We recently returned from our maiden voyage through the Midwest with one of KC’s finest, Roman Numerals. Our “mini-tour” as I have dubbed it started in St. Louis, then Chicago for two nights, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, and finally, Omaha. Since this was our first real outing beyond previous weekend stints to St. Louis and other adjacent cities, all of us were excited to get out of KC get on “the road”.
In the weeks before we left, there was a lot of back and forth regarding all the ins and outs of our little trip. At the forefront was what method of transportation we would choose: my suv, rented van, tour bus, helicopter, private jet etc.. There are four of us and we wanted to bring Jeff Pickman, soundman extroadinare along. Also, Neil Smith (National Football League) wanted to come along since he booked the shows and wanted to meet some loose women. That was 6 of us which is two people too many for my crime attracting 4runner. We didn’t want to make anyone ride on the luggage rack and we didn’t want to spend the extra $ to rent a van but at the last minute, we broke down and rented one anyway. Armed with our instruments, a video camera and blind ambition, we embarked on our first jaunt through the Midwest......
Show #38: St. Louis, MO - The Library
After what seemed like an endless amount of obstacles in getting out of town, we picked up Jeff and Neil and headed to the rehearsal space to load out. Shortly thereafter, we were on the road to our first of six shows. The ride to St. Louis was for the most part uneventful. We knew from experience not to trust any of Jeff’s “shortcuts” and stay the course. Last time we went out St. Louis, one of those shortcuts cost us an extra 2 hours in travel time and none of us let him forget it :-) We arrived at The Library bar in St. Louis. It’s a pretty cool building with a large double set of cement steps up the front. We were informed that there were a total of 4 bands and the first band was already on. We were up next and Roman Numerals after us. We began to load in up those stairs while the first band finished up. Shortly thereafter, we were on.
As we started our first song, New York, I noticed something was wrong. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ryan in full panic mode. As I turned I saw a HUGE amount of smoke coming from one of Ryan’s amps. For a second, I thought the stage was on fire but I quickly realized that it must be a fog machine. Unfortunately, Ryan didn’t come to the same conclusion. Mid song, he ran over to his amp and shut it off. It must have been a pretty funny sight. As it turns out, Billy Smith was behind the stage and pulled a “I wonder what this button does” resulting in the false alarm :-)! We finished our set and watched Roman Numerals for the first time in a long time. They sounded better than ever.
Afterward, we went to a house party at one of the Numeral’s friend’s places in St. Louis. Ignoring the “No Outlet” signs, we pulled the van and trailer into a dead end street. After a couple jackknifes and 120 point turns, we got it turned around and went inside for a drink. After hanging out for a little while we left and went to our motel. However, there was a detour. Neil Smith insisted that we needed to go to White Castle. So we set off on yet another adventure. It was 3:30AM and we were driving around St. Louis, guided by our iphone maps to find an open White Castle, which we did. Long story short, everyone including Neil regretted that little trip the next morning. Although some good did come out of it, I filmed the entire ordeal and I snapped some compromising pictures of Neil and Jeff with their White Castle cheeseburgers. Now more than ever, the band needs a flicker page :-)
Thanks to everyone @ The Library for your hospitality. A special thanks to our Myspace friend, Rick 'doc' Dachroeden who came out to the show.
Show #39: Chicago, IL - Reggie's
Chicago is one of the best cities in the country. You have buildings, people, and things to do yet it’s still the Midwest. We took off for Chicago on Thursday morning. We arrived early and headed to the South side of the city to Reggie’s Rock Bar. This place was pretty cool and unlike most venues I have ever been in. It was a bar and restaurant on one side, an all-ages venue on the other side, with a badass band merchandise shop in between and a sick record store upstairs. The staff was very cool and this place was run extremely WELL. The green room was filled with comfortable couches and even had a bathroom with a shower. There were 4 bands on the bill of which we were the 3rd with the Numerals headlining. After killing time for several hours, we watched the first and second bands. Then we were up. I won’t lie; the crowd was sparse to say the least. However, we were lucky enough to have some friends come see us so we were thankful for that. All in all, I feel we played well and we were done before we knew it. After us, yet again, Roman Numerals killed it. Night after night, these guys made it look easy and sounded incredible. After the show, a few of us headed home and a few others headed out on the town. If my memory serves me correctly, Neil and I headed back downtown to our hotel and stopped by a Duncan Donuts for Coffee around the corner. We saw a few almost fights between some undoubtedly steroid fortified meatheads which was pretty entertaining. After a coffee, it was lights out. Thanks to everyone who came out and everyone @ Reggie’s.
