Road Blog: Saturday November 18, 2023 - Cincinnati, OH
November 19, 2023
After I somehow navigated to the MGM-Tennessee app to place a bet on Georgia to wallup UT in some sort of passive-aggressive attempt at retribution after loudmouth from the balcony in Knoxville yelled “Michigan Sucks!” the night before, we left our AirBB in La Follette, Tennessee around 11am. It was nice to see a little blue sky for the first time since we’d left home on Thursday, and while the air was turning windy and colder, it still didn’t feel like winter was coming.
The small town sits in the foothills just off the south slope of a few small mountains that were picturesque against the blight of an economy that’s left these people behind to some degree, with brown, turning leaves and a soaring hawk looking for his lunch. I paused to take it in before climbing in the van. It’s not an unkempt town; people seem to take care of their small, old houses and yards for the most part, but there isn’t much to see until you get to the strip mall hell closer to the freeway, which is where we were heading.
The thing about Jacob is that he likes the egg and cheese biscuits at Bojangles. A lot. If you don’t know or haven’t read about our Bojangle’s visits in past blogs, it’s your basic fast food fried chicken joint that’s common below the Sweet Tea Line. If I’m being honest, I struggle with it, but I did have one decent meal there once when I stuck with chicken on a bone. So that was the plan, hit the Bojangle’s on the way to highway to get the kid his biscuit, then turn north towards Cincinnati.
Like many restaurants, there was clearly a pretty significant staffing issue, so some patience was in order. After a lengthy wait (lengthy is generous), Gabe got his food and the vacant-eyed kid behind the register finally took Jake’s and my orders. Another several minutes went buy, the line of hunters decked out in overpriced camouflage gear and orange-lined baseball caps growing ever longer, when the kid asked the food crew if they had any chicken on the bone. Not sure why it was 10 minutes after I’d ordered he felt compelled to ask that seeming relevant question, but he told me it would be another ten minutes, and was that ok? Sure, I guess, at this point, JFC, the hell I’m gonna do? So a couple more minutes pass and it was “sorry, it’s gonna be 20 minutes, not ten, is that ok?” Um, no cuz. So it was back to register under the frustrated gaze of a dozen Millennial and Gen Z Elmer Fudds who just wanted to get back to their blinds with bellies full of Bojangle’s. So I had to settle for a shitty, dry, Cajun chicken biscuit and a smooshed, coagulated bacon cheese biscuit, and left fairly pissed off, but at least full. The struggle is real, my friends.
We pulled out of that fiery hellscape and Gabriel erupted into a “Whoa!” from the back bench and pointed out an adjacent dry-cleaner called The Ironing Maidens, complete with the Iron Maiden font and no shortage of umlaüts. This was a photo-op if I ever saw one, so we made a quick pit-stop, grabbed a pic, and said hi to the nice ladies inside. “Y’all are from Dee-troit? Do y’all know Downriver? I’m from Trenton and Melvindale!” Yes, my dad was raised down there and we have a song called “Downriver Song!” I said as we were interrupted by a customer and had to get out of Dodge ourselves. Crazy small town metal weirdness - Good stop! Up the Irons ladies!!!
I drove to Cincinnati, getting occasional updates about the Michigan game as the afternoon went on. We stopped for gas at this place called Buc-ee's, which again, if you don’t know, is a chain of gas-station-mega-convenience-food-crap stores placed around the south. It’s advertising capitalism to the hilt, with billboards - some stupid, some edgy, some innocuous, warning you every couple miles of the upcoming Buc-EEs a often a couple hundred miles out. How can you not stop? We haven’t had the time on previous runs but yesterday we did, so let’s see what all the fuss is about. It was basically the Wal-Mart of travel plazas with everything and anything you’d want. I grabbed a photo op with Buc-E, a bag of mesquite peppered jerky, and we were back on the road. Not sure we need to do that again, or needed to yesterday for that matter, but that’s life on the interstate.
The thing is about this Buc-E character is that he is clearly marketed as a beaver. He’s got the flat tail and the beaver teeth and they sell Buc-E Beaver Nuggets and all this stuff, but the little guy is CLEARLY an otter that’s been genetically mutated with those two beaver features. I spent the rest of the afternoon arguing via text with my buddy Rob from Atlanta about this, and I’m steadfast on my opinion.
