Tour Diary: 3/21/24

Three days ago I flew to Nashville from France. In one day I drank water from France, London, New York, and Nashville.

My brother Brad picked me up and hosted me at his place in Nashville for two nights. We had a memorial service for his departed cat, Beau and our mother Sarah and we had a nice family reunion time.

Yesterday, my very kind mother Sarah drove me from Nashville to Chattanooga. On the way we stopped at the Russell Stover chocolate store in Manchester. They offer candy from passed holidays at half price. I picked up a few Valentine’s hearts and a semi-solid chocolate turkey. You are going to need these things.

In Chattanooga we drove through the perennial highway construction to the Brainerd area where I rented a Toyota Corolla hybrid car from a very laid-back fellow named Norman. This is a name that appears in my song “Scarecrow”: “I stuffed the straw into Norman’s khaki pants and striped shirt.”  Norman’s car will be my tour vehicle for the next month and a half.

I then went to visit my friend William Johnson (Heavy Comforter) who lent me a guitar and amplifier that I’ll use throughout the tour. It’s a 70s era Yamaha acoustic. It plays great and has a big sound. He also lent me a Vox amp that we used to use in the old Big Kitty band. if you see it on tour you’ll see that it has lived. 

The first show of the Tour was at the Woodshop, a new-to-me venue in St Elmo, which is a neighborhood of Chattanooga where I lived for a few years. I loved living there and would have loved to have this place nearby at the time. It’s a nice, wood-forward hang out with a bar, tables and couches focused toward a performance area with piano and organ. This show was hosted by Alex Volz and also included my old friend Matt Bohannon. Alex started the show with some really funny songs. My favorite: a chapter of a long narrative about an old man and a Chihuahua with an ornate guitar prelude. Matt Bohannon then set the world on fire with his Wildcat lightning bolt songs. Then it was my turn, uh oh. But as often happens, though I feel trepidation getting onstage I let go and something else takes control. We all played Matt’s really well set-up Silvertone acoustic guitar and the sound was clear. My college professor and great poet Rick Jackson and his wife Terri were there, which touched me very deeply and made me a bit more nervous than usual, which Rick found ridiculous. It was so good to see them.

I had booked two shows for the first night, the second being at JJ’s Bohemia, a venue I have been playing for 17 years now. It’s always great to return there. Because the Woodshop show went a bit late, I didn’t arrive until about 11:30, as another old friend, Johni Acorn, was finishing up his set. He was playing with a bass player and a drummer and the sound was fantastic. I’ve always loved his songs and it was good to see him in upbeat mood sporting a brightly colored Mexico baseball cap. The crowd was quite small at JJ’s, probably due to the lateness of the hour, and I felt almost like it was the first time I played as Big Kitty on that stage, when I performed in much the same way that I did today–singing unsettling a capella songs mixed with  guitar-based songs. But this time I noticed I was getting hoarse, and over the course of the show it got worse. I was very tired also and had trouble remembering things, as a result of being jetlagged and overextending myself. At the same time, I loved playing this show because I felt very free to improvise and make up songs on the spot. The very nice bartender requested “Tracy Chapman,” so I made up a song about Tracy Chapman and chapstick. And I liked how my voice sounded raspy. I could still sing falsetto also, which was surprising. But at the end of the night I began to realize it might be serious and I stopped playing around 1:30 in the morning. 

Matt and Page Downer hosted me at their house, another place that gives me a sense of home. They offered me some CDB infused honey which soothed my throat. I petted their dog and watched their cats watching me warily. Now I’m waking up there and writing this first entry in the tour diary, which glosses over the million details I would ideally like to share. 

But you can see a pattern here of generosity and love from a lot of people who make up a family to me. Chattanooga is a place that feels like home to me.

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