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MixTrips: Finding a Groove on the Road

I’ve said it before in these pages: I’ve always wanted to go out on summer tour.

I’ve said it before in these pages: I’ve always wanted to go out on summer tour. Three or four months on the road, waking up in new towns, having all-new adventures, seeing a bit of the country and taking in the local flavors all across this great big wonderful land. The problem is I’m not in a band and I don’t work in live sound. I can’t pretend to be a comedian, and I have no book to peddle. But I am an editor and writer, and thanks to the convenience of PDF workflow, all I really need to do my job is is a Wi-Fi connection and a cell phone. So I’m going on tour.

Perhaps it’s some version of a midlife crisis, and if it is, then I plan to make the most of it. I suffer from no romantic illusions that being on the road is one big picnic on the beach, with blue skies, a gentle breeze and wait service in a shade-filled cabana. I know that storms can arise suddenly, there are flying insects and sometimes an obnoxious neighbor can spoil the day. I have great admiration and respect for the live sound professionals I’ve met in my 27 years at Mix; month after month on the road, trying to attain some sense of a normal life while constantly on the move, can take its toll. It’s not at all easy, but the highs can sure be high. I’ve only been on the road for two weeks, driving down from the Bay Area to L.A. via Santa Barbara, and I’m still trying to settle into some sort of work routine. 

But there’s another big reason I’m hitting the road: I want to visit Mix readers where they live. Since being hired in 1988, I’ve maintained that while New York, Nashville and Los Angeles lie at the heart of the entertainment industry—and get the lion’s share of attention—the audio industry doesn’t exist without Minneapolis, Wichita, Asheville and Portland. El Paso, Denver, Des Moines and Louisville. Audio—quality audio—is everywhere. Although there is a true global economy, and the Internet does provide worldwide connection, 99 percent of our daily lives is all about being local.

In Santa Barbara, I got to run around with dear friend and March 2015 cover boy Chris Pelonis. He took me to a fantastic place off of the San Marcos Pass, in Los Padres National Forest, called Cold Spring Tavern. It’s been there since the 1870s, and every Sunday for the past 36 years (when not on tour), the acoustic blues duo of Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan put out two-and-a-half hours of fantastic music and performance, for an audience of bikers and tourists and artists and locals. It’s also the first place Jeff Bridges and the Abiders, with Pelonis on guitar, played out live, a little more than five years ago. Great stories.

Then it was on to visit with one of the true giants of the past half-century of audio, Allen Sides, in his lovely Santa Barbara home. What a talent, and what a mind for business. Except for an interest in Eden Roc in St. Baart’s, he’s out of the studio business now and fully involved in an expanding speaker and design business. Look for the Mix Interview in October. He’s fascinating.

Then I landed in L.A. and went to Sony Pictures Studios for a site visit in advance of our September event on Sound for Film; on to the Village with the indefatigable Jeff Greenberg to plan an upcoming cover shoot; then Formosa Group, Radio and Recording Connection, JBL, Vintage King and the bed and board hospitality of dear friends Ed and Rose Mann Cherney in Venice, and longtime soul mate Maureen Droney, former Mix L.A. editor now Managing Director of the Recording Academy P&E Wing, in Woodland Hills.

Next up are Phoenix, Albuquerque, El Paso and Austin, then New Orleans, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal and many places in between. For a while, base camp will be among my parents and family in and around Indianapolis. But I’ll be filing stories from everywhere.

You can follow the MixTrips blog on our website, and regular posts on our Facebook page. I’m already behind, and launching it all two weeks after I took off. Sometimes I’ll be regular, sometimes I’ll post in bunches. But they’ll be local. I’m starting to find my groove.

Tom Kenny, Editor