2011 US Tour Post #9 - The End of the Beginning... 

I am in my room over my family's garage in Elk Grove, CA, sitting in my red plastic Ikea chair next to my work table and my keyboard, a space where I've spent a good deal of my time since we moved into this house in late 2002, eight and a half years ago.  I remember when this room was empty and I sat in the corner at fifteen listening to my recently purchased CD of "Exile on Mainstreet" on my discman imagining what it would look like filled with my things.  I remember so many songs of mine written in this room, musical jam sessions with friends, intimate moments with loved ones, days where I moved out and days where I moved back in, and days where I sat and did little more than just let the time slip by.  It's a comfort and a dangerous thing to come home to a room like that you've lived so long in and a dangerous thing perhaps because it is such a comfort.  Tour has been an exercise in leaving the comfortable and the familiar and being somewhere and something new every day.  The danger of coming home is losing that newness you've accumulated over months of living on the road in strangers' houses and stranger towns.  Seeing my family again for the first time in two and a half months has been so wonderful and I am so grateful to have such amazing parents and sisters to come home to.  It's more me, the me who has sat in this room for eight and a half years, that I've been more wary of returning to.  I want to stay who I've been these past two and a half months on the road, where no distraction was great enough to keep me from where I was going on any given day.  In the end I am only however I react to any given set of circumstances be it driving across the country or being home.  We hold ourselves to a higher standard when we know we're going to be in a difficult set of circumstances and work to prove that we can be at our best in spite of them.  We have the tendency to let ourselves slide beneath our best when we're in a time of ease and comfort.  I want to provide myself with a healthy dose of discomfort even while back in this room I know all too well to give me an occasion to rise above.  But I digress.... I still need to finish this particular story....!


Drove to Chicago...all things go?  Not us.  Chicago was maybe the first major city we visited and didn't even make an attempt to explore.  We'd been before and it's a great town but it was getting close to the end of the tour and we were exhausted.  Plus when we did make one attempt to spend some time in the city, there was nowhere to park.  So instead we enjoyed the comfort of Ricky's cousin Maureen's apartment where we stayed for three nights just outside of the city in a place called Downer's Grove...not the most cheerful name for a town.  Maureen however was a very cheerful person and she and her son Nick were lots of fun to be around.  It was particularly special for Ricky, as she hadn't met them since she was very small and had very little memory of them at all.  After months of staying with mainly my family and friends, it was interesting being on the other end listening to Maureen share stories with Ricky about their family history.


We had two shows scheduled in Chicago, the first taking place Saturday night at a place called Martyrs.  Martyrs seemed to be a cut above most of the venues we were accustomed to playing on the tour.  I'm not really sure why.  Maybe it was the pro stage lighting or the fact that the sound seemed to be better than usual and the show actually ran impeccably on time.  Or maybe it was because it said on the wall that Neil Innes had performed there the week before.  In any case, it was a good show.  We played well, the sound was great, and the crowd was very attentive.  A good show...except that out of the at least twenty people or so who lined up at the merch counter after the show, not a single person bought anything of Ricky's or mine.  They were all there to see the singer/songwriter, Jay Nash, who played after us and while we got a few polite "good jobs" from the audience members, the line was for him not for us.  It made sense since he had brought the crowd and had a national following and all that, but I guess we were hoping that we'd at least win somebody over.  Our parade was officially rained upon when after the show we found that our car had been ticketed.  Apparently Chicago's parking meters run until 9.


"My Sweet Enemy" live at Martyrs - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1F3BJsSP80

"The Lost and the Free" live at Martyrs - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VvN8udVUh0

"Time Can't Fly A Plane" live at Martyrs - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAwpBSb2IwE


We woke up the next morning to tornado warnings and huge thunderstorms but by the mid afternoon it had cleared up and was actually pretty nice out.  Our gig that night was scheduled to take place at a place called the Horseshoe.  We got there as per usual about an hour before show time.  The door was locked when we arrived so we sat outside and ran through some songs on the curb while waiting for someone to show up.  Fifteen minutes passed.  Then a half an hour.  After waiting about forty minutes we decided to call the club to see if we could get anyone.  No answer.  I used Ricky's iPhone to check my email and found an email from the venue sent just a few hours ago informing us that due to the weather (which as I said, by that time had completely cleared up) and the Memorial Day weekend, the manager had decided not to open that day.  Imagine if we had driven to Chicago for just that one show!  We've witnessed some pretty unprofessional behavior from venues before but this took the cake.  Note to touring musicians: avoid this venue!  Determined to do something to take our mind off the dejection of having our gig canceled, we headed downtown to spend some time enjoying Chicago but as I mentioned before, parking spaces simply do not exist outside of parking garages that charge $15 an hour.  We headed back to Maureen's apartment and decided to refine some of the magic that had spontaneously taken place on stage in Marion a few days earlier.  Ricky and I are often at odds in our musical tastes but if there's one act we both hold in equal high esteem and can always seem to agree on it's Simon and Garfunkel so it seemed natural that "The Boxer" would become the latest cover we'd add to our repertoire.  After running it a few times, we filmed it (complete with us being our obnoxious usual selves for the first two minutes) and here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpFvsfS-I6U


We left Chicago the following afternoon and drove an hour north to Milwaukee.  An old high school friend of mine named Victoria had specifically asked that we come and play Milwaukee and given the fact that we were playing to primarily strangers on this tour, this was enough to lead me to find a gig.  The place that ended up accepting us, Bremen Cafe, was a rowdy little bar and on that particular Monday was filled with tipsy old war veterans celebrating Memorial Day and drinking until they didn't remember anymore.  The rowdy crowd made for a fun show.  One guy exclaimed ecstatically that I was even better than Hall and Oates and then asked Ricky if I was her dark God.  Quite what that means I'm not sure. Victoria, whom I'd not seen since ninth grade, asked me to play a song I'd written that year for the school CD and never being one to refuse a request, I awkwardly obliged.  Ricky and I debuted "The Boxer" (at least intentionally) and had the whole crowd singing along.


"Jonah" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVrM2OpvTPQ

"Sunflower" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XBB-KPVTvs

"Touch" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QymOMXfjlp8

"My Sweet Enemy" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b43Kp8VwG0

"Still Life" live at Bremen Cafe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB31QeMX_74


The following day was a driving day.  We were now decidedly heading west and with only one show, the tour ending became the pervading reality.  We stayed Tuesday night in Omaha with a couch surfing host we'd stayed with the year before named Justin and his corgi Zabe.  The next evening we played our last show of the tour in Omaha at the Barley Street Tavern.  It was a great show to go out on.  Everything went right.  The rest of the lineup was awesome and included a fantastic band called All Young Girls Are Machine Guns which played some of the most soul driven ukulele led music I've ever heard (not to mention great songs) and YouTube phenomenon Danielle Ate the Sandwich who earns every bit of her following by writing introspective songs spiced with a witty sense of humor also played primarily on the ukulele (Plug: I'll be playing with her at Naked Lounge in Sacto on July 2nd).  I was actually the only artist on the bill not to utilize a ukulele during my set (as well as the only male singer/songwriter).  We got paid from the door, sold CDs and the crowd loved us.  Great show to go out on!


Tour had been our reality for the last two and a half months.  It was strange that we had now played our last show and that reality would be ending.  Strange that it would be weeks before I would play many of the songs again I'd been performing almost every night since March.  Strange that it would be weeks before I'd hear Ricky's songs again that had become so much a part of my daily soundtrack.  All the little things were what we talked about missing the most....  Waking up in sleeping bags on some strangers floor, going to Whole Foods, standing at some gas station in the middle of God knows where, and just being immersed in a brand new setting every day.


We drove fifteen hours on Thursday to Salt Lake City where a very kind couch surfing host named Brad let us have his studio apartment all to ourselves for the night.  We watched a documentary called Food Inc. which explored the corruptness of the food industry that Ricky had been talking to me about for years.  It really did make an impact on me and I think Ricky and are going to shoot for putting on a benefit show for organic farmers later this year or early next.  We left Salt Lake City on Friday around noon and drove the relatively short nine and a half hour long drive back to California.  There might not be any point more beautiful in the entire United States than the first hour or so after crossing the California border going through the Donner Pass bedazzled with pine trees crested with glistening white snow.  We arrived home around 9.  We had less money in our pockets than we had when we'd started but weren't completely broke.  We'd played for countless more people than we would have had we stayed in Sacramento.  People at almost every show went home with our CD's.  We met people who seemed intent in following our music careers for years to come and others who offered to help us further things as much as they could.  We played so many shows for nobody also and many of the shows where there was an audience, very few people paid attention.  While measuring the concrete success of the tour is difficult, what was undeniably successful is setting and completing a daily goal for ourselves in working on music.  No matter what distractions or moods or energy level may have faced us when we woke up in the morning, there was no question that we would get in the car and get to our next destination and play our show that night.  I'm now taking that approach at home.  Every day is a new goal and there is no question about accomplishing these things.  The tour doesn't stop.  We keep going distances every day on the road of life and music.


So that's the story.  Now it's time to praise those who made this story possible.  It is a cliché to say "the people who made this possible" but I mean that as literally as you can here.  The fuel (often literally) that this tour ran on was literally the kindness of others, strangers who treated us like family and family who were the best friends we could ever ask for.  Enough cannot be said for how amazed and humbled we were that when we decided to take this cannon ball dive off the edge of a cliff known as touring, parachutes in the form friends, family, and complete strangers opened above us to help us land safely.  So with the humility of a beggar whose dreams only magnify his own smallness, I want to sincerely thank the following people:


Those who donated money towards our tour on Feed the Muse:


Frank Lopez

Gregory Darrow

Glen Kimberlin

Brent, Mary Ann, Corey, Delaney, and Natalie Bourgeois

Kevin and Lily Mershon

Gio Bruno

Joanne Lavoie

Jonathon Broom

Ruben Garcia

Clint Parker

Caitlin Bellah

Linda Michalowski

Tim, Mary, James and Elaine Hunter

Sandy Sumners

Steve Fawcett

Brian Bourgeois

Brian Batch

Kathi Barber

Jeannie Biondi

Holly Dallas

Dean Preston

Dustin McCall

Dave and Rachel Lyman

Dana Gumbiner

Jerry, Angela, Joshua, Miranda, and Clarissa Shawn

Justin MacDonald

Jenni Roberts



Those who gave us a place to stay:


Carson Lattimore (Portland, OR)

Wendy, Steve, Stephanie, and Skye Grace (Mukilteo, WA)

Becky Bourgeois and Ray Zimmerman (Orange, CA)

Louis and Ana Smith (Las Vegas, NV)

Ken, Peggie, Caralie and Tully Balcom (Mesa, AZ)

Bryan Hamilton (San Antonio, TX)

Cody Blakeney (San Antonio, TX)

Brian and Ilda Bourgeois (Houston, TX)

Harry Bourgeois (Dallas, TX)

Desi and Erich Richter (New Orleans, LA)

Charlie and Andi Ashworth (Nashville, TN)

David and Carla Schober (Brentwood, TN)

Charlie Letts (Charleston, SC)

Alita Hawksworth (Columbia, SC)

Peter King (Athens, GA)

Robby Mogan (Nashville, TN)

Laura Henry (Abingdon, VA)

Monica Thibodeau (Duck, NC)

Dan Allen (Washington, DC)

Ana Jantz (Frederick, MD)

Carl and Andrea Divito (Staten Island, NY)

Coral Bourgeois, Scott, Miles and Ruby Stenhouse (Providence, RI)

David Luekens (Burlington, VT)

Cyrano Patton (Cleveland, OH)

Brian and Laurie Rivers (Cincinnati, OH)

Tim Leong (St. Louis, MO)

Cody McGinnis (Kokomo, IN)

Maureen Lattimore (Downers Grove, IL)

Victoria Robison and Ross Oldenburg (Milwaukee, WI)

Justin McDowell (Lincoln, NE)

Brad Barnes (Salt Lake City, UT)


The awesome artists we encountered and shared shows with (please check them out yourself!):


Andrea Lockwood

Gina Belleveau

The Fortune Dwellers

Autumn Sky

Daniel Park

Kimberly Cotton


Paige Lewis

Brian Batch

Aurora Neland and the Royal Roses

Robby Mogan

Amy Speace

The Eureka Birds

Carousel Rogues

The Medicine

Miles Stenhouse

The Paul Speidel Band

Polina Kourakina

Chuck Berry

Jay Nash

All Young Girls Are Machine Guns

Danielle Ate the Sandwich


All the venues that hosted shows for us!


Chris MacIntosh, 11 o'clock Rock and the Blue Plate Special for giving us air time on their radio programs.


Travis Rosen and Alex Wash for helping us with booking.


Every single person who came to see us perform, especially those who bought CD's and proverbially and literally put food on our table!


And finally, maybe more than anyone, I want to thank Ricky for sharing this amazing adventure and being there with me and for me through all the long days and nights of what would have been an otherwise lonely journey (as I experienced first hand the weeks she was gone).  Ricky and I are very different from one another and I won't say that we don't often clash, but I couldn't ask for a greater friend who genuinely cares and I know will be in my life for the entirety of it.  After nearly two and half months of being around each other 24/7, we were never short on long in depth conversation all the way to the last day.  Touring with Ricky is never boring and is always inspiring.  We came up with more ridiculous and appallingly offensive inside jokes along the way than I can count and also grew and learned a lot just from being around each other.  Most of all, it made all the difference in the world just to have someone there at the end of the day who was experiencing the same things I was and who I know for the rest of my life I'll always share these memories with.


And now we're home.  This summer already has so many projects planned for it.  Even though the tour is over, I'm going to keep blogging every few weeks just to keep you all posted on everything.  We have our homecoming gig here in Sacramento at the Refuge on June 17th with Musical Charis and Autumn Sky, which will be a fun way to bring our tour to an official close.  If there's been one constant in my life, it's music.  It is the greatest friend and comfort I always come back to but also the greatest uncertainty I put myself through.  It is constant and has always been there for me, so I commit myself to it.  And today, like every other, is yet another day at the races....

2011 US Tour Post #8- When the music in my head started playing in your ears... 

It's getting very near the end....  Hard to believe, but if all goes as planned, Ricky and I will be arriving back in Sacramento next Friday after two and half months on the road playing a gig nearly every day of it.  I'm ready to be home, honestly, but mainly so I can get working on things that are beginning and continuing rather than something that is ending.  It's weird but even after all this traveling and performing and unpredictable sleeping arrangements, I don't feel tired or worn out.  I don't feel the need to stay in bed for a week or anything like that.  I'll be home Friday night and I'll be ready to get going on the next project Saturday morning.  This summer's going to be spent gigging regionally as much as I can, recording my next album, and putting a band together and I can't wait to get started.  If anything, this tour has affirmed once and for all that music is a lifestyle and a living and I don't see any reason to ever do anything otherwise.  In a way, everything this tour embodies isn't ending at all.  I'm just going home to refine the process and make it even better.

I did something last Tuesday while we were still in Providence on our night off that I hadn't really done before which was produce a song for someone else.  My cousin Miles wanted to me to arrange song he had written so after recording a guitar and vocal take from him, I basically banished him from the room and spent the rest of that evening and the following afternoon putting together a track.  It was an interesting exercise building parts around a song that I wasn't really familiar with as opposed to one of my own songs which obviously I would be intimately acquainted with and would have lots of time to think about.  It ended up turning out nicely and I think Miles was pleased with it too.

Ricky, Miles, and I all played Wednesday night as the featured performers at a local open mic night at a coffeeshop called Brooklyn Tea and Coffee.  Apparently "featured" was taken more literally than we had expected since for the first hour or so we were the only performers and for a little while, the only audience members too.  A few other musicians showed up a little later and some jamming ensued which was kind of fun but over all it felt a little bit like a wasted night.

We had our first booking snafu of the tour over Thursday's gig in Boston.  I'd originally booked with a venue called All Asia, but then a few days later I got an email saying that they thought we'd be better off playing at another venue they booked called Limelight Stage and Studios.  Someone obviously wasn't talking to each other because Wednesday night I got confirmation emails from both All Asia and Limelight both telling me that I was confirmed to play at their venue on the same night.  We ended up going with Limelight since that was the one that I had gotten the impression I was playing at to begin with it and was what I had listed on our event page.  Not sure that this was the right decision as Limelight ended up being a club whose main purpose seemed to be for being rented out for karaoke nights.  And it was completely empty.  Actually I should say that the room we were playing in was completely empty but several of the smaller rooms right off of our room were filled with people singing to loud karaoke that was competing very well against Ricky and my acoustic performance.  To make matters worse, the venue had counted Ricky and I as completely separate acts and had put us in the first and third slots with an electric blues trio playing in between us.  It's always an awkward situation showing up to a gig where there is literally no audience.  Do you perform anyway or is there a point?  We went ahead and did our set for the sound guy and the blues trio waiting to go on and mainly did songs that we hadn't performed yet on tour as sort of a glorified rehearsal...one that took an hour to drive to and cost $15 to park at with compensation or even free food included.  It was definitely not one of our best moments.  I felt even more sorry for the leader of the blues band who had actually hired the musicians who were playing with him that night basically to perform for Ricky and I.  We played another short set after they were done and then got the hell out of there.  We've comforted ourselves a number of times on this tour saying, "Well at least that's got to be the worst night of the tour....it can only get better from here!"  So far we haven't always been correct on that one....and it only took a day to prove us wrong this time...

We left Providence Friday afternoon for Springfield, Vermont.  Either we took a wrong turn somewhere and the GPS continued its tour long boycott of u-turns, or New England is just short on freeways, but our entire three hour drive was on neighborhood streets through small town after small town.  And not even towns...  We passed by signs that said "Village speed limit" and warning signs for horse and buggies crossing.  The towns had names like "Russia" or "Poland" or "Rome".  We had taken a wrong turn and ended up in Eastern Europe apparently.  The villages looked untouched for over a hundred years as if the world had gone through two great wars, the automobile, the airplane and the internet and yet the families here still tilled the same farms and sat on the same porches that their ancestors had for centuries.

Springfield was a slightly bigger version of one of these villages, your garden variety New England colonial town.  The venue, the New 802, was located underneath a Verizon Wireless store.  I bet they got great reception in there.  Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to find out as we made the unpleasant discovery that the building had apparently been deserted for months.  Some slightly worn looking show posters from December 2010 were on the walls and the floor was covered in dust.  We found out from the lady in the Verizon store that they'd been gone for at least a month and nobody seemed to know where they went.  Of course nobody bothered to write and tell us this.  Upon further research we found that their website had been shut down and even an email I tried to send came back returned.  The only phone number I had for them apparently was a landline, probably the number for the now nonexistent venue.  The more things go wrong, the more things we found to be grateful for.  At every gig since we've been able to stop and think and thank God that at least the venue was there!  There was a bowling alley at the end of the street that we thought we'd lift our spirits at but even that was closed.  We ended up talking to a few local guys who lived across the street from the former venue and were curious why a strange white van was parked in front of their house.  We gave them CD's and they actually wrote us both on Facebook later to tell us how much they liked our music so I guess even without a gig we still made a few fans!

From there we drove two hours north to Burlington, Vermont which actually proved to be a hip little college town.  We killed time at a little coffeehouse for a few hours where I finally utilized the chess set I'd been carrying around on my back all tour by teaching Ricky how to play.  She said she prefers Candy Land, but I'm sure it will grow on her eventually...maybe....  We met up with our Couch Surfing host afterward.  I don't know how we would do this without couchsurfing.org as a resource.  Most people we tell about Couch Surfing either think it's an amazing idea, or are horrified and assume we must have a death wish.  So far we haven't stayed with any psycho killers yet and David proved to be no exception.  Very nice guy.  Our show in Burlington the next night at the Skinny Pancake was lots of fun.  It was the first outdoor show we'd played on the tour (besides an short-lived set I started in the patio of Chucktown Tavern in Charleston which got rained on after a few songs).  We were in the middle of a fairly crowded restaurant patio with lots of families and couples.  I on a whim asked if anyone had requests and a guy at the table closest to the stage asked if I would play "Waltz #2" by Elliott Smith.  I replied what a coincidence that was since I had covered that song for an Elliott Smith tribute album a few years back called "Coming Up Roses" and he said he thinks he may have heard that very album.  So I may have had a fan in Burlington, Vermont.  Maybe.  We got to play for two hours straight and being the self-indulgent artists we are, we loved every minute of it!

Wow...each blog I write, the harder it is to remember what happened.  Too many cities and shows to keep track of in my head...or maybe I'm just getting old...or some combination of the two.  Anyway, the next day, Sunday, was a driving day with no gig.  We had a ten hour drive from Burlington to Cleveland.  New York's odd shape meant traveling back through the state we had left we'd left over a week ago.  The rest of New York couldn't be more different from the city.  It was one of the most beautiful drives of the tour.  It's funny what a state can get known for.  Driving through hours worth of natural forest made you wonder if the jungle of skyscrapers that is Manhattan really was missing the potential of how great the state could really be (funny I'm saying this after finishing the Fountainhead).  We stopped in Liverpool (not that Liverpool) which was about the midway point of our trip, to see my mom's cousin Jan whom I'd never met before.  Jan seemed delighted to have family stopping through and she, her husband Al, and her daughter Cathy treated us to a delicious Italian dinner.  They were very nice people and I look forward to seeing them again.  We got into Cleveland around 1:30am that night to stay with Cyrano, another Couch Surfing host.

There was no way we could be in Cleveland, the ultimate rock and roll city (still a little unclear why) and not visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum.  While on tour I've seen historic monuments to presidents, world famous works of art, and age old dinosaur fossils but none of it compared to seeing John Lennon's Sgt. Pepper jacket, the actual mellotron the intro to "Strawberry Fields" was played on, and the handwritten lyrics to songs like "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young and "School Days" by Chuck Berry.  After viewing these and countless other amazing artifacts, we actually spent a good deal of the day in the museum movie theater where they were showing the footage of the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden featuring the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, U2, and Bruce Springsteen.  I wish I could sit and watch that footage before every gig I play.  There's nothing more inspiring to see these legendary artists who have stood the test of time performing songs that will last ten times their lifespan for a tens of thousands of people clinging to ever word and note.  That night's gig at Wilbert's was all the more invigorated as a result.  You watch a show like that and you can't help but channel Bruce and Bono just a little bit...  We had a small but attentive audience who truly seemed to be into our music more than any audience had been in a good little while.

"The Lost and the Free" live at Wilberts- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1ntpkLhziw
"As Your Hands Can Hold" live at Wilberts- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym1wEN4qbdE

Things were looking up!  Two good shows in a row!  You have to take every victory you can while on the road and sometimes that just means you were able to get eight people to pay attention while you play and half of them buy CD's.  Every good show makes the next one even better because so much of what makes a good performance comes from confidence in knowing that you're connecting with your audience.

We drove after the show in Cleveland four hours south to Cincinnati to stay with my high school music teacher Brian Rivers.  Brian had left Charter a few years after I graduated to move to Cincinnati so it had been several years since I last saw him.  It was great to catch up and he was kind enough to give me the full Cincinnati initiation experience by treating me to some delicious Skyline chili over pasta (this coming from a decidedly non-chili fan) and Graeters Ice Cream.  It was cool getting to perform in front of someone who certainly knew me when, following me and my musical process since I was not fifteen.  The show at Sitwell's Coffeehouse was another great one.  The place was pretty full and everyone seemed to really like us and gave us an encore after we'd already played a good two hours worth of music.  Someone in the audience, after seeing that Ricky was an avid ukulele enthusiast, ran home and brought back a ukulele that had actually been played by Tiny Tim and let her add herself to list of musical legends (past or future) who had wielded the instrument.

Speaking of musical legends, the following day was one that Ricky and I had been looking forward to for most of the tour.  Ricky had outdone herself on my last birthday by getting me tickets to the Bridge School Benefit concert to see Buffalo Springfield and Elvis Costello and a whole bunch of other amazing artists.  I'd let her January birthday slip by, mainly because I couldn't find anything that would come close to equalling that.  While we were in Dallas a month earlier, I found my chance.  We were both aware of the fact that Chuck Berry played once a month in St. Louis at a restaurant called Blueberry Hill.  We'd talked before we started the trip about how cool it would be if our schedule coincided with one of those performances to put us close enough to go catch him.  While in Dallas I saw that it just so happened that our show in Cincinnati fell on the day before Chuck's monthly concert.  St. Louis was six hours out of the way but it was too close to pass up.  Price-wise I didn't even come close to what Ricky got me.  I spent $40 per ticket to see probably the greatest living legend of rock and roll at an intimate venue.  After eating dinner in the restaurant part of the venue, a fifties style all American diner with the walls covered with rock memorabilia, we descended down into the Duck Room where Chuck Berry was to take the stage.  It almost didn't seem real.  We'd played in bigger rooms on this tour.  For all you Sacramentans reading this, the room was smaller than Harlows.  There was an opening act, a very good alt-country band who played way too long and left that impression much more strongly than that of how good they actually were (note to self next time I get to open for someone big)....and then after a short break....HE appeared!  I don't care what anyone says about anyone else, Chuck Berry is the king of rock and roll.  John Lennon put it best saying, "If you were to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry."  He's 84 years old and there was really no getting around that fact as his fingers landed often unpredictably on the fret board of his cherry colored Les Paul sometimes momentarily playing a half step up from the rest of his band (which included his often bewildered looking son).  At one point he started singing the words to the song he'd just finished to the song he was currently playing.  But it was Chuck Berry and nothing can describe getting to hear "Roll Over Beethoven", "Nadine", "School Days", "Around and Around", "Memphis, Tennessee", "Wee Wee Hours", particularly raunchy renditions of "My Ding-a-Ling" and "Reelin' and Rockin'" and of course the immortal "Johnny B. Goode", complete with Duck Walk and everything, by not some underrehearsed overpaid bar band, but by the composer and artist himself who still behind all the cracks that came with old age sounded just like those glorious old records.  Ricky and I were trying to think of a musical legend that would have been alive in their eighties when our grandparents were in their twenties in the 1940's and we really couldn't come up with anyone.  The fact that we were able to still see a musical legend so removed in time from us was almost unprecedented.  If there's one element missing from the current music scene of the past fifteen years or so, it's Chuck Berry.  Then the unthinkable happened.  When the show was over, a good portion of the crowd gathered by the stage door.  Then one of the stagehands commanded everyone to lineup single file across the stage, no pictures, and you'd be lucky if you got an autograph....we were going to meet Chuck Berry!  We were completely unprepared.  We scrambled around in our pockets and purses for any scrap of paper we could find for him to sign.  I was tempted to sprint back to the car for my guitar but was too afraid I would miss him all together.  Then I realized I still had one of my harmonicas in my pocket!  We stood breathlessly in line moving inch by inch closer to the door behind which the king was waiting.  Then when there were two people in front of us, the stagehand came out and announced that Mr. Berry was done for the night.  We were crushed and tried to plead our case but the stagehand wasn't having it saying that Chuck had probably already left the building.  That was our cue to bolt out of the room and out of the building, and run around the corner to the back stage door to see if we could catch him.  We stood with a small handful of other fans waiting with memorabilia and sharpies for about ten minutes and then the door opened and out came Chuck, his son and the stagehands.  The stagehands motioned us to stay back as Chuck got into the driver's seat of his car and slowly began to drive himself out of the parking lot.  Chuck Berry drives his own car...no limo, no driver, just him.  Seemed extremely fitting to me.  As he approached the corner where we all stood in breathless anticipation, he stopped and slowly rolled down the window of his car.  We all nervously approached and he took a sharpie from someone and began signing everything we put in front of him including a piece of paper for Ricky and my harmonica.  Then when his faithful had been appeased, he drove off into the night.  My D harmonica with a barely legible black sharpie scribble that even has faded a bit from being in my pocket is going to be something I keep for the rest of my life and tell my children and their children to preserve as long as there is still a memory alive of "Johnny B. Goode".

"My Ding a Ling" by Chuck Berry live at Blueberry Hill- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlvD8PGzf9c

We stayed the night in St. Louis with another couch surfer named Tim and then after sleeping in the next morning drove to Marion, IN.  Indiana's state slogan is "The Crossroads of America" which is a very euphemistic way of saying "the state that you cross through to get somewhere else".  Apparently Marion is known for two things: the birthplace of James Dean and the site of the last known public lynching which actually took place right across the street from where we performed that night.  What a legacy.  Beatnik's was a very long and spacious room that amplified its emptiness quite grandly.  After several nights in a row of great audiences, it was a bit of a come down to play for nobody again.  As per usual a few people wandered in and out and the owner loved us and was very apologetic about the crowd ("what crowd?" I quipped from the stage...what a brat!), but it was a fairly anticlimactic end to a pretty good week.  I think the momentum from the previous shows still allowed me to put on a really good performance that night.  As I said, it's difficult to keep that up when the end of each song is met with near silence, but I guess that's the trick to the whole business of performing, giving it all the same way you would to your mirror in your bedroom or to a packed Madison Square Garden.  Something really magical happened at that show.  Ricky started playing the beginning of our regular closing song, "Stingy" but for some reason it struck me at that moment to start singing the words to Simon and Garfunkel's song "The Boxer" over it.  Ricky quicky fell in with me and we went through the whole song together.  Those moments of pure spontaneous performance are my favorites.

