Sand Section Road Notes(July 2010)

I thought this would be a great story to kick off my archived Sand Section posts. I posted many Road Notes entries from our very first tour in July 2010, but unfortunately most of them have been lost since our Sand Section website was disabled. Luckily this one was pretty popular and I was able to recover it from an old email. The context for this post was that we were on the last leg of the tour, on our way home from Texas and an unbelievable amount of shenanigans ensued. At this point in time, we were still a 3-piece reggae/rock band fresh off our first album. Enjoy.

Last leg of the Sun Is Shining Tour: Sand Section invades Texas and gets into the swing of things.

There is no question that these last few weeks have been some of the most exciting and memorable of our short tenure on planet earth. We have played great shows at some awesome venues and have seen many of the amazing places that this country has to offer. In this entry, upon our return home from Texas, I finally do not feel the need to open with my standard cynical question regarding our difficult lifestyle choice. We return home humbled by not only the stress and toil of road life, but also the amazing people and places with which we have been so privileged to share our time. Our finale in Texas proved to be the most successful leg of the tour. It served as a heralding reminder that you never know what life will hand you.

I left off on Sunday July 25, following our show in Denver, which as you probably recall had a less than favorable turnout. Fortunately, we would never see an empty house for the remainder of the tour. We left Colorado with high hopes, but still slightly defeated after two consecutive shows that were less than stellar to say the least. Upon leaving our hotel, we thought that we could boost morale by checking out The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, which are the largest sand dunes in North America. They seemed like the obvious place to stop and take a Sand Section photo, and we were not really too concerned with driving 70 miles out of the way just to check them out. That’s when the rain started…

About half way through our drive to the dunes, the clouds started to layer in thicker and thicker. Then it started to rain. We had already driven pretty far out the way so we remained optimistic that the rain would let up and we could take a victorious photograph. As the sprinkle turned to a downpour however, and we pictured ourselves taking photos knee-deep in mud amidst dodging bolts of lightening, we finally decided to pull the plug. We turned our little minivan around, snapped a couple of photos by the side of the road, and headed for Lubbock, Texas about 9 hours away where we would stay the night. The drive was pretty standard, but we were fortunate to drive through New Mexico for our first time which was cool to see, but definitely no Hawaii if you know what I mean.

There is nothing notable about our stay in Lubbock, Texas. It was just a little Texan purgatory where we arrived late and rested up for our equally long drive to San Antonio the following day. It was a nice hotel though if I do so say myself. I feel pretty well qualified to make such a claim having stayed in 9 hotels in the last 2 weeks.

We arrived in San Antonio late after spending about 45 minutes driving in circles trying to find the elusive hotel. It unfortunately turned out to be the nastiest one we had stayed in yet and we were going to have to stay there for two nights. It reeked of mold and was another definite candidate for bedbugs. On top of everything, it was so humid that it made it impossible to stop sweating, and made the air even more musty and gross. We were so turned off by it that Sam reluctantly got on the phone and demanded we get a better place the following night, which we did, at no additional charge. He definitely saved us from all sorts of fun infections that would have at the very least ended the tour.

Hang in there readers, things get way better from here on out. The next morning we headed to the Alamo. That’s right the Sand Section tour group invaded the Alamo and got a full-on history lesson. I personally didn’t know much about it prior to our visit, but we learned that it is truly a fascinating place that commemorates American heroism. I won’t bore you with the long details about the treacherous battle that ensued there, but we were all pretty stoked and stayed there for quite a while learning all about it.

After our adventure, we met up with the Fortunate Youth boys for some Texan BBQ. We ate at an absolutely delicious place which I believe was called BBQ City where we grubbed as much as we could all stomach. With full bellies we finally headed off to our new hotel, which was a million times nicer than the previous one. Finally, after lounging by the pool we made our way over to the Scout Bar where we would play our gig that night.

We were a little discouraged when we got to the Scout Bar to be honest because it is a very large and awesome venue. I know that sounds great and all, but very large awesome venues look extra large and empty when they are sparsely populated. On top of everything the place had signed guitars and platinum records all over the walls which hung there and taunted our rookie status. Judging by our last couple gigs and a discouraging warning from the sound guy who said that Tuesdays were usually pretty awful, we were looking at potential embarrassment.

By the time we got to playing our set however, people had actually showed. I counted a good number of people from the stage, which was a major confidence booster after a string of tough shows. The downside was that the crowd watched us as they would watch a special on the History Channel and we could not really tell if they were enjoying the tunes or not. In the end they actually loved our music and were just listening intently. We even signed a couple autographs after the show which was awesome.

After the show, we stayed the night in our hotel and headed for Houston the following morning. We checked into yet another hotel in the early afternoon, except that this time we spoiled ourselves and stayed in a really nice one; the kind that gives you fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies at the front desk. We headed to our gig early that evening at another Scout Bar (Same owner, decorated the same).

This was hands down our best gig of the tour. The place was completely packed for live music and dollar beer night. The place would have been even more crowded if it didn't happen to be fifty cent beer night upstairs... Nonetheless, we played awesome and people were blown away by our powerful performance. You can only imagine the amount of energy we had seeing all those excited people out there after playing to such small numbers previously. We were really impressed with ourselves and it was difficult to stop smiling while playing our set.

