SoDak, music, a motel, and "If Jesus Drove a Motorhome"

Had a very satisfying 3-day tour to South Dakota this past weekend, and it reminded me of the way my musical life was in the pre-fatherhood era. Hopped in my rental car on Friday afternoon (a giant Chevy Impala...big, clumsy, and smooshy, not much fun to drive, and a nightmare to park) and headed out of Minneapolis bound for Sioux Falls, SD. I had no gig on Friday, just the task of arriving in South Dakota so I could be at my real gig early the following morning. It was nice to have a leisurely day with perfect driving weather...cold, no precipitation, dry roads, clear sky, sparse traffic, and tons of CDs to which to listen. Stayed at the Hampton Inn, hit the hot-tub (luke-warm tub?), and went to bed.

Saturday was spent on campus at Augustana College. I was the guest musician at an event for 150 young people from SoDak, Iowa, and Minnesota. Got to play a concert for them on Saturday's a picture of my view from the stage. They were a good crowd, and they had great taste in cover tunes...right when I got up on stage some kid yelled "Rolling Stones!" so I began my show with a cover of the Stones' "Gimmie Shelter." Then the same kid yelled "CCR!" so I played "Proud Mary." It was fun. During the show I took an audience poll: MySpace vs. Facebook. Facebook won by a landslide, which really surprised me. Those crazy kids these days!

After the gig at Augie I got on the road around 10PM and drove 30 miles South to a town called Canton, SD. As I zipped across farm fields with blustery snow drifting over the highway I listened to the most recent album by Jim White, which has the wonderful title Drill a Hole in that Substrate and Tell Me What you See. Featuring such brilliant songs like "Static on the Radio" and "If Jesus Drove a Motorhome" this Jim White album allowed me a rare moment: it was one of those divine glimpses where my personal energy level, the outdoor environment, my visual surroundings, and the music in the background all locked in together in perfect appropriateness, unity, and satisfaction. I tell you, I would've been happy to just keep driving for 10 more hours in that car, on those dark empty farm roads, with Jim's music on. In my immediate reality, everything was perfect. Does anybody else have those moments, or is it just me?

I arrived in the small small town of Canton, where I stayed at the one place in town that provides lodging: the Gateway Motel. This place was clean and comfy, but man, it was right out of 1955. Check out that neon! Thankfully, they had VH1 on their cable TV, so I settled into my cozy little bed for a couple hours of the "Super-Group" marathon. This is the reality show were a bunch of non-connected rock musicians are assembled, and in 12 days they have to form a new band, write songs, rehearse, and prepare for a big performance. I hadn't seen this show before, but I totally loved it. I failed to see the musical value in lead singer Sebastian Bach (of Skid Row fame), but Ted Nugent was amazingly likable, and almost honorable in his own special carnivorous way. Their music was lousy, but their TV show was great.

Got up on Sunday morning and played my own Heartland Liturgy with the backing of the local country-ish band there at Canton Lutheran Church. It was fun to do the tunes with a drummer, upright bassist, additional guitarist, pianist, and multiple harmony singers. The whole place smiled, sang, and got into it. I got to be the preacher too...the lesson of the day was The Beatitudes, so my sermon checked out the contrast between "blessed are the poor" and the fact that my motel TV was flooded with coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, and how last week's Newsweek magazine had Paris Hilton on the cover. We're obsessed with money, fame, glory, and excess in this country, so I'm thankful that when I go to church on Sunday I'm given a different way to see the world. After church I packed up the rental car and headed for home. Had to stop for a nap at a rest area on I-90 'cause I was so sleepy, but I made it home a-okay.

Thanks to the fine folks in South Dakota for welcoming me, singing along on the Heartland Liturgy, and requesting Rolling Stones songs at my concert; and thanks to Jim White for recording the Drill a Hole album for me to enjoy. I'm always thankful and appreciative of my vocation as a travelling musician/songwriter/performer, but this weekend was especially sweet and fulfilling. I won't take any of it for granted. Amen.


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