Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Dirty Yeti Beach Party: Portland OR

Everyone was silent after the boom. The crowd looked around for someone to investigate. Fortunately they were spared the effort, for the door burst open, and a man from the village tore across the room, spouting Hindi and grabbing an army officer by the collar. Another man rose from a nearby table and calmed the now agitated officer.

“He is crying for help. He says a great foot crashed to the ground.” The man was still talking rapidly. “He says the leg reached into the clouds.”

I did not wake up healthy. Blythe shook me as Wesley was coming in the door. The generosity of the Horned Hand has morning consequences. We had breakfast at Wesley’s house. I said very little. It was good though. Wesley drove us back to the Hand, and we loaded out. Blythe drove while I tried to sleep. We retraced our path across the mountains to Portland. The journey took us deep into the afternoon. When we arrived in Portland, we didn’t have too much time to burn.

We found the venue locked up tight, so we walked the neighborhood for a while. When they cracked the doors, we sat down and had some awesome Thai food. We brought in our stuff, met Renee Muzquiz, our host for the evening, and the Strangled Darlings, our bill mates. Renee Muzquiz started with a set of tricky singer-songwriter stuff with complex chords. We stepped up next and started into an acoustic set. Though we sound checked, the venue kept telling us we were too loud. The truth is, our music has a very dense texture, so it always seems louder than it is. Anyway, after a few adjustments, we just unplugged and stood in the middle of the room.

The Strangled Darlings stepped up next and played a set of roots laced R&B stuff. With and electric cello and a mandolin, they created a sparse and elegant rhythmic pulse. It was a cool set. It was like David Holmes done by a roots duo. After that, Renee Muzquiz closed out with another set. These tunes were particularly tricky with bossa rhythms and jazzy chords and lots of energy, not to mention great singing.

The Strangled Darlings offered us a spot for the night. We toasted a nightcap with some cider we got in Chelan, and passed out fast and hard.

After the man’s frantic rant, the room erupted into conversation. Aldo just smiled quietly. “They’re coming.” He said to me.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Dirty Yeti Beach Party: Bend OR

My little Tea House had ever been so full. Soldiers and villagers who never meet my eye were ordering drinks. Jack watched me, bemused, as I openly poured hard spirits to men who would normally harass me about liquor laws.

Aldo was strumming a mandolin and chuckling every time someone walked up the narrow stairway. Sir Kent stood up and addressed the room. “What are all of you doing here?”

The journey to Bend OR is an epic one, requiring a zig-zagging pass over the Cascades. After leaving our truck stop motel, we jumped on a highway that had us winding through the mountains in no time. We went from a grey drizzle to snow-capped and sun drenched peaks in no time. View after view of mountains stretching to the horizon and cliff clinging roadways filled the windshield. Once we had crossed a few ridgelines, the evergreen forests gave way to high desert. Soon we were twisting through red rock canyons.

When we got to Bend, we found a town of sprawling commercial centers and green grassed parks. We sat down for a dinner of fish tacos at Parrilla Grill. When we found the Horned Hand, we were invited in warmly and great beers were slammed down before us in an instance. Wesley, owner and operator, chatted with us about some other bands on the circuit. When some people started streaming in, we loaded onto the stage. Local street musicians, The Wild Eyed Revolvers, played a quick set of original tunes. Afterwards we crushed 2 ½ hours of a mean set.

Nice beer kept flowing as we talked with some people after the show. I passed out on the couch. Wesley locked us in for the night. The next thing I knew, Wesley was unlocking the door in the morning and offering us breakfast.

PS – A fuzzy memory from the night surfaced. A friend of the establishment ran a food truck outside. The Codfather is a converted double decker bus that serves fish and chips and fish tacos. They cooked us up a late night dinner that I still dream about.

No one answered Sir Kent. The room, momentarily lulled by his command for attention, roared back to life with hurried conversation. Then a boom rang in the distance and everyone was silent.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Dirty Yeti Beach Party Seattle

"The Galt Line 'ere tonight? Thought so, sir."

The two soldiers bustled past and picked two stools at the counter. "Drinks sir!"

I eyed them suspiciously and stepped in front of the bottles that now lined the shelves. Everyone clearly had drinks in their hands. Liquor is not allowed in this area because of some local civil trouble with the native villagers. "We serve no alcohol here boys."

"Can it. We're not here to cause you trouble. We just want a dab of good ole English whiskey." He gave a rogueish wink and tipped his wrist back, miming a drink. "Our fellows told us this would be the spot for it.

