Hello, friends! Rob here.
It is official. The Revivalists have entered the final week of leg two of the Age of Van Tour! (Hold for applause) We’re over the hump! (more applause) We’re almost home! (more applause) We spent more days doing things!
We’ve been at this one for a long time now. George and I have been playing a game called “That Was This Tour.” As in, “Hey, remember when we were almost late for the gig at The Independent because we were trying to find that Chinese restaurant you guys ate at last time we were in San Francisco? That was this tour.” Or “hey, remember when the border patrol shook us down in Las Cruces? That was this tour.” Or “hey, remember when our van broke down for the third or fourth time five miles away from our show at the beautiful Gerald Ford Ampitheatre in Vail, CO, and we had to get it towed to a shop and it’s still there and they’re trying to get us to pick it up but we’re two time zones away by now and goodness knows when we’ll be back?”
“That was this tour.”
RELATED: We have a new vehicle.
I always knew the extravagant “rock ‘n roll lifestyle” would someday allow me to purchase an expensive brand-name German luxury automobile. I just never imagined it would be yet another transport vehicle that I jointly own with five other men. Yes, we’ve finally moved on (slightly) up from the van and into a shiny new Sprinter, which is the widely-accepted stepping stone from van to bus. In case you’re wondering, a slim majority of the band has succeeded in officially naming the vehicle “Sprinterfell,” but the naming process has been a bit more contentious than normal. There were a lot of great alternates, with “Van Diesel” being a popular runner-up, but none of the other names come complete with nerd cred and a built-in catchphrase:
Sprinter is coming.
(Note to self: Never research break-in periods on a new engine. Especially when you have to use that engine right out of the gate to tow a few thousand pounds of gear up and down an entire mountain range at highway-ish speeds. Also, we probably need an oil change.)
Still, the Mountain Part of Leg Two of the Age of Van Tour was pretty great. We always get to see some scenery when we strike out west, but this time a lot of our destinations were more remote than they have been in tours past. Most of the Mountain Part was just us crawling our way across utter wilderness on two-lane roads from one isolated ski resort to the next. We spent countless hours winding through box canyons and negotiating no-guardrail hairpin turns while gawking at dramatic expanses of mountain, forest, river, lake, and sky, almost too distracted to notice that we weren’t getting any cell service.
The shows have been great (of course, I always say that). It’s community-sponsored outdoor summer concert season nationwide, and most every Colorado show took place in crisp daylight next to some intimidatingly beautiful mountain face. The exceptions were a cool little bar show at the Eldo in Crested Butte and a ‘Ride Fest afterparty in Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House. And when I say “historic,” I’m talking hundred-year-old-building, last-summer-Jewel-played-a-benefit-to-save-the-place historic.
So Colorado was as magical as ever, but I have a confession. As a horn player, long stretches in the crisp, rejuvenating mountain air only make me yearn for the atmospheric density of sea level. Sweet, oxygen-rich sea level. Oh, how I missed thee. For a breather like me (that’s a slangy term for “wind instrumentalist” that I just made up and you can totally use), the first sea-level gig after two weeks in the mountains feels like playing basketball on the moon.
This week we’ve been cutting a swath through the midwest. It’s starting to feel ravenous, rabid, the way we’re tackling shows. Maybe it’s just that one week left feels quick compared to four weeks down, but I like to think we can all taste home a little bit. We’ve been getting little tastes of home along the way, with familiar faces abound in Lawrence and St. Louis (an extra special hello to the contingent from Broadway Oyster Bar who came out to see us on Thursday), and pretty much all of the city of Chicago is family now.
Oh, great gosh almighty, Chicago. The Phish/Pearl Jam/Pitchfork Festival/New Kids on the Block afterparty (okay, probably mostly just the first three) at House of Blues was one of the best shows we’ve ever had. The end.
Well, not really. We didn’t even get out of House of Blues until about five o’clock on Saturday morning, and we had a show in Bloomington Saturday night, followed by an overnight drive to All Good Festival. All in all we survived the entire weekend on about thirty hours of bed sleep split between the seven of us. We left All Good early after our set, drove a few hours out, had a family dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, and went to bed early. Now we’re taking care of a few chores while recuperating in a Ramada somewhere in Ohio.
It’s weird being on tour for so long. Patterns tend to emerge. The land turns from hills to plains and back again. Sleep comes and goes in waves. The ratio of clean clothes to dirty laundry in one’s suitcase gradually shifts from “manageable inconvenience” to “sword of Damocles.”
It’s been good, though. Overall, it’s been really rewarding playing so many festivals this year because we’re really starting to feel like we’re part of a community. We see people at High Sierra who saw us at Wanee, or folks at Bonnaroo who were at our VIP set at Hangout… There’s a certain familiarity within the festival scene that can be comforting, especially when we’re on the road for weeks or months at a time. We get to make friends on both sides of the barricades who we’ll see again and again.
Almost as good enough as home.
Addendum: Yes, we did play High Sierra Festival, and yes, it was a beautiful, well-organized event, and yes, The Revivalists spent three magical days there, but I woke up on the morning of day one with a pretty severe fever, and as such I spent most of that weekend shivering in a hotel room and quietly resenting my bandmates for being able to enjoy themselves. Robert freaking Plant played a set not half a mile from my eardrums, and all I had the energy to do was eat a delivered calzone in bed and pass out while watching “Office” reruns on Netflix. Tragic.
Other Addendum: The London Souls are really good.