Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 26 - Highway 1 revisited - or - Our Coffee Adventures in Subsidized Street Performance.

We rolled off the futon at Chris’s place slightly hung over. We had a short ride in heavy traffic ahead of us. The gig this day was 11am-1pm at a tiny coffee shop in San Francisco. With a few wrong turns and a few corrections, we got ourselves onto the Bay Bride, and were on our way.

Soon we arrived. Coffee Adventurers is a tiny and clean little coffee shop with unique drinks and a large and mysteriously placed toy racetrack in the middle of it. Bob and Nicole greeted us warmly and got us set up with some coffee and breakfast. After eating, and soaking up a moment of golden sunshine on the sidewalk, we set up just outside the door. We were essentially playing to the street, though the conceit was that we were there for anyone who wanted to sit outside.

We play for 2 hours to passersby. We made a little in tips, but the real payment was the pleasant time playing a very casual set. At the end, Bob complimented our music and sent us off with another set of drinks. We loaded out, and pointed the car toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

The bridge had us out of town in no time, and with a few turns we were on Highway 1 again, rolling across dramatic mountain tops over looking Muir beach, and the Pacific stretching to the horizon. For 3 hours we soaked up the scenery of tiny coastal towns tucked next to little bays and mammoth green hills. Soon our empty stomachs made us turn in toward civilization.

We stopped at a Costco for a pizza and some cheap gas. Here we discovered that our little adventure on Highway 1 had increased our total drive time by hours. We had only come a little more that fifty miles from San Francisco. We pointed the van eastwardly to catch I-5 which zips up a much flatter section of northern California. Unfortunately it would take us nearly sixty miles across a treacherous mountain range. Fortunately though, the route did take us though sections of Napa valley and through parts of a petrified forest.

Before we were out of the hills, the sun dropped out of the sky, and we were left to twist through the mountains in a very dark night. With a final hairy descent from the mountains, we found ourselves on a scrubby plain, dappled with lakes. We hit the highway and drove until our eyes began to droop.

Nearly 200 miles in we were approaching Redding California. We saw signs for Alamo Motel and RV park. We HAD to stop. Perhaps some of our friends can elaborate in comments as to why, but it has to do with a very strange adventure in Ocean City Maryland, also involving an Alamo Motel.

An energetic little man with a Jesus T-shirt, hat, and poster greeted us in the office and quickly got us set up with a room. We were asleep by 11.

Day 25 - Carmeled and Covered in Chocolate -or- Mama Buzzed by Low Flying Aircraft

That was some of the best sleep for the entire trip. We woke up pretty early and got ready slow. The sun was finally showing as we threw our stuff in the van check out. With a quick stop at a grocery store for some lunch, we headed out of town. We had one detour to make to Last Stage West to pick up a mic clip we left.

Pulling through highway 41, we saw Tom still spreading gravel on the parking lot of Last Stage West. Tom greeted us with a smile, and after a moment’s conversation we were gone again. We took highway 1 for a while, reveling in clifftop views of the ocean. We took a little stop in Carmel for a walk on the beach. Maybe we’d see Clint Eastwood, who spent some time as mayor of this little town.

Clint was nowhere to be seen. We did, however, see a lot of very wealthy and bitter looking people eyeing us suspiciously as we tried to park. The beach was full of Carmel citizens daintily tossing tennis balls to very excited dogs. I think there were more dogs than people. I dreamt momentarily of a dog uprising, culminating in a pile of small and annoying pooches chewing the fingers off hands bearing Rolex watches.

Carmel was quickly behind us as we rocketed into the Bay area. Oakland is an odd place. It bears a strong resemblance to Brooklyn in many ways. We arrived at Mama Buzz pretty early, and found it packed to the rafters with tweaked coffee drinkers. It was pretty loud for a café. A cheerful girl named Alex greeted us behind the bar, and introduced us to Zack, who would be leading the music for the evening.

We set up the PA in front of a large window looking onto a rather dreary street, and settled in for a night of music. First was Addie, who was a singer-songwriter and invited her friends onstage to present a nice complete package. She called her band of friends the Subtracts ( for a sum total of Addie and the Subtracts... I get it!), and they put an earthy twist on her tunes, including some nice banjo playing by a very shy girl named Ray, vocal harmonies by Kate, and some R&B flavored cajon playing by Johnna (sp?).

We went up next. Despite some sound problems, we played a fast and tight show. People seemed pretty into it, but we didn’t make any tips. It looked like a frugal crowd.
Next up was Geoff Baker, who played some cool tunes with some really great rhythm guitar playing. He reminded us a little of our friend Dustin Edge.

As were loading out and talking to everyone, Chris, a guy we met earlier in the evening, asked us for a ride home in return for a free place to stay for the night. After a stop at the grocery store for some bourbon, we stepped into his home to meet his room mates and stay up too late talking and drinking. Around 3:30 we had to shut the night down, as we had a morning show the next day across the bridge.

