816 North

David Knopf - Gas up the VW, I’m ready to tour

One of the things still on my bucket list — it’s actually like a 55-gallon —is to take my songs on tour.

No one thinks I’m serious, including me most of the time, but I am.

The way I picture it is that I travel light, say in a completely rebuilt VW camper, with my dab of musical equipment, a dog named Rufus (aka “Roof” or “Woof”), and my collection of fancy snap-button Western shirts.

I’m about as mechanically inclined as a can of corn, so it’s important the bus be problem-free through, say, the year 2152.

When I was in high school, a band I was in made a record that got some airplay in such musical hotspots as Allentown, Pa., and we went on a whistle stop tour. There was no train whistle or presidential candidate involved, but we went from radio station to VFW post to radio station to elementary school cafeteria playing “I’m Gonna Get You,” our teenage anthem to subtle intentions.

Our brief tour’s highlights included driving around like big shots in our 1955 Cadillac ambulance and drinking gin and tonic straight from a motel ice bucket.

I can do without that today, but the urge to tour remains strong.

Before I can do this I’ll need a booking agent who can arrange “shows” for an untested unknown who can’t remember the words to his songs without a five-pound binder of lyrics and a Reader’s Digest magnifier.

People seem to like my music even though I persist in grouping my weekly appearances as “The Unpopular Music Tour” or “Dregs of Humanity Tour.”

Though possibly offensive, the “Dregs” seemed appropriate at the time, when I was playing for audiences that were unkempt, morbidly obese and more interested in filling their plates with hot dogs, potato salad and marshmallow Jell-O salad than listening to me.

I’ve since moved up a notch to “Unpopular” and, in the next year or two see myself progressing to “Best Kept Secret.”

Before that can happen and I tour, I’m going to need to update my vocabulary.

I’ve conquered “fibromyalgia,” “plantar faciitis” and “carpal tunnel syndrome,” so I figure I can learn to use the word “show” without feeling the pain of pretension. The issue is that when I picture a show I see a stage, a curtain, special lighting, maybe even an emcee like Ed Sullivan.

I’m still stuck in the days when musicians called a show a “gig” or a “job.” Of course, those were the days of just two kinds of coffee — black or light — and maybe five television channels, if you included the educational one.

Generationally speaking, my daughter can use the word “show” without pangs of guilt. So when I talk to her after playing for seven people at the Mocha Frappaccino Latte Express, she’ll ask me how my show went.

I’m old-fashioned, but when four of the eight people in the audience are surfing the Web, two are schmoozing, one’s reading and the other’s babbling incoherently, I have trouble using the S word.

I know I’m being literate, but with a “show” there’s usually some pay involved (I work solely for tips) and the performer doesn’t have to compete with a cappuccino machine, freight train or sirens.

I’m honestly happy with who I am and where I play, but if these are shows, playing on a stage with spotlights, a sound man and a velvet curtain would be like a private conference with the Pope. I’m just not sure the pontiff would consider snap-button Western shirts appropriate.