Category Archives: Summer 2013 Tour

Johnny Unicorn and Jam Unit 2013 Tour part five: Budgeting

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It sure is odd to write a tour blog about an old tour while on a different tour. But it MUST be done.

Minneapolis was our next stop. The Mini-apple. It felt good to arrive in a city with a skyline and a Trader Joe’s. Last time I was in Minneapolis I had a great time with a band called the Drug Budget, so this time I made sure to set up a show with them again. This time it was at the Kitty Cat Klub. If you haven’t been there, you only need to know one thing: it has a gigantic unisex bathroom that takes up the entire bottom floor. The toilets are located in tiny stalls along the wall with doors that you can’t peak under. The sink is sort of just a bird bath in the middle of the room. There is a lot of red light. It is LOUD.

The show opened with a bunch of comedians who were funny and enjoyable for the most part. The Jam Unit played second, and we were loud as heck, but we had a good time and we got some people dancing. The Drug Budget closed the show with a knock-out set that was fully entertaining, and probably even louder than our set. The lead singer, who’s name I can never remember, really knows how to entertain a crowd. The Drug Budget plays metal and horn-infused pop music and are unlike most bands. This band goes beyond entertainment into something else entirely. Most of the crowd was partying hardcore, but I was fully entertained just standing and watching. I’m always very happy to share a stage with these people, and on top of that they’re all super nice. If you live in Minneapolis, I fully recommend going to their show. They make a Tuesday night feel like a Friday night.

The following night we played a disappointing show to a couple of people in Milwaukee. We made enough money to pay for a tenth of the drive to the venue. Afterwards, I insisted we drive the five hours back to my hometown of Holland, MI to get some hometown comfort. I’ll talk about that in the next installment.

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JU Summer Tour 2013 Part Four: Remembering People’s Names in North Dakota

North Dakota, the West-midwest. From Bozeman to Bismarck is a long, tedious drive. We had to rise early in order to make it on time to our show at Rhythm Records. Fortunately the caffeine-fueled Jam Unit was up to the challenge. I cannot remember what happened on the drive. Most likely it was a lot of silent staring at the flat, featureless landscape. I may have had earplugs in (don’t worry, I could hear just fine, we live in a really loud world). After an uneventful nine hour drive, we arrived at the record store and set up in the tiny space. I was not expecting there to be very many people there, so I promised that the band would improvise a song based on the names of every person in attendance at the show. The people showed up, probably about 20 of them, and sat down and listened to us perform our music. Many of them had seen me perform as a one-person act before and seemed glad to see the addition of a live band. As promised, we performed improvised songs based on the names of every person in the audience. We went as quickly as possible, and it took approximately five minutes. It was absolutely wonderful to play rock music at a reasonable volume level to a bunch of polite sit-down listeners in a shop full of vinyl records. Thank you to Robbie for letting us do it, and please, if you’re ever in Bismarck, stop by Rhythm Records. They have coffee and their selection of vinyl is small but good quality. I always find something I want there.

That night we stayed in a campground that was full of weirdos, and we couldn’t find firewood, so Naomi just took a bunch of cut-up trees from a pile. Later that evening, I decided I cannot eat veggie dogs while wearing a mustache. Also we snuck over to the RV section to use the bathroom, although, I think we were allowed to.

