Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Return of the Roots Jedi -or- Hurtling Through American Highway Space

Skip to the end for a conclusion on the whole tour...

We had lunch with Suzie, hearing the story of how she got all the out to the Seattle area in the first place. For the afternoon we hung out with Dustin and Natasha, who have very comfortably set themselves up in the rainy city. We walked their tiny dogs, sat at a local cafe, and I sprayed their kitchen with over-carbonated cider.

When we departed, we cruised into the city proper to explore, but we rolled right through when free parking proved to be sparse and the afternoon wore on into evening. Instead we jetted toward Portland, planning to make our way out through the Columbia River Gorge. The weather turned fast and we were forced into another motel. Wal-Mart food in a microwave and some cable TV helped us drift off to sleep early, helping us get a quick start in the morning.

Through the next morning we blasted through the gorge, dripping rain graying the jutting cliffs and piny forests. In a couple of hours the mountains flattened and the landscape opened. Open ranges stretched in all directions and heavy clouds continued to drizzle. The trip through eastern Oregon and Washington was uneventful except for a quick visit to a sad little casino for some free soda and clean bathrooms.

Just as we crossed into the Idaho panhandle, mountains sprung immediately on the horizon. The highway hit the hills like a wall, and climbed steeply toward the sky. In a few minutes we were winding through rockies, dodging trucks with steaming breaks. When we hit the Montana border, a steady snow started. Solid four foot snow drifts were stacked by the roadside. The sun dropped and the wind picked up.

Stopping for a particularly strange roadside attraction, we turned off the twisting highway. With just an hour until Missoula, we took a moment to gaze over rattlesnake wine bottle holders and enormous but useless knives. This particular souvenir shop included a dimly lit bar and a small casino with a few slot machines and a bored looking dealer tossing cards to two haggard old cowboys.

Back in the van, we descended into Missoula, glided through, and shot across the valley floor toward Butte. Soon we saw a giant glowing Virgin Mary and some strange red lit structures. These were our only sign that we had reached and passed through Butte. In about another two hours we stopped in a small mountain town, the snow still gently falling. A very nice guy at a tiny motel greeted us with his gigantic dog. He set us up in an incredibly clean room, and we drifted off.

Waking early the next morning, we pointed the van toward South Dakota with the aim of seeing the badlands before powering through to good old MD. We passed through the last of the rockies and accelerated across the plains. Rocketing through a corner of Wyoming and into South Dakota at 80 mph took all day. We finally rolled through Rapid City just as the sun was setting.

A quiet rain fell on the silent canyons of the Badlands. A final pink line was shrinking on the horizon, and the sandstone glowed blue. A few bored goats traipsed quietly around the cliffs, apathetically gazing at us while we peered into the rugged gorges. The last sunlight retreated and we climbed into the van to search for our last motel of the trip.

We ate roasted chicken in our motel room and watched Conan. We were on the road again by 8 am. We stopped by the famous Wall Drug at an eerie hour, sneaking by usually busy shops, now silent on an off-season early morning.

Back in the van, while pulling out, the committee met. Blythe and I discussed the coming drive, money saving options, and the time remaining before we were expected back at work. It was decided that with a trade off driving, we could make a straight shot through South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia,  and right on home into Maryland. We took a stop at a diner for some really good food, a few cups of coffee, and a last moment of rest before we crossed half a country.

A few energy drinks from a truck stop jacked me up enough for Blythe to get a full nights sleep. Cities blew by: Sioux Falls, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Columbus. Blythe took over around Columbus, and I passed out until Morgantown WV.

The last few miles from Cumberland to Frederick were the toughest. Both of us were tired. We were home now. The rest of the evening was spent with Blythe's mom, eating pizza, drinking beers, and watching old musicals. We slept full and happy.

What did we get for all this? Certainly not money. Really it was a close up view of the music scene out west. Pretty similar to the one here, except the venues are very transparent. They talk openly about money, their usual crowd etc. Most welcomed us warmly, impressed with how far we'd come. Most shows generated some income. People on the west coast are less astonished with the kind of music we play, and more astonished by the energy with which we play it. I like that. The west is not a place where we could make steady money playing music, any more than here. I think that the west will be just another turn on the continuing path. Where could we really settle after all, when we're bored with any city we're in after just a few shows.

