Motor City Treasures

Our last post left us in Cincinnati. When had woke we got our things together and headed for Hazel Park, Michigan which is right outside of Detroit. This was to be our first time playing in or around Detroit as well as Michigan as a whole. The first time Swamp Rats had set foot in the state all together. We were excited and curious on how it was going to go. We played at a place called The Phoenix Cafe. Prior to the tour starting we were looking for local acts that could possibly jump on with us. We reached out to Cash O'Riley who was more than happy to do the show with us. This was to be his first time playing this venue so none of us knew what to expect other than it was to be a door deal and they allowed for all ages shows.

When we arrived to our destination the front door which was right on the street had a sign that said to go to the back. We thought it was strange but we obliged either way. We drove around back, parked and went in. The Phoenix Cafe was lined from front to back with various works of art from local artists. Which was something we haven't seen in such a capacity. Each section of wall was a different artist or similar theme of art. We can't express how cool we thought it was for a place to have so much local artwork lining the walls. We also discovered that the reason why the front door was blocked off is because there is a stage blocking it with as many amps and speakers as any moderately sized music store. It was pretty amazing. They also didn't serve alcohol which is why they were able to host all ages shows. This seemed to be Hazel Parks artist haven among the ruins of the Motor City.

They had planned on having a kind of open mic that night before the show as a way to help not only get people in the door but to also have some openers as well. The owners were cool as hell too. They told us about all the acts they have and that they also played in various bands from time to time. The first thing we were asked is if we had a place to stay. As usual we didn't and expressed just that. As luck would have it the owners of the Phoenix Cafe also owned a building next door in which they were in the process of preparing so that traveling acts had a worry free place to lay their heads. We couldn't believe the hospitality. If you're reading this and travel as a musician I recommend trying to set something up here at least on a week day. The owners of this place are working hard to keep an artist/musician community alive and well in what seems to be a city in decline.

Like I had mentioned before we agreed to a door deal with this place and we ended up making what seemed like more money than expected based on on many people walked through the door. All in all the night we very well for us. We finally met Cash and he was extremely talented and as nice as could be. We all chatted for what seemed like hours after the show. As the night went on and we grew more exhausted from our travels we took a spot in the building next door and went to sleep. We had a long drive from Detroit, MI to Rochester, NY the next day and need to wake up early to arrive on time.

FYI: The drive from Detroit to Rochester is shorter if you go through Canada. From all our research on the matter we found that you are able to enter Canada without a passport if you are traveling there for essentially a day trip. If I remember correctly it was up to a week or two. But you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. without a passport due to the current administration and their stricter laws and guidelines concerning immigration. All of didn't have passports on us at the time so we decided not to risk it. Food for thought.

Down to Earth in Cincinnati

Our last post was about our show in Louisville, KY. We woke up in a house that a member of Call Me Bronco was calling home. Got ready for the day and headed to Cincinnati, OH but not before hitting a couple of the museums Louisville had to offer. Not too much happened between us waking up and getting to Cincinnati besides us being tourists for a couple hours and checking out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory as well as the Science and History Museum there.

The first order of business once we got to Cincinnati was to eat. Our contact there had pointed us in the direction of an Irish Pub was also have a bluegrass jam that night. Andy had visited Ireland last year and when we walked into this pub, the name of which I can't recall at the moment, she said was exactly how Ireland was. A group of musicians were huddled in the corner of the place in a circle and seemed to be playing for themselves regardless of how many people acknowledged their presence by clapping after each song. We were told that many famous musicians had come in here to play the weekly bluegrass jam. We all ate some great food and had a drink or two by the time our contact had met us.

After this very enjoyable experience we set out to the Listing Loon, the venue we were scheduled to play that night. The Listing Loon was a quaint little place that served crafts beers and had a full liqueur bar. We had arrived early so we ventured around this seemingly art/entertainment district. It almost was like this street was locals hung out. There were at least two other venues within walking distance, a cute little coffee house and an amazing record store which was filled with vinyl from wall to wall on two floors. Once we had our fill and it was about time to head back to the venue to start setting up. By this time their shift change had occurred. We then loaded in, set up shop and waited. Not soon after the opening act came in. Again I wish I could remember the name of the act but it was a folk punk duo featuring a guitar, tenor banjo and mandolin with dual vocals. We were pleasantly surprised since we knew we were playing with someone but didn't know who. The brought in a bit of a crowd and we were thankful that the crowd stayed to see us play.

All in all our night in Cincinnati was a pleasure. We played for a small but very engaging crowd, ended up staying a night with an awesome music lover then one of the members in the opening acts the next night and met some really cool musicians. We would definitely make a point to go back in the future. The next day we were headed to Michigan to play the Phoenix Cafe in Hazel Park.

As a side note I really feel bad we can't remember the names of people or places at the time of writing this but as the names come I'll update this post. Thanks!

Bears, Gummies and Rock'n Roll

We woke up in Knoxville, TN in the home of a couple of very generous strangers named Charlie and Beth. They made us breakfast and we swapped storied to kill a little time. Before too long we took off for Louisville, KY.

A few days before our friend Chad, who set up the show, reached out to see if we needed anything. We replied with possibly needing a place to stay along with the rider below.

“We'll need a stuffed bear that is at least 8 feet tall. Type of bear does not matter. The bear should then be dressed in an Alf costume. The bear should be equipped with a mechanism that when you punch it in the stomach the bear say 'OH YEA' in Randy Savage's voice and pukes out watermelon gummy bears. Strawberry will also suffice.”

Obviously this was a joke and was not meant to be taken seriously by any means.

When we got to Louisville our first stop was at another musicians house by the name of 40rty. We pulled up and he was sitting on his porch half naked with a beer by his side and his banjo in is hands. We hear “Oh! Hello Swamp Rats” as we walked up the path to his front door. This is where we also met one of the other acts playing that night by the name of Alan Tubs. We had a couple of drinks there and then started out to the venue which we were told is internationally known but when this information comes from some of the best trolls we know it's easy to dismiss such a thing. We were off for Mag Bar.

When we got there we met the other band playing that night. They were a touring punk esk band from California called The Orange Blossom Special. Very nice and talented fellas so we definitely recommend looking them up. There wasn't a bunch of people that night and we were told not to expect very many people since it was on a Sunday and it was also the ass end of a major festival there in Louisville. We usually like to see what is happening around where we are playing to kind of feel out what the crowd might be like. Our shows being scheduled on the same date as other bigger shows or festivals is a rather common occurrence. We have come to learned not to expect much crowd wise when we play outside our comfort zone. As long as there are at least a few people who dig what we're doing word gets spread around.

After we loaded everything in we ran into Chad. He greeted us with a hug and produced a couple of packs of watermelon flavored gummy rings. As he handed them to us he stated that he didn't have any luck locating a stuffed bear though he tried. Even though our list of demands were an obvious joke he shot back by attempting to fill the demand. A man by the name of Alan Tubs went on first. About half way through his set a man in a bear costume came in complete with a vest sporting the local gun clubs name and logo. We can't say for sure that they did that for us but either way you look at it we got the bear!

Like I had said there wasn't very many people and if a couple people went outside to smoke it was dead on the dance floor but if everyone is inside, which most everyone was at the start of everyone's set, then it was by no means an empty room. Alan finished his set, we went on then Orange Blossom Special. The night went pretty quick and then we found ourselves in a late night jam session with Sam from Call Me Bronco. We ended up crashing on Sam's floor for the night. Keep in minds we had no definite place to lay our heads but the stars aligned just right for the right people to be in the right place at the right time. We are so extremely grateful for all these people indeed and hope to return the favor some day.

The next day we were off to Cincinnati, OH but you'll have to check back later for that tale!

Van Troubles, FM Radio and Relief

We started July 15th in Wilmington, NC at the Juggling Gypsy were we had to leave at Midnight. The venue had made us coffee for the road. Our plan was to drive through the night in order to get to Knoxville, TN by 10:30 AM. You're probably wondering why the hell did we have to be in Knoxville by 10:30. We were booked to play the Blue Plate Special which is broadcast live from the Knoxville Visitors Center for a local FM radio station.

We did drive through the night and decided to stop to try and get a little sleep right around the North Carolina and Tennessee Boarder. After waking up at a rest stop we took off on our last stretch to Knoxville. We finally reached our destination by 10:45 AM. The whole time being paranoid about our breaks. We knew before we left Wilmington that we needed to take it easy and be careful because our breaks were starting to go. Having shitty breaks in the Smokey Mountains is not the ideal situation. Like I said we did manage to get to where we were going despite the breaks.

When we arrived we quickly unloaded our gear and merch and set up as the sound guy directed. We were like a bunch of zombies simply doing as we were told and executing with very little dialog. The DJ saw the look of sleep depravity on our faces. Once we got everything dialed in we were directed to a near by coffee shop. We were more than happy to venture forward to obtain some much needed caffeine and liven up a little.

By the time we got back the tiny visitors center was filled with people. They all sat in rows of chairs in front of the stage. Calm chatter filled the room as they waited for the show to begin. There were two acts that day. The first act was a duo called Friction Farm. A talented older couple but not necessarily the type of music we would voluntarily listen to. They were to take up the first thirty minutes of the one hour show. It was during this first half hour that we all started to become nervous.

Keep in mind Andy and I have been playing front of people most of our lives and we have played without an issue in front of hundreds but shows were people go to specifically listen to the music rather than to have a good time is always more nerve racking. The show started at 12 PM. By 12:30ish we were set up and about to play. Though the actual set is more of a blur than anything else we played a set that could've said our lives. None of could remember if we had made even the smallest mistake and after listening to a copy of the show we were extremely happy with the out come. By the way, we do have our set from that day and will release it as a live album in the near future.

After the show we rushed the van to Midas after trying to see if any of our Face Book friends had any recommendations for a quick cheap mechanic. After about two hours and a couple hundred dollars later our breaks were no longer an issue. We took off to set up at Crafty Bastard Brewery in Knoxville. This show pretty much paid for our breaks so it could've have worked out any better in my opinion. During our set a random couple had caught some of our set and went up to our tour manager, Kristen, to offer up their home to us saying that many times in the past someone had put him up and wanted to do the same for us. It was a chemist named Charlie and a school teacher named Beth. We couldn't have asked for better hosts. They were just happy that we chose to take them up on the offer. We are always very grateful for people like this. They come out of no where and just decide that they want to do something to help our a group of smelly, road dogs. Charlie and Beth were our Knoxville heroes and we hope to cross paths with them again in the future.

In the morning we set off for Louisville, KY to catch up with some old friends and play the world famous Mag Bar. Until Next time!

Discovering A Gem in Panther Lake

When we last updated this blog we spoke about Awendaw Green. After we parted ways we headed out for Willow Springs, NC to play the Panther Lake House. We knew it was going to be a house show but we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived July 13th.

The Panther Lake House is essentially a recreational area on a lake where you can take out canoes, paddle boards or other various vessels. A guy named Sammy lives, owns and operates this place. He had mentioned that he inherited it from family and that the place as been in his family for about three generations now. He has plans to establish a destination for touring bands to play and stay while getting a little relaxation and fun.

A folk punk duo by the name of The Constellations set this up for us. There wasn't a lot of people being a week day but we had heard from a couple other people that on a weekend they easily get about a hundred in attendance. We managed to sell some merch before we had even hit the stage which was a good sign for us. It told us the people who go to these events appreciate what we do and want to support us with out ever hearing our music. Fireworks were lit, a few beer were drank, food was made and we ended up taking a midnight boat ride. Though we don't have much to say about this show it was a rather grand experience.

Sometimes you have to take a chance for you to see how much people appreciate the fact that you are trying to live your dream. They all treated us like we were some kind of famous which threw us for a bit of a loop but the hospitality was appreciated none the less. Big thank you to Sammy and The Constellations as well as all the people who came, danced, tipped us, bought our stuff and most of all fed us.

After we woke the next day we were off to Wilmington, NC to play the Juggling Gypsy. That night was pretty laid back and easy. It was the fact that we had to leave there around twelve at night after the show in order to drive straight through the night to be in Knoxville, TN by 10:30 AM. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.

And Then There Was Awendaw

On the 12th we landed ourselves in Awendaw Green located in Awendaw, SC which is roughly 15-20 minutes outside of Charleston, SC. This was to be our first time playing Awendaw Green. From what we were told this is a weekly thing held every Wed. There was a barn like building where they have the stage set up. Several lawn chair were put out in front of the stage in rows and they had several canopy tents set up for vendors to hawk their wares or sell food.

We were the first band to arrive and we were blown away by the sure size of the place. There were brass insturments hanging from tree limbs throughout the entire place. The general feel was what it would've been like decades ago where the whole town comes out to have fun or get together. We took a few pictures which were posted on our Instagram account.

