Life on the Road: A Touring Band’s American Adventure [Vol 5: Sedona, Arizona]

“Get out!” yells the bar manager, “And I suggest you don’t come back again!” “Oh, don’t worry, we definitely won’t be coming back to this sh*thole!” a band member scoffs.  The 6-year-old we have with us wrinkles his brow and asks us if we can leave now.  We lady-singers hold his hands (ours are shaking slightly with anger) and take him outside to the van quickly as the boys follow suite, exchanging a few last curses and insults.  WORST GIG EVER!!

But let’s start at the beginning.

So far, the tour has been a total success.  Even when we’re convinced that no one is going to come out for the show or we end up sleeping on slanted roofs outside at a stranger’s house, we always perform for a crowd and have an excellent time making new friends.

Well, disaster struck.  Arizona threw us every curve ball it had, and we swung and missed over and over again.

Let’s start with the van.  We’ve been running the big green tour van on recycled vegetable oil to save money and save the environment.  This is a complete pain, and there are many times that we end up dumpster diving for disgusting used grease, or not finding any at all and driving on diesel instead.  Flagstaff, AZ has not been particularly helpful in this arena.  One bar and one burrito place offered us their used grease, but both were too contaminated to put in our veggie tank.  And of course, as soon as we reach the hottest part of our tour, the AIR CONDITIONING BREAKS.  Five people in one van is too many to go without some cool air when it’s 100 degrees, so we make our way to a Ford Dealership because no mechanic within 80 miles has the part we need.

We have a few hours to kill, so we walk to an abandoned mall on the side of the highway.  No tumbleweeds, but white plastic bags are tossed about in the hot, quiet breeze and there is not a soul in site.  We find a movie theater, and watch whatever movie is playing so we can sit in the air conditioning.

MEANWHILE, our guitar player has ditched us- he’s in Sedona with his family on vacation!  He’s taking jeep tours through the desert, learning about the very impressive landscapes and geography of the area, sliding down the red rocks at the natural water park, and eating delicious gourmet food.  He keeps sending us text messages that are infuriating: “Wish u guyz were here!” “Just 8 the best fish tacos of my life!” “How’s the van?”

Luckily, our van is fixed and ready to go with just enough time to drive from Flagstaff to Sedona for our show at the Olde Sedona Bar and Grill.  When we arrive, we all punch our guitar player in the arm, and get to unloading the van.  Once we’ve unloaded all our gear into the quaint performance area, we ask who is running sound, and where are the microphones.  “Oh, well, we don’t have a PA,” an unfriendly bartender tells us.  “Well how do you expect a touring band to play a show without a PA?” we ask nicely.  “I don’t know, that’s your problem.”  We ask to talk to the manager, but the manager cannot be bothered because he is very busy smoking a cigar on the deck.  We try calling every place and person in town to find a PA to rent, but to no avail.  When it looks as though we’re not going to be able to have our show, we are furious!  We drove out of our way because this place had offered us a great guarantee, and we really needed the gas money.  Now we’re here, and there’s no music, and no money!

Then we figure it out: we’ll play an acoustic show on the deck!  Everyone seems okay with this solution, as long as we’re done by 10pm because of a noise regulation.  We pull out our ukuleles, guitars, and percussion instruments, and play an intimate set outside under the stars in the hot desert air.  An older gentleman from Switzerland sips on his Smirnoff Ice and buys a CD when we’re finished, telling us we truly touched his heart and wishes the best for us.  Another family visiting the area buys a T-shirt and tells us how nice it was to see live music.  We feel great, and we’re glad we figured out a way to salvage the day.

Or so we thought.  When it’s time to settle up, the manager has left and the bartender in charge will not pay us the full guarantee.  “Sorry, but you didn’t play the full two hours, so we can’t pay you.”  We are appalled.  We had only played less than two hours because we had been instructed to stop at 10, and because they did not have the right equipment for an electric show!  We argue back and forth until one of us insults the management and business organization (something like, “this is a very unprofessional and idiotic way to run a venue,” oops), and that pushes the bartender over the edge.  Voices and heartbeats are raised, spit is flying, and we have to get out of there before we cause even more of a scene.  We get kicked out eventually, holding the hands of our harmony singer’s little brother who was visiting and witnessed the whole disaster, and leave feeling defeated.

The next day, we took the night off, and spent our time enjoying the beauty of Sedona.  We hiked in the trees to beautiful lookouts where the rocks touched the sky and sand seemed to never end.  We went to look at art galleries and try beer from local breweries, making new friends at the Arts and Crafts Village.  We splashed in the most refreshing water of our lives and slid down bright red rocks, sunbathing like lizards.  We ate a fantastic dinner at Elote Café, drinking delicious margaritas and tasting beautiful mole dishes, meeting the incredibly friendly chef after our meal.

So thanks for NOTHING, Olde Sedona Bar and Grill, except for bringing us to Sedona, Arizona, where we had the opportunity to bask in the abundant natural beauty and magic that was all around us. 


Kaila McIntyre-Bader is a freelance writer and a musician splitting her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. Born and raised in San Rafael, California, Kaila received a Liberal Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Kaila lived in Cuba for four months, taking Biology, Spanish, and Opera Singing classes while learning how to smoke cigars and stay up all night. She has backpacked through Europe, traveled through Central America, volunteered for the Amigos Program in Panama, and toured extensively across the United States of America with her pop band Big Tree. When she’s not working as a waitress or teaching flute lessons to children, she is wandering the world and faithfully reporting back to readers all of her secrets and adventures.