Where did July go?

This happens every year.

July is almost over and I have no idea where it went. I know where WE have been but the days seem to be slipping by at a disturbing rate and now it's almost August and I SWEAR that it was June 1st just a couple hours ago. 

So far summer hasn't been a disappointment, not by a long shot. We played Upstream Music Festival in Seattle, a blossoming music festival that has the potential to be really great. Like a cross between Treefort (one of my all time faves) and SXSW. We played Weiser River Music Festival, a fledgling fest (year one baybee) where I met all of the nice people and got to sit in on a Prince tune with our buds The Dodgy Mountain Men. From Weiser we went to La Grande which was surprisingly lit (fellow kids?) and to Silverton for Brewcamp where our set got pushed back due to weather. **Fun fact, our buddy Jim hired us for the Sliverton gig ALSO hired us for a beer event in Mammoth, CA where our set got rained out. We have only been set back due to rain TWICE (Oregonians and all that) but both times the same guy hired us. Coincidence? Probably. 

A definite highlight of the summer so far was the Waterfront Blues Festival in our hometown. There really is nothing like playing on a big stage for your family, friends and neighbors. The same people that we pass on the street, we sit next to on the bus, who we see at shows and who we stand with in long brunch lines, waiting to spend our hard earned money on a $9 Bloody Mary (It's all about the garnish. Don't judge, put a bird on it), all are there to celebrate life and music. We get to set aside our differences and experience joy together! It's a pretty powerful thing. Not that we don't get that experience to some extent at every show we play, but doing it in your own community is like getting a big warm bear hug from the real Santa Claus. 

 I think Meli and I are both a little blown away by the sheer quantity of people in the audience...

I think Meli and I are both a little blown away by the sheer quantity of people in the audience...

After that everything has been a bit of a whirl wind. We played Governor's Cup, our favorite funky venue on the I-5 corridor and headed down to Eugene to play a String Cheese Incident afterparty with our buds in Yak Attack. We had a pretty quick turn around from Eugene to Brookings, OR the next day. Two hours of sleep and a 6 hour drive had us starting our set 12 VERY SHORT FEELING hours after we played our last note in Eugene the night before. I would say something about the rock star life and all that, but the reality is that as soon as we were off stage in Brookings I ate a burrito and fell asleep. Old rockstar life maybe? Why not. #oldrockstarlyfe 

 Sleepy Soundcheck in Brookings, OR

Sleepy Soundcheck in Brookings, OR

The following week took us to California for a couple shows with our friend Scott Pemberton, whose band I had never seen before but blew me away two nights in row. We got to stay with a dear friend in Oakland before heading on to Morro Bay to play with Portland natives turned New Yorkers, The Rad Trads. Our bassist, Jon Shaw knows some of those guys from their Portland days, there were some major feel good reunion vibes going on.

The biggest surprise of the whole week was Cloverdale, CA. We were so late to that gig but IN MY DEFENSE, Bay Area traffic is a dumpster fire. We pulled up right when we were supposed to start playing, got set, line checked and went for it. This is a big reason why I love these guys. When it's time to get sh*t done, they get it done. The crowd was amazing! So many people, so much love and support! We really didn't know what to expect when we pulled in and we were very pleasantly surprised. 10/10 would recommend. 

 Somehow all seven of us are in this picture, a true feat. Cloverdale, CA. 

Somehow all seven of us are in this picture, a true feat. Cloverdale, CA. 

The week ended with a trip to the California redwoods for the Redwood Ramble. What a beautiful place! Camp Navarro has some serious all American nostalgia swirling around it. I kept thinking of that Adams Family movie where Wednesday and Pugsley go to summer camp and goth all over it. We arrived Saturday afternoon even though our set wasn't until the next day. We caught some music, ate some food, went to a swimming hole and wandered the forests. 

 NO CAPTIONS ONLY LOOKING

NO CAPTIONS ONLY LOOKING

We found some late night music and slept like sardines in a cute little camp cabin. We were one of the last acts of the day at 2pm on Sunday, the crowd had dispersed a little but those who remained were ready for us. It. Was. Fun. After our set, I sat in for a Grateful Dead tune (a first for me). I also ran into some friends from festivals past, from Guitarfish, For The Funk Of It, Strawberry Music Fest, California Worldfest, etc. Cali has some die hard music fans out there and I love that very much. 

