A new series from Jam in the Van…
We’ve had some HEADY times on the road, so we decided to share our favorite stories with you. First up, a JITV classic throw back…
Jack the intern’s first road trip: Willie Nelson’s Ranch
A new series from Jam in the Van…
We’ve had some HEADY times on the road, so we decided to share our favorite stories with you. First up, a JITV classic throw back…
Jack the intern’s first road trip: Willie Nelson’s Ranch
Join us as we countdown our TOP 20 Headiest Sessions of 2016!
#20 – The Kickback
Every year there’s a band on this list that’s kind of a wild card. This is this year’s wild card. That means this shit is wild.
#19 – Nick Waterhouse
The Version of LA Turnaround that he did in The Van gets him on the list. Start your day with that track. End your day with that track. It’s a good track.
#18 – The Fritz
When all of the other bands at the shoot stand around listening to and commenting on how good one band is, that’s list worthy. Also, my dad liked them, and he don’t like much.
#17 – Acid Dad
Morty tribute pick… as trippy as it sounds.
#16 – William Elliot Whitmore
He played his session with a baby calf at his feet. The calf didn’t take a dump in The Van. Win, win.
#15 – Theo Katzman
Dude went to Michigan, he’s on the list… but also, the tunage was worthy of the Maize and Blue.
#14 – PPL MVR
Friggin yetis… man. Rock and roll yetis. That makes the list. Every time.
#13 – PHASES
Best Justin Bieber cover… ever. Like, I’m legitimately certain we might have recorded the best Justin Bieber cover ever. It makes the list.
#12 – Desi Valentine
I just liked this dude’s energy. He should be making music, he is making music, his soul carries well for it…
#11 – Drake White
Dude’s JITV video got posted in Rolling Stone. So, we got in Rolling Stone. So Drake White, you made my mama proud. You’re on the list.
#10 – The Wild Feathers
I feel like these dudes were on the list a couple of years ago. It’s safe to say that if you were on the list before, and you kick it with us again, it’s pretty easy for you to wind up on the list again.
#9 – Stop Light Observations
The homies have a great new album and they hit us with three solid tracks from it during a thunderstorm on the Blueridge Parkway.
#8 – Lukas Nelson
Always a pleasure… like legitimately just one of the most pleasant dudes to work with and listen to (I sounded like Jack right there I think).
#7 – The Black Angels
If you’re super trippy and own a Wheaten terrier, you make the list. We’ll call it RZA the dog’s pick.
#6 – Cody ChesnuTT
Peace and love and blessings and soul, and this dude is a legend.
#5 – The Felice Brothers
Dudes are strictly business when it comes to their music. They get in, they lay down, they get out. Never fails to be legit.
#4 – Jamestown Revival
Back to back on the list because they’re good at both music and apparently video games… but they don’t say that until they blow you away… in music and video games.
#3 – Ziggy Marley
#2 – Susto
Bruh… this band though. All songs on repeat for this guy.
#1 – Wyclef Jean
I listened to so much of this dude’s music in high school and it was not a disappointment to meet him and watch him do his thing. He grabbed a guitar from the living room and he put everyone in the vicinity on notice for an hour and a half. If you missed it, you missed it. Lucky for you, we recorded some of the magic.
Our Recording Radio Film Connection apprentice Anthony has been plotting to steal out jobs. Get connected and check out Recording Connection
There was some serious clowning around going down at the Lagunitas Beer Circus in Azusa, CA.
Our first stop en route home came in Indianapolis, where Morty tried his hand at being both the restaurant guy and the hotel guy. It didn’t work out well, as he booked us a place called the Baymont Inn outside of the city. The room literally smelled like fart and the shower flooded the bathroom. I think Ethan beat me in Madden which was also not cool, but also as exciting as Indianapolis got on this run.
The following day we decided to appease Ethan and ride through his home state of Missouri. He took us to what I believe was his second favorite St. Louis BBQ spot (it was OK, better than Arkansas), and made us look at some stadiums, and that was St. Louis.
The real excitement was, believe it or not, in Springfield, MO. I think that’s where Ethan grew up, I zone him out a lot. Either way, he has a pack of locals that still speak to him in Springfield. Those locals set us up in a pretty solid hotel (see better than the Baymont sweets Indianapolis) and took us to a bar to get pretty drunk and eat hamburgers. I won a cross dressing weasel out of the claw machine and Morty slammed Ethan’s finger in the cab door which caused Ethan to let out the most hilarious of screams (to me). We met some dirty cabbies and got a driving tour of Springfield, in the words of Ethan (for lack of better ones), “it was badass.”
I believe for the entire trip we had averaged getting up and out of a hotel around 12PM. However, for some reason, on the morning after we get plastered enough to slam each-other’s hands in cab doors, Ethan wakes us up a 8AM to have breakfast with his dad. While the company was great, eight AM was not, but we got an early start which allowed us to be in Oklahoma around lunch time. Which was coincidentally the exact time that I got a text from our buddy Kyle who makes our t-shirts and is always down for a good time. He lives in Oklahoma, and as luck would have it, we were about ten minutes away from him. He took us for some tacos. Some people took pictures of the van, RZA took a dump. Running into a buddy randomly in Oklahoma was good. It’s a small fucking world.
