Sure, the road can be full of inconvenience and hassle. Things rarely go as expected and this business of being a band, well it’s actually hard. The good news is though; sometimes it’s the opposite of hard. Sometimes it’s ridiculous how much fun and fortune (the lucky kind rather than the compensation kind) you can stumble into. At the risk of gaining no sympathy at all for the rigors of the road, the following is a road report on the Pensacola Beach Songwriter’s Festival from last weekend.
A sure-fire sign that a road trip will be a good one is when the first band arguments begin with, “Pork Rinds are healthier than Slim Jim’s” and end with “Is that a can of Fabreeze or sun screen in the side door? Either way, open that sucker up!” Anymore it seems that a road trip of eight hours or under is almost like a trip to the mailbox and back. We’ve taken the journey to Pensacola many times over the last four years and it’s one of the easier runs we make. In all fairness though, I rarely drive (and usually sleep) anytime the sun is up. My prime hours are the ones when the rest of the band is down for the count. So one of the reasons why an eight-hour trip to the beach seems easy is that about five minutes into it, I settle into my ITunes and generally only wake up for lunch and pee breaks. The next thing I know, we’re crossing the “Three Mile Bridge” which conveniently ends in a Bushwhacker by the beach!
The festival office is run out of a small trailer in the parking lot of party central, The Sabine Sandbar. We absolutely love the staff and volunteers for this festival and we make that fun little trailer our very first stop. Although we loved seeing our friends Reneda, Jim and Dallas again and cutting up with them while we sign posters and W-4’s, we keenly felt the absence of our sweet Deb, whom we all lost since last year’s festival. We got our keys to the beach house (right on the bay this year) and headed up to the Sabine’s upper deck for some island chicken, fish and hush-puppies and the first of many Bushwhackers!
One of the best things about a songwriter festival is that you get to catch up with all the friends you somehow never get to see back in Nashville. It’s like going back to your high school reunion, but everyone is just as passionate about being dead broke as you are and no one is a “financial analyst” or a “dentist.” It’s a love-fest with some good-natured heckling thrown in for good measure. There are upwards of seventy singer-songwriters spread out across a dozen stages, so the migration from beach bar to beach bar is constant, with only the island drinks and shrimp boils to interrupt the cycle. Some of our favorite friends and writers joined us again this year, including Ed Beaver, Thom Bresh, Jim McBride, Alan Rhody and Jim Parker. And about fifty more!
It’s not just seeing our songwriter pals that make festival going special, but also chances to interact and spend some fun quality time with our fans and new found friends. This year was extra fun with our friends Bob and Terri meeting us for great steaks at McGuire’s Irish Pub and then taking us out on the Gulf for a shrimp boil, some tubing and a chance to ride one fast-ass Waverunner! Aside from sending my GoPro video camera to the bottom of the Gulf for an extended underwater filming session (which depending on the battery, may still be going on), there wasn’t a stressful moment to be had! Sharing music and good times is what it’s all about! Playing a beach bar with a big crowd in front and a stunning sunset behind, seems a worthy enough, long-lasting elixir to balance out the list of “not worth-its” found in this new-old indie band’s journey. Next week it’s Louisiana and Kentucky and then… beyond.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the Music That Makes Us Smile”