So when we left you last we were just heading into Arizona. Since then we’ve played five shows and then had a ten day vacation, and we’re now driving into Montana. Which is much, much different than Arizona, believe you me. Before we begin chronicling the tour we are just beginning, and before the last January shows fade even further into the recesses of our memories, we’ll try to provide a brief recap of those shows.
Arizona definitely does have its own feel. Even compared to Southern California, the weather changes, the scenery really changes, the amount of RV’s on the highway explodes. And the time zone changes (but only when it’s not Daylight Savings Time – keep that in mind when planning your trips). Plus, at least when you’re on Highway 8, you really feel how close you are to Mexico. Which is not a big deal, I guess, but kinda cool when you’re from Canada. Cause Canada and Mexico are about as different as Montana and Arizona, or actually probably a lot more. We always consider, when we’re in parts of America that are stone’s throws away from Mexico, crossing over for a visit. But we hear it can be a massive nuisance crossing back into the States, and being loaded up with musical instruments and the like we just don’t want the hassle. But one of these days. The closest we got this time (and this isn’t really close at all) was being searched by US Immigration Officers set up on the interstate. Rebecca was particularly impressed by this occurrence, and texted her friend Jasmine, “we just got checked for Mexicans”. Jasmine texted back, “You send the best texts”. A sentiment with which I concur. Just this past week for example, Trevor and I both received a text saying, “I’m talking with (insert random person’s name) on facebook right now”. It woke me up from a deep sleep, but it was worth it. That’s pure gold right there.
But anyway, I digress. We spent three wonderful evenings at the Tucson Sheraton. It was a so-so location, but a great hotel, kind of a sprawling Pentagon like complex with a great inner courtyard featuring all the amenities you could possibly want. We had Sunday off, and pretty much chilled (although a couple of us did go to the cinema and take in the offbeat film “Happy Go Lucky”). Monday we were playing in Phoenix, so around mid-afternoon we embarked on the 100 mile or so jaunt up to the Rhythm Room.
It was a four-band night, which is kind of unusual for us (normally we either play all night or have one opener, although this particular week every show but one had at least three acts). Also, we weren’t headlining. We were on third of four. I missed the first act, but the second act was a girl from Nashville named Katie Herzig. She was really, really great so we picked up her CD (it helped us get back to Tucson). We had a spirited but (obviously) short set. We’re not used to playing like 45 minutes, but it’s actually kind of fun once in a while. Then playing last was Griffin House, our label mate from the Nettwerk days. He’s a great singer/songwriter who puts on a hard rocking show, covered “I Fought The Law” a la The Clash. We didn’t get to stay til the end, cause we were a little intimidated about our drive back to our Tucson oasis. But what we heard was awesome.
Overall, it was a really fun night. We have quite a few friends in Phoenix, and clearly Griffin has a lot of support here, and the place was packed. It was an all-ages show in what’s normally a bar, so they had a certain area cordoned off. You couldn’t take alcohol to that part, and they were really serious about it because apparently they can lose their liquor license if they violate the rule. Well, Jason didn’t realize that and went into the wrong area a couple times and they got pretty freaking mad at him. They said one more time and he was 86’d, they didn’t care he was in the band. I thought for sure he was going to do it just to prove a point, but cooler heads prevailed and he was allowed to strum on the ol’ banjo no problem!
Tuesday night we played at The Hut in Tucson. There were a couple openers. I knew their names back in the day but now I’ve forgotten, sorry. The second one had a pretty kick ass banjo player and a lead singer who belted it out like Kevin from The Gourds. Real entertaining! We played a longer set. Very strong Tuesday night turnout. The whole tour, actually, every single night exceeded our turnout expectations, with the possible exception of LA.
And LA doesn’t really count. We got to talking to one of the girls in the band before us (it was three-band Wednesday night at the Mint). Turns out she used to play in the Mammals, who we did share a festival stage or two with back in the band. Anyway, she was just confirming what everybody knows, which is LA is impossibly hard for non-superstar bands to gig in. It’s near impossible to develop something there. I mean, I’m sure it’s done, and maybe we’re just sour grapes, but man, I don’t know anybody personally who’s done it. But what gets you more is how much the venues take advantage of how many bands want a gig and just don’t give reasonable deals at all. The Mint is definitely one of the nicest to bands. They give you drink tickets which allow you to buy your drinks for only $2. In almost any other town that would be shocking (everybody knows the band drinks for free), but here it’s kind of shocking in its relatively generosity. And it’s not a pay to play situation, which is by all reports quite common. So no complaints about the venue. It’s just a frustrating town.
