It was a good-for-the-soul kind of weekend. We played three really great shows—a secret loft show in Chicago’s Wicker Park; a cozy living room show in Lansing, Michigan; and a hometown show with friends Ember Schrag and Kayla Brown.
But on the You & Yourn front, things are quickly winding down. We only have one more show this year! We’ll be playing with The Appleseed Cast at Highdive in Champaign this Saturday, 9/18. If you haven’t heard, we’re expecting our first baby in mid-November and will subsequently be taking a hiatus from touring. We’re also hoping this hiatus will provide some time and space to develop and record new songs.
If you can make it out on Saturday, we’d love to see you. And if not, we’ll see you in 2011.(Photos taken by Kentaro Yamada at Thursday’s show in Chicago.)
Miguel (of Monadnoc) drove a couple hours south of Chicago with some poetry books and recording equipment. As we gathered in our living room, Nic asked, “So how does this work?” After scanning through a piece by Jack Kerouac and a poem or two, Nic began playing guitar. We added some harmonium and a little bit of bells; Miguel spoke into a mic. Questions were asked, like, “Where should the music get more intense to match the mood of the poem?” Gradually, the music transformed until it became something we liked, something that would complement the poetry well. And then, we pressed record.
Monadnoc’s ongoing READ/RECORD project goes something like this: Music plays in the background as Miguel reads a poem or other creative piece of writing. He’s recorded lots and lots of poems on his own and has recently begun collaborating with various people around the country. This past weekend we participated in a READ/RECORD CO-LAB SESSION. Our living room was transformed into a recording space for two days, and we made a bunch of cool sounds. The song still needs some mixing and finishing touches, but we’ll let you know when it’s online for your listening pleasure!
Photo taken by Jack Emerson Garland at Everyday Joe’s in Ft. Collins, CO
Our most recent tour started out much like any other, with a healthy dose of optimism about the days ahead. We kicked things off with four great shows—two in Nebraska, and two in Colorado. A particular highlight was our show at the Clawfoot House in Lincoln, NE. Home of Ember Schrag and Bryan Day, the Clawfoot is one of our favorite venues in the U.S. The atmosphere is a perfect combination of relaxed yet organized, welcoming and friendly yet professional. This time through we got to meet Ember’s two-year-old daughter. She showed off some awesome dance moves to Diamond Kazzoo’s opening set of old timey bluegrass tunes. I wish we had video.
Great little Mexican bakery around the corner from the Clawfoot House
Colorado was enjoyable. We played in Greeley and Ft. Collins, and then spent a couple days hanging out with friends around Easter. Our stay in Colorado even included a trip to Boulder to visit the Celestial Seasonings tea factory. When Tuesday morning arrived, we joked about the desolate drive through Wyoming that was in store. Nic even updated his facebook page that morning with, “Preparing for the views of desolation: I-80 through WY, and a jog to the north on a few lesser roads.” Our experiences driving through Wyoming have been something like this: dry, hot, barren land where nothing can grow and no one wants to live. But a few hours later, Nic’s status read, “Nevermind desolation. Just hit a blizzard. I-80’s closed. Shoot.”
They literally blocked off the interstate with gates and police cars, prohibiting any travel down I-80. So at 10:30 AM, we were forced to exit to the Flying J truck stop (pictured below). We scored a booth and hung out for awhile, expecting the roads to reopen momentarily. After about seven hours, we began to lose hope, but at that point, all the hotels in nearby Rawlins were booked, so we spent the night in our van next to hundreds (maybe thousands) of other weary travelers. Eventually, a little community formed at the Flying J.
Heather met a couple who were moving back to Washington state. They were riding in a small, crowded truck, with furniture (including their bed) in the back. They were anticipating an uncomfortable night’s sleep and the purchase of a new mattress, as theirs had been soaked by the snow. Around the 24th hour, a guy in the car next to us pulled out his guitar and started jamming in the snow. Soon enough, Nic had his guitar out as well, playing songs for a random truck driver. Everyone was bored and delirious, and things started to feel like a strange festival. Finally, at hour 26, we were back on I-80.
At this point, we had missed our show in Logan, UT, and it was questionable whether or not we could make it to Boise in time. We rushed along, making few stops, and were able to play our show in Boise on Wednesday night. Following the show, we treated ourselves to a motel, as we were desperately in need of a good night’s rest. Our heads hit the pillows a little after 2 AM, and we didn’t hear anything at all until the room phone started ringing frantically about four hours later. “Hello,” Nic says groggily. “Sir,” the front desk clerk says, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but it appears your car has been broken into.”
It was true. Sometime between 2 and 6 AM, someone busted out our passenger side window and grabbed everything within reach, including lots of electronics (GPS, Ipod, nice cameras, etc.) and a suitcase full of You & Yourn merch. (Sorry to those of you who signed up on our mailing list in NE and CO. That list was stolen before we could enter your email addresses.) The good news is that no instruments were taken and Sadie (our dog) was not in the van. Of course, we did what any person would—talked to police officers and insurance companies, waited for a glass repair person to come fix our window, called our moms, and then pulled it together and drove on to Oregon.
