In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, the folk artist, Noah Reid, shares one of his stories from being on the road. You can check out the story, after the break.
I decided to call my recent tour the First Time Out Tour because I had never been on tour before and I wanted people to know that if they bought tickets, they were there for the beginning of something, and also I wanted to lower their expectations in case I totally sucked. Anyway, it didn’t really go as any of us had planned, and we ended up going home earlier than expected. Here’s the story of the last night of my First Time Out.
We had done a six city Pacific coast leg to start things off in February 2020 (ah the good old days), and then had a few weeks before we were to start another seven city swing in early March, this time starting in Ann Arbor, fairly close to my hometown of Toronto. We had heard about Coronavirus, and it seemed like it was probably something to take seriously, but it also seemed pretty far away and not likely to impact these upcoming shows. Maybe the April/May dates, but we figured we were probably ok for March.
After being held at the border in Windsor for bringing “too much merch” and doubling back to hand off several boxes of shirts to a friend of a friend in a McDonald’s parking lot, we got to our Ann Arbor gig (3 hrs late for sound check, NBD), and played a great, sold out show at The Ark with friends and family in attendance. We were off to a good start.
The next morning, we headed for Chicago (one of my favourite cities) and another sold out show at our biggest room of the tour (Park West). I was starting to feel like I was getting the hang of this tour thing, starting to have fun up there and be present instead of just shitting my pants and moving quickly through my set so it was over sooner. The venue was beautiful, with an incredible grand piano and a Copacabana style seating arrangement with long shared tables radiating out from the stage, followed by booths, standing room bars, and a high balcony with a gigantic disco ball in the centre of a domed ceiling. This, I thought, was playing in style. Hell, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin had played here.
After the show, myself, the band and a couple of friends who had come down to see the show went out to a bar called the Old Town Ale House, which is across from the legendary Second City and boasts a ton of portraits on the wall of many notable regulars (I spotted my old friend Eugene Levy), painted by the bar’s owner Bruce Elliott. Tom Waits was on the jukebox, we ordered a deep dish pizza to the bar’s address, and shared many pitchers of local beer. At the end of the night after maybe one too many drinks, we noticed there were T-shirts for sale, featuring another Elliott painting of a baby smoking a cigarette and drinking a martini, with the title “WHEN MEN WERE MEN”. We all had a good laugh about the absurdity of it, and I bought shirts for all of us, which I didn’t remember until the morning.
We headed back to Toronto, our halfway stop on the way to Boston, and on the drive, we learned that Tom Hanks had tested positive for COVID-19 and that the NBA was shutting down, and it felt like the rules of life as we knew it were shifting under the wheels of our van.
We never left for Boston, and announced a postponement of the rest of the First Time Out Tour until things settle down, whenever that may be. I’ll always remember that last night in Chicago, though; back when you could share a pitcher of beer and a deep dish pizza in packed bar room; back when you could hug a friend after a show and take a selfie with a fan; back when men were men, and babies drank martinis, and life was normal.
(photo credit: Norm Wong)