Smile Politely

Headlights Makes a Man out of You: Tristan Wraight’s Tour Diary

With their recently released sophomore album, Some Racing, Some Stopping, in their hot little hands, local indie-pop darlings

Headlights head home from Virginia, now halfway through a North American tour. Guitarist and vocalist Tristan Wraight reports from the road.

February 23rd. 3rd Floor. Fredricksburg, VA.

It’s hard to leave the lap of luxury, but “them’s the breaks”: We are playing an all-ages place that sounds like it will be a lot of fun. We have a shortish drive through the Virginia country side. It is as gloomy as it is beautiful and Shearwater’s Palo Santo feels good and spooky. We make a wrong turn or two but get there at the perfect time. Not too early, not too late. The 3rd floor is just as we predicted: a large open art gallery with a corner stage set up. It’s really great. These shows are always fun. There is a back room where we are allowed to have beer. Beer is better than nothing, but it’s not the kind of juice that makes us hurt children with sound waves. Luckily Ben and Laura have come to this show too and have brought the supplies for “Big T’s Tavern” (another name for the looney bin…probably our band fave). There are a lot of kids here and they are full of energy so we have to try to keep up with their youthful verve. The promoter and the other bands (“Exit Clov”: from D.C.) tonight are great. We got some rooms at a nearby Days Inn and had one last hurrah with Ben and Laura. It will be sad to say goodbye to some of our best friends in the universe.

February 24th. Mercury Lounge. NY, NY.

This is why it’s okay to be late 99% of the time. Load-in time in the tour book said 3 p.m. We were about five hours away so we dragged our tired bodies out of bed, bid farewell to Ben and Laura and hit it to NY. We arrived right on time and I actually mean on time, like the right time, like, literally. No one was there so we just hung around for an hour or so waiting for someone to tell us that we could sound check and go find some sandwiches. We finally got going and got our sandos. Tiny’s was the spot. Spicy rizzak. Kevin, the sound guy, who apparently had his brother in town the previous night, is looking a little green and is moving kinda slow but I’m sure that he’ll be just fine in a couple of hours.

…Yup, he was, and the show went really well. The Loom opens the show and have a really great pop/Americana/chamber thing happening. French horn! There are lots of people out, and several old Champaign natives. We played “TV” and “Everybody Needs a Fence to Lean On” for an encore. Everyone is staying at the Ramada Plaza at JFK Airport so Evangelicals came and brought some Natty Light to our room. Hmmm…Natty Light? Really? Come on guys. We drank it though. That’s what happens on tour — you lose all sense of booze discrimination.

We learned that Todd Evangelical went streaking through an old Confederate Civil War cemetery last night. Apparently he ran out of breath pretty quickly and wiped out, so it was more like a nude skulk and crash than a streak. Now he is just chilling in our bathroom. We will have to keep our eye on Todd.

February 25th. Johnny Brenda’s. Philadelphia, PA.

Kind of a boring evening. This is an old building. Very old, but it was opened most recently as a bar in the 60s by boxer Johnny Brenda. It’s an oddly shaped room with a really nice sound system. Our friend Chris from Pattern is Movement is doing the sound, so we’re in good hands. This place has really good food. Clam soup, awesome salads, venison stew, oyster po’ boys. Mmm. Nick and I played pool and had one of our better games. They usually last forever and end in us chasing the 8-ball around for an hour. I won though, only because Nick scratched, but I’ll take it. The show was good and we moved some merch. My aunt and uncle are putting us up outside of the city. They live in a really nice house in the country and we don’t even need to lock the van. We do though.

February 26th. The Space. Hamden, CT.

More Tetris, less talk. We played for about five hours on the drive and I didn’t beat john once. So far Tetris on the Nintendo DS is quickly making verbal interaction in the van a thing of the past. We are now limited to expletives and bitching about who wins the most. We pretty much all hate John. I hate him. We do a kind of round robin thing, but because John never loses, the rest of us just take turns playing him. We don’t really hate him, we love him. But he NEVER fucking loses. I think that Brett and I are the worst Tetris players.

The Space is a fun spot, all-ages and easygoing. We played here a while ago with our friends Via Audio. We expected a great turnout, but there was this real bitch of a freezing rain storm that pretty much killed the show. Since the show was all ages, “Big T’s” was banging. Maybe a little too hard, but no one came to the show so it didn’t really matter. We did get paid 20 bucks though! All of our new t-shirts arrived so we got to roll them all up too! Evangelicals had some friends to stay with at Yale so we drove a bit and got a room at a Days Inn. There was a diner across the street that Erin and John went to for some vittles. Grilled chicken sandos are the way of the future but also the way of yester far. See? Tour is pretty boring, really.

