Smile Politely

On the road with The Dry Look, part one

The Dry Look kicked off their week-ish long tour late last week, and they check in by providing a tour update. Here’s part one of two, be on the lookout for the second portion early next week after their tour closes out on Friday back home in Champaign at Cowboy Monkey.

Follow along as guitarist Michael Kramer takes us through the first handful of days of tour.

Editor’s Note: While some edits are made on this type of piece, we like to leave them alone as much as possible. It’s kinda better that way, anyhow.


I woke up, stumbled into work, finished up early, picked up new shirts. I left early to hopefully get a head start on packing my luggage — which will potentially enable a head start on packing the van, which will potentially mean we’re out of town earlier than expected, which would be good because I think it’s going to take longer than 4 hours to get to Milwaukee if we hit chicago during rush hour. No one seems to be aware we’re playing Milwaukee tonight, so we will likely be forced to berate press secretary pre-show. We’re playing with Doubletruck and The Stink Lines.

I’ve always imagined Wisconsin as hewn from a single continuously growing lump of cheese that simultaneously nourishes and shelters its residents. Pictures of venue suggest this is not the case — our presence at the venue will likely put this fantasy to rest. I packed all my clean underwear, fourteen socks of roughly the same sizes/shapes, seven shirts, toiletries, laptop/chargers, and a travel chess set. The travel chess set is supposed to keep at least two of us occupied during any given van ride, prevent us from getting too drunk pre-show, encourage time spent satisfying the mind rather than the body. We’ll see how it pans out. I’m not especially hopeful.

The travel chess set — Kramer, left, Ryan Brewer, right


We’re in some coffee shop/restaurant — Ryan used to go to when he lived here. They’ve got The Smiths on. Ibuprofen/water both seem to be kicking in.

Our drive up was hilariously uneventful — tried to read, mostly failed. Some sort of collective human tendency to break silence. It started snowing a couple miles into Wisconsin, I was convinced we’d slide off the road/into a ditch right up until we arrived at the High Dive. No cheese anywhere to be seen. We found a parking spot and took in the ambiance. I tried to pay for a drink with a five and got five singles back because, apparently, bands drink for free. I heard that in the same sort of slow-motion way, people hear about their parents/close friends dying. Vision narrowed to a point, blacked out, life flashed before my eyes, etc. I genuinely thought this was the tour where I was going to turn over a new leaf and begin a life of self-control and restraint: Subscribe to the paper and read it every morning. Get some house plants, water them regularly. Donate to church book sales. Oh well.

Doubletruck at High Dive

The show started almost exactly on time. Stink Lines were much better than I expected. Small bar, so the stage was more of an especially large drum riser/amp stand than a stage, I ended up setting up on the floor in front of the stage, plugged pedals/amp into a hanging extension cord I jammed into one of the handles on the side of the PA. (There’s nothing worse than not having enough room to move. I can’t fully occupy the moment if you have to restrain yourself from hitting the wall/audience/other band members.) Set went shockingly well relative to rehearsal, and the bar ambiance/free drinks had pretty clearly put us in the right mindset. We finished up, loaded out while the next band (Doubletruck, fantastic BTO cover mid-set, good band generally) played, I split off from the rest of the group and went to a bar with an old friend. I definitely drank the better part of two pints of vodka soda, definitely met up with the band at another bar, was definitely too timid to beg the bartender for water in a vessel larger than the child’s sippy cup she provided me with, definitely stumbled back to someone’s place. It seemed like the party was going to keep going, so I found a bed to sleep in and passed out as soon as I possibly could. I woke up in a beautifully decorated apartment, showered, made the bed, wrote the “thank you” note.

New Order is on now. The ibuprofen is working. Detroit’s next.


We’re in the van on the way to chicago. Tyler bent his e-cigarette. He claims he did it on purpose. I don’t have a cold, really. It’s more like someone replaced the patch of flesh right behind my uvula with a piece of emery cloth.

We opted to take the highway instead of a ferry — a horrible mistake. Highways don’t have bathrooms, you have to pull over and go in a gas station, awkward small talk with the cashier, someone’s always in there longer than you thought you were going to be. More importantly, after one particular break, we drove over a metal rod (looked like a pegboard rod) that pierced the tire/made some godawful noises banging against the wheel-well. We pulled off to the side of the road. We were having trouble getting the tire iron on the lug nuts, so Nico/Tyler/yours truly initially tried to walk into what appeared to be a warehouse stocking performance auto parts. There weren’t any cars in the lot, so we just walked up the highway/under the onramp to the gas station we’d all just stopped at. The cashier recognized us. They didn’t sell anything you might potentially use to replace/repair a tire. By the time we got back, Ryan and Sam had the spare on. We should have taken the ferry.

A small metal rod that popped the tire (above), Sam and Ryan fixing the tire (below)

We arrived at Trixie’s in Hamtramck right when we were supposed to go on. We missed the first band (sorry Toe Heads!!!!!!!!), set up as quickly as we could, launched right into the set. I felt pretty iffy about my playing, everyone else sounded great. My cold/mysterious sinus infection had arrived in full force, turned away from the audience so a single clear drop of mucus could fall out of my nose. Strongly suspect, given later behavior towards me, that the door guy saw. More and more applause at each break/perceived break. I broke a string on the last song, but had time to switch/come back in with the backup guitar. I posted up at the merch table afterwards so Nico could smoke. Watched tie dye tutorials playing on the bar’s television while Heartthrob Chassis played a solid hour of caveman garage bangers.

