Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Greetings from...

I bring you a few photos to satisfy your visual curiosities!

Foghorn at workFoghorn Stringband
These guys look like they're working hard. And they are, even though they sit. I am now a fan of them sitting to play, though they do great when they stand up with us for show finales. What you don't see in a Foghorn pic is how much fun they are really having. Sometimes it's verbal fun at our expense... but we always get them back.

road blockIke and Nate taking a moment while we wait
We hit a major road block on the only road to Bakersfield.... at least, I think it was on the way to Bakersfield. It was somewhere in California. There was a wreck a few miles ahead on this 2 lane highway and we lucked out to get stopped right by a big dune, so we could see for miles around us. Note the jug of water... we stay hydrated on the road!

drivingKeep your eyes on the road...
Note Phil's good posture while driving us through the Cascades. What you can't see is how much he looks like Hunter S. Thompson in those shades.

screamWhy am I screaming?
I just can't believe how beautiful the Cascades are... my mind is overwrought with such glory.

Cascades, March 2006See what I mean?
Ah, to live near these would be to live near heaven.

bighorn sheepBighorn Sheep, Jackson Hole, WY
These two were hanging out on the road in the preserve... a momma and kid, we believe. Both ewes, so the bighorns aren't all that big. By the time we drove past, they were headed back up the cliff. I asked them to please turn around one more time. The kid, ever curious, obliged.

wrestlersYou asked for it!
You wanted to see wrestlers... you sure about that? This was at our final show of the tour, in Denver, backstage (that is NOT the bathroom we used!)... the plan was to surprise Sweet Sunny South with a dance session on their last song, but the last song wasn't the right thing for dancing, so it was posponed until our finale with them. The guys left the stage and we played on, until they came out to wow the small but enthusiastic crowd with their unique moves.

So... I'll try to do this more often. I'm always saying that, aren't I? Well, we take what we can get sometimes! I'm actually all about that concept right now. It seems to be working pretty good for me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Reader's Digest Condensed Western Tour

Ok folks, I got home. read your comments and realized that I haven't posted squat this year. So, in a herculean effort which started at 4am this morning, I give you the whole tour summed up in one huge blog entry. Hopefully, you will be able to chew on this one for awhile...

Weds. 2/1- Left KC and drove to Amarillo, TX. First Motel 6 night of the tour.

Thurs. 2/2- Drove all day. Stopped in Flagstaff, AZ for Mexican food. Found $162 in cash in the parking lot. Bought band mates dinner. Slept in Kingman, AZ at Motel 6.

Fri. 2/3- Crossed the Colorado River and headed out across the spectacular Mojave Desert. Stopped in Barstow, CA at a roadside bar to pay tribute to our pal, Rex Hobart's great country tune, "Barstow Barstool". Arrived in Bakersfield, CA early enough to get a good night's sleep.

Sat. 2/4- Played at the first annual "Supergrass Festival" in Bakersfield. It was a big hotel festival with lots of bluegrass' biggest guns. Got to spend a little time catching up with our old friends, Cherryholmes. They are stars now. We are not.

Sun. 2/5- Completed our "Supergrass" obligations in time to grab beer and pizza for the "Super" Bowl. Later, set up Nate's portable digital multitrack machine and recorded "Give me What you Got"- an impromptu bass-heavy blues tune with improvised lyrics and searing lead vocal courtesy of B.

Mon. 2/6- Packed up and went to the Bakersfield Skatepark. Then the band splintered. Nate took off to LA with his old snowboarding pal, John, and the rest of us drove northwest, up the San Joaquin Valley, toward the coast. While in Bakersfield, we did not meet Buck Owens. While in Bakersfield, we did not make much of an effort to meet Buck Owens. When we left Bakersfield, we were very bummed to not have met Buck Owens. At dusk, Ike informs me that we are driving on "James Dean Memorial Highway" - the stretch of highway that James Dean died on at a over 100 mph. Arrived and checked into a Motel 6 in Monterey, CA. Ike has a sore throat and is getting sick.

Tues. 2/7- Woke up early and investigated skateparks online. Found a nice one in Marina, CA, just up the road. Got Betse to go with me. Had breakfast burritos and then came back to pick up Ike. Went downtown to check out Cannery Row. It was full of souvenir stands and only vaguely smelled of sardines. I would have liked to have seen it in Steinbeck's day. At dusk, had a few beers at Segovia's- a nice, clean, warmly-lit place where you can gamble with the bartender for your drinks. Double-or-nothing. I didn't see him lose once. Retired back at the 6 for another night.

Weds. 2/8- Drove north to Santa Cruz, CA. Around lunch, the three of us played a few tunes on a local radio show. Later, we reunited with Nate, and played a show with The Stairwell Sisters at Don Quixote's International Music Club in Felton, CA. I tried to get into it, but the Grammy's were on in the bar next door and I couldn't help watching it through the glass on the big screen while we played. Crashed for the night at our friends, Joe and Debbie's sampling Joe's delicious home-brewed beer.

