Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Texas Tour: the hosts

In my last post, I mentioned that selling merchandise isn't the most important thing; rather, people are the most important thing.

There were some key roles people played on the house show tour, from host and encourager, to chef and fire-builder, to Logistics Manager. Though I could write one post for each person, our hosts deserve what I hope they will hear as a thank-you through these thoughts.

Without a doubt, our hosts were outstanding! I only knew a couple of them personally, yet they were all eager to host us, anticipating our arrival just as much as were were excited to arrive. Our hosts not only had meals ready for us, but also took the time to sit and enjoy that time with us, giving us a space for rest and conversation before each show.

In Richardson, the Spiegels ushered us in, letting us rearrange their furniture, cooking venison chili for us, and taking time to send us off at the end of a long, tiring evening and pray with and over us. We were moved deeply with their care and concern for our lives after such a short time of knowing us. The Kittens in Waco gave up their living room and all its walkable space, then welcomed us into the morning with homemade scones and cranberry cake with lemon-glaze - a more than gracious send off! The Vignes' and the Listenbees had their living rooms cleared and prepared for our "stage", making our unloading and set-up so much easier. And in both of their locations, the listeners were especially eager, connected to our stories and our songs in a way that gave us courage that all of this is a good thing.

Why do all these small details matter? Because the alternative could be staying in hotels each night, paying for fast food because there's no time or money left for a sit-down meal, and finding yourselves sick and tired at the end of the tour because the only people you've really talked to is each other, and never did you have enough time with someone in your audience to actually hear their feedback.

I've only toured for one week. That's nothing.

But I can tell you that the presence of people and their homes and their lives made us feel welcomed and loved. And being welcomed and loved could be what life's all about.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Texas Tour: music? in houses?

I meant to give you a pre-house show tour blogpost, I really did. But then I had errands to run and bags to pack and food to eat and sleep to sleep and prayers to pray. And alas, I did not write that blog.

But read on, and you'll know what a house show is, what it means.

So, first you call up some friends or some friends of friends living somewhere in the United States (or abroad, if you've got the money and time). Then you ask them if they want to open up their front door and let some musicians play songs and share stories... oh, and can they at least feed you one meal?

And if they say yes, then you're really excited!

Then, you show up on the day of the show, shake hands/give hugs, pet the dog, rearrange furniture, and begin unloading the Uhaul (which you better get used to because you're going to hit 'repeat' and do this a lot more during the tour!)

{Our setup in Richardson, Texas - photo credit: Matthew Clark}

Then after the usual prep - equipment arrangement, sound check - you sit down to dinner (homemade venison chili, if you're lucky) with your hosts and talk about life. Get to know each other. Be present with the people who have opened a corner of their lives to you. Enjoy this time; it's the best part of a house show, the time you get to have good, slow, human interactions.

And then the doorbell rings.

People arrive, old friends show up, family you haven't seen in years greets you warmly or maybe it's a room full of strangers... to you, at least. Because your host has invited friends (and maybe those friends invite friends), there's an air of familiarity, even if you've just met your guests. Another great part of a house show.

You welcome people from the microphone, and you help them understand what a house show is. It's personal. It's interactive. Guests can ask questions; you might ask them questions. Stories are told; songs are sung.

{San Antonio, Texas - photo credit: David Vignes}

{San Antonio, Texas - photo credit: David Vignes}

The hosts usually provide coffee and snacks, or they invite others to bring the snacks. And when you take a break between song sets, you'll go get a snack, too.

When the night of singing and storytelling is over, you'll reminisce with those old friends; you'll remember how good it was to live life with them, and how good it is to have them back again. You'll meet new people; you'll hear words of encouragement. You'll sell a t-shirt or a CD; but don't be too disappointed if you don't sell many - this is not what it's about.

This is what it's about: people. You don't write songs just to sing yourself to sleep with or to sing in the shower. You may have begun writing songs this way, but if you're on a house show tour, chances are that you are now writing songs in order to share them. To give them as gifts to other people. They may cry; they may laugh. They may just enjoy a restful evening while their kids have coke and pizza at grandma's house.

{Stafford, Texas - photo credit: Cintia Listenbee}

Then when the last guests leaves, you'll collapse on the couch and tell each other how "full" you feel (though you might be a a little cranky and exhausted - I speak for myself here) and tell each other what a good and crazy idea this was to pack up your stuff and go play music together.

{What about you? Have you been to a house show; have you hosted one? Were you the musician who played in someone's living room once? Share your thoughts with us!}

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Texas Tour: arrival and unexpected stays

Our bedroom floor was scattered with 7 bags of all shapes and sizes, clothes thrown about after being eliminated in the first-round cuts from our luggage; and a general mess from the process of packing in preparation for an 8-day road trip.

"Man, we're still taking a lot of stuff," Jeff remarked, which which I replied, "Yeah, but we are working during those next 8 days."

And we are. Good, meaningful, exhausting, delightful work.

What I don't mean is that we are going into our 8-day Texas House Show Tour with an, "Ugh, this is work," attitude, where we often find ourselves when our paid work has become too much, and we need vacation.

What I do mean is that art is work, and we get to work for the next 8 days!

How will we tend what's been set before us? The songs, voice, listeners, instruments? What fruit will be born from these 8 days, 4 shows, practice, rest, meal-sharing, and even moments of exhaustion-induced disagreement?

We are eager to work well, rest well and see the fruit!


Guess where we are: Joel Osteen, Texas-shaped waffles, "Outdoorsmen Decor", and complimentary toothbrushes.

We shared a memorable show with our friends in Richardson, Texas, just outside of Dallas. The Spiegel family gave us their home, encouragement, venison chili, and furniture-moving-permission for our first house show. The house slowly filled with college & Memphis friends, family we'd not seen in too many years and a sweet child, for whom we were his first live show!

We were grateful to play music in their home, eat their food, hear stories of new adventures in new countries, and be blessed by their hospitality and deeply loving prayers, before we embarked on the next adventure. And there was a next adventure.

Late arrival, non-working gate codes, and spotty cell signal made for a hunt for a hotel, but not without a valiant effort on our part. Jeff hopped the fence and, unsuccessfully, attempted to trick the electric gate into thinking he was a car. My favorite method? Taking two metal water bottles over with him and waving them over the pavement, in front of the sensor, etc.

Did we mention that all of this took place in a solid downpour, or which didn't let up for hours?

Alas, our path led here, to the Best Western, which is a big deal here in Emory, Texas! It's brand-new - we're pretty sure we were the first in room #201 - and boasts a good, hot breakfast, complete with Joel Osteen and...

Yes. We're in Texas.