April 26 - 30 We went on a 5 day / show run to Knoxville, Greenville, Black Mountain, Wilmington, and Savannah. We had 5 amazing shows with some killer bands. Come with us on this tour through the mind of Tommy Shugart.
April 26, 2016.
4:00 AM is normally an hour that we get done packing the trailer and ready to head home after a night of music making. On Tuesday the 26th, it was our wake up call to hit the road. Some of the guys had a gig the night before, so it was up to Chuck and Tommy to get a short rest and take the morning shift. The champagne colored Suburban was packed up for its last big journey (we can talk about this fact another time), and with the burden of our cumbersome Diamond Cargo enclosed trailer trailing behind coupled with our fat asses in the car… the suspension was essentially maxed out. There was a good excitement in the car as there normally is when we set out for a run, at least for the short bit of time before everyone in the back fell again into their slumber.
Around noon we were well into Georgia and people started to wake up hungry for chicken. That’s how it normally goes, as we head north into the Bible belt. With a quick pitstop at a Zaxby’s in some po-dunk Georgia town, we were back on the road and well on track to make it to Knoxville, TN on time.
Our destination was a venue called Preservation Pub, a bar occupying a strip of space from a long, tall building which makes one side of a rectangular courtyard. The building is made up of many bars like it, and various businesses that serve the people of Knoxville. Since the buildings are three stories tall, many of these bars have a rooftop terrace overlooking the city center (which is pretty dang cool if you ask me). Later that day I was hanging out on one of these with Bucky checking out the scene, watching some guy fly a Styrofoam airplane from a remote… The dude was trying to impress people, dive bombing it and buzzing the onlookers. He went in for a landing and crashed that thing right into some lady’s leg, and it was very funny.
Anyways, we got in there on time and got set up all right too. The stage is one of those quarter circle crescents, and it looks pretty cool, but it makes for a squeeze when you have a ton of stuff to throw up there. Speaking of a squeeze, our trailer was nestled in a really narrow alley way on the back side of the building. At one point, a disgruntled local came down from his apartment to find our trailer parked right in front of his door. What kind of an architect designs a front door in an alley way anyways? So this guy was pretty upset, and he slams his hands on the aluminum siding of the trailer, sputtering off some jargan about us always coming and ruining his day with our trailer. This kind of stuff can always provide a laugh. Of course we were considerate, and we did move to an appropriate parking spot.
The show that night was a good one, on account of a Widespread Panic show that happened just blocks away. We got plenty of the “spread heads” in the room after their show let out. The whole city was occupied by them, in fact, prior to all this as well. They occupied park benches, sidewalk nooks, and hotel parking lot spaces all across Knoxville spreading their “vibes”. Well these kind folks got into our show and really dug the music, which is especially cool for us as performers. Ghost Train went over particularly well in my personal opinion, and the musical MVP of the night for this show went to Harry Ong on the bass. Harry played that bass like a Tennessee Titan with the funky Zaxby’s bird flu. You know what Bird I’m talkin ‘bout??
One more thing about Knoxville. We got to stay at a really cool spot with our new buddy Niles. Niles set up a hostel in town that is tailored for traveling musicians. Not only did we get to sleep in beds, but there was a jam room, coffee in the pot, and a bunch of CD’s to look through that belonged to the bands that had rolled through the hostel previously. We even found our buddy D1’s Compton hat, next to his Trae Pierce and the T Stone Band CD. That makes a traveling soul feel right at home!
With a full nights rest, the crew had a proper recharge fit for a new day on the road. One benefit of staying in a musician friendly hostel is the relaxed check out time. With the sun high in the early afternoon sky, the Suburbanites set out for Greenville, South Carolina. (Notice as we go, this particular run was very full of ‘Villes).
This night’s show was scheduled to be as an opening performance for the psychedelic-alternative rock band, The Bright Light Social Hour. There is an interesting noteworthy fact to be pointed out here: The Groove Orients first ever performance happened to be opening for the very same band some years ago, at Rollins College’s Fox Fest in the spring of 2013. Coupled with the fact that these guys pump out some really cool music, we were stoked on the circumstances of this nights show.
