boris garcia west coast fall tour diary

boris garcia tour diary



friday, november 11th – 19 Broadway in Fairfax, CA
saturday, november 12th – Caspar Inn in Mendocino, CA
sunday, november 13th – Nelson Family Vineyards in Ukiah, CA
monday, november 14th – Humbrews in Arcata, CA
thursday, november 17th – Connecticut Yankee in San Francisco, CA
friday, november 18th – Ashkenaz in Berkeley, CA
saturday, november 19th – River Theater in Guerneville, CA
sunday, november 20th – Manzanita Place in Chico, CA


after two solid days of running around like an idiot trying to get everything wrapped up that i needed to take care of before leaving for an extended stretch, wendy and danny dropped me off at the airport at around 3:30…and i was surprised to find that i was the first of the band to get there. bud and steve pulled up to the terminal just as i’d gotten out of the van and collected myself on the sidewalk to go in and print my boarding pass and check my bags, and bob and jeff weren’t far behind. relatively uneventful flight, for the most part – save for the effort required on my part to block out the in-flight viewing of rise of the planet of the apes…hardly must-see TV. i tried on a few occasions to listen to the patently unlistenable Zune music channels – and contemplated how the lines between genres are going to be largely nonexistent soon. you’ve got country acts rapping, pop channels playing lady antebellum, and all of it sounds like it’s mastered through the exact same Waves plug-in as everything else.


so i leaned pretty heavily on my phone for the lion’s share of the flight, kinda coasting in and out of consciousness…waking up every now and then to a scalp massage from the guy in the seat behind me (stirner).

since our noon radio hit was cancelled, our first actual hit would be at 2pm the next day – so that bought us some extra time…but by the time we’d managed to pick up the van and head up the road an hour and a half or so, everyone was pretty worn out from the trip. the van that we landed was a chevy, and – as we’d soon find out – was a poor shadow of what we’d had when we came out for the last trip. it rode like shit, had swinging doors on the side (which seems like a non-issue until you try to use them in a practical sense), and power-nothing…when you went to load in, you had to manually unlock the doors…manual windows…and, frankly, i wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d have had to rock a lever back and forth to make the windshield wipers work.

and it was about as far from a smooth ride as you can get without involving horses or mules. total pain in the ass.

but – it was functional. and as such, once bud and i picked up the van and retrieved the other guys from the baggage claim, we headed up the road to the first of our overnight accomodations – and after hitting the drive-thru next door to the hotel, we settled in for the night.



KZYX in Philo, CA

19 Broadway in Fairfax, CA


we were up and out the door at a decent hour for the first day of our run – although i can’t say that it was a terribly restful night…there was construction going on literally right outside the window of our room…and while that sort of thing typically wouldn’t bother me, i didn’t block it out as well as i normally would. as such, it was a pretty fitful nights’ sleep. at some point, though, i woke up and realized that i didn’t hear it anymore….i’d find out later that this was because it had started raining at some point in the dead of the night, and they’d packed it in as a result of the weather.

we stopped at a UPS store in healdsburg, CA to pick up some gear that we’d had shipped out ahead of the run, and started making our way to Philo to KZYX – where we’d played during our last run as well. it sits on the side of a mountain in a small, nondescript building, but the folks there have been great to the band, and we’re always happy to see them. when we stopped in, though, there was some kind of an issue with a power outage and they were running on generator power- but there was more than enough in the tank for us to be able to get through our visit without any issues…so, as is something of our custom, we were in and out and back on the road in pretty short order.

the radio station in Philo was relatively close to our old stomping grounds in Navarro, so we stopped in to see dave at the navarro general store and grab a late lunch…we were a little crunched for time, otherwise i’d have made a point to stop in and see david dart at his shop – but it wasn’t meant to be on this particular leg of the trip. it was a total ambush on our part, though – dave had no idea we were coming, and it was great to be able to surprise him the way we did. it seemed as though he was genuinely happy to have seen us, and i hope he knew that it was important to us to make sure we stopped in while we were there. (i also snagged one of those odd little ice cream/cookie sandwich things that are apparently local to NorCal…i can’t remember off the top of my head what it was called, but i had discovered them on the last trip, and they made an impression.)

i was trying to change strings on the two lap steels that i’d brought along as we were driving the winding, “intestine-like” stretch of route 128 (to borrow bud’s euphemism for the road) – and to say that it was challenging to change strings in the back of the van as we were driving would be something of an understatement. i’m a little surprised that i didn’t poke anyone in the eye with a stray end of a string as we were driving…it was pretty crazy to try and pull that off as we were driving on that stretch of road. i kept thinking of those Lincoln car commercials that i used to see when i was a kid, where they’d have a jeweler trying to cut a diamond while sitting in the back of a Lincoln Continental driving over rumble strips – i’d love to have seen that dude try to do anything in the back of this van while twisting and turning down the road we were on.

the marquee on the first night of the tour in Fairfax, CA
the marquee on the first night of the tour in Fairfax, CA

Fairfax seemed like a pretty cool place, although in fairness it probably isn’t a good idea to judge any of these towns when you come in under cover of night and it’s been raining – but the venue was very professionally run with a great soundman, and we were in and set up pretty quickly. once we’d gotten through soundcheck, we decided to go find dinner down the street from the venue. we settled on a small cafe right down the street, since we didn’t have a great deal of time…and we were all really feeling the effects of the time change and the travel by this point as well. by the time we got back to the club, i was dying for a nap, but it was pretty close to showtime. bud tried to grab a few winks on a bench seat over behind where the soundboard was located – don’t know if he was successful or not.

we played that night like a bunch of guys who were running on fumes – we had a few high spots, but it wasn’t one of our best sets…we got through it relatively unscathed, though – no major messes or glitches, just not terribly inspired. i tried to follow bud’s example between sets and get a nap in, but it just wasn’t happening…but we got through it. afterward, as we were loading out, we saw this guy who’d been walking up and down the streets all night….his hair probably hadn’t been washed since labor day, he had a distinctive smell (i’m trying to be nice, for a change), and his coat was perpetually half-hanging off…one of the folks who worked at the bar said hello to him and asked him how he was doing, and he went into this rant about how he’d gotten thrown out of every bar on the street that was still open, because “nobody would give him a microphone and let him sing his song.”

welcome to california, boris garcia.



Caspar, CA (just outside Mendocino): the Caspar Inn


in northern california with a tree growing out of my head. :)
in northern california with a tree growing out of my head. 🙂

we’d been staying at the good nite inn in roehnert park (just off highway 101) for the first couple of nights…since we had lodging at the next gig, we checked out of our lovely rooms overlooking the Taco Bell just off the highway there, and headed towards mendocino county…one of my favorite places on the planet. i had remembered seeing calendars for the Caspar Inn on the wall at our favorite bar (Dick’s Place), so we were aware of it when we’d come through back in june.

let me tell you straight away, where this place is concerned…if you ever have occasion to play here, don’t be swayed too heavily by your first impressions as you pull up to the place. i feel pretty strongly that you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as we were.

first of all, it sits right on the ocean…you can stand on the porch and see the water not quite a hundred yards away. BUT – it looks very much like those kinds of places that you hear about south of the mason-dixon line…with the jukebox and the chicken wire and the perpetual smell of urine. and, to be fair, it is a bit of a roadhouse, but not in the stereotypical negative sense. Bobby, the proprietor, was being talked up to us well before we even arrived.

mendocino sunset....
mendocino sunset….

As has become tradition – we met someone from Philadelphia there. we stood on the porch and in the street and watched the sun drop into the pacific ocean – which was amazing to begin with – and we stayed and chatted with a handful of characters that we met that night…including a fellow with southern roots named Madrone (or so he said, anyway) and his 26 year old girlfriend with orange hair…the husband and wife bartender (Madrone tells us that he actually dressed as her husband for halloween once – by drawing his tattoo on his arm with a magic marker and decking himself out in Cubs attire) and another lovely gentleman who fell asleep at the bar and managed to stay conked out while people stacked cans of Red Bull and other assorted items on his head for a good ten minutes or so. it really is the kind of place where you feel as if you’ve been coming there for years, even if you’ve only been there for an afternoon. after a few beers and some laughs, we all piled into the van and drove over to the venue for load in.

first of all – BEST LOAD IN OF THE TOUR. we backed the van right up to a pair of double doors that opened right onto the stage. the only way load-in gets easier than that is if we just play in the van itself. and bobby totally and completely lived up to his rave reviews, not only providing lodging upstairs at the inn for the band, but also by feeding us and making abalone for us between sets.

the boys recreating the album cover from the Eagles' debut in the mountains....
the boys recreating the album cover from the Eagles’ debut in the mountains….

the crowd was sparse, largely due to the fact that the area radio station that has championed the band for years (KOZT) had another event scheduled for that night, and they typically don’t cross promote against station sponsored events. our promoter couldn’t even buy advertising for the show – they wouldn’t sell it to him. still, the folks who showed up were enthusiastic, and we know we’ll have a home there down the road. we played much better than we did the night before, and had a great time hanging out with bobby and company afterward. one of the patrons did manage to break my heart after the show by telling me that he’d just come from a show at another room where Gene Parsons was playing (who, as most of you probably know, was the drummer for the byrds during the clarence white era and the inventor of the Parsons-White string bender). apparently, gene lives in the area and plays around town relatively often.

bummer. another missed opportunity. not complaining, though… 🙂

aside from the load-in being awesome, they also provide accomodations, as the inn is actually set up as such – it was one of the only times during this run that we’d have our own rooms on the run, and i took full advantage of the opportunity to head up to the room early and get some sleep – as i knew we’d be getting on the road somewhat early the next day.



Ukiah, CA – the barn at the nelson family vineyards with great american taxi and the david nelson band


david nelson with bob stirner at The Barn.
david nelson with bob stirner at The Barn.

this was the first of a handful of shows that we would be doing with the david nelson band, along with great american taxi, the band fronted by former leftover salmon mainstay vince herman. this was a long show – starting early in the afternoon and going until well after dark, with boris opening at around 2pm, then the taxi boys followed by the nelson band.

we were up relatively early in Caspar to get on the road, and we arrived in Ukiah around noon…tim steigler, the soundman and all-around ringmaster for all things technical for the nelson folks, was already on site and had loaded in the system and was in the process of setting up when we got there. the setting for this show was a large barn on the site of a family vineyard that was established in 1952 – they’ve been having shows there for some time, and it’s become a pretty successful site. in fact, they’re one of the stops on the new riders of the purple sage run that starts right after the nelson band finishes this run of dates. it was a beautiful day to be out and about…a little colder than the guys were expecting it to be, but hey – it is november, after all.

we unloaded the gear that we’d be using (we were using mookie siegel’s keyboard rig and pete’s bass rig, but our own amps and drumkit for our set), and got out of the way for the most part. the boys from GAT showed up not long after we did, and did the same…now, usually, the way things work is that the headliner sets up first, soundchecks first, and it goes in reverse order up through the opener, who sets up last and plays first (obvious enough). with this crew, though, the only act on the bill that got anything actually resembling a soundcheck was the opener – tim had worked with the musicians in the nelson crew enough that – it would appear, anyway – he seems to be able to dial in the line check that happens during the opener’s soundcheck to the extent that there doesn’t appear to be much need for the other acts to bother with soundcheck at all…and i didn’t hear a single complaint from anyone else about monitors or sound for any of the gigs we did with timmy at the helm.

backstage debris during load-in.
backstage debris during load-in.

i scouted the stage when we got there and decided, without any real deliberation, that i’d just stick with the lap steel for this show. there just wasn’t enough space on stage for the pedal steel – and since it was something of an amended set,. it didn’t strike me as a huge compromise to just stick with the lap steel for the set. as such, my setup was ridiculously quick – plug in the amp, connect the volume pedal, the sparkle drive and the tuner, and go. timmy had us dialed in (with his usual calm demeanor) in record time, and we blazed through our set – which felt as though it was over before it started…it flew by pretty quickly.

the boys from great american taxi took the stage next, and since we’d already done all the line checks, they were on and roarin’ pretty quickly. vince, the frontman of the band, is one of those larger-than-life characters…he’s a big, gregarious, perpetually smiling teddy bear who just so happens to play and sing his ass off. barry sless from the nelson band sat in with them on pedal steel on a few songs, and added a nice touch.

i actually took a nap on this flatbed for an hour or so...not sure what it is with me and trucks. :)
i actually took a nap on this flatbed for an hour or so…not sure what it is with me and trucks. 🙂

while they were playing, i was walking around in back of the barn, where everyone had backed their vans in to load onto the stage…it was as close to a backstage area as you could expect in a festival setting, which was essentially what it was, although it wasn’t actually closed off. there were several old trucks out back, including a classic white freightliner tractor with a flatbed trailer on it…and for some reason that i can’t quite put my finger on, i found myself strangely attracted to this thing. i spent a good portion of taxi’s set lying on the trailer with a sierra nevada, using my bag as a pillow and looking up at the expanse of tree branches over my head and just soaking it all in. jeff wandered by after i’d been lying there for a while and told me that “i looked as though i belonged there” – which, i guess i could assume, would mean that even after all this time, i still have “the burly stature of a truck driver” (as was pointed out a decade and a half ago in a review of our mutual angels…if the boot fits, i guess).

and…about that sierra nevada pale ale…that’s just plain good stuff, right there. there was a full cooler backstage, and while i normally don’t really imbibe during shows – i wasn’t driving, and we’d already turned in our set…so there really wasn’t anything to keep me from having one or two – so i did. there wasn’t a garbage can in the vicinity of the cooler, so i kept putting the tabs in my pocket as i’d open them…i wasn’t keeping them for any other reason but to refrain from throwing them on the ground or anything of that nature, and didn’t give it a second thought at the time.

one of the things that i truly love about doing these shows is the humanity parade that you experience in the wake of the nelson band – and i suppose that could be taken in a negative light, but the truth is – these are wonderful people. the stereotype that surrounds these folks is unfair in a lot of instances – these are people who share a common love of music and community, and they understand in a way that most other people are content to ignore just how much one enhances the other. a lot of these folks come to these shows as much to enjoy one another as to enjoy the music, and a lot of them have been friends for decades – and have history with one another going back that far.

but while a lot of the folks who follow the music are veterans, there’s certainly evidence of a healthy influx of newcomers, as well. one of the longest conversations i had during the course of the day was with a girl who was probably my daughter jayda’s age who had moved out to a commune in northern california from her home in oklahoma – her mother didn’t really make any effort to understand (and certainly didn’t approve) of her choices, and she seemed as though she was trying to make peace with that – but i could tell that the weight of her mom’s disapproval colored her enthusiasm for where she was trying to steer her life. talking to her made me sad in a way that i didn’t fully realize until the conversation was over…because for all the misgivings i might have about some of the decisions made by my kids, or whatever worries i have about their direction – or lack of such – in life might take them at times, i’ve tried never to be the person that i know this girl sees her mother to be. it’d crush me to think that my kids saw me the way this girl saw her mother – i mean, i know we’re not as close as we could be at times, but i do hope that they understand that i’m in their corner…and that i’m not the kind of person who would condemn a choice that they were passionate about just because it didn’t fit with my own expectations of them. that’s just tragic…for both of them.

this was the first of several shows we’d be doing with the nelson gang, and they were – as always – ridiculously good. i ventured to the side of the stage from time to time to take a look at the action on the stage, but i spent a big chunk of time sitting on the flatbed, in the dark and staring up at the stars, listening to them from my vantage point on the back of the truck…it was pretty transcendent.

i walked back into the barn with jeff and bob to get a pizza at the food stand inside, and we met a couple of french kids who wanted to know if we had “rollings papehr” – which i didn’t, of course…nor did anyone else on hand (officially, anyway) and i grabbed another sierra nevada to go with my pizza on the way out of the back of the barn.

the guys played a phenomenal set, and we walked around the barn and the road outside chatting with people – including one girl who professed to be from reading, and said that the power was still out at home as of earlier that day when she talked to her mom…unbelievable.

as the folks wandered back to their cars to head off into the night, mark keys (the promoter) gathered everyone together and marched them out a side road to a house adjoining the vineyard, where there was a huge spread of food – we got to know vince a little better, as well as jim (the guitarist) and chad staehly, who also works quite a bit with todd snider – so we hit it off on that level, since i’ve been a fan of todd’s work for a long time. our hosts were incredibly gracious, the food was excellent…and after a while, we loaded into the van to head to the hotel.

i assumed, as such, that the night was over.

i assumed wrong.

