"Only 2 days in and my face hurts from laughing..." @emilybaker on Twitter
Attempting to put into writing how much fun Emily and I had on our recent 3-week ToMAYto-ToMAHto Tour has been a daunting and ultimately insurmountable task. My mission was twofold: 1- play a bunch of shows for lovely people. 2- show her as big a slice of America as I could in 3 weeks. Because it would take FOREVER to try and tell you about it all, I'll distill it into headlines.....moments....you know, how I do....
BUT FIRST - VIDEOS!!!
Click here for a mash-up of snippets from our Houston show (lovingly compiled by Madalyn Sklar ofgogirlsmusic.com - thanks!)
Day 1 - Emily arrives - so far so good.
Day 2 - Emily kicks jetlag's ass by sleeping until 10am. We meet my top dawg/co-writer/sister-friend Vickie for lunch. We rehearse. We also laugh a lot.
Day 3 - Pack van, drive to Charlotte, stopping in Asheville for dinner at Tupelo Honey (OMG NOOOOMMMM!!) where we find ToMAyto-ToMAto Soup on the menu. It's an omen. Greeted warmly by Frank & Cathy, our Charlotte hosts, we settle in with wine and conversation....and laughter.
Day 4 - Emily shops at Target for the first time (agog the whole while) and hears a ridiculous country song on the radio that kicks off her tour blog theme. (you really should read all of her tour blog posts....she's a PANIC!) We set up outside in the 97 degree sun and Emily finally grasps what I meant when I said "I don't think you understand how hot it's going to be..." She immediately cuts the legs off her jeans. WE PLAY OUR FIRST SHOW to a wonderfully warm, receptive audience. And we laugh a lot.
Day 5 - Drive to Southport, NC. Stop for peaches. Lots of backroads. More country radio. More laughing. Arrive in Southport in time for über-cool host Ken to take us for quick dip in the ocean. Waves knock me over repeatedly, Emily laughs until she nearly hyperventilates. Emily passes out from exhaustion "backstage" before show, I tweet picture. WE PLAY SHOW #2 to another warm, wonderful audience. (I knew they would be, as this is my 4th visit to charming Southport) A girl crush happens, Emily hides behind me. We go to a local bar to play an aftershow-show where I try my best to induce a very pregnant woman into labor by singing "Baby Come To Me...." and whatever else I can think of. We laugh a lot.
Day 6 - Drive to Florence, SC where dear Julie is hosting us for TWO nights. It's hotter than 40 hells outside. Thankfully we're finally playing inside. WE PLAY SHOW #3 to a small but friendly bunch. Emily learns about "cheese and crackers". Julie takes us to "THE bar" in town. We meet Sam (Florence's unofficial mayor) and some other interesting characters. We search for late night pizza but find none....so I improvise with what we find in Julie's fridge and make something in the neighborhood of nachos...I think... We eat the hell out of it, whatever it is. We also laugh. A lot.
Day 7 - blissfully sleep in since we don't have to drive anywhere, except to the world's nicest and biggest gym. We run on treadmills and then swim in the pool. Emily demonstrates her wikkid front crawl skills. This will be the last time we see any official "exercise" for the remainder of the tour, instead surrendering to full Fat Bastard mode. WE PLAY SHOW #4 to another sweet little pile of Florencians. At shows end we become human jungle gyms for the most adorable hippy-toddler either of us has ever seen. Still craving pizza, we hit the grocery store and buy the least offensive frozen one we can find...which we promptly devour 15 seconds after it comes out of the oven. We laugh with our mouths full.
Day 8 - *VACATION PORTION OF TOUR BEGINS* we drive to Birmingham, AL. After 7 hours on I-20 Ems begins to scratch the surface of grasping how enormous America is. I explain that these are the short drives. We land at the home of dear, wonderful, funny Keith, who's gracious enough to offer us lodging. His table is one of my favorite places to sip wine and converse - always good stuff. He gets bonus points for taking us to a rocking 24 hour Greek diner for some epic late night noms. We laugh even more.
