I pulled into Sioux Falls around 11:30 and again didn’t have a place to stay. The first thing I was struck by when entering the outskirts of the city was the obvious poverty, and how it clearly ran across racial lines. The city center, specifically one street, had obviously gone through a rehab and was quite pretty. It had your classic coffee shops, galleries, boutiques, and a dive bar that was still holding on to the past. Outside that street though was a less developed city landscape with a population that was obviously not reaping full benefits from the downtown revitalization (at least not yet). And more importantly was most defiantly still living the consequence of colonialism and land grabbing. It was a reminder of the complex history of this country, it’s vastness, and that through all of that we are still all connected in some way. Needing to find a place, I went down to the only bar that was open so I could get a drink, get online, and find myself a bed.
Lucky’s is a beautiful dive bar in it’s most classic sense. Pool tables, dart boards, video games, misty thick air inside, and men making inappropriate gestures and comments to the women waitresses (this part was not so beautiful). Overall though it had a good vibe and felt like nobody would bother you if you didn’t bother them. I haven't really been in a bar much during this tour so after finding a hotel room out on the highway I decided to stay for another beer and play some billiards. I mean honestly how many chances will I have to play Pool in a bar named “Lucky’s” in Sioux Falls, South Dakota? I got quarters, walked over to a table, and I as I was kneeling down to feed my quarters a deep voice said “Oh are you playing?” I looked up and there was a tall Native American man, a local, looking at me with a tough but inviting face. I told him “yea I was going to play, but would rather play somebody. You want to shoot a few rounds”? He was more then eager, which was fantastic, so we racked the table and started shooting pool. It was a nice departure from my routine of driving, sleeping, playing…and repeat…so another beer was ordered, and we continued.
Richard was his name. Currently he was working at a bank down the street, a cashier from what I gathered (though he dressed up the job tittle a little). As the games continued, and we both became more comfortable with each other I explained to him what I was doing in Sioux Falls (because it made no sense to him that I was there, nor should it have). A quick explanation and postcard later, Richard was completely enthralled by the Meter Tour. Before long he was telling me about his own musical journeys, working as an engineer in some big studios, working as a sound guy for some big tours…he opened up like a great book, full of wonderful stories. With a few strategic questions on my part, Richard then started talking about how he was sick of his job and how he had lost track of his own dreams and aspirations. He talked about Montana, a state I was on my way too, and how he always wanted to live there….on a ranch. It was beautiful, all of it. I listened, continued to beat him easily in pool (haha), and asked more questions. Richard was pretty special. Gentle, adored by the bar staff, and had an awesome laugh…which I tried to imitate when he would go to the bathroom. (the highest form of respect I think). We continued to chat, laugh, play pool…and then it got late enough that I had to get out of there. I gave him a CD and thanked him for the company. We hugged and I went off my hotel room.
The next morning after some driving around, I decided that the only real place to play was back on that same main street that Lucky was on. Once again, like in North Dakota, all of the parking on this more populated street was diagonally. It really limits where I can play, so I circled and circled until I got a spot finally opened up. Ironically it was a spot directly in front of Lucky’s (the bar from the previous night). I parked, locked up, and decided to take a walk around the city. A few streets up was the Sioux Falls cultural center, an old high school that had been renovated to house an art gallery, a small science museum for kids, the Sioux Falls music hall of fame, and a theatre. Spattered around the outside of the building and area there were sculptures, many inspired by nature, by local artists. The morning turned into a nice walk and I found myself at a small cafe resting up some and attending to emails. Early afternoon came quickly and it was time to set up and start playing. I walked down the street to the truck, opened up shop and got my things set up. To my pleasant surprise a familiar face walked out of the bar, which of course was open (opens at 11am), and said to me in a deep voice “what are you up to?” Of course it was Richard…I smiled and told him I was setting up to do a show. He was excited, as was I for the company.
What was nice about the spot I had chosen was that the bar had outdoor seating that was directly in front of me. Sometimes this makes me nervous because I am not into making people listen to my music if they don’t want to, and it’s hard if they are sitting there and can’t turn me off. This ended up working out great though because Richard pulled out some tables and chairs (they were stacked) and got it going. He went inside to get a beer, came back out, and sat in the sun and hung out with me. What tends to happen a lot is that when people stop by the truck and listen, it makes other people more comfortable to stop and approach the truck as well. It always takes that one brave soul to break the ice, then people follow. Richard was trail blazing the moment and about 4-5 other people stopped and decided to have a drink. It was so enjoyable to watch and experience. This was the first time on tour that I had a still audience, one that wasn’t walking away, so I got my nerves together and played my best. It was nice to not be fighting any noise, because my audience was right in front of me and they could hear. So I really fell into the material and enjoyed experimenting with nuances both in the music and my voice. At times people clapped, but mostly they just sat back drank their beers and hung out. The weather was beautiful, a few people from inside the bar came out and actually bought a CD (which is quite rare), and there was no reason to stop for a few hours. It felt really good and it was a surprise based on my first impressions of the street and where I had set up. And of course at the center of this was Richard, smiling and drinking. In between songs he came up to me and told me he had walked out on his job earlier that day, felt that it was time to follow some of these dreams bouncing in his head. There was nothing I could say to him other then congratulate him and tell him I would be thinking of him on his next steps. He smiled, got another drink, and sat back down to listen. About an hour later some police on bikes drove by smiled and requested a classic rock song. I smiled back and said I didn’t know anything by my own stuff, which is true. They smiled and kept riding down the street.
Everything felt a little more harmonious, like it had earlier in the trip.
The show was followed by a few more games of billiards with Richard, a post show beer for myself, and a hug of goodbye. Packed up and made my way towards Nebraska. Omaha next stop.