Waking up in Tuscaloosa after a great show is an amazing feeling. Waking up in Tuscaloosa after a great show with a hangover and reeking of cigarette smoke still feels pretty worth it. Waking up in Tuscaloosa after a great show with a hangover and reeking of cigarette smoke after only 4 hours of sleep is maybe a tad annoying. Waking up in Tuscaloosa after a great show with a hangover and reeking of cigarette smoke after only 4 hours of sleep and having to make a 9 hour drive to play an early show in Cincinnati? You can probably guess where this is going.
We leave Chris’s house at 9:30, only a half hour late, and hit the road hard. Dan and Brett sleep in the back while Kyle takes the first driving shift. We’re going to Decatur, AL to check out Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ, purveyors of the mythical white barbecue sauce that Dan has been researching for the better part of a week. In our search for culinary authenticity, we have encountered some ups and downs, but usually leave satisfied at least with the journey if not the destination. That said, a couple of big red flags about Big Bob Gibson’s:
1) Churlish reception and service. Where’s the Southern hospitality?
2) “Famous” white sauce out in commercial bottles on the table. They don’t even make it fresh in-house anymore.
3) Dining room full of white people. Now, this is Sunday at 11 AM and I don’t know the local church schedules, but I don’t trust a southern BBQ joint that’s devoid of black folks.
Between the four of us, we order pretty much every meat available (pulled pork, chicken, ribs, brisket and turkey), though when our food shows up, it’s pretty clear that Big Bob Gibson’s is more of a chicken restaurant than a true barbecue joint. The pulled pork lacks smoke flavor, the brisket is dry (this ain’t Texas), the ribs are tender babybacks which could use a flavor boost and the turkey is, well, turkey. The chicken, however, is bold, moist and spiced very well. I’d say it was perfectly complemented by the infamous white sauce, but I actually preferred to eat the chicken unadorned as the sauce was little more than a thin black pepper and horseradish suspension that I felt wasn’t worthy of the hype. Still, I got a half chicken, a pile of pork, a side of decent potato salad and a side of the strangest cole slaw I’ve ever eaten (I’ve had other vinegar-based slaws before, but this felt like a cabbage relish with horseradish in it) for about $10, which fit my budget perfectly.
2013 KYLE SOWASHES BBQ RANKINGS (unofficial):
#1: Louis Mueller Barbecue, Taylor, TX
#2: The Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood, TX
#3: Pappy’s Smokehouse, St. Louis, MO
#4: Dreamland Bar-B-Que, Tuscaloosa, AL
#5: Archibald’s, Northport, AL
#6: Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, Austin, TX
#7: Micklethwait Craft Meats, Austin, TX
#8: The Shaved Duck, St. Louis, MO
#9: Goode Company BBQ, Houston, TX
#10: Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ, Decatur, AL
After lunch, we drove for a long time. Like, a long time. Like, a really, really long time. Tuscaloosa to Cincinnati is far. By the last leg of the trip, between Louisville and Cincy, we were tugging on an invisible rope trying to pull Cincinnati closer to the van. We didn’t make it to MOTR until 7:30 (you also lose an hour on that drive, ugh). and the first band on the early show, Sad Gods were in the middle of their solid set. We grabbed some drinks and watched politley until the set change to load in our stuff. We were using a backlined bass amp and drums which made Brett very happy (his little 100-watt bass amp wasn’t cutting the mustard for most of the tour) and Dan very not happy (he’s very particular about his drum kit and doesn’t get very comfortable behind anyone else’s).
Old City fought through a few technical issues but mostly wowed us with a set of fiery rock songs. We made a short set list (since this was an early show with an early end) that included the Bunnygrunt song “More Loves Than Stupids” which we played for Karen who lives in Cincy now. Finished it up with “A Quick One” for probably the last time.
After we tore down we sat through a comedian who bombed with everybody but his friends and a band called Hurricane Hotpants who took the stage dressed up as food. It’s a small stage and the guy playing the maraca and jug wearing a 6-foot wide slice of bread pretty well crowded out the other 5 guys in the band. Looked like fun, though.
As soon as the show was over, we beat a hasty retreat back to Columbus, unloaded the van, said our touching goodbyes and slept in our own beds for the first time in 10 days, which, while glorious, shall go undocumented here.