Then it was off to Fargo and the Red Raven Espresso Parlor! I had played there about four times before to extremely small audiences. But they were so nice to me, I just had to keep coming back to play, and I was determined to build up a small following, even if I had to do it one person at a time. But I like it that way, because I’m fairly picky about my fans. I want to make sure each one of them is okay with being part of a large group all looking in the same direction. I want to make sure they aren’t developing cult behaviors or anything like that. I want to make sure they are there to enjoy the performance. Anyway, I was expecting a small chunk of people to show up, but it turned out that the audience that came was about five times larger than I expected. That made me happy, but also a bit nervous, because I had also promised the audience of this show that my band and I would come up with improvised songs based on each of the audience members. Well, we played the show and people enjoyed it, and I think I even saw a few people dancing. We improvised everyones names and it took a really long time, but we got through it unscathed. I was very pleased with the way it turned out because Josie, from Bismarck, was at this show and the previous show, and we remembered how to play her song from the night before. Then, because it was Ian and Max’s (our guitarist and drummer) birthday (they’re twins), I surprised them with a birthday song, which I forced them to play without having rehearsed it. That was one of my favorite moments of the tour, just because I actually remembered someone’s birthday (edit: actually, I was just told that in fact I didn’t remember, Naomi told me. but I still remembered what she told me long enough to mention it on stage, which is quite an achievement). I was feeling really good about my own memory recall by the end of the show, and when I went out to push our merchandise on people, a very nice audience member who had come in with her teenage kids introduced me to them, and this one kid quizzed me on his name and I couldn’t remember it, even though twenty minutes earlier I had written a song about it (along with 35 other people). He seemed a bit bummed out. If he had known he was going to be talking to an absent-minded person, maybe he wouldn’t have felt so bad about it. Anyway, if you’re listening, kid whose name I couldn’t remember, I hope you’re still listening and enjoying the cd (as you might expect I once again can’t remember your name, but I do know there was one kid in your group named Chase…is that right?)

That night we got treated to a first class suite in an actual hotel. Thanks Brandon!

Stay tuned for the next entry, in which I will describe the nicotine antics of The Drug Budget and one show that went horribly wrong.

Movin’ To Montana – JUJU Summer Tour 2013 Entry Number Three!

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After months of doing things other than finish writing about my Summer 2013 tour, I am determined to finish these posts. They may be quick, and I may forget some names, and there will be typographical errors. Deal with it.

Now, here is part three, in which I discuss the Jam Unit’s entire first stay in the Big Sky Country:

After waking up and having a delightful breakfast at a vegetarian place in downtown Spokane, we hit the road to get to our next show, which was to take place at the VFW in Missoula, Montana. This was an exciting show for me because my good friends from Lansing, Michigan, the Plurals, were kind enough to get us a spot on their bill that night. I love sharing shows with them, because every show they play is a party. When we arrived, the guy who put the show together, Marty, greeted us with veggie dogs and a relaxing patio cookout. The Jam Unit and the Plurals hung out for a bit, talking about the past, the future, and pre-history, then we packed a PA system in their van (somehow) and took off to the venue. We had a few moments to spare before we needed to set up, so we took a walk around the great city of Missoula. We went to an ice cream shop, but the line was so long that ice cream suddenly lost its importance for everyone. On our way back, I found a copy of the free local Missoula entertainment magazine, in which there was an article about my album, that sounded like a bad review, but at least admitted that the album was listenable. Don’t worry about me, I’m happy anytime someone actually takes the time to listen to my album and say something about it. And it was clear this reviewer had actually listened to it. When we got back to the VFW, the show began. It was a raucous night of fun with local bands Needlecraft and the Hounds bookending the show and the Plurals and JU in the middle. The crowd was great and hung out the entire time, and everyone enjoyed themselves. A successful show. Later that night we ate more veggie dogs and talked ourselves to sleep. The following day, the Jam Unit drove up a long, dusty trail to a campsite with almost nobody nearby. There, by a beautiful flowing river, we ate slept and ate sandwiches and never got bothered by a bear.

Next:

Then it was off to the wonderful city of Bozeman. Thanks to the fantastic efforts of Ron Gompertz, we got a write up in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and a live session on the Coffee Show with Keith Suta. We also played at Cactus records to a handful of people and on the street to the hundreds of people that were walking by during Music On Main. We met a baton twirler named Poppy, who loved our music so much I decided to use her name in a song title. This was all leading up to our final show at Wild Joe’s coffee house. A bunch of people who saw us on the street showed up to the show, and we sold a surprising number of shirts that night. It was a great evening, and a great few days of music, and we couldn’t wait to come back (which we eventually did).

Stay tuned for tales from North Dakota.