The Honeydogs tour diary 4: Talkin' 'bout practice

The Honeydogs tour diary 4: Talkin' 'bout practice
Courtesy of The Honeydogs

See Also:
The Honeydogs tour diary 1: Adam Levy's dream
The Honeydogs tour diary 2: Trent Norton reaches out
The Honeydogs tour diary 3: Meeting a superfan in Chicago

Minneapolis rockers the Honeydogs have been on a tour out to the East Coast. In this tour diary, frontman Adam Levy is providing a running commentary from the road.

Losing $1,500 is kind of a big deal when you're on the road. It basically means you are fucked. No gas money. No food money. No going home. No paying yourself for busting ass driving seven-hour days, moving gear, setting up, waiting around, sound-checking, waiting around... and waiting around some more, playing your ass off, hustling merch, chatting with fans, humping gear, packing the vehicle like a Tetris game, sometimes losing sleep, and suffering the occasional indignities foisted upon you, and probably more waiting around somewhere in there I'm forgetting about. It costs to be on the road: gas, hotels, highway tolls, meals -- like a marauding army, a band consumes as much as it yields sometimes. Losing the cash flow means band bank account reserves must be tapped or individuals must forgo and somebody has to pay the piper in the end.

This happened to me. Upon discovering said error, an adrenaline-saturated panic consumed me -- the van is strip-searched, suitcases are upended on grease-stained parking ramp concrete, memory-banks are scoured like a Perry Mason cross-examination, sweat pours in cascades. Then all hope is lost. Managers are notified. Big sobs heaved. Recriminations are hastily made. Hours of silent spiraling about months lost income to pay back this mess swallow you up absolutely. I am shame-ridden; and completely deflated, like a guy on a desert island who sees the one plane after weeks of waiting just breeze by him overhead without noticing him. All of this Herculean work for naught.

Fortunately the Gods of Cleveland smiled down favorably and revealed the moneybag to be carefully hidden in a zippered compartment in my suitcase. I had forgotten to recall this rational economic decision made before heading to find a Pittsburgh Strip District breakfast. All was righted in the Honeydog universe -- unfortunately the adrenaline panic was not relieved by a long-lasting endorphin counterweight. I was exhausted, valuable lessons were learned... I think... and I aged a few years in that five-hour period.

But I tried to recall the wise words of our longtime soundman and Yoda-like presence on the road, Jay Perlman: "Some weeks are fantastic, some suck ass. It's like waves you can't control. No matter how hard you work, they come at you in their own unpredictable patterns. Sometimes you just gotta ride 'em."

So I had a shitty day. Our superfan from Chicago drove his motorcycle to the show in Cleveland. I felt a sense of excitement -- he was going to witness the first and last shows of this tour, and see the improvement. He was pleased that we were going to do a couple of his requests, even at the risk of falling on our asses. I was bummed that he didn't mention how much better tonight was, instead saying that first show sounded GREAT. To us, the first night of the tour that felt shaky, was, for the fan, a great night. We must remember that every show is important. Your worst moment can be epiphanous for someone else. At the end of the night he bought more CDs to deliver to a few paramours on his way home, helmet-less on his fancy jet black Harley. "By the way, " he said as he started his engine and got set to drive all night back to Chicago," "if you ever need some kind of backer, here's my number." No wonder he gave us the couple hundred dollar tip a few nights earlier.

Frankly, all things considered, this may have been one of the most enjoyable tours I've had in years. Most enjoyable because I feel like I'm singing, playing and writing better than at any time in my life. Maybe most importantly, I really like this band... not just because the music feels so good and natural, or because the other three guys are exceptionally good players whose abilities and tastes are in sync with mine... but mostly because they are great teammates and travel companions. We are actually having fun on this sometimes exhausting journey. And no amount of bad warm-up bands, surly bar staff or long drives can demoralize you if you're in buoyant company.

Each night of the tour saw improvement: the four piece became tighter, the set list refined, parts better executed, and with that technical and musical mastery came a more confident individual and group performance. Practice makes perfect.

Or doesn't it?

Trent seemed fixated for much of the trip on an Allen Iverson press conference that has become a hackneyed meme.

At first we laughed at his use of the word "practice" some forty times in the 3 minute footage. His unwillingness to acknowledge culpability was stupefying, his lack of desire to explain himself arrogant.

But Trent wouldn't stop talking about Iverson. It started to get a little annoying, especially for those of us who could give a flying fuck about any organized sports, including basketball. "Dude's the Miles Davis of basketball," Trent says. Iverson was short by NBA standards, and upon his entrance into the game, he earned a gadfly status with team owners and press with his gangster sartorial style of neck tattoos, low-slung pants, and a caustic media interface. He wasn't shy about exposing the hypocrisies of billionaire owners calling the shots, even though he wasn't making peanuts. Like Davis, he was an improviser and in some ways, "turned his back on the audience," acting against rational commercial imperatives, current tastes and dictates about behavior.

Iverson played for himself. He may have sometimes erred towards egocentrism and not bore the weight of and taken as seriously the necessary practice regimen of teammates, coaches and owners, he gave everything in those games. Despite odds, despite hard-earned game innovations being cutoff by the NBA at the kneecaps, Iverson was relentless with a Mohammed Ali physical grace.

And then Trent's fixation on Iverson started to make sense. Don't let anybody take your joi de vivre.

We always hope for and work for bigger audiences. We always want to sell more records, make more money. You want to be admired by fans, you want your art to have some sort of significance outside of each poorly-attended show, you want critics to talk about the uniqueness and the weight of your current and historic offerings, you want to leave your mark. Every time you get up in a room, regardless of who you're playing for or how many tickets were sold, you do it for a few transcendent moments. And those moments are usually palpable for folks watching. Bad sound, shitty plates of complimentary oil-drenched tan food at clubs, questionable payouts, ant-infested motel rooms, seemingly endless packing and repacking of the van, and forgotten lyrics or poorly-executed parts onstage -- are but distractions from the real reason we do this. Because the music matters. To us.

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