The first time I went "on tour" was with my buds in The Gyspy Mechanics back in the late 90s. I say it was a "tour" but really we drove from Pepperell, MA to London, Ontario for one show in the middle of winter. We all took the Friday and Monday off from work and piled into two cars because we couldn't fit everything in one and we drove through the night to Canada.
The moment we left in the cars I felt like I had found my purpose. I was traveling to bring music to people I didn't know. I was going to meet new people and gain a new perspective on the world. That tour led to a follow up the following summer where we actually played a run of shows across southern Ontario hitting, among other places, the storied El Mocambo in Toronto and the punk rock Hotel Brunswick in London.
That first week on the road I remember fighting to keep my long hair from turning into Dave Pirner dreadlocks, trying to eat "healthy" and failing, realizing I had brought too many unnecessary and too little of the needed clothes, I learned how to sleep on a floor, or on chair cushions, how breakfast fast food is the worst of all the fast foods, and how to cohabitate with 4 other dudes and not kill each other.
When I got home I was relieved to be in my own bed and rest my head on my own pillow but my mind never left the tour. I went back to my day job but if I hated it before - it felt more like prison now because I knew what my life was supposed to be like. I knew what it was like to live and there is a very real depression that comes with that.
As soon as I typed that last sentence I stared at my own hands on the keyboard wondering how to continue in a way that is respectful of other more serious depressions and not come off like a 21st century spoiled brat. I am aware that there is unlikely an ICD-10 code for "post-tour depression" and it sounds very entitled to even read the words aloud but that doesn't change the fact that I actually go through it.
Sometimes retail therapy helps, sometimes it's getting a new guitar that now mocks you from the corner of the room waiting for your inspiration to come back and write something new. And sometimes it just creates the façade of a functioning adult.
I don't remember what year it was but The Fallen Stars opened up for The Blasters one night at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. We had our "big band" back then with 5 of us on stage including saxophone. It was a big rocking time and the crowd loved us. We danced on stage and the whole show felt like floating on air. The love we got back from the crowd was HUGE. The next night we played some tiny dive in Hollywood to about 10 people who didn't care at all. We were lighting ourselves on fire and couldn't even get people to turn around in their seats. It was jarring and the difference between the two nights was too much for my fragile artistic brain to handle. After about 40 minutes of indifference I stood up on one of the booths of the club and screaming into the mic "Love me or hate me, just don't fucking ignore me!" The indifference of the second night's crowd broke me.
It is something most musicians go through at one time or another but there is no class, there's no guidebook that explains these things. Sure someone will tell you - "some crowds will love you, some crowds will hate you." but no one ever tells you "some crowds will have no opinion of you at all." And on the most basic human level, you understand this. You are fine with this but the inner voice that chimes in is not fine with this and the story you tell yourself is the meanest shit you've ever heard about why the crowd has no opinion of you at all.
The "benefit" of going through this is recognizing it the next time it happens and being able to let it wash away and you still hear the inner voice but it has less power over you.
I had a successful European tour this year. It was a lot of hard work of planning and re-planning on not just my part but on the venues and promoters I was working with. At every show I connected with people, we shared the space, we shared the love and were transported temporarily. Everywhere I played asked me to come back next year. I saw lots of fans that are now friends and it was great.
When I got home I tried to dive in and book more shows, keep it up, keep going, doing more. One of the best parts of my jobs is that I schedule it, whether I'm tuning pianos, playing gigs or recording in the studio. One of the worst parts of my jobs is that I schedule it and if I'm not working then I'm constantly looking for work and that is a grind.
This year my brain crashed and I know the moment it happened.
I went to a local coffee shop to book a gig, I dig coffee shops. I talked to the owner/booker, gave him my cd, my one-sheet, postcard with reviews... and he said; "You might want to come to our Tuesday night open mic so we can hear you first. It's also a great place to meet other local musicians and get your name out there. Especially if you're new to the scene."
And I get it. I am not a household name. I've never met him before but goddammit it felt like a kick in the gut.
No, I didn't say "Don't you know who I am?!?" because I understand, I am not known to him but at the same time my inner voice whispered to me "doesn't he know who you are?"
And that inner voice kicked me in the junk.
These moments in life are often not huge, they're small and inconsequential but they circle your brain like sly torpedos.
I currently have two shows booked. Nov 12 at Bogart's in Seal Beach, CA and Jan 7 at Union Coffee in Milford, NH.
I have one day of live streams left for this year - Wednesday, Nov 3 - I will be doing my regular noon time lunchtime livestream and another one at 8 pm at night.
These are my last live streams for the year and nothing else until 2022. I need a little down time, I need to recharge.
I really hope you'll stop by one of the live streams and say hey in the comments or come to one of the shows, especially the one in Milford, NH with Morgan. I am super excited about that show as it's the first time he and I have done a show together like this.