Gradual Progress

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Day 4 in paradise, cherishing time with family and looking forward to ushering in 2019 with a tan. 

Several people have asked if I plan on writing everyday on this trip, and whether I’ll continue the MoaT past my original goal of 365 straight days. The answer’s yes to both, though I’m embracing the aloha spirit and leaving the surface waters of my neuroses undisturbed, just for a little while anyway. 

I’m enjoying this time of relaxation, reflection, and recovery, and a Buddhist proverb comes to mind as I’m writing this - if we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. If nothing else, after all these years of trial and error and gradual progress, I’m confident that my aim is true.

Perfumed by Farts

I’m writing this not from some green room festooned with phallic art (thank god), but from an undisclosed location I’ve absentmindedly geotagged on Instagram. So much for that much needed social media unplug. At any rate, I’m on uncle duty as I’m writing this, watching my nephew chase geckos around the lanai in full waddle-tastic toddlerdom, and I couldn’t be more content with my place in the world. Total decompression level achieved. 

My first under a palm tree book’s The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, highly recommended for fellow sci-fi nerds, and as said palm tree’s within line of sight and calling my name, best to wrap this up and celebrate not being in a submarine sized space perfumed by farts.

I hope you all are enjoying time with family and friends, I’m sure it’s much needed and well earned. 

Friends

Just before the end of tour, Calamity Sam gifted me the original dot drawing she created for new music I’m releasing early next year. I slipped it in between the keyboard and screen of my closed laptop for safe keeping, and I think that’s where it’ll live - a reminder of friendship and the courageous people in my life every time I open up my computer and tackle the day’s challenges.

Thank you, Sam. I hope you and Carter Adams are reading this while enjoying crispy IPAs at Jupiter, just a stone’s throw from Dabadelphia.

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The Perils of Mediocrity

“Now that you’re off tour, what are you going to write about? No one wants to read about you going to the beach.” 

Apt critique, to be sure, and even though I’ve written something everyday since January 1st, eight and a half months prior to the Allen Stone fall tour, I confess to feeling similarly incredulous. Am I now boring because I’m no longer subsisting on rider sandwiches?

And so commences the unknotting of the mind, the post-tour come down that every musician knows well.

The upsides of being a touring musician, I’d like to think, have been well represented via this newsletter, but one major downside is the deeply engrained fear that, regardless of how cool your band is or how many rooms you’ve sold out, next year will be as barren as the Sahara.

The key, I’ve found, is separating productive from non-productive worry. I am, for example, very depleted after this last tour, and in a place where you can yank papayas from every other tree. Now is not the time to be solving the world’s problems. Better to sleep, eat healthy, and celebrate family and friends, so when the time comes again to take up arms against the perils of mediocrity, I’ll be tanned, rested, and ready.

Playful Chaos

…and just like that, I’m in paradise, replete with swaying palm trees, rustling critters, and a profound sense of the universe inhaling and exhaling in unbroken, steady rhythm around my life’s playful chaos. 

At this time every year, I’m no longer a touring musician - I wipe the slate clean, content to meander along secluded beaches and allow my mind gradually to unknot. It’s going to take a while this time around, and I have a lot of questions to answer.

But if there was ever a place to sink into a warm bath of introspection, it’s here. I mean, I’ve already almost stepped on a sea turtle, a large male, probably 50 years old, and as the senior member of the beach he gave me an appropriate “get off my lawn” sorta side eye, as if to say “I’m not in a hurry, and you shouldn’t be either.” 

And the anthropomorphized sea turtle for whom I’ve imagined dialogue is spot on. Time, I think, to dust off the ukulele, channel my inner Jack Johnson, and get down to the serious business of doing nothing.

Surfer Bro Patois

The Dream Team right here. If any one of these individuals weren’t present at various points in the Al Stone timeline, it wouldn’t be the magical, kooky ride that keeps me coming back.

I’m indebted to each person in this photo more deeply than my sleep deprived brain can presently articulate, and as I’m about to board my flight to our nation’s 50th state, I can only hope all these pasty mainlanders, prematurely adorned in floral shirts, have experienced friendships so profound.

So, tonight, maybe consider watching 1991’s crowning cinematic achievement, Point Break, and picture all of us drunkenly laughing in the front lounge of the tour bus, reciting every line along with improvised, overblown surfer bro patois.

We’d consider it a moving tribute.

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Closing Time

Show 49 of 49! Our tour manager, Ryan “Bear” Drozd, is siting across from me, his soon to be fixed knee elevated on the coffee table, mumbling over and over that, wait, this tour’s finsihed? How’d that happen? I see color returning to his face as he realizes this is the last day of forwarding the wifi password to spoiled band guys, and if his knee didn’t need fixing I imagine he’d do what I plan on doing post show - cartwheeling out of the venue and exuberantly high-fiving TSA agents en route to a stationary, non-coffin sized bed. 

We’ve all been doing this a long time, so there won’t be much fanfare. The show will be great, we’ll hug each other good bye, and that’ll be that until the next one. We’ve been through so much together, and I know each person in this band and crew would get on the first plane if I asked, and I’d do the same for them.

