Last week I was invited to speak on the topic of “DIY Touring” at a panel discussion with the MN Music Coalition / Caravan Du Nord at the College of St. Scholastica. I sat with Ellen Stanley, executive director of the MMC and touring musician w/ her band Mother Banjo and the one-man-band phenom that is Crankshaft. Prior to that, national act Sleep Study talked with 89.3 Current’s morning show host Jill Riley about their journey to get to where they are. One of the main themes that kept coming up in both panels was RELATIONSHIPS. Not in a smarmy, schmooz-y way — but to say that in the music business, it’s not just the old adage (which has always felt a little crappy to me) of “who you know” — but more about authenticity, gratitude, and friendship. If you keep coming back to town after town, you will start building relationships. This blog post centralizes on the friendships that crystalized and strengthened on my last tour with some tips mixed in.
Do you have any travel/touring tips to enlighten us with? What are your favorite moments, road stops, random friends you’ve met? Please share in the comments below!
Humanoid & I recently came back from one of the most fun, validating, comforting & gorgeous mini-tours to date (I know, I’m bragging). These trips are always adventures with flavors spicy, sweet and bitter but sometimes they taste just right. The following is my big e-thank you note to some of the places & people we met. Please do yourself a favor by “liking,” “following” and/or purchase music/art from these folks! This blog will be split in two parts as it’s gonna get long …
Sheboygan – Paradigm Coffee & Music – 10.15.14
I’ve already written a blog about Paradigm here, but it’s worth noting that it didn’t disappoint. This was the first stop on the tour and there is reason for that – I love it! It was no mistake! Despite all of my tips about touring (as posted on a recent GoGirlsMusic.com Facebook chat), I broke one of my rules of arriving at least an hour early because we rolled in, flushed, with heart palpitations about 15 minutes before showtime. I had been in contact with the venue, told them my sound requirements, and we were up and running by 7:10 pm. WHEW! Why was I late? Because 36 hours before leaving I had started a batch of apple wine in my apartment with 30 pounds of apples from my dad’s tree. They were soaking in a 5 gallon bucket and needed to be pressed and combined with sugar, wine yeast, lemon juice and some golden raisins and left to ferment until we got back from the tour. This took some time. And it was very sticky. And it made us ALMOST LATE TO OUR FIRST SHOW.
So my Tip #1 would be DON’T ATTEMPT to make APPLE WINE THE MORNING YOU LEAVE FOR TOUR. Incredibly, the audience forgave me, the staff forgave me, and hopefully will have me back. In the morning, I ran along Lake Michigan, our first lake of the tour. We bought coffee beans for our jet boil, said our goodbyes, and drove to Madison. Thank you, so sincerely, to Kate Krause, Janelle Bane, Matt, Eric Cox & Mariya, Rachel Haas Lewinski & fam, Kathy Alby and Darren for being friends & music lovers and always so kind to me.
2. Madison, WI – Crescendo Espresso & Music w/ Ida Jo & Lo Marie 10/16/14
We arrived to Madison just in time to meet up with Jon Hain, co-owner of Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse, Jon Hain Photography and Uvulittle Records, among other things. Jon fed us lentils and showed us some photos from my last shoot with him a few weeks prior (shown here – check out his work at www.jonhainphotography.com).
Then Humanoid & me went across town to Crescendo where I was able to park behind the owner’s sweet car while we loaded in. I have a full size keyboard in a full size flight case and it weighs about 70 lbs. I also have a tube amp which weighs 57 pounds. I like to park close … We were sharing the show this evening with Ida Jo, award winning violinist-vocalist & yogini, and Lo Marie who was a new friend to me. The cafe was also new to me – owned by a very happening couple with fantastic listening-room ethic – DON’T TALK WHILE THE MUSICIANS ARE PERFORMING! I totally broke this law and felt pretty bad about it, but hopefully they’ll forgive me! Tip #2: Don’t talk in a listening room – even if you are a performer!
Anyway, Ida Jo & Scott Lamps sounded fantastic as usual, Lo Marie made me feel like I was in a Parisian cafe and Humanoid and me rocked out a little bit at the end … the night was followed by chit chat at Mickey’s Tavern almost til bar close … and a vegan brunch the next morning with another fantastic entrepreneur & artist Stephanie Rearick (who inspired me to play piano standing up, by the way). Stuffed full of perfectly crispy hashbrowns, many cups of diner coffee & tofu scramble, we were on our way to Chicago. Thanks Ida Jo for setting up the show! Jon Hain & Stephanie Rearick for the ever-stimulating conversation, Kat & Matt for hanging with us on a school night, and Crescendo for giving me a chance …
3. Chicago – Uncommon Ground & WCRX Underground Radio podcast 10.17.14 – 10.19.14
Tip 3. Don’t drive into Chicago, or any major city, during rush hour.
