EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is the largely unedited text submitted by our friend Mark Kramer, otherwise known as Tender Mercy. As the name suggests, Kramer’s music is a work of austere beauty, a sublime meditation on atmosphere building and patience. We asked Kramer to write about his most recent tour, warts and all. Was it boring? Lonely? Did you meet new friends or connect with old? Was the sound person a jerk? Were they attentive to what the musicians needed? Being a musician comes with a lot of invisible demands, and we want to know. Write us here if you have a story to share and read on for Kramer’s travails. Listen to his music below, grab some coffee or something warm in this cool weather, and get mild with us.
TOUR JOURNAL FALL 2017
The view of Tennessee’s lush natural growth alone is well worth the trip down here. One of the upsides to touring for me is the driving. It’s taken me awhile to begin to try to master the art of the wheel, but now that I have I sometimes can’t get enough of it; I’m always learning new things. On this short drive, I’ve discovered the joy of cruise control! The drive to Knoxville has always been one I always look forward to. I love seeing the hills of Tennessee. Tonight’s show is also special in that I get to play with some really great people at a really great place. Daniel, CC and Erica McBride are a wonderful trio of siblings who make up Headface and the Congenitals. Daniel and CC have been staples of the Knoxville DIY scene for years and I have been opening for their bands since I’ve been coming down here. Before playing bass with the Congenitals, Erica opened the show as her solo project Bunny. She accompanied her spoken word with a discarded rack tom muffled with a camo shirt pounded on with a single stick. Headface and the Congenitals were their usual amazing selves! We played at a community center celebrating its 11th year in existence run by a wonderful gentleman named Brian called The Birdhouse.
I didn’t get to see much of Asheville this time through, as I spent a lot of time getting acquainted with the iPad mini I am writing this on. I stayed in the Emilia Earhart Suite of a swell hostel called Bon Paul and Sharkey’s. I did manage to make it to Harvest Records and snag a long sought after Johnny Hartman cd for $3! Tonight’s show was at a recently relocated venue called the Sly Grog Lounge. If you can imagine a more awesome version of Lynn’s se Cafe blowing up all over a bar with a super friendly staff your pretty much there. Played with a couple really excellent songwriters: Livingdog (Corey Palmareto) and Clyde Conwell.
“People loaded on beer/liquor are all shouts, sloppy and vomity. People on wine are like trying to sell you a casket. I mean this in the nicest way possible.”
My first time in Durham and it was great! I love playing in wine bars, because even when people talk they do it discreetly enough that those listening can still listen. I call it “mature talking.” People loaded on beer/liquor are all shouts, sloppy and vomity. People on wine are like trying to sell you a casket. I mean this in the nicest way possible. I opened for the Lambchop-esque dark folk stylings of Evel Arc (Ben Rollins). Ben is as dedicated, sincere and talented as they come and it was a real pleasure to hear and share a stage with him. Also, Louisville’s own Mike Snowden was in town on business and made an appearance. It was great catching up with him!
Charlotte, North Carolina is home to one of the oldest and best venues I’ve ever played called The Milestone Club. They opened their doors in 1969 and continue to operate today. Tons of history in this place. Every punk/hardcore band that has mattered in the past 30 years has played there. No one likes to talk about it, but the least desirable part of touring is the “hurry up and wait”. So after a great afternoon hanging out with Sean Padilla (And his handsome new son Ezra…..high fives Ezra!) who books most of my tours, I pulled up to the Milestone fairly early. No worries. Owner (also plays in Sxt Message) John was on hand to warmly welcome me and after a quick sound check he regaled me with incredible stories of the great bands that have played there. After a great show with The Whiskey Predicament, Dylan Gilbert and JPH (all VERY fine singer/songwriters), Sarah, Dylan and I retired back to Dylan’s where I spent the rest of the night repeatedly tugging a stuffed dog out of a real dog’s mouth (my new friend, Elvis….high fives Elvis!) and throwing it across the room in order to have it brought back to me.
The idle on Mila (my Saturn L200 and every car I’ve owned have been named after Mila Jovovich, because of her eyes) was getting a bit high, so I thought I’d have it looked at when I got to Charleston. As it happens an old friend lives there and suggested I contact her step son about taking a look at it. Although he looks like he’s 12, Theo basically offered to rebuild Mila from the tires to the antenna. I had to pass as my time was limited and he settled for replacing a belt and an axle for next to nothing. Thanks,Theo! I played at a venue set in an industrial park on the north side of Charleston called the Purple Buffalo. Upon my arrival I found out the local band had cancelled, so I played to 2.5 very supportive people.
