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June 2006

CLOSE BY KATRINA

Lafayette, Louisiana June 11

The Blue Moon Saloon and Guest house is quite a place. Located in an old two story Victorian with a wide wrap-around porch and expansive grounds, it’s quite a bit different from the city club scene we’re used to. skull.jpgFunky wood walls with found and forged art, the Virgin Mary prays under ivy in the back yard, and the band plays on the porch. mary.jpg

It’s hot and humid as we put our gear on-stage but we discover a cooler of ice and Abita beer is already waiting for us. They know how to welcome a band in Louisiana. The sound man tells us there’s a good write up in the paper and there is. Instead of being thrown in the cosmic burrito bag this writer calls up Townes Van Zandt and Ray Wylie Hubbard. We’re thrilled. Check out the full text here.As Tony and Kip set up the folks start to roll in. There’s white folks and black folks and young folks and old folks. Frat boys and their girls. Serious dancers types who trade partners and keep their feet moving song after song during the Gilkyson/Boardman/Nourse power trio set. Military looking wives there by themselves. kiptony.jpg

On stage there’s a salvaged door scarred with the big red spraypaint FEMA “X” Someone has painted a New Orleans street scene on it in an effort to commemorate this great lost city and culture. You can really feel the loss and the pain just over the tops of the bayou trees. katrina.jpg

We realize early this crowd likes loud, long guitar solos. So we serve them up one after the other. We bring Tony up and he adds his thundering Super Reverb to the mix. Humboldt is particularly stirring and suddenly there’s shots of whiskey being handed up on the stage. A dog wanders through and we sing him his tune. The owners have offered us accommodations in the band bunkhouse but we’ve got to get to Memphis to have the AC fixed the next morning. Reluctantly, we hit the road after a late night dinner of crawfish etouffee and rice. Paul L stays behind to enjoy the steamy Lafayette late night atmosphere.Paul, Kip, and Kip’s GenXYZ cousin go on a late night walk through back streets of Lafayette, walk on campus, where there’s a 5 acre swampette complete with 2 alligators, surrounded by classroom buildings. Kip’s cousin regales us with tales of his volunteer work in New Orleans, living in a crazed modern hippie den with dreads, outsized egos, and altruism in the soup kitchen. It’s hot and humid at 2 a.m., but the mosquitos aren’t bad.

Next morning we meet the owners of the Blue Moon, a beautiful Cajun queen and her husband and her child. Their other lodger is a geologist with Halliburton. He’s hopefully moderate in his political views as we drink coffee, says he believes change can happen through the electoral system. “Hey,” says Cajun queen. “They’re corporations, right? Shoot ’em. Just shoot ’em.”fern.jpg

“Just shoot ’em,” repeat Tony, Kip, and Paul, as they drive north through a highway tunneling through endless woods, bound for Memphis under muggy blue skies. A discussion ensues on the decline of regional differences and accents, and as if to prove the point, we pull off the highway seeking food. A fish store proprieter gives us directions in a Mississippi accent so thick that we can only nod in fake comprehension. Regionalism lives!sky plants.jpg

SIX HOURS TO LAFAYETTE

We’re trucking down clear Texas highways towards our evening gig in Lafayette, LA. Shawn the trucker’s son is at the wheel and we’re calm and confident we’ll make it to the show. We’ve been watching “Team America” on the computer. Jesus, it’s funny. Now we’re listening to “The Handsome Family”. Hands down some of the finest and most delightfully strange lyrics on the scene today.

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BIG MOON OVER DALLAS

We roll into the city that killed Kennedy ahead of schedule for our afternoon appearance at Bill’s Records presented by KHYI 95.3 FM. Bill’s records sits quietly in a dying mall in the suburbs of Dallas. There’s several abandoned store fronts, a strange restaurant called simply “Chicken and Rice” and cavernous Bill’s warehouse. A big orange sign in the doorway announces they are preparing to move the store to a new, upscale downtown location. We’re glad we get to play at this one. When we walk in, it seems imaginable how they will move this store. In the same location for almost 30 years, Bill’s records is a Dallas institution. The place contains miles and miles of LPs, 45s, CDs, posters, bumper stickers and buttons. There is a piece of rock memorabilia from every moment in American pop music history. No of it seems to be organized according to any system we can identify. We linger over a poster of Tiffany and a original Doors sticker. There’s a freezer in the corner with free ice cream. We’ve heard about this freezer. Shawn has found it and unwrapped an ice cream sandwhich before any of us miss him.

