Tour Story: Salt Lake City Tour 2001

Here's the story:

Before, and during, this one-show tour we were persistently asked by friends, family, workmates, and loved ones, "Why are you driving all the way to Salt Lake City to do one show? I just don't get it." The answers are many: (a) we were hoping to have a show in Reno as well but that never quite came together, (b) it's much cheaper to rent a van and drive than fly three band members and all their equipment, (c) we were already written up in an SLC weekly feature article so cancelling would be extra lame, and (d) we are gluttons for punishment, especially since we will be playing SLC again at the beginning of the national tour in April.

Jenya and I picked up the rental van from the Oakland airport Friday night. It had a nicer seats and stereo system than our previous van rental, but had a few less square inches of interior space, wreaking havoc on our storage/sleeping system. The three of us quickly packed it up and hit the road at 8:45pm.

On the way out of California, we were luckily spaced between two wet fronts, meaning the trek over Donner summit was painless and quick, and we made it to Reno in three hours. We got three 99 cent specials at a fuel/food/casino/diner establishment. For six bucks total we all got ham, eggs, hash browns, and coffee. Erik and I then earned $2 total in slots before getting back on the road.

Erik took us all the way to Button Point, smack dab in the middle of nowhere of cold Nevada. Jenya was given the shit shift, driving from 4am to about 8am, a rising sun burning in her eyes over the glimmering, icy Nevada landscape, while dealing with slightly scary road conditions (is this black ice or not?). Not to mention me and Erik were dozing off, we had already listened to all the tapes/CDs we brought, and local radio was nonexistent or painful.

At the Utah border I took over again and got us into SLC around 10am mountain time (which means the entire drive was about 13 hours). I tried to find a coffee shop where I hung out with Species Being back in October but got lost on the east side where, thanks to a snow storm the previous night, all the traffic lights were out. Failing that we found a pay phone, called Eli from the Red Bennies and headed on up to his (and Jesse's) place.

Already crapped out on Eli's floor was Scott and Vinny from Sikhara. Their other bandmate with the broken foot was sleeping outside in the van since it was too damn difficult for him to move around. Erik was gung ho about record shopping so Eli clued him in on places to shop as Jenya and I set up camp on the living room floor. He headed on out as we took a much-needed five hour nap.

Erik returned minutes after Jenya and I woke up (around 4:00pm) and asked if we wanted to go back out for more record shopping. We needed air, so we joined him, heading to the outskirts of town for more collectibles. I actually found two cool used CDs that were practically free, and browsed the next-door used threads shop.

Headed back to town and we got dinner at some random spot - the Jade Cafe - which served burgers and chow mein. We felt burgers were the safer bet. Then went to Kilby Court and met up with Phil who runs the place and he gave us the low down on the Mormons and their fascination with bees. The other bands arrived and loaded in, Phil started the fire pit, and the local kids came to check out what's up at this hip all-ages hot-spot.

Cobra went on first, a double-guitar double-drums improv quartet playing to about as many people. They had nothing to do with John Zorn's Cobra. Sikhara went on next. Scott was totally tweaking out setting up sample/drum loops and then beating the shit out of an electronic drum pad and two floor toms. Wham-wham-wham-wham! The other guys filled the room with sax and keyboard squonks.

We went on next, and I believe we played really well. I even think the growing crowd enjoyed it, even though they were here to see hard rock and were probably turned off by our inclusion of piano. Unfortunately these are kids with no money, so we only sold like $13 worth of stuff after the show. Fair enough. The Red Bennies played a great, short set. I dig those guys a lot.

It was a cool scene, and we hung out a while afterward with the club gang before saying goodbye and thanks to all and heading back to Eli's. Jesse was working graveyard, so we set up camp in his room and crashed to sleep.

And Sunday morning it was get-up-and-get-back-on-the-road. More thanks to Eli for setting us up and putting us up. We'll see him and the SLC gang again in a month.. Got coffee and hit highway 80.

Erik burned us through Utah and we ate brunch once in Nevada. Jenya took over and got us to Reno about 5:00pm by doing a solid 100 mph for four hours straight. Once there we got gas and Erik checked the phone book for the local vinyl shop. The weather was getting bad and I was anxious about snow on the summit, but since the shop was closing in a half hour we spent some extra time in Reno anyway.

I didn't find much at the store but Erik always can find something to buy. We drove down the main Reno strip on the way out of town as "Do the Hustle" blasted on the radio. That brought us back to the 70's big time.

Jenya started up the hills in California, but it began snowing, and the roads were getting slippery, and people were stopping to put on chains. We didn't have chains, but it wasn't officially mandatory, so I took over driving (I'm from New York - I can drive on ice and snow).

One stroke of luck was a sand truck appearing right in front of us just as we hit the peak, insuring safe roads for those treacherous five miles. After that I took it nice and easy during the long, slow descent towards Sacramento. If we went through another half hour later we may not have been so lucky.

Once back down near sea level Erik was starving for dinner so we hit some random town where the best offering was Round Table Pizza. Ironically, that was the most expensive meal of the trip.

Despite sheets of rain we made it back to the Bay Area in no time, while listening to the delightful strains of a rare Earth CD Erik picked up back in SLC. No traffic near Oakland, and unloading back at the homestead was a snap.

The bottom line: The trip cost us about $300 in van rental, gas, and food for the entire weekend. For those not involved in the music business, that's actually pretty good, considering.

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