Drawn To It
September 21, 2017
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What’s In A Tour?

I just got back from a seven-week tour with American Murder Song. The tour, “The Donner Party Reunion”, was themed after Saar Hendelman’s and my latest concept album where we invited folks to participate in a musical history lesson by way of a faux live-taping of an episode of a The Twilight Zone-like television series called “The Black Wagon” on America’s favorite pioneer cannibals, The Donner Party. Yep, we like to make things complicated for ourselves, and our audience. But none of it is as complicated as trying to summarize the experience of touring… which I shall now attempt.

I’ve been touring, in some form or another, for roughly ten years. The experience of living out of a van and hopscotching from city to city to share art with strangers is indeed a strange one. But to call the fans of Saar’s and my work strangers would not be entirely correct.

True, we do inspire a strange community, one that stands out from the masses in almost any town that we visit (and not merely because of their dark historical garb and bloody accessories), but many of the “strange” faces that we encounter on our annual touring adventures have become quite familiar.

There is of course “fresh blood” at our events, and sharing our tunes and tales with new eyes, ears and souls is always exciting, but there are also those in nightly attendance whom we’ve had the privilege of getting to see and know for almost a decade. This odd blending of familiar and strange is a staple of American Murder Song tour life.

Touring is an incongruous mix of looooong drives and groggy boredom with punctuated stabs of adrenaline, exhibitionism and intense social interaction. The intensity of the latter is often fueled by the necessary briefness of experiences on the road. We’re usually not in a city for more than an evening, and we’ve generally rented only a limited slot of a time at any given venue. As such, our exchanges with both new and known faces are often more rushed than we’d like. To compensate for the lack of time, almost all tour interactions are kicked into a sort of social overdrive. Handshakes and hugs on steroids.

Sometimes these heightened exchanges feel great. Sometimes they feel incomplete. And sometimes this overstimulation causes a sort of brain freeze that makes one forget a deep conversation that was had only moments earlier, or, conversely, spark an acute flashback of a minor encounter from years prior.

Returning to regular human communication, and life, following a tour is a difficult transition. It feels weird, for example, to lie in one’s own bed after weeks of napping in a tour van or sleeping in hotel rooms. You return to a home full of dust and absence. As such, cleaning is a main part of my homecoming ritual. Writing a homecoming blog has also become part of the tradition.

I usually come back from tour with an assortment of goods and gifts from the road, so cleaning and making room for these mementos is not only therapeutic, but also necessary. In fact, it doesn’t feel as if the tour is truly over until this tidying and storing process is complete.

It’s been exactly two weeks since our final stop of The Donner Party Reunion Tour, and I’ve only just begun the process of getting my apartment, and life, back in order. Saar and I have been very busy with the business of closing the tour, but I’ve also been avoiding post-tour reality… avoiding post-tour reality… avoiding post-tour reality…

My apartment has a lot of collectables in it: statuettes and comic books and artwork that I’ve either generated or gathered in the ten years that I’ve been living in it. As I began this year’s post-tour unpacking routine, it dawned on me that I started renting this apartment at roughly the same time that my life as a touring artist began. At that time, I acquired a large, metal filing cabinet that has become a home for the scores of fan-made gifts and artwork that I’ve been graced with over the years. In many ways, the contents of this filing cabinet are the most valued pieces in my collection.

The photos accompanying this blog were taken while I was unpacking my touring luggage, sorting through all of the rad gifts and artwork that I received on the road, and trying to decipher how to best summarize this year’s tour. Staring through the lens of my outmoded camera, it occurred to me that these fine fan gifts represent the most lingering—and perhaps most meaningful—aspect of touring: creativity, community and accomplishment. Yep, I’m damn proud of and inspired by these beautiful trophies.

There are too many gifts to feature in a single blog, just as there are too many souls to thank who were a part of making the tour possible, but I wanted to use this post to express my gratitude to everyone who has been a part of the journey. It’s been a helluva year with a helluva tour and a helluva lot of awesome people in it. Thank you, all!

The tour is over, but Saar’s and my work is far from finished with American Murder Song. We’ve got more stories to tell, more songs to write, more tours to plan, and we’ve got our sights set on making 2018 an even better year for the project. In the meantime, we’re closing out 2017 with a big ‘Murder For The Holidays’ Sale. Everything in our online store is 20% off or more, including items that were previous only available on tour: http://www.AmericanMurderSong.com/Sale.

Now go add a little Murder to your holiday shopping, and wish me luck with getting my apartment in order.

