Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Galt Line Beer and Sausages Tour Day 12

 Attack of the Lake Villains from Lake Villa

When we woke, there was a breakfast to be had. Climbing out of the tent, we found the sky pearly white with thin, rolling clouds. On the picnic table in our site, neatly tied in a shopping bag, was left-overs from last night, along with some eggs we bought. We woke, stretched, and began preparing a breakfast of scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, mushrooms, biscuits, turkey bacon and sausage.

 Coffee was percolating, and turkey bacon was sizzling when they sky grew suddenly dark. “Cook faster” we both said, and frantically prepared our food so we could throw it in one our enamel pots and carry it off to the car before it began raining. When we had rolled up our tent and slammed the door of the van shut, it poured.

We ate breakfast in the front seat of the van while watching the thunder and lightning, and listening to an obscure jazz channel low down on the dial. “I guess we’ll head toward Lake Villa. You know, because of the rain” Blythe said in understatement. We put aside our pot of biscuits, bacon, sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and eggs, and hit the road.

The news on the radio said storms were sweeping across all of Northern Illinois, which meant no comfortable camping for the coming night. Also, in a stroke of bad luck, the windshield wipers began beating against each other violently, before finally stopping altogether. At a truck stop, we downed some $1 juice and pondered our options, the rain still sheeting across the windows. AAA? Well, that kills our day. We’d have to crawl through a phone maze, then wait for a tow truck. Are there nearby auto repair places? Well, in Central Illinois, there are certainly repair shops, but the great spaces of the plains places them far apart.

The GPS showed one 7 miles down the highway. Keeping to the right of the yellow line, and watching intently for brake lights, we carefully navigated through a drenched windshield to the next town, where we found the repair shop closed for business. Fortunately, the news said that the storm was fast moving, and could be expected to blow on in an hour or so. Fine, we nodded to each other, we’ll wait it out. Parked behind a lonely gas station, we fished out our computer, and watched a James Bond movie for about 45 minutes until the rain had mostly subsided.

In another town over, we found a repair shop that was still operating. An energetic, young mechanic hopped right into our van and pulled it into the shop. A short time later, he told us that a bolt that attached the windshield wipers to their motor had come loose, and all he did was tighten it. We asked him what we could give him. “Five bucks?”  We gave him $20 in our gratitude, and zipped away down the highway, happily wiping our windshield with ease.

Lake Villa is suburb of Chicago, containing mostly large commercial complexes and a Six Flags amusement park. In a place like this, it’s easy to find a cheap room. We found a spot that was cheaper than our apartment in New York, and quickly made ourselves at home. We had a little time to do some work on the computer before we had to make our way to Swing State for our show.

Swing State is primarily a tobacco outlet. It is a long, low, smoky room on the bottom floor of an old house. They don’t serve any booze, so its populated by mostly younger types. They sell coffee, tea, hookah, cigars, and the like. When we entered, an older man with a lot of energy came at us. “I’m Pops Behind The Beard!” he exclaimed. He did indeed have a great big bushy beard. He was also sporting an old rock t-shirt, and a utili-kilt. He was to be our Sound man for the evening, and gave us both big hugs in celebration.

There were about 5 other people populating a long bar, drinking exotic tea and sipping on enormous hookahs. We loaded in through a side door, and set up fast. The stage was roomy for such a small room, and the sound system seemed pretty current. They clearly appreciate being a music venue. Setting up with Pops was a breeze, so we sat at the bar and chatted with him for a while, with time to spare.

In our time at the bar, we met the owner, Ian, who gave us a wave and a grunt, obviously busy with assembling a number of new Ikea bar stools. Since the crowd didn’t seem to be growing at all, we started playing. We played a tight, clean set. The sound was good. No one cared much. One guy, who we later identified as Pops' son, Max, hooted and shouted, and came up to the stage to listen to a tune or two.

After our set, as we were breaking down, a few people came up to tell us how much they enjoyed the music, including John of John & The Jitters. Thank You. The next act popped up just as we were packing away.  He shook our hands and apologized for missing our set. He then disappeared. We loaded out, and sat down with a pot of exotic tea (we would have had some hookah, but we were still chasing off that persistent cough).  

When the next act took the stage, a few things became clear. First, this was a crowd of his old friends. He named off a number of people in the crowd, dedicated songs to people in the room, and generally felt like he could do anything he wanted. Second, he was VERY stoned. He forgot words, messed up guitar parts, and lost his stool… the one he was sitting on. Perhaps he should have waited until after his set. But hell, the room was enraptured, so what do I know? And he had some interesting tunes.

We snuck out right at the end of his set, eager to return to our comfortable room for some dinner (now familiar bacon, biscuits, peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage… no eggs left though) and some showers. In mere minutes we were clean, eating, and watching TV while we did computer work and lounged. The perfect end to a very long and strange day.

