Sammy Heck Tour Diary: Part 1
My name is Samantha Gagnon, and I play music under the moniker Sammy Heck. A little over a week ago I began a 17-day tour, by myself, through the southernmost regions of the United States. This is a little scary for a few reasons. First of all, it's the longest tour I've ever been on. Second, I'm a transgender woman-- traveling alone; through the deep south. Following is an account of the first half of my tour, written in real time.
Day 1- Roanoke, VA: The first show of tour is in a small house in a suburban sort of area of Roanoke. There group seemed to be made up of a lot of typical small town music scene folks; the ones who are more of a friend group rather than a “scene.” I crashed at a friend's house and slept on the kitchen floor of their apartment.
Day 2- Greenville, SC: Gas stations are probably the scariest part about touring alone as a trans woman. There's a line for the bathroom, so I step into the line for the women's restroom. I get some weird looks and double takes. The cashier asks me what he can do for me today, "honey", which was kind of sweet honestly. I buy an Arizona, a bag of Chex mix, and $20 worth of gas.
I get to Greensville around 7 PM. It's HOT. I mean, it's REALLY hot. I sat outside and did my makeup before the show and killed at least ten mosquitos on me. The show is in the living room of a cool little punk house, the bands and crowd are a lot more similar to what I'm used to. The bands are loud enough to shake the frame of the house, and I can literally feel the power of the kick drum in my chest. I can tell that all of the people here are a tight group of friends who have a lot of history with one another. Sometimes, just as a touring musician, this can be hard and feel kind of exclusive. Here, it feels like I'm being welcomed with open arms, into a big, queer, punk family.
Day 3- Birmingham, AL: Tonight's show is at the Firehouse, which is a warehouse space. It's the biggest room I've played in on this tour so far, which results in a few problems with my sound. My friend Sammy, who I met in a transgender Mountain Goats facebook group, comes to the show with her wife. She drove from Huntsville, which is an hour and a half north of Birmingham. Her making that trip proves two things: 1) how strong the bond between trans people can be, and 2) how powerful gays who can drive are.
Day 4- Memphis, TN: Tonight is the first bar show of tour. Bar shows are a mixed bag: there's a built-in crowd which is nice, but there's no guarantee that they'll be attentive. Regardless of whether they stand and watch you or not, they're going to talk over you during the quiet parts of your set. Tonight is a decent crowd and they're pretty attentive, surprisingly enough. It's kind of a hip bar, and there's a lot of flannel-clad beard bros. They kind of stand politely during my set, while a couple of people who are bit more tipsy dance.
Day 5- Fort Smith, AR: The show tonight is outside, which I did not anticipate. It's in a park on the main street of Fort Smith, which is an incredibly small city. The other bands on the show are pop punk which is also odd because I definitely don't fit in with all of these bands. Playing outside ends up being really fun, I feel like I'm in one of those festivals in the 60's in San Francisco where everyone sits in the grass and listens to bands play.
Day 6- Fort Worth, TX: Oklahoma is a wasteland. There's nothing here. Something about this part of the country fills me with an inexplicable dread and sadness. It feels like it's the end of the world. Maybe it's just me being emotional from all the estrogen I'm taking, but something about it feels so empty and that frightens me.
As soon as I cross the border into Texas, the speed limit changes to 75, which is incredible. I've never seen a speed limit over 70 in my entire life. I'm really anxious about tonight's show for a couple of reasons: I don't know a single person at this show. I booked the show by posting in a facebook group for DIY Tour Postings. I'm also fairly certain that no one at this show knows I'm trans, which can be confusing because most of my songs are about being trans. The show is in a community library, which is pretty tight. Everyone is nice to me and I make a solid amount of money, which I didn't expect to happen.
After the show, I end up getting a motel room. I have to use my dead name to get it (since that's the name on my license and my credit card). The woman at the front desk looks at my license and looks at me and squints. She calls me sir, even though I'm wearing makeup and a dress. I politely correct her and she ignores me, and continues to call me "Mister Gagnon" and "sir". I go to my motel room and cry before I pass out from exhaustion.
Day 7- Austin, TX: I had a much needed day off today. I grabbed a veggie burger with my friend Grady, and then we headed to a local music store to play a bunch of their instruments. It's super cool to meet friends like Grady in real life because we've been friends and working together on music over the internet for so long.
Day 8- Austin, TX: In the morning before the show, my friend Connor and I played some music together. We covered a few Told Slant and The Mountain Goats songs, and then I taught him the American Football tuning (FACGCE) and it blew his mind. I get to do my laundry at his house which is nice. Apparently the show tonight doesn't start until 10 PM which is really annoying. I like when shows end by 10 PM, because I'm an old lady who needs her sleep. Regardless, the show ended up being very fun, and it's very cool to see Grady's band live after listening to his music for so long.
Day 9- Houston, TX: Connor lost his ID so he couldn't get into the show last night. We drove out to a park and I played an acoustic set for him. The show tonight is in my friend Kyle's living room. It's the most beautiful living room I've ever been in. His house is decorated in a style he called "mid-century atomic", and it is absolutely adorable. Kyle and our friend Mark record my set, which I think goes pretty well, aside from the fact that I forget some lyrics. Afterward, some people bought some merch and they refer to me as a "he", which absolutely baffles me because I'm wearing a skirt and a full face of makeup.
This marks about the halfway point of my tour. Next week I'll fill you in on how the rest goes!