Amarillo, TX that night was not good. If anybody knows why it’s always hard to find a hotel vacancy in Amarillo, TX, I’m all ears. There are so many piece of shit hotels there and so few rooms available. Every damn time. We tried a solid ten before we ended up at a rat trap of a Days Inn. RZA immediately dropped a load in the middle of our room, which was about right given the circumstances. We were out of Texas quite speedily the following day. Also, assume from here out that Ethan cheats at Madden.
Of other video game chronicles, had we wanted to, rather than chronicling this ride by state, we could do it by episodes of Halo on XBox. That’s because Morty played every damn one as we drove through that tunnel of the USA. All four of them, beat every mission, killed every alien, saved the whole world. It seemed like a pretty big achievement to us when it was all said and done with. It’s still a big achievement.
New Mexico was next, so Morty got to ride through his homeland and take us to his old late night burger spot, but at mid-day. It underwhelmed in a variety of ways and overwhelmed in just as many. My favorite touch was the bug zapper in the far right corner of the dining room. It reminded me of summer camp, because not many other places keep bug zappers in the dining room, it’s not a great look. I always loved summer camp… We had aspirations of staying in Flagstaff that night but we actually made such good time that Ethan wanted to push it to Kingman, AZ, and alas, Morty didn’t get to have a second float around at the Flagstaff crystal store.
The next stretch of drive was highlighted by the failure of our awning to remain fastened to the side of the Jam Van. It chose to do so right at the onset of what looked to be a fairly large storm. Morty and I had not ascended from the hole that we’d been wading through for days so to speak, and so I made the executive decision to cut the canvas part of the awning off with my pocket knife, as figuring out how to get the material to go back into a neat roll on the side of the road in New Mexico in a storm was not happening at that moment. So Ethan cut the tether.
The only other highlight from that segment came late into the night as we approached our resting place for the evening. We were shuttling through some of our favorite (for various reasons) Jam in the Van sessions, when we landed on Joe Sumner, pop star Sting’s son. Joe had a pretty cool session, save for one thing, he played a song that clearly depicts some fucked up non-consensual stuff. So essentially what I’m saying, is that Ethan, Morty and myself were cruising down the freeway listening to a song about rape and it was pretty weird. That was just a moment, I don’t know if it means anything…
In much the same vein, I’m not sure who picked the hotel in Kingman, AZ, it was I believe the second one that we tried. It was the right one for sure. A rare gem in between nowhere and California. A tribute to some of the original cool. Elvis, Sammy Davis Jr., Sinatra, a ’57 Chevy displayed out front. The hotel bar, unfortunately closed, was a adorned with pictures of gals in poodle skirts drinking soda pop amongst the same pillars of the generation that had greeted us out front. The hotel tried its best to make the courtyard feel like a cabana bar. Their best fell far short in that effort but was pretty perfect for where we were.
Morty, RZA, and I were all pretty filthy. Morty had been saving up a unique level of stink since Cleveland and RZA had long since been lost to doggie dread locks. I was pretty much hobbling and also out of clean underwear. On the other hand, Ethan’s clothes and toiletries were still as neatly folded and stored in his small rectangle suitcases in much the same way they had been when we first set off.
The night featured an equally low-res level of excitement. By that I mean we ordered pizza and played video games and it was fantastic. There comes a point in a trip where that’s all you need to do.
Morning came, we had breakfast in the retro diner beside a table with two guys who looked like they were on the other end of their trip. They asked us if we worked in sound recording. I’m not sure how they knew. Perhaps Ethan was wearing a gear company shirt or perhaps we were talking about recording, but they knew from something. We gave them a little bit of info, but I think we probably lacked enthusiasm. It was the downswing…
Breakfast concluded and we trudged back to our room to grab our things. On our way we passed the maintenance crew preparing their cart for the day. They were debating ways in which they were going to repaint a room. It didn’t seem like they had an exciting time ahead of them. I guess this was my last poignant memory from the ride. Take from that what you want to.
The last stretch of drive was as all final approaches are. Part of you is excited to be home. Part of you is sad to be done. We hit our LA parking spot, said good time, good job, see you later, and that was another one done.
I tried to catch an Uber home but I ended up getting kicked out because the driver was not a super chill dude. Jack, who’d already been back at work for a couple of days gave me a lift. That’s how it ended.
I guess I owe a revisit to the thesis search I was getting at in paragraph one of part one of this entry. Something to the tune of me not being sure how to recap this past year of our little experiment. We are growing, and with growth comes change. We’re not a big dog, but we can’t go backwards. So much of our success is now determined by numbers. I, being someone who has never been good at math, find this at times to be difficult to cope with. I think the positive to take here is that what amount we’ve pole-vaulted as a result of our fire-sale on our DIY upbringing, has allowed us to possibly move past that window of necessity. By this I mean, I think we learned where we made mistakes and where we did some good and we’re at a point where we are able to make sure we focus on the good from here out.
At it’s base, Jam in the Van is a good thing. We find music and we share it, it’s very simple. It has also always been meant to be a good time. Where we take this from here is up to us. Whatever means it took to share this music, I don’t think they’ve outweighed the good that we’ve put back onto the airwaves or the fun we’ve had. No part of making this Jam Van go across the country and record music in some amazing places was easy.
We’ve worked quite impressively hard at this, which leads me to believe that it’s a worthy cause. If that wasn’t the case then I don’t think you’d find so many dedicated and talented individuals putting their time and energy towards its success. Nor do I think that we’d have thirty-five million views on YouTube.
