For this Throw Back Thursday post, I thought I’d shed some light on my very first tour. I got it’s name the Splendid Little Tour from punning on “the Splendid Little War”, what Secretary of State John Hay called the Spanish American War.
Here’s the promo photo for it:
(Photo Cred: Jonathan Welch Photography)
In the Summer of 2011 I decided I wanted to try my hand at touring with my poetry. I recruited my good friend Tyler, then performing under the name Jack Rabbitt, to travel with me since we had been in a few different bands together (including, but not limited to, Dane’s Freedom Circus and Donnie’s Love Fest) and he was one of the more popular solo acts I personally knew with a deep enough set list to take on the road. So for whatever reason he agreed to come with me on this adventure and we began planning.
We had no idea what we were doing.
We decided we should tour New England, even though we both lived in North Carolina. Not because either of us had a particularly huge New England fan base, it just seemed like a good place for an indie acoustic and poetry bill to go, plus I had some family and friends in the area that would help us out. My parents stepped in and helped us even more by letting us use their new hybird car to save on gas and have a reliable vehicle for long distance driving. As I now know well, parents and family are the unsung heroes of indie touring, helping artists in amazing ways that only family can.
But despite all the odds, Tyler and I managed to put together what, by all respectable regards, was indeed a splendid little tour. I thought I’d take you through the venues we traveled to and give a few little details in between.
The venue where we held the kick off show is closed down now. But, we decided to do a round-robin style show of local singer-songwriters including Fountain Penn, before Welch & Penn was even a thought, and our good friends Eric and Dane Page.
The Marketplace Cafe in Pittsfield, MA:
The first stop was my hometown of Pittsfield, MA. I had friends and family there, namely my friend Liam and his family who let us use their house as a base of command to go back and forth between the first couple of venues in Massachusetts and Vermont. The Marketplace Cafe is a great little place right on North Street, the main drag of Pittsfield, and we were booked for an end of the week lunch time show, the crowd was mainly people on break and retired people enjoying a late coffee. Still, it was a nice vibe and playing the town I grew up in felt like a great way to start things off.
Thirsty Mind in South Hadley, MA:
The next day, in a town about an hour out of Pittsfield we played an afternoon show at the Thirsty Mind, a cool little coffee shop in a college town. It’s a great venue and the owner is on top of his booking, always prompt to reply even to an out of town act such as ourselves. It was another nice little show in a really relaxed atmosphere.
Platterpus Too Records in East Hampton, MA:
After the Thirsty Mind show we drove to another town in between South Hadley and Pittsfield to play a night show. At the time I thought it would be all romantic and road warrior-esque to play 2 shows a day. I was wrong. It was exhausting. Platterpus Records, or Platterpus Too if you’re old enough to remember the first record store (Hint: we weren’t) is a fantastic little gem. The owner is an amazing guy who is incredibly accommodating for performers. He’s also really involved in his community and knows all the local bands and musicians in the area. We ended up just street performing and hanging out with that guy for most of the night until we decided to head back to Liam’s and prepare for our venture into Vermont-land.
Creative Space Gallery in Vergennes, VT:
It’s easy to forget how large of a state Vermont actually is until you’re driving through it. This was another afternoon show in a small town art gallery, the only place that would book us between Pittsfield and Burlington, VT. The people managing the gallery that afternoon were these super kind older ladies who gave us lemonade and discounts on the pieces in the gallery, but unfortunately we had no room in the car, or the funds, for folk art. But if you ever find yourself passing through Vergennes, Vermont, I recommend stopping in, they had some pretty great works there!
Radio Bean in Burlington, VT:
Burlington reminded me a lot of Asheville, NC where my brother was living at the time. The scenery around the town is beautiful, but the town itself felt a little too crunchy for my taste. The Radio Bean is a great indie venue, but our act was way too small for the venue to take us very seriously. They gave us a weird time slot, let the group before us play into our time and seated a red hat society dinner directly in front of the stage. I was so upset that I hardly even noticed the view of the sunset over Lake Champlain as we left Burlington. Tyler had suggested stopping to take a picture and now I wish we did, but at the time I was feeling way too tired and strung out and just wanted to get on the road since I knew we had a long stretch ahead of us.
The Eggroll Cafe in Lowell, MA:
I was initially hesitant about playing a bubble tea shop mainly because I had no idea what bubble tea was . I couldn’t have been more misguided in my hesitation though because this is another gem of a tour venue. The owner is incredibly personable and provided Tyler and I with full meals after tipping us out, since his restaurant doesn’t have a wait staff,which was a big deal for us financially. It was a great show to end on too because the crowd was interested in what was happening, they came expecting to see and hear a performance, not just eat. It felt like we were genuinely a part of the experience rather than just an act hidden in the corner as many restaurants and cafes gigs can feel like.
After that show we went to my friend Cam’s birthday party. He’s a friend of mine from college and the tour just happened to work out so that we were in Lowell at the time of his 21st birthday party. Obviously shenanigans ensued. Tyler and I ended up leaving Cam’s party at 4am since sleeping space was tight in the apartment, deciding we’d rather drive a little ways and sleep in the car than deal with sleeping on a floor. So off we went back to North Carolina with, if I remember correctly, about $40 left between us. The same $40 we made at the EggRoll Cafe show. #TourLife