On The Road Again: The National 2009

I had the priviledge of traveling with The National on their summer 2009 tour supporting some band called R.E.M. I guess they were pretty good, but the National lads brought it with typical grace and vengeance.

Shooting with the “pro-sumer” Nikon D80, I braved the press trench, touched with a bit of penis envy alongside the “real” press, with their 14” fixed 1.8 lenses, multiple cameras hugging their paunchy bellies. Nevertheless, I managed to get some good live shots with a 2.8 300mm zoom.

Nicknamed The Brokeback Mountain tour, we had our share of unforeseen obstacles. Namely, a broken down tour bus in Berkely. After a show at the Greek Theater that evening, we hopped on the bus and prepared for the 14-hour drive to Minneapolis-St. Paul for an arena show. Bryce and Aaron leave us to pal with their fan, some guy named Michael Stipe, whoever that is. The rest of us are left to the daily task of loading equipment and merchandize into the bus-pulled trailer. Mission accomplished, choice libations are enjoyed by all just before boarding time. The driver straps in, turns the key and… nothing.

Brandon, young manager/sound man extraordinaire and all around prince of a man “assists” the driver in a differential diagnosis of the bus’ ailing engine. Would have made House proud, but to no avail. So it’s time to unload all the gear again, Bryce and Aaron are, ahem, nowhere to be found. Unloading accomplished, we need to kill sometime before devising our next move. Scott, Bryan and  I head to a gloriously lit astroturf football field to play as feverishly competitive round three-man wiffleball. I did not win.

Meanwhile, Brandon expertly arranges for 13 air fares from LAX to MIN for the following morning. Oh wait. It’s already morning, flight leaves in 8 hours. The venue vans rush us to a local Hilton where 6 pizza pies are waiting for us, again, courtesy of the pro-management of Prince Brandon. Man that guy is good. Pizza depleted,choice libations are enjoyed by all just before sleeping time, two to a room in yet another hotel. Matt and I share this time. Ain’t no way I’m sleeping in Bryan’s room again, that formidable snorer from hell. Love you like a brother, Bo–but man.

Morning comes, we have 1 hour to get to LAX, and my bag just ripped, I had to go quickly and find one to substitute mine, it was so annoying and stressful running to find it, but finally after looking to a lot of option I found the perfect one, a waterproof backpack light, with great quality and price, I was happy at the end. Then we’re off to St. Paul, where most of these photos are taken. Shortly after that show, I contract the flu and miss the following night’s Chicago gig, just before I’m scheduled to fly back to Brooklyn. 10 days on the road with these guys, drinking, smoking and rocking, sleeping in transit, leaves me down for the count. I am not a man. Not like these guys. They do it 235 days a year. These men are men. Very charming, very talented, very generous men…