"Well alright boys. Half price tonight!"

Bremerton was grey as ever in the morning. We snuck out of Gentry’s house and drove up the hill to a diner run by some folks who were at the show the night before. They kindly invited us to have breakfast, so we piled into a booth next to Kelly (former birthday girl and Hi Fidelity co-owner) and her friends. We had huge omelets and lots of coffee. Blythe also bought a painting by a local artist of John Wayne riding a Tauntaun through a psychedelic space background.

Afterwards, we took a ferry across the sound to Seattle. The ferry ride was beautiful, showing us some of the only sunshine we were to see in the Northwest. The boat glided past evergreen islands and marinas packed full of sailboats. Sea birds traced the ferry’s path while the Seattle skyline came into view around an island. The crystalline spires grew taller as the boat approached the dock.

We rolled off the boat and up the street and parked. With an afternoon to burn before our show, we thought we might explore downtown Seattle. We marched to the place all Seattle tourists go. Pikes Place market is hours of entertainment. With everything from fresh seafood and produce to full sized oil paintings and handmade instruments for sale, there were endless things to peruse.

Later we walked the streets, peering in the windows of coffee shops and boutique stores. Eventually we happened on the Utilikilt store. After the guy running the store handed us a beer, we had to stay and chat. Half an hour later we walked out with a kilt. Not long after we met Dustin and Natasha for dinner at a gleaming sushi restaurant. We talked for a bit about being on the road, and Dustin’s upcoming thesis, an account of a medieval labor dispute within the cloistered walls of the Catholic Church.

After dinner we drove a short bit to the venue, Comet Tavern, and began loading in. Aside from the door guy, everyone was very helpful. Before long all the work was done and we had met the other bands, decided on order, and launched into the music. First up was Weatherside Whiskey Band, a roots act with cool country tunes and a great upright bassist. We followed with a tight and fast set. After, Judd Wasserman put together a big band and played Dark Side of the Moon note for note.

After giving a goodnight to the bands, getting some unnecessary shit from the door guy, and loading out, we get a free hot dog at the cart outside (Italian sausage with grilled onions and cream cheese… wild eh?). We hopped in the van, hit the highway, and ate up an hour of rainy highway before turning off at a truck stop and checking in to a dirty little room.

Over the din of a roomful, an Officer poked his head around the door. "Oi, you two." He shouted at the two young soldiers. "What're you doin' here."

The soldiers had had a few, so they raised their glasses in unison and retorted, "Havin' a drink sir!"

"You're in trouble now boys. Drinking in town where its illegal."

They looked at each other and worried.

"Now!" The officer shouted. "Now, you owe me a drink! I hear The Galt Line are coming this way."

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dirty Yeti Beach Party: Chelan and Bremerton

Aldo Stepped from the shadows.

Everyone who traveled knew Aldo. He was on every street corner in every city in the world. His parents forced him to learn to play the violin in hopes of getting a court position. Aldo instead of pursuing his parent's dreams of stately dinners, he ran off with a passing tribe of Gypsies. Now he made his living playing for coins, bells strapped to his ankle, and dressed in every color.

"Aldo!" exclaimed Sir Kent and Jack. They began searching their pockets for a coin to buy a song.

"Hold you money tonight Gentle Sirs. The Galt Line approaches."

Aldo swept off his hat in address to the room. "How do I know?" He asked everyone. "Because I saw them last night."

"What!" Shouted Jack.

"Oh yes! And they played... for hours... and destroyed another tavern."

"How extraordinary." Jack whispered.

"They are a menace Good Men. But they mustn't be stopped. For they may destroy this very tea house, but may all be richer for it."

The Spokane show had gone really well, which meant we woke up very slowly. By 11 we were in the car with the city in the rearview. Our next stop was a little resort town by a mountain lake called Chelan. We were booked to play The Vogue Lounge, a popular coffee shop and wine bar. First we had a long drive across eastern Washington ahead of us.
Most of this portion of the state is sprawling plains, dotted with little, dense pine forests. Frost and icy fog clung to the grasses, giving an otherworldly halo to the whole scene. We passed through little western towns centered around grain mills and railroad depots. Soon mountains crept over the horizon, snowy peaks first, followed by miles of rolling foothills.

