I'll take the chance. I could use a good soak.

When I get home I'm going to try to sleep for a couple of days. I can't imagine doing anything else.

I meant to just update the tour stuff but apparently have shifted into a ramble. Perhaps I'll ramble on in another post since for once we are not playing a late night set on a weekend. Or maybe not... might just rest these old eyes and tired hands and arms.

We're almost There... (where are we going, anyway?)

Dear Reader,

Today is Thursday. The actual date I'm not sure of. I'm lucky to know the day of the week. Over four weeks on the road will do that to you. Actually, it's been that way since the first week on the road. (by the way, just heard Nate confirming w/ Ike that today is indeed Thursday. Ike asked me the day of week earlier today)

I feel the end of this round approaching rapidly now, so Reader, it seems appropriate to begin some analysis or at least review. That does pose a problem, though, because so many details are already fuzzy. I have not kept a regular journal in years, and while that would have been a good idea, it wasn't in the cards for me. This blog has been my journal, though a more public forum and not necessarily disclosing all details (which you might be thankful for). I am glad to have had this opportunity and plan to continue as our travels continue, even while admitting the following:

- Trying to keep up with this stuff without a permanent internet connection is a DRAG.

- I'm often too tired to put a lot of effort into these posts, which makes them truly streams of consciousness (or semi-consciousness), and I have sacrificed a certain amount of writerly style that I used to cultivate.

- Things are hard on the road and sometimes I just want to say that. Not in a pitiful way, but just to acknowledge. (KW - I can't remember how I said that yesterday but yes it is ok to say it, thank you)

- I'm spending a lot of time in contemplative mode during these travels, both in personal challenges and group dynamics. These are things that are not so much for public consumption and they take a lot of my mental energy, which ties in to the topic above of putting effort into the posts.

This ends the top section of acknowledging a few of the kinks involved in simply keeping up with this blog, Reader. Next I will attempt to highlight a few insights I've acquired on this journey, if I can remember any of them... but for now I must break as we just arrived in Missoula for our next to last bar show of Western Tour...

I can't break until I mention the great beauty of this big state. I think Montana is my favorite state on this tour as for beauty and natural splendor. I'm glad we have a few more days in this state. And I hope to come back again with more time to spend recreating!
late night grammar-relaxed post-note: it's now Friday night. Update on Missoula to come. Played Helena tonight and will again tomorrow. Staying in a very niiiiice hotel this night and the next. Mmmmmm, get to sleep in. thanks for all the responses. and the video. goodnight.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Salt Lake City Gangs

Dear Reader,

Preface written as I prepare to post: I would like to be in a place of mind where I could analyze a bit more or else philosophize or some kind of yze or ize, but it's about all I can do to just get the story in there. Plus as anyone who knows me knows, I can't tell just one story without delving into a few side-stories, ya know? But for what it's worth, again I want to mention how much it means to hear from you all, too, either on the blog or in emails. It's dreadfully hard to keep up with it all but in the interest of keeping everyone up to date, here is my latest story for you, which took place prior to Jackson Hole... now read on if you dare!


In writing this I'm scrambling to remember that we went from Boise to SLC but I can't remember what we did in Boise. Oh yeah. We played a bar -- two sets, somewhat crazy crowd, but what a long drive to get there, and what a long drive to get to the campground afterwards (our formerly trusty guidebooks sent us astray this time in that the distance from the highway to this park site was quite a bit longer, which is not such a good thing at 1 am). I believe brotherphil has filled in the details leading up to and including the Boise play, though, so I shall try to continue from there...

Getting to SLC was delayed somewhat en route when we stopped to have a band meeting. We have had a few of these on the tour and it helps us to figure each other and ourselves out. Kinda hard to do though when time is never on our side. But very necessary, n'est pas? We had hoped to get to SLC a bit early since they were providing a much needed hotel (the showers were especially needed). But even if we hadn't had a meeting, we wouldn't have had much time to spare. It took a while to figure out which hotel was actually ours and, well, on Wilder time everything has the potential to hold us up.

