I’ve been on tour with a rock band for the last two months, watching the legendary Steve Vai every night from my spot (behind him and eight feet to his left) – and sharing the stage with four other stellar musicians: Philip Bynoe -bass, Dave Weiner – guitar, Jeremy Colson – drums, and opening act Beverly McClellan.
I’ve been living on a tourbus — and on the nights we stay in hotels, getting to them some time between 2AM and 5AM. My sleep patterns are cut with a jigsaw.
I’ve woken in cities from Boise to LA., stumbled out of the bus, jogged on busy city blocks and beautiful urban greenways. I’ve showered in theater dressing-rooms, sometimes with beautiful tiled bathrooms, sometimes with dribbly plastic stalls — and once in a Girl’s Locker Room.
For the past 2 months, home was a tiny bunk on a tourbus,my neighborhood was that bus parked on a different street, in a different alleyway, at the back of a different theater or hotel parking lot every day.
This is no complaint. I like tour-bus living – I like the sense of familiarity when I see it parked in some new place, and I love how my bunk puts me in mind of my Dad’s bunk in the Navy. I love trying to give it some sense of home-ness.
And I love playing nearly every night – performing the same show over and over, and experiencing the changes in my relationship to my instrument, my new freedom moving with it, my comfort playing things I struggled with just a few months ago.
I love watching the other band members – both on and off-stage – and trying on their daily habits and natural talents: trying to learn to pack and practice daily licks like hyper-organized Dave, to make my bed every day or dance while I’m playing like Philip, to mix power and precision like Jeremy, to sing with nothing between soul and sound like Bev, to make strings sing a siren-song like Steve – or to be as good at breaking down and recreating a place of inspiration as the crew is.
It’s a place of incubation – although I don’t know what’s incubating in me. And that’s part of the adventure.
I love experiencing ‘the same show’ we play every night as a completely different experience each night – because each night I notice more: who’s playing what sounds, how Steve shapes notes – what pedal he uses to enhance what sound.
The first two months have been a huge adventure – a place I’ve never gone before, a place nobody’s ever gone before with this instrument. I feel sometimes like Don Quixote. Doña Quixota, with my harp as my steed.
But after more than 8,000 miles on the road, after Saturday night’s show in Agoura, CA, I packed, slept for 45 minutes, then boarded a plane at 8:20 AM and headed home.
Where tiny things are huge comforts. Because they’re familiar. Because they’re choices. Because we have come to belong to each other.
The cats, the color of the floor, the route I run through the same old cemetary and up the same hill. The tarnished silverware I inherited from my mother. Or flatware – whatever it’s called. My own unique areas of messiness. The books I’ve read and mean to read again. The cats. Did I say the cats?
Remnants of where I’ve been myself for a long time.
And my family: Jonathan and Ben – deep, direct conversations, comfort in looking long at faces I remember through time, that I loved the first time I saw them and love even more now. Patterns of thinking and humor that never seem to ‘land’ quite the same outside us three.
I found myself taking photos of the things that make it home to me and posting them on Facebook and Twitter, just saying “Home = ….”. Quiet revelations of familiarity.
And six days later – the day after tomorrow, I’ll repack and head back to the airport, board another plane and head to Helsinki, for Leg Two of Steve Vai’s “Story of Light” tour, the second 50 shows, this time in Europe — riding in a different tour bus to new cities with different languages, and learning a whole new level of expression with the show.
And then, again –
I finally understood the little cannister I’ve had for years: Adventurer Tea, when I brewed myself a cup yesterday and sat down at my own table to drink it: It’s not the tea that’s the adventure – it’s the adventure that makes the tea so sweet when you’re home to drink it.
I’ll be back home again in another two months for my first solo show in 5 months, my Solstice Show Fri Dec. 21st at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA. Read more and get tickets here or read about how I planned this solo show to capture the energy of the tour in “Capturing Experiential Resonance” and read more about my adventures in Steve Vai’s “Story of Light” band in the rest of these blogs.