Oh no, where’s the snare drum?
This was the mutual headache of my girlfriend Lara Americo, bassist Jordan Hoban and me on the second to last day of our five-day East Coast tour. I was the most nervous about whether we’d find the snare since I was the ingenue drummer.
Lara, a one woman band like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, said I may have to use the high hat as a snare. I could barely remember the snare was called a snare. How could I pretend the high hat was a snare when I couldn’t identify a snare even if someone wrote SNARE across the top of it AND said to me, “This is the snare”?
This was the rare snafu in an otherwise thrilling, food-filled music tour from Wednesday, February 15 through Sunday, February 19 in Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, Asheville and Atlanta. I’d never been on a tour, much less as a drummer who also happened to be the band’s accountant/nutritionist/merch salesperson.
I even worked on a look: My sailor hat and a pair of green sunglasses one audience member described as, “Not too cool, not like you think you look cool, but you do look cool.”
Here’s how I became a “cool” drummer.
I played the full set of drums at Petra’s about a year ago, but never like this at The Evening Muse. (I was more of a bongos kind of gal.) For this tour, I drilled on different patterns since I needed to nail these songs. And for the most part, I did.
Looking away from the audience kept me focused and made me appear to be a devil-may-care drummer. Like I couldn’t be trusted to tell you the time of day.
Afterwards, an audience member said I looked like I was “really concentrating.” Ruffled, I needed a comeback, so when he said how much he loved the taste of cigarettes, I said, “Smoking is delicious.” Unfortunately he thought I was serious instead of sarcastic, and I took his “really concentrating” comment too seriously.
Photo Credit: Jeff Hahne
The Cave on W. Franklin Street is Chapel Hill’s oldest bar and located downstairs, banked between two shops. Arcade Fire performed in The Cave in 2004 before they got big. Everyone here was chilled out and effortlessly cool. That’s when I started wearing my neon green sunglasses, feeling like Duke Silver from Parks and Recreation: I was building a persona safely tucked away from Joanne the Writer.
Jordan wore sunglasses and a hot pink sailor hat, and our moniker of The JoJos was born.
The next morning, we ate a feast of Lebanese potato salad, Kalamata olive and garlic hummus and thick gyro slices for lunch at The Mediterranean Deli. Jordan had eaten a pear salad the night before, and was having a baked pear with lunch. This was supposed to be the start of #peartour2017. He never found another pear on tour.
I was told most bands eat pizza and beer on tour, not a full spread at the Parthenon. And they definitely didn’t wear earplugs when they played drums. But unlike other drummers, I fought for three good meals a day, 7-8 hours of sleep per night and earplugs when I practiced and played. I dispensed Claritin to Jordan and Lara every morning so they wouldn’t get sinus headaches during the day. I took B12 vitamins. I had to eat at least one vegetable a day.
All things I had to keep a secret from my budding fan base so I could be sufficiently cool.
I kept calling The Garage, a music venue in Winston-Salem, The Garbage. No matter how many times Lara corrected me, the name kept wafting from my mouth like hot trash.
Once we got there, I played on my favorite drum set of the tour: It was sturdy, robust and my hot green sticks crashed perfectly on those Byzantine cymbals.
When we explored the city, Jordan and I saw the book When Harriet Met Sojourner in the window of a closed children’s bookstore and wondered if it was anything close to the story of When Harry Met Sally. Imagining Sojourner and Harriet’s repartee over Katz’s pastrami sandwiches kept Jordan and I occupied on the night drive to our next stop: Asheville.
Photo Credit: The Garage
We spent a couple of hours at Battery Park Book Exchange, Lara and I drinking mimosas with freshly-squeezed oranges, while Jordan and I indulged in raspberry cheesecake.
That evening, we had loose leaf tea, pumpernickel bagels with Roots hummus and our fill of socially conscious reads at Firestorm Books. Playing in a space for a mostly queer, gender non-binary crowd made me feel like myself. I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t up-to-date on my Magnesium (oh was I ever): the shop had a self-care station with a complimentary rose water spritzer. I was at home.
But it was also here where we realized we didn’t have a snare drum. Did we leave it at The Evening Muse? We didn’t know, but the next day on the way to Atlanta, we began to scramble to solve our plight. Lara found a friend who would bring a snare. Crisis adverted. To celebrate, we stopped at a gas station called Pump n’ Munch.
By this time, The JoJos had their lipstick application down, and this last venue required a particularly fancy touch: The Big House on Ponce was built in 1919 and once the three-story home of a well-to-do doctor. It had many reincarnations since then; currently, it was an art and Airbnb destination. One of the installations in a former guest room was a stark clothes line of negligees with the artist’s words sewn in. One said, “Thank you for being a friend but fuck off you’ve said enough,” leaving me to wonder if this was a deleted barb from Dorothy to Rose on The Golden Girls.
We performed in The Back House Theater, which was once a horse stable. “The doctor’s wife died right up there,” said one of the light denim-jacketed millennials who maintained the property, or at least did her laundry in the small room behind the bar. But I’m also not sure if she meant the doctor’s wife died in the house or the stable.
The host of the event, Taylor Alxndr, announced before we went onstage that everyone had to see my “drummer face,” since apparently his friends at our Winston-Salem show had told him about my many faces. This was the pinnacle of the tour for me: Not only was I becoming known, no, celebrated for my concentration face, but it was now a cool drummer face.
And the location couldn’t have been better: Playing in an empty horse stable on an old, Grey Gardens-esque property where there wasn’t enough actual parking for visitors. Where the entrance was obscured by vines and a gate with a rusty lock. Where there was a small bar dotted with white lights that served La Croix for a dollar. Where people might ask me two years from now, “Where’s the Back House Theater?” and I could act incredulous. How couldn’t you know? You must not be cool enough. I was in heaven.
As we began to play the last notes of Lara’s original song The Infinite Lifespan of Antimatter, I was already starting to miss our banter and rocking out over these last five days.
Photo Credit: Lara Americo
After loading up the car one last time (or at least, me watching Lara and Jordan load up the car), we drove four hours home. We dropped off Jordan at his house around 4 a.m. Lara and I finally drove home and immediately fell asleep.
What a rush. Being on the road like that is edifying, and if you do it right, brings you closer to your partner and the world around you. I got to see Lara onstage every night bantering with us and the audience, playing her tender, often haunting tunes. With each drum beat to each note of her song, I felt closer to her and even to myself. I can’t wait to get back on the road sometime soon, with even more Claritin and Calcium D supplements in tow.
And P.S.: We did find our snare. We left it at The Evening Muse. Sigh.