Thurs. 2/9- Woke up, did some laundry, then drove back down to Monterey to play a co-bill with progressive acoustic jazz upstarts, Old School Freight Train, at a nice little listening room called Monterey Live. Apparently, few Monterey locals were excited enough about this amazingly weird combination to attend. Humbled, we drove back up to Santa Cruz to stay another comfortable night at Joe and Deb's.

Fri. 2/10- Packed our stuff and took an hour-long hike into the redwoods with Joe. Then, said goodbye to our friends, and drove north to Berkeley to play The San Francisco Old Time and Bluegrass Festival. This festival takes place all over the bay area, and our gig was at a seedy bar called The Starry Plough. Along with The Stairwell Sisters, we shared the bill with (the magnificent) Squirrily String Band. As the night progressed, more and more people kept arriving until it was impossible to walk without scrubbing shoulders with the crowd. We made the most of it and did our rock and roll thing to the boozy elation of everyone. Then we crashed at a cheap motel for too little sleep.

Sat. 2/11- Said our goodbyes to the bay area, and headed north again for a couple of days of R&R at my old friend, Lush's, house in Arcata, CA. Once we cleared Santa Cruz, the stress of the first week of tour melted away into the amazing landscape of craggy mountains and giant redwoods.

Sun. 2/12- Woke up early and grabbed my skateboard and pads for a try at the Arcata skatepark. Didn't break anything and, once properly fatigued, I went back to Lush's to prepare a gigantic breakfast for my still sleeping housemates. After eating, Lush took us a few miles up the road to Trinidad State Beach where we hiked for hours along the massive redwoods and crashing rocky surf. The experience was exhilarating. Later that evening, we pulled out the instruments and practiced some new tunes while Lush and her housemates eavesdropped on our process.

Mon. 2/13- Got up and, again, hit the Arcata skatepark. Then we packed our crap back into the van, said goodbye to Lush, and set out for another long drive north to Ashland, OR. There, we played a concert at another nice listening room called Mojo Rising. The crowd was very receptive and we were treated like royalty from the get go. It was a nice way to rejoin the tour.

Tues. 2/14- Got up early for the third day in a row and wandered around downtown Ashland until I found the best skatepark yet on the tour. The cool features of this park allowed me to try some stuff that I had never been able to do before. I had so much fun that I let myself go beyond my usual fatigue point- only stopping when I nearly broke my ankle. Then it was back to the hotel to grab everybody up and head north to Eugene, OR, where we were reunited with Foghorn Stringband . All of us were very happy to see our old tour pals again, but I had now caught Ike's cold, and unfortunately, didn't get to hang with them- choosing to go to bed immediately after our show. It was Nate's 30th birthday.

Weds. 2/15- Grabbed smoothies and breakfast burritos and headed to Portland. My cold was full blown by this time and I recall very little of this day.

Thurs. 2/16- Played at the Doug Fir Lounge with Foghorn in downtown Portland. This club was SO weird. It reminded me of David Lynch's old TV series "Twin Peaks" . All night, I kept expecting the log lady to come through the door.

Fri. 2/17- Drove north to Seattle where the band dropped me off at the SeaTac airport. My wife, Kim, had arrived via a layover in Denver, and we were very, very glad to see each other for the first time in weeks at baggage claim C. We grabbed a rental car, and headed to the Tractor Tavern in midtown Seattle for the sound check. We played yet another great show with Foghorn and, at the end, resurrected the two-bands-are-greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts paradigm that had been perfected on our prior January tour.

Sat. 2/18- Kim and I took our rental car north, across the border, into Vancouver, B.C. There, we rejoined with the rest of The Wilders and Foghorn to play a final co-bill at St. John's Hall. Foghorn rocked it hard and gave us a run for our money. After the show, we hung out with the guys and tried to find a way to say goodbye. It was bittersweet.

Sun. 2/19- Thurs. 2/23- Kim and I took a vacation in Victoria, B.C.. Nate and Ike chose to hang out with friends in Victoria as well. Betse went back to Portland and spent the week adding fiddle tracks to Caleb Klauder's new solo project. It was a nice break.

Fri. 2/24- Sun. 2/26- Wintergrass Festival in Tacoma, WA. This was our sophomore effort at Wintergrass, and the buzz we stirred last year definitely was roaring when we hit our first show. People actually started applauding as we were adjusting the angle of our microphones before we were even introduced. That's Winfield type enthusiasm, and we used it to our advantage throughout the weekend. After a week off, I was so proud of my band-mates as I watched them kill each and every show. This festival is one of the biggest on our calendar and it was great to play it in top form. Oh yeah, AND we got to meet John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. SWEET!

Mon. 2/27- Woke up, shrugged off the intensity, lack of sleep and general insanity of Wintergrass, and loaded the van to leave the Northwest for good. Drove all dang day and stopped for the night in Pendleton, OR at yet another Motel 6.

