Friday, March 18, 2011


We're here! I can't write for a long time - the band is playing in a few hours downtown at Stage on 6th. Mario, the 23 year old manager from Seattle, flew in on Tuesday night and has been hitting all the clubs drumming us up some work. The band only had a house party lined up before getting here, and now have 5 shows. We played Opal Divine on Wednesday, and Agave on Thursday. Today and tomorrow the play Stage on 6th at 1pm and 4pm respectively. Please come by and check them out if you're in the madness!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunday Shenanigans

Trying to shop for a tire and navigate San Diego traffic were the cause of our getting to the Sunday LA show with little time but for the band to set up and start playing. After the stresses of traffic and repairs, we followed some friendly locals to a bar called the Cha-Cha (which is actually run by the same owner of Cha-Chas in Seattle). I was holding the keys and thus no beers while there, and also stood holding them while surveying our situation at 2 am on the streetwalk. Going to our previously arranged location was out of the question - the friend had long since gone to bed in time for work Monday. Besides, many in our party were too preoccupied with taco truck, new acquaintances, and their own confusion to be easily corralled in a quiet house. We were contemplating where to park for the night to sleep in the van, when Devon's former roommate Brittney offered up her apartment. Some of our more intrepid new buddies came along for the adventure, and we clamored into the van for a 30 minute ride through the deadened Sunday evening streets.

We parked on a quiet side street just a ways down from Brittney's place, and immediately set to to break up a fight that broke out in the van. Geoff was nursing a broken heart, and didn't feel the need to associate with anyone. Woken from his deep animal slumber in the back seat by a too festive Ryan, and we were prying the hands of one off the other in the lawn two minutes later. Leaving Geoff as he wanted to bed down alone in the van, we headed to our night's accommodations.

Brittney lives in a funky apartment complex, where two buildings with two levels of apartments share a central courtyard with a dinky pool and some benches. The apartments on each level are connected by a balcony walkway, where our friends' clumsy footsteps and loud carousing probably woke more than a few neighbors. We entered a two room space where living room had been converted to second bedroom, and two cats cavorted about our feet. It was very nice of Brittney to host us, though I wondered how exactly we were all going to fit in here.

Brittney seemed unperturbed by her newly thrust upon late-night hostess responsibilities, and broke out pictures of a much younger Devon sporting rocker bangs and the same style leather jacket. (I don't think he had then the red leather snakeskin pointy half boots he wears now though - at least I didn't catch a glimpse in the photo). Devon as generously broke out a bottle of booze and they proceeded to pass about the bottles and banter with equal gusto.

After a time, Noble and I asked for a place to sleep and crawled into our sleeping bags in the other room. Devon started telling a raucous version of tour immediately upon monopolizing the new audience, and we listened as he talked about the farting, the flirting, and the partying. Like the veteran rocker he is, the stories took on an epic quality, and a rather enlightened view of the storyteller himself. Noble and I, both silent before in the darkness, now burst out laughing at our band hero in the next room. Most warming to my heart though was how he praised the better balance struck this tour with the addition of a certain merch girl Shanana.

At some point after (wherein shirtless dance shenanigans were commenced in the rinky-dink weight room) the rest of the bunch joined Noble and I in the sleeping endeavor. Six of us bedded down in the rooms, with Brittney and boyfriend leaving to sleep at his place nearby. It seemed only moments before that Brittney stumbled out the front door, and her unexpected roommate fumbled in. He spent some time contemplating the situation in the dark - strangers in his bed, on his floor, making it hard even for him to enter. We later found that Brittney had not gotten a hold of him before, and she'd stopped trying to convey the message somewhere between rolling rock and Sailor Jerry.

The roommate went into Brittney's room to ask her about the present situation, and found yet two further strangers bedded in Brittney's bed. He walked back out and stood in the kitchen silently texting and waiting for someone, anyone, to tell him what was going on. Which is where we all found him staring at us when Noble's alarm went off at 7:30. We hastily sprung from the floors and couches and beds to grab our things and exit. I hate to think of the bad day we started for you, roomie! I hope you and Brittney work things out....