Now we are home, just for a couple days. Long enough to hug our friends, kiss our loved ones and eat our favorite foods (looking at you Pho Oregon) before we jump in the van again. First up is Rendezvous in the Park in Moscow, ID, which is the hometown of our dear friend and trumpeter Thomas Barber. Then off to Winthrop, WA for the Winthrop R&B Festival, joining acts like the California Honeydrops, Curtis Salgado, Samantha Fish and Pimps of Joytime for the festivals 31st year of music and joy. 

And after that? Off to Colorado, Nevada and Tahoe before we head back home for some much needed R&R (in our case that stands for wRiting and Recording, look out world!). 

Time flies, and although it's not always fun (per say), life is a beautiful adventure and I wouldn't trade this one for anything. 

Stay tuned for our next blog installment titled, Where Did the Rest of July Go and Did We Somehow Skip the Entire Month of August?!? 

Love you guys lots, see you out there!

S

Summer Tour 2018

It's amazing how a few weeks off can seem like forever. 

When our breaks come, we embrace them wholeheartedly. Having a couple uninterrupted weeks to dedicate to family and friends is invaluable, yet...

There's an excited feeling I get when I know tour time is starting again. The anticipation of seeing a bit of the world, making new friends, goofing off in the van, laughing, loving and getting to know our country and the people in it better... It's a crazy job, but I love it. 

With the exception of Upstream Music Festival in Seattle Washington (6/2) we have almost a month off, but we will be back in full swing midway through the month. This summer sees us to some of our favorite stomping grounds in Washington, California, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and our home state of Oregon. Sticking close to home as we're making big moves in the fall (can't wait to share this news with you all), and in the meantime, we plan to enjoy our time in the western United States. 

Enjoy the time while you got it boys! Soon we will be exploring the world, sharing our stories and music. Bards of the new age! 

So Cold Tour, Weeks 2 & 3

Week two started with a drive from Basalt, CO to Davenport, IA. We broke it up into two days and spent the night in Lincoln, NE. That was our first experience with single-digit temperatures on this tour - the van thermometer got down to three degrees, and I never saw it get lower than that (perhaps it doesn't go any lower?) Three whole degrees! Three entire degrees. The fog on the inside of the van windows froze and turned into frost. When we got to Davenport the next night, we looked for restaurants in the area - Jon Shaw found a Mexican place called Nally's Kitchen. We were pleasantly surprised! Pretty authentic Mexican food that held its own against Portland offerings.

The next morning we had a recording session for Paste Magazine & Daytrotter. They live-streamed the video and audio of our performance in the studio. It was mostly an exposure gig, as Paste has a pretty sizable following, but we also now have a recent live performance video to share. Before we got into the studio, this super wound up guy handed us two six-packs from a company he ran. We were pleasantly surprised until we learned they were energy drinks, not craft beer. He reassured us, "yeah man, they're not even that great, but you can mix 'em with alcohol and make cocktails and stuff!" He handed us his card (he goes by "Chopper") and bounded off. It was called Rude Boy Punch, and the cans sat in the van unopened until they froze and exploded red syrup slush under our bed.

The Paste session went well. They had some vintage keyboards for me to use - given the songs we chose, I decided to use their vintage Wurlitzer electric piano. It was a 146B, a kind I hadn't played before. It sounded a lot like the 200A (the model I own) and only had one or two noticeable issues. The set we chose was Pipe Dreams, Happier Place, a new tune we're calling Litty Committee, and Chuck (named for Charles Bradley). Pipe Dreams is based on Leadbelly's Where Did You Sleep Last Night (also covered by Nirvana). Happier Place is one we've been playing for a while now, and just added a verse for Evan on this tour. Litty Committee has sort of an 80s pop tune vibe, and Chuck was written in part at a music festival in Bishop, CA last year.

It was a good experience, my only complaints are that the sound wasn't synced properly, and the keyboards were real low in the mix. It was recorded live to two tracks, so we can't go back and adjust things.

