Tour Diary: The Great Southern Buzzkill…
Greetings from off the I-20 in between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL. Surprisingly, this is the first day we stopped for a McDonald’s breakfast since we left at the beginning of April. Really, we were just trying to get to free wi-fi and $1 coffee…. you know how we do…
What we really wanted to share with you today is a disturbing situation that we encountered last night. Already, we (and by ‘we’, I mean me, Cyndy) were in a somewhat fragile mental state. We already had a show cancellation in NOLA this past Friday. The promoter paid us a gracious stipend amount but we were still bummed at not having the opportunity to build our NOLA audience (That is WHY we’re touring you know). The following day, we had dragged our good friends, April and Brandon, to drive two hours to Lafayette to simply watch us fiddle around with a complicated digital sound system (because the sound person had called out) and in the end, not be able to get it to work properly.
And then there was last night. We had arrived in Meridian, MS, an hour late. We were apologetic and communicated our tardiness beforehand but they had us booked to play for 4 hours so we didn’t think it would be much of a problem. Understandably, the co-owner who was on site, seemed a tad agitated. He shook my hand, ignored Jason’s, and hurried us to load our gear on stage without an explanation of the sound set up. We realized we were left on our own, again, to do our own sound.
Upon arrival, there were only few patrons inside the venue and the owner had shown frustration that more people had already left since we were late. While setting up, the friendly bartender and a volunteer had finally offered their assistance seeing that this duo was having problems going back and forth from stage to sound board. A couple of ‘gentlemen’ began to flirt slightly disrespectfully with me, one of them blatantly coming onstage to play on my piano and this added to uncomfortable tension. Finally, we started our set and after playing the first song, Jason made our introductions during which a woman yelled out that she wanted him to hear him sing. Her panties had appeared to moisten profusely the more she heard him speak. After our second song, Jason had stopped again to share ‘cute’ anecdotal stories of us being in places where we feel uncomfortable. If you’ve seen us perform, you know that we rarely speak during our set. Jason, though, felt the need to ease the awkward tension that was feeling thick and heavy. As we played through the third song, we noticed the owner walking around to the audience members talking to them individually, pointing at us, clearly talking about us. And when the song ended, he approached the stage and asked us to to please stop playing and leave because we were not a good fit for the venue. He was unapologetic, short, and rude.
We were stunned. Jason’s face looked PISSED. My feelings were hurt. I had so many questions that I couldn’t bring myself to asking. Why? More people had entered the venue to sit down. An unassuming gentleman had put down his phone to watch us and tapped the table along with our driving rhythms. A couple did leave but made sure to drop a $20 bill in our tip jar on the way out. Yet, all I could say was, “ok”, as I unplugged my microphone. I looked at my husband, relieved that although his face had anger written all over it, he was quiet. I was scared that he would confront this rude man. I knew he was just as confused as I was. But as we discussed later on, we had shared the same thoughts. This is not the place to be confrontational. This is not the place for us to express these kinds of emotions. We were strangers in this small town. We didn’t know who this man was nor know who he knew. For all we knew, he could have called his police officer friends and let them know that we were causing a problem in his establishment. We were quiet. EVERYONE was quiet.
And in the quiet, as I looked up, I saw a couple people picking up items on our merch table. As I approached I still felt stunned and speechless. Even when they asked for item prices, all I could say, was, “I’m sorry. Forgive me. What just happened? I don’t understand. You want to buy merch and yet were asked to stop playing?” The gentleman (who was the same person that put down his phone) and the bartender both apologized, “We asked him to please let you keep playing but he does what he wants. We are sorry about him but we thought you were really good”.
That owner said nothing more to us as we unloaded our gear. After he asked us to stop playing, he no longer acknowledged our presence.
On our way to Birmingham on the very dark I-20 I cried. I really didn’t understand. Still don’t understand. After venting, we found a truck stop and laid in our beautifully carpeted bed of our van. Only the second night of actually sleeping on it since we’ve been on tour. And laying down with my love, something happened to me that when I looked at him, I couldn’t help but feel happy and warm to be in his arms. This may not have been the best weekend of all time but it would have been much worse without each other. And I’m still looking forward to leaping over these obstacles as a team.