We were on our first tour. It was the Georgia Summer. It was a complete pain in the ass and I’ll never forget or speak ill of it.
We listened to Blink-182 and Lil Wayne almost exclusively. Odd combo? Yeah, I know, but it was a combo we could all agree upon for some reason. Well mostly, anyway.
It was blisteringly hot even to four Florida boys. Riding shotgun was perilous, so much so that nobody wanted to claim it after they thought about it. See, whoever was in the backseat would lean forward and fiddle with the radio to surreptitiously activate the heated seats up front. Five minutes later, awash in sweat and spewing profanity, those in the front seats would be scrambling to deactivate it.
We were on our first tour with what would become a sister band of sorts, Last November. These three guys were already well-seasoned road warriors who showed us every ounce of vaunted Southern Hospitality from day one. They positively wrecked us on Beatles cover tunes. They also showed us the ropes of the region and had us laughing (albeit somewhat awkwardly) at the very first stop.
At the first show, our tour mates launched into repeated Old Gregg quotes. At the time, we had no idea what they were referencing, but “mangina”and “downstairs mix-up” were sufficiently hilarious without any context, so we laughed along without asking any questions and they didn’t seem to notice.
A few days into the tour, we were playing at a venue in Macon called The Power Station. It was so named because it had once been exactly that. It was a brick building with a tall ceiling. It had an impressively competent sound team, great lighting, and a far nicer vibe than the afternoon drive into Macon would suggest to a plucky band of outsiders.
The city hadn’t yet recovered from some undisclosed economic or natural disaster that left a number of businesses closed and buildings in disrepair. The Power Station was an unassuming oasis of good times for a motley crowd of local regulars who would later show up.
We’d braved a dozen or so fat bumblebees outside, loaded in our gear in through the side door, got the usual briefing from the venue manager, and made our way down an industrial spiral staircase to the basement. This basement area served as both a green room of sorts and a dining room where visiting bands were fed all the salisbury steak, canned corn, and mashed potatoes they could eat. A surprisingly generous drink tab only sweetened the deal for anyone over 21.
A few welcome plates and beers later, we were all telling stories and cracking jokes when more Old Gregg quotes started getting tossed out. Yet again, one of the members of Last November called one of us a “fuzzy little man peach”, but this time, they finally caught on that we were clueless on all the jokes we’d dutifully laughed at for several days. In hindsight, I’m not sure what betrayed our ignorance. It could have been a poor attempt at joining in or just a poorly executed poker face. Either way, the jig was up.
And just like that, a brief and friendly inquisition began. We caved quickly and confessed our confusion. We were then promptly sentenced and quickly escorted to their tour van to watch the first Old Gregg video on the drummer’s laptop. We all howled with laughter and wiped tears from our eyes. From this point on, having fully bonded with our new brothers in arms, the tour fully tookoff.
The jokes and references flew from the stage, often to the utter bewilderment of the audience while a lone booth or corner of the room echoed snorts and snickers or errupted in laughter. It was finally and totally our tour. It belonged to seven guys in two bands and not the audience. It belonged to Luke, Tyler, Taylor, Andy, Johnny, Andrew, and I.
To be fair, the semi-rural Southeast US isn’t exactly known for being particularly hip to British comedy. Our two respective tour managers didn’t even fully get it. That didn’t stop or even slow us. Because while inside jokes are good, they’re even better through a PA system. We didn’t beg the audience for a good time, we invited them to join ours.
So we caroused our way through a handful of states with our new best friends sharing merchandising woes, rough shows in dead rooms, and gear malfunctions. From texting restaurant recommendations in backwater towns to sharing strings and gear, we had a camaraderie that normally required “scene” membership to acquire.
There weren’t groupies, wild parties in trashed hotel rooms, or anything approaching luxury. There was no profit to be had. We drank well whiskies and hoped to sell enough shirts and CDs to pay for both gas and fast food. Hell, our band didn’t even have a trailer. But there was still riotous laughter, triple-digit temperatures, and lots of music.
Sure, we wound up playing bigger shows in more impressive places. But first tours, much like first loves, are hard to fully forget. And long after you stop loving your first girlfriend, you’ll still be madly in love with your first tour. Sweat, malfunctions, rocky sets, and the Georgia summer.