It has been a few crazy weeks getting things together to head out on the road but here we are! Our first tour leg (the west coast side) started several days ago when we left Monterey at 5am on Thursday morning. The few days before that were frantic with last minute shows, tour preparation, and van repairs. We had a bit of a scare with the van since a routine tuneup showed a few major problems with the brakes and fuel line. But our buddies over at Susi Auto in Monterey worked overtime to get the issues fixed and get us on the road on schedule! We cannot thank them enough, the team over there is awesome! Thanks guys for not letting us explode. Exploding would be bad.
Setting up the van interior has been my focus (ok…..obsession) for a few months. It was fun to finally get all the pieces put in place. I’ll do a full video walk through in a later post but for now here are some photos of the interior. The space is set up with a small kitchen island and cooler to store food, utensils, and dry goods. I found this awesome storage ottoman online as well which serves as our pantry/general loose item containment. When not in use, it can be folded down and stored elsewhere. We’re still missing a few kitchen items but I decided against buying a ton of stuff now, I’d rather just get what I need when I need it.
The back of the van has the bed folded down but we ended up needing a bit more gear than we initially thought so we are only using about 2/3 of the space in back as the bed. The last third is our gear storage/closet and holds everything we need for shows. This actually works pretty well since opening and closing the storage bin with a bunch of sheets and blankets on it would have gotten tiresome after a while. To keep the living space and storage space separate I ended up installing a tension rod across the top of the van and hanging a curtain for a visual break between the bed and the storage space. We might have gone a little overboard on pillows but the bed is comfy as hell! Of course our tour alligator Crikey needs to be with us on every tour, so he has the place of honor on the bed.
With our travel set up all organized we hit the road down to LA. Thursday was a local farmer’s market show in Anaheim, CA which was warm, sunny, and decently busy. We wrapped up our set around 5 and dallied for about an hour trying to wait out LA traffic before heading south. No such luck, there’s no escaping evening traffic in LA. But being on tour has the virtue of making even nose to nose traffic seem trivial, as long as you’re not racing to try and make a gig! About two hours of freeway driving later, we landed in Murrieta and crashed with some of Kevin’s relatives. They are lovely folks who always welcome us with open arms (and lots of food) whenever we stop by.
Friday’s gig was at a really fun brewery in Vista, CA called Iron Fist Brewing Co. This space is what I imagine most of the small breweries we’ll visit to be like – very industrial but welcoming and casual. And holy crap the beers were amazing! All of their brews were dense and very flavorful. I especially loved the Hired Hand, their Saison Belgian brew. We left with a bottle of their Mint Chocolate stout to try later, I’m saving it for something special!
Saturday found us in Burbank, CA playing at a small sports bar called the Park Bar. Usually I’m not a fan of LA shows, they tend to be massively ego driven with bands that don’t show up until right before their set, and they leave right after. This sucks and is a terrible way to be a full time musician – but since LA shows usually are no pay or even pay to play, I guess it makes sense (suck sense). But the Park Bar experience gave me hope. Our hostess/bartender/booker/enthusiasm provider Kendra really made the night special by picking some really fun groups and just infusing the bar with her energy and humor. The opening band Zoccola was hilarious, talented, and extremely vulgar (if you want jazz/punk NSFW music check out their songs here).
On Sunday we headed out to Apple Valley, CA for a show at Off The Grid Brewing Co. This brewery has only been open for a few months but they are KILLING it! The brewery is run by a family – the Schneiders. What started off as a home brewing operation between a dad, his three boys, and their wives has grown into a wonderful small business. They had never had live music before but decided to try something new by inviting us to play. Not only were they open to new things, our contact person Sabrina jumped on promoting the show like crazy and as a result the brewery was packed for our Sunday show. We played for 3 hours to a enthusiastic and vocal crowd and when we took breaks you could barely get to the bar it was so crowded with people getting refills! During that show I really felt something click into place in my brain, this is what we were here for – the relationship between music and small businesses like breweries. When both parties but forth enthusiasm and effort, magic happens. It was the perfect end to our week and we’ve already put Off The Grid in our show calendar for the end of the year when we circle back to California.
So all in all, week one of our tour was a rousing success! We’ve embraced several new strategies in our booking approach and performances and have begun to see those ideas really work and pay off. It’s exciting to know that so many shows are still ahead of us!