Tues. 2/28- Drove all day with the hope of landing a day early in Jackson, WY. A severe snowstorm had other plans, however, and we were only able to get to Idaho Falls, ID before aborting and 6-ing it for another night.

Weds. 3/1- Slept late and waited for the highway crews to plough the pass before heading over the Tetons to Jackson. We arrived safely in the early afternoon at the home of our friends, Pete and Ann Sibley. They had arranged for a great concert at the Off Square Theater in downtown Jackson. Nate and Ike went to a motel to rest, and I took a nap at Pete and Ann's while Betse went with the Sibleys for a walk in the elk preserve just outside town. Pete and Ann are a great musical duet and they opened the show to the applause of the Jackson locals who absolutely love their home town heroes. The place was packed, and we played another quality show to the very attentive audience. For an encore, Pete and Ann joined us onstage along with Thomas Sneed, from the Reeltime Travelers, and Ben Winship from Kane's River. It was an ubber jam that made everybody woozy, onstage and off .

Thurs. 3/2- Had breakfast with Pete and Ann, and then went up to the elk preserve before heading out of Jackson. There were thousands of elk in the distance and we spotted a few bighorn sheep climbing around on the craggy hills. Just as we were pulling out, Ike spotted a bald eagle perched on a high cliff and slammed on the brakes. "i've never seen a bald eagle before." he exclaimed as he jumped out of the driver's seat. Luckily, Nate had brought a pair of binoculars and we all shared a patriotic moment watching the regal bird survey the valley from above. The elk preserve put a dent in our time management, however, and we quickly realized that we were badly behind schedule. Due to the combination of snow, ice and closed mountain passes, we were forced to drive a circuitous route to get to our next stop, Paonia, Colorado, by driving from Jackson, Wyoming, southwest to Salt Lake City, Utah. If you pull out your map, you'll see that this is like driving to from Kansas City, to Wichita, Kansas via Lincoln, Nebraska. Ike drove us from Jackson to Salt Lake and then Betse took us over the Wasatch range and down into Grand Junction, CO. On the way, we stopped to pee at a Taco Bell in Price, Utah. It was nearly closing time and, for some god-awful reason, Ike and I decided to get something to eat. The place was nearly empty except for a few scrubby teens in the corner. The guy at the counter asked if we were a rock and roll band and Ike said, "yes, we rock". He then looked over at the kids in the corner and asked, "hey, you guys are musicians too right?". They muttered something about playing around a little and Ike cut them off. "Yeah, I knew it, you're wearing scrubby clothes, you're broke and your hanging out at Taco Bell, you're definitely musicians..." The clerk then told us we could have anything on the menu "on the house". We chuckled about that one in the van for the next half hour. Finally, around midnight, we landed at the Grand Junction Motel 6.

Fri. 3/3- Woke up and drove the final two hours to Paonia, CO, and arrived in plenty of time to make a scheduled radio appearance on the local station. Rob Miller, from Sweet Sunny South, had booked us a show at the Paradise Theater downtown, and the whole town came out to see us. Later, the Sweet Sunny Southerners threw a big party for us. As a result, none of us got enough sleep. Whatever, it was a blast.

Sat. 3/4- Hit the road around noon caravanning with SSS on our way to Lyons, CO for a sold-out show at Rogers Hall. Nate was very anxious to see Melissa and his baby girl, Gretel who weren't willing to wait another day to see him and decided to drive out to Colorado. Gretel looked cute as a button and both girls were definitely glad to see their guy. Soon the show was on. Sweet Sunny South played a great opening set, followed by a weary but heartfelt effort from us. During the encore, SSS joined us onstage along with Caleb Roberts from Open Road, who took a blistering solo on Muleskinner Blues. It was a great night of music followed by an easy, one hour drive to Denver for another night at Motel 6.

Sun. 3/5- Got up and grabbed a late breakfast before heading over to The Oriental Theater, an old movie house located in an older part of Denver. We had scheduled a double header with Sweet Sunny South- the first show advertised as a non-smoking family matinee. Ike sat in on washboard with SSS, who have an alter-ego children's act called Duck Duck Gray Duck. Then we did our thing, choosing to fill up our set with non-smoking family tunes. Soon enough though, it was time for the late show, and SSS played their best set yet. We love this band's eclectic approach to fiddle tunes and original songs. At one point Bill, the mandolin/banjoist, started telling the story of how he had first met us, and how much of an influence we had been, etc. In the loudest voice I could muster, I channelled Tickmeister and yelled, "shut up and play another tune!" Bill thought he was being heckled, and it threw him for a second. I had to laugh. When we got up there, the sparse crowd of Oscar refugees made a lion of a noise throughout our set. Even though it wasn't the best attended show, the people who were there really enjoyed themselves and made sure that we knew it. It was a fine way to end a very, very long tour.

Mon. 3/6- Had breakfast with Sweet Sunny South and bid them a tearful farewell. They headed west and we headed east and 10 hours later, I pulled up outside my house and breathed a sigh of relief. In 7 days, it starts up all over again...