The 21st century has brought many interesting aspects which have made day-to-day life easier than generations before; an entire world of information and entertainment lay in the palm of your hand, so why would anyone need to leave the sanctity of their home?

No matter how much easier technology has made it to keep people “connected” with society, no machine could ever create the same effect as real life, a notion I had experienced in the Summer of 2017 during my travels (see my post, “Grand Canyon of Awesome”). The truth is, travel—the need to explore new horizons—is not only an addiction, it’s something embedded in our DNA.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

-Carl Sagan

January 2018 brought with it an opportunity to begin a new chapter in my life, a new road. At the time, I had been calling the oil fields home, as my crew had moved to the eastern side of the country, allowing me to experience new scenery. During my brief tenure with said crew, I had made it a point to save up as much as I could from each paycheck—only spending on the absolute essentials—hoping to build up a nice little cushion in my bank account. The goal was to leave the fields having enough cash to survive for an extended amount of time on my own, while I pursue the life of a musician in a new home.

The Inland Northwest (Eastern Washington/North Idaho—with exception to my military service, and extended travels—had been my home for most of my life; at this point, however, I felt that it was time to explore, find a new home, a new environment, maybe even a new climate. Though I had grown up in cooler climates, and become accustom to the cold, the frigid, bone-chilling temperatures of North Dakota, along with a West Virginia winter, made me yearn for something a little warmer…

Off to the Valley of The Sun…

Before leaving for my last hitch in the oil field, I had signed a lease for my own apartment in Phoenix, and had moved most of my belongings, along with my little brother (Floof) who had decided to join me on this new venture. Floof has been my partner-in-crime for most of my life, whether he agreed to at times or not, so bringing him on this new adventure made it that much sweeter.

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Bubbles & Floof arrive in Phoenix.

That last hitch in West Virginia was bitter-sweet. I had made close friendships with members of my crew, “The Goof Troop,” so bidding farewell to them turned out to be a lot tougher than I had originally planned when I first left for the oil field. It was hard to say goodbye, but it wouldn’t be the last time I see some of them…

Arriving in Phoenix after two long weeks seemed like a dream, one where I was waiting to wake up and go back to work in the fields. This was real, though, an opportunity many don’t take—a new beginning—and I wasn’t going to squander it. We only get one life in this world, and I plan to make the best of it, with plenty of stories and adventures.

Before February had ended, I had made it to multiple jam sessions with different bands looking for a drummer; I had a fire burning in me, I wanted to play and make a mark in the music scene. One March morning, I received a message from a band looking for a drummer to play a last-minute gig at the Starlite Lounge, a six-song set, all original, for a band called RUMUR. The show was scheduled for that Saturday, and I had been contacted by the band on Thursday…48 hours, no pressure.

For the rest of that Thursday, I locked myself in my room, devoid of any and all outside influence, to try learning the set, which by no means was an easy task. The members of RUMUR described their band as a mix of Metal and EDM, soft synth back-tracks, with a hard-driving instrumental force; the band was most definitely right up my alley. I still feel bad for my neighbors in my apartment complex, as I sure as hell wasn’t quiet that evening.

Saturday night arrived quickly, and I was beyond excited, it was my first time on an Arizona stage, and I had to make it count. For many of my new Phoenix friends, this was the first time I would be able to perform for them, and first impressions in the music world can mean everything. I had to make this count. The lights dimmed, and my sticks came down for the first beat of the show, and for 30 minutes—like many times before—I was in heaven.

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I was proud of that set, I put every bit of energy I could muster up into putting on a good show for the crowd. There were mistakes here and there, I’ll be honest, but I was happy with my performance, given the short notice. By the end of the set, I had broken all but one of my drumsticks, when I had started with eight, even tossing one or two into the crowd. To my right side, a photographer stood, aiming her camera at me, and I would try to give a pose periodically throughout the set. It was another night where the real Bubbles showed himself to the world.

When you’re playing on stage, a single song can sometimes feel like an eternity, a never-ending paradise, but just like that, it’s all over, and you’re standing outside packing up your gear. That was me, standing on the side of the building, drenched in sweat, leaving everything on the stage behind me, too exhausted to worry whether I had made the impression I hoped for or not.

While finishing up, a young woman walked up to me, saying, “You’re crazy, I loved it!”

Comments like that after a show can sky-rocket a musician’s morale, even after the worst of shows. For the rest of the night, and many afterward, I would hear comments about the show, often followed by someone asking when my next gig was…I had begun to make a mark. I couldn’t settle, though, there was still work to do.

For the next two months, I would remain a part of RUMUR, while joining other groups for brief periods, as well as other last-minute gig. I guess word had spread about my learning songs quickly, which had helped expand my musical network, eventually bringing together my own version of AARDVARK, playing some of the songs from back home and more, now as VARK NATION. In April, there was even an opportunity to take the stage with Floof as a duo—TEAM FLUFF ENUFF–opening for the band CLOUDSHIP, who had been on tour.

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I was expanding my network, while slowly making my mark in Phoenix, but I wanted more, I was still hungry…

May of 2018 brought some big changes to my Arizona adventure. After five months in the warmer climate, Floof had chosen to return home to Spokane in order to go back to school, packing up what he could fit into his blue Mustang, and hitting the road. Earlier that week, meanwhile, I had been invited to audition with a band called INTERFATE, asking if I was available to play a last-minute gig in Prescott Valley—about an hour-and-a-half north of Phoenix—six songs, all original…with less than a week to learn them. The band had seen me do it before, as they were in the crowd during my first show with RUMUR, and said they were excited to bring me into their fold.

After agreeing to the last-minute show, I was then asked the question I had been wanting to hear for years…

“Do you want to go on tour?”

CONTINUED IN “THE TRAVELER, PART IV.”