Thursday, October 23, 2008

the frigidest north

Holy crap. It's cold.

We're currently en route to Syracuse, NY (location of Heather's alma-mater) for a show at the riskily named Funk N' Waffles. [Say it aloud if you don't get why its name is risky.] Last night was spent in the happenin little town of Northampton, MA, where we played a show at the Iron Horse Music Hall with our wonderful friends, The Everybodyfields. If you were there, you know how much it rocked, and if you weren't there, you should take our word for it when we say that it rocked. Just listen to these rave reviews:

"Man, that show rocked!" - guy at show
"Wow, what a rockin show!" - girl at show
"You guys rock!" - small child at show
"Achoooooooooo!" - baby panda at show

That venue is truly spectacular.

Anyways, we spent the night in the comfiest of comfort inns, and now, with continental breakfast in stomach, we're looking forward to a day off before tomorrow night's show in Syracuse. Perhaps we'll spend the evening watching a film, most likely "W" or "Religiulous." What political thinkers we are.

For those of you who have never experienced an autumn in New England (or upstate New York), let me tell you: it's unbelievable. The red leaves light fires in the trees that can only be put out by the frigid cold accompanying the fall. Every time a leaf falls to the ground, an angel breaks a string on his harp. Poor cherubim.

So now, it's back to the road for us. With teeth chattering and arms shivering, we bid you the fondest of farewells.


-The Lead Sled

Monday, October 20, 2008


It's been too long since our last blog. However, to briefly catch you up and show a realistic depiction of what life if like on the road... Ladies and gentlemen... James Smith...

A lot has happened.

For starters, we are back on the east coast, currently driving to New York City from Pittsburgh, where we stayed last night after Chicago.


Thats' right. Thats what we've done. And it only cost the lives of 7.5 million bugs. A moment of silence please...



Thank you.

And now onto a little rock n' roll descriptive poetry.

We played a few shows with our friends the Old 97's
They accepted us into their musical land of raucous heavens.

And that's it for rhyming.

The Old 97's asked us on multiple occ
asions if they could trade us our van and trailer for their huge bus. We said no.
The conversations all went something like this...

97's: "Guys, we really would like to trade you our bus for your van, it just looks like so much fun"

SS: "Listen guys... we don't want to make this weird or anything but the Lead Sled isn't just a piece of metal to be used as a bargaining's a glorious ride of life and joy."

97's: "Yes, we understand your van is the coolest thing that this earth has seen since the Scooby Doo movie staring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mathew Lillard. But
we would love to trade just for a liiiitttllleeeee leg of the tour."

SS: "Pleaseeee, pleeeaaasseee... gentlemen!"

97's: "please?"

SS: "uuugghhh... now it's just getting embarrassing."

97's: "...?"

SS: "Ok FINE! you can come in and SEE the inside of the van... 10 MIN!!! no longer! ok?!"

97's: "WOO HOO!!!"

What can we say, we do what we can to bring a little joy to others on the road.

Other than the awkward van/bus ordeal, our three shows with the Old 97's were fantastic. Their crew is a group of true professionals that jump to any task that needs seeing to in the blink of an eye. The band themselves are a bunch of no-good, down-low, dirty rotten evil scientists. We kid, we kid.

The Old 97's were always there with good conversation, words of wisdom and amazing concerts that left their fans screaming for more when the shows were finished. They are a bunch of outstanding musicians who know what it means to put on a concert.

But ladies and gentlemen, don't be fooled by our destination this evening, we are only getting the luxury of one a one night stay in our beds. We are back out for three more shows before we are officially, officially back. We couldn't be more excited. We have a lot of new songs to finish, mo
re tours to plan and fall in New York City to look forward to. So with this blog we grandly wave to the Skyline of NYC and wait with bated breath to see our old stomping ground once again.

Until next time friends,
~The Led Sled

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chappell, Nebraska

Ever heard of it? Neither had we. Luckily, that didn't stop us from deciding to gas up and find some lunch in this amazing no-horse town. We'll get to how amazing it was in a moment, but first, I'm not gonna lie - our initial reactions sounded a little like this:

Smith: "Ok, we're gonna die here."
Heather: "It looks like there was just a shoot-out on this street."
Mike: "I think I just saw a ghost move past that window."
Cleare: "I'm not hungry anymore. Can we go?"

