Road Postcards are a (hopefully) recurring series of random thoughts, details, and anecdotes from a recent road trip, most likely to see a concert. They are shorter (if not necessarily short), looser, and less fussed over than a typical DAE post/review. Some days it’s hard to tell whether I write in order to justify staying busy with events and such, or whether I frequent movies and concerts in part to have something to write about. Thankfully, there is no day on which the distinction particularly matters.
For those travelers among us who cherish and adhere to the American Interstate Highway system, Noblesville, Indiana’s remote Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center* might as well exist on another planet. I checked into the super-cheap, get-what-you-pay-for Red Roof Inn in Richmond without quite realizing/remembering just how far away, and at what a cockeyed, time-traveling, perception-bending angle, the stupid amphitheater exists from the interstate until I was already in motion. The much discussed rain never quite materialized as a threat to the event, but that didn’t stop me from driving through abrupt, percussive squalls of it as I wound my way farther into Cambodia, or the Russian Steppe, or wherever the hell in Eastern Indiana you are as the road fatefully leads up and away from I-70 West. There was also a moment late in the DMB set where the sky pulsed with light hidden behind thunderheads to such a degree that I thought the Mortal Kombat II logo might spontaneously appear in the western sky.
*Catchy, eh? I’ve seen The Dave Matthews Band at this place enough in just ten years (including one you can read more about here) that I’ve already witnessed its naming rights change three times. Hard to imagine that sponsoring a perfectly nice but otherwise nondescript music venue flanked by acres of parking almost literally indistinguishable from the same undeveloped landscape in Earth’s Precambrian era wouldn’t bring the sort of explosion in name recognition that would be an investment worth re-upping after four years.
At nearby Deer Creek Brewery, the friendly bartender provided free trash bags suitable for utilitarian seating to a pair of girls with lawn tickets while monitoring the sub-Rorschach weather patterns on his Android app. The brewery itself was a neat, cozy room nestled behind an impressive marquee, boasting about eight homegrown beers and one guest tap if memory serves, including the smooth and delicious Dirty Helen Brown Ale, which I heard not only placed third in a state competition a few years back but, based on first impressions and my hilariously limited experience with Indiana craft beers, should’ve probably won in a walk. I hated to drink only one and not the proverbial one for the road, but I had places to be. Deer Creek is a homey, nifty, busy beer lounge on a normal night, I’d think, but as the bartender told me with an inferred shrug, this was a “concert night”. I thanked him and told him I hoped to return some time soon.
Normally, I head for the exits right as the encore’s second song begins, but last night at DMB in an Indiana cornfield that somehow seems to get more remote each time I visit, I was pretty well hemmed into the middle of my row and, sandwiched by spastic jocks and twirling bohemians, unable to make my typical clean retreat. There were perks to sticking until the bitter end, however. For one, “Two Step” and “Ants Marching” combined for an even better encore than the opening pair of “Too Much” and “Louisiana Bayou”, soon to be reinforced by a truly epic, approximately 82-minute version of “Crush”, did. The biggest deal was that I finally got to witness how the departed Boyd Tinsley’s flashy fiddle solo at the end of “Ants Marching” has been revamped for their updated lineup: as a carousel of blistering one-bar trade-offs between trumpet, organ, soprano sax, and electric guitar, with each player trying without trying to one-up his predecessor. It was terrific, as was the show in general, the tightest 150 minutes I’ve seen from the band in a good while. Granted, I was jonesing in particular and in vain for “The Last Stop”, which in approaching thirty-five concerts, I’ve still only seen live once, and would’ve loved a deeper cut from Under the Table and maybe that show-stopping cover of Prince’s “Sexy MFer” as the cherry on top, but alas. DMB usually plays back-to-back nights in Noblesville, presumably because they can’t reliably find their way out the corn maze either, and I can only assume some of the missing jewels from my ideal setlist materialized on night one instead.
Obviously, sitting in the grass parking lot for 45 minutes watching cars idle as they jockeyed for position in a line that went absolutely nowhere was a drag, but I did get to witness some stirring/pitiful human drama while I waited. Blocking my path into stalled traffic was an SUV that looked more like an armored personnel carrier. Directly in front of it “stood” an incredibly drunk lady, checking her phone and intermittently swaying in the mild breeze like tipsy modern sculpture. Turns out she was running interference while her friends (theoretically) backed out into the line of cars in front of this SUV. This was an impressively thought out plan, though the execution was a bit lacking. You never can predict the human element. Now, I can’t be entirely sure because I zoned out more than a few times waiting for traffic to unsnarl, but, after five minutes of stasis, I think I witnessed the SUV actually physically attempt to “gently” nudge this woman out of the way, bumper to butt. Yes, it was a classic, if shocking, “hit-and-stay”.
The woman was momentarily indignant, yelled something I didn’t catch, then simply turned back around, still in place, and returned to her phone. Approximately ten minutes later, when the car in front of her had finally inched forward enough for her to get bold, she beckoned her friend to back up and of course he crunched into the front bumper of the SUV/APC, leaving a dent in his own rear bumper that a soup kitchen could use to feed the homeless, while extracting zero toll whatsoever from the APC. The guys in the SUV didn’t even get out of the car, they were so amused/unconcerned. The lady drunkenly surveyed the damage and conveyed it to the driver, who also did not get out of his car, apparently chalking it up to the price of leaving the Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center (catchy, eh?). Ten minutes after this dustup, the line finally moved in earnest. Five minutes after that, so did I. People-watching is a big part of any DMB show, and patience remains a virtue, folks. It sure beats a $500 repair bill.
This trip was a deceptively long haul. I had a perfectly agreeable dinner/breakfast post-midnight snack at Denny’s – killer pancakes, though not all the meat was initially identifiable by taste alone – and, by returning to the Richmond Red Roof, deferred the final two hours of my journey back to Central Ohio for (later) that now-same morning. I didn’t wait long at all to get underway, and, as predicted, those four hours of sleep were a real boon to my travels. Even better was the choice, about a half hour outside Columbus, to debut a homemade playlist of polkas by “Weird Al” Yankovic that I call Polkavania! (See you Wednesday in Dayton, buddy!) I felt unreasonably happy to be out driving at 8:30 on a Sunday morning.
I slept in my own bed from, let’s say, 9:30 til’ 1:00.