 Tomorrow... Day Off, $3 wine

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Galt Line Beer and Sausages Tour Day 11

Did you ever see Repo Man?

Life in the motel of Northern KY (a VERY cheap motel by the way) is a hard one. There are so many car windows in downtown Cincinnati to smash, and only so much daylight. Though this line of work may pay more than ours, we thought that we might forge ahead with our dreams, and slide out of the Cincinnati metro area undetected.

The open Midwest highway is a beautiful sight to the traveler. The road bends straight, and the blue sky opens to smile on you as you speed across the flattened landscape. One can speed quickly through the lush green trees and sprawling farm land, to their respectable destination beyond.

Before rolling in to town, we stopped by our accommodations for the evening. We set up a tent, and some basic affects, at Moraine View State Recreation Park. It was a mere ½ hour from our venue, and the elements of a flame cooked dinner were easily attained.

Normal IL is aptly named. We drove past an extensive commercial section and into a flat and well swept downtown section. Parking was easy to find, and we stepped onto the sidewalk exactly in front of the congruently named venue, "The Coffee House". It was exactly that, a building in which coffee was served. With florescent lights and cinder-block walls and office carpet, it was stripped of the normal coffee shop decor. It looked more like and institutional building, where one might get their driver's license or file a complaint about the neighbor's grass.

We loaded onto the low stage, and sipped on our tiny free drinks. We played a show to harassed looking college students who were doing their first school work of the year. Near the end, a group of three musicians came to talk to us and say nice things. They had run a group for a while called The Melancholy Trees.

We loaded out fast, as they were closing down around us, and the lights began to flicker out. It was clear that the night was over. After we were loaded, we obtained supplies for a nice dinner of sausages and grilled mushrooms and peppers. A little grilling and $3 wine is all anyone needs to chase off the shadows of an awkward show. The only strange event of the evening was the appearance of giant, skeletal white spiders in the trees. With wine and food, we drifted off to sleep, a little disrupted by the comically loud night sounds.

Tomorrow... we escape a thunder storm, Swing State in Lake Villa IL, and a DAY OFF!!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Galt Line Beer and Sausages Tour Day 10

Two shows in one day! Why quit now?

The sun baked us in our tent. 9 is the perfect time to rise on a sunny day. We rolled out of the tent, and Jessa turned up in moments. She walked us through the process, showed us where to unload, and contacted the groggy soundman. After dragging our instruments and amps up to the sleepy stage, we discovered a keg back stage. Nothing says “good morning” like a keg of leftover beer.

When we each had a beer, and were all set up, we played a full set at 10 am. It was a little weird to hear our own music in the light of day, but we played as hard as we could, and got a good response. Afterwards, we watched Bloodroots Barter do what we just did, a morning set, with some new found friends and a few more morning beers.

The Bloodroots invited us up for a few tunes while waiting for the next band to arrive. That was a bunch of fun. When the set was over, Blythe and I went in search of free food. Because of our tardiness, we found only bologna on tortillas with pickles and ketchup. It was enough to hit the highway. After goodbyes to Bloodroots Barter, and some of our new friends, we rode out of the mountains, and back toward Cincinnati.

For the whole ride up, we talked about where to stay for the night. Unfortunately, there weren’t any free or cheap campgrounds in the area. We also didn’t know anyone in the city who would put us up. We got a VERY cheap motel room outside of the Cincinnati metro area. Here we got a shower and a moment of repose before we jumped into another show.

A 30 minute drive brought us to Sitwell’s coffee, which was our resident music spot for the night. We set up for an acoustic show, saying hello to Laura who runs the place, and saw us at Southgate a few nights before. We played. At first there was no reaction. Then strolled in Pete and Jay. They had seen us a year prior at Keith’s Workshop. Now they were in front of us again, listening intently to a rather chill set of tunes.

During a break we learned that Pete is involved in a new project called Shiny and the Spoon. We played another set to Pete and Jay, as well as Amanda, who had also seen us at Southgate House. We then ate beautiful sandwiches while catching up with everyone.

We packed out, feeling good about our small, but awesome, show. In 30 minutes we were in our VERY cheap motel room, watching a $5 movie from Wal-Mart and snacking on the leftovers of our sandwiches from Sitwell’s.

Tomorrow… Leaving Cincinnati, The Coffee Shop in Normal IL, and a beautiful campsite.

The Galt Line Beer and Sausages Tour Day 9

Richmond KY is the greatest city in the history of civilization. Sort Of.

I woke in a comfortable bedroom, hacking significantly less than the night before. I could hear that people were up and about already. Blythe was passed out next to me, snoring with cartoonish exuberance. I crawled out of bed, still grunting with guttural disturbance. In the kitchen, Ishi was searching for breakfast.
Not authentic "Blythe Snoring" picture

Soon Blythe was up, and she took up the mantel of coffee creator. A French press, percolator, and coffee syringe were rolling before anyone  even noticed that there wasn’ coffee. My throat was still bothering me a bit, so I dropped back some of last night’s sparkling Italian wine. It worked.

