— Day 1 —
SoCal to Utah
Every once in a while an average day turns into one that will become forever carved into your life story. As we fill our borrowed van with gear for this Tour—our first REAL tour–I’m fully aware that we are embarking on one of those times, the part of life that is actually lived and added to the sum of our memories.
Today we are only driving. Nothing but freeways and desert highways. The first show is two days distant, but we all are wide-eyed in our individual ways, keeping watch for the stories that will define these days.
Tonight we stopped off of the highway on a random desolate desert road-to-nowhere to take a pee break. The wind was turbulent, shifting back and forth with hot night air. You had to be careful to not to pee in the wrong direction. But with my bare feet on new soil, and wild sands sticking to the insides of my elbows, in a strange place that I will likely never be again, I was reminded what it feels like to believe that anything can happen–not the thing you “want,” but the unlimited things beyond routine and reruns.
— Day 2 —
Utah to Colorado
I feel inwardly conflicted as we drive unceremoniously past an eternity of intricate mesas and enormous bodies of earth standing like ancient ruins, long lost cities of stone in every direction. I want to stop and pay homage by exploring their spires and natural hallways. We could hideout for the night in one of the many winding cathedral canyons. I want to inflate our camping pads and raft the muddy rivers, bear around the turns and wind slowly through painted wilderness. But we have a course to follow and a show to make. I will try to sit still as the red cliffs fade and the city of Denver, and new opportunities, rise ahead.
— Day 16 —
Last day in Missouri
The floorboards are shaking like a passing train. Incredible bursts of electric light are cracking through the rainy night. Wind is rushing against the house with all the intensity of a screeching cat fight. It’s now 3am and everyone is asleep, but I’m sitting at the desk by the window hoping that before I stand up to walk away, I’ll witness a pillar of lightning crashing down on the trees outside the window.
We’ve been living in the basement of a big mansion in Missouri the last four days and tonight is our last night before we head to Wakarusa Festival in Arkansas. This is a strange time. Nothing about our situation feels normal. We’re living in someone else’s home, in a place we’ve never been before, but we’re not on vacation; and we’re on tour, but we’re not playing shows. We’re just stalling, drifting, waiting for our connection.
Yesterday I went for a run by myself through the forest. The trail ended at a muddy clearing under construction. I tried to keep going by following the creek, but the moment I put both feet on the creek bed I sank up to my knees in chocolate brown mud.
The last show we played was in Columbia MO in a 150 year old theater called The Blue Note that was once a vaudeville theater and then burlesque. Its green room is directly under the ancient wooden stage, which jumps and rattles enough to make you wonder if it’s all original parts—and if tonight is the night when it finally gives way.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends—how much I miss them and how much I appreciate their ability to get excited about things. This lyric from Just Take it Easy is really true about me: “I prefer the non-fiction kind if life.” I have very little interest in disingenuous things, moments, controlled experiences. I want the real thing, the spontaneous, natural thing. I prefer the thought that is not obvious, not a restatement, but an original idea that builds and moves progressively onward into the unknown script. But I love and envy those who have the humility and the modesty to appreciate the obvious statement, the unoriginal thought, to claim it as their own. To dare to let yourself respond uncontrollably to joy; to dance, to let it become you. Ahhhh these friends are my heroes, the ones that can remind me how to love and live and laugh well, friendship that is measured in grins, and never measured.
— Day 20 —
The most anticipated performance for me at Wakarusa was Michael Franti. We all made it to the front of the main stage to watch his set. I was impressed with his constructive positivity. Genuinely concerned for others. He also put on a great show, jumping the railing two or three times, climbing into the crowd. I went to give him a high five but accidentally faked him out and left him hanging. Sorry Michael! At one point the guitar player almost whacked me in the face with his guitar as the crowd closed in around him and pushed me forward. When I see experienced acts like Michael Franti I realize how much farther we can go as a band and how much fun it will be to explore that potential. Still, no festival, not even a great headlining show will ever compare to jamming and free-styling with my wife and brother and friends around a bonfire at the Hideaway, sky-full of summer stars reflecting on glassy midnight waves and feeling a thousand miles away. Those nights are the closest reference I have to paradise: the wilderness as my living room, the laughter of a true friend, all the potential of abundant life, dreams, savage freedom, discovery, adventure, and an unexpected comfort in the midst of it all.
