In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, the indie duo, Ships Have Sailed, shares one of their stories from being on the road. You can check out the story below:
We’ve definitely had some interesting times out on the road over the years, but at this point nothing beats (nor may it ever) being out on the road as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. We were at the very beginning of a southwestern, two-week run with another duo called Quitting Whitney and it was supposed to be the first of about four tour legs that year – this was March of 2020. We’d routed it from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, to Aspen, Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix, San Diego, and then a homecoming show back in Los Angeles at Troubadour which was going to be presented by KROQ (a pretty well-known radio station out here).
There were murmurings about this strange, flu-like bug making its way into the states and some whispers about restrictions and potential quarantine, but we set out on the road regardless after confirming with all the venues that we were a go – but on our way to Las Vegas we did get an email from the staff at Troubadour saying our show would likely have to be postponed because LA had put a pause on events with more than 250 capacity. We figured that was a big city thing and kept our heads pointed towards our first shows.
Vegas was fun! It was 3/11 (they have a big festival where the band 311 performs every year) and we were staying at the same hotel as that show (even though ours was much smaller). It was a good way to knock the dust off, loosen up and get a first show on the books. On to Salt Lake and we got to the venue just to find that their sound system had only had three working channels (it was an 18 input mixer, but most were fried). We cobbled together enough inputs using our own gear and were grabbing a bite before the show when we heard from Aspen – they had experienced a small outbreak and, given the size of that town and the fact it was in the mountains they weren’t taking any chances, everything was shutting down.
Our show in SLC was really fun – lots of people came out and we wound up singing karaoke with the entire bar after the show…and the next morning we got on the road to Denver. It turned into about a 12 hour drive, through southern Wyoming and a big blizzard. We’d rented our van in LA, so snow tires were not a thing and it definitely got scary at times…but we made it through and when we were pulling into our hotel (and back into cell reception) we got an email from our Denver venue (a really cool spot called Ophelia’s) that they would have to cancel our show as well. This was the moment that really told us everything was going sideways. It was a rough couple minutes – we decided to all take a beat, grab a shower, do some thinking and gather downstairs in the restaurant for a beer, a bite, and a tour meeting.
We were all a little down and out – we had worked REALLY hard on this and it was probably the best planned tour any of us had ever put together. To see it fall apart as the result of circumstance was really disheartening, but also we all had families we were going back to – Art had kids, I was married and both Matt and Ryan were living with their girlfriends. When touring you have a LOT of contact with people (especially when you’re sharing a mic for karaoke) and we were worried about bringing something back. Testing was not available in Los Angeles at the time, even for the severely symptomatic, and we also had to factor in that all of our reservations were non-refundable.
We decided that we would just continue on the road and follow our route – we had three days in Albuquerque and had discovered that there were a couple of drive-through clinics there. I had brought a really nice camera with me, and we decided we’d shoot a couple music videos (one for each band), creating treatments while we were en route and capturing the video in Albuquerque and also as part of our journey.
It became a really unique experience and a study in turning a really disappointing situation into somewhat of a win. Both the music videos came out really great – you can see ours here. We were able to get tested in Albuquerque and confirm that we wouldn’t be getting our loved ones sick when we got home.
Along the way, as people heard our story, they found whatever ways they could to be kind and help us out. Our waiter in Denver overheard our band meeting and asked his manager if we could set up a little acoustic happy hour in the bar area the next day – they weren’t able to pay us, but they offered us a free meal and a couple rounds of drinks. We made fans that still follow us to this day. Those types of things continued to happen as we slowly made our way back to Los Angeles and, while it wasn’t always the most comfortable experience and it certainly wasn’t the most successful tour in a traditional sense, it is something that the four of us will remember for the rest of our lives. I’ll speak for myself when I say those memories are mostly fond, and I remain very proud of all of us for how we were able to turn the situation into a moment of resilience and creativity…this is what being an artist is all about.