Campbell Youngblood-Petersen

NYC based Composer, Drummer, and Percussionist

Blood Witch Tour Days 18-21: Ice Age and The End of all Things

We are Vajra. We are the bringers of ice.

As we finish up the last leg of Vajra's #bloodwitchtour, I find myself reflecting on what has been one hell of a tour. The initial adversity dealing with a record breaking winter storm in NYC set the stage for the whole tour, and it seemed to bring the cold with us wherever we went. To be fair, it is winter, but residents of CA, NM, TX, KS, TN and NC all said it was much colder (or more snowy) than they were used to, and it always seemed to happen just in time for our arrival! 

Ganesha watched over us from the dash through it all! Photo credit: Max Sequeira

Ganesha watched over us from the dash through it all!

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

On Wednesday we rolled in to the legendary music town of Memphis, TN. In caseload  you're unfamiliar with the history, Memphis has produced many pioneers of music including Aretha Franklin, BB King, and Elvis Presley. It was also home to the legendary Stax records, especially know for its 1960s period with Booker T. and the M.G.'s as the house band. Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee, and second to Nashville as the largest metropolitan area. Upon arriving, we immediately went to Beale street: a famous, historic district in the city. Beale street felt similar to Bourbon street in New Orleans; music, art, and culture just oozing out of every corner. After enjoying some southern cooking, we took a drive past Graceland, and played a fun gig at Rockhouse Live. 

Dave, Annamaria and Max chillin' near Beale street in Memphis Photo credit: Max Sequeira

Dave, Annamaria and Max chillin' near Beale street in Memphis

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

The next morning we awoke to the news that our Clarkseville show (just outside of Nashville) had been cancelled, and we had been added to a bill in Knoxville last minute. This threw a bit of a wrench in our plans, as our awesome sound person Chris was set to fly out of Nashville the next night. Unfortunately, this meant we had to drop Chris off in Nashville that night (giving her a 24 hour wait for her flight) and continue on to our show in Knoxville without her. Serious bummer! As seems to always be the case, everything worked out in the end. Chris got back to LA, and we made it just in time for our gig at Open Chord/All Things Music in Knoxville.

Open Chord/All Things Music Photo credit: Max Sequeira

Open Chord/All Things Music

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

The two guys running sound at Open Chord were a father/son duo who could not of been  more friendly, passionate folks. As we rolled up to the venue, the son immediately greeted us with a huge smile, helping us get quickly situated. We literally loaded our gear from the van to the stage, and despite not having Chris, were able to quickly get great sound with the father/son duo. The father came up afterwards raving, calling out the tantric and Indian influences in the music. In addition to asking us to come back to Knoxville, he suggested we play in Argentina, Brazil, and Europe, where he had both spent lots of time and thought we would have good reception. Thanks guys!

Post Knoxville gig photo shoot   Photo credit: Max Sequeira

Post Knoxville gig photo shoot  

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

We awoke again to some startling news the next day, this time in the form of...wait for it...another snow storm! Knoxville was getting nailed, and residents seemed out of sorts. There were cars on the side of the road, and warnings on the radio. Unfortunately for us, our journey required that we cross the Appalachians to get to our gig in Fayeteville, NC! The roads were pretty bad for awhile, but luckily this storm wasn't nearly as bad as winter storm Jonas. Everything cleared up within a couple of hours, and we were given a beautiful view of the Smoky Mountains. 

The Great Smoky Mountains Photo credit: Max Sequeira

The Great Smoky Mountains

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

When we finally arrived at The Rock Shop in Fayeteville (not to be confused with The Rock Shop in Brooklyn), we were happy to walk into the biggest room of the tour, at least in terms of square footage. The venue was a warehouse with two big stages on either side of the main room, a vert ramp for skateboarding next to one of the stages, and a huge dance floor. 

This was quite an imposing view 

This was quite an imposing view 

The event that night was the two year anniversary of a series called Art Attack featuring live music alongside visual art, skateboarding, and comedy, with the intention of improving the quality of life in Fayeteville. Awesome stuff! 

The uber-creative Vajra merch table diligently put together by Annamaria before every show Photo credit: Max Sequeira

The uber-creative Vajra merch table diligently put together by Annamaria before every show

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

There were three other bands before Vajra, one of which, Last Ditch, was particularly interesting. They had an incredibly unique sound that constantly shifted vibes in an avante-garde manner while still maintaining a progressive rock feel. The frontman/vocalist Dave played a variety of instruments (including one particularly cool looking rainstick), effected his vocals with a plethora of pedals, and at one point even screamed into the microphone wearing a horse head. Metal! I had the chance to talk the drummer Scott beforehand, and was immediately impressed by his attention to detail. Starting with gear, his drumset was huge: 5 toms, 2 bass drums, and 20+ cymbals on a large rack. Despite having such a large kit, he was adamant that every piece of equipment was secondary to his primary goal: serving the song. Scott took incredible care of his equipment. His drums were super shiny, and his cymbals squeaky clean. While I am admittedly of a different mindset in terms of equipment upkeep, I learned a lot from Scotts meticulous approach. On the recording front, Scott did the engineering for the band, and was particular on that front as well. He and Dave put two years into perfecting their latest single before releasing it. Two years! It was very cool to see Last Ditch putting so much thought and effort into everything they did. Keep it up guys!

Sumo Max giving Kevin a lift before the Rock Shop show!

Sumo Max giving Kevin a lift before the Rock Shop show!

The Rock Shop set was the last of our tour, and it was definitely a bittersweet feeling. The energy was intense: reflective, yet triumphant. There were times that the smoke on stage was so thick (from the smoke machine) that I literally could not see my hands, much less my drums or cymbals. At these times I would go into a trance like state, almost an out of body experience. This is an example of music functioning as a path to the one, Annamaria's concept that I expounded upon quite a lot a couple blogs ago. Fun stuff!

This pooch had an omnipotent presence at The Rock Shop Photo credit: Max Sequeira

This pooch had an omnipotent presence at The Rock Shop

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

The #bloodwitchtour was truly an amazing experience. Being on the road can definitely be a grind at times, but getting to drive across the country and back, playing music along the way, is just about as good as it gets. There's nothing quite like it. I am so grateful to Annamaria, Dave, Kevin, Max, and Chris for being wonderful bandmates through it all. Being in a band is truly like having another family, which may actually be the best part of it all. I can't wait to hit the road with Vajra again this summer, and again in the fall. Thank you all for keeping up with us along the way, and if you can, come say hello at a Vajra show in the near future!  

Can you spot the Vaj? Photo credit: Max Sequeira

Can you spot the Vaj?

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

This tour brought to you by Poo-Pourri- seriously in contention to be a future Vajra sponsor, or at least a Dave Sussman personal sponsor! Photo credit: Max Sequeira

This tour brought to you by Poo-Pourri- seriously in contention to be a future Vajra sponsor, or at least a Dave Sussman personal sponsor!

Photo credit: Max Sequeira

Ok, had to go with one last appearance change for the end of the tour...  Photo credit: Max Sequeira

Ok, had to go with one last appearance change for the end of the tour... 

Photo credit: Max Sequeira