Posts Tagged ‘son volt’

Tour Diary – Saratoga, CA – Jacksonville and Portland, OR (July 17, 18 and 19)

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Sacramento, CA – Jacksonville and Portland, OR (July 17, 18 and 19)

Montalvo stage, sound check

Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho; my favourite part of any west coast swing. I love this area of the country. Tonight we were at the Montalvo Arts Center on the outskirts of Saratoga. Our regular play in this area for the past decade has been the Mountain Winery, one of our favourite venues in the country, but they recently did an upgrade to their facility and added 750 new seats which made the venue a little bit too big for us. Fortunately the Montalvo Art Center is about as perfect a replacement as one could hope for. This is a beautiful outdoor venue. The building that now houses the art center was built as a private house in the early 1900’s by James Phelan, the youngest mayor in San Francisco’s history and a US Senator.  It was the center of political and social life in Northern California. Phelan invited artists of all stripes to visit his home and to use it as a retreat to work on individual artistic projects but in an environment conducive to cross-discipline dialogue. On his death Phelan willed the villa and the 175 acres of property to become a public space dedicated to the development of art, literature, architecture and music…and so it is. It’s an incredible piece of land, set a few hundred feet above the city on the side of a hill populated by redwoods, spruce, cypress and many more that I couldn’t identify:  a spectacular place….in some ways it’s even better than the Mountain Winery.

We had a good show tonight, I think. I didn’t personally have that good a time. I’ve lost my mojo, which can happen from time to time. So my feel for what is going on, on stage is heavily skewed by my own troubles. It’s a loss of touch, a loss of feel for ones instrument and an inability to feel the connection through the instrument to the other players on stage. When this state of being strikes, one has to put down ones head and gut it out, search for that performance that will lift you out of it, dig for your mojo.

It was a good size audience tonight, with a lot of enthusiasm. I thought Son Volt sounded excellent.


We’ve played the Brit Festival in Jacksonville three or four times in the past and it is always a very welcome stop. This area is a spectacular little piece of Oregonian paradise and this venue is about as beautiful as they come. The venue sits on the side of a hill just above the town, the stage facing up the hill to the audience who sits in amongst giant Ponderosa Pines. People come with their family and picnics and set up for an evening of music. We had a very good show; lots of energy from the crowd, which helped our own energy. I think I found my mojo. It was hiding in one of the travel cases, now I just need to coax it out.

Pete wandering through the redwoods

Portland has for many years been one of our favourite cities to visit in North America (it might even be our favourite). Over the past two decades of coming here it has slowly grown and evolved but it seems to have evolved for the better and not lost that peculiar flavour that makes it such a good place to hang out. There is a popular bumper sticker in town that states, “Keep Portland Weird”, which kind of sums it up. The locals seem to know what they got, and aren’t about to let it go without a fight. Unfortunately our hotel was way the hell out of town and the gig (the Aladdin Theater) was also across the river from the downtown core, so there were no easy walking excursions available. Some of us weren’t going to be robbed of our Portland fix, so Al, Tim and I jumped in a cab and headed downtown. Tim and I scoured some of the finer instrument stores, made the pilgrimage to Powell’s (the best book store on the planet), bought a dozen doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnuts (one of the best doughnut makers west of the Doughnut Plant in NYC), stocked up on some See’s Candy lollipops (to appease the rabble back home) and called it a day. The gig tonight was awesome…and it’s all because of the audience: another reason that Portland is so high on our list, the audiences are amazing. This was our sixth show in six nights, our eleventh show in twelve nights, but the audience refused to let our energies flag. Their enthusiasm was infectious; they coaxed my mojo out of the travel case and back in my pocket where it belongs. It looked and sounded like Son Volt had an equally great time…they were full on rocking tonight. Tomorrow we have a much needed day off in Vancouver. I plan to do a whole lot of nothing.


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Tour Diary – Tucson and Mesa (July 12 – 14)

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Tucson and Mesa, AZ (July  12 – 14)

It was 109 degrees in Tucson today.  There were a few half-hearted attempts to escape our air conditioned pod, but none were very successful. At one point I decided I needed to at least stretch my legs and get some blood moving, so I headed off for the railway museum which was just a couple of blocks away.  It didn’t take long for my skin to start sizzling and my brain to start melting. I tried to take a different route home, basically walking around the block, and I got completely disorientated. Since it was Sunday in downtown Tuscon (and it was 109 degrees outside) there wasn’t anyone on the streets to point me in the right direction.  I was pretty sure that I had met my end, death by melting, but a little more staggering around through the baking, empty street of downtown Tucson and I eventually found my way back to the bus. I crawled into my bunk and hid there for a couple of hours like any self-respecting reptile. At one point during my walk I could have sworn that I heard an orchestra tuning up in the distance or some kind of avant-garde music piece being performed. It kind of sounded like the synth at the beginning of Shine On You Crazy Diamond. So I began to walk toward where I thought the music was coming from. When I finally found myself lost and disorientated in amongst the office towers I realized that the music was being created by the din of all of the air conditioning units in the buildings, together they were creating some kind of harmonic which was echoing off the buildings and, it being a Sunday, there was no traffic noise to drown it out. Very strange, I felt like I was walking around in a credit sequence. I told you my brain was melting.

