Destinations: Avalanche City on tour

By: Dave Baxter, Photography by: Dave Baxter

Avalanche City on tour Dave and Luke in Oamaru Avalanche City on tour
Avalanche City on tour Avalanche City on stage Avalanche City on tour
Avalanche City on tour Avalanche City on tour
Avalanche City on tour The sun sets on another day Avalanche City on tour
Avalanche City on tour Another Mighty meal time Avalanche City on tour
Avalanche City on tour Avalanche City Love, love, loved their road trip Avalanche City on tour
Avalanche City on tour Avalanche City on tour

Dave Baxter (Avalanche City) and Luke Thompson have just completed a 13-date tour of New Zealand in a Mighty campervan. Spanning over 2500km, Dave shares the story of Avalanche City’s Mighty road trip

Destinations: Avalanche City on tour
Dave, Luke, and Sharanna beside their Mighty camper

I began Avalanche City by myself, on an acoustic guitar and had done a couple of small New Zealand tours before things got crazy. I quickly arranged a band to play with me live, which eventually worked into a bit of a revolving line up of members. And I've played mostly as a band ever since. 

I'd just spent most of the winter at home in the studio, working on the follow up to my debut album. It's a strange feeling not having any shows or tours coming up, and I began to feel restless.

My last four tours were overseas and it seemed like forever since I had travelled my own country. I also missed playing solo, like how I started, so with a mate of mine, Luke Thompson, I organised to do a solo acoustic tour of New Zealand. I saw this as a chance to revisit how Avalanche City began — just me on an acoustic guitar, playing the songs in their most stripped back form and in small, intimate venues.

And it was also a chance to travel around and see my own beautiful country again.

I've done quite a bit of touring in the last few years, four tours of the USA, a bunch in Australia, numerous tours of New Zealand, and shows in other countries like England, Japan, and the Philippines. I've travelled in cars and various vans, ranging from mini-vans to a big Mercedes Sprinter, but never before had I toured in a campervan.

It seemed so obvious to use a camper for touring: you have your accommodation and travel means right there in one package, though I've always had too many people on the road with me — the live band, the sound guy, the tour manager, the support act. You need at least a 12-seater van to accommodate a big touring party. 

But that all changed with this spring acoustic tour. Suddenly I had my big touring party cut down to me, Luke Thompson, David Parker (my sound guy) and my wife Sharanna, who comes with me everywhere and handles the business of touring, plus our friend Phil van der Wel, who was the support act for the North Island shows. We contacted Mighty Campers and told them what we were wanting to do and they agreed to give us a camper for our trip! What followed was a 13-date tour around New Zealand beginning at the Kourawhero Hall, where I recorded my first album, before heading south right down to Dunedin and back up, visiting every op shop and antique store along the way, and ending more than 2500km up the road in Auckland.

The trip was of epic proportions, the drive times were long and sometimes windy, but the shows were great, the places we stopped at along the way were breathtaking, and the people we met were even better. The storage in the camper was impressive, we managed to pack a whole PA system (subs, speakers, mixing desk, mics, mic stands, cables), plus guitars, amps, stage design, merchandise and more all up in the two-person berth above the cab, then luggage and food in the cupboards and underseat storage. I'll admit, we've gotten pretty good at the Tetris game of packing over the years, but even that was impressive! 

Having the Mighty camper changed my view on touring and I'll find it hard to ever go back to a normal van. My favourite road of the whole trip was the drive from Nelson to Oamaru, heading through Murchison taking State Highway 65 and then SH7. Just the hills and rivers and the country side were stunning! We also stopped for an amazing breakfast at Reid's Store Cafe in Maruia before carrying on the long picturesque drive down to Oamaru.

A long way away back in Auckland, I dropped the camper at the Mighty base vowing to return again soon to do the same trip but taking more time and more of the windy back roads. 

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