"Shot In the Dark" live at Beatnik's - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUYtF9_-OXg

We stayed in a place called Kokomo.  Not exactly place I'd want to go to get away from it all, but it wasn't too far off and we had a Couch Surfing host to stay with, a guy named Cody who was a very hospitable host.  We woke up today drove four hours to Chicago where we are now staying with Ricky's cousins.  It's weird to think that this is probably the last journal entry I'll write while actually on the road as I'll more than likely write the last one covering this coming week in the comfort of my bedroom though the road does have a kind of home like comfort for me.  It really has made me realize that home is something you take with you, not somewhere you go.  In some ways, home is this particular set of songs I play almost every night for a new group of strangers.  I feel like it was almost by chance that these particular songs would be mine to carry with me for the rest of my life but isn't that what family is?  Walking through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame put into focus what I'm aiming for and makes each gig into a step well treaded by each and every one of those luminaries whose footsteps I'm giving everything to follow.  Sometimes to be admitted into the hall, you have to lose your way among the rooms for while, trying out every bed and searching for hidden passages between the walls...

2011 US Tour Post #7- Attack of the Wereplane! 

One thing I look forward to most about tour: going to NYC.  One thing I look forward to least about tour: driving in NYC.  I don't even know why they bother with paying for things like lane dividers or traffic lights, let alone traffic cops.  It seems to be 100% traffic anarchy.  Within fifteen minutes of circling around downtown Manhattan while looking for parking to pick Ricky up from her hotel, a taxi on a one way street decided to make a left turn from the middle lane on a green light in front of my car, swiping the front side and leaving traces of yellow paint before speeding off.  It'd be great to experience living in New York some day, but I think I'd rather have a horse than a car.  At least one that knew how to leap over cars.

It was great seeing Ricky again after a week and a half of solitary confinement.  She had only the day before started feeling well enough to come back and she still wasn't at 100% but she at least felt well enough to start performing and traveling again.  The gig that night was at a place called R Bar which we had played last year.  It was nice getting the chance to perform at this place fully coherent this year.  Last year we had to drive 14 hours almost non-stop from Chicago with only a small three hour sleeping break to make it in time for our gig at R Bar following some truly unfortunate car troubles the day before.  I'm convinced that besides the phonetically pleasing sound of it, the R in R Bar stands for red as the walls, lighting, artwork and political views (just guessing) all had a distinct crimson tone.  It was a good show; not a ton of people there but the people who were there were pretty enthusiastic about it.  Mostly it was great to hear Ricky's songs again for the first time in three weeks!

"Hanging Day" live at R Bar- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioSUD3lOVK8
"My Sweet Enemy" live at R Bar- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twNMymzPv2o

I don't know how people toured before social networking.  It is truly a modern phenomenon to be able to put up on Facebook "Looking for a place to stay in New York" and three days later, as a result of being in touch with people from all periods of my life, some of whom we haven't talked to in years, we were staying in our own rooms in a 19th century mansion in Staten Island.  The owners of the house were Carl and Andrea DiVito who were friends of Craig and Sophia Hansen, old friends of my parents from Nashville.  Small world.  And when I say mansion, I'm not exaggerrating.  Ornate chandeliers hung from the ceilings and Romantic era artwork covered the walls.  Carl runs a photography studio from the downstairs and with his two kids out of town, he was happy to have their rooms filled.  I know I keep harping on this same point in every blog but it's been truly amazing the people we've met on this trip who have been so generous to us.  We've truly been blessed.

We had the next day off so after sleeping most of the day away (one of the realities of touring...if you have the opportunity to sleep, you should take it!) we took the Staten Island Ferry over to Manhattan.  I loved riding the Ferry!  It's a beautiful ride and from the open deck you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty and the city as we approached.  In San Francisco, that same ride would have cost at least $20 but it's free to take the Staten Island Ferry.  I could have just stayed on there the whole trip.  Sure beats the bus.  We walked around Manhattan a bit, passing by Ground Zero and some old churches and making our obligatory pilgrimage to Whole Foods Market (it's amazing how you can travel the country and still eat at the same place almost every day).  We ended up at my cousin Miles's band practice and then took the ferry home.

The next night we played in Brooklyn at Goodbye Blue Monday where we'd actually played our last show of the tour last year.  It's a groovy little hole in the wall that you might miss if you didn't know it was there.  The crowd was decent, mainly brought out by Miles's band the Medicine who also played on the bill.  Miles has the kind of band I've been looking for for myself for years that features multiple singer/songwriters trading off songs.  They played really solid rock and roll set!  The show was ended by a ukulele player who threatened to take off an article of clothing per song.  When we saw he was intent on going through with it, we promptly left.

Maybe the most advantageous things about touring is the ability to set up meetings with people in areas of the country that you're not often in.  I had gotten in touch with David Kahne about a year earlier and sent him a song of mine and he'd responded very positively and told me to let him know if I'd be playing in New York.  I wrote him a few weeks ago about our shows on this tour and he said that while he was going to be swamped that week and unable to make it out, I was welcome to come by his studio if I had time.  For those of you who don't know, some of David's production credits include "Driving Rain" and "Memory Almost Full" by Paul McCartney (as well as being Paul's musical director on tour), "Begin to Hope" and "Far" by Regina Spektor, "I Megaphone" by Imogen Heap, "MTV Unplugged" by Tony Bennett (which won the Grammy for album of the year in 1995), "All Over the Place" by the Bangles, "First Impressions of Earth" by the Strokes.....just to name a few...(check out his website for a full resume: http://www.vincristin.com/home.php)  He's been one of my favorite producers for a long time so it was an honor to meet him.  Very friendly guy.  He showed me some of his gear and a little bit of an orchestral score he's written for a new Peter Pan ballet which was absolutely beautiful.  He had plenty of Paul stories to tell which I of course listened to with dropped jaw.  It was clear that even after producing so many amazing artists, the wonder of working with an actual Beatle was still not lost on him.  He asked me a lot about the tour and I told him a few stories of my own.  About a half hour into our conversation, the door opened and a girl in her late twenties/early thirties with bright red hair poked her head in looking very surprised to see me there.  "My next session," David explained and then turning to her said, "Ingrid, this is Adrian, a singer/songwriter from Sacramento..."  Yep.  Ingrid Michaelson.  She ended up being very friendly and seemed just as enthralled by David's Paul stories as I was.  I stuck around for about fifteen minutes more and then gave David my CD's as I was leaving (Ingrid seemed particular keen on my picture frame CD cases....if the next Ingrid Michaelson album comes out in picture frames, well you guys are my witnesses as to where she got the idea!).  David said to keep in touch and that he'd give me feedback on my recordings.  I was very glad to have met him.

I wandered Central Park for a little while afterward making my annual pilgrimage to the Dakota and Strawberry Fields and then I met up with my Aunt Coral and cousin Miles for late lunch at a restaurant called Good Stuff where some of Coral's artwork was hung.  Coral does some of the most unique artwork I've ever seen, combining prints with jewelry all on tiles.  Check out her work at www.coralbourgeois.com.  That night, Ricky and I drove about an hour outside the city to do a performance/interview on WCWP with Chris MacIntosh.  Chris looked like a cross between Santa Claus and Charles Darwin and was a really fun host, asking us lots of good, well informed questions unlike some shows I've been on when the host hardly even knows my name.

We played our last show in NYC the following night at Alphabet Lounge which ended up being to all intents and purposes a private show for my Aunt Coral, Uncle Scott, and Scott's sister Shelley.  The night wasn't a total loss though as we were treated afterwards to some delicious Puerto Rican food before heading over to the Medicine's show at another much better attended bar across town.

We left NYC the next morning and drove to Providence to pick up Miles's PA system for a house show we were playing that night in Cambridge, MA.  Damian Broussard had contacted me at the beginning of the tour offering to host a house show for us when we were in the area.  I had honestly forgotten about it, but about a week ago when I realized we still had a few open dates around this week, I wrote him and he put the whole thing together at the last minute.  There were about eight people there in the audience--pretty average sized crowd for this tour--but the difference between this and the bar shows we'd mainly been playing is that everyone who was there was there to see the show and listened attentively the whole time.  There was a much more communal vibe to being in somebody's living room at a kind of party then being the random background noise at some club.   It really got Ricky and I thinking that it might be advantageous to focus future tours around playing more of these.

The next night's show was at a restaurant in Providence owned by the parents of one of Miles's friends called Local 121.  Ricky and I expanded our regular in the round format to include Miles and it proved to be a really fun show featuring some choice collaborations, some planned, some spontaneous, and some that may as well have been spontaneous.....  Miles has really developed into a strong songwriter and it's hard to remember a better one that we've played on a bill with on this tour.

We had today off which we spent part of at Coral's studio.  She actually gave Ricky and I beautiful original tile pieces to take home with us which was pretty awesome of her.  Ricky posted a great article the other day that I think touches at the heart of what we face on a gig to gig basis which you can read here: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/11/12/Are-You-Too-Busy-to-Catch-the-Hidden-Beauty-Life-Has-to-Offer.aspx.  The gist of the article is that people are often more likely to respond to music because they know who's playing it rather than if they come across it unexpectedly performed anonymously.  It's a hard reality to fight, but on the other hand, at almost every show we've met at least one or two people who have told us that they truly enjoyed our music and would make sure there were more people out to see us next time.  And that is truly the point of all of this.

And that's the evening news folks!

2011 US Tour Post #6- Hats off to Howard Roark 

My main read for this tour has been The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (thanks Paige for the recommendation).  I've since learned that she's become quite the hero for the Tea Party movement.  Just from reading The Fountainhead I'm not quite sure why and I haven't let that knowledge ruin it for me.  It's actually a great book and I'm finding a lot to relate to especially in the two extreme and opposing characters of the main protagonists.  For those who haven't read the book (which I seem to be one of the last to be getting around to it), Peter Keating and Howard Roark are both young architects who have come up in the same school but take the careers in front of them with very different intents and styles.  Keating was always the most popular kid at school, a favorite among his peers and teachers for his charm and good looks and graduated top of his class.  He is very good at working people and making them feel friendly enough with him so that he can get them to do what he wants.  He moves very quickly from the draftsman's table to becoming a partner at one of the top architecture firms in New York.  His work is good; nothing anyone's never seen before, but exactly what people want and his charm leads people perhaps to believe that it's better than it is.  Inwardly he is conflicted between a sense of personal triumph and this feeling of vacantness and loss of humanity.  Roark was expelled from the same school for not following the "correct" method of architecture and refuting the institution's entire set of principles that it is founded.  His art is his religion.  The only thing that matters to him is making his visions a reality, compromising nothing from how he originally conceives it.  He is not popular.  Most people don't like him and are even a little afraid of the intensity he radiates like a man on a mission from God.  His work is like nothing anyone has ever seen before; some people don't get it and others are breathtaken.  He gets very few jobs and many of the ones he does get he turns down because they won't let him have 100% control of his vision.  He's admired by some who "get" him and despised by many, especially the architecture elite who seem as somewhere between a joke and a serious threat.  He would rather work construction than to go anywhere near an established architectural firm that won't let him have complete creative control.  He is a shrine unto himself and a vessel for something everything he knows to be beautiful about the world, the human spirit, and the essence of imagination even if he is the only one to see it.


I hopefully never get too close to either of these extremes, but the book has had me thinking about whether I lean one way or the other in my own artistic pursuit and if there is any middle ground at all.  In intent I feel more akin to Roark.  This is all only worth it to me if it stays real and I'm able to create according to my own uncompromised vision.  On the other hand, I'm performing my "uncompromised vision" every night at venues all over the country, more often than not playing to nearly empty rooms and making very little money, basically living day to day in an existence that really only runs off the charity of others.  Is that enough for me?  Is this what I want?  Probably not if I'm honest.  So what do I do?  Most people flock around a certain music performer or trend for what I consider to be all the wrong reasons that have nothing to do with beauty or music at all, but it sometimes seems that there is no easy alternative to pulling those same people towards me by all the same methods.  And the reason why I do this in the first place is because I can perform the songs I write the way I want to and if I have an intent, it's to lead the culture into embracing music for what it is and not because it's attached to anything spiritually or musically vapid.  The last thing I want to be is Peter Keating.  I also want to be successful at this though, and every artist is faced with this dilemma of finding the magic balance between making the art you want to make and giving the people what they want.  There's not a day on or off tour that I'm not faced with having to work to achieve this balance.


I've been touring alone for a week now.  I haven't started talking to myself yet, but I have been having lovely conversations with a volleyball I found, painted a face on and named Wilson...;)  No it hasn't reached that point either.  Actually the interesting thing is that I've definitely been doing a lot more singing than speaking.  I'll show up at the gig after a day of driving and say hello to the bartender or sound guy and realize that's the first usage my vocal chords have gotten all day.  Then after a little bit of small talk, I'll sing for an hour or so and then leave.  It's probably for the best too since I've been dancing dangerously close to a sore throat all week and the best cure for that is speaking as little as possible.  I've learned this week that I could feasibly tour alone--the driving hasn't been overly strenuous and I've been able to handle all the daily activities fine on my own--but I would never want to.  It definitely makes a huge difference having someone there you can share all these memories with and to commiserate with if there's misery to be shared as well.


I left off the last blog with the news that Ricky was going to be staying home until she got over her bronchitis which after ten days of antibiotics still didn't seem to be going away.  I had one more Nashville show to do before skipping town at a venue called the Listening Room.  What a concept!  It was one of countless "writers nights" that take place round the clock in Nashville where four or five budding songsmiths play in the round hoping that one song they play will be recognized by someone in the room as being the next Carrie Underwood or Tim McGraw single.  I got my own slot as the "special" guest so I didn't have to play in the round.  The pressure is always on the most when you only get to play four songs.  Most shows I go up and just play whatever comes to mind but when you have such a short set you really have to plan it out.  And as it goes with most things in life and especially things to do with music, just because you plan something out doesn't mean it's going to happen that way.  The moment I got up there and strummed my guitar to check the line, my D string broke so my setlist had to be revised at the last moment to just include keyboard songs.  The set seemed to have gone over well with the audience despite the lack of a guitar and some old friends came out including Robby, Charlie, and Katie Howard who told me the amazing news that she recently became the first American in thirty years to be accepted into the Royal College of Art in London!


That was the night we found out bin Laden had been killed.  Apparently the Navy SEALs were able to get inside his compound by writing him on CouchSurfing.org...they had excellent references and were verified and everything, but it just goes to show you never know who you're really letting into your house...;)  It was something that had to happen and Obama and everyone involved were very courageous in taking that chance, but it made me a little sick watching crowds of people singing "Na na na na na na na na hey hey goodbye" as if their team had just won the NBA finals.  The line between the high people get from war and what they get from sports is very thin (although I think sports is a much healthier choice than war--"make touchdowns not war!"), and while I think it's okay to feel a sense of closure from finally getting rid of our enemy who killed so many of our people, no death should ever bring us joy.  We should always be seekers of peace first and foremost and it should grieve us when it is necessary (if ever) to use to violence to achieve it.


