For local musician Ben Weaver, the conventional ways of touring and performing were just not cutting it. The typical tour van and concert setup did not allow for Weaver to connect with his audiences in the way he wanted to. So, he did something a little unconventional: he decided to ride his bike to his performances.
Recently, Weaver finished a 1,400-mile bike tour around Lake Superior in an effort to raise awareness for water protection and the state of the Great Lake. To wrap up his tour, Weaver will perform at the Cedar Cultural Center on Oct. 3. In addition to playing music, he will share photos and videos, and tell the story of the people and places he encountered on his journey.
This is not Weaver’s first epic bike tour: last fall, he embarked on a 1,500-mile bike trip to New Orleans. This was a defining moment for his career. “I realized that this is what I wanted and needed to be doing,” he said. “What I wanted to be doing was using my music to connect with different communities and people around the topic of water and land.”
The experience made Weaver realize that touring by bike was a new frontier he wanted to continue exploring. Weaver realized he is averse to the standard style of performing, in the sense that the musician does not have much opportunity to connect with the audience. “The performer is up on the stage and the audience is below them […] there is no interaction,” he said. “The bicycle is like totally a humbling thing.”
For Weaver, the tour was a challenge, but a gratifying one. “I rode roughly 1,400 miles in 15 days with 13 performances so you kind of do the math, it’s a lot of riding,” he said. “You can only go as fast as you can go. Mentally, that was challenging to remember to just stay dialed in and not get anxious and just do the best I could.”
On his Lake Superior tour, Weaver said, he was gratified by the amount of interaction he was able to have with local residents. “It happened all the time. I would be riding to a show and someone would pull up beside me and say, ‘Hey, we can’t wait for your show,’ or, ‘You’re that dude that’s coming into town to play,” or, I’m leaving town and people pull up alongside me and say, ‘Awesome show, thank you so much for coming.”
Weaver said the response has continued even since he has returned home to the Twin Cities. Many people, Weaver said, “either e-mailed me afterward or spoke to me at a show and said things like, ‘Wow this is so inspiring, thank you so much for coming here.’ In that sense, I think it was really successful, but there is no end to the work that needs to get done in this regard.”
At the Cedar show, TWIN from Manitoba will open the set. Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop and Coffee Bar—one of Weaver’s shop sponsors—will be providing bike valet parking. An additional bonus for those who ride their bikes will be a discounted ticket to the show. Red Table Meats will offer charcuterie and sandwiches.
“I’m very interested in water and how it connects all of us—being that our bodies are made up of 75% [water],” said Weaver. “Water is something that gets extracted and modified, but it is also something that brings a ton of joy and happiness and connectivity into people’s lives.”
Christina Ayodele is a student at the College of Saint Benedict. Follow her on Twitter at @xtinaayo.