Archive for the ‘On the road’ Category

Traveling Mercies

Monday, April 24th, 2017

I am in the dining room, looking out the window at the rain. It is pounding heavy on the roof and pooling up on the ground. More than three inches yesterday, and expected to continue until tomorrow morning. But I am in the dining room, and it is outside. I am thinking back a couple of weeks to the last rain of this caliber. We were in the car.

Driving in  the pounding rain is surely stressful for everyone. We do it so frequently it sometimes loses its impact. Other times we are reminded how quickly conditions can change and how fragile a car can be. So as usual, we are in the car heading to a show. We had agreed to play a brand new festival, agreed knowing all the perils of a new festival. Of course there would be issues, of course there might not be a good crowd, but of course we would contribute what we could to grow the audience for live music. We would book a show on either side of the festival and all would be well. Except that another commitment prevented us from booking something after the fest. No worries. As we approached the date, the other surrounding show cancelled. Unavoidable. So now we were driving to one date, several hours away, knowing that it will not be financially worthwhile, perhaps not spiritually worthwhile.

And it starts to rain. A little at first. Then a downpour. Hour after hour. We see the remnants of accidents on the road… a car buried up to its axles in the median, another two crumpled together off the side of the road. We begin to wonder what we are doing out here. Really isn’t this some cosmic sign that we have taken a wrong turn in our business lives? It’s not bad enough that we make a pretty meager living, now we should risk our safety for it? Is that what the universe is saying?

Up ahead it is a little lighter and brighter. The sky begins to glow just a bit, and then there is a rainbow. And then another. A double rainbow. It lasts a good long time. Aidan takes a ton of pictures through the rainy windshield of a moving car. To you it would look like wet blurry color smears. To us it looks like hope. As we approach Richmond, at rush hour, the rain stops completely. We sail uneventfully past the city. On the other side the rain starts again.

I don’t know what the universe is saying. Perhaps it’s a language I don’t speak. But I know what I am hearing. I am thankful for traveling mercies, and we keep driving.

Prelude to a tour

Monday, August 29th, 2016

The plan is to post a travelogue, an update every few days of the places we’ve been and the things we’ve seen. But I think you may need some context. So I begin at home.

The days before leaving for a tour always seem busy. There is laundry to be done, a van to be packed, travel details, promoting of shows. This time is even busier as we are recording songs for the new CD.

Despite a long list of things to do my brain interrupts. It has a song idea. It has something to say. I ignore it. It persists, especially at night when my logic defenses are down.
This is, I think, the essence of songwriting and the essence of Friction Farm. I see things I can’t unsee, feel things I can’t unfeel. They trouble me and I have to work it out. How I choose to work it out best is to distill everything down into its essential three or four minutes. Culling what matters, hopefully the truth, and letting the rest go. It’s work. Frustrating but occasionally rewarding. Exhausting, enlightening, emotional. The goal is to take something that annoys or concerns us (friction) and turn it into something worthwhile (farm).

I often hear writers talk about a song that comes from nowhere and practically writes itself. They call it a gift. It is. But having the desire and ability to do the work from creative spark to completed song is also a gift. There is most definitely a gift to be found in the process.

So we hit the road, to do list checked off and new song written. We stop for gas. A young woman asks Aidan if he will pump a few dollars worth of gas into her tank. He is skeptical. As they talk I sense that in his body language and I walk over and join them. She says she is headed to her family’s home and thinks a couple of gallons should get her there. She has a dollar and change, thought she had a couple more dollars with her. She is young. Her car is old. It has bad tires. We pump in five dollars worth of gas, about three gallons. We wish her safe travels.

It’s possible she’s a lazy panhandler who can now spend her own money on something terrible. We will never know. We do have the luxury of believing we have helped her and it feels pretty good. It feels like more than five dollars worth of good. We hit heavy rains and see motorcycles pulled off at overpasses. We pass a car engulfed in flames. Quite the day.

We tuck in for the night in the parking lot of a church. Safe, dry, well fed, comfortable bed. We breath it in, all we have seen today, all we feel. What a gift to have the desire and the ability to hit the road and head out on tour.

Full Circle Moment

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Its been a while since I have posted. Sorry about that. I swore to myself and probably to you that I would be more reliable. But we have been traveling and I have been meeting so many people and having face to face conversations that I forget. Oh no, I haven’t forgotten you. I forget that those individual conversations have not happened with each of you.


So, very belated story from our first trip through the gulf states.  We scheduled a show in Baton Rouge Louisiana. It was a typical show, part of a full tour that took us from the Florida panhandle, through Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and home again.  A couple of days before the show we were putting together a list of songs to play.  As you know we almost always play “Louisiana”. Its the song about Aidan’s father and his decision to turn down a good job because he didn’t want his kids to go to a segregated school. Although that story took place in post civil rights days, the south often had its own set of rules.


The song is off of our first CD and its one of the only songs we still play from that collection. It specifically mentions Baton Rouge. So we pondered. To do the song in Baton Rouge, or not to do the song in Baton Rouge. That was the question. Whether ’tis better to be polite in the face of a hopefully appreciative audience, or to suffer the consequences of who we are, tell our truths as they are. So of course, we had to do play the song and we had to give its history. Aidan spoke about the climate of the era, he mentioned by name the bishop who oversaw the parish schools. People listened. We played the song. People applauded. We could have been in any town. Folks were fine with hearing about the history of their region, good and not so good.


After the show a woman spoke at length with Aidan. She had been in catholic school at that time. The same segregated schools that Aidan might have attended had his father made a different choice. She said that change came more quickly than expected, partly because of the same bishop who had talked to Aidan’s father about the segregation in the schools and the limited plan for change.  That bishop was later a part of the inter-racial council that worked to end segregation in private and religious institutions.


It was a risk we didn’t need to take. We have other songs. But we trust the audience. Always.

They, you, never disappoint.

Thanks for that.