In 2002 my band, Leos Invention, was finishing up our first and only album (The Way Things Are Today). We kind of fancied ourselves as a true blue “do it yourself” workhorse of a band, as we did every last bit of the production, from writing/rehearsals/arrangements, to the actual recording, to the mixing and post production, to the artwork in Twon’s second bedroom on whatever recording gear we had or could borrow. We had no idea what we were doing but we lived it, loved it, and were damn proud of it!
At some point during the process we discovered VH1’s short-lived reality show, Bands On The Run, which followed 4 bands touring the US as a competition. We fell completely in love with the show and with one band in particular called Flickerstick. They partied way too much, were totally irresponsible and reckless, couldn’t win any of the competitions, but held on to win the whole thing because they kicked so much ass live. Basically… they were, so we thought, just like us!!
In the course of that time I became obsessed with the idea of touring… like REALLY touring… not a weekend in Tucson and San Diego like some of our peers were doing. I decided it would be best if I went alone the first time out, as it would be for over 2 months, money would be very tight, and I already had a knack for the solo/acoustic thing. I named the tour “Mike On The Run” as an homage to the TV show that inspired it. Looking back, I can’t believe I pulled it off the way I did, booking a crazy amount of shows in towns I’d never even heard of beforehand and probably couldn’t remember now. I bought a Ford Aerostar, called The Bulldog, and set out for what would be one of the most defining endeavors of my life, starting at a pizza joint in Durango, CO and ending a couple months later at a bull-dike lesbian bar in Dallas, TX.
On the one hand, a trip like that can be quite lonely and maybe a little “scary” at times. On the other, there are truly no limitations on snap judgments, no democratic processes, no voices of reason. The world, truly, is your oyster.
About a week into it, I had a gig at some family owned brewpub in Grand Island, Nebraska. I was really looking forward to it, as I could tell they were genuinely looking forward to having me. When I pulled into town, the posters I had sent were hanging all over town, there was a good vibe in the place, I felt like a rockstar! The show went great, and they asked if I could do it again the next night, which I was more than happy to oblige. Second night was even better and at the end of it a couple of old, red-faced, drunk dudes who’d been golfing all day approached me and one, named John French, went on and on about how he could make me some real money, blah blah blah, and asked if I could play in his town an hour away the next day.
Now… let me inject one of the morals to this story right here in the middle of it. A huge lesson I learned that night that has stuck with me throughout my life is that passion is contagious. When people sense that you’re making a legit go about something, they get fired up and want to get on board and help out (He later told his side of the story that he felt sorry for me because I didn’t have any shoes on).
So next day, hungover, I’m back and forth over whether or not this guy was just drunk and full of shit, or if it would even be worth it or whatever. -Moral #2: even if it isn’t worth it, it’s always worth it!- I make the short detour and follow the directions to this Mexican restaurant in the tiny center of town. He could tell I was a wreck and brought me to his house, leaving me to take a nap, shower and all that while he went around trying to find me a gig for that night. Like Goldilocks, I found the most comfortable spot and passed the fuck out for a few hours. His completely unaware 17 year old daughter came home to find this scraggly, homeless looking man snoring away in her living room, freaked out a bit, and called her mom who also had no idea… In the end, we all had a good laugh, I played a great gig at a local sports bar, met half the town, and became best friends with John and his family, and even after getting drunk and having one of my now-famous sleepwalking episodes into his 15 year old son’s room, was always invited back to Columbus, NE on my/our way out and back for some of our best shows and craziest parties we’d ever had while ‘on the run!’ Even after the band parted ways, I would often fly out for his Christmas parties, or just to spend a week with their gang.
Sadly, a few years back ol’ John Boy passed away unexpectedly after some complications with surgery. I co-dedicated my first solo album to his memory, as he not only was a huge part of whatever success our band had achieved, but also a major influence on how to live my life to the fullest. I think Moral #3 is in there, somewhere….