The Hotel.  in the light of day, sure, but this is the scene of the crime. :)
The Hotel. in the light of day, sure, but this is the scene of the crime. 🙂

when we got to the hotel – the discovery inn in ukiah – the colorado boys had already gotten there, and there was a small posse in the parking lot, playing guitar and singing…the hotel parking lot was something of a courtyard setup, with the rooms surrounding a common lot with a building in the middle that housed a sauna and the hot tubs. bud handed out our room keys after checking in at the desk, so as soon as i threw my stuff into my room, i came back outside to see if any of the other guys were planning on participating in any extracurricular activities, if you will…bob had called mark to see if there was going to be a “hang” after we all got back to the hotel, but bob went up to his room after we got back to the hotel. stephe and i were outside in the courtyard, waiting to see if anyone else was going to trickle out, but after a while, we walked over to where the parking lot kids were and said hello…we stood there with them for a while, until we saw two girls over by the fence surrounding the building where the hot tubs were – one trying to boost the other over the fence. i grabbed my room key from my pocket, went over to the gate, and swiped my card through the reader to let them in. i hadn’t been in there, and had no idea until we walked in that there were hot tubs in this building…i had initially thought that maybe it was an indoor swimming pool or something like that, but when we walked in, there were four separate hot tubs, plus a sauna and a waterfall thingy that was noisy as hell in the main room. the two french kids that were looking for “rollings paper” at the show were there, plus a handful of girls of widely varying ages and a couple of guys affiliated with various bands…in varying states of undress.

i looked over at stephe, and smiled…and kicked off my shoes. “what are you doin’, man?” he says. “i’m going in, dude.”


“damn right, i am, dude,” i told him. “dude, shit like this just don’t happen every day. this ain’t the company christmas party, man…and it’s not like i’ll be back in this position anytime soon. i’m in.”

and before i had time to reconsider, i shed the lions’ share of my clothes and got in the water. i left stephe standing there contemplating whether or not this was something he was interested in or not.

i just settled in with some folks i didn’t really know and struck up a conversation…the one (older) woman in the tub that i got into was wearing a bathing suit, and i asked her if she was just being optimistic when she packed, or if she’d been here before. “this is california,” she said. “i never leave home without my bathing suit.”

the pool house at the hotel in Ukiah
the pool house at the hotel in Ukiah

to answer the obvious questions, yes – there was nakedness involved. but it wasn’t the typical, overtly sexual rock and roll nakedness…it was just a group of people hanging out with one another, some of whom happened to be naked. one girl, sitting on the edge of one of the other tubs, was strumming a ukelele…there were some things being smoked that might have been of questionable legality in other states, but mostly it was just conversation that was being exchanged.

so…while it certainly seemed like a rock and roll kinda thing in principle, we were a pretty boring lot.

and, after about 45 minutes or so, the room started to clear out…leaving stephe and myself – and the two french dudes.

now, if i left any doubt earlier, their english was – well, a little rough. their intentions were good, but i had a hard time understanding them…and the roar of the waterfall in the room only complicated matters, as i could barely hear them in the first place. so…after another fifteen minutes or so, i started contemplating the notion of getting up out of the tub and getting my clothes on and heading back to the hotel room. we left the friendly french guys there by themselves and i headed over to dry off and hit the hay…it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3am or so. my hair felt like i’d been using a chlorine-based conditioner of some sort, and i was still a little buzzed from the influx of various sierra nevada products during the course of the – hey…i’d been putting bottle caps into my pocket as i went during the course of the night – how many did i have, after all?

i emptied my pockets onto the desk in my room and counted them up.

no wonder i was feeling very little restraint about jumping into the hot tub. it was a pretty high number.

needless to say, i had no problem at all falling asleep.



Arcata, CA – at HumBrews with great american taxi


we got up pretty early, considering how late we’d be up the night before – the plan was that we were stopping at this little diner in willets called ardell’s before we started the drive north to arcata for the show that night.

we actually bumped into mookie and jim lewin from taxi outside the front desk area of the hotel before we left…we chatted for a few seconds before we pulled out, and set out for the drive…which, from where we sat was roughly three hours. sadly, ardell’s was closed, so we settled on the country skillet – which, frankly, was just fine with me. great little spot, with awesome people-watching.

the redwoods off highway 101 during the drive north to Arcata
the redwoods off highway 101 during the drive north to Arcata

the drive up to arcata was almost exclusively on highway 101 – which very well might be my favorite stretch of road in the country. the scenery of the countryside in that part of the country just never gets old…i never tire of looking out the window on that stretch of road. i’ve tried in the past to take pictures out the window of the van, and i still do – but still photographs just don’t go very far, in terms of capturing the actual experience of being in the midst of that part of the country. we decided to take a short scenic detour through the humboldt redwoods state park – and if you’ve never been through that part of the country, let me tell you…it’ll help you put a lot of things in perspective.

now THAT's high hopes, right there.
now THAT’s high hopes, right there.

we pulled the van over and piled out onto the side of the road at a point where there was enough room to get the van safely off the winding, two lane stretch of road, and i grabbed my camera and walked up the hill through the enclave of trees, alternately staring up at the sky through the long, arrow-straight giant trunks with tufts of leaves at the very top…and pulling my chin down and taking in the sheer breadth of the trees at the point closest to the ground. across the road, there was one giant fallen trunk that dropped away from the road and into the forest. i walked over, and followed the length of the tree to a point further up the shaft where it was realistically possible to climb onto it, and walked back up the length of it to the point closest to the road where it was its largest…and also the farthest from the ground. stephe had wandered over by then, and i tossed my camera down to him so he could get a shot of me, standing in a faux triumphant pose on top of the giant tree.

after we’d been there for about fifteen minutes or so, the troops started getting restless and summoned us back to the van so we could start back up the road.

one wasted stop at a pawn shop that we passed along the road, and we were in arcata relatively early…well before the GAT boys. we stopped in and visited for a bit with the folks at the venue, and brought in the gear that we knew we’d be using (without assuming anything regarding shared backline), and walked down the alley behind the club to a small music store there in town called wildwood music to browse for a bit. i think bud might have been in the market for mandolin strings, as well, but i can’t remember. anyway, we poked around for a bit – and bob pointed out an old early 50’s fender champion lap steel to me that was in the back of the place. now, i’ve never been a fan of those things, largely because all the ones that i’ve played have been overly brittle…and this is an instrument that’s usually in need of some rolloff on the top end, no matter which brand you’re playing – i think that anything with the pickup that close to the bridge with a scale length that short is gonna bark at you in that frequency range, but the fenders have always been especially guilty of that. i tend to gravitate towards rickenbackers and gibsons, because they seem most susceptible to taming that flaw…but, of course, your mileage may vary. i know that phil madeira has one of those, and he loves his – and who am i to judge? i just play what i like, and i’ve always just kinda written them off. bob was reaching for his glasses and hovering over this thing, though…and asked me to play it for him while he looked for something to plug it into. i hadn’t bothered to bring a bar with me, because i wasn’t really shopping for anything – but i improvised with a pocket knife long enough to make sure it worked properly, and bob took it to the counter and started negotiations…turned out it was on consignment, and bob made an offer and asked the clerk to call the owner to see if he’d take it…which he did, and he did, so bob walked out with this thing. as it turned out, he was a lot less interested in the steel than he was the pickup in it – thus the reason for his thorough inspection. as it turns out, it was a flatpole telecaster pickup and harness assembly in this thing, with the original caps and the whole nine yards. so, bob left the place a happy boy…as we were walking back down the alley to the loading door, we saw vince from GAT walking towards the place, as they had just pulled in themselves. we went up to help with the load-in, and vince came walking up a few minutes later, beaming and holding his new purchase – a marshall acoustic amp. “i knew it was an acoustic amp because it’s brown,” he chuckled. “all acoustic amps are brown.”

that’s the kind of character he is. 🙂

anyway…the gig. oh, yeah, there was a gig, as i recall…

pic 949
if any photo ever captured the true essence of bob stirner during soundcheck, this would be it. hands down.

it was a monday night, so our expectations were somewhat low, but there was actually a pretty respectable crowd – when you consider the whole weeknight thing. and we played our asses off. it wasn’t our crowd, but they were pretty enthusiastic and supportive, and we got a lot of positive feedback from the folks i spoke to after our set. GAT tore it up…their set included a cover of pure prairie league‘s kansas city southern, which i definitely got a kick out of – they played their asses off for a solid two hours, and encored with willin’ before calling it a night.

after the show, i chatted a bit with some of the folks in the crowd as they were leaking out the door before heading into the green room – the smoke in the green room was absolutely stifling…it was actually hard to see the walls in there. i passed a “howdy” message along to vince from a mutual buddy of ours who’d asked me to say hello to him via facebook, lonesome larry williams from WWHP-FM in farmer city, illinois and we all chatted for a while…there were remnants of stuff lying about, including a dish full of cookies. i grabbed one – they were some distant relative of oatmeal raisin, i believe, although my memory fails me – and didn’t taste anything contraband in it, so i had another one as we were all standing and chatting…and grabbed another one on the way out the door. the third one, i noticed after i got into the van, tasted…well, a little funny, but i hadn’t noticed anything in the other two, so i kinda wrote it off. didn’t give it another thought.

we got to our hotel for the night, loaded the equipment into the room, and stephe and i settled in – bob stopped by to chat for a bit, and i got up to get my laptop out of my bag, and immediately felt – weird. not dizzy, but not really solid, either.

i sat back down, and bob says, “what’s wrong?”

“i don’t know, man,” i told him. “the room just took a lap or two around the track or something. i don’t feel sick or anything, but that was a little odd. i don’t know what happened.”

and it didn’t go away when i sat back down, either.

bob knows all too well that i refrain from smoking as a rule – not because i have a problem with people who do, or anything of that nature…i don’t take issue with it at all. i just don’t smoke weed. never have, and never had any real desire to. it’s not the use of the stuff that i have an issue with, but the actual act of smoking that is the barrier for me. i just can’t do it. in fact, the only times i’ve ever encountered the stuff was via either cookie or brownie ingestion…but neither of those times did i feel as i did in this particular instance. suffice to say, it freaked me out a bit.

so when we narrowed it down to the cookies via the process of elimination, bob says to me, “did you see vince eat any of the cookies?”

“yeah,” i replied. “i think he had one of them.”

“well, here’s a general rule that you might want to abide by,” bob said. “if you see vince do something, you probably want to do less of it than he did. you sure as hell don’t want to do more.”

and with that, bob retreated to his room, and i crawled into bed with my clothes on and pulled the covers up tightly around my chin. the ceiling of the hotel room (which was covered in that wonderfully appealing textured paint) appeared to be changing colors, not unlike those ridiculous lamps that you can buy at the mall…and the ceiling itself seemed as though it were only inches from my face, while the window – from which i was separated only by the edge of my bed and a small table and chair – looked as though it were at the end of a long hallway. but it was just as well, as i couldn’t keep my eyes open for long periods of time without feeling nauseous, anyway. when i closed them, though, the whole pink floyd laser eyelid light show began…the strangest assortment of passing colored patterns that i’d ever seen. i lay there, waiting to fall asleep and convinced that i was going to die there in this hotel room on the other side of the country, thousands of miles from my family and friends…i remember thinking to myself that, at the very least, i will have died doing what i personally consider to be my lifes’ work, and there’s at least that – but that there’s tons of unfinished business on my plate and that i can’t resign myself to that just now. i remember repeatedly moving my toes under the covers just to make sure that i was still inhabiting my largely numb carcass, and wiggling my fingers from time to time. after stephe turned out the light to go to sleep, i’d open my eyes on occasion and found that the nausea had subsided, but that i still didn’t trust my eyes, in terms of what i was taking in.

i have no idea what my final thoughts might have been before i finally fell asleep the first time, but i must’ve gone from sleep to some state of semi-conscioiusness several dozen times…i think. i mean, i might have been dreaming that i was waking up, for all i know…but i doubt it. the next morning, i managed to haul myself up from the bed, put some clothes on, and gather my posessions into the back of the van as everyone was loading in – i stood outside the van for a good long while, almost certain that i was going to leave a souvenir of our visit in the parking lot before we left, but i managed to clear my head and put the urge to barf behind me before getting in the van. bob relinquished the shotgun position to me for a time, just in case the urge were to revisit me, but it wasn’t an issue after that initial near-miss.

fucking cookies. i shoulda just hunted down that 24 hour pizza place like chad did and none of this would’ve happened to begin with.




the boys from GAT were on their way north, to applegate oregon and one of my favorite places on earth – the applegate river lodge in applegate, oregon (boris played there on our last run, back in june). we had a down day, though – and 330 miles (250 of which would be on highway 101) to cover, heading south from arcata to san jose, where we’d be settling in for the next couple of nights.

i was never so thankful to be spending the entire day in the car.

notable on this trip, though, was a stop in sebastopol and a visit with bill krinard – founder and mastermind behind two rock guitar amplifiers. bill had a fully restored nash rambler sitting in front of the house…and the visit would’ve been worthwhile if that had been all we’d seen. the guys dropped stirner and i at bill’s house and went searching for food, and bill invited us in to the laboratory.

the butterscotch colored one on the right.  that's the one.  the BEAST.
the butterscotch colored one on the right. that’s the one. the BEAST.

i wasn’t really prepared for the labratory. it was two walls full of amazing guitars, and a ridiculous assortment of amplifiers – a few oddballs and stragglers, but largely two-rock creations…some production models, some amps that were in for tune-ups from a few notable players (one that belonged to steve kimock and one that belonged to john mayer), and a thing or two that were one-off creations that didn’t have labels…one, in particular, was a replica of the dumble circuit in david lindley’s personal dumble amp.

bill brought it into the room and hooked it up and bob handed me the cable…and turned it up nice and loud.

i played david lindley’s solo from shaky town (on the running on empty album) and simply could not believe my ears. this amp was just plain unbelievable.

sadly, we didn’t have a ton of time, as it was only a matter of time before the guys got back (bearing food…one of the best burritos i’ve ever had, if i do say so myself), and we had to get down the road, to hopefully arrive at a decent hour with our hosts.

but the sound of that amp is still ringing in my ears.



Berkeley, CA – live on David Gans’ radio program on KPFA-FM


Let me just say this – David Gans is one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever met.

And no, not just because he’s done nice things for the band – he’s just a genuinely good soul. An easy guy to talk to, sincerely interested in his friends’ lives, and a gentle soul.

boris, with david in the lobby of the radio station in Berkeley.
boris, with david in the lobby of the radio station in Berkeley.

