Off the Chain

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A rollicking band of raconteurs rolls into town on Saturday, and they have stories to tell.  Summer Teal Simpson hops on board the Bluebird.

The Unchained Tour travels throughout the South on a brilliant blue school bus that tends to break down, spreading the gospel of story while raising awareness of struggling independent booksellers, which so often happen to be the heartbeat of their communities.

This band of spirited authors, musicians, personalities and celebrities wraps up their 2012 Heart-shaped Tour this Saturday in Savannah—the city where their journey began three years ago.  Summer Teal Simpson finds out what we have to look forward to from Samita Wolfe, the director of The Unchained Tour, who is somewhere on the road in South Carolina.

Summer: So this is your third Unchained Tour. Has the mission evolved with each passing tour?

Samita: We’ve always done this on behalf of independent bookstores. This year we wanted to get as richly local as we could in each of our tour stops. We also wanted to touch those folks who, perhaps, weren’t able to get a ticket in the towns where our performances sold out. In Savannah, for example, we’re setting up local artists and musicians at the Creative Coast headquarters on York Street. We also have local boutiques and business owners that are participating that day to remind everyone to “unchain.”

Summer: Your raconteurs are touring by retrofitted schoolbus. I’ve heard tell of a purported curse that has left you stranded on the side of the road from time to time. Any such incidents this tour?

Samita: We blew a tire on the first day, but we’ve been going strong ever since. Knock on wood.

Summer: Have there been any “ta-da” moments thus far? Any unexpectedly brilliant occurrences?

Samita: We were in Tryon, N.C. doing a day performance at a log cabin. As we were doing load-in and soundcheck one of our two touring musicians, Joel Hamilton, hopped on the venue’s grand piano, while the other, Rachel Kate, belted out in harmony. The sun was trickling in through the windows and it was such a beautiful, organic moment. We decided we had to incorporate the piano into the show, and so we did.

Summer: This is the third edition of the Unchained Tour. For those those familiar with Unchained, and those who aren’t, what can folks expect this time around?

Samita: The tour just keeps getting better and this year we have a self-proclaimed family of raconteurs. Each and every storyteller brings something vivid and diverse. From Neil Gaiman and his adoring fans to Edgar Oliver and his captivating voice and tales of longing. It’s really something powerful to experience and we’re unbelievably proud to roll it out to audiences along the way.

Sunmer: Often, the Unchained Tour begins and ends in Savannah. And aptly so and many of the organizers call it home. How does it feel to roll in to Savannah after a tour like this one?

Samita: It’s a very bittersweet homecoming. We love our hometown crowd and it’s a surefire sell-out every time. But, it marks the end of something special and we know that the next morning we have to say goodbye to many new friends. Fortunately, there’s always the next tour!

Watch here for a preview of The Unchained Tour: