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June 2005


A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock And Roll
by Jennifer Savage
Arcata Eye  
June 17th, 2005

“I set I See Hawks¹ new album, Grapevine, on ³repeat all² a week ago and haven¹t tired of it yet. Full of straightforward country rockers, pretty atmospheric tunes I could drop Drive By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, Merle Haggard, but I don¹t want to narrow their sound down that way each song tells a little story of its own. They even bring out the jawharp on ‘Humboldt’ how could it not be love at first listen?”

San Jose Mercury News 
I See Hawks in L.A. and Rick Shea
San Francisco, Felton and Monterey

Ever wondered what would have happened if Gram Parsons hadn’t flamed out and the Burrito Brothers were still playing? I See Hawks in L.A. has it all — twang, distortion, backbeat and lyrics that blend cowboy poetry with an ironic vision of the West. Throw in Rick Shea, the former guitar player for Dave Alvin’s Guilty Men and a helluva country songwriter, who’ll open and then sit in. You’ve got a can’t-miss double bill that should make you forget taking out a second mortgage so that you can afford to see the Eagles this summer.

California Country
by Bob Doran
North Coast Journal
June 16, 2005

Here in Humboldt you see them all the time: hawks perched on a freeway sign or a light pole scanning the grass in the center divider searching for prey. They serve as a little reminder that nature perseveres despite the urban overlay. And it’s the same thing in Los Angeles. Thus the name of the band, I See Hawks in L.A.

“That’s exactly what the band’s name is all about,” said Paul Lacques, calling while on a break from his day job. “It’s also about our declining awareness about our natural surroundings. We ask our friends and people at our shows if they ever see hawks in L.A. Almost all of them say no. But all you have to do is look up. I still see them every two or three days. That lack of awareness keeps us from making certain decisions we have to make soon if we want to survive as part of this natural system.”

Lacques started the band in 2001 with his brother Anthony and Rob Waller. “We’ve always loved country music and I’ve been in country and bluegrass bands since the ’70s, but at that point we were coming from very different bands. I was playing in a band called the Aman Folk Ensemble. It was a touring group that had been around for about 40 years supporting a folk dance company — very eclectic world music and all without electric instruments.

“Rob and Anthony were coming out of a rock band called The Magic of Television. They played roots music with a country feel and were moving toward more country. They did a couple of Gram Parsons covers and countrified versions of Lou Reed songs. They were flirting with country but hadn’t made the leap. The three of us decided we’d try the straight-ahead country approach.”

With its crying pedal steel and close harmonies, the latest I See Hawks in L.A. album, Grapevine, brings to mind that classic era of California country rock, late ’60s records like The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Lacques doesn’t mind the comparison. “Sweetheart of the Rodeo is one of my favorite records and there’s no denying that The Byrds and the Burrito Brothers influenced us. We also do some pretty straight ahead old-time bluegrass stuff, which will show up a little more on our new record. There are many influences cross-pollinating.”

Among the songs on the Grapevine disc is one titled “Humboldt,” a paean to the county and its local cash crop. “I’d be glad to plant corn in the ground, but corn don’t go for $3,000 a pound in Humboldt,” sings the vocalist, stretching the county name through several bars.

“I know we’re not being fair to the region,” said Lacques. “We’ve all been through there, but it’s certainly painting an imaginary landscape. It’s not like writing about Los Angeles, which, unfortunately, I know like the back of my hand.

“We come from many ideologies. I’d say Rob and I are very far left, really far. Our bass player’s a libertarian and we have huge political arguments, but we all agree that the government should leave people alone. We all feel the hammer coming down and America slowly turning into an oppressive society with a powerful central government.

“We particularly feel that laws about people’s personal behavior should be eliminated — the drug laws in particular are a major disgrace. People should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to alter their consciousness or not. I hope we don’t exploit the image of the county or people of Humboldt, but the theme is that people should be free to do what they want.”


It’s 1:29 in the morning and we’re racing east on the 46 between the 101 and the 5, listening to Low Power Jazz, dark road ahead and summer solstice full moon overhead, earth vibrations underneath, smell of cut hay summoning days when the farmer yearned for the distant city lights, night was black, and the dawn was real.

