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As we entered Florida, I felt a shift. The landscape was changing. The highway became narrow and flat and seemed to go on forever. There could be more than 50 miles before the next exit or gas station, which was, for the most part, unproblematic–except for one stretch where Adam, Virginia and I had to scramble to find a place to pee in a ditch off the side of the road.

We were prepared for situations like these as a touring band. As we got closer to Tallahassee we passed a house with towering oak trees in the front yard that had greyish green tendrils hanging off them, which I learned was Spanish moss. Adam insisted that we stop and take a picture of it, so we did. That’s kind of how things went most of the time–one of us had a spontaneous urge, expressed it, and if we weren’t pressed for time, we did it.

 

TALLAHASSEE, FL

TV Land was one of the only houses in Tallahassee having shows. The DIY venues that had existed–The Farside and Hidden Hands–were shut down because of a failure to meet certain regulations. The trees on the lawn of TV Land had the same mossy boas. The neighborhood was residential, and most of the houses were rented to college students. TV Land had a roomy walk-in basement, ideal show space material. The walls were covered in graffiti art. The backyard was grassy and buzzed with the light hum of insects.

Outsider folk songstress Danielle Steele, a friend of  Virginia’s, put the show together. Virginia said she had looked up to Danielle growing up. She was one of the only girls at their high school who played shows. Danielle and her boyfriend DJ were warm and embracing. Danielle had just graduated from Florida State University, and she was getting ready to move to Spain for the year to teach English. She never expected to love Tallahassee as much as she did, and she had that wistful look of someone who was about to leave a place that had become a part of her.

DJ picked up beers and pizza from a shop he used to work at for the show, including a vegan one for Virginia. He took donations for the bands throughout the night. The show was the best attended yet. More than 75 people came out, including Virginia’s younger brother Feli, a freshman at FSU. Virginia said house shows weren’t really his thing, but he looked like he was having a killer time.

Live sets have a way of evolving with each day of tour. Life tends to leak in. We listened to a good deal of Micachu and the Shapes in the car, and Virginia started doing a cover of theirs as an intro to her set. Sometimes during moments of silence during long drives, Chris would say something totally random and insane. “You’re a vain and shit person!” was one. On the way to Tallahassee it was “I’m the leader! I say when to go!” Adam suggested that they include it in their set during a break in a song where there’s usually silence. And that night, there it was. Woodthrush, the project of Caitlin Dunn, played a stirring stripped-down set, singing and fingerpicking banjo. Danielle’s songwriting sensibility was somewhere between Joanna Newsom and Joni Mitchell, her singing and electric guitar playing captivating and unique–a calculated whimsy.

After the show, we passed the evening talking on Danielle and DJ’s cozy porch and swimming in a pool nearby. Amazingly, we somehow managed to go swimming nearly every day of tour. The next morning we went to a solid vegan spot called Sweet Pea where they served sandwiches with local ingredients and roasted their own coffee. I recognized some faces from the show last night there. We parted with our gracious hosts and headed south to Gainesville. I would miss the smallness of the place.

 

GAINESVILLE, FL

Unlike the other houses where Couples Counseling and Pariuh played on tour, this one was nameless. Mitch Myers set up the show. Everyone besides me was meeting him for the first time. I knew Mitch coincidentally through friends in Boston. I first saw him perform at Lorem Ipsum Books in Inman Square in the fall of 2011 with his band Hear Hums, a hollering primal dance party. A year later he would play as Peace Arrow at Dreamhaus in Lower Allston, where I was living at the time, and then at FMLY Fest Boston in the summer of 2013. Once you get involved in DIY music, whether as a musician, organizer or showgoer, the world becomes quite small. He works at the Radical Press Coffee Collective, housed in the Civic Media Center library, and was preparing to move to New York in September with his girlfriend Courtney.

“DOUGNAC!” Hannah Gutman walked up to the house and gave Chris a bear hug. A few of Chris’s old friends from Miami arrived. Chris knew Hannah growing up. He used to drive her to high school, and on the way she would convince him to skip school with her. She was a boisterous storyteller with a smile that reached ear to ear.

The living room show kicked off around six in the evening. Sunlight spilled through the windows, filling the room with natural light. Someone brought gold balloons, which people inflated and drew on with sharpie markers. They floated throughout the room during the show like beach balls. Mitch opened the show a Peace Arrow set, singing and playing live drums, ranging from dance rhythms to ambient meditations, with sprinklings of field recordings and dark, shouty movements. Couples Counseling and Pariuh went on next, playing their tightest sets yet. For an early show, there was an excellent turnout–at least 40 people. Weston Mansfield AKA God Boat was a one-man jungle rave, his energy exploding through yelps, exotic samples and live drums. At this point, people were popping the balloons, sending glitter flying through the air. The three Brrat Boys were a spectacle of themselves, half the time walking around menacingly in circles with their heads bowed, half the time addressing the audience directly, rapping into their mics over a backing track.

After the show, we went to Hannah’s apartment to make dinner. A large painting of a grotesque figure hung on the wall, a piece Chris made for an art class in high school. Adam was enthralled by Hannah’s black lab. His fondness for dogs was a trope at this point. As he explained it, he liked to make them pant and smile.

When I met Adam, he existed primarily on a diet of candy and soda. He was superficially opposed to eating vegetables and putting on sunscreen, as they were generally accepted as the right things to do–and terribly boring. Thoughtful with a tendency toward introversion, he shied from center stage around strangers, which was where Chris tended to occupy, but he was a prankster among friends. His tourniform was a pair of light-blue jean overall shorts, with one strap hanging off his back and the other attached by a turquoise watch band, a t-shirt with the collar cut out, maroon Doc Martens and a Florida Gators baseball cap.

Adam grew up in North Andover, Massachusetts. Before he was born, his dad, an ultrasound designer, discovered that Adam was missing some essential valves of his heart; he would need to have artificial gadgets surgically implanted. As Adam told me this, I joked that he was a boy with a plastic heart. He said that would be a good name for a song. A fan of skateboarding and cliff-jumping, he was adventurous, even reckless. I couldn’t figure out if that was because he had a sense he wouldn’t live long, or that he was alive at all was nothing short of a miracle. He was artistically creative, yet he chose to study biomedical engineering. In the car, he was refreshing his knowledge on trigonometry and calculus in preparation for a summer class in between reading “Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace, “Physics for Poets” and a handful of other books. He’s twin-level close with his younger sister Jenn, so much so they resemble one another. They have a band together called Lemon Meringue Die. Adam has one tattoo–a stick ‘n poke simply written “IM REAL”.

Shamelessly tired, Adam, Virginia and I opted to nap on Hannah’s couch while the others went to a bar. Adam woke up a couple hours later to go to a party nearby with Hannah and Chris. Virginia and I didn’t notice. In the morning we went to see Mitch before heading out. A couple of the Brrat Boys happened to be there, too. After a quick burrito run, we were on the way to St. Petersburg’s glistening shores.

Read More From Ali’s Tour Diary

Part I: Baltimore and DC

Part II: Athens and Atlanta

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