I met Lebo Jenkins when we shared a couple bills on my last tour. We had a great time and became fast friends. He is great singer/songwriter and a true gentleman. When I told him I was looking for a show in Atlanta, he was quick with an offer to host a show at his house. House shows have been a tradition in this country dating back to at least the 1880’s, if not before. They are great, because you always have the most attentive audiences who want nothing more than to listen. This one was no exception. The bill was filled out with the best Atlanta has to offer in Natalie Jane Hill and MOONboy. A couple added bonuses were getting to go on a hike right out of the car to what was once a —mill whose water once powered the electric light system to the city of Palmetto in 1909.
“One thing the people of New Orleans don’t give much of a fuck about is a hurricane.”
10/9 New Orleans,LA
One thing the people of New Orleans don’t give much of a fuck about is a hurricane. I happened to come across the news that Hurricane Nate was heading for NOLA and would make landfall the night before my show. I messaged the woman who set up the show and she said there was a curfew, but no one seemed too concerned. I liked New Orleans already. The drive to New Orleans was by far the longest of the tour. I generally try and find an NPR affiliate at the top of the hour to listen to the news. The rest of the time I listen to cd’s, scan the dial for oldies (50’s-70’s….not “Classic Rock”) and 80’s radio stations or just listen to what passes as silence. When I got to New Orleans, I met up with Suzanne Baker who not only set up, but was also playing the show. She plays under the title Rattlersnake and primarily sings ballads and folk songs (tonights set included songs by Diane Cluck, Sybil Baier and Zack Kouns) accompanied by her banjo mixed with her own brand of intense/sorrowful songs. Her work is truly inspiring! The show was at a beautiful venue called The Mudlark Public Theatre. The theatre is run by a really creative puppeteer named Pandora who’s immense (almost human size) work hangs from the ceiling and in the corners of the lobby entrance. The man really has a way with the phrase. Also,Simone Maya accompanied by Nick Leo on the bass swooned us with slightly jazz-y West Coast jams. Such a great night!
I was really looking forward to Memphis for a couple reasons 1) I’ve never played there before 2) Much more importantly I was getting to hang out with my nephew Ben. Ben and his family are from Boston, so I didn’t get to see much of him as he was growing up. He is 25 now and I’m happy to report is one of the most considerate, accommodating and gracious people I’ve ever met, and I’m not saying that because his mother (my sister) is reading this. He is really a great guy. I had a day off, so we caught up by taking in the obligatory Memphis tourist trap that is Graceland. The show was at a bar (Growlers) with a lot of big screens playing sports shows, which would normally give me pause, but as I had been in contact with one of the acts on the bill, Josh (aka St.John), I knew there had to be more to this place. St. John is a positive gentleman and his Kid Cudi inspired jams were just what I needed. John Freeman was great as well…quite the soulful and inspiring singer/songwriter. Last was Kake and the Zero Point Star. Also a solo singer/songwriter he really drew me in with his freakish folk sounds. I knew when his first song started off with a sample of a thunderstorm I was in for some unholiness and I was not disappointed! The sound person and staff at Growlers were also top notch gracious!
My appreciation for Missouri wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for Deliah and Hannah Rainey. I first met them in Columbia, MO when they booked a show for me at the infamous Cafe Berlin. They have since moved back to their hometown of St.Louis and the city is all the better for it. For quite some time they have made up the absolutely incredible folk duo (though now a quartet with drums and bass they have turned it up a notch) know as Dubb Nubb. The Rainey sisters are twins so when they combine their voices it’s a real tidal wave of emotion coming from one big voice and given that they know their way around a song big ear worms always come along. Tonight’s show was at a the always welcoming FOAM. Also on the bill was songstress and St.Louis mainstay Cassie Morgan who recently added drums to her usual solo self. In lesser hands a drum kit would have overpowered the sensitive spell that Cassie casts but Melinda’s expertise on the sticks guided the beat through her melodic lines and added another layer of awesome. Then, all the way from Iowa, Elizabeth Moen’s gorgeous voice and her crack team of wunderkinds carefully rocked us, rolled us and everything in between!
Check out a photo album featuring a few pictures Mark took along the way:
Mark’s Tour Playlist:
- Shirley Horn – Loving You
- Jimmy Scott – Very Truly Yours
- Crimpshrine – The Sound Of A New World Being Born
- The Dave Clark Five – Best Of
- Priceless Jazz #4: Johnny Hartman
- Eliot Eidelman – Different Now