Washington DC

Tandem Tracks & Tourist Traps

If there’s an official food of tour, it’s the mighty and versatile breakfast bagel sandwich. Marcus’ neighborhood in Upper Manhattan was home to yet another solid bagel spot, Cafe One, so we took advantage before saying our final farewell to New York and heading south.
This was our final day of an exhilarating, exhausting, educational tour, and we were full of emotions and low on sleep. How did we cope?
Disney singalongs. We threw in a few Beatles albums over our four-hour drive to D.C., but my memory of this final leg will always be of blasting the Tarzan soundtrack and accidentally listening to the Japanese version of Mulan’s “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” I’ve described some rather unpleasant drives that were the product of bad weather, traffic, or other outside factors, but in general, I expected them to be much worse. My rear seat in the Felix Vandem was always comfortable, and I never felt overly bored or annoyed. That’s not to say they weren’t grueling drives: Sean told us that he’d logged over 2,000 miles throughout tour. As someone from the home state of driving legends like Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, I feel qualified to declare Sean a Good Driver. We are very thankful for him!
We arrived in the D.C. suburb of Chevy Chase in the mid-afternoon. This place always weirds me out because I knew about the actor before the place, so I always think, “Isn’t that guy a huge jerk? Why did they name this whole deal after him?” This negative connotation aside, I loved the neighborhood’s tightly packed houses and walkable streets and alleys.Maybe they should have named the area after Max’s family-friends Gavin and Tracy, who were yet another pair of phenomenal hosts. We originally planned to play a venue show, but when that fell through, they not only agreed to give us a place to sleep but also set up a little backyard show for us. Gavin’s band, the roots rockin’ Swamp Donkey, would open for us. They also provided us meals from Broad Branch Market, the community grocery store they run. Since we didn’t have the time or frankly the energy to go anywhere like the National Mall, I am declaring this cozy shop as D.C.’s next great tourist destination.
Serena and I had planned to meet up for the show in Manhattan, and that night was one I was greatly looking forward to all tour. Sean, on the other hand, got a big surprise when his wife Brooke arrived just before showtime. She’d planned the visit with Max basically day of, and it was extremely cute to see Sean’s shocked little smile when she walked in. They caught up for a bit as Gavin and Tracy’s neighbors streamed in.
Swamp Donkey played a fun collection of songs powered by Gavin on the harmonica, and soon it was time for our final show of tour. While it seemed some in attendance secretly hoped we’d play so loud that cops would be called — which would be a perfect end to our tour, Sean noted — we elected to play a lower-key set similar to what we performed at Abyssinia in Philadelphia. That is, until someone yelled “SHOPLIFTER!”
What choice did we have? We rocked out one last time and cleared our final test of tour. That’s right: After a week of trying, Max and I finally hit a perfect Remembering to Jump at the Same Time maneuver. This impressed our audience enough that they asked for an encore, so we asked Gavin to come back up and rolled through a little blues jam that sounded decent considering Sean, Max, and I had never played that genre together.
The quirky little backyard party ended up being the perfect way to bring our tour in for a landing. Not only was it a fun group of people to play for, but we had awesome conversations with friends and neighbors who stuck around afterward. My favorite may have been with a woman who was at least 75 and likely the biggest music fan we met on tour. I said D.C. had a great punk scene, and she said “Uhh, no shit. Fugazi?!”
I’ll say it again: Gavin, Tracy, and all of our hosts this tour were excellent to us. There’s no way we could have made this work without them.
Alyssa, who was unfortunately still not feeling well, arrived after we’d wrapped up so Max and I could load our gear into her car for transit to Nashville. We then said an emotional goodbye not only to Felix Vandem but also to Sean, who had a date with the Enterprise Rental Car dropoff lot in Pittsburgh (and also his wife).
Max and I, meanwhile, had a date with Allegiant Air to get home. We had enough left in the tank to watch Bad Bunny’s episode of Saturday Night Live with Tracy and chat a bit about tour but not much else: After nine shows in a row, sleep came pretty easily.