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Tour diary: Life on the road with Time & Distance

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With more than 200,000 miles on its tour van, Charleston pop-punk band Time and Distance is used to life on the road, so the guys in the band weren't intimidated at the prospect of a three-week tour of the Southeast, which included a stop at South by Southwest.

On March 1, singer/guitarist Greg McGowan, guitarist Mikey Harris, bassist Adrian Crowder and drummer Chris Thompson hit the road, living the "hurry up and wait" life of a touring rock band. On March 10, days ahead of the SXSW appearance, McGowan looked back at the tour so far and presented this tour diary to gazz.

DAY ONE: Spindale, N.C.

We are the worst at first days of tour. You would think we'd want to leave extra early, knowing that we'll have a thousand holdups, but we almost NEVER do. So, we started this tour on a usual note: late.

The night's show at The Ultimate Basement was small but fun. The owner was awesome and agreed to let us sleep at the venue, which was full of couches, pool tables, video games, etc. We drank some beers, played some games and passed out for the night.

DAY TWO: Aiken, S.C./Athens, Ga.

I woke up to a woman shouting, "GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!" at approximately 1 p.m. We packed our things, hit a Waffle House for breakfast and headed to South Carolina.

We showed up a few hours later to a relatively sketchy looking skatepark in the middle of nowhere. We brought in all our gear before being asked if we had called any other bands to play that night...

Long story short, we ended up not playing. These things happen, and in camp Time and Distance, we've learned to deal with them pretty well.

So we headed to Athens, Ga., where I had a friend who used to play in a band we toured with a lot "back in the day." We got into town about midnight, and after much carrying on, I think I finally got into bed as the sun was rising.

DAY THREE: Atlanta /Savannah

The Masquerade, where we were playing, is a super old, super historic venue in the Atlanta music scene. It's actually three different clubs inside one building, and almost everyone in the last 30 years who can't quite sell out an arena has played there at some point.

We were playing the mid-level venue -- Purgatory -- which was a sweet room with a nice PA and a big stage. We were stoked. We loaded in, sound checked and hung around for a few hours waiting for the show to start.

The opener was a great local band called The Captain, who were really awesome guys. We always seem to have a great time and a very attentive audience in Atlanta, and this show was no different.

We hung out talking to people for a while after the show before packing the van and heading to Savannah to stay with a friend of ours who used to live in Charleston.

DAY FOUR: Savannah

A day off! I slept until almost 4 p.m., went to Best Buy and bought a new backpack, went to a great local pizza shop with our friend, drank a beer on a downtown street and then a bottle of whiskey with my best friends in a backyard. We tried and failed to build a campfire. All in all, a solid day off.

DAY FIVE: Jacksonville

By the time we got into town, I had persuaded everyone to eat at Whataburger, a great Southern burger joint that just so happened to have a location in Jacksonville near the beach, which we also wanted to hit up. So we got some delicious food and headed over to the beach a little bit after sunset.

It was dark and cold, and we were only there about 10 minutes before we had to head over to the venue. Jack Rabbits is a place we've played a bunch of times, a sort of dive with really cheap beer and stickers all over the walls from bands who have played previously.

We arrived to find we weren't an exact genre match for the show, but we played last, and it actually turned into a pretty good show. We sold some CDs, and then drove a few blocks to the hotel we'd scored on Priceline earlier. (I am a Priceline name-your-own-price MASTER!)

DAY SIX: Columbus, Ga.

I awoke to the familiar sound of the front desk calling our hotel room to ask if we were checking out. I groggily explained we'd overslept ("accidentally"), and we all scrambled to shower and get ready as fast as we could, before stumbling out into the hallway in front of the maid and four dudes with their luggage.

At the venue, Soho's Bar & Grill, we loaded our gear in and then found out there was a poker night going on and we'd be on after that...in about four hours. (Tours most days are endless games of "hurry up and wait." You rush to be somewhere at a certain time only to not actually be needed there until a time far later than your actual arrival.)

We did our thing, and even though we didn't think it was quite our crowd, everybody seemed to have a pretty good time. I unexpectedly ran into a guy I went to high school with who lives there now. Small world.

DAY SEVEN: New Orleans

We showed up to the venue -- Neutral Grounds Coffee -- and it was TINY. There was no way we were gonna fit all our gear in. Everyone else was playing acoustic, so we decided to roll with it and did our first ever full-band acoustic set with Chris playing an djembe and Adrian playing guitar.

It was a lot of fun and (apparently) sounded all right, so maybe we'll try it again sometime.

DAY EIGHT: New Orleans/Lafayette, La.

We got up and headed down to the French Quarter/Bourbon Street area pretty early (for us) to check out the whole scene. It was crazy! Everyone was saying it was kind of dead down there this week, but there were people all over the place at 2 p.m., drinking beers in the street, playing awesome music, dancing, trying to get you to go in their bars -- the whole New Orleans image personified.

After we ate, we hit up a Guitar Center and killed some time drooling over things we hope to one day own, then started the short drive over to Lafayette and The Wild Salmon. This is the week prior to SXSW, and we are fast approaching its region, which means there's 500+ bands all trying to get to Austin by next week somehow.

This show was four bands, and all of us were headed to SXSW. Even better, all the other bands were AWESOME. We opened up the show, and Chateau Nowhere (from France), Friendly People (Massachusetts) and The Boston Boys (North Carolina) all brought the heat after us.

We became fast friends with a lot of people, exchanged contacts and made plans to meet up in Austin hopefully. After the show, we ended up staying with a fine gentleman we met at the bar, got some Whataburger and called it a night.

DAY NINE: Houston

We got into Houston about 5 p.m. and showed up at Super Happy Fun Land, which is probably one of the more interesting venues I've ever encountered. We found out we weren't playing until about 9 p.m., so we hung around for several hours in the parking lot, killing time and talking to some other SXSW-bound musicians who were playing as well.

During this, we got a Facebook message asking if we'd like to play a second show that night across town. We accepted, played our first set (which went OK), packed up and headed across town to do the other show at Dean's.

The venue gave us a dolly to use, which we quickly discovered only had three wheels. Much anger and aggression followed, and the van tried its best to further beat me up. (I've been excellent at hurting myself on random objects this tour.)

Eventually we got all our gear to the venue and played a really fun show for a small but receptive crowd. We sold some stuff, hung out for a while and then headed back to Super Happy Fun Land to pick up our cut from that show.

What happened when we got there was some of the most disrespectful behavior I've ever seen from people at a venue in 10+ years of touring. We did not get paid, but we did get plenty of remarks from people who should be old enough to know how to act better.

Luckily for us, Chris had some friends from West Virginia now living near Houston who had graciously opened their home to us. We arrived to see beds made up for each of us, food, drinks, a place to do laundry and WiFi. It was like touring paradise (especially before three days of most likely sleeping in our van with all of our gear in Austin).

DAY 10: Angleton, Texas

I woke up about 3 p.m. on another day off and eventually settled down in front of my laptop to try to catch up on all the pre-SXSW work I've been avoiding.

Our hosts cooked us an awesome dinner, and afterwards some of the guys drove down to the nearby beach. I, however, decided to live the exciting life of doing band work on my laptop, and I pretty much lost track of time until they returned.

Tomorrow, we head to San Antonio for another SXSW overflow show, and by the time you're reading this, we will have hit Austin for the madness of SXSW and the whole point of our trip. We're playing a cool showcase there on Wednesday with high hopes of picking up a couple others and blanketing the town with our fliers and CDs.

Friday we head to Fort Worth for a bar show, Saturday we play at Six Flags in Arlington, Sunday we are off again, and Monday, we're in St. Louis. Then I will be back home in close range of my bed, cat and bar.

Reach Nick Harrah at wvrockscene@gmail.com.


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