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Carlsbad Caverns on the McDonald's Wall (03.30.2019) 

An email popped up from my dad: “Dave, I read your Twitter, take a break, read some Steinbeck”. A few weeks later a package came from him with the book Roads by Larry McMurtry enclosed. I think my Dad sent me the book because he felt my road trip from Albuquerque to Atlanta was significant, like my own little Travels with Charlie or Log from the Sea of Cortez experience. 

The lure of the road was percolating in my mind in my own way, as I had already been strategizing how I could use music to visit communities on the way from Albuquerque to Atlanta. I wanted to get gigs along the route and I’d call it the Headed Down South Tour. The copy of Roads sat at the corner of my coffee table while I planned it out. 

I formed a “two weeks on, two weeks off” approach to music which was centered around the only consistent gig I had-- a monthly event I put together at Tractor Brewery. I began to release a new song each month on social media, timing the release with the announcement of the next date of the event. The songs were recorded using a low budget home recording studio I put together and the release was plastered on social media with $20 to $40 dollars thrown down on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads. The song was essentially released at the onset of the “two weeks off” phase, when I would hibernate and write a new song which would be played aggressively to the public two weeks later. My goal was to get the song in as many ears as possible. 

By keeping track of the number of times I played in public and the reach of the song on social media, it seemed reasonable that 2000 people could hear at least a small portion of each new song. I’ve heard that you need to get your music in front of 100k people to develop a strong fan-base, so at 2k people per month I should reach 100k in five years (#theydidthemath). 

During a caffeinated lunch break at work I felt pressed to see Carlsbad Caverns before moving out of New Mexico. I searched the internet for breweries or bars in Roswell and Carlsbad that I could potentially play at. It would be a mini practice Tour for the Headed Down South Tour that I was hoping to put together. 

A few weeks later I slipped out of work on a Friday with a Twisters breakfast burrito in one hand and the steering wheel in the other on my way to Roswell. Things were already off to a good start--I didn’t spill any of the burrito on my performance shirt. 

The first thing I did when I got to Roswell was take video footage of all the green alien statues that pop up along Main Street. I’d use the footage for a music video for my new song “Funky Patriotism” (link below). After shooting video, I was asked on a date by a sixty year old waitress at a New Mexican restaurant. 

I made it to Black Cock Brewery forty-five minutes before the start time of my gig. I setup my new equipment and strummed some chords to get the crowds attention, then talked to them briefly over the mic. There was a group from Texas and another group with a woman who took offense to my mention of “seeing aliens” in Roswell. “We have much more than aliens,” she said, “my family has been here farming and raising cattle for a hundred years.” Next time I have a gig in a small city I’ll be sure to comment on all the cows I see when I’m driving in. 

 “We think the aliens are fine,” my AirBnb hosts told me over coffee the next morning in their living room.  After thinking about it a few more days, I decided that Roswell needed to double down on the aliens and embrace them even more. If my video pisses the Roswell people off then so be it, you’re not doing anything interesting unless you’re pissing people off. 

I wrapped up the gig with confidence about continuing to book more gigs. The Brewery was interested in having me back in June for what would so far be the second stop on my Headed Down South Tour. The crowd at the gig was smaller than I expected, but they were respectful and there were many points throughout the night where they were engaged with my music. 

I was unable to book a gig the next night in Carlsbad, but I found an open mic at a brewery instead. The brewery had a young crowd and I caught a few glances from attractive women while wondering around trying to find a place to sit. I grabbed a beer and sat by myself at a large round table and started talking to a guy at another table with half a pint of beer from the last dregs of the keg. The beer had lost carbonation and the guy had decided to just sit and stare at it instead of getting it replaced with another one. After his friend joined him they asked me to join at their table and I soon learned that his boss had committed suicide. 

The host was still chatting at a table when I finished the third song in my set, so I announced “I guess I’ll play another song”. After my fourth song the host was still lost in conversation so I shrugged and said “nobody’s telling me to stop”. The bartender gave me a “chop off your neck” sign, which seemed like a less than gentle way of letting me know what I already knew—my turn was up. 

I slipped out of the brewery to get food at a McDonald’s a few blocks away. The girl behind the counter robotically took my order and I sat and drank a soda while staring at an image of Carlsbad Caverns pasted across the wall.

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