The venue was The IPA, a local institution of food, cold beverages, and live music. With some time to kill before the lifting and noisemaking started, the opportunity was seized to take to a field across the street for a light-hearted game of Frisbee. It might not have been very exciting to watch, ‘cause frankly I cannot throw a Frisbee worth a damn, and Chuck and Harry seemed a bit rusty too. Maybe that ole’ biscuit got bent out of shape crushed under the weight of our luggage in the whip too, but it was no matter anyhow. The smell of the fresh cut grass had a scent that you just can’t find in the sunshine state, and the evening sun on the red South Carolina clay was a sight to behold. Us Florida boys may not get to experience the seasons to their full extent when we’re at home, but alas we were on the road and it felt like a first taste of summer, and it was pretty sweet.
The show that night went well, and smallish crowd really enjoyed our warm up set. It always feels good when the locals want to chat and buy merchandise after the show; there were a few of these on this night. The Bright Light Social Hour really honed in on some deep grooves, bass driven and full of texture. The vocals soared over top, and the sound guy really blasted the P.A. Bucky got some unique wings from the bar, the creator of which dubbed as the “greatest wings in South Carolina”. On the way to Asheville later that night, we speculated that they might have been smoked, fried, AND baked. Harry is our resident Q master, and he approved. All in all, Greenville was pretty tight, but that’s about all I remember of that. So we ventured onward to Asheville.
Harry and I have a long-time friend who lives up that way, in Asheville N.C. His name is Andy, and we used to have a band called The Velvetones back in middle and high school. In TGO’s most recent trips to Asheville we have slept on Andy’s floor, and this occasion was no different.
Since all of the travel time was done the previous night, we woke up on Thursday morning with some time to spend in town. Having played there a few times now, everyone is pretty at home in Asheville, and we all split up to check out various things. Bucky came back with a Moog Synthesizer mug. David came back with a fossilized piece of wood, or crap, or something from the earth science museum. I got a pair of socks from the Mast store. Here’s a tip: keep your feet clean when you travel. If you can’t quite get a shower, at least wash your feet and put on a fresh pair of socks. Don’t let yourself get trench foot.
That night we got to play one of our favorite venues, the Pisgah Brewery. Located in Black Mountain, N.C., this brewery is surrounded by some serious scenery. If you have ever seen the movie “The Last of the Mohicans”, it was filmed very close to here. The music room is an open kind of space, essentially a medium sized warehouse room with a bar built on one wall and a stage on the other. On one side there are large bay doors that open up to a picnic table and corn-hole arena, with the magnificently green spring time Appalachian Mountains in the background.
The stage is similar in shape to the one we had played a couple nights back in Knoxville, although this one is much larger and draped in red velvet curtains on the back sides. With all of the extra space, we were free to play around with our stage formation and came up with a really fun set up. Bucky and David got to put all of their skin bangers in the inside corner, set right next to each other, and those guys had a ball. I got to bust out the full Hammond set up, and I wish that I could do this more. Harry was nestled between the organ and drums, and Chuck was across the stage with more space than he knew what to do with. He got pretty excessive with his hair flips and guitar windmills that night, I guess that’s why.
It was fun to play around with our set up and perhaps it inspired everyone to think differently about their own playing, being neighbors with someone new. More importantly however was the awesome sound that Pisgah Brewery boasts. With our local friend George as the captain at the helm, patrons of this venue truly get a great balanced live sound experience. The vibes at this spot are stellar, and it was my personal favorite night of this run.
The show was a nice length of two sets, with enough time in-between to sample the onsite food truck’s Peruvian fare and refill on the deliciously refreshing beer that Pisgah has on tap. The beer is brewed just feet away from the taps, in the adjacent warehouse rooms. The music that night was fun and free, original tunes played with an inspired delivery, and cover tunes alike. Jams opened up in new ways, and the music flowed to an appreciative audience. There were two sit-ins on this show as well. Andy Freeman our old friend took to the drums on “Lonely Road”. Andy is a Steve Jordan fan, and he puts a nice groove on the table. He and Harry locked in to a familiar place, and I can remark that like old friends typically do, we comfortably fell into a musical conversation like there had not been years apart. Eric Travers of The Travers Brothership is another local friend of ours, and also a drummer. Eric played on the Papa Gros Funk cover, “Stanky”. Chuck opened this funky jammer up with an expressive guitar solo, and the tune funked on. A highlight of this show would be the Soullive cover, “Canonball”. Harry took his bass solo to some really cool places, and I think he even might have hit the brown note. On “Soul Limbo” David and Bucky went to town, got down on it good. The whole show was nothing but a good time, and thanks to the esteemed soundman George on the board, the whole thing is recorded and available for download on the Pisgah Brewery website.
