Tour Story: Species Being Pacific Northwest Tour Spring 2001

Here's the poop on this little trip:

Frank came by my house around midnight on Wednesday, the 21st, and we were going to head up to Seattle during the course of the evening. The lineup for this tour was me, Frank, Eli, and Mitch. Mitch was flying in from NYC this evening, and due to a delayed flight, he wasn't ready yet. So we took our time repacking the mini-van, and then headed on out to Berkeley to find Eli a beer and wait for Mitch to call on Frank's cell phone.

Beer for Eli was nowhere to be found, and word from Mitch was nowhere to be heard until around 1:30, when he called from his rehearsal space in SF. So we headed on over the bridge to get him and his equipment, and hit the road around 2:00am. A bit behind schedule, but whatever. Right away Mitch announced he was going to actually move to NYC in a couple weeks due to a sudden job offering falling into his lap, so these would be the last shows with this lineup.

Zooming past Sacramento, Frank got snagged by the police going 80 mph. The cop was really nice actually. He knew right away we were a touring band ("You guys gigging?" he asks) but we're all relatively clean-cut and Frank is permanently sober. After checking his eyes for recent marijuana/alcohol use, he told us to slow down and that was that. Thanked him and our lucky stars and headed back on track.

I dozed off for a bit in the shotgun seat as Frank got us near the Oregon border and I took over as the sun rose beyond the pass. Forcing myself to stay awake listening to Doctor Nerve, I got us halfway into the state before stopping at a redneck diner for cheap eats and a much needed tooth-brushin'.

I slept in the back until Portland, then we were all awake and getting excited as we approached Seattle, though we got stuck in pre-rushhour traffic. Hit the Rainbow club, which we played a year ago, loaded in, then went to the University strip to hang out for a bit, shopping CD and thrift stores, putting up Sleepytime Gorilla Museum flyers (since Frank will be back next week playing shows in the area), and just plain killing time. We summed up this little outing with a dinner of delicious vegan Thai food.

Back to the club, we met various members of the two opener bands, all of which were really nice people. Frank and I took a walk back to the main strip to find a deck of cards so we could play Palace (the card game that occupied most of our free time during the October '00 tour).

The first opener was a semi-large instrumental funk band with horns, mono-key jams, drum solos and the like. The second band, young dudes from Boise (who imported a crowd of friends and family who travelled all the way to see them), were all over the post-Dead hippie-funk trip, and even covered a Phish tune. Boy were these not the bands to open up for us.

Nevertheless, we played a great show (one of my favorites), and the people who watched it (including a couple who actually bought the CD and purposefully came to see us) were really into it. But due to the relatively lame draw we only got about $40 for our troubles.

We had a house with many sleeping surfaces down in Portland, so we loaded on out, and headed south on I-5. Once again while Frank was driving, we spotted flashing lights behind us as a police car approached. After cussing and preparing to pull over, the car flew past us. Phew.

Got to what will be our homestead for the next two days around 4:00am. Who lives here? Julie, Lara, Jamie, and Francis. Frank met Julie when we played in Kalamazoo and she just moved to the area. That was the whole connection to this place. I claimed a futon on the floor and crashed to sleep.

Friday morning we bummed around non-downtown Portland, getting delicious brunch (biscuits with almond gravy.. Mmmm..), browsing antique shops, etc. Friday afternoon we hung back at the homesteads with our gracious hosts, playing darts, cards, guitar, or napping. Beautiful day, nice backyard and shit.

Loaded into the club, the Medicine Hat. Tonight we were playing with two bands which matched us pretty well, the Cosmos Group and the Opera Cycle. Due to weird scheduling with the local bands, they both wanted to go on first and second, convincing us the draw will pick up at the end of the night anyway. Fair enough.

Got dinner down the street at the hip and delightfully titled Chez What? Sat at the counter and we all got meat or non-meat burgers. Before long I realized our waitress was the drummer of the Nearly Deads who I played a show with back in January. Small world.

Played Palace at the Medicine Hat, drinking my one allotted beer (as opposed to the usual three or four) which could only be cheap domestic beer or it'd cost me $2 extra. Yum. The local bands were really good in their different ways. But that was really the only plus for the evening.

The main issue: the sound just plain sucked. I heard it sounded good out in the house, but doing improvisational composition when you can't hear the other musicians (or hear them way too much) is uninspiring to say the least. A secondary issue: as expected since the local draw already saw the two local bands, the place cleared immediately.

Still, I got an earful of compliments from those who stayed about my rippin' bass chops. Nobody bought CDs, and the girl who booked the show arrived after everyone left and handed us $33. Supposedly the doorman said there were 18 paying people and 10 guests. There were well over 50 people in the club at its peak, beyond band and staff. And entrance to the club was a whopping $7. I'm not saying the doorman was stealing any money, though this a common practice I'm unfortunately familiar with and, well, you do the math. This is what it's really like to be a rock star, people.

And by the way, this show was made even worse the next night when we discovered that Frank lost his stick bag and nobody at the Medicine Hat club said they saw it anywhere.

Saturday involved more sleep and bumming around downtown Portland, looking for drum supplies which weren't bought since they were way overpriced, getting more yummy Thai food, spending an hour at Powell's, and then heading back to the house to meet Mitch (who was skateboarding with a friend all afternoon).

Mitch arrived with some pain in his wrist and ribs having a bit of a fall during his outing. We split to the Meow Meow, and by that point Mitch couldn't carry any equipment with his left hand. By soundcheck, he couldn't even wrap his hand around the guitar neck, and played it like a lap steel.

He iced it over dinner (at a delicious Mediterranean restaurant around the corner - man, we ate well this tour) and took some pain killers back at the club. Luckily we were on first.

Anyway, here I was back at the Meow Meow, one again playing first on a bill with many bands that didn't fit well with us at all. There was a slightly better and more responsive crowd than when Mumble & Peg was here a couple months ago. This was also probably our best show of the tour, even with Mitch constrained to minimal ambient textures. Todd, who runs the whole show there, was incredibly nice, and we got our thirty some odd bucks and loaded on out before the second band got on.

Searched in the rain for an unlocked dumpster to throw away all the garbage collected in the van, said goodbye to our hosts in the street who made our stay completely comfortable and easy, and headed on out for another long drive through the night.

Stayed up way late yapping with Frank about politics and getting drive-thru fast food. Had an unsettling quest for an open gas station in the middle of nowhere while running on empty. We ended up at the same gas station with the same middle-of-the-night attendant who pumped our gas as the last time I drove back from the northwest. He must only get bands making their way home to SF at this time on a Saturday night.

I got to drive during sunrise over Shasta Lake, and then through the really boring parts of I-5. Dropped off Eli first in the city, and then me in Oakland. Got in around 10:00am and somehow managed to stay awake the remainder of the day. Went to work completely brain dead the following day.

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