Day 9 - we drive to New Orleans BUT FIRST we stop in Pelahatchie, MS so I can fulfill Emily's expressed desire to "meet a proper redneck". Enter Billy, of Crawbilly's, a tiny shack of a restaurant by the railroad tracks that hubby and I discovered when we came through last year for him to do some recording there. It was such an indescribable experience that I knew I had to get Emily there if at all possible. Crawfish pistolettes, red beans and rice, fried you-name-it....and the most precious human being serving it all up. You should really read Emily's blog post about this... In a word: epic. Oh - and he plays the saw for us....(video)
THEN we drive to New Orleans - taking the long way so we can cross Lake Pontchartrain as the sun is setting. We settle in the Garden District - our only hotel of the tour - and take the streetcar to the French Quarter to meet my old friend Henrietta. She's been playing piano bar at Pat O'Brien's for 30 years now and was my chaperone/New Orleans mama when I tried my hand at that gig....at 21 (see pic below)...during Mardis Gras...(About a week later I was moving to Austin so fast that I got two speeding tickets on I-10 in one day). She's as unique as ever, and we plan to watch her set the next day. We have a beer at the oldest bar in New Orleans, then have hotdogs the size of snowshoes. We arrive sweaty and gritty to our hotel, having walked the whole way back, and Emily changes her tune about air conditioning, which she was cursing upon her arrival in America. I laugh. She laughs. It's like that.
~ Me at Pat O'Brien's at 21 with Mr. Eddie Gabriel playing the tray, God rest him. ~
Day 10 - desperate for something green, we find a breakfast place a few blocks away that serves fresh juice, which we use to wash down a delicious Cuban egg dish of some sort. We wander the Garden Disctrict. We wander the Quarter. Emily has her first taste of gumbo. And a po-boy. And a beignet. She asks me who this Jimmy Buffet person is and what's in a Margaritaville... I have a momentary existential crisis...and we wander off to find a beer....in a bar with a dog in it....(video). (Note to whoever's in charge of such things: all bars should have dogs.)
After a nice lady buys the whole bar a round, we make our way to Pat O'Brien's to watch Henrietta do her thing. We see Richard Simmons on the street...but barely have time to process that because we walk into Pat O'Brien's to find a 50+ year old man wearing a diaper and a "birthday baby" sash standing with a woman whose had so much work done she appears to have been shellacked. It's like 6pm on a Wednesday. Life in the Quarter.... We hear Henrietta introduce the birthday baby and the shellacked lady (who's quite famous there but who I won't name here since I just shellacked her) - they're at Pat O's to help a lady named Glenda celebrate her 83rd birthday. After they leave, Henrietta calls me up to play a few - cuz that's not a tough act to follow.....oy. I have another existential crisis and we leave when we can't take anymore. We find our way to the Irish Pub next door to our hotel and proceed to plan our musical assault on the UK and beyond next summer, and toast our friend Steve for bringing us together....several times.... The evening ends with us throwing pretzels into each others' mouths like complete morons. And. We. Laughed.
Day 11 - *BACK TO WORK*- we head to the Ninth Ward to see the state of things 7 years after Katrina....and are uncharacteristically silenced for awhile. Just about unfathomable. We take deep breaths, count our blessings and make our way to Sulphur, LA where Trip (true to his name) and his lovely bride Sarun await our arrival. WE PLAY SHOW #5 to a rambunctious pile of folks, many of whom brave some freak bee swarm on the road to get to us. Weird... We're astounded that we remember any songs at all after 36 hours in New Orleans. Everyone goes to bed happy. But first....we laugh.
Day 12 - drive to Houston, TX. We pause at the state line for me to kiss the ground. Delightfully surprised at amazing room we get to play that night: house doubles as photography studio most days but transforms into hella-gorgeous "venue" whenever adorable Kim & Greg host house concerts. We're early....so naturally we go eat tacos, which I've been insisting we WAIT to do until we get to Texas. After one bite Emily understands why. WE PLAY SHOW #6 to 50 people who are convinced we can do no wrong and reward us with a standing ovation. We cry. But first we all laugh til we can't breathe at least 18 times. After show adventure involving wonderful friends and jalapeño margaritas is almost too exquisite to talk about. More laughing. Shocker.
