Road Blog: Friday October 08, 2021 - Portland, ME
Friday, October 8, 2021
Thanks for reading the road blogs. I know they’re not short of grammatical mistakes and typos, but they’re usually written and posted in a rush, often at the tail end of a long night and/or very early in the morning after one, so I don’t often have the time to proof them as well as I should. The priority is keeping the tour moving, so I just kinda throw `em out there and hope for the best. Thanks for your patience with that stuff.
We left our super sweet AirBB in West Dover, Vermont and met up with Rachel in Wilmington for breakfast at Dot's. It’s a small town café/diner setting that was bustling. I went with the Cajun skillet against my better judgement but at Rachel’s urging and it was amazing. Coffee was drank, stories were told, friendships were forged, we got a photo, said our goodbyes, and headed towards Maine. I’m very grateful we got to see each other and spend some time.
First stop was gas, where I befriended a fuel-truck driver who was filling the station’s tanks while Tommy filled the tank of our truck. He asked if we were from Michigan and of course it came out that we are a band and he asked me if I knew the band Shinedown, which caught me a little off guard. Well, I knew of them I said, but I didn’t actually know them, keeping to myself that I’m honestly not really a fan. He told me how he knows their singer Zach Myers and how he married a close friend of the family in Milwaukee and he went to the wedding and had an 80 minute layover in Detroit and another in Chicago but the flights went pretty well…and at this moment I was torn between having an awesome conversation and knowing the band were staring at me through the windshield of the truck ready to roll, so we wished each other well and once again….headed towards Maine.
The drive was largely uneventful, with a stop and photo-op over the amazing fall colors of the White Mountains where some entitled tourist lady walked into traffic and held out her hand so rapidly moving cars coming around Dead Man’s Curve (as Nich put it) had to abruptly stop so her companion could pull their BMW out, she could leisurely climb in, and they could head to the next destination rather than wait 40 seconds for a break in traffic. There was a bad motorcycle accident a few miles later, with a couple people lying on a mountain road, clearly in distress, with civilians tending to them and directing traffic, waiting for responders to arrive.
Another stop at a New Hampshire welcome center where I got a “Yee Haw” sticker (that I can’t find) for my guitar case, then into Maine as Tommy proudly declared he could tick off #48 on his list. We made a small detour to Old Orchard Beach where we hit a hardware store so Tommy and Nich could get some things to fix their instruments. After that we strayed a couple blocks to the east, to Karen Jacobsen - The GPS Girl’s dismay, to walk out onto the sand and see the ocean. Time was short and it was windy as hell, but it was awesome just to hit the true coast, walk up to the surf, and smell the salt water air.
Accommodations in Maine on a touring band budget were not easy to come by. We landed at a joint called the Pride Motel & Cottages in a town called Scarborough, about 20 minutes south of Portland, that will serve as our base for our two shows here. It’s quaint and a little tight, but clean and comfortable enough and certainly loaded with character and charm. I’m fortunate to get my own little 7 x 10 ft room off to the side while the Lansing Crüe takes the queen bed and fold out cot in the main room. Maybe they’re giving me some privacy to tick away at this laptop while they sleep a few hours longer than I do, or maybe they’re just being nice to the old guy who’s bones creak a little louder than theirs, not sure, but it’s very appreciated. We had very little down time after the stops and the stupid tourist lady and the gas-truck Shinedown guy, so we headed into the city.
This is my third time in Portland. First was on a vacation with TrooperGirl22 back in 2004 and the second was with The Tucos in 2016. It’s a cool city that sits on the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast corner of the state. The neighborhoods we drove through seemed to vary from dilapidated and crowded with homeless to hipster-centric streets with coffee shops, boutique stores and fancy-drink bars. Parking was an issue and it took us a while but we ended up with a nice spot behind the venue and loaded in, a bit more rushed than we’d’ve liked, but still not regretting the moment we had at the ocean.
Blue is a small, very dark room with a long stage against the front windows to the street and a round bar in the back. There are tables and chairs and not much standing room, and a strictly enforced vaccine and mask mandate. Anxiety was a bit high all around because of the technical issues we had the night before in Brattleboro, and we were all hoping tonight would go better. We’d each certainly done what we could to remedy the situation. We got set up quicky and I went into my solo set almost immediately. The sound was great and the room filled up as the show went on. I felt good about my set, and took a request for my song “Sidewalk Ends” that I probably haven’t played live in 7-10 years. I got the chords and lyrics mostly right but had trouble finding the key of the vocal, and pretty sure I sang it an octave low, but it was fun. The band came up and we blasted through our set like pros with no technical issues and some great connection, a few laughs, and a very appreciative and sizeable audience. I had a blast playing and could have easily done another hour on lap-steel behind Dani, Tommy and Nich.
We broke down and loaded out, met the next performer – Andrew LaVogue – and caught a few songs of his amazing set, and talked to a couple local DJs from a station I did an interview with a couple days ago - Mark and Mitch, and their lovely wives. They were there from the start of the night, totally engaged, and eager to support. We thanked the staff, tipped the bartenders, and headed over to Andy's Old Port Pub down on the Warf to meet our new friends.
The Tucos (Gabriel, Patrick and I) played Andy’s in 2016, and while it was a bit small for a band like us, we had an ok Tuesday night. What I remember most was the fried oyster Po’ Boy they served up that night. No oysters last night but they had fried clams and it was every bit as good. I’d been obsessing about this sandwich for about six years to the day, and I was not let down by the sequel. After a couple hours, many more drinks, and the acoustic classic-rock deep cut act up front, we said our goodbyes, expressed our most sincere gratitude for the support and incredible hospitality of Mark and Mitch and their better halves, and headed back to the Pride Motel.
As I was debating crawling into bed or having a nightcap, I saw Tommy walk by and heard the squeak of a cork being pulled from a bottle of Bulleit rye followed by a couple “yea I’ll have one”s coming from the other room. I got out my parlor guitar and started strumming a tune the acoustic duo had played at Andy’s - “Dance Dance Dance” by Steve Miller. Dani came in and sat down in my little room and quickly fell in on harmonies and within a verse Tommy and Nich squeezed in and joined on mandolin and acoustic bass. We worked up a quick arrangement and might run through it a couple more times today and add it to the set tonight. It was super fun. A couple more war stories over white, ceramic coffee cups of rye and I crashed out around 2am.
I’m sitting on the little bed in my room, doing my best to let these guys get their sleep on our last and only really leisurely half-day on this tour. There’s a kid swinging on the swing-set a couple dozen yards away and I swear he’s been out there doing just that since we arrived yesterday afternoon. It looks dry but it’s certainly crisp, cool, and overcast. Not sure if am or am not up for a run but we’ll see where the morning takes us. Tommy just got a pot of coffee going so the day is starting.
Last night was something special. Big Thanks goes to Blue for having us, Andy’s Old Port Pub, and especially Mitch, Mark, and their wives for the hospitality and making us weary travelers feel like we’re welcome in their city any time. My heart is full, and I can’t wait to plug in again tonight at Threshers Brewing Co in Searsmont, Maine, where we’ll play for 3 ½ hours. With a little luck, this day will find a lobster roll on a plate in front of me. Thanks for reading, be safe. xx