Not when there's an experienced five-man crew that stays on top of the six musicians' every move -- from the puddle-soaked stage lighting in
Not when there are far worse gigs to remember. As with any band that has spent nearly a decade working its way up the venue ladder only to get to the break-even rung a few years in, there's a war story in nearly every city. Like one of the members' Odysseus-like adventure trying to score pot for the band in
"And that's still not our lowest-paying gig ever," the band claims.
Most Minnesotans like to spend their summers outdoors, close to home.
Trampled by Turtles, the
It gets easier, but it's still not easy. Standing behind the giant stage at
Dive in we did. Starting the morning after a "Late Show With David Letterman" appearance, Trampled took us along for six days of myriad promotional gigs, a headlining set in hard-core bluegrass territory and a finale at the Forecastle Festival in
Hardly the salacious, sordid, soggy adventure that a Replacements tour would have been 30 years ago -- although these guys are no choirboys -- a Trampled by Turtles tour nonetheless proved disorienting and crazed in a whole other way.
The insanity comes simply from the ping-pongy schedule, hitting two cities in one day and waking up in a third city whose name you've forgotten. It comes from days dictated by the bus driver's legally stipulated sleep schedule, and such sign-of-the-times music industry to-dos as a Reddit Q&A and Billboard's newly invented Twitter chart.
It was easy to see why many bands wind up hating the rigmarole, and one another. It was also easy to see why this particular band thrives on the road.
"We own our own record label. We fund everything ourselves through touring. We get a little bit through record sales, because those have gotten better for us over the years, but it's 2014. We don't have a lot of money coming in on the record side."
Everyone was still smiling over how the fiddle player got his back scratched by Letterman on national TV the night before.
"Let me get that for you," the late-night host said as the burly, thickly bearded
While the rest of the band hit a Chelsea watering hole to watch themselves on TV after the late-afternoon taping, the singer went back to their rented bus to crash.
"All the nerves and anticipation of playing that one song build up all day, and then suddenly it's over," Simonett explained. "I felt completely drained."
Not even a big New York TV taping alters the bus' usual
While their bus driver slept in D.C., the band somehow wound up in a garish limo minibus with black tinted windows and a leather wraparound couch. "There's even a hole to put a stripper pole," bassist
What at first looked like a MÖtley CrÜe entourage turned into a Boundary Waters portage once the band members started unloading gear in their North Woods attire.
Among the odder gigs that bands play circa 2014 is the virally popular "Tiny Desk Concert," taped for NPR.org. The concerts actually do take place at a desk, which belongs to "All Songs Considered" host
Boilen pointed out the restrooms, and Saxhaug instantly ran there. "The smallest bladder in bluegrass," Young mused.
Mandolinist Erik Berry checked his phone for reports from home. "I'm missing my son's last baseball game of the season," he said all too matter-of-factly.
The band's knowledgeable, T-shirt-clad co-manager from
Harrison more convincingly emphasized the enormousness of the "Tiny Desk Concert": "These things get half a million page views."
About 50 people crowded in to watch Trampled's set, including
"You got any beer?" Simonett asked.
"We eat like this every day on tour," the band's woolly-smiled banjo player claimed. It would not be his last fib of the day.
While their van was tied up in D.C. traffic, the band started the Q&A with fans via the social-network website Reddit, with the fiddler typing on his phone.
Among the A's and Q's, the favorite response seemed to be, "Like toilet water splashing on your butt." The question: "What's it like listening to your earliest albums?"
While there's truth in that reply, the band didn't take most of the questions seriously. "Somebody asked who my favorite banjo player is, and I said me," Carroll said. "That's just a baldfaced lie."
"I crave it. I could be on the road most of the year. I'm excited and get into the swing of things right away. I've joked about putting a roof and walls around my bed at home to make it more like sleeping in a bunk."
Gigs: "CBS This Morning,"
"Are you guys actually still a
The day started out unusually relaxed for band members waking up in
As the van rolled up
The band quickly learned about the odd world of TV newsrooms. As the
Tour manager Mike "D" Tholen clutched his phone tightly, checking the time and logistics of their next gig.
They had a 51/2-hour drive to
As he often does when things get tense, the banjo player cut the air with a joke. Under a photo of the Dalai Lama that was taken on the same set, he asked, "You mean the morning-show greenroom doesn't have a coke bowl?!"
Finally, with images of missile launchers and
Apologies were exchanged. So were sandwiches. Many sandwiches, in fact. Realizing that they wouldn't have time to stop for a bite, the band shoveled the finger foods off the greenroom catering cart into their bags. Once again, food would be the only form of payment.
They made it to
"Traveling in a bus is a luxury. It gets cramped in here for sure. If everybody is up, there's not really 12 places for people to sit. Somebody has to go lie down. But that's nothing to complain about. Having this crew has made our lives so much easier."
Gigs: WXPN "Free at Noon" broadcast, Sound Garden in-store
A seasoned road hound who did many tours of duty with
As screwdrivers from the bar and
"It's hard to complain about anything that goes on these days," Simonett said, fondly adding, "That's when we got to know Eamonn, too." (Cellist Eamonn McLain, the band's newest member, also plays with Michelle.)
During the band's six-song set, Simonett told their
As fast as the setup in
"It took me 21/2 hours to watch an hour-and-a-half movie," said Berry, Trampled's resident chicken farmer.
