We were up early the next day to catch my 7am bus to State College. Then around 10am, I stepped off the bus in front of a WalMart a couple miles from the venue/house I would be playing/staying at that night. I considered thumbing my way there but decided to just hike it instead. When I arrived at the house, there was a large sign over the front door that read HOUSEASAURUS. There was chalk art on the walls. I knew immediately that I'd like this place.
The front door was open, so I stepped inside. I knocked and loudly announced my arrival. Nobody came to the door. I walked through the house to the back yard where they had a garden and bike rack. I didn't see or hear anyone. I called up the stairwell. Same thing. They must be awaiting me, I thought, so I might as well take my place on their couch to nap for a while. This was clearly an anarchist house anyway, so surely they wouldn't mind.
Between this and the house next door, nineteen people shared responsibilities, food, space, utilities, life, and love.
The promoter who had booked me for this show, Justin, showed up a bit later and ordered pizza for everyone. He disappeared not long after and was unable to stay for the show. In fact, he did not even stay for dinner, a daily communal activity for the Houseasaurus residents. He had to be at work, apparently, but there were only three or four others there for dinner! What was the excuse for the rest of them?
Matisyahu was giving a free concert at Penn State University. Lol.
As the time neared for the show to begin, I worried that there wouldn't be anyone to hear me play! The place was nearly empty. By the time the second act took the stage, the place was getting pretty full. Residents began showing up and helping to move furniture and create more space for guests, who then filled those spaces. When I took the stage, it was a full house with at least 25 guests crammed into the living and dining rooms to hear me play!
People were very complimentary about my music. One guest in particular, a kid who had played with the first act, seemed to be most impressed by my music. A 17 year old high school senior, Marshall was quite the impressive guitarist himself; but I didn't fully realize this just yet.
"Maybe I can take you..."
Seriously? He called me shortly after arriving at his parents' house to tell me that not only could he take me to Scranton, but his mother also would like to have me over for breakfast!
Marshall picked me up the following morning and drove me to his place to eat with him and his two sisters: pancakes, eggs, strawberries, OJ. After breakfast we headed down to Marshall's music room to practice Lilac Wine, a James Shelton song that Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley also covered, a tune that I play as a gritty blues ballad. I invited Marshall to play it with me at the show in Scranton, knowing full well that he would shred over the solo sections.
We left for Scranton around 3p, arriving at the venue - a great record shop called Embassy Vinyl - at 6:30. There was a raggedy crusty punk sitting on the stage who introduced himself as Matt. I was soon to find that he was actually a pretty great banjo player, as he was one of the members of an opening act. I took the stage around 9p and played to a small crowd, only 4 or 5 kids besides the other musicians. After I played "Yoshimi Battles the Pick Robots," Matt brought me a cell phone with his girlfriend on the other line. Apparently, Yoshimi is her favorite song and I was flattered as she told me also that she preferred my version to the Flaming Lips'!
I had contacted a CouchSurfer, Charlotte, to book the show. She was extremely gracious and helpful, given the short notice: she found the venue and the supporting acts and communicated well with me; but she had also told me from the start that she could not provide the couches to sleep on. Unfortunately, since I was already on the road at the time, I never got around to finding myself a play to lay my head. So I finished up my set, packed my gear, and began trying to secure couches for the night. Marshall and I asked the other folks at the show, having little luck. We were only invited to hang at one girl's house, but we would not be able to sleep there. Still she offered her curb, where we could park Marshall's minivan and sleep therein somewhat safely. We also brought Matt along with his banjo and bicycle.
The girl brought us some glasses of water and left rather abruptly, leaving us sipping on the front porch til she got back.
"If I'm not back in ten minutes, I probably got in an accident."
Marshall got into some important talks with his parents on the phone so Matt and I had a chance to talk for a while, a bit of a heart-to-heart. Matt is a good kid who possibly grew up too fast, has a great heart, many troubles, and happens to be in a couple precarious existential positions. I did my best to listen and love on him throughout that conversation and I pray that he'll be able to navigate through these trying times!
Marshall got our attention after about a half hour to inform us that the girl had been in a car accident! Not knowing where she was or whether there was anything we could do to help, we resolved to simply bust out our instruments and have a blues/bluegrass jam on the front porch to kill time. We enjoyed ourselves so much that Matt commented:
"It sucks you guys are leaving tomorrow. There's a big Italian festival this weekend and tomorrow's First Friday. There will probably be a lot of people around... we'd probably make good money busking."
Marshall and I hardly needed further convincing. I had planned to hitchhike back to NYC, but I figured I could probably just take a bus later in the day and still arrive on Friday night. So we locked the bike up outside and each took up a space in the minivan to sleep, looking forward to a big day of busking.
We went out to get cheap hoagies for breakfast and buy my bus ticket for 3:25p. We then spent the rest of the day street performing, the three of us jamming on blues, bluegrass, rock, and pop tunes. It was a great way to cap off my epic 2010 road tour.
Marshall drove me back to the bus station, where I hopped on the NYC-bound bus, finally on my way back home. When I arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I had an overwhelming sense of home, like I've never felt for any other place. It's good to be back.