Next stop was The Party Source, the alcohol mega-store in Bellevue, Kentucky, were I saw a lot, but very little I couldn’t get for the same price back home, so I left with minimal damage. We’ve learned that Kentucky liquor mega-stores are impressive in inventory, but pale to Illinois’ Binny's chain in price and in many cases, selection. They get Kentucky stuff you can’t even get in Kentucky.
Super weird coincidence... we're eyeing up the whiskey aisle when who do we run into? None other than Daniel M. Griffin- Magdalena's Brown Bag who we'd played with two nights earlier in Dayton! We walked in, and I saw him from behind, and I said to Gabe "I thought that was Kevin Pachla!" (Good buddy from our New Fortune Records days) and Gabe and Jake were all "Is that the dude from Thursday?" and yep sure enough. Shoot me a friend Req Dan! Jeremy Porter xx
We stopped in at Shake It Records in Cincinnati, where I got to see my pal and great musician Travis, who I’ve known for a few years since we’ve been going there. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him or we’ve visited Shake It, so it was cool to get caught up. Shake It came through with the new Nancy Sinatra singles and demos comp I’ve been looking for in stores across the country all fall, so I left super happy. I saw a bunch of other stuff I wanted, but space at home is a factor, so I had to leave some things in the bins. It’s a great store, and it was great to finally get back in there.
We loaded into Fretboard Brewing and ordered some BBQ from Smoked Out Cincy for dinner. I got the brisket stew, an unnecessary side of mac and cheese (my second of the day, after the Bojangle’s debacle) and a pulled-pork-queso fries appetizer that could have fed a family of eight. It was all very good, but I boxed and took more home than I ate, with plans to finish it off during the Lions’ game.
Fretboard Brewing is a really big, square building with a great stage at one end and bar and rows of high-tops at the other end. We play a lot of breweries and brewpubs. Sometimes live music is an afterthought – stick the band on the floor in the corner with a small, portable PA and attract a few people who want to hear Tom Petty covers. Once in a while, like Druid City Brewing Company in Tuscaloosa and here at Fretboard – it’s a legitimate venue, with a cool stage, great sound, and full production lights. Our sound engineer John got us all dialed in and it sounded great. We said hi to Amy, the manager who we’d met last year, and had a pint before our set.
We played three sets between 8-11. It was kind of the opposite of Knoxville, where it was an early crowd, not a late crowd. Early on we had a fairly full and attentive audience, but as the night went on it gradually thinned out. Zero complaints, though, we had people engaged and rocking along, had our best merch night of the weekend, and made a bunch of new friends. This was the last show of our Fall Tour, and our last show of the year. It was as good an end as we could have hoped for, and the staff at Fretboard is amazing.
We’d decided on Friday that we’d cancel our dive motel in Cincinnati and drive home after the show. With a little work we could be on the road at 11:30 and at Gabe’s by 3:30. That’s pretty much how it worked out. I played the amazing new Goo Goo Dolls’ live in `95 album and did my best to keep Gabe alert and talking as he drove up I-75 through Ohio. We threw the guitars from his van into my vehicle, said goodnight, and Jake and I headed west. I dropped the kid off at his apartment in Ann Arbor and made it home around 4:30. After bringing in my gear and heating up my leftover (third serving, if you’re keeping count) mac and cheese, and a nice chat with TrooperGirl22, who would be pressing her snooze button at this time on a weekday, it was a quick shower and lights out around 5:20.
That’s a wrap on 2023. The Fall Tour was full of highs and lows and about on-par for how things usually go. We’re playing some nicer rooms, doing some better business, and getting into as much tomfoolery as ever, but there’s still bad nights and the self-questioning that inevitably follows them. That’s rock and roll.
Next up for us is to record album #5, full of songs you’ve heard if you caught any of our shows this fall. (Yes, Liz from Cincy/San Fransico – “Rosencrantz” will be on there!) We’ll be back at it next year, but not sure exactly when. For now it’s some rest and family time around the holidays. Thanks as always for reading, and remember all the blogs are archived at blog.jeremyportermusic.com. See ya next year friends.