Delays aside, we did make it to the Gallivan Center about an hour before showtime. This is an outdoor plaza in the middle of downtown SLC. There is a permanent stage and a patio area just in front, plus an arched footbridge to one side and a large lawn on the other. There were a lot of people there, all kinds and ages. I was pleased to see a fair number of young punkers, from a Ramones t-shirt-clad gal to several shades of green and blue hair on assorted kids, reminding me of my own youth (seems kinda far away these days). We were the headliner for the event, and were to play a 75 minute set to close out the one-day festival. After finding a sushi stand at the vendors, we quickly spent our gift food tickets on a perfect sushi snack to get us through the show. It was freshly made to order, but no raw fish, just cooked crab or shrimp. I had California rolls and the others had spicy shrimp. I have not truly done the "sushi thing", but I do love the Cali rolls most especially for the wasabi that comes with them. Wasabi, for the uninitiated, is Japanese horseradish, a very bright green color, and a quick heat that penetrates (and clears) one's sinus passages, and then just as quickly disapates. And let me tell you, there is no better spice heat for yours truly. Man, I love it!! I can't take too much of the Mexican spices, and when I discovered wasabi, it was like finding a natural ginseng patch in your back yard. (or some other treasure you wouldn't have been looking for, much less expected)

But that is an aside, and not the story of what happened to us! Reader, you are either patient or amused or probably and hopefully both.

The show starts -- I see lots of smiling faces and several waves of hands before we're even introduced. We kick off as usual with a burning fiddle tune and lo and behold, here come all those punkers. They amass at Audience Right (and from now on will be referred to as a group -- A.R. Gang). Miss Ramones is there along with an interesting assortment of partiers who quickly fill up the bit of open grass at audience right. Audience Left (a.k.a. A.L. Folks) is filled with folks on blankets or camp chairs, like we see at the typical festivals. A.R. Gang gets to dancing and stomping and cheering and I see that A.L. Folks are looking like they're having a good time too. We get into a song and I think it's in this first singing song that Ike breaks a string. Nothing new to those who know us... but on the first song, that's kind of a drag. I decide to go ahead with a solo tune to fill the space. A.R. Gang is not ready to chill for a solo, they want to get rowdy. Too bad, I can't give 'em that right this moment. I manage to get through that song. Band comes back. We play a couple more tunes and there goes another guitar string. Long story short here -- in the 75 minutes we play, I think it's 5 strings that break, some of them the same one repeatedly. So I play a couple of solos and Phil and I do a couple duets and in one case the string gets changed in time to turn a duet into a band tune. Just about the most disrupted show we've ever played.

Specific comments to fill in blanks:

- A.R. Gang quite often look like they're about to overtake the stage, including one moment when a young punk did in fact leap up for a moment -- we were positioned at least 8 feet from the stage lip, so at least I wasn't worried they would start smashing instruments.

- A.L. Folks seemed pretty patient for the most part but Phil noticed several times that many of them were glaring over at the Gang when they got particularly loud. I did notice that almost every single A.L. Folk stayed for the entire set, though, and some of them were even dancing too, but not in front of blanket-sitters.

- A.R. Gang did show a whole lot of spirit and danced most every song or tune, and only really seemed to get almost out of hand a couple of times. Of course those times were when I was on stage alone and having to intro a solo tune or else tell a brief story in my desperate attempt to keep the show going throughout string break city.

- Just when I thought it was all over, on perhaps the last string break solo for me, and the A.R. Gang was chanting and stomping and maybe almost over the edge, I took a deep breath and suggested they chill out and listen to this tune from Doc Watson, and watch the stars in the skies and sway back and forth, and then I played and sang the tune. And I was amazed and heartened that they actually did just that.

- I love the energy of the young punks -- that is why I was one myself. However, it's a hard role to fill and yet one that needs to be filled -- the role of perhaps a good influence or perhaps even teacher of respect to the artists. I felt that perhaps what I said to them before the Doc Watson tune maybe did the trick, or maybe not. Not sure what to do in the future on that because I want the punks to get us, but I don't want the Folks to be turned off. I think we appeal to almost any kind of person and my utopian performance would be close to what we saw in SLC, except without the excessive chanting and rowdiness when it was not called for. TallestDave, you were there, what did you think? I'd like to hear from you.

