Posts Tagged ‘music’

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Tour Blog #2

October 28, 2010

Read the next blog installment on American Songwriter’s website! Click the link here: http://www.americansongwriter.com/2010/10/on-tour-with-the-giving-tree-band-it-is-just-after-midnight/

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Travel Blog 10-14-10

October 14, 2010

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Des Moines, IA and they are sprinkling in Christmas music in between Celine Dion and Enya. I imagine that the humor I feel right now is similar to the initial camaraderie I would get when seeing most of my friends in Hell before reality sets in. Other than that, it’s the best coffee shop we’ve worked in a long time. How does that equate? Well, it’s big, has a variety of comfy chairs and tables, and the only customer traffic consists of middle America 30-somethings, who by default have no power to exacerbate the traditional productivity pitfall that is people watching. That’s not mean.

We’re only a few days into this little month-long tour. We had a show the other night at the Redstone Room in Davenport, IA, where we split the bill with a Fort Collins-based bluegrass band called Head for the Hills. They were super-talented, and a lot of fun to hang out with. After the show, we headed west for Des Moines to find a place to sleep for the night.

Through all of the touring this past summer, we spent a lot of our nights in hotels. But we usually spend more of our nights sleeping out under the stars. “Out under the stars” is the subjective, romanticized setting I use to describe those nights. There’s a big difference between throwing up a tent and just lying on your back with the rest of the universe staring you in the face. And then opening your eyes in the morning to see tiny planes silently disappearing behind clouds can make you realize how often you used to enjoy that view when you were just a kid, and maybe that version of you had some things more figured out than the version of you does now.

I usually sleep on top of the van with one or two others, while two are usually on the ground, and yet another handful always sleep inside the van on the benches. We rotate locations based on what we feel like. Sometimes, rest areas will have a great selection of “picnic beds” (tables). Other locations will offer the “softest ground,” according to our drummer, only to have his comfort mocked by the morning light that illuminated the “Pet Area” sign above him which directed bygone dog owners where to have their best friend cushion the ground by taking a shit. We still get laughs out of asking him how he slept that night, to his response of, “Kinda shitty.”

It’s a wild line of work to be in, and your degree of happiness is so dependent on the perspective from which you choose to view your current situation. The homeless sleep at the mercy of the elements. Nomads and Gypsies sleep wherever they can lay their head. We sleep out under the stars. There’s not much separation between us some days, but we’ve got our intent, and the freezing Iowa night on Tuesday reminded me that we’ve got the safety of our van and hotel stays. What’s more is the humor that graces your sleepy face as you childishly try to hide it from the sun by burying it in your sleeping bag to buy a few more minutes of sleep. And that humor stays with you when you shower the morning dew off of that same face in a 4-star hotel room the same day. Because you know that the stars that rate the room you are in are a joke in comparison to the ones that watched over you as you slept the night before.

—Phil

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Choose Your Own Adventure pt. 1

March 13, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010 3:00 PM

   Yo Yo Yo.  I should have sat down days ago to write this, but that which kept me away from my computer is the essence that is central to the theme of this story.

     Last Saturday, we played a show in Sioux Falls, SD. It was a great show with an enthusiastic audience at a very nice venue (Latitude 44). After the show, the band gathered in the van to have a discussion as how to spend the following two days where we didn’t have any shows planned. We discuss everything in great detail on every move we make as a band, and while each conversation is important and beneficial, I am so grateful for this one in particular and for the profound impact it has had on my perspective.

     We have a good friend named Gary Shawver who we stayed with earlier in the tour while in Omaha, NE. While staying there, we were able to keep hard at work on both our musical responsibilities of rehearsing and writing, as well as the ever-increasing business end of the operation, which requires us using every path of communication the 21st century has to offer. With two successive days open on our calendar, it made a lot of sense to drive back south to Gary’s and keep our nose(s) to the grindstone. So I was surprised when the suggestion was made by Cara (who never ceases working on both managerial operations as well as setting and fulfilling the sustainability goals for the band) to head west early for our show on Tuesday in Boulder, CO in the spirit of adventure. We now had two clear choices: Prudence or Adventure.

     Anyone who knows me will know that my initial reaction was to head for Omaha. I rely on my habits, and whenever I have any free time, I fill it with practicing my violin, running/exercising, and reading. In Omaha, I felt we could really keep the ball rolling through rehearsal and office work, and I was certainly not alone in this view (Todd and E. are as prodigious as booking agents as they are on the stage, and between laptops and cell phones, the world is their office). But the mere description of the potential sights we would see if we traveled west to Colorado via South Dakota and Wyoming wet my appetite, and I could feel the collective consciousness of the band shift westward. As simple as that, we chose adventure.