After the Franti show, Nate and I set out into the night, dancing on trash receptacles with strangers, freestyle jamming, and starting a glowstick war. We eventually found our way back to camp just before sunrise.
Yesterday was probably my favorite day of the tour so far. We discovered that there is an artist lounge where we can escape the madness and enjoy free beer and cocktails, but more importantly, we found a muddy, slippery path down to an amazing waterfall in the forest. The creek runs over flat sheets of rock that terrace down like a natural staircase, then pour over a sheer cut-off edge of rock that juts out over a round pool and forms a natural 25ft high diving platform. Eric and I filmed each other jumping into the water along with the twenty-or-so other people who were walking around looking like drowned rats with big grins on their faces. (Except that Eric didn’t know how to use the camera, so the whole time he thought he was filming he was really just walking around twirling a camera in the air. Haha!) I met an Australian dude who told me how he quit his job as a doctor and was traveling the world and festival hopping. He and I hiked back up the trail together, discussing the virtues of following your passions and dreams and the role that that plays in shaping society. It was a reminder to me that everyone you meet has a great story if you really genuinely want to hear it. When we got to the top of the trail, still wet from the waterfall, we found a warm bonfire in the artist lounge area. Just barely making last call for dinner, we sat down for fireside reflections on the trip so far. The best moments are predictably unpredictable.
Today we performed on a stage on the edge of the forest. I’ve never sweat so much in my entire life. I danced in the mud with a bunch of awesome people who were equally as muddy as I was.
After dark I took some much needed alone time, watching the light show in the distance and occasional rogue firework. Tonight I want to be flying down Pacific Coast Highway in our convertible bug, top down, Janet by my side with her arms up in the warm summer air, hot pizza on her lap, strawberry shakes in our hands, and a plan to make a beautiful night of dancing under the moon in a south Laguna beach cove.
— Days 21-23 —
Wakarusa Festival Part II,
The hundred year storm
In the morning the rain started coming down. Then, like an omen, it stopped for our show and then poured on the rest of the day. We performed on a huge stage in a massive rectangular tent—the second biggest stage at the festival. It was a nice change to be able to hear myself in my stage monitor, unlike the last show. As our set ended and we climbed off stage, Nate and I were surrounded by people wanting the promised “free high-fives,” and also getting a free CD just for being cool.
As the rain began to come down heavier and heavier, we made a decision to pack up and head to dry ground at the nearest hotel. By this point our tent was so flooded that walking in it meant sloshing through a sea of floating water bottles and soaked fragments of tissue paper.
I took this opportunity to try on my wetsuit, which I brought in case we snagged some borrowed surfboards on the east coast. When Nate and I were kids we used to don our wetsuits on rainy days and go puddle sliding—which involved diving into puddles in flooded neighborhood parks and occasionally “skiing” behind a bike. As I walked the festival, puddle jumping in my wetsuit, I got a lot of nice complements and felt clever….until I realized I needed to use the bathroom!
It’s now a day and a half since we left Wakarusa. We’ve been driving all day through what appears to be a waterfall pouring directly onto our windshield. The van is hydro planing as we maneuver around 18-wheelers. We are five Cali boys learning that windshield wipers are not decorative. Back home the weather is a sunny 75°F down the board. But here our weather apps are not necessary, government alerts of “Imminent Flash Flood Emergency” are flashing on all of our phones.
