The first Florida leg

We’re not in Florida anymore, Toto. We’re actually parked between Yamasee and Coosawhatchie, South Carolina. After about 10 hours of performing in three days, all five musicians, two roadies and two husbands survived the first weekend of Passerine’s first tour … and boy, are my fingers tired. But there’s no rest for the wicked, nor for the tour blogger, and I happen to be both. So here goes.

Friday. Daytona Beach … what can I say about Daytona Beach? Well, if we’re gonna keep things civil, not much. I can count the ways I loved playing at Tir Na nOg on one hand: the thumb goes to Justin the bartender, who was real good to us last time we played there on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. He made a repeat performance for this very first tour stop, even resurrecting the burnt-out PA by one swift blow with a music stand. The other four fingers go to the people who heard about the show and came out to see us.

Tanya reads, I writes.

I have one particular finger on the other hand specially reserved for the drunk — we’ll call him Shorty — who decided to peel himself off the bar toward the end of our last set, waggle his skinny rump at the stage and make loud, crass comments about Tanya’s new song, “Let the Love.” We wanted to end the night on a sweet tune, but that display left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. And he just didn’t know when to quit.

One of his companions, a tall, soft-spoken guy dressed all in black, approached the stage after we’d shut down the PA. “Not to insult you guys,” he said, “but do you know any Dixie Chicks?”

“Yeah,” Shorty called out, “do the one about stickin’ it in your wide open spaces!”

At that, I was fully prepared to knock Shorty ass over casseroles. Thankfully Michele had things under control. She led the band in killing ‘em with kindness and Snoop Dogg … my bad, I mean Snoop Lion. Shorty and Co. hollered along to Passerine’s version of “Gin and Juice” like it was going out of style.

Warming up at the Riverside Arts Market. Photo by Rob Demperio.

We rolled out of the pub around 3:00 a.m., found a rest stop outside of Jacksonville at 5:00 and spent the following three hours sawing logs. Then we set off, dazed and unenthused, for the Riverside Arts Market. The Daytona experience had been a demoralizing one, and we were all feeling grumpy as we hoofed it from the RV, underneath an overpass … and down to the most beautiful stage I have ever laid eyes on. The St. John’s River stretched out behind us, and as we played through our set, the amphitheater before us filled up with friendly faces. The sound guy made us sound like a symphony, chords and melodies bouncing off the cement structures towering overhead. We definitely felt music’s restorative powers that morning. Even in a new town, Passerine still whips up an awesome toddler mosh pit, too.

He’s on tour, Dave can let his hair down a little!

We left the riverside with renewed spring in our step — or hop, in Dave Baker’s case — and took Jenny on a trundle through Jacksonville to our second gig of the day at the Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church. Our new best friend, Barry, was there to let us inside for glorious showers and icy air conditioning. Although we were all sleep-deprived and gearing up for our third show in 24 hours, we were slowly starting to feel like human beings again. Chef Tanya grilled up a mess of burgers in the RV and we ate like kings. The audience treated us like royalty, too; we’ll never meet a more hospitable, respectful and generous audience than the folks who sat around the tables on Saturday night with bowls of snacks, cups of coffee and modest glasses of wine. Well, I shouldn’t say “never;” I should say we hope to meet many more audiences like that. They called out questions, wanting to know more about us, where we come from, how the band got started. They let us talk and tell the stories behind our songs. They sang along when they knew the words. Half a dozen long-haired teenagers wandered in and took over a table in the back, played quiet games of cards and watched us, kind of shy but earnestly respectful. Michele broke the ice by passing over a handful of our temporary tattoos, and I saw one of the kids slap it on his arm right away. Everyone was just so darn sweet, and the whole band agrees that the BBUUC has drop-dead gorgeous acoustics. We got goosebumps throughout the whole concert … we hope the audience did, too!

So to Jacksonville, our second stop, Passerine sez: “Thank you. We needed that.” And, “Can we come back soon?”

It rained all day in St. Augustine today, which dampened the crowd at the Lincolnville Farmer’s Market, but not our spirits. We parked Jenny next to a stall selling raw milk and homemade cheeses, rolled out the awning and played an all-acoustic, “front porch” session. The people wandering by showered us with smiles and conversation and showered the tip bucket with affection, too. Talk about good food, too! My lunch of a crab cake sandwich and Stella Artois hit a spot I didn’t know I had.

Tanya and a definitely doomed Florida Mango popsicle from L. Loco.

Tanya and I bade farewell to our hubbies reluctantly after the show. We’ll be seeing them again in Durham, but we were still sad for them to leave. We didn’t mope for long, though; our St. Augustine chapter has a sweet ending. While we were battening down the hatches, a gentleman in an apron came calling from across the market. “I need to talk to you guys,” he said through our screen door. “How big is your freezer?” It was none other than the owner of L. Loco Hand-Crafted Gourmet Popsicles, who had applauded at the end of every song from his vendor stall (and even danced a little. I saw it). Carmela and I squealed with joy as he passed us bags of Florida Mango, Serious Strawberry and Nectarine frozen treats. I think he really liked the music!

True story …  nearly half the pops were gone by the time we got to Georgia. Hey, we were celebrating: At the moment we crossed the border, we officially became a national-touring act! When asked how it feels, Tanya says “great” rather unconvincingly, and Michele gives a little “whoo.” I guess we’re still toughening up under the touring lifestyle, but trust me — deep down it feels frickin’ awesome.     — Sara M.

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