Smile Politely

On the road with Kowabunga! Kid, part two

Editor’s Note: In Tour Diaries, local bands write to report back from wherever their tours take them, for better or for worse. In this edition, Kowabunga! Kid’s Aaron Shults recaps the second half of their tour.

Check out part one in case you missed it yesterday.

Day Six: Philadelphia

The drive to Philly the next day was only two hours so we were all able to sleep in and move at our own pace. The most important thing, we were all able to shower. We got some fancy big city donut and then went to a park in Brooklyn. The park was pretty big but had a lot of secluded areas. It was really crazy to see such an oasis in the hustle and bustle of the big city and even crazier to see it completely empty.

Paul lives across the street from my favorite sandwich place on the planet, Sammy’s. The beginning of this year I decided to go vegetarian and I was really excited to see what Sammy had to offer. I went in and asked about veggie subs and Sammy told me he could make me a sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, and raisins as he kind of laughed at the idea of a sandwich with no meat. I held my head down and walked outside in silence. It was a dark moment for me knowing I can no longer go to Sammy’s. With that I said a dark goodbye to New York City.

The short drive to Philly was pretty uneventful. I realize that is the description of most of the drives, but it is good. During these drives this is one of our only opportunities to be alone, get a little time in for ourselves. In the car at any time one person is driving, Kamila and Jake are reading if they’re not driving, Brian and I are we writing in our little tour diaries if we aren’t.

When we got to Philly we went to the art museum to see those Rocky steps. We got lucky that the art museum was pay-what-you-want for admission. It was a big museum with some pretty big installations inside.

We left the museum and went to the venue. When we got there we met up with Aaron from the bands Blank Spell and Haldol. He showed us where some great Indonesian food was before the show. When we got back a shoegazy band from Ohio was playing.

We got ready and played after. I felt like the set went all right, there was a monitor right by my ear and that usually makes me feel pretty self-conscious. Also there was a mirror right in my line of sight. Both Jake and I remarked the fact that we could see ourselves made it a little weird and distracting. It was cool to finally see Haldol (pictured); I had been listening to the demo since I saw Aaron’s other band Blank Spell in Springfield. It was so tight.

After the show we stayed with Jake who is also in Blank Spell and who is one of the nicest people we met. We went back to his place and watched The Simpsons and ate some of the spiciest pasta I have ever had. It was great. Philly was so cool, everyone was so nice, shoot.

Day Seven: Richmond

We got a little bit of a late start in Philly. When we woke up Jake said he was going to make summer rolls but needed to grab some things. Brian and I went with him to a food co-op, which he worked at. I talked to an employee about the band Tenement, which was cool. We went back and made summer rolls, we kept joking that a summer roll is a Philly donut. On our way out of Philly we were able to see Aaron one last time and tried a veggie Philly cheesesteak.

The drive to Richmond was a rough one for me. Our GPS took us a weird way around DC that added an extra hour and a half to the trip. I had slept the first two hours of the five and a half hour drive but those last three and a half were particularly rough. I just felt like a zombie who was too awake to sleep and too out of it to be awake. It was also very grey and cloudy all day; I feel like that played a huge roll in that. When we got to Richmond we grabbed some coffee and walked around the river. As we were walking towards the river we saw some sort of altercation between a man and woman taking place. We could all sense something was wrong and didn’t want to risk the woman’s safety so we called the police. I feel after that we were all in a weird mood.

We went to the show and our moods changed. Everyone was super nice. It was only a two-band show and it was over pretty quickly. The band Animal Planet played first and it was really good. They had the riffs for sure, I found myself really bobbin’ along to their music. One of my favorite bands we have played with for sure. We played pretty well. During the set I broke a string, my first one all tour and for somereason I felt ambitious enough to change it during the set. I was able to change it VERY quickly. Kamila kept with the banter while I was changing it and wow, we finished the set.

After the show we stayed with an old friend, Will (pictured with banana), from Springfield. He used to be in a band with Brian and me a few years ago. It was really cool to see him, I shared a story that Will was one of the first people I felt ‘chemistry’ with when playing music. During practices between songs we would sometimes do little jams and I felt like I would pick up what he was doing and likewise. I don’t know if he remembers that kinda stuff, but it was really nice to be around him again even if very briefly.

Day Eight: Columbus

Although our trip in Richmond started out with a very literal dark cloud over it, the morning brought blue skies and sunshine. We went to the Sugar Shack, a highly recommended donut place in town, right away. I was able to use a Yelp check-in for a free donut. That’s what’s up. It was one of my favorites.

The drive from Richmond to Cleveland was the longest drive in terms of time at seven hours, but most certainly felt shorter than that five-hour drive the day before. We made a quick pit stop at someplace that called itself ‘The Best of West Virginia.’ Hopefully that was a lie because that place was pretty awful. It was a dome filled with a bunch of wood carvings and lollipops. This ended up being our second disappointment with a dome, after dinosaur state park.

When we got to Columbus we went straight to a hot dog place that everyone had been telling us about called Dirty Frank’s. They had a bunch of vegetarian hot dog options and a bunch of really cool art. It was pretty good. After we explored the city and found this big grassy area where we all just laid down for a bit while some DJ played. It was weird but cool to just enjoy the nice weather. We went to the top of a parking garage and just got a great view of Ohio’s capital, shoot.

Due to some unfortunate circumstances, our original show was canceled. We were able to hop on a show that Chain and the Gang (pictured) from Washington D.C. played. Kamila was particularly tickled about this because she used to play in the band Chain’s Gang in Champaign. We played first. This whole tour has been a study for adapting to monitors for me. The band Good Shade played and killed it. I had never heard Chain and the Gang before but I knew the front guy from Nation of Ulysses. They were great. I loved the personas and their outfits, shoot, the gimmick really stuck on me. I loved it.

Day Nine: Bloomington, IN

After we woke up, Em and Bri from the band Slugbugs showed us around town. They took us to the donut hotspot, Used Kid records, a tight soda/candy shop, and a really cool vintage toy store. Afterwards, they took us to a metro park that they were talking up because they had a bunch of turtles. It was a pretty cool park, we saw a bunch of turtles on a log and then we saw the beautiful evolutionary process of a frog. The weather was great and it was really cool that there were these isolated points of nature throughout the city of Columbus!

The adventure ended up taking most of the day, so we got a later start on the trip to Bloomington. During the drive, Kamila and Jake all but finished some books they were working on the whole trip and I got pretty far in my Steve Austin autobiography. When we got into town we went to an all-vegetarian restaurant called the Owlery. The food was pretty good, best veggie food on the whole trip.

We got to the show and the band Double Jinx started things off. Apparently the band has been together for a while but never played Bloomington, so that was pretty cool! We played next. I felt like I was off or something was off the entire set. I was a little bummed to end on that note, to be honest. I just hope my discomfort wasn’t too apparent. The band Bugg played next and really blew me away. They were so freaking good and they covered The Swirlies. After the show Kora, from Bugg, showed me his Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt collection, which was incredible. I also ran into Jake from the band Traveling. He was on the last episode of my old cooking show, so it was cool to say hi.

After the show we drove straight back to Champaign. The car ride, once again, perfectly captured the driving at night atmosphere. We all started talking about the first shows that we went to in Champaign, how we got into the music scene here, and our first memories of each other. We ranked our favorite shows, our favorite donuts, and our best nights sleep from tour. It was nice to reflect on everything. We got back to Champaign, said our good byes to Brian, and dropped our gear off at our practice space. Overall this was one of my favorite trips I have been on, great people, great company, and just a great time.

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