Last week, I was part of a unique experience. Along with 21 other people, I travelled roughly two and a half thousand miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, driving Route 66 across America.
This wasn’t just a road trip, though. It was a road trip live action role play (larp) adventure, which meant that we played characters instead of being ourselves. Some participants were members of the band The Runaway Sound, the rest of us were the entourage; roadies, managers, groupies, documentarists, etc.
I was Rick Stevenson, a music video producer and assistent tour manager of the entire venture. I was also – behind the scenes – one of the three organisers, along with Jeff Moxley and Ashley Zdeb from Imagine Nation Collective. Jeff played the role of Kelsey Kemp (Guitars/Vocals), and Ashley was our Tour Manager Suzette.
During the course of the event, we drove across eight states, slept in shady hotels and played actual live gigs at music venues. We were all playing characters with fictional names and back stories, but no one around us knew this. To them, we were The Runaway Sound and its entourage.
The simplest way to describe it is to call it pretend play on steroids. I’ve been part of the international larp scene for many years, and I’ve done some pretty crazy projects, but this took the cake. Reality and fiction got blurred in insane ways.
After it ended, I wrote a post on facebook, where I tried to capture my mood. Now, I’m doing this 15-part series on the project here on the blog, but just to give you an idea of how it felt, I’m also sharing the words from that facebook post.
The post in its entirety
The Road Trip larp is over.
I have felt the pull of the road and answered its call.
I have interviewed a professional adult photographer, who said wise things about freedom.
I have stood on a railroad track, staring into infinity and marvelling at the size of America.
I have been at a Las Vegas wedding in Graceland Chapel.
I have seen unearthly beauty in New Mexico and surreal art at Meow Wolf.
I have heard a random guy do spoken word poetry on our stage, with the band softly playing.
I have posed for pictures with a motorcycle club, who were visibly armed.
I have tried to recruit a Mexican-American guitarist in a men’s room and filmed at Uranus, Missouri.
I have put a random dude who appeared at a gig into a music video at Cadillac Ranch.
I have watched unskilled amateurs turn into decent roadies.
I have seen a band develop explosively over an extremely short time.
I have grown an instagram following as a fake persona spouting philosophy and America.
I have blurred reality like never before, and I have gone down the rabbit hole full force.
I have been Rick Stevenson, filmmaker extraordinaire, and left him in the Pacific Ocean.
I have been on a road trip I will never forget.
It wasn’t a movie. But it sure as hell felt like one.
The blog series to come
There are many ways of playing this song, but I’ve identified fifteen subjects that I want to tackle. There will no doubt be overlap between them, and gaps as well, as I realise along the way that I’ve forgotten something crucial. Be that as it may, this is my attempt at putting some thoughts into words about this wild ride.
Here are the things I want to take a look at:
Part One – What is it (this text!)
Part Two – An event on wheels
Part Three – Playing among strangers
Part Four – Non Player Characters
Part Five – Larp Tourism
Part Six – A fake band that became real
Part Seven – Characters and challenges
Part Eight – Runtime Gamemastering
Part Nine – The documentation team in focus
Part Ten – America and Route 66
Part Eleven – Moral aspects
Part Twelve – Safety and risks
Part Thirteen – Notable moments
Part Fourteen – How deep does the rabbit hole go?
Part Fifteen – The future of Road Trip
Whether they appear as a steady stream of texts or as a post here and there, I don’t know yet. But at least I’ve now committed to sharing, and that’s usually a good place to start!
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