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Continued: Minnesota's highwaymen: Six days on the road with Trampled by Turtles

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.

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    Tuesday August 26, 2014

    Their ability to harmonize on the road has given them opportunities other bands miss.

  • Video: Trampled by Turtles lives for the road

    Tuesday August 26, 2014

    Touring can be stressful but the band members describe it as essential to their identity.

  • Video: Eclectic taste, fans define Trampled by Turtles’ style

    Saturday August 23, 2014

    Trampled by Turtles attributes their diverse fan base to a love for music of all styles.

  • U.S. Senate staffer Jamie DeAtley, right, staked out a spot to greet singer Dave Simonett and the rest of Trampled by Turtles as they arrived at National Public Radio’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

  • Eamonn McLain demonstrated his own kind of pre-show ritual — and the fact that he’s about a decade younger than the rest of the band at 26 — before the big festival gig in Louisville, Ky.

  • Carroll found his own quiet if not quaint corner behind the Pisgah Brewing Co.’s outdoor stage to warm up his fingers, a pre-show ritual for most of the band members.

  • Dave Simonett on the band’s tour bus before their show in Black Mountain, N.C.

  • Trampled’s frontman took a last-minute smoke break before a WXPN-FM broadcast at World Café Live in Philadelphia — where he remembered a prior show that paid only in cigarettes.

  • The bigger the crowd, the shorter the sound check: Trampled by Turtles hit the stage running in front of about 10,000 fans at the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Ky., playing before fellow Minnesotans the Replacements. From left: Dave Simonett, Dave Carroll, Ryan Young and Erik Berry.

  • String tech Dave Feirn tuned Dave Simonett’s guitar a few minutes before Trampled by Turtles played to a crowd of 10,000 people at the Forecastle Festival in Louisville.

  • Before they began the sound check for their show in Black Mountain, N.C., the band ironed out the kinks in their rendition of the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

  • As guitar tech Dave Feirn and tour manager Mike Tholen stood by, Dave Carroll cleared his eyes and Dave Simonett, Tim Saxhaug and Eamonn McLain tested their gear at the Forecastle Festival.

  • Trampled by Turtles’ taping of a segment for “CBS This Morning” at a studio in Manhattan was delayed and then postponed as the story of a Ukrainian airliner being shot down unfolded.

  • Erik Berry’s well-traveled mandolin.

  • Simonett dug out his luggage from the bus cargo hold to find a fresh T-shirt.

  • Who says kids don’t buy records anymore? A mostly young crowd filled the aisles for Trampled by Turtles’ in-store set and album signing at the Sound Garden in Baltimore.

  • Cellist Eamonn McLain finished his sound check for a “CBS This Morning” taping in New York as the story of a downed Ukrainian airliner unfolded onscreen behind them. The band’s appearance ultimately got bumped by the breaking news.

  • Trampled’s two Daves got to unwind during Beck’s set at the Forecastle Festival before flying home the next day, capping off a two-week stretch with a three-day break.

  • Engineer Kevin Wait adjusted the microphone during sound check for Trampled by Turtles’ “Tiny Desk Concert” taping at NPR’s offices in Washington, DC.

  • TRAMPLED BY TURTLES

    Playing: The Festival Palomino Sept. 20 at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. With: The Head & the Heart, Low, Charles Bradley, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Field Report, Spirit Family Reunion, more. Tickets: $34, FestivalPalomino.com.

    SEE AND HEAR

    At startribune.com/turtles: See a full photo gallery and video feature with Trampled by Turtles as well as their archived Letterman TV appearance.

    Tiny Desk Concert: NPR.org. WXPN Free at Noon: Archived at XPN.org.

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