Mount Righteous Dispatches From The Road: Days Four and Five, The Kindness of Strangers

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Note: Technical difficulties meant we never got Mount Righteous' Dispatch yesterday. We'll make that up now, posting the last two days of Mount Righteous updates in one post.

The morning after our show in Santa Fe was spent at a music shop browsing through trombones. With the hopes that the police or one of our friends in Lubbock would eventually turn up our stolen horn, Allison bought a nice Yamaha trigger trombone that we immediately put in the trailer. Then we headed west for Phoenix.

Anticipating a drive of seven hours or more, we struggled to keep good time and stay on the road. As we passed through New Mexico and eastern Arizona, it was hard to sit and watch the gorgeous landscape pass by from behind a window.

At our show in Santa Fe, a couple of symptoms of having brand new members manifested during our performance: The effect was minimal, but we felt we could use a short time together to quickly run through the set. But, by the time we pulled into the outskirts of Phoenix, there was very little time left before we had to be at the venue.

We didn’t want to blow the surprise of our show and practice in front of our audience, so we took an exit and set up in a dusty vacant lot. Aside from a few honks from the occasional passing motorist, we had an undisturbed and productive rehearsal under the setting Arizona sun with mountains all around us. Squinting our eyes against the dust, we ran a few songs and loaded up again.

We arrived at Phoenix's Trunk Space at dark, guiding our massive van and trailer into the small parking lot. The venue is a very cool all-ages arts and performance space. It’s entirely DIY and seems to host some pretty amazing shows--reminded me a lot of one of my favorite venues, 1919 Hemphill in Fort Worth. We settled in and met some of the bands we’d be playing with.

For a few weeks before tour, we’d been in touch with a Phoenix band called Hello the Mind Control. From what we could tell, they were an extremely impressive band--and composed of all high school students. When we were looking for places to stay in Phoenix, the guitarist and songwriter for Hello the Mind Control, Tyler Broderick, offered up his house in Mesa. The catch was, he lived with his parents and had final exams early in the morning.

This sounded like interesting fun to us, so we planned to crash with him.

His band went on first and impressed us all. As we later learned, most of the band members were in the 10th grade, but they played songs that were well beyond their age, (well beyond songwriters of any age, in fact.) Then a musical improvisational act Dangerville took to the piano and triangle, whipping up impromptu songs about whatever subjects the audience suggested.

We went on third and the crowd seemed to swell as we began our first song. Trunk Space had promoted the show very well for months, and the turnout was great. The band seemed to understand that this performance would be pivotal to our tour, one way or another, because of the slow nature of the Santa Fe show and our desert rehearsal earlier in the evening. It seemed imbued with importance, and all 11 of us brought every bit of energy we could muster to the show.

Everything felt electric in the hot room, everyone sweating as we concocted our performance into a coming-together of all the reasons we were out here in the desert, all the reasons we were traveling in a van with 11 people playing music. By the end, both the crowd and the band were locked together in mutual appreciation and we had instilled a new vigor to our tour.

Shortly thereafter, we made our way to Mesa to Tyler’s parents’ house. We parked the van on a quiet residential street, and the Mount Righteous mob attempted to remain quiet as it ambled under the streetlights toward the house.

Tyler’s family was extremely hospitable to us, and we were glad to receive the kindness. We were all thrilled to learn that there was a pool in the backyard, so we engaged in a midnight swim session until we learned (even more elatedly) that there was a Jacuzzi on the back porch. Things couldn’t get any better.

Tyler stayed up with us for a while and studied for his Geometry exam. He left us an extremely complimentary note on the door in the morning, and we all plan to keep tabs on him--there’s something very special about that kid and his songwriting.

There was coffee brewing for us when we woke up, too, and we sat around the house for a while talking local politics and music with Tyler’s mom. But, before long, we took our grateful leave and headed south for Tucson.

Before leaving for this tour, we were given some credit card points good for free hotel rooms by one of our family members. Since we didn’t know anyone in Tucson and hadn’t really arranged to stay with anyone, we decided to use the points and give ourselves a break, renting a room in a hotel on the north end of the city. Then we all pitched in and paid for an adjacent room. It was nice to arrive in town and step out of the desert heat into a couple of air-conditioned hotel rooms.

We felt pretty spoiled. Having arrived in town early, we hung out in our rooms for a few hours, some of us swimming in the pool and admiring the nearby mountains.

Our rooms had small kitchens with stoves in them, so Adam, Mason and I made a trip to the grocery store and bought some provisions. I made salads and vegan stir-fry for half the band--the other half opted to grill outside--and we all ate well. It was a welcome reprieve from peanut packets, granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches.

But the idle day soon had to end and we began preparing to head downtown to play. Our show was at Dry River, an anarchist volunteer-run DIY space on Main Street in Tuscon. We knew that we were playing with bands that bore absolutely no resemblance to us, and we were excited about that. Still, there was an inkling of uncertainty at how the show would go and how we would be received.

When we got to Dry River, a power violence quartet called XWalrusX was playing. They wore lucha libre masks and were pretty extreme. After they finished their set, we were to go on. We set up our gear and stood among the throngs of punks, who looked at us like we’d strolled into their space trying to sell them a used car. But we had come to rock, and rock is what we would do.

Thirty seconds into our first song, the looks of skepticism became bemused smirks. Thirty seconds later, the smirks had become jubilant smiles. By the second song, the whole place was thrashing around like some out-of-control amoeba. Never before has our music incited a circle pit, but the crowd in Tucson made it happen. We were thrilled because it resembled the punk shows so many of us in the band grew up on. At points, some of us couldn’t help but leave the ranks of the band and jump into the fray.

As the performance came to an end, everyone in the band felt like we’d accomplished some great victory. We’d entered the venue to play with four hardcore bands, and to perform for hardcore kids, skater punks and metalheads. But we had transcended any musical stereotyping or genre stratification and simply played good music to a crowd who wanted to hear it and have a good time.

The scene in Tucson is strong, and the sincerity of the punk scene was really inspiring--they really have their heads in the right place. It reminded me a lot of the punk scene we used to have in Grapevine years ago. In fact, a lot of the people here looked like bizarro-world doppelgangers of our friends from home.

As we began to pack our gear, a lot of locals wearing new Mount Righteous shirts offered to help us haul our stuff to the trailer. We received a lot of compliments and were invited to come back anytime. After last night’s experience, I don’t think there’s any question that we will. --Justin Spike and the rest of Mount Righteous

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