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Days 11-14: Columbia, Charlotte, and roadtrippin


Friday night in Columbia, SC. This was the city where I went to college and the only other city than Shanghai where I have been involved with the music scene. We had a fantastic write-up in the Free Times and played a live stripped-down set followed by a drive-time interview on WUSC-FM’s The Columbia Beet. The DJ Micheal and I talked a bit about the Columbia music scene of long ago as well as about the differences between touring China and the US. Fun times.

We checked in with our hosts Kara and Mike and had some beers and fried chicken before going to New Brookland Tavern. The night’s gig was great. We were really happy to play alongside bluegrass-inspired pop duo Post-Timey String Band and psych-alt-country supergroup Marshall Brown. Rock band All-New Badges whom I didn’t catch too much of also played. They seemed to get a lot of people dancing, so good on them! It was a our biggest crowd to date and the energy and sound in the room was superb. Unfortunately the bass amp that I borrowed went out during two parts of the set, but other than that, I was really happy with the performance. After the show I was able to catch up with a bunch of old friends and introduced them to the band. We capped the night off with sandwiches at Beezers while blasting dirty south hip hop from the minivan speakers at 3am. Cheesy, I know.

The final gig in the south was at The Evening Muse in the North Davidson neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina. I grew up 25 miles from there so this was my “hometown show.” I left the Charlotte area over 10 years ago and in that time it seems to have grown in its offering of music, venues and restaurants. The sound at the Muse was technically-speaking the best sound quality of the whole tour so far. Joe did a really great job mixing and everything was crystal clear from the audience’s perspective. We had pianist Micheal Arone (a resident of Shanghai and native of Charlotte) join us on two songs, Drown the Creatures and To Where the Maps End (he performed the latter on our album).

The opening band was Garlic City which are actually a trio of young RDC fans who contacted us directly about opening for us. They were really nice guys with good vocal harmonies ala Fleet Foxes and catchy indie pop hooks ala Death Cab. I hope they keep it up. Following them we played our normal 40 minute set and took a break to drink a beer and sell some merch. After about 20 minutes, we played a supplemental 20 minute late-night set that included a bunch of really new songs and ideas, really old songs, and a rendition of blues standard “Hoochie Coochie Man” with my dad guesting on vocals. It was a good way to end the dirty south leg of the tour.


The morning after the Charlotte gig, my dad and stepmom cooked up a breakfast of grits, sausage, livermush, eggs, biscuits and gravy and then we were out the door headed for Chicago*. We stopped in Louisville, had dinner at a Whole Foods and took a dip in the hotel pool. I write you now from a laptop on Interstate 65 in Indiana. We got 200 miles to Chicago, a half a pack of cigarettes and a full tank of gas. We’ll be playing The Whistler on wednesday night to kick off the midwestern leg of the USA tour. Hope to see you there.

*at posting, we have arrived in Chicago.

love, Nichols

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