Road Blog: Friday May 20, 2022 - Marion, IL
May 20, 2022
We left the shithole hotel in Fort Wayne as soon as we could and had a fulfilling breakfast at IHOP. I know it’s a chain, but I’ve never had a bad meal there (inside joke.) We wanted to go to Cindy’s Diner, our fav spot in FTW, but time was tight and we had a long drive ahead. Bellies full of eggs, pancakes, breakfast potatoes, hollandaise sauce, coffee, and salt, we headed west.
Sweetwater is a giant music store that sits just outside of Fort Wayne. They do huge mail order service, but their campus is something to see – not only a huge store, but a couple restaurants, a coffee shop, various music stages, a salon, a music school, a couple recording studios, a giant slide, and on and on. TrooperGirl22 was at home, one eye on the tanking economy and the other on her phone, in anxious dread of receiving a photo of me with some guitar that I absolutely MUST have and am coming home with, but alas, it was not meant to be. I did strum on a sweet Gibson Explorer, and as time goes on it seems more and more likely to be my next guitar, but that will be a battle for another day. I did get some supplies to fix my pedal board, a couple cables, and a case of strings, and my new friend Mitch was very helpful. The Tucos did leave Sweetwater with one more axe in the van, however, as Gabriel pulled the trigger on a super sweet G&L Espada.
We headed south out of Fort Wayne, through Indianapolis, and into the depths of Illinois. The scratch-off machine in the gas station was broken, which pissed me off proper `cuz I jut knew the next one was a winner and had visions of picking up that Explorer on the way home dancing around in my little brain. I spent an hour or so re-wiring my pedal board in the back of the van after the debacle in Fort Wayne. It’s not really a fun thing to do with a well-lit workbench, and less so in a moving van in a Midwestern windstorm, but I managed. It was windy and steamy out, semis were swaying side to side up and down the expressway, but Jacob and Gabe got us safely to Marion around 5pm. We have a much nicer hotel here – our room smells a bit like a sanitized murder scene with the permeating scent of bleach, but we’ll take that over cigarettes and sticky floors any day. The beds are comfortable, they have soap, there’s no gaping holes in the ceiling doubling as a rodent expressway, and the surroundings are safe, so no complaints whatsoever – we are in luxury!
After an hour of downtime and an episode of Family Guy where Brian and Stewie go back in time and give the native Americans assault rifles to fight of the encroaching Europeans, changing the course of history forever, we were back in the van. Taco John's is a midwestern/western chain that I sometimes refer to as a poor-man’s Taco Bell. If you know me, you know I love Taco Bell, or rather I did before they decimated their menu and their service went to complete shit in recent years. Well, I love some Taco John’s too, some items even more. Not sure their tacos are better than TB’s, but their bean burritos are. Anyhow, I don’t think the boys shared my enthusiasm about Taco John’s but in the interest of diplomacy and ambivalence they went along and did their best to act enthusiastically indifferent. We had a decent dinner and got three bean burritos to go for the hotel nightcap.
John Brown's on the Square sits, as you might have guessed, right on the town square in Marion, Illinois. It’s a small, heartland town with no hi-rises and lots of Midwestern charm. We parked in the alley, met Derek and John, and loaded in. It’s a long room with a stage against the back wall and a bar running most of the length of the left wall. There are tables everywhere with some room to stand up front. They have (well, uh, had) a poster or Rick Nielsen in the men’s room, advertising his ROCK'N Vodka. “I’m gonna like this place.” I said to myself. John is a chill guy, clearly in it for the love of original rock and roll. He’s got a bit of a Tom Arnold vibe (I always loved Tom Arnold!) – super friendly, chatty, funny, and very accommodating. Everyone we met was just great. Clearly our type of joint.
My friend Boyd and his family came out from the area and surrounding towns. It was great to finally meet him in real life and I was very grateful that he made the hour-plus drive to see the show. I asked him what he’d really hoped to hear before he had to leave, and we made sure to get those all in the first set. We had a great crowd, very attentive and rowdy, and my pedal board worked perfectly, with just a couple minor adjustments to the dials. We took a short break and then during the second set the liquor from the locals, staff, and owners started flowing a bit heavier, but we held it together and played our best before wrapping up around midnight as the room thinned out and last call was announced. John demanded our asses back up on the stage to play “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” because he’d read yesterday’s blog, and if Fort Wayne got it….well! We gladly obliged and I someday have to learn the lyrics to the second verse.
We loaded out, tipped the staff, said our goodbyes, and drove back to the hotel. I heated up the bean burritos in the lobby microwave, we had a quick nightcap, and crashed out. This morning I learned that Jake had to pry the remote from my iron grip as I slept to turn the TV off, which cracked me up because he fell asleep in Fort Wayne with the remote buried somewhere in his bed and I had to wake him up to turn it off. Good times. What a fantastic night in Marion! We can’t wait to come back! Today we’re gonna fill up on free hotel breakfast then head northwest through the suburbs of Saint Louis and up to Auburn, Illinois where we’ll play an early show, 6-9, at Slaughterhouse Brewery. This has been a great run so far – here’s to another good one! Xx