  • Cynful

    Thank you for sharing photos of these items. Good luck readjusting to life and reorganizing. I hope your holidays, and your 2018 are wonderful and we will see you soon.

  • Tiffany Kintzel

    Awh I’m glad you kept your tutor painting! I’m proud to rock your artwork on my legs. See ya next time

  • Jan Wilson

    So great to see you in Albuquerque! Loved the show.

  • Alanna Fullen

    It was great seeing ya I Pheonix can’t wait for more exciting things to come our way! Thank you so much for everything you guys do! It’s always a pleasure to see you all again !!!!

  • Laurie Neufeld

    No rest for the wicked, eh? The readjustment period is WEIRD, isn’t it? I think what adds to the amazingness of the goodies from the road is the amount of inspiration and love that goes into them. Y’all need to start up an AMS museum. The tour was wonderful, and we’re all looking forward to the next episode of The Black Wagon. Here’s hoping your stock sells quickly and your coffers fill to overflowing with luscious blood money, Trav’lers!

  • Emily Greene

    It can be annoying getting out of the travelling mindset, but it sounds like Saar, the rest of the band, and yourself are navigating decently through it. The cleaning bit on the other hand….. ummm…. can be annoying for some (or many) but, as you astutely said, its gotta get done. If you are looking for some inspiration while cleaning – you can try putting on old YouTube episodes of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ or classic B/C, etc movies on in the background and hearing the jokes can help the process go a little more smoothly and amusingly.

    Otherwise, if that’s not your jive, then best wishes in your cleaning quest.

  • Natalie River Smith

    Squee!!!!! You included a picture of the pin I made you!

  • Kelley Pegelow

    Luck! It was wonderful seeing you in Charlotte. Hope the settling-in process goes smoothly.

  • Chris Pritchett

    I’m so happy I finally got to see you and Saar at the Nashville stop! It blew my expectations out of the water. And onto the floor. To be carefully walked around, so to not slip. I’m not even sorry for causing that hilarious and accidental derailing.

    I hope you get settled in soon, and I truly cannot wait to hear what is cooked up next. Until then…time to go spend a large chunk of my paycheck in the store. ❤

  • Malinda Wickham

    From the first show in Phoenix to the last show in Los Angeles (and those 11 in between) I can honestly say it has been one of my favorite adventures. I think I drank all of the drinks and bought all of the stuff and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. I’m glad you guys are home safe and sound and hopefully getting so rest. Thank you for a great tour!

  • Chelsea Rothfuss

    I met you in 2008 for the very first time, and can honestly say I was starstruck. I had just begun shadowcasting REPO with my local players, and it was a Dream meeting you. Here we are in 2017, and it’s crazy how it feels like you’re a personal friend at this point. As far as after tour goes, I think a lot of people feel the same way. It’s an odd sort of purgatory after the high of the show. I know I can’t wait until the next time around to see your project; and I’m curious if you still have the mustache mood ring bracelet I gave you in 2008. I hope that’s one item that made it into the cabinet. (:

  • Kristy Jacobs

    You, Saar, Scully, Corrine and Vita catered a helluva Sacramento “homecoming” feast. Thanks for all you do for us hungry trav’lers! Here’s to a semblance of normalcy before the chaos begins anew! ❤

  • Liz VanHoutte

    As weird as it is to be back home after so much time on the road, I’m sure there’s really nothing like having your own bed and your own space back. The tour this year was an absolute riot, had the time of my life at both stops. It is also an absolute honor to see the piece I did on your blog. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words, they meant the world to me. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the coming year and everything that it has in store. Hope you have a great holiday season and an even better 2018!

  • Theo

    You guys were awesome in Ames, technical difficulties be damned! I look forward to seeing you guys live again! 😀

    -Bonnet girl

  • KrisB

    Still baffled it’s almost been a decade. The sheer amount of change and travel (in my life) that has happened in that time, a lot because of the domino effect of your art, is astounding. I have friends around the world that we’re all brought together.

    I hope you’re proud of your work, and it’s reaches, and the happiness and connections it’s caused.

    I am.

  • Tiffany Fallon

    I always look forward to reading your blog updates. I hope you have good luck with straightening up you apartment . i do that on my days off, since im working two jobs right now. I cant wait for 2018

  • Andromeda Aristy

    I was the Painted Doll cosplayer at Phoenix. That was probably the best night of my life! 😀 (besides the 2016 Phoenix Wake, which I also attended) Can’t wait for your next tour, TZ! American Murder Song saved my life and you and Saar have a lifelong fan for it!