The ends justify the means. We made some sell-out videos, but we also made some great ones. I think even at our worst we’re using our imagination and creativity and helping inspire that in others, and looking around the world lately, those things are probably going to be more important than ever pretty soon…
So once again we rode around this country, that is every minute beating on our heads with horrible news and videos and sound-bites. We found really good music out there. People still give a shit about good stuff. Be it in New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, or anywhere else, music is always good stuff…
That’s all to say, best of luck out there in this current mess. We find it best to turn your speakers up loud. All things are better when paired with music… Keep it Heady.
Catch up on all the videos from our Feast to the Beat 2016 cross-country road trip by checking out the playlist!
Ethan was stoked on driving for ten hours through winding mountains and then having to figure out how to navigate the Jam Van into my parents’ driveway. Definitely fucked up the neighbor’s lawn, trees, maybe mailbox, but that neighbor throws too many yard sales, so we never did like her.
Day one found us doing some menial “mandatory” tasks, like getting Ethan a haircut. His inch of silver fleece had grown too disheveled for the Navy’s finest. We had to get him some toiletries too, captivating stuff. We grabbed some tacos in the Arts District, which coincidentally was just an abandoned sketchy building district the last time I lived in Asheville (c. 2001). I once drove down River Road which runs adjacent to the area and upon turning into the heart of what is now the Arts District, I passed a horse corpse that had been ripped in half and lay about the road, but that’s neither here nor there. Asheville is Asheville now, it’s happenin’—I dig that.
Early evening found us at Highland Brewing Company’s brewery, which used to be a failed film studio that I once upon a time had an internship or part time gig or something at. Now they make beer there, no more movies, although you can still see the old BR Films logo faded behind a new coat of paint on the water tower.
They were hosting a fundraiser for the National Parks Service, hence our presence. Unfortunately, they stuck us in a corner of the facility that nobody really seemed to be interested in. Instead the crowds flocked to the main entrance through which they’d find the night’s entertainment.
So Morty, Ethan, and I answered a few questions from some devoted Jam Van fans (a whole 2 of them) that actually did find us and then we did what you’re supposed to do in a situation like that, we packed up and hit the road. Again, Ethan had to park in my parents’ driveway. This time he only did damage to my dad’s holly bush, which I’m pretty sure everyone in the family is over anyways.
By late that evening the rest of the crew had arrived. Eric booked them a crappy Days Inn on the outskirts of town (whoops). The following morning would find us up early at a parking lot outside of a Blue Ridge Parkway welcome center. This one was by far the tightest of all of the National Parks events that we did on this trip. That’s not just a hometown call either, although I did sucker my mother into being one of the chefs in our Dole series. Sorry about that ma, it was too damn hot out for that nonsense.
Throughout the day there was a steady stream of heads at the event. I even saw a bunch of what looked to be Amish people there. Which brought me to questioning how the Amish got to Western North Carolina and even more so how they got up the Blue Ridge Parkway without a car. Which lead me to determine that they might have been Quakers.
The tunes that day were top of the line. That area is a breeding ground for a diverse type of good music. We linked up with The Broadcast who we’ve been trying to get in The Van for a minute. They got the seal of approval from my father, who is not usually fast with the compliments. He also dug The Fritz, a band that when they were in The Van recording, all of the other musicians that were still hanging outside were listening in appreciation and commenting on how good it was. That’s kind of like going to a Chinese restaurant and being the only not Chinese people there, you know it’s going to be legit.
One of those bands hanging around was Stoplight Observations, a group whom we met one summer at Bonnaroo in the artist camping area. They were crashing in tents next to our tents and we booked them a session in The Van and it was a solid summer that year, I do remember that. These kids were young back then, man, I’m pretty sure I was kinda young then, and here we are a few years down the road, nobody as young anymore, them still a band, just a little different looking and sounding, us still filming bands and writing down the shit we do to keep listening. Our videos also a little different looking and sounding. Each of us a bit further on down the line.
A thunder storm kicked into high gear right as the Stoplight Observations’ boys were loading gear into The Van. Thunder and lighting is like the call to action for the park rangers. They cleared every damn body off that parking lot with a quickness. I ducked into The Van to sit in on Stoplight’s session, a fortuitous coincidence. Those boys know how to have fun and they know how to play instruments. They also know how to have fun with those instruments. When the session was over, so too was the Thunderstorm. That’s NC Summer for you.
Another National Park event was done. A lot of chocolate covered pineapple chunks were handed out. A lot of music was played. A good handful of people enjoyed it. A lot of people will continue to enjoy it on the internet. Roll with it.
After the event we stuck around in Asheville for a few days before the next leg of our ride. We’d added Jon to our travel crew for this stretch. He works our second camera.
For much of the week I bunkered down at my parents’ house. From that there’s not much to report. I took the fellas hiking with a buddy from grade school. He took us to a spot that he kept calling “skinny dip falls” so I thought we were going somewhere new, but when we got there I immediately recognized it to be Mile Marker 416, which my friends and I had been coming to for a swimming hole for years. Nobody skinny dips there. It’s cold as shit. The type of cold that snatches your breath when you break into the water. It feels good when you get out, but you can’t get out quick enough. That type of cold.