It is the next day now, and the storm rages on. They’re calling it Tropical Storm Christina. I’ve never been in a storm with a name before….it’s kind of exciting. Nate says storms with female names cause more destruction because people don’t expect them to be as powerful. We haven’t seen the sky in at least three days now. I’m looking out the window at soaked forests and decaying farmhouses, watching water drops eat smaller droplets like PAC man.
We are about to begin the next phase of our tour. Thus far we’ve been taking it in large chunks, multi-day festivals and one four-day stint at a Marriott. Now begins the daily shows—bam bam bam down the coast and then up to Nantucket. We can’t wait to get back to Nantucket and taste the insanely fresh oysters and unique island culture.
— Day 24—
Opening for a band that you have long held as heroes is a strange feeling. On one hand you are thrilled to be validated by sharing the stage with such a great band, but on the other hand it tests the larger-than-life sense of inspiration you get from them. Today we opened for The Wailers. Ok, so obviously Bob Marley wasn’t there and The Wailers band has changed band members over the years, but it was a great honor and privilege to play a show with one of the most influential and greatest bands in history.
On an amphitheater-shaped field facing the Atlantic Ocean, we brought the Cali Sunshine to a June-gloomy day on the Virginia coast. I feel surprisingly connected to the people of VA, they are not all that different from Californians in a lot of undefinable ways. After the show we had a long line of people waiting to meet us. Everyone thinks that being treated as a celebrity or whatever is the kind of thing that makes you proud and arrogant and entitled, but it’s really a beautiful, mutual, humbling experience.
There was a girl tonight who literally jumped away from me like she was terrified. I guess she’s a big fan who was freaked out to see us in real life. I joked with her about how scary I am. And then we all took photos and hung out for a minute. I had never experienced that before….It’s a reminder that the power to influence and inspire someone is a beautiful and sacred thing and it ought to be handled carefully, so that it blesses them with more abundant and better life, not self destruction and darkness.
A girl convinced. a swim in the ocean after the show. Virginia Beach is the closest thing to home we’ve seen yet. Felt good to get back in the warm ocean water.
— Day 25 —
Outer Banks, NC
Tonight is a full moon. We’re staying in a band house provided by the venue here in Outer Banks, North Carolina. It’s refreshing to be in a real house for the night. Staying at hotels makes you feel like you’re nowhere, like you’re trapped in suspended animation, reliving the same night over and over again. But tonight we’re living in a weather-worn band house on stilts. It’s 3am. The full moon is sliding along thin clouds way up high, about to make their passage out onto the open sea. Nate and I are quietly making ukulele songs about sitting under the moonlight, singing along with the drone of crickets and frogs on the big wooden front porch. The night was so still and pleasant, we sat on the porch till 5am. And recorded this little ukulele lullaby:
“Up above, up above the moon is high
And all these songs I want to sing to you
Keep me up all night.
Singing out a lullaby
Something more to say goodnight.
With you so far away
And if you’re still awake
Here’s a lullaby.”
Yesterday Nate and I jumped in the Atlantic for a swim in the 73° water. And we were sitting on the beach afterward, watching unfamiliar crabs cautiously sneaking out of their holes in the sand to forage for food. And we got to taking about how when you’re a kid time seems to move slower and be full of stories. Then, as you get older, time begins to slip away from you and the memories tend to grip you less and less. I’m convinced that that is not simply a side-effect of growing older, but the unfulfilled need for new things in your life. Time has slowed down or us these past 25 days. And I’m inspired to know that the vigor of youth does not fade, it is refined and is no longer intrigued by the usual day-to-day things.
The show last night was at place called Kelly’s. The thing I love about these quaint, but affluent, slightly hard-to-reach vacation towns on the east coast is that they have rich histories of legendary bands coming through and playing in little seashore bars. In the same way that riding the rails or the freighters will take you to parts of the world most people never get to see, touring as a band takes you to little gems that you might never visit. We’re following the paths that so many great bands before us have travelled, and in a certain way, we’re living the same “backstage”/behind-the-scenes experience that they have seen around the country.
Journaling this tour has been so rewarding. It allows you to give poetry to your circumstances and bring out the flavor of life a little bit more. I haven’t journaled this prolifically since my month traveling solo and surfing in Costa Rica.
— Day 27 —
Tonight was our last night as direct support for the Wailers. Bob Marley and the Wailers’ album “Legend” was one of the first CDs I ever bought as a kid. It’s been an honor sharing the stage these last four days with a band that has had such a profound place in my life and such a positive effect on the world. Today I had the chance to kick the soccer ball around with them back stage—it was just for a couple minutes, but I feel like that was the fulfillment of a major bucket list item that I never knew I had.
— Day 29 —
Passage to Nantucket
The cool Atlantic breeze is floating over the bow as we make the channel to Nantucket on the slow ferry. Only a few glimmers of land still distort the horizon, small enough to make you question whether they are real or just illusions. I’m crouching below the railing to escape the wind. Being here brings back memories of making this same passage for the first time last year. I spent the voyage standing in an eerie ocean fog reading nautical poems from a copy of “Leaves of Grass,” given to me by a friend. This time it is sunny and clear.
The swagger of the ship and the mysterious untamable sea whispers into my ear the possibilities of life and defames the salary-man. As we move from the inland to the sea, it wakes me from the sleep of my landlocked surroundings and gives me new context for life. Our time on Nantucket will be what I like to call “cashing in.” So much life is invested in the ‘someday,’ but there are places that remind you that today is the only day. I think that’s what Jimmy Buffett meant when he sang, “I wonder why we ever go home.”—fortunately for us, our home in Southern California is one of those places, and we already have plans to sneak down to the Hideaway for a night of bonfire jams, midnight surfing, and sleeping in the bamboo along the sand.
On Nantucket, we met up with some people we met on our last tour on the island. They’re filming a movie and have invited us to be in it tomorrow as a couple of guys jamming around a bonfire on the beach. I feel like Ringo!—”They’re gonna put me in the movies. They’re gonna make a big star out of me….and all I got to do is act naturally.”
Tonight Nate and I walked down to the dock at the end of Main Street. The wobbly cobblestone roads here are paved with river stones, the remains of long lost shops, pubs, and houses from the by-gone era of whaling that Nantucket is so famous for. The stone I’m stepping on at any given moment could have once been part of a wall to lean on in a seedy pub where ship-hands like (my hero) Herman Melville tossed away a few hard earned coins for a sailor’s penance of kill devil. We sat on the edge of the dock watching bars of magenta sun through the pylons and schools of shinning minnows swirling under the water’s surface. Sometimes the only music you can play is nostalgic and contemplative. We sang for the sun until it was gone and now we go to sleep knowing that tomorrow we’ll wake up before sunrise to film a movie scene around an illegal beach bonfire. Wow. Can’t wait!
— Day 30 —
We go on stage in fifteen minutes. It’s hard to believe that the breakfast I ate early this morning at 5:30am happened today. We woke at the same time we normally go to sleep. Our friend Michelle, who we met last time on Nantucket is directing a short independent drama and invited us to act in a beach bonfire scene—or as Nate put it, “Act like we know how to act.” We drove down a narrow dirt road, overgrown except for two wheel ruts in the tall grass, until we reached a secret beach spot where Nantucket teenagers sneak off for midnight summer bonfires.
Nantucket is like a real-life theme park. The entire island sleeps in a perpetual state of colonial US circa 1746, which is when the lighthouse on Brant Point was established. Nate and I jogged through town over the wobbly cobblestone roads and jumped into the water at the lighthouse for an afternoon swim, bodysurfing on waves created by the wakes of big dual-hull ships that ferry in and out of the harbor. Nate found a live clam in the shorebreak. Every time we lifted him out of the water he’d open to show beautiful luminescent blue dots and then start snapping at us as if he had some coarse words for us for waking him from his afternoon nap on the sea bed.