We had planned to return to Nally's for dinner, but the videographer at Daytrotter had several suggestions for Mexican food. It turns out he runs a blog and has tried all of the offerings. We ended up getting massive burritos at La Finca.

After the Daytrotter session, we loaded our gear into the Redstone Room at River Music Experience. RME is a very cool space which is part bar and venue, part museum, and part lesson and practice studios. Last year we played between the RME building and another one in the courtyard outdoors. Instead of that muggy heat, it was blanketed in snow. The band before us was a really young group - I wanna call them "kids," which shows I'm getting older - called 35th and Taylor. Vocalist Anna Taylor fronts the group; they've got a hard rock kind of Black Keys vibe going on. They have been a band for longer than us, as they started in middle school, and recently opened for Bon Jovi at a stadium in Chicago. They're goin' places, alright! The venue was a nice space with good sound, but unfortunately it was not well-attended.

The next day was a day off in Chicago. On arrival we found some more food - Rex Italian Foods, a spot visited by Guy Fieri. We have a strange fascination with Guy in this band which I can't explain. I guess it's that his sense of style is so garish and uncool, but he picks out the greasiest, saltiest food that we all love. Rex was all bread, cheese, and meats, and it was all delicious.

The next morning we had another recording session - this was with Steve McKeever of Hidden Beach Recordings, a label that has worked with numerous heroes of ours including Jill Scott. I can't fully divulge the details of how we crossed paths with Steve, as we're contractually obligated to not talk about it, but I can say it was from a TV show we filmed that should be airing sometime in March. The studio is on the 40th floor of a Chicago apartment building, owned by Ivan Dupee (Dupee Productions). Kareem Wells shares the space with him - the "Bar Mitzvah King" of Chicago. Seriously, the dude is booked 18 months out if you're looking to throw a Bar Mitzvah. The project we were there for is a series called Unwrapped, which is a series of instrumental covers of hip-hop tunes with soloists. Past performers include Marcus Miller. In fact, another bassist that worked with Miles Davis showed up while we were in the studio - Richard Patterson, who played in the final iteration of Miles' band, and currently plays for Boz Scaggs. That was a deep hang.

After the session (which included too much deep dish pizza), we headed to our gig that night at Bourbon On Division. It had potential, but the owner got cold feet due to low ticket pre-sale numbers and pulled the opener. Bad idea. The opener was a local group, which probably would have had good draw - and usually pre-sale is low for local groups because the fans and friends just come out and don't bother with purchasing advance tickets. The opener ended up playing a free show elsewhere that night - can't say we blame them, we'd probably have done the same - so we were left playing for maybe 20 people. Still, they seemed into it, and the whole crew from the studio came out and stayed the whole night. We'd even gotten a "polite bail" from some of them (oh, I might be able to make it later, etc). That night Terry slept in the van to make sure it didn't get towed. At some point people from the city tapped on the window and told him he had to move it, so that worked.

The next morning we stopped for some Vietnamese food on the way out of town. We parked in a little strip mall lot instead of on the street. We got back from breakfast and... where's the van? It got towed. Instantly. Most of the businesses in that area watch the lot and get a cut if they report a tow. We had figured the trailer might make it too hard to bother towing, but that's not how it worked out. We got everything back, but it cost us $738.50, making the real cost of that Vietnamese food about $150 each. Still, it was better than the break-in that happened on our last Chicago trip. We headed out to Madison, WI.

In Madison we played at a place called High Noon Saloon opening for a band called Pho. We were the second of three bands and only played about an hour. Honestly we'd prefer to play longer - we drove all the way out from Portland, and want to share the music we've worked hard on! Pho delivered some tight instrumental funk, and the place was pretty full. I was exhausted, so I went to get a burrito and go to bed.

The next morning we ate at a spot called The Old Fashioned in Madison, which has some of the best fried cheese curds we've ever eaten. We ordered three baskets. "Oh no, what have we done?" "We did A Fat Thing." That night the gig was in St. Paul at a spot called The Turf Club. Again, we were second of three acts opening for Pho, and I think we were able to extend the set a little bit. Another good draw! Unfortunately, the sound engineer really didn't know what he was doing. It's more crucial than ever to have a competent sound tech now that Tom and Sarah have in-ear monitors. You can really mess your hearing up if the tech doesn't know what they're doing, and we're worried that may have happened to Sarah. Random stuff was getting turned up and she got blasted pretty bad at one point, and her ear hurt for the rest of the tour. She was also getting vertigo, which may have been a sign of eardrum damage. It's hard to say, since she also had a pretty bad cold and congestion, but it was worrisome to say the least. The set went well, at least, and the crowd seemed to dig it.