Robby and stayed up and watched Obama make his speech and the newsroom noise that followed, and then two hours later I had to wake up to drive to Knoxville for an early morning internet TV program that a friend of Ricky's had set up for us.  It's always these morning shows that end up making me sick...literally.  One night of less than two hours of sleep is guaranteed to do me in every time and I could already feel the sore throat coming on as I foggily drove to Knoxville.  The TV station was really cool and the hosts were very cool people.  I got to do six or seven songs on the air and was interviewed in between.  There was one song I knew I needed to play in light of bin Laden's death, in some ways the moment this song was written for: "My Sweet Enemy".  The song is about seeing the war your fighting through the eyes of the person you're fighting against and realizing they're just as human as you are.  It's not about surrendering or even giving up the fight but at least being able to see things through the perspective that whatever monster you've built your enemy up to be may just be a mirror image in yourself and remembering that loving your enemy means seeing true victory as creating a world that you both can peacefully survive in.  Getting to play songs like this at times like these is the absolute peak of why I do music.  I hope people absorbed the song and took some time to rethink whatever conflicts they may be in on a personal or global scale.  I've been doing that song at almost every show since and hopefully it's having some sort of impact.  Here's "My Sweet Enemy" from that performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oX4vBN0oPdA

If you want to see the full show, go to http://www.knoxivi.com/eleven_o_clock_rock?eleven and scroll on the bottom until you see my name.


I spent the majority of the rest of the day walking around Knoxville with my old friend from middle school David Zager and then I played that night as the featured performer at a Knoxville open mic.  Somebody there reminded me that I was going to be performing on the Blue Plate Special radio program in Knoxville the following morning so I changed my plans of driving to Abingdon, VA that night and just stayed at a Motel 6.  The Blue Plate Special is actually somewhat of a Knoxville institution and actually takes place in front of a live audience at the Knoxville tourism center.  They boasted some fairly impressive alumni with photos of the Avett Brothers, Nickel Creek, and Jerry Douglas on the walls and I was told that the really impressive photos were on display somewhere else.  I did a five song set with an interview.  The audience was very attentive which was a nice break from the luck I'd been having for most of the previous week.  The other performer on the bill, Amy Speace, was also a terrific songwriter and performer.


I drove from there to Abingdon, a small town on the border of Tennessee and Virginia.  This was deep country I was entering now, towns that probably had had the same families living there since the town was founded around the same time the country itself was.  Another old middle school friends back from my Abintra Montessori days (represent!) Laura Henry was kind enough to host me for a week.  Of all my school experiences, my years at Abintra stick out as the most meaningful, and while I don't keep in touch with them as much as I would like, the small group of maybe six or seven classmates I was with the full four years I was there still feel like family to me, such was the closeness we shared during that time.  It was good catching up with Laura and David and just keeping track of what had changed and what had stayed the same after all these years.


I played that night in Johnson City, TN at Acoustic Coffeeshop (maybe the most straight forward venue name I've come across), another very small town not really on the map.  Sometimes those small town gigs are the best because the venue you play it is often the only venue in town and just kind of the main hang out.  I got a really good response at this show, but it was a little frustrating not to sell any CD's.  A lot of people came up to me saying they would buy something if they had money, and honestly usually in those situations I just give CD's to the people who want them.  It's better to have people go home with my music who are interested in going home with it than not whatever the cost.


As the Johnson City show was my fifth set in 48 hours, I was happy to have Wednesday off to not play a show and just sit at Laura's house and get some work done.  My throat was still not feeling in the best condition so it was good to be able to rest it.  The next day was Cinco De Mayo and I was to be the live festive entertainment at Live Bar in Greenville, North Carolina.  When I was very very little, my dad had this little routine he used to do where he'd pretend to be two scarecrows arguing with each other over which was named Scary and which was named Crowy and which one was from North Carolina and which was from South Carolina.  I think my perception as a child from that was that the Carolinas were more foreign to the California culture I was brought up in than Afghanistan.  I'm sure the Carolinians feel the same way about California and perhaps being from California then made sense for me to be chosen as an appropriate act for Cinco De Mayo.  This gig may have been the low point of the tour thus far.  I showed up thinking I would be going on around 8pm to find out that they thought it best for me to start around 11 when more people would be there.  More people did show up by 11 but none of them paid any attention to the 45 minute set I played and mainly stayed on the other side of the room offering pretty much no applause.  To make matters worse, after the owner told me to take a break, this duo came on and did a 20 minute set of Tenacious D cover songs and the crowd all gathered around the stage and loved every moment of it.  How do you beat that?  I even tried to find some middle ground by opening up my set with a cover of "Lady Madonna" but the crowd drifted off and the owner had me quit early.  The Roark vs Keating quandary was definitely heavy on my mind that night.  The show's one redeeming quality was that I did make a good amount of money at the door but half of that ended up having to be spent on a Motel 6 room since the show had gotten out so late.


The next day I drove to another backwoods little town called Mill Spring.  This place really was way off the beaten track.  All you Sacramentans reading this are familiar with the Crooked Mile at Fairy Tale town and I basically had to drive on that for about thirty minutes just to get into this town.  Beautiful drive but it definitely required my utmost attention to the road.  The GPS device decided it wasn't getting paid enough to work under those conditions either.  The venue was called the Ultimate Basement which really was this warehouse type building that had been made into a teen center as a safe place for the kids in town to come to hang out in and play video games or foozeball or that sort of thing.  The owner basically called everyone he knew in town to come down to see the concert going on so there was a decent sized audience (sad to say that comparatively speaking, fifteen people is decent sized) and they all seemed to respond positively to the music.


I played at another teen center called the Edge in another small town called Big Stone Gap, VA.  They may want to work on marketing a place called the Edge in Big Stone Gap as a safe place....  But it was a cool venue and there were a good amount of high school kids in attendance even if most of them spent the majority of the show hanging out on the couches in the other room.  Apparently they were listening since a lot of them came back and bought CD's and t-shirts.  It was somewhat refreshing playing for a younger crowd both of those nights.  High schoolers are often too cool to show much enthusiasm for anything but you can tell music means so much to them and I was happy to share it with them even if it was somewhat at a distance.


The next day, which happened to be Mothers Day, I left Laura's house for good and drove to Richmond for a gig at a billiards bar called the Triple.  I should have known that a billiards club on Mothers Day wasn't going to be very packed; besides a couple playing pool in the back who didn't even flinch when I said into the mic that the building was on fire just to test if they were paying attention, I basically played to the two bartenders.  At least they enjoyed it and especially seemed to appreciate me stumbling through requested covers of "Tiny Dancer", "I've Got a Woman" and "Superstition".


One of the drags of touring is that there's not a whole lot of time for actual tourism.  Usually you drive into a city, play the gig, go to bed wherever you're staying and then wake up and drive to the next city.  There was one "attraction" that I had made a point from the get go that I wanted to take the time to experience: Washington D.C.  I drove after the gig in Richmond to D.C. so I would be there in the morning.  I definitely got chills seeing the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building all lit up on the side of the freeway as I made my way into the city around 1am to stay at a CouchSurfing host's apartment.  I left the apartment around noon the next morning and spent about four hours wandering the National Mall.  For some reason I get an especially big high off being around famous things.  There's something so inspiring about being in the presence of a person or a monument or a building or a work of art that has been and is going to continue to be remembered for centuries.  It was truly thrilling to actually get to see in person the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building and the White House which was actually very very white--I don't know if we all appreciate just how white the White House is--and much smaller than I expected.  One particularly meaningful stop for me was standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the very spot where MLK gave his "I Have A Dream" speech and seeing what he saw when spoke those powerful words (with the exception of the fact that the reflector pool had been drained for renovations).  There was no way to see everything.  I managed to do quick runs through a few of the Smithsonians, the coolest things there in my opinion being the actual C3PO costume worn in Return of the Jedi and the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in Wizard of Oz (shows where my interests truly lie).  It was all very grand and majestic and a little 1984 at some points if you know what I mean and having experienced D.C. first hand now, America has never felt more like an empire to me.  Here's a couple of silly little videos of me wandering Washington:




From D.C. I raced over to Frederick, Maryland for the gig at Cafe Nola.  That ended up being a fairly successful gig.  The was packed due to another apparently popular local band called the Eureka Birds on the bill and despite being rather chatty throughout my set, the crowd seemed to genuinely like my music and I sold CD's afterwards.  It reenforced the idea that the next tour needs to be booked by the strategy of pairing up with bands that make sense rather than just cold calling venues.


All in all it was a fairly staid week.  I know some artists do this touring thing, playing for almost no one and losing more money than they make, for close to ten years before they see any results.  I guess you have to start somewhere.  It's frustrating because I know I'm good at what I do--not saying that to be big headed but just to say honestly that I wouldn't be going through all this trouble if I didn't think I had a good shot at it--and most of the feedback I get is very positive but I just feel like I'm lacking that extra something to inspire people to really jump in all the way and commit.  I've gotten a lot of chances to share my music with people in the industry that most artists would kill to get in front of and again the feedback I've gotten from even them has been very enthusiastic but I've yet to convince anyone to be willing to take the plunge and invest their time and energy into whatever potential I may have to be really successful at this.  I guess it takes time to find that right match, that person who truly believes in what you do and wants to make your career their career.  Or maybe it'll end up being all up to me to win the masses over one person at a time.  I've focused most of my life on being good at what I do, the Howard Roark approach.  I feel like now I need to really hone in on how I can give the people what they want without sacrificing the very thing that inspires me to make a career in music in the first place.  I've been performing all my life; I don't know how good I've always been at connecting.  If this tour does nothing else, I hope it can at least shine a huge spotlight on all the major things I could do well to improve on and show me how I can turn something that is good for what it is into something that is literally unavoidable to ignore for anyone who comes in contact with it.


By the time you read this, I will be crossing into one of my favorite chapters of any tour: New York City.  I'll be meeting back up with Ricky who flew in late last night and we'll be back on our original track and on to the next adventure...!


*By the way, sorry there's not more video in this blog.  With Ricky gone, there's no one to film.  I will leave you with this really nice write up of me I posted earlier in the week that was done by a very nice lady named Loretta Sassaman who we met in Seattle: http://www.spinthat45.com/2011/04/am-radio-is-makin-comeback.html  For every empty room I play on tour, it definitely is really nice to then read something like this so thanks Loretta for brightening up my week! :)

2011 US Tour Post #5 - In the land of music, magic, pirates, haunted houses and food....and beyond! 

I think it's time to let you all in on something that has been looming over the entirety of our tour....the curse!  Maybe it's not a curse.  It's not anything bad...just weird.  You could call it the charm or the blessing, but we like calling it the curse.  It's much more dramatic sounding.  We first noticed the curse when we were driving through Arizona listening to Tom Petty's "Into the Great Wide Open" album and the song "All or Nothing" was playing....just as we passed a large sign that said "All you need!" and below it "Nothing"!  What a strange coincidence, we thought.  A few hours later we were listening to U2's song "Who's gonna ride your wild horses"...just as we passed a group of horses on our left hand side.  Later that night after the gig, Ricky and I were discussing the difference between my songwriting style and hers and just as Ricky was telling me that my songs were more epic than mine, we passed a large neon sign that said "Epic".  By this time we were sufficiently freaked out.  The curse left us alone for about two weeks.  Then as we entered Louisiana, known for it's otherworldly mystical mischief, it came back with a vengeance.  At our show in Baton Rouge while Ricky was singing "Why Be Blue", just as she was about to sing the line, "And you nearly shout," some guy came running through shouting at the top of his lungs.  Then a day or two later while in the New Orleans Whole Foods Market, after listening to "Proud Mary" by Creedence Clearwater Revival in the car on the way over and discussing whether Fogerty and Co or Ike and Tina Turner had the definitive version of this song, what came on but Tina Turner's rendition of "Proud Mary".  There were other occurances of this strange phenomenon I know I'm forgetting.  We're not completely sure what this omen means, but we know it must mean something...

Monday is usually my blog night but here I am on a Friday afternoon in a friend's basement in Nashville on a day off trying to encapsulate the past week and four days.  Time is so hard to keep track of on tour.  It feels like months since I wrote my last blog while sitting at my uncle's house in Houston.  I don't think my brain is used to registering so many events and changes in scenery in such a short period of time.  But let's see how much I can remember here...

I suppose I should start by giving you something I promised last post.  We had our Dallas show professionally filmed in HD by a filmmaker/videographer/cool guy named Sean Kennedy.  My flip camera which we shoot most of our shows with is decent enough to serve our purposes but nothing beats being filmed with some really great equipment with audio coming directly from the sound board.  He just sent me the finished files a few days ago and here are the links where you can see them:

"Angels" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHw2bvbg1N8&feature=related
"Smaller Than You Think"-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9MtjL80YjQ&feature=related
"As Your Hands Can Hold"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu6TVvpIJlA
"Sycamore"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9fA95En4jI&feature=related
"Juniper" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EIhZKwC3yg&feature=related
"Best Thing" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHbuUdFuUW0
"Aquarium" -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bytEZ-JO5_U&feature=related
"Heart Of Gold" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIYRPO6HK14

When we last left our heroes, Ricky and I were leaving Houston for Louisiana.  As I mentioned in the last entry, my dad was born in New Orleans as well as his parents and their parents and some of their parents (although we don't go back quite as far as I thought in New Orleans, as I learned a few days later...).  Almost immediately after leaving Houston, the landscape began to change.  We were most definitely entering swamp land and the trees on either side of the road seemed to go on forever into an endless jungle.  A good portion of the freeway upon crossing the Louisiana border was actually suspended over the swamp itself, one long bridge punitively snaking through the tangled mesh trees and vegetation.  The number of exit signs with names ending with -eaux increased exponentially.  I kid you not, two of the signs we passed said "Butte LaRose" and "Grosse Teetes".  I don't think I want to know where those names came from...

Our first Louisiana stop was Baton Rouge.  We got off the exit and into what felt like something from another time.  A small white wooden house was labeled city court house.  Everything had this muted feeling to it as if nothing had been changed or repainted since it was built nearly a century ago.  We arrived at the venue to find that our 8 o'clock gig would not be starting until 11, so we had a little bit of time to walk around.  A video's worth a million words right?  Here's Ricky and I walking around downtown Baton Rouge before our show...  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE9JnC1F6B4

The show itself was at a small bar called Red Star a few blocks from the main strip, definitely what one might call a "bro bar", or since we were in Louisiana, a "breaux bar".  It was kind of a noisy crowd; lots of random shouting from the audience and other random drunken noises that had very little to do with or even awareness of the fact that we were playing.  As per usual there was a small handful of people who were paying attention and seemed to enjoy our set, and we even won over a few of the drunk people as well.  We sold some CD's afterwards to some guys named Jerry and Lee (I asked where Lewis was and it was completely lost on them...too bad Paige wasn't there), and then left for New Orleans.

