Runaway Home was back on the road last week and it sure felt good to be playing music live again. The Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama and Jim Parker’s Songwriter Concert Showcase was more than just a stopover for the band. It was an oasis of good times, belly laughs and a re-charge of purpose. It was affirmation that this crazy second act of ours is still on course.
Live music venues, especially ones with a strong, venue-loyal fan base are becoming the exception and not the rule. Though some of our own fans followed us to this show, we were introduced to a completely new audience who love music with meaning. They listen hard to the words. They laugh and cry in all the right places. They appreciate harmony singing and the irreverence of a new-old indie band making music on their own terms. It was the shot in the arm that we needed to kick off the fall touring calendar and reignite the fire for producing our next CD. That said, being on stage is just a part of being on the road. Although it’s the most important part and the most rewarding part (because it’s the point of the whole thing), it is the smallest aspect of being on the road. Travelling together in a cramped van navigating traffic jams, sugar cravings, bossy bladders and maxed-out data plans are constantly integrated into the experience. We pack our tools of the trade behind the seats, under the seats, in a rooftop luggage rack and more often, across our laps. Instruments, amps, changes of clothes, merchandise, extra strings, set lists, directions and lunch are all thrown in with us. Somehow, it all gets unpacked, unfolded, set-up, torn down, repacked and refolded after the gig. All of this insanity takes place just in time to make a late-night Waffle House run before putting a few hundred more miles back on the van.
Everything that can go wrong though, sometimes does. Take for example, stepping on and breaking off the valve stem on the back tire while loading the roof rack. Then there’s forgetting the gig is in eastern time instead of central time, showing up to a venue whose idea of a sound system is one beer soaked mic, a duck taped mic-stand (without a boom) and a four channel amp with three missing knobs. Sometimes the gig is booked on the same day that the town’s football team is playing in the championship for the first time in two decades. Sometimes three hundred people make reservations to come to the theater, but stay home instead to watch O.J. Simpson being driven in that white Bronco, on a ridiculous low-speed chase through the streets of LA (yes- that happened). Sometimes (many times) the paycheck at the end of the night doesn’t cover the gas in the car, the food in our belly or the hotel pillow to lay our heads down for a few hours. Sometimes your voice is in perfect shape the night before a gig and then the day of the gig, you suddenly sound like the singing lovechild of Neil Young and Bea Arthur. And sometimes, your father dies.
There are so many reasons why this journey looks too tough to see though to the end and why for most bands, the journey ends on the lessor side of love of glory. What makes it work for us? You do. You make it work when you sing along, when you compare (for better or worse) how we played a song tonight vs. last weekend. You make it work when you drive your own cramped van long distances, through ridiculous obstacles, just to share a night of music with us. You make it work when you buy our CD’s, T-Shirts, and Coffee Mugs because you don’t want the experience to end at the gig. You make it work when you ask with sympathetic irritation, “Why aren’t you on the radio” and “why aren’t you famous yet?” When you leave red roses in our green room in memory of my father – well you more than make it work. You begin the un-breaking of a heart. You remind me that life goes on and so too does the show. Red roses in our green room? You better believe we’ll sing our hearts out for you each and every night we take the stage. Let’s gather next in Pensacola Beach, Florida…this weekend.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the music that makes us smile.”