Now for some big plans in the local area. A foot in the door on Baltimore, 4 paid shows in Atlantic City, a residency at a new spot in DC, some fun weddings, and some work with Brett in DC Fringe Fest.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 31 We Drop Anchor at the Anchor Pub -or- Arkansas & The River Bandits steal our hearts.

Sunrise never came at the Sunrise Motor Inn. The small window was completely covered with a sad and dirty curtain. We showered and got out fast. To save cash, we planned on camping somewhere for the next night, but a quiet rain continued to fall, and a chill wind continued to blow, and campsites continued to be elusive.

Riding into the town of Everett (a suburb of Seattle), we found a cheap strip of run down looking motels. With a few calls, we found one for very little money. When we arrived however, it conjured images of “No Country for Old Men”, so we left. After a few shots in the dark on the phone, we found one for a decent price with a monitored parking lot and many extravagant amenities such as a microwave, and a remote for the TV.

We stopped by a grocery store and got ourselves a lunch that we could cook in the confines of a motel room, holed up with 2 bottles of wine and passed the time until the show.

On entering the Anchor Pub, we were cheerfully greeted by bartender Rachel, and we were quickly set up with drinks. We sat and puzzled over the pictograms under Rainier beer caps until Holly arrived. Holly, the pub owner, booked us, and was kind enough to show us the way to the stage so we could get set up. Jeff, the other owner, showed up while we were setting up and found us some mics and cables. Tom, the sound guy, came up next and got us linked in with some good sound.

This was all going too smoothly. Next came the members of Arkansas & The River Bandits, who all greeted us warmly before presetting a little. We sat and talked with them a bit while they were building drum kits and the like, until Suzy came in with Julie and Julia (neither of whom were cooking or complaining, the two main features of that particular movie)

Soon we were rolling right through our set. We played fast and tightly with. The audience looked mildly shocked, and applauded with enthusiasm. Despite their appreciation, they declined my invitations for them to take the dance floor. Instead they bought us beers and shouted. “Where’re ya from!?” one lady shouted. “The DC area!” Blythe answers. The crowd responded with collective disappointment. “You gotta come back!” This is a truly good reaction.

Next the River Bandits hopped up and delivered 2 hours of solid Rock. They were bluesy and soulful. Michael, lead singer, effectively conducted the band through some newer tunes, and took the stage alone to send us some solo strum and sing goodness.

After the show, everyone was very complimentary and encouraging. Adam, cook and bar back, delivered us a bottle of champagne in celebration of our last show. We sipped and chatted, thoroughly pleased with our time on this night.

We were very happy to kick in the door at our creepy motel, and lay down for some much needed sleep.

Thanks to the Anchor Pub, including Holly, Adam, and Rachel, for a great night. Thanks to Jeff and Tom for helping us get set up. And Thanks to Arkansas & The River Bandits. It was a great show all around. Thanks to Suzy and the Julias for coming out.

Tomorrow… Suzy for breakfast, Dustin and Natasha, Seattle in the rearview and the van goes east for the first time in weeks.

Day 30 - Port Townsend Who? - or - The Galt Line and Temperance

We woke in Sarah’s room, strangely surround by things we had left behind in New York, and Sarah had moved out to Portland. After a shower, Sarah, Jenna, and Cameron wanted to take us out to a nice spot that they knew of for breakfast.

A short drive brought us to The Stepping Stone. After a little wait, they set us up in a large booth in the corner, and in minutes we had steaming and delicious coffee in front of us. They did indeed have great breakfast, most notably human head sized pancakes called MANCAKES. We ate like crazy, and talked about what a weird place Portland is. Cameron told a great story about a shy girl from his high school who had turned out to be one of Charlie Sheen’s many recent concubines.

<-- Man vs. Food Episode w/ MANCAKES

We called it quits, and with a fond farewell, left Portland with all possible speed. Soon we were driving through rolling hills, headed toward the Puget Sound area. We were bound for a small town called Port Townsend, where we were booked in a coffee shop, The Boiler Room, claiming to be a haven for youth from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. We balked a little at this, but we never turn down a show, so we booked it, figuring we’d skip a few choice songs or lyrics.

When we rolled into town, a steady drizzle was soaking the water front. The soggy gray light made the otherwise beautiful little town look dreary. We found The Boiler Room on the main drag. We stepped inside, noticing that our promo material was nowhere to be seen. At the counter we talked to Hunter. He told us that Collin, music intern, would be in around 6:00. We told him we’d walk around town for a bit.

