Magazine article Sunset

Band on the Run

Magazine article Sunset

Band on the Run

Article excerpt

Bay Area country-soul band Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers clock thousands of miles a year driving from gig to gig. They might not have time for a hike in the Tetons, but the band knows where to find a secret roadside hot springs and the best waffles at 10,000 feet *. Here, Bluhm talks snacks, sing-alongs, and the hidden joys of two-lane travel.

IT'S NOT ALL McDONALD'S ALL THE TIME, IS IT?

We try arid avoid fast food whenever we can. It's hard, but Whole Foods are popping up everywhere now. We'll swing by for the salad bar and to stock up on stuff like coconut water and raw almonds, which we like to keep in the van. Yelp is a huge lifesaver. We use it constantly. A place has to have four stars and at least 20 reviews or we won't eat there. We've learned a thing or two from Anthony Bourdain: No sushi on Sundays or Mondays. And stay away from hollandaise sauce. So pass on the eggs Benedict at the diner.

BEST SEAT IN THE VAN?

Oh, shotgun, for sure. Driver's seat is not bad, if you feel like driving. But otherwise, front row is where you want to be. The way-back can be pretty bouncy. We don't get attached to one seat, though. Most of us are actually pretty tall, so we try to switch around before the leg cramps start setting in.

HOW LONG'S TOO LONG ON THE ROAD?

Everywhere in the West is so far apart. We probably drive an average of six hours a day. I'd say that's a good clip. We once did Lake Tahoe to Austin, about 1,700 miles. We rotated drivers, drove through the night. We rolled in at 7 a.m. for the South by Southwest festival and had to play that night till 2 a.m. That was pretty rough.

HOW DO YOU GET THROUGH IT?

Catnaps. Coffee. We try to avoid those five-hour energy drinks. The guys play Frisbee at every gas station. I'll do a few laps around the pumps, or jumping jacks. We went through a Words with Friends period, but one day we looked around at all of us staring at our phones, and we were like, 'We're such losers! Let's talk.' We rarely play the radio. If anyone listens to music, it's usually with earphones. Eight people are never in the mood for the same music.

UNLESS IT'S YOUR OWN?

Yeah, when we're bored, we'll grab our instruments from the trailer and just start playing. …

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