Tour Diary: Ames, Iowa 2/25/12

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On Friday evening, as we made our way west for a Saturday show in Ames, The Giving Tree Band made a stop in Lasalle, Illinois for an impromptu jam session at a local venue. These gigs are always fun as they allow the guys to play songs that don't normally make the set list and provide the opportunity for some extended solos, while visiting fans that aren't always able travel to the larger shows in the area. They also make for late nights, so we weren't even really on our way west until well after 2AM, crossing into the state of Iowa sometime after 4 in the morning. People are often shocked to hear that E drives the majority of the time, especially when there are multiple late nights in a row, but somehow he manages without ever appearing drowsy at the wheel. It probably helps that Phil is often awake to keep E company well after the rest of the bus has fallen asleep. This can also be a recipe for mischief.

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 I woke up somewhere along the way that night to Phil talking into a phone with a strange accent but was too tired at the time to process what in the world he was doing. Sometime later, still in a sleepy daze, I watched as E and Phil huddled around the phone listening to a message and laughing but again, couldn't put together a thought more coherent than, "who in the world would leave a message at this hour?".  We pulled up to the home of a friend of the band where we were staying for the night, rather the early morning hours, and everyone quietly grabbed their respective sleeping bag and belongings, heading in to catch a few short hours of sleep before we continued toward Ames.

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The next morning, after everyone had showered and loaded back into the bus, E announced that he received the strangest message the night before from an enthusiastic fan and went on to play it over the bus's sound system. At first, the message was met with confusion from most of the bandmates, but after two or three (or ten or eleven) listen-throughs, the entire bus erupted in laughter. By that point, my memory of the night before had come back to me and I already knew that it was Phil behind the message but a debate ensued between the others of its authenticity. I won't tell you how the band was split, but it was a fairly even divide.

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The debate continued for the entire duration of our forty-five minute drive to Iowa City, where we were stopping to grab a bite. Eventually, the non-believers won over those still convinced of its legitimacy and we departed the bus for a brief lunch at the New Pioneer Co-op. If you can't tell by the accompanying photos, the favorite for the day was the deli's Vegan Cajun Tofu Sandwich.

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Upon arrival at DG's Taphouse in Ames, the night's venue, we discovered they wouldn't be ready for the band for a few more hours, so the guys decided to swing by a radio station where they were scheduled to appear to see if perhaps they could come in a few hours. Unfortunately, the station wasn't ready for them either, but the guys took the opportunity to discuss the format of which they should perform on air--whether all of the instruments should be brought in, if they should stick to guitar only, or use a variety of the instruments. Once they had settled on guitar, banjo, violin, bass, and shakers for percussion, the boys racked their minds for songs that they felt would be the most meaningful to perform.

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They settled on "Caged Lion", "Circles", and a never before performed acoustic version of "Dead Heroes".  This was just another instance of the guys simply discussing something over a few times and going on to perform it without a hitch. Hopefully the audio from that evening becomes available at some point for those of you who were unable to tune in to the show, because while "Dead Heroes" is an overall rockin' tune, hearing it acoustic with a violin solo in place of the electric guitar is something else; it definitely brings a poignancy to the lyrics that one might miss in the full version.

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Load in was load in and sound check went smoothly. Afterward, the venue had graciously arranged for us to have dinner at a nearby restaurant. We were led down the street by an employee of the restaurant and once there, were led up a flight of stairs to a private room with a gigantic wood table. The atmosphere prompted a comedic reprisal by E, leaving us with an ad-lib audition tape, so to speak, seen here:

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Missouri natives Mary & The Giant opened that evening, performing a set that combined Americana traditions and rock n' roll energy that really had the crowd riled up.

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The Giving Tree Band's energy brought a good portion of the house to the dance floor. The crowd went wild as "Together" was performed, joining in with the boys' on stage antics. During a rendition of Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", the dance floor was completely packed and several in the audience could be seen singing along. Beyond being one of the most active crowds we've seen on the road, Ames brought out some of the friendliest folks. A fellow photographer even offered up his lens for me to borrow during the boys' set (The three photos of the band you see here were shot with said lens; thank you, Bryan!).

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After the venue slowly emptied and the stage was taken down, all eight of us piled back on to the bus and started toward the apartment that had been generously offered to us by a friend for the evening, only making one quick detour--for snacks, naturally.

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For more photos of our day, please visit this Flickr set. 

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