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.
Ha Ha Tonka is one of those few bands today that still plays to the indie ethos that was so courageously paved from the likes of Pavement, The Pixies and The Mountain Goats. The Springfield, MO-based band just released their awe-inspiring fifth album Heart Shaped Mountain, a collection of ten songs that even in their early release stage persevere as anthems and rallying cries of conviction. Comprised of band members Brian Roberts (guitar, vocals), Brett Anderson (guitar) and Luke Long (bass), the trio recently added Hoots & Hellmouth drummer Mike Reilly and The Spring Standards multi-instrumentalist/singer James Cleare to take their songs into new experimental yet organically driven directions.
With Heart-Shaped Mountain out now and receiving positive acclaim, the band is currently on the road. This month we are keeping up with Ha Ha Tonka as they band present their own version of a tour diary. You can also keep up with all the rowdiness of the road by following Ha Ha Tonka on Facebook and Instagram.
Arlyn Studios. South Austin, TX – We’ve just finished our ninth show in six days. We are exhausted and energized at once, somewhere between invincible and perpetually hungover. The seven of us have renogotiated the trailer pack yet again and reluctantly pile into the van to begin a laughably epic three-day drive away from the coolest party we’ll be invited to all year – the Wreckroom at Arlyn – northwest to Seattle, where the tour resumes in three short days. Our mid-afternoon South-By Escape is moving along according to plan when B, our lead singer and D.D., turns around in the driver’s seat and addresses the group:
I’m gonna go ahead and call an audible here. Who wants to go back inside, keep drinking, and watch The Yawpers?
The coolest party of the year lasts a few more hours for Ha Ha Tonka.
South By Southwest is an international convention for an industry comprised of people who have worked their whole lives to avoid working their whole lives (which is more work than it sounds like). It’s a drunken clusterfuck with a killer soundtrack. I can’t believe the city tolerates being overrun with our kind year after year, let alone coming out to cheer for us. But they do in droves, with Lone Star beers in hand, full-sleeve tattoos, and insatiable appetites for raucous, undiscovered rock and roll. These people party.
HHT SXSW To-Do List (partial):
Stay at a friend of a friend’s house out in the hills, about twenty minutes away from the madness. Fight traffic into town every day. Be smart enough not to tow the trailer into this hot mess; rather, load your small-ified setup into the back of the van. Use backline provided by nearly every venue. Pack snare and cymbals inside suitcase for acoustic sets and then use suitcase as bass drum. Get James to call the guy he knows at the Holiday Inn who will hook up a reliable parking space for the whole week. (This is a major score. Homeboy will come through again a few days later when you will all pile into a tiny room with two double beds at a heavily discounted rate for the few short hours between a late night set and another late morning set.)
Old and new friends abound, so meet Elijah Ford and crew at Spider House. Introduce yourselves to Baskery at Tequila Mockingbird. Notice that someone from your little Bloodshot family is nearby at all times, and share bill after bill with Banditos, Cory Branan, and The Waco Brothers. Seek out Eric Slick and band at Sidewinder. Smile politely as Annetta scolds you for leaving the back door open as you try to load into The Broken Spoke. Catch a hot set from your bros from MO, Me Like Bees, at Shangri-La. Be blown away by Send Medicine. Just when things calm down, remember that The Yawpers are never far away with a fresh load of chaos in tow.
Say yes when strangers offer a whiskey, a birthday karaoke session, or a new hairstyle at their salon on South Lamar tomorrow. Ride your longboard two miles downhill through the south side to meet the van for the next set, but stop at the Vintage Pop-Up along the way, where you find a sweet new Queen tee for fifteen bucks. Stay later at the party than you had planned. Get in line for another free Moscow Mule and take a look around: you’re inside the tracking room where Willie Nelson recorded, where Neil Young recorded, where the Austin Opera House once hosted Etta James, The Pixies, Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and on and on. Go have a look at that gorgeous Neve console.
Think with mild dread of the long drive ahead to Seattle. Appreciate your D.D.. Dig hard on your own life. Love Austin. Love SXSW.
Ha Ha Tonka are on tour now with Old 97’s. For a full list of dates and to hear more music check out hahatonkamusic.com.
Stay tuned to Glide for more dispatches from the road!