"I know where I'm going, not sure which road I'll take."
Ben Weaver, "Appaloosa", I Would Rather Be A Buffalo
By Devin O'Brien
A few hours into the ride Ben said to me, "the whole point of making art is to connect with people". When I first heard of Ben, and what he was doing, I connected with him instantly. So much so, that I reached out and asked if I could join Ben on the first leg of his tour. That tour is a 1200-mile journey, by bicycle, down the Mississippi River from Saint Paul to New Orleans playing music from his new album, I Would Rather Be A Buffalo.
I joined Ben, his friend and novelist Jonny Miles, and Lucas Wizenburg of Bunyan Velo on a beautiful October day to ride from Saint Paul to Red Wing, MN. As we ride, Ben continually refers to 'some bar in Cleveland' when he wants to conjure an image of a venue that's strange to him, and where he's a stranger. He doesn't want to play at some bar in Cleveland anymore. From what he tells me, that type of shallow relationship with an audience is done for him. Armed with that conviction Ben strapped his guitar and banjo to the back of a bicycle, and set out for New Orleans. Ready to play almost anywhere and for anyone who really wants to hear his music.
Ben is playing cafés, farms and from the beds of pickup trucks. He's finally connecting with an audience the way he always dreamed of. But why the bicycle I ask? He could easily make the same locations and dates without the arduous task of pedaling a few hundred miles between gigs. His response wasn't the grand political or environmental statement I was expecting. Ben is as uncommon as they come, but his reasons for riding a bike are as common as any adventure seeker. The road is out there and he wants to ride it. He loves the freedom of being on a bicycle. He relishes the clarity and simplicity that comes when life is reduced to eating, pedaling, playing, and sleeping.
From stage in Fountain City, WI Ben talked about how all the stress in life, the meaningless little details, simply vanish after a few days on the road. You're alive in the present and only concerned with the wind, the rain and the miles ahead. If you can find the place in life where the wind and the rain are among your biggest concerns, you're doing something right. Ben is doing it right. He's got a guitar, a banjo, a friend named Jonny, and he's rambling down the river.
As we roll into the sunset, down highway 61, I can't help but think of Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, and all the artists whose work is so rooted in the open road. But Ben isn't just writing about the road, he's living it.
You can learn more about Ben, and his music at BenWeaver.net
Follow @despoblado and his adventure with #alltheriver on Instagram