Liberation Tourology with ALO #15
Being in a day-to-day environment 100% dedicated to music reminds me of a summer music camp. Everyone talks music, shares ideas, practices together, and then performs a concert at the end of the day. There are jam sessions on tour buses, songs shared and licks traded.
“To The Sea” Tour 2010 – 1st Leg
From July 7 to July 25 I played drums with ALO opening for Jack Johnson on the first leg of his “To The Sea” US tour. I was unable to write a daily entry for Dirty Impound, so I am submitting this long blog in order to share with you my general impressions of the experience.
The tour was booked into outdoor music amphitheaters, commonly known in the business as “sheds” because they often consist of a large, sloped roof over the seats to protect the patrons from weather and sun. Sheds are fairly generic. One looks like the other for the most part, especially from the back, which is the side I usually see. Every morning I wake up, look out the window of the tour bus and see the same scene – a row of semis backed up to what appears to be a large, windowless building. In spite of their bland appearance (forget the filigree and rococo interiors of the old movie theaters that now make up the lower tier of American music venues) certain sheds have managed to achieve some degree of prestige; more for the acts that have played memorable shows in them than anything else. By the way, did you know that the people who book major venues often refer to bands, comedians, dance shows or whatever as “content?”
Originally graced with semi-classy, or at least locally derived, names like “Deer Creek” and “Alpine Valley,” sheds today are all called the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Anyone who thinks that is a good thing also thinks that his colon makes a really great hat. Someday our kids will go to Burger King Elementary and on Sunday you will go to the Church of Facebook.com.
The sheds were built…
For a musician on a shed tour, the only meaningful variable from night to night might be how the structure of the amphitheater affects the stage sound. Well, that variable has been eliminated by the use of in-ear monitors – little earphones custom molded to the musician’s ear canal that pumps audiophile quality sound right up to the ear drum without any external audio leakage. Add to that a monitor mix that has been saved to digital memory and you’ve got a consistent experience that would make McDonald’s founder Ed Kroc proud.
The bill is Jack Johnson, ALO, G. Love and Paula Fuga. Being in a day-to-day environment 100% dedicated to music reminds me of a summer music camp. Everyone talks music, shares ideas, practices together, and then performs a concert at the end of the day. There are jam sessions on tour buses, songs shared and licks traded. Jack’s drummer, Adam Topol, and I warm up on the practice pads almost daily, showing each other our favorite exercises.
Just like a summer camp, food and lodging is provided. The lodging is a tour bus. The only thing that I’ll say about that is it’s not as glamorous as one might expect. You’re living in a vehicle 8 feet wide and 50 feet long with eight other people. Think about it.
What I really want to talk about is the food. Dega, out of Knoxville, Tennessee, is a catering company for rock stars and their hard working crews. Their food is absolutely delicious, all of the time, without fail. To achieve this requires not only a total dedication to excellence but also a staggering amount of hard work. Starting at 7 am everyday, the chefs head out to pick up fresh, local ingredients from farmer’s markets, Whole Food stores and their own database of local suppliers. Breakfast is served from 9 to noon, lunch from 1 to 4, and dinner after that. They cook all day, non-stop, without a break, often in outdoor temperatures in the nineties. Dinner ends at 8:30 pm, after which the Dega crew cleans and breaks down the kitchen and packs it back into their dozens of portable road cases.
They are without a doubt the hardest working group on the tour and they never deliver less than 100%. A typical dinner would include soup, a full array of antipasti – cheeses, cured meats and olives – a pork or beef entrée, a fish entrée and a vegetarian entrée, as well as a full range of sides and salad. Pies, cookies and cake for desert every night.
The upside of Dega is that I don’t have to travel with a bottle of hot sauce to make the inedible edible. Yes, in this great country of ours the number of trash food outlets still greatly outnumber restaurants of any real quality producing food that could be called anything but salt delivery devices. I can’t tell you, reader, how many times I’ve been two weeks deep into a van tour just dreaming of a giant steaming pile of freshly sautéed kale, only to find yet another Denny’s salad with see-through iceberg lettuce drenched in Hidden-Valley MSG spunk.
The downside of Dega is I gained 7 pounds.
I got the idea of traveling with hot sauce from James Brown’s band. They all rolled with their very own bottles of their favorites. I am partial to Crystal for the straight-up cayenne / vinegar / salt option and Cholula if I’m feeling fancy. However, Red Rooster introduced itself to me not long ago and I must say I’m quite taken by its subtle spice and peppery zest.
So, MVP of “To The Sea” tour goes to the maniacally dedicated folks at Dega. Second runner-up MVP goes to the lovely Paula Fuga, bringer of light through song, the siren of the Oahu leeward shore. Paula lives every note she sings. Know what I mean? She’s like Dega – she never half-asses it, never phones it in. She just loves to sing songs to people, and people love her for that. She just made an EP with Jack Johnson and I highly recommend checking it out.
In my next installment, which will be during leg two, I hope to profile some of the key players of the tour. See you soon.
Keep up with all things Brogan, ALO or otherwise, at his official website.