Beams with their eighth and newest member, Johnny Sunshine

Road Test Fest Recap

We just came back from a sweet Road Test Fest, maybe one of the longest ones we’ve done in a while, but it seemed short to me! The van held up well, and fit all of our stuff (just barely), so it gets a pass. Here’s a recap, if you have a little time on your hands to get a glimpse into Beams’ life on the road.

Fri, Feb 17th: We load up the new van. Keith loads it up, that is. He tetris’s the pieces in what seems like the only way they’ll fit, though it’s his first try and he’s sure he can optimize it further. We all wonder how the border will be, but we are prepared and it’s fine. Heather and Dave bring along some exercise gear so that we don’t turn into lumps of mush in the van. Lots of road test wins.

We drive straight to Peach’s bar and grill (confirming our show for the next night on the way, because sometimes that’s how booking is). Peach’s is one of our new homes away from home. We eat delicious food and then play two sets. At the end of the second set, I tell everyone, “all right, have a good night!” and Craig says “she’s just kidding – we’ll be back for another set!” and I say “Craig’s crazy, we’re done. Good night!” and then I realize that we actually do have to play a third set. The crowd had been growing during the evening and after a little break we play a third set to a fun crowd (including our friend Jordan from the Turbos, Cbus represent!) who are excited to see what we can pull out of the hat.

Dave with his mandolin in front of the stage at Peach's.
Dave ready to hit the stage at Peach’s.

Sat, Feb 18th: We wake up sort of early to head back north to Cleveland. The booker at Wilbert’s has added us to a bill with our friend Lea Marra’s band The Tom Katlees. They feed us too, and treat us well, and add us to their list of Canadians who have played Wilbert’s. The band after us is a sweet band from the west coast called Trapdoor Social, who tour with a solar-powered trailer full of generators for playing pop-up shows. After the show, Lea invites us back to her family’s home where her mom has a feast laid out for us. We all crash on the floor and when we wake up six hours later we feast again. Some of the sweetest sweetness lives in Chardon, Ohio.

Beams with Lea and her mom in Chardon
Just woke up and ready to hit the road! Photo by Heather.

Sun, Feb 19th: After the aforementioned feast in Chardon, we take off for Chicago, where we hang out with friend and musician Karl Neurauter. Mike, Karl and I go check out the Trews at Schuba’s on a whim while the rest of the band plays Euchre in Karl’s apartment. The sleeping arrangements there are cozy and hilarious.

Screen grab of Karl's Instagram photo of our sleeping arrangements
Thanks to Karl for grabbing this shot of our sleeping quarters! Photo by Karl.

Mon, Feb 20th: Wake up and go to Janik’s! Seriously, as we have mentioned before, you must go there if you’re in Chicago. After breakfast we spend the day sort of doing our own things, hanging out at the CME, going for beer, peering into the window of the new furniture store that used to be SOMA (sigh). Finally, it’s showtime at the Burlington Bar. It’s worth shouting out to Matt Kusenko for helping us get the gig after he did our sound at the Township last year. I’m impressed by the lineup that Vito, the booker, created: Beauty School, Fox and the Acres, and Impulsive Hearts. It’s cool playing on a bill that just happens to be all female-fronted, but isn’t advertised as such. At some point someone confuses Carl the bag with Karl the human and we decide that Carl the bag needs his own Twitter account.

Beams standing in front of what used to be SOMA
Standing in front of what used to be SOMA, where we recorded our 7″.

Tues, Feb 21st: Most of us break our fast at a very tasty metal-themed burger joint called Kuma’s Corner. On his recommendation we eat the chicken and waffles “Sourvein” burger, except for Martin, who has a Mac n’ Cheese to try and tone down on the ridiculous meat consumption that often accompanies eating along the interstate. Stuffed, we make our way to the Comet in Cincinnati, who also make sure that we don’t go hungry. Tonight we are opening up for Brianna Kelly, who blows our minds, I can’t wait til she records her current project. Thanks to Nancy P for hooking it up!

Menu from Kuma's
Menu from Kuma’s

Wed, Feb 22nd: We eat a diner breakfast at a place called “Anna’s“, which I appreciate, and we meet Dana, who everyone calls Anna, and since I’m guessing she must be around 80, we assume that she’s The Anna. Afterwards we head south, through Kentucky. We stop in Nashville to record in the little booth at Third Man Records, eat some delicious pizza, and hang out with Scott and Braden Cameron. We drive on to Memphis to walk down Beale street (a bit of a ghost town on a Wednesday night in Feb, but still interesting), and sleep somewhere just across the Arkansas state line.

Anna posing with the menu from "Anna's"
Anna’s side business.

Thurs Feb 23rd: We drive through Arkansas to Oklahoma, which feels really cool and weird to me, knowing that I’m going to see some of my family, not sure exactly who, but it ends up being two of my uncles, my mom, my sister, her husband, and their new baby. We don’t see each other very often, and every time we do almost seems surreal, like a snapshot, that weird feeling when you’re trying to commit something to memory at the same time as it’s happening and there are a million things to say but there’s no time to communicate much more than “holy crap, we’re both in the same room!” After a good taco meal at Jose’s, We set up in this tiny room at The Branch, a really nice little place. I get to play songs about my family straight to them, and songs about me, and then we all hang out at my uncle’s cabin and eat food. It’s a head trip and I’m so glad that Joe Mack (a local musician) put it together for us.