Show #40: Chicago, IL - Cobra Lounge
By the third day of the Mini-tour, all of us were stoked to be in the same city and not have to spend the day traveling. Neil, Jeff and Brent went sightseeing. Nick went to go hang out with family in the area. And Bates and I headed to Chicago Music Exchange. This has got to be one of the most awesome Guitar stores in the US. Sure, there are many killer guitar shops around the country and I can say that I have been to most of them. But for some reason, I love CME. It’s like restoration hardware filled with vintage and new guitars and amps. It’s expensive, but there is always something to look at. I brought in a few guitars that I never play in hopes of trading them in on something. But after about an hour in the store looking around and playing some guitars, I hadn’t found anything. As we were getting ready to leave, Ryan picked up a Rickenbacker guitar of the wall and plugged it in. Although I have NEVER been a fan or Ricks at all, it sounded great and it played like a million bucks. 20 minutes later, we walked out with it and had breakfast at Wishbone around the corner. It was a good day...we didn’t have to use out AKs.
As the day turned into night, we reconvened and headed out to Cobra Lounge. When we arrived, the Roman Numerals were already there and loaded in. There were 3 bands on the bill and we had switched up with Roman Numerals for the last slot. The place was beginning to fill up and there were a lot of familiar KC folks there which was a nice surprise. It felt like home! The first band, American Anti-Gravity, went on and after they were finished, Roman Numerals took the stage. They put on another bang-out show. We were up next and we went on around 12:30AM. I feel we played a good show and all of us had a good time being there.
After the show, we parked the Van and trailer and headed out for to meet everyone for one last drink before the bars closed. We arrived and had a few drinks with the KC crew. It was a really good time. Chicago was over and we were sad to leave. We look forward to getting back up there again!
Show #41: La Crosse, WI - The Warehouse
The next morning, we took off for La Crosse, Wisconsin. It was a 6 hour drive and an early show so we had to be on the road earlier than usual. All of us where pretty banged up and I was quite a bit sleep deprived due to the snoring of various people who shall remain nameless. Note to self: bring earplugs next time. On the way out of the city, we stopped to get gas and I did something I never usually do. I bought lottery tickets. Not powerball, just the scratch off kind. And I actually won! $150 to be exact. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. In our haste, we failed to really project how much money this little jaunt was costing us. And it was taking its toll on us financially. So, needless to say, I was happy to have a little extra loot.
We arrived in La Crosse at the Warehouse roughly 6 hours later. The city reminded me of Lawrence, KS but with a larger Downtown maybe? The Warehouse is an all ages venue that has been there for over 18 years. A ton of great bands have played there over the years and continue to do so. In fact, I had a good time checking out their wall of 8x10’s from bands that have played there over the years. Lots of familiar faces and bands I had long since forgotten about.
