In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, the pop rock duo, Stray Local, shares one of their stories from being on the road. You can check out the story, after the break.
As I sat thinking about what crazy touring story to share with Digital Tour Bus, I had the opportunity to reflect on what badass experiences music has allowed Jamie, my husband, and bandmate in Stray Local, and I to experience throughout the years. With 2020 feeling pretty depressing and lacking all the magical human connections and musical adventures this kind of introspection really lifted my spirit and had me laughing as we recounted the adventures of driving across the country to California laying eyes on the pacific ocean for the first time, or getting tickets driving (poorly) in England, or the magic of performing beachside on a terrace during an intimate house concert in Spain, and the list goes on.
However, the craziest string of tour stories comes from our first U.K. tour and specifically from the events of the Fire in the Mountain Festival in Aberystwyth, Wales. As someone who lives in North Carolina, booking this tour was full of a lot of questions, and hopes, and chances. Like, I hope we can figure out how to drive a rental car with a left-handed stick shift, I hope the UK streets aren’t as narrow as they look on T.V., I hope the festival has a tent we can borrow, I hope our instruments will work with the electrical converters, etc, etc. But because my anxieties were so deep in the logistics, what I didn’t allow myself to prepare for was the awesome character and culture surrounding this amazing festival being in the Welsh countryside. When we finally rolled up with sheep dotting every hill, like a lightbulb going off over my head, I finally understood why we were told as children to “count sheep” in order to fall asleep. It was misty, majestic and a calm like I had never experienced.
Then, as we were driving up a steep and narrow gravel road, my ears popping from the elevation gain as we were enveloped by the mist, we could see a vehicle stopped ahead. Honestly, we were relieved because we thought we might be lost. “Good,” we thought, we’ll follow them to the festival. We felt sure they were headed there in their old hippy bus with chipped paint and decorated with flowy drapes. Pretty sure that’s a guitar case coming out of the window. Also, laughing to ourselves, where are the glass window panes? But this bus apparently wasn’t just filled with a vagabond musical family that didn’t mind the missing bits of their vehicle, instead, it had suffered the broken glass casualty on the ride up with low visibility and the narrow winding paths. Our tiny economical rental car felt more and more like the right choice. But their difficult journey wasn’t over yet. Cars were now lining up behind us on what surely is typically a rarely traveled road.
The bus had tried to make the sharp elevated turn necessary to get to the festival grounds (there was only one way to get there), bottomed out, and was stuck. Now a coalition of future festival-goers are jumping out of their cars and wafting through the mist to get a good look, taking turns pushing the van at different angles to no avail. After a couple of hours of meeting other musicians and festival-goers, wondering how we’d ever get there and if we’d make our sets in time, a local with some heavy-duty towing cables was able, after a few attempts, to drag the bus the few feet it needed to clear the incline. Cheers and relief. Everyone holding their breath, I’m sure, as we all attempted the sharp treacherous left turn.
This was just the start of the most memorable weekend we have experienced on tour. Hundred of tents littered across the lush valley with eclectic sounds spilling out from different stages and jam sessions— from traditional folk instruments from all over the world to the futuristic electronic sounds of Henge claiming to have “traveled from the far corners of there galaxy to bring a kind of music new to our world”. A Fire in the Mountain tradition of an improvised pagan dance circle at sunset with a giant chicken puppet (or was it paper machete?) that was then paraded around the festival grounds with a drum line style accompaniment, every festival-goer in attendance clapping, dancing, shouting or drumming along. A New Orleans style jazz line played Sunday morning, or was it still Saturday night? Waking us up from a few hours of restful sleep in our borrowed tent.