We curled on the futon, a little drunk, and passed out hard. Morning came all too soon.

Thanks to Mama Buzz for having us, Alex and Zack for helping us get set up, Addie and Geoff for a nice night of music, and Chris and his roomies for their hospitality.

Tomorrow… two bridges, Coffee Adventures, some very remote Highway 1, and “Another Alamo Motel!?”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 24 - San Luis Abysmal Weather -or- Shake your Frogs and Peaches

The sound of raindrops on nylon woke me. Blythe was sound asleep with a slow drip steadily wetting her hair. Several things became clear in an instant. One was the irony that we have gotten rain in Vegas, LA, and now the usually dry Atascadero. Second was that our $30 dollar tent was leaking like a Russian submarine. Third was that the seam sealer we had put on the tent was essentially good only for our peace of mind up until we actually got rained on.

We packed out our now wet equipment and rode grouchily into San Luis Obispo, a mere 20 minutes away. Gliding quietly through the small town, gilded with raindrops hanging from each palm and eucalyptus tree, we considered our options. We had 7 hours to kill in the rain. Then after the show we would have to find someplace to stay for the night, also in the rain (according to the weather service).

In minutes we had checked into Homestead Motel. It was run by a highly energetic and indecipherable Indian man. He signed us into our room, threw the key at us, and scampered off. Soon we were settled, cozily doing computer work and flipping channels on cable TV. Blythe was so happy with our decision that she passed right out and slept for four hours.

We were so refreshed after our hours out of the rain that we felt pretty good about going to play a show. We rolled up to the Frog and Peach pub and packed in our simplest acoustic set up. We figured that with the weather and the early time, it would be a pretty low key show.

Hank got us set up with some drinks after we loaded in and had us wait a bit for a crowd to show up. We sat and talked with a local musician, Dan of Ashes to Light. Soon some people started showing up so we stood from our barstools to play. We were surprised to find that much of the place reacted instantly. Also, with the windows to the street open, we caught the eye of many passers-by. It was a pretty hot show. We ended at 9:30 on the dot to give Triple Threat, the next band, a chance to set up.

People threw tips in our jar and bought some t-shirts. This was a good night. We sat and talked some more with Dan, as well as Nick and Megan, and BJ and Renee. BJ even offered us a gig to play at his girlfriend’s birthday party. Too bad we’ll be elsewhere. We’ve got to come back to this place, people really responded.

Triple Threat started up and got the crowd rolling right away with some hot classic rock covers. A large party of forty-something pirates drunkenly stumbled in and started tearing the place apart. This was our cue to leave. We said goodbye to everyone and sidled on back to our comfy little motel room. We had some grocery store fried chicken and watched a documentary on weed, all from the comfort of our sagging motel mattress.

Blythe was so pleased with our show that she went right to sleep. I stayed up a bit typing on the computer, but finally succumbed to the four Jameson and sodas I’d had and dozed off.

Thanks to the Frog and Peach for having us, Hank for booking us and getting us set up. Thanks to Dan, Nick and Megan, and BJ and Renee for their interest.

Tomorrow… Carmel (will we see Clint?), Oakland, Mama Buzz, and the desperate search for a place to stay that can get us to SF by 10 am the next morning.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 23 - Highway 1 is #1 -or- BBQ’ed in Atascadero

We felt pretty good waking up. This was because we had slept an hour longer than planned and were late for breakfast with Lindsay. AHHH! We left as fast as we could, then rode the highway into Venice. The neighborhood is beautiful. It’s like taking everything nice out of Brooklyn, and putting it in the sun and next to the beach, and adding lots of green landscaping and palm trees.

Talking to Lindsay is always easy. We chatted about how busy Ryan is, his new project, her experience teaching Karate to VERY young kids, and the story of them moving out to LA. She made us a lovely breakfast and we ate and talked too long. When we looked up, it was time for her to go to work, and time for us to book it up to Atascadero.

With a little research we discovered that with a little extra time we could take highway 1 for a good distance. This was the right choice. In minutes we were cruising through Malibu with green mountains studded with palms and cactus on one side, and the surging blue Pacific on the other.

The highway twisted along the coast and flew up and down mountains, each curve delivering a new landscape of desert hills or emerald green mountains. Enormous mansions clung to the rocks, reaching out to the sea with balconies and shining windows. Blythe drove fast, eyeing the radar detector and blasting past leisurely paced European luxury cars.

(the cops had stopped traffic to let a movie crew leave their location, which we sadly didn't get a pic of)

A departure from the highway brought us to a country road, speeding us through grassy mountains and offering views of enormous green valleys. The road was cut into cliff sides, and it twisted into the small town of Atascadero.