That being said, we had heard about a very painful load-in at The Warehouse from many of our friends. And it was true: 3 flights of steep stairs, straight up. We weren’t worried about it though, it seemed like a great way to get a workout :-) Luckily for all of us, the friendly staff @ The Warehouse assisted both bands both in and out with our gear. This venue has to be one of the most put together places I have played. Everyone was super cool and it was run like an army base. It was actually quite refreshing. There were three bands on the bill, the first being a local act of younger kids. As they played for their friends and parents, I felt quite old. But I kept telling myself: “30s are the new 20s. There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”. We played our set to a handful of kids and had a good time despite the thin turnout. Roman Numerals went on afterward and yet again owned the stage. After the show, all of us went to a GREAT bar across the street called “Yesterdays”. This place was covered in an evil, Devil’s Advocate looking mural. It was dark and the drinks were cheap too. My favorite watering hole of the whole trip! I wish it was located in KC. I’d be there every damn night. At closing time, we rounded up the troops and headed back to our motel. It became apparent to all of us that while we were intoxicated, Neil was at a whole different level. I quickly grabbed the video camera and began filming. That video clip spans over an hour and is PRICELESS. I am still editing it but I will give you some highlights:
Neil Smith convincing us there were “hot chicks” at this bar
Meeting up with the Numerals in the motel parking lot
Neil Smith in the bathtub
Ryan Shank and Neil Smith in the bathtub
Brent, Ryan Shank, and Neil Smith in the bathroom
Ryan Shank’s readings from the bible
Almost getting kicked out of the hotel
The list goes on. Needless to say, you’ll have to see the video. All in all, La Crosse was a good time. Thanks to all who came out and to the Staff of The Warehouse for your hospitality.
Show #42: Minneapolis, MN - Uptown Bar
We took off for Minneapolis the next morning. Upon arriving in Minneapolis, Brent insisted that we hit the “Great Mall of America”. Apparently, there was a Lego store that had a life size millennium falcon horsie ride that Brent could not live without riding. So, we were stuck going into suburbia to fulfill Brent’s geek destiny. I’d like to say that it was interesting, but it wasn’t. Ryan and I spent most the time walking around doing absolutely nothing. After the mall we checked into our hotel room downtown and headed to the bar. The Uptown Bar is a small bar/restaurant that is closing down in a month or two. After getting a few drinks, we were well aware that one of the bartenders was a complete and utter fucking asshole. We ignored him and went about our business but for some reason, this guy really pissed me off. And our multiple encounters with him just put me in a bad mood. There were 3 bands on the show and we were second. There was a decent crowd for a Sunday night and I had some friends come out to the show as well. We went on second and it was a mad rush to get going. This bar was the opposite of the Warehouse and was a complete disorganized mess. After we played, the Roman Numerals took the stage. I went back to the bar and had a few more drinks Roman Numerals finished another immaculate set and all of us had some more after show drinks/shots. At the end of the night, all of us were pretty intoxicated and I really wanted to confront Senor Dickhead the Bartender. Of course, that would have been a dumb thing to do. In a complete role reversal, Ryan pushed me out of the bar to avoid any confrontation. All of us felt relieved that we had escaped the evening without incident when out of nowhere, some drunk douche bag starts staring everyone of us down as we are loading up our merch. It could have been a very ugly scene. But luckily, there was no altercation thanks to Ryan again and we were on our way back to the hotel.
Overall, I can say that we did not enjoy our experience to the fullest in Minneapolis. But it does seem like it could be a cool place. We look forward to giving it another shot in the near future. Thanks to everyone at The Uptown bar that was cool. And thanks to Jada and Mark for coming out!
Show #43: Omaha, NE - Oleavers
Our last show of the mini-tour was at Oleavers in Omaha. This bar is a local mainstay and a ton of local and regional acts have been through it. It’s a pretty bare bones place with a very small PA and more of a dive bar atmosphere. The staff was cool as shit though and the drinks were affordable. Viva la Omaha! There were 3 bands on the show and we were up first. We went on about 10:30 and it was an uneventful show for us. We’ve had worse, we’ve had better. After us Roman Numerals played and we all had some drinks to celebrate the end of our mini-tour.
Overall, this was a great experience for our band. We had a ton of fun and most importantly learned a lot for next time. Thank you to Roman Numerals for coming out with us and teaching us a thing or two. Thanks to everyone who came out to shows and everyone at all the venues.
Till next time,