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!
Getting packed and ready to leave home for three and half weeks is never an easy task. And, inevitably, you will forget some things. In the days before Sept. 24, we had a button-making party with our sidekick Gillian, built a wooden shelf for the back of the van, purchased a mini-fridge that runs off the car battery, made some pasta salad and hummus, and threw some clothes into suitcases. Nic did forget his coat (which might be unfortunate when we hit ID or MT in the next few days), but otherwise, we’re in pretty good shape!
The first three dates of the tour were some of our favorite shows ever, organized by three truly excellent promoters. Thursday night (Sept. 24) we played in an Iowa City art space called Public Space One. It was an intimate show with a couple good openers and a very welcoming crowd. We also got to see our good friend Caleb, who made us dinner and let us crash on his futon.
Friday (Sept. 25) we played at the Clawfoot House –the upstairs apartment of an old house in Lincoln, NE. After drinking tea and eating the best vegetarian chili we’ve ever had, the dining room table was replaced by rows of chairs, and people filtered in for a night of music and friends.
There was lots of crowd interaction, and people felt comfortable to insert comments or questions between songs, like, “That was beautiful,” or “What is that instrument?” Sadie was on her best behavior, serving as the welcoming committee and convincing at least a few show-goers that they should get a dog. Below are photos of the other acts: the Ember Schrag trio and John Walker. We could have listened to them play for hours!
Ember Schrag trio at Clawfoot House show
John Walker at Clawfoot House show
Saturday (Sept. 26) we were at Everyday Joe’s in Ft. Collins, CO. Again, a very fitting venue for what we do. The place filled up, with people drinking coffee, sitting at tables, and listening attentively. A freight train forced us to pause in the middle of Soul & Body. But once the train passed, we picked up right where we left off. Our set was followed by Danielle Ate the Sandwich, who was captivatingly witty. We hear she has some pretty awesome YouTube videos.
On Sunday (Sept. 27), we were able to spend some time with our friends Brian and Becca in Ft. Collins. We hiked up a mountain (see photos below) and ate some awesome beef brisket that Brian smoked for 14 hours. Then we headed to Denver for another house concert.
Denver proved to be one of our most random touring nights ever (and we’ve toured a decent amount in the past). We showed up at the venue address, and it looked pretty dark. Not exactly a good sign. Eventually we got in touch with the promoter and learned that he thought we were coming Oct. 27 instead of Sept. 27. Oops. But he asked us to hang tight while he made some calls.
Long story short, we found ourselves eating and playing at some kind of anarchist potluck. We felt a bit awkward about the whole situation, but the people of Denver welcomed us in, fed us, listened to our songs, and even requested that we play more. When Nic apologized for crashing their potluck, one person said, “I wouldn’t say you’re crashing it, just enhancing it.”
More info to come about our shows in Utah, but one thing we know for sure: There are still lots of generous, hospitable people in this world, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet many of them. Thank you for renewing our faith in humankind.