Paul Marshall’s on road ahead of us, driving home with daughter Stephanie, and Rob, Paul L, Shawn and Rick Shea are amped, the drive passes quickly in animated discussions, including Bush’s plan for annihilation/reclamation of the Middle East. Another topic:

Rob Waller: 1991 The Obvious Power pop with influences like St. Louis’s completely unknown and forgettable Pale Divine band, later influences include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, and Smashing Pumpkins. Original song titles: “Let It Go,” “Spiraling,” “Indian Summer,” and “Still Can’t Stand It,” The Obvious became Oblivious, then Merangutan, playing fraternity parties, sorority functions, house parties and bars in North Carolina, eventually moving west to San Frnacisco and evolving into Apple Pork Four. The Magic Of Television was the final page of this musical book where Rob met and began playing with Lacques brother Anthony who later formed the Hawks. Mark Follman was in all versions of this experiment in musical Darwinism.Paul Lacques: 1973 Andromeda This was a cover band at the outer edges of early metal, covering “Cracked Actor” by David Bowie, “Theme From An Imaginary Western” by Jack Bruce, and “Easy Living” by Uriah Heep. Bassist/lead vocalist Bruno played a Gibson EBO bass and sang with his eyes closed. Bob Gurske played the biggest, loudest drum kit ever invented, and went on to play in many L.A. metal bands. Paul played a telecaster through a bandmaster, and doesn’t remember how the band tuned up. The other guitar player was squeamish about blood. Once, he was changing his guitar strings, poked his finger, fainted and hit his head, blacked out and missed the evening’s gig. In typically schizoid style, Paul was at the same time putting together his acoustic duo The Flatpicking Fools, with partner/guitar teacher Gregg Gold.

Rick Shea: 1968 Essence Of Black Mold Someone in San Bernardino told Rick Shea that “Black Mold” was an extremely strong strain of pot, although it never made its appearance. They kept the band name for two weeks until they realized they’d never get any school function gigs, changed the name to Crossroads. Rick says the band wasn’t quite capable of learning songs, although they made some good noise with their electric guitars. A crucial first step.Shawn Nourse: Mid-80s Secrets They rehearsed a handful of
times in Shawn’s bedroom and once or twice in the Anaheim High School band room. Their big debut ws the “Anaheim High School Talent Show.” They only learned three songs, they were: “I Wanna Know What Love Is”, by Don Henley; “Johnny Be Good”, by Chuck Berry, and another song that
escapes Shawn right now. The band members were: John Park (Shawn’s best friend at the time) on rhythm guitar, Jose somebody (Anaheims hot shot guitar ensemble dude) on lead guitar, Tony Kanal (before he landed in permanent spot in No Doubt) on bass, and Shannon Smart (a very attractive choir singer). Shawn’s second band was The Inside Cover They also played that talent show, was also very short lived, did a total of two shows. Then came Eyez Chick singer. Control freak who really believed she could sing. No one had the courage to face her down and tell her otherwise.
Paul Marshall 1964-5 Verne, Paul, and Nancy A folk group modeled after Peter Paul and Mary, with a stunningly original name. Hey, it was Junior High. Nancy Burba even looked a
lot like Mary, with long straight blonde hair. She was quite lovely. Paul played guitar. Verne Willis played banjo. VP&N covered a lot of Peter, Paul and Mary tunes, Dylan, Joe
and Eddie, etc. This group morphed into the Beauchemins, soon to be signed by Bob Keane for his Mustang label.

Rob’s getting serious about gear. He’s grilling Rick Shea about acoustic guitars as we motor through the dark San Joaquin night. This road is featureless, very few lights on the horizon. The moon is watching over our right shoulder. You see the bunny, I see the man. Rick is comparing the merits of Taylors and Martin guitars. You have to work at a good sounding Martin, says Rick. Taylors are smooth and consistent, easy to play, but a Martin requires that you learn its ideosyncracies, find its sweet spots. Jesus, it’s getting late. Is that the Grapevine? Yes it is, we fly up and over, 5 to 110 north, hit Highland Park at exactly 4:30 a.m., transfer of musical instruments to battered L.A. vehicles, blurred words and farewell hugs and the Hawks and Rick go their separate ways. A muted blue announces the dawn. End of a mighty fine tour.


Next morning we awoke to the full splendor of our north coast funky cabins, 3rd generation legacy of Rick’s family. Mysterious guardian angel Rick (no relation to Rick Shea) is a math genius and big league surfer we met at a Hawks Caltech show. This morning he made pancakes and eggs, elegantly simple, like any good theorem. Gray waves beyond the cliffs serenaded our departure, and a sand spit arcing north was littered with 50 foot timbers washed from unknown forests.

