GravelRoad Tour Blog – Part 2 (Winter 2011)February 10, 2011
GravelRoad tour blog. Jan/Feb 2011. PART 2.
Monday Jan 31, 2011- Santa Cruz, CA. The Crepe Place doesn’t sound like a rock-n-roll venue but it is. Coupled with local retro-psych rockers The Groggs, fronted by our friend Keith Thompson, the night is set to be electric. But I have to admit that I’m – yet again – excited about food. The Crepe Place delivers on the name in a very creative way. We order 3 different types of crepes – a seafood one (prawns, scallops, etc), the jambalaya (spicy!), and a chicken greek – trying a little of each. Eating on the road, as I’ve mentioned previously, can be a troubling. So often it’s easy to take short cuts or to be rushed and to eat in ways that aren’t healthy. This is healthy (kinda … helluva lot better than fast food) and delicious.
With our bellies full and our souls warmed, we rock out. It’s a Monday night so the place isn’t packed, but there’s a great energy in the room … people are into the music, the vibe is great, and everyone there had a fun time. I think it was GravelRoad’s best performance all the way around, so far on this tour.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011. Off day. No show. We hole up and make music and food at a friends cabin in the hills outside of Santa Cruz. No cell range. Secluded. Very, very appreciated after days of performing. We’re still laughing about Jimmy after the San Fran show on Sunday night. We name his beverage of choice – Gatorade mixed with malt liquor “Jimm-ersons.”
Wednesday February 2, 2011 – We snake our way down to Los Angeles. We’re playing at the Redwood Bar that night and just head straight there, load-in, grab a bite to eat and get ready for the show. Tonight, we’re playing relatively early – 10pm. We have some great friends show up and we rock the house. At one point while playing, I’m getting into it and I take flight. When ‘getting some air’ under me, I misjudge a small shelf behind me and bang my head. Also, my snare stand must not have been fully stable because it’s sliding down on me and I can feel that I’m banging the inside of my thigh. Add this to a fall in the van earlier that day and I’m getting pretty bruised. Tour! Seriously, I’ll love these bruises in the days after tour ends. They’ll be reminders of the shows and the road. Taking the bruises with the beauty, I suppose.
Tour has also been about this weird thumbnail that I slammed in a car door in mid-November. The nail was black through the December (2010) tour with T Model through the south. On Christmas day, tiny hardened black pieces of the nail began to fall out just above the cuticle. I’d watched the nail grow out over the first weeks of 2011 and it’s barely hanging on through the tour. Any day now the unhealthy part of the nail will have grown out to the point where it will fall out, be ripped out accidentally or purposely, or meet another ugly fate that I don’t wish to think about. Either way, I just want to make it through the shows with the nail still in place. Either way, the thumbnail is marking time and life experience so I’m becoming weirdly attached to the injury.
We stay up really late after the show in LA, listening to music with our buddy Marc at his place. Really late. He’s got an unbelievable collection of music and he’s a great music mind and appreciator. This is our time with him. The clock on the wall doesn’t matter. We can all sleep on another day.
Thursday February 3, 2011. We fall asleep around sunrise so we’re up a few hours later, eat with Marc, run a couple of errands and take care of sow business and head down to Long Beach for a show at Alex’s. We stay at with friends. The show is great (Dan-o Forte and Brother Cecil were great openers), a nice turnout on hand, and its fun seeing old friends. Long Beach is one of the towns I kinda fell like I gotta play. It is such an eclectic working-class town, but fully “west coast” in its character. My appreciation for working-class areas is always piqued when I’m here. There’s only one Long Beach. The crowd at Alex’s is a lot of bikers, but not perhaps like one would imagine when you think of bikers. Again, it’s Long Beach. Fun crowd, good music. Tour’s rocking!
Friday February 4, 2011. On through the desert to Las Vegas. We’re playing the Las Vegas Country Saloon in downtown, right on Fremont St.
First we go to the hotel, because we have almost 2 hours before we have to be at the venue. Stefan pulls out the Gideon bible while recounting a story of previous trip to Vegas when he checked the bible and it had pages torn out and a crack pipe left in it in a divvy motel off the strip. As he opens the bible out drops a small baggie with a powdery substance in it. It makes his story twice as funny. It’s Crystal Meth. I feel like I’m doing inventory of a patient’s belongings upon admit at the psychiatric hospital. It’s been at least two tours since I’ve had a hotel room where I found drugs or paraphernalia. Isn’t it supposed to be the musicians that leave that stuff behind instead of finding it?