As we approached the mountains, the road became more remote. Only a few farmhouses dotted the ethereal landscape. When the road began to wind downhill to meet the first of the rocky foothills, enormous volcanic boulders began to pop up, hulking suddenly over our path when we would turn a tight corner. Against a steely sky, a great black rock can be an impending sight.

Winding between mountains and crossing old steel bridges brought us suddenly to the wide main street of Chelan. Boutiques line either side. The road meandered to a blue painted steel bridge, punctuated with antique street lamps. We parked the Yeti and had a lunch of salad and baked spaghetti at a local diner. After a mighty cup of delicious (though slightly motor oil like) coffee, we wandered the tiny lakeside town. A local park provided an easy path along the mountain lake. While strolling, a gigantic husky joined us, trotting happily around the park, apparently unconcerned about the local leash laws.

When the path led us back into town, we spotted some local artists building ice sculptures with fevered intensity. Crowds had gathered to watch these men athletically manipulate huge blocks of ice. Several tourists sat on a great ice throne for pictures, invariably rubbing their freezing backsides after descending.

AWWWW! Lookit!

When the sun sank behind the looming mountains, we stepped into The Vogue. We introduced ourselves to Mike, the owner, and Danielle the barista on duty. They made us very comfortable while we worked on the computers. When the time came, we loaded onto the small stage and got ready to play. A few patrons filtered in, ordering glasses of wine and lounging comfortably at the bar. We played a laid back show for them, totaling about 2 ½ hours. Everyone seemed to have a pretty good time. A few people dropped us tips and we sold a bunch of shirts and CDs.

When we were loading out, a little snow had started to fall, and an icy frost was beginning to cling to everything. We figured we should get out of town before we got stuck in the mountains. Our lodgings for this chilly evening were in Wenatchee, a town filled with fruit packing factories and cheap motels.

The night went by fast. Morning came greyly through the grimy window. We were on the highway quickly, winding through the cascades, and finding our way to Bremerton. This town’s main distinction is having the honor of being home to a naval repair yard. Having just recently toured the Norfolk VA naval harbor, it was interesting to see the same situation mirrored on the West coast. The Town is perched on a hill on a peninsula guarding the Puget Sound. It has the rusty look of a Midwestern industrial town, but with a touch of charming Western kookiness.

We found the Hi Fidelity Lounge poking out of a tight little alley. We heaved the wooden door open and were greeted with a drunken song. The bar was crowded to the gills with merry makers from the local Hash club, which has something to do with imbibing and running in the woods. We were greeted somewhat coldly by Gentry, one of the owners, and by Kelly, the other owner and birthday girl. Both were thoroughly engaged with the club, who had somehow invaded before the bar had officially opened. We ducked out, hoping to grab some food and let the bar owners get a handle on the drunken runners.

At a grocery store we munched on sandwiches and made predictions for the evening while watching the town filter through the checkout lines with their dinners and libations. When the time came, we marched back to the venue, threw open the door and demanded attention. The owners were much more helpful now, and soon we were loaded in with drinks in hand. We also met our bill mates, Pearl and Chris, The Driftwood Singers. Once the sound guy arrived, we were ready to start. The Driftwood Singers began with a set of haunting country ballads, complete with floating harmonies and raggy chord changes.

We jumped up next and played an energetic set. A few drunken dancers stomped in from the front room and turned the whole thing into a real live party. When we were done, we chatted with some of the crowd and had a few beverages. Near the end we talked to two Navy types who were enjoying their night off together. They were from Delaware and Philly, so we jawed about the Mid-Atlantic while they got seriously drunk.

When the party was over and the bar was shutting down, owner Gentry invited us to stay for the night. Soon we were stretched out on the floor of his house while his dogs ran circles around the room. We passed out.

Two men from the village came in up the stairs and brushed roughly past Aldo. They were villagers who I had seen around. I had never thought they would come in here, as they didn't speak English, and didn't care for the English. But down they sat, and began to fish coins from their clothes.

When I approached the table, one of the men looked up and grunted. "Galt Line? Here".

"Well it seems so Gents." Sir Kent offered.

They conferred rapidly in their native Hindi. "Two Teas." the one said gruffly. As I turned to fill his order he grabbed my arms and gave me a conspiratorial wink. As the only liquor officially available here is made from fermented goat's milk, I assumed he wanted a discreet drop of brandy. I slapped down two tea and brandys. 

"Its on me tonight you two kind men. The Galt Line is coming and we must prepare." I pulled the bottles from under the counter. "Come on, Drinks half price for everyone, all night!"