South we drove, on a tight schedule for soundcheck in Felton in the Santa Cruz mountains. Which didn’t deter us from a thorough search of Healdsburg for a non-corporate lunch, and we found it in a panini/espresso shop, most excellent. Traffic was kind as we 101ed south, forests and ridges flattening to fields, rising again in Marin, then over the Golden Gate bridge, down the 280, our drive mysteriously free of traffic. Even the 17 over the pass was light, and we arrived at Don Quixotes, nestled in the gentle forest, inexplicably on time for sound check. Don Quixotes is a former Swiss Chalet style Italian restaurant (its massive wood beams were brought from Italy in 1953), now serving Mexican food, with a great sound system.

It was a shock to hear our vocals clear like mountain streams after the sludge of The Alibi, but we quickly adjusted, had a great acoustic show, with Rick Shea’s friend Chojo Jacques sitting in on adroit fiddle and mandolin. Tom Miller is the local kingpin of enlightened taste, and Don Quixotes is continuing the tradition of excellent roots music in the gentle dale of Felton, a twisting green mountains drive from Santa Cruz. Paul M’s daughter Stephanie attends UCSC and the Hawks stayed at her apartment, with Paul L hanging with the Moms and sister Mary at Chez Mom in Capitola.

Next morning we did a live radio show on KUSP, in its new building in Santa Cruz, with a fine sounding interview/performance room, DJ Rob and his dry wit coaxing the Hawks and Rick Shea’s dark worldview from its pre-coffee morning shadows. Rob told the story of Hargis Scoggins, legendary and unsung California country session drummer: THE LEGEND OF HARGIS SCOGGINS

Hargis’s heyday was the mid-1950’s to late 60’s, and he bounced between Los Angeles and Nashville studios, as well as burning up the California highways in countless five sets a night honky tonk gigs. Originally from Oildale, Hargis’s lubricated groove made the stiffnecked Bakersfield country artists a little nervous, but his less than metronomical time earned him a niche in the brief golden age of California Country-Soul music. Hargis’s uncle Hargis was the first bandleader to use a big pedal steel guitar section, with up to eight steelers struggling to find a common tone center. Augmented by a 10 piece horn section and a pool of electric guitarists and bass players, Hargis and his nephew Hargis were the front and back end of a country cluster bomb, but they found a steady gig entertaining the upper crust old money families of Buenos Aires from 1951 to 1954.Returning to the United States with several hundred thousnd dollars in soon to be worthless Argentine cattle futures, Hargis and Hargis quarreled bitterly over who would receive top billing in future shows: Hargis wanted “Hargis and Hargis Scoggins and their Country Big Band,” but Hargis insisted on “Hargis Scoggins with Hargis Scoggins.” Nephew and uncle never spoke again. The California Country-Soul movement was dead.

Cut loose from Hargis for the first time in his adult life, Hargis played the streets of Nashville for several years, dragging his drum kit from street corner to street corner, before John “Hargis” Deacon, up and coming hotshot producer, took a chance on the still wild drummer. Hargis’s first session, for Wynn Stewart resulted in an album that has still not seen the light of day, Many session followed, including sides for Marty Robbins that also were not released. Hargis developed a reputation as “cursed,” and his session work declined rapidly. By 1969 he was roadying for Willie Nelson, sitting in when one of the 2 or three regular drummers was incapacitated.Hargis Scoggins doesn’t appear on any album credits or liner notes, but his obscurity is almost assured in the annals of country music. Hargis crossed paths with I See Hawks In L.A. when they were thrown together for the pilot of Billy Block’s “Survivor, Country Style,” slinging sides of bacon at each other across a narrow Tennessee gorge while trying to locate the secret moonshine still. Hargis is going strong despite a rapidly spiking dementia, and the Hawks plan on trotting him out at live shows to lend street cred to their alienated and possibly treasonous lyrics and song structures.

After the radio show, the Hawks and Rick had a massive breakfast at a fine and unfortunately unnamed Santa Cruz cafe, then scattered, some to the beach. Paul L crossed the street to another cafe, joining his sister Mary, a dedicated anti-genetic engineered foods organizer, who was meeting with two filmmakers about a documentary on genetically modified trees. It’s coming folks, trees that won’t reproduce so that Monsanto can own their future, trees with no supporting fibers for easier pulping but an unfortunate tendency to fall over. Beware the walk in the forest!

