Videos by American Songwriter
Critically-acclaimed indie rockers The Giving Tree Band are touring behind their latest album, The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious (Crooked Creek Records). Philip Roach is the band’s violin player. Read the first installment of their ongoing tour diary here.
It is just after midnight and we are driving out of Fort Collins and according to the GPS, we’ve climbed a good 2000 feet since leaving town. It’s bizarre and beautiful to see the dark outline of the mountain ridges in contrast to the bright moonlit sky. We’ve only been in the van for half an hour or so, but in that time we have left civilization behind for what now looks like a scenic tour on a lunar landscape. It’s mind-blowing and totally comfortable at the same time. And I’m surprised at how often I feel this way.
I think that after a certain length of time, living out of a suitcase can teach you an extremely valuable (albeit, forced) lesson in the transience of things. Not just things, but places, people, emotions, whatever. We’re never in one town too long, and while that doesn’t mean we don’t fall in love with places and friends along the way, it means we just learn to let go as we move ahead. I’m not sure if that sounds cold or aloof, but I can say that it is neither. It just is what it is.
I had a case of geographic vertigo last week. I was working in a coffee shop in Columbia, MO, and Scott and I were sharing a cup of good coffee. By sharing, I mean that he politely swilled his entire cup within 60 seconds so that I could take the cup back to the carafe for a refill. And then this cycle repeated two or three times. Now, while this practice can be a great team-building exercise in sharing, budgeting, and salivary trust, it can also leave you with an out-of-body experience complete with heart palpitations, irritability, agitation and paranoia. Of course, that is exactly what happened. I had a minor freak-out because I realized that my sense of time was becoming totally distorted. As I stared in a wide-eyed trance at my computer screen, I became convinced that we had been there for at least an hour, but in reality it was only 20 minutes. So, to regain my temporal footing and claw my way back to sanity, I decided to piece together my day from morning until that moment. And my day started with harvesting vegetables in Clarkesville, MO.
We have a friend named Mike Brabo who owns and operates Vesterbrook Farm. It is always a pleasure to see him, and when we pass through the area, he lets us stay with him and his wonderful family, and we get to help with the farm work. Working on that farm was easily one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t know how I, along with most of my generation, came to be so disconnected from our food sources. As a child, I wasn’t raised on processed foods, but still, I always thought food just came from the store. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started reading some Michael Pollan books that I started to question my views on the foods I was eating, and where they came from.
I realized during the first visit to Mike’s farm that I could read all I wanted to on the subject, but the actual act of weeding tomatoes, harvesting snap peas, pulling potatoes, packing CSA boxes, and setting up a farmer’s market was more educational than the previous year of reading. And to compound that excitement, everything grown on the farm is done so in an organic and environmentally responsible way. I’ve read about other people having similar ‘eureka’ moments when getting their hands dirty from working on farms, but do not take my word for it. Do it. You will never taste a better kale leaf, radish, or arugula bunch than the one you just pulled from the ground.
That morning, as I and some of the others were harvesting pak choy, Mike was showing E. how to use the seed spreader. On the obvious level, I immediately enjoyed the balance at play; one man plants while another harvests. But as the days have passed since, that memory has taken root like a seed sprouting in my brain.
That same day, as we arrived in Columbia, MO after leaving Vesterbrook, we all piled into one of our favorite restaurants. They always use local, organic food, and while I always thought that this practice was great because of the health benefits I would receive as a consumer, I now had realized a deeper appreciation of what was at play. That restaurant was supporting some farmer just like Mike, who intentionally chooses to operate his farm in an organic and sustainable way. I guess I always knew this, but now I know one. I know his family who stays up late packing CSA shares and then wakes up at 4 a.m. to drive to market. Any farmer anywhere has a tough time, and this news is not new. But organic farmers have it the toughest, and in my opinion, I think they are some of the most badass people on the face of the earth.
As we travel, we try to never forget this. That seed of thought that was planted at Mike’s has since been cultivated into energy that we’ve used in our traveling, working and performing. And in turn, we plant that seed by using the energy from it in the same manner in which it was planted in us. It means we are going to support the local, independent organic farmer. It means we are going to support the small, boutique amplifier company. It means we are going to have our instruments made by a luthier who uses sustainable techniques. It means we will always choose to make our transactions with people who have a deep passion for what they create, and stand behind everything that they produce. And why do so? Because we are a small, albeit growing, independent, passionate American band, who have no end in sight for everything we are going to accomplish.
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The Giving Tree Band Tour Dates
30 -San Francisco, CA, Kimos
06 – Chicago, IL – Mayne Stage
13 – Urbana, IL – Canopy Club
04 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Bluegrass And Blues Fest
10 – Lansing, MI – Mac’s Bar