For the uninitiated, David is the Dick Clark of the Grateful Dead nation – David hosts the nationally syndicated Grateful Dead Hour, which can be heard on stations in just about every state of the union as well as shows on Sirius/XM radio and – pertinent to our itinerary, on KPFA in Berkeley…the town that Stirner calls “the left-wing, hippie radical epicenter of the universe”. We’d gotten into town later than we’d originally planned, largely because we had taken our time in getting up and out of the house that morning because we were all tired as hell…but as such, it was pretty dark, so there wasn’t much to distinguish Berkeley from most other cities under cover of night. We stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a little something to eat (which can be a little daunting, in terms of finding something to carry out to the van and devour right away) and then headed over to the station.

how do you know you’re in the lobby of a radio station in the “left-wing, hippie radical epicenter of the universe”?

well, for one, they have an actual altar in the lobby with tributes and notes and the like for folks who’ve passed on who’d either worked there, or were friends of the station…and you’d have to be pretty callous to stand there in front of this monument and not be moved. these are people who genuinely care about one another.

so we loaded in at the appointed time – our gig this evening was an actual hour-long live performance, playing to an invited audience as our set was broadcast over the air.

setting up at KPFA - in a hurry.
setting up at KPFA – in a hurry.

the two folks working for the station in a technical capacity were really on top of their game…we’re not an easy band to mic up or soundcheck in a “hurry up” situation, and sometimes these kind of things…well, let’s just say that we’re a lot easier when there’s plenty of time, space, and inputs. 🙂 nonetheless, though, we managed to get set up and ready to go literally right under the wire – we narrowly escaped a few seconds of dead-air at the top of the show. that’s how close it was – but we played out of the show intro and the rest of the set, plus the interview, went really well. David was the usual gracious host, and the post-set reviews that came in via text and facebook were pretty positive.

i say this a lot….maybe too much…but i just love this part of the country. it’s a perfect storm of the people, the geography, the mood, the weather, the roads and highways, the scenery – all of it. and even under the cover of darkness, berkeley is a wonderful place.



KRSH-FM in Santa Rosa, CA and San Francisco, CA – The Connecticut Yankee


the boys had been to “The Krush” before, on one of their previous jaunts, but i never had – the station has been a pretty staunch supporter of the band, and – ironically enough – the jock who’d be interviewing us also played guitar in a band called The THUGZ (which, in a decidedly non-hiphop twist, is an acronym for Tribal Hippie UnderGround Zone) – who’d be appearing with us later in the week at the River Theater in Guerneville.

on the drive out, the boys decided they wanted to stop just outside Petaluma for a bite at some little hole in the wall place that served Uzbekistani food or some other such nonsense…and, well, you know i ain’t havin’ none o’ that, so i left them there and took a walk a few blocks up the road and found a great little roadside burger stand and had a great organic, grass-fed burger and, since i hadn’t heard from the boys yet, kept walking up the street and around town for a bit, taking pictures and enjoying a rare moment of solitude before bob called me to pick me up so we could head up the road.

the radio show was a bit more routine than the previous nights’ excursion in Berkeley – it was more of what had become typical of our radio hits…a live interview interspersed with a couple of songs performed acoustically. and from there, we made what would be my first ever trip into San Francisco.

the gig itself, at a small corner bar-ish place called the Connecticut Yankee, was essentially a tip of the hat to our esteemed publicist, Dennis McNally, who lived nearby and this gig was more or less an opportunity for Dennis to come hear the band without making it too inconvienent for him. but – with it being a bar and all – load-in was late, and they didn’t want to see us even in the same neighborhood until sometime after 8:30 or so. which, frankly, was fine with me…while there was a bit of enigma attached to the notion of playing in san francisco, i’ve played this place several thousand times.

so, after visiting early and getting the predictable response from the bar owner, we trekked back out into the city…we visited the Haight-Asbury section of town and went to Amoeba Records (which left our resident Vinyl Junkie, steve, literally speechless. it was that cool.) we took a walk up Haight street a ways as well, stopped into a very cool music store for a few minutes and kinda took in the “south streetness” of the area for a bit before heading back over to the gig.

with absolutely no offense intended to the good folks at the Yankee, it was easily the worst gig of the tour. anemic audience, and a tiny stage with so little room that i ended up sitting on my amplifier to play, because there wasn’t room for a chair or a stool. everyone was up each others’ ass, and it was no fun whatsoever. Dennis and his wife seemed to enjoy the first set, and some folks trickled in later who were really supportive and seemed to enjoy the band – but i won’t be disappointed if we don’t play there again.



Berkeley, CA – Ashkenaz with David Gans and the David Nelson Band


so this was the day that we were gonna do the makeup visit to Subway Guitars in Berkeley prior to our show…we’d missed our opportunity on Wednesday, simply because we had so much on our plate, and we hadn’t exactly gotten an early start. we had a 5pm load-in for this show, and we were all up and in the van by 12:30, so i didn’t really foresee any problems in making it happen today. bob needed to stop by a UPS store, and there was one located on the way out of town, right next to a CVS, so we all decided to mill about and grab some stuff that we needed (i replenished my toothpaste supply and bought a brush and a diet coke, everyone else came back to the van with similar small plastic bags) and we started down the interstate towards Berkeley. since steve obviously had a limited interest in visiting subway, we dropped him off on the block between the amoeba record store and rasputins – again, he was like a kid who just woke up on christmas morning. we made one impulse stop at a pawn shop and then started across to cedar street towards Mecca.

this is where Stephe wants to be buried.  on that very spot, right there.
this is where Stephe wants to be buried. on that very spot, right there.

my expectations were somewhat low…i’d been a regular visitor to fatdawg’s website and i knew what kind of store it was likely to be. i’d conjured images in my head of a smallish place with walls and ceiling lined with guitars and a funky vibe…and that’s exactly what it was. bob brought his strat, as he was considering having the 5-way switch replaced, and i brought my national steel along, as i’d been having some issues with the amphenol connector (or more likely, the cable itself that came with the steel). i took a deep breath and we opened the door and walked in.

it was even smaller than i’d expected – with guitars hanging in three rows on the walls all around the room, and old archtops and acoustics suspended from the ceiling, and all manners of paraphenelia literally all over the room. guitar parts, various and sundry necks and bodies, as well as books and various flyers and such adorned every surface of the place.

i felt like i’d died and gone to heaven.

the first thing that caught my eye was a danelectro DC-style body with a telecaster bridge and pickup and a cool old P-90 style pickup in the zone between where a neck pickup and a middle pickup might’ve gone, painted a copper color with a longish baritone neck on it…i plugged it into a bass amp they had sitting there in the store and it sounded AMAZING. there was another single-cutaway hollowbody hanging next to it with a single rickenbacker lap steel pickup in it that was less impressive when plugged in, but quite visually striking…and there were more, and more, and more…everywhere i turned, there was something else that i wanted to play that i couldn’t reach.

after we’d been there a while and had chatted for some time with the illustrious fatdawg himself (who came in just after we did), a slight, unassuming elderly black gentleman walked in and went up the steps in the back corner…i thought he looked familiar, but i couldn’t place him. after he’d gone upstairs, i asked FD, “was that…was that freddie roulette?”

freddie f^(king roulette.  shredding.  right in front of me.
freddie f^(king roulette. shredding. right in front of me.

fatdawg seemed somewhat shocked that i knew who he was…when he came back down, he introduced me to him – but he was on his way out the door, he had to go drop someone off at church, but he’d be back in just a few minutes…and he’d bring his guitar.

i literally could not believe that this was unfolding right in front of me.

we were discussing my amphenol connector situation with another repair guy who worked there, and were entertaining the notion of trying to find one at an electrical parts place in the neighborhood – but freddie walked back in not long after that with a gig bag over his shoulder, a tiny amplifier, and a small pedalboard. he proceeded to pull out a national 8 string lap steel, plug it in, and start absolutely wailing – playing standards like georgia on my mind and sleepwalk and stuff of that nature – crazy bar slant chords that, from a logical standpoint, should not have worked in any way, shape, or form, but he was making them work – wild slides up and down the fretboard, crazy chord melody stuff…all the while staring down at his fretboard with his omnipresent pipe dangling just over his lap the entire time. it was as if he was aware there was anyone else in the store at all. he must’ve played for half an hour..while he was playing, bud and jeff showed up to pick us up for load-in, and they stayed and watched for the longest time…and freddie was still playing when we left to scramble for the van, to pick steve up and head to the venue for load-in.

to say i wasn’t ready to leave would have been an understatement. plus, i never found out what he wanted for the danelectro baritone.

the marquee at Ashkenaz
the marquee at Ashkenaz

we got to the venue to find the familiar Ryder rental truck parked in front of the venue, and we were lucky enough to score a parking spot right in front of it. it had begun to rain, and i don’t think any of us were that interested in dealing with carrying our stuff any further in the rain than we had to. when we walked in, tim steigler was already largely set up for the show and ready for us to load-in.

the venue was impressive – a very large floor, a spacious stage, mirrors along the wall on one side – really a wonderful space. the walls behind the stage were covered with protest posters, some clearly used on the street, some from ages past, and it created a somewhat surreal vibe in the place. now, fatdawg had told us a bit about the place and its original owner, david nadel – david was shot in the doorway of the club as he was leaving and died two days later – under what could kindly be called suspicious circumstances.

now, let me say something here – we all hear people say, sometimes ad nauseum, that people’s spirits live on, that they can feel their presence, that they’re still watching over them, blah blah blah….let me tell you something.

within the walls of this room, david nadel is fucking immortal.

character reference graffiti
character reference graffiti

there are many folks who knew him, who worked for him and with him, who clearly had a huge amount of respect for him as a human being – who still work here, who still come here, and there are ample reminders of him throughout the place…it’s a huge testament to who he was and what kind of human being he was…and to the legacy he left in his wake.

soundcheck at Ashkenaz
soundcheck at Ashkenaz

so there was an immediate air of celebratory reverence in the air in the room, and the air was a little different from the moment we got there. the PA was already up and ready, and we were able to start setting up for soundcheck pretty much right away – and as has become the norm when we work with this particular crew, tim steigler had us set up and dialed in with what seemed like no effort whatsoever…we had great monitors, the room sounded phenomenal…and it was already starting to feel like it was going to be – well, one of those nights.

i walked across the street to chipotle and grabbed a burrito and a corona while the rest of the guys went for Thai food, and came back just a few minutes before showtime…david gans was opening the show, and we’d worked with david during our last tour at a co-bill in sebastopol in addition to having done the radio show together earlier in the week – so we were really looking forward to this gig.

we came up to play with david for his last song, and literally from the minute we kicked in behind him, it was obvious that something had kicked up a notch…it was palpable. and when david handed off the stage to us and we kicked into our set, people were up at the front of the stage and dancing and it just pushed us over the edge. we played one of the most amazing sets that i think we’ve ever done.

afterward, i had a great conversation with one of the folks who’s worked here almost from the beginning of the room, who knew david, and was something of a historian where the place was concerned…it was a pretty magical evening, to say the least. lots of hugs and goodwill and then – back into the van to go grab a few hours’ sleep.



Guerneville, CA – the river theater


walking around town from music store to music store with the sun on our backs.
walking around town from music store to music store with the sun on our backs.

the DJ who hosted us at KRSH in santa rosa (andre) is also the guitarist in a band called the Thugz (which stands for Tribal Hippie UnderGround Zone – hardly a typical name for a jam band, but who are we to judge?) – and we were playing with them on the bill at this particular show. Guerneville was the furthest north we’d be playing since coming south from arcata on tuesday in the wake of the cookie debacle – and since we were playing in chico the next night, we were staying somewhere along the highway after the show and getting up early to head to chico the next day.

it had started raining as we were driving towards the show, but by the time we got there, it was coming down pretty steadily – enough that it was hard to really see much of what guerneville was like…it’s a river town, and home of the Russian River Blues Festival…as well as the river theater.

we pulled in back of the place to load in up the ramp, and threw open the van doors and started rolling our gear up the ramp to the open door that led into the side entrance of the hall…i walked in for the first time and stopped in my tracks.

this place was…well, different.

no, not just different. this place was – well, disturbing and amusing at the same time.

it looked like what would’ve happened if bill graham had hired stanley kubrick to direct one of his new years’ eve parties at the fillmore west.

load-in at stanley kubrick's pool house...
load-in at stanley kubrick’s pool house…

there were various props hanging from the ceiling, mostly stars and planets – with the stray torso here and there. a ten foot tall silver male figure stood atop a speaker enclosure. a mockup of the letters that adorn the hollywood hills floated atop the main downstairs bar. there were various faux egyptian relics strewn about, mixed with seven foot tall gingerbread men, a giant bag of popcorn, and a life-size ice cream cone. part star wars, part the ten commandments, and part alice in wonderland, all rolled into one.

the ringleader was a fellow named jerry knight – who personified every movie stereotype of the music business mogul that we’ve all come to identify with…big smile, gregarious personality, planet hollywood satin jacket, earring – but the fact is, he was a great guy…with a huge investment in the place and a lot at stake in making the place work. it was clearly a labor of love for him, and he was very proud of what he’d managed to do up to that point…and rightly so. it’s easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions when you’re encountered with somebody like jerry, but i believe the guys’ heart is in the right place.

we arrived at roughly the same time as our partners on the bill, and the affected parties went about settling whose backline would be used for what…i set up well in back of the keyboard rig, as i was expecting to sit in with them during their set (we ended up doing three songs together, culminating with the dead’s one more saturday night), and i was set up and ready to go relatively quickly…which left me plenty of time to wander around and take pictures.

after soundcheck, we went up the street for dinner and ate at a place where a three piece power trio was playing, mostly originals…the drummer looked like doctor house, the bass player looked like ray romano, and the camoflauge-trousered guitarist looked like a strange combination of vanilla ice and henry rollins…i silently dubbed them Social Douche-tortion, and ate as quickly as i could so i could get back to the venue in time to sit in with the folks from the Thugz.

the marquee at the river theater
the marquee at the river theater

i played three songs with them, wrapping up their set playing lap steel on a cover of the dead’s one more saturday night, before we took the stage – and while we were all chilled to the bone from the lack of heat in the place (jerry had turned on a contraption that looked like a combination of a wheelbarrow and a jet engine that was hooked up to a propane tank before the doors had opened, but he apparently ran out of propane at some point, so it had a pretty limited effect), we stormed the stage and fired right into our set…the highlight of this particular night, for me, was a hyper-extended version of good home that featured the trumpet player from the Thugz, who came up for an impromptu solo during the jam in the middle of the song, which actually worked out pretty well – his timing was excellent, and he came up at the perfect point in the song for his solo. righteous.

just a couple of songs into our set, though – the dance floor (heavily populated with cowboy-hippie zombies from the beginning of the show) parted to make room for jerry and his companion, who were clearly in need of a hotel room…based on their actions on the dance floor. for a buncha guys away from home for almost two weeks, it was a bit much to bear witness to – but, hey…good for jerry. 🙂

as had become custom for me, i made a point of walking the entire floor after we finished to press the flesh, shake hands, introduce myself to folks, and make friends….but most importantly, to thank them for coming to the show. we made some friends this night, and jerry was pretty clear that he wanted us back – so it felt like a success to us.

we got back onto the 101, and found our way back to where we started – in roehnert park, at the good nite inn – right back where we started this run right after we got off the plane and into the van



Chico, CA – Manzanita Place with David Gans and the David Nelson Band


so this was it…the final night of the run, and our third show with the Nelson boys – and frankly, i was feeling a little bittersweet about it.