A late afternoon southward Hawks caravan to Monterey turned ugly when the already strained Highway 1 stopped dead in its tracks, an ambulance whining in the far distance. The caravan reached Monterey Live just in time for sound check. Monterey is a beautiful town, the ocean winds sweeping its low basin and up into the hills, and a lively farmer’s market was filling the streets. We snuck into Monterey Live from a back alley.ML is a brand new club, built from an older adobe structure, with fantastic sound and a dedicated crew. Rick’s set was the best of the tour, wish we’d recorded it, and the Hawks show was also dandy, good crowd and good vibes.
A farewell to sister Mary, Shawn’s mother-in-law, pristine air and cool breezes, and the Hawks and Rick loaded up and hit the road, late night dash for home.


The Hawks share an exuberant philosophy about a travel day: if you’ve got 8 hours to get from Portland to Arcata, use it up, carpe diem and throttle it for all it’s worth. A reasonably early start from the downtown Portland Red Lion turned a bit ugly as the 5 South onramp proved elusive. Some good local advice: “look for freeway signs.”

The advice proved priceless, and within 20 minutes we were racing south. Still on schedule. Oregon is looking mighty good in this wet and rainy June. More green fields, snow capped distant volcanoes, puffy clouds, and a blue sky that is heightened to lurid cinemascope by the illegally tinted windows of our beloved Bomb Squad Suburban. We stopped in Eugene seeking a now-legendary breakfast place from last year’s tour. We had no address, no name, just a haunting group memory of eggs and espresso last August. We wandered the small streets of Eugene, overgrown yards and affordable houses, leisure and muddy boots on porches, guided by a group homing system that moved infallibly towards our elusive eatery. South and east, south and east, turn here, cross the tracks, pass the university, pass the 7-11 again, until voila! Studio Café! That’s what it’s called, at Agate and 19th street in view of evergreen covered slopes at the edge of town. We are most pleased!

Studio Café is closed. We missed it by 15 minutes. Paul M almost talked a sympathetic staff into re-opening, pulling out all the charm short of mentioning his stint in Strawberry Alarm Clock. We were directed to nearby Glenwood Café (4 Stars for food, 3 stars for service, 2 1/2 stars for atmosphere, big kudos for affordability, Hawks Breakfast Quality Control Committee). We spotted a biblical quotation on the back of the menu so this time Paul M led us in a hands held, heads bowed prayer, giving thanks and praise. This one didn’t feel right to the electric guitar players in the band. Rick had already started in on his food, and Paul L realized that he’s only receptive to religion when he’s mocking it. The sincerety of Paul M’s blessing threw him off.Now the Hawks travel exuberance turned a little dark. We were barely on schedule for our 11 p.m. downbeat in Arcata. At Grant’s Pass we headed west to the Oregon Coast on two lane twisting Highway 199, through absolutely stunning rainforest, and big redwoods crowding the highway shoulders, the Smith River gathering force from countless streams dropping into its narrow channel below our plucky highway. This is the everpresent moistness of the rainforest, northern style, fog banks and dripping branches.

A middle of nowhere piss stop, roadside in the forest shadow, turned into a chanting leaping foray through giant ferns and slumbering long felled redwood carcasses, fog and dripping water, dells and glens, no echoes, vertical space is filled with lumber and green, no sky above the canopy.Which cost us another half hour, and now we’re officially at risk of missing downbeat. Rick Shea and Paul M came through like the seasoned roadsters they are, driving fast and steady through twists and turns, downhill slalom to the Pacific Ocean, which never looked better, forlorn orange band on the flat horizon under a steel gray wall of fog, orange on the breaking waves, the sun is gone.

We crossed the Humboldt county line with a ceremonial honk, quickly swallowed by the brooding fog and dark trees.Night yielded very slowly to the mighty Summer Solstice long light, but it was dark as we hit Arcata and circled the square filled with the new generation of bearded wanderers, large backpacks on their stout frames, faithful dogs at their heels, lurking in the shadows of a central park dominated mysteriously by a statue of William McKinley. Two neo hippies talked longingly to a local girl before she peeled away gently from the conversation, leaving them to their rootless longing. The song remains the same,

The Alibi is one of four 1940’s-50’s seedy bars clumped together by the liquor store, derelicition in a convenient zone on the square. Load-in is through the back down a long hallway. This is indeed a shotgun bar, the longest this band has ever seen. Rough looking townies and gentler Humboldt State students chug beers at the long bar, and music booker/lumberjack/pirate radio DJ Ian and a kind waitress greet us. Here’s the rules: 5 pitchers of Olympia beer for the band, don’t try to trade up to Budweiser; anything on the menu is half price, as long as you don’t order combos over $10 or the fish and chicken baskets. There’s one thing that will stop a hasty band load-in in its tracks, and that’s food. Rob, Shawn, and Paul L ordered the tofu bowl with peanut sauce, and Rick and Paul M went with the portabello mushroom burgers. Delicious. Arcata is clearly a complex mixture of brawny bearded woodsman culture and collegiate appreciation for the finer things in life.