After a rest, we load in and to the venue, turn a corner (either the wrong one or the right one, depending on your perspective) and there’s a topless woman by the dressing room having her body painted. Ah, Vegas … exactly what you’d expect.
The LV Country Saloon recently changed styles, going from all country music to a mix of genres. I get the sense that they’re still finding their audience and they’re still getting word out about the format change. But I think these folks will have success. It feels less like a corporate-Vegas-casino (it is not) and more like a club in most cities … ok, except for the occasional staff person wearing only body-paint. It’s a great room, the sound is fantastic, the opening band is good, and the staff is fantastic. The crowd, however, is a little small. Perhaps it’s the cold spell running through the desert keeping people away on this night. No matter. The set is a great one and we met some great people. Kirby’s buddy is in town and has a damn good time drinking a variety of beverages and making all of us laugh with his banter and repetitive offerings of cigars. Did I mention we ate some great blackened ahi tuna there too?
We avoided gamboling – either with our money or the found meth or anything else for that matter. We gotta get out early in the morning for the drive to Phoenix where we’ll meet up with T Model for the last show of the tour.
Saturday February 5 – 2011. We get to Phoenix around 6pm and head straight to the hotel. T Model Ford and Bill Abel have flown in from Mississippi a few hours earlier and are resting until we arrive. We say our hellos and go for a bite to eat. Props to Bob Corritore, the musician and owner of the Rhythm Room where we will be playing, for making tonight’s event happen.
I can sense that everything is going to be magical tonight. Everything feels right. T and Bill are in great moods and seem as happy as us to be in a warmer environment. Winter can be a bitch. Mississippi’s got more snow than usual this year and it’s been notably colder as well. Seattle’s always dark this time of year. It’s great to be where it’s dry.
We eat, we talk, we head to the show. Stan Ridgeway of Wall of Voodoo fame had an early show at the Rhythm Room and is still hanging out. Again, it’s great seeing some old friends and making some new ones. The crowd is filing in and everyone’s ready for a great night of music.
It starts of with Bill Abel. Bill asked me to play drums for him and I’m happy to do it. I really enjoyed our 6 shows together in December and our styles work well together. The set feels electric and we throw down! People dance. It’s a great start to the night.
GravelRoad’s up next. I think we play the best we’ve ever played. It’s the end of the tour. We’ve not made a big deal about it but it’s obvious to all of us and I really think we raise our performance and see it as a culmination of all the time spent together on this tour getting tighter and tighter. This excellent audience claps, hollers, dances, takes photos, and is having fun. I can feel it in the room as I walk around in between sets. The crowd is large, but the night feels very intimate and close. Our show was billed as a “down home” night of Mississippi music and I think it’s an apt description.
T Model comes up and he sounds excellent. Phoenix was one of the towns where we played about 3 or 4 months after the stroke he had last April. That last Phoenix show was unique. T was not at full strength and he had acknowledged this to the crowd that night. He labored through the first half hour of that set and, at times, during his whole 75-minute performance that night. I remember thinking from my drum throne that night that he may not be able to do a full show. I even checked in with him a couple of times that night but he wanted to keep going. Which he did to the amassment of most everyone … except him, of course.
So it was a treat to see him playing well on this night, stronger some 6 months after that last Rhythm Room gig. “Hip Shakin’ Woman” as well as many other songs had all the house dancing, and T’s stories had them laughing and yelling. Good times. Damn good times. What a way to end the tour.
T went to bed right after the gig but the rest of us, including our good friends Lisa Mae and Jefe who’d made the 100 mile trek up from Tucson, stayed up till dawn and told stories and ate Denny’s take out – the only food close by.
TOUR! TOUR! TOUR! Oh, how I love thee.
Next up for me is a tour of a whole different kind. I’ll be in South America in a few days. I’ll be in Machu Picchu a week from right now, as I type this. We’ll go on to Easter Island. Music will be present, but there are no official gigs. This is a different type of tour, as I mentioned. I will appreciate that tour more as a result of dong this tour.