with our promoter and kindred spirit, mark keys, at the last show of the tour
with our promoter and kindred spirit, mark keys, at the last show of the tour

sure, on one level, i was ready to come home to my family – sleep in my own bed – get back to work on setting the new house in order, et cetera…but after two of these trips, getting to know the other musicians, the folks who work the shows, the wonderful souls who come to the shows and support the bands – well, there’s this wonderful family that’s grown up around this scene over the years, and it feels as though the boys in Boris have been assimilated into the family at this point. they know us by name, they take care of us on the road, they dance during our sets – and as with last time, i made it a point to walk around the hall at the end of the show to thank everyone for coming and take a few minutes to talk and get to know them. there were so many almost famous moments during the course of the night, too – sitting on a folding chair backstage listening to the headliner during the show, holding court with the guys from david’s band in the green room over a great meal, taking pictures with everybody – it was the last night of the tour for them, as well, and we all knew that it’d be a while before we got to see each other again, and…just like russell says in the movie – “nobody wants the circus to be over.”

mark keyes, the promoter who put the bigger shows together for both of the tours that i took part in, has become a dear friend…as well as tim stiegler, the FOH guy, and paul andling, the guy who was doing guitars for the band, was such a nice guy and a good sport…and, after this was all over, i found out that i totally squandered a great opportunity to pick the brain of a guy who’d spent a good chunk of his professional life working with people like T-Bone Burnett in the studio – paul. dude was just so nice, so unassuming, that he kept it under his hat the whole time.

so….yeah. that whole “parting is such sweet sorrow” thing? totally on the head for this scenario.

we got up and out the door pretty early for this run, and – while bud had done the lions’ share of the driving for this run – i got to make a cameo appearance behind the wheel for this drive. i know that when we’d gone to chico for the KZFR interview last time, the drive was a bit of a drag, but we were coming from a different direction then. this time, not so much. it was a little rainy at first, but it wasn’t the worst day we’d spent out here this run.

and, as had become the norm, timmy’s rental truck was already at the gig when we got there…they’d already started setting up the house when we arrived for load-in and soundcheck. the venue was essentially a large, open hall with no actual seating – and the house folks had put out chairs, which mark had to ask them to strike. there was a little friction between mark and the promoters as a result, and i don’t know if the douchebag that purported to run the place ever really got over it…but that was his problem more than anyone else’s. mark got the green room set up the way he wanted, he got the chairs removed as he wished, and pretty much everything else as well. the only real caveat that we had to deal with was that the room had to be cleared by a certain hour, and we had to have the stage quiet and the lights up by 10pm – which was a requirement of the township, more so than the room…and as long as we stuck to our timeline, it wasn’t going to be a problem.

load-in and soundcheck had become pretty routine by now – the Nelson guys were set up first, and we had become pretty adept at setting up around them. i usually dropped my amp in right behind david’s mesa/boogie rig, and dropped a folding chair between his amp and the drum kit. mission accomplished. and…the headliners? i don’t think they soundchecked once the whole run. and yet, they sounded phenomenal every night. and – after soundcheck, the folks started trickling in…jasper and his wife came in pretty early, with a new face – jennifer, a beautiful girl from the baltimore area who’d come out specifically for the shows. i nicknamed her “PBJ”…Paiges’ Beautiful (friend) Jess. (and yes, i did have to explain the absence of the letter “F”…i mean, the F throws off the whole acronym, ya know?)

it seems almost anticlimactic to even talk about the shows themselves – but, i’ll tell you what…it was, without a doubt, the best set i’ve ever seen the David Nelson Band turn in.

listening to our patriarch, david nelson, weaving tales backstage during the tour
listening to our patriarch, david nelson, weaving tales backstage during the tour

they did a version of stella blue, with pete singing, that just killed me. i was in the back, sitting by myself when the song started, and i actually walked out into the hall to get close to the stage and hear this up close…just unbelievable. the room was full of people, all dancing and swirling slowly to the song – i stood just over to one side of the stage, just behind mookie’s keyboard rig, and listened to the rest of the song with tears welling up in my eyes…an absolute textbook portrait of bittersweet, listening to these musicians i respected and admired, surrounded by this newly adopted family of mine…and knowing that we’d be on a plane in roughly 24 hours and it’d be over.

like the pros they are, the boys finished their set – with encore (“box of rain” – another tear-welling moment) – with six minutes to spare before pull-the-plug time.

the lights came up at the end of the show, and the band retreated to the green room, but i didn’t go back right away…as had become somewhat customary, most of “the hang” would move out into the hall during load-out anyway, and it didn’t feel like it was really necessary to bother with heading back to the green room right away. instead, i walked around and talked to the folks who’d come to the show for a good half-hour…including paige and jasper, who’d brought pictures of the bus he was refurbishing that he shared with me…and quite a few other handfuls of folks who’d stuck around a little longer to enjoy each other’s company. this was their family, too, after all.

lots of hugs. lots of smiles. lots of difficult goodbyes at the end of the night…followed by an especially long load-out, punctuated with more goodbye hugs.

as we pulled away (with yours truly driving again), stirner plugged his iPhone into the radio in the van and surfed through a couple of songs, until i asked him if he happened to have a copy of brokedown palace on his iPod…and, of course, he did – so we ended up listening to american beauty a couple of times through in silence in the van as we drove back to san jose for our last night on the west coast before flying out the next afternoon.


Going home, going home
By the waterside I will rest my bones
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
To rock my soul

Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
To rock my soul…


this run was a classic example for me of the duality of what we do.  when we’re on the road and in motion, there’s literally NOTHING i’d rather be doing.  but the expense of it, the drudgery of certain parts of it, the anxiety that sets in when you’re away from home and unable to deal with the things that you need to have your hands on in order to keep your life on track and running somewhat smoothly…but it’s worth it.

it’s worth every minute.

with JD Malone and the Experts – AVALON CD Release Party

one thing you gotta hand to dean sciarra – when he gets behind something, his energy is pretty much boundless.

most of the time, the label might interject with regard to the big bullet points around the CD release party – the venue, date, stuff of that nature…but dean came to rehearsals, we had meetings around the set list, song transitions – i tried to stress the importance of lighting cues and the like, but i had a hard time getting anyones’ attention, and dean insisted that his guy was a pro and would have matters well in hand.

this turned out to be one of a number of matters that we didn’t really manage to compromise on…and while it left a bit of a taste in my mouth, i deferred to majority rule and let it slide.

the party was in phoenixville…not at the colonial theater (which would’ve been my choice), but in the auditorium at erin riley’s phoenixville school of rock facility. rather off the beaten path, but not impossible to find. we set the party for july 12th, with a full dress rehearsal the prior afternoon with all hands on deck.

we enlisted some help for the show – we invited jay davidson along as a utility keyboard player, and since dean wanted me to be more visible, we brought along john farrell to play pedal steel so that i could focus on the other stuff – especially since i didn’t normally bring the pedal steel out as a rule.  michael ronstadt, who’d played with us live a number of times before was also joining on cello.

and – of course – we were joined by the lovely and talented jayda hampton on vocals.

dean wanted to record the show – both in multitrack audio for possible future release, and a full, multi-camera video shoot for DVD release as well. so this show was going to be preserved for posterity in every possible way. so, with that being the case, dean was pretty adamant about rehearsal – of course, dean hasn’t really gotten the pulse of this outfit yet, where the whole rehearsal thing is concerned. we’ve actually made a conscious effort to limit our rehearsals, for a number of reasons – the biggest of which is we really don’t need to rehearse much.  once or twice a year has really been the norm.  usually, we’ll work out kinks at soundchecks when necessary, and everyone in this band is intuitive enough to essentially get on the train, grab a seat, and ride.

this isn’t a concept that puts dean at ease.  at all.  🙂

now, under this particular set of circumstances, i think we all understood this – and we were willing to spot him a little extra work, as we all understood that this wasn’t just another gig.  so, with the show scheduled for tuesday the 12th, we all convened the day before for load-in, a looong soundcheck, and a full run-through of the set.

my gear onstage during the dress rehearsal for the Avalon CD release party...

now, dean had seen the space before – i hadn’t.  so i reserved judgement until i got there, but i was scratching my head a bit when i walked in and saw the place, initially.  to my eye, it didn’t look terribly photogenic, by any stretch of the imagination.  dean assured me, though, that the backdrop would look phenomenal under the lights…and this was his party as much as it was ours in some respects, so i didn’t bust his chops about it at that point.  besides, what were we gonna do?  move it in 24 hours?  sometimes, it pays to choose your battles, and this one was not only unwinnable, but a total waste of energy at this point.  i decided that if he thought the stage looked great under lights and on camera, he obviously had more information to make that decision than i did…so i wasn’t gonna waste time dwelling on it.

(and…it should be said – in retrospect, he was right.  it did look pretty cool on film.)

JD, working up the Beat Poet Remix of "emmitt meets a demon".

dean brought plenty of nervous energy to the gig – he had come to see us play a street fair in west chester the prior week (which we were using as something of a rehearsal for this show), and we hadn’t really turned in a performance that would’ve been worthy of the CD release show – for a number of reasons, and there’s not much point in rationalizing it now, but we were waiting for a thunderstorm to roll in any minute (the streets were already wet from a heavy rain that had come through just prior to showtime), and there were a couple of cues that got lost between avery and i in a song that dean felt was a cornerstone of our set that we’d never even played before prior to recording it…

so…with the prospects of rolling both audio and video tape for this show, he wanted to make sure everything was well-oiled and with its best foot forward – and rightly so.  i think, though, that he was interpreting the general personality of the band as being at odds with that objective for a bit of the day, during mondays’ rehearsals.  i think that – once we’d been there, gotten through all the technical hurdles, and had run some of the set, he felt better about it…but i’m not certain that, at the end of the night on monday, he was free of doubt.  and honestly, he was probably the only one.  everybody in the band, including our special guests, were feeling pretty loose by the end of the rehearsal.  we were all getting there bright and early the next day as it was, since whatever final adjustments that the sound, light, and video guys might need to make would require us to be onsite, and i was prepared to do a little more run-through, if necessary.   we had to strike most of the stage for a show that the school was presenting the next day, so while we weren’t starting entirely from scratch, we’d had to reset a lot of the stage.

the stage, just before showtime...

the day of the show…well, it was everything you could imagine, just in terms of sheer frenetic activity.  there were caterers, video people, house folks setting up chairs, the whole shebang.  this was gonna be a party, no doubt about it…but the room actually looked pretty damned great.   the only thing that struck me as odd was this huge – and yeah, huge in the truest sense of the word – floral arrangement that was sitting on the piano that we’d hidden behind my backline gear.  i can appreciate the sentiment, but – ok, yeah, i’m a dick, but it was a bit of a vibe killer to have those on the stage.  but, at this point, this thing had taken on a life of its own and it was too big for me to fight it.  and, truth be told, it wasn’t really my fight to begin with.  somebody obviously wanted those up there, or they wouldn’t be there…so screw it.  the show goes on. 🙂

with jay davidson on keys at the CD release concert

now, before i seal the deal and paint dean as having been totally unreasonable in his presentation of the band, let’s be fair – there are some criticisms that were perfectly valid, in terms of the way the band presented itself.  he wanted us to tighten up some of our seques, especially early on in the show, and to be certain – we haven’t always been that professional in that regard.   he wanted to tie the setlist together in a way that made the flow of guests on and off the stage as non-disruptive as possible, and while that didn’t necessarily make for the best setlist – it was hard to argue against it.  i think that there was some natural blowback amongst the folks in the band, who had been blissfully exempt from that kind of direction up until that point, and we went from zero to sixty pretty quickly with this show – some of it necessary, some of it maybe not so much, but hindsight is always 20/20 where this sort of thing is concerned.

either way, we worked out the few remaining kinks, we had a solid setlist, and we were ready to grab a bite to eat and get ready for doors.

onstage with the lovely miss Jayda...

i took refuge in the closest thing to a green room they had to offer, with the rest of the folks in the band, and stayed out of sight while the doors opened and folks started to file in.  it was apparent pretty quickly that any worries about a thin crowd were unjustified – there was a huge line filing in almost from the time the doors opened.  i was torn (for a bit) between the urge to go out and greet folks and the more necessary need to stay out of the rampage and just wait for our cue to take the stage – definitely the wiser and least stressful of the two paths.  a few folks spotted us and stuck their heads in the door to say hello, but it was few enough not to be a distraction.  my good buddy michael tearson hung with us as we waited for the cue to take the stage, which came only a few minutes past showtime.

we planned a three-banger for the opener: still love you right into silver from into just like new – with almost no space in between the three of them, for the sake of impact.  in retrospect, tightening up those seques turned out to be a great idea…there were quite a few moments where JD’s ad-lib circuitry went into overdrive and huge chunks of time went by between songs – now, it was his crowd, and they were on his side…but even without some of the patter, it was going to be a long show – and i don’t know that we really had the luxury, with the setlist being as packed as it was.

we blazed through the set, though – the sound onstage was phenomenal, my onstage sound was probably as good as it’s ever been (i had pulled out pretty much all the stops for my live rig for this show…both my gibson GA-20T and my deluxe reverb were onstage, both fed independently by my pedalboard, and i had a submixer feeding an SWR acoustic amp for my mandolin, dobro, et cetera…it really did sound wonderful on the stage that night).

so we came offstage after she likes, with the full intention of returning for three songs – black yodel, leave us alone (man with a worry), and emmitt meets a demon…easily, the three best songs on the record – and held for the encore for that reason.  now, i never fully made it down off the stage – i went down the steps about halfway and then back up, as i was farthest from my spot, and i didn’t want to take too long to get back into position.

so i get back up, and jim yells over, “we’re going straight to emmitt.”


“yeah – dean called an audible.  we’re going straight to emmitt.  we’re running out of time.”

i was somewhere several miles down the road from furious, on the outskirts of livid.

on lap steel, with john farrell on harmonica, during "she likes"

i felt like an offensive lineman, running the plays sent in from the sidelines with no control over the game whatsoever.  this was bullshit.  we couldn’t run the set we’d all agreed on?  we’re just gonna gloss over two of the best songs on the record because we’re worried that people won’t stay for the whole thing?  what about the people who came from four different states on a weeknight to see this show – what about making this worthwhile for them?  was there a curfew?

i was so pissed that i don’t even remember playing the last song.  i had to work hard to summon some degree of chivalry to come back up the hallway afterward and fulfill my meet & greet obligations…it wasn’t the audiences’ fault, after all – i’m not going to take it out on them.

once the place had emptied out, i packed and started the trek out of the room in pretty quick order – i had so much gear onsite that i had to bring some of it back in jayda’s car.  i didn’t really say much to anyone else, but i don’t conceal anger well, and they knew i was pissed.  i just drove home with the windows down and tried to decompress a little.  on one hand, an argument could be made that i’m a little old to be getting bent out of shape about something like this…and there may be a degree of truth in that.

on the other hand, though…look, sometimes i’m not really sure why any of us are doing this.  it’s certainly not because there’s a shit-ton of money in this business, and i’m too old to be doing it for any of the benign crap that attracts a young man into this game.  at the end of the day, the only reason most of the people who were in that room that night were there in the first place was to see this band – to witness this thing that we’ve managed to forge together on a big stage, under lights, loud and proud in a fashion that they don’t really get to see that often.  it’s supposed to be something special, something that doesn’t happen often enough to allow for ignoring it.  there were people there, on a tuesday night, who’d come from scranton, PA…from point pleasant, NJ…from wilmington DE…from Mt. Airy, MD…

if i had it to do over again, i'd TOTALLY be wearing a knit cap in these pictures.

and yeah, it’s a free show.  but those folks drove for hours, on a weeknight, to come be a part of this.  they deserve the best we have to offer.  they shouldn’t be subject to the perceived curfew of a bunch of folks who might want to leave at the insinuated end of the show.  i’m not there to play for the folks who are leaving…i want to play for the ones who are still cheering for more at the end of the night.  i appreciate all of them, but no one gets anywhere in this business playing to those least interested in what they’re doing – you have to nurture the affection of the ones who get it.  they’re the ones who’ll still be coming to your shows when the others have moved on to the next shiny pebble in the pond.