With little sleep, and such an abrupt awakening, I stood upon the balcony as our two new buddies walked out and leaned against the railing, one shakily lighting a cigarette. They turned to one another and immediately shared a laugh at their situation. Moments later, Devon stepped jauntily along the bleached sidewalk in his snakeskins, clutching a 1/4 bottle of rum and a sleeping bag with the arm that wasn't thrown over the shoulders of his new friend. We beelined the van for Discount Tire, and replaced the front two for our 7 hour drive to Tempe and the final show before SXSW.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


We blew a tire on a stretch of I-5, simultaneously ripping through my contemplation of cherry orchards and vacations, the rubber to the rim (bending irreparably), and our best intentions to speed along to San Diego without delay. Geoff expertly guided the van out of traffic as semis zipped by. Immediately after coming to a halt we all piled out and headed for spare tire, the iron, a jack. Within moments it was discovered that the jack did not fit the bolts and I whipped out my AAA card so someone could dial them for roadside assistance. Meanwhile, the smartphones got to work locating us more accurately than between the orchard on one side of the highway and ranch land on the other. Others of those little brains came up with a list of tire places, their phone numbers and locations.

Pretty soon we were seated in the tall grass beside the van (I think I failed to mention before but it's a Dodge Ram 1500 with a small trailer attached) waiting for AAA, some of us gladly grabbing a celebratory beer that no one was grumpy or impatient, that we were in the sun, and that Geoff had steered our wounded chariot so expertly out of danger. Aura and I spent some time celebrating how much better breaking down now was with friends- so much more calm, assured and easygoing.

While the mood was the best we’d ever experienced over a busted tire, it’s not a minor problem to have faced. The cost of a new tire is $120 without installation or rim, and we have little spare time to wait to change it. When we arrived at the first shop that supposedly had our size, we found they’d misspoken. Checking the time, and realizing that we would just barely make it to the show to set up, we decided to risk it on the spare.

Another issue that came up that day was line-up. A miscommunication and we got bumped from third to fourth. The day before, we’d almost lost our direct support (band just before the headliner), and Ryan had to exchange a number of phone calls to preserve the set time. He works really hard to set up these tours, with months’ worth of emails and conference calling beforehand. He also takes a lot of the negotiating pressure, and without an agent or booker like other bands, that is a tall order.

Touring with other bands though ends up being a good thing. The people in the other vehicles (usually 16 passenger vans, or SUVs pulling a trailer) know what the situation is. Olin and the Moon had to replace brakes for $500 in Eugene, and Or, the Whale’s van actually caught on fire 3 hours into a previous tour. When we arrived that night to the venue, haggard from 10 hours on the road, members from both bands commiserated with the day and offered to share drums and bass to facilitate set-up. They also stayed to the very end of the show and the H&H’s last song.

We immediately broke down after the show and headed to bed. Geoff and Devon went with his older sister, and the rest of us to Aura’s parents house nestled in the hills 30 minutes from the venue.

The place that Aura grew up in is a Victorian-style kooky place designed and built by her dad (a Jewish man from New Jersey) over the span of 10 years. From floor to ceiling on every wall, the place displays the handiwork of her dad with mini model/figurine building, pottery, woodcarving, and painting. He also collects a number of things including crystals, bugs, small vertebrate skeletons, travel trinkets and craft ware, and movie and music paraphernalia. It’s a veritable museum of oddities, and one can spend hours poking about the corners of the space. The next morning, Aura’s mom made us the perfect cup of green tea, and her dad told us the history of his house and collections.

Try as we could to get a replacement tire for our spare, San Diego on Sunday was closed for such business. We loaded up once more and raced to the Sattelite in LA on our spare.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Aura’s mother’s family lives in Japan just 10 miles up the coast from where the tsunami hit. After news of its impact, and before Aura could get hold of her kin, she quietly pursued news of their well-being via email, facebook and phone. Just as we were pulling into Santa Cruz, she leaned over and told me they were safe. Ten miles from them, the wave had completely washed away houses, buildings, roads, yet their homes were still standing. Even her uncle, whose front door opens onto sandy beach, still has a home (albeit needing repair) to go back to.

The town of Santa Cruz was quiet when we pulled off a side street to park. As Noble, Aura and I walked toward downtown, we noticed the beaches were closed. Later we learned that the tsunami had caused large swells that morning that turned over boats and cracked a few docks. Photographers perched atop a cliff overlooking the water and a helicopter circled with expectations that another wave would hit about 4 pm. It was a bright and sunny day, but the tsunami threat cast a slightly surreal feeling over the afternoon.

