Saturday, March 21, 2015
Atlanta, GA

It's about a half hour before midnight and we just passed DC, barreling north through the darkness towards our distant home of NYC. I commented to Thad that we have had to make one big sacrifice in this band. Not really personal relationships, not too much money, not even careers or a sense of normalcy. No, the payment this band exacts from us again and again is sleep. So often have we been stripped from slumber's soft embrace because the band demands we must be conscious for some dumb reason or another. If we do not break up until one of us dies, it is likely the Austerity Program will then call the recently deceased back to the living after a bit like Jesus telling Lazarus to get the fuck up. "No, you cannot be dead, we have to get this trailer back in time to meet the rental agreement. Stop decomposing and get behind the wheel."

Our travel duo became a trio yesterday when noted AP pal Jon Wright hopped a one-way flight down to Atlanta to see the show and make the drive back with us. He landed in the city before we did and killed some time figuring out the public transit and taking pictures of convertibles This is what one does in Atlanta. At some point we finally arrived at the club - the Earl - and loaded our black boxes in.

The afternoon drifted into night as we just kind of hung out. I wandered about the neighborhood, unsuccessfully looking for a gift for my wife (not to Jill: sorry, baby! But thanks for letting me stick you with the kids and snowy sidewalks for a week!). Both Thad and I noted that our normal pre-show anxiety - utter lethargy for him, manic distraction for me - were nearly absent. Maybe that's what happens when you get good at regularly playing your stuff.

I kind of planned to go full psycho for the show as a way to go out on top, but the performance has its own way of deciding what's really going to happen. Our songs, and especially those we'd picked for our set list on this tour, are mostly stories of intense desperation. If I can get my head into that kind of crazy space, the performance means I get to act those stories out in a way and that can be a really good time. It's all id.

But last night, there was something else that kept pulling me away from full immersion. Even while we were playing the most panicked-out parts, I had a fleeting sense of sadness. It was the last night of this very fun tour; we wouldn't be playing these songs again tomorrow.

Still, we had a fun time and got the idea across pretty well. I was sweaty and hungry after dealing with the last of our gear crap but dinner would have to wait. This was the night I'd really watch Shannon Wright's performance. I maneuvered my way up front about a song or two into her performance and lost myself in her set.

As she's standing on stage in front of you, the first thing you notice about Shannon is that you can't see her eyes; her bangs mask the top of her face and the rest of her hair obscures just about all but her brightly painted lips. It seems like she's hiding. Until she stars playing. Because then bassist Todd and drummer Kyle are rolling through one of Shannon's heavy waltzes and she is suddenly on fire. Her face is still hidden but there is no mystery about what she's doing. Dancing steadily through the red stage lights, her white low top sneakers skipping over the ratty stage. And through it all she is masterfully, masterfully playing her guitar. It almost seems like there's two of her - she uses her raw fingers to pluck out lilting melodies across all six strings. The songs are organic and dynamic, breathing sorrow and loss in quiet inhalations and ferociously intense exhalations. I liked Shannon Wright before this tour but I am now pretty close to super-fan territory.

We probably stayed in the club longer than prudent saying goodbye to Hmong Wizzlows and Shannon's crew. But then it was off to our home for the night - band pal Elizabeth and her husband Don (and two dogs and three kids) had opened their home for the three of us. Although they'd both come out to the show, only Elizabeth was still up upon our return, having put out SIX different bottles of whiskey to share as a nightcap. We did indulge a bit before hitting eject. After all, the road would beckon in the AM.

One final thing before signing off - I must inform you of the final, most complex chapter of Mileage Wars. Jon has joined our crew and that only intensifies the idiocy. We did a really dumb thing by having him read, out loud, an [ in depth article I dug up about "Ultramilers" ] - the small but intense cadre of men (and it's all men) who's personal avocation is squeezing the best possible mileage out of their cars. There's a lot - LOT - involved in this but I can tell you quickly it involves going slow on the highway and trying to drive as though you didn't have any brakes. I particularly likes the part of the story where an ultramiler shares his techniques for drafting a truck so close that he kills the car's engine and just gets sucked along.

This article has provided fodder for all kinds of stupid behavior over the past 9 hours. Thad is currently trying to draft a dual trailer UPS truck at over 60 mph. I have been shifting into neutral every time I'm on even a hint of a decline. But Jon takes the cake. Thad called him out near the end of his driving leg: Jon was in a 60mph speed zone going 46! We have a nearly 900 mile trip today and he's going nearly 3/4 the posted speed limit. We were practically screaming at him.

In his defense, he did log the record run with that crap, the bastard

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