Mojo’s Coffee, North Newton, KS

Kansan corn.

I popped out of bed early, downed a complimentary bowl of cereal at the Aurora Motel 6, then walked ten minutes to the bus station. Though I chafed again at the 11$ charge, the bus was on time and spacious, and for an hour’s journey to the airport I suppose it’s really not bad. 

I try to minimize air travel on tour, as it’s pretty un-green compared to the train and I enjoy the process of seeing the landscape change between stops. But in the middle of the country, I’ve found that it’s often cheaper than Amtrak, or even Greyhound, and when I have a large distance to travel between gigs I’ll sometimes take the flight. 

It was a quick hop to Wichita, then I parked myself on a bench near baggage claim to do some work. I’m getting to know a number of the airports in this country pretty well, and can often remember the hidden places to plug in near a comfy seat, always the highest priority. I spent most of the afternoon in that spot, watching crowds descend upon their baggage, the air suddenly tense with movement, then a few minutes later completely still once more.

My sister arrived after her work day ended to take me to her & her husband’s home in Hesston, 45 minutes north. I always enjoy drives through Kansas, the incredible flatness resembling nothing so much as the ocean, and the local roads arranged in perfect parallels one mile apart. Upon arriving, I headed to the kitchen, my favorite room in any house, and whipped up some lasagna, roasted potatoes and a nice sort of apple tart with my sister. We cooked and ate in leisurely fashion; a very relaxing night off.

I slept in til nearly 10, sheer luxury, then practiced for a while, a rarity on tour. While I certainly get in some concentrated playing onstage, it always feels good to touch on difficult spots or to work my way through alternate arrangements without the eyes of a crowd on me. Plus, I love it, and miss my normal home practice time.

I spent the afternoon on the computer, then put together an easy coconut milk curry with potatoes, squash and chickpeas over wild rice before heading off to the Bethel College campus, a quick interstate drive away. Seven miles in seven minutes – thanks, 75 mph speed limit!

When I got to the campus and brought my stuff into Mojo’s, I was a bit frustrated to learn that the person with the keys to the soundroom wasn’t present. I’d remembered from last time that the system was a bit problematic, so I’d arrived especially early, but couldn’t really do much other than set up my merch until she arrived. When she showed up 20 minutes before showtime, I went with the easiest possible setup, at her encouragement, which was to use a small powered JBL monitor for the guitar main, and the house speaker system (i.e., ceiling speakers) for the vocals. Hardly ideal, but the guitar sounded decent and the vocal was well distributed, if not especially clear, and I was able to start on time.

Mojo’s is a very large space, with the elevated stage located far against the wall opposite the coffee bar, in a sunken area with six or seven tables and a few couches. For some reason, perhaps to be close to the coffee, everyone seems to congregate in the bar area on the upper level maybe fifty feet away from the stage. It’s a weird situation to be in, something like playing on the rim of a canyon to watchers on the other side, with a yawning gulf between. 

I started off in the usual manner, but a bit slower and quieter than usual since it seemed weird to really rock out to a crowd seated at such a distance. There weren’t many people present outside of some loyal family members, discouraging for a Friday night on a campus – I guess everyone had parties to go to. But I did my best, mixing in a few covers to try to draw people in, including some Beatles. I know every solo guitarist plays the Four now and then, but the songs are just so good that I can’t help myself, and it seemed to draw people in a bit more tonight.

I took a short break after one set, and had a nice chat with a gentleman who had seated himself off to the side of the stage, and though he seemed to be ignoring me, he was actually listening closely and enjoying the music, he said. He turned out to be a resident of France, though with some family roots here. As we finished talking and I went to greet my family members and friends, I was happy to see more people coming in, as if on cue.

Buoyed by the larger crowd and nice visits, I was genuinely having fun in the second set. It passed by quickly, and I got a very nice response, lots of nice words and CD’s sold afterward. An Italian soda from the bar – no beer in this place, and probably good for me to have at least an occasional break from the easy temptation to have a drink every night on tour – then back to my sister’s for more curry and chatting.