I sat down to start plotting out tour dates for 2016 the other night and instantly felt not just depression or anxiety but DREAD. Like opening up GoogleMaps to look at a map of the US felt like looking at pictures of orphaned children from war torn countries. I’m not supposed to feel like that, right? Touring is supposed to be fun, right? Living the dream, right?
It hasn’t just been a big year, or a good year, it’s been a great year. I’ve played more than 100 shows and spent most of this year on the road. I got to go to Kenya, which was transformative (funny how you have to go to another continent to get new insight about what it’s like to be black in America). I gigged in England and Ireland for the first time and got to share the stage with the legendary Cait O’Riordan from The Pogues. I toured from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Canada to Mexico: New York, Pennsylvania, DC, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma. I played with artists I’ve admired for years, discovered some folks I really admire, and made some friends I’ll probably have for the rest of my life. It was really great. And it really fucking sucked.
This was the first time I’ve done extended touring when I wasn’t totally falling apart a.k.a. sober. Which should make touring easier, right? Yes and no. For the first time, I wasn’t so obsessed with my own pain’n’suffering that I couldn’t bear witness to what other folks are going through. Take it from me: it can get fucking ugly out there. I saw a lot of people from my past, girls who broke my heart, girls whose hearts I broke, people I treated badly, people who treated me badly, people who I love and who love me but somehow we still hadn’t seen each other for ten years. I hung with a friend who moved from a place where he has deep roots to the middle-of-nowhere America because his sister drank herself to death, leaving behind two small children, one of whom is autistic. I hung with another friend who lost his brother: while he was struggling to kick Oxy, the brother shot himself in the head while my friend was sleeping in the room below him. Death, heroin, depression, sickness, meth, Oxy, alcoholism, unemployment, heartbreak, divorce, foreclosure, rape, child abuse… I care about people, I really want everyone to be okay, and I really care about my friends and fans and the people who help us out on the road. It’s emotionally exhausting to flit through unhappy lives like a ghost. We roll in before the show, tired and giddy and sore, you make us dinner or bring us food or come early to buy merch and support or just hang out. The show happens, and it’s good or it’s great or it sucks, but that doesn’t really matter, the show is the least significant part of being on tour. Then after the show, you unfold some sadness for us, either explicitly or just in the way you act. The next morning, we leave. It’s still the greatest feeling in the world—leaving—whether I’ve had the best or the worst night of my life. No higher high. We leave, and we leave you in your sadness. I feel guilty about that. And so I carry a little of it with me. And it adds up.
Inevitably, the day after the show, the messages come in, through Twitter and Facebook and email and text. “Why did you play Dogshart, AR? You should play Boston.” We played Dogshart because lots of people wrote us and said they’d come out. If you book us a show in Boston with a promoter who won’t rip us off, we’d love to play Boston.* “Why did you play North Dogshart? If you had played South Dogshart, I would have been able to make it.” We drove 8 hours to make it to Turdwater. You couldn’t drive the 45 minutes to get to the show? “I missed you guys because the website said 9 so I thought 9:30 but you started right at 9!” We’re more annoyed about it than you are but we’re not in charge… and the website did say 9, right? “Why didn’t you tell me you were playing?” We posted it on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and our websites and the club’s website. Calling/ texting/ emailing every single person we know in the country isn’t feasible. And it makes us want to kill ourselves when we try to do it anyway and you still don’t come out. “The club you played at sucked, why didn’t they turn off the TVs? You should play a different club.” We’d love to play the better club but they wouldn’t have us. “If you guys had played on a Saturday, I would have come out.” We’re on the road seven days a week, and only one of those days is a Saturday. And that’s the day you have your underwater basketweaving seminar so you wouldn’t have come out anyway, don’t lie to me, dude. “I know I wrote to you six times before the show and lured you to come and play the tiny little armpit that is Dogshart but there was a Full House marathon last night and I just got some killer kush and my couch is really comfy. Sorry I didn’t make it out but I will DEFINITELY be at the next one.” You asked us to come and play, you said you’d get a ton of friends out, no one came, the bar left the TVs on and ripped us off and then made us feel shitty that what we do is not more popular, and we had to drive till 3 am because we didn’t even have the place to crash you promised. There won’t be a next one.
This makes me sound like an asshole. And I am an asshole, especially because I’ve used almost every single one of these lines with the bands that I love. I bought tickets to go and see Jesus Lizard, a band I fucking love, and then I stayed home on a Saturday night BECAUSE I JUST DIDN’T FEEL LIKE GOING. I get it. But fucking A, at the level we’re at, we need all the help we can get.
Which is to say: I love you all and I’m so fucking grateful for the support I got this year. I’m grateful to the comics who brought me on tour with them though they’d never met me, comics who suffered in the van with me, comics who booked me shows and gave up their time so I could play and gave up their share of the money or even paid me out of their pockets and made sure I had non-alcoholic beverages within reach at all times. In particular, I’ve gotten a ton of love from comics/ musicians/ performers in Phoenix and Austin so thank you, and you’ll see me again soon. I’m grateful to the bands who let me open for them or who opened for me or let me borrow gear or cut their sets short so I could play who made sure I got paid, chipped in for repairs on the van, etc. I’m grateful that we had an ace photographer/ documentarian with us for some of it to preserve some truly unforgettable times. I’m grateful to the clubs/ promoters/ talent buyers/ bookers who took a chance on all of us. Mostly, I’m grateful to all the NON-PERFORMERS—all the people who feel like they’re not making any contribution but who are totally integral, people without whom, performers would have nothing. You put us up, you hosted house shows, you fed us, you bought a couple tickets and brought a friend, you bought merch, you overpaid for your merch, you just gave us money for nothing, you put money in the tip jar, or you just showed up, sat quietly and listened and laughed and clapped when we moved you. You’re the only reason why we started doing this and you’re the only reason why we keep doing this and we are incredibly, incredibly grateful to you.
Stay tuned. My new book comes out March 8th and I will have a shitload of new tour dates dropping soon.
*Fuck Boston, we’re never playing Boston.