"Time Can't Fly A Plane" at Red Star Bar- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTtX9xqOrko
"Melt In My Mind" at Red Star Bar- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PvP0JSE_n0

It was about a two hour drive from Baton Rouge and too dark to see much as we pulled into town.  My family's old friend Charlie Peacock had set us up to stay with friends of his, Desi and Erich Richter who were fast asleep when we arrived at their house in the New Orleans suburbs (if there is such a thing) around 3am.

In the morning, Desi welcomed us with breakfast and a map and guidebook of the city.  (I swear we've been meeting the nicest people on this tour.)  After breakfast, Ricky and I headed over to the famous French Quarter.  Nothing, not even Baton Rouge, could have prepared us for what being in New Orleans would actually be like.  You have this vague picture in your head of a caricature of different places in the world you might like to visit someday and what they might be like.  More often than not, your image of the city is based on sometime in the past, a glory day that has long since passed that perhaps has been preserved in some way but now peppered with modern awareness and tourism considerations and the like.  New Orleans was everything I could have possibly imagined and more.  It hadn't lost a bit of its original magic but it wasn't looking backwards either; it had just never stopped.  Even Katrina couldn't wash away this city's spirit and in a way seems to have cemented it as even more unshakable and eternal than ever before.  There was something so familiar about the place, that just felt like home or something from a reoccurring dream or something like that.  I don't know how much I believe in this sort of thing, but the fact that my family roots go back so far could mean that some piece of me had in fact been floating around in that city for about a century before I was born.  Or maybe it could be that this was a city whose main keystones read like a list of my primary childhood interests: music, magic, food, haunted houses, and pirates!  Nashville is Music City, Austin is the live music capital of the world, and Los Angeles is the factory where pop is created, but I've never been anywhere that lives and breathes music like New Orleans.  It doesn't even have to try.  It's not like there's a "music scene".  There's just music anywhere.  Where else in the world has a live jazz pianist playing in an almost empty corner grocery store at 11pm?  I thought my eyes were deceiving me from across the room, but we did confirm that in one particular jazz club we went to, there was a piano in the bathroom!  They even give free health insurance to musicians who they call "tradition upholders".  All you have to do is drop off a CD down at the clinic and they'll set you up.  Anyway, I'll let you see mine and Ricky's first impressions of walking around the French Quarter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCJe4jy4B8U.

What you won't see in the video is all the amazing independent art galleries we went to, the heavenly beignets I graciously enjoyed for the both of us (!), or Susan the fortune teller who gave Ricky and I both poignant advice on our lives, past, present and future.  I'd never been to a fortune teller before (a term which she said was a bit of a misnomer) and if anything, it seemed more like what I would imagine going to a psychologist would be like, an experience I've never had before either.  I actually saw a lot of similarities, and Susan agreed, between fortune telling and songwriting; creating something universal enough that each person hearing it could feel spoken to specifically and individually.

Our amazing day came to somewhat of an unpleasant end when we returned to our parking spot a few hours later to discover our car had been towed from the loading only zone we had unwittingly parked in.  A ten block walk and $170 later, we were able to retrieve our vehicle but it was a bit of a mood killer after an otherwise wonderful day.  The gig that night did very little to lift our spirits.  Neutral Ground Coffee seemed like a hip little spot.  We were to play after the regular poetry reading scheduled that evening and were happy to find the place relatively full of avid college age poetry fans who we looked forward to sharing our music with afterward.  Unfortunately, the crowd really was just there for the poetry and all but one or two departed as soon as the poetry reading was finished (again, the line "If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times....Spinal Tap and then Puppet Show" flashed through my head a few times).  It's really never any fun to play to an empty room.  Actually, let me clarify that.  I have loads of fun playing music alone in my room at home.  But then again, there's not supposed to be anyone else in there but me.  What I should say is that it's no fun to play to an empty room that is meant to have people in it, especially one that has just had people in it.  We got through the set and a few more people wandered in by the end of it and even bought CD's but it was not the most enjoyable gig ever, especially coming down from the high of earlier in the day exploring the French Quarter.

A more troubling development was that by the end of that day, Ricky was feeling downright awful.  The air in Louisiana was damp, polluted and full of allergens and Ricky had been experiencing breathing problems since we had arrived and they only seemed to be getting worse.

Ricky wanted to take the next day to rest and hopefully recover.  A few days earlier I had gotten in touch with my great aunt Dottie, my grandmother Helen's (my dad's mother whom I called her Memer...she passed away in 2006) older sister whom I had never met before, and we had arranged to have lunch that day.  Dottie was one of millions of people whose house had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and I met her in the senior living apartment complex where she now resided.  Dottie greeted me in the lobby and despite having never seen each other before, we instantly recognized each other.  It's hard not to recognize someone you're related to and Dottie looked so much like my grandmother did before she got sick with Alzheimer's.  She was a very small woman coming only to below my shoulder with vibrant silvery white hair and dressed very elegantly, like you might imagine a southern judge or lawyer dressing...which is exactly what she was.  At 89 years old, she was still an extremely sharp and engaging person to talk to who seemed to have lost none of the vigor she'd had for the entirety of her life.  What I expected to be somewhat brief hour or so long lunch of primarily surface introductions turned into six hours of some of the most interesting and enjoyable conversation I've ever had.  Dottie spoke candidly about her life and about the lives of those who came before us.  She laid out as much detail about our family history as she could remember, and it was amazing how much detail she had retained over so many years.  Apparently music has been in our family for longer than I knew as she recalled one of her earlier memories being of her old uncle Ferdinand who would come over and could play anything you asked him to on the piano just by ear (in typical musician fashion he married a rich woman and upon her death received her fortune and promptly spent it all in a year leaving him completely broke before marrying two more times and then dying penniless...what a rock star!).  She told me about her own history going to study law at Tulane at a time when it was rare and even looked down upon for a woman to aspire to such a high professional calling.  Upon entering the school the first day, a young male student called out to her, "Why aren't you back home cooking in the kitchen?"  Within a month, he was copying notes from her!  Her younger sister, my grandmother, pursued a similar academic path becoming the first woman to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering from Tulane University, a fact that my Goomba proudly repeated to me often.  It was clear Dottie missed my grandmother very much saying that she was the last person you'd ever have expected Alzheimer's to happen to and that she never dreamed that she would outlive her younger sister.  She told me about having seen the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in New York featuring a young up and coming singer named Frank Sinatra.  He hadn't hit it big yet but she said the way the girls reacted to him even then, you just knew he was going to be big.  She talked a lot about the present as well.  It had been a painful loss for her to lose her house where she had lived for forty years and where she had assumed she'd finish out her life.  The senior community was nice enough but was no substitute for the freedom of having your own home.  She'd lost everything in Katrina, most painfully all her pictures.  One of the coolest things she showed me had been found in the gutter outside her demolished home and kept by a neighbor for her.  It was a gold picture frame that held two photos and folded in half.  In one half was a black and white photo of Dottie in her twenties kneeling on the floor in front of an old fireplace with her young five year old son Henri beside her.  Standing behind her is her mother, Helen, and seated in the foreground is Dottie's grandmother Josephine.  In the other half of the frame is a color photo taken many years later in front of that same fireplace with Dottie, now in her eighties, seated in a chair ("I'm in the hot seat in this one," she noted), with her son Henri, here in his fifties, standing behind her with his twenty something year old daughter on the floor with her young son. Dottie said one thing she's thankful for is that a few years before Katrina, she had made scrapbooks for her two sons which now contained her only surviving old pictures.  She was very curious to learn from me that there were websites where you could store your pictures online.  She eagerly wrote down "flickr.com" and "facebook.com" in her little notebook and paid close attention as I explained how to upload and post pictures.  One thing I really liked about her a lot is that even at 89 she was still very keen on keeping up to date on modern technology.  Dottie said she was very glad I had visited her and promised to keep in touch.  I couldn't even express how grateful I was to have had this visit with her.  I'd made a lot of new friends on this trip so far, but in Dottie I had found a new family member.

Ricky was just barely awake when I returned home and still having trouble breathing, but she was still up for a night on the town in New Orleans.  We had one goal in mind and that was to find some great authentic New Orleans jazz.  We headed down to Frenchman Street (if that's not a redundant street name I don't know what is) where we had been told was the place to find as much jazz as we could ever want and we were like kids in a candy store literally able to walk down the block and into just about every door to find this amazing live music being performed.  Even on the sidewalk outside, music was being played and it was all great.  We traded off songs with one street performer named Shane who had recently moved down to New Orleans from Boston.  He told us things about the city that I want so much to work into lyrics sometime soon like a statue of Joan of Arc that people make wishes on and a giant bohemian treehouse.  We finally settled on a bar called the Three Muses where Aurora Neland and the Royal Roses weaved a spell of some of the sweetest jazz I'd ever heard.  It was one of those moments that was almost melancholy because you knew in a few short hours, this magical moment in your life was going to be consigned to simply a memory that you would always see through the looking glass for the rest of your life but would never again be reachable save for in that precious present when Aurora's saxophone rained on me and my heart was quenched.

Ricky was feeling worse and worse.  The next day she decided to go see the doctor and came back with the diagnosis of bacterial bronchitis, contracted from the polluted New Orleans air.  It was sad after talking all the night before about how awesome it would be to live here for a while to find out that the air probably wasn't suitable for Ricky to be in for very long.  Even worse was the fact that the doctors had recommended that she didn't sing until she was better if she wanted to prevent permanent damage to her vocal chords.  Earlier in the week, Ricky had been invited to fly back to Sacramento on April 29th to open for Gavin DeGraw, a popular major label singer/songwriter from the early 2000's.  It was a great opportunity but now with her health in such bad condition, even that, which was still a week away, seemed in jeopardy.  That night, I played my first show of the tour alone at Celtic Irish Pub in Pascagoula, Mississippi, a venue our friends in Musical Charis recommended we get in touch with.  I got a great response from the crowd and people bought CD's but it was weird playing without Ricky.

The next day we drove to Nashville where I lived for a good portion of my childhood.  It's getting less strange to come back since through touring, my visits have been more frequent.  The strange thing is that with each visit, it feels less familiar and there are less people there who I still have connections with, but such is the passage of time.  We were set to play at a venue called Ugly Mugs in East Nashville.  Ricky was still not doing any better and elected to sit this one out as well, so I once again played my own set to a small but attentive crowd.  This show was professionally filmed as well so I got some great footage out of it.  Here's "One More Song For the Road" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_QnHc0sBW8

After the show we headed over to the house of Charlie Peacock and Andi Ashworth, two of my parents oldest and dearest friends.  The Ashworths live in an old church which they converted into a home and studio complex twenties years earlier when they first moved to Nashville.  It's one of the most amazing homes I've ever been in and there's this energy about it that somehow tells you that these walls are meant to be filled with people creating.  Most of my memories of that house were from when I was very young, playing in the garden while my dad was recording so it was a bit surreal to drive up there now at 23.

The following day was Easter.  I went to church with Charlie and Andi and afterwards, over fifty people came over to the house for an Easter party.  It's interesting how life goes in cycles.  When I was a kid and my family would go to Charlie and Andi's parties, my sisters and I were some of the only small children there as Charlie and Andi's own kids were by that time in their late teens and early twenties, as were most of their friends.  Now ten years later, Sam Ashworth is the father of five and most of his and his sister Molly's friends have small children of their own and Charlie and Andi are now in the role of fun grandparents so there were tons of kids at this party.  I helped hide Easter eggs for them and then participated in the adult easter egg hunt later on.  After a few weeks on a diet of almost exclusively rotisserie chicken and bread (both delicious in their own right), I was extremely grateful to take part in the mouthwatering banquet that had been prepared by Andi and a few of the other party attendees.

Ricky stayed in bed that entire day and she wasn't feeling better at all; if anything worse.  We were set to leave Nashville the next morning for South Carolina to do a three date run of the south before returning to Nashville on Thursday but by the end Easter, it was pretty clear that Ricky wasn't going to be in any condition to play those shows.  It was kind of a difficult decision to come to but we decided it would be best for her to stay behind in Nashville and rest up while I went and did those southern dates myself.

I dropped Ricky off at home of David Schober, another old family friend who had graciously offered to let her rest for the week in his guest quarters, and then started on the nine hour drive towards Charleston.  It was one of the longer drives on the tour and doing that distance alone is a very different experience than doing it with someone.  The scenery was pretty but monotonous.  The highway was a small path cut through rows and rows of trees almost the entire way there.  At a couple of points after crossing into South Carolina, I passed through small towns, mostly unchanged it seemed from the movies you'd see set in the South in the fifties and sixties.  Mainly big plantation style homes on huge pieces of land.  You'd pass through the "downtown" part which would mainly consist of auto shops and few southern style cooking restaurants.  There was one town where the auto shop, the junk yard, and the law office all were owned by the same people!  And of course lots and lots of churches.  At one point, in one of these towns, I passed a Hindu temple and community center.  What an interesting interview that would be with the head of that congregation on what it is like to operate a Hindu temple in the middle of a small town in South Carolina!

After nine hours of driving I arrived at Chucktown Tavern in Charleston.  After nine hours of driving through the set of Driving Miss Daisy and Gone With The Wind, Charleston actually seemed like a pretty hip little college town.  There was absolutely no one at the venue and the people working there hardly seemed to remember I was coming.  The bartender suggested that I set up outside which would maybe attract some more people, but after about six songs played for one elderly World War Two veteran who kept telling me he thought it was really great what I was doing with my life, it began to rain.  I moved everything inside and was about to call it a night when a few people wandered in and asked me to keep playing.  So with the crowd now quadrupled, I played for another two hours.  The bartender kept telling stories in between songs about various people she'd met and I on the spot turned them into country songs.  One story was about a couple she knew who had been married for decades whose marriage came to an abrupt and unpleasant end when the husband revealed that he had been cheating on his wife for years and had been cheating on her with a man.  So that turned into:

    "Darlin' there's no other girl who'll ever catch my eye
    Darlin' there's no other girl who ever will be mine
    But darlin' you can never say that I told you a lie
    I said no other girl I never said no other guy!"

