I'm Joe, volunteer roadie, designated driver, and unofficial biographer for SUNSPOT's approximately (Wendy thinks) 12th Annual South by Southwest (SXSW) "Strip Down to Texas" Tour (as unofficially named by one Vic Hidalgo, our host in Austin TX, who I am sure you will become familiar with as this travelogue unfolds). I'm also the bassist in Madison band GUPPY EFFECT, but that fact is inconsequential to this travelogue.
SUNSPOT will perform some official shows at the famed Austin TX music fest SXSW this weekend by way of an open mic in Nashville TN tonight (I may try to get a slot as well) and some impromptu guerilla rocking in New Orleans LA tomorrow night (in conjunction with a haunted pub crawl as part of Wendy and Mike's paranormal podcast side gig).
"The low tire pressure warning light just came on," Stuart reported a few moments ago.
"Really?" said Wendy. "But the van has new tires...what the hell?"
"Sometimes new tires need to spin a bit," Stuart said. "I'll keep an eye on it and see if it's just a bad sensor."
"There's a button you can press that should show each tire individually," Wendy said.
Stuart played with the buttons for a few seconds.
"It looks like the left rear one," Stuart said. "When we stop next I'll have a look. It's driving fine; I'm not noticing a wobble or anything."
Stuart picked up a tire gauge when we stopped at the Edgerton (WI) Travel Plaza to pee and acquire more coffee (aka, future pee).
"Pressure is fine," Stuart reported after testing the tire with the gauge. "Must be a bad sensor."
We piled back in the van feeling considerably more confident in the van's roadworthiness.
"The van is still acclimating," Wendy joked. "It needs to get accustomed to us."
"It's imprinting," I replied. "Like a baby duck." Crickets...
The roadways are clear as we burl down I-90/39 toward Rockford IL.
SUNSPOT is a Madison WI hard rock power trio that formed in its current incarnation (Wendy on drums, Mike on bass and lead vocals, Ben on guitar, and all of them on backing vocals) in 1996. Ben and Mike had been playing music together since middle school, and Wendy joined later while all of them were freshmen in college at the University of Wisconsin - Madison (Mike and Ben were even roommates). 21 years later they are still rocking hard and pumping out fresh new songs and albums, all the while performing live around Madison and touring farther afield, like this trip down to SXSW (which also happens to coincide with both Wendy and Ben's birthdays, to be celebrated as available festivities permit). I was introduced to the band some time in the mid-2000s, after going to one of their shows with my drummer buddy MG Sherry, and I have enjoyed seeing them whenever I can while loosely following their progress and growing, self-styled success. Wendy and I have become good friends and last year we formed a Mastermind accountability group to pursue our self improvement and professional goals (a major factor in the 30+ pounds of weight I have lost over the past year). SUNSPOT's work ethic and passion for their music and their brand ("arena rock for geeks") is admirable and they work ridiculously hard at music. They are also some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
I have wanted to join SUNSPOT's SXSW tour as a roadie in previous years, but due to conflicting schedules (mostly my own band having St. Patrick's Day shows to perform during that week in mid-March) I wasn't able to until this year. Most of my current music projects are on hold right now for a variety of reasons* and I made sure to black out this week on my shared Google calendars so that no confounding events would pop up unexpectedly. I am super geeked to be supporting the 2017 SXSW tour and looking forward to visiting Nashville, New Orleans, and Austin. The only down side is that my fiancé and soul mate Deborah has to experience this trip vicariously through me because she couldn't come. She works for THE MAN and did not have precious paid time off (PTO) to expend to be here in person (she used a substantial chunk of it for our tropical vacation to Florida back in February). So I have to make sure I capture as much of the rock-n-roll adventure as accurately as I can here on my blog so she can experience it like she were here (Hi honey!).
"It looks like the prison van in Orange is the New Black," Wendy said. "The arm rests were probably removed so the prisoners couldn't use them as shanks."
This narrative did not contradict any known facts, per se, so we went with it.
We are currently still driving through Illinois, near Dix (he he he) with about 3.14 (Pi) hours left until Nashville (today is also Pi Day...3/14). The van is riding smoothly notwithstanding a bit of unexpected snow. We tested out Stuart's live stream tech earlier and it worked great. That's for people who don't have time to read this travelogue and want just the gratis instantus of video highlights (though they will miss a lot!).
I only performed one song and did an interpretive dance to SUNSPOT's second song, "Eat Out My Heart," in lieu of a second tune. We actually made it out of the Douglas Corner Cafe a little before 2 AM, duly satisfied with our efforts, after saying farewell to the handful of peeps who remained in the venue at that hour, including old timey sound guy Donnie Winters.
Mike had Pricelined us a Comfort Inn while we were still waiting to play at the open mic and we vanned it the 20 minutes over there forthwith for a brief afterparty of boxed wine and road snacks. The problem with rocking late at night is that it amps you up and then it's hard to sleep. One needs to settle down with some camaraderie. We don't have to get up too horribly early tomorrow for the Nashville to New Orleans leg of the tour, but we need to be somewhat expedient about getting on the road by 10 AM-ish.
*Note: GUPPY EFFECT will start rocking again near the end of May if not sooner. SKOOLNITE BENDER performs only sporadically at open jams. HIATVS is perpetually on hiatus. I resigned from KELSEY MILES BAND due to too many low paying bar gigs. YOUR MOM only hires me as needed when their bassist has conflicts. CACTUS JOE, my rock-n-roll alter ego, does what he wants when he wants (I may share the open mic stage in Nashville tonight after Wendy and Mike of SUNSPOT play...).