Two other bands arrive, a curious mix of cowboy hatted young trailer park beauties and older guitar dudes, and the gear starts to stack up by the rear entrance. This wise and road-hardened band jumps at the chance to play first. We set up as a surprisingly thick crowd gathers. There’s a barefoot bearded guy near the front wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt with flowers in his hair. He’s carrying a basket of more flowers. This is interesting. He’s an original hippie, for sure. We go electric and the room sounds good. Folks are smiling and even singing along to some songs. Everyone in the audience seems to have brought their own case of Natural Light, or Natty Bo’s as we used to call them in college. Do people drink in record stores in the middle of the afternoon other states? We just don’t know. Friendly Dallasonians offer us beer and smokes after our set. Bill himself, a kind white-haired man smoking Marlborogh Light 100s buys a bunch of CDs for the store. Where they’ll end up, no one knows. Bill was an early champion of Ben Harper, gets very emotional as he points out a gold record on the wall. What a guy. We pack up and wish our new friends farewell and head for our $39 Quality Inn rooms arranged by the finest club owner in the Southwest, Mike Snider of the Allgood Café. After a quick check-in in the 100F Dallas heat we head over to the Allgood for dinner. The food at the Allgood is homey and filling. We order Chicken Fried Steak and Beef Short Ribs and mashed potatoes and green beans. Mike has the wisdom and good fortune to hire the kindest and most beautiful waitresses in all of Dallas, and that’s saying something. Devin and Haley take good care of us, filling our wine glasses and getting us whatever we need. Few establishments treat bands this way. We feel like kings at a feast.

Unfortunately, the night takes a bit of a turn. At show time the room is thinly populated. We just don’t get it. The Hawks got a good write up in the Dallas Observer and Tony got the big pick in the Dallas Morning News. Even the radio play has been pretty good. Yet it appears to be the lowest turn out of the tour. Perhaps it’s the stiffling heat and humidity of the Dallas night, the temperature still hovering in the 90s at 10 PM. Perhaps there’s some other big L.A. country rock outfit stealing our thunder. Perhaps we’re purveyors of a dying craft, like jazz musicians grousing about the Beatles. Should we purchase samplers? We’re all a bit baffled but somehow Mike Snider and the staff of the Allgood Café make it all fun. We laugh and rock and drink more wine. The lucky folks who are there hoot appreciately. As usual, Mike takes better care of us than we feel we deserve. We leave the gear on stage and make our way past Dealey Plaza to the hotel. We could’ve had a worse day in Dallas for sure. Dallas hot night.jpg

The Times of Acadiana, Lafayette, Louisiana

In “Waiting Around to Die”, Townes Van Zandt sang about his new friend codeine. Zandt was a stellar weaver of song, taking country music into new places — finely worded and evocative poetry. The boys in I See Hawks in L.A. (playing the Blue Moon this Sunday) share Zandt’s song writing approach … and perhaps his friend. Formed during a philosophical discussion/rock throwing session in the Mojave desert, I See Hawks can’t help but gaze directly at the sun — an edgy country rock reminiscent of the 1970s, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons. With their three-part harmony and a knack for songwriting rivaling a mix of Zandt’s poetry and Ray Wylie Hubbard’s smart, heady material, they also incorporate sly near-comic genius in their story tales songs. Modern troubadours of descriptive narratives and stand-for-something songs, their dreamy alt. country/country rock drifts towards the heavens like embers from a campfire dancing in the wind of a desert night. While remaining grounded in country music, the band takes it on a ride — music for the open road and the open mind.

— Nick Pittman, Times of Acadiana

WITHIN AUSTIN’S CITY LIMITS

We left Geoff and Sally’s tranquil riverside estate almost too late to make it to our noon downbeat at KUT radio. We struggled to pack the Yukon in the rising heat but we did it quickly and got on the road. The winding hill country roads now familiar, we sped towards the station. Geoff’s directions were true and we arrived at the station in time. A formal and elegant man in his mid-fifties, John Aielli is a vocal and singing coach at UT who has been hosting Eklektikos for the last 25 years. Hearing stories of his sometimes curt treatment of bands, we were a bit nervous. Rob was bound and determined to sing every note dead on.

