Somewhere in the South
Goodnight everyone on their phones
Goodnight road that’ll look the same when I wake up
It’s 1:28pm and I’m sitting in the first of three rows of benches in our metallic grey Ford van. This routine travel typically encompasses one third of my day, but today we have a short drive. Most of the time I sleep because I can’t stand the monotony of sitting in a van with nowhere to go and nothing to do. There’s only so many photos on Instagram, so many pages of my book, and so much music I can make before I get bored. At this inevitable point, I fold my pillow in half, put my legs up on the armrest and prepare my best open-mouthed, triple-chinned sleeping position, so I’m ready when Patty decides to turn around and take a picture of me.
I create my nest; a place where I know sleep will be the most productive activity available.
Sit. Stare. Repeat.
Raleigh, NC – 3:50pm
Scotty carefully maneuvers the van, trailer first, flush against the side of Butch Walker’s bus. His glossy black bus, perfectly color coordinated with a trailer of the same hue, dwarfs our fifteen passenger Ford towing a UHAUL trailer. If I weren’t in this band, it would give me the impression that we are a bunch of college kids trying this touring thing out for the first time; that someone’s dad gave us the van to use for a week.
We unload everything in the thick, hot air and follow a gravel walkway leading to the venue’s backdoor. I’ve played here before, I think to myself, but then decide it’s only reminding me of a venue I played in Albuquerque a few years back. Or was it Austin during SXSW? No, I haven’t been here.
We eat chicken and waffles. I get coffee. I think about nothing.
I think about how to describe the nothingness of this. How to put words to actions that are empty; to monotony of routine and the void left by the lack of creative work.
Push something. Lift something. Carry something. Lift it onto the stage. Put it in the right place. Hit the right drums at the right time.
This is sport, it’s not art. We’re athletes practicing the same shot every night. It’s about executing songs as well as you can, musically and visually, night after night. How does an athlete find joy in that? By winning? Unfortunately, there’s no winning in art. You can leave a show behind, good or bad, in whatever city it was in, but there’s no medals, no trophies, no “good game” at the end. Just girls that like every photo of yours on Instagram and well whiskey and watching Netflix on your phone; few hugs and fewer moments of creative ecstasy.
Artists are all introverts to some degree and creating art is a very personal thing, but even as I write this I’m flanked by Patty on my right and Dwight on my left on this black, L shaped leather couch in the green room. They’re asleep from the mint chocolate weed candy we ate this morning, but they’re here, listening to me type.
As I’m setting up my drums, pacing across the room looking for the pieces I need, one of the loaders, a woman in a neon green tank top, comes up to me and asks if there’s anything she can help with. I answer simply with a “No, not right now, thank you” and watch her return to her seat where she will remain until she gets told to go home. At this point I realize she’s just as out of her mind with boredom as I am, looking for anything to pass the time, having already scrolled through her Facebook feed at least once.
Charleston, SC – 4:00pm
Bud Light slips down my throat. Something cold and painfully carbonated feels ok on a day where sweat finds it’s way out of every pore, making sure to keep your clothes at an uncomfortable damp at all times.
We already did the lifting and pushing part, already put all the pieces together before they go on stage. Now we wait. Sit and wait and drink beer and stare at the wall. I find it funny that my existence is similar to my equipment’s. Every day it arrives at a venue in a metal case, gets pulled out and set up and waits until it gets set on stage. It enjoys the same half an hour playing music for human beings that I do. It observes the crowd moving their hips and clapping their hands in the same way I do, until I return it to it’s metal case and see it at the same time the next day in a different city.
I have the same work schedule as these inanimate objects. They don’t get beer though.
Sometimes I feel like my life is a game of mad libs.
Today I woke up in _________________ just in time to ___________________
Philadelphia, PA - 12:28am
There’s a man. He’s walking towards me. He’s signaling something to me, a gesture, attempting to communicate something with utmost urgency. I wade through passing pedestrians to the point where I can finally make out what he’s saying. “Wanna buy a bracelet?” Because I’m in Philly and everyone has an angle.
There's something funny about the east coast, how the people in cities like Philly, Boston, New York City, the oldest, most mature cities in this country are the most notoriously confrontational. The least friendly. The most dog-eat-dog. I think about the middle east, specifically the fertile crescent, where civilization began. The oldest societies in the world are entrapped in a state of perpetual chaos and have been for centuries. I’m no anthropologist, but the most mature civilizations in the world and in this country demonstrating bad attitudes at best and endless war at worst doesn’t make me very optimistic about the future of our species.
The TV is on. It’s the way Scotty falls asleep and it’s what keeps me awake. Adult swim really isn’t funny if you’re tired and not stoned. Scotty sets the sleep timer on the TV, but I’ll end up switching it off once he falls asleep.
I slept heavy last night. Heavier than usual. The kind of sleep that begins your day disoriented, wondering why you don’t recognize the blinds. This isn’t my room. Where the fuck am I. I was having the kind of dreams that are better than reality. More vivid and exciting than anything I will do today.
I go down to the gym to run and lift some stuff. Back and legs. This gym actually has free weights and isn’t 120 degrees, what a pleasant surprise.
Post-workout, I partake in the same fine-dining breakfast experience I find downstairs at every hotel, every morning. The night previous, the front desk attendant told us we could store all of our gear in a secure conference room until we left the next day. But of course when I begin to make myself some oatmeal with almonds and craisins at the continental, I’m treated to the realization that the door to the conference room we put everything in is wide open and, inside, fellow Holiday Inn Express squatters are casually dining on their own powdered eggs, mystery meat sausages, and a variety of thawed baked goods.
As we’re rolling out the last of the cases, I notice someone has left a napkin on top of the keyboard case. Wonderful. Thank you. That’s exactly what that’s there for.
It’s groundhog day. It’s monotony and repetition at it’s finest.
The sitting and waiting isn’t the problem, it’s where the sitting and waiting takes place. A turbulent van, a coffee shop, a green room that either doesn’t have wifi, doesn’t have enough space to physically fit everyone, isn’t set at a temperature meant for human beings to survive in, or most likely all three. It’s like sitting at your kitchen table all day. You’re allowed to be on your computer and on your phone, but you have to be at that table. You’re limited by location.
We are nomads. A resurgence of the hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Wake up. Find food. Drive to the venue. Find food. Play a show. Find food.
It’s a “fly by the seat of your pants” lifestyle. A “I really hope these Yelp reviews are accurate, so this Thai food in front of me doesn’t make an unexpected cameo on stage later” way of life. Nothing is consistent except the outlines of your actions; the setting changes every day. It’s irregular, spontaneous, and moves at the exact speed of my overactive mind.
Sometimes getting drunk in a hotel room is good enough.
I don’t know the name of the city I’m in, but there’s beer.
This sure as fuck isn’t my bed, but I know the guy in the bed next to me has my back.
Today I’m stuck at a hotel, bored and finishing this blog post. It’s 6:21pm and all I’ve done today is stare at my computer screen and drive fifteen minutes to get food. Tomorrow I get to play a show.
I promised myself in college that if music ever felt like a job, I would quit without hesitation.
Maybe next week I'll quit.
Maybe in five years I'll be done.
Today I'm ok right here, anxious to get on stage again tomorrow.
I'm a touring drummer. I live in hotels and venues to be on stage for one hour a day. That hour is why I do this and the only part people see. This is a documentation of the other 23 hours.