But we mustered our courage and headed to the gas station first. After finally figuring out how to use gas pumps that outdated us by about 40 years, we asked for lunch recommendations from the suspiciously friendly and helpful clerk. She suggested a sandwich shop called Burgies, located just around the corner. Then she offered to mail Heather's postcards. Then she cleaned out the entire Lead Sled and restrung all our guitars. Ok, maybe not those last things but she was REALLY nice. So we started to think...maybe this town wasn't so bad after all. The jury was still out as we walked into Burgies.

First, we noticed the Halloween decorations. Then, the Rocky Mountain Oysters on the menu. And the third thing...the THIRD THING we noticed...was the fact that there was a BOWLING ALLEY INSIDE THE SANDWICH SHOP.

In the spirit of Joe Biden, let me say that again: there was a bowling alley inside the sandwich shop.

The lights weren't on, you could barely see the pins lined up with precision and care, but it was there by golly - an honest to goodness 8 lane bowling alley tucked discreetly in the back of this little sandwich shop in Chappell, Nebraska.

Naturally, we ordered a game and 4 pairs of shoes with our lunch.

It was a turbulent competition of skill and digestion, with extra slippery floors thrown in to keep things really interesting, but in the end there could only be one winner.

Any guesses?

As we cooled down from the game, the shop's proprietor, Wendy, told us all about the history of the place, which she and her husband bought and renovated in 2005. She said the town of Chappell hadn't changed much since her childhood years; the streets were generally very safe and parents had no reason to worry if their kids were out all morning riding their bikes around town. Everybody just looked out for eachother.

REALLY nice.

Tomorrow, we meet up again with our friends the Old '97s for a few dates in the mid-est west-est parts of this country - we plan to wear as much blue as possible...

Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar eats you,
The Lead Sled

Sunday, October 12, 2008

who knew?

Guys. We learned something awesome today. Idaho is BEAUTIFUL. And cold as heckfire. And it snows in early October. Observe:

After an amazing show with Stephen Kellogg in Seattle on Friday, we officially began the homeward leg of our tour - easterly ho! Yesterday we drove all the way from Monroe, WA to Boise, ID. We had a band practice in the van while 'The Body' twisted and turned through gorgeous Northeastern Oregon. We arrived in Boise intending to paint the town ruby red on a hot saturday night, but ended up eating a mediocre dinner at Perkins before collapsing into bed before midnight, with 'Hot Fuzz' as our lullabye.

And now, James, Mike and Heather, alternating one word at a time:

We went upwards and saw nothing, except for one lonely seagull, gulling its gulls. "What the HECK? This isn't really appropriate!" After leaving the heights of heights, by golly, we soared across mighty canyons and fruitful plains. The richest one of all was the poorest with dirty dirty dirty dirt. Meanwhile, the cattle wondered rhetorically "Wow. Really? This has turned pretty ridiculous." "Agreed!" said the seagull, who mused existentially at the sight of majestic mountaintops. Distracted by a telepathic signal, the lead sled said "Man...what a glorious afternoon!"

Thank you.

With luck, we will make it all the way to Laramie, WY tonight. Without luck, we will end up in a snow pile on the side of I-80 somewhere. Something in the middle will land us in a cheap motel in eastern Wyoming, hopefully with a continental breakfast. Keep your fingers crossed...

Purple Mountains Majesty 4eva,
The Lead Sled

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dear Olga,

We were told it would be a long and arduous journey west on the Oregon trail. We were warned, but it was important for us to find a new homestead to lay our roots.

Half-way through the journey Mr.
Mike fell ill with dysentery, and Heather was forced to care for him in the back of the wagon despite the heat and bumpy plains. Mr Cleare had to shoot one of our Oxen due to a leg injury. It's terrible news considering the amount of supplies we were bringing, but great news for dinner. It has been so long since we have had a real meal with real meat. We were getting close to boiling our shoes a few days ago.

We successfully forged a river late yesterday afternoon but in the process young Heather fell into the water and we feared she might catch her death. So instead of pushing forward, we decided it would be a good idea to stop and rest for the night. Mr. Mike suggested playing some music to keep our spirits up, and before we knew it the instruments were out and our voices were echoing off the surrounding mountains. As we were playing, a low rumble began to cut through the melody and we soon realized that Mr. Smith was laughing with wild abandon and dancing like no one was watching! It's been months since we've seen his spirits so high - he just hasn't been the same since his newt, Professor Thor, was brutally trampled to death by an oxen stampede. But last night he danced and laughed like the man he used to be, and his joy was infectious - we all played well into the night, and it was well past 8pm when we collapsed into an exhausted pile of sleepy puritans. In honor of the celebratory evening, we've affectionately named last night's camp 'The Boulevard at Spokane'. We don't know why - it just seemed appropriate.

Well, I should put the ink well back in the wagon, before it dries up. Hopefully we will see you soon and hear from you sooner. And don't forget what we have always said...

"West, west, west, it certainly is the best.
Sure this Oregon trail is hard,
but don't you dare pull the I told you so card.
Dysentary you may get, but Blissentary is westward met."

Well, until next time Olga,

~The Lead Sled

Post Script: We truly hope that you and yours are doing well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Boo ya.

Hello friends,

We survived, but BARELY.

L.A. was an amazingly excellent place for a day off from the long hard road. We spent Sunday bumming around Venice beach with some good friends, Frisbees and baseballs. We invented a few new games and got some free hugs from a street vendor who was advertising them on a poster board ("Free Hugs")...who could turn that down? Some theatre was seen, some Sushi was eaten, and a late night of hanging out in the valley continued into the wee hours of the morning. Yes, we are rockstars.

The next day we went to breakfast at a delicious spot called Jinky's, got our bass head fixed, and treated me, the Lead Sled, to a blissful internal makeover (changing oil, blah blah blah). Yes, we are efficient business people.

Before we knew it, 'twas time to make our way over to the Hotel Cafe to get ready for our little rock show. Lots of good people + good sound + inherent LA coolness = a super fun show. The following morning, bleary-eyed and slightly blue, we turned our wheel north for the first time since leaving NYC. Goodbye LA, Hello San Francisco! We set Ruth (our GPS vixen) for Hotel Utah and settled onto I-5 for the long haul. (ps - we've officially deemed this leg of the tour 'Hotels across Cali'.)

We arrived in San Fran with a few hours to spare, so we did what any self-respecting easterner would do with a few hours to spare in San Fran - we went to In-N-Out Burger of course! Well, everyone but Heather that is, she found herself a smoothie elsewhere. Loser...

After the show, we drove out to a friend's house in Berkley where we stayed for the night. Yet again, another very comfortable and hospitable roof over our heads. ROBOTS!!

Side Note: During the drive to Berkley, James Cleare's birthday started. And it's still going! LIBRAS!!


(one last thing: if you are stuck in the wilderness, cat tails are mostly edible),
~The Lead Sled

Monday, October 6, 2008

3 sentences

we love LA. it's been an amazing weekend. we'll write more when we're back in the car tomorrow...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

wind power!

We're two hours outside of LA and there are hundreds of windmills all around us!! Wheeeeeee! Oh to be reincarnated as an alternative energy source....

We left this morning from Tucson, AZ, after enjoying another delicious breakfast compliments of our hosts (the heaven-sent robots strike again!). This has to stop; we all thought we'd come back home after our month on tour, slim and trim and wearing those skinny jeans like all the hipsters do, but at this rate we'll probably ROLL back east. And while we're on the topic of delicious foods, we had one of the best Mexican feasts of our lives last night. At the recomendation of our soundman in Austin, we stopped in El Paso for dinner at a place called 'Forti' and let me tell you: truly unprecedented levels of foodgasm. A party in the mouth barely begins to describe it.

We got into Tucson at about 12:30, having gained 2 hours by crossing through two time zones over the course of our journey from Austin. So all in all, 14+ hours spent on the road ended up looking like a mere 12! No sweat! It was well worth it to see Heather's brother Seth, his girlfriend Vanessa and their amazing dog Uno, not to mention the actual real beds.

Here is a short photo retrospective of the last 2 days:

Mike and James rock the front...

While Heather and Smith rock the back...

(it's even funnier when you know that only moments before, they had looked more like this....)

And now, from the California mountains (or are they hills?),
a portrait:

and another one:

Needless to say, it's been beautiful and amazing and the sibling-like squabbles have been minimal. We couldn't ask for much more. I've got a feeling the City of Angels has no idea what's about to blow into town...

Hella bella,
the lead sled

Friday, October 3, 2008

did i mention west texas is big?

So. We've been driving for about 8 hours and we've got about 6 more to go before we crash on Heather's brother's girlfriend's floor for the night. Yes folks, today's a long one - hopefully our longest of the entire tour. How have we passed the time, you ask? Well, we've watched all of last night's debates, searched for funny commentary on said debates, laughed or slept through ghostbusters 1 AND 2, ooooed and aaaaaahhhed at the beautiful landscape and feasted on leftovers from last night's dinner at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, TX. Quite a day!

Still in store: amazing mexican food dinner in El Paso and, if Smith has his way, probably at least one of the Alien movies. Or, if Heather has her way, all of the first season of Arrested Development. We'll see who wants it more...

Yesterday in Austin was an absolute blast - Stubb's was a great venue, and Austin is a helluva town. We were lucky enough to experience one of the city's most unique summer tourist attractions: its remarkable bat community. Yes, you heard me right - believe it or not, Austin has the largest urban bat population in the country. And you thought all if had going for it was live music...tsk tsk tsk.

We also partook in one of the city's year-round highlights: first thursday. The first thursday of every month finds Austin's downtown scene positively bustling with street merchants, street musicians, street capoiera masters (yup), and Claire Danes. Yeah, we saw her. Not a problem.

The show itself you ask? A great time. The highlight was a mid-song guitar switch, executed flawless by our illustrious guitar guru, Mike 'the body' Viotti. We also had the distinct honor of having Rhett Miller's younger sister in the audience with her hubby and friends. They were absolutely wonderful, further supporting our suspicions that the Millers are heaven-sent robots.

After a night of glorious sleep on the living room floor of Smith's friend Peter, and a delicious home-cooked breakfast (Peter is a heaven-sent robot too - they're everywhere!), we started the long trek west that will end in Tucson at around 2am tomorrow morning, Mountain Time. Gaia help us all...

Until next time,
the lead sled

ps - we don't mean to post these in courier font, but for some odd reason blogspot won't let us use trebuchet like we want. just wanted to make that clear.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Conned in New Orleans

7:00 AM is early.
Anyone who says different is lookin' for a knuckle sandwich from us, yuh hear? That's when we had to wake up to get to Alabama safely by 11:30 for our Fox news debut. That's right, you heard it correctly. Fox News.

We arrived in plenty of time due to the fact that we still don't have a knack for the whole time change thing. After a long and winding ride to the very top of a mountain, we were met by Contact-style satellite dishes. Once we checked in we were directed to go even higher: straight to the roof of the Fox 6 building where we set up and rocked out to Little Bug and Reply for our friendly local reporter "J.J". Never seeing the actual broadcast, we just hoped they didn't put any rude captions on our faces as we played. We have our eye on you Fox News 6.

After that crazy experience, we loaded all of our rock-belongings back into the van, headed back down the long and winding road away from the huge Contact-style satellite dishes, and continued on our journey to the Work-Play theater.

What a venue. Just really good people up in that piece.

After the show, we followed our good friend Ankit to his house 4 hours away from the venue where we all slept soundly on beds of air and plastic. Once awake, we slugged our way to a Mexican meal (quite a treat).

Now we're 2 hours from New Orleans. And what's a group of 4 strange people to do when this close to such an amazing place? I'll tell ya...

Get conned into buying a hat from a very sweet old lady. She said she had to fine us for not having enough fun. She had me at hello. And then had me at 10 bucks for the hat, but what a sweet hat it is.

So, back in the Lead Sled, hat in hand and 10 bucks lighter.

To Austin!

Play on playa,
The Lead Sled.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

manifest destiny

this morning we left the charming city of atlanta, GA to head westward towards the mighty pacific. we spent 2 delightfully relaxing days in HOTlanta, enjoying some home-cooked dinners, some interactive theater and the undisputed highlight: a bonafide drive-in movie. and yes, to address the elephant in the room and because i know you're all wondering, we did neck through all of 'lakeview terrace'. there's nothing quite like a painfully mediocre social commentary to get those hormones going!

we played saturday night at a place called 'smith's old bar.' the funny part is, smith didn't even remember he owned a place in atlanta! to be fair, the new bar is much more memorable, but still - it was funny. we opened there for a group called 'soup', a local favorite that gets together once a year for a reunion show. the room was full of their die-hards, who've been following them since their heyday in the '90s. it was a great room to play for and we were having a blast...until we had to lug all our gear down a staircase that made 'the exorcist' stairs look like a child's stepladder. luckily we fared better than father karras, and had only our pre-existing ailments to worry about - a swollen ankle for smith and bloody knuckles for heather.

on sunday we enjoyed a home-cooked dinner of grouper and squash, compliments heather's family friends, and caught a show by atlanta's illustrious OUT OF HAND theater called 'meds.' to our dismay, we failed to find a place to go paintballing on monday, which had been james cleare's birthday wish; apparently monday's not a good day to go paintballing in atlanta. so instead we spent the day relaxing and exploring little 5-points. when night fell, mike wowed all of us with his lasagna-making-MAD-SKILLZ and we feasted at the drive-in as samuel l. jackson argued that the only thing more annoying than snakes on a plane is a bi-racial couple next door. huh? ahhh hollywood.

needless to say, atlanta charmed all of us and it was hard to say goodbye - but birmingham calls, and so to birmingham we will go.