That got plenty of hoots and hollers as you might imagine.  I seemed to have won over the four patrons of the Chucktown Tavern....and then the bartender asked if she had to pay me since hardly anyone showed up.  I ended up walking out with $75 and the chance to use their microwave for my rotisserie chicken...  I stayed with a guy from couchsurfing.org named Charlie who was very gracious to host me for the night and give me my own room.  I was in kind of a crummy mood that night.  Usually after a gig like that, Ricky would be there and we'd be able to laugh it off together and move onto talking about something else to cheer ourselves up, but tonight I was facing it alone.  In a way it was a wake up call.  The past week or so had been some of the most enjoyable of the tour, getting wrapped up in the wonder of New Orleans, but in reality it had also been one of the least successful.  We'd played to primarily empty rooms and had made very little money and were losing money if anything.  While the places we were visiting were inspiring and playing shows every night was making us better and better as singers, musicians and performers, I didn't feel like we were reaching our main goal which was to grow our fan base, at least to the degree that I would like to see.  But how do you get people to come see a performer they'd never heard of before?  We'd sent posters ahead of time advertising our shows to some of the venues we were scheduled to play at but I hadn't seen any difference in attendance between the shows we had sent posters to and those we hadn't.  I mean I probably wouldn't go out to a show by an artist I'd never heard or heard of before simply because of seeing a poster either.  I fell asleep with a lot on my mind.

The next day I got up and drove to Columbia.  I sat at Starbucks for most of the day working on editing the live shows we'd been recording for our donors and booking the last leg of our tour.  The show was at a venue called Gervais and Vine (it would have been funny if Ricky had been able been able to play at a venue called Gervais...), a tapas bar.  Never understood the whole tapa thing; not enough food for way too much money.  They served me a delicious personal pesto pizza on the house and I played about a two hour set for a pretty full restaurant.  There was a lot of talking during my performance as is common during restaurant performances, but it was clear that many of the patrons really enjoyed my performance and I was paid well that night.

I stayed that night with another Couch Surfer named Alita and then headed out early the next morning for Athens, Georgia (first Columbia, then Athens, you'd think this was an international tour).  Athens was a very cool town.  I wish I'd had more time to explore, but I was in full on work mode at this point.  I found a coffeeshop and sat writing venues, writing post cards and editing our live performances.  The gig that night was at a restaurant called the Globe.  It was a similar gig to the night before only this time no one was paying attention.  I might have gotten applause twice.  I still sold a CD though, so I guess someone was listening.  By the way, what do you get when you cross Athens, Greece with Athens, Georgia?  R.E.stotle!!!  Get it??  Boy, I crack myself up sometimes....;)

All in all, the trip through the South didn't feel very worthwhile.  My mantra has thus far been "every gig counts", but I think after that trip it's changed to the more proactive "make sure every gig counts".  The other thing that had happened that night as I slept soundly in the house of an Athens Couch Surfer was that tons of tornados had ripped across Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, wreaking havoc and devastation and killing over 300 people.  On my way back to Nashville, I passed by chilling scenes of trees uprooted and sliced down the middle, restaurants looking like a bomb went off inside, and metal road signs ripped to shreds.  I'd seen this kind of thing on TV before but never in person.

Ricky hadn't improved at all upon my return to Nashville so I played yet another gig alone that night at Casablanca Coffee.  I wasn't completely alone as I was joined by my old friend Robby Mogan whom I've been playing music with on and off since sixth grade.  We actually had a decent little crowd and it was nice to play a show for an audience who was actually paying attention.  We covered "Dead Flowers" by the Stones to close out the night, a song we used to perform out in the streets of Santa Cruz.  I got to meet a guy named Richard Law at the show who used to sing for Roy Orbison, one of my heroes, and he regaled us with stories.

I took Ricky to the airport Friday morning to catch a flight to Sacramento for her Gavin DeGraw gig which she had vowed she would do no matter what.  I spent the day mainly working on this blog and some other stuff and then hung out with Robby that evening and stayed the night at his house.

This blog truly is taking you right up to the moment...  I woke up this morning, just a few hours ago, to some texts from Ricky saying that while her show had gone well, she was feeling worse than ever and had decided to stay in Sacramento until she was recovered and then hopefully fly out to meet me in New York in a week and a half.  The tour will go on but it's going to continue to be a strange experience doing this alone without my friend with me.  I'm going to use this week to really strategize and think hard on how to make the rest of this tour and future tours more successful.  In the meantime, I want to make every show of this week and beyond the best I've ever played and give everyone in attendance a performance they'll remember for a long time.  That's truly the best I can do for now.

2011 US Tour Post #4 - The Super Minky Bell Hunters Festival (Texas post) 

"BRRRRING.....BRRRRRING"  I groggily open my eyes to see what unseemly hour it is that someone is calling.  7:30am.  I hear my uncle's voice, "This is Brian....yes....oh sure...fine fine...okay....thank you....*click*"  Not a moment later..."BRRRRRING....BRRRRRING....this is Brian...."  My uncle's obviously a popular guy at 7:30 in the morning.  Then it all begins a third time and I become suspicious.  The filtered tone of the rings and my uncle's voice gives it away that I've been fooled yet again.  This whole routine, recited with the utmost authenticity, is all being performed by Coco the parrot, a master magician and ventriliquist and a devilish rascal at that.  This bird is known to put pieces of food on the edge of his cage and wait for an unsuspecting dog (or wolf) to come for it when it can lunge out of the shadows and chomp the poor canine on the nose.  And yes I did say wolf.  My aunt and uncle have a pet wolf who seems to believe himself to be an oversized golden retriever.

Ricky and I spent the majority of our first day in Houston as we do most days on tour that the option is available, sleeping in until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon.  Paige called around 5:30 to invite me to Sushi dinner with her and some friends where the conversation revolved around black holes, Willie Wonka, and David Bowie.  The show that night was at a venue called the Mink.  It's always strange actually going to these venues after booking them usually several months in advance and holding some mental picture in my head of what the place might actually be like.  At the Mink, you had to walk through the bar, around a corner, actually go outside the building into this alley and then up some stairs to get to "The Backroom" where the live music was held.  I'm surprised no one got lost trying to find their way back there.  We actually had a good sized crowd out to see us, primarily thanks to Paige bringing out her peops.  This was show number two of the week for Paige and I and, as it seems to usually go with us, it was better than show number one and we found all sorts of loose ends we hoped to tie off for show number three.  After years of performing together primarily on my home turf, this was our first show in front of an audience of primarily her friends and family.  The response was the same as we usually get, that our voices blend great together and that we should really think about starting a full time band together....  We did do something that we'd never done before which is include a cover song to close out our set.  Paige is certainly no stranger to cover songs, but it was a bit of struggle to find one song in her repertoire of mainly top forty hits that I knew.  We finally landed on one, "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young.  No matter how many of your own songs you have, there's nothing like giving your audience something familiar.

"Dream On" live at the Mink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kALoVCgFHBg
"What I Need" live at the Mink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRT8JSje1XQ

My uncle Brian took me to the Houston farmer's market that morning to load up on bread from his son Jerry's bakery.  Jerry's bread is one of the greatest pleasures my taste buds have ever experienced and while no bread has a very long shelf life, it's my favorite snack to have on the road while it lasts.  It had dawned on me the night before that my old friend Christopher Fairman had moved to Austin a few months earlier.  When I started playing shows in Sacramento when I was 15, Christopher was the only other guy around my age doing the same thing.  Our paths have managed to run somewhat parallel to each other ever since.  I texted him to let him know that we would be playing in Austin the next night and he invited us to stop by the coffeeshop he worked at which was holding an open mic before our show.  After a two and a half hour drive from Houston, we walked in the door of Thai Fresh/Caffein Cafe to see a girl with very familiar bright red hair working behind the counter.  It was Natalie Gordon, another emigrated Sacramento musician and my old best friend from ninth grade.  It was very surreal seeing Natalie and Christopher almost half way across the country, and refreshingly unfamiliar seeing such familiar faces after a few weeks of mainly new people.  The show at Headhunters that night was awesome.  We opened for a local multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter named Brian Batch who I met when he performed as part of Alpha Rev at Live In the Vineyard and his new band, making their debut that night, knew how to funk with the best of them.  The crowd was excellent as well and after a few lackluster Austin gigs over the last year, it was great to finally play to a crowded house and experience why Austin is known as the live music capital of the world.    There's a rumor going around that I might be relocating to Austin at somepoint in the near future...but you didn't hear it from me....;)  I debuted my new song that I'd written the week before at that show and it went over really well.  The first performance of a new song means more than you might think.  If it doesn't get a good response, it might be a while, if ever, before I play it again.  This one definitely got this audience's stamp of approval so it's stayed in the setlist pretty much ever since.

"Pictures of Incense" live at Headhunters - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viWEjR1yErc
"My Sweet Enemy" live at Headhunters - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0aBtLQC3t4

After a manditory stop at Kirby Lane Cafe for a full stack of gingerbread pancakes, Ricky and I made the four hour drive to Dallas, getting in around 5am.  The one thing that kind of put a damper on the night for me was having my third phone of the last three weeks break while supposedly safe in my pocket.  Ricky is convinced that the natural magnitism of my body causes electronics to break, an actually recorded phenomenon and a curse I wouldn't be surprised at all to be afflicted by due to my luck.  I spent most of my first day in Dallas at the Verizon store where the concept of obtaining a new phone seems to be lost on most employees.  It was good to be back in Dallas though, to see my Goomba, and just to be in that old house.  My dad was there too to visit him and to see our shows while we were in town.  He'd invited lots of his old friends to our show that night at Opening Bell Coffee, a place we'd played a couple times before, and as a result we played to a packed house.  Paige drove up and we performed our third and final and in my opinion best set of the tour together.  We got an encore and everything--this after playing every song we thought we knew together--but that didn't stop us from faking our way through one more song (or I should say, I was having to do most of the faking as it was Paige's song which she had no problem at all performing).  Hopefully more shows for the two of us are on the horizon for the near future. 

"Heart of Gold" live at Opening Bell Coffee (this entire show was professionally taped so once I get the footage I will post that) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaNCFrd7VXg

The next two days we were scheduled to perform at the Dallas International Guitar Festival that was being put on by my dad's old childhood friend Jimmy Wallace.  The Festival showcased probably hundreds of different guitar manufacturers and stores from all over the world showing off their wares as well as various clinics and performances going on throughout the weekend on different stages within the spacious Dallas Market Hall.  We were booked on a small stage in a dark hall in the back, a little off the beaten path so the amount of people who happened to wander back there to catch our set each day was small, but the ones that did were very encouraging and bought CD's.  Our friend James Hunter, the 16 year old guitar wiz-kid from One Eyed Rhyno, had flown out for the festival and we hung out with him most of the time we were there.  We met Rick Derringer who had his own booth there.  I also met Todd D'Agostino (a.k.a Mr. Chauntelle DuPree) a really nice guy who has his own guitar shop and brand, LaRose guitars.  I got to see one of four specially designed guitars with artwork hand drawn by Sherri and Chauntelle DuPree.  Eisley was set to perform at the festival as well, but unfortunately on Sunday, the one day Ricky and I would not be there.

Our set at the Festival on Saturday was at noon, a strange time for us to be performing a show, and after hanging out for another hour or so, we drove to Spring, TX for our second show of the day at Dunn Bros Coffee.  Dunn Bros was an extremely sterile version of Starbucks and there was absolutely nobody there except two teenage baristas who spent most of our set in the backroom with headphones on.  My uncles Bruce and Brian did show up and so Ricky and I performed a private show for them primarily of songs that we hadn't performed live in years, if ever. It was a fun exercise, and preoccupying our minds with remembering old lyrics and chords kept our minds off of the fact that there were as many people in the audience as there were onstage...

Sunday night's show was at Super Happy Fun Land, a venue that definitely lives up to it's name.  It's a very hard place to describe.  It's a dimly lit vast warehouse with every square inch of it covered with some strange trinkit or piece of art or something to make you do a double take at.  Huge paintings of monsters and...Where's Waldo for that matter...cover the walls and the bottom of the stage was lined with old comic book cut outs.  Giant cabbage patch dolls loomed over the stage and there were clown dolls everywhere.  Very interesting place.  The first band on the bill was called the Grass Skirts who sounded like if Cake decided to perform all of their songs with a Hawaiian flare to them and only sing about Hawaiian themes.  We played after them and were followed by a God only knows how old blues artist, Little Joe Washington who had played with the likes of Muddy Waters and Lightning Hopkins back in the day.  Apparently some kind of local legend.  A singer/songwriter named Poopy Lungstuffing was supposed to close out the night but she was nowhere to be found after Little Joe finished his set.  With a name like Poopy Lungstuffing, one can only imagine what we were missing out on....

"The Wall" live at Super Happy Fun Land (not sure what possessed me to pull this one out of the attic, haven't played it in probably five years or so) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tipDPa8Ovp4
"Shot In the Dark" live at Super Happy Fun Land (I realize it would have made more sense narrative-wise to have posted the video of me doing this at Headhunters, but this is a better performance) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4d-UfLGkHI
"Clown Review" live at Super Happy Fun land - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpaXvUlYJ0w
Blues legend Little Joe Washington - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI6OesA1fOI

And that brings us to today, our first day off in about a week which I've spent back at Uncle Brian and Aunt Ilda's house loading up on Jerry's bread for the road and enjoying some of the last real mexican food I can expect to find for quite some time.  Tomorrow we set sail for my motherland of Louisiana, the state where my dad was born as well as his dad and "his father's father before him" and so on and so forth.  I've never been so I can't wait to see what's in store....!

2011 US Tour Post #3 - Lizards, whales and pancakes oh my! 

Hey guys!

So I have to confess something that I'm sure I otherwise would have been barred entry at the gates of heaven for when the time came (and still might be).  After checking out at the Budget Inn in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Saturday morning and packing all of our luggage back into back of the van (I swear, Ricky and manage to take more luggage inside somewhere we're only staying overnight than anyone I've ever heard of), Ricky and I sat in the front of the car a few minutes longer wolfing down a quick breakfast when we noticed a lizard hanging out on the sidewalk right in front of the hotel room we had just vacated...and we'd left the door wide open.  It was only a matter of time before the little guy would find its way into the cooler climates of the now empty but not for long room, away from the growing southwestern heat.  So what did we do to possibly intervene and prevent our successors of the room from finding a creepy crawly surprise perhaps under their pillow or in the blankets later that day?  Nothing!  We drove away leaving the door still wide open and the cool covers of the bed the lizard's for the taking.  I have been wracked with guilt ever since.

The remorse I've felt for doing nothing to prevent this potential calamity that was likely to befall an unsuspecting perfect stranger that day may have been amplified by the unbelievable kindness that we have been shown by perfect strangers and aquaintances this whole week on tour.  These are people who would build the Great Wall of China to prevent a lizard from sneaking into your hotel room and have been the reason why Ricky and I have yet to spend even one night sleeping in the van and only one so far in a motel.  It feels like we're not just making new friends all across the country through the process of touring, but new family.  The two things that have been extremely important to every one of the people thus far who have been so generous to let us stay in their homes are God and music...no surprise there!  But, as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself...