We set up quickly in the station studio and as the clock hit noon we were ready. John walked in, sat down at a table with microphone in front of us, and went through the pronounciations of each Hawks name, saying each syllable slowly and looking to us for acknowledgement that he was saying it correctly. When he got to Shawn he said, “How do you say your name, Shawn?” Shawn replied, drummerlike, “Shawn.” We were all laughing heartily as the red light came on. It was a good start to the show and things only got better. During each song John closed his eyes and listened closely to the words (and pitch of our singing). It felt like we were performing for a jury of one to grant us our Master’s in music. RW was concentrating so hard on pitch perfection he forgot a line in “Byrd from West Virginia.” Luckily, the words returned quickly, and only Kip Boardman noticed out in radioland. You can listen to this moment and the rest of the interview here. John didn’t seem to mind and politely and professionally neglected acknowledging the blip. Overall, it was a great time and a fun performance. From the station we fought our way though the heat to our cheap south Austin motel on the Interstate. Trouble arose when only one room was available. We walked next door to an even more derelict under construction motel. Broken windows and a poorly lit parking lot almost didn’t scare us off. At the last minute we reconsidered and headed for the Clarion across the highway. It was twice as expensive but didn’t possess the air of potential danger and confrontation. The four of us camped out in the good room killing the afternoon before our late gig at the historic Cactus Café on UT’s campus. We watched cooking shows, emailed friends and family, sat in front of air conditioner, swam in the over chlorinated pool, slept.

At 9 PM we start the process of dressing for showtime. On the way to the gig we stop for the first of five meals at the Magnolia Café. It’s an Austin institution. Almost always packed, we’ve hit them at a slow time after the dinner rush and before the late night post-bar crowd rolls in. The Magnolia is open 24 hours. The Magnolia has a menu of southwestern favorites and good old hippie food. It gets a solid ***Four Chilies Hawks Texas*** rating. We order squash and brown rice and tofu and stir fried vegetables and pasta. Full and happy and momentarily feeling like we are treating our bodies with care and respect, we head to the Cactus. Cactus Cafe is located in the Texas Union on campus. Parking is tricky. We opt to drive up on the sidewalk as close to the door as possible. We carry our guitars down the hall lined with posters of all the greats who’ve played the Cactus before us. Townes Van Zandt, Ralph Stanley, Bob Dylan, Guy Clark, and on and on. It’s got some of the same ghosts that live at McCabe’s. Despite some sound difficulties at first, the show turned out grand. The dark room of friends and fans came along on our ride, welcoming solos and silly lines with warm hollers. Folks came out who’d heard us on the radio, which continues to surprise and thrill us. After a couple encores, we packed up, threw away the parking ticket beneath the wipers, and headed to the Magnolia for a late night desert of cherry pie and penaut butter pie and ice cream. PM like his pie cold. PL likes it hot, although it melts the ice cream rapidly. There’s lively debate on whether or not the ice cream should touch the pie. Sleep comes quickly to the Hawks who arrive at their cross-highway motels around 3 AM.

Another day of motel time-killing arrives. PM takes the car out to the hills to visit his gold record winning producer and pedal steel playing friend Tommy Spurlock at his hilltop compound. It’s motel pool swimming time for the other Hawks. A few even venture to the workout room and overdo it on the stairmaster, driven hard to combat the deep sense of lethargy that can only come from riding in a car for 2500 miles and sleeping until noon. PM calls in the late afternon to report his flat tire on the outskirts of Austin. He heroically changes the tire by himself at the hottest time of the day. Drenched in sweat he makes it home as the Yukon air conditioner stuggles to cool him off. He comes through the motel room door looking weary but victorious and heads straight for the bourbon. After cleaning up and cooling down we head to the late night gig at the Continental Club. This is the gig that got the nice writeup in the Austin Chronicle and we’re excited to be doing a good night at a great club in the big music town. Tommy Spurlock joins the Hawks and adds his Sneaky Pete-ish tuned pedal steel to the mix, like he was born to the band. Hire this man. It’s a rocking night at the Continental. We take the stage to a full room at midnight and people are still coming through the door. We open boldly with Humboldt and rock out. PL takes an epic outro (term coined by Paul Marshall) solo and actually levitates nearly six inches off the stage. It’s just that kind of night. Getting on stage at the Continental is like getting on a roller coaster rider. It’s as if the stage possesses a musical momentum of it’s own and you just have to hold on and try to match its energy as best you can.

