Hey everyone! Once again, Brian here. My wife and I are currently on a two month tour across America, playing music, (we’re The Wallens) camping out, and seeking adventure along the way. Here’s where we’ve been in the last week or so.
Stop #1: Sedona, AZ
In my last post, I talked about the awesome musicians we met at Fiddler’s Dream, Christy Fisher and Tina Reichow. They are such sweet people, and they were kind enough to spread the word about our next show to their friends and fans. So, when we showed up at Vino Di Sedona, there was a great crowd waiting for us! We are really thankful for our new friends. Vino is a pretty special place; it has fantastic views of the Red Rocks from the patio, a cozy indoor space for wintertime shows, and it’s one of just a handful of places that legitimately host music 7 nights a week.
The owner, Rebecca, has been very supportive of us over the years, and we really appreciate that. The staff is a lot of fun too! If you’re ever passing through Sedona, it’s definitely the place to go.
Stop #2: Cave Creek, AZ
Speaking of venues that really support music, Janey’s also sits high atop that list. Tucked into a corner of Cave Creek, a funky little town on the north side of Maricopa County, you’ll find this magical coffeeshop and bodega. And like Vino Di Sedona, you’ll find music seven nights a week!
Owner/manager Julian has grown something really special here. The crowd is a fun mix of locals, snowbirds, and tourists; we even met a guy from Connersville, Indiana at our show! That’s only 8 miles south of where I grew up. We really love playing Janey’s, and we have to thank our friends Quint and Nancy for turning us onto the place.
Stop #3: Camp Verde+Flagstaff
Up to this point, we’d been staying at our friends house in Scottsdale. But we had to bring Alf the camper back out for a night, as we had two shows up the hill in North-Central AZ. We decided to camp in the Verde Valley and drive from there to our gig in Flagstaff, as it was about 20 degrees warmer at the lower elevation of Camp Verde. (Flagstaff gets over 100 inches of snow a year.) I can’t say enough good things about the Verde River RV Resort, which had a full mini-golf course, a clubhouse, rec room, and even saunas!
Our Valentine’s Night gig was at Historic Brewing’s Barrel+Bottle House. It was the perfect place for us to play on Valentine’s, a space full of families, couples of all ages, and groups of friends out for a drink or a delicious dinner. Do not miss this place if you’re in Flag! I recommend the Arizona Bowl with a fried egg.
Stop #4: Chino Valley, AZ
The next place is an old friend of ours. I’ve been playing at Granite Creek Vineyards since 2015, and Molly and I have come to love it. The atmosphere, staff, and audience are always top-notch. It’s also a peacock preserve, so there are often colorful spectators in the crowd!
We had a couple tables full of Indiana people in the crowd, and dozens of music lovers that made our afternoon absolutely magical. What more could you ask for?
Stop #5: Queen Creek, AZ
What a week of shows this was! Had it ended in Chino Valley, that would have been great enough. But we had to cap it off with one of the best shows of the whole dang tour. Outdoors, at the Queen Creek Olive Mill, on a 70 degree day. We set up under a tent in the middle of things, literally between the patio/dining area and an art show.
For four hours, we had a steady stream of dancing kids, picture-takers, clappers, and joyful people to give us energy for our songs. It was the biggest crowd I’ve seen to date at the Olive Mill, and it was a great time had by all, especially us. We even got to finish out our afternoon there with affogato, the delightful Italian combination of espresso and vanilla gelato. It was a perfect day.
Bonus Stop: Fountain Hills, AZ
In between all of these gigs, we spent almost every late morning/early afternoon hanging out in Fountain Hills. I’ve come to love this little town for a few reasons, one being that it has the best dog park we’ve encountered in our travels. It also has a great little hike through a botanical garden, and of course, one of the largest fountains in the world.
I really like the people too, a mix of Midwestern snowbirds and local folks that all seem to love art and music and good food and dogs. And that’s the thing; in all of our travels, we meet great people, wherever we go. There is so much love and goodness and joy in the world, and we just want to spread that around. The portrait of America painted by cable news channels and by Facebook memes and ads is an ugly one, filled with division and conflict and hatred. The actual reality is so far from that! If we can put down our phones for more than five minutes and make some human connections, the contrast becomes apparent.
The next time you start losing hope in the world, or you start feeling like we’re more divided than we’ve ever been, go for a walk or a drive. Find a town square, or a park. Go for a hike. Sit down at a coffeeshop, or find some live music. I honestly believe that what you’ll find the vast majority of the time are good people, trying to do the best they can for the ones they love. And that’s what it’s all about.