When she went looking her dream job, Kathy Scimeca Kixmiller had the right stuff. She’s authentically friendly and outgoing — with an enthusiastic love of live music — and she’s a hard-working American.
She got the job.
Kixmiller left her Lake Tahoe teaching job to become assistant to the tour manager for the folk artist Todd Snider. After Friday’s seated concert at the Crystal Bay Casino, she will head out on the bus with Snider for shows in Northern California and up the coast through Oregon and Washington. In October, there’s a tour in the South, and there will be 11 shows in November in the East and Midwest.
When she’s not on tour, Kixmiller is a concert hostess at the Crystal Bay Casino, but she prefers the title “music ambassador.”
“Kathy is one of the most positive, happiest, bubbliest people I know” said Carley Balint, the casino’s marketing director. “She always has a smile on her face and her excitement about each show, and music in general, is infectious. She’s a joy to be around and it’s great to have her smiling face as one of the first people you see upon entering a CBC show.”
“It is going to be such a great night on Friday,” Kixmiller said. “It’s going to be at the Crystal Bay Club with Todd Snider. All my favorite things and my favorite people.”
Known as “the storyteller,” Snider is a one-of-a-kind performer. He mixes folk music with observational — often hilarious — tales. Once called a “Nashville gonzo outlaw,” Snider has brilliant mind behind his mischievous, crazy eyes. Legend has it that he was inspired by Jerry Jeff Walker to share his art as a solo artist. In the mid-1990s, he had a breakout song, “Alright Guy” and a radio hit, “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues.” “Beer Run” might be his best-known song.
His genre was first made famous by Arlo Guthrie, who recorded “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” during the Vietnam War era. Snider is the modern-day vanguard in his craft, influencing people such as John Craigie, whose first viral video was “I Almost Stole Some Weed From Todd Snider.”
Kixmiller was moved by Snider the first time she saw him perform. It was on the casino floor at Crystal Bay.
“I was awestruck from that moment on. His music touches my soul,” she said. “He’s like a superhero for misfits in the world. Quirky people. I am not saying that’s his whole fanbase. He’s very intellectual and he can articulate what people are feeling and understand. They really connect with him and are so happy that somebody understands them.”
Kixmiller and her family began attending every Snider show they could, traveling to the Bay Area, Sacramento and Reno for performances. They also followed tours of Snider’s rock band, the Hard Working Americans, a supergroup that includes guitarist Daniel Sproul, bassist Dave Schools and drummer Duane Trucks.
“When I am on tour with Hard Working Americans, their music resonates through me,” she said. “They (Snider solo and HWA) are two totally different things. They are both so powerful to me.”
Kixmiller was frustrated with her job and she began to reach out to Snider’s team about work. After she gained experience selling merchandise at Crystal Bay show, she had a nugget for her resume. After building a friendship, she was hired to assist tour manager Brian Kincaid.
She takes care of the merchandise, helps pack gear (there’s not much to pack for a solo artist) and handles miscellaneous tasks. She’s usually the last person to leave a venue.
Kixmiller recently helped clean up and prepare the grand opening for The Big Purple, a Performing Artist Co-op, at 5-Points, East Nashville. Snider has picked up the lease for the co-op.
“When people came in their eyes lit up, just like mine did,” she said. “I know this sounds a little corny, but it was almost magical.”
As she had gotten to know Snider, Kixmiller has learned that offstage he is a bit introverted. He is surprised to hear stories she relates from fans about how they are affected by his music. As a teacher, she connects with Snider, who sometimes deals with hecklers or people talking during his performance.
Introducing his song about conservative Christians, Snider once said: “I am going to share my ideas not because that I think that they are smart or I think people need to know them. I am going to share them because they rhyme. I didn’t come down here to change anybody’s mind about anything. I come down here every time to ease my own mind about everything and it always works.”
On her first tour, Kixmiller said she was “super nervous but ended up sleeping eight, nine hours a night, which is a lot for me. I was really comfortable. The driver drives through the night and I get to wake up in a new city each day.”
And being Todd Snider’s bus, there is a quirky directive. Rule No. 1 on the tour bus is no going No. 2 in the restroom.
The first show on the first tour was Macon, Georgia, the birthplace of the Allman Brothers and Otis Redding. She said there were two record stores within walking distance of the venue.
She stays busy at each stop, except during the actual performance.
“What I like most is hearing stories about how much Todd has impacted their lives,” she said.
With the new job, Snider has impacted Kixmiller’s life in a different way.
“I will get back into (teaching) eventually, but I didn’t really love what I was doing in that place and time, but I do now,” she said. “I believe in live music. It’s very powerful for people. And I believe in Todd. I get to be passionate about somebody I really believe in.”
— Tim Parsons
- Todd Snider
Opener: Reed Foehl
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Tickets: $27 in advance or $32 on the day of the show (100 remaining as of Thursday afternoon)
Red Room after-party: Matthew Curry
The many faces of Todd Snider