The “Summer’s Gone” Tour Assessment

I promised myself, and anyone who asked, that I was reserving judgement, delaying assessment, forgoing analysis of last week’s “Summer’s Gone Tour” at least through the weekend. So here it is, the stuff that’s not in the bio, the vulnerability that isn’t cool, but is essential…

As I built up to the “Summer’s Gone” Tour, it began to feel like a referendum on my music career. If the tour was a success, that is, if audiences were rabidly enthusiastic, I sold a trunk full of CDs, and conquered each town I visited, I would return to New York a victor, and continue plugging away at this slowly evolving career. If not, I’d quit, and content myself with playin’ parties, campfires, and maybe the occasional coffeehouse.

I often feel like a tree falling in an empty wood. Despite my jam-packed days — writing, rehearsing, making mailers, emailing, writing letters, sending out press kits, booking shows, networking — despite my enthusiasm, the thousands of dollars I’ve sunken into this dream, and all of my best efforts, this “rocknroll fantasy” (as I’ve taken to calling it) eludes me. I once thought I’d be Michael Stipe, or Michael Penn. I thought talent and ambition was enough. I thought I could cross through this morass of corporate pop cynicism on the strength of goodness alone.

I haven’t.

I called my answering machine at about 4 a.m. after last Saturday’s Charlottesville show. The show was a beat down. The venue was not a fit. The UVA kids came to drink and kvetch, not discover new music, whatever its intentions. I felt defeated, deflated, exhausted. And a little bit drunk. “You always wanted to do this,” I said to myself, hicupping. “This is it. This is what feels like.”

It seemed profound at the time, there below a crescent moon in the hills of Virginia. Now it just seems a little sad, a little melodrmatic. It reminds me now — as many things often do — of “Pippin,” a play I was in during my sophomore year in high school. Pippin is a prince with aspirations. He doesn’t know what he wants to be, but knows he wants greatness and fulfillment and adoration. He tries everything — farmer, painter, politician — but is constantly disappointed. After his first victorious battle as commander he says, “I thought there’d be more plumes.”

I’m not sure there are more plumes. There are astonishing sunsets the flicker and fade. There are islands in the Pacific filled with great bright light, dinners with family, drinks with friends, graduations, weddings, births, and death. And in between, there are good days and bad, sunny days and rainfall, and drudgery and delight — in less-than-equal measure.

So, the referendum.

Well, I won’t stop doing this. I can’t. It’s what I do. I write songs. I record them. I sing them for you. And I sing them for me. I’m tired, true. Tired of the Ryan Adams and the David Grays and the Pete Yorns succeeding on terms that elude me. Tired of slogging equipment, making mailers, playing half-filled rooms and feeling half-fulfilled. But I am not too tired to rest a minute, regroup, and get back to the task at hand. So I’m going out to the fire escape now, watch the sun set over New jersey, and I’m gonna’ write a song. For me. For you. For us. And for all that was, is, and will be.

‘Cuz best that I can tell, all evidence points to that sun rising again in the morning, just like it did yesterday and the day before, filled with brand-new opportunity.

See ya’ then.

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