Nothing fortifies a road trip better than a top-notch playlist. For those about to summit one of the snowy passes out of the valley this holiday weekend, it's time to consider how you're going to musically score your journey. For that purpose we offer you tunage suggestions from local touring bands, who are both veterans of the road and true music nerds.
Each of the eight members of Wartime Blues owns an iPod, which means the Americana folk rock band has a sea of songs to choose from on tour—songs for any mood, weather condition or destination.
"For rainy night drives: Radiohead," says singer-songwriter Nate Hegyi, "For seeing the Oregon coast on the first tour for the first time: Bonnie Prince Billy's 'The Way.'"
On the way to San Francisco last year, the band rocked Led Zeppelin's "Going to California" and, while checking into the Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Ariz., after a 24-hour drive, Wilco's "Hotel Arizona" seemed like the most meaningful pick. With Los Angeles on the horizon, the band popped in some Dr. Dre.
"Listening to music is an important part of touring together," says keyboardist Lisena Brown. Partly, she says, it helps to keep the packed van under control. "We're like a family," she says. "And, if it was anyone else it wouldn't work. But it does get intense."
Russ Nasset & The Revelators
Russ Nasset & The Revelators don't secretly listen to metal, just so you know. When the honky tonk musicians hit the road they count on straight-shooting country music to guide them.
"What we listen to is the classic honky tonk and rockabilly," says Nasset. "It's all stuff you'd expect from us. Most recently we've been listening to Porter Wagoner's album produced by Marty Stuart."
Russ' son, lead guitarist Sam Nasset, has a whole list of songs he says best fit driving the Montana highways from town to town. Those include Dale Watson's Truckin' Sessions, and songs like Ronnie Dawson's "Good At Bein' Bad," Emmylou Harris' "Luxury Liner" and Gene Vincent's "Race with the Devil."
"Really, we just put the iPod on shuffle," Sam says, "but these songs are ones I would probably put on a road trip playlist."
It's not all about classics, either. Brad Paisley's "Mr. Policeman" makes the cut as does Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats, with an emphasis on "Japanese Cowboy." And because Sam's got a predilection for surf-tinged rockabilly, he goes for The Ventures every time.
Ryan "Shmed" Maynes of Secret Powers isn't hip to new music.
"Those guys are more hipster than me," says Maynes of his fellow bandmates. "On our last little tour they played me Guided By Voices' 'Glad Girls' and it totally blew me away."
The power pop band doesn't tour much—just the occasional jaunt out of town for a gig or two. But those hours spent together lead to serious geeking out on music.
"Everybody takes turns," says Maynes. "I always want to play John Denver and stuff they don't want to listen to. I play a bunch of late Beach Boys stuff from the '70s that everybody really likes. And we sneak in some disco, like Queen."
Bassist Jon Fleming has many tours under his belt with former bands like the Oblio Joes, who toured to the sound of Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction, and the Every Day Sinners who listened to "Bohemian Rhapsody" every night for days after their car broke down once in a small California town.
When Fagrag toured last year, singer Mikki Lunda thought it would be okay to set the tour's tone with The Smiths and The Cure. It didn't fly with the rest of the band.
"They'd all get really mad and be like, 'We're hung over. We don't want to listen to the fucking depressing Smiths,'" says Lunda. "So they made me take it off."
The experimental band is known for its lo-fi, playful sound, and its brash attitude. But if you think for a minute that they're a bunch of pretentious noise artists, think again. This year's tour they brought a variety of tunes delivered via cassette tape. The playlist included Ol' Dirty Bastard, Slayer's Decade of Aggression Tape # 2, the Pixies and Burt Bacharach. And they played a dub mixtape with artists like Augustus Pablo, King Tubby, Rockers Uptown and The Scientists.
One thing's for sure, though: The Smiths are banned indefinitely.
Tom Helgerson is the sole dude behind the band Shahs, which means he's got full playlist power. He toured via Amtrak last year listening to mostly podcasts of the comedy call-in show "The Best Show on WFMU with Tom Scharpling," which features independent musicians like Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. Podcasts are Helgerson's prime picks for keeping his mind busy, but he listens to music, too.
"This last trip I was listening to the deluxe reissue of David Bowie's Station to Station, if for no other reason that I love David Bowie and that's one of my favorite albums of his."
If you listen to Shahs' recent post-noise album Dry Heat/Valley Low, you can tell Helgerson's got a penchant for experimental sounds. So, no surprise that he also listens to more obscure offerings like 1970s German rock, Kraftwerk's Man Machine and the entire catalog by Neu! when on the road.
"Krautrock in general is a go-to for me," he says.