Words & Illustration by Sierra Lundy
Following is an excerpt from a tour journal written by Sierra Lundy, who, along with Jon Middleton, is part of the indie folk duo Ocie Elliott. This journal entry describes one day of a US tour undertaken last year with Australian folk band Hollow Coves.
Minneapolis: Arriving anywhere in the dark allows you to imagine you’re somewhere romantic, even if you can smell the strip mall plastic and tar-on-concrete that suggest otherwise.
Our hotel was, in fact, exactly where it smelt like it was, and the first 1.5 kilometres of my morning run included a dangerous dash across pedestrian-unfriendly highways and awkwardly fenced-in parking lots. But the remaining 10 kilometres were spent on a peaceful path that stretched along soccer fields, parks and the big Sioux River. The air was a crisp warning of colder weather finally chasing us down. And I guess it was actually us chasing it down as we moved northeast through Minnesota.
The first time I forgot something on this tour happened to be my shoes on the way to our first show, which wasn’t the greatest way to put “professional musician” into people’s heads. The second time was today at a juice bar when I paid for my juice and put my wallet down on a table instead of back into my bag. While we were all waiting for the one poor guy in there to make all nine of our orders, Jon and I ran down the street to Coffea Roasterie, linked arm-in-arm, singing Inspector Gadget and giggling like best friends going to the candy store for the first time without their parents. It was unusual to have time to stray from the pack on a gig day. Naturally, I noted I had no wallet when I went to pay for my coffee, but luckily the boys hadn’t left yet and grabbed it for me. I don’t know how I got through four months of tour in Europe with none of this happening.
By 11 am we were on the move to the Minneapolis venue with a lovely heavy-metal playlist blaring—to ensure the pain receptors in our ears were alert—followed by the final episode of the Star Wars series on the tour van’s screen. The entertainment theme of this boys-heavy trip became apparent on the first day’s drive to Seattle, when Tom, Hollow Coves drummer, blasted a techno remix of the Star Wars soundtrack, and then again on our second night when we were directed downstairs at 2 am to watch A New Hope—the first of many Star Wars films. Yay boys! Of course, I shed a tear or two over it coming to an end until I found out there was another series just like it called Obi-Wan Kenobi—and then the tears really poured.
To accommodate our two bands and crew we have a 10-seater Mercedes Sprinter tour van with comfy leather seats and a high roof. Jon and I got the back four seats to share with a box of Hollow Coves vinyl, which is surprisingly comfortable to sleep on.
The drive was a swift four hours, which felt like a breeze in comparison to most of the others. We only stopped once or twice for “scenic pee breaks” and gas.
At the venue, the poster on the wall advertised the last few shows that happened there, including Tamino, Two Feet, Novo Amor and Julia Jacklin—it’s a pretty neat feeling to be following such great artists in their tour tracks, and seeing their scribbled signatures on the greenroom walls (customary in most band greenrooms).
Even though we finally had our own greenroom and “rider” (hospitality provided by the venue, including snacks and beer of our choosing), we walked four minutes to the Whole Foods to get sushi and fill a small chunk of the tedious wait-time for our turn to sound check. It was warm in the sun, but the shade was a shiver generator.
As soon as we got back and started digging into the food, a guy named Todd (who toured with Bon Iver as his guitar guy) came in to interview Jon and me and my drooling wasabi mouth. Jon had said he was coming in to ask him a few questions about his guitar, so I had no idea it was actually a full-on interview that was recorded and would be transcribed word for word. There are just so many words that I would have kept in the wasabi had I known.
We only got 20 minutes to sound check with crappy monitors, but good old Cory and Riley (house sound crew) made it happen fast. I love impressing the monitor people by saying, “Can you give me a boost in the high mids around 2k?” when I really have no idea what that frequency is or what it means. But it seems to give me a clearer voice every time.
Nine minutes before curtain call, I discovered two stubborn wasabi stains on my pants. I proudly whipped out my Tide-To-Go stick—I know myself—and went at the spots, succeeding only in turning them into white stains with smudged halos. Five minutes to go, I scrubbed them with soap, water and belligerence, and then they were watermarks dripping down my leg. I frantically pulled off a shoe to get one leg out and held the pant leg up to a hand dryer. They dried as subtle white blobs that I hoped would pass in the stage lights as soft lustre on the fabric. I always have backup pants, but those were crinkled and creased in all the wrong places (it somehow formed a bulge at the groin) and maybe looked even less professional than a milky way on the pant leg thigh.
During the set, my voice cut out at times, like the post-COVID laryngitis days, and was rickety and raspy from not being able to drink much water the day before: those “scenic pee breaks” on the side of the open road aren’t so easy for a woman, especially with eight boys around, so I had to be easy on my bladder in the van.
But the Minneapolis audience was kind and actually outdid LA in cheers and avidity. We could barely get a word in between songs, which was a relief, since I generally have more on-days than off, banter-wise. And then something happened that’s never happened to us in an opening slot: the entire audience sang Forest Floor with us. It wasn’t just one or two people that knew the words, it was a chorus overpowering our voices.
The performance wasn’t the best sonically, but it had personality and felt memorable and authentic. Since we had already sold out of our vinyl and CDs, we didn’t go out to the merch table.
After load-out, we blasted Britney Spears for the 20-minute ride to Ramada by Wyndham—I’d like to think this drastic shift from the heavy metal and robot sounds was made in my honour, being the only girl in the group, but the boys knew more Britney lyrics than I did.
Chris (tour manager and bass player) was pumped because Expedia told him he’d become a Ramada by Wyndham gold member and would get a free drink upon arrival, but he was denied hard by the sullen-faced check-in man.
That same sad man decided to slip our receipt under the door at 1:45 am, just as I was lying in bed, wide-eyed, listening to the room creak after something violently crashed to the floor in the bathroom. My spine was covered in spiky shifters as I imagined that noise coming from a vent cover which someone pushed open and was currently crawling through to get us. The room, and possibly the man too, were definitely haunted, and I was especially grieving the loss of Chris’s free drink at that moment.
Because of the haunting, Jon pushed back the alarm, giving us more sleep, but also less than half an hour to pack and put our faces together for a 9:30 am breakfast date with the Paper Kites. If you can’t tell, that is not written in a casual tone. They had become good pals with Hollow Coves from touring with them a while back, and our tour schedules happened to converge in the early hours, as they got in from a night drive in their sleeper bus and as we were rolling out to Chicago—where they had just been.
Even in laying at the fingertips of some imaginary hit man, I thought, as I drifted off: whether arriving or leaving, in the day or the dark, with Star Wars or Britney in my ears, romantic or not, the place I love to be the most is on tour.