After a second night of performing at the Chicken Box—and learning the best or worst east coast dance moves (depending on your opinion of the late 1980s)—we moved the party into the old bandhouse tucked behind the venue. It was built in the 1960s, and from the look of things, is mostly original, scratched and worn and battered with secret histories of thousands of great bands. The band house could write its own best-selling autobiography if it could speak….maybe it could explain why there’s an old urinal on the outside wall of the house.
We are now motoring back to the mainland on the slow ferry. Tonight we perform at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, MA. Fun fact: the word “beachcomber” was coined in the book “Omoo,” by Herman Melville, who wrote famously about Nantucket. He’s one of my all-time favorite authors. As soon as you step back on the mainland, Nantucket is the kind of place that haunts your memory like a strange and wonderful dream.
— Day 32 —
Surfing Cape Cod
Most people dream of visiting famous places, as if they have a responsibility to check those off of their bucketlist first before digging deeper into the obscure and overlooked places. One day I was in a used book store and found a beat up little book called “Getting the Most Out of Life,” a collection of pre-1940s Readers Digest articles with gems of grandfatherly wisdom about life. One article told of a couple who delivered mail to missionaries because it led them into strange, rarely seen parts of the world. For me, traveling with a purpose—like music or surfing or scouting new beach camping spots—has been more rewarding and self-defining than any controlled tourist trap could ever be. Sometimes it’s not just where you go that matters, but WHEN you go. It’s shoulder season on Cape Cod, the calm before the storm when tourists will pour in from all over the world, but for the next few days ‘the coast is clear.’ From the van window I watched long expanses of empty beaches pressed against steep sand dunes until we arrived at an idyllic little beach bar—the Beachcomber.
We immediately made friends with an inspired group of guys living in a wooden surf shack behind the bar. They generously let me borrow a surfboard. First they told me “Nah, sorry we don’t have any boards,” then they told me I could borrow a bodyboard. Then we found out we’re both from around Huntington Beach CA and one of the guys lighted up, “Ah yea man, any board you want, just grab it an bring it back whenever you’re done.” That’s the Cali-connection! I was so stoked to surf the Atlantic for the first time that the 60°F water didn’t bother me. Nate and I traded off surfing clean little ankle slappers. Every now and then a Gray Seal the size of a horse would lift its enormous head above water and look at you indifferently. Just cruising by.
The outskirts of Cape Cod are truly high, wild, and free if you’re hungry enough to slip through the cracks and trade plastic luxury for a 1am walk under the Milky Way, barefoot over ripples in the low-tide sand, singing, “Moon sailin’ on the water,” as loud as it takes.
After the show we met a couple who had flown all the way from the west side of Canada to spend their vacation in Cape Cod specifically to see us play. Others had driven many hours to see us and we had a great time hanging with new friends on the beach.
— Day 34—
Firefly Festival, Saturday
I woke up as our tour van pulled up backstage at Firefly Festival, DE. After a quick setup, we were onstage in front of a packed tent of awesome people. There was a moment as I played Just Take it Easy, the entire tent was clapping along and I realized, “I’m the only person on stage right now, jamming my song with hundreds of stoked people at one of the biggest festivals in the world.” It just hit me and I soaked in the moment and let it burn into my memory. After the show we met so many amazing people, each with their own story and their own way of relating to our SoCal beach bum brand of music. One girl had come all the way from Peru just for the festival; that’s about 3000 miles. As we walked the festival on our way to see Beck’s performance, we met some girls who painted our faces with neon war paint.
— Day 35—
Firefly Festival, Sunday
Walking around the festival, Nate and I were amazed how many people stopped to say they loved the show. I remember one girl in particular who said seeing our show made her happy for the whole rest of the day. At a festival of 80,000 strangers, 2726 miles from my house in Costa Mesa, CA, I feel like I’m at a huge backyard BBQ meeting friends. Music is the ultimate ice breaker. To anyone reading this at future shows, yes we want to meet you. All of you. And we wish as much as you do that we could sit and have a long conversation and share some waves at the Hideaway or whatever local getaway you sneak off to to find yourself.
