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Dec 17

A Midwest Weekend: IN, MI, IL

Posted on Thursday, December 17, 2009 in MUSIC: For better or for worse

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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.

polar popThe 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.

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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.

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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.)

Nov 18

A Journey to the Northeast: IL, IN, NY, VT, MA

Posted on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 in MUSIC: For better or for worse

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.

DSC_1045Our 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….”

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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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.

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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!