We almost blew right by Last Stage West. It’s tucked between hills that are heavily forested. We stepped inside and met Tom and Aaron. Tom set us up fast with food while we loaded in. This set was broadcast on, and recorded for all of you fine folks to watch again and again. We played for 3 hours. Tom stepped up to play drums with us for a few tunes. It was pretty nice. Unfortunately the place was mostly empty all night. But we had a good time playing into the vast reaches of cyber space.

At the end we sat with Lia, our bartender for the evening, and chatted over beers. She told us all about her experience living in small town CA and about collecting band t-shirts and about a whole valley of people in Italy with her last name.

We stepped out into the mild night, forest mist hanging all around, and quietly set up our tent on a muddy piece of ground. We crawled in and Blythe dozed off while I read Craig Ferguson’s book, which Blythe got for a dollar at a thrift store in NM.

Thanks to Tom at Last Stage West for the show, the food, and the place to sleep. Thanks to Aaron, Lia, and Zach for the fine conversation, and of course, Lindsay for breakfast.

Tomorrow… Waking up in a pool, Homestead Motel, and The Frog and Peach Pub.

Day 22 - Leaving Las Vegas… Sober - or - Pasadena it to the Left.

We woke up blearily in our cheap Vegas motel room. Our heads ached from the stiff beers and my ankle was still tender. Blythe went to Walgreens to get me an ankle brace while I packed up. We still weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. We had a little free time, but not much. When we checked out of the room, we didn’t have a place to park for free, and my ankle would keep us from walking very far.

When Blythe returned, I strapped my ankle up and we were in the van and on the strip in minutes. If you know us, you can guess where we chose to stop. We climbed out of the van at the largest souvenir shop we could find. Limping a bit, we looked over aisle after aisle of lighters and key chains and Elvis wall clocks. Afterwards, we took a ride down the strip and took pictures.

The desert highway took us quickly out of the city and rolled us past truck stop towns and out of the way casinos. We even stopped for some $4 breakfast in Primm, a collection of large and cheesy hotel/casinos. We dropped $10 bucks in the slots, but really just won our money back.

The drive through the Mojave is busier than one would think. The highway is populated with countless young people ready to drop cash. The desert landscape had become pretty standard to us, as we’ve been in the southwest for a week and a half, but the Mojave is a little peculiar. With its lake bed style sand pits and rocky hills, it stands out as some of the most deserty desert we had been through.

A single curve through a mountain pass brought us suddenly in a brilliant green valley. Rolling rain clouds seethed over head while the hills jutted up violently from the verdant valley floor. Snow caps and huge boulders accented the mountains, and the road wound through them, guiding us smoothly through the dramatic landscape.

The land flattened out a little as we approached the LA metro area. The highway curved and dipped into a jade green suburb, and a quick exit dropped us onto the streets of Pasadena. Initially we were a little worried, as Pasadena’s streets are lined with Prada, Tiffany’s, and Restoration Hardware stores. Those sorts of places don’t usually bode well for our type of music. We were relieved when we found our venue tucked away in a brick lined alley, hidden away from the glitter of the main thoroughfare.

The Old Towne Pub is a Galt Line type of place. Eddy, a gravel voiced bouncer, welcomed us at the door. Inside Aaron the bartender set us up with some drinks. We loaded in right along side of Sunshine Factory, our partners on the bill. Corey, Jordan, John, and Tony were friendly and open right away.

While setting up, a familiar face stepped in. Callie Rogers, a fine young lady we both knew in high school, was kind enough to come out to our show. Her boyfriend, Eron joined her for the evening, and later amused us with tales of his work as a photographer.

Sunshine Factory started off the night with some slick, pop-oriented indie music. Tight harmonies, cool grooves, and slick songwriting characterized their set along with some of the best stage etiquette we’ve ever seen. They thanked the bar, introduced themselves, thanked everyone who came out, and asked the crowd to stay for us.

We played a quick and tight hour long set. The room seemed to like us a lot. Steve Martin (pronounced Marteen), host of radio show “My Side of the City”, and friend of Sunshine Factory offered to have us on his show. Unfortunately our schedule didn’t allow, but it was very flattering. We like Steve.

We sat and talked with Callie and Eron for a while, then with Aaron for a moment, then made our way out. We had planned to camp nearby, but when we stepped out we saw that the rain was steadily drenching the streets. Rain in an LA suburb. Who would think it? With a few calls we found a very cheap motel nearby (The Island Inn), and got ourselves set up comfortably in bed, dozing off while watching “Big Trouble in Little China.”

Thanks so much to Old Towne Pub for having us, Sunshine factory for being so cool, Aaron for helping us get set up, and Callie and Eron for hanging out and listening. And a big thanks for Antonio for Dancing.

Tomorrow… Lindsey Giauque, a little LA, Southern California driving, Last Stage West, and camping in a parking lot.