February 27th. The Middle East. Boston, MA.

We really blew it today. This is why you have to be on time that 1% of the time. We were supposed to do an in-studio at WERS, which is Boston College’s radio station, but we got our schedule mixed up and were really late. So late, in fact, that we had to cancel. This is a big bummer because they have been really good to us and promoted the show really well. We suck. We tried to reschedule, but no dice.

We arrived at The Middle East early because they have awesome food. We’ve been here a couple of times and know to order the whipped garlic. That stuff is out of control. Fiendish. But making new friends after eating it is pretty tough. Deep Blue Something is playing next door at T.T. The Bears and their big ol’ tour bus is in our spot! Bullshit. Buses can park wherever they like, but vans get towed. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was a good make out song in 9th grade, though. The show is great. It’s packed and we really clicked on stage. Evangelicals are amazing. Our friends in This Car Up are incredible. Via Audio want to make babies with everyone. Party at our friend’s house. Check out Bilithic. What a night. Boston has about 88,000,000 college students. Life is good.

February 28th. Terrace Club. Princeton, NJ.

It wasn’t supposed to take all day, but the drive from Boston took for freaking ever. We were all a little run down from the previous evening. Too much fun and too many bevs. However, being tired is kind of status quo on tour and is something that you can get used to. It’s only when you have a lot of really really late nights in a row that it gets tough. Unfortunately for us, tonight will be another really really late night. We are playing at a eating club, which is like a big student house where kids blow off steam with gallons upon gallons of beer, and the show doesn’t even start until well after midnight. The promoter Dave has gotten a veggie tray and some chips and things. Healthy! He has also put out an enormous bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Not healthy. We’re kind of like Mötley Crăe. Actually we are just like Mötley Crăe, or maybe just Poison. Imagine when Poison and Winger toured together and would get together to play a huge collaborative encore. That’s what tonight was like. We played “Skeleton Man” with Evangelicals and they played most of our set with us, along with the front row of kids who kept stealing our tambourines. They gave them back though. Sweeties.

February 29th. Union Hall. Brooklyn, NY.

This is the first time that we have ever arrived at a show already knowing that it is sold out. That’s pretty neat. We have an interview with eMusic at the club at 3:30, but get stuck in really bad traffic, making us almost two hours late. Joe, fortunately, is very forgiving and a really nice guy. He offers us some meals and some drinks, and then we have one of the most enjoyable interviews ever. He is kind, interested and informed. We get to talk about criticism and the ups and downs of its current state in which virtually anyone can be a critic. The age of information! After the interview, the band is having dinner with Hector and Justin from AAM, who do our radio promotion.

The opening band Hallelujah the Hills are from Boston and the keyboard player works at T.T. The Bears. Apparently no one went to see Deep Blue Something the other night, which kind of makes me feel bad. they seemed like really nice guys and they got into a ridiculous snowball fight after the show.

Union Hall has great food and Skippy, the promoter, always takes really good care of the bands here. No massive collaborative encore, but Josh did play without a shirt on. It’s snowing and we have to drive after the show so we can get to buffalo on time. No time to hang out with our friends and family [Ed. Note: I’m sure Tristan was sad enough about this to insert a sad emoticon here. Unfortunately, even the mushy world of rock journalism has no mercy for emoticons.]

March 1st. Mohawk Place. Buffalo, NY.

An early show! Thank god! Our friends Ice Cream Social are opening the show. Mohawk Place in Buffalo is like our second home. The first time we played here we had just been robbed of all our money in Akron, Ohio. Bill (Buffalo Bill), the promoter, felt so bad for us that he ordered pizza and wings (buffalo wings). The second time, we had just gotten in a battle royale bar brawl with a punk band (Also in Akron, Ohio. No offense, but fuck Akron. On second thought, offense.) and were a bit bruised and banged up. Bill’s friends Marty and Susan let us stay in their home, which is like a touring band’s heaven. Beds, breakfast, comfort. Marty is an archaeologist and an amazing cook, Susan works for Righteous Babe Records and is awesome. They bend over backwards for countless bands all the time. They even have a guest log in the bathroom that everyone signs while they’re…um…bathing. This is where we are all staying tonight. It is such a relief to have the show end at 10:00 and to get cozy with Marty’s delicious pizza. It’s a lot to ask for anyone to put a band up, let alone multiple bands at the same time, but these two are really special people. They understand what you miss when you live in a van.

March 2nd. El Mocambo. Toronto, Ont. Canada.