and, no…to answer your question, i still haven’t quite gotten past it.  i’m sure it’s going to come up in conversation soon, and we’ll put the whole thing on the table and deal with it, but i don’t even wanna talk about this with any of them right now.

aren’t i such a grownup?  🙂

Tour Diary: Craig Bickhardt and Ronstadt Generations


june 24th: sellersville theater, sellersville PA

june 25th: studios of long valley, long valley NJ

june 28th: eagleview summer concert series, lionville PA

the folks in ronstadt generations have become friends over the past couple of years from a handful of one-off shows here and there. michael, the patriarch of the band, is linda’s brother, and he helms the band with his two sons, petie and michael G…they’ve been travelling with josh hisle for the past few shows we’ve done with them, as well. you’ll probably remember josh if you’ve seen the deja vu documentary from the CSNY tour that followed the living with war album, having been in the movie and subsequently taken under neil’s wing. most recently, they had been part of our “evening of thanksgiving” show that we do every year at milkboy in ardmore.

this was the first time we’d put together something like this – we’ve done on the road and in the round shows before where we’ve done strings of shows with guests, but we hadn’t really done a co-bill like this…with the OTRAITR shows, everything is in the “round” format, and the formula is largely tried and true – it’s just a matter of gathering the right personalities and talent. these were standard co-bill performances, and relied strictly on the two artists – the ronstadts, and craigs’ mighty little touring unit (which, for these shows, included michael G on cello, since he was along with the family and all).

tommy geddes onstage during load-in for the sellersville show...

the first gig was a sellersville theater show that we all promoted pretty heavily – it’s a 300 seat room, and it was our first time putting a show there that wasn’t as an opener for a pre-booked headliner…so there was some pressure to put bodies in the seats, as we hadn’t really proven ourselves there in that capacity. we were really happy to have drawn the respectable numbers that we had at showtime – it was quite a relief, believe me. now, what i wasn’t really aware of was that petie was planning to record the show. i didn’t really give it a thought, as we record shows occasionally at sellersville, but it’s usually just as a record of the show, or to review the set…generally academic in purpose.

this was more than just a soundboard recording, though…petie was setting up for a multitrack capture. i just assumed that they were recording their own set, for their own purposes, and it wasn’t really pertinent to us at all. well, as it turned out, they were recording our set as well…but i didn’t really realize it until after the show.

we were incorporating a couple of new songs into the set tonight – one of them a song that craig had written in the aftermath of the nashville floods called men and rivers, and the other an ode to the creative spirit, called crazy nightingale:

in the video, you can plainly see the price tag still hanging from the headstock of my then-still-new-to-me national new yorker lap steel, the one i’d just gotten while on the road with the boys in boris garcia during our west coast run. 🙂

during, and then after the show, i felt good about how we’d played…i wasn’t particularly excited about it – didn’t feel it was exceptional from my vantage point or anything like that – it just seemed like a solid set, good performances, minimal clams. everyone enjoyed everyone else’s music and company, and we said goonight until the following nights’ show.

the next night, when i got to load-in, larry was positively raving about the recording from the show the night before.

apparently, petie’s recording of our set had turned out pretty well. 🙂

ronstadt generations onstage at the studios of long valley in NJ

this venue, the studios of long valley, has been a favorite of mine – fabulous sound system, good people…a little off the beaten path to be sure, but a great place to see a show. our friend carol bernotas from WNTI was there for the show, and her musical DNA is very, very similar to mine, and she’s a pleasure to hang with. jon and georgina rosenbaum made it out to the show, and i had a little something special in the trunk for jon – he had bought a les paul standard goldtop from me, and we’d agreed to do the exchange at this show, since he was planning on being there.

there was only one other date set for our shared run – an outdoor concert series in chester county, just outside downingtown and pottstown in tiny eagleville that’s been happening on tuesdays in the summer for several years, presented these days by jesse lundy and rich kardan at point entertainment.

my side of the stage at the eagleview summer concert series with craig bickhardt

it was pretty much the perfect show to wrap up the run…it was sticky and humid outside, but we had a great crowd – and that went a long way towards making the heat bearable. we even had a dancer during our set, at one point…who slowly started removing clothing during the song, but thankfully we ran out of song before he ran out of clothing. 🙂

after the show, we all grabbed a table in the courtyard behind the stage area – the ronstadts, craig, elaine, jake and our crew – and ordered some food, a few drinks, and watched hisle terrorize our waitress for a good half hour…papa ronstadt sat at my end of the table, and we had a great conversation. we had just lost kenny edwards, who played bass for linda and produced karla bonoffs’ amazing debut album, so we remembered kenny together for a short while…he’s a good soul, papa ronstadt. the whole night reminded me that there’s a lot of comeraderie that’s been lost as our business has morphed over the years…i use almost famous as a yardstick for a lot of things in my life, and i couldn’t help but flash back to the backstage scene early on in the movie as everyone was getting reacquainted, running into folks at the arena dock during load-in. a lot of the time in between nowadays is spent in solitude now, and we travel in tight circles because that’s what we can afford…and the hang after this show just reminded me of that.


EPILOGUE: the multi-track recording of the sellersville show apparently turned out so well that craig and pete are mixing it for release as a live album!



Tour Diary: Boris Garcia Great Northwest Passage Tour 2011

right up to the moment i got on the plane, i still wasn’t sure what the itinerary was. 🙂

i knew what some of the dates would be, and where we were going, but not much about when…or what was happening on which days (there were quite a few radio visits scheduled, some of them on the same days as gigs), but i figured that, since i was travelling with the folks who did know, it wasn’t that important that i know what was happening every minute of every day.

the day we flew out was essentially a travel day – a six hour flight to san francisco, then picking up the van – then a drive out to oakland to pick up our backline rental for the tour, then a drive north to navarro where we were staying for the first couple of days of the trip.

after we got off the plane, i christened myself as the official bus driver of the tour – initially, we were supposed to get a chevy, but the seat belt didn’t work on the passenger side seat, so we went back and got a dark grey ford E350 and loaded the luggage into the van to head for oakland.

slouching towards oakland
racing towards backline rental...san francisco rush hour traffic

the flight was late, and after going through all the runaround that we had to go through to get our luggage from baggage claim, get to the rental lot, and get the van situation squared away, it was almost 4 o’clock – which meant that we’d be hitting downtown san francisco traffic at afternoon rush hour to get across the bay bridge and over to oakland to pick up our gear. that put us at around 5:30 or so when we finally got to oakland – which isn’t a distance that’d normally take an hour and a half, but it certainly did that day. 🙂

the guy who rented us our gear for the tour was a real sweetheart – he runs a rental and rehearsal spot in oakland, and the band had used him before, and i can see why…he’s a great guy, and his gear is really well-maintained – and he really knows his stuff. so we loaded the van with gear and started up highway 101 towards dinner – namely, “the world famous hamburger ranch and pasta farm” in cloverdale, california.

the walls of this place are lined with postcards from all over the country, and the food is ridiculously awesome…and no, it wasn’t because i hadn’t eaten all day. three kinds of sauce, phenomenal cole slaw, and the barbeque…well, it didn’t suck. 🙂

now, the road to cloverdale was relatively tame, as roads go – but the road from cloverdale to navarro…well, that was another story.

route 128 from cloverdale to navarro is an exercise in masochism for a driver – there are almost no guard rails on the road, and it twists and turns like a video game on expert level, and for the most part one doesn’t really go any faster than 20 miles per hour or so…unless you want to die alone at the bottom of a ravine. and yet, the locals whip up and down these roads like it’s no big deal….so much so that there are areas along the side of the road where you can pull over to let people pass you if you’re building up a backlog in your rear view mirror. plus, i didn’t really inspire much confidence among my passengers by snapping pictures through the windshield with my phone (i had made a point of asking wendy to buy batteries for my travel camera, and thanked her by leaving it on the dashboard when she dropped me off at the airport before leaving for maine herself).

we got to navarro rather late, but not so much so that our host had to stay up for us…dennis has a bed and breakfast literally less than a quarter mile from the amphitheater where we were playing on saturday and sunday, and he was willing to put us up upon arrival the night we got there…the next day, we had to get up really early to head out for two radio interviews, plus a gig that night in sebastopol.

day one – first day of radio, plus aubergine in sebastopol, CA

i woke up rather early myself, for a couple of reasons – one of them being that i knew i had some business to tend to back east, and that my 6am here was 9am there, and that i needed to get through some of it earlier than later…so i was up rather early, and in and out of the shower as such as well. we were all loaded into the van and on the road by 8 am.

the drive from the bed and breakfast where we were staying out to mendocino was just ridiculously beautiful. tall redwood trees lining both sides of the road, with a sign that warned of the need for headlights 24 hours a day. we wound down and around the shoreline, past cliffs and beaches the likes of which you just don’t see much further south than maine or new hampshire on the east coast…and there’s still a palpable difference between there and here.

and yeah, i was taking pictures through the windshield. sue me.

the band with the staff at KOZT in fort bragg, CA

our first radio stop for the morning was about an hour or so away in mendocino, at KOZT-FM. the hosts there, russ and kate, were known quantities to the rest of the guys in the band, as they’ve been through here before, and they’re very supportive of them. as it turns out, the program director there (tom yates) apparently has a long history in california radio – the walls are lined with gold and platinum albums that he picked up during his tenure at KLOS, and they’re some big ones – debut albums from foriegner and boston, ELO, and a number of others – including a special one awarded to him with the following placard on it from the gang at capricorn records and the marshall tucker band:

"kickin' ass and takin' names for the marshall tucker band."

kickin’ ass and takin’ names, indeed. 🙂

anyway, they already had the front office littered with microphones when we got there, all set up and ready to go. we set up in a line, similar to how we’d probably set up if we were to play the grand ole opry back in the day, and ran part of a song so that they could get levels and mix everything. russ and kate both were in the room with us, and did the interview jointly – and it was pretty apparent to me as we got underway that kate, for certain, was a huge fan of the band. she knew the material from the new record well enough to discuss lyrical content, and her enthusiasm was pretty obvious. we were on during the morning shift for almost an hour, which certainly showed a commitment to the band on their behalf. it wasn’t hard to sense that this particular station wasn’t your typical commercial radio station – their mission certainly wasn’t solely in pursuit of profit. they genuinely seem to love what they do. they aren’t just playing what they’re told to play, or what they’re paid to play…that’s for sure. and they definitely seem to get this band. i cooked up this fantasy in my mind about tom, the former KLOS guy…that he got sick of what major market radio had become, and he fled north to mendocino to work at this small market FM station where none of the rules of his old life applied, and he’d settled in here to get away from all that. now, that very well may be true, but the truth is – i have no idea. he and i exchanged pleasantries, and that was about the extent of it.

dicks place
at the bar at dick's place in mendocino...

from there, we took a short detour down into the actual city of mendocino to visit dick’s place and have a quick beer. bob was pretty adamant about stopping there on our way back, and once we drove into mendocino, i could see why…i thought places like this only existed in movies where they could be cinematically invented somehow – but this place is absolutely idyllic. dick’s place looks like it’s been there for centuries – like an old watering hole in a fishermans’ town…which it probably is, really.

from dick’s place, we headed towards KZYX-FM in philo, CA for a 1:30 radio hit. this station was literally on the side of a hill in a very rural area, but our host here was equally enthusiastic about the band. we played in the control room at this station, into a small handful of mics, but it was a bit of a revelation playing in such close quarters – there was no struggle to hear each other whatsoever, and it definitely had an effect on our performance. it was a shorter appearance, but a pleasure nonetheless.

we paid a visit to dave, the proprietor of the navarro general store, amongst all this as well – dave is the presenter of navarrostock, the show we were playing on both saturday and sunday, and he owns and runs the store as well. the store itself is one of what are probably less than a dozen buildings that occupy what could be considered downtown navarro, whose population is listed as 67 on the city limit sign…dave made us a meal and we got ready to drive to sebastopol for the gig that night.

my command center, behind maestro burroughs, at aubergine in sebastopol

the place we were playing – aubergine in sebastopol – has a lot of…shall we say, character. it’s part nightclub, part clothing boutique, and when we got there, we walked in to a band with three female frontwomen wearing sequined minidresses…they played the happy hour set, and we were billed that evening, along with david gans, who was playing a solo acoustic set right before us.

the thing that impressed me about this place was how good it sounded with the ceilings as high as they are in the room – that’s not a combination you often encounter. high ceilings tend to have a great deal of room ambience, and it’s easy for sound reinforcement to end up getting lost in the room…but that didn’t really happen at aubergine, and that was quite nice.

the downer, where this gig was concerned, was that – literally within walking distance of the club – harmonyfest was happening…a literal buffet of hippie and jam bands, all of whom attract the very demographic that this band normally appeals to. so, needless to say, there was a very sparse crowd at aubergine during our set. in the time since, our running joke is that we played to the five hippies who couldn’t afford to get into harmonyfest. 🙂

the upside to that, however, is that we got to finish really early – so we loaded out and got ready to head back to navarro. i ducked into one of the portapotties in the parking lot, only to have stirner come barging in to get to the antibacterial handwash stuff on the opposite wall from where i was doing my business…so the rest of the guys were standing outside, watching the thing rock back and forth…probably not an image from this trip that will stand out for any of us…or at least that’s my hope. 🙂

day two – navarro amphitheater, navarro, CA – day one

the drive home from sebastopol was brutal – no two ways about it. if we’d played the full night, i’m not sure how i would’ve made it. as it was, everyone in the fan was falling asleep and the chatter was dying down just as we were getting to the harrowing part of the road back to navarro – and it was a struggle to stay awake.

as such, i slept until almost noon on saturday.

bud burroughs onstage during soundcheck - day one of navarro

bob finally came upstairs to wake me up – we had to vacate the premises at around 1pm, as there were cleaners coming in. we were turning the bed and breakfast over to the folks whom we were sharing the stage with at the festival (the david nelson band) – and we were staying at a hotel in ukiah, ca that night and into monday – or so we were thinking. (as it turns out, the DNB fellas decided to stay only one night, so we went back to the BNB the following night…)

we were due for soundcheck at 3pm, so we went straight to the venue after leaving dennis’ place and had lunch…i also started meeting some of the folks who were going to be recurring characters during the course of the weekend.

there was stringbean – one of dave’s hired hands – and his dad, garbanzo. then there was poobah, whose dress and persona fell somewhere between wavy gravy and jon lovitz of the old SNL cast from the 80’s…another “dave”, the security guy, who rode with the pre-altamont hell’s angels and tools around these days on a bike with a sleeper casket behind it that he built himself. and then, there was uncle john.

uncle john
got a lot to talk beside the rising tide...

uncle john was a burned-out roadie who landed in the anderson valley after travelling with various bands for years…his wife passed away just a short time ago, and i’m not sure he’s managed to compartmentalize that yet – but his bright, smiling blue eyes offset his weathered, often drunken exterior….a total sweetheart.

this is a theme that began to present itself time and time again during the course of this trip…there was something of a burnout subculture that managed to coexist completely peacefully with everyone else – in total harmony. in fact, i saw uncle john walk up to the guy at the barbeque grill and take a small jar out of his pocket and hand him a pretty significant amount of weed with a smile and a handshake…i walked up to him and said, “y’know, uncle john, you would never see that happen back east unless money had changed hands.”

he gave me the short course on growers’ honor, and how they treat each other with respect – and how they exchange weed with one another, critique each others’ work, et cetera…it was heartwarming and totally surreal at the same time. yet, it was a peek into how the culture here operates that was pretty enlightening, to say the least.