Day 13 - drive to San Marcos, TX. Emily has an existential crisis....and a sandwich. Hosts are Peter (quintessential Texan) & his charming bride DeeDee. Warm, funny, tall-tale-telling, perfect. WE PLAY SHOW #7 in their gorgeous home with even gorgeouser view, we raise money for HAAM (Health Alliance For Austin Musicians), and afterward we sit out on the back porch, sip red wine, and soak in the smell of a Texas Hill Country evening. Heaven. (ps - we also laugh plenty)
Day 14 - *DAY OFF IN AUSTIN!!!* - truth be told, this is the day I'd been planning the whole tour around...and probably the thing we'd both been looking forward to more than anything else. Why? Because this is the day I take Ems to Chicken Shit Sunday at Ginny's Little Longhorn. Every Sunday in my favorite honky-tonk in my favorite town, you get 3 chances to play chicken shit bingo, which is exactly what you imagine it would be. Dale Watsonplays, the tiny dance floor fills (with me whenever I can help it), Lone Star Beers are $2.50, chili dogs are free.....and life in general is pretty darn great - at least for those 4 hours. A first-timer almost always wins at least once every Sunday - and wouldn't you know it's Emily this time. Effing brilliant!! Some of my dear dancing buddies are there to spin me around the floor a bunch (you will never see a bigger smile on me than when I'm two-stepping across a Texas dance floor) and a few of them even manage to get Emily out on the floor. (VIDEO!!: Tom teaches Emily to two-step while Scott and I polka in the background) She's smiling like the village idiot by the end of the day. More tacos, more music, more dancing, more time with cherished friends....and we stumble into bed with my favorite kind of tired: having danced and laughed our way into happy little comas.
~ Me & Ems w/dear friends Brandon & Nina from Houston. THREE first-timers and me, the All-Time-Chicken-Shit-Loser-Of-All-Time ~
~ Emily and Dale having a discussion about which pocket the money's in..... ~
~ Ems gets her winnings from Ginny herself. ~
Day 15 - *BACK TO WORK* - no stop in Austin is complete for me without a dip in the magic healing water, aka Barton Springs Pool. Uniquely refreshed, we stop for veggie juice & smoothies and head for Dallas. We stop, mandatorily, at the Czech Stop in West, TX for kolaches and Ems tastes the sausage-y goodness that is a "spicy hot chubby"....so long, veggie juice. It starts to rain, Ems has another existential crisis, a quick nap and some tea. Shaking it off, we rock up to Opening Bell Coffee for our only true venue show of the tour. Lovely Robert - whom we both met at Folk Alliance in 2011 and who lives in one of the lofts in the building - welcomes us and gives us a room to ready ourselves in that beats the bathroom of the coffee house. Bless him. WE PLAY SHOW #8 for a fun mix of Dallas folk - some relatives, old and new friends, and humans we haven't yet met. We spend the night in the open arms of family. Many laughings.
Day 16 - drive to Lee's Summit, MO. But first, Uncle Bob gives us an astoundingly thorough tour of the Grassy Knoll/Book Depository and more. Ems gets her JFK fix and more. We only get an hour or two out of Dallas before the taco siren sings to us again. Remedied, we drive north in horrid heat for many hours, arriving in Lee's Summit just in time for fireworks (it's July 3). Dave & Kelli have marvelously strong, cold beers (I dubbed them rhino tranquilizers first time I tasted them) waiting for us, saints on earth that they are. We tell many tales and laugh many laughs. We then pass out and sleep like the dead. But first Emily does this... (the answer to your question is: I have NO idea....)
Day 17 - 4th of July - what better way to celebrate America gaining independence from Britain than to put a Brit onstage? WE PLAY GIG #9 in an all-American midwestern back yard to some all-American midwestern people. The flag t-shirt I ordered online turns out to be a little too small. Result: clown boobs, which I don't discover until I see the pictures on FB the next day. Charming. At least we have Union Jack bunting around the stage area to distract people...(?) Lots of laughing....with us....at us....from us.
Day 18 - drive to Brown Deer, WI. 10-hour drive to my hometown (more or less, different Milwaukee suburb). Ems gets to see part of Interstate 80 in Iowa....of course I play her this video. We arrive, beyond punchy, at @tappsestate - inhabited by @tapps and @moethecat. I met Tracy (@tapps) on Twitter through mutual friend Steve (@solobasssteve) just like how I met Emily (@emilybakermusic). This was one we'd been aiming for all tour as well. Happy to be home, in more ways than one, we settle in for massive snackage and HUGE laugh-fest before retiring for the night.