Our first time in Canada, eh! We got up and had some migas. Then we shoved off to Canadia, land of gravy fries. We got through customs just fine, but the Evangies are a more motley bunch, and got searched for an hour. They reported that the customs center was like summer camp, though, which seemed like an odd concept. Apparently everyone working there was under 25, very attractive and really enjoying their tasks. We, on the other hand, checked out Niagara Falls, where we were soaked by a freezing mist. It was incredibly beautiful.

El Mocambo is in the Vietnamese neighborhood of downtown Toronto, and it seems like there are a lot of really neat little markets in the area. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to spend much time here because America’s borders are fucking insane and most of tomorrow will be dedicated to getting back into our own country. At least there is a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant next door to the club. Great pho. John has some friends here and goes out for drinks after the show. The rest of us are too pooped and opt for bad cable and bad beds at the hotel. Hopefully he’ll make it back here at some point. I have a feeling that he’s going to feel pretty rough tomorrow. Eight hours in the van can feel much longer with a solid hangover, but he’s a big boy.

Oh snap, speak of the devil! He just walked in and apparently, outside of our hotel, three Welsh gentlemen earnestly, and a bit aggressively, offered to take him home and “make a man out of” him. He is safe for now. Goodnight and good luck.

March 3rd. Beachland Tavern. Cleveland, OH.

Well…I may have spoken a little prematurely about our border control. Wait a minute, no I didn’t. Just because neither band got searched coming back in this time doesn’t mean that America isn’t one of the hardest places in the world to enter, other than North Korea or maybe Antarctica. America is usually a complete pain in the ass. Luckily, we breezed through with just a brief peek by a customs officer. Tonight is going to be interesting. We are sort of playing with Arcade Fire at a “get the younger generation to vote for Obama at the Ohio primary” rally. By “sort of,” I mean that they are in the big room and we are in the small room. They are playing two sets and we are playing between and around those sets. We’ll see how it works out. should be good.

The scene at the club when we arrive is a line of 500 or so soaking wet kids wrapping around the building. Beachland Tavern is a great club, and everyone here is very cool, but with all the chaos of this huge band playing in a small club, people are a bit overwhelmed. Hallelujah the Hills is opening again and it’s nice to see some familiar faces in a frenetic environment. Back to the whole “get the younger generation to vote for Obama at the Ohio primary” thing…I am speaking directly to Ohio right now: DON’T FUCK THIS UP! I know that may be a bit melodramatic for the primaries but…well, that’s how it goes. No one wants to be Florida…no offense, really this time. Just so you all know, Josh from Evangelicals is going to try to crowd surf to Arcade Fire right now. He has a habit. Our friends in The Championship from Milwaukee are here. It’s their day off. They play in Akron, Ohio tomorrow. Good luck, boys. Smack ‘em once for us. In the face. Just kidding. That’s a reference to us getting robbed and rolled there. (Read above.)

The weather is awful. Pouring with rain and we have to drive to Columbus tonight. We get to the hotel at about 4 a.m., just in time for Analyze That or whatever the sequel to Analyze This is called. It is probably the worst movie ever made. Shame on you, Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, you’re as bad as Eddie Murphy. Gobama!

March 4th. WOXY internet radio. Cincinnati, OH./Waldron Arts Center. Bloomington, IN.

None of us really slept last night and we had to get going early to Cincinnati to do a “lounge act” session at WOXY. We really love these guys; Shiv is always a ray of sunshine. The weather is still horrible and we are all kind of grumpy, but after a few jokes and laughs with Shiv, we feel like humans again. We play “Cherry Tulips,” “Towers” and “Market Girl.” It goes smoothly and we make some loose plans to meet up at SWSW. Shiv is also a fan of the most badass bbq joint south of Lil’ Porgy’s, The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas! We go there pretty much every time we play in Austin. Oh momma, I can taste it now. Just wait, we’ll tell y’all all abouts it. Now we have to bust it to Bloomington. The rain has started to freeze and that’s no good. We want to drive home tonight to sleep in our beds, but if it’s too dangerous, we’ll have to get a room and burn our day off driving home. That would blow.

Waldron Arts Center is a very nice, well funded looking theater. Caribou will be playing here soon. Evangelicals’ label (Dead Oceans Canadian) are based here, so it was a good show. Our hospitality rider was filled, which is always a nice surprise. Everyone is excited to get to sleep in our own beds for a couple of nights. The roads are bad, but not undrive-able; it takes a long time, but we make it safe and sound. Nick is going home tomorrow to see his lady on her birthday. Happy birthday, Kristin! Day off!

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