Swill of the night: Hudepohl Amber
Foofbrau of the night: none (out of $$$)
SET LIST LOST
(Preamble: the tumblr app for Android is *terrible* and I had this post almost completely written on my phone before it was disappeared by that piece of shit app. I’ll try to replicate as best I can.)
Whenever I tell people that we’re going to play shows in Alabama, I get this look from them that basically says, “oh, good luck with that.” This is the fourth time we’ve played in Alabama and we always have fun, we always get paid, we always make new friends and we always walk away feeling great about our tour. So we really don’t need luck at this point, but thanks for assuming that we do.
We get a late break from New Orleans, so it’s starting to get dark when we roll into Tuscaloosa. Dan and Kyle both comment about this, at which point I explain the curvature of the earth and the standardization of time across a 1,000 mile wide swath of it. Geography.
Last time through we got BBQ from Archibald’s, the little smoke shack built out behind a house in Northport. This time, we went across town to Dreamland, the bigger rib joint built behind a church. Jury’s still out on who has better ‘cue (that debate will rage until one of those places shuts down, and then for another few decades), but these Dreamland ribs are pretty impressive. Tender spare ribs with a great spicy/sweet sauce/rub combo. Kyle dunks about half a loaf of Wonder bread into the sauce, slice by slice, just like the locals do. It’s worth noting that Brett is the first Sowash to finish his half slab. One of us…
Off to Egan’s - known as “The Liver of Dixie” - to load-in for the show. When carrying his drums in, Dan sees a familiar face throwing darts and decides to greet him by ramming drum cases into his legs. It takes only a few seconds to realize that it is not Chris from Baak Gwai, but is in reality a stranger throwing darts. Dan offers apologies and our new friend Stephen tells us he gets mistaken for Chris all the time and had no desire to shove a dart into Dan’s carotid artery.
We’re playing first on this two band bill, so we’ve got some room to stretch our legs with a long set. The crowd is boisterous, attentive, interactive and really enjoying our performance. Best crowd of the tour, amplified by the atmosphere of this little smoky dive bar (“The Liver of Dixie” filters out all the bullshit and makes life better, or something like that). John from Baak Gwai requests “Your Band Flaked Out On Me,” which we pull off decently considering that it hasn’t been in our regular rotation for almost 5 years. Kyle does a time check (“can we do 2 more?”) which is greeted by a chant from the crowd of “8 MORE SONGS!” We give them two more and the Who cover, which is basically 6 songs. Best show of the tour, hands down. A+ with 3 gold stars.
And for as good as we feel about our set, Baak Gwai comes out and blows us away. I love all their new songs and Kyle and I are singing along (with most of the crowd) to pretty much every song from Find A Stranger In The Alps. I remember thinking to myself that I might still be able to play guitar and write songs like this if I practiced every day. After their set, they tell us that they haven’t had a band practice in two years. I guess I can just go back to fucking around on the internet, which is probably my best honed skill at this point.
Lots of post-show socializing; the gregarious staff and outgoing patrons are all very down to earth - unlike some of the hipper crowds at other shows - which makes it easier for introverts like me to relax and get engrossed in a conversation. The free Bud Light for bands didn’t hurt either. After closing time, we head over to Adam’s place for some patio beers and more socializing. Baak Gwai are some of our favorite dudes on the planet and we only get to see them every couple of years, so we’re trying to squeeze in as much time with them as we can before it’s time to cut out of town. We end up crashing at Chris’s place around 4 AM. It makes for a short night, but it’s worth it. We resolve to make some weekend trips down here and do whatever we need to do to get those guys back to Ohio. Seriously, if you like The Kyle Sowashes (why else would you be reading this?), you need to check out Baak Gwai. Do it. Do it now.
Swill of the night: Bud Light
Foofbrau of the night: Beer Engineer’s Peanut Butter Porter (not as peanut buttery as the Willoughby one we had in Cleveland, but a much nicer balanced beer. Also, 12% ABV at $6 a pint. Damn…)
Pain Don’t Hurt
Out Behind The Barn
Blast From The Past
Another Thing Coming
Your Band Flaked Out On Me
The Day You Called Me Captain
I Would Like To Speak To Your Manager
A Quick One While He’s Away
Hurricane Hotpants. That’s how you end a tour.