One final note that involves no potential politics:

- The weather in SLC was unusually muggy that day, which is just another example of the weird weather patterns we seem to experience most everywhere on this tour. This is one of the reasons for the string breaks, because when we play outdoor festivals in high humidity, that is what throws Ike's Silvertone out of whack. Of course the weather brings repercussions on all the instruments, but the string breaking ghouls pose perhaps the biggest problem. The point is, it didn't rain in Seattle; it was hot in Portland; it was cold last night in Jackson; more examples don't come to mind but do exist in our historical perspective.

And that was SLC.

Del McCoury, a Hootenanny and rebirth by fire...

Our stop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming was the result of a very timely phone call from our booking agent, Mary, to the promoter of The Mangy Moose Bar and Grill. Mary was trying to fill in the blanks between our show in Salt Lake City on Saturday night and a bar show in Big Sky, Wyoming on Wednesday. As luck would have it, Jackson Hole was not only on the way, but was also welcoming bluegrass superstars Del McCoury and the Boys for a one night show on Sunday. I'm not sure what Mary said, but she was able to stick her foot in the door again enough to get us a 20 minute opening slot. Now folks, this is big time for us! The Del McCoury Band is one of the best and most successful bands out there right now and an opening slot for them in an almost sold out venue is HUGE. I think we were all a little nervous but excited when we pulled into the parking lot next to Del's bus. We were only there for a few minutes when Rob McCoury, Del's son and banjoist in the band, came out and asked us if we had any wrenches on board. He was trying to fix something and lacked the proper tools. Ike and I opened up the lower storage of The Chief and after a little digging through our combined but disorganized tool collection, we produced the 1/2" open end wrench that he needed. Rob disappeared back into the bus and we all congratulated ourselves on having the right tool for the job for once. A few hours later, we were onstage in front of a packed house of people who had no idea who we were- but were quickly going to find out. Once again, Betse smacked everybody upside the head with a hot opening fiddle tune and from then on, we were a smash. We fulfilled our obligation to pump up the crowd, got an encore and quickly made way for the pros to step up and do their thing. We took turns outside the club watching our CD table so that we could all get a chance to watch Del and the boys absolutely kill the crowd. My impression of them was this: They are so incredibly talented and are so in tune with each other during their shows that they can actually relax and have fun. Del smiled throughout the performance and each member got a chance to shine as they worked their two-microphone set up with precision unmatched. After the show, I momentarily went into obsessed fan mode and got my crappiest cowboy hat signed by both Rob and Ronnie McCoury. Del had disappeared back to their bus immediately after the show, but I was glad to get a chance to talk to his sons and trade a few stories of road weariness before leaving for the night. Both Ike and Betse had been approached by a nice couple after the show who invited us to a Hootenanny the next night at the Snow King resort. This weekly Monday night amateur acoustic music show is the Jackson Hole equivalent of our own Rural Grit Happy Hour although it attracts a much older crowd. I spoke to one of the founders of the Hoot and he told me that this was their 522nd consecutive performance. We were honored to be a part of it and played a quick 30 minutes to the very attentive and enthusiastic audience. Nate's girlfriend Melissa had joined us on Saturday in Salt Lake and now that we were finished with our playing obligations, the two took off for a couple of days of hiking and time with each other. Betse, Ike and I drove the next morning past the amazing Grand Teton Mountains and through Yellowstone National Park to get to a radio performance in Bozeman, Montana. As I drove the Yellowstone leg of the trip, we quickly began seeing the results of the fires that raged through the park several summers ago. Whole mountain ridges and their valleys were stripped bare of tall trees leaving only perfectly straight, but quite dead poles twenty to thirty feet tall in every direction. Although the park's forest was decimated by these fires, we were awed by the sea of three and four feet tall pines that literally covered these mountains like a fake grass carpet outside an RV at a bluegrass festival. Obviously, the mountains of Yellowstone are going to be just fine. It's just going to take about 20 years for these little guys to reach the height of their crispy cousins. It made me reflect on the old saying that "God never closes a door without opening a window". The mature trees of these magnificent forests might have met an untimely death, but their loss cleared the way for the next generation. Now that I think of it, it could be a metaphor for what we are doing with our music. Although Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Jim McReynolds, June Carter and Johnny Cash and many of the other mothers and fathers of traditional music may have left our world in the last few years, hopefully in their void there will be scrappy little three and four foot trees like us to take their place and continue in their honor. That's kind of fun to think about isn't it?

Sitting in a laundromat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming contemplating the meaning of life...

Ok, I realize that's a bold title but it's hard not to be self reflective when you are stuck at an RV park doing laundry while you are surrounded on all sides by the beautiful Grand Teton Mountains. I suppose I could have got out of bed this morning, made a thermos of coffee and headed right up one of these monsters, but when you are on the road, fresh socks take on immense significance. So while I'm here listening to the machines rattle and whirl, I'll try to get you up to date once again. My last post had us in the Columbia River Gorge heading to Portland. We arrived safely and were happy to see our booking agent, Mary, who had taken the train down from Seattle to collect money at the door. The club was insignificant with the exception of Mike, the owner, who took care of us with a tub of ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon AND the incredible black velvet pool table that Ike quickly began operating like a surgeon. Many games were played in and around our three sets and we all generally had a grand time. At Mary's urging, we left Portland after the show (around 1:30am) and drove all night to Seattle. She had scheduled a radio show appearance for us around noon and was worried we might not make it if we ran into Seattle traffic in the morning. So Ike diligently hunched over the wheel and delivered us safely into Mary's driveway at 5:30am. Nate, Betse and I had all fallen asleep and when I woke up and looked at Ike's bloodshot eyes, I knew that it had not been an easy drive. We quickly made our beds and got a few precious hours of sleep before the burning sun of Seattle cooked us out of the RV. Yes, I said "burning sun of Seattle". Apparently the city's normal gloomy, overcast and rainy weather took a 24 hour vacation and left a full scale heat wave to watch the place while it was away. Mary made us a wonderful breakfast and we got it together enough to get to the radio station in time. After the show, we returned to her house and soon after, members of the band, Open Road, began to arrive. Mary also books this great bluegrass band out of Ft. Collins, Colorado, and I had been looking forward to meeting and playing this show with them for the entire tour. They turned out to be a swell bunch of guys and we all quickly bonded over a few beers, chewing tobacco and song swapping. Ike told me that Bradford Lee Folk, the singer/guitarist of Open Road, reminded him of our good friend and fellow Rural Gritter, Michael Murphy and I agreed. Bradford is from a town just outside of St. Louis, and he has that dry sense of humor and casual, "I don't give a s*#t" attitude that I find so prevalent in boys from Missouri. Caleb Roberts, the mandolinist and other founding member of the band, reminded me more of myself. He was polite and smiled a lot but seemed slightly uncomfortable with the two-band social dynamic. I felt exactly the same way and made up for it by going into photographer mode. For some reason, when I feel uncomfortable, it makes me feel better to take photos. That way I don't have to talk to people (because, obviously, I'm trying to take a photo) and people don't want try to talk to me because they usually hate having their picture taken. I know this is weird but it helps me get through the awkwardness sometimes. So after a few shots of Bradford and Ike dueting on a Hank Williams tune, it was time to go to the show. We got dressed, piled into the RV and soon were at the Tractor Tavern in downtown Seattle. Open Road did their sound check first and I was blown away by the power of their sound. These guys are not far off in age from us and so they have sort of the same intensity that we have without varying from a traditional bluegrass approach. Bradford is a fantastic singer and I was particularly pulverized by Caleb's mandolin playing which is straight out of the Bill Monroe school- with lots of double stops and tremelo and a hard core blues style that is out of this world. They got the mics checked with ease and then it was our turn. Our sound check was less than stellar but we got through it and went to get a sandwich up the street. The club was pretty full when we got back and, although we were still very tired from lack of sleep, everybody did what they had to do to get their show face on. Betse launched into the first fiddle tune, and metaphorically grabbed the crowd by the collar and put them into her pocket. We wanted to make an impression and I think we either made a lot of new fans or scared the hell out of everybody. In my estimation, we fulfilled the requirements of the perfect opening act in our 40 minute set and got off stage and out of Open Road's way. The crowd was primed for these bluegrass pros and everybody had a rollicking good time. After the show, we hung around the club for awhile. But soon, I began to pressure everybody to say their goodbyes and get everything packed into the RV. For the second night in a row, we had to drive after the show but this time only far enough to be safely out of Seattle's morning rush hour. Once again, Ike hunched over the wheel and drove until the lights of Seattle were far behind us and he started to hallucinate from lack of sleep. We grabbed a motel in North Bend, Washington for the night and were back on the road at 8am for a punishing 10 hour drive to Boise, Idaho. We drove and drove and drove and drove- all day long and still were an hour late getting to the club. When we pulled into the alley next to the bar, several of the locals yelled at us saying, "yeah, the band is HERE!" and "YOU'RE LATE!" We took this as a challenge and quickly changed once again into our stinky show clothes. We grabbed up our equipment and within a half hour, we were onstage again. None of us had had much sleep or food and we basically pulled out our last ounce of energy and gave it all away to the needy punkers of Boise. Which brings me to the source of my contemplation. I think at this point we are all searching for some sort of equilibrium. We are playing our butts off out here in the west. But by the time we get finished, we are so spent that we are all barely able to manage the basic day-to-day necessities of sleep, rest, relaxation and food. Sleep is definitely a luxury we don't get. Rest and relaxation is fleeting since it's so hard to ride for long hours in the equivalent of a rocking, rattling school bus. Food is tough too because there's just not a lot of it. We never have time to actually sit down to a meal and so we end up either skipping meals or eating fast food which really starts to get old after almost a month on tour. Maybe it sounds like I'm complaining but I'm not. I realize that this is an opportunity that most musicians would kill for. It's just that this is a VERY different lifestyle than we accustomed to and we are still trying to adjust. Perhaps if this touring thing turns out to be a long term situation, we will learn how to find the equilibrium we are all seeking and be professional musicians without turning into zombies in western wear.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Replies to your replies