Several acts were to play that night. They came from all over and each one was as good as the last. The line up was incredible. Everyone was super friendly as well. We were sitting kind of off to the side of the stage when a lady from New Jersey came and sat next to us. She made a point to tell us it was her first time and how excited she was to experience this weekly affair. We also informed her that this was our first time being there as well. We made small talk for a couple more minutes then she thanked us for the company and went to find the group she came with.

One of the bands to play was called Chelsea Lovett and the Boys. Well, the Boys quickly learned we were from Florida and went to tell us they were from St. Augustine. We tossed a few names around and discovered they were good friends and even room mates with some of the people we knew. They even had another band called the West King String Band. We heard a great deal about these guys from our friends in St. Augustine but it wasn't until we were in SC that we met them. It's moments like those that show you just how small the world is.

We were third to play that night and the crowd grew tremendously. Some of you might have even caught the live stream they did of the night. When our set was finished that same lady we spoke to before hand came up and she stated she wasn't aware we were one of the bands playing. "You tricked me!" she said playfully. She ended up buying a CD and kept telling us how much she enjoyed the set.

The guy who sets the whole thing up is named Eddy. Believe it or not he's the town dentist who is a hug music lover. He offered up his swamp cabin for us to stay the night. I could go on and on about how amazing this place was so instead we took some pictures. We felt like a kid in a candy store. The 13th we were off to Willow Springs, NC to play the Panther Lake House but we'll have to catch you up on that later. For now enjoy the pictures and we'll see you out on the road!

Swamp Rats

 





Charleston on a Sunday

For those of you keeping up as of today we are gearing up to head on out to Awendaw Green in Awendaw, SC. We talked about our time in Savannah, GA in our last post and now we get to reminisce about Charleston, SC. We played the Tin Roof July 9th which was a Sunday.

The story really starts in Savannah. We woke up in the house of one of the members from Jeff Two-Names who, by the way, was an amazing host. We all got up, our host brought us coffee then we packed up to see one of the biggest cemeteries we have ever seen. It was Bonaventure Cemetery. We literally spent a couple hours walking around. If you ever find yourself in Savannah we strongly recommend taking the time to venture around. Once we we got our fill of walk among the dead it was time to hit the road.

The ride wasn't too bad at all. Charleston is maybe 2-3 hours at most from Savannah. We arrived fairly early and went to go see Patriots Point. Patriots Point is essentially a WWII museum on a retired battle ship. We found our destination but as luck would have it we realized it was 5:30 pm on a Sunday. Needless to say anything we probably would want to see was going to be closed. Bummer right? So we went on to the venue.

The Tin Roof is known as a destination venue which means there really isn't any foot traffic that would attract people to come in. If there isn't anything going on no one really shows up. This is also true if you don't have any one local on the bill. We could not find a local to save our lives despite our efforts and that of the venue. There wasn't really anyone in the place from the time we got there up to the time we left but not all was lost. Sometimes you gotta roll with the punches. The staff was super friendly and helpful.

We had Andy open up the show with her solo stuff dubbed The Andeeks Roadshow. The people there clapped and enjoyed it but we started to get a little discouraged. When she finished her set we all went outside for a smoke and a bit of a pep talk. Once we got prepared we hit the stage. Big shout out to Todd the sound guy. That guy killed it and made us sound so much better than we actually are and a good sound guy makes a huge difference. As the set went on people started to really enjoy what we were doing. How do we know this? We made a dead room move. They were dancing! It was a really good, humbling feeling. If for nothing else this show was really enjoyable because of the response. They kept asking for one more song. Since Kale hasn't been playing with us for more than a few weeks we ran out of songs we all could do together!

After we got done playing and chit chatting with the people who were left we packed up, collected our pay and was on our way. We drove 3 hours that night straight to Clover, SC where we stayed with family for the last couple days. We did end up busking in Charlotte, NC for a couple hours the other night. So for your information if you plan to busk uptown (which is their downtown) you are able to busk in the public spaces as long as you aren't blocking the flow of the walking traffic. Private property is recognized by the grey bricks while public space is the red brick. If you head up there you'll see what we're talking about.

Now it's time to get off this thing and start heading to Awendaw Green! Hope to you all out on the road!

Swamp Rats