Following the Turf Club, we had a day off in Minneapolis. I took the van for an oil change, and a few of us got dinner at a place that served cheese-filled burgers. Not cheeseburgers - the patty is stuffed with cheese. It was honestly too much - we had out-meat-and-cheesed ourselves.

The next gigs were in Montana, so we drove to Bismarck, ND to split the drive up. Again, bitter cold - and I don't think the temperature went above freezing at any time after Denver. First up was the Pub Station in Billings. It's a converted bus station that we'd played at before. They'd done a lot of work since our last visit, adding a whole second stage and performance space. It used to be a large unfinished area - I think there were bus shops there. We played the same smaller stage as before, but enjoyed a much better turnout than the previous show. It wasn't sold out, but for a Tuesday night in Billings, we were stoked. They were engaged and responsive, and the venue had a nice green room for us to hang out in.

Following Billings was Bozeman, at the Filling Station, a venue we've hit at least twice before. Honestly, the place is a little on the dumpy side of things. I'm pretty easy to please, but it always smells like mildew, there's no door on the men's room or on the stall, and this time the roof was dripping water onto my keyboards. Then again, it was pretty good money and there were lots of fans there! It was the closest spot to Big Sky that we hit on this tour - Big Sky was the first date of our last pass through Montana, and it was one of those nights that unexpectedly went off! Maybe half the people in Bozeman had driven 50-something miles to see us.

The next night was another Montana date. We were at a bar in Whitefish, MT - a spot we'd hit on our last big tour at an outdoor festival. This time we played in a bar called the Great Northern. It was probably the low point for me - I was exhausted, and the crowd didn't really seem with us. It was our longest set yet, which was actually kind of fun - we got to pull out tunes we hadn't played in a long time. They provided us with an apartment above the gig and a hotel room, and we got to leave everything packed up onstage overnight, loading it in the morning.

Things really picked up for the last two shows of the tour. We left Whitefish for Missoula, where we were playing the Top Hat, and visiting one of our favorite food stops, Notorious P.I.G. BBQ. They were out of our favorite menu item, the "burnt ends" (a brisket cut), but still had other favorites. We love the place so much that we put all the employees on the guest list, and they threw in a free half-rack of ribs for us to enjoy later.
Top Hat always takes good care of us with good food and drink. The last time we played there was a little weird - it was supposed to be just us, but they managed to double-book us with another band, so we split the night. This time it was just us, and I was a little concerned about draw given all the other dead nights we'd had, but wow - people packed the place! We played two sets, again getting to do a few tunes we'd hardly played on this tour.

The last night was in Sandpoint, ID - we had no idea what to expect. I don't think any of us had been to Sandpoint, even Tom (who's from Moscow, ID). It's a ski town, so there's actually a lot of money there, and a very nice venue called The Hive. The front-of-house sound engineer was saying that the owner holds the patents for the case of the iPod Classic, and has more than a few dollars to spare. I guess the space used to be exposed brick, but now the exposed brick is actually acoustic treating material that looks like brick. Pat (front-of-house) said they probably spent a million dollars on sound treatment. The capacity was 850, but it felt more like a 350 to 450 room. Great sound onstage, and a super receptive crowd. I guess there was some event on the mountain, fireworks or something, so the crowd came a little late. I wore a Che Guevara t-shirt that I'd picked up in seventh grade because I thought it looked cool. Now I have a more nuanced understanding of him. I got the full range of responses - stepping offstage, the first guy I encountered said, "who's that on your shirt?" I told him, and he didn't seem to have heard of Che. The second guy said something like, "man you were killing it up there, in that rad shirt too, yada yada" and the last one, and old white dude, said "for a socialist you play keyboard pretty well!"

See ya next time,

Snacks