As Nic was settling up with the man who fixed our window, the glass man asked what we were doing in Boise. Nic explained that we were musicians. Then in an honest Idaho kind of way, the man looked Nic in the eye and said, “Huh. How’s that workin’ out for ya?”
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.)
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!
Better late than never, right? Read on to learn about the final four days of our West Coast tour.
Wednesday, Oct. 14; Santa Fe, NM. After camping in the van somewhere in Arizona, we completed the drive to Brian’s house. Brian is a guy we met about two and a half years ago in Tucson when our former band Casados played with his band D Numbers. This time around, he was kind enough to hook us up with a house show in Santa Fe. The fall fiesta included a variety of amazing foods, with Brian’s soup being our favorite (ingredients: carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, etc.). Yum!
I think this Santa Fe show may have been the first time we’ve had people laugh out loud during our set. As we played in the living room, the crowd was listening closely, processing the lyrical content, and then chuckling at the poignancy. It was pretty awesome. And based on the people we met, Santa Fe seems like a cool city.
Found at a rest stop somewhere between Santa Fe & Norman, OK
Thursday, Oct. 15; Norman, OK. Universe City, where we played in Norman, is a huge house that used to be a fraternity dwelling but is now being fixed up and used as a community art space. There are also 14 bedrooms upstairs, with 12 people currently living there. Much to our surprise, the paparazzi showed up in Norman. Who would have guessed? A guy named Adam asked if it was ok for him to take some pictures of us. We said yes, assuming he would take a few shots during the show. No big deal.
As we turned around to pull some equipment out of the van, the flashes began. Two cameras were flashing frantically during our set, and we tried not to be distracted by Adam climbing on a speaker behind us, then lying on the floor in front of us. (We love you, Adam.)
We met some interesting folks at the show as well. One guy in the front row was doing yoga stretches throughout our performance. Another guy was leaving the show with a huge wooden cross that he carries everywhere. We tried (unsuccessfully) to get the lowdown on why he carries this cross. He didn’t give us much info; I guess he’s just taking that “carry your cross” thing quite literally.
Friday, Oct. 16; Kansas City, MO. Before we knew it, we were back in the Midwest. The West Bottoms of Kansas City provided perhaps the craziest experience of this tour. We were surrounded by seemingly vacant warehouses as we drove into a shady-lookin’ part of KC.
Sunset in the West Bottoms
The night started off as a downer. Two of the three locals had dropped off the bill last minute, and it was questionable if the show was even going to happen. The original plan was a show at The Pistol—an open space with a stage located on the second floor of an old warehouse. But the promoter, Joe, was suspecting no one would show up (since two of the locals bailed), so he proposed we play at some art show instead. He recommended that we head over to the art show, get some food, and check the place out.
We scrunched into Joe’s Chevy Cavalier, with Nic and Heather both in the passenger seat. (The backseat was occupied by salvaged windows Joe had found in a dumpster earlier that day.) As we passed by a police officer who was directing traffic in the middle of the street, Joe repeated, “Please don’t look at the tags. Please don’t look at the tags. Please don’t ask if I have a license.” We made it by with no hassle, and Joe informed us this was just a “rent-a-cop” anyway (an off-duty officer hired to make visitors feel safe).
Our destination: An abandoned warehouse. We took the freight elevator up a couple flights to learn that this building was actually very full of life. Several floors are occupied by artists, and on this particular evening, the artists had opened their studios to display their work. We explored the building, eating hummus and Doritos, drinking beer or wine, and viewing paintings, photographs, pottery, and so on.
We ended up playing two shows that night. We first played a few songs in an elevator lobby situated between some art studios. Then we played our original show over at The Pistol, which turned out to be pretty great despite the bogus start. The underground art communities of the West Bottoms, where lots of people live and work, were unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. We do love you, KC.
All our gear crammed into a wheelbarrow; Kansas City, MO
Saturday, Oct. 17; Columbia, MO. The final show of our tour was part of the Bluebird Music and Arts Festival. Darling Disarm, a band from Champaign-Urbana, was playing on the same festival. It was fun to run around Columbia with Mike, Kayla, and James, and we enjoyed seeing Chicago Farmer and Death Ships that evening.
We completed our 8,747.1 mile circle on Sunday (Oct. 18), landing at home in Urbana, IL. We returned feeling at peace with the world. It was a good tour. For the next couple weeks, we’ll be sleeping in our own bed and cooking in our own kitchen. Then, come November, we’ll be off again.
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.
Our friend Chris Bell came through Urbana last night on his bike. This is notable, since Chris is from Jamestown, New York. He’s been experimenting with alternative modes of transportation. Last summer, he did a canoe tour down the Erie Canal (which CBS Evening News had a fun segment about). And this summer, he’s traveling through the Midwest on bike, playing shows along the way.
We got to hang out with Chris last night–cooked some veggies from our garden and saw him play in the basement of an Urbana house known as the Anthill. Then this morning he left for Chicago (on bike, of course) to conclude the tour before hopping a train back home!