The Fox and the Bird's Midwest Tour Diary
The Fox and The Bird at famous Memphis venue, The Hi-Tone Cafe
From February 26 to March 8, your 2013 Dallas Observer Music Award winners for Best Folk Act hit the road touring across the Midwest. In two weeks and eleven shows, The Fox and The Bird shared the experience of a lifetime together. From driving through the polar vortex to make it to a highly coveted Daytrotter.com performance session, to taking square dance lessons in Chicago-- the rotating five piece made it a journey they'll never forget. This time on the road has lead up to their album release show tonight at the Kessler Theater, which is sure to make for a proud homecoming.
Dan Bowman of The Fox and The Bird was kind enough to compile a few of his favorite tour stories for us. Along with photos by Erin Rambo, they take us through the tour experience through the eyes of those who lived it.
Wichita, KS The cast of characters on our first night of tour was unforgettable. An older gentleman working the door became unapologetically excited when we played Jimmie Dale Gilmore's song, "Dallas". Hollering lines about how Dallas being a "steel and concrete soul with a warm-hearted love disguise," we made a point of preaching the truth of Dallas in the cities we passed through. And Wichita took notice.
The venue owner also owned Kerby's Beer Store (a staple of the Wichita music scene) and took us under his wing. With some luck, we were given a place to sleep in a friend's attic that also doubled as a children's game room (surrounded by toys and a miniature teepee). Touring isn't glamorous-- if you're lucky, you sleep on a carpeted floor instead of the less forgiving hardwood.
Springfield, MO Lindberg's in Springfield was perhaps the most impressive stage we played over the entire tour. The elegant performance space was decorated with portraits of classic musicians, all painted by one of the bartenders. It was the oldest standing bar in town and the large upstairs room used to be a brothel. We rehearsed in the upstairs space and recorded some videos until the local juggling troupe kicked us out so they could practice. Petra, our violinist, attempted sleeping in the van, which turned out to be a poor decision given the freezing temperatures.
Let's note here that we should have given more thought to the weather when we decided to tour the frigid Midwest in the dead of winter.
Lawrence, KS What isn't there to like about a city with a record store that serves free tacos (and taco art)? After playing with an amazing local bluegrass band, we hunkered down with a couple of local (possibly homeless) poets named Doug and Hawk who wrote songs with us outside the venue. Hawk was insistent that playing banjo had stirred something deeply spiritual inside of him. We were glad to be a part of that sort of thing.
St. Louis, MO to Rock Island, IL: The Snowpocalypse Here we were faced with a tough decision, as weather reports indicated a huge snowstorm was bearing down on St Louis. Should we make good on our St. Louis appearance and risk getting snowed in (and possibly miss our Daytrotter recording session the next day)? Pig headedly, we plowed through.
The show was decent, but nothing compared to the blizzard and freezing rain we faced on the way out of town that night. We trudged through snow to make it to Rock Island, IL-- the home of Daytrotter. After lugging our gear up several flights of stairs to the top floor of a nondescript office building, we recorded with a talented (and really sweet) sound engineer named Mike. He took a liking to our photographer and gifted her one-of-a-kind neon colored Daytrotter shoes. Plus he made us sound real good on tape, so thanks Mike! Milwaukee, WI Several years ago at SXSW, we met a brilliant fellow named Daniel Spack (of Volcano Choir, Collections of Colonies of Bees) and his twelve piece band, Group of the Altos, from Milwaukee. In no time at all, these Milwaukeeans became like family to us. So it's no surprise that they were willing to stay up late on a Sunday night as we navigated the icy roads to play a private show in their ornate heated barn.
Despite our best efforts, we arrived late to a party that was thrown just for us with kegs of donated craft beer, homemade chili, vegan cornbread and incredible local art. After a night of music and reconnections, we awoke to a winter wonderland and a homemade country breakfast. Hell yes, Milwaukee. We love you.
Urbana, IL Everyone loves a good hootenanny, and we're no exception. Only we'd never seen one until we showed up on a Monday night to a huge collective folk jam in Urbana. Bands like 'Bones, Jugs and Harmony' (who taught us to play the bones and the jug, of course) and The Fight brought sounds reminiscent of 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou' and classic Woody Guthrie-inspired tunes. We were even drawn onstage with 15 other musicians for one amazing moment that words can't describe. Imagine the Thursday night campfire jam at Sons of Hermann Hall.
We stayed that night in a collective house with many roommates. Several old and new friends gave up their rooms so we could sleep comfortably. The kindness of strangers continues to amaze us.
Chicago, IL We learned that the southside of Chicago isn't that dangerous after lugging our equipment up five flights of stairs to play an in-studio at Fearless Radio. "Fearless Kris" Littman asked insightful questions about the Dallas music scene, to which we defended and supported the amazing music our city is producing. We ended up recording several songs featured on the Fearless Radio website.
When we arrived at the venue that evening they were having square dancing lessons that we immediately got in on. We took shots of Malort, a popular Chicago liquor tasting of burnt licorice soaked in rubbing alcohol. Of course, only one of us tried the 'Ike Turner' - a shot of whiskey that comes with a slap in the face. Ouch.
Our photographer was propositioned in the elevator of the Hilton by a portly gray-haired businessman, we overcame the door guy from hell, our host posed in a speedo in the freezing Chicago snow because he's awesome-- so, Chicago was a win.
Louisville, KY When the opener is a honky-tonk band with a belly dancer that reads fortunes,you have no choice but to tear up the dance floor. It was a great crowd, and during our set, a house a block away from the venue caught fire-- igniting fireworks in the attic and lighting up the sky. We had to join the crowd of onlookers and snap a few pics as the cops shut down the street. Oh, Louisville. Nashville, TN In Nashville, all the boxes at crosswalks play music (Johnny Cash, anyone?). We learned that if you buy a homeless man breakfast, he'll give you a tour of downtown Nashville and show you all the hidden spots. The show was amazing (as you would expect from this music town) and we played with a band named Sexx.
Memphis, TN Playing with the Memphis Dolls was the highlight of the trip for us. They're beautiful, talented ladies that lay it on the line. In true form, we got wild and climbed the Hi-Tone, played ping pong with Joel the sound guy, ate local smoked beef, and took some scandalous pictures. None of us could resist the vintage blue couch in the front of the Hi-Tone.
Hot Springs, AR Our banjo player, Jacob Metcalf, grew up near Hot Springs, so we stopped by his family homestead. After decades of living in the country, his mom is moving and must sell the property. Jacob took the day to collect his old things and say farewell. Meanwhile, the rest of us forged into Hot Springs and hiked the national park, observed vintage bath houses, and explored abandoned (possibly haunted) old homes. We ended our tour with the most enthusiastic and loving crowd we'd encountered on our journey. We'll be returning to Hot Springs, mark my words.
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