What would have been 3 hours took 5 hours. I thought we would have time to chill, take a walk, settle in, but essentially we got to Uncommon Ground on Clark Street just 15 minutes before load in/sound check time. Sharing another show with Ida Jo, also coming from Madison, also caught in the traffic hustle – she arrived just on time. Another gorgeous set and her fans were gobbling it up. Our turn, the lights bright, the back listening room (lesson learned!) was quiet – it was sweet. New friends from my last Sheboygan show were there … and so was a fellow GoGirl that I’d been wanting to meet Christine Infanger who is the manager of Honk Kong band Noughts & Exes. So rad to meet her – I am a walking testament that you can meet quality people on music twitter chats. YEAH! Also presesnt, Erika Kooda who is the assistant producer of the Great Northern Radio Show. Erika kindly hosted us in her apartment and invited us to be on WCRX, Chicago Underground Radio’s new “tiny-desk”-like podcast series. We woke up with a quiet view of downtown Chicago …
… packed up and grabbed a cuban sandwich at and thick coffee Cafecito cafe – AMAZING – across from Columbia College and cranked out 3 songs and an interview before noon. That’s a morning! Here is a track from that session – a live version of new song “Candy”
Gotta love this moose blowing bubble gum outside of Columbia College …
The rest of the day we walked around Chicago, dined on hummus and wine, Humanoid got an unexpected shoe-shine hustle …
and we made it to our next hosts’ house, old pals Mandolyn & Megan. Unbelievably, they had a vegan thai place called Urban Vegan 2 blocks away – pumpkin curry hallelujah. Chicago was feeling great to me …
Sunday I had a women’s only “Goddess Night” house concert event at a spot called “The Emerald Palace.” I was greeted by beautiful women and smells of a potluck – roasting squash, soup, herbal tea, eventually Sangria appeared. Women arrived, we settled. There were some name games involving dancing and memory, there was a delicious meal … I had my animal spirit cards read … people were smudged with sage … then Leah Shoshannah took her acoustic guitar and started singing about Wolf-Women and the moon, and she pranced, and she sang right in your face, and she told stories … And then it was my time and I was shy without a microphone and Carla Starla was so kind to lend me her keyboard … but I went for it, and I told stories and I didn’t prance or dance, but I did what I came there to do. At the end we had a ceremony to honor our ancestors, and I honored my grandma’s and lit a candle for them and everyone went around in a circle and honored those that are no longer with us and it shifted the energy in the room and I swear I felt someone standing in a corner for the rest of the night after that. Carla Starla, Psychic, said they came in during that honoring so we acknowledged them. I left shortly thereafter, feeling exhilarated and mildly spooked. Took the scenic road along Lakeshore drive to see the tall condos and the city lights and bits of the reflections of moon and clouds on Lake Michigan. Made it safely home to Mando & Megan’s. Sleep – it was welcome that night. Thank you Mandolyn, Megan, Erika, Leah, Tree, Carla, Baker, Ida Jo, Uncommon Ground, WCRX, The Emerald Palace, Christine Infanger – Chicago, you won me over!
4. Grand Haven, Michigan – Walk the Beat Radio podcast (available soon!)
We hightailed it out of the city Monday after a run to the marina and back. Had to stretch the legs before the next few days’ drives. Left before rush hour with plenty of cash for tolls. Hustled through Illinois, eventually made it into Michigan and the landscape got rural, the skyscrapers went away … I was tired and so I slept in the car. Sound of wheels on tar relaxes me. There was a time zone change – eeeeek – which made us arrive yet again right on time to our next destination – Walk The Beat radio podcast recording at Dave Palmer’s studio in Grand Haven, Michigan. I was really looking forward to this event. I was to meet Joshua, who was the first person to buy my first album ONLINE via CDBaby which made him super memorable to me. He reached out a year ago to invite me to submit to his region’s music festival which I unfortunately couldn’t attend – but the connection was solidified and he was a great help. We stayed up w/ Josh & his awesome wife Katie sampling their fine collection of hot sauces. I took a trot down the country road the next morning and checked out the autumn leaves and the farms, down their dock to the lake thick with luscious reeds, a beautiful swampy jungle. It was amazing to meet this guy and put a face to a name. Thank you Joshua, Katie, Ric, Dave, Blue and Nietzsche the dog!
More from the tour next time – getting long-winded and gotta get ready for a gig.
Do you have any travel/touring tips to enlighten us with? What are your favorite moments, road stops, random friends you’ve met? Please share in the comments below! Thanks for reading & supporting local music. LOVE YA!