Other than that I just took a mom and pop week, which is sometimes the best way to spend a week. I picked Morty and the boys up from their Air B & B on Friday morning. Morty told me he found some magic for everyone at “Funk Night.” I took that to mean they had a good week and enjoyed Asheville. From there on we were back in the same bubble… for the most part.
Cleveland I knew to be an easy one-day drive from Asheville, having traversed a similar route to college in Ann Arbor many times, years ago. Ohio is like a straight shoot up from Western Carolina, and along that shoot you traverse some very scenic, and very rural territory. Most notably, West Virginia.
We did not linger long in West Virginia, but the moments we had require recanting, as it is quite a special place. Our first stop in Coal Country was unprompted. The Van got tired of going up and down hills in 100-degree weather and needed a break. Ideally we could have taken that break somewhere that we could have eaten. Instead, we took it at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. The looks we get at gas stations when we pull up in The Van are always fun. The looks we got in West Virginia were extremely fun.
Morty and I went into a one room, brick, post office which was oddly enough the only thing next to the gas station. The mailman on duty wasn’t sure that he had any stamps… at the post office. He had to check in the back. That was the high point of our first stop in West Virginia, oh, and I got a new type of Funion that I’d never seen before. They were pretty gross.
Our second stop was for lunch in the capital city of Charleston. We didn’t see much, and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much to see, but there were several teen pregnancy centers and a restaurant that served veggie burgers. Most likely the only one. Morty found it on Yelp, so we ate there, he’s the restaurant guy. They had an ad on the wall for a Three Doors Down concert. Ethan mentioned that he had been to a Three Doors Down concert put on by the US Navy back in his service days. He claims he went to see the opening act, not Three Doors Down. The only crucial information here is that Ethan has been to a Three Doors Down concert. That was West Virginia.
Ohio is just above West Virginia. As a Michigan grad this is something that gives me great joy. Driving through much of Ohio is quite similar to driving through West Virginia, so we don’t need to dwell on it. Just know that we made it to Cleveland, found our parking space and one out of two Uber drivers who knew how to get to our hotel.
Morty and I had been in The Van for like twelve hours that day, so going straight to bed was not our first order of business. We needed to stretch. We got drunk instead. It is safe to say the Midwest is as I last left it circa 2005, very good at drinking. Over the course of our two days there I saw more than a lifetime’s worth of vomit and bachelorette parties. Not necessarily in that order.
The area that we were crashing at is a redeveloped spot by the river called The Flats. Our waitress in West Virginia actually suggested to us that we go there. We didn’t go just on account of her recommendation, but in retrospect it all makes perfect sense. The establishments nearby to our hotel were gigantic restaurants and bars kind of like you’d find at a theme park. It couldn’t just be a taco spot with beer, it had to be a taco spot with beer and beer pong, and corn-hole and a giant chess board out front.
This is where we met the first of our Cleveland acquaintances. Throughout the trip Morty was in the mindset that he’s good at chess. So when he saw the giant chess board it was only natural that he would eventually gravitate towards it. We did so near closing time, and immediately encountered a like-minded challenger for Morty. He told us his name was Jonas, “like the Weezer song.” I’m pretty sure his name wasn’t Jonas. He had a buddy with him who I’m pretty sure did not refer to him as “Jonas.” He agreed to play Morty in chess when we told him that Morty used to have a unique relationship with Bobby Fisher through which Bobby Fisher received mind enhancing substances from Morty. None of this was true but Jonas and his buddy seemed to believe it. So they played giant chess. A normal transaction.
Morty began the game by proclaiming that “white always goes first.”
This did not sit well with Jonas’ companion who was not white. We both called Morty a racist and the game of chess commenced. Morty, as luck would have it, is not that good at chess when he’s not playing insomniac construction workers. My name is Jonas kicked his ass with a quickness. This pleased his companion who continuously kept referencing that there were a lot of drunk females passing by and that he was stuck “playing chess with you mother fuckers.” To this day it seems like a very valid point.
That was the climax of our first night in Cleveland. Morty lost at chess to a guy with a fake name from a Weezer song. It was a damn good night.
The following morning it was made aware to me that it was our production manager, Eric’s, birthday. Eric is usually a business in the front, party in the back type of guy, so we let him maintain a professional heir about himself during our third and final National Parks’ event. As a result, it went off smoothly (aside from a massive thunderstorm which seems to be how we like to conclude these things).
We set up next to that river in Cleveland that caught on fire back in the day. It looked about as clean as a river that can catch on fire could look. Oddly enough, that did not dissuade people from canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing, etc. I guess you take nature where and how you find it in Cleveland.
The music that day was excellent per usual. I’ll highlight two groups. The first was Wesley Bright, a local soul singer with a full band backing him. I watched this session from the comfort of a folding chair beside our merch table. Next to me sat a family of three, the parents may be a few years my senior. It was clear that their kid was getting a bit bothered by the heat but they had come to see Wesley, and his mom and dad wanted to try and wait it out because they said their baby was into “old fashioned music.” They managed to make it through sound check and catch a couple of songs. Sure enough, the kid perked up and smiled as they moved him to the beat. Sometimes when you watch live music you don’t necessarily watch the band.
The other standout from the day was The Lawsuits, both because I liked their music and because they said they’d slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot en route the night before. Gotta respect the fact that they knew where they could sleep in the van and wake up next to a bathroom at any time of the night/morning. That’s a varsity move.
