Shark Tank, my group with Lord Grunge, Brendan Richmond and Mickey Free, released our debut album last February. I’m very proud of it, and it didn’t come easy. For a multi-state, multi-country side project with no plan to tour, we managed to make a few moves. We played twice in Baltimore, twice in Pittsburgh, and once each in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Providence. People’s support and excitement at some of these shows was unreal. We put something together that people really like, and laid the groundwork for something we plan on doing for a long time. We’ve also been hard at work on a follow-up.
Height With Friends Mega-Tour
This winter, I did my ninth tour that went to the west coast and back, the sixth of which I booked on my own. What made this one notable to me was that I attempted a more ambitious routing. Unlike my usual 30 day coast-to-coast marathons, we were out for 51 days. For a DIY operation, the ratio of shows vs. off days was good. We covered some ground in places we often have to skip, due to time. Flags were planted.
Rap Ambassadors Tour
My man Colin, aka PT Burnem, invited me to join him for his second tour of Europe. I’ve dreamed of touring other countries since I started, but I was never able to make it happen. Bringing the whole line-up was out of the question, so Colin volunteered to perform all the duties of every other member of Height With Friends. Our friends Sasha and Xena booked most of the tour and drove us from town to town. We played in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Poland and France. Touring the US is like touring Candy Land compared to Eastern Europe, and they sacrificed a lot to make this happen for us. They braved potholes, corrupt cops, troublesome border crossings, parking tickets, twelve hour drives and sleepless nights, all while being pleasant company. I had never seen people go through so much to make a tour a reality, and I truly appreciate all they did for us.
We got to play for some of the best audiences of our careers, especially in Eastern Europe. Having some level of respect and excitement granted to you before you perform is awesome. People seemed to assume you were going to be good until you proved otherwise, instead of the other way around. I usually left the shows impressed with the work the promoters had done, and with the energy the audience had given to us. They were aware that they were not passively watching youtube on their I-phones, but seeing human beings give their all right in front of them. The first world could learn a thing or two about how to act from these places.
Rap Round Robin Five
Soon after getting back to the US, we set off the fifth annual rap round robin. We packed Floristree (Baltimore warehouse venue) to capacity, with 300-plus people. I remember seeing Floristree that packed in the past and feeling like I could never accomplish something like that, but we made it happen.
Every year the round robin got slightly bigger, but I knew we could push it to the max this time. This was the most work I had ever put into one show, and it was really stressful. Orchestrating things between 38 musicians, soundmen and lighting people, going all out on promotion, fielding endless emails and phone calls from people on the bill or people coming out of the woodwork and trying to get on the bill… I felt more like the director of some insane musical than a musician. A show like this isn’t something I want to do again for a long time. I wanted to do my absolute best to take the round robin to the highest heights that my humble powers could reach. I did it, and I don’t want to do it again.
Every new group, Mania Music Group, Ooh / Seeweed and Soul Cannon, brought a ton of people out, killed it, and didn’t miss their cues. Every act in the room was in rare form. When it started, I could tell some of the people who had never seen a round robin before were confused. Once things got going, it was a magical night.
After that tour, one of my goals was to keep playing regional shows as often as possible and keep experimenting with the set. I invited my friend Joe to join in on live drums, and asked Jen to start playing guitar in addition to singing. The line-up is now Jen on guitar and vocals, Gavin on vocals, Joe on drums and Justin on trombone, vocal delays, beats, and lights. We did shows in Baltimore, Philadelphia, DC and NYC. I thought all four performances were excellent, and that we’ve reached a new plateau as a live act. I don’t expect these guys to stay in my band for the next twenty years, but I feel like I’ve found a system that works, and a way of playing that makes the songs come to life onstage.
As it stands now, the new Height With Friends record will be out two years after our last release. We were stuck in the mud for a while, but Frank Yaker took over the recording and mixing process and the ball is rolling again. The record will be mixed and mastered in the very near future, though the details of the release are still up in the air, I see this album as a triumphant new start. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but I have the strong feeling it won’t be downplayed like some of our other releases. 2012… Let’s go. Thanks for reading.