it almost seems anticlimactic to talk about the show itself – everything sounded amazing onstage, thanks to tim steigler & the guys who were taking care of us (including steve, a native mainer who was born in augusta, went to school in presquyle…and still had his accent in spades). the only odd thing that came up was that, for some reason, the fender deville amp that i’m using for the tour was plenty loud during soundcheck with the master on 3, but i ended up with the master up around 7 just a song or two into the set…i changed the battery in the one stompbox i was using, but that didn’t do anything about the problem itself – and then by sunday, the problem had moved on. not sure how that came about.

we stuck around for the other band for a while, talked with some of the folks who’d come out…but kept it rather short, as we had to take up residence at a hotel in ukiah that night, and had a bit of a drive in front of us.

now, if route 128 to navarro were a video game, route 253 from boonville to ukiah would be the uppermost level of the game. deer abounded up and down the stretch, and it was easily the most hazardous of the roads we’d driven on in the time since we’d gotten here. and yet, all i could think about when we got checked in to the hotel and settled was: …i can’t wait to hit that stretch of road in the morning when the sun is out.”

day three: navarro, day two – and a chance encounter with greatness

we woke up pretty much when we felt like it on sunday – since we had cell signal and internet service, we all got caught up with email and phone calls. i talked to wendy to find out that they were at the old port festival with danny, who was in the middle of an ice cream cone when wendy picked up the phone…it was good to reaffirm that they were enjoying themselves, too.

we had stayed at the vagabond inn in ukiah – not exactly four stars, but pleasant enough. i drove over to pick up a few things at a department store early on, while everyone else was still asleep – got back in plenty of time for everyone to wake up and get themselves together for the drive – we stopped at a convenience store and picked up some munchies and got back onto route 253 to make the trip back to the festival site.

the drive back to navarro…well, it didn’t disappoint, that’s for sure. there were sections of the road where the pavement stopped right at the edge of the white line and the drop was straight down – and by straight down, i mean a hundred yards straight down. unbelieveable drops and no guardrails. terrifying consequences if you faltered, but the views were just amazing. at this point, i’d long since given up on the thought of taking pictures during the drive, as i’d realized after looking at some of the first batch that they weren’t coming close to capturing what i was actually seeing from my vantage point – it was really an exercise in futility…although i’d still take a shot at it from time to time.

since we had left most of our backline onsite already, setup for the show was a breeze – this was as light as i’ve ever travelled to begin with, and for me it was literally a matter of rolling the amp into place and plugging in a volume pedal, a tuner, and my sparkle-drive that i’m using for a little crunch. pull up your seat, tune up, and go. it was – well, it was a nice change. 🙂

mister dave
bud burroughs with david dart, master luthier...

right before we hit the stage, a kindly fella walked up to the side of the stage with a pair of hard cases in his hands…we had heard from a couple of people earlier in the weekend that we’d probably meet david dart at some point during the weekend, and he was just about to announce his arrival. he showed up right after our soundcheck with a pair of mandolas – two of three that he’d just built, one of them having been sold right after he finished them. bud saw him before i did, as i was still onstage moving gear around when he got there, but i met him right after i came off, and we struck up a conversation…and it was at that point that i found out that he also built a lot of other instruments – namely, a small army of them for my hero david lindley – including a saz, a flatback oud, and several weissenborn-style guitars. he’d built similar instruments for ben harper, as well – among others.

needless to say, he now had my full attention.

we talked for a while before we were scheduled to start our set, and he invited us to stop by to visit his shop…which was less than a hundred yards from the site of the show.

yes, you read that correctly.

so we exchanged pleasantries for a moment, and we went to work…he said he’d stop back by later and we could all walk over together.

the show went relatively well, save for a slight technical glitch that i never really got sussed out – the day prior, i’d played the whole show with the pre at around 9:30 and the master volume at “4”…around 10:30, on this particular control panel. on sunday, though, for some reason i was getting no volume out of the amp with the same settings…in fact, i ended up with the master at “7” or so for most of the show, and there was no headroom when i tried to run it clean. i was assuming it to be a tube, but it cleared up after the show when i went to test it after reseating the tubes and powering it back up. so, i figured, it’s gotta be one or the other…right?

anyway – bud burroughs from the band and i were both really excited about the opportunity to go over to david’s shop, and we were packed and ready to go not long after our set was finished – so we met david and his wife, peggy, and walked over to david’s house-slash-shop-slash studio to have a look around.

with bud burroughs and david dart in david's workshop in navarro, CA

there are things that you encounter in life that really defy your own ability to describe them – we all have our vocabulary of descriptors to fall back on, and sometimes they’re adequate…and sometimes, the best you can hope for is that they might be able to convey some of what you were feeling when you were experiencing the thing you’re trying to describe. that was the case where my time with david dart was concerned.

david is a kung-fu master of stringed instrument making…he’s been at it for over forty years, and he’s in total command of his craft. his vocabulary of instruments is staggering, as would be necessary for pretty much anyone who builds for someone as masterful as david lindley…ouds, saz, lutes, every member of the mandolin family, and – of course – weissenborns, in addition to flat-top acoustic guitars, ukeleles, and any number of other specialty instruments. he had three weissenborn samples on hand that afternoon, including a koa and a mahogany model, plus his own personal weissenborn – all of them beautifully crafted instruments with their own character. the two mandolas he built (one of them an F-hole model, one with the oval soundhole) sounded even better in the shop, away from the incidental noise at the concert site…and played by a master of the instrument like bud burroughs, they absolutely sung. i played all three of the weissenborns that he had on hand, and particularly loved the koa one, although both of the mahogany models were phenomenal as well – they had a distinct midrange, for sure, but they had a wonderful bottom to them as well, and they really cut when you laid into them.

so bud and i probably spent an hour or so at davids’ shop, playing various instruments (including a fascinating acoustic dreadnought that he built with a bi-level top – it was angled where the bridge joined the top, and the rear chamber was wider than the front of the guitar…it’s not the kind of thing that you can describe, really – you’d have to see it)…and his wife, peggy, shot some video of bud and i playing in the shop. after a while, i invited david and peggy to come back over to the general store and let me buy them dinner…so we walked back over to the festival. i had discovered the day before that there was a spot right up the road, where the “city limit” sign is, that the sound from the stage was just phenomenal…and davids’ shop was right across the street from that spot.

we walked back down, grabbed some food from the barbeque pit, and sat and ate on the deck at the general store (just across the parking lot from the festival itself)…and i enjoyed one of many great conversations that happened on this trip. he’s a wellspring of information, has a perpetual twinkle in his eye, and is a truly kind soul.

after david and peggy headed for home, i went over and caught the rest of the nelson band‘s set, including their version of the grateful dead’s box of rain, which david played lead guitar on (all the B-bender guitar you hear on that track is him)…after they finished and came off the stage, i finally got an opportunity to talk with some of the folks in the band – first of them being pete sears, who was incredibly complimentary to me personally, and to the band. pete came to this band from hot tuna, which is where he landed after many years in jefferson starship. i had told him that the fourth album i ever bought was the earth album – the one that had count on me and runaway on it, among others…he was so gracious and forthcoming about his experiences, and a pure joy to be around – as were the rest of the guys. one of them went so far as to say that we sounded like the jam session between david lindley and jerry garcia that never happened – and that’s really high praise to me.

after the show was over, we’d all assembled under a tent next to an RV just behind the stage area, and nelson (who was celebrating his 69th birthday that day) held court with a handful of band members, and some of the fans who’d stuck around – including one guy named jasper – a cat that looked like a haight-asbury version of rob zombie, who had this girlfriend who dressed up like a geisha…crazy oriental outfits and all – and was hard not to look at…and, of course, uncle john was around, and garbanzo – whose son, stringbean, has worked at the store for a long time (the story is that since his son was nicknamed stringbean, that he had to have a “bean” nickname as well, so he was saddled with “garbanzo”)…garbanzo was definitely feeling the spirit, too…he loved EVERYBODY for the remaining hours of that night, believe me. dave – the security guard, that is – the former hell’s angel i mentioned earlier – had left early because he had a long ride home, but poobah was there, and eager to hold court as well. in fact, i’m not sure that bob will ever forget the joke he told about the guy on the moped who kept passing the corvette.

i was really impressed with barry sless, david’s guitar/pedal steel guy – very soft spoken, but immensely intelligent and talented. and mark keyes, the guy who was largely responsible for handling the details of putting the band together for the show, was also a great guy. in fact, when i talked about how much my son would love living here and being a part of all this, he went so far as to offer him a job, sight unseen and as a total unknown quantity.

i know i sound like a broken record, but the refuge of humanity that calls this part of the world home really made an impression on me.

so the party continued under the tent for quite a while – the nelson band folks were driving that night, so we were moving back into dennis’ bed and breakfast right down the road for the night – so no one was in any hurry for the party to be over. we were enjoying everyone’s company, food and conversation, and i didn’t really want it to be over. i kept flashing to the scene in almost famous when they brought out penny’s birthday cake and everyone was standing around under the canopy, playing music and carousing…and it felt a lot like that to me. the folks in david nelsons’ band are wonderful people, and the folks in navarro are equally awesome. i loved every minute we spent there.

day four: KMUD in Garberville…and the drive-thru tree

we had a ridiculously early rise-and-shine the next morning to drive to KMUD in garberville, CA (out in the humboldt county area) for a radio visit there, but no gig that night – we were meeing bud’s sister and brother-in-law in san jose, who were putting us up that night.

setting up for an on air music & interview segment at KMUD

KMUD has strong ties to the grateful dead community – from what i understood, dan healy helped to start the station…but i’m not certain of their lineage or anything of that nature. they’re great people, though – apparently they have some kind of internal policy that anyone hired for support staff must be named christina, because there were three of them in the office that day – christinas, that is. they wear their grassroots beginnings on their sleeve there, and they’re proud of their lineage and the community they’re in – which was something of a recurring theme among most of the folks we encountered during the tour.

when we got to the station, they had dome a preliminary setup in the studio where they wanted us to play, and we settled in to get ready to fine tune mic placement and the like…the guy who was setting the room up for the performance seemed a little stressed for some reason, but he set us up like a pro and we were dialed in relatively quickly…or so we thought. we didn’t find out until later that the first song we’d played on the air (walking barefoot) had been broadcast as an instrumental, because the vocal mic hadn’t been turned up until somewhere midway through the song…ah, well. F.U.S.H., i suppose. (File Under “Shit Happens”).

it was a good visit, though – they like the new record there, and it’s a good relationship – when we finished, we went looking for food and found a great little taco stand in garberville that the disc jockey had recommended to us…we ate, and then wandered up and down the main drag in garberville for a bit…some cool shops, including a guy who builds instruments there whose name now escapes me – he had a pair of mandolins in the shop that bud played, but they weren’t of the caliber that we’d seen just the day before. nice, but not david dart nice. 🙂

we had a pretty long drive from garberville to san jose – we were meeting bud’s family for dinner at a chinese place in san jose, and then heading back to their house to crash for the night. we had another now-typical drive through the california landscape, out of garberville and down the highway…some of the sights furnished by nature were side by side with some manmade oddities that were just as fascinating…seeing a tree large enough to drive a car through only a few miles from a school-bus monster truck with the “south park” logo on the side of it.

we got to san jose while it was still light out and had dinner at a restaurant that bud’s family frequents that was quite tasty, and then headed back to the house to settle in for the night…we got a chance to soak up some sorely-missed internet connectivity and enjoy john and glenda’s company – i had something of a personal agenda for the next day, but considering how tired everyone was, i wasn’t really sold on the notion of seeing it happen. sometimes, it really is better to just sleep in after a healthy helping of all this.

day five: moe’s alley in santa cruz, ca and the first official band groupie

as i’d expected, no one was eager to crawl out of bed on tuesday and go running up the highway to subway guitars in berkeley…so we stumbled out of bed and into consciousness slowly and reluctantly. we decided that we’d go into santa cruz a little early and check out some music stores in town before going to the show – we’d gotten wind of a couple of good ones, and we figured that’d satiate the music store bug without having to make the trip to berkeley – and we’d be right in town for our load-in.

well, there were two of them that got our attention – the starving musician and steve’s.

behind the counter at steve's in santa cruz...sigh...

the starving musician was a great all-purpose kinda store…but with some pretty decent used pieces. they had some great amps in stock, and a few guitars that warranted attention as well…great guys on staff, too. but steve’s – that was the guitar place. almost ALL used gear – great used gear – at good prices, too. and steve (it’s his middle name, by the way…he goes by jamie) really knows his stuff. i saw four or five guitars that i’d have been proud to own, and at fair market prices…including a 70’s takamine acoustic (going back to when they were still using the martin script logo) in a 000 size for around $400 or so. it had one minor ding on the front, but was in great shape otherwise. when we all piled into the van after leaving there, we lamented the fact that we had nothing back home that even remotely compared to a place with the vibe, the selection of gear, or the knowledge that this little place had.

bud wanted to drive down to the oceanside before we left for the gig, so we parked down close to the beach and jeff and i decided to grab a quick bite while the rest of the guys went down to the ocean. i took advantage of another fleeting opportunity to check in with mommy and danny and jeff and i wolfed down a pair of meatball sandwiches while we waited for the guys to drift back up to the van to drive to moes’ for load in and soundcheck.

in the parking lot, we bumped into a buddy of the bands’ from new jersey who came out to see the band, as well as a radio guy who’d been really supportive of the guys’ music as well…took a few pictures with some folks and got ready to start loading in.

posters in the foyer at moe's alley in santa cruz, CA

moe’s is a nationally known club that leans in the direction of blues, funk and jazz, but also supports acts that fall under the jam umbrella, among others. appearing there within 30 days or so of our date were jimmie vaughn, ambrosia, and ivan neville among others. it wasn’t a terribly large room, but it was very nicely maintained, had great sight lines, and brent – our soundman – was one of the best i’ve ever encountered. he knew his room like the back of his hand, he was very methodical, and was talking to us in the monitors from step one, telling us exactly what he was doing the entire time…”ok, acoustic guitar up in the drum wedge by twenty percent, starting now…good? ok, moving on to vocals – stage right vocal – who wants it in their mix? ok, stage left wedge, here it comes…” i know it seems like a minor thing, but it’s amazing what a difference it makes in terms of feeling like there’s constant progress being made, and with no guesswork about what’s going on. i’d welcome any opportunity to work with him again. he was wonderful.

after soundcheck, they sent us to dinner while the opener got their soundcheck in…they were called the north pacific string band, and they seemed like a quick setup – upright bass, fiddle, banjo, guitar, no drums. so we got ready to walk around the corner to the deli where we were eating, and as we’re haphazardly filing out, a woman approaches us from a parked truck across the street – not necessarily homeless looking, but pretty haggard nonetheless. she didn’t really directly interact with any of us on the way in, but apparently they were pretty quick to chase her back out into the street once she’d gone inside. when she came back out, she asked if anyone had a cigarette they’d sell her for a quarter. none of us smokes, so no one had anything – and when she heard that, she got – well, irate, i guess? she grumbled something under her breath, and what she said next is still being debated within the band…she either said she was going to kick his ass…or lick his ass….and none of us are sure which, but she tossed in an offer of fellatio right afterward, so the popular opinion leans toward the latter. needless to say, we kept walking, and then she grumbled at us some more as we made our way down the street and she headed in the opposite direction.