Then came the aforementioned storm. This time there weren’t any park rangers to rush us inside. Instead a lot of us got drenched, including the birthday boy, who worked up until the last band was wrapped. Then he started drinking. Then we took him out to one of those ridiculously large restaurants for his birthday dinner. His birthday food was pretty terrible, but his birthday Fireball shots were exactly what they were supposed to be. I lost count on how many we got him but some chicks we asked in the elevator suggested we give him 16 drinks. In very much the same fashion as Ethan with his steak challenge, Eric did not make it to sixteen drinks.
At dinner that night Jack told us a story about how African villagers tricked him into smoking elephant shit. Only in Jack’s version of the story it’s a traditional ritual and very much a cool thing to do. Also, Morty played some more chess on the giant chess board that was across the street. This time his opponent was our local sound PA for the day. I think they both maybe got a piece of the board from the other person in about thirty minutes. Then food came and they bailed. That is to say, Morty was still bad at chess.
Our next stop on the night was some kind of Dave and Buster’s type place if Dave and Buster’s was bought up by a strip club franchise. There were video games, bowling alleys, again, lots of drunken bachelorette parties, flashing lights, and a plethora of vomit. There were people with vomit on them, there was vomit on tables, there was vomit on the floor, none of that is an exaggeration, Cleveland likes to get lit.
I am not a fan of vomit, so I lasted about ten minutes in that establishment. Soon I was rejoined in the hotel by Morty, who also is not a fan of vomit. We rendezvoused in the lobby where a few of our other cohorts had decided they weren’t interested in vomit either. We’d lost Ethan (no doubt calling his girlfriend), DBell, and the volunteer sound guy. I think he found something during that game of chess with Morty and decided he needed to be somewhere else.
What was left of our group lurked in the lobby during a particularly busy time of the evening. There we met an insomniac from Argentina. She was skyping with a gentleman caller in public because her grandmother was asleep in her room. The dude she was skyping did not look stoked that a pack of five dudes had entered his screenshot.
At the same time there was a steady stream of people flowing back from a wedding that must have been inside the hotel, because earlier I had grabbed a sign that read “Ritzman/Zalinsky Wedding” directing people towards that party. I then had that sign whilst in the lobby chatting with the insomniac and was able to rouse both the Ritzman and the Zalinksy crowd whenever they passed.
What of our birthday boy you ask? He was there, several shades to somewhere. I believe he made his final birthday toast in the vicinity of the hotel lobby couch and it was ‘see you tomorrow’ from there. The hotel lobby was close to as good as it got, and sometimes that’s not a bad thing. After-all, you don’t have to find your way home.
On top of finding his way home, Morty also re-found Jonas. I don’t know how, it was like 5AM, but he found him, on the giant chalk board, and while I’m not a huge fan of bringing random, sort of sketchy dudes, into our hotel rooms (anywhere really), Jonas seemed like he had decent vibes about him (and no gun), so I, or whatever is left of me at 5AM in Cleveland, allowed it. Jonas had a rough look about him, but for the most part everything out of his mouth was pretty peaceful. So it was either a good trick or legit, and sometimes you just let it ride. We did just that and in return we were treated to a bit of Jonas’ life story and a look into his pockets as he was continuously pulling out things, most alarming of which were small bags of change that he’d buried deep into his cargo shorts.
Apparently my man had a kid, so naturally he had a baby-mama, and he talked about them a little bit, but mostly he focused on mistakes that he’d made en route to where he was at that moment, which was in a hotel room in Cleveland at what was eventually 6AM with Morty and I. He seemed to have a strong handle on what he thought about things, so I thought it best not to debate. He and Morty went to Wal Mart towards daybreak to buy a chess set. Apparently he started nodding out in the parking lot and Morty made the decision for him to go home. Jonas kept the chessboard.
The following morning it was doing as it does in the Mid-West, grey and rainy and just as I’ve always remembered it. It matches a hangover far better than California sunshine. Morty and I were somewhere between a hangover and still hanging when we met Ethan in the lobby to catch an Uber back to our chariot.
The Uber driver tried to tell us that RZA couldn’t ride in his car because he’s a dog. A brief discussion ensued and I soon had a damp dog on my lap. When we arrived, The Van was only lightly flooded and all of the bean bags were dry, so Morty and I descended into them and subsequently a hole that consisted of a lot of video games and bad jokes for close to about ten hours a day for I believe four days.
If you haven’t yet seen the other sessions from our cross-country road trip, click here!
This will likely be the most coherent part of my recant, as it’s the most recent.
We again spent a couple of months filming in the city of smoggy dreams. I’m pretty sure it was during this time span that we filmed MOE at our headquarters. We had a contest for some MOE-heads to sit in The Van during their session. That lucky MOE-head brought us gluten free cookies. I dug that. Hey, if a band you listened to a lot in your college years wants to come to your office and there are cookies involved, it’s a good day. We try to have as many days like that around here as possible.
Then, eventually, an opportunity arises, and our eyes and ears perk up and we get that itch and we’ve got to get out of town. You see, Los Angeles has a lot of musicians, every type. There’s dudes and gals with cowboy hats singing sad songs, kids cloaked in torn black rat gear whaling about how they’re bummed with their parents, there’s a whole lot of dudes and chicks with a computer, a beat machine and some words… and then there’s lots more types of musicians that I’m not going to list. Just know there are a lot. Not all of them, and honestly, probably not most of them, start out here. They come from somewhere else, and that reasons to say that there are a whole bunch more of them roaming around the rest of this country. So we like to get out there and find it before it finds us sometimes.
