The 2012 No Hotel? No Problem Tour: The End

A view from the harbor, Annapolis, MD
Sunday, March 18
Bus from Annapolis to Glen Burnie: 5:08 pm
Light rail from Glen Burnie to Baltimore: 5:58 pm
Amtrak from Baltimore to Newark, NJ: 8:04 pm

I don't think I've ever attended a rock show at 1 in the afternoon on a Sunday before, so I can now safely add that to the list. What list, you ask? OK, I'll be honest with you, because you've been nice enough to read this: I'm not keeping a list of concert start times. I just needed a way to start this post, and it seemed like as good an idea as any. But don't tell the others. Let them think I keep a list of concert start times. We'll know the truth.

After an early rising for some churching and a literal wave hello and goodbye to Jesse's daughters, Paige and Harper, it was time to get in Jesse's car and head to Annapolis. As if his magnanimity in foregoing an evening of March Madness to come see the rock show and watch me shove meat down my throat (that doesn't sound right...) weren't enough, Jesse also agreed to drive me to Annapolis on the way (sort of) to dropping his mother off at the airport. As we discussed with his wife Anna before my departure, not only was this not the shortest time I've ever spent with them during a visit, but it wasn't even second (my impulsive decision to meet them at a Nationals game last year at which Paige served as between-innings cohost stands as the first, and the Obama inauguration--my sister and I arrived at night and left well before dawn cracked--takes second, though it's first in Actual Waking Hours Spent). If the secret to being a good guest is not overstaying your welcome, I might be King of the Guests.

Despite all the food I consumed the night before, I still wanted to eat a Belgian waffle at the Ram's Head Tavern during the show. Because, really, how many times are you going to get to eat a Belgian waffle during a rock show? Alas, my dreams were shattered when my waiter informed me that the brunch menu was not available in the concert venue section of the Ram's Head. What a punch in the face.

As it turns out, though, I might not have had time to finish the waffle during Amy's set anyway. Because there was an evening show (jazz fusion guitarist--and, as I discovered in I Want My MTV, an early MTV favorite just because he had videos--Lee Ritenour) and the room had to be cleared and, I assume, there had to be another soundcheck, the 1 pm show was on a tight, done-by-3 schedule, which meant Amy and the guys had a whopping 25 minutes. But they made the most of it, and Amy even had time to throw in a Sunday-related joke in the set.

After helping with load-out and listening to a dizzying array of questions and comments from a fan (of Amy, not me), I finally got my Belgian waffle, albeit outside the concert venue and in the tavern part, as we sat down for brunch. It was fine, but it would've been better if I could've consumed it while listening to the show. C'mon, Ram's Head, if you're going to schedule shows at 1 pm on a Sunday, just go all out and have a rock 'n' roll brunch. It's the right thing to do.

I was off merch duty in Annapolis (the Ram's Head controls the merch selling, for a cut of the profits; this makes the Great Waffle Denial even more egregious), but by the time we were done eating, I only got to see two songs from Rich Robinson before wandering around Annapolis for a few hours prior to my multilayered trip back home. The dread of having the fun stop began to set in, and I realized that I would have to be at work in the morning. Blah.

Luckily, perhaps my favorite line of the tour came as Amy, Dave, and Shawn were getting ready to leave. A Rich Robinson fan who had been to more shows on the tour than I had (I forget the final tally, but it was close to 10) lamented to Amy about the short set but said she sounded great anyway. A perhaps slightly overtired Amy got her sayings a bit jumbled and responded, "We make lemons." And if that's not a catchphrase waiting to happen, I don't know what is.

Continuing my 24 hours of gluttony, I bought some cookies (which I saved for the train ride), a Chicago dog, and an ice cream cone as I killed time (and, slowly, myself) in Annapolis, briefly stopping at the harbor to take a few pictures on what started as an overcast day and morphed into a picture-perfect spring afternoon. Annapolis was another city I've only seen under cover of night (my friend Pat and I saw the Avett Brothers and BR549 at the Ram's Head a few years back), so it was good to get a better feel of the place.

And then, after being denied entry on the Annapolis city bus because of my ice cream cone (I forget that NYC stands pretty much alone on its eating policy on buses), I caught it after finishing my cone (it loops around the city before heading out) and began the six-hour-plus process of heading home. It was actually a lot easier than I expected, and I got a good chunk of reading done for the first time in a few days. Plus, though I assumed the Sunday night Amtrak would be running late (there always seems to be delays on the regional trains on weekends), it was actually right on time, and after the bus-light rail-Amtrak-PATH train ride home, I was back in my apartment by 11 pm, just in time for a decent night's sleep before heading back to Cubicleville.