Old City. New faves.
Sad Gods welcome us back to Ohio.
Kyle and his buddy, somewhere in Tennessee.
Baak Gwai and the best crowd of the tour (no offense).
Logo design for the best bar in Alabama.
Dreamland Bar-B-Cue in Tuscaloosa. Can’t beat this meat.
After the gentrified southern charm of Austin and the straight-laced sprawl of Houston, we were badly in need of a weirdness injection, so we pointed Minivan Morrison toward New Orleans. It didn’t take long for crazy to find us.
We were running late due to some bad traffic in Baton Rouge, but made it to Maison de Papa Sowash in time for a wonderful home-cooked shrimp etoufee and red beans & rice dinner. Most of us went back for seconds; Dan had fourths. Great big thanks to Greg & Susie for opening their home to the three smelly guys who follow their son around.
But I promised you crazy, so here goes…
We originally booked our show at the Circle Bar, but our friends who helped us set it up had to drop off the bill. While we were scrambling to find NOLA bands to take their place, Kyle found out that Circle Bar double booked the date, so we got bumped. Luckily, we were able to move it to The Big Top, an art gallery/DIY performance space/bar/punk hangout, but we were only able to wrangle a couple of solo acts to play with us. Zach from The Lollies played a loose set on the floor in front of the stage, including a song called “Butt Train,” which I assume Kyle is going to have us cover at some point. We ran through a hybrid set, seeing that the crowd was more or less Kyle’s folks, a couple of friends that used to live in Columbus, a handful of punk rockers, and the last performer’s mom and son. Seemed like it went over OK, though there were definitely a few straight faces and awkward silences as people tried to figure out what our deal was.
But seriously, I promised you crazy, so here goes for real…
The last act was Mike from the band Dummy Dumpster, who was playing solo with a guitar, a microphone duct taped to a bandolier made of Christmas wrapping paper, and a drum machine. But that’s not the crazy part. While Mike was playing, a guy from his neighborhood - who we learned later outside the venue has “been playing music since 1985, motherfucker” - was sitting on the stage behind him messing with the pre-programmed drum tracks while Mike was trying to play his songs. About 5 or 6 songs in, Mike turned around, kicked his “collaborator” in the head and landed a couple exclamation point punches to prove he was serious. We all assumed “artistic differences” to the nth degree, but it turns out that this “remix artist” wasn’t supposed to be part of Mike’s act at all.
After this all goes down, our freshly bruised friend lit up a cigarette in the art gallery (a posted no-no) and then flicked it across the room when he got spotted by the staff. The bartender kicked him out for being disrespectful to the space, after which he proceeded to rant on the sidewalk about how the bartender “threw a bitch fit over a fuckin’ cigarette.” Several of us witnessed the aftermath, including a clearly annoyed grandmother who clearly wanted to give Mike’s son earmuffs to shield him from language that I’m sure he’s heard plenty of already.
We split before the scene dispersed. I’m sure it escalated. Should’ve picked up a copy of the Picayune before we left town to see how far.
We headed a few blocks away to Ms. Mae’s with our friend Sarah for some post-show drinks. We explained our tour game where we see who can first identify episodes of Seinfeld on the muted TVs at the bars we play. We came up with 7 Alice In Chains radio hits in under 1 minute (can you?). We listened to most of the bar hit the high note in A-Ha’s “Take On Me” when it came up on the jukebox. Kyle said he wanted to whoop it up in New Orleans. Mission accomplished.
Greg and Susie left us much appreciated food spreads for both post-bar and breakfast times. We watched Justin Timberlake’s 5th SNL hosting episode on-demand before heading down to the French Quarter for some light revelry. I feel like we got the full experience:
-A killer po-boy from Killer Po-Boys (in the back of the Erin Rose bar on Conti)
-Street beer and a high five for a well-placed 38 Special reference
-2 songs by the least-enthused cover band ever at The Famous Door
-Coffee and beignets at Café du Monde
-Souvenir shopping at inflated prices
-Thousands of dudes (and ladies) wearing red dresses
Yeah, nailed it.
Swill of the night: Rolling Rock
Foofbrau of the night: NOLA Blonde