My Great Brewery Tour's 4th leg (Spring Tour 2019) was a doozie! It was the most extensive tour so far, starting on the first day of Spring, March 21, 2019 and actually ending two days into Summer... June 23, 2019. In between I played 30 breweries in 13 states, including 18 beach towns (Gulf Coast and East Coast), and a handful of non-brewery dates that I generally don't count as part of the actual tour. I reviewed at least 120 pints of different beers, and sampled even more. I'm not sure how many miles I covered, but I guess it wouldn't be too hard to figure out.
When I plan my tours I usually have goals in mind, not only about where I want to play but other things I might want to accomplish. Each tour I learn things, and I'll set a goal of how to improve things logistically, make better use of my time between shows, and so on. For last Fall's tour, I basically just wanted to play New England while the leaves were changing, and luckily I timed that perfectly. For the Winter tour I just wanted to stay down south and avoid the cold as much as possible, and I try to avoid areas in the winter that could have unpredictable road conditions.
For the Spring I had quite a few goals. I wanted to play New Orleans during festival season. I wanted to spend as much time as possible near the coasts. I wanted to do a run of breweries in beach towns in June. I wanted to have someone join me for portions of the tour so we could get some live audio and video recordings. For those keeping score at home, I scored a 3.5/4 on those. Had company on some of the dates, I think we got audio recordings of part of a show... just kept forgetting. I also hoped to remember to take some pictures of the crowds from the stage during my sets... and I think I remembered twice. I just don't think of these things while I'm playing. Maybe for Summer tour I'll leave a note for myself onstage each night. The reality is this: when I'm playing music and drinking pints of good beer, which hopefully is also having fun, the last thing I'm thinking of is tinkering with my damn phone, or recording devices, or cameras. I know some people live for their smart phones and selfies, I might not notice if I lost mine.
Meeting those other goals made for a fantastic time. Playing Friday and Saturday night in New Orleans during French Quarter Festival, with Spring weather before it got muggy... was like a dream. Spending the next week bouncing from beach town to beach town along the Gulf Coast, where I had never been, playing shows, lounging on the beaches, and eating fresh seafood was awesome.
Up until the New Orleans/Gulf Coast leg of the tour I had strictly toured alone. I enjoy the solitude, plus I meet so many people, so I'm never lonely at the gigs themselves, and during the day I'm either traveling to the next stop, or catching up on the blogs, or sometimes just killing time... so I don't usually get lonely and the time usually flies. I do miss Django, my 3 yearold 100 lb boxer. Someday I hope to bring him on the road with me, but right now he's a little too young... boxers are full of energy, and I'm not sure I could get him to just sit quietly with me as I play. Hopefully someday. Anyway, I normally tour alone, but on this leg my son Brad joined me. Brad is also a musician, and fronts a great band called Freak Mythology. They released a fantastic debut album a couple of years ago, and promoted it with a big Summer tour, so he knew the fun of the road and was itchy to do a little touring again himself (the band is currently working on their 2nd album), so he tagged along.
Brad had not yet experienced New Orleans, so that was a big draw, he knew there would be all kinds of dangerous fun wrapped around that alone, much less the other stops. The plan was that he's probably sit in for a few tunes each show, maybe play a few tunes on his own, and help my taking photos during my sets, facilitate the recording, etc. Logistically the recording just got the lowest priority, but everything else worked really well and we had a lot of fun. The interesting twist, though, was I did for the first time start feeling pretty lonely when he flew home and I did the rest of the run on my own. In there was a valuable lesson... I do like to tour alone, but it is also a lot of fun to bring someone along, just put some thought into when they jump on and off of the tour so you don't put yourself into a funk.
For much of May I was back in the Midwest, and that stretch was really enhanced by a couple of events: one of which I planned, the other which was a total surprise. The surprise was that I was booked at the fantastic Haymarket Brewing Co on Michigan's Lake Michigan coast on my birthday, and family and friends that I hadn't seen for many years (like 25, in one case) came from as far away as North Carolina to surprise me.
The planned event was an idea I had been kicking around, and turned out to be a blast. There were a few breweries in eastern Ohio that I had previously visited and really loved, and wanted to share in some way more than just a blog. I thought we could take advantage of the fact that they were all within a couple of hours of each other, in the scenic foothills of the Appalachians... and I also was thinking back to the fun adventures I had following the Grateful Dead and camping along the way... so we organized our first ever Great Brewery Tour Camping Caravan. We spent Memorial Day Weekend caravaning from brewery to brewery, and camping at national and state parks along the way. Everyone would eat and drink and take in the vibes at the breweries while I'd play, and then at the campsites we'd have fun late into the night. Everyone agreed it was huge fun, and that we needed to do it again... so we will.
The Camping Caravan leads me to something else I want to try, and that's a bit more upscale rolling party, hitting choice breweries over a long weekend, but this time on a party bus, and enjoying group rates at hotels along the way. This coming Labor Day Weekend presents a perfect opportunity, as I have the dream trifecta of NoDa (Charlotte), Sierra Nevada (Asheville), and Grumpy Old Men (Blue Ridge, GA) booked Friday – Sunday. Each stop is only a couple of hours from the next, so each day could consist of a short ride on the party bus (during which time we'd party and watch comedy and stuff like that), time to explore other breweries or sites or shopping or whatever, our time at that night's featured brewery, and then the rest of the night to party on. NOTE: If you're interested in this let me know ASAP via the contact form on the website, and if there's enough interest I'll make it work!
