My life runs on excel spreadsheets printed on cardstock paper folded into thirds

I don’t know how you organize your life. I’m trying to figure out how to organize mine. Here’s what I’ve figured out over the past eight months.

Every week, I print off a piece of cardstock paper. I fold this paper into thirds. Then, it lives in my back left pocket. By the end of the week, it’s been highlighted, crossed out, notated, and torn at the edges from following me around for seven days. Sometimes, there are fewer things on it. Sometimes there are more things on it. Normally, it’s a wash. At the end of the week, I edit the file and print off another one.

 this is the front half of four weeks of my life. i’m bad at shushing.

this is the front half of four weeks of my life. i’m bad at shushing.

Cardstock paper, like all paper, has two sides.

On the front is my life at large. That’s songs. That’s cooking. That’s groceries and laundry and steadily putting off finding a counselor or therapist each week (but I’m getting around to it, Sam Craighead, I promise). That’s finding bands to listen to and things to journal about. That’s tracking shows to book, songs to arrange, and questions to ask the people who know more about some things than I do. That’s friends to reach out to that I haven’t seen in real life for too long. And those are the small daily habits that I’ve noticed help me stay healthy mentally and physically from day to day. These are all the small bits and pieces that add up to a nice little life to share with the good folks around me. And these are the consistent steps we take to make the world better for the people we may or may not ever meet.

On the back is my work life. That’s the stuff I do on a small team at an education nonprofit that affords me the means to do the stuff on the opposite side. Sometimes they line up quite nicely. I’m fortunate to have a steady job doing mostly good and helpful things for K-12 students in Ohio and beyond. When that shines through and works out - amazing.

But work can also be work. And a job can be a job somedays. Just like a passion can become a chore if you’re ever going to finish something and put it out. We work through the gross unfun bits in service of the broader aim that laid out in the first place.

And also, we have to pay rent every month to Mike. That’s the kicker of the other side of the cardstock.

It’s also worth noting that every week, I use the work printer and work paper to print these weekly companions out. So, even in that sense, the other half literally would not have the paper or ink to be printed without the work side.

 also, the sun keeps the lights on. thanks, the sun.

also, the sun keeps the lights on. thanks, the sun.

But, the thing is - Work Sam doesn’t run the show. He just keeps the lights on.

When I’m at work, I carry around all of the things that I care most about in my back left pocket. At any time, in any place, I can flip over this little piece of paper and remind myself that I’m more than the person at that particular time in that particular room. And I can remember the people I care about and the art I’d like to make with them. And I can remember the things I’d like to learn more about and the art I’d like to support and the unjust things I’d like to play a small role in making a bit more just. And at home and out in the world, I carry around a reminder of the things that I did and want to do.

We overestimate what we can do in a week. We underestimate what we can do in a decade. And decades are made up of years. And years are made up of months. And months are made up of weeks. And weeks are made of excel spreadsheets on cardstock paper folded into thirds. And I keep mine in my back left pocket.


This week, I wore all of my hats. I wore my songwriter hat, my education nonprofit hat, my performer hat, my friend hat, my booker hat, my listener hat, and my “life is bursting at the seams in good and bad ways that I don’t fully understand and I’m struggling to see where I fit inside of all of it” hat. (Thank you Alex Paquet for helping me take that hat off and give it a good look-see over curry.)

I also wore my Frontier Ruckus hat because it’s getting colder and they might be my favorite band. They just released their demo archive. You should go listen to things there. We’re working on a new record, and it’s the most comforting thing to hear how some of my favorite songs sounded before they found the clothes that fit them just right.

People are more important than the songs you write about them | simple things in my house are pretty

People are more important than the songs you write about them. However, the songs that you write about them can be more important to people who listen if the people who listen never know the person that the song is about.

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So, the people who listen have a strange relationship with both the person who the song is about and the person who wrote the song (without having to have met either of the people). But, without both of those people, the song wouldn’t exist, and the person who listens would be none the wiser. But surely they would find another song that could something similar. But not exactly the same. But they’d be none the wiser anyway I suppose.

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I don’t know Ranier Rilke or Franz Kappus. But, if Rilke did not write poems, then Franz Kappus would not have sent his own to Rilke, asking for feedback. And then the two of them would not have exchanged letters. And then no one would have published the letters. And then I never would have found them, read them, and then, even without knowing these two fellas, changed and shifted in response to them. The relationships that we have with people have consequences that we won’t ever really know.

Letters to a Young Poet is a good reminder that people are more important than the letters that you write to them, but also that letters (and songs) give other people a window to peek into. Maybe they can take some small things from the letters/poems and put them to work in their own world.

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I feel better today than I normally do the day after shows. I think it’s because I loved the sets that played after ours so dang much.

Go See Lowlights - Erin Mason is an important to many pieces of Columbus. She has one of the most memorable voices in Columbus. She is a harmonizing chameleon and can mesh with anyone. She writes some of the most inventive, decadent, and tumbling melodies in the city. And she sings them like she means it.

Go See Small Songs - I look up to Alex Burgoyne and Devin Copfer a bunch. They’re technically brilliant on sax and violin, but they never let that get in the way of evoking some real serious (sometimes ugly) feelings through them. They’re not staid or dodgy or uptight. They’re encouraging. They’re challenging. And they make some of the coolest, most evocative, and interesting music in the city. And they play seemingly everywhere at all times.

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That’s all. It’s a Monday night. I took some pictures of my home over the past few weeks when the sun was bleeding in. Normally, on the day after I play music in front of people, I feel a very quiet sense of good. It’s not a plain old “happy.” But the coffee tastes better and home feels more like home. I think it feels like how these photos look. Normal and mundane things. But with a little bit of quiet shine on them.

Hello Listicle: Three reasons to listen to the Roof Dogs and three reasons to avoid lukewarm coffee

As I write, I am sitting at home on a Friday. I made a pot of post-work coffee, and then ate half of a pizza and fell asleep. I woke up with coffee that had been sitting in the coffee machine for about an hour. So now, I’m drinking coffee and listening to “This Week’s Winner” by the Roof Dogs.

I’m going to provide (a) three reasons to listen to the Roof Dogs along with (b) three reasons not to drink lukewarm coffee on Friday nights. Please take your seats.

 This coffee appears to be hot. I would prefer to drink this coffee.

This coffee appears to be hot. I would prefer to drink this coffee.

1a. the Roof Dogs are too cool.

I am a fan of the Roof Dogs and you should be too. They are too cool, and if you listen to them, you can be too cool too. They recorded this at Musicol with Keith Hanlon. Both of those two are too cool too. Their debut record is also too cool. It is named “Are Too Cool.” So, therefore, the Roof Dogs are too cool, and their debut record, “Are Too Cool” is too cool too.

You got to stay cool… Lord keep it cool

If Bono danced to the Roof Dogs at his ballet recital and then wouldn’t shut about about how great he was, then U2 tooting their own horn in a tutu would be too cool too.

1b. If coffee is even the slightest bit cool, then it is too cool too.

Coffee tastes good and coffee smells good. Mostly though, it feels good to cup a mug in your hands as the warmth emanates through the ceramic and into your hands. I have a variety of mugs at home to fit a variety of hands.

If coffee is cool, then it is not warm. If coffee is cool at all, then it is also too cool, because you end up cupping and hugging a cold cup. And that cold cup makes your hands clam up. And no one can stand clammy hands.

At this point, I begin to resent the coffee mugs that I fell in love with in small-town antique stores on road trips

2a. Jesse and Andrew rhyme “Châteauneuf-du-Pape” with “traffic cop” and it’s not just a gimmick.

Cheshire/Marczak walk the line between wordplay and world creation with care. First song on the EP paints this picture:

 I don’t really know anything about France - I just googled this shit and read a wikipedia page. This is a drawing someone made of the town in the late 1600s.

I don’t really know anything about France - I just googled this shit and read a wikipedia page. This is a drawing someone made of the town in the late 1600s.

In a fortress town, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, / Under pain of death from a traffic cop / “What does this one do?" cries the child. Go free! / And with a tortured breath sighs relief / You never know where you're gonna wind up now.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a small commune in southeastern France. Only a couple thousand people live there, and most of the land is used to grow wine that I probably can’t afford. But I don’t know much about wine, aside that it is probably a beverage that does not taste terrible at room temperature.

This isn’t the only time that young characters encounter police on the four-song EP.

From my tenement on 42nd street I saw a newsboy getting patted down / Which to be honest with you really isn't all that uncommon in this part of town

Throughout the EP, Cheshire/Marczak paint these scenes of travelers, whether they’re traveling at the time or not. Characters go by plane and by road, or go nowhere, like narrator of “This Week’s Winner” staying in his tenement on 42nd while insisting that he could leave at any time. Characters are crossing borders and coming back with souvenirs, or just drinking wine in a better part of town.

2b. Cool wine is cooler than cool coffee because it makes you warmer.

I don’t like wine as much as I like coffee. However, if I had to compare room-temperature wine to room-temperature coffee, I would pick the wine. At least wine feels like it warms up your belly. Cold coffee just gives you the anxious shakes.

3a. This Week’s Winner is a total goddamn winner

’Scuse me while I freak out about how they somehow made the perfect hook from a simple vernacular aside, embellishing it with just a dash rhythm as they speak/sing it every time the chorus comes around, crescendoing into a yell over the song’s three minute build.

You see I ain’t no hero, man. Hell, I can leave any time I plan.

Put this song on repeat and just be there for a while. The Roof Dogs have an ear for the melody in everyday speech, and can straddle the line between song and scene without falling off either side. Please dear god join me in enjoying this rock and roll band that writes incredible opening lines like this.

I participated in a forced cry today and let me tell you I've never felt so grand / There were people weeping in droves all across the fatherland

3b. Cold coffee is better than cool coffee, but worse than hot coffee. Warmish coffee is only ok at local diners named after the person who started it.

Carry the one and show your work. You will see that this is correct.


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Follow the Roof Dogs on Spotify and Facebook, and check out their website.

See them at a show in Central Ohio on 10/31 as the Velvet Underground or 12/4 at Ace of Cups.

Regarding an issue in Ohio

I’m going to vote yes on issue one.

I pitched in a few times to help gather signatures, but other than that, I wasn’t deeply involved in the campaign. From what I’ve read, it seems like a sensible step towards more reasonable treatment of illegal drugs in my home state. It will not solve the problems of drug abuse and incarceration. But it sure seems like a gesture in a better direction.

 “Sam”

“Sam”

A short anecdote -

I smoked weed a few times in high school. If I were caught, then current Ohio drug laws would have been applied to me.

This morning, I ate a big ol bowl of yogurt, honey, and almonds. My little kitchen scale pegged that at just below 200 grams. If I had about 200 grams of marijuana on me, then I’d be charged with a 5th degree felony, punishable by up to 12 months in prison. I’d also be labeled a felon for the rest of my life. Every potential employer would first know me as a “felon” instead of “Sam.”

Those are the laws on the books as they stand. You may think that these are the consequences for breaking the law. And that’s your prerogative.

But this is about more than weed.

More topically, Issue One applies to all of the opioid abuse that we’re hearing about on the news every day. For the second year in a row, Montgomery County had the state’s highest rate of accidental overdose deaths. That’s 4,854 accidental drug overdose deaths, 800 more than 2016.

A recent Pew Study suggested no significant relationship between drug offender imprisonment rates and rates of illicit use, overdose deaths, and arrests. So, prison time does not have an affect on drug use.

Many people are dying because they are addicted to opioids. And putting people in prison and labeling them felons is not affecting the behavior of addicts. But, the laws as they are now make that happen.

About 50,000 people are incarcerated in Ohio’s prisons. That costs $26,400 each year. Policy Matters estimates that the prison population would be reduced by more than 10,000 people if passed. Altogether, those reductions could save about $136 million per year. This could be a high estimate, but even a quarter of that cost savings is nothing to sneeze at.

I’d be happy to hear from anyone who disagrees or agrees for different reasons. Obviously I’m just some guy and not an expert in anything except eating yogurt for breakfast. But this just seems like a sensible step in a better and more humane direction.

Colorblindness and Sneakers

On tour, I wore the same pair of Adidas every day. They were lovely. They’re still lovely.

Right now, I am wearing my scuffed work shoes, waiting at the airport to go to DC. They’re chukkas - some middle ground between dress shoes and boots. They’re hefty enough to wear through the slushy Ohio winter weather full of salt and always melting snow. And I don’t mind letting them struggle a bit. But after wearing the same beat-up sneakers for almost a month in Germany, I want that little spark of happiness that comes with colorful sneakers.

My colorful sneakers are at home. I recently finished reading They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (just click the link and buy it). He talks about shoes in it a little bit. As well as close to everything I think is worth living for and making the world better at. It makes me feel a little bit less alone.

At home, I have a pair of golden sneakers. They’re showing their age. I just got some green sneakers with yellow stripes. They’re still snappy. I’d like to wear bright blue sneakers. I’d like to wear bright red sneakers. Black sneakers wouldn’t be bad either. if they had a little bit of highlight on the sides or something.

I dropped off some new grey sneakers at a UPS yesterday. I ordered them online before my trip, and they arrived the day before I got on a plane. I laid them out on the table at home, waiting for me to come home, slip them on, and celebrate being able to wear more than one pair of shoes. But I got home. I tried them on. They’re kind of 80s looking, with a big white plastic toe box. On the inside, they’ve got blue and red fabric stripes, but matte grey on the outside. They’re nice in theory, and they were on sale. But I wouldn’t wear these shoes. Someone else would wear these shoes. And they’d wear them well.

They look weird on my feet, the same way that the work chukkas look weird on my feet. They’re functional but feel like tanks at the base of my leg.

I don’t care about shoes. I spent a month not caring about shoes. No one I meet cares about my shoes. And they will not play into any real story about my life.

But maybe I do care about colorful shoes.

—-

When I was a young kid, my parents say that they had me tested for color blindness. I say that they said this because I don’t have a memory of this. But, I do have a memory of being in a classroom. I don’t know what age or what grade, but I knew that I had a brand new pack of Crayola twistable crayons. They just about the same size as normal crayons, but encased in a little plastic sheath. The label around the outside was clear with a Crayola logo, allowing you to see the wax held inside. When you twisted the bottom, more of the wax poked out of the top. So, you could use every last bit of the crayon without having to struggle with holding the little nub. Granted, it also created waste that will be on the planet forever, but that was a small price to pay for the thrill of unneeded innovation of a childhood staple.

And so, this was the most excited I had been for school supplies in quite a while. And I was a kid who got excited about school supplies. I loved the idea of preparing my tools for the whole year. I loved big yellow Ticonderogas in the early grades. I got excited about white out when the teachers allowed us to use pens. I remember raiding the loose change drawer to walk to Walgreens to buy some candy and a premium Uniball black pen with the ink smoother than I ever thought ink could be.

But, at this early age, twistable crayons were the obsession.

I don’t remember what the assignment was. I don’t remember who the teacher was. But I knew we were all drawing a picture. In a class of 20 or so. And I know when I turned in the picture, someone made a comment. It wasn’t mean, more surprised. They mentioned my purple ocean and my dark green clouds. As if I was making mature, unsettling choices with my Crayola color palate. On purpose.

But I never meant to. And I wasn’t in on the joke. I grabbed the colors I thought I was seeing. Blue and black. But no - purple and green. The label on the outside of the plastic shell of twistable Crayola crayons have the logo, but not the name of the color. Because you should be able to see the color. And I should be able to see the color. But I can’t. Or, I can’t tell them apart from the correct ones. They mush and merge into the same color. So even a 48 count palate would merge into a lower number for me. And I’d pick the wrong one.

I was upset. We got new crayons, and I don’t know what happened to these ones. But after that, every time I got colored pencils, markers, or crayons, I double checked to make sure the color names were written on the outside.

I went to Catholic school from K-8. We wore a uniform. So, our shoes were the only way we could express ourselves, especially after they came down on the colorful socks that students started to wear. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. So nip it in the bud and send them off to church.

This put a lot of pressure on us to wear shoes that could encompass the whole of our budding little identities. Nikes were the most popular, with the high basketball socks with the swoosh on the outside. I didn’t want to be that ostentatious. And I can’t particularly remember most of the shoes that I wore at that time. I always had one pair of sneakers that I wore every day. I remember some black Nikes that felt like I was walking on clouds. I was convinced they made me run faster. I also remember when my older sister started listening to Avril Lavigne and wearing Etnies. She didn’t skate, and I didn’t skate. But of course, I wore those shoes for a while.

When my shoes would start wearing through their soles, mom and I would decide it’s time to start looking for another pair. And we’d go out to the store. I mostly remember Kohls. And we’d try on pair after pair after pair. I’d be so nervous with each one. Did it fit right? Was it comfortable? And did it look like something I would wear?

The last question was the most difficult to answer. In middle school, we don’t have a clue who we are. We can only see who we think other people think they are, and then compare ourselves to that. And I wasn’t sure of my tribe. When you’re with the same kids from kindergarten through puberty, you fall into the pecking order by fourth grade or so. And tend to stick to your roles as you change. But I’m not sure if any of us were particularly thrilled with this. Or comfortable with it. And most of my anxiety came through my shoes.

I didn’t mind wearing a uniform. I didn’t have to match outfits, which I found was difficult when I started dressing. When I went to the public high school, without any uniform requirements, I found a new freedom. But I couldn’t navigate it very well. There were too many choices. Too many colors. Too many things I wore together than apparently “didn’t go together.” And it took a long time to figure out what that meant. Every time I got a new piece of clothing, I would talk to mom about what I could wear it with. And I’d do my best to remember. But I had to remember. I couldn’t trust my instincts, or I’d end up looking like a purple ocean or a green cloud - and not in an artsy way.

So, for most of my life, I dressed with the trust of other people. I needed people outside of me to confirm that I didn’t look like a fool; that I wasn’t breaking any rules that my eyes couldn’t see or understand. So, when I went off to college, I didn’t have those people. I couldn’t ask those questions. Especially as a young man, I felt like I shouldn’t ask those questions. I shouldn’t care about how I look, or I shouldn’t take pride in it. I definitely shouldn’t ask other men if something looks right or good on me. So, I didn’t. And I slowly started making a plan.

Over the past couple of years, I bought my own clothes. I bought shirts for the office. I bought shirts for the rest of the world. I bought black jeans. I bought black shirts. I bought white shirts. I bought grey shirts. I bought a grey suit like I thought grown ups are supposed to. Dad lovingly and consistently bough new black socks for the family at every Hallmark occasion under the sun.

Slowly but surely, I amassed a small wardrobe of black, grey, and white clothing. A handful of colorful t-shirts that I mostly wear around the house, but other than that, everything I own matches with everything else I own. I can’t make mistakes, and I don’t have to ask anyone for help. And I feel confident with that. I have my uniform.

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Except for my shoes. Found a pair of bright yellow Adidas online. I still hate shopping for shoes in the store. And they shipped to my house. And I tried them on. And they worked. And I walked taller with a bright pop of color around my ankles. They’re the perfect self-contained pop of joyful color that I can add to any of my greyscale outfits. All of my greyscale outfits. And I love it. And it makes me happy when people mention them to me. So I’m always on the hunt for more. I want them in every color - because I don’t have to match them to anything else. Just the same greyscale.

I know that my shoes don’t matter. What I walk on and what they look like don’t make a difference in the way that I live my life. But, the story that I tell myself lets me take pride in this. I learned over the years that (1) I am normally wrong about what looks good on me and (2) I shouldn’t be caught caring what I look like anyway. My little shoe habit is my personal vendetta against those voices in my head. I know what I wear now. I choose what I wear now. I’m in control of what I wear now. And it’s alright to care about how I look. These colorful shoes are my middle finger to color blindness and moderately-poisonous ideas of what men should and shouldn’t care about.

I’m allowed to care about this. And I’m allowed to build a story around this. And I’m allowed to bring two pairs of shoes on business trips because for the few hours that I strut around in my sneakers, I feel like I’m worth it.

Getting Home

At the Frankfurt airport, I met Jessica and Kevin. While we were halfway through a line with about 50 people in it, an older man walked into a gap in front of me. The couple behind me looked at each other, then me, then him. We asked him if he knew that he cut us in line. He mumbled something about him being allowed to do that because he’s quite old. I will remember this trick in 40 years if I stop caring about being rude in those intervening decades.

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That’s how I started talking to the couple behind me. Their names are Jessica and Kevin. They live in Arizona.

I learned that they were on a weeklong vacation, mostly in Amsterdam. I assumed that they’d been together for a while. They seemed comfortable with each other, and it looked like each of them knew how the other would react when a stranger confidently cut them in line.

Kevin was an actor in LA for the better part of a decade, but he said he mostly worked in restaurants. He’s been everywhere from Army barracks to the Playboy Mansion (and claimed to see Axel Rose crawling around drunk on the floor, Bill Maher drunk on the floor, etc. drunk on the floor).

Jessica is looking for a more stable job and is delivering pizzas right now. Kevin definitely was in more of a mood to chat, but maybe he was just blowing off steam as the older man stood right front of us, staring intently forward.

I asked them why they came out to vacation.

Jessica is in the middle of a divorce. Kevin just went through a breakup. They met about 3 weeks ago on Tinder.

He had already planned the trip, but didn’t know who he should take. He almost took his mom, but instead floated the idea by Jessica (sorry mom). She promptly told her coworkers that she would be out of town for “school” and packed up her things.

Then, they partied. Hard. They got kicked out of their Air BnB in Amsterdam for being too loud too late. I asked them what they did. “What didn’t we do!” said Jessica to avoid telling me. Kevin piped in with a story of doing a nitrous balloon back in college. I’m not entirely sure how it was relevant, but it painted a more vibrant picture of what they might have been doing to get kicked out of an Amsterdam BnB.

We both got our tickets. I assume we both got home. At least I know for sure that I got home.

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I write that to write this - I slept in my own bed last night. I made my own coffee. I showered in my own shower and used my own soap. I cleaned up some spiderwebs and plugged in my bedroom reading light.

I’m happy and thankful. I’m happy to go back to work. I’m happy to live across the street from work. I’m happy to sleep alone for the first time in about a month. I’m happy to go to the grocery and cook a meal for myself. I’m happy to splurge on a bottle of whisky and spend money on beer for the first time in what feels like forever.

I’m excited to finish writing this batch of songs. I’m excited to arrange this batch of songs. I’m excited to rehearse this batch of songs. I’m excited to record this batch of songs. I’m excited to see if they’re any good. I’m excited for people to hear them. And I’m excited to go back on another tour after that’s all happened.

Looking forward to looking back with a bit clearer head over these next few weeks. Looking forward to sharing a beer or coffee with friends I haven’t seen in a bit. Looking forward to squeezing in some tennis before the winter. Looking forward to what comes after that.

Thank you to everyone who gave us a place to sleep, a place to play, food to eat, beer to drink, and stories to share and carry with us. My favorite part of this were the conversations with strangers who seem a bit less strange after talking for a few minutes - and we can find that anywhere.

Sam

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PS: I need to ship some of this nectar of the gods over to my house every month. Club-Mate is the real hero of this tour.

Closing out tour with Lilly Among Clouds

After 16 shows with Dan, I spent the last five as the opening support for a German act, Lilly Among Clouds. Lilly is the songwriter and singer, and she’s got four fellas traveling as her band. Here’s a quick rundown of the cast of characters.

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 sam, onno, florian, jimi hendrix statue partially obscured

sam, onno, florian, jimi hendrix statue partially obscured

Florian plays percussion. He likes reading the newspaper set out with the hotel breakfasts. He found a story about a Missouri man who fell off of a treehouse after being attacked by wasps, then landed on a grilling skewer facefirst. It went through his head and face?But he’s ok? USA? Florian’s got two kids - 11 and 13. When he was 12 he got terrible grades in music class, so his parents got him lessons on the drums. After that, it was over. He’s a wine guy. I’m not a wine guy. But I did drink wine on the last day.

Onno plays keyboards and synthesizers. He’s the son of preachers and grew up in a little town bordering the Netherlands. They speak a unique language there, a mishmash of a variety of languages. Most of the younger folks aren’t learning it enough to pass on, so it’s slowing making its way out. The older folk in the town still speak it - and he ran into a hotel receptionist who grew up in his town on our last day together. He describes himself as not the best musician, but someone who kept making friends with gaps that he could fill on tour. Really, he’s just a great modest musician.

 sam, lucio, tiny gunnar far away, prosecco

sam, lucio, tiny gunnar far away, prosecco

Lucio plays guitars on stage, but also manages the tour. And he’s my age? I feel like a slouch. He coordinates the day to day shenanigans, always making sure we’re in the right place at the right time. He’s gracious and gregarious, always toting around a camera to snap pics for the band in spare moments. He plays and manages tours in a few other bands. So, check out Giant Rooks if you’re interested. All of the music that he puts on during his morning routine has really crispy electric guitar tones.

Gunnar runs sound. They tote their own board to every show, and then he adds his own special little bits to it. He manually adds delay throughout the set at a few little moments. So, if you watch in the back, you can see him popping back and forth between the soundboard and the delay pedal, peppering in some goodness and making it all feel alright. He also plays guitar and keyboards in the band Staring Girl - they also played the Sound of Bronkow.

Lilly is the singer and songwriter. She’s got a heck of a voice, and a heck of an ear for melodies. At one show, I talked to a couple as I was selling them a CD - they said that this is their ninth time seeing Lilly. This is a common thing. She writes these really strong songs with soaring melodies that never quite get out of your head. I started more than one day with her songs bouncing around in my brain before I even realized I was humming them.

We played five shows - a few things stuck out.

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I met the band at the venue in Potsdam. It felt odd to play a solo set after 16 with Dan, but I think I got all of my big mistakes out in this show. Afterward, I met Sofia, Klaus, and Ana. They all had kind things to say. I also met a stranger when they grabbed me and whispered into my ear, “You are Beautiful,” and then walked away? So, that also happened? I’m not sure what else to say about this show. I’m just gonna move on here real quick. I spent most of that day in Dresden anyway.

~~

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In Halle, I went for a long walk in a nearby park. I found some buckeyes. It occurred to me how weird my alma mater’s mascot is. A hard, inedible nut. With arms and legs? Anyway, it felt important at the time.

We played at Objekt 5. It’s a really cosy underground club with a fancy ass restaurant in the top part. As always, that means we ate well. We all had this super rich noodle dish with spinach and goat cheese. I will choose to believe that this dinner reminded me how to play a show solo.

I remembered that I have to talk a little bit to set the stage. I remembered to have fun puttering around stage. I remembered to look at people in their eyes. I remembered to make some lame jokes. I remembered to beg people to buy CDs and LPs, and they happily obliged.

~~

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Bang and Olufsen is a crazy hi-end stereo company based in Denmark. They billed themselves as the world’s oldest consumer electronics company in the hardbound history book of full color designs and stuff. They seem like they’re a designer and audio engineer’s wet dream. But I don’t think I’ll be a customer any time soon. I think I could live comfortably well into my thirties on what people spend on those speakers. But, like, more power to them.

So, we’re in Hanover, at the ultimate home audio store. And we’re playing this thing called the Salon Festival. It’s this concert series where people perform in unexpected places. We weren’t sure if I was going to be able to play. The booker was really intent on having only Lilly play, less intend on some random fella before her. It’s a special event; they feel fancy and important about themselves. And they’re billing it as a living room concert (but everyone was really fancy and dressed up?). That’s all well and good. But they did not want an opener.

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So, after Lilly and them soundchecked, Lucio had me set up and check. Then, he made a beeline for the booker. They went outside and had what looked like serious words as I strummed and hummed. He popped back in, told me to continue playing, and went back outside to continue the discussion. He came back in. He said he had to fight, but he got me 25 minutes (she had initially said nothing, then no more than 12 minutes). We celebrated our victory after the show with Domino’s delivery.

