Article by Jen Cheshire
Artists and musicians alike are gearing up for tour and festival season with new set lists, rehearsals, sufficient packing for the road, and preparation for long days and lots of travel. By the end of the summer, they are all looking forward to rest, working on new music, projects and studio time with the occasional show thrown in the mix, but this is not the case for the veteran artists. To make the younger generation aware of them and their message, they have to continually be a presence in the clubs, pubs and small venues across the country. This generation is normally targeted by the popular younger artists and bands, the ones they hear on the streaming sites and YouTube. Follow me as we journey with veteran group The Meditations on their 2016 winter tour and have your eyes opened.
The tour was named the “Jah Always Find A Way Winter Tour”, named after the latest Meditations album, and in this case, very aptly. The first stop on the tour was St. Louis, Missouri, a guaranteed good turnout and a city they have played many times. As expected, this was a good show and it set them in an optimistic frame of mind for the rest of the tour. Now, you may not believe this, but The Meditations do not travel in a big luxurious tour bus with a driver, they travel in a 10-seater van, 8 people in total with all the band equipment and no hired driver. The driving is done by various members but predominantly by Ansel Cridland, the founding member of the group. There had been some problems with the van, so the next day upon leaving St. Louis, they were late leaving for Colorado because the van was being checked out. Finally on the road and traveling overnight, they didn’t know what was ahead of them. Driving through Missouri and Kansas was boring and uneventful, but just before they reached the Colorado state line, they met the storm that had moved in Colorado during the evening. If you have ever driven into Colorado from the east in the winter you will know how dangerous this can be if a storm hits. The terrain is very flat and the wind drives the blinding snow across the highway causing snowdrifts, icy snow packed roads and, at times, zero visibility. This is what they were driving into. Nerves were on edge in the van as this had happened on a previous tour and an incident involving ice on the road and a semi truck came to mind. After several hair-raising hours they finally arrived at their hotel in Denver, where they waited out the storm before heading out to the next venue.
After a couple of days the storm had ended in Denver, but the venue for their next tour date was in Crested Butte, a small ski town in the mountains where it was still snowing. Listening to weather reports and road conditions is imperative in terrain like this as mountain passes are often closed or long delays inevitable while snow ploughs clear the roads. The highest pass that would need to be negotiated was Monarch Pass on Hwy 50, a pass with steep drop-offs and a reputation for being an accident hot spot, especially in the winter. Luckily, while talking to other travelers at a rest stop, it was discovered that there was an alternate route which – although adding many miles – would avoid this pass, so this was the route they took. The Eldo in Crested Butte is a favorite venue of The Meditations, having played there several times in the past, and as usual the place was packed and the crowd was on form which uplifted spirits and set them up for the next show in Grand Junction, a town on the western side of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The trip from Crested Butte to Grand Junction started on snow packed roads but improved at the lower elevations and good time was made. Grand Junction is a college town so a good turnout was expected and at a venue the group was familiar with, having played there before also. What wasn’t expected was the snow storm that hit early evening, dumping more snow than Grand Junction had seen all winter and not something the city is used to. The crowd was not what they had expected and the sound equipment was unpredictable, causing some minor disruption to the uplifting vibe that the group usually brings to a show, but tomorrow was another day and they were heading back to Denver for the Bob Marley Birthday Celebration. The trip to Denver was uneventful and the show which also featured King Hopeton & The Yellow Wall Dub Squad and was also scheduled to have The Congos in the lineup was very well attended and a good time was had by all. The following day, The Meditations headed for Boulder, CO, another college town with the reputation of being lively and very eclectic. This was a show that had been added to the tour at a later date but despite the slow start, a good time was had by both the crowd and, by now, a tired Meditations and band. This was the last show in Colorado on this part of the tour so after a couple of days rest they headed for California.
After the stressful traveling in Colorado, the drive to California combined with the expectation of some good California weather gave the morale a boost. A little snow was encountered crossing the mountains to the first stop which was Arcata, in the famous Humboldt County north of San Francisco. This was a good show which was followed the next night by an excellent show in Long Beach at the Gaslamp. After a couple of days rest in Bakersfield they were joined by Ansel’s son Liviti, now making it 9 persons in the van and back up to Santa Cruz to perform at The Catalyst, to a large, rather more sophisticated crowd and then back down to San Diego for the annual Tribute To The Legends Festival. The festival was well attended and the crowd was very enthusiastic, making this the highlight of the California section of the tour.
After a day’s rest, The Meditations were back on the road again heading east towards…uh… Colorado again. Another last minute addition to the tour was Salt Lake City, Utah. Due to the late addition, lack of publicity and other issues the attendance was low although those that were there gave them a hearty welcome. An early start was in order the next day as they were performing in Gunnison, Colorado, a distance of 406 miles, then from there to Colorado Springs the following night (another 171 miles), then to Taos, New Mexico the next night (taking 218 miles), and then back up to Nederland, Colorado for the final Colorado show, another 322 miles. This was 5 shows in 5 days traveling roughly 1,117 miles. The last 4 shows had been well attended and excellent shows, especially the Taos show, the only show in New Mexico, but as you can imagine, the group and band were exhausted and needed some serious rest.
Unfortunately, they only had one day of rest before heading out early for Little Rock, Arkansas, to avoid another snow storm that was coming into Colorado from the west. As the Arkansas show was another addition to the tour, vocalist Laury Webb and the lead guitarist had to leave as they had prior commitments. Despite this minor setback, the now five-piece unit pulled through. The final show of the tour was a grand event with the remaining frontmen Ansel and Daddy Lion Chandell on vocals (along with some impromptu harmony assistance by their bass player Ras B starting from the third song in) giving everything they’ve got for the highly enthusiastic Little Rock crowd, ending the tour on a major high.
So next winter, when the summer tours and festivals are over and you are in a warm home, a sweltering studio or enjoying the sunshine in Jamaica, think of this journey and remember there are dedicated veteran artists like The Meditations and many others keeping the message alive by touring in dreadful weather, in small venues, to sometimes small crowds, just for the love of the music and the people who love the music.