As I mentioned, turnout didn’t exceed expectations, but it was decent, and the people who did come came to party. I bet you 95% of them first heard us somewhere else and relocated to LA. An actual LA-based Clumsy Lovers fan who discovered us in LA? Not sure if that exists. If you’re that rare bird, drop us an email. I’d like to know it’s possible.
It was a happily LA experience, overall, tho. This guy Trevor used to know happened to be there and he told us he was recording at the studio next store with the Neville Brothers and maybe they would drop by or we could drop by. Trevor and Tyler were asking me to consider what song we could have them jam with us. I don’t think I’m too terribleycynical, but I will admit I wasn’t giving a lot of thought to the question. I didn’t think it was likely to be an issue. They never did materialize, and of course we don’t know if they were in the vicinity or not. But it’s the kind of buzz you are far more likely to hear in Los Angeles than anywhere else.
Also, for dinner we walked from the Mint down a few blocks to this fast food teriyaki place, and on the way we passed four ruffians standing around in front of a motel. They had an overturned bucket in the middle of them, and on top of the bucket was a pistol. Is that allowed in America? Can you just have your gun on your bucket on the sidewalk for scared Canadians to walk by?
We drove about an hour north after the gig, to this fantastic hotel literally in the shadow of Magic Mountain. It’s one of the bittersweet parts of this job, seeing all sorts of tourist attractions and never ever stopping at them. Actually we did go to Magic Mountain once, maybe six years ago. So I shouldn’t say never. But generally speaking we come oh so close to the coolest things ever. Just ask Rebecca about Mt Rushmore. Or The Grand Canyon. Or Magic Mountain. She did get to hang with Hamilton in Atlanta, so it’s not like nothing ever happens. Try and remember the good times too, Reba. Sheesh.
We drove all the way to Portland on Thursday. One of those drives, of which there are many in our history, that seem incredibly stupid while doing it but brilliant the next day. See, personally to me, it’s way worth it to push yourself really hard one day in exchange for having an easier day follow. Like, say we have a couple days off, and a thousand miles to travel. Personally I would rather do the whole chunk in one day, and then have the next day to just do what you please. If you ask me, two five hundred mile drives ruin two days, whereas one thousand mile drive only ruins one day. I think I might be in the minority on that, I don’t really know, but as I do the travel planning it happens a lot. And no one really complains, so I just keep doing it.
But anyway, we drove all the way to Portland. I can’t remember when we got in, but I am sure it was very late. Around 4pm in the morrow we headed up to Seattle for our Friday night. We hit more Portland traffic than expected, got delayed trying to get a cash advance at a bank (we got a huge t-shirt order delivered in Seattle, and as we didn’t have enough cash and no check book and I didn’t want to owe the guy, we decided to stop and get a credit card advance – it eventually worked, but it took forever), then came across a completely closed major road when we were finally close to the Tractor and had some difficulty navigating some confusing side streets in our efforts to detour. So we were pretty tardy for sound check, and pretty stressed, and I don’t think the collective psyche ever quite recovered. I’d say it was one of our weaker Tractor Tavern shows (there’ve been a lot of shows there, only a few that I would consider subpar). But it was sold out real early, stayed packed, and as usual the audience was awesome even if we weren’t 100%. (I do think, as an aside, that relatively small differences in our level of performance often feel massive to me; I don’t think to other people, including people in the band, the difference between levels of performance is near as significant. But this is actually a topic that could be explored fairly thoroughly, which makes it a poor topic for an aside).
We drove back after the gig to our Portland hotel, and got to take it fairly easy Saturday before heading to the Doug Fir for our last show of the tour. Again it sold out really early, and I think we were much better than we were in Seattle. And a great audience again. Northwest crowds are the best. It was a really good night of music overall. Nelo, from Austin, TX, played first. They had played with us the night before, too, and they’re a great band and good guys. Hope to do it again soon. Tango Alpha Tango, who had opened our last show in Portland, came back for more and they really had an awesome set. They’re a special band, if there’s any justice in the world they’re bound for great things. And we finished ‘er up with the last two hours of music for January 2009. Well, maybe it crossed over into February around midnight. So let’s call it the last hour of music for January, and the first hour of music for February. You get the idea. The last two hours of the tour.