Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rock 'n Roll Road: Long Days In An Old Van, Late Nights In Dingy Bars - And No Sleep

By Talon Bronson
Senior Reporter
The dry, rolling plains of southern Oregon slide past my window. A quiet hum has been coming from the speakers in the beaten up Astro van that carries us, and Get behind me Satan by The White Stripes has been on repeat for a good hour and a half, coming through the stereo all rolled up in static.
Nobody changes the record, no one really cares, I’d hazard to guess. No more than three hours of sleep were to be had last night, and the dull sound of the wheels rolling, and the songs whispering, and a cigarette a-burning attest to an exhaustion felt on the inside, and out.

A Thief At Heart performing at Peyton's Produce in 

Longview, Washington.
And at that moment, we are only three hours away from our next show.
How do four rock ‘n rollers, a race bred for chaos, deal with the numbing eight hours a day of nothing but sitting, and driving, and staring out the window at nearly featureless landscapes? They learn to enjoy the quiet insanity that starts to set in after five or six days of the dry monotony.
A thousand miles from home – with only 200 bucks to your name and a couple guitars – there really isn’t much else you can do.
When A Thief At Heart began, it was me, a handful of songs, and a name. A year and a half later it is a van, an album, four rock ‘n rollers, and a lot of late nights at dingy bars in the middle of nowhere. Loud music, bar patrons’ spilled beer, and the occasional leering barmaid litter the road of the experience.
Nobody but the diagnosed clinically insane could dream of this life, but dream of it we do.
“I can’t wait until I turn 21,” our drummer Trevor Scott mutters to himself.
It isn’t about alcohol, really, though as we passed over the Nevada border, already having driven for three hours through near-sweltering heat, I doubt anyone of us would have refused a cold beverage of any kind.

A Thief At Heart played here in Astoria, Oregon, with

the Columbia River in the background.
The real issue of being under 21 and on the road, though, is multi-tiered. Try pulling into a town after eight hours of driving, famished, and road tired, and see how easy it is to get something to eat! Nothing but bars as far as the eye can see, and maybe a McDonalds, but that certainly won’t help matters. When you are going to be back in the van soon enough, and for another six hours at the very least, take it from me, road diarrhea is worse than starving. McSh*ts.
You shift in your seat, and watch the passing forestry, trying to decide what, in a pinch, would make the best makeshift toilet paper. Only a thick maple leaf will be halfway sufficient, smooth enough to not grab hold and grate against your tender areas. And in Nevada? I haven’t found a cactus yet that looked like it would be halfway manageable, and just thinking about it makes me squirm.
No, there is no luck to be had, better tighten up, let your eyes water, and hold it till the next town, Elko, Nevada, 139 miles away.
And there is also just trying to sell CDs, difficult enough for aspiring musicians as it is, but when you have to leave the bar where you are playing at one o’clock in the morning because you can’t be anywhere near the premises unless you are performing, then try getting the music out there. They won’t sell like hot cakes, is one way to put it.
Rock ‘n roll is a young man’s game, but it’s a game stacked against the young, all the same.
But sold CDs or not, long rides in the car or short, in the past week I have been to Leavenworth, Washington, and seen with my own eyes how incredibly creepy it is when a town decides to become a Bulgarian-themed tourist attraction.
I’ve played at a produce stand in Longview, singing next to carts of vegetables, and then not a day later played at the main stage of the Longview Fourth of July festival.
I sat atop a hill in Astoria, Oregon, and screamed into the PA, my voice echoing over the hills and down into the bay. And as monotonous as it is, there are sights I’ve seen, reclining in the backseat of that old beaten up blue Astro van that opened my eyes to the real wonder of the world, and its many different faces.

On the road in their Astro van, A Thief At Heart makes

a pit stop in the Nevada desert.
Tonight we play in Elko, Nevada, and tomorrow as well; then it’s off to Lake Tahoe, followed by Sparks, Nevada, and then a week going up the coast of California. With the music as a guide, the trail will hopefully be smooth, but as my father always used to tell me, a battle plan never survives contact with the enemy, and I can see no reason why this trip shall be an exception.
I plan to continue this account of our tour, with additions being made at least once a week, and I hope you will return to share the road with me.
As the Rolling Stones sang, “It’s only rock ‘n roll, but I like it.”

Don't miss any of Talon Bronson's Rock 'n Roll Road series. Click on the links below to read any of the other parts:

Part Three:

Part Four:

A Thief At Heart is Talon Bronson, songwriter and singer; Kade Schagunn, lead guitarist; Jacob Duffey, bassist and Trevor Scott on drums. You can listen to their music or visit them on Facebook.  Upcoming shows: July 12, Roadhouse Saloon, Sparks, Nevada; July 13-14, Boulder Dam Brewing, Boulder City, Nevada; July 18, AMPLYFi, Los Angeles, California.

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