On our way out of the festival we stopped at the weirdest gas station. Not only was it my first time at a full-service gas station where someone pumps your gas for you, but some old drunk dude was sitting in a plastic chair by the door hollering at us, “You kids going to the beach? You wanna get some girls? You should moon them! Hey girl, look over here!” And then he would almost fall out of his chair laughing at himself. Rightfully so.
— Day 38 —
Home to California
Tonight I left our hotel room to grab my bag out of the van. As I collected my things, I leaned in through the side door beneath the heavy buzz of fluorescent security lights and the ‘sheeewww‘ of late-night drivers on a freeway overpass, when I heard a strange tapping noise somewhere above me. There was a giant Super Lotto billboard. At first I thought it was a bird pecking the billboard. Then I realized it was the sound of the mechanical numbers changing from 31 million to 32 million. The juxtaposition was profound. Here we were at the end of a five week long journey across the country, living frugally, but experiencing a richness of life and freedom that is sometimes more than I can take in…and tonight on that overpass, someone is driving home from another nightshift at a job they’re giving their best years to, hoping it will someday earn them a freer life. But the truth is that the world will let you work as hard as you want and will give you as little as you’re willing to accept. I believe now more than ever that quality of life has little to do with shaping your income, and everything to do with shaping who you are. You don’t just win the lotto one day and become happy. Be happy today. You have it in you to be far more satisfied than the lotto winner or the wealthy person with all the luck. Start with the thing in front of you. Get out of your comfort zone and a acquire a taste for the things you admire in your heroes. Conquer your risk-aversion and become a student of happiness and adventure. Your circumstances are not what make you happy—you are.
Today is the last piece of the drive home, the final boss. We woke up to the fresh smell of pines in Flagstaff, AZ. When we finally arrived at on the East Coast, the smell of the sea brought me part-way home. Now the scent of thousands of pines layering the hills makes me reminiscent of so many backpacking and fly fishing trips deep in the Sierras, a reminder that we are closing in on the California border; we are rewinding across the spectrum of scents that lead back to the homely ocean air of the Pacific. Yesterday we drove like madmen ’til our eyes turned red and crusted over with sleeplessness, straining for something familiar and an end to this rolling prison. Nine hundred and sixty nine miles. Drive. Sleep. Drive. Sleep. Drive. Sleep. All good things require struggle. Late last night, in the 15th hour of driving, the person driving fell asleep and we came a foot or two away from scraping the side of a semi at 90mph. Nate was in the passenger seat and grabbed the wheel and swerved us back into our lane.
This tour has given all of us perspective on diversity, culture, and life. You can’t travel all over the continental United States for five weeks and not be changed. We’ve seen generosity and friendliness, we’ve sensed ignorance and racism, we’ve lived in luxury and slept in soggy, muddy tents with nothing but room-temperature cans of grocery store food and car-temperature beer. We’ve learned that everywhere you go people are different. It’s like stepping into a room and the sum of its occupants sets a distinct tone. We’ve seen the origins of cultural stereotypes and their exceptions. There is a commonality in everyone no matter what categories they appear to fall into, everyone wants to be a part of, a witness to, and be affirmed by vulnerable, honest love.
Doing new things or traveling to new places everyday is usually tiring and always surprisingly rewarding and inspiring. As you get older it can feel like time is speeding up—it’s not. It’s just that the world isn’t as new to you anymore. If you want to feel like the pace of time is slowing down again and the days aren’t slipping away, you have to speed up and start doing new things, go to new places, try new items on the menu, take a different route to work, make a summer bucket list and then go do it. Most days are not memorable because….well, simply because we didn’t do anything memorable. Change that.