As we chow down, a big surprise for Paul L: through the shiny metal and tuck and roll entrance of the Alibi walks old pal Gregg Gold, who taught Paul the basics of bluegrass guitar in their UCLA freshman dorm, then formed a duo, Those Flatpicking Fools, spending 6 months in Europe with countless harrowing youthful scrapes, adventures, and pure blind luck. The Fools had a European agent and everything, were making a living touring Dutch folk clubs, considering a permanent expatriate life, when an encounter with a Colorado band settled in Copenhagen (a chilly wind blew that evening), with Danish wives, tobacco, and hashish, put a scare into the new arrivals. It was just too far from home. The Flatpicking Fools returned to California, vowing a yearly return to Europe, and of course never returned. (Paul now had show anxiety, because Gregg is a badass guitar picker.)At 11:15 p.m., right on time, Rick Shea hit the stage, back up in full electric regalia by Shawn, Paul M., and Paul L, the twin telecasters and the crack of the snare achieving a brittle punch on the hard concrete floor. Rick wisely stuck with his biker bar material, and the crowd whooped appreciatively, a few solo manly dancers with beers in each hand.

The manly dancers kept up their fiercely independent artistry as the Hawks took the stage. No monitors but the vocals cut through OK and we rocked through a set fueled by tofu and Olympia beer. This was a real bar crowd, and we could have done Skynyrd all night and they would have been just as pleased, nay, far more pleased. A near-jam band version of Humboldt closed the set down. Some local greenery found its way into a passed hat and, after prying Gregg Gold and Paul L from their further reminiscing, we were on our way. Our good friend Rick from Dabney House at Caltech and his father Charlie kindly offered a place to stay. Little did we know the 20 minute drive through the redwoods would land us at two cliffside cabins overlooking the untamed northwest Pacific shore. The nearly full moon lit the water and puffy clouds to near daylight status (we were in a low ambient light region, no city light pollution, like Deep Gap, North Carolina), and we laughed with wonder, standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff.


blue and white pickup with a camper shell zips by
pointy deep green pines
maples, cedars, and oaks line the highway
like tall wise friends
up here all the trees are green, green, green
we pass a white pickup towing a beat up yellow car used in demolition derbies
you can tell because all the glass is out of the windows and it’s been bumped around
its getting to be country fair time and he must be on the circuit
the Suburban windows are all cracked open
the clean Oregon air whistles in
Shawn unfolds a map
looks at it for a second and folds it back up
Paul Lacques reads the newspaper
he says, “there’s a hundred and thirty-five foot tall concrete grain elevator in Canton, Oregon that can hold 13,000 Honda Accords stacked on top of one another.”
he points at the picture
we pass a bright yellow Dewalt tool truck
I don’t expect I’ll ever really know who to repair a car
or do too much home repair work on my own
Oh, well
Eugene is a beautiful college town


Well, folks, it’s the end of the west coast as we know it. Three earthquakes in Southern California, a big one up north, and today Mount Saint Helens sent out a plume visible from Portland, where the Hawks are comfortably ensconced (“ensconced” is not used without the accompanying “comfortably”) in their Red Roof Inn cubicles. Tomorrow we’re going to climb on the roof (it’s not really red) and look for the volcanic plume. We’ll report on its appearance and the likelihood of a major eruption.

Without going into a great deal of technical detail involving transverse fractures, reverse synclines, probability clusters, and subtectonic inferred temperature differentials: we believe a major west coast seismic event is imminent. If you are reading this: please, flee Southern California immediately. It’ll be safe to return in about 60 years.

Orange County is especially vulnerable to quake activity and should be completely abandoned. Please torch your gated community pastel home and that of your neighbor’s, break up all concrete surfaces with a sledgehammer, hop in the Expedition, and return to your parents in Phoenix to await the all clear (again, expected in about 60 years). Playa Vista is likewise in grave danger and should be leveled at once. We had a lightly attended but musically satisfying show at the intimate and tuned Mississippi Studios here in Portland, in the still gentrifying Mississippi district of Portland. Hipster begets hipster, and the new and hopeful Last Wave of American mercantilism has sprouted like mushrooms in a southward arc on this very groovy street, appealing shops that draw their mojo from the pioneering espresso purveyors east of the river.