yeah, man…this band is gonna kill ’em in santa cruz. 🙂

we had a great meal at the deli down the street, including some killer soup, and wandered back up to hear the opening bands’ set…which went a little long by east coast specifications, but i’m not sure if that’s just the way they do it here, or if they overplayed their hand. no matter, they were nice guys and we were glad they were there…they’d been good for a few bodies in the room, and they weren’t awful, and they and their crowd stuck around for the headliner, too – that’s a class act in my book. 🙂

this was our first gig since aubergine that wasn’t the navarro festival, and i’d leaned towards being rather skeptical with regard to what our draw might be like based on our crappy experience in sebastopol (which was as much the fault of being concurrent with the first night of the festival as anything, i’d find out as the week went on). while moes’ wasn’t packed, we had a pretty respectable crowd for being that far from home. after our set, i made a point of walking around to everyone left in the room and thanking them profusely for coming out, and for staying out…on a tuesday night! the people that were still there at this point were people who were aware of the band, who were happy to see us for the most part. there were a handful of folks who were there because, well…that’s where they go.

during soundcheck, brent had said something that i actually quoted him on…”santa cruz people…well, they’re just really comfortable wherever they are.”

we had a great hang in the parking lot with a couple of folks who we’d befriended during the gig and the opening band…thankfully, Quarter Cigarette Lady had moved on to supposedly greener pastures and we loaded the van to head north a couple of hours and shave some time off the drive we had in store for the next day. we checked into a hotel in fairfield california at around 4am and dumped all the gear into one room and promptly passed out.

day six: the applegate river lodge in oregon…”a legend slept here”…

i got up really early on wednesday, because i knew how much ground we had to cover, and since i was custodian of both the gear and the van keys, i had the van loaded and ready to roll by 9am – which not only made everybody else happy, but i got some heavy kudos for my packing job…we did have quite a bit of extra room that hadn’t been there before, if i do say so myself.

today was probably the longest trek of the trip – up interstate 5 through northern california past mount shasta, through some of the most beautiful terrain i’ve ever seen…and into oregon for a couple of days, beginning at tonights’ gig at the applegate river lodge…and yeah, i know what it sounds like. and, on the surface, it kinda looks like that, too…but the father and son tandem who run the place have a history of bringing national acts into the room for shows, including a lot of bands that fall into the psychedelic/jam/improv category. but i have to admit, i’d never heard of the place, and it doesn’t look – at first blush, anyway – like a room that sees a lot of national acts come through there.

now, to clarify – just because it doesn’t necessarily have the accoutrements of a concert hall doesn’t speak in any way, shape or form to the place as a whole. i’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff on this trek already, and this place did not disappoint. it sits right on the applegate river (thus the name), and the patio has a view of the river and the old-fashioned steel-beam bridge that goes over it…and the lodge itself is a pretty amazing work.

we got there and richard gave us a short tour of the place, including the room where bud, steve and i would be sleeping that night…the cattlemen’s room. i walked in and put down my suitcase and took a seat on the sofa and…i don’t remember anything after that. i was out cold in a few seconds. i fell straight asleep. yeah, it could be said that i must’ve been tired to have fallen asleep that quickly sitting straight up, and that’d probably be true. the guys in the band, apparently in thanks for my having loaded the van earlier that morning, unloaded all the gear and loaded it into the lodge for the show…i didn’t wake up until i heard steve’s bass drum pedal coming up through the stairwell. i woke up and went downstairs and thanked them for the break, and got my gear set up.

i was travelling relatively light for this trek, out of necessity – since we were flying out, pedalboards and ultracases and the like were off the table. we discussed it beforehand, and decided that it’d be best if i bring a lap steel for the gigs and a dobro for the radio stops, and that’s what i brought…so all i was doing for setup was plugging in a volume pedal, a tuner and an overdrive pedal…then tuning up. that was the extent of my load-in. that being said, i caught up with the rest of the guys pretty quickly, once i got downstairs and got started. we had to wait for more gear to show up before we soundchecked, so we essentially set up and got stage levels and went to dinner to wait for soundcheck.

we ate on the patio, overlooking the river – and in retrospect, if i had it to do over again, i’d have just ordered a bucket of the sauteed mushrooms they brought out for appetizers…the best i’ve ever had, anywhere. as good as dinner was, the mushrooms really threw down the gauntlet. i’ll remember them long after i’ve forgotten what i actually had for dinner.

we played a pretty kickass show that night – the extended jams in the middle of some of the songs like good home and point of grace are starting to feel a lot more natural to me now, and i’m finally starting to loosen up to the point that i don’t have to think so much about what’s going on in the songs…and that’s important to me.

we did two sets, and i went outside and sat on the porch and listened to the river during the intermission…and fell asleep again. bob came out and woke me up to come back in for the second set, and then after the show was over, i went out again and sat there after i’d broken down my gear and was ready to load the van…i told jeff that i’d be on the porch when they were ready to load up, and i went out and sat with my feet up, listening to the water rushing by…

richard came out after a while and started a conversation…we talked a little about some of the other bands they’ve had there, and how his son duke will occasionally sit in with them, as he did with us. then, he mentioned how much they love staying there…and he said, “y’know, when lindley plays here, he’ll come up on a wednesday for a saturday gig and stay into the next week sometimes.

“lindley?”, i said….”you mean david lindley?”

“yeah,” richard says. “he loves it here.”

he went on to say, “yeah…he’ll come down for dinner or whatever and hang out for a bit, but then he’ll go up to his room and you can sit out here on the patio and hear him playing down here from the window from his room. he loves that room up there.”

the cattlemen's room at the applegate lodge...known forever to me as the David Lindley Suite.

“that one up there? the cattlemen’s room?”

“yeah. that’s where he stays when he plays here.”

i just sat there and let that soak in for a minute…see, to me, this would be the equivalent of sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. i was spending the night in david lindley’s room!!

now – ok. yeah. i’m a little old for this kinda shit. sure, i am. and yet, i still have my heroes. some of them have become friends over the years, and there’s a sense of validation that comes along with that for me, but lindley – along with rusty young and a couple of other players – belongs on mount rushmore, as far as i’m concerned, and finding out that i was spending the night in his room…that woke up my inner twelve year old hero worshipper, big time. as tired as i was, i must’ve stared at the ceiling for an hour before i finally managed to fall asleep.

the next morning, i skipped the shower because – well, there weren’t any. there were jacuzzis and such, but no showers, so i figured i’d wait until we got to the hotel in portland to get a shower later that day and grab one before the gig. so i got dressed and went downstairs and sat on the porch swing in the yard after i put my luggage in the van and…listened to the river.

day seven: KRVM and KLCC in eugene, or & the good foot in portland, oregon…and “garbanzo in blue”.

that's one hell of a Legal ID, there...

the landscape became a lot less remarkable between applegate and portland – we left early to head to eugene to make a couple of radio station visits, first at KRVM (“keeping real variety in music”), and then over to KLCC a couple of hours later…then that night, on to portland to play the good foot.

as has been the case with most of the days that involved radio visits, there was a need to be up and out and on the road relatively early, and this day was no different…we got to eugene a little ahead of schedule and managed to located the first station (housed in a building adjacent to the high school in the rear of the campus) and met our host as we were piling out of the van – he’d just arrived moments earlier himself. they were in the middle of their fundraising campaign, and our appearance was part of that endeavor. we kept our visit somewhat short, because our host had actually come in on his lunch break to interview us on the air (he normally does his shifts in the evenings), and he had a limited amount of time. but, we said our goodbyes and headed into town for the next radio bump.

since we had some time to kill, we decided to hunt down some music stores as we had in santa cruz…the guys went iPadding, and found a couple of candidates – one of them being mckenzie river music, and the other being the oddly named buy and sell music…and they were both pretty amazing, and both for different reasons. mckenzie river music could stand right alongside mandolin brothers or elderly or any other purveyor of vintage instruments in the country – their inventory was that good. but the sticker price on most of their stuff seemed to harken back to the pre-nosedive days of the early 2000’s…just not terribly realistic, considering the current market. they had two “tuxedo” rickenbacker steels in stock marked at $1200 – a good 30% higher than current market value for a clean example, and one of them had replacement tuners. they were incredibly nice to a bunch of smelly east coast musicians who were clearly not going to be walking out the door with anything that day – although bob struck up a negotiation with one of the salesmen for a boogie guitar amp that he took a liking to, and i’m not sure that negotiation is finished yet.

at the buy n’ sell, they had a couple of lap steels in stock…a dickerson, which i’ve never really cared for and this one was no different – and a national new yorker that was in the best shape of any i’ve ever seen. practically not a scratch on it, and it sounded like heaven. the tag hanging from the tuner said $695, but the tag on the case (stowed conveniently along the wall underneath it) had an $895 price on it. bob asked the clerk what the deal was, because he was still under the impression that it was $895 – so he asked the other clerk what the story was on the price on it, and he said, “oh, yeah…they asked me to mark that down like, four months ago.”

so bob takes me aside and asks if i’m interested in the steel…i said, sure – it’s in beautiful shape and the price is right…i’m just not in the position to do anything about it at the moment.”

but bob, that dude – he’s a negotiator. he’d make shatner look like small potatoes. so he goes back in, right before we’re ready to leave for the second radio hit, and comes back out with the tweed case under his arm.

i think i’m gonna let bob negotiate every future transaction that i might conceivably have to participate in. he’s good, that guy.

with KLCC air personality Tripp Summer in Eugene, OR

so…on to KLCC we went, to do a short on-air with tripp sommer – we were scheduled for a short hit right after the news break coming out of fresh air…so we got a short burst of home over the airwaves while we were assuming our collective positions and getting ready. the on-air room at KLCC was probably the most spacious one we were in that was a consolidated broadcast booth….which is to say that the on-air host and the console were in the same room that we were…some of the stations thus far had isolated us in separate rooms and mixed us like a live performance, and some just had us gather around whatever mics were in the control room…and we’d done both without much mental overlap. this control room was like a horseshoe bar…and they had these oddly shaped neumann mics, the likes of which i’d never seen before. the capsule appeared to be mounted at a 90 degree angle from the shaft of the mic. strange.

nonetheless, we had a great interview before piling in the van to make the mad dash to portland…bud reserved rooms for us at the days inn in vancouver, washington (ironic to me in that the higher-profile vancouver that belongs to canada is only a few hours north of there, as well) and we sprinted down the road to portland to make load-in and soundcheck, with hopes of heading back to the hotel afterward to get a shower in.

it was the bands’ first time in portland, and we were playing the good foot lounge – a funky basement of a room with a great vibe and a very familiar smell. 🙂 i felt like i’d played there a thousand times the instant i walked in, and i had a feeling it was gonna be a good gig. dave cameron met us for load-in, and stuck around for the show – he’s been a friend to the band for a while, and was probably largely responsible for the showing we had for the gig. we got in there and set up pretty quickly – in large thanks to the soundman joel, who was born and raised…in reading, pennsylvania. not exactly a famous breeding ground for great audio engineers, but the coincidence was noted.

we have christened him "garbanzo in blue".

there was artwork hanging on the walls all around the room – including a painting of what appeared to be an inebriated redneck smurf sitting in a chair with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. jeff pointed it out to me at one point and said….“that looks like garbanzo.”

i had seen it before, but i didn’t associate it with anything – but i went back over and looked at it again, and…sonofabitch. it did look like garbanzo!

actually, it looked like a combination of garbanzo and gollum from lord of the rings…as a smurf. it was uncanny and a little unsettling at the same time.

so – we headed back to the hotel to clean up and get ready for the gig…and we’d planned on grabbing something to eat before heading back to the gig, but we didn’t really have enough of a time cushion for it. once we got back to the club, steve and i grabbed a slice of pizza at the place next door to the club and headed back into the room, where the opening band was literally just beginning to take their gear off the stage. (now that’s timing…)

we played our asses off in portland – again, not a packed house…but far more people than you’d expect to show up on a weeknight 3,000 miles from home, and more than enough people to take up the awkward space in the room – you know, enough people to make milling about a conscious effort…but not so many that it was a pain in the ass. and certainly, i don’t think it was lost on anybody, either…we’d certainly had enough time in on the road at this point to have worked out any kinks or anything of that nature, and it felt pretty relaxed. i was still having the weird volume issue with my amp, to the point where i just threw my arms up and cranked the shit out of the amp and let go of any illusion of playing the amp with any clean headroom. i was roaring through most of the second half of the night…and it was certainly noted by my bandmates at the end of the show, too. 🙂

we headed back to the hotel after the gig and wheeled our gear into our rooms in the wee hours of the morning (we didn’t leave anything in the van anywhere we stayed, with the exception of bud’s sisters’ place in san jose) and got a few hours’ sleep before leaving in the morning to head south. i had gotten up early and washed out some underwear and socks in the sink and took them down the hall to the laundry room to dry them (the clerk the night before had told us the washer was broken), and had put them in the dryer at 8:40 or so, and they were still wet at 9:30 when we left.

day eight: sengthong’s in dunsmuir, ca

it was quite a ride from portland, oregon down to dunsmuir for the final actual gig of the tour, and we got up pretty early to leave the hotel – which was actually in washington state. we planned on leaving at 9:30 – i was hoping to get a shower before we left, but steve was in the bathroom for half an hour and me, being the new guy, let him go first. steve is like letting loose a renegade power washer in the shower…no surface anywhere in the bathroom is dry when he’s done…never seen anything like it. anyway, we loaded up and started down the road heading south, through portland and towards the last show of the run – at sengthong’s in dunsmuir, california.

we weren’t really sure what to expect – the venue website is essentially a modified blog template that acts as their entertainment calendar, and after our experience stopping for gas in yreka, just up the road, we were a little suspicious of this part of the country in general.

i think it’s safe to say that we were pleasantly surprised on all levels.

dunsmuir is the kind of town that i’ve always romanticized in my head – very small, and pretty much devoid of the influence of wal-mart and their ilk – the largest buildings on main street are the theater (closed), the hotel (condemned), and the true value hardware store directly across the street from the venue.

bob, who owns the place (plus several other properties on the main drag, as well as the “band house” we stayed in) moved there and opened the place as a restaurant, named for his laotian wife – who makes some of the best thai food i’ve ever eaten anywhere. i’m not sure at what point he decided to start having music, but i think it’s a new venture for them…but the folks who were at the gig were really enthusiastic.

technically, there was an issue that clouded soundcheck that we just couldn’t put our finger on – later, it finally revealed itself to be the pickup in the acoustic that we were touring with. we were getting a crackling, popping sound anytime someone stepped on an area of the stage too hard…it was truly surreal, and it led us down several wrong paths at first. but, we abandoned the acoustic for the show and just used bobs’ stratocaster for the whole show, and it actually worked out quite well.

we really…really…dug into the extended jams for this show – probably partially because of the instrument situation, but i think everyone was feelin’ it, too. interestingly, a lot of the crowd were just regular folks – not your typical followers of the jam scene…and they loved it. there were three couples who were up and dancing all night, and i told one of them at the end of the night that i’d never seen anyone dance to “good home” all the way through who wasn’t wearing tie-dye. again, a smallish but mighty enthusiastic crowd…probably the smallest of the tour, next to the first night at aubergine, but they really seemed to enjoy the band.

we packed up and hung out with bob and a handful of the folks who were still around after the show before heading back to the band house…we’d gone over and dropped off our gear before heading back for the show, so it was just a matter of bringing in the backline and instruments before settling in for the night. there was a washer and dryer (which i literally screamed upon seeing), so i collected laundry from everyone and stayed up for a while doing laundry…bob came back while the washer was running, and we stayed up talking until almost 3am. we were exhausted, but we were also exhilirated and giddy about how well the run had gone…we’d been everywhere we were supposed to be within minutes of when we were to get there, we’d gotten through the gigs without any major issues, and we’d been well received by everyone we’d encountered – to include some pretty high praise from folks very important to the band.

the next day, we had an afternoon radio hit in chico, california that served as the last official stop on the itinerary – so it was pretty satisfying to drift off to sleep with the dryer humming in the background.

