November 4, 2016

Diary: The Total Bettys Summer '16 Tour

The Total Bettys take a look back at their time on the road this summer.

In early August, my pop punk band The Total Bettys travelled up and down the California coast playing shows on our first-ever tour. I have been living in San Francisco for about two years, and before a few weeks ago, I had not actually set foot in any of our tour stop cities. I made a huge packing list and practiced the set over and over, but it is really hard to imagine what a first tour is going to feel like.

We started on August 3rd with a kickoff show in San Francisco at one of our favorite local jams, Bottom of the Hill. It felt great to be surrounded by all our friends, and there was so much energy between us and the crowd, us and each other. We were sharing the bill with godly guitarist Emily Wolfe who was on tour herself from Austin. I talked her ear off about everything about the trip that made me nervous, but she was exceptionally chill . Her tour was almost ending, and she seemed to possess a contained wisdom, she might has well have wished us luck with a knowing wink.

We  had rented a minivan for the journey—by far our largest expense of the tour, but it was really nice to ride in relative comfort. Our first show was in Arcata at this amazing collective called the Bat Cave. In the venue itself, the ceiling was covered in construction paper cutouts of bats, and all of our photos from the night look so artsy. The people in Arcata were some of the coolest people I have ever seen: tattoos, piercings, rad fashion, and the crowd was mostly women. We played with Washington bands Skating Polly and Peg, whom we were following to San Luis Obispo for a festival that weekend.

My  guitarist and best bud Bri and I brought a blow up air mattress along because we knew we were going to be sleeping mostly on floors, but most of the other more seasoned bands slept on the cold floor like true punks. We felt a bit like princesses, but at least we were comfy princesses.

Up to this point, my understanding of California basically only stretched from San Francisco to LA. I know deserts, succulents, dead bushes climbing up mountainsides. The drive north to Arcata and back changed everything. This place was absurdly green and quiet and misty and cool. The people in Arcata begged us to spend some time in the forests to see the redwood trees firsthand, but the best we could muster was driving through the groves on our way south after the show. A very wise, stoned girl at the show told us that redwoods are “the lungs of the earth.”

After our Arcata show, we had an entire day on the road. We drove all the way from the northern tip of California to San Luis Obispo, a beachy college town between San Francisco and LA. We decided to splurge on a hotel that night so we could all take super long showers. Then, in the morning, we went out for a diner breakfast and headed to the Grange Hall to load in for SLO Ladyfest.

Our set was at 3:45 that day, but we got to the venue early to see as many other bands as we could. This little festival ended up being an amazing production. There were almost 30 bands playing all day at three different stages. We met tons of amazing bands (and amazing people). I think that meeting all of these other bands at our shows was my favorite part of the whole trip. I ended up with a fat stack of merch from the other bands – it was almost like every tour stop was the last day of summer camp. We all exchanged Twitter handles, and promised to keep in touch and book shows with each other when we all were on tour again.

The room we played in reminded me exactly of a school gym, but with a big stage. It even had that familiar old wood-mixed-with-sweat smell, so when we went on stage it felt like we were playing a pop punk school dance (which is one of my great dreams). My boyfriend and the drummer Chris’s girlfriend decided to take a day trip together to SLO to see us play, and it was so nice to see them and have a few old friends in the audience.

That night, we stayed with a Ladyfest volunteer whose roller derby name is Muerte. When we first got to the house, her huge pit bull mix barked in our faces and scared me quite a bit, but our bassist Anthony played with her for hours until she would not leave our side. We misread her collar tag and called her “Home Again” all night. Turns out her name is Belle.

The next day (Sunday) we had a leisurely drive to Anaheim where we played a show at a dive bar, and that night we stayed with my brother and his girlfriend in LA. On Monday, for the first time that trip, we had some free time that didn’t involve driving. We took the opportunity to go to the arcade and do some mini golfing. As San Francisco people, we were very unprepared for the absurd heat of Los Angeles. Bri luckily brought some SPF 100 but I’m pretty sure we all got sunburned anyway playing golf. My brother’s apartment building had a courtyard and a pool, so we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming before we had to leave for our final show. That night we played in Long Beach with our friends Slice who we hosted in Oakland a few months ago. It was a pretty small crowd, but everyone was so nice to us and we had an amazing day.

Our drive home the next day was pretty quiet and thoughtful: it felt like we had been gone far longer than we actually had. One of the weirdest feelings was saying goodbye to my bandmates when we all got into our separate cars to go home. We had literally spent every moment of the past week together with no privacy, and I almost didn’t know how to be by myself. The tour wasn’t just about us playing together and achieving milestones together—it was about facing a surreal and sometimes difficult closeness. It was rewarding and challenging and funny and important. I think maybe next time we’ll go east.

Maggie Grabmeier of The Total Bettys. Listen to their music here.