For this next excursion we hitched our wagon to the National Parks Services and planned a cross-country ride. It would take us from the California coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains and back through the heart of America.
Round one was a cheat round because we didn’t really have to go anywhere. Ventura is a mere hour away, so we simply made a day of it. Ziggy Marley came to hang early and about 150 kids from a local youth organization came to jive with him. We again partnered with Dole Foods. For this one we filmed a chef cooking with Dole products and had some musicians sit in on the demonstration. It was not our finest work in content production. I think we were closer to the mark when we sent musicians up in a hot air balloon at Coachella and had them tell us their favorite festival story. That didn’t seem as forced as this first go around at a cooking/music show. You can’t however, always, have a hot air balloon on call.
Ventura for the most part went off without many hitches. Sam Outlaw was a bit late and missed his recording slot and then he had to roll to a gig, so I called up Elijah Ocean and he drove his Mercury out to meet us and fill the slot left vacant. Braeves were pretty good, and Layne wore an astonishing amount of black given how hot it was outside, and The Brevet were a good time. That’s my in-depth music recount.
At one point during the event the chef was making a smoothie in front of the large group of kids and let them know that it was never too early to add vodka to your smoothies… that was a bit off. Everyone slept in Los Angeles that evening, nothing more to report here. We gave it a couple weeks to simmer and then packed the rig up to hit Route 66 again.
Three of us rode out in the Jam Van, Ethan at the wheel and Morty Yelping what restaurants we would stop at (only 1 fast-food spot per trip). First city up was Flagstaff. We like Flagstaff. The town is quaint, the people are friendly, our favorite haunted hotel is there and there’s a crystal store (quartz not meth) where all the employees are attractive girls. Morty really liked that store, it hit a lot of his requirements for being a good store, or place in general. We bought some crystals to bless The Van, so consider it and us blessed.
After Flagstaff came Albuquerque, where we stopped for a plate of New Mexico slop, “you’ve got to try the green chile” (you actually don’t). After Ethan’s daily feeding (put a pin in this spot where I say that he ate almost all of his slop), we shot over to Walter White’s House. Morty read on Yelp that if the old man owner is at the house he’s very friendly, if you get his wife she’s not. She was not. Our picture was more like a picture 100 yds away from the Walter White House rather than one at it.
That evening we ate at some kind of roadhouse where there was a Dutch playing guitar and singing for dining room entertainment. He kept asking the crowd for requests but every time we gave him a request he said he was Dutch and didn’t know that song. So he played a lot of Dutch stuff. Morty took some photos with him. My steak was sub-par.
From there we shot out to one of my least favorite towns, Amarillo. This is a town that manages to consistently keep all of its dusty hotels and motels at full capacity while boasting little more than a slathering of bad chain restaurants, strip clubs, and a place that will serve you a 72oz. steak on display atop a platform in the middle of the gigantic dining room. Given our options, we went with the steak place. They sent a complimentary limo for us with bullhorns on the front. They must have known that we were looking to spend the big bucks and get Ethan fucked up on protein.
At first the waiter was hesitant and told us that the kitchen was not making any more 72 oz steaks that evening due to the late hour’s proximity to closing time. Fret not, I let them know who we were and how many YouTube subscribers we had and that my extremely professional cinematographer, Morty, was going to be filming it all. They immediately slapped one of those things on the grill.
Roughly thirty minutes later Ethan in all his semi-happy, semi-grumpy glory was on full display in front of the entire room of locals and “close to locals.” You can now take the pin out of the spot which you no doubt earlier bookmarked. As this is the part where I tell you that sadly Ethan only consumed 36 oz. of steak and had to run to the bathroom with thirty minutes left on the clock so as to not shit his pants. So much for priming the engine. He was halfway there in half the time, and I paid the bill for the full price of all that meat. I handed Ethan the loser shirt that he “won” after telling the crowd of restless Trump supporters that they couldn’t boo him because he served our country. They got it.
We bought some wonderful souvenirs, like an old timey hologram picture of a dude with an ax in his head and headed back to our lovely room at the Comfort Suites. Ethan and I hit the hay pretty quick, but Morty boy wanted to see what that wild Amarillo night held for him. I can summarize in short that it held a bar with several women and men of varying age and varying amounts of out-of-wedlock children, and a parking lot game of softball that involved new parking lot friends and lasted until seven AM. I wasn’t involved in either affair so I can’t provide intricate details for you and I assume neither could those who were there. I just know I saw Morty stumble in at around sunrise and he seemed to have had the best of times, so I don’t question it.
The next day found us in Oklahoma City, and I’ve got to say, if you absolutely have to live in the middle of nowhere, choosing to do so near Oklahoma City isn’t quite as terrible as I assumed it might be. Now by no means was the town jumping, but I think we all had a solid first OKC experience. Will I go back? Not if I don’t have to. Will I reminisce on it fondly? Solid chance.
It was no doubt a good omen that we bumped into American Aquarium outside of our hotel. Ethan rapped with them and they led us to an open mic that they turned out not to be at, maybe we were late, but regardless, we instead got to hear Morty’s stunning rendition of a song he wrote about how his girl had a baby but how it was a black baby (Morty is not black), performed acoustic on a borrowed guitar. Morty’s mic was soon after “closed” by the older gentleman MC’ing the night when it became apparent that he’d forgotten a good percentage of his lyrics.