So here I am - one more bowl of noodles with friends, one more pre-show warm up, followed by one more smiley throwdown before, well, I haven’t figured that part out yet. But to quote one of the great songs of the late 90’s, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” 

It’s been a good tour. Thank you.

Oasis of Calm

I’m writing this in my bunk on the tour bus, the last MoaT post from my curtain drawn oasis of calm.

It’s a little bittersweet - the road’s home, and where I’ve discovered so much about myself - but one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned after countless laps around the country is appreciating when it’s time to put the rock n’ roll malarky on hold. What most would consider the “real world” technically is where I pay rent, so it’s best I reacquaint myself with its goings on. 

We’re closing things out with two sold out gigs at the Neptune Theater in Seattle, hometown shows filled with friends and family. Allen Stone world’s going dormant for a while, and it feels right ending this tour at the venue where, for me, it kinda all started - we played here back in 2011 with the Seattle Rock Orchestra, when the Unaware video was just breaking, and it was the first time I allowed myself to entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this thing was going to go. 

And here we all are, seven years later, with very different lives.

Tonight and tomorrow will be a celebration - of what we’ve accomplished, where we’re headed, and the intoxicating unknown that compelled us, blindly, to jump all those years ago.

Enjoy The Pooches

Some days are meant for elegant prose, others for pictures of puppies in a tub, lifting the beleaguered spirits of a certain guitar playing degenerate on the final day off of a marathon tour.

I left my house on Sept 17th and won’t be back until January, but at least in three days I’ll be luxuriating under a palm tree with a stack of books and a beer.

After every multi-month tour, you come back a different person, and in the company of sea turtles regarding my dad bod with appropriate disinterest, I’m excited to take stock of where I’m at and where I’m headed. But, for now, I’m tired. Enjoy the pooches.

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Fixed Knees

Show 47 of 49 at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA, a benefit for our TM/my personal hero Ryan “Bear” Drozd’s LONG overdue knee surgery.

Touring is a tough line of work. It breaks down your body, fries your patience, and takes you away from home for months on end with precious little financial reward. Our healthcare system is broken, and that we can throw this show together last minute, sell it out, and donate every last dollar to the hardest working person in the world so he can, you know, FIX HIS BODY FOR CHRIST’S SAKE makes us very happy.

By the time you read this, Swatkins and the Positive Agenda (featuring the Allen Stone Band) will have opened the show, and I will have played a new song called “Neverland,” coming out in early 2019. Thank you for either a) cheering for what was, frankly, the best 40 mins in the Wild Buffalo’s history, or b) not pelting us with unseasonal fruit.

And, of course, the Allen Stone Electric Ensemble will play a no doubt, ahem, “loose” set, on account of celebration being in the air.

Thank you, Bear, for your tireless work ethic and being a tough-as-nails motherfucker. Now, get your goddamn knee fixed.

Gallows Humor

Show 46 of 49, and I’m having trouble focusing my eyes. Bodes well for my guitar solos tonight. People of Victoria, BC, you’ll be reading this long after the show’s over, and please know that I’m sorry, and that I know that one song doesn’t go like that. 

But, fortified by eight nights in a row of watching Point Break and an exquisitely degenerate gallows humor, the crew’s going strong(ish), beleaguered and publicly flatulent but unbreakable. Tim “Tim” Burke, our production manger, currently is dangling from his bunk, mumbling “spinal decompression” in between fits of laughter, but I have every confidence he’ll take the kick drum down in my ears if I ask.

So here we are, limping towards the finish line, enjoying our descent into lunacy while luxuriating in the knowledge that everyone on this team is uniquely, absurdly gifted. So what if I’ve been staring zombie-like at the same Cheez It package for the past 10 minutes? It’s going to be a good night.

Episode 27 - Mark Lettieri

Episode 27 of the podcast features the legend himself, Mark Lettieri. He’s a guitarist, composer, session musician, and producer based in Fort Worth, TX, best known for his work with Snarky Puppy and the Mark Lettieri Trio. His latest record, Spark and Echo, is available now.

Mark’s long been one of my favorite musicians on the planet, and it was a pleasure catching up with him when the Allen Stone Electric Ensemble rolled through Dallas about a month and a half back. He’s in all ways the consummate pro - articulate, laser-focused, and a uniquely gifted player.

Click here for iTunes, or here for non-Apple options.

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Infinitely Capable Bastards

I’m writing this from the green room at the Knitting Factory in Spokane, WA. We’ve been through this room a bunch of times, and it’s awesome working with the same high-functioning, curmudgeonly house crew.

Referring to Nick Waterhouse’s drummer’s singing, an unnamed house guy, in between sloppy bites of Taco Bell, mutters, “Jesus Christ, we’ve got a fucking Don Henley here.” Setting up one additional vocal mic takes about 30 seconds, and that it’s a faux-imposition makes me smile, as does besmirching the name of someone so famously cantankerous. 

And they crush their work, albeit amid a symphony of beltches, farts, and hopefully inaccurate assessments of their mothers - an alarmingly profane yet well-oiled machine.