So, thanks to Lucio’s insistence, I played a singer-songwriter set on two speakers that cost about $80,000 each (seriously) in a room where I could have played completely unplugged. So that’s like, over $150,000 of sound equipment. I also ate my weight in Lindt chocolates, and those aren’t cheap either.

The set went well. People laughed, I mumbled about Ohio a bit too much, and sold a bunch of CDs. People talked about how well the sets went together. The booker profusely thanked Lilly for playing. She gave the cold shoulder to Lucio. I avoided eye contact and later fell asleep to a German dub of a Superman movie intermittently interrupted by phone sex ads.

~

We played our last show in Darmstadt. Full lights, huge rack of speakers, and a bigger stage than I’ve ever been on. That felt great. Afterwards, goofing off til nearly three in the morning felt even better.

Lilly and Florian and Onno and Lucio and Gunnar - Thanks so much for your help over the past week. Thanks for translating jokes and keeping everything light. Thanks for your feedback on my sets. Thanks for helping me order at the finest German Chinese restaurants close to the autobahn. Special thanks to Lucio and Gunnar for being stellar roommates as we moved from hotel to hotel.

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The Home Stretch: No More Driving

Over the past few weeks, I’ve driven about 4500 kilometers. I’ve spent literal days in my little Volvo hatchback. We’ve taken a liking to each other. I guess I don’t really know how it feels about me, but I’ve got a pretty big crush. But our relationship came to an end this morning, Mario and I dropped off the car. Lil Volvo can’t hold a candle to my little purple Honda Fit back home, but it was a splendid companion for a few weeks.

I stayed with Mario last night. I met his partner Kristina and their kids. Leo is seven. Benno is 2. They’re great little dudes, even if they’re a bit cranky in the morning. We’ve all been there.

I’ve done my laundry. I’ve had my breakfast. I helped drop off Benno at school and Katherine at work. We’re evening up on money and will head to Berlin tonight for the first show with Lilly Among Clouds. Popping about the country one more time before heading home.

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It’s the day after September 11th. I’m sitting in a city square in Dresden. A little artisan fair is set up. Beer and brats and currywurst is everywhere. People are selling spices and purses and belts and cooking ware and everything else under the sun. For some reason, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” is playing on loudspeakers. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or not. I remember that being a song in response to 9/11. But really, they’re just playing english language radio hits in the square, so it could be a coincidence.

I sat in this same courtyard last year. I waked through the same streets. There’s a bit more construction in the old city. There’s a bit more going on in the courtyard.

The song just changed to a jaunty song in German. Maybe someone slipped the Springsteen song into the playlist because of 9/11? Maybe there’s just a Springsteen fan at the decks? I won’t figure out, but I like to imagine some people love that song without having any idea about why it exists. Like “Born in the USA.” Bruce seems to have cornered a good bit of the market on patriotic songs devoid of nationalism (or maybe the other way around?).

I brought a little Bluetooth keyboard with me on this trip. It connects to my phone, which connects to a writing app, which syncs to my computer when I connect back to the internet. So, I’m just sitting on a big cube on the sidewalk, cross legged, with my phone perched on my left leg, and my keyboard between the crooks of my knees.

Anyway. This one is mostly for me. I’m looking forward to being in the backseat. I’m looking forward to seeing some shows. I’m looking forward to getting to the airport and getting home. And I’m looking forward to looking back at everything.

Dan Goes Home

I played my last two shows with Dan on percussion, keyboards, and general emotional support for the 2018 Germany tour. I dropped him off at the airport yesterday. Now starts my last five shows opening up solo for Lilly Among Clouds. Here’s what happened on our last couple days together.

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For this tour, we’ve played the whole range of places. Super quiet listening rooms, makeshift DIY spaces, bars, etc. Swamp in Freiburg was a bar. And word is getting out about our tour pal’s Wayne Graham. They’re on the top of the critics picks playlist for Rolling Stone in Germany. They’re on the big radio stations. And of course, they’re sweet as can be the whole time.

So, all that being said - that Freiburg show was a big ol loud sold out bar show. Folks spilled out into the street outside the little venue, listening to everything through the cracks in the windows. It got hot. It got cramped. Years ago, before anyone knew who the were, The National played here. It definitely felt like Kenny, Hayden, Lee, and Chris were at the beginning of something like that. And everyone in the building could smell it.

We played before them and got to wrestle with a packed room of excited listeners, wrangling our songs and hooting and hollering and having the time of our lives. At least the time of my life. We got loud, then got quiet. Then they got quiet, and we danced that little give and take between energy and stillness that feels better than even the best listening room. Carmelo and Martin really know how to run a place.

