A short and (bitter)sweet U.S. Tour
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
When last we toured back in 2015, it felt like an essential experience. I was new to the band at the time, and despite playing in other projects prior, I was still very much a rube within the industry. Thus, being in a ‘real’ band – the kind of band that did tours, for goodness sake! Actual, honest-to-god tours! – was wild and exciting. It was neoteric and novel. Mystifying and electrifying.
Personally speaking, things were really going my way, too: being in my early twenties, fresh out of university, and on the precipice of my embryonic and retrospectively-kinda-clueless nuptials to my now-wife, whom I love dearly, led me to feel a then-unheard of (and never since seen) sense of unchecked optimism; the assurance that all was well, and all would continue to be well. I was travelling with no plan – therefore, I was now adventurous. I was with close friends – therefore, I was now popular. I was no longer living with my parents – therefore, I was now independent.
Above all, I was a real musician now, and I’d be damned if I was going to take it for granted. I was young and sought precisely nothing, and likewise asked precisely nothing of the world around me. Still, it was as though the world had set out to endow me with all I wanted. The benevolent universe was waiting hand and foot on every whim of my core being – every query answered before my bleary, post-adolescent mind even asked.
All this to say: for reasons both internal and external, our 2015 tour’s transformative effect on my overall being was marked and eminently discernible.
We returned on Sunday from our March 2020 tour, which was curtailed after three shows in five days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and (as I lie here on my ugly green sofa at midnight on a Monday, trying to enjoy the comfort of self-quarantine) I wish its transformative effect on me was as willingly apparent as it had been in 2015.
I’d been eager to assist with tour planning and execution, but found myself watching clumsily as it slowly fell apart before it began. Planning and coordinating visas turned out to be a procedurally-dictated, expensive nightmare. Our bassist, Connor, had to drop out soon after we’d committed, which forced us to find and train a last-minute replacement (thanks for stepping in, Jesse!). Venues and bands couldn’t (wouldn’t?) commit. On the day we prepared to leave, important items went missing, things we needed were unexpectedly absent, and, of course, it rained.
So, long before the damp Tuesday morning I kissed my wife goodbye in front of our East Van house, I sensed vaguely that our PNW 2020 tour was slated for some degree of failure.
And I was right. The tour itself was not without setbacks – some minor, some significant. It took three anxiety-inducing hours to get across the border. The day after we crossed, the world sank into coronavirus panic mode. By day two, headliners and hosts were cancelling. By day four, venues were cancelling.
On day five, we decided to call it quits.
Even from day one, though, I think most readily apparent to me was the unshakable realization that touring had lost a lot of its formerly tactile novelty. On a moment-to-moment basis all was well, but I found I missed my wife. I missed my cat. I missed daily routines, sitting in car seats that didn’t leave me with a sore lower back, and my oblique view of the Vancouver skyline from my bedroom window.
Perhaps even more jarring was the realization that I looked forward not to playing shows, but to exploration and moments of quiet. To spending time with my close friends and bandmates. To spending time with my cousin in Seattle. To walking around busy urban corridors, listening to music on my own.
Reminiscing now, I’ve no doubt that the moments best and most warmly remembered will be similarly exploratory and quiet: camping outside Tacoma and feeling the temperature drop below freezing; drinking and making friends at The Double Barrel; spending the night in a 1950’s themed hotel and brewery-hopping on the Astoria shoreline; climbing rusty old fire escapes in Seattle; discussing music and movies over a fledgling winter campfire; getting tattoos in Portland and burritos in Olympia; racing around in a shopping cart in a Target parking lot; making new friends and meeting talented musicians; hitting golf balls on the Oregon coast into the sea with a worn-out baseball bat.
Still, the apprehension lifting as we crossed back into Canada was tangible, accompanied by an almost-audible collective sigh. I dozed off in the car for the first time on the trip.
So, though not without some failures, I’m recognizing more and more that this tour was absolutely, unmistakably not a failure. And though it’s certainly disappointing to cut short a tour, it makes ever-more apparent all the truly great times I had within and the little things that happened that made a five-day trip feel much longer and much, much more meaningful.
That said, I went into it wordlessly asking for a bit of a break and perhaps a bit of catharsis and I’m not yet sure I received either. I guess I’ll figure it out soon.