That was enough OKC for me, but I again tip my hat to my compadres. Ethan was able to maintain about an hour playing darts or checkers with some construction workers staying at the hotel who had work in the morning. He then found his way upstairs to drunkenly wake me up to beat him at video games. For some reason I woke up and did it. Morty, again, was out well past his bedtime and crawled in just as the sun was coming up recanting tails of what sounded like far below average chess playing and amazing conversation that I’m not sad I missed, but again, he seemed entirely content.
Ethan, having lost to me humbly in Madden at 3:30 AM begrudgingly drove us through Arkansas the next day where he tried to educate us on geography, claiming that the state where we were stopping to have pulled pork BBQ and hush puppies and whose state school mascot is a flaming red warthog, was not in fact a Southern state, but in fact Mid-Western. Every single person in the restaurant chimed in in-unison to correct him when I asked for clarification on the geography. The people spoke. If you’re eating hush puppies you’re either in the south or at a cheap knock-off.
Overall the BBQ was pedestrian and we should have pushed into Tennessee before stopping for any pulled pork, but the satisfaction I got from a room full of hillbillies telling Ethan he was wrong was unquantifiable. We got to Memphis late that night. I may or may not have reserved a room for a date that was a month later in the calendar than the night we needed. Eric may or may not have cleaned that mess up for me the next day.
Memphis was overall not very exciting this go around. I had a gluten-free pancake, and it was too hot to eat outside. Back on the bus, AC cranked up, nothing to see here. From there we rolled into our second official National Parks destination, Asheville, NC, my hometown…(to be continued)
Don’t forget to check out the entire playlist of sessions from our cross-country road trip!
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Winner gets two tickets to the Lagunitas Beer Circus in Azusa, CA on October 22nd.
When it’s sitting in West Los Angeles’ in its dock and recording sessions at our headquarters it’s fun, but it’s not the same as when it’s out there on the open road. Yet, we always have to have lulls in the schedule, some time to reflect and detox from the road. Luckily bands like MOE come by our office and film with us while we’re sitting stagnant and it kind of doesn’t feel too stagnant at all.
I’m not sure if that happened before or after our next big event, let’s just say when we were in LA shit happened on the weekdays, and it was usually a pretty solid time for those involved. I’ll have Jack put some pictures down below so you get an idea of who came, what was seen, and what was heard.
Now let’s flash forward to April, when they have hipster Bonnaroo, in the Coachella Valley for 2 weeks, and as a bonus, they’ve got Orange County Bonnaroo (Stagecoach), the weekend after, so we figured it would be a great place to film a lot of bands and have a good time. It was, and we did, but it wasn’t as easy as the recipe on the box.
For starters, Coachella is set up like a Donald Trump sponsored immigration center. Even if you’re not going to the festival you’re getting “super-vetted.” The drive through town is littered with police and barricades. No four-way stop sign intersection is safe. I’d venture to guess that about 60% of the roads are blocked off. If you do go inside the actual festival, which I did for my first time this year, you go through even more immigration check points, where they essentially check the same things at each one about 5 times before you’re allowed to enter the center of the event. Apparently the strategy worked, zero terrorism happened. Zero.
I went in for LCD Soundsystem, and one observation I took from the definitely not capacity crowd at that particular show was that kids have shitty imaginations these days. I say loosely, that I am not in my prime for this festival. The median age is around 19-22, I’m a bit not that anymore, and can only be that in short spurts before I need to sit down. So most of the kids in attendance were over at some kind of Skrillex and friends of Skrillex gig instead of at LCD. Which to me wasn’t a bummer, because I got to walk up close without getting too much beer splashed on me. However, in the overall, as they say, I think it’s probably a bummer.
Our production wasn’t actually inside of Coachella, but rather located at an off-sight party called Base Camp. Our sponsor for all three weekends was another corporate juggernaut, again in the pre-packaged food world, Dole. They handed out frozen chocolate covered bananas and smoothies each weekend. Not necessarily anything wrong with that. We filmed a segment called “Never a Dole Moment” (damn right I came up with the title) where we sent a couple of musicians up in a hot air balloon that happened to be on site and asked them what their wildest festival stories were. The balloon was a tethered situation that only elevated about 100 ft. and as a result required the absolute absence of any breeze in order to operate. This is a tough prerequisite. So we got two dudes and Jack up in the balloon (that’s got bad porn title written all over it). Then we faked another where the balloon just stayed on the ground. It was a pretty good fake. I think at least here we managed to coexist with the corporate extension that was necessary for what we’re attempting to do. In fact in comparison to SXSW this was some fairly laissez faire consumer marketing. Also, no rat meat served here either.
At this event there was a pool, and a lake, and for three consecutive weekends, somewhere in the vicinity of a couple hundred people camped out there rather than stay on the festival grounds. So by day, for each of those three weekends, we parked by the pool and watched an eclectic mix of musicians funnel through our four walls.
