Gig: Pisgah Brewing Co.
With the Appalachian Mountains shrouded in fog and misty rain as the band wrapped its pre-show sound check, Trampled’s mandolin player opened up about his darkest days in the band. Berry was 30 and had to hit up his parents for money.
“The band was $15,000 in debt, and I had my first kid on the way.”
Having kids — a boy and girl, just like the band’s frontman — was a whole other challenge. Nowadays, though, Berry figures he gets in more “dad time” than he would working a 9-to-5 job with a half-hour commute. He even invented a game with the kitchen clock to underscore this to his son.
Still, the time away doesn’t get easier. “It’s hard talking to them [by phone] because it’ll be loud here or they’ll be in the middle of something there.”
Three weeks is the most that Trampled stays gone now. They rent their tour bus in spurts and fly in and out of cities to maximize their time away. This method does not minimize expenses, though.
Having a five-man crew doesn’t come cheap, either. Theirs is a seasoned, middle-aged crew, too, not young metalhead dudes found through the local Guitar Center.
Jon Carter came aboard this year to oversee monitors and other stage matters after working for They Might Be Giants. Guitar tech Dave Feirn last toured with Brandi Carlile and has crazy road tales from his old band the Janis Figure.
The senior member is production manager and lighting guru Scott Stranberg, a former First Avenue staffer who has worked with everyone from Motörhead to Weezer. (His Rivers Cuomo stories rival Svobodny’s Ryan Adams tales.) A slender, high-wired guy, Stranberg walked onto the bus in a bit of a huff after sound check.
“They’re a little inexperienced here,” he said, admitting, “I’m the guy who doesn’t worry about being popular with the promoter or local production staff.”
This was the first sold-out show at Pisgah Brewing’s year-old mini-amphitheater, so the brewery treated the band members to bottles of Sold-Out Ale, made just for them.
Just as impressive was the age range of the fans, with high school and college kids singing side by side with older bluegrass lovers. With 2,200 tickets sold at $25 apiece, the gig would gross more than $50,000.
Trampled’s experienced crew certainly earned its take-home that night.
When Berry broke a string just a minute into the hard-plucking song “Walt Whitman,” Feirn had another mandolin in his hands in time for the mid-song jam. When half the stage lights went dark five songs into the set, Stranberg recognized the problem: The connector cords were “lying in the middle of a North Carolina rain puddle.”
Not to mention, the crew also had to put up with the banjo player’s good mood. With the house lights dimmed and the crowd cheering for the band to take the stage, Carroll grabbed tour manager Tholen’s walkie-talkie and feigned panic.
“Hey, Scott. I just kicked over all your lights and farted on all the amps. What should I do?”
“I love you, Davey,” was the dry response.