We got an early start the following morning and headed for the Badlands. The promise of new sights and the novelty of being in a new state were enough for me to tolerate the never-ending sea of the great plains that set the stage for the start to our adventure ( I’m not sure why I even felt that affected by this; I was born in Cincinnati and raised in the Chicago suburbs—flat land is my home). Anyway, before long we reached Badlands National Park. It was a cold day to begin with, and the force with which the wind hit me as I stepped out of the van almost knocked me over. But within 2 seconds of looking out I didn’t care. I kept saying, “how was this formed? How was this made?” and other nonsensical questions whose answers I hoped would balance out the awe that I felt. It was actually perfect that there was a little bit of old snow on the ground because it accented every ridge of the giant basin and highlighted the infinite details of the landscape. I don’t know how long or short we stayed, and this distortion of time has stayed with me for the days since then. And I like it.

     From there, we pressed on to see the Crazy Horse memorial monument in the Black Hills. It is hard to fathom just how gigantic this mountain sculpture will be upon its completion. Everything about it is larger than my imagination can comprehend, especially the mind that created it: Korzack Ziolkowski. Because we got to the park just as it was closing, we couldn’t spend much time learning about the monument, so E. bought the documentary “Carving Crazy Horse” (which he had seen before and loved) for us to watch in the van. If you can, get this DVD from your library or order it. I loved watching the larger-than-life imagination and work ethic of Ziolkowski on film. The man and the monument are sources of endless inspiration and I can’t believe I knew nothing of either prior to this trip.

     For the sake of thoroughness, I should say we visited Mt. Rushmore after Crazy Horse. There’s no doubt it’s a cool monument, but the sheer magnitude of Crazy Horse had me feeling a little desensitized when I gazed up at the four faces of our forefathers. And I really have to laugh at that; One of our country’s most treasured patriotic symbols literally cannot measure up to an unfinished project (honoring a race of people that our government all but erased) that has refused every cent of state and federal funding that has ever been offered. We stayed about 10 minutes before regrouping and heading westward.

     The only thing left to say about that Sunday is that as we passed the state border of Wyoming in the middle of the night, we got out of the van and literally stepped into another world. I had no vocabulary to speak about what I was looking at, so I just laughed. We couldn’t see 10 feet into the pitch black night in front of our faces, yet above us was an inverted bowl of light. What could I do but laugh? With that view of stars upon constellations upon heavenly bodies upon galaxies, my cognition crashed and we all ran around on the desolate highway yelling into the solid black night like little children with no cares in the whole wide world.
End of pt. 1

Phil

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Thursday into Friday

March 5, 2010

Yo Yo. It is 2:41 A.M, and although it is now technically Friday, I still measure my days by when I awake in the morning. So for now, I am writing this on an extended Thursday night while riding in our van, somewhere in Southern Illinois.

We are just over one week into our 6-week tour, and I have to say, I am loving all of it. I know that traveling around playing for great people in new and exciting places seems like a “what’s not to like” situation. However, the actual performing takes up a comparatively small percentage of the time spent touring, and it is how one spends this travel time that will ultimately determine the satisfaction level of the time on the road. For me, the most important qualities to keep at hand are: a sense of humor, a good imagination, and the ability to feel at home wherever you are.

Before I expound on this, I need to clarify just how full of crap I am. It isn’t like we’re like the troubadours of a past age who were propelled forward by a wild bohemian spirit. I am writing this on a laptop computer, linked to the wi-fi antenna on the van that is spacious enough for me to stand up and stretch my arms while watching DVD’s of Arrested Development for the 20th time on the 27-inch TV screen that swings down from the ceiling. But then again, even while this is the age we live in, all of the facebooking and blogging and DVD watching are not enough to pacify the needs of our higher consciousness, especially those of our 8-man band.

What I am finding amusing right now is that while I have one bandmate simulating an airplane landing in his eardrums via iPod, and another on snoring practically on my shoulder, I feel completely at peace in my own head, as if I am on some kind of retreat. There is something mystical about gliding through the pitch-black middle of the night and– no joke– not knowing (or caring) where we will sleep tonight. This is the ability to feel at home wherever you are. As I look at farmhouse after farmhouse in the most desolate of areas, my imagination does its mental gymnastics to imagine how the residents of those lonely houses spend their days. And as for a sense of humor is concerned, there is no lifestyle imaginable where that trait isn’t a vital survival tool.

3:20 A.M. I was tired hours ago. Today was a long one too. Woke up at 6:30 and ran about 4.5 miles through a beautiful St. Louis morning. We then had a great rehearsal and arranging session from about 10 AM to 2PM before we hit the road for Carbondale, IL where we played a fun show at Tres Hombres. Now, we’re off to Iowa to play with Tea Leaf Green at the Redstone Room tomorrow night (technically tonight, but again, indulge me).

OK, if there was one thing I learned in college, it is that if I stay up late enough to think that I am tapping into some new creative reservoir, it means I should have gone to bed hours ago. Anyway, I’ve borrowed enough time already from tomorrow, so I’m off. Goodnight, and have a pheasant tomorrow.
Phil