We were recently interviewed by Chicago resident Chris Parish from the blog Harmon Drive. It resulted in this article and some kind of mutual respect between us and Chris. (Photo by Cody Bralts.)
The following video is from last Friday’s holiday-themed show at Mike n’ Molly’s in Champaign. Of the songs we played that night, this one was definitely the most chaotic. It provided a fun break from our intimate, retrospective vibe. Our friends Zack Grant and Kristin Tennant are jamming with us. Enjoy!
“Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” by Sufjan Stevens:
After waking up to a broken furnace and then spending the day working or hanging out with family, we found ourselves exhausted…and in Indianapolis. The Planet Home, where we played last Friday, is a huge old house that’s being renovated by a guy named Ben. The place used to be organized into four apartments, but Ben is knocking down walls and converting it into a single-family home. With lots of open space, it was a great spot for a house concert.
The line-up was almost identical to our last show in Indy, which was over three years ago—Lovely Houses, us, and Kendall Ludwig. We had a great time at the show and were able to connect with Ben on our mutual love for Polar Pop. Dave from Lovely Houses said we don’t seem like Polar Pop people. “In fact,” he said, “Ben is the only person I know who seems like a Polar Pop person.” At that point, old memories came flooding back.
Ben is a gas station enthusiast. When we met him three years ago, he was on a mission to visit every gas station in Indianapolis. He had a spreadsheet where he was rating each place on a variety of factors, such as cleanliness and selection. He now knows how to adjust the mix of syrup and water in fountain soda. Apparently, when you remove the Coke cover, there are two knobs that can be turned using a pocket knife. It is the perfect positioning of these knobs that creates a great-tasting fountain drink! When gas station attendants catch Ben fine-tuning his soda, he just tells them he works for Coke. As we were leaving, Ben directed us to the nearest Circle K, where we picked up some Polar Pops for our Saturday drive.
Next we made a stop in East Lansing, MI, where we played an intimate show at an art gallery called (SCENE) Metrospace. It was great to see some snow, and we were able to take a short detour to visit Lake Michigan in Saugatuck.
We ended our weekend trip with a Sunday night gig at The Orphanage in Chicago (pictured above). The Orphanage is a cool art and music space in the upstairs of an enormous old Lutheran church. We were pleased to see our college friends Joe and Dave. Dave even brought us some homemade pickled green beans! They look awesome, and we’re excited to try them. (We’re just saving them for that perfect moment.)
After the bands played, an Orphanage volunteer pulled out a turn table, which was followed by some amazing hula hooping. We’ve heard rumor of this hula hoop trend, but we didn’t really get it until now. (The following video is posted with permission.)
Opening for Andrew Bird at U of I’s Foellinger Auditorium is certainly one of the highlights of our musical career thus far. We’re happy to report that Mr. Bird and his support staff (managers, roadies, techs, etc.) are good people. They’re not the egotistical rock star types.
We approached last Tuesday’s gig like we would any other show—playing our songs the best we currently know how, interacting with the crowd, and so on. During a discussion about holiday shopping, one audience member informed us that the robot hamster is the hot gift item this year. Heather’s adding that to her wish list! We even attempted crowd participation, with hundreds of people providing the percussive stomps and snaps during “Commercial Paper.”
But of course, in many ways, it was very different from our typical show experience. For example, it was a major production, and we were performing on a large stage in a dome-shaped 2,000 capacity theatre. We loaded in at 2:30 (for an 8 PM set), shared a hospitality room with Andrew Bird and his crew, and had our own dressing room. Yes, a dressing room! As we were getting ready, Andrew’s production manager knocked on our door and said, “15 minutes.” Ten minutes later, we got the five minute cue and a short pep talk.
All in all, we had a really great experience and enjoyed seeing Andrew Bird’s solo set. We’re continually impressed by him! (If you’d like to read more, you can find a review of the show from our friend Gillian’s perspective at Smile Politely.)
A road through the UW-Madison campus
Monday, Nov. 16, was a drive day to get from Brooklyn to Grand Rapids. We left NYC early that morning, drove for about 12 hours, and eventually crashed at a motel around Toledo, OH. Tuesday we drove on to Grand Rapids, MI, for our show at Cave Café—a popular restaurant/student hangout in the commons area at Calvin College.
