Whenever we go out on the road, I get a short reprieve from all the media madness. There is really no time to watch TV or read the blogs that I normally consume when I’m home sitting in my pajamas. I choose instead to make conversation with friends or go for a walk to take in new surroundings. I take photos of interesting things and instagram the crap out of them. In this bubble, I stay focused on the simple job at hand: get to the next show and put on a great performance. When I return home the world usually comes crashing in on me.
On this particular tour I was reminded of just how awesome humans can be. From the relative strangers that put on shows for us to old friends, every show was event that took effort on part of everyone involved to make it something special. We didn’t just book ourselves into random venues and hope for the best. On the contrary, we contacted people and said ‘hey do you want to do something kind of fun and crazy and by the way you probably won’t make much money doing it?’ They all went out on that limb with us. In light of all the negativity in our world today, I’d like to share some of the positive highlights for you.
Highlight #1: David Bowie Tribute at the Willow Tree in Johnson City.
If you haven’t met Teri Dosher, proprietoress of the Willow Tree in JC, you are missing the nicest human in the northern regions of TN. When all the local bands were unavailable to support our Friday show she let me compile an evening of Ziggy Stardust viewing, Bowie cover songs and Hudson K. I could go on and on about how awesome her staff is and how they treat you like family the minute you walk in but instead I will mention that Teri left behind a regular paycheck to dive headfirst into the music business purely for the love of music. The end result is the Willow Tree. You can feel the love radiating off the sound-proofed walls!
Highlight #2: The Commune in Washington, D.C. with Stronger Sex, Shampoo and Galaxy Electric
Big cities are the hardest to break into as a musician. They are saturated with talent and sometimes the musicians themselves become jaded due to all the competition. This time for Hudson K in DC was the best so far. Stronger Sex lead singer Johnny Fantastic and local curator Alex Tebeleff of the popular outfit Paperhaus put together a house concert at the Commune. I was warned that there would be people spilling out in the streets trying to get in and that the police would arrive if we played a note passed the hour of 11pm. The beauty in this show was all the bands were compatible and everyone was respectful of set times even though the party became crowded and raucous by 9pm. Nothing was stolen or broken and Hudson K’s cover of Bowie’s Heroes turned out to be a good choice.
Highlight #3: The Gateway in Bushwick with Gillian, Makeout Club and the Deadwicks.
Gillian has become one of our favorite bands. From that time when they let me play the trumpet with them to this past month they’ve been busy making new tunes and they keep getting better and better. I’m hooked on “Eau to Be.”
The night topped off with the super sexy Makeout Club. I think I could convince most of Knoxville to love this group as much as I do. I have seen some modern bands go too far in the direction of our synthy predecessors. Instead of sounding like a knock-off of every 80s New Wave group, Makeout Club is unpredictable and a little dirty. Makeout Club is everything I wish M83 could be but isn’t plus the dark flippant vibe of Depeche Mode. From man Robert Granata works the crowd like you would expect but never at the expense of the song. Enjoy their new single “Gabriel” and decide for yourself. Like many of the bands we played with, this one sounds even better live. Oh yeah, and you’ll dance your face off.
Highlight #4: Lancaster, PA at Tellus 360 with Hiding Scarlet
Everyone always says ‘have fun in Amish country’ in a snarky tone. Lancaster is so much more. They’re a thriving, artsy city much like Knoxville. Their passion for creativity is backed by community support. You’ve heard us talk about Music For Everyone and Hiding Scarlet in the past. There is a good reason you will keep hearing me talk about them. Hiding Scarlet bassist Brenden Stengle works full time for Music for Everyone at the same time maintaining playing and booking duties for the band. Violinist Tonna Carbaugh-Dieter handles middle school and high school orchestras and electric fiddle duties at night. Guitarist Eric Dieter is not afraid of distance and regularly travels to play as Hudson K’s guitarist. Andy Metz is the lead singer. Watching Lancaster support their band is akin to how I see Knoxville support The Black Lillies, The Black Cadillacs or us. This rabid support, in my humble opinion, doesn’t happen in every city.
In short, Lancaster ended up being our best night of the tour. I found myself immersed in the crowd during our set. At one point I was afraid they wouldn’t let me crawl back on stage to finish the set. Nate admitted the Tellus 360 show was the sweatiest he had ever played.
Highlight #5: Philadelphia, PA The Bourbon and Branch with Revolution, I Love You, Mesa Jane and Lapses.
The population of Philadelphia is around 1.5 million. Knoxville’s center holds roughly 180K. The Bourbon and Branch, while charming in nature, only holds around 50 people. That’s a small cap. I always imagined the rooms in Philly and NYC to be huge. The thing is, I think the cost of real estate limits the size of the spaces local bands can play in these cities. Maybe I’m missing something. I kind of love that we have bigger rooms in Knoxville. Either way, what I did see was a group of folks who truly love RILY. They sang out loud all of the words to a favorite called “North Atlantic.” I guess every city has it’s local heroes and it’s local support network. I will be bringing this group to Knoxville this summer. Feelies.
Everyone asks how the tour went. Some genuinely care, others are just making conversation. I don’t have to dig deep to find that what I have is an ever-growing expanse of friends all over the northeast. Some we are really close too. Some we barely know on the surface but know on some level, if we lived in the same city we would be hanging out all the time. Humans cut from the same fabric doing what we do, humaning with instruments.
To the bands that put these shows together: THANK YOU THANK YOU. You are the reason we keep doing this.
If the only benefit I ever get out of all this traveling is the connection we have to the Dieters, Hiding Scarlet and these bands we befriend along the way then I will be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to continue to grow and play better rooms! I am, after all, dying for the spotlight. My ego screams at me to work harder, to follow in Bowie’s footsteps. Create until my dying day.
I can’t stop yet, I still have too much to say. But in the meantime, I’m pretty happy:)
If you want to see our shenanigans when we are out in the world you can find us on instagram @hudsonkmusic.