Heineken tastes different in the Netherlands, and different again at altitude, on an airplane. I haven’t had the chance to try it on a flight within Europe to find out whether it tastes different in a third and unanticipated way. And I don’t like Heineken. But I do like science, or at least I like the idea that certain things can be measured under certain conditions and thereby known to some extent. This may disqualify me from the Republican Party in a way that pedophilia and serial fabrication do not, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over not making the team.
I bring this up because I’m sitting in a Boeing 717 on the way to Missoula the day after the day after Thanksgiving - I can’t remember which class of purchasing behavior this day is named for now - enjoying the general white noise and a can of Heineken, and reading Jim Fergus’s The Hunter’s Road. I’m going out west to hunt birds for four days with my old friend Chris Dombrowski, after which I’ll fly to Milwaukee and rent a van, in order drive to Detroit the next day and meet the band, in order to start a Midwest tour in Ann Arbor on 12/1. Even I am confused by that sentence but let’s proceed on the assumption that it’s a reasonable plan.
We finish the year, and the North American tour for Kris’s new album The Wild, with shows in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. My antecedents lived in each of these states at various times in the last 100 years, and it’s the part of the country that feels like home. We’ll see family and old friends, and play rooms we know well and then a couple we haven’t seen, all with the band: Billy Conway on drums, Jeremy Moses Curtis on bass, Eric Heywood on pedal steel and electric guitar. Handsome devils.
The tours have been sweet in a way that tours rarely can be sweet, owing to what’s generally left out of them, and the inevitable sensation of missing the rest of life. The show that we’ve made - Kris and I taking turns fronting the band, new and old songs - brings together elements of our lives that regard each other fondly but rarely share space, and most nights there’s a 9 year-old girl backstage watching Little House on the Prairie with the intense elan that only a kid without a television can bring to that enterprise. The road life has been good to her and it's going to be tough going back to the fourth grade. Especially now that she smokes.
We’ll start at The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI. (12/1) a venerable club with a long pedigree - I always pay my respect to the spot on the wall signed ‘John Q. Prine’ - and then head up to Spring Lake MI. and the Pin Drop Concert series at Seven Steps Up (12/2). My band has a special relationship with the Spring Lake police department, a story I don’t choose to relate just now but will let it suffice to say it’s how we learned the town motto, ‘Come on vacation, leave on probation!’ Then it’s back to City Winery Chicago (12/3) which is just an awfully nice room.
After some visiting we’ll go down and see our friends at the CSPS in Cedar Rapids (12/5), and from there over to Lancaster, WI. in the Driftless to play one of our favorite little rooms, the Three Springs Barn (12/6, SOLD OUT); then it’s up to Minneapolis to play the Cedar Cultural Center (12/7), after which we’ll head back down to my home county for a show at the Stoughton Opera House (12/8), one of the most beautiful, and best sounding theaters in the country (the cognoscenti will recall that the Opera House is a dry venue, and pack accordingly). We finish up in Milwaukee at the Back Room at Colectivo coffee (12/9) and then it’s time to break up the band for a few months, and get a record out.
Thanks for keeping us out on the road, coming out to shows, buying records, sending our tour dates to the people you know in the towns where we’re headed, while the industrial world teeters on its stilts and we all lay awake at night wondering when the wheels will come off. Most of what passes for the music industry now is a farce, a put-on in which we all agree to curate an image of relentless cool while being slowly bled dry. But none of that matters. We still drive to a town and set our gear up in a room full of strangers and try to tell the truth for an hour. We do it for love, and we'll keep doing it, if we can. We'll see you out there.