This wasn't a 'national act', I don't think. Probably just another band with another record out on another label from somewhere other than here. Maybe they were the greatest band in the world, but I wouldn't know about that because I'm old and out of the loop, and getting crotchety to boot. The driver, who looked like a bass player, was about 24. There were no stickers on the van, nor the trailer.
I've seen this same set-up in front of many, many clubs here in town on many, many night's drive home from this gig or that, nursing my beloved (but terminally ill) Volvo station wagon home on the rutted roads leading "North" and "East", like an old horse's memory carrying it's drunk, sleeping rider in the low moonlit from the pub late at night. We get going at a good check at about 35mph, the windows down, nicely defrosting, letting me see where I'm at and where I'm going.
I'm always struck by these vans. They're so, well, NICE. I can't help but imagine the luxuries inside. I can't help it because I remember, like a lot of old rock band musicians from back in the day, the kind of crappy vans we used to jury-rig and scatter across the country in.
The first gig's in Scranton, then an all night drive to Atlanta. No problem. We jam Econo.
I'm dangerously close to 'Old Fart' here. Sorry.
In the late 80s and early 90s, I did a lot of touring by van here in the States. This may sound to some as the feeble boast of the usurper, a poseur compared to the 'real' road dogs of the 60s, 70s and early 80s -- but It's all I got. I did get enough of a taste of the old way of doing things to remember what a complete fucking hassle it used to be to tour across the country in an old Ford Econoline van with no heat, plywood bench seats and 5 weeks of band smell to contend with. There were no cell phones, no computers. You had pay phones at truck stops and a xeroxed itinerary and a Rand McNally road atlas to get you as close to Raji's or the Sun Club or the Middle East as possible, hopefully in time for sound check. If something went south on you and the van blew a tire or threw a rod, you might find yourself laid up for a few days waiting on parts in some godforsaken corner of Missouri with just enough change from the last gig to keep everybody in Cheetos, cheap beer and a motel room (if you were lucky).
At the gigs, you'd swap war stories with the other bands on the road, talking about the crazy shit that happens.
You drive for 4 days to get to Cleveland, miss sound check because you took the wrong beltway exit, and the management pulls your slot for the night since you're late and refuses to let you play. The drummer drinks way too much whiskey and beats the crap out of the lead singer, who was navigating.
The van gets broken into in Nashville, the thieves taking a power saw to the 3/4" ply you built the sleeping shelf out of, which is over the equipment. Two guitars gone, busted window. January, and heading North.
I once heard stories from a Babes In Toyland tour where the van was broken into and everything was stolen, I mean everything. They had to borrow clothes as well as gear to play the show that night. This was after the terrifying experience a few days before when the band watched an enormous boulder careening straight at them as the van flew down the interstate at 75mph. I believe it hit them, and they had to cancel a few shows and wait for parts.
The band I was in, Hazel, had a reputation for killing vans. We went through 4 or 5 in the 5 or so years we were together.
But, I digress. All this is just old stories from when I was a kid, out having the time of my life. When I see these new vans driving around, I'm envious of the comfort I'm imagining is inside. But I'm also envious of the that crazy old familiar road time, the excitement of a new town or city every night, looking for a pay phone.