Aura, Noble, and Ryan all went to UC Santa Cruz for undergrad. As we walked past downtown store fronts, Noble pointed out where the DJ company he worked for used to be, ducked his head into a music shop where he’d bought one of his favorite guitars, and showed me the clubs where they used to dance. Aura almost visibly grew a few inches toward the CA sun. “When I drove up the first time from San Diego with my dad and opened the car door on the campus nestled in redwoods, my face immediately swelled from the pollen-filled air,” Aura noted. Now she and the rest of us can’t get enough of that fecundity into our lungs.

The feeling of homecoming followed the band into the night’s show. Exes came to watch the set and mingled with old roomies and former fellow music or theater majors. Ryan introduced me to his freshman year roommate, Aura friends from her Latin music ensemble. We had a guy come wearing a t-shirt from the band Ryan and Noble played in together ten years ago. The band was called It’s a Whale, and they used to hold hippie jam sessions at packed house parties before the police would break them up.

Especially fitting for such a night of remembrance was Noble’s tune “Victor Song.” It was written by a much younger Noble about 10 years ago, and had been marinating in his brain until the band started playing it a couple of months ago. Named for his father Victor, and addressing both his mom and dad, the song celebrates a family connection that lasts even as we venture out to make a solo go of adulthood. Though Noble notes that he didn’t follow any specific African musical tradition, the cadence gives it that feel. He keeps it simple – Noble playing acoustic guitar and Ryan trading guitar for snare and cymbal, Aura leaving aside her keyboard for a thumb piano.

Noble belted out the lyrics that night to a crowd of old friends in a town where 10 years ago he just might have dreamed them up. I couldn't help but see the song that night as his own little offering up of sentimentality for the homecoming, and for the family and friend connections (both near and far) that continue to make this trip possible.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Happily Funemployed

Upon leaving Sacramento, we headed for the Bay Area, where Ryan and then band the Toy Soldiers used to pedal up big hills and play dance music to a crowd of eager listeners.  With a promise to meet them in San Francisco at Hotel Utah in time for the night’s show, I politely bowed out of a day in the recording studio and got dropped off in Oakland to spend time with college friends newly settled there.  (The show, by the way, fueled as it was by a full day of recording, was the best thus far in terms of vocal harmony.  They sounded really tight, and rode the wave of energy from recording right through to a sweaty encore.)

The Oakland crew is an intrepid and industrious one, with many of its members new to the circle or in a state of transition. I stayed with a house of four including John, Kasie, Nick and Ben.  Together with friends Lauren and Zak, John is establishing Doc’s on the Bay, a food truck to supply consciously assembled meals to customers and income and business experience to friends. Kasie is coaching lacrosse to high schoolers, gearing up for a gallery opening featuring her prints, and contemplating the principles of biodynamic farming.  Nick, settling now for the first time in over a year from the traveling life, works as an after-school tutor in math and spends his creative energies on singing and playing mandolin, writing songs, and performing with friends. Newest roommate Ben is spending his first week and a half cycling about his surroundings, doing yoga and working on building relationships within the friend group.

When I arrived at 12 in the afternoon, Kacie was home and John and Nick filtered in and out over the next few hours.  Not one of them works a traditional nine-to-five, and consciously so.  This is a group of friends that all value work/life balance, and recognize the merits of an economic perspective that provides for rent, food, and fun, but also for ample time to think, educate oneself, and foster skills in a variety of other venues.  I couldn’t help but make the parallel between such an existence and the ones that the band members choose for themselves back in Seattle.  Their jobs and living situations make space for music – for the flexibility of going on tour, the means to conserve money by living simply and communally, and the hours for practice. 

Such an existence breeds an industriousness and fortitude that I really admire, and that I believe characterizes many people in my age group.  I guess every generation says theirs is part of a new era or change in thinking, but I believe the twenty-somethings I know are making it cool again to diversify interests and practice self-reliance.  In an economic landscape that is harsh to workers of any kind, values flexibility to keep up with the technological leap-frog propelling the market, and faces political and ecological conundrums of epic magnitude, one HAS to be patient and willing to change.