The talk of the group was that there was a $1 movie theater in town, but it was doubted that there was enough time to see the movie, have some food, and show up on time for the show. Blythe piped up that we have a NetFlix account. Also, Mark Maxey has an extensive library of movies available to watch on the giant TV in the Living Room.

I made the mistake of exhibiting interest in “The Poughkeepsie Tapes”. I had heard that this little movie had made a splash on festival circuits, and I said as much to Ishi and Tyler. Before I knew it, I was barraged with fake interviews about a fake serial killer, and fake videos of women being tortured in a basement. This is not a condemnation of the movie as such. It’s an effective horror movie based on a documentary format. But who wants to watch a series of videos about women being tortured on a sunny afternoon before having to put on an energetic show?

When it was over, Laura had made a bunch of Sandwiches and French fries, so we put on something a little lighter. We settled on The Sting, and thoroughly enjoyed it until it was time to saddle up and roll on to Richmond. 

In less than an hour, we were at The Paddy Wagon. The place was nearly empty when we arrived. While setting up, some people filtered in. The Bloodroots Barter and ourselves decided on trading off sets again. The Paddy Wagon has a large stage, which gave us plenty of room to set up all of our stuff. In a while, we were rolling through our set. The crowd seemed pretty appreciative (with screams and shouts and dancing) for about 2 tunes. Then everyone left the bar. After another tune, Blythe turned to me and said “I’m getting sick, NOW!”

We had no choice but to finish the set. Five or so tunes later, Blythe bolted off the stage and disappeared. The Bloodroots climbed up and launched into their setup, while I ran out to the van to search for the now infirmed Blythe. She was laying in the van, sweating and saying “I got sick. It came out of nowhere.” I shoved an aspirin in her face and we strolled back into the bar. The Bloodroots pounded through their set.

We were preparing to return to the stage when Casey offered Blythe a cocktail of Yellowroot, Ginseng, and ice. With an aspirin and some mountain medicine in her blood, Blythe was ready to mount the stage again. We swept through our second set, and tumbled off the stage. Bloodroots Barter wrapped up the night again with an impromptu dance party.

The night went quite well, despite health problems and an odd crowd. Next we had to find our way to Holler in the Holler, the festival at which we were playing in the morning, and sleeping for the night. We bid farewell to our friends, Rick and Tara, and drove off into the night.

Before long we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, driving on precarious gravel roads, searching for the campground for the festival. After some tricky three point turns with the Bloodroots’ bus, we found the fields in question. It was mere minutes before we had our tent set up and were laying in our sleeping bag, listening to the drum circle in the distance.

Tomorrow… Show in the morning, free beer, creepy motel, and show at night in Cincinnati. 

The Galt Line Beer and Sausages Tour Day 8

Al’s Bar’s Our Bar

The sun rose over Costco that morning, and we woke to the sounds of slamming car doors. The parking lot was alive with busy families. We must have been a sight, all of us filing out of the bus and squinting at the daylight. Blythe and I hit the big clean bathrooms for a quick clean up, and had a Costco hotdog for breakfast ($1.50 with a soda!). We feasted with Ishi and Casey while discussing the coming days. It was like a high-powered board meeting, but funnier, and with better food.

We stopped off at Trader Joe’s for some road snacks and cheap booze, and we parted ways again, planning to meet up at Al’s bar. Blythe and I hit the road together, again zooming through Kentucky, admiring the rolling green of horse country. Corn, Soy beans, and tobacco dotted hillsides, as we sped toward Lexington.

When New Circle road, Lexington’s own mini-belt-way, rolled across the horizon, we pulled off and went to visit our friends. Tara and Rick welcomed us in, and cooked us a fine dinner of pasta and mushrooms. Rick has taken a job on an organic mushroom farm, and so has a great supply of them. We caught up for a while, but had to go all too soon.
Outside Al's Bar

The great white bus was already parked in front of Al’s Bar when we arrived. We loaded in fast. With a meal in our bellies, we were ready to play. On the menu tonight was Us, Whitehall Bear, and Bloodroots Barter. It was to be a fine night of rootsy brilliance. After a beer, it was time. We crushed it. The Galt Line played a good show.

Whitehall Bear came up next, and played a loose and wild set of country flavored modern rock. They played with real energy, even through technical difficulties. Next up came Bloodroots Barter, who polished off another perfect show with energy and mountain hewn grace. This was a cool night, with good music all around. Our spirits were high.

