I am in my room over my family's garage in Elk Grove, CA, sitting in my red plastic Ikea chair next to my work table and my keyboard, a space where I've spent a good deal of my time since we moved into this house in late 2002, eight and a half years ago. I remember when this room was empty and I sat in the corner at fifteen listening to my recently purchased CD of "Exile on Mainstreet" on my discman imagining what it would look like filled with my things. I remember so many songs of mine written in this room, musical jam sessions with friends, intimate moments with loved ones, days where I moved out and days where I moved back in, and days where I sat and did little more than just let the time slip by. It's a comfort and a dangerous thing to come home to a room like that you've lived so long in and a dangerous thing perhaps because it is such a comfort. Tour has been an exercise in leaving the comfortable and the familiar and being somewhere and something new every day. The danger of coming home is losing that newness you've accumulated over months of living on the road in strangers' houses and stranger towns. Seeing my family again for the first time in two and a half months has been so wonderful and I am so grateful to have such amazing parents and sisters to come home to. It's more me, the me who has sat in this room for eight and a half years, that I've been more wary of returning to. I want to stay who I've been these past two and a half months on the road, where no distraction was great enough to keep me from where I was going on any given day. In the end I am only however I react to any given set of circumstances be it driving across the country or being home. We hold ourselves to a higher standard when we know we're going to be in a difficult set of circumstances and work to prove that we can be at our best in spite of them. We have the tendency to let ourselves slide beneath our best when we're in a time of ease and comfort. I want to provide myself with a healthy dose of discomfort even while back in this room I know all too well to give me an occasion to rise above. But I digress.... I still need to finish this particular story....!
Drove to Chicago...all things go? Not us. Chicago was maybe the first major city we visited and didn't even make an attempt to explore. We'd been before and it's a great town but it was getting close to the end of the tour and we were exhausted. Plus when we did make one attempt to spend some time in the city, there was nowhere to park. So instead we enjoyed the comfort of Ricky's cousin Maureen's apartment where we stayed for three nights just outside of the city in a place called Downer's Grove...not the most cheerful name for a town. Maureen however was a very cheerful person and she and her son Nick were lots of fun to be around. It was particularly special for Ricky, as she hadn't met them since she was very small and had very little memory of them at all. After months of staying with mainly my family and friends, it was interesting being on the other end listening to Maureen share stories with Ricky about their family history.
We had two shows scheduled in Chicago, the first taking place Saturday night at a place called Martyrs. Martyrs seemed to be a cut above most of the venues we were accustomed to playing on the tour. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it was the pro stage lighting or the fact that the sound seemed to be better than usual and the show actually ran impeccably on time. Or maybe it was because it said on the wall that Neil Innes had performed there the week before. In any case, it was a good show. We played well, the sound was great, and the crowd was very attentive. A good show...except that out of the at least twenty people or so who lined up at the merch counter after the show, not a single person bought anything of Ricky's or mine. They were all there to see the singer/songwriter, Jay Nash, who played after us and while we got a few polite "good jobs" from the audience members, the line was for him not for us. It made sense since he had brought the crowd and had a national following and all that, but I guess we were hoping that we'd at least win somebody over. Our parade was officially rained upon when after the show we found that our car had been ticketed. Apparently Chicago's parking meters run until 9.
"My Sweet Enemy" live at Martyrs - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1F3BJsSP80
"The Lost and the Free" live at Martyrs - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VvN8udVUh0
"Time Can't Fly A Plane" live at Martyrs - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAwpBSb2IwE
We woke up the next morning to tornado warnings and huge thunderstorms but by the mid afternoon it had cleared up and was actually pretty nice out. Our gig that night was scheduled to take place at a place called the Horseshoe. We got there as per usual about an hour before show time. The door was locked when we arrived so we sat outside and ran through some songs on the curb while waiting for someone to show up. Fifteen minutes passed. Then a half an hour. After waiting about forty minutes we decided to call the club to see if we could get anyone. No answer. I used Ricky's iPhone to check my email and found an email from the venue sent just a few hours ago informing us that due to the weather (which as I said, by that time had completely cleared up) and the Memorial Day weekend, the manager had decided not to open that day. Imagine if we had driven to Chicago for just that one show! We've witnessed some pretty unprofessional behavior from venues before but this took the cake. Note to touring musicians: avoid this venue! Determined to do something to take our mind off the dejection of having our gig canceled, we headed downtown to spend some time enjoying Chicago but as I mentioned before, parking spaces simply do not exist outside of parking garages that charge $15 an hour. We headed back to Maureen's apartment and decided to refine some of the magic that had spontaneously taken place on stage in Marion a few days earlier. Ricky and I are often at odds in our musical tastes but if there's one act we both hold in equal high esteem and can always seem to agree on it's Simon and Garfunkel so it seemed natural that "The Boxer" would become the latest cover we'd add to our repertoire. After running it a few times, we filmed it (complete with us being our obnoxious usual selves for the first two minutes) and here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpFvsfS-I6U
We left Chicago the following afternoon and drove an hour north to Milwaukee. An old high school friend of mine named Victoria had specifically asked that we come and play Milwaukee and given the fact that we were playing to primarily strangers on this tour, this was enough to lead me to find a gig. The place that ended up accepting us, Bremen Cafe, was a rowdy little bar and on that particular Monday was filled with tipsy old war veterans celebrating Memorial Day and drinking until they didn't remember anymore. The rowdy crowd made for a fun show. One guy exclaimed ecstatically that I was even better than Hall and Oates and then asked Ricky if I was her dark God. Quite what that means I'm not sure. Victoria, whom I'd not seen since ninth grade, asked me to play a song I'd written that year for the school CD and never being one to refuse a request, I awkwardly obliged. Ricky and I debuted "The Boxer" (at least intentionally) and had the whole crowd singing along.
"Jonah" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVrM2OpvTPQ
"Sunflower" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XBB-KPVTvs
"Touch" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QymOMXfjlp8
"My Sweet Enemy" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b43Kp8VwG0
"Still Life" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB31QeMX_74
The following day was a driving day. We were now decidedly heading west and with only one show, the tour ending became the pervading reality. We stayed Tuesday night in Omaha with a couch surfing host we'd stayed with the year before named Justin and his corgi Zabe. The next evening we played our last show of the tour in Omaha at the Barley Street Tavern. It was a great show to go out on. Everything went right. The rest of the lineup was awesome and included a fantastic band called All Young Girls Are Machine Guns which played some of the most soul driven ukulele led music I've ever heard (not to mention great songs) and YouTube phenomenon Danielle Ate the Sandwich who earns every bit of her following by writing introspective songs spiced with a witty sense of humor also played primarily on the ukulele (Plug: I'll be playing with her at Naked Lounge in Sacto on July 2nd). I was actually the only artist on the bill not to utilize a ukulele during my set (as well as the only male singer/songwriter). We got paid from the door, sold CDs and the crowd loved us. Great show to go out on!
Tour had been our reality for the last two and a half months. It was strange that we had now played our last show and that reality would be ending. Strange that it would be weeks before I would play many of the songs again I'd been performing almost every night since March. Strange that it would be weeks before I'd hear Ricky's songs again that had become so much a part of my daily soundtrack. All the little things were what we talked about missing the most.... Waking up in sleeping bags on some strangers floor, going to Whole Foods, standing at some gas station in the middle of God knows where, and just being immersed in a brand new setting every day.
We drove fifteen hours on Thursday to Salt Lake City where a very kind couch surfing host named Brad let us have his studio apartment all to ourselves for the night. We watched a documentary called Food Inc. which explored the corruptness of the food industry that Ricky had been talking to me about for years. It really did make an impact on me and I think Ricky and are going to shoot for putting on a benefit show for organic farmers later this year or early next. We left Salt Lake City on Friday around noon and drove the relatively short nine and a half hour long drive back to California. There might not be any point more beautiful in the entire United States than the first hour or so after crossing the California border going through the Donner Pass bedazzled with pine trees crested with glistening white snow. We arrived home around 9. We had less money in our pockets than we had when we'd started but weren't completely broke. We'd played for countless more people than we would have had we stayed in Sacramento. People at almost every show went home with our CD's. We met people who seemed intent in following our music careers for years to come and others who offered to help us further things as much as they could. We played so many shows for nobody also and many of the shows where there was an audience, very few people paid attention. While measuring the concrete success of the tour is difficult, what was undeniably successful is setting and completing a daily goal for ourselves in working on music. No matter what distractions or moods or energy level may have faced us when we woke up in the morning, there was no question that we would get in the car and get to our next destination and play our show that night. I'm now taking that approach at home. Every day is a new goal and there is no question about accomplishing these things. The tour doesn't stop. We keep going distances every day on the road of life and music.
So that's the story. Now it's time to praise those who made this story possible. It is a cliché to say "the people who made this possible" but I mean that as literally as you can here. The fuel (often literally) that this tour ran on was literally the kindness of others, strangers who treated us like family and family who were the best friends we could ever ask for. Enough cannot be said for how amazed and humbled we were that when we decided to take this cannon ball dive off the edge of a cliff known as touring, parachutes in the form friends, family, and complete strangers opened above us to help us land safely. So with the humility of a beggar whose dreams only magnify his own smallness, I want to sincerely thank the following people:
Those who donated money towards our tour on Feed the Muse:
Brent, Mary Ann, Corey, Delaney, and Natalie Bourgeois
Kevin and Lily Mershon
Tim, Mary, James and Elaine Hunter
Dave and Rachel Lyman
Jerry, Angela, Joshua, Miranda, and Clarissa Shawn
Those who gave us a place to stay:
Carson Lattimore (Portland, OR)
Wendy, Steve, Stephanie, and Skye Grace (Mukilteo, WA)
Becky Bourgeois and Ray Zimmerman (Orange, CA)
Louis and Ana Smith (Las Vegas, NV)
Ken, Peggie, Caralie and Tully Balcom (Mesa, AZ)
Bryan Hamilton (San Antonio, TX)
Cody Blakeney (San Antonio, TX)
Brian and Ilda Bourgeois (Houston, TX)
Harry Bourgeois (Dallas, TX)
Desi and Erich Richter (New Orleans, LA)
Charlie and Andi Ashworth (Nashville, TN)
David and Carla Schober (Brentwood, TN)
Charlie Letts (Charleston, SC)
Alita Hawksworth (Columbia, SC)
Peter King (Athens, GA)
Robby Mogan (Nashville, TN)
Laura Henry (Abingdon, VA)
Monica Thibodeau (Duck, NC)
Dan Allen (Washington, DC)
Ana Jantz (Frederick, MD)
Carl and Andrea Divito (Staten Island, NY)
Coral Bourgeois, Scott, Miles and Ruby Stenhouse (Providence, RI)
David Luekens (Burlington, VT)
Cyrano Patton (Cleveland, OH)
Brian and Laurie Rivers (Cincinnati, OH)
Tim Leong (St. Louis, MO)
Cody McGinnis (Kokomo, IN)
Maureen Lattimore (Downers Grove, IL)
Victoria Robison and Ross Oldenburg (Milwaukee, WI)
Justin McDowell (Lincoln, NE)
Brad Barnes (Salt Lake City, UT)
The awesome artists we encountered and shared shows with (please check them out yourself!):
The Fortune Dwellers
Aurora Neland and the Royal Roses
The Eureka Birds
The Paul Speidel Band
All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
Danielle Ate the Sandwich
All the venues that hosted shows for us!
Chris MacIntosh, 11 o'clock Rock and the Blue Plate Special for giving us air time on their radio programs.
Travis Rosen and Alex Wash for helping us with booking.
Every single person who came to see us perform, especially those who bought CD's and proverbially and literally put food on our table!
And finally, maybe more than anyone, I want to thank Ricky for sharing this amazing adventure and being there with me and for me through all the long days and nights of what would have been an otherwise lonely journey (as I experienced first hand the weeks she was gone). Ricky and I are very different from one another and I won't say that we don't often clash, but I couldn't ask for a greater friend who genuinely cares and I know will be in my life for the entirety of it. After nearly two and half months of being around each other 24/7, we were never short on long in depth conversation all the way to the last day. Touring with Ricky is never boring and is always inspiring. We came up with more ridiculous and appallingly offensive inside jokes along the way than I can count and also grew and learned a lot just from being around each other. Most of all, it made all the difference in the world just to have someone there at the end of the day who was experiencing the same things I was and who I know for the rest of my life I'll always share these memories with.
And now we're home. This summer already has so many projects planned for it. Even though the tour is over, I'm going to keep blogging every few weeks just to keep you all posted on everything. We have our homecoming gig here in Sacramento at the Refuge on June 17th with Musical Charis and Autumn Sky, which will be a fun way to bring our tour to an official close. If there's been one constant in my life, it's music. It is the greatest friend and comfort I always come back to but also the greatest uncertainty I put myself through. It is constant and has always been there for me, so I commit myself to it. And today, like every other, is yet another day at the races....