Letter from the Music Editor: The Tour Hustle

By Bryan Rolli Editor's Note: This post is part of a series written by ORANGE Music Editor Bryan Rolli as he chronicles his life on tour with his band The Last Remark.

We just had two days off, yet I didn't write a single word about the tour in our downtime. Instead, it's back to the iPhone notes while sitting in the back of the van. Good to know I maintained my stellar work ethic from the school year.

Anyway, it's been a weird week. We left off last Friday right after Lawton, OK, which, as you'll recall, was our best night so far. Surely that was about to change, though, because we had two back-to-back Texas dates in Fort Worth and Austin.

To say it felt good to be back is the understatement of the century. My spirits soared the second we crossed the Texas state line. My stomach did some weird things too, but I blame that on the double Whataburger I scarfed down in a matter of seconds (how are they even legal???). After giving my band mates their first taste of Texas, we trudged back to the van in an overstuffed stupor and made for the Grotto.

Of all the bars we've played on this tour, this was certainly the least divey. This seemed like a legitimate destination for people who owned at least one collared shirt, not a last resort for people who considered their sleeveless Budweiser tees church clothes. Everybody was generally receptive of our set, and the other two bands on the bill totally loved it, snapping pictures with us and offering us a place to stay next time we come through Fort Worth. It's that kind of supportive attitude that's lacking in so many local shows, and it was so refreshing to see fellow musicians being good sports. Best of all, our former Co-Editor-in-Chief Becca Chavoya was there, and I would be lying through my teeth if I told you I wasn't just trying to show off to her the entire set. With a solid Saturday night in the bag, we packed the van and drove straight to Austin that night, getting in around 5 a.m. Sunday. It was exhausting, but worth it; I was finally home.

Loving the view from Castle Hill

Torchy's. Green Mesquite Barbecue. Castle Hill. Waterloo Records. Dirty Sixth. Way too many destinations and adventures for our mere six hours of free time on Sunday, but we made the most of it. After some intense climbing and sweating at Castle Hill (worth it for the breathtaking view of the Austin skyline), we drove to the Red Eyed Fly for load-in.

We opened the show, taking the stage at 8. Normally the first band always has the worst time, playing to a mostly empty floor with a few stragglers gingerly strolling in from the street. Such was not the case at this show. Seeing 40 of my closest friends from school and church come out to support us — having never seen us before and simply believing that we were worth it - was truly flattering and humbling. Also, to add to my collection of fanboy moments for this tour, Aryn Black, lead singer of Austin hard rockers Scorpion Child, even showed up to watch us! So far, we've performed in front of members of Cadaver Dogs, Wilson and Scorpion Child, three of my favorite bands. No matter what happened from that point forward, the tour was a huge success in my eyes.

Tearing it up onstage at the Red Eyed Fly, 7/20

Which is good, because the rest of this week has been spotty at best. We had Monday off and made the arduous drive to Birmingham, where we played the Nick on Tuesday. It was an awesome venue with arguably the coolest stage we've seen all month, adorned with an enormous American flag across the back, but sadly, the only other people who got to experience it were the four guys in the local opener. Still, they were working just as hard as us, so we went balls-out onstage and made it worth their while.

Wednesday took us to Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, and this show reminded me of everything I hate about a local music "scene." First of all, one of the two locals on the bill dropped mere hours before the show, which we only knew because the sound guy had to call and wrench this lovely piece of information out of them. No problem, there was still another local, right? WRONG. They brought zero people. I repeat: they brought lit-er-al-ly zero people. Even we managed to bring four family friends from the area. Oh, and did I mention every band had free tickets to hand out? FREE. THE LOCAL OPENER COULD NOT CONVINCE A SINGLE PERSON TO ATTEND A FREE SHOW.

I know what you're thinking: aren't I being a little too hard on these guys? Being in a local band is tough, shouldn't I already know that? And I do, but I also know that over the last three-and-a-half years, we have never failed to bring at least a handful of people to a show. What happened on Wednesday was a reflection of an apathetic "scene" whose bands aren't hungry enough or don't believe in their own music enough to get anybody to watch them. The unsigned musical field is already clogged enough with bands who are working their asses off to turn this dream into a full-time job. If you aren't willing to put in the hours, you best get out now and make way for somebody who deserves it.

Anyway, end rant, moving on. Thursday we played at the Soho Bar and Grill in Columbus, GA. Not one person there gave a damn or said a single thing about our music, and we were pretty off our game anyway. Still, for $150 in our pockets at the end of the night, we would've played to the doorman. That was enough to get us back to Atlanta, where we got to kick back and enjoy a weekend off. Remember our newfound friends in Wilson from Michigan? Turns out they were playing at the Masquerade with Maylene and the Sons of Disaster on Friday. What better way to spend a day off than letting Maylene's lead vocalist Dallas Taylor step on my head and scream in my face for an hour straight? We also got to see a deeply touching, historically significant monument: the Big Chicken in front of KFC. It goes without saying we were humbled by such a massive shrine, and the only appropriate way to pay our respects was by taking some ecstatic selfies in front of it. Throw in some good ol' fashioned soul food from the OK Cafe, and I'd say we did Hotlanta the right way.

The Big Chicken. Truly a momentous occasion.

It's currently 12:30 a.m. on Monday, and I'm finishing this post outside a Marriott Courtyard in Jackson, TN. We had Sunday off, our third day in a row, and we have two more coming up. I can't get into it all right now, but don't worry, it's next on my agenda. Hopefully I've told you just how awesome touring is so far. Next up, I'll tell you exactly why it sucks, and who's to blame.

If that soap opera ending didn't keep you hooked, I don't know what will. Happy reading, and stay posted.

For more updates, follow Bryan's guest posts on Instagram for @orange_magazine or check in on his band's Instagram.