An after gig powow in Rob and Paul L.’s Red Roof cubicle has made it official: Shawn Nourse and the Noursemen are going to make their musical debut soon, as an encore at a Hawks show. Our dynamic and charismatic drummer will take front and center stage, singing and drumming, as the front line Hawks retreat behind the drum kit, in braided blonde wigs and horned helmets, creating a lush soundscape behind Shawn’s percussion/vocal Nordic explosion, and we’ll even do some choreography.This first composition will be epic in scope and ambition, and we’ve already got an opening lyric:

“We come from the land of the ice and snow.”Stay tuned.


A good night’s sleep is finally granted to the brotherhood of the Hawk. Everyone sleeps in and we pack the BSM leisurely as the noon checkout comes and goes. White and gray clouds soften the light and easy rain showers come and go as we press northward up the 5. We find a great blues show on Oregon Public Radio and it fits right in with our vibe, homesickness for wives and children hangs in our silence as we listen to the old guitars. Pretty soon the Blues will be one thousand years old.

We stop at Heaven on Earth for breakfast, an overtly Christian eatery, lured in by stories of sweet rolls the size of your head and a waitress who tried to convert Dave Alvin to the way of the cross. We order pancakes, omlettes, sausage, ham and eggs. They have organic shade grown coffee from Chiapas. PL drinks his Christian Cappuchino and respectfully withholds a tough critque. Before we eat we hold hands and RW leads the band in prayer. What starts off as gag takes on an authentic spiritual feel. Holding hands and bowing heads evokes a physiological calmness that gathers and humbles our hearts before a felt but unseen power. Even the skeptical guitar players behave. Breakfast is delicious and nourishing and we’re back on the road. —–


Fields, clouds, rain, rays o God, fields, clouds. Ten silos pass on the left–grain? Soy? What fills the silos of the central valley?

A flawless day for driving to Portland, temperature oddly cool like a fall day, puffy clouds and pasteled blue sky. Moisture in the air, and sure enough it rains a bit, bright sun beaded on the vista before us. 98 miles to Redding. We hope to hit Eugene tonight, but will settle for less. Hints of Oregon in the angle of sun, a northerness that washes over our Suburban in gentle waves. We’re going to be in Humboldt County in a few days, so here’s a shoutout to all the growers and their homies:
Think globally
Smoke locally.

Steady, steady drivers Paul M. and Rick Shea, north through more cloud pillows that dump substantial rain, Suburban march takes us to Grants Pass, Oregon, first Hawks border crossing since last August. Rick’s getting a fair amount of “new guy” razzing, some of it clearly within the broad definition of sexual harrassment, but he absorbs it with his deadpan black humor. Rick’s seen it all and probably created much of it himself.It’s late night, and we’re beat, didn’t make it to Eugene. We might be in Grant’s Pass. After much cross bidding between Super 8 and the Comfort Inn, with cell phone communication between Paul M and Rob, the Hawks lodgings contract was awarded to Super 8, upon which wi-fi connection this text flies.

Note to fellow traveler bands: The Hawks haul all their gear, including amps and drums, into their evening accommodations, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far the rooms be from the vehicle. The night you leave the gear in the trailer, that’s when the evil ones strike. In this case it’s two and a half flights up to rooms 308 and 312. Now we’re really beat, fall asleep to Ren and Stimpy on the fantastic Super 8 TV.


39 miles south of Sacramento a horrible popping noise rang out from underneath the Bomb Squad Mobile. Startled, we pulled off at the Turner Road Exit. We took turns looking underneath the hood, revving the engine and listening, trying to discover the cause of the noise. Strangely, the engine was still at full power and the truck seemed to be driving as usual.

But we decided not the take any chances, busted out our AAA cards and called it in. Three out of four of us had AAA Plus. Only Shawn was stuck with the Basic plan. If you don’t have AAA Plus, we strongly recommend upgrading immediately. Free towing up to 100 miles, just about how far we were from our gig in Winters. The lady from the Call Center said a tow rig out of Lodi should be there within the hour. We hung out in the BSM with doors open trying to stay out of the mid-afternoon Central Valley heat. At last a bright yellow tow truck appeared on heat-blurred horizon like a mirage. Matt, the driver, whipped it around and backed up against our rig. He hopped out and went to work. We described the sound to him and he preliminarily diagnosed the problem as a blown Transfer Case. He chained the BSM down, the four of us climbed up into the cab and headed off to our gig. On the way cell phones we buzzed as Paul Lacques called every accordion player he knew in the Sacramento area to try to track down a reliable mechanic. Luckily, Richie Lawrence, the pride of the deep water port of Stockton, answered the call and directed us to Barbosa’s Tranny Shop on Railroad Ave in Winters. PL made the arrangements on the phone. If we could get there by 5 pm they’d work on it the next day.