We got news yesterday that Son Volts van never made it off the top of the mountain in Utah. They went to leave and the transmission sprang a leak. While the band stayed behind to wait for the van to get fixed, Jay and Mark flew in to Tucson to do tonight’s show as a duo. They put on a good show for the faithful. We also had a decent show, not great; we were a little tired due to this being our fifth show in five nights. The audience, although it was very sparse, was very supportive. It’s always fun to play this town, even on a Sunday in July with the temperature in triple digits.


It was 113 degrees in Mesa for our day off. It was almost like being in some kind of bizarre reality TV game show: points given for how long you could go for a walk in this heat without completely losing your mind. Pete went for a too long walk, came back to the hotel, stepped in to the elevator and promptly punched his room number, instead of the floor number, into the keypad…..drool.

Some of us decided to stay in air-conditioned environs and went to see Bruno. The drive to the theater almost killed us. The hotel was kind enough to drive us in their shuttle but it had been sitting in the sun all day. It was a 20 minute drive across the barrens of suburban Phoenix….I felt like a suffocating dog.  Bruno was disturbing and pretty darn hilarious. It’s a very subversive movie and I doubt that it will do anything close to Borat at the box office. It pushes too many uncomfortable buttons so it probably won’t have the return rate that Borat had. Five of us guys went together and despite the fact that the theater was empty we chose to sit side by side by side.

The gig tonight was at The Mesa Arts Center which is a beautiful venue but probably a bit big for this double –bill. It was a very excited and responsive audience despite it being swamped by the venue.  We had an ok show. There were some very good moments and a few average moments. Son Volt rocked. One of the two air conditioning units on the bus has packed it in. This could be a very uncomfortable ride to San Diego.

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Tour Diary – Snowbird, UT and Santa Fe, NM (July 10 and 11)

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Snowbird, Utah (July 10, 2009)

We spent today half way up a mountain at the Snowbird Ski Resort. Not a bad way to spend a beautiful mountain day. Snowbird is just one of the many ski resorts that sit above the Great Salt Basin, above Salt Lake City.  Ski resorts like this one all over the country have gotten smart over the years and realized that their chalets and restaurants don’t have to sit empty during the summer months. The growth in summer sports like mountain biking have helped the bottom line and a lot of these resorts have added music festivals to their summer schedules. We usually have the good fortune of playing a couple of these every summer: no pressure gigs surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Snowbird also has the added bonus of “fun time activities”, like a toboggan slide, bungi trampoline, zip line, a climbing wall and other cool stuff for kids and not-so-kids. There is also a gondola that brings you to the top of the mountain so you can look down on the rest of the world. It was a fun day, especially for Ed.

The gig was as enjoyable as the rest of the day: a Friday night crowd, the first night of the festival, a beautiful summer evening…..rock on.



 santa fe stage

Santa Fe, NM (July 11, 2009)

A long 14 hour drive from the mountains of Utah to the deserts of New Mexico. There is only so much sleeping one can do so we watched some really bad movies on the newly named SYFY channel  (apparently Sci Fi was too confusing to us all). We didn’t see one square block of downtown Santa Fe, which is ok by me. I love this area but I find the city a bit too Disney….”visit olde time Santa Fe-land”….but I like the land and I like the light and I like the people.

The gig was at a decent little outdoor venue attached to the Santa Fe Brewing Company: a relatively small space with a good sound system out in the middle of nowhere.  Son Volt was not part of the bill tonight. We had a very fun time tonight, it was very loose, with a few technical problems and a few guitar clangs and vocal miscues, but it still had a good feel and lots of good moments. It was helped along by an enthused audience. It was freakin’ hot out there today.  

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Tour Diary – Aspen, CO (July 9)

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Aspen, CO  (July 9, 2009)

We have been to Aspen four times in the last four years, which is way too often to play any market, no matter how “transient” the population is suppose to be, which might explain the very small turnout at The Belly Up. We were on first tonight and when we started there might have been thirty people in the audience, which has to be the smallest audience that  we have perfomed to in years. By the end of the set the number was edging closer to two hundred, but it made for a very interesting show. The Belly Up isn’t our favourite room. It is a tiered club which is great for sightlines and great for those who are really into the music, because they can get up close to the stage, but the back tier is where the bar is and attracts  geese in great numbers. The low ceiling projects their honking to the stage and throughout the club which can be very disruptive. Since there wasn’t anyone there at the beginning of the set we didn’t have to compete with the chatter and were able to settle in to our own groove. We had a very good night of music. Too bad there weren’t more there to enjoy it.

This isn’t my favourite town, as I’ve mentioned in past diaries. It’s hard to not enjoy being in the mountains, but the town is awash in wealth, dripping with rubies and pearls….in a decadent kind of way. It’s just a tad overwhelming. I enjoy watching all of the hyper-fit women (of all ages) sashay around town in their latest Lululemon apparel,  it’s great to see such healthy, blond, blue-eyed, white-teethed children enjoying their summer vacations, I like that all of the Range Rovers slow to a crawl when you enter a crosswalk, but it’s all a little too much. Nevertheless, it’s always a welcome stop. After four years I know where to find the best coffee (Ink), the best bookstore (Explore), the best sandwich shop (The Butcher Block) and if I want to go for a hike I know where to find the trail head.  All in all a very pleasant day. 

I also got a chance to catch Son Volts set. They seemed to be firing on all cylinders as well. They’ve got a great sonic roar going on, which envelopes Jay Farrar’s voice and smacks you in the face, in a most entertaining way. I’m looking forward to hearing more.


Created with flickr slideshow.

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