[Editor's Note: Chapel Hill band Lost in the Trees headed north last week for a short tour that took them to the annual college music festival, CMJ, in New York and to a backyard photo studio in Freehold, N.J. While on the road, the band chronicled its adventures and misadventures for this five-part tour journey. Lost in the Trees plays tonight at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Gerrard Hall at 8 p.m. The $5 show is free for UNC students.]
Lost in the Trees No. 4: New York to Boston
We usually all sleep in the same place, but New York is always the place where we separate and scatter: No one has space for 11 people to sleep in New York, and everyone has different friends there that they’d like to see. So we re-assembled at The Living Room, the venue we played the night before. Compared to the bustling carnival of the previous night (Pianos and Cake Shop, two other CMJ venues, are right next door), Ludlow St. was dead quiet—really nice, but also eerie, since our introduction to the place was so chaotic and loud. We shared stories of how our nights went: Martin and Drew had a long, rainy journey to Brooklyn at 3 in the morning; Will, Ari and Gini all stayed in a tiny dormitory at The New School.
We set off for Boston, glad to trade the hectic city driving of NYC for the soothing repetition of I-95. It was a longer drive than we anticipated, but we relied on tried-and-true driving games to fill the void of not having a radio. We had a killer round of Movie Pong, highlighting the legendary movies of Keanu Reeves (Point Break was surprisingly hard to get to) as well as 20 Questions. (Is "sand" a mineral? Is it bigger than a Subaru? Hard to say...)
Many band members have ties to Boston, so as we entered the city, every five seconds, someone would recall "Oh, that's where I used to get coffee every Morning. and “There's our old apartment!" Lost in the Trees’ second incarnation was based in Boston, as Ari attended the Berklee College of Music and assembled a small orchestra made up of mostly Berklee students. Coincidentally, our show was actually booked at Berklee's official venue, Cafe 939, a nice mid-sized room right in the heart of Berklee's campus.
Half of the band were late, so we had a very confusing, disjointed soundcheck. One of the sound guys was filling in on drums, trying to learn our complicated time signatures with little success. The whole process was kind of hilarious, and the sound people were very patient. We just sort of messed around for a while on stage, again returning to City High's "What Would You Do?,” the anthem of the tour.
Our rider is pretty simple (water and vegetables), so we aren't used to getting food in the green room. Berklee really went above and beyond. There were about 30 sandwiches, homemade cookies, other snacks and even soy milk. We ate like kings.
Onstage, Ari asked how many people were Berklee students in the audience. Surprisingly, the number was less than half. Nonetheless, Ari and Jenavieve (our violin player, who also went to Berklee) saw a lot of old friends and fellow students.
After the show we packed up the remaining sandwiches, which would become lunch and dinner for the next couple days, and made the short drive to Jenavieve's boyfriend's house. The house was a giant duplex built like a labyrinth, with rooms around every corner and staircases everywhere. Someone correctly compared it to an M.C. Escher drawing. We could never figure out how many people lived there, but there were at least a dozen hanging out as if they were tenants. We called it a night quite early, all too aware that we had to wake up at 7 a.m. for our 1 p.m. load-in in New Jersey.
Lost in the Trees No. 5: Boston to New Jersey to Home
Our cell phone alarms went off at 7 in the morning, and we groggily pulled our clothes on and piled into the van. We never wake up this early, but we had a long drive ahead of us and an abnormally early show that started at 3 in the afternoon in Freehold, New Jersey. As we began to wake up in the van, the sun came out, revealing the most beautiful weather of the tour. It was bright, cloudless and warm, conditions that made the autumnal leaves really spectacular.
New England is already well into Fall and even just driving down the highway was like being in an episode of Planet Earth. We entertained ourselves by speaking in caricatured British accents and speculating what Freehold, N.J., could possibly be like. We didn't really know what to expect, but trusted that our booking agent wouldn't send us to a small town like Freehold for no reason.
We rolled into town while the beautiful weather was still in full effect. Freehold seemed to be an oddly happening town, slightly obsessed with Halloween. Elaborate yard displays stood everywhere, with fake gravestones, mummies and giant pumpkins peppered about almost every yard. We passed by an enormous high school marching band, all decked out in their Halloween costumes, ready to march in the "Halloween Spooktacular" parade that was about to run through downtown.
We drove up to the venue at exactly 1 in the afternoon. We were slightly confused because we were basically just in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs. We walked up to the beautiful, white house and knocked on the door. A nice, middle-aged fellow named Mark answered and showed us around. We would be playing in his photo studio, a small structure behind his house adorned with professional portraits of all the bands he'd hosted there. Apparently, he hosts shows all the time, and there was a standard protocol for the way the show went. It was basically a house show, only it happened at 3 in the afternoon on a Sunday, Mark took a photo of us for the wall, there was a potluck, and pretty much everyone that came was over 40 years old.
The people of Freehold were incredibly kind and appreciative. They somehow packed about 50 people into the tiny photo studio, and we played completely acoustic. "Intimate" would be an understatement for how close the audience was to us, as they sat about 2 feet away from the band. The close quarters made the show exceptionally casual. In between songs, Ari had full back and forth conversations with the audience about everything from Belgian beer to the North Carolina music scene to where he met each individual member of the band. It was the most relaxing show we've ever played.
After the performance, we all stepped outside to the backyard and ate the home-cooked food that everyone brought for the potluck. We started wondering why all shows aren't like this. The show was in wonderful contrast to the crazy excitement and stress of our CMJ show. We talked to the Freeholders for awhile, and they told us many stories of their favorite son, Bruce Springsteen.
After the last tight pack of the tour, we drove 20 minutes to nearby Highstown, N.J., to pick up Green Van, which had broken down on the New Jersey Turnpike a couple of days earlier. We transferred some gear, bags and people from Patsy Van to Green Van, and everyone was able to stretch their legs and have some breathing room for the mammoth eight-hour drive ahead of us. Mark had to work at Caffe Driade the next morning at 7, so we had to do New Jersey back to NC in one long stretch.
Anticipating how many hours we would be cooped up, and how late we would get back, everyone tried to make the most of the drive instead of despairing over its length. At first, we had some fun with the half dozen tollbooth operators we encountered through New Jersey and Delaware, trying to photograph their reactions to various ways of saying goodbye. "Namaste" seemed to garner the most disapproval, for some reason.
After we were out of tollbooth country, we shifted to posting quasi-inappropriate things to our Tumblr blog via our cellphones. We were in a weird zone where it seemed OK to post a picture of our cello player wearing nothing but a frisbee on the internet. More driving games and a few crucial cans of Red Bull made the drive actually sort of fun.
We made pretty good time and starting seeing signs for Durham at about 2 in the morning, a little earlier than expected. Just 20 miles from home, things seemed peachy keen when suddenly Patsy Van began slowing down and sputtering. The engine cut off. After some expert detective work (looking at the fuel gauge), we realized we had simply run out of gas. Luckily, Green Van was just a few miles behind, so half of us went to get a gallon of gas while half stayed on the side of the highway, next to a sketchy-looking rest stop. After a few minutes, Green Van returned from Butner, N.C., with some fuel. We all got back on the road. Much like the previous breakdown on the tour, this one went about as smoothly as it could have.
We pulled into to Trekky House at about 3 in the morning, delirious from driving. We were the kind of tired where everything was hilarious. Loading out was oddly fun. When Martin stepped into a foot-deep sludge puddle with his clean, white shoes, we laughed so loud that we woke up all of our housemates.
We said our goodbyes and went to our separate homes, knowing we'd reunite in a day or so to play our hometown show at Gerrard Hall in Chapel Hill. Over the course of the tour, we played many very different kinds of shows, and it’s this variance that really makes touring fun for us. We like going into a situation and not knowing exactly how it will turn out. We played a tea house, a rock club, a music festival, a college and a studio in someone's backyard. Every place was a unique experience.
It’s a fine way to travel. Until next time, Lost in the Trees.