Southeast Tour Diary (Part I)

The Re-Entering North Carolina Tour was a revelation. It really opened in Brooklyn, at Union Hall, with a full band show. Line check: amp humming, Telecaster plugged in, banjo making some kind of sound, harmonicas scattered. Here we go. Hit the honky tonk sound like we wanted and pushed through past a rough sea chantey, some tearjerking fare, and something weirder before we the electric again on “Roller Derby Queen” (and got a couple of girls dancing). Celebrating the new EP coming out, which had only arrived in physical form that morning. Opened for the excellent Dead Fingers, who were on their own tour going the opposite direction, and caught up with our friends from Birmingham. A late night in a diner and some frantic packing at home and half a night’s sleep and we (as duo) were off in the morning towards Virginia.

Dashed into the Mudhouse in Crozet, VA for night one on the road and threw our stuff on stage. Jon Hildenstein hit the stage first with his Telecaster and his grandfather’s ’50s Gibson. I went second. So fun to start with a clean slate in a town I’ve maybe been to once ten years ago. Paxton Henderson headlined with Tait Studebaker and they did a salon-style show with a generous serving of guests and covers. Good stuff. After the show, a pair of new friends invited us to stay at their place. Turned out that their place was parked with mountains on two sides, an incredible number of stars in the sky, a kitten named Stanley for Ralph Stanley, some fresh popcorn, and a bonfire. They were so generous and we are grateful to our hosts. Conversations are just better around a bonfire. It got pretty cold out there, too.

Woke up to a mountain view and to Stanley playing with the sleeping bags and hit the road with the Blue Ridge on our side. Our friends at Music Maker Relief Foundation had offered for us to hang out with the Piedmont-style bluesman and tobacco tractor operator Boo Hanks, who lives in Buffalo Junction, VA. We stopped in Nelson, VA at Family Foods and followed his station wagon across the street to his trailer and sat down to talk for a bit. Boo’s 84 years old, his knees creek, but his fingers bounce and dance on the strings as he sings the standard “Key To The Highway” or his own “Girls Are Crazy About Me.” He told us that the blues is three things – mistreatment, hard times, and disappointment – and that he’s had plenty of all three.

Pulled into Chapel Hill, NC (Entering North Carolina #1) starving. Broke out our cover of “Eurotrash Girl” as the finale for the first time (and the only time we got the words right and in the right order, I think) and Brand New Kind Of Photography blog has the full scoop on the rest of the show. We crashed with Reed Turchi of the band Turchi and of Devil Down Records, who makes and puts out some righteous North Mississippi Hill Country-style music. Geeked out checking out his guitars. Stole his parking pass by accident. Thanks, Turchi. Gonna send it back.

On to Atlanta in a drizzle. Got to Wonderroot and lay in the hammock in their community garden for a minute. It’s a community arts space with visual artists’ studios, a gallery, a recording studio, a venue, a garden, and future apartments for artists-in-residence. After loading in, we took a detour to Daddy D’z for ribs, collards, yams, and cornbread. Didn’t think we’d be able to move after that, let alone play a show, but there we were, back at Wonderroot, opening for Dirty Hotel Sunshine. They played a Lucero or Replacements-style set, only slightly unplugged. They had an informality and comfort onstage. We followed singer Steve LaBate back to his place to crash, listening to some 8-bit strangeness on the local college station. LaBate puts on some Byrds vinyl and we caught up for a bit before nodding off.

Part 2 coming up.

-Nick & co.

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