Anna and her family at the Branch
The whole fam damily! (Sort of)

Fri, Feb 24th: We wake up, have a very tasty homemade breakfast and take off. We drive south through eastern Oklahoma down ’til we see the Welcome to Texas: “Drive friendly – The Texan way” sign. The roads approaching Dallas are insane. The HOV lane is a single lane with medians on both sides where it feels like if Keith sneezes we will crash for sure, but we don’t, because he is somehow capable of controlling his sneezes. We load into this office building with a nice view of the skyline and get our bearings for the SoFar Sounds show. We don’t have to change our set up very much, just play a little quietly. We’ve never played one before but as soon as we start I feel super comfortable with everyone sitting, listening, and watching. Even though we only play four songs, the audience is great and engaged and it ends up being one of the highlights for me. Oh, and at some point the audience names the new van “Johnny Sunshine”, a fine name for a hard workin’ lady if you ask me, with the shortened form being “Sweet Janna”. After the show some friends of Martin’s invite us to stay with them and when we get to their place there is (you guessed it!) a feast waiting, this time of tacos and beer. Oh, and puppy love.

Beams at Sofar DFW
Beams at SofarDFW

Fri Feb 25th: Carrie makes us Migas and sends us off nice and full to Austin. We check out Tears of Joy (hot sauce shop), eat at Stubbs BBQ, and then after load-in we kill a bit of time walking down Sixth St. The show itself is good, it’s a bit chilly outside but people brave it to see Paris Falls, us, and Moving Panoramas in front of a sweet rock face. Cheer Up Charlies is a venue slightly off the main path but still close to 6th, very friendly and inclusive, with delicious cocktails. There are two bands playing the indoor stage after us, but we miss them because we have to start driving home so people can make it back to work on Monday.

Beams playing at Cheer Up Charlies
Photo by Leslie from Moving Panoramas

Keith drives through the night, and I ride shotgun, shovelling Fritos and gummies to stay awake, and try not be totally hypnotized by the prairie highway. Keith does a better job of staying awake than I do, but I’m awake for most of it, including the Texas sunrise, which doesn’t last long enough. So beautiful. Keith, Craig and Mike take turns driving. We stop at Yat’s in Indianapolis for dinner because it happens to be very much on our way (yay!), and make it home in the early morning on Monday, safe and sound. Our road test came back with flying colours – the van travelled about 6000-7000km in ten days, without leaking any oil, without losing any pieces, and without the doors bursting completely open on the highway.

I hope you click on the links of the bands that I mentioned in here, and if you’re in the cities where we’ve played, check out some of the places that we went!

Thanks for reading!

Here are some more pics.


Craig, Heather and Mike exercising near the van at a truck stop
Truck stop workout.
Mike with two copies of Jerry MaGuire, which he's collecting for Everything Is Terrible.
Mike found some Jerrys!
Picture of the Chicago skyline from the highway
Driving into Chicago
Craig and Keith playing a game of Cornhole on the street
Craig and Keith playing street Cornhole
Dave and Martin in Chicago
Beams has nice teeth (Dave and Martin do, anyway)
Dave in Chicago
Fuzzy Dave taking a signature Chicago Selfie
Craig and Keith in Chicago
Craig and Keith watching what is probably a Sports Game at Karl’s
The Empty Bottle coffee table book
Mike is happy to finally own this book!
Guitar wall at CME
Wall of Les Pauls (and a couple of floating Firebirds) at the CME
Keith in Chicago
Keith standing near a sweet speaker – those things spin! Heather and Anna found out and got in trouble
Keith and Anna at Third Man Records
Tuning up to go into the little booth at Third Man Records in Nashville
Anna and Heather getting ready to record "You are an Ocean" in Nashville
Anna and Heather getting ready to record “You are an Ocean” in Nashville
Anna playing a banjo at Carter vintage guitars
Anna playing a very, very expensive banjo. It sounds nice, as it should.
Beams walking down Beale St.
Beams walking in Memphis with their feet on Beale
Scenery photo
Somewhere in the prairies, possibly Arkansas
Beams and family in Oklahoma
Keith, Dave, Martin, Uncle David, Anna, Anna’s mom, Mike, and Heather in Tahlequah, OK
Welcome to Texas sign
A big claim from the State of Big Things
Part of a camper along with some scenery
A panorama discovery by Anna
Shot from the balcony in Dallas
Dallas skyline by Mike
Sleeping with kitty blankets
Anna having a cat nap, by Heather
Anna standing with a palm tree
Anna and her first palm tree, by Mike


Beams in Austin
Heather, Anna and Craig stoked on Austin
Photo of an active musician loading zone sign in Austin
If only our “music city” had signs like this!
Photo of the beginning of the sunrise in Texas
Texas sunrise