One of the reasons I decided to go on this trip was as a way to mark my transition from full-time employed administrator to partly employed mental rejuvination seeker.  I’ll be starting medical school in the fall, and am committing myself to a place and a trade that from all accounts can be pretty consuming.  While I know this choice gives me little space for creatively configuring the coming professional years, I wanted to take some time to embrace the less regimented lifestyle of the freelance adventurer, to give myself the distance and unbounded days to think about how I’ve been living and how that might need to change.  It will also most importantly release me from some of the mental blockages that make such change difficult to implement.  I must then thank Oakland for a beautiful sunset run, lots of good coffee, 2am readings, and friendly pillow purges.  You’ve added to my ruminations on life post- 9 to 5 quite nicely. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Goodbye Pac NW Gray - Hello Sunny SoCal

Sacramento!  Sun!  California! 

We made it into town a full three hours before the performance, and I took the opportunity to don running shoes and explore the neighborhood.  Oh my God!  To my sun-deprived skin, this place is a dream!  I saw orange-laden trees in many a yard, a geranium four feet tall, a full hedge of bird of paradise, and even some cherry tomatoes.  We are solidly in the world of spring down here.

The Sacramento show is the first on the tour with Or, the Whale.  They played a great set even though they were jetlagged and tired from three weeks’ tour in Scotland, Wales, and England (their first European!), which they returned from 2 days ago.  Lead female vocalist Lindsay related that every time she closes her eyes, even for a second, she starts to drift off.  Despite the sleep deprivation the tour gave them a lot of energy and excitement, which could be felt in the fullness of their songs.  They have a Fleetwood Mac type feeling, with two female vocalists, and a lead guitar/vocals guy named Alex.  Half the band has been playing together for over 6 years, when Lindsay and Alex found each other via craigslist, and half the band is a new admixture after three original members left last year.

After the show, we got to catch up with the Olin boys a bit more in a stupid bar called the Streets of London.  Funny bass man Kyle entertained me for a good while with stories about the road, and pictures of his girlfriend and cats Olive and Oscar back in LA.   He started playing with Olin about 4 and half years ago (about half a year after they started the band), when he met them drinking beer on a friend’s porch and lied about being able to play bass.  Being the only one of the band members who did not grow up together in Sun Valley, ID, he got an audition spot, picked up a bass from his tattoo parlor (the first he ever held) and skateboarded over to the practice space.  With some knowledge of guitar, and a lot of hours practicing the notes of songs on his own, he claimed his space with the boys.

Olin and the Moon have been getting some air play in TV shows, and recently shot a scene of them playing Not In Love for One Tree Hill.  They all flew out to North Carolina for the shoot, and Kyle related how upon arrival he was ushered to his own trailor.  “My…own… TRAILER! You gotta be fucking kidding me!”  They kindly inquired what he would like to eat, and assured they could procure anything, he settled on a BLT and a coffee…

Travis came over soon after and sat down with us, sporting his new denim vest, on the back of which he plans to sew The Destitutes’ Milo.  He’s the electric guitar man, supporting vocals, and big brother to front man Dave.  He sport a Harley Davidson T-shirt and mullet-y Mohawk, and only needs a Harley motorcycle to complete the picture.  Despite his intimidating figure, Travis is a sweet guy who manages a pizza shop in LA.  Having grown up in the bar scene, he’s a hustler at pool and darts, and thinks nothing of drinking a pitcher to himself.  When they go back to ID, his dad and all the neighbors show up to support the band’s efforts.  They once packed a tiny bar (where high school friend’s mom waitresses) with 400 people, some crowded up on stage to hear them play. 

Brother band Brown Shoe hosted us last night.  They have their 19-year-old brother sleeping in what once was the dining room.  He lives there free of rent with four other brothers, and cleans up to earn his keep.  What a beautiful set of siblings they are!  The 19 year old sweetie escorted us over to a coffee shop this morning and reminisced being 12 year old when Ryan and then-band It’s a Whale stopped off on tour to drink beer.  Seven years later and I’m sure he’s got his own stories now of drinking beer and crashing on couches with the dream of making it big.

Gold Rush Video!

Check it: