Day 1 - Dubuque, IA
I actually had to work all day at the local Madison music store where I am currently employed, so when I got off at 5pm I darted home, packed my bags, and I was off on Spring Tour! Woooohoooo! I drove the hour and a half to Dubuque, IA (which is just across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin) and arrived at Grape Harbor, where I was playing that night. The venue was a classy wine bar, with kind of a lower-key Water City Grill feel to it (for those of you from Oshkosh). Anyways, I walked down the street to get a delicious sandwich at some coffee shop, and then went back to the venue to set up for the show. It was a great evening, and I'm pretty sure close to every seat in the room was filled. The crowd was very attentive, the wine was good, and it was an all in all great first gig! I should mention that I absolutely adore the town of Dubuque, and always have a great time when I'm there.
Day 2 - Kansas City, MO
Got up and out of (whew!) that cheap cheap hotel I had found for the night and started the 6 and a half hour drive to Kansas City. The day of driving started out great, but there's always a point when faced with driving past endless corn fields and really flat country when boredom sets in. Then one gets excited when entering a new state: Missouri! The Show-Me State! ... except you cross the border and realize that there isn't a magical line that completely changes the landscape when you enter a new state, and there was still a lot of boring in Missouri. Then, ahoy! The Kansas City skyline! Before entering the city I had to drive about 20 minutes east to reach the KOA campground I would be staying at for the night. I recently signed up for the Kampertainment program, which allows performers a free night's stay at a KOA campground if you perform a free show for the other campers, which is a pretty darn good deal. They actually gave me a free cabin for the night because they said the ground was too wet to pitch my tent, so that was pretty nice. I set up and played a one hour show for a group of about 12 retired locals who were part of an RV club. They were nice folks (albeit very conservative), and enjoyed the music. One of the women said she would forgive me for being from Madison, WI (I assume because of its liberal reputation). After finishing that show I packed up and headed into the city for the real deal. I played at the Westport Coffeehouse in the Westport area of KC. It seemed like the part of town where young people flock to to have a good time. There were bars and music venues all around (and the fad 90's band Placebo was actually playing next door!) Anyways, it was a pretty small place, but all the seats were filled, and it seemed like people got into the music while drinking their coffee and eating sandwiches. Two wonderful people, Steven and Brandi, actually drove 60 miles from Topeka, KS to come watch the show! The crowd came and went, but it was always strong and appreciative, and I had fun. I drove back to the KOA and got about 4 hours of sleep before the craziness of the next day...
Day 3 - Fayetteville, AR
I had to get up at 6 am and hit the road immediately in order to make it to Fayetteville by 10 am. I was scheduled to play a brunch gig (11-2) at a place called Common Grounds. The four hour drive wasn't bad, I had NPR to keep me awake and sane, and the terrain got much more interesting the closer I got to Arkansas. I arrived at Common Grounds just on time, and decided since it was such a beautiful day to play outside on the patio. The patio filled up by 11am with college students and other locals, all seemingly nursing hangovers with bloody mary's and 1st class breakfast food. I played for three hours out on the patio and had a blast (outdoor gigs rock), and managed to get my first sunburn of the year. Afterwards I endulged in some of their amazing food and headed out of Fayetteville about 20 minutes west to where I had reserved a campsite for the evening. After three 3 hour gigs in a row and lots of lots of driving, I was ready to set up that tent and take a nap. I passed some time reading a new book about Townes Van Zandt, which is very interesting and insightful, and quickly realized I was going to be the only person camping in the entire park that evening. The park was in the beautiful Ozarks of AR and on a secluded lake (Lake Wedington). However, at night it was slightly eerie being the only one around and I kind of spooked myself until finally falling asleep comfortably in my sleeping bag...
Day 4 - Fayetteville, and driving to Texas
I woke up at 5 in the morning freezing my ass off. I did not anticipate the nighttime to drop to 30 degrees out, as it had been in the high sixties that day. I could simply not get warm in the tent, and had to run to my car and get the heat going. I slept in my car until sunrise, and managed to get out and take some great pictures of the lake while the mist was still rising. Got back in the tent and got a few more hours of shut-eye before heading into Fayetteville to get some b-fast at Common Grounds and then do a radio interview for KUAF, the college radio station for the University of Arkansas. Had a great time talking to Kyle, the station manager, and the interview should be playing repeatedly throughout the next few weeks or so, so check that out if you can. Then I decided to take the scenic route down to Ft. Smith, AR, where you cross the border into Oklahoma to head south to Texas. I had a wonderful drive through the Ozarks and then headed into Ft. Smith to do some well-earned sightseeing. I simply had to go to the old Fort Smith down on the Arkansas River. The fort is famous as the last stop on the Trail of Tears for the Indians that made it, and where they crossed the river into Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The best part of the story is we made all kinds of illegal treaties with the Indians and forced them from the homes in Georgia, Florida, etc. and told them that if they complied we would give them a land in the west (modern-day Oklahoma) that would always be theirs. Then in the late 1800's we let white people settle it and broke our promise, and in 1907 Oklahoma was born!
It was particularly ironic then, that as I crossed the Arkansas River and headed into Oklahoma, leaving behind a scene of great tragedy which occurred more than 150 years ago, I turned on NPR and learned of the terrible tragedy that happened at Virginia Tech. Soon after I heard the initial news about the shooting, I got deeper into Oklahoma, and thus, the only news I could get was from right-wing, Christian radio stations. Every single radio host seemed to be saying that students would be safer if they were allowed to carry guns to class. Am I the only person that believes that it is insane to think that MORE guns = more safety? I cannot properly express the anger I felt at the media for sensationalizing such a tragic story, and for the people taking advantage of the situation to advance their own politics. I don't have much more I'd like to say on the topic, other than it is a deeply deeply tragic happening, and its terrible that such senseless violence happens. When you think about it, something of this magnitude or greater happens daily in Iraq, and many other places around the world. Imagine if 30 people were killed daily here as in Iraq? Anyways, anything else I did for the rest of the day is pretty inconsequential compared to what happened in Blacksburg, VA.
This concludes the first part of my tour journal, feel free to comment or give your own perspectives on last week's tragedy if you feel inclined to do so. Watch for pt. 2 in the coming days, as I head on to Texas and beyond!