The Man From Tallahassee

Last November, we visited the Pacific Ocean for the first time together during our stay in San Diego. Now, just a few months later in St. Augustine, we’ve visited the Atlantic. Having grown up just a half-hour from the beach, this is no massive feat. The real feat is crossing the country again and again, from ocean to ocean, in a van packed to the gills with gear and clothes and food. It’s hard to believe that literally thousands of bands do this each year, and I know from talking with the other bands that we’ve been on tour with that it’s as fascinating and fleeting for them as it is for us.

We had three shows scheduled in Florida, the first of which was at the second annual Harvest of Hope Festival in St. Augustine. As a dedicated festivalgoer myself, I was more excited to play this show – our first festival – than any other before. When we arrived at the fairgrounds at noon, it was pouring rain and muddier than Woodstock. The volunteers and staff were all very helpful in guiding us to our stage, and we unloaded to a soaked and not-so-electrocution-proof stage. We watched as the campers settled in for a long weekend of music and food and other recreational activities. And then we hoped that they’d brave the elements to come see us play what would – by the end of the afternoon – be my favorite set that we’ve ever played.

As we revved up for “Generator 1st Floor,” people began slowly filing over from the Bear in Heaven show next door. Midway through the song, a sizeable crowd had gathered, and by the climax of the tune the sun broke through, drenching a grateful and waterlogged audience with glorious photonic energy. As the song and sun simultaneously erupted, so did the crowd. It was magical. I immediately imagined myself in their place…at Rothbury or Bonnaroo, partying all day with my friends, waiting to see an unknown band in the rain, and feeling as if they – by some supernatural force – brought out the sun. The sheer positive force of the moment put a smile on my face that lasted throughout the performances, for most* of the day, and all night. (*Note: I did stop smiling, however, during the event of Doris’ unfortunate head-to-synth accident that landed her very temporarily in the hospital. Not to worry, she was released almost immediately and is all better. At which point, my smile recommenced, and lasted even when the skies reopened late at night, drenching us, and some of our merch.)

The next day we awoke to the St. Augustine sunshine, a brief and windy trip to the beach, and a short drive to Orlando. Once there, we spent some time working on a new tune, had a rushed soundcheck, and played to the darkest most foreboding room I’ve ever seen. The stage was very high, and the front lighting made it nearly impossible to see the audience. I sure hope they enjoyed themselves, though!

The most important part of our trip came when Kevin visited a pawnshop in Orlando and bought “LOST: Season 1” on DVD. It’s been perfect thus far for passing the many long hours in the van while traveling from show to show. At this rate, we’ll have to pick up Season 2 as soon as SXSW is over.

Last night, we played in Tallahassee to a small and energetic crowd. Spring break has kept many of the college students away from our shows in college towns (Chapel Hill, Knoxville, and Tallahassee), but the crowds that have shown up have been so enthusiastic that I can barely notice. The show went off without a hitch, and according to one ear witness Jeff made the room sound like a cathedral.

After the show, we stepped outside the Engine Room for some food and noticed a grill going on the sidewalk next door. The Man From Tallahassee manned the grill masterfully, cooking up BBQ pulled pork, veggies, mashed potatoes, salmon, and sausages. He cooked up our piping hot BBQ with so much exuberance and so much skill, that I was tempted to convince the band to relocate to Tallahassee. I got the footlong spicy sausage topped with pulled pork and BBQ sauce, and it was the most glorious concoction I’ve ever had the honor of ingesting. We’d never been to Florida before, let alone its capital, but when we inevitably and excitedly return, I’ll know exactly where we’re going for dinner.

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~ by Jacob Hyman on March 16, 2010.

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