For about 45 minutes we walked along the water front. We watched a sailing race for a few minutes, with about ten good sized boats floating silently and dreamily by a morose looking girl hold a checkered flag on a pier. Enormous sea birds hopped around parking lots, pecking at nothing and crying at each other.

We made our way back to try and meet Collin when he came in, but he was nowhere to be seen. Posting up by the door seemed a natural step, so we got out the computer and settled in. Blythe got a drink (for which she was charged) and we watched and waited. An older man with a backpack came in, sang along to the Rolling Stones tune on the playback, and sat down to read a book without buying anything.

Next were a pack of surly looking teenagers, the shop’s milieu. A frantic looking mother talked frustratingly to her young boy in a corner. A scattered looking young man burst through the door and disappeared into a back room. We waited for nearly an hour and a half before finding out that this last was Collin. With his help, we cleared a space, and while he set up a PA system, we loaded in.

Moments later, members of Operation ID started showing up, nearly half an hour after the show was scheduled to start. After a short discussion, we decided to go on first. As soon as the decision was made, Operation ID disappeared to get dinner. We awkwardly stood around until they came back, then played shyly and quietly to the band, Collin, and Hunter behind the counter. It sucked. Worst show of the trip. We quickly vacated the stage area, loaded out and skulked to a corner to watch Operation ID also play to nobody.

Two girls walked in, who appeared to be involved with the Boiler Room, and the boys in the band begged them to stay. They did. Operation ID was awesome. They played really great Jazz influenced dancey math rock. They were tight and well rehearsed with very strange sounding material.

After their show Blythe and I made our way out. On the way I stopped to compliment the band on their music and was summarily brushed off. We left Port Townsend as quickly as possible.

The night was saved by a late dinner at Denny’s with Suzy Brown and Julia. We passed out hard at a very cheap motel called Sunrise Motor Inn.

Thanks to Collin for trying us out, I guess. Thanks to Operation ID for a good show.

Tomorrow… Finding a new place to stay in Everett, the Anchor Pub, Arkansas River Bandits, and free champagne.

Day 29 - Langano Drink Some Beers - or - Casino Sodas and Bathrooms

It was hard to leave our pretty rooms. Slowly we made our way out, stopping to roam the beach for some time, cold ocean mist swirling around us. We found piles of driftwood, worn smooth by years in the waves. With a trudge up a steep hill from the beach to our waiting van, we knew we were leaving the coast behind. Before we left Lincoln City, we stopped off in the casino for some free soda and coffee.

After topping a hill and descending into the valley, the rain ceased instantly. The sun broke through thick clouds as we sped toward the city. We passed many small family farms, and whisked through tiny towns. From time to time we would stop off at another casino for more free soda and free slot play. We had a little lunch, and switched off drivers. I did my best Blythe impression and passed out as fast as I could.

It felt like minutes before I jerked awake, surrounded by buildings. We were already in Portland. Stepping through Portland when I had just been in the country for 2 days was disoriented. We wandered the streets for some time, ate some Chinese from a great food cart, and watched Portland move around us.

Preparing for the show, we stepped into Langano Lounge a little early. Jason, The bartender, got us set up with a beer and a shot. We nursed our whiskey while waiting for Teddy, the lady in charge, to show up. In a short time, Sarah Buckley arrived. Sarah, with her old boyfriend Barak, lived next door to us in Brooklyn. She was kind enough to set up this evening. Not long after, the whole bar began to fill up.

The music began with some instrumental compositions by Sean and Scott. Next, Sarah stepped up and featured a number of the tunes she’s been writing lately. She had a varied cast backing her up, including Jenna (who we knew in NYC) on violin, Scott on guitar, and Sarah’s room mate Tasha on vocal harmonies.

We took the spotlight next for a loose and punky set. People were up and dancing, and the crowd seemed completely in to what we were doing. This was a good show. Afterwards we sat and talked with Nate, Mirage, Glenna, and Maya and others, just bullshitting about Portland and about music.

After the show we hung out at Sarah’s boyfriend’s house, sipping on beers and getting to know each other. It was very late before anyone realized it, and Sarah sent us off to her apartment for some desperately needed sleep.

Thank you to Langano lounge, Jason and Teddy for getting us set up, and Sarah for taking care of everything.

Tomorrow… Giant Pancakes, Port Townsend, Operation ID, and a terrible show.