Tour Diary: Wenatchee to Boise (US / Days 13-14)

“It was Sunday, Father’s Day, heading away from big cities – what could go wrong? ..”


Ranking Cheese Doodle:

jalapeno-poppersJalapeno Poppers Puffed Corn SnackGood if you like this sort of thing. I have to admit I’m beginning to regret this whole doodle census. As I open another bag it’s with a rather grim sense of duty. Like sex with your second cousin, which seemed so great when you were sixteen, but now 30 years later just seems desultory. Anyway, this doodle is fine, mostly about the burn, which made my stomach hurt.

Texture: Actually pretty good. Dense but not stale.

Flavor: Who cares? After the first one your mouth is on fire.


Idiocy from the Van: “Why thank you Marriott, for your complimentary pork cylinders soaked in brine.”


IIMG_3075’m tired of being two days behind. Today is the day I will triumphantly half-ass two days of the tour so I can fulfill my imaginary deadlines. (didn’t happen) We woke up late and lazy and rolled out at the last minute possible to maintain the illusion of being on time to the house show. It was Sunday, Father’s Day, heading away from big cities – what could go wrong? Accidents, shut-down highway, the usual. We had planned to stop at the Twin Peaks waterfall but now we were an hour behind schedule so we just had to make a beeline for Wenatchee. Oh, and driving north through Washington State is beautiful, so green, with babbling (say babbling five times*) brooks and cascading cataracts just willy-nilly all over the place.

This would be our third time playing Wenatchee and the second at Scott and Jenny’s house. The only reason we come up here is because of these dear people. And it’s a treat. Wenatchee is founded near the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers. It’s in a valley and surrounded by rolling, yellow grassy hills. Usually I go for a walk in the hills as it’s a lovely meditative place.

Photo by John Smallwood
Photo by John Smallwood

Tonight we just had time to set-up, eat dinner, watch the Cavs win the NBA Finals, and then play. Scott has a low stage in one end of the living room and had hired in a sound system and guy to run it. The stage was small but still bigger than say Manchester. Chris Brokaw changed his set to emphasize his more singer-songwriter side and it was a lovely, moving set. We’ve gotten a lot better at modulating our set to smaller rooms. We added some other songs like, “Little Paper Birds, and Gene, I Dream,” which we don’t play too often. And being able to hear everything so clearly while playing quietly led to some different versions of our songs that hopefully made the evening seem unique to the 40-50 people there. Unfortunately the dark clouds of intestinal distress that had been stacking up on the horizon all evening threatened to open up. It was a long night. At one point when laying horizontally really wasn’t working, I wrapped myself in a blanket and slept in a wicker chair on the patio.

We had to get on the road early if we wanted to make Boise on time so we bid adieu to the world’s greatest pug, Kildy– the World’s Greatest Pug!

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I don’t know if it’s because I was in rather course fettle, but the drive to Boise was not the most interesting. Washington and Idaho are renowned for their natural beauty but this route studiously avoided all of it. By taking this route you are saying that you love and accept the entirety of Washington and Idaho even on days when they’re feeling bloated and wearing Old Navy extra large sweatshirts. Of course I’m being silly. There were some stunning vistas and canyons** along the Columbia River at the start and some cool Close Encounters rock formations at the end. It was just the middle bit.

IMG_3150We’d been hearing that Boise was a cool city for several days and damned if it wasn’t. It’s a pretty small town and it was a Monday night, but there were people out and about. Right next to the club was a vinyl records, Archie McPhee, rock t-shirt, café kind of place. The club, called the Neurobar, was badass. 1950’s round-edged triangular tables, red lit long bar, a huge flickering crown on stage, and all the cool kids smoking cigarettes at tables out front. We had dinner at a place called Even Stevens and walked around a little. If I were to live in the southwestern corner of Idaho and craved an urban setting Boise would be top on my list.

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I asked the sound guy, who was a nervous sort but awesome at his job, about the scene and he said it was OK but he was worried about it. He said all the people in the veteran bands had hit the stage of life where they moved out to the suburbs, had kids, and only played one or two shows a year. Not too long ago there had been a thriving DIY all-ages scene but the city had pretty much shut it down. Put all together and there was no one or nowhere to help bring the young bands along and teach them how act. He said it’s always obvious when a local band was on the bill because they were so slow getting on and off stage and unable to adjust for the size of the room or tenor of the bill. He said he had come from Minneapolis where you had to have your shit together. It sounds a little like sour grapes on paper, but the sense I got was that he really wanted Boise bands to do well and not seem provincial.

IMG_2310We were playing with a lovely, quirky pop band from Baltimore called Outer Spaces, and it was our last show with Chris Brokaw. In case you didn’t look up Chris when I suggested it earlier,*** he is a quietly brilliant musician. He’s as likely to be the drummer as he is the guitar player in a band, and is a wonderful songwriter and singer as well. He was the first person to cover one of our songs and it meant the world to us. He was delightful company in our packed van and possessing of a deep reservoir of hilarious stories from a life lived on the road.

And one of the big changes on this tour has been taking bigger charge of the line-ups and working with bands we love. Not only is it awesome to hear American Werewolf Academy, Chris, Schwervon, and the Fervor on this leg but it feels like we’re able to give the audience a whole evening that we know will be enjoyable. On a nightly basis people sweetly say to us how dismayed they are that there aren’t lots more people at the show and that we should be huge. It is a very kind inclination, but things really are building nicely for us in many ways. One of them is this ability to travel with these awesome bands. The other is a nice uptick in the quality of the venues, stages, sound engineers etc. We’ve had consistent good sound and played some very cool venues, and that makes a big difference. We’re doing all right I think.

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Photo by Chris Brokaw

This being our first time in Boise, a Monday night, and perhaps a disinclination to see old people play unfashionable music, we had our smallest crowd since Tulsa. As is often the case with nights like these, it was a little more interactive and sillier than some shows. Of course playing to a packed house is ideal, but I love these shows for two reasons. Typically with a small town and a small crowd the people who come to see you are fervent fans who are thrilled that you came to their town. It’s impossible to not feel proud when you hear what your music means to people. And that leads me to the next reason. The song that typically gets the best response night after night is “Teenage Wasteland.” And the thought that we could potentially be that voice for someone feeling isolated and alone in their own personal hinterland, the chance that we could do for someone what rocknroll did for us at different times of our lives, provide a sense of possibility, identity, catharsis, community, acceptance feels important. You don’t need to know if that happens on a given night because we’ve all had our conversion experiences. We know it’s real thing.

So thank you Boise. It was lovely.

Tomorrow is a drive day.


*Yes you are.

** Or were they gorges? When does a gorge become a canyon?

***Honestly, I don’t know why I even bother.