Week one, we can characterize as heavy on the indie rock. Week two, heavy on the hip hop. Week three, heavy on the Bud Light (All Rights Reserved to Lagunitas, etc. etc.)…
Each of the three weeks, as Thursday would approach in Los Angeles, I’d begin to pack a bag, saddle up the dog, and pick up Morty, and the two of us would head out to the desert. Each week got progressively less and less like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. By week three, not only were we not super interested in ether (kidding) (maybe), but we were in loathe of the task ahead of us as if it weren’t just going to a pool to hang out with some bands. That town during a festival can wear on you something good. Just the number of police within such a small radius is unsettling. Add to it all of the road blocks and inebriated pedestrians, and it is not the ideal vacation destination for this guy… that being said, we started strong on week 1. Like Bonnaroo circa 2007 strong. For those of you who didn’t camp with us at Bonnaroo 2007 (most), that means very strong.
We stayed at a house that was about a fifteen-minute drive from the event location. We made that drive maybe twenty to twenty five times over the course of the three weeks, I was pulled over once, I think that’s pretty good numbers. I was stone cold sober (PRAISE TO RADD), and so I took my stop sign coasting ticket with a smile. Any interaction with an officer that only ends in a ticket is a great interaction in my book. So from then on I just stopped at stop signs (a trait Morty would no doubt advise me against, metaphorically speaking).
I did in fact make this driving mistake during week one where we were certainly stopping at less metaphorical stop signs with far more frequency than in the weeks to follow. So with that in mind, let’s just say that everyone was on their best behavior and nobody but Morty wanted to ride in my car the rest of the trip.
No interns were bloodied on any of these excursions (to my knowledge) but they certainly did get their fill of lying around on beanbags in a sunny green field. Our interns are really good at that task. They did other stuff too, but it was less noticeable, we love them all, they get my lunch if I say to.
My buddy from college whom I hadn’t seen since we’d last hung out in Phoenix during the original Jam Van’s first and only ride towards Texas came out to visit us during weekend 2. This time around he brought a doctor with him, which in his line of work and recreation is always a good idea. Even if it’s a bad one.
Upon his arrival, he displayed the enthusiasm that one has upon first getting to a music festival or an all weekend party. It’s an unbridled blur. The way in which individuals can shift from work to party is uncanny. I tip my hat to the homie (and his doctor) for pushing for gold in everything he does. This particular friend once wanted to get the NCAA record for most single’s tennis losses, and he explained it to me in the best sense anyone’s ever made, “It’s actually pretty hard to do when you think about it. Because you’ve got to suck enough to lose every time, but not enough to get dropped from the top six players.” The top six being the only ones that play singles matches in competitive team tennis. There’s a life lesson in that. So again, I tip my hat, and I am confident that he is a fantastic lawyer and recommend his services at the highest commendation.
That being said, after his initial arrival and reunion, I saw him very sparingly throughout the weekend, as he carried that blur as far as he could take it, albeit with a doctor fortunately at his side. When we would rendezvous he would provide me with a recap of his days and nights, and I would believe parts of it and believe that he believed other parts of it. I did not fact check with the doctor, although I feel he might have provided me with a similar conclusion.
As for the music those weekends, here’s a quick rundown…
Rainey Qualley stopped by and sang for us. I only learned after the fact that she too is from Asheville, NC. I don’t think we attended the same high school. I’m pretty sure she’d have wanted to know all of that.
One of Drake White’s videos from the Bud Light weekend got into the Rolling Stone (cue song).
The Dead Ships hung out because they were playing Coachella, which was rad. So once again they were playing a van out in the middle of the desert with a bunch of hopped up lunatics zig-zagging between cactus. The stoke they were on from making it into the Coachella line-up gave an encapsulated idea of why there are so many bands out there for us to find. That is a really good feeling, to be doing what you dreamed up. I’m sure it plateaus at some point, but that first one must feel really good.
The cats from Rusty Maples came down from Vegas, they’re that grateful type of musician, happy for every opportunity, it’s refreshing.
We had a dude named St. Michael for one of the sets, a hip-hop guy. He rolls with a gaggle of people, a few of which are attractive girls, a few of which are skinny dudes (maybe Indian), all are in cropped t-shirts and short shorts. It was a look for sure. The whole squad piled into the Jam Van and shook the hell out of it until security guards showed up looking for one of the crop-top guys who happened to also be the DJ. Apparently he’d gotten into it with the security earlier and they had finally tracked him down to escort him off the premises. Luckily, one of the other crop top guys was able to push play on the track and all was back to bumpin…
William Elliot Whitmore closed out the excursion on weekend 3 by bringing a baby calf that he found on-site into the van to lay next to him while he performed a solo set. It was the first cow in The Van (to my knowledge). The calf’s owner fully confirmed that he planned to eat it once it became a cow.
I think that’s for the most part, the crucial music stuff for this excursion. At least that I’m retaining. I’m sure you can find the full soundtrack for the three weekend somewhere below. The thing with doing three weekends in a row of something, is that it’s a lot of up and down. You start out with a rush, then that fades out as you get back towards the real world.
All of a sudden you’re back in Los Angeles, the desert is back to being the desert, and you’re in the office. That’s a lot of ebb and flow. So by week three, it’s cool that it’s over, and in this case, even Morty survived, so no casualties.
Check out the entire playlist, Live from Base Camp in Coachella Valley, CA 2016.
Our intern Tori has music taste that is wide ranging and real adventurous, which is to be expected when you work here. Even so, she knows how to keep it mellow- for the staff pick this week she went with the Bad Suns. She likes them and she’s always liked them and that’s enough for us. Check it out below.