day nine: KZFR in chico, california – or, the “almost famous” radio interview

this was the last, actual, honest-to-goodness last official function of the tour…after this, we were gonna head to bud’s familys’ house in san jose and camp out for the night before getting back on the plane at SFO on sunday afternoon. i had personally lost count of how many hours we’d collectively spent in the van by this point in time…but i was still enjoying taking in the countryside and the occasional people-watching (although we’d had a couple of brushes with weirdness in that department – from the lady who couldn’t decide if she wanted to kill us or screw us in santa cruz to the dude with the word “homo” tattooed on his forehead in the bizarro town of yreka). we were headed to chico – which i knew nothing about (as could be said with most of this place), but seemed rather non-threatening…when we drove into town, there were kids playing in the fountain in the center of town – trying to beat the heat. most of the folks we encountered were friendly, as had been the case for the whole run.

we got to KZFR that afternoon for our hit, and took the elevator up to the floor that the station was located on – the guy who was on the air welcomed us in and showed us where to set up…there was something going on out in what appeared to be the “live” room that was borderline “spoken word” in nature…i didn’t catch much of it, as we were busy getting ready to play. the disc jockey who was on the air at the time was about as laid back as i’d encountered on this whole run…to the point where you almost wanted to finish his sentences for him because you were tired of waiting. wonderful dude, though…and very passionate about music – to the extent that someone that laid back can be passionate, anyway. it was clear that he really loved what he was doing and all…but his words just took sooooo looooong to come out. 🙂 i couldn’t help but think of the deleted scene from almost famous where the band found themselves on a late night radio station and the DJ fell asleep during their interview…i wondered a couple of times if he was gonna nod off during the conversation, but again – he was a great guy and was truly happy to have us there. just perhaps a little tired, though. 🙂

when we finished the interview, though, the general manager of the station – a fellow named rick – stopped in and told us that he was on his way back from the golf course and heard us on the air and went out of his way to stop in and meet us. that was flattering, for sure…he invited us to play a station event that’s happening there in late october on the spot, even. i’m sure he and bob will be in touch, as that’s only a few days away from their planned return to the area anyway. he passed out bumper stickers and t-shirts, adding to my already formidable collection (and reminiscent of another almost famous scene, when william drops his bag and an entire cross country trips’ worth of souvenirs tumbles to the manhattan sidewalk…”i kept thinking i was going home,” he told dick, the bands’ manager. “me, too,” dick said. “that was fifteen years ago.”

we stopped alongside I-5 one last time for bob to do a “phoner”, and then drove to oakland to return our backline equipment to our benevolent servant, clayton call – and we’d brought clayton a little present, too…a souvenir of our trip, a trip that clayton didn’t take with us, but we rewarded him with a metaphorical passport for a trip of his own when we dropped off the rented equipment that night. clayton had been especially good to us, and it certainly didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. i don’t foresee a time when he isn’t our go-to backline guy, especially considering that he’s been there for us for not only this trip, but apparently he was the man for the prior trips as well.before we finished making our way to our last overnight stay – where the whiskey came out and we stayed up well into the night with bud’s brother-in-law, talking around the kitchen table before we all traipsed off to bed, one at a time at first, and then all at once. the next day, we had to get up somewhat early to make sure everyone cycled through the bathroom before leaving for the airport…and i’d learned my lesson by now – i wasn’t waiting for an invitation. i was gettin’ IN there when the time came. 🙂

day ten was a maze of van returns, carrying luggage up and down escalators, fighting with cocky, arrogant ticket desk jockeys, and watching in horror as steve tried to cram his stuff into an overhead compartment and bring someones’ belongings crashing down on them in the process…this is after vanishing right out of the TSA gate and leaving his bags on the floor next to the conveyor where the trays are stacked – because he thought he’d heard someone page him to the courtesy phone.

he truly cracks me up, that guy. if we room together next tour, i’m gonna get a shitload of mileage outta that courtesy phone business. at least as much, if not more, than the guys have gotten outta this whole “steve hittin’ on a transvestite” business.

anyway, we touched down in PHL at around 10:30 or so…wendy pulled up to the curb with the little man in tow in the backseat, sleeping contentedly with no idea of what was going on around him….the drive home, by comparison to every mile i’d ridden in the couple of weeks before, seemed to take almost no time at all. i didn’t unpack much when i got back – knowing that i’d be getting up to leave for work in a matter of hours, and that i had everything i needed already inside the house (i maintain a complete set of travel “stuff” – non-clothing items, toiletries, et cetera – and everything i needed to resume my life was on hand and ready for me). it was a tired but satisfied sleep, for sure – we’d gotten everywhere we needed to go at a reasonable hour, we made shows out of some nights that probably wouldn’t have been shows without our presence or effort…and as far as i’m concerned, it was a great success – and we had a blast.

next year. if not sooner. 🙂

with Boris Garcia at The Historic Blairstown Theater, Blairstown, NJ

right in the heart of scenic downtown blairstown. 🙂

this was one of those “blindside” gigs.

by that, i mean that i heard about it literally days before it was to take place…not that i’m complaining, mind you – save for the fact that i had to bump another gig in order to make it happen. i’m not an advocate of doing that, by the way…but the situation being what it was (considering that i was going on the road with this band for an extended period in the very near future, and i could use every opportunity to play with them that i could scrounge), i had to make a call as to whether or not to do the gig, and i made the best decision that i could, considering…

it was the inaugural weekend at this particular venue – the historic blairstown theater….the prior night, they’d had a screening of friday the 13th, and tonight was boris garcia with buzz universe opening.

if you’ve never been to blairstown, it’s a really cute little town nestled out in the middle of nearly-nowhere…small in a good way, for sure. the people we met while we were loading in and getting ready for soundcheck were wonderful, and the volunteers took care of all the heavy lifting, even…i didn’t have to carry any of my gear into the theater (which was a good thing, actually…the stairs are a killer).

looking into the room from behind the drumkit...

the theater itself has a quasi-sellersville vibe, in that there’s an area directly in front of the stage with no seating, that could be used either for cafe-style seating, or for dancing under the right circumstances. i didn’t do a seat count, but i don’t think there were more than 200 seats in the room – which puts it in a sweet spot that might be beneficial to them. i’ve often lamented the lack of rooms that size in the area. there’s an abundance of tin angel/steel city style rooms that have a capacity of around a hundred, but from there it goes straight to the 300-plus rooms, where you’re typically booking bands that have a much higher price tag – and, as such, can often put you at a financial risk if the show isn’t successful. at 200 seats or so, you can book acts that have outgrown the coffeehouse circuit, but aren’t typically so costly that you’re endangering your bottom line by booking them.

it’s a good number, 200. 🙂

we found out, during load in, that they also have a full complement of backline available, as well…good stuff, too. the sound system is brand new (which can be scary, but they had the house rung out and ready to go in plenty of time…the opening band might disagree, but it’s a new installation, after all)…and the guys running the sound had a pretty good bead on the room…a lot of times, things will get washy in the monitors as the night goes on, but everything was really consistent all night long with the monitor mix – i could hear the vocals really well all night long, and that’s not always the case.

playing with this band has been a revelation, for me…it’s like discovering a love for cuisine that i never thought i’d have a taste for, but finding that i really enjoy it after giving it a shot. i wasn’t sure that this was going to fit when i initially agreed to take on some of the dates, but as it turns out, my inner improvisational child is flourishing with these guys. it’s definitely going to force me to elevate my chops, and that’s a kick in the ass that i could really use right now. i’m enjoying the extra stage volume, the give and take…it’s been really interesting. it’s not something i would’ve seen myself doing even a couple of years ago, but once i’ve gotten to the point where i don’t have to constantly peruse my mental checklist while playing the songs, it could get really good. 🙂

Heroes, Hombres and Troubadors: A Tribute To Robert Hazard

at load-in for the show, larry broido – the guitarist i replaced in the late robert hazard‘s band – walked up to me and said, “you know, for a long time i was really pissed at you. but i’m over it now.”

probably not the most at ease i’ve been getting ready for a gig. 🙂

this show had been in the works for a long time – the brainchild of nik everett and longtime hazard bassist freddie ditomasso, the notion was to bring together players from all three phases of roberts’ career – the early new wave days with his band the Heroes, his later howl-era band, the hombres, and the band that was the core of his twilight touring band during the troubador phase for a tribute show featuring material from the whole arc of robert’s career.

figuring it out...
walking through the backline layout...

during the initial conversations i had with both nik and with freddie, i had protested the notion of doing the show at chaplin’s – not due to personal reasons or ill will or any of that sort of thing, but because the feng shui of the place just didn’t make for a smooth set of transitions for a show like this.

if you’ve never been to chaplins’, it’s what we refer to as a “shoebox” – there are no entrances or exits to the stage, but through the room itself. there’s a green room upstairs, but you can’t get on – or off – the stage without making your way through the seated audience.

for a show like this that would require a litany of people getting on and off the stage, it had huge potential for painfulness – and i certainly availed myself of multiple opportunities to point that out.

but – freddie, bless his heart, had a plan – and for the most part, he made it work.

the show was tommy geddes and kenny barnard on drums, rick bell and michael vernnachio on keys, larry and myself on guitars and various other stringed instruments, and freddie on bass…along with a pretty decent cast of characters playing the role of robert hazard for the evening (or, as it were, singing his songs)…and everyone involved did an awesome job.

at the only real rehearsal we had for the show: larry broido, michael tearson, tommy geddes, jd malone, freddie ditomasso

we had gotten together the night before for the sole rehearsal – i understand that there was one other rehearsal for the performers who were playing during the first set (which as largely acoustic), but i was unavailable for that one, so i had to accompany those folks on the fly…which i’ve done before, and besides – it’s not as though i was unfamiliar with the material, right?

freddie had asked me to sing a song for this show, and for me the choice was pretty obvious.

there was a song that robert had written that we’d played live a couple of times called “summerland” – luckily, one of those times was for scott birney’s radio show…and someone had taped it, so the song was preserved for posterity as such. robert did it at the very bottom of his range, though…which was gonna be a problem for me. but – the solution – i played it on the baritone in the same chord set, which moved it to G – and that was all but perfect, from a range perspective.

(you’ll have to click through the link below to see the video – unfortunately, it’s only available at this site, and their embed code doesn’t play well with wordpress.)

tom hampton performing “summerland” by robert hazard

i also sang “somebody else’s dream” in the second set, but that song was something of an afterthought, for me…i’ve always enjoyed playing it, because it was a showcase for the lap steel, but “summerland” was my personal high point of the evening. i also enjoyed accompanying michael tearson on “i want you” and debuting that for the room…that song being the one that michael had done for the first of the RH tributes that we’d done at steel city with eric andersen. michael had suggested to robert that he cover that tune in the fashion that we ultimately ended up doing it in…slower and more deliberate…and michael has adopted it in the same blueprint since.

other highlights: jd malone tearing down the house with his version of “nobody but the night”….he had everybody in the room up on their feet before the band kicked in, and had them in the palm of his hand. nik everett did an awesome “change reaction”, tearson did “blue mountain” during the so-called electric second set, and kenny goodman – who i’d never met before – came up to close out the night with some of the old heroes material – “out of the blue”, “escalator of life”, and “blowin’ in the wind”…and absolutely killed all of them. in fact, he sounded uncannily like the robert of that era…and i don’t think that was lost on many people in the room that night.

i had met larry at the previous night’s rehearsal, but we didn’t really get much of an opportunity to talk at all, what with trying to run through everything and tighten up the show – but we developed a real musical rappore during the show itself. we complemented one another in a way that doesn’t often happen organically the way it evolved during the course of the night…and i don’t think it was lost on either of us. in fact, i feel like larry is a foil now…we have a really nice, natural vibe between the two of us, and i really enjoyed playing with him.

after the show was over and we’d spent quite a bit of time chatting with the folks who’d made the trip, those of us who had stuck around took some pictures outside and went looking for an open diner to grab something to eat…the diner around the corner from the venue was closed, the phoenix was closed, and the iron hill brewery had stopped serving food as well…it felt like someone up there was trying to tell us that the evening was over and it was time to go home.

the all-star band...
left to right: michael vernacchio, larry broido, freddie ditomasso, kenny bernard, tommy geddes, rick bell, tom hampton

it was certainly a bittersweet drive home…a quiet one, too. i couldn’t bring myself to turn on any music in the car…i was still taking in everything that had happened over the course of the night.

with Shannon Corey at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia PA

so, no – we’d never met. certainly not in person, anyway. we exchanged a few emails and texts, she sent me some tracks to learn, but no phone calls or anything like that. we met for the first time when i showed up at her apartment a couple of hours before the gig to run through the songs for the set.

so in that regard, my debut with shannon corey really was a blind date in some respects.

we’d exchanged some thoughts about instrumentation and what her expectations were on the few songs that i was to play on (all on mandolin, making this one of the lightest load-ins i’ve had in a long time), so i listened to the songs to figure out what key they were in and to see if there were any hooks or licks that i’d need to learn that were integral to the song, and got ready to head over to shannon’s apartment to run through the set with our cellist (and one of the dudes who recommended me for the gig), michael ronstadt.

soundcheck at world cafe live...michael ronstadt on cello with shannon corey.

now, what i didn’t realize was that it was essentially just the three of us, musically – but two of the cuts were acoustic guitar songs, and it never occured to me to think that somebody wouldn’t be covering that part – i just assumed that shannon doubled on guitar and piano.

but, noooooooo.

as it turns out, not only did she not play guitar, but she didn’t cover those parts with piano, either. so it’d be up to michael and myself to execute those songs with the cello and the mandolin. which meant that i actually had to learn the songs. like, now.

i was ok with two of them, but one of them, doing fine, actually had a descending guitar part that i’d have to replicate on the mando…i listened to it a couple of times through, and we worked it out. it wasn’t difficult, i just had to memorize the arrangement and make sure i had my signposts in place.

so michael got there and we ran through everything a couple of times and got ready to head to the venue.

shannon was opening for a guy named jon mclaughlin – who i’d assumed was the jazz guitarist, but as it turns out, there’s a kid with the same name whos’ apparently garnered enough notoriety to be playing a 700-capacity room in a major urban area. just another little nudge from father time to let me know that i’m not a kid anymore. 🙂

i was a little concerned going in, as i’m not entirely sure that they were expecting the number of musicians that would be showing up for this gig in the opening slot…but turk, the soundguy at WCL is a buddy of mine, and if there were any concerns or problems with our lineup, they didn’t convey them to us. the headliner was touring as a duo, and the stage was pretty sparse…so it make soundcheck a pleasure for all of us. i love the monitors in the downstairs room at WCL – i don’t know for sure if they’re clair brothers boxes or not, but they sound like they very well may be – some of the best monitors i’ve ever heard have been on clair brothers stages, and these boxes look almost exactly like the signature shape of clair monitor fills. guess i should ask Turk about that next time i’m there.

so, soundcheck finished, all there was to do was wait – which is, generally speaking, customary. but in this scenario, it essentially served as time for shannon to work herself into a frenzy – she was wound pretty tightly by the time we were to walk onstage. not sure, specifically, what to attest that to…as i don’t really know her that well (as noted earlier), so i just took my mental notes with me onstage and tried to execute the tunes as best as i could, under the circumstances.

the show itself seemed to go pretty well – nothing stood out in my mind, where glaring errors or such were concerned. and she seemed genuinely happy with the way it had gone after we were finished, so – alls’ well that ends well. after the show, i had a few minutes to catch up with my buddy josh hisle and his friend dan collins, who were there for the show – it was good to see JH, as i hadn’t seen him in ages…nice to meet dan, as well.

so…in the end…client happy, show solid, no parking tickets, home relatively early – win/win. 🙂