Recently I was given the opportunity to take part in one of my favorite traditions, The Great American Roadtrip. Now, anyone that knows me well knows that this is not a new experience for me, I’ve logged hundreds of thousands of miles road-tripping through this country. It is not new for me to hop in a car -loaded with gear- alongside close friends and cross a few state lines. It is not new to drink terrible gas station coffee, to spend hours watching the lines of the highway pass by or daydream about those we leave in our wake. What was new, however, was belonging to something larger, much larger. Larger, in fact, than the ghosts of those that came West on Highway 66 or the entire history of American highway travel.
We tapped into a tradition as old as civilization itself, the traveling musician. Throughout nine beautiful spring days, Andrew Keating, Dave Kluger and I caravanned with the Daytrotter crew on the 3rd Barnstormer Tour. For those of you that aren’t aware, Daytrotter (daytrotter.com) is a leading site for Indie Music, recording hundreds of bands a year as they pass through Rock Island, IL -Daytrotter’s home- on tour. Barnstormer is a tour, organized my Sean Mueller (Daytrotter’s #1 man), that travels through the Midwest occupying traditionally non-venue locations and transforming them into hot spots of Indie Music. Most of the spots are barns, some as old as the 1880’s, and all unique. Mainly focusing on tiny towns, this tour is often the only show in town… possibly ever. Our job on this tour was twofold. First, we were there to document the shows and try to film unique ‘acoustic’ performances with the bands along the way. That was our primary focus.
Dave and I have worked together on shoots many times and we quickly slipped back into the zone. Andrew captured audio with a couple of mics attached to our homemade camera crane that we used to get a wide camera angle high over the crowd. In order to do this duty properly, however, we needed lighting as many of these spots were lit solely for the functions of a barn. That is where Andrew stepped it up. The newest addition to our crew, he took the reigns and with a largely homemade lighting kit, lit the shows with amazing results.
This was the 3rd installment of this ephemeral tour, the first two being held in July and October of 2009. With each incarnation, Barnstormer has grown in popularity and sophistication, the latter of which we are proud to lay claim to some responsibility. There have been amazing acts each show:
BSI: Local Natives, Catfish Haven, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltzin, Mac Lethal, Snowblink, Paleo, Dri, Caleb Engstrom and Stranger Waves
BSII: Dawes, Chris Denny and the Natives, The Suckers, Maritime, Snowblink, Paleo and Brooks Strausse
This years lineup was clearly the strongest yet. Headlining the bill was Delta Spirit, a blow-you-away live show and the darlings of last year’s South by Southwest. Supporting and occasionally stealing the show were: Ra Ra Riot, Nathaniel Rateliff, Free Energy and Pearly Gate Music. The vibe was amazing; culminating in a finale that featured so many cross-band appearances that, at times, it could be hard to determine which band was on.
It’s hard to deny that this is what music is supposed to be. These musicians played for basically no money and almost every one of them said it was one of the best times they had ever had on tour. We were all proud at the end of each night, accomplishing something that crews of hundreds or even thousands couldn’t, we put on a grassroots show in a matter of a few hours. We sweat, we bled, we scrambled and every night we were in pain. Still delirious from the night before we woke up every morning and did it again. Every night was packed with people and every one of them satisfied beyond their expectations. Thanks to the bands, to Daytrotter and especially to two members of OUR crew, Dave and Andrew. Bring on Samapalooza!