Getting Back In The Van: The New Normal

Roots rocker Dee Gerhart pens an exclusive essay on getting back in the van and adapting to the new normal

A bit over 16 months since quarantine and we’re back in the van. For better or worse, different people than we were the last time. New sets of skills, new outlooks on the future, and a refreshed frame of mind. For a lot of musicians, and wandering folk alike, the van is the most comfortable and uncomfortable place to be, and it was home for 5 years. And then we weren’t allowed in it together. How do you pick up where you left off? How do we get comfortable again being out with people?

Photo credit: Karl McWherther

Chestnut Grove, who I sing lead vocals and occasionally play drums, rhythm guitar and piano for, started heavily touring in 2015. Relentlessly going from place to place just to be in front of anyone we could. As big of a crowd as we could. Fortunately, touring has been really kind to us.

We have been through two 15 passenger vans, both blue. Both death traps that fly across the country at 80 miles an hour.  Our current setup includes a beach chair and a bench seat in the back. Since it’s 5 of us, without extra crew, we sleep in the oddest positions. A weird blend of leaning on each other and making sure everyone has their space. We have gone as far as a futon mattress on the floor; gear in the back. But that didn’t last long because when it rains, no one likes to sleep where you put your shoes. Like I said, it’s comfortably uncomfortable. And a death trap. Oh did I mention the AC is busted?

We have been together as a band for about a decade so actually being in the van together isn’t as hard as adjusting to the new normal and crowds. It’s actually scarier to be in rooms with strangers. And that’s usually my favorite place. Scarier to make the choice of when to mask up. Do I approach fans? Or do I keep my distance and wave? Should fans approach the stage? I’m a serious hugger, so this has been extremely tough. And now to be on a fine line of “what is appropriate,” nothing is easier.

But I’m ready: to have dates booked, to be together, to find a new comfortable, to be in crowds, to get back in the van.

Editor’s note: Chestnut Grove recently premiered their video for “Ain’t Got Nobody” on ABS. You can check out The Album below.

The Philly-based quintet are playing Mile of Music Festival this week.

Chestnut Grove at Mile of Music August 5-8, 2021

Friday August 6th from 2:25 PM – 3:15 PM at Fox River House

Friday August 6th from 9:55 PM – 10:45 PM at Spats Stage at The Core/TDS

Saturday August 7th from 4:55 PM – 5:45 PM at Washington Square/Tundraland Stage

Saturday August 7th from 7:20 PM – 8:10 PM at Jones Park/Fox Communities Stage

Saturday August 7th from 10:10 PM – 11:00 PM at Riverside Bar and Grill


Connect with Chestnut Grove:

 Official |  Facebook | Instagram | YouTube


*All images: Karl McWherther 


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