In October 2010 I tapped a talented friend and colleague, Lauren Rogers, to design the promotional poster for the impending Eagles & Snowbirds Winter Tour 2010.
"I don't really have any great ideas for what I want. Probably something cartoon-y, featuring birds (eagles at least) and possibly old people on the beach?"
For the past few weeks I'd kept busy organizing this tour with a couple Florida natives, Noah and Amber Eagle - the former a young singer songwriter who dons a strumming mandolin, sharp wit, and great sense of humor; and his older sister, a free spirit and perpetual smile, volunteered herself and her vehicle to drive us around between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I, a singer songwriter, busker, activist, and performance artist based in New York City - I was the snowbird.
I had met the Eagles a few months prior via couchsurfing as I planned my summer tour. Amber brightly offered to host a show at her house in Cocoa Beach, FL, which turned out to feature both me and Noah, the two of us having comparable DIY sensibilities. So when I set out to find a Florida-based tour partner - someone who would play living rooms, thrift stores, and fireside shows, someone who would couch surf, dumpster dive, busk, and/or share minimal expenses with me throughout our journey - Noah was a shoe-in!
We had raised funds via Kickstarter, an online platform for creative people, with the objective of piecing together a tour documentary. We hoped to explore an alternative world where money, power, and privilege are not the chief aims, achieved by violence and (ironically) apathy; but instead to document a DIY movement marked by generosity, hospitality, peace, and responsibility. We could use CouchSurfing.org to find free lodging. We could seek out the help of remote musicians to set up small shows with local support in distant towns. The Kickstarter platform itself would enable friends and fans to financially support our mission directly. And we could make our own contribution by playing free shows (donations encouraged) all around the country, giving away our recorded music with a smile, sharing meals with our hosts, washing sinkfuls of dishes, and capturing all the action on video.
So we kept the camera rolling as we talked with the above people, ate local food, listened to those remote musicians, danced around campfires, and engaged in all kinds of other shenanigans.
All in all, the tour was great fun! We three travelers became great friends and made many more along the way. There was only one city where we had trouble securing lodging (so we spent the night jumping on hotel beds in Middle O'Nowhere, Tennessee) and all of our scheduled shows went off without a hitch (or at least no hitches worth remembering).
Still, there were lessons - profound existential truths - to be learned and still more questions to be asked.
On the tour we saw that the "real world" we live in day-to-day is either ambivalent to or simply not-yet-ready for the subject of our documentary. Otherwise CouchSurfing, freeganism, and busking (playing music publicly for donation) would not be the kinds of marginal side show activities that they tend to be in today's culture.
Moreover people would support DIY music and artists.
It was a great shame that many of our scheduled shows were so poorly attended, that Noah and I played our cherished music night after night to only two or three other people, Amber included. It was also a huge struggle to raise money via Kickstarter, even though we offered great rewards and planned to play free shows in the cities where most of our supporters were located. It is doubtful that we would have reached our all-or-nothing goal without an incredible donation from one friend who could not come to any of the shows and wanted no rewards in return (an angel from our fabled world?).
Even six months later I continue to wrestle with these questions and learn these truths. They are among the most important questions we can ask ourselves and each other.
As for me, I refuse to let the questions go unasked. I’ll make videos, write songs and blogs, plan DIY tour after DIY tour, and otherwise bust my hump to bring these issues to the fore of our collective consciousness, so that Lauren’s vision for our tour poster will be the perfect representation of what we’d set out to do on the Eagles & Snowbirds Tour. She suggested “a picture of some old people enjoying the beach and then this giant eagle swoops down at them like RAAAHHH…"