After the show, we finally went for it and packed 11 people into one hotel room. We were all so exhausted that we actually got a great night sleep and we were able to pull off the crowded room without getting in trouble with the hotel which is always a major challenge. The funniest part about it was that Travis from Fortunate Youth was sleeping next to the door and his snoring was mistook for a dog by hotel staff, and they had to call our room to make sure that we didn't have any wild animals running around. We all got a great laugh about that 7am phone call.

The next morning we left for our final major venue show of the tour in Dallas and we were all a little bummed that the whole thing was ending. Before we got the venue, however, we stopped off and paid Spencer's mom, aunt, uncle, and grandmother a visit at his aunt's house just outside of Dallas. We were able to get a nice swim in and hear some intense motorcycle stories from Uncle Tom.

We played that night at a place called Trees which was another sweet venue located in downtown Dallas. We played another really solid set to another solid crowd, and we all felt grateful for the opportunity to be able to play three great shows in a row. At the very end of the show, both bands got on stage for a cover of Bob Marley's Stir It Up. It was definitely a great moment shared between two bands who had grown extremely close over the last few weeks. I can't tell you how well we actually played the song unfortunately as my memory is a little hazy, but from what I do remember it was a powerful event.

After the show we were fortunate enough to stay with our long time friend Kellie who currently resides in Dallas. Thank you very much for letting us hang out and crash, we really appreciate it!

The next morning we made our final tourist stop of the trip and went to the site where JFK was assassinated. We sat in the grassy knoll to snap a few photos, and then we headed to what we thought was our final gig of the tour at the Morgan residence just outside of Dallas. Of course our GPS took us entirely out of the way to some random dirt road in Rockwall, Texas before we made the correction and drove an hour back to their house, but eventually we made it.

Our evening at the Morgan’s was awesome; those folks really know how to throw a party! We played both an electric and an acoustic set before spending the rest of the night lounging in the pool and meeting some more amazing people. We want to give a huge thank you to Dan and Lisa Morgan for their friendly vibes and amazing hospitality. They not only let us play at their beautiful house, but they were kind enough to put us up in a nearby hotel for the night. As if that wasn’t enough, they treated us to a delicious lunch the following day.

Here is where our story takes a very interesting turn. Upon finishing our lunch, we were asked if we were interested in staying an extra night in Dallas to play yet another house party at the residence of one of the previous night’s attendees. The price was definitely right, so we figured we might as well take advantage of some more Texan hospitality. Little did we know that we were soon to be introduced to the unique life of the middle-aged Dallas swinger community.

We arrived at the house in the early evening with acoustic guitars in hand, ready to jam one final night in Texas. Everyone that we met at the party was both extremely nice and hospitable not only to us, but also strangely to each other. As different couples began splitting apart and getting a little more intimate with all the other couples we knew we were in for a one of a kind experience. We were thrust into a full on swinger party and before long everyone was hooking up with everyone.

As you know, I have been extremely honest about everything thus far in my posts and I will honestly say that not a single one of us were even remotely involved in any of this. In fact, we were surprised that the couples wanted us awkward kids to even stick around once they got into the “swing” of things. We pretty much just sat in the hot tub and watched all the shenanigans take place all around us with jaws dropped. It was one of those moments where you keep rubbing your eyes and making sure that you aren’t in some sort of strange dream. It was oddly the perfect way to end our crazy little tour. Probably the eeriest part of the night was that Tony and I slept in twin beds in one of the kid’s rooms who was surely staying with grandma for the weekend while mommy and daddy got weird.

We left early the next morning feeling like we could sleep uninterrupted for at least a week straight. We had a 20-hour drive ahead of us back to Vegas where as you recall we left our Winnebago to be fixed. We decided to book a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the night so that we could cut the drive in half. Honestly I was so tired and sick the next day I slept for almost the entire drive so I don’t really remember anything.

We stayed the night in New Mexico and left for Las Vegas at 6:30 in the morning in order to prepare for the 16 hours of driving that lay ahead of us. Again nothing crazy about the drive except that we stopped at the Hoover Dam for a quick picture only to realize that the battery in the camera was dead. In the time that we stopped for the picture of course there was a major car accident just up ahead and we could have avoided the 45-minute wait had we not stopped to take the picture with the camera that didn’t work. Uggh…

We made it into Vegas by the early afternoon to turn in the rental car and grab the Winnie. We finally caught a couple breaks and for some reason the rental company did not charge us for the chipped windshield and the RV worked great. It was great to be driving her again, and we were all anxious to get back home.

We arrived back in Manhattan Beach at a little after midnight and finally got to get back into our own beds. This was truly a once in a lifetime experienced and we are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to travel and play music. No matter what happens, we will always have these memories and stories to share for the rest of our lives. Thank you again to everyone who has helped us along the way, and to everyone who has been reading my little tour updates. I apologize for both the tardiness and length of this blog, but I had a lot of ground to cover. I look forward to writing about our next tour experience which will most likely consist of a bunch of college parties over the next couple months. I can only imagine the stories to come. I will keep you all posted.

-Jeff and the Sand Section Crew