Until we meet again,
lead sled said

Friday, September 26, 2008

Last night we played in one of the neatest-named cities in all of America - Chattanooga, Tennessee. I hope I spelled both of those right...double consonants and vowels all over the place. We played at a place called rhythm & brews (cleeeeeeever) with a singer-songwriter out of Nashville named Katie Herzig and a Knoxville-based group called the Everybodyfields. It was an amazing night of music.

We packed sandwiches yesterday, which was cute. We put the sliced tomatoes in a separate bag so the bread didn't get soggy. We're cute. And ugly. And cute. But pretty ugly.

We like packing lunches because we can afford it, unlike gas, which, with the state of our current economy, is getting hard to find in certain cities, making it more expensive. Both Nashville and Chattanooga have more roped off gas stations than a green bean farm has caterpillars (which makes traveling a whole new kind of adventure). $700,000,000,000? hm... interesting...

And now going back to food (truly the most interesting topic on the bill), we had the extraordinary luck of having food prepared for us today by our friendly cabin neighbor "Dee Dee". It was incredible to have home cooked food out here on the roO-Ad. Fried fish, beef, fancy mac 'n cheese, green beans and turkey bacon and a nice tall glass of ginger ale to finish it all off. What.....a.....feast...
It was the four of us and Dee Dee sitting at the lunch table with some uninvited guests hiding out in the green beans.

And just in case you were wondering, yes that is a caterpillar.

All told, the cabin was a relaxing rock n' roll time filled with life giving life juices.

And now... onward and upward... (or downward and sideways if you are looking at a map of the nation) towards Greenville, SC.

Until next time friends,
~The Lead Sled

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

sitting in a tin can

After an intensely dream-filled night of sleep, we awoke in Heather's family cabin (except Mike - he slept in a tent outside). Conditions in Tennessee are absolutely beautiful: 72 degrees, clear skies, and no plans at all until tonight's show. We started off with a much needed grocery store run, after which our fridge was crammed with tasty breakfast foods. Then the great omelette feast of 2008 began, with Smith at the helm cooking up some brunch goodness. Cleare and Mike helped out while Heather, in true defiance of traditional feminine kitchen roles, elected not to participate in the culinary revelry. Okay...she made the toast, but really, how hard is that?

The feast was over and we headed down to the lake for some fishing and funness. There were lures, jigs, frisbees, soccer balls, fake worms, and some quality time spent on Heather's neighbor's dock. Though no fish were actually caught, and the frisbee accidentally found its way into the lake, it was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon.

After chilling-out/maxing/relaxing-all-cool for an hour, it was time to head off to Nashville, the location of tonight's show. We managed to avoid all speed-monitoring aircraft as we zipped down the highway. Due to Mike's unfamiliarity with Tennessee geography, we unknowingly crossed into central time some time during the two-and-a-half hour drive, landing us at the venue an hour early. The time was well spent on a trip to Grimley's, a fantastic record store above the venue, followed by some scootin' and rock in the van. This is how we did most of our promoting today:

Now it's time to load in the gear and get our sound-check on, so off we go...

the lead sled

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We are starting this blog on September 23rd 2008. Cleare is in the driver's seat doing what drivers do, Heather is in the passenger seat guarding the safe, Mikey and Smith are in the back being downright intelligent all the time and I'm barreling down I-95S like I own it. We have mobile broadband, drinks in the fridge, and lanterns hanging all around us (thanks to the newly-wed Ethringtons).

The first show of our first national tour is tomorrow night at a spot called 'The Basement' in Nashville, TN. After 11 short hours on the road today we will crash tonight in a cabin that Heather's great-grandfather built back in the olden days where everything was black and white and people walked like charlie chaplin all the time. There are fish heads on the wall and we will probably find a cute fuzzy animal in one of the cabinets. The cabin will serve as our home base for the first few days before we begin the couch-surfing adventure that will dominate the rest of this tour.

So far today we have eaten subs from capriottis (a delaware sandwich spectacular), purchased a spare tire for our trailer (better safe than sorry) and started this blog. Pretty darn productive for our first day on the road if you ask me.

So on and on we shall go, into the urban/suburban/rural wilderness of this country where our adventures shall unfold in directions not yet known. So friends, check yourselves before you wreck yourselves and we shall do the same.

Until we meet again,

~The Lead Sled