There was this one gig where a wrong turn in the Ozarks found us in a quaint little town called Leslie, which is yet to be discovered by the Google Map gods. "Once, the whiskey barrel-making capital of the nation," several of the locals were quick to tell us as we loitered in their ice cream and antique shops. The main street was grease-stained and otherwise empty, as if this place would vaporize the moment we rolled away with our U-Haul full of music gear.
Siri and that Google Maps lady were thoroughly confused by our present location, and directed us down a series of winding dirt roads through some of the finest farmland in the South, tucked into tree groves between creeks. We crossed a few Depression-era bridges and, eventually, dirt became gravel, and gravel became asphalt, and we re-entered 2019.
We had just come up from playing some shows in Little Rock for the Fourth of July. And I gotta say, ain't nothing better for getting to know your bandmates than time in a hotel or car. Instead of: "Hey, what key is that one song in?" or "Yo, get me a beer while you're at the bar," there was more of: "The first time I ever..." kinds of conversations, and "Never have I ever..." (This was a surprisingly short list).
We discovered Teenage Robert's main form of transport back in Athens, GA, was a hearse, which he ended up selling to a member of R.E.M. And we contemplated Doc's mental state as he took pics of the rubber duckies he carried everywhere (Apparently, they were "for the kids.") We played a cow-counting road game which Shelly took the fun out of by her habit of winning each time. We discussed our mutual love of 90s grunge and decided there needed to be a hootenannization of Alice-In-Chains. We considered getting ourselves Bodarks tattoos...still under consideration.
At the Little Rock Rail Yard, we were joined by one of our favorite people, Patti Steel, who graced our stage with some spoon clicking and clarinetting. (Read about our other adventures with Patti HERE.) And the next day, we did a bit of touring around the river market area, including Damgoode Pies and the Little Rock Library Museum.
That night, we had the honor of playing the Four Quarter Bar north of the river, a spot where one of our favorite bands, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, had played just weeks before. While there, we ran into people who knew people who knew us. I mean, we'll get fans however we can.
Next day, we're heading up to Eureka Springs...or, as we like to call it, "The Land of Hootenanny." That's where our serendipitous wrong turn occurred which led us through the town of Leslie and the 19th century detour.
Once checked into our hotel at Eureka Springs, we flat-landers struggled with the steep zig-zags that took us to Chelsea's Corner for our next gig, where we parked along a red curb on a 45-degree angled street. During the load-in, a local badge gave me some heat about my illegally parked vehicle. The Texas plates didn't help. I got uncharacteristically polite with a lot of "yessir, no sir," and kept my hands visible, and he allowed us to move the gear around the corner once his authority was clearly established.
The show that night was epic! Chelsea's is a three-and-a-half story venue built in layers throughout the years along the cliff. And the stage is constructed over the grave of its former owner, jazz man Sam Smith. So, yeah - We performed that night on top of a dead guy. (You can read more about that show HERE.) Afterwards, hung with some locals, including players in a really cool psychedelic folk-punk band from that area called The Candid (Go check em out!).
Next day, we roamed the old shops and the haunted Basin Park Hotel. We busked at the park next to it for gas money before heading back down to Tejas. No more wrong turns this time...except maybe the one that took us through Oklahoma (Sorry, Doc!).
There was another tour scheduled through Arkansas this summer, but unfortunately COVID had different plans.
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Because "Maps ain't made by those who stay behind."