The next day we put the tires back on the pavement, and made for the coast. We rolled out of the mountains and clear across the state of North Carolina, headed for Wilmington. It was a full afternoon of interstate time, and we must have cycled through the 6 disk CD changer a few times. We gave a good listen to the new Leisure Chief album over the week, burned through that CD plenty of times. It is interesting how when listening to a recording multiple times through, your ears pick up on new things to appreciate. Of course we listened often to Greazy Meal’s “Gravy” album, it is one of our all-time favorites (maybe second only to “Visualize World Greaze”.
Pulling up to Wilmington, we drove by rows of large old homes that you tend to see in wealthy areas of the south. Huge porches, columns, well-kept lawns, and all that kind of stuff. The city was small and well occupied, with busy restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. I think it was David who pointed out that it had the feel of a North Carolina kind of Gainesville college town. Our venue The Whiskey was located on a busy corner of downtown, across the street from the local music shop and a couple street food vendors. The band Say Anything was playing around the corner at Ziggy’s By the Sea. On the inside of The Whiskey, the stage sported a large spikey headed grinning face, the logo of the band Ween.
We met the guys in the other band, and they go by “The Southern Belles”. They were cool guys, and we managed to make all of our combined equipment fit on a relatively small stage. Their music was cool too, everyone enjoyed their set. Again, the sound guy really pumped the PA (I think a lot of these guys have bad hearing). TGO played a set to a small local audience, and the music went over well. Adrien from The Southern Belles sat in on guitar for a tune, and meshed with the band pretty dang good.
By this point in the tour, things start to blend together in my memory. Jumping city to city on a daily basis can throw off your internal compass, and sleeping little and staying up late can throw off your internal clock. At one point or another on tour, I think it’s normal for anyone to be a little out of whack as a result of all of this being thrown off…
Anyways, there’s one more thing worth mentioning about Wilmington and that’s the fact that we met some local musicians and they put us up for the night at their pad. This is always appreciated; a floor to crash on is what we seek at the end of a day in some foreign city. Often times when taken under the wing of a stranger, you can expect them to want to stay up late and celebrate the good times with them. This night, I struggled to try and sleep with a fully amplified all night jam session going on in the room downstairs. But it was a good floor to decompress the old vertebrae on, and they needed it. Oh yea, we bring floor pads too so no need to feel sorry for us it’s quite alright.
I took the wheel the next morning, and the other guys sweated out the good times they had the night before. It was a nice peaceful ride down I-95 to Savanna, and I couldn’t help but being fascinated yet again by the marvel that is South of The Border. How have they afforded all of those bill boards for all of these years? Like the other southeast coastal towns we have visited, you get off of 95 and head east through some marsh until you cross some river and then you’re there. This is the fashion that we came into Savanna.
Savannah is a really nice old kind of city, bigger than Wilmington and with more of that southern charm. We got to walk around for a quick time, and enjoyed the sights. Beside the river there is a cobblestone road with old buildings filled with restaurants, bars, and gift stores. Unmistakably this is a tourist destination, and for good reason. The city is beautifully adorned with luscious oaks, veiled in a mossy splendor. There is a town square just about every four blocks it seemed, and horse drawn carriages brought visitors around the place in style. There are monuments, street performers, good smells, and classic looking park benches. In fact, the movie “Forrest Gump” takes place in Savanna a good portion of the time, utilizing one of these great benches.
The venue we played on this night was The Barrel House South, and they saved a spot for our car and trailer right out front for us. With a small stage in the back, this bar became slammed with people later that night. The sound guy was especially accommodating, and playing this venue was another pleasant experience. We opened up for Alabama based band, CDBD, and they were a good jammy band. We shared some laughs at a McDonalds down the street, and made high time to get out of Savanna. With Orlando just four hours south, Chuck and Harry took the late night drive and the rest of us caught some rest in the back. Shortly we would all be back to our home amenity’s and comforts, awaiting the next call of the road.