Road Blog: Wednesday October 18, 2017 - Birmingham, AL
Road Blog – Birmingham, AL
October 18, 2017
Yesterday we had a couple hours in the morning to sleep in and chill at the hotel so Patty and I hit the breakfast bar before it ended at 9 then each got in a workout in. It felt good to get a couple miles in on the treadmill as I haven't had much exercise since Kansas City. We met at the van and left West Memphis at noon. Patrick was at the helm with Gabriel in the back and me riding shotgun. We listened to Don Caballero, Jason Isbell and Joni Mitchell, among other things. We crossed the Mississippi River for the sixth and final time on this run and drove through Mississippi east towards Alabama. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was a pretty drive through rolling hills, pine forests, and cotton fields. We stopped at a back-country gas station to use the can and wash the bugs off the windshield and felt like we were sucked into an episode of The Twilight Zone. The men's room was occupied and seemed like it would be for some time so I meandered into the ladies room so we could get back on the road. It was disgusting in there and I didn't want to touch anything.
We hit Birmingham around 4:30 and checked into our hotel and started negotiating dinner options while watching South Park and the local news. We're constantly trying to balance some semblance of a healthy diet with the opportunity to eat great local food, and the two don't always mesh. We settled on a Mediterranean joint a block from our hotel and walked up there. The food was decent and fast and before long we were in the van heading for the venue.
The Nick Rocks is a roadhouse-looking bar sitting in a dark neighborhood beneath a giant expressway bridge about a mile from our hotel. The front of the building is coated in a million staples from a million posters from a million shows over the last couple decades. Inside it's a true rock and roll dive club. Cement floors, stickers, posters and old promo-photos from bands who have played there before cover the walls and ceiling. The stage sits at one end, there are pool and air-hockey tables at the other, and a long bar running the length of the building against the back wall. It's the biggest place we've played on this run, with a sizeable PA system and a great stage. We loaded in, chatted with the headliners – Marbin (from Chicago) – and started setting up. We decided to use their bass amp and they used our drums, which is common practice on our circuit to save space, time and hassle between sets. It makes sound engineers happy too. The sound guy Jay was a super nice guy, recently home from a multi-month run doing sound for Saliva. We got a rare soundcheck and it sounded great. We ordered whiskeys and talked to the Marbin dudes for a while and made friends with a couple locals. Sometime around then Pat felt something strange happening, and his belly revolted from something he'd eaten. I'm not going to go into details, but let's just remember that the bathrooms in these places are not pleasant sanctuaries, and the poor guy did some serious time in there tonight.
We went on at 10:30 to a decent Wednesday crowd who were attentive and responsive. We played well, it sounded great, and we had a lot of fun. It was really nice to play through a great PA like that again, and after the let-down in Memphis last night, it was really nice to have some faces in front of us. Marbin went on shortly after we finished and played two sets of incredible fusion jazz rock. They're incredible musicians - no vocals, but guitar, soprano sax, bass and drums. They had a good crowd up front, but it was thinning out by the time they wrapped up sometime around 1:30am.
It was a super fun show. Not the biggest crowd or best merch sales, but no complaints at all for a Wednesday night. We settled up with the bar and loaded out and went back to the hotel to crash. Pat was still paying some serious dues from what we're thinking might have been poorly-washed spinach, and it was ironic that Gabe suffered a similar fate because of the same exact cause back in Kansas City.
Today we're off to Huntington, West Virginia playing with Flat Tracker at the The V Club Night Club. It's a hell of a drive so we have to hit the road early. I think the boys don't like my driving, probably for the same reason my wife doesn't. I haven't had depth perception since I was a little kid, and I tend to drive aggressively and impatiently, and it all makes for a bad combination. But – I am also probably the fastest driver of the three, so I often get the marathon treks that will make the distance as quick and painless as possible. I am up for it. We're hoping Pat's guts stay together and the road gods are with us today. See you tonight West Virginia!