Archive for the ‘Tour Diary’ Category

You don’t know what love is, until you know the meaning of the blues…

April 1st, 2011 | Tour Diary | 2 Comments

Boise, ID to Portland.

You don”t know what love is, until you know the meaning of the blues.

I could hear it in his voice as we packed up. The thought of leaving the bus there in the middle of nowhere killed him, and I could hear a hint of it in Jared’s voice even as he joked around. It was a calm and overcast day on the edge of the Snake River, the border that separates Idaho and Oregon. We were about five-and-a-half hours from home, as we cleaned out everything from our broken down bus, and packed it into the back of a rented U-haul. From my perspective we’ve have had a tumultuous affair with our tour bus. Like any affair it hasn’t been without it’s good times—great times even. Having gotten us through two of the best tours we’ve ever been on, or possibly ever will be on, Thor[i] has been an integral part of the experience–the sixth man. By far the most interesting, novel and comfortable vehicle I’ve ever traveled in, its short moonlighting as a tour van had facilitated if not generated many great stories.

Bus Van Sant[ii] was a twenty-foot, fourteen-seat euro shuttle bus like one you might see idling in front of the London-Heathrow airport. It was bright yellow with large windows, powered double doors, and bays of bench seats inside. Outside, the words Tender Loving Empire[iii] in big black letters ran across each side panel. It was spacious at least for our standards, having done tours in small cramped vans many times before. It had a built in luggage rack that we’d modified with a hefty door and lock, making it a safe and enclosed space for our gear. The front of it was covered with a vintage sheet; patterned with a faded hearts that had been donated by Jared’s wife. It had, had sentimental value for her and Jared wanted to save it.

“Brianne’s gonna be bummed” Jared said, realizing there’s no viable way to get it off and that we’d have to also leave it behind. “I put so many staples in it…”

Practically speaking the buses best quality was her size. Antonio Vanderas[iv] was roughly nine feet tall from tire to top. Once aboard a person could stand totally upright in it. This facet was often one of the first things that other touring bands would comment on. At twenty feet long and eight feet wide, it was large but not overly cumbersome. It was narrower in the lane that most airport shuttles, and had a surprisingly decent turning radius. It slept at least four people fully stretched out if you put two on the floor. On one tour we got as many as seven sleeping. You would be amazed at how effectively a few hours of being able to stretch will help mute or diffuse the stress inherent with a long tour, or stretch with no days off. It was a novel vehicle, maybe not the most practical but not the least either. It got better than you’d expect gas mileage, and was surprisingly easy to parallel park.

The flip side of those attributes was its penchant for mechanical disappointment. We were discussing this as we waited for our food in front of a Sonic Burger in Boise where we’ve been stuck for a day. There was the time a booster failed on last tour, and we were limited to going ten to twenty miles an hour up the hills. There’s the time the ignition went out in Palm Springs and we had to have a mobile mechanic rig it so we could start it with a pair of pliers. The time the wipers went out in Salt Lake and another mobile mechanic had to rig the horn mechanism so that when you depressed the horn the one working wiper turned on. This got us precariously through the snowy passes to Idaho. Then there are the little things; the other zips pops and quirks. It had breakers instead of fuses that frequently and mysteriously tripped. The fact that if you touched the instrument dimmer and the interior light switch at the same time it would shock the shit out of you. This often happened by accident if you were driving. The fact that despite having five gears, its only two speeds were slow and painfully slow. There’s the frustration in being regularly passed even by other airport shuttles. The fact that even when we added an hour to any quoted travel time in Google Maps we are still almost always behind. All said and done the bus had spent more than its share of time in the shop considering how long we had owned it. Though not colossal failures—easy enough to shrug off individually—all these things could add up to what no one at the table wanted to admit. Ol’ Yeller[v] was a lemon…

“Well it is yellow, we should have known!” Jared jokes as we eat our Sonic Burgers and fries.

Rewind twenty-four hours and you’ll find us cheerfully blazing down the road, five-and-a-half hours away from Portland, on the day after our last show of tour. It had been a great tour, a great last show, but also a long tour and everyone was excited to get home. Ever since we’d left Boise Vanna Banana[vi] had been chugging down the road and running like a dream. Suspiciously good I’d say, in hindsight. I was driving and I suddenly I heard an urgent knocking sound underneath the gas pedal—an impatient fate at the doorstep. I felt the pedal bump against the underside of my shoe. It sounded like a belt had come off and was somehow whipping the floorboard form the engine compartment. Everyone perked up and stared silently toward the floor. Jared and began to brainstorm possible causes of the sound, but even then it didn’t seem too dire. We noticed that the knock only happened when I depressed the gas pedal. I checked all the gauges and everything looked fine, though the gauges were fickle and seemed to stop working at random. We saw a rest stop ahead and we decide to pull off the highway. As soon as I decelerated down the exit the bus died. All power was lost and we coasted down the off ramp toward a small rest stop in the middle of nowhere, where we’d end up spending the next six hours. All Huddled up in the cold bus, we waited for people to come out to us and give us what turned out to be increasing degrees of bad news. A man from Triple A and his wife checked out our battery and power situation. He tried for and hour to get the batteries powered up, but the engine wouldn’t even try. What started as possibly a battery or alternator problem—somewhat cheap and easy to fix—escalated toward a broken engine bearing which had caused the engine to lose oil pressure and thus the block to rapidly overheat and either seize the pistons or crack the block itself. It was a pronouncement of death for the bus, although we weren’t quite ready to accept it. After those hours of standing around speculating under the increasing darkness, a few things had become clear: We weren’t going home that night, and we’d have to find a way back to Boise and we’d have to make a new plan.

Ben, a friendly man, sort of a hero in his own right, and the owner of Ben’s Truck Repair was our third visitor. He delivered the prognosis, before calling us a tow truck and driving us back to his shop. Ben is the only mechanic in the area. He’s on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and on holidays. Serving us drinks in her warm living room, Ben’s wife told us stories of stranded folks at both her thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables. He rescues stranded big rigs and auto’s alike several times a day from anywhere in the area. His home and shop are twenty miles away back toward Boise right on the bank of Snake River. He gave us shots of Patron and showed us around the house that he’d built. We hung out waiting for our friend Lisa to drive three hours from Boise to retrieve us. She came out late even though she had to work in the morning and we are forever grateful. The next day we had another friend driving from Portland to get us, but his van also started having problems and, perhaps a little spooked by the situation he decided to turn back. Eventually we developed a plan and Jared rented a U-haul to take gear and I rented a car to take people. We meet at Ben’s shop to empty out the bus before heading back to Portland. We were going to abandon the bus hoping to sell it to Ben, or part it out. There was talk of putting in a new engine, but shipping it out to the middle of nowhere was too expensive. It’s a tough thing walking away from a tour vehicle most likely for good. Years ago I’d had to do it once before.[vii] Our transmission had gone out in the Appalachian range of West Virginia. We’d spent the day climbing the mountains and just as we reached the snow line, it gave up. A horrendous grinding metal sound cried out from beneath our feet. I was able to drive it on the shoulder at about four miles an hour until we reached a turn-off. Eventually we ended up stuck in a tiny town with little-to-no cell phone service for three or four days. I was able to borrow enough money to buy a used van in the area and get us all home, but when we went to the western union to pick up the money they laughed at us never having more than three hundred dollars at a time. We spent days maxing out our ATM withdraw limits at various places until we had all the money we needed. It was such an exhausting ordeal, that my then band mate Matthan and I drove strait back to Portland form West Virginia without stopping. It took us fifty-two hours. It’s a jarring and senseless kind of feeling when you rely on technology that suddenly fails. Seemingly for no reason something that was so simple and taken for granted as pressing a gas pedal and steering a vehicle, rapidly becomes a shit storm of logistical, financial, and emotional stress. It’s like being teleported from your warm bed and suddenly reappearing in the middle of a harsh wilderness. You’re super fucked and you have to make a lot of important decisions quickly.

It was drizzling in Portland the next morning as Jared and I waited for the rest of the band to show up at our practice space to unload the U-haul. We stood at the edge of the small stoop out of the way of the rain, looking out into the street. Now there were considerations for the bus that we were only beginning to evaluate. It’s possible for instance that a vehicle with an engine, size, and strength was never meant to climb mountain passes or challenge the grapevine with a seven people and a bands worth of gear? Maybe the hills were too much or the drive times too great? Maybe these vehicles are only built to drive in short jaunts from Heathrow to the hotel and back? Like I said before, it was a tumultuous affair. The word affair implying something temporary and maybe that’s the way to look at it: a honeymoon with a lover that we never should’ve tried to marry. Jared smoked contemplatively as we looked out at the rain from the stoop. There was a warm breeze weaved evenly into the rain, and the day was humid. We didn’t speak much, just a little small talk though we were thinking about the same things. He was especially quiet and I could see him standing on the edge of something; a great hill in his mind that overlooked a dark mountain forest high in an American range. He surveyed a thick layer of trees and rolling hills searching for a path. His brow is bent into a worry as he tries to make sense of his view but it was hazy, and there were many possible routes in the distance.

[i] There are many names for the van this is the one I liked not only because it’s tough but also because it says it for some reason on the side wing window.

[ii] This was Megan, one of the band mate’s name for it.

[iii] Tender Loving Empire is the record label and retail store in downtown Portland that Jared, our bandleader, and his wife own.

[iv] Brianne thought of this one. So good.

[v] Our tour manager Theo thought this one up. I had forgotten what it was so I texed him for this post, and he immediately texted back: “Ol’ Yeller. Perhaps it was a poor choice given how the film ends.”

[vi] Javier, another band mate, really pushed for this one but we all hated it.

[vii] Jesse, who was in the bus as well, was with me then too. He is the bass player of Jared’s band, but was also the singer for that band.

Los Angeles on a Tuesday, March 8th

March 27th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 0 Comments

BY THEO “TOUR DAD” CRAIG

It was Tuesday, I woke up on Haight Street.

I signed on to manage this tour for Jared Mees & The Grown Children and to sleep in the bus night after night. The bus is probably the best place to sleep most nights. I have a padded five-seat bench serving as my bed and roughly 20′ x 7′ of space all to myself most nights of tour. It’s kind of like camping, it’s kind of like hitting rock bottom, but it’s comforting to have this consistent place to call home over 23 days and 10 states. Plus, as Brandon from World’s Greatest Ghosts protested in a morning after sharing a room with me during their February tour,”you snore like a mountain collapsing”, so it’s really better for all involved if I sleep out of earshot. Read More

Palm Springs, the 9th

March 27th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 1 Comment

The trip to Palm Springs started at 8 in the morning, after going to bed at 4:30 in the morning, in the van, all six of us.

It was after a late night spent in Echo Park (L.A.), running around with our buds Tim, Kelly, and Leigh to an after-hours bar (with a five-dollar cover and questionably lame clientele, so we skipped that dive) then to a karaoke’d thai place. One dude there was giving it all he could to “Oh Darling!” “(That’s the) Power of Love”; like, really belting his shit out. He really reminded of Third Day’s singer (and I’m sure you’re all wildly familiar with that contemporary Christian rock band…). I did a understandably wussified version of “Island in the Sun”; there was some applause and turned heads, I’m not gonna lie. Tim did “Cupid”, I think because he wanted to see if he could lay down an impassioned take as much as he saw Josh Spacek do at a Valentine’s Day show; it must’ve been a tune that got stuck in his head. Kelli (Tim’s roommate) and I searched high-and-low for a suitable song to hunker-down upon as a duo. We sat in front of the tattered, split-in-half karaoke songbook just combing through, looking for something not too lame, not too mushy, not too rocking, not too romantic, etc. We settled on Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. Then several women from our party hopped onstage with us to finish out the song. (“LA lady/Blue jean baby”…) Read More

Surprise Grandma and Grandpa!

March 27th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 1 Comment

Tempe, AZ.
March 13th, 2011

Bleary eyes upon arriving to the Sail Inn.  One side of the street: a venue with an outdoor stage and a built in crowd of people enjoying a Grateful Dead cover band, tie dye sea of dancing middle aged hippies.  Across the street (where we parked) a man stumbling toward us out of his mind telling us we can not park there through mumbles and grumbles.  His place of residence surrounded with chain link fence and barbed wire, complete with pit bull seeming like a junkyard of sorts.  We were reluctant to be out of the van after such a long drive from Long Beach the evening before and to see that there would indeed be people at our show (my grandparents included).  The icing on the cake was that we would be sharing the stage with our label mates: Typhoon. Read More

Thank You for being a Golden Gate Friend

March 27th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 0 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
March 7th, 2011

San Francisco, I love you.  For many obvious reasons 10 friends of mine from High School migrated to San Francisco.  Here are their names listed (in order of introductions) Jeff Bob, Rena, Liz (San Luis Obispo), Jason, Tim, Emily, Scotty, Arika, Robert, Elizabeth (Sacramento) all of them hilarious, awesome and very supportive of our band.  So we roll into SF, cloudy, moody weather..it’s SF what did you expect?  We were given bits of sun throughout the day though. Read More

Rough Riding Rossi

March 25th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 0 Comments

CORVALLIS, OREGON
March 3rd, 2011

We knew not what adventures lay ahead as we drove down the dusty back roads of Corvallis, Oregon.  Shadowy trees, moonlit path and cult talk were the setting to our scene.  The air was fresh and dewy in the way a pastoral area can be.  Took me back to my youth.  We reached a sign after driving in the dark for miles reading: ‘Dead End’ yet GPS informed us to continue on.  So we did. Read More

Kurt Cobain interviews Jared Mees

March 25th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 0 Comments

ashland, or -3/5/11

Interviewee: Jared Matthew Mees
Interviewer: Kurt Donald Cobain
Location: Alex’s Restaurant, Ashland, Oregon, USA

begin tape
JMM: Mr. Cobain?
KDC: Mr Mees?
JMM: And may I say its certainly a pleasure to finally meet you sir. So sorry I’m late sir, we got a late jump on the morning up in Corvalis
KDC: Not at all, I was just finishing up with this old devil.
JMM: Oh, are you playing tonight as well? I…
Read More

El Paso to Granbury, TX

March 22nd, 2011 | Tour Diary | 0 Comments

Everywhere I looked I saw El Reloj. Though it’s odd for me to call him that because that’s not how I knew him. I knew him as Dad but some folks out there knew him that way, as The Watch, El Reloj[i]. In the 60’s and 70’s, this was his country. We were heading into Granbury TX on our way from Tempe, AZ. We had to drive strait through a day and a night, which can leave you feeling a little like you’re stuck between worlds. I had been watching the parched countryside, the little dilapidated towns, truck stops, farms and ranches drift by. In truth, not much has changed for some of these places since El Reloj took his last tour there. We stoped at rest stops, gas stations, another and another. Each time I’d wonder if El Reloj had also been there, if we put a hand on the same counter, or if he’d stretched his legs in the same lot. He once bet a group of friends while they were fueling up that he could get the clerk to repeat everything he said without the man realizing it. He succeeded somehow—with some mysterious cunning or trick that no one will ever know. He pulled the man into his trance and the boys in car laughed in disbelief. Handing the elderly clerk my money I can’t help but wonder, could this be that man?

El Reloj played with many different country, blues, and rock bands between 1967-1980, most notably Dale McBride and Delbert McClinton. There are stories of him playing with Bo Diddley, doing a musical comedy show with Maury Amsterdam from the Dick Van Dyke Show, but I don’t know much about that. To be honest I don’t know much about that time in his life because—having been born in 1981—I was never a part of it. His character then is so removed from the father I knew, that for me feels like he exists outside of time and space. I felt almost like I might run into that young version of him at the bar, in his cowboy hat staring up at the TV. He wouldn’t know who I was. While driving the same roads that he did, I felt closer to that version of him. I was the same age El Reloj was in 1976 when he was touring like me, as a drummer. In fact, the only reason I play the drums at all, since I preferred the guitar, is because he taught me that if I learned the drums I’d always have a job in a band. So far he was right.

A Texas boy from Bonham, east of Dallas, in a time when touring around Texas was good for a country band, he’d been up and down every road, back road, and bar this state had to offer. Now I feel like I’m entering his world through my own, that through the similarities somehow I might be able to get close to him. But El Reloj is always just beyond my periphery. Though it’s been 11 years since his death, this is the way the brain is re-wired to think when you suddenly lose someone. Forever trying to make sense of something that cannot make sense so that the fantastical is always on the verge of the possible.

Granbury, TX

When people ask about our tours I’ll mention Austin, I’ll mention San Francisco, or L.A.; The cities that are fun to be in, and have the restaurants, bars, and museums I like. It won’t be long though before I’ll mention Granbury. And when I do, even to other touring bands, even to my Mother who lived in Texas for many years… They’ve ever heard of it. This lack of awareness is so prevalent that I sometimes question whether it exists at all.

Granbury is an oasis of a town positioned around Granbury Lake in Hood County. Rich in Texas history allegedly including the retirement settlements of Jesse James, John Wilkes Booth and nearby the Davy Crockett family[ii]. Many of the buildings and houses are registered historical landmarks including the Astor House which happens to be the house we’re staying at. It’s a large Victorian with a big wrap around porch that sits near a tiny and ornate downtown that loves and celebrates its history. The kind of house that was built with two sets of stairs to the second floor, one for the family into the main room, and one for the service people into the kitchen. Though not like a lot of houses you might find on the historical society’s list, the Astor house looks lived in, worn and well-taken advantage of. It has several large and inviting common rooms thick with refined Victorian charm. There are musical instruments lying around the living room, and there is a pool table in what I assume was the study. The day we showed up there was an enormous table cluttered with snacks and drinks. Only our second time through, and having little-to-no market for fringe indie music, Granbury is a place that should have never heard of us. But we do have fans there and they are at least familiar with our songs. And they get up and dance when we play. This is mostly thanks to Steve Smith, the town’s premier indie concert promoter. Along with his wife Kathy, and an array of kids’ friends and neighbors, they rally around the bands that come to town making them feel welcome and appreciated. The all contribute to the operation, and as they come and go, I never quite know who is related and who is not. They cook, they show us around, they help us with our gear, they run the sound at the shows, they invite their friends and they hang around and talk to us before and after.

Kathy, a warm and genuine woman with a penchant for caring and joking, cooked the bulk of the meal that we all later ate sitting on the porch. Steve, slender with a white goatee and genteel Texas demeanor, made sure we were settled in and showed us where to shower and sleep. It’s was all pretty simple for us; we got in pretty early so there wasn’t much to do but sit around on the porch, drink, and chat until dinner was ready. Just before sundown Fernando, another Portlander showed up with his guitar player. They were on tour for the first time in a few years and sharing the bill with us down at Jam’s, a club a few miles away. After dinner we all got in our little bus and headed down.

Jam’s is a variant of any classic Texas bar: full of smoke and loud music, a couple pool tables and some sports up on the TV. Steve and a few of the boys helped us load in and then went to work setting up the P.A. We had a few drinks and Fernando played a great set of beautiful Americana with that perfect Tele twang, right at home both in Texas and in any seedy place that you might also find Tom Waits. A couple cowboys in the back were hooting and hollering through his set, and he brought the house down with a few songs in Spanish. Eventually we took the stage and had a decent show. Afterward we all went back to the Astor House. Steve had gone back to the house early. When we finally made it we returned to find he’d made an exorbitant amount of frozen pot stickers. They spilled over the plate in a pile and we stood around the kitchen drinking beer and dipping them in soy sauce. I turned in early, but it was Fernando’s birthday so Jared and a few others keep it going. I stayed that night, in the upper bedroom with the ornate balcony. The bed was tucked into a small alcove of bay windows. I could feel the cool breeze that drifted across the night and dipped into the balcony window. The town was silent and the stars punctuated the big Texas sky. The bed was soft, and I felt profoundly relaxed, and I got the best sleep I’d had all tour.

In the morning we packed up leisurely before we got ready to head out to Austin for the South by Southwest music and arts festival. Though we we’re excited about the festival we moved slowly; all a little reluctant to get up and leave. Maybe it’s just that I’d had a day and a night to relax after the long drive on a busy tour, but unlike the day I’d spent yesterday a sense of calm had settled over me. Maybe it was the rest, or the town, the lake, or the good people, or the culture that has been left to grow in its little corner of Texas. Whatever the reason, for me Granbury is an oasis, a breath of fresh air, a drink of cool water in the desert, and a great Texas secret for a band on tour. And I wonder if El Reloj also knew that.

[i] Not to be confused with the song from Latin pop singer Luis Miguel’s album Romances with the same title, or El Reloj Cucu (The Clock That Goes Cuckoo), the 1996 Latin billboard-charting single from Guadalajara pop/rock band Mana.

[ii] According to Wikipedia. In the brief amount of research I conducted I DID I find that these ties are mostly unconfirmed; however, it seems very possibly true.

Ukiah, the 5th

March 11th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 1 Comment

BY JAVIER “MAGICAL” MADRIGAL

So first, the ride there was horrendous. Hills, fog, rain, crazy inclines that Vanna Banana Ol’ Yeller (our tour vehicle) was not built to handle; Joe thought we were gonna die in several instances. We planned to make a radio station gig: that didn’t happen; we were running too late. So the insane backroad route we took was all in vain (“Meaningless! Meaningless!”), but we did see the world famous One-Log House.

Foraging on to Ukiah… The gig was at a brewing company. A brewing company with a “Raw Vegan” portion to their menu; this made several members of the crew surprised, relieved and satisfied. Read More

Show & Tell: Tour Kick Off

March 6th, 2011 | Tour Diary | 0 Comments

BY JESSE BETTIS

“Everyone’s too quiet. We’re a party band, you guys should be talking over us,” the frontman said after a few songs. From my experience at Mississippi Studios Sunday Feb 27th, his proclamation was correct. Rocky and the Proms is a band of Crispin Glovers who, after Sunday’s show have become one of our favorite new Portland bands. Their subtle throwback style ranges from Motown to Stan Getz to Television with just enough Strokes to tie it all together into a nice modern package. All five members were wearing red and blue Hunter Thompson-esque plastic visors. And EVERYONE killed it. Read More