Road worriers

By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  September 4, 2008

Central to this lifestyle is a commitment to resourcefulness. Once finished by their crack team of skilled friends, the bus will be powered by a hybrid of diesel and used vegetable oil (collected from pizza places, Chinese-food restaurants, and wherever they can get it). Once they’re moving and the diesel warms up the grease to the proper temperature, an old fuel-line switch from a B-52 allows them to jump to veggie oil — and the savings (and delicious potatoey smell) begin. Meanwhile, the interior of the bus is homey, roomy (perfect for Brewer’s implied claustrophobia), and was entirely constructed (without power tools) with found materials — like in the kitchen, where a translucent countertop is revealed to be a chunk of Avalon’s old bar. The bus is also soon-to-be-tricked out with a composting toilet, a solar-heated gravity shower, retractable Murphy bunks, and an on-board filtration system. The only thing Brewer and McNiss had to buy for the bus were new brake lines — as Brewer puts it, “you don’t fuck around with those.”

In the past, HUMANWINE have gone on three tours, each as far as Colorado. Despite a growing worldwide cult following (a significant portion of their income arrives via Internet donations from benevolent fans), the traditional model wasn’t working. A gain of $14,000 on one two-week tour was quickly gobbled up in expenses: $9,000 for the van, $1,000 for gas, a hotel here, a rent check there — even guarantees couldn’t guarantee much.

Being at home on the road is one way to cut costs — if a drastic measure — but HUMANWINE seem more interested in building than cutting. The goal for their next tour is to make week-long stops in select towns (“like the circus”), picking up and dropping off musicians along the way, continually establishing unique fan bases, mingling with collectives, letting their music change from show to show and doing so until the grease, or their energy, runs dry — though I’d put my money on the grease. If the daydream of touring at its most frivolous lately seems like it’s for everyone, the vision of touring at its most sustainable suggests that it most certainly is not.

“This bus compared to a house?” asks Brewer, eyeing her handiwork, a continual work-in-progress heading for God knows where, God knows when. “I mean, look at this place. I’m in heaven.”

Michael Brodeur can be reached at

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