The June run of beach town breweries was just AMAZING. Over two weeks I played 11 shows in beach towns up the east coast, met the coolest people, and ate amazing food at places as diverse as rural wetlands oyster shacks to celebrity chef's restaurants. My first run of beaches were ones I'd never been to, and I enjoyed all of them. As far as surf/swimming/vibe goes I really liked Wrightsville Beach, not far from Wilmington, NC. Kinston and Beaufort, NC were both very cool, somewhat quirky little towns, and Charleston, SC was also very cool, and home of what is now one of my favorite casual (t-shirt and flip flops) seafood restaurants. I definitely want to make it back to ALL of these places.
A local TV station invited me to come in for a live on-air interview and song, and that was cool, and created a little extra free publicity for North Carolina shows. I also has invited to be a guest on a beer-aficionado podcast, but I couldn't get my schedule to work with their studio time, so hopefully we'll do that sometime soon.
The second run were breweries (and a couple of non-breweries) in places I was very familiar with. I spent 6 years living in coastal Virginia and used to spend a fair amount of time in the Outer Banks, so those stops weren't as much about new discovery as revisiting old memories, some of which had been long buried. A friend from high school years approached me unexpectedly in Norfolk, and that conversation uncorked enough memories and emotions to follow me for the next week, and even inspired me to reach to someone I cared about but hadn't been in contact with for more than 30 years (which turned out to be a very sweet exchange... try it sometime).
I had originally planned to stay on the road for a couple of extra days after the end of the tour, hit a Dead show near DC as an end-of-tour party, and then finally head home... but another lesson I learned is that I don't like being away from my dog for so long, and a tour schedule like I just finished will wear you out... so I ultimately decided to just head home after the tour closer in Richmond. I still have a few of the very cool Spring Tour t-shirts left, so expect to see a clearance sale on the website real soon!
Currently I'm enjoying a little break, playing a couple of shows close to home, and then it's back on the road for Summer Tour starting July 10 in Michigan. For the Summer Tour I'll be starting with a run around the upper Great Lakes region (I've never toured that far north in MI, WI, MN, etc), some more midwest, that fantastic Labor Day run I mentioned before, and now due to the response and demand of the Spring run it's looking like September might be another run through North Carolina and Virginia!
Keep an eye on the website for updates, or register at the bottom of the site for occasional bulletins, and follow me on the social media stuff!
It continues to be a blast... every day I wake up grateful that I decided to take this path. Thanks to everyone who comes to the shows and reads the blog and other online stuff. I plan to get some new music out real soon for you to check out.
Thanks again to all the breweries who booked me on this tour, I'll never forget ya: Virginia Beer Co (played a benefit for Jared) Mispillion River Brewing (cozy little room with a really cute bartender) Full Tilt Brewing (grand opening of their awesome Baltimore taproom) Tallulah Brewing Co (great family brewery, funny dad, and home of the awesome #bamabrewgirl) Second Line Brewing (great neighborhood crowd, loved the stage setup) NOLA Brewing (massive place, love the Boil Advisory, got screwed by the weather!) Big Beach Brewing (cozy outdoor setting, great locals gave us killer tip on local eating) Props Ale House (Nice new room, hope to play the other one some time) Lazy Magnolia (neat room, good people, got hosed by the weather) Southern Craft Brewing (really friendly staff, great beer... sorry if I drowned out the D&D teams!) Little Miami (a sort of home court... let's move the acoustic sets back on the patio!) Chapman's Brewing (played several locations in N. IN, each location totally different) Haymarket Brewery & Taproom (awesome place, a special night, great waitresses... let's do the patio, then Chicago...) Land-Grant Brewing (great outdoor stage setup, awesome people, great beers. Reminds of Lenny Boy) Little Fish Brewing (loved playing the outdoor stage this time, Camping Caravan loved you) Wooly Pig Farm (I've been singing your praises for a year, glad to see you getting wider press!) Municipal Brew Works (rainouts, reschedules... finally played it! Fun crowd, see ya in August!) Tucker Brewing Company (huge awesome beer garden... threatening weather killed it. It happens) Charles Towne Fermentory (great stuff, great crowd, nice and rowdy as the night grew later) Salty Turtle Beer Co (had to cater to the Deadhead crowd :-) Waterman's Brewing (nice big room, lots of rowdy girls dancing and rushing the stage 2nd set!) Mother Earth Brewing (wonderful place, great little town, enthusiastic crowd) Mill Whistle Brewing (awesome things in small packages! Great crowd, some followed me from Mother Earth!) Uncle Ike's (first night a bit strange, saved our rainout, 2nd night a blast! See you soon!) The Roadside (lots of fun night 1; rainout on night 2 was a bummer, we had a special guest planned!) Benchtop Brewing (reputation deserved! Great place, great brews, great vibe. Oyster Gose!) Brick & Mortar (the new mgmt will rock this place! Let's do it again soon!) Isley Brewing (loved the beers, mellow scene. Great sours and Peanut porter)