Join us as good son shares a crazy story about being on tour.


In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, the alternative artist, good son, shares one of his stories from being on the road. You can check out the story below:

After college, I moved back home to the north suburbs of Chicago and started a band called Hemmingbirds with my friends Tim (guitar), Matt (bass), and Zach (drums). As recent college graduates, we wanted to give “the band thing” a real go and resist any transition into the real world. This band was our pipe dream, and we worked measly jobs while funneling all our time and resources towards becoming something. We were very green, both as a band and as twenty-somethings. But it was that naivete that let us dream the big things while blinding us from seeing the little things.

It was our dream to play the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) in Austin. Filled with legendary and rising acts, SXSW felt like it would be a major milestone and a breakout moment if we performed there. After a couple years together, when we felt confident enough to apply to SXSW, we were rejected. The disappointment stung, but we heard about a 3rd party festival in Austin that happens concurrently with SXSW. It’s like you’re playing SXSW, but you’re not officially playing SXSW. The downside was that it was pay-to-play, which is a highly discouraged strategy for artists.

But as we grew envious of our friends’ bands who were accepted and taking the pilgrimage down south, the 3rd party pay-to-play festival suddenly seemed more alluring. After all, it’d be a crucial steppingstone. We paid the promoter, found a surprisingly affordable hotel right outside of Austin, and packed my 2007 Ford Explorer to the brim with the four of us and our gear inside. The dream was on.

We drove 18 hours straight from Chicago to Austin, taking shifts driving and breaking only for food or gas. By the morning, we were no longer surrounded by cornfields but instead immersed in the hot, humid, clay hills of Austin.

Our first stop was to check in at our hotel. The concierge looked at our reservation. I watched his face change to frustration as he told us that the booking site we used overbooked their hotel. They would not honor our reservation, even though I explained that it would be impossible for us to find another hotel during SXSW with our budget. Using our rolodex of band friends, we eventually split a hotel with another band. One hotel room, two full-size beds, and eight full-size people. Crisis mildly averted.

We unloaded and headed into the city. Austin during SXSW was everything we thought it would be. Free beer, free shows, celebrity sightings - a free Jack White show with John C. Reilly casually hanging out afterward in the empty venue. Bands usually play multiple shows during SXSW to justify their trek. We just booked that one show, and, at that point, it was mostly in the back of our minds.

On the morning of the show, we packed our gear and parked a half-mile from the venue before splitting off individually - we wanted to explore our own versions of Austin. But as our set time neared, Tim was nowhere to be seen. Nor was he reachable. Frustrated, we loaded our gear into the venue without him.

As I checked through my guitar setup, I realized that I had left all my effect pedals back at the hotel. These pedals were integral to my guitar tone and our sound. By then, 60 minutes remained before our set started. No guitarist. No pedals. As the clock ticked, Matt and I booked it back to the car and started speeding toward the hotel.

It turns out that a fast-growing city, like Austin, has quite the traffic. We gave up on the highway and improvised a route, taking frontage roads next to the highway. Genius, I thought. Turns out, these frontage roads don’t hug the highway like suburban Chicago. They just…kind of meander. More minutes lost.

Half an hour passed. The stress and fear compounded. My mind spiraled towards the possibility that all this time and energy we spent to get here and play this show, might all be wasted. Finally, after a confusing detour, we made it to the hotel. Right as we pulled in, a familiar, long-haired, musician-looking dude walked across the parking lot.

“Hey…isn’t that Tim?” Matt asked.

It was. We yelled over to him. He jumped in the car, explaining that his phone died, and he basically accepted that he wasn’t going to play this show. Had we arrived one minute earlier or later, we would have missed each other. By sheer luck, every mismanaged minute fatefully led us to reunite.

We arrived right as our set time started. We had forty minutes for our set. Any time spent setting up now ate into it. With every piece of gear finally plugged in and ready to go, the sound guy gave us the thumbs up. We had 25 minutes left in our set. Now it was all muscle memory. We raced through as many songs as we could, improvising a set list to squeeze in all ‘our hits.’

The performance itself was unremarkable. I mean, it was cool. Despite our late start, the crowd was into it, and we played well. As the show passed, I thought I’d find some gratifying validation for reaching that steppingstone, but the feeling never came.

And as Hemmingbirds grew, and we hit more milestones, that void persisted. We broke up 8 years ago. When I look back, it wasn’t the show itself that I fondly remember - it was the series of events that constantly teetered toward catastrophe. My fondness comes from the idiocy and determination I shared with my closest friends as we jerry-rigged a dream show together. Over the years, I’ve learned that I don’t really love touring. It can be isolating and anxiety-inducing. But Hemmingbirds’ first and only ‘SXSW tour’ is one I’ll always lovingly remember.

Keep up with good son on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.