Heartthrob Chassis (above), the merch table (below), and the band in front of the venue (top photo)

Nico, Sam, and Tyler wanted to keep the party going — I didn’t. I decided to stay with Ryan’s friend instead. The van was still within the Detroit city limits so we had to load everything that could be construed as valuable into the apartment before bed. Two High Lifes and a benadryl talked me into falling asleep on a couch roughly two feet too short for my body. Vivid dream about two horrified cats watching a spider the size of my hand crawl into a hole in my bedroom wall.


I woke up late. Ryan’s friend made a simple/delicious breakfast and the kind of borderline jet-fuel french press coffee I like best. I took a cold shower, sat around talking until everyone there felt up to putting the gear back in the van. We drove to pick up Sam, Nico, and Tyler. I thought we were going to leave immediately right up until we went to the middle eastern restaurant, had a drink at a nearby bar, and only barely vetoed a record store trip. Iggy Pop apparently lived close to the bar, spent a lot of time drinking there, seemed important to commune with his spirit. Their novelty drink called “the Valium” that’s exactly the same shade of institutional blue as valium proper… kind of like a long island with cream. It was much better than it sounded/looked. Crown Liquors in Chicago tonight. We have lots of friends coming. Every single abnormal bump/noise from the van scares me to death, I’m convinced the tire’s going to blow again but this time right in front of a semi that will drag us underneath for a solid couple miles, red stripes and teeth on the highway.

Sam with The Valium drink (above), With our host Erin at the Painted Lady, Hamtramck, MI

Cough drops aren’t food and do very little to alleviate the problem they claim to help with. Money is tight, so giving any of it to those snake oil peddlers is going to come back to bite me later. Card’s going to get declined at Cowboy [Monkey] on Friday or something — I could put that down to the drinking, but I’d much rather blame Halls/Ricola. It is easy to park at Crown Liquors, easy to get everything set up — though my strap button broke and the sound guy fixed it with the sort of panache I reserve for lighting cigarettes with matches. God bless you, dude. Exactly the sort of problem I’m not ready to handle before a show. One of the guitarists in Person (good band, good friends) broke a string near the end of the set… so it felt nice knowing I’m not the only person with that problem.

Person at Crown Liquors


Set was decent almost completely in spite of me. I got the fever sweats about four songs in, and spent the rest of the set warding off the grim specter of death. I missed the next band so I could get to a convenience store. Bought the cough/cold medicine with the protein-bar style packaging, the implication that whatever that punk cold thought it was doing setting up shop in your body, this pill’s going to go in there, flex its biceps, do some muay thai, knock that punk cold right out of you. I had a half-coherent conversation with the kindly cashier. Found a party-free place to stay, slept on my side with both knees bent for the first time in my entire life. Woke up, showered, 1/4 of a cup of throat coat tea before the van rolled up. We picked up Nico at a diner, grabbed bagels, and hit the road.


In the van: Sam’s watching Riff Raff videos, Ryan’s listening to Phosphorescent. I finally took a second and rationally assessed my health issues, realized they’re likely mostly due to excessive drinking/smoking hand-rolled cigarettes whenever possible. Going to exert some willpower and avoid doing either of those things tonight/for the rest of the tour. I wish I was more willing to learn from other people who’ve already made the mistakes I’m making. Getting too lit on tour is the number one thing you’re not supposed to do as a hard-working Professional Musician.

The group consensus is that this is the least auspicious-seeming show to date. We don’t really know anyone in Cincinnati, it’s on a monday night — odds that we’re playing to the other bands and the bartender are higher than a dog running loose in a Colorado dispensary. However, we’re still hopeful.

We got to cincinnati — ashockingly beautiful town. Went into Shake-It Records to pick up the key to the place we’re staying tonight. Spent a solid 1-1.5 hours in Shake-It Records.Wwords on the sleeves/cases started blurring together after about half an hour, so I just sat in the corner and waited on everyone else to finish looking around. We wrapped things up, went to The Comet. There we received free/delicious Mexican food, two unexpectedly nice free beers. (Bell’s! Normally, Bell’s is only free if you crash a grad party!)

Eating tacos at the Comet in Cincinnati, OH

I nursed food/beer and watched Calumet. I don’t think they especially liked being called “Americana” but that’s exactly what they were, and they were fantastic at it. We played, I found my footing about halfway through the set, and ended strong. Looking at the band after us (Happy Little Accidents), I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Two dudes with dreads playing an acoustic guitar/uke and a longshoreman-looking guy on the drums? Wasn’t sure how I was going to go outside and chainsmoke without ruining my lungs for the next month, so I didn’t… the songs were fantastic and I ended up going in/sitting down/watching the whole set. I hope they end up coming through Champaign, they’re great dudes.

We spent the night in a beautiful green house in Covington. Everyone else slept in the heated living room, I took the one available drafty bedroom. It seemed like everyone went to bed as quickly as they could for once. I slept a solid 9 hours, had pizza, got on the road to Nashville. Everyone else has the cold I had two days ago — so we’ll see how we fare.

Ryan and Jerry, at our host Matt’s house outside of Cincinnati


Sam did about an hour of driving before I had to take over, he’s feeling sick and tired. That bodes well. He described the symptoms earlier this morning, and that sounded exactly like my symptoms.

“Minnesota slim Jim’s” (sardines), a nutritious tour snack

Stay tuned for part two of The Dry Look’s Tour Diary next week.

All photos provided by the Dry Look

Related Articles