The following night we were in Madison, WI, for an intimate Wednesday night show at an art space called The Project Lodge. In our conversations from stage, we discussed the opposition to a proposed commuter rail. An article we had seen in the Isthmus said that Vicki McKenna (a radio announcer in the Madison area) thinks the commuter rail is “about those damn liberals trying to micromanage everyone else’s lives.” A guest on McKenna’s radio show (Republican Party spokesman Bill Richardson) even suggested that a commuter rail would turn the city into the Soviet Union or East Berlin. Damn liberals. Fittingly, we also learned that Stalin’s daughter lives in Madison.
A view of UW-Madison on a rainy afternoon
Next we traveled north to Menomonie. Sadie got sick while we were eating lunch, resulting in a mess throughout the van, a stop at Shopko to find carpet cleaner, and driving with the windows cracked despite rain and cold temps. Nonetheless, we made it. Opening for LOW at UW-Stout was certainly a highlight of this tour. It’s a huge honor to open for a band you admire. We played for 35 or 40 minutes, and then LOW was on. One of our favorite parts of the show came during LOW’s encore. It went something like this:
Alan Sparhawk of LOW: Are there any questions I can help answer?
Girl in Audience: What should I do with my life?
Alan: How much have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?
Girl: I’ve traveled quite a bit. I’ve been to the West Coast and to Colorado.
Alan: Oh, a Phish fan.
Girl (with a hint of defensiveness): No, not that at all. I lived out there and then moved back here.
Alan: Well, you should go to Holland, and then travel down to Barcelona. Be careful in Barcelona though or else you’ll get mugged… Have you considered theology?
Alan: What are you studying right now?
Girl (dodging the question): This is getting a little personal. How about I just go to Holland, then to Barcelona, and I’ll figure it out from there.
Alan: Well, ok. And Tel Aviv. You should go to Tel Aviv. So start in Holland, then after you get mugged in Barcelona, go to Tel Aviv…
We drove to nearby Eau Claire after the show and stayed at our friend Pakou’s apartment. Before leaving town on Friday, we accompanied Pakou to a lunchtime Chris Koza concert at UW-Eau Claire.
Our final stop on this tour was in Ames, IA, where we were able to connect with our friend Phil and play a fun house concert. (Some of you may remember Phil as the pedal steel/guitar player who sometimes sat in with Casados.) Phil recently scored a nice lap steel at an estate auction, and we gladly gave him a reason to try it out. Saturday night’s house party was complete with food, drinks, and lots of music (us sandwiched between six local musicians). It turned out to be the rowdiest crowd we played for on this tour, but we were able to engage them and had a really great time. Honestly, we can’t imagine a better way to wrap things up.
All in all, the tour was excellent. We’re approaching some time off around the holidays, with a handful of Midwest shows throughout December. We’ll keep you updated on our plans for 2010. Thanks for reading!
We just completed a week of great shows in the Northeast. We’ve been lucky enough to play for full rooms and appreciative audiences. Thanks to those of you who have come out to shows and befriended us along the way.
Our CD Release Party kicked off this string of shows on Saturday, Nov. 7, at an art space called Indi Go in Champaign, IL. The crowd was a perfect combination of close friends and strangers, and the room’s natural reverb complimented our sound very nicely. Caleb Engstrom played an opening set, and the night felt really special. Following the show, our housemate and some comrades proposed an after party at nearby Mike ‘N Molly’s. We attended the after party, of course, but in typical Nic & Heather fashion, we had not yet packed our bags (and were leaving early the next morning), so we ended up sleeping very little that night.
On our way east, we made a stop at The 509 in Huntington, IN, and were happy to see several familiar faces, including our good friends Josh and Alyssa. From there, we spent a couple days in Jamestown, NY, where we were able to chill with the Christopher Bell and pick up some locally-made borsari salt. We played a well-received show at the Labyrinth and saw a couple nice reviews while in Jamestown—one in the daily paper, The Post-Journal, and another in the Chautauqua County alt weekly, WORD. After describing the sound and subject matter of our new album, the reviewer for WORD writes, “Why all of this is invigorating and not depressing is hard to say. Maybe because it’s so candid….”
Next stop: Syracuse. We played at an independent coffee shop/café/bookstore called 2nd Story. Following the show, we went for a late night walk with some new friends and our dogs. It was our first experience with a fennel plant. The nice folks with whom we were walking picked some fennel and encouraged us to chew on the dried flowers, eating the seeds and freshening our breath.
On Thursday and Friday, we had a couple college shows that took us further north. Thursday night we played in Canton, NY—a small town with two colleges up by the Canadian border. And the following night we were in Middlebury, VT. On our way from New York to Vermont, we met a large sign that read, “Bridge to Vermont CLOSED.” Our GPS was no help, so we stopped at a local gas station and learned that the detour involved a ferry ride across Lake Champlain. Despite this minor snag, we still made it to the show on time.
Photos taken by the St. Lawrence River in Ogdensburg, NY. A random fisherman volunteered to take the second photo. We didn’t even ask.
Lots of crowd interaction has been a theme of every show, but our show at Middlebury College was especially fun. We played a longer-than-normal set, which allowed us to cover a multitude of topics in between songs. Early in the show, we discussed use of the phrase, “Shit, man.” As one might imagine, that influenced the dialogue of the evening. Other discussion items included Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex, the harmonium, Nic getting hit by a tree, and the Second Vermont Republic. Nic warned the audience that we would make judgments about them based on whether or not they participated in our sing-a-long. Sure enough, they proved themselves by singing very loudly to our cover of Akron/Family’s “Woody Guthrie’s America.”
We drove into the mountains to Firefly Ranch Bed and Breakfast after our show in Middlebury, and the “Rustic Cabin” (pictured above) became our home for the night. The cabin looks like it may have been a shed at one time, but is now an active part of the bed and breakfast. It was very cozy, but was sans running water. Luckily, the main house was not terribly far away and had both toilet and shower access.
Saturday was grey and rainy. We wanted to hole up in the Rustic Cabin to drink tea and write, but instead, we traveled to Montague, MA. We played in the upstairs of The Bookmill—an old mill that has been transformed into a secondhand bookstore with a neighboring café and record store (pictured below). We were surrounded on all sides by floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books. The vibe was serene as I sipped red wine in the dim light and listened to the sound of the river outside backing a guitar/clarinet/upright bass trio (known as The Accident that Led Me to the World).
Our final stop in the Northeast was a Sunday night show at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. We always love visiting New York City, and Pete’s was a great space for our music. The bartender made us some yummy spiced hot cider with rum, and we got to catch up with several lovely friends.
After a short night, we got up early Monday morning to begin our trek back to the Midwest. We have four more shows in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa before we will sleep in our own bed again. Once again, thanks for keeping up with us!
After a couple weeks at home, we’re off again! This time our journeys will take us to the Northeast and around the Midwest. We’re espeically excited to be opening for LOW at UW-Stout on Nov. 19. We’re also stoked to announce that we’ll be opening for Andrew Bird on Dec. 8. Tickets are on sale now.
11.06.09 — Champaign, IL — In Studio @ 107.1 WPGU (stream online @ http://the217.com/wpgu)
11.07.09 — Champaign, IL — Record Release Party/Nic’s B-day Bash @ Indi Go Art Coop
11.08.09 — Huntington, IN — The 509
11.09.09 — Jamestown, NY — Labyrinth Press Co.
11.11.09 — Syracuse, NY — 2nd Story
11.12.09 — Canton, NY — SUNY-Canton Underground Lounge
11.13.09 — Middlebury, VT — Middlebury College Gamut Room
11.14.09 — Montague, MA — Montague Bookmill
11.15.09 — Brooklyn, NY — Pete’s Candy Store
11.17.09 — Grand Rapids, MI — Cave Cafe @ Calvin College
11.18.09 — Madison, WI — The Project Lodge
11.19.09 — Menomonie, WI — University of Wisconsin-Stout w/ LOW
11.21.09 — Ames, IA — Tom and Mary Jane’s House
Show details can be found at the in person page. Hope to see you out there!
And another mention on the following music blog: Largehearted Boy – Try It Before You Buy It (October 27th, 2009 Music Releases)
The new You & Yourn album, It Would Make Things Worse, is officially released on Parasol Records today! We’ll have the music on CD and vinyl at all of our upcoming shows, and of course, it is also available right here on the interwebs.
Barnes & Noble (vinyl)