Have you ever woken up from one of those dreams that felt so real you questioned if it actually happened? That feeling of confusion pretty much sums up our experiences in California—asking questions like “did that really happen, or was it a dream?”
Wednesday, Oct. 7; Chico, CA. By the 14th day/14th show, exhaustion was an understatement. We had both reached delirium. It was a long drive from Portland to Chico. After sleeping very little and being in a van for about nine hours, we arrived at our destination—a train car disguised as Empire Coffee. It felt like we were in some strange dream, like soon enough we would wake up and try to explain to one another that we were playing in a caboose in some sleepy California town.
If you’ve ever known an independent touring band, you’ve surely heard stories about going on tour and playing for five people. It’s far from ideal, but it happens. It’s hard to go to a new town where you know no one and no one knows you. In general, it takes a lot of work to get people to come check out a new band. We’ve toured enough to know this, so we typically set our expectations low.
So far on this tour, however, we’ve had the opportunity to play for people every night. Some shows have been bigger and some have been smaller, but there have generally been 20+ people each night who seem genuinely interested and supportive. Chico was our night of playing for about five people…in a train car. On the positive side, we did gain a couple fans and enjoyed hearing Fera.
Leaving Empire Coffee, we realized we never ate dinner and were both quite hungry, which seems to be a common predicament when traveling. We drove down the road and found a Denny’s. As we paid for our hash browns and eggs, the waitress advised Nic to go find his pillow. He was looking pretty rough.
Dillon Beach, CA
Thursday, Oct. 8; San Francisco, CA. Our drive took us through several cute northern California towns in route to San Francisco. We followed some signs for Dillon Beach (our last name, for those of you who don’t know), and though we only spent a few minutes there, we found ourselves considering a move. Eventually, the GPS led us to the San Francisco tower where we would be playing that night. We used a loading dock and elevator to transport our stuff up two floors, and then carried everything up one flight of stairs.
The building we were in is three stories high. If you walk onto the roof of the three-story building, you can see a tower on top of the building that stretches up four more stories. (Photo at left was taken from the roof of the three-story building.) Our friend Annie and her boyfriend Jeremy live in this tower. We played in their living room, on the tower’s first floor. “Last night we played in a caboose,” Nic told the audience. “And now you’re playing in a tower,” someone added. Yep.
We were the first band of the inaugural Tower Concert Series, which turned out to be amazing! Our San Francisco show is definitely in the running for best show of this tour. Sixty or so people packed into the tower. Most people sat on the floor, with a few viewing the show from a spiral staircase. The crowd was silent as we played, and there was lots of fun crowd interaction. Everyone there was incredibly nice, and it was great to see former Champaign-Urbana resident Darrin Drda.
Our set was followed by a folk opera, written and directed by Annie Bacon. Ukulele, upright bass, and fiddle provided the instrumentation, and four vocalists each played a role in the story. For example, Savannah played the part of an elderly woman with dementia, and Elizabeth was her caretaker. The story slowly unfolded, with each song providing additional details.
Friday, Oct. 9; Santa Barbara, CA. The next morning we left for Santa Barbara. Sometime during our drive, we stopped to take a picture of the “City of Burlingame” sign. (Burlingame is Heather’s maiden name.) Soon after, we got a call from our friend Gillian (who lives in Illinois). She casually asked where we were, and then said, “Well…I’m in Santa Barbara waiting for you guys to get here.” What? Was this for real? Gillian’s sister had been planning a trip to LA, so Gillian flew to LA with her sister, then rented a car and drove up to Santa Barbara to see us! We were shocked and impressed.
Nic, Heather, & Gillian; Santa Barbara, CA
Once arriving in Santa Barbara, we walked on the beach, ate some superb Mexican food at a place called La Super-Rica, and played a show at Muddy Waters. We enjoyed having Gillian there—having a piece of home in California. The three of us were able to vent about our road-weariness and our existential crises, which was refreshing. The highlights of our Muddy Waters show were meeting venue owner Bill and seeing Rey Villalobos play. Rey is the singer/songwriter of The Coral Sea, whose Volcano and Heart record frequents our CD player. It was great to hear some of his solo stuff as well.
So…a caboose; Dillon Beach; a tower; Burlingame, CA; and a surprise visit from Gillian. As I retell these events, it does in fact feel like a strange dream.