The Road to Memphis…and Back

9:30am, Thursday May 19th – Due to a few obstacles, what was originally supposed to be a tour with my band was now going to be a solo tour. It had been a while. I used to tour by myself all the time. With a new album, changes in the band and new business ideas overloading my brain I very much welcomed the time to just….drive. It’s amazing the kinds of things you can work out by just letting the big wheels roll.
On this particular morning I was Memphis-bound. I packed up the “bus” – my previously mentioned Ford E-150 – and made my way down I-55 S. From there I would make the five hour drive cutting through the flat open plains of central Illinois on through the very swollen Mississippi river valley surrounding St. Louis, Missouri. It was a beautiful spring day. Clear skies. It felt great to be on the road. My mind carved out ideas for new marketing plans, new song arrangements for my new band line-up and the plans for the night’s show at the Hi-Tone Café in Memphis.
After working through various highway interchanges in St. Louis I continued on the additional five hour drive through the deep green hills of eastern Missouri leading on through the flatlands of northeastern Arkansas. Eventually I would meet up with I-40 east and head over the gargantuan Big Muddy officially crossing into Memphis, Tennessee.
I pulled into the parking lot at the Hi-Tone Café having logged ten hours of driving. It’s a long day, but it was the last thing on my mind. I made my way into the venue, grabbed a seat at the bar and received some glorious news from the bartender. Free pizza and PBR – some of the sweetest words a touring musician can hope to hear. By the time I finished my dinner and had a couple drinks the rest of the nights musicians were arriving – it was just about time.
As my set time approached I went into show-mode which is comprised of these general steps:
1) A quick stop at the van to change into my show clothes
2) Assembly of my guitar stand
3) Set up both my acoustic and electric guitars – tune them – place them in the stand
4) Uncover my amp and make sure I have all my cords, tuning pedal, picks, etc. ready
5) Look over my set list with any final thoughts/changes
6) Remember the ten hours I drove to be here and that I better bring it for myself, my band and the 20-30 people who don’t know me and who I hope can’t forget me by the end of my set
7) Get all of my gear up on stage after the opening band is clear
8) Forget everything I just thought about in my pre-show
9) Take the stage
10) Show time
45 min later – sweaty and breathing hard – I clear the stage and hang by my merchandise to talk with new fans. The folks in Memphis were unbelievable. I sold three or four cds and received various cash amounts from a number of people to help with gas. The last band closed out the night and we headed to a local bar for the post-show during which I got to a know a number of new people and begin plans for my next Memphis show. One of my fans was even cool enough to let me crash at his place. I love Memphis.
I left the following afternoon and retraced my steps north on I-55 back to St. Louis. I would do it all over again in a few hours at Brennan‘s in the Central West End, and get to see some old friends with whom I’d be staying for the night. In the morning the tour would creep further north to Decatur, IL.
On Friday night after setting up the PA, sound checking, having a drink and waiting…waiting…waiting…I’d see a great sight after a long couple of days in the car – my band. They made it down to Decatur to meet up for our show at the Cornerstone Tavern. The stage lights went on, we cranked up the house fog machine and played our best show in Decatur to date. I can’t thank everyone down there enough for their support. After three years of playing the scene regularly it seems we’ve finally had our first break through.
With that said, there was quite the party that ensued afterwards. 5am saw us at Hardee’s purchasing $54 worth of monster biscuits, tater tots and orange juices. 5:20am saw us all passed out. I was up four hours later revving up the “bus”, and home by early afternoon.
A great tour, healthy profit, new fans, great memories and a clear mind.
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