Photo Credit: Stephanie Blevins
Editor’s note: As the frontman of Athens roots-grunge band Georgia Dish Boys, Seth Martin wrote and released one of last year’s sleeper standouts, the twangy, roaring Nine Song Movie LP. With local guitarist Tyler Key, Martin has spent the last few months gigging around the U.S., exploring just about every nook and cranny of the nation and racking up countless tour tales along the way. Here’s his report.
We played shows almost every night from Dec. 11 to Feb. 9. We went up to Chicago and came back, to New York City and back and to Seattle and back. Rather than detail all two months, I figured I’d give ya the good stuff. Here are five highs, five lows, five Dylan songs we listened to all the time and five jokes we couldn’t stop repeating.
Highs (in the order they happened):
Asheville, NC: I love playing Fleetwood’s. It’s a vintage store, bar, music venue, wedding chapel and all-around unique place. This was our second time there. Shopping the groovy old handkerchiefs while sipping a Hamm’s is a nice way to pass the time before soundcheck. There are several young bands in Asheville that are working hard to make original music and have fun. It feels very akin to Athens. We stayed with a good friend who has a big dog and gave us homemade hot sauce. As always when in Asheville, we went to the Folk Art Center and ate at Tastee Diner.
Nashville, TN: This was our second time playing Nashville, and we would play it again later in the tour. We played The 5 Spot. This was one of the few full-band shows on the tour. It was fun to see everyone and do some rockin’. We played songs from Nine Song Movie and songs from our next album, Good Country Livin. The show was with Justin and the Cosmics and Jack Evan Johnson. Justin and them made one of my favorite albums, PERF: Live at Ardent Studios, and played a blistering set. They are like The Stooges with Elvis on lead vocals, but way better. Jack Evan Johnson writes the hell out of a song, too, and the band is very good. They are playing with us in Athens in July.
Afton, VA: We played a full-band show on a Saturday night at Flicker Bar. It was a beautiful night of friends and songs. There is no place like Athens. Woke up at 5:30 a.m. and drove seven hours to play an afternoon set in Virginia. We did a lot of early, late and long drives on this tour. Throw on some R.J. Zimmy and crack a fizzy. The show was at a brewery in the mountains, and the sun shined all day. Most of the weather on this trip was cold and wet. We were very thankful to play a set outside in the warmth. We got a motel, and I was asleep before 10 o’clock.
New Orleans: I played a solo set of all new songs opening a show for Guts Club one time in Athens and made friends for life. Not only does this band sound amazing, they are very sweet people, as well. This was the second time they set up a show for us in New Orleans. The show was at a neighborhood dive, Banks Street Bar. We shot pool and watched Fievel Goes West on the bar TV. There were probably 10 neighborhood cats around the bar, and we petted them all. During our song “Get Back to the River,” an older local man that I had seen lying on the floor letting two dogs lick him on the face got up on stage. I could tell he was trying to sing the words to the chorus, so I stepped aside and sang it with him. I welcomed it, but the sound person quickly removed him. The bartender knew him well, and told him to come down and gave him a fresh beer. Always go to Hank’s Supermarket for fried chicken biscuits.
Cottage Grove, OR: Cottage Grove is one of the nicest little towns I’ve been to. They said that Garcia and Kesey used to live there. We got in early, and it was warm enough to go for a nice walk. The venue had a large bookstore connected to it. There were big ornate quilts hung on the walls and sweet local people offering us homemade blackberry wine. I had a CBD mojito and a delicious meal. If you are in Oregon, get to Axe and Fiddle.
Lows (in order of severity):
Photo Credit: Seth Martin
Sierra Nevada Mountains/Donner Pass: We drove through a reported 10-foot blizzard. The highway was shut down due to low visibility, and we had to take a back road to pass the mountain. We drove for two hours before they told us the road was closed and we would have to turn around or wait until it was clear. We drove the two hours back the way we came to try another back-road pass. The driving lasted for six hours in the dark with only a few feet of visibility, allowing us to see the brake lights of the car in front of us. Ice built up between the strips in the wiper blades, and they busted. A 6-inch gap on the top of the windshield and an even smaller slit on at the bottom were the only vantage points to see out of. At times, I was sick to my stomach and had the sensation that the car was sitting still and everything around us was moving. It was psychedelic. This was the most scared I have ever been in my life. There were times that Tyler and I would both just scream loudly.
Somehow, we did not die. We got to Reno, NV and checked into a motel. It took me a half-hour to stop shaking. We ate at a local fast-food taco place down the street and got settled. The next day, we had a very similar drive and ended up in Laramie, WY. I’m going to have to count this as two lows. There really wasn’t anything in the over two months we were traveling that truly disturbed me, except this portion of snow driving.
Louisville, KY: The place forgot the show was happening. There was an art display with shredded money. Nobody came out. We played four songs. I thought they were some of the best takes of the run. We got a Super 8 motel and made a can of soup on the camp stove.
Kent, OH; A relative of the previous venue owner came in the night before and tore the place apart. Seemed like they were still cleaning it up when we got there. The current owners are nice folks and even bought us mini pizzas before our set. After we finished playing, they put on “Texas 71” by Magnolia Electric Co., and I asked them questions about Molina until the night felt good. The band we played with was really nice and let us crash with them.
Brooklyn, NY: We had two shows on the calendar in Brooklyn. One was great, and one didn’t happen. I hadn’t been able to get any reply to emails about the details of the show. Eventually, I Googled and emailed until I found out that the booking agent and owner of the place had been convicted of stabbing a person at the venue. Needless to say, I’m glad we never played there.
Five Dylan songs we listened to all the time:
“Changing of the Guard”; “Brownsville Girl”; “Isis”; “Day of the Locusts”; “Serve Somebody.”
Five jokes we couldn’t stop repeating:
“Have you ever been catfishing in the ocean?”
“Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away from my Jitterbug Phone” (actual line from television commercial).
“Do you wonder how George McGovern must have felt?”
“Ichabod Crane wants to sit in at the Tuesday Blues gig. He’s got a headless guitar.”
“I Hate My Aching Joints!” (actual paid programming television show).
Georgia Dish Boys next plays Athens on Sunday, Mar. 17 at Hi-Lo Lounge.