Plenty of people go to see bands when they come through their town, but most people don’t think about everything that it takes to get those bands to their favorite club. Being on tour for a musician is both enlightening and daunting, as physically and mentally draining as it is stimulating. And no matter what, there are always stories to tell. In Tales From The Golden Road we let musicians tell their own stories of life on the road to get a behind-the-scenes, up-close look at what really goes down between each show.
This month Glide Magazine is excited to share dispatches from modern blues-soul practitioner The Reverend Shawn Amos, who has just concluded his first European tour.
The early days of a of tour are filled with hunger for the road ahead. The excitement of the first gig, the thrill of discovering the next town and meeting the next crowd. As the last days of a tour approach, the only thoughts are of home.
I can feel home getting closer. It’s a mixed feeling. I have changed and had experiences that only my band and I can fully understand. I’ve been relieved of the day-to-day responsibilities of taking the kids to school, taking out the trash, paying the bills. The road is not reality and even though I miss home, the bubble of a tour is seductive.
The final days of this tour have been blur. We boarded an 8am train to London with five hours of sleep. Eighteen hours later, we boarded another train to Paris. In between, I think there was a gig at a posh private club in Westminster called The Arts Club. They were kind enough to let us shoot a Kitchen Table Blues episode in one of their guest rooms. Eight hours after arriving in France, we’re on stage for the first of two shows as part of the Blues Sur Seine Festival. Blues Sur Seine is now in its 18th year. It’s really a world music festival, bringing together roots artists from around the world to play at variety of venues across Paris and its suburbs.
France is a challenge for the band. The French famously do not make it easy to be an English speaker. Our driver speaks absolutely no English. The hotel staff speaks absolutely no English (although my room looking over the Seine River makes the communication breakdown a lot easier to handle). The stage crews speak no English. It’s a bit disquieting to some in the band and everyone has to dig a bit deeper to stay calm, go with the flow, and keep the faith.
French crowds love the blues but refuse to show it as effusively as the Dutch. They are reserved and it takes most if the show to get them on their feet. But we get them on their feet. Our final show of the tour is at a 300-seat theater in the town of Savigny-le-Temple. The stage and lighting are the best of the tour. The venue feels like a performing arts center that you would find in the downtown arts district of a major city. The crew takes their job seriously. Our lighting and soundcheck run close to two hours. The lighting is actually directed. Most clubs throw up the lights and leave them in place for the duration of the show. On this night, there are lighting cues for each of our songs. A follow spot is tracking my every move. It changes me and changes the performance — heightening it to a new level.
I have always been adamant that American blues music deserves to be on the great stages of the world — not just juke joints and bars. It’s one of America’s greatest contributions to the world. On this last night of the tour, we got one step closer to that dream. The band was tight from three weeks of being intertwined on the road. The stage was grand. On this night we elevated the music, paid our respects, and did it justice. Now it’s time to go home. November 8. Election Day. We won’t know who won the presidential election until we land. One last reminder of the disconnection that touring brings.
As we leave, I see the seeds we planted already bearing fruit. Our booking agent has received offers from a few 2017 blues and jazz festivals. I see new social media followers with Dutch and French names. And even though this trip was a net financial loss (this tour was basically an investment; a chance to audition for bigger opportunities during the busier spring and summer touring season next year), it feels good to have an envelope full of euros to deposit in the bank when I return.
Success? Absolutely. More work to do? Totally. But first there is my daughter’s birthday this weekend and some lost time to regain. Home for now. I’ll rejoin the road soon. There’s no way I could leave it.
All photos Beth Herzhaft (herzco.com)