We all packed out, ready for a party. Rick and Tara were kind enough to provide the space. Everything was set for a great after party, but one thing (for me anyway). I contracted, about a week before the tour started, some disease that had me fevered and coughing. Some symptoms had still (and even now a little) stuck around. This night, I was hacking like a Dickensian orphan. When we arrived at the house, I shut myself away in a room, and turned in for the night to chase off this cough before we continued on with less comfort available.
Everyone around offered sympathies. Angie, a denizen of the household and friend of ours, offered eucalyptus oil to soothe the cough. Casey offered a tincture of Yellowroot and Ginseng. I took whatever was given to me along with a strong dose of modern cough medicine, and lay back for a night in bed.

I could hear frivolities outside the bedroom door, but resisted the temptation to join the party and lay quietly with a book from Mark and Kristi’s room. It was The War Lizard chronicles. This was awesome. Kristi’s sweet bulldog, cheeseburger, came and laid with me until I fell asleep. Hours later, Blythe crawled into bed. I would like to note that I made fun of Blythe in the last set of tour blogs for always falling asleep. She was up partying, hosting, and generally doing everything until 5 am.

Warning, dog not actually cheeseburger. Really... not even the same dog.

I shall be silent on this forever… until the next time she falls asleep in the passenger seat I guess.

Tomorrow…  Richmond KY, and all of its charms… also, the PoughkeepsieTapes and The Sting, a contrast.

The Galt Line Beer and Sausages Tour Day 7

The South Gate to Our Hearts

The Bloodroots Barter got us all booked in a crazy venue in the Cincinnati metro area called the Southgate House. It was the first thing on our minds when we woke on Jorja’s floor. A long drive was ahead of us, but this venue seemed like a cool spot. We all convened at Acoustic Coffeehouse, said goodbye to Johnson City, and hit the highway.

Sailing through the hills, we were in Kentucky in no time. The sun shined and the highway curled into the mountains and across lakes nestled in green valleys. The landscape flattened out as we approached Lexington, and in a short time we could see the towers on Cincinnati peak over the horizon. We rolled into Newport KY, a suburb across the river.

The Southgate house is a massive brick house with Victorian touches perched at the top of a small green hill. Inside there is a bar, a lounge upstairs, and a large ballroom nearly the size of the 9:30 club in the back. Behind the building in a brick lined alley where we saw Bloodroots Barter’s bus crawl to a stop. After a short discussion about set times, we all loaded in at top speed.

We had decided to trade off sets, each of us playing two 45 minute sets. This meant that we were surrounded by Bloodroot’s pelts, empty whiskey bottles, and Styrofoam heads. After a quick mic check, we were off and running. The first set was easy. Before we knew it, we were handing off to Bloodroots Barter, and the room was well warmed up. While they powered through a set of blistering bluegrass and roots music, we traveled the room and met some of the fine people who were so recently cheering us on.

Soon we were playing another set. Loosened up by a few beers, we touched on some tunes we hadn’t played in a while. It was a very fun set, and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Bloodroots closed out the night and got everyone dancing.

 Afterwards, we met in the alley behind the venue to discuss the evening and congratulate ourselves on a good show. We decided on sleeping in the bus in a Costco parking lot nearby. Blythe and I curled up where Casey had just removed a kitchen table and fell quickly asleep.

Tomorrow… Al’s bar, Lexington, and tuberculosis.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Galt Line Beer and Sausages Tour Day 6

Leaving “Las” Raleigh, or “Detroit Rock” Johnson City

We just plain had to do it. We left our motel room and hit the road. However, leaving behind these creature comforts was no great tragedy. Five shows with the Bloodroots Barter awaited us, and we were sure that these were going to be great shows. The gigs were booked in their territory, at places that they had developed. They were really inviting us in to something that they had cultivated and we were going to play for some new ears.

After a quick oil change, we left Raleigh and hit the highway for Johnson City. The Acoustic Coffeehouse was in our sights, and we were eager to play this familiar spot. Every time we play there, we see new faces and old. There’s always an appreciative crowd, not to mention some great beer.

With a long trip down the highway, and a short detour over some mountains, we found ourselves in the Coffeehouse parking lot. While unloading, Jim, the proprietor of the Acoustic Coffeehouse and professional musician, asked us if he could sit in on bass. Sure! Soon, The Bloodroots folks started showing up. A quick beer together, and a short reunion, and we were off.

We started in with a pretty hot set of about an hour and a half. There were some dancers, and a few hoots and hollers. After some set up, Bloodroots Barter stepped up and blew through two hours pretty fast.

With the music for the night over, it was time to catch up with everyone. We hung around the Acoustic Coffeehouse very late. Finally, after a very long day and many adult beverages, a friend in town, Jorja, offered us a place to sleep. We gratefully accepted, and found ourselves in our sleeping bags in minutes, drifting off to the Tennessee night sounds.

Tomorrow…  Southgate House, and the Cincinnati metro area.