"I saw you at [
"I've listened to you guys every day for at least the past year."
"You guys changed my life."
The band was treated to comments such as these as they autographed copies of "Wild Animals" at the Sound Garden, an uncommonly large record store in an unusually nice part of
No wonder bands still do record-store appearances even though they rarely make money on records. The store was already filling up with fans when the band pulled up to perform another six-song set on a
As at every gig that week, numerous fans from back home popped up in
"I just signed your face."
"We limit the lengths of our tours so everyone gets to go home and see their wives and family. That would be the hardest thing about touring now. Before, the hardest thing was playing a show till midnight and then packing everything up ourselves, loading into a van and driving halfway across the country to get to the next gig."
"The band was
Having kids -- a boy and girl, just like the band's frontman -- was a whole other challenge. Nowadays, though, Berry figures he gets in more "dad time" than he would working a 9-to-5 job with a half-hour commute. He even invented a game with the kitchen clock to underscore this to his son.
Still, the time away doesn't get easier. "It's hard talking to them [by phone] because it'll be loud here or they'll be in the middle of something there."
Three weeks is the most that Trampled stays gone now. They rent their tour bus in spurts and fly in and out of cities to maximize their time away. This method does not minimize expenses, though.
Having a five-man crew doesn't come cheap, either. Theirs is a seasoned, middle-aged crew, too, not young metalhead dudes found through the local Guitar Center.
The senior member is production manager and lighting guru
"They're a little inexperienced here," he said, admitting, "I'm the guy who doesn't worry about being popular with the promoter or local production staff."
This was the first sold-out show at Pisgah Brewing's year-old mini-amphitheater, so the brewery treated the band members to bottles of Sold-Out Ale, made just for them.
Just as impressive was the age range of the fans, with high school and college kids singing side by side with older bluegrass lovers. With 2,200 tickets sold at
Trampled's experienced crew certainly earned its take-home that night.
When Berry broke a string just a minute into the hard-plucking song "
Not to mention, the crew also had to put up with the banjo player's good mood. With the house lights dimmed and the crowd cheering for the band to take the stage, Carroll grabbed tour manager Tholen's walkie-talkie and feigned panic.
"Hey, Scott. I just kicked over all your lights and farted on all the amps. What should I do?"
"I love you, Davey," was the dry response.
Tholen is the crew member who faces the most grief and logistical curveballs and somehow remains the most even-keeled.
Tall and curly-headed, with a deep,
As car lights streamed from the parking lot a half-hour after show's end, two band members hung out backstage drinking their Sold-Out Ale and talking shop with Scottish opening band the Dirty Beggars. A couple others chatted it up with a trio of pretty young women who -- coincidentally or not -- had found two of the three guys in the band without rings on their fingers.
"You ready?" the show's promoter asked Tholen, ushering him into a trailer. That was the one and only part of the tour the band didn't want to see reflected in print. But Tholen did share one fine detail: Merch sales that night were particularly good. "About
The crew kept earning its keep. The tour bus and trailer couldn't back down to the stage and risk getting stuck in the mud, so a smaller truck was rounded up to shuttle the gear. "Twice the fun," Svobodny cracked.
"From the very first time we got in a car together, nobody played music that everybody else hated. Nobody ate something that drove somebody else up the wall. That's why the band I was in when I was 20 years old never drove to
Gigs: WFPK "Bourbon Brunch," Forecastle Festival
"One of the best rock 'n' roll shows I've ever seen in my life."
Trampled's frontman wasn't the only one gushing after seeing the Replacements. "Not a bad way of turning 40," said the band's elder statesman, Berry, who was nonchalant about spending his birthday on the road. He turned 30 the day the band played its first gig outside the Central time zone, and has worked most birthdays since.
Held in a riverfront park, Forecastle drew about 25,000 people for its final day -- many of whom showed up for Trampled's late-afternoon set.
The band was resoundingly happy with the large turnout and rowdy response. "You're making it too hot out here," one fan yelled after the barnburner instrumental "Sounds Like a Movie." Even better, the crowd listened to quieter new songs such as "Winners."
In fact, the band seemed chipper all day. A noontime radio broadcast, sponsored by Four Roses bourbon, came with obvious benefits. More local distillery product, Ole Smokey Moonshine, was supplied backstage at Forecastle -- far tastier than the authentic
Most of the drinking waited until after set time, though. And then it came on like one of Young's fiddle solos: woozy and loud, yet graceful and beautiful.
"It's a nice last hurrah for them on this trip, which was a little extra chaotic for them," Tholen explained/warned earlier. The band would fly home the next day for a three-day respite before continuing the summer marathon at such famed venues as the Newport Folk Festival and
With an early-morning flight to get home to the family, the birthday boy left the party early. The rest of the members wouldn't fly out till midday, so they rolled on to see Forecastle headliner Beck finish it off.
The band loves festivals, and not just because they're among the biggest paydays of the year. "We all got into this because we love music," Simonett said. "A lot has changed, but not that."
They greeted Beck's song "Golden Age" with open beers, a big singalong and even a few air-guitar chords. If it weren't for the other fans cutting in to rave about their show, you wouldn't know this bunch from any other set of close friends in the crowd looking for a good time.
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