Words and photos by Chris Damon
Night Idea had been on the road for more than a month when they arrived in Burlington, VT in the middle of the night.
They had just played a show four hours away in Kingston, NY with Kelley Deal of the Breeders, Jason Narducy of Spoon/Superchunk and a traveling member of the Mountain Goats. The band’s contact for a place to sleep that night fell through at the last minute, so they made an impromptu trip north to crash at my friend Eric’s place ahead of schedule.
The next morning as we hiked through a nearby forest, I inquired about anything particularly interesting that had happened so far.
“When we were in St. Louis, we visited a woman who had an ornery hog as a pet and I got tusked in the leg,” said drummer Ethan Johnstone.
There were stories of climbing the Great Sand Dunes, their 16-hour drive from Knoxville to San Antonio, performing at their favorite spaces like Seventh-Circle Music Collective and Founders Brewery and their troubles crossing the border into Canada after some soap was mistaken for an illegal substance.
The band’s extensive 42-date tour in their ‘03 Dodge Sprinter had already stretched them across the layered deserts of New Mexico, to the center of Denver/the center of America, and up into the big cities of Ontario, Canada.
Now Burlington welcomed them, a small town best known for Phish, maple creemees and one Mr. Bernie Sanders whose office was blocks away from the venue where Night Idea was to play: the Radio Bean.
Carter, Ethan, Joey and Reid were tour-tight and rollicked through their set of predominantly new material from their upcoming album Riverless, prompting hoots and hollers from the crowd. Soon after they were done, however, their exhaustion from the night before caught up with them. Considering Night Idea was the final band on the bill, we left soon after their set, saving their energy for the following night.
The band was looking forward a great deal to their show in Pawtucket, Rhode Island because when Night Idea plays here, it feels like home. Their long time friends in Providence-based Roz and the Rice Cakes were in attendance, and their bassist Justin was the sound engineer that night. Richmond-Boston transplant and music-community-member extraordinaire Kerry Anderson came to see the show as well, which was another welcome comfort.
Much like the reactions in every city, the crowd beamed when the band led into the songs previously recorded during their visit to Chicago’s Audiotree studio. “Silver Understanding”, a track released on their most recent album Breathing Cold, was also a crowd favorite.
After leaving their home away from home in Providence, Night Idea headed north to play in the dark, crowded basement of a well-known house show venue called The ER in Boston, then made the drive back west to perform to a sun-soaked audience at a private farm festival in the middle of the Connecticut woods where the party went well into the night.
Somewhere in Clinton, CT, not long after we left the farm for Beacon, NY, the serpentine belt on the van snapped and rattled noisily. We pulled off I-95 into a Dunkin Donuts parking lot and popped the hood open to reveal our new obstacle. For a group of guys who took the bad news as well as they did, you would think they had been in this situation before. It turns out that this is truer than I expected as almost a year earlier, and while on tour, the van’s serpentine belt broke while traveling through the very same city.
There was no time to waste if we were to make the show in Beacon, so a mechanic was called, an offer was made, and a tow truck arrived to bring our damaged carriage to the nearest garage. Joey rode with, so the rest of the gang and I took this opportunity to stretch our legs for a two-mile walk through the town to meet him. We figured we wouldn’t hear from Joey for a while so we ducked into an antique store for a quick glance around. As Reid thumbed through some Star Trek novels and Carter brushed the strings of a unique strat-style electric, Joey called to say he was on his way to meet us. Back on the road.
The next three nights were a whirlwind. Night Idea played to eager fans in a restaurant in Beacon, NY, known for its live music, a massive warehouse filled with studio spaces deep in Yonkers, and a DIY space run behind a punk coffee shop in Philadelphia. New fans were made in every city, obvious by the thank-you’s expressed, the merchandise sold, the hugs given, and the demands that they come back to play again soon.
And on Saturday, May 6th, Night Idea returns home.
You can welcome them back when they perform at The Camel alongside Deer Eat Birds, Private Cry, and a solo set by Brian Dove of Antiphons. Tickets are $7 and the show starts at 8:00pm.
Check out photos from the tour below: