JU 2013 Tour part two: In Which Johnny Tells of How He Made It To the Show On an Empty Gas Tank


Another apology, with excuses: I’ve been working obsessively on my two next albums, and their corresponding album covers. I decided to rewrite the lyrics of a 17 minute long song, and I’ve spend dozens of hours agonizing over the lyrics in order to turn them from mediocre to adequate. Hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it’s finished. I’ve also been working with Autumn Electric as bassist, and we’re about to record a new album, and this time we’re trying to minimize the number of overdubs we have to do, so we’ve been rehearsing a lot. In addition to that, I’ve been working with Horace Pickett on a new album, and Phideaux on several new albums. I’m fairly busy, but I do have a lot of freetime. Unfortunately, I get very tired and headachy during that freetime. Perhaps it’s foolish to think I can come out with two more albums (one of them a double-album) in the next year and tour twice. Or maybe it’s not. I’ll be honest, I’m really just trying to get this stuff that’s been sitting on my hard drives for years out there, so I can stop worrying about it. Right now, I’m having trouble getting any of that stuff done, so here’s part two of my account of the Jam Unit Summer tour 2013:

Before leaving town for our month long tour of the Northern United States, the Jam Unit and I performed a going-away show in our homebase of Seattle. The show took place on July 11th at the Comet Tavern. We shared the stage with two of my favorite bands, Horace Pickett and Autumn Electric (I liked them so much I joined them: Horace Pickett in 2010 and Autumn Electric just the other week) as well as a touring band – from Salt Lake City of all places – called Pentagraham Crackers. Everyone played admirably, and the whole night was great fun. We debuted my new song “Tinnitus” and I think I got most of the words right. It’s hard to tell. It went by so quickly that I can’t properly reflect on it. I remembered being incredibly nervous for some reason, and sweating a lot. The current animated .gif on johnnyunicorn.com is made up of photos taken by Mike Brown at that show. You can see me sweating.

Two days later, we woke up at the crack of dawn and loaded the van with stuff and bandmembers and headed off to our first of two shows that day. Our first show of the day was to take place in the early afternoon outdoors in LaGrande, Oregon, five hours away from Seattle, for KEOL’s anniversary weekend. Due to a temporary misplacing of the envelope full of tour money, we were a little bit late getting on the road, but I had resolved to make good time, so I was sure we would arrive with plenty of time to set up. We only had a vague idea of our start time, but thanks to having internet in the van, we were able to find out that they were expecting us about an hour earlier than we could possibly get there. From that point on it was all sweat and anxiety. It was our first out of town show on the tour and it looked like we were going to drop the ball already. My own failure would lead to the humiliation of everyone in the band. Unprofessional. We only had one option, so we sent word out that we would be arriving late, and we eventually were able to get a hold of the event coordinator who told us not to worry, than everything was cool, and that the schdule was loose, and that we’d be able to play as soon as we got there. Phew! Now that that terrifying moment was over, and we were about 45 minutes from the venue, I looked down at the gas gauge and saw that it was at “empty.” At that moment we frantically searched for the nearest gas station. The next gas station on the way was in the town we were playing. There was a slightly closer gas station, but it was so far out of the way that if we had gone there we would be another hour late, and I didn’t want to make another call to the event coordinator just to tell him we’d be another hour late because I forgot to get gas. So, we decided to just go for it. As Tom Petty said, “Damn the Torpedoes.” It was a tense drive. I had nothing to compare it to at the time, but now that I’ve seen the movie Gravity, I can tell you it was very much like that one scene (you know the one). And with nothing but fumes and faith, we managed to get all the way into town without sputtering to a stop on the side of the freeway. My whole body was shaking when I finally pulled into the gas station to fill up my tank. I think I had to use the toilet that whole time, too, but I can’t remember. We performed on an outdoor stage in a parking lot in front of a modest crowd of people who were very into the show. Unfortunately, there were no clouds, and the entire audience was about 100 feet away from the stage in the shade of the buildings. But they liked our show, and they bought the albums, and nobody got hurt.

Then we had exactly four hours to get to a house show in Spokane, which was four hours away, so we shook everyone’s hands and loaded up our gear and bolted out of there like a thief in the night. I would have liked to stay, but these two shows had to happen on Saturday, and I really wanted to play both of them. The drive up to Spokane was not as bad. Starting then, we stuck to the rule that we would get gas when the tank was half empty. We arrived at Liz Rognes’ house just as Glenn Case’s solo set was ending. Then Liz Rognes played. This was the first time I’ve seen her play piano, and I was blown away. Buffalo Jones performed drumless, and allowed me to sit in on beatbox for Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” That was probably one of the weirdest moments of my musical life. Then we performed, and I think we did a great job. But if you want proof, that performance is floating around on the internet somewhere. It was webcast live. You can’t see Naomi in the video, but I assure you, she’s there providing all the bass and a lot of the chords. And then we slept, and it was the kind of sleep that starts too late and ends too early; the kind of sleep I expected we’d have every night for the next month.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned. Next time, I’ll be talking about Missoula, an ambiguous album review, and our time in the wilderness. Until then, toodeloo.

One response to “JU 2013 Tour part two: In Which Johnny Tells of How He Made It To the Show On an Empty Gas Tank

  1. 1. Your tactful allusion to the “temporary misplacing” of the money brings to mind George Bailey and Uncle Billy. 2. No, I don’t know the scene in Gravity, because until now I wasn’t aware of this movie that I obviously need to see.

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