“One-Outs” is a term we use to describe going out on the road for one gig. Sometimes those one-outs are just across town and other times they can be hours and hours down the road. We usually try to keep long one-outs to a minimum, and when we do them, we at least try to cluster good press and radio around the gig for maximum impact. One-outs can be expensive fishing ventures to be sure. However, without being on national radio with a major hit, the only way to turn more people onto our music is to take the music directly to them, no matter where they are.
We just got back home from such a trip, this time down to Louisiana. It turned out to be a great show, with many new friends and fans coming along for the ride. I am tired though, and my mind is in the condition you might expect after a quick jaunt through four states and back. Realizing that I am already a little late in writing a blog for this week, and the fact that my mind is only working in fragments now, I decided not to fight it. If you will indulge me this week, here is the memory dump from my RAM over the last three days. Let’s call this little experiment “Burst Writing!” It just sounds better than “Word Salad.”
Van call at Gary’s house. A collection of cars in the driveway, then a collection of people in vans. Gas up and drive west. Get bored, get hungry, and eat before we’re hardly out of the county. Nashville turns into Memphis and past the blackjack tables of Tunica. Convoy slipping further south now, confined to state routes, while interstates move faster but in wrong directions. Jeep tires stir up dust mixing with sundown. Eerie over cotton fields, some rich in white bloom and some barren and picked through. Long passages of darkness, interspersed between one-light towns with rolled-up sidewalks. Passing up fast food, looking to eat local, forgetting it is Sunday night. Big mistake, spaces of nothingness get longer and stomachs get hungrier. Yellow light in the distance, Golden Arches breaking through and all of us bizarrely freaking out for Big Macs and fries! So good! Back in the car, more midnight miles. Monroe, Louisiana out the windshield. Best Western. Cajun Red Wine. Sleep.
Leave back-up band members to sleep late the next morning. Three + one up early heading for Leesville, Louisiana. While loading up the Jeep, notice a lone tire swing hanging in the sweet early morning, late fall light – gonna’ be a good day. Last minute promo ideas and jamming social media. Cussing data dropouts and laughing at gross jokes. Pass through a good friend’s old hometown while she texts me the best places to eat perfect pie and crawfish. Meet promoter at Library venue. Rush over to the radio station. Walk in, chat up DJ named Barnickel, red light goes on, talk as if we have no brains, play a song pretty dang well, show over. Meet other band van and band members at venue. Eat steak. Drink beer. Watch bass player be thrown within 5 seconds from a .50-cent mechanical horse. Head back to venue like a low-budget circus coming to town. Set up sound gear, hang banners, put up merchandise table and sound check. Walk across the street to a park with three bridges over no apparent water. Laugh, lay out, drink wine, tell gross jokes, and listen to John Denver’s greatest hits.
Thirty minutes to Showtime, no people, freaking out, then the room fills up at the last-minute! Playing for people who act as if they’ve been our fans for years. Makes the soul fly. That feels good! See a couple walk in who have followed us for the last year. They drove up from Florida to catch our short set. Makes the soul fly even higher. Everyone singing along. The last song ends with the crowd on their feet. Makes the miles worth it. Late night dinner. Beers and Margaritas for the lucky, and diet coke for the late night DD’s. Two and a half hours through the same long stretches of nothingness, now black with midnight. Old country station takes us half the way and John Denver’s “Back Home Again” record soft lands us back in Monroe. Best Western. Wine and beer, making fun of a weirdly sexy 1920’s silent movie on Turner Classic. Buzzed, tired, sleep. Alarms go off ridiculously early, dumping us into the day.
Continental breakfast. Euphemism for sure. The road starts again. Radio, social media, and getting lost out the windows. Truck fire and a 5-mile back up in the opposite lane. Bathroom vending machines no one ever dares risk quarters in. The Mississippi river ain’t called the Big Muddy for nothing. Baskin Robbins ice cream, then a Subway salad!
1400 miles, 4 states, 1 concert, a boat load of CDs and T-Shirts sold. New fans made, songs on the radio – and it all seemed to happen in what felt like a year wrapped up in the blink of an eye.
Thankful to play music with friends and for friends. Thankful to see America one small town at a time. Thankful to be home. Thankful to do it all over again next week.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the Music That Makes Us Smile”