When we last left our heroes they/we had just arrived at my Aunt Becky and Uncle Ray's house in Orange, CA, which has in some ways become our homebase for Southern California shows.  Our first gig of this leg of the tour was at the Stage in San Diego which we had played at back in December during our Southwest tour.  We were the headliners on a night of mostly standup comedy (some intentional, some not...) and I think we really brought the house down...if you get my drift...  I didn't check the marquee to see whether or not we were listed before or after the puppet show...  It's hard on the road not to slip into the mindset of why are you still playing at Tuesday comedy night in a half empty room that could probably only hold up to fifty people at capacity, this after passing the local arena on the way to your own gig.  These thoughts really lead nowhere unless they can be channeled into motivating us into working harder to moving past this stage to greater things.  John Lennon used to lead a cheer with his brother Beatles where he'd ask, "Where are we going boys?" and they'd respond, "To the top Johnny, to the top!" and he'd ask, "And where's that?" and they'd call out, "To the toppermost of the poppermost!"...or something like this.  This by the way was when they were still playing as the backup band for a stripper in a rat infested Hamburg cellar.  So I suppose everyone has to start somewhere.  Here's me playing "Too Much Time" at the Stage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_3MZMIgA-I

The next night's show was the Freakin' Frog in Las Vegas, another return venue from a previous tour.  We played after another singer/songwriter/loop box master named Daniel Park who created lush violin laden tracks (which he played) right there on the stage.  I got a loop box a few years ago and have dabbled with it a little here and there over the years, but seeing a few artists on this tour really use it in very cool ways on this tour has inspired me to take another look at it when I get home.  Small crowd, but the sound was amazing and I got to play a real piano so I was happy!  "Juniper" live at the Freakin' Frog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bAjU7eQE_k

The best part of that night in Vegas came after the show when we arrived at the home of Louis and Ana Smith.  Louis is an amazing gospel singer/songwriter/pianist/maestro who used to come to lead worship at the church I used to attend many years ago.  In fact I hadn't realized just how long it had been since I'd seen the Smiths; the last time was most likely the trip we all took to London together in spring 2005, so it's been a while.  Louis and Ana let us in around midnight and we spent the next two hours filling each other in on the time we'd missed with each other and sharing new music.  Louis played and sang a new song for us on the baby grand piano in their living room and if you've never seen Louis perform, he's one of those artists who is so passionate about music and what he's singing about that it brings chills to anyone within earshot.  Ana made us a delicious breakfast in the morning and when we left a few hours later, we felt like we were leaving home all over again.  Louis and Ana are truly unforgettable people and definitely knew how to make us feel loved and cared for.

Our next stop was Mesa, AZ.  We played at a venue called the Goat Head Saloon...."Angie" anyone?  Ken and Peggie Balcom, the couple who were to be hosting us that night, met us at the venue and had brought some friends with them.  This was our first time meeting the Balcoms but they treated us like old friends from the get go.  The crowd was really enthusiastic for us that night, aided in no small part by the group who had come specifically to see us and one particularly lively middle aged man sitting in the table right in front who yelled at the top of his lungs "YEAH!" and pumped his fist in the air after every single song, and told us repeatedly after the show that he was "so f***ing pissed that there aren't more people here"....I almost felt bad to see him so genuinely upset by the lack of more people.  Here's our "standard" closer of "Parchutes" and "Stingy": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIKCGfgaZoY

The Balcoms' house was lined wall to wall with instruments.  Organs, guitars, pianos, steel drums, cellos, marimbas and anything else you could think of could be found in almost every corner of the house.  Ken and Peggie had spent years touring with their own group Cavu (an acronym for Come And Visit Us...how great is that?) and had accumlated over the years what amounted to an instrument museum.  They were full set up to record at the house and encouraged Ricky and I to come back to record on their instruments sometime in the near future.  The whole family and I stayed up until 2am enjoying banana smoothies made by daughter Caralie and singing three part harmonies to Simon and Garfunkel, CSNY, and Beatles songs as if we'd been singing together for years.  When we were getting ready to leave the next day, Ken even regaled us with his own original goodbye song.  We left again feeling like we had joined another amazing family and had a new home to look forward to coming back to.  Here's the Balcoms and I singing around the dinner table during our midnight jam session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTM0d4-3O8E

That day on the trip from Mesa to Las Cruces, NM, I did something I'd never done before which is write a song while on tour.  On previous tours, that had always been a challenge because there was very little alone time which is usually preferable for songwriting.  I'd had this particular idea brewing for a few months but as we were driving through that desert country, it all just came spilling out or as I proclaimed to Ricky, "I'm going into labor.  The baby is finally being born!"  If you didn't see it when I posted it earlier, here's a video of the new song, "Shot In the Dark": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8ZXeiaBL9U

I had a weird feeling about the gig in Las Cruces that night.  It had been booked fairly last minute and I'd received an email the day before from the booker who was also going to be providing the entire sound system saying she hadn't had much time to promote.  We showed up at what appeared to be an independently owned version of Borders with a little coffeeshop area inside.  The people working at the counter had no idea we were coming and the booker never showed up with the sound system.  I've heard of this happening before, and I think we'd been lucky that this was the first time it had happened to us.  It was a drag to suddenly not have a show to play that night but we made up for it by getting an extra few hours of driving that night before staying at a motel in Fort Stockton, TX, the aforementioned Budget Inn with a dried up pool in the middle of the parking lot....for some reason, Ricky and I both imagined a whale spending the night in that pool...home sweet home for the night!

We left the motel following our reprehensible inaction involving the lizard and headed to San Antonio.  On the last tour we had played literally to an empty room at a place called GIG in San Antonio on a Sunday night.  I was sick at the time and grateful in a way that no one was there.  During the last few songs of the set, a few people wandered in to put up fliers for another show and immediately fell in love with Ricky's music.  They passed her stuff along to their friend Gordon Raphael, producer of the Strokes and Regina Spektor, who fell in love as well and has been working with Ricky almost ever since on her next record.  I was excited to return to that same venue in San Antonio four months later now that Ricky had achieved a bit of notoriety there.  My friend Paige drove out from Houston to do a set with me which as always made me sound twice as good as I ever do without her.  It was a great show overall and we got a great response from the crowd overall.  Here's Paige and I performing "Angels" at that show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ_i0VzodN8

After the show, we went over to the apartment of a guy we'd met at the show named Bryan Hamilton who made us a delicious pasta dinner.  Some other friends of his who'd been to the show as well came over also and we all stayed up until nearly 6am talking philosophy, religion and music.  It was great finding a group of such kindred spirits.

We had the next day off.  Ricky and Gordon were scheduled to do some work at Gordon's studio so I stayed at the house that Gordon was living in and did some recording myself.  I brought most of my new recording gear with me on the road and this was just the opportunity I'd been waiting for to use it.  Over the next 24 hours I was able to cut an almost finished recording of "New December"....perhaps material for the next ep!

We left San Antonio for Houston yesterday afternoon.  After stopping by Paige's Acoustic Radio show at a downtown pub where she regaled us with covers of songs by the Backstreet Boys and Ke$ha, we finally made it to Uncle Brian and Aunt Ilda's house where we were greeted by the two of them as well Kahlua the wolf, Coco the parrot and all the other members of their household menagerie.  After experiencing so many new people and places, it was refreshing to finally arrive somewhere familiar.

We've had a whole slew of new donations from all sorts of wonderful people that I'd like to thank by name before I wrap this up.  So a huge thank you to:

Nolan Frost
Jerry Shawn
Dana Gumbiner
Dave and Rachel Lyman
Dustin McCall
Dean Preston
Holly Dallas
Brian Batch

You guys are all amazing!  We have now raised over $1000 which has been helping us with gas tremendously.  We are currently preparing recordings of the live shows and postcards to send to you guys.  Anyone else who would like to donate can do so at www.feedthemuse.net/bourgeoisberger  Also, you can always keep up to date with the latest tour dates which continue to be updated regularly at www.adrianbourgeois.com/shows.

That's all for now folks!

2011 US Tour Post #2- In Beween Pictures 

Word up homedizzles!  So this has been that strange week where we had to come home in order to move forward.  I'm sure it's much less convenient for most states that aren't California, but due to Oregon and Washington's pesky location of being due north of us, there's really no easy way to tour up there and then go elsewhere without backtracking a little which means coming right back through Sacramento.  It definitely takes a little bit of the edge off of trying not to forget anything I'm going to need for the next two and a half months.  Imagine my horror at arriving in Oregon and realizing I had come all that way without packing a chess set!  Quite a relief to know that I would be able to swing by my home to pick it up to avoid going a full two months without it.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

We still had two more shows to go up in the northwest.  The first was at Mandolin Cafe in Tacoma where we had played the year before.  It was a Monday night but we actually had a surprisingly decent sized crowd.  There's nothing more encouraging than playing multiple shows in a given area and having people actually come back to see you who had seen you at previous shows.  Gina, our talented new friend who had opened up our previous two shows, actually came out to see us a third night in a row in Tacoma.  I personally would have been sick of us by then, but that's just me...;)  A woman named Loretta who had come to our Tiger Lounge gig in Seattle, came out to see us again in Tacoma and brought her whole family with her including her 12 year old twin daughters who apparently had been listening to Ricky's new ep on repeat all weekend.  That show was the start of spoiling me in another way that week as it was the first of four gigs in a row where the venue had an actual piano, which I'll take any day over a keyboard.

The next night we played in Portland at Twin Paradox Coffeehouse.  According to Wikipedia, "In physics, the twin paradox is a thought experiment in special relativity, in which a twin makes a journey into space in a high-speed rocket and returns home to find he has aged less than his identical twin who stayed on Earth.  This result appears puzzling because each twin sees the other twin as traveling, and so, according to a naive application of time dilation, each should paradoxically find the other to have aged more slowly."  Far out.  We saw some familiar faces at that show as well: my old friend Brian who I was in a band with when I was 13 and who had performed with us at our Portland show last year, a guy named Ben who went to high school with me, plus Ricky's Uncle Carson and some of his friends.  By the way, I forgot to mention the epic midnight jam session with Uncle Carson the night before going through ten minutes of "Down By the River" and an even more country-fied version of Ricky's "Stingy", complete with pedal steel and everything.

We drove home from Portland on Wednesday.  Fun fact: the midpoint between the equator and the North Pole is just a few miles south of Salem, OR.  I would have thought it was lower than that...if I'd ever thought about it at all.  At one gas station right around the Oregon/California border there was snow covering the ground ironically giving us our most authentically winter experience of the year in the second week of spring.

It was really nice being home again for a few days.  Not that there was much time to rest.  The day after getting back into Sacramento, Ricky, Amy and I drove down to Stockton for a show at the Plea For Peace Center.  Middaugh Goodwin, the guy who books the shows there, is actually running for president in 2012 and has done so in 2004 and 2008.  Plea For Peace Party perhaps?  The show itself was pretty sparsely attended and the rule of making sure there are more people in the audience than there are onstage was just barely met but at least everybody who was there bought a CD.  Maybe they'll all go and start a band too.

As expected, the next night had a much better turnout as it was our official tour kickoff show in Sacramento.  We played at a new venue I'd never played at before called Shine.  Our original openers had to cancel at the last minute so our good friend Autumn Sky valliantly stepped in allowing us to pass the original opening act announcement as a deliberately planned April Fools Day joke.  It was a fun show with lots of friends and encouraging well-wishers for our tour.  If only they knew the artistic tensions already mounting between us causing us to lash out at each other in song... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TMYpJQpzTo

We had Saturday off, our first day without a gig or long distance travelling in almost two weeks which was definitely refreshing but actually made me a little restless.  On Sunday, Ricky and I drove down to Santa Cruz for a show at the Abbey, a venue I've played plenty of times and always enjoy coming back to.  Before driving to the venue, Ricky and I had a very important stop to make, namely to the Boardwalk to ride the Giant Dipper, quite possibly the greatest 86 year old rollar coaster in the world.  After having a brief discussion about whether or not to just ditch the gig all together and hang out at the Boardwalk the rest of the evening, we decided to be responsible rock stars and head back over to the venue which was well worth our while as the gig ended up being very enjoyable.  I was able to top off the day with a slice of pesto pizza from Pizza My Heart which to me would make any day a success.

And then yesterday we really finally left, not to return home for two months.  We're playing nearly twice as many gigs as we did last year in the same amount of time.  Every tour is really a shot in the dark, but if you really think of your main goal as an aspiring professional musician as getting in front of as many people as possible, there's no other way to do it than to leave your hometown and take your music to every corner of the world.  I bought a sand bucket to be our tip jar at shows and it got me thinking that each gig is like a sand castle, this elegant and majestic structure you build that only lasts a moment before the tide knocks it down again.  The real trick is finding the material to build a castle that won't fall no matter what happens.  Or maybe Thoreau uses the castle analogy more eloquently: “Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”  Whatever the case, this tour is going to be a blast and I just hope that we can take advantage of every opportunity available to us to make this a significant step towards a successful life of music.  And if I encounter some unlucky fool along the way who wants to challenge me in a game of chess, I am so ready...

"Jonah" live at Shine- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj5eC18_n3Q

2011 US Tour Post #1 

Hey everyone!

Well the fact that five days and five shows in this is the first time I've had time I've had time to sit down and write a tour blog should tell you something (and the fact that I'm doing it at 3:30am should tell you even more).  This tour was sort of planned to be last year's tour on steroid and so far it's been delivering on its promise quite well.  One thing I've noticed at least about myself that's different about this tour than the previous ones is I'm no longer in awe of the idea of touring.  That's not a bad thing minus the maybe slightly diminished sense of wide eyed wonder of seeing parts of the country for the first time and feeling like a real rock and roll star on the road for the first time like I did last year.  What it's meant for me is approaching this tour with a more practical and focused approach, concentrating more on really getting the most that I can out of each gig and studying how to get the best results.  One really big step in that direction has been having more merch to sell.  Ricky and I both have new eps of material that we've each been working on independently over the past couple of months, her in San Antonio with producer Gordon Raphael, me at my home studio (wow that's a mouthful!) in Elk Grove.  It's been great having new material to share with people and it's given me a new focus for carving my sets around focusing on the newly recorded songs.  We've come up with some pretty cool packaging for our eps as well.  I've put mine in picture frames (after a song on the ep called "Picture Frame") and Ricky has hand crafted pillow cases for hers.  Our one rule was that our packaging material had to start with the letters "pi".  I also made t-shirts which so far have been selling like cold cakes....I say, wait until warm weather season and then they'll be flying off the shelves....right....  Another new development is that along with flip camera-ing as we always have, we've also been recording every show we can through the sound board.  Those are being made primarily for our highest donors but we'll probably be leaking some of them out here and there along the way...speaking of which...

