August 3, 2016

Diary: Florist Tour Across the USA

Emily Sprague of Florist documents her first full tour across the country.

Our first full US tour started on May 24th in Kingston, NY. All of our parents were there, some old friends from high school, and some locals who will never leave. It felt ceremonious to start this trip from home, as well as disorienting to be having worlds collide in such a way. I think the three of us were feeling simultaneously super grateful and unsure about our life decisions. The next few days were spent playing shows on the way out to meet Mutual Benefit in a Michigan town that I couldn’t remember the name of for the entire tour, and still can’t.

After getting into the swing of things and becoming comfortable with the tour routine again (one that I had just spent the past 4 months trying to break), everything became easy. Meeting people, appreciating everyone’s different lifestyles and personalities, talking and trying to learn something from every one of them. Zack from Grand Rapids gave us his poetry book and some new music recommendations, Sean from Toledo told us how to identify a first pressing of Neil Young’s “On The Beach” (knowledge which I used about two weeks later in Arizona to find a copy of my own). Very quickly I lost the feeling of a void, for the most part, and was appreciating the moments as they happened.

CHIOR performing in Grand Rapids.

When you meet people that you know you will only be spending a few hours with, or a short hangout when you get back to their house that you’re staying at, it is tempting to not engage, because it’s hard to reach a deeper level with someone ­or even talk to them at all. Whether it be in conversation, or playing music, or just sharing space, there is often not enough time in a year to two to get to know someone, let alone an evening ­especially when you know that you’ll most likely never see that person again. In some ways, that idea is what opens me up to people on tour, it’s the thing that gets me excited to talk to someone. It’s beautiful and sad for the same reason that if you sit outside at the break of dawn or the beginning of dusk, there is so much peace, but you do feel sadness. I don’t remember everyone’s name on tour, or even what we talked about, but there are moments that I will remember for the rest of my life, and they never would have happened if I didn’t try to open myself up, and experience the moment as it was happening.

The Painted Canyon in the North Dakota Badlands

I think the best experience of this tour actually had nothing to do with meeting new people at all, maybe even the opposite. We had two days off in between Minneapolis, MI and Missoula, MT. For those who don’t know, they are over 1,000 miles apart with a few states in between. Somehow by a stroke of luck or god, we were going to be passing right by Yellowstone National Park, a place we had only heard about in National Geographic.

I grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, in a small town, next to a small town, next to another small town. I always was proud of being from the country. It’s a huge part of who I am and aways will be. But I had never seen the west before, other than a few major cities. As soon as we passed into mountain time, and until we passed back into central on our way back, my jaw was dropped and my heart was big. Seeing the Rocky Mountains come up over the horizon was what I would imagine seeing earth appear out of nowhere in space is like. Montana was something out of my dreams. The towns surrounding Yellowstone were like the towns around the ski resort where I grew up, only more badass. The terrain would change in the blink of an eye from plains that stretch further than you can visually process, to canyons, to weird bumpy shrubs, to magnificent mountains. Everything is not bigger in Texas, it’s bigger in Montana.

We got a Priceline deal for a hotel in Billings, and got up (sort of) early the next morning to drive into Yellowstone. I don’t think words or pictures could do it justice, so I think it will have to just stay as a memory. It was though, one of the best and most life affirming experiences I’ve ever had. I can’t even express the gratitude and thankfulness that I have for my life, and for these opportunities to experience this world and the beauty that hides in it.

We got to the West Coast and our shows got better, drives got kind of shorter, and we reunited with some friends. It was sort of like returning to earth from Mars. We also went to the beach in Santa Monica. I wanted to become a surfer and never go back to New York.
San Francisco

We spent 5 days in California. The halfway point had been reached and I started to feel that “overloaded” feeling creeping up. We played “Party in the USA” as we rolled into Hollywood. At Eloy’s house I got my period and while I was drying my shorts in the sun outside, a raccoon (?) dragged them down the side of one of those famous hills in LA. Arizona was notable because we had an amazing show in a state we have never been to before, and stopped at the Grand Canyon. Another insane natural thing that it was my first time seeing. It was amazing, but I think I was becoming a bit numb to the natural world at this point, and operating more or less on autopilot. I sat close to the edge for a good 30 minutes, staring across what I was pretty sure by the end of it was a hologram, while families came up behind me taking photos and saying to their children “Don’t not take one more step... Sarah!! That is not funny!” (I assume Sarah was joking about falling to hear death thousands of feet in the canyon).

We went back east in a little over a week. A fast pace compared to the trip out, and as much as I loved being in the west, that familiar, slightly more moist breeze of Ohio was actually something that I appreciated. Home was getting closer, and my emotional mind was starting to remember what that was like.

We played in Athens, OH on Father’s Day. Jordan of Mutual Benefit’s dad and partner were at our show, and made it probably my favorite Florist set ever. No one has ever danced during one of our sets, or really moved at all, but somehow they got the whole room to start dancing. I really can’t explain it, and it may never happen again, but I’ll never forget it. At the end of the Mutual Benefit set, Jordan’s dad played keyboard on their last song. It was a moment that reminded me the humbleness of making music and the importance of love and friends. There were a lot of those moments for me during this tour, usually brought on by either members of Mutual Benefit, or the sets that they played. I think everyone was celebrating those things, and I think that’s what made the experience of this tour one that was so warm and pure, an experience that I will be taking with me wherever I go.

Emily Sprague, a musician and maker of many things living in New York City. She most enjoys getting acupuncture, modular synthesizers, casual video games, and pickled beets. (Instagram & Twitter)