I love that this business provides a home for infinitely capable bastards. 

Punching Bags

We’re hanging out as a team at Allen’s house in Spokane, eating cured meats, drinking aggressive red wine, and watching Chunk the bulldog, with a disconcerting sense of purpose, rub his ass along the carpet. I’m about to turn myself into a prune in the hot tub while waiting for my massage on this much needed day off surrounded by friends. As we’re about to greet even more familiar faces, I’ll leave you with a “caption this” picture of my amp, because it’s a day off, I’m feeling lazy, and there’s a punching bag with my name on it.

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343 Days

I’m writing this in the Flying M Coffeehouse in Boise, surrounded by paintings of bedazzled nude torsos and avuncular gnomes, in the company of hipster chic Idahoans adumbrated by glowing Apple logos. 

I mentioned a few days ago that I could easily make another lap around the country. I lied. I am, in fact, exhausted, and it’s on days like today I’m grateful for this newsletter. On past tours, on the homestretch and grasping for what’s at best an ephemeral sanity, I’d stare at my phone, zombie like, relying on YouTube puppy videos to fortify my nerves, long since frayed beyond recognizability. 

Now, no matter how tired, pissed off, or generally over it I am, I made a commitment to write the MoaT everyday, which I guess is my internet equivalent of putting on pants and leaving the house - it may not be pretty, but I’m making the effort, and goddammit that’s more than can be said for that douche in compression pants.

343 days in a row. Thanks for following along.

Second Wind

I’m writing this in the basement greenroom of the Gothic Theater in Denver CO, the walls shaking around me as Bear tunes the PA with “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. What’s just happened is what always happens at the end of a long tour, where I get my second wind, could easily make another lap around the country, but know my compatriots are this close to lighting the bus on fire. So, I’ll settle for throwing myself into Trevor Larkin music world and luxuriating in the fountain of youth that is total befuddlement. 

But I’m looking forward to it. At this point in my career, I’ve experienced some nice success, a whole lotta failure, and been happy and Eor-like in both. I’ve seen laser focused individuals come up miles short, and perpetually asleep at the wheel types fall into the kinda luck that’d make a Leprechaun blush. 

There are no clear paths in this business, so I don’t drive yourself nuts looking for them. I trust my gut, and releasing new songs feels right. Making music with my friends feels right. Using my music as a platform to showcase talented visual artists feels right. And the plan, if there’s meant to be one, will coalesce around my being a generally badass creative archangel.

Singing of Praise, Pt. 4

I’ve sung his praises several times via this newsletter, but our stage manager/backline tech Steve “Bluto” Libby is a super hero. Imagine equal parts teddy bear, 800 series Terminator, and walking manifestation of nirvana, and you’re experiencing just the tip of the infinitely capable iceberg that is my aggravatingly handsome friend.

I’ve written before about his Herculean work capacity and utter refusal to accept anything done half-assed, but what’s stood out on this tour is his kindness. 

He’s the guy you want to watch shitty movies with at 3am, gain perspective from when you’re feeling all indignant and sanctimonious, and it’s the highlight of my day knowing I’ll be met with ice cold Jamison and a chortle when I exit stage left. 

I trust Steve. Because he’s a good man. Because he’s endured every obstacle this capricious business has on offer and, somehow, is the embodiment of patience. Because he’s seen me at my worst and still finds me inoffensive company, and maybe even occasionally funny.

If you’re lucky, you’re surrounded by pretty decent people. If you’re really lucky, maybe a few are great. If you’re crazy, stupid, preposterously lucky, one of them’s worthy of having their cherubic countenance carved along side Honest Abe on Mt Goddamn Rushmore.

And you can guess where I land on Steve “Bluto” Libby.

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The Finish Line

I’ve been staring at a blinking curser for the past fifteen minutes, my road weary brain a messy collage of future plans, humorous exchanges while being mistaken for opener Nick Waterhouse, and recalling how much joy it brings me watching Point Break in the front lounge with Steve “Bluto” Libby, belly laughing and drunkenly roasting a doe-eyed Keanu Reeves.  

And this is what the final 12 days of a 77 day tour look like - hoping that whatever well-adjusted parts of myself robust enough to survive three months of cheap whiskey and rider sandwiches maintain their tenuous grip on the wheel.

Everyone’s tired and ready to reconnect with their lives outside the band, but moral’s high - the key, I’ve learned, is letting things descend into ridiculousness, like today’s soundcheck where we sang our tour manager/FOH Ryan “Bear” Drozd’s praises over an especially dumb reggae groove. I’m sure we didn’t give Bear what he needed to, you know, do his job, but we had a laugh (Bear included), and that’s what the push to the finish line’s all about.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

I’m writing this in the greenroom of Delmar Hall in St. Louis MO on a peaceful, niveous evening, thinking about the classic poem by Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

The last stanza in particular resonates as we near the end of this three month extravaganza - the road, in my case, is indeed lovely, dark and deep, still mysterious and nourishing after all these years, but there’re parts of my story that can’t be told from the comfy confines of the tour bus, and I’m excited to carry over the positive momentum from Allen Stone land into new projects when this tour wraps.