The Working Waterfront

A sense of place

Band tour offers insight into community pride

Courtney Naliboff
Posted 2022-09-26
Last Modified 2022-09-26

For the second half of July, I, a 41-year-old woman, mother, and teacher, went on tour with my band.

Bait Bag, which I’ve written about before, is comprised of me (bass and vocals), Fiona Robins (guitar and vocals), and Claire Donnelly, formerly of the Island Institute (drums and shouting). We’ve been together for four years and have put out a handful of EPs and singles, but released our first full-length album this summer, and hit the road to support it.

We mostly self-booked, with some help and connections from friends, and while we played in Boston, Portland, and New York City, the majority of our 11 shows were in somewhat less cosmopolitan locales.

Here’s where to eat. Here’s where to take a walk. The sense of pride we felt in the people sharing their favorite things…

Since our tour was devoid of press junkets and television appearances, we found that once we arrived at our next stop, we often had a lot of free time to fill. We also traveled through the bulk of a really nasty heat wave. So the only logical course of action was to ask our contact in each town where the best place to swim would be.

Guided by local knowledge, we found ourselves at Split Rock, in New Paltz, N.Y., featuring cool water, beautiful rock formations, a natural slip-and-slide, and a huge water snake. We found the Gorge, in Troy, N.Y., with laddered pools and waterfalls, blasting dub-step music, and a very large and well-camouflaged snapping turtle.

We spent hours in the Deerfield River, near Greenfield, Mass., replenishing with maple creemees at a farm sweet shop afterwards. We decompressed with a starry night swim in Stone Pond after our only truly unpleasant show, in Keene, N.H., and chased baby trout at Swiftwater Bridge outside of Littleton, N.H.

With each swimming hole recommendation, we started to develop a sense of place. This is a quiet spot, with paddleboards and kayaks slipping by. Or here’s where the teenagers go to hurl themselves off high rocks into the water. A family is here, complete with their grill and hot dogs and giant inflatable raft.

More surprisingly, we started to understand the uniqueness of each town as its own entity. Here’s where to eat. Here’s where to take a walk. The sense of pride we felt in the people sharing their favorite things about their town, why they choose to stay there, what it has to offer.

We felt this in the cities, too, even when we were the ones with the sense of familiarity. Here’s where I ate as a college student in Providence. This restaurant in Manhattan was recommended by a friend ten years ago, and I try to eat there whenever I come to the city.

Here’s where my bandmates and I ate in 2003 because it was cheap, vegan, and across the street from the venue in Allston, one of the few still standing in a city that used to be replete with bars hosting local musicians. In New Haven, we got more recommendations for pizza places than we could count, each one coming with a brisk defense of the pizza, the service, the hours, and whether they offered slices or just a full tomato pie.

As I write, it’s the last day of tour. We’ve played ten shows, sold a good number of shirts and cassettes, replaced the brakes on Claire’s car, gone swimming most days, and gotten commemorative tattoos (my first!). We’ll take with us a sense of each place we’ve played, and a deep curiosity about those other thousands of towns we haven’t yet seen —as good an excuse as any to start planning next summer’s tour.

Courtney Naliboff is a teacher who lives on North Haven. She may be reached at