Sara Routh cried tonight.
Here, at the end of the 15th show, at the end of a nearly three week leg, at the end of nearly six months of show support, at the end of almost a year and a half of work on “Black Sheep,” Sara Routh broke down.
It's inevitable, really. When you're on the road, you spend so much time concentrating on the road, or gearing up for the next room, or just trying to get some sleep, that you never really let it sink in. How much it takes out of you. How mentally, physically, emotionally exhausting it all is. But finally, after the last set of the Black Sheep Tour, after the crowd demanded—and recieved—an encore, it hit her. She was done. And something inside her—that thing that kept her going from city to city, meeting room after room of strangers and turning them into friends; that thing that kept her nurturing and cultivating this album through a move and three legs of a tour and everything else that goes with creating a brilliant album without a label or radio play—that thing wore out. She walked off the stage, propped her guitar up against the wall, grabbed at the drink ledge underneath a neon Pabst sign, and let every day, every mile of it shake out of her.
For a long moment, nobody approached her. Everyone just let her sob and work the relief and sadness and exhaustion and happiness out of her. Then, finally, her tour partner Rae Davis grabbed her and hugged her close. The two of them stood there, bathed in garish red light, and held one another. After over 5,000 miles on this leg alone, the Black Sheep Tour was done.
Tomorrow—today by the time anyone reads this—we'll be back in the Prius, and riding I-80 back to the place we started; back to Des Moines and friends and family and home. But tonight, as local act High Street Collective plays their set, Routh and Davis hug old friends and new, drink, laugh, and celebrate everything they've done together.
You do not spend three weeks in a goddamn Prius with two other people and not learn a few things about them. I do not know what Davis and Routh learned about me. But in them, I witnessed two of the strongest, fiercest, most amazing individuals I've had the honor of meeting. I've seen them play their hearts out to a room that was 95% empty, just because that 5% deserved their best. I have seen them deal with the ache of missing their children and their loved ones and their family members. I've seen them battle fatigue, cold, pain and plenty of whiskey. I've watched Davis struggle with running a non-profit organization from 2,000 miles away. I've seen them both surrounded by some of their closest friends in the world for a few fleeting hours before getting back into the Prius and moving on.
What I have seen, is the best of two people.
But here is the difference between me and Davis and Routh: This is quite possibly the only time I will do this. After this trip is done, I will sit back down on my couch and continue to write from the comfort of my own home. Some of it will be good. Some of it will be sub par. None of it will appeal to everyone. But at the end of the day, I will close my computer up and turn on my TV. But Routh and Davis—and thousands of artists like them—will do this again, maybe even later this year. They have to. When the whole point of your passion is to share it with other people, you put yourself out there on the road over and over. It takes a conviction, a level of strength that not everyone has.
It's been said over and over in these posts, but it bears repeating again: these indie artists are not out here making money. They don't have the luxury of million dollar budgets, and they certainly don't have the benefit of blowing $40,000 on lodging and meals. They set out with nothing more than the cash in their pockets and the songs in their hearts, and often come back home with just the songs.
But none of that is why Sara Routh broke down tonight. At the end of the day, she doesn't give a lick about the money or the miles or the physical wear and tear. But when all of that is done, and the final show is finished, what comes rushing to you is the thought of the people you've touched. From comic-loving guys who buy all of your CDs at once, to old friends with rusty saxophones. From teary-eyed women who identify with your song about a stripper, to a familiar room full of old friends. From the bar owner's wife who's terrible at running a bar, but can't stop crying over your songs, to the woman who shows up out of the blue and says she played in a band with your dad, many moons ago. They all come flooding back, reminding you of just how far you went, and just how far you've come.
Sara Routh cried tonight. Tears of joy and sadness and emotions that don't even have names. But then, she held her head up high, smiled that billion watt smile once more, and celebrated with her friends.
Miles traveled: 5,484