Let Me Sleep

I’m sitting in the front lounge of Meat Loaf’s tour bus. We are idling in a parking lot on the edge of the Cedar River in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It’s well after noon on a weekday. Still, my brain is not even close to functional.

Meat Loaf’s former tour bus — a forty-two foot, slate gray, 1985 Eagle with a Detroit Diesel 6092DL engine — is currently owned by my pals The Nadas, with whom I am on tour (as you probably are well aware; given my soul crushing hangover I’m likely to point out the obvious.)

Tour Manager Chardiy Hight and front man Mike Butterworth are currently making radio calls. This is a thankless project that involves calling program directors at every two-bit kwanset hut with an antenna. Mike just got an ad from WALC in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Charidy just hung up with a PD in Warrensburg, Missouri, who assured her he’d “give it an ear.”

Life on the road with a working rock band is, if anything, relentless, constant motion. Yes, it’s a blast. There are numerous dick and fart jokes at which to laugh. Craft services is second to none (yesterday’s menu: coffee, Gatorade, beef jerky, oatmeal raisin cookies, peanuts, Jaggermeister, and beer). And we get to play a big rock show every night.

But Sweet Jiminy Cricket on a Popsicle Stick, I hurt clear through my fucking eye sockets.

My day began in Jason Walsmith’s kitchen. I was drinking coffee. Mike and Jason were live on Channel 8 (“Iowa’s News Leader”), pimping Friday’s show. The time was 7:17 a.m. (I know — I Tivo’d it.)

We grabbed breakfast at The Waveland (their home fries were outstanding, but terribly unhealthy: potatoes, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes, American and Swiss cheese), met up with the crew at the bus barn, then headed north on I-35.

There are eight of us on the bus: the band (5), Charidy, Luke the sound engineer, and me. There’s a front and rear lounge, nine bunks, two TVs, a restroom (number one only), and a kitchen sink, but it’s still something of a cramped space. There’s a lot a debris — the band has traveled 16,000 miles in the last six weeks alone — strewn about, most of which is sent flying upon every major turn.

We did three radio interviews in the hours leading up to the show: KWAR (“The One”), KULT (“The Edge”), and KUNI (“Iowa’s Best Public Radio”). Jason and Mike explained the origin of the band’s name each time. I heard “Heartland” on the air for the first time. It sounds like it belongs.

My opening set time at Reverb was 10 p.m. I was out front talking to my cousin when Mike walked out and said, “Let’s grab a drink.” We walked to another bar, Fourth & Main, where he sometimes performs solo. When owner Kent TK found out I was opening for the band, he asked me to play a quick song. I hedged. “I’m on down the street in ten minutes!”

“So just play two,” he said.

I shook off my nerves with “Harder To Believe,” then taught Mike “California.” (He has three songs by the same title.) Three minutes later, I was on stage at Reverb.

Opening for a five-piece rock band as a solo acoustic singer/songwriter is no easy task. Especially as an unknown solo acoustic singer/songwriter. So I dug deep. I played almost all up-tempo songs, and really pushed the drama on the high notes. The room was about half-full, and maybe half of them were pullin’ for me. I think it sounded pretty good. A buncha’ guys up front were chanting, “One more song! One more song! One more song!” at the end of my set. Smokey Junglefrog bassist Paul Perreault always said to leave ’em wanting more. So I did.

Besides, I was hopeful (as I always am) that the fellas would call me up for a tune. Their set was as epic and Springsteenian as ever. And at the end of their sweaty, soulful two hour rock show — somewhere around the fourth shot of Jagger, I believe (a beverage I consume solely at Nadas shows) — I joined ’em on “Where I’m Going,” then strapped on Jason’s ’74 Fender Deluxe for a silly, sloppy, but joyful run through “Sweet Home Alabama.” (Yes, you read that right: “Sweet Home Alabama.”)

There was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground when we stumbled onto the bus somewhere around two o’clock. I spent exactly fifteen seconds in the bunk before ascertaining that there was no way I was sleeping there and not waking up in a pool of vomit. Or not waking up in a pool of vomit. The band had one room at the Trails End Lodge, a lovely $39.99 across the street. Jason — God bless him — slept moved to the floor so I could crash on top of the double bed fully clothed.

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