Shawn Zorn, Bowery Ballroom, NYC
Monday, March 19

Walk to work: 8:30 am
PATH to NYC: 5:45 pm (approx.)
Subway to Bowery Ballroom: 8 pm (approx.)

I'll be honest. That Monday wasn't the most productive day at work I've ever had. But, because I've finally figured out that it makes more sense to bust your ass to get things done before you leave on vacation rather than letting it sit on your desk until you return, I didn't need to bring my "A" game (which was a relief, because I'm not 100% sure I have an "A" game). I feel like I'm getting the hang of this work thing. So now I would like to retire. And I'm only a few hundred thousand dollars and a house away from making that happen.

There was still one more show left on the Amy and Rich tour, and I only needed to take a PATH train (and a subway from the yearly NYC Ithacan Alumni Dinner, where I was only the second oldest attendee this year...thanks for coming, Mike!) to get there. The Bowery Ballroom show was a bit underattended, but my friends and fellow Monday Night Social Clubbers Frankie and Kelly came out for Amy's set and to engage me in whatever I was providing in the way of conversation (I recall talking very fast and repeating myself a bit), so that was nice.

Both Amy and Rich sounded good. I'm assuming that everyone who reads this knows me and has already sat through a fair number of pleas to see Amy, so I've kept the music descriptions to a minimum. But, honest, you should go see her. The band sounds great after all the touring (though they're even better with violinist Krista Wroten Combest, busy with her other band, The Memphis Dawls at the moment), and after seeing them seven days in a row, I can assure you they are worth seeing. So, please do so when they come around again (July on the east coast and sooner out west, and Amy will be touring as a member of The Wandering in May). I won't like you any less if you don't go see her, but I will like you so much more if you do.

The merch sales moved at a slow trickle for most of the night in NYC (though I did sell a T-shirt that wasn't even displayed, so I did serve some purpose), but in the downtime I got some more backstory on the Dude, who told me that he got started doing pretty much what I was doing, except he was following Marcy Playground around for awhile and detailing his adventures on a fan listserv, and through the years, that turned into his current position as professional merch guy/driver. I would be lying if I said I weren't a little jealous, though I imagine a week on the road (particularly when you're not driving) is a lot more fun than, say, a month or two. But maybe not. I am willing to listen to offers from bands looking for a merch guy who can't drive. Please list your detailed offer in the Comments and I will get back to you at my earliest convenience. I will accept proposals from bands that suck, but please know that you will have a steep climb.

After Rich Robinson ended his set with three Neil Young covers ("Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," "Down by the River," and "Cinnamon Girl") and a Velvet Underground cover ("Oh! Sweet Nuthin'), the fun officially came to an end and it was time to fully get back to the real world. I said goodbye to the Dude, and then helped Amy and the guys load up the van before heading off to the PATH train. I'd been carrying around my poster from Rochester for most of the trip and kept forgetting to have everyone sign it. My camera, as you might have noticed, is on the fritz, so I needed a better souvenir of the trip. And it's a cool poster, if a little girly for the walls of Disgraceland. But a little girliness might liven the place up. Actual women might, too. I will also consider those offers in the Comments section.

Abilene (Rochester, NY) poster, made by Fly Rabbit Press
It was a fun vacation. I recommend something similar if you've got the time. Go out and see bands. They'd be happy to see you, after driving all day, loading and unloading the van, trying to find decent food, and doing their best to bring some sort of happiness into your and their lives, even if it's just for 45 minutes. Just promise me you'll watch what you say at the merch table. And please don't haggle.

You should go see your friends, too, the ones who aren't physically as close as you'd like them to be but are still right there in your heart. They'll be glad to see you as well, and you'll be happy to know they're still as funny, smart, and incredible as you remembered. Plus, some of them have created little people that can make you feel all right about doing kid stuff again.

So, my message is as it always is at the end of these hectic trip recaps. Get out and enjoy life. As much as you can and as hard as you can. As soon as you can.

But don't do two overnight bus rides in a row. That's just stupid.

(Thanks to Amy, Dave, Shawn, the Dude, Brett, Jessica, Sam, Fiona, Bryan, Kelly, Everett, Wesley, Eleanor, Liz, D.J., Wendy, Kaelin, Abby, Jesse, Anna, Paige, Harper, Frankie, and Kelly for your general awesomeness and help in creating this memorable trip. You're good people.)

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