Dear Reader,

To all of y'all who have taken the time to write us back and comment, I want to thank you.

This is a quick attempt to relate to you in this time and space and also just to let a few thoughts flow out. I need to do that from time to time, and my emailing has been curtailed due to traveling, so on with the flow/show:

Here's something that means a lot to me. It is very hard to find the time or place to get online more than once or twice a week, and after going through email, I love to pop on to the Blog to see who's written and what. I have done that numerous times when I perhaps should have been writing myself, but the drive to write is sometimes a fleeting inclination. Point is, when I see your replies, it's a good connection for me and sometimes gives me that little boost I need.

When I wrote my intention to reply to your replies (over a week ago, remember?), I believe I was inspired by a few recent comments at the time. However, dear reader, the hour is late and yet again time constrains me and prohibits my ability to review and respond the way I'd like to.

I will make one timely reply which seems to tie in with my time challenges, and that was one Tallestdave wrote recently. In which the question came up regarding getting UP for the gigs after all the traveling (written as a comment to brotherphil's milesandmiles):

My answer is, yes sir it is hard in some ways. Tonight when we played Salt Lake (and good to see you there, TD, and so sorry we didn't get to Once More! All those guitar strings popping sure had an impact on the flow of the set), for example: we were all pretty tired, especially because of the last few days of hard traveling. But we had a show to do and that is why we are here. I can only answer for myself and here's what almost always happens for me.

I get up there and just let the music take over. I look around at people and try to lock on smiling faces. I'll come back to those same faces during a show and I feel like it's a personal interaction. I feel good energy from dancers or the smilers and I need that energy to keep going. The adrenaline does its part too but it's more the cyclical energy that I depend on. Energy comes from each of us and it's almost like a ball of the stuff surrounding us on stage, but I personally feel like it will burn out if we don't get refueled by the crowd. Ooh this is getting all weird and abstract but so is any kind of creating, yes?...

What is the hardest thing is really all those hours traveling. I had thought before we left that I would get SO MUCH done in the RV on those long days of driving. Now, the other day, I did do some mending and sewing. But for the most part, the ride is too bouncy to get a lot done. Very hard to type in that case and I have to type most things I write or else I can't keep up with my thoughts. Hard to read with a bounce, too. It's hard to do many things that I thought I might do on the road, so the days feel a lot longer than I had hoped. But so far I haven't dreaded a show, even if I wasn't physically feeling quite up to it due to sleep deprivation or other physical challenges.

Good thing I'm not dreading shows, cause there are several more months of them to come! Dear reader, keep on reading and writing. It helps me out. I want this to work out and I know for a fact that I need your support and help. So thank you because you are ALL ANGELS!