Day 19 - relaxing morning at @tappsestate. Ems bonds with @moethecat (who looks suspiciously like Brian the cat, who is also a girl, but who can't be arsed to get herself on Twitter). Adorable Hubby @bryanbeller sends us flowers to congratulate us on a successful tour. I have an uncharacteristically girly moment and then we both have a little cry. WE PLAY SHOW #10. @tappsestate is packed! My mom is there with two friends I've known from church my whole life! High school friends are there! Twitter friends are there! Other real life friends and friends of friends and folks from my mailing list who all soon become friends are there!! And the internet is there, cuz @tapps be live webcasting, yo - so even magical wizard @solobasssteve is there!!! omigosh so many exclamation points!!!!! And probably the most laughs yet, if that's even possible. Tracy, funkydrummer that she is, even sits in with us on djembe. After everyone's gone, we end up on the couch doing a version of the Backing Up Song (best Auto-Tune The News video EVER!!) with lyrics from each others' songs and heaven knows what else all rolled into one ridiculous, drunken medley. I can neither confirm nor deny that video evidence of this exists.....
~ Tapps plays djembe while sprouting a lamp from her head. ~
~ Tapps photobomb. :-) ~
Day 20 - I have a second uncharacteristically girly attack and insist on bringing the flowers in the van with us as we drive to Chicago. We take the scenic route along Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, stopping for mandatory insertion of feet into said lake. Other mandatory stop is Mars Cheese Castle where we have lunch (brats, duh...) and Emily buys some pickles (apparently they just don't do those right in Britain). We arrive at Lee & Cindy's gorgeous Chicago home to find not only a lovely room to play in, but we have a whole floor of living quarters to ourselves upstairs. Magnificent. Lee & Cindy were beyond gracious to open their home and host a concert for us since they're still settling in after moving from NM only weeks earlier! They still manage to fill the room with some of our friends/fans and some of their new neighbors, hipping several to the house concert concept (and to their newly established "Windy City House Concerts" series) in the process. FTW!! WE PLAY SHOW #11 - OUR FINAL SHOW!! Crowd is warm and wonderful and beautifully accommodating when we both burst into tears during the last song. The evening ends with just family and us sitting in the living room sipping scotch and waxing poetic. We might laugh a little too. We retire to our suite upstairs, laugh some more, probably have another cry, make a short art film, and go to sleep.
Day 21 - after a RIDONKULOUS homemade breakfast (thank you, Sarah!!), we finally point the van toward Nashville. Chicago shows us all her beautiful sights on the way...well done. We make a few stops in Indiana and I place roses (that I just happen to have in the van) on the graves of my Great Aunt Beulah and my G-Ma and G-Pa P, bless them all. Then we head for the barn. We get almost to Tennessee and it starts to rain. The closer we get to home the harder it rains, as if Mother Nature doesn't want our tour to end anymore than we do. But it's done. We make it home, give Lucian the Cat a hearty cuddle, have a beer, and decide that the only appropriate course of action is.....Waffle House. Smothered, covered, peppered and almost laughed out, we crash.
Day 22 - Ems flies home. After yummy lunch and some shopping, we get Emily to the airport. All checked in, we find our way to the one airport bar this side of security and order Manhattans. It's only appropriate, since we bonded over them at Folk Alliance unwinding in the hotel bar after neither of us could take another moment of networking. It was there that the seeds of this unlikely partnership took root. We have another cry, promise to do it again next year in the U.K, and we finally part ways. Four minutes later we're texting each other, both in tears like buffoons.
But we're still laughing.....
HUGE thanks to: Adorable Hubby, Lucian the Cat, Vickie, Cathy & Frank, Ken & Nancy, Julie, Keith, Vince, Crawbilly, Henrietta, Trip & Sarun, Kim & Greg, Brandon & Nina, Devonie & Robert, Madalyn Sklar, Peter & DeeDee, Mary D, Janet & Riley, William, Tom, Scott, Debbie, Ginny, Dale, the chicken, Brandon & Nina again, Robert, Uncle Bob & Aunt Barb, Dave & Kelli & Zach & Seth, Lane, Tracy & Aimee, Moe the Cat, Lee & Cindy & Sarah, Robert & Tita.....and everyone who came to a show - BLESS YOU!!
Extra special thanks to Steve Lawson, without whom none of this would have happened. #allyourfault
Biggest thanks of all go to Emily Baker, for trusting me enough to buy a plane ticket. #toldya #hashtagLOL