We pulled into Barbossa’s auto repair in the heart of charming and bucolic Winters with about ten minutes to spare. They put her on the rack and confirmed Matt’s suspcicions. Blown Transfer Case. We’d need a whole new one which they could get the next day. OK, we said. Dave Fleming from the Palms helped us ferry our gear to the club down the street. At least we were going to make the gig. As we cross the street and start walking to the gig a man who appears to be mildly drunk accosts us. “We’re playing pool. Free beer. Do you guys play pool?” As big city Angelenos who play a weekly gig on Skid Row we all automatically recoil, keep walking along trying to avoid eye contact. But he persists. “Follow me. It’s right on the way.” For some reason Rick, Shawn, and Rob follow.

We walked through a messy, cluttered office of typewriters and reference books, the tools of the newspaper business a generation ago. There’s not a computer to be seen. All the way in the back past the presses themselves sits a fine Brunswick table beneath a long Budwiser pool lamp. There’s a kegulater in the corner and a rack of pint glasses. An old man and his wife sit on chairs by the table. He must be 90. There’s a bicycle bell attached to his mug. He takes a last sip and finishes his glass. He sets down the mug and rings the bell. His son Charlie (the one who pulled us in) grabs his cup and automatically refills it as he continues to tell us more about where we are. “He started this paper in the 40s. Did you see the pre-Colombian art?” He points out a display case next to an old Hamms Beer Sign with a waterfall on it. There’s a dozen or so ancient-looking figurines with handmade descriptions beneath them in old type face. Charlie explains that early Native Americans carved these out of stone then tossed them into their fields for protection. We play pool with two of the founder’s sons and the Winters plummer. Shawn and Rick wander back to the club but RW can’t tear himself away from the talk of history and girls. They all agree that the North Carolina accent is the sexiest of all accents. We’re all getting along famously, enjoying the novelty of each others very different daily experiences. So far the truck breakdown doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, it’s only helped us to let go of the illusion of control of life on the road. It usually takes a day or two to surrender to the unswimable current of the road but the breakdown has accelerated the process.

At 6 pm sharp the Winters newspaper office shuts down and the pool game is over. A quick pow wow inside The Palms, Hawks and Rick Shea: acoustic or electric? We’re on the proscenium stage (built 1875) of The Palms, 25 yards west of Barbossa’s, surrounded by amps, telecasters, mandolin and dobro, each on eager standby. This room has a great vibe: acoustic, by a landslide. Dave, proprietor and mastermind of this elegant emporium, has procured tacos from The Puebla (highest rating, ISHILA Food Ratings Board). Brother Peter Lacques is in attendance, big bonus for brother Paul and Hawks. We eat, we sound check, we play. But not before Paul L., thinking there’s a closed curtain, walks out on stage carrying his dobro, talking on the cell phone, in front of the whole patiently waiting audience.The show is great. Rick Shea comes out firing on D-18, with the two Pauls and Shawn backing him up, gets the big encore. Rob comes out, Rick moves stage left, and now it’s the Hawks, Rick jumping to mandolin, Richie Lawrence adding his always tasteful squeezebox. The room sounds wonderful and the crowd seems with us all the way, Hope Against Hope feels majestic, a guy in the audience whoops at the line “after you and me, the Snake and Colorado will run free,” then we end on Wonder Valley Fight Song, and a Marine in the audience whoops/grunts when we mention the 29 Palms Marine base.

Katherine and Doran, a mother-daughter guardian angel team manifested from the ether, drive us 15 minutes down dark dirt roads through silent fields, to their spiritually enlightened new concrete floor homestead towering 15 feet above the surrounding Central Valley alfalfa. A dreamlike interlude, morning bringing sweet rain and pillowy clouds, silvery drops on the pond surrounding the native grass fields, black swans in the pond, a little bird battles a hawk overhead, and the Hawks make themselves an omelette feast with eggs plucked from the 30 chickens that circle the front yard. A living room jamfest with Rick, Paul L., and Rob brings forth new alt country rocker “Yolo County Airport,” then long chats with Doran and Katherine, and the Hawks are in no hurry to hit the road. Luckily the car isn’t ready till 4 p.m., and the guardian angels drive us back to our man Charles at Barbosa’s Auto Repair, he maintains the mystical positive vibrations of this strange town, the car is fixed and runs great. $900 exchanged for a new transfer case (calm down, you 4 wheelers out there) briefly bursts the bubble of our bucolia, but a new one forms.