First things first, I need to give a shout out to everybody who has donated so far to our tour through Feed the Muse.  I can't say enough how much you guys are literally the oil that this tour runs on.  So without further adieu...  Thanks a million to:

Brian Bourgeois
Steve Fawsett
The Hunter Family
Sandy Sumners
Linda Michalowski
Caitlin Bellah
Clint Parker
Ruben Garcia
Jonathan Broom
Joanne Lavoie
Gio Bruno
Kevin and Lily Mershon
Brent and Mary Ann Bourgeois (aka Dad and Mom!)
Glen Kimberlin
Gregory Darrow
Frank Lopez
Kathleen Barber (aka Auntie Kathi!)

You guys are amazing and are as I've said many times literally the reason we can do this tour at all.  For anyone else who wants to donate towards gas, food, lodging, etc you are more than welcome to do so at http://www.feedthemuse.net/bourgeoisberger.

Moving right along...  We left early Wednesday morning (well early for us...about 10:30am!) from Sacramento to drive up to Eugene, OR for our first gig, an eight and a half hour drive.  The drive up was beautiful.  There was snow all over the mountains as we passed from California into Oregon (luckily not on the road) it was awesome getting this last glimpse of winter in a more classic sense than we Sacramentans are accustomed to experiencing.  The gig that night was at a place called "Cozmic Pizza" which...you guessed it...was a hip and quite spacious pizza joint located in the heart of the city....or at least one of the kidney's of the city...I guess I don't really know the layout of Eugene well enough to comment.  Fun show...got to reconnect with some old friends we'd made last tour, Craig Leve, Randy Layton and Linda Miller all of whom have continued to be extremely supportive of our music.  We drove after the show to Portland to stay with Ricky's Uncle Carson.  One thing that absolutely needs to be said is that equally important as the people donating money are the people who are letting us stay with us along the way, like Uncle Carson, like the Grace Family who we've stayed with over the course of our Washington gigs, and so many countless others across the country whom I'll be mentioning along the way.  They are truly our angels.

I had some time to wander the Hawthorne Blvd district of Portland the next day, a very colorful neighborhood with a healthy array of vintage clothes shops, used record stores and ethnic food restaurants....although I did have to walk five whole blocks to find the nearest coffeehouse which I'd previously assumed to be unthinkable in Portland.  It's cool coming back to these cities and having memories in them from last year.  Some of those memories are sad...there is someone important to me who was with us last year and not this year....but mostly it's an awesome feeling as more and more of the country becomes more familiarity.

The gig that night was at 4th Avenue Tavern in Olympia.  It was a pretty small crowd but the people who were there really were into us which I guess in the end is what counts.  We stayed that night and the next three in Mukilteo, just north of Seattle, with the Grace Family who truly live up to their name.  They hosted us last year and it was awesome coming to a place that felt like home away from home.  My friend Becky, a forever Seattlite, made me a giant and truly remarkable (!) to-do of things to see and do in Seattle.  It may take me the next three tours to get through the list but I was able to cross a few things off visiting the Explore Music Project--a museum dedicated to Seattle's place in rock history (so you know, lots of Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana)--and the beautiful sculpture park with it's gorgeous view of Seattle's bayside.

Friday night's gig was at the Tiger Lounge in Seattle where I was given an amazing pesto, spinach and feta cheese pizza, by far my favorite thing about the gig.  Saturday night's show was at the Hi Fidelity Lounge in Bremerton, WA which we had to take a ferry to get to.  Ricky was very excited at the prospect of having our car transported by a fairy and we had to have a conversation about homophones which was concluded by agreeing that Verizon is indeed the most used cellular service in San Francisco's Castro District.  Sorry, just making sure you're still paying attention.  ;)  At the Hi-Fidelity Lounge where I was given an incredible pesto, spinach and feta calzone (definitely a huge highlight of the gig), we ran into a familiar face, Gina Belliveau who we had opened for last year in Tacoma.  Gina is a total rock star in waiting, utilizing loop pedals to add percussion, bass and vocal harmonies to both her original songs and creative choice of cover songs.  I was impressed last year and even more so this year, and it was nice for once to not be the only artist on the bill with the hard to pronounce French last name!  We had a good sized crowd and despite some issues with the sound system, it was an overall fun show.  The trip back to Mukilteo was not so fun as the GPS led us back to the ferry which was long since closed, and it was being very stubborn about showing us another way.  We rolled back into the Grace's home around 4am...

We spent yesterday hanging out with Stephanie Grace who showed us around different parts of Seattle such as the Fremont District, the U-Dub area, and Gas Works park which had an amazing view of the Seattle skyline.  The gig last night was at the Jewel Box Theater in Seattle, definitely up there as one of my favorite venues I've ever played at.  Gina was on the bill again for this show as well as the Fortune Dwellers, a groovy horn fronted band that we had the pleasure of playing with last year as well.  Nothing beats performing in an actual theater in front of an audience of people who are there for no other reason but to see the show.

That's all for now.  Our show tonight is at Mandolin Cafe in Tacoma.  Here a few videos from the last few nights (Ricky I'm sure will post her own videos in her blog):

"New December" at the Hi-Fidelity Lounge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3ySRG492-U
"Everybody Knows It Was Me" at the Hi-Fidelity Lounge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiHV92c4tW0
"Have It Your Way" at the Jewel Box Theater: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zUKammaRtA

Gina Belliveau performing "Hey Ya" by Outkast at the Jewel Box Theater: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePR9hl-i8nY


P.S. Let me know if you are not tagged in this and would like to be in future blogs or if you are tagged in this and would like not to be tagged in future blogs.

SW Tour Diary #3- The Major's Cabin 

Wow...I'd better finish up this blog soon because every night I don't means one more day I have to write about which means this will soon approach novel length...  Hey kids!  This tour has been quite a non-stop whirl-wind.  We've played a show just about every night and haven't stayed in a town any longer than that.  We've covered in two weeks as much ground as we covered in three on the last tour.  I love it!  Living in San Francisco, you spend a good portion of your time waiting for buses.  When you're in a hurry to get to your final destination you're faced with two choices: either wait for a potentially late bus or start walking.  By waiting you run the risk of the bus never arriving and by walking of course you face the chance that as soon as you leave the bus stop, the bus will come and pass you by.  I always elected to choose the latter of the two.  It drives me crazy to ever stand and wait for anything.  Always gotta keep moving forward...

We flew out of Austin last Wednesday morning to Nashville.  It was another Aloft Hotel gig like the ones Ricky and I had done in Richmond, Green Bay, and Harlem the month before so we got the luxury of a plane ride and a day off from the van.  It was the first day of December which means for me the first day of listening to Christmas music!  It's hard to keep up with what day it is while on the road, let alone what time of year it is so the Christmas music was a good reminder that we are indeed entering the holiday season.  We met up with Paige at the Nashville airport.  I'd been back to Nashville a few times since moving, but this was really my first time in Franklin which is where I did most of my growing up.  It was Paige's first time back too since her self-imposed exile many years ago, so it was pretty surreal for both of to be back especially do a show.  We took a cab from the airport to the hotel where we were set to play exactly two hours later.  We'd done enough of these by now that the Aloft hotel room was starting to feel like a home away from home.  The people at Aloft are extremely hospitable and treat us like rock stars.  I'm trying hard not to get too used to it...!  I had invited literally everyone on my Facebook friends list from Nashville to the show so I wasn't quite sure who would show up.  The answer ended up being a mixed bag of people from all different parts of my life in Nashville.  It literally felt like that old show "This is your life!".  A handful of my dad's old industry friends showed up as well as my sister Corey's best friend from elementary school, the pastor of my old church, a few fans Ricky and I had made when we'd played in Nashville on our last tour, and maybe most surreal of all, my third grade teacher who beamingly told me that this was me fulfilling the potential she had seen in cute little me so many years ago!  The show went really well.  The one weird thing for me about these Aloft shows is that since I was the "Project Aloft Star" winner, they're the only shows we do that are basically my show and not shared equally with Ricky or Ricky and Paige.  I do plenty of shows that are just me, but having Ricky and Paige just there to back me up feels a bit odd since they are unbelievable songwriters who I am literally still in awe of even after all this time every time I hear them perform.  They did get to do a couple of their own original songs which was cool.  Ricky was not feeling well after the show and went straight to bed so Paige and I along with my old friend Robby and a few of his friends who had come to the show all went over to enjoy the thing I probably missed most about Nashville, Carrabba's Italian Grill!

We had an early flight the next morning back to Texas (Ricky and I to Houston and then Austin, Paige to Charlotte, NC and then home to Houston....go figure!).  Austin felt familar this time around which is the great thing about traveling frequently.  Because of Ricky's diet (basically allergic to food) we've gotten a really insightful survey of the Whole Foods Markets across the country and the one in Austin where we had a late lunch that afternoon was actually the first one ever established so for Ricky in particular, it must have been like visiting Mecca!  We played our show that night at Cherrywood Coffeehouse where we had played last tour, thankfully indoors this time.  A man came up to me as we were setting up and introduced himself as Jared Bourgeois saying that he had a twin brother named Adrian Bourgeois who had recently died so when he had seen my name, he felt compelled to come!  There was also someone in the audience who revealed themselves to have the last name Berger so Ricky and I ended up performing for family we never knew we had.  It was a fun show and the crowd seemed to dig it. 

After the show we drove four hours to my grandfather's house in Dallas.  I love coming back to that house.  There aren't too many things that remain constant throughout life but Goomba's house is one of them.  It's not like I've even spent tons of time in it, the odd Christmas every couple of years, but for some reason it's a frequent location in my dreams maybe just because some semblence of my genes has been floating around in and out of that house for the past almost forty years.  It's always great to see Goomba although he was sick this time around and unable to come to our show.  Opening Bell Coffee was one of our favorite venues to play on the last tour it was great playing there again.  We got to reconnect with some of the people who had come to see us last time we'd played there and met a few new friends, not least the fantastic multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter duo that played after us, Stephanie Briggs and K Phillips.

We got up early the next morning to drive to Argylle, TX to visit with Claire Parr, the woman who had put on Live In the Vineyard and her husband Bob.  The Parrs and I are hopefully going to be doing some recording together in February.  They're wonderful people and it's really encouraging how much interest they've taken in wanting to help my music career along.  We drove from there for Houston to play a gig at the venue that Ricky and I had probably been most curious to check out: Super Happy Fun Land.  Super Happy Fun Land certainly lived up to our expectations.  Racks of dolls, vintage clothes and huge stuffed animals were scattered recklessly about a graffiti covered warehouse, like a giant playroom from the psychedelic era.  Paige came and played a set with me (her second show of the night) which was great as always and a much tighter set than Nashville.  A true highlight of this year for me has been getting to start performing with her again for the first time in almost six years and hopefully that will continue into the next year.  The entire audience was comprised almost of family: my uncles Bruce and Brian, aunt Ilda, cousin Jerry and his wife and kids, and Paige's mom were all there. One of the only exceptions was actually a couple who had seen Paige and I perform in Napa at Live In the Vineyard so that was kind of cool that they remembered enough to come out to see us almost a month later.  After the show, Ricky and I stayed the night at Brian and Ilda's house and got to leave the next morning with a bag full of cousin Jerry's freshly baked bread, another highlight of the tour!

It was time to start heading west again and after a stop at yet another Whole Foods Market (which has been fast becoming a favorite dining place for me as well), we drove three hours to San Antonio.  This gig was at a venue that couldn't have been more different than Super Happy Fun Land but was equally as colorful.  While Super Happy Fun Land had been vast and spacious, GIG as this venue was called was cozy and intimate and had the feeling of a very hip living room with lighting that only a professional photographer could have set up which is exactly what the sound guy and venue owner, Ruben, happened to be.  The performance space looked great and the sound was incredible...only problem was that there was no audience!  Ruben said that he kind of had expected this since it was a Sunday night and that area was usually pretty dead on weeknights but he had liked our music so much that he was willing to give us a chance.  Ricky and I and the other performer on the bill traded off songs nonetheless and with the professional lighting, we actually got some pretty cool looking video so long as we quickly turned off the camera in time to not capture the lack of applause.  A few people showed up at the end but truth be told, I was a little grateful for the lack of an audience given the fact that by that time Ricky's sickness from the beginning of the week had passed to me.  Ruben was gracious enough to actually let us sleep the night at the venue which had its fair share of relatively comfortable couches.

I was grateful to have a day off just to travel the following day and save my voice a bit.  It's impossible to take for granted how big Texas is.  There's something inspiring about driving west too.  You feel as though you're chasing the sun and you can literally see the shadow of the coming night spreading it's blanket over the vast landscape as the horizon fades from orange to purple and finally to deep dark blue.  We'll catch the sun one day.

I've been reading one of the most fascinating books I've ever read, "Sophie's World" which I can't recommend enough and haven't been able to put down the entire tour.  About fifty pages away from the end of the book I made the alarming discovery that I had left it at the Mexican restaurant we had eaten at two hours earlier so it was absolutely imperative that we hit a Barnes and Noble the following morning in Las Cruces to pick up a new copy.  Disease, famine, and natural disaster pale in comparison to the tragedy of losing an engrossing book you are fifty pages away from finishing (I just finished it tonight, literally one of the best books I've ever read).

The show tonight in Albuquerque (where the towels are oh so fluffy!) was strange to say the least.  It was at a Hookah lounge for one.  I'm not really sure what Hookahs do but hippies and hipsters seem to like them and here at the Orchid Chamber, the usual suspects were seated around the room in circles of pillows smoking Hookahs and playing video games.  Also there was no sound system so it was a great opportunity to put those vocal lessons of how to project into practice.  On the other hand not having to stay in one place locked behind a microphone was really liberating and the last two songs were performed practically dancing around the room.  I think that may have finally gotten their attention.  We're driving now to Flagstaff where we'll get a short night's sleep before driving eight and a half hours to San Diego in the morning.  That's all for now...but then a video is worth a thousand words right?  So I've got plenty of those to entertain you with next time you need a procrastination fix:

From Opening Bell Coffee, Dallas, December 3rd, 2010

"The Lost and the Free"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJVpkHNKH2M
"Love Be A Child"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ9PHrpFbV8
"People To Be"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26Jj7ITiYuU
"My Sweet Enemy"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icLE8F_jlho
"Long Way Home" (new song!  Kudos to Dad on the title...;) )- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBmyaXAmcb0
"Juniper"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdnc7z0c8vk

From Super Happy Fun Land, Houston, December 4th, 2010

"Time Can't Fly A Plane" (w/ Paige Lewis)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VekaXkuu1VE
"Dream On" (w/ Paige Lewis)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_DFmil9LyY
"Still Life" (w/ Ricky Berger)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moq8WucDrzI
"Everybody Knows It Was Me" (w/ Ricky Berger)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GL00fojWE_w
"Stingy", "Parachutes" and "Handle With Care" (w/ Ricky Berger)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh9SieMEEE0