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After the show, I met Leo. Leo traveled 3 hours by train and transit to come to the show. He stayed with a friend in the city that night. Somehow, he found our music through Spotify, and it hooked him. He told me about hiking in Romania with Straw playing, and how neat it was to see us play that live in a crowded room. We hugged like every time I talk to someone with a story like that.

We slept at the Hotel Kaiser, which happens to also be a restaurant. That means we had a killer breakfast with the best dang croissants that I’ve ever had in my life. I took two for the drive to Hof.

In Hof, we met a woman named Sandra. Sandra is an angel - she’s a nurse, but mostly teaches other nurses for a living now. Her kids, Hannah and Konstantin, made us feel like family right away.

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From time to time, they host concerts in the attic of their building. There are lines of benches, cushions, candles, and a little PA system. It’s kinda like our dream. So, we got to play a sweet little quiet set.

We hung out on the roof of the apartment, between the solar panels, and spotted a few shooting stars with Hannah and Konstantin. We ate homemade lasagne and shared a few beers. I felt like I was around the table at home again, scooping another serving and opening another beer as we went. We ended the night on the balcony, learning about the best and worst kinds of German music. And Hannah woke us up with breakfast, and sent us on our way.

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That brings us to our last show together. In Munster, Jacques got us settled in as soon as we arrived. I checked in to our hostel around the corner. Tobias got us sound checked right quick. We ate some killer quiche. Then, we played our last set together on tour. Surrounded by couches and filled up with dinner, I haven’t been happier sharing a stage with anyone.

Dan’s been a joy to have on this little adventure. Every stop, someone has talked about how he’s a tremendous percussionist, but so much more than a percussionist. He invented piano parts, then organ parts, then glockenspiel parts, then synth parts, and figured out how to play them all using a little keyboard attached to my laptop. He’s full to the brim with talent and ability, but smart enough to choose the best spots to highlight them. He never overplays (unless that’s our plan) and always gets me back on track when I hop off the rails a bit.

I’ll miss him over the next week. But it will be good to see him back in Columbus, and to reflect on this wild whirlwind of a trip. And all I want to do is arrange a new record with him hand in hand.

Thanks Dan - it felt good and bad to drop you off at the airport. Thanks for taking a risk on this adventure - I’m looking forward to more. But I’l see you in Ohio before then.

A Couple of Photos Prove That We’re Actually Playing Shows Out Here

Bless the photographers we’ve met along the way - we’re finally getting a few photos of shows in action, and dang does that make me happy.

Last night in Karlsruhe, Lorenzo, Manuel, Matthias, and the whole crew at Cafe NUN made us a home cooked meal and wrangled a wonderful room of folks eager to listen to songs. We ate curry family style and had all of the Bavarian beer we could drink. We’ve constantly been spoiled by these listening rooms - folks are whisper quiet as super engaged the whole time. At home, great beer and quiet rooms don’t normally go hand in hand. They sure do here.

The show went great - I broke a string, but Kenny from Wayne Graham came to the rescue with his acoustic guitar to sub in for mine.

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Nathanael took a bunch of photos of the night - I’ll repost most of them on Instagram (his handle is @nthnlsll). Someone heard us on an Austrian radio station and made the hike to see us live. She said that the host played a handful of our songs on the program - so they bought a CD.

Another fella bought a record - he’s going to play both us and Wayne Graham on his program “International Noise” on Bermudafunk - an online radio station in the area. Or maybe not in the area. Online radio stations might be able to be anywhere.

Nathanael was snapping photos all along the way. Feel free to find him on instagram at @nthnlsll - all of the photos of us here are from his lil camera.

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Dan and I slept in an adjacent apartment with yet another gracious host. Our room in the attic connected to a rooftop apartment, so I strung my guitar during the sunrise the next morning. We all had breakfast together. Coffee and bread and jam and honey and yogurt and fruit and a heck of a view.

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After that, Dan and I Walked around and found a palace/museum with an entry fee and a free state park. We opted for the state park. We saw ducks. We saw cranes. We saw an older man playing acoustic hits from Kansas to John Legend to no one in particular. We found a huge play structure/rope jungle gym thing and climbed to the top. We found something I can only describe as a long trampoline? And dogs. All the best, most goodest boys you could imagine.

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We grabbed a coffee and drove to Freiburg - just about an hour and a half south. We always seem to park on a street that’s more picturesque than the last. So taking a walk never seems like a bad idea.

So, now we’re loading into Swamp. Saintseneca is playing here in November. We’re playing our last show with Wayne Graham here tonight.

The owner here, Carmelo,  is going to buy us all schnitzel. We’ll eat at 7. We’ll play at 8:30. We’ll sleep at a nearby hotel. Here's to show 14. Two more with Dan riding shotgun. Then five more riding solo. Then back to a place where I can pronounce the street signs.

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