I asked the bartender to tell me a joke, because I really needed to quiet my nerves and I was pretty sure the shitty PBR he’d just handed me wasn’t going to cut it this time. Instead he started singing Abba’s Take A Chance On Me, and sure enough, I quickly started feeling more ready to get on stage.
Last night was my first ever performance. We played at a small bar in Knoxville, Tennessee for a small handful of enthusiastic people drunk on cheap beer. At one point the bartender leaned over and said we wouldn’t be making much money that night, so we should take full advantage of the free beer offered to musicians. I did. But we still made $40, which was way more than I’d expected in the first place.
The last couple weeks have been wildly emotional for me, at some moments feeling so socially awkward I could barely speak, and at others feeling this crazy, emanating strength I’ve never felt so strongly before. It’s actually been really intense for me showing up in new places where Sweetheart is already much loved and has many friends and being my weird self. We spent the last week in Pittsburgh, and I was so overcome with anxiety I could hardly function, which amazed me, after four months of showing up alone in new places and feeling totally awesome and confident. But sometimes that’s just how it goes, and it’s been good to work through that. And now we’re in Knoxville and I’m having an incredible time.
But, wait, I’m going to back up and tell you how we got here.
We woke up a little late in Pittsburgh, threw our backpacks together and headed out to the bus stop, where we caught a bus to the farthest edge of town to stand at the on-ramp. We got picked up almost immediately and got about an hour down the road. But then we got stuck.
For hours we paced the gas stations, asking for rides and eating the gross tiny chocolate cupcakes I found in the Sunoco dumpster. We tried standing on the on-ramp. We tried singing songs. We spent most of the time counting FedEx trucks and out of state license plates. But we were not getting picked up. At one point someone walked by and asked where we were going. We talked for 15 seconds and he was on his way.
About an hour later, someone approached me at the gas station, where I was sitting and feeling rather desperate.
“Hey, you going to Knoxville?”
I excitedly told him we’d been trying all day to head that direction. He said his friend Wild Bill had passed us earlier and mentioned we were trying to make it that direction, and he’d always wanted to check out Nashville. He told me he could pick us up the next morning. I quickly agreed and gave him my phone number. I couldn’t believe our luck! We’d have a ride straight to Knoxville! But then, as he was getting back into his truck, he called out to me.
“Hey, this might seem a little weird, but my company is paying for a hotel room I’m not using tonight. Y’all want it?”
I could hardly believe my luck. I immediately called sweetheart, and we scored loads of snacks from the grocery store dumpster, then headed to our hotel room, where we spent the night playing chess on the chess board we made and watching E.T. and Star Trek and shoveling down guacamole, pizza, and cinnamon toast. The next morning we were on our way south with the sweetest tracking rig worker you’ve ever met.
We talked a lot about the shit the oil companies do, about government power, corporate power, oppression, guns, etc. He was a hardcore libertarian, but by the end of the ride Sweetheart had talked him into donating to the Catalyst Project. I was in awe.
So now here we are in Knoxville. Yesterday we went cliff jumping of huge red rock cliff faces into the beautiful turquoise water of a quarry at the edge of town, watched Simpsons episodes, ate pizza, and practiced music. Then we played our show.
Right before we went on, I had a sudden jolt of panic. Turning to Sweetheart I asked, “But, what if I get the hiccups?!” He winked and told me to roll with it.
And it totally went well. I can’t wait to see how this tour plays out.