Grateful farewells to Dave, Doran, and Katherine, and we dive into stop and go I-80 West traffic all the way to San Francisco, Rob retrieves memories from his chaotic four years as a City By The Bay day trader, guides us to the Hotel Utah, a funky room so underground that they don’t tell the local newspapers who’s playing. This was our first electric show with Rick in a while, twas very good, the telecasters prevailed. The Hawks song “Byrd From West Virginia” threw its usual emotional gremlins into the room, walking through the foibles and moment of truth of the eldest Senator. It was good to see Hawks family units and #1 Hawks recorder Gabe Shepherd in the chilly night.A night in Marin at the Waller and Lacques northern headquarters, thank you Matthew and Nicole and elders of the Waller clan, and we get a groggy start north, passing once again through, yes, Winters, land of dreams, more carnitas and relleno at Taqueria #43, hanging around Dave at The Palms while he’s trying to work, and there’s just no more stalling to do, Hawks and Shea load into the Bomb Squad Suburban.


It’s day one of the I See Hawks In L.A. / Rick Shea Pre-Summer Solstice Tourette 05, and we’re feeling good. We departed Rob’s Highland Park abode within 45 minutes of scheduled departure, and our 1993 Chevy Suburban is running like a dream.

Rob and Paul purchased this beauty at an auction in the City of Industry (West Covina adjacent). The car auction is live entertainment at its gritty best, with an iron lunged auctioneer ramming through car sales to a funky and focused and well fed auto loving crowd. You’ve got about 40 seconds to decide if you really want that Crown Victoria natural gas powered sedan, which we almost purchased. Closing the deal on the Suburban (it was over in 15 seconds) was a thrill not soon forgotten. Rob’s mechanic believes the vehicle was a bomb squad car. The mountains of dog hair and live ammo scattered throughout and the kickout rear doors would imply this.Rick Shea’s on this trek, doing the opening and then playing guitar with the Hawks, and luckily he’s as dark and warped as any of us. The 5 North through Buttonwillow is a bit subdued this morning. Traffic’s moving slow in response to a 24 hour California Highwsy Patrol Anti-Speeding Strike Force. Band conversation is only two hours old, we’ve worked through the Bush administration’s Energy Bill and Condi Rice’s virtuoso dissembling abilities, and it’s already degenerated into:

Topic #1:I See Hawks In L.A. present Music from the Golden Age of Cocaine, a two CD boxed set: Jimmy Buffet, Toto, Steely Dan, Waylon Jennings, Stevie Nicks, Ricki Lee Jones, Elton John

Topic #2:If you were doing cocaine, what music would you want to listen to? Oingo Boingo, says Rick Shea. Steely Dan, says Rob, all Steely Dan all the time. Paul L. picks “Crossroads” by Cream, just that song, over and over. Rick Shea requests a qualifier: Oingo Boingo is what cocaine sounds like as personification of music. His real cocaine choice is Tony Rice. Shawn’s going with Cat Stevens, and Rob’s dropping Steely Dan for Hugh Masakela. Paul L.’s switching to Indian classical music. Rick Shea’s switching to Waylon Jennings.

Grapevines and orchards line the 5, not much cotton and alfalfa, as we cruise at 77 mph to Sacramento. Temperature gauge is normal, bananas, almonds, and organic Pop Tarts fuel the way.Rick Shea here: glad to be along with my good buddies the Hawks, looking forward to the shows, we just passed the 99 – 5 juncture, it doesn’t feel like we’ve really left town till we clear Bakersfield, 4 – 5 hours up the long stretch of the San Joaquin, clear and brown and flat, never changes too much, it used to bore me but now I look forward to it, one of the few things that seems to stay the same, I’m beginning to smell some new guy hijinks coming, better stay alert, more later…
Road Poem #1
by Rob Waller
green irrigated fields
yellow hills
brown mountains
black top
back pain
nuts and berries
new red tractors on trailers
the Firebaugh exit sign
an abandoned bowling ball
road heat coming up through the floor of the Bomb Squad mobile
Winnebago with a flag on it
faux log cabin trailer is an oversize load
orangiesh clay
corregated metal sheds by gravel parking lots
chemical odors
trying to make order
flying by a row of California
Live Oaks