People want to dance so we play our danciest songs. Pretty Texas girls in flowy sun dresses spin around the floor with their well-trained cowboy partners. It’s fun to watch from the stage and we stretch out solos and let the couples shuffle and two-step and sway. Our good friend Johnny Fargo is with us. The X-Taix lounge booker has wisely relocated to the best of Texas cities. We drink shots of Jagermeister at the bar and reminisce. We miss you Johnny. Back to the Magnolia for one last late night dessert. We get it right this time. Brownie Ala Mode. Damn it’s good. Austin treated us well.

JOHNNY WHITESIDE, L.A. WEEKLY review

“These freewheeling lords of California psych country approach their music as if it were a portal, an unseen threshold that, once crossed, promises a wholly unpredictable experience. The Hawks’ singular style operates on an epic scale, exploring weird panoramas of hallucinatory metaphor with a sound as much traditional hillbilly as it is accelerated lysergic-rock spontaneity. Any flight taken with I See Hawks In L.A. assures a view to startling new perspectives. Up, up and away.”

— Jonny Whiteside, L.A. WEEKLY

DAY OF SNAKES

This day of Satan, 6/6/06, was indeed portentous. A hellpuppy has been nipping at our heels.

The Hawks awoke and breakfasted with Sally and Geoff, jammed with Geoff on mandolin, and jumped in the Suburban, down highway 290 to visit Hill Country guitar shop in Wimberly, a long Texas drive through pastures, scrub and oaks, thence to our live performance on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s radio show.Judy Hubbard called us on cell phone–their engineer had left town, didn’t tell them, and they have to cancel the radio show. Judy invited us to come down anyway and get Mexican food, and so we drove onward down 290 and a side road into very picturesque Wimberly, another great hill country hamlet with old buildings and even some great looking new ones. Modest. The scarring of the American landscape comes from the arrogant size of the new buildings–McMansions, outlet centers, malls, gated communities. It’s all too big.

But we digress, and the devil wants his due. The Hawks and Geoff tried out every guitar in the Hill Country shop, some great old Gibsons, new Collings, and soon enough we were doing what every guitar shop owner dreads–jamming. Ray Wylie and Judy came by and took us to a Mexican joint nearby, and we had a grand old time, gave Ray and Judy the long version of how I See Hawks In L.A. got its name. The Hubbards invited us over for coffee, and we followed them over hills, down gravel roads, across a narrow concrete levee that crosses a creek and floods with every rain, to their house, an amazing log house built by a Conoco heiress and then abandoned. Ray and Judy have beautifully restored the house, which has a spectacular view of hill country. Like everyone else we’ve met in Texas, they are good and kind.Ray made everyone cappucinos and Judy showed the Hawks around the house, and then we watched Ray’s new “Snake Farm” video, then a new one shot at the Salton Sea, both very innovative and colorful, then watched the Hawks “Motorcycle Mama” video (coming soon to a website near you). A good time was had by all.

At the Wimberly supermarket, two young female high school grocery checkers straight out of Ghost World were talking about trying to recover a stolen car. Use your psychokinetic powers said orange haired Ghost Girl I, sardonically. Better be careful using those powers today, we said, attempting humor. Oh, yeah, 666 day, said Ghost Girl I. She rang us up and called out as we left, Merry Christmas! With a mock (?) demonic leer.Back at chez Sally-Geoff, a celtic guitar jam in near darkness was interrupted. Sally hollered, and Geoff and the Hawks all ran over to the pool, where Sally had spotted a deadly coral snake in the pool. After much prodding, Geoff and Shawn managed to catch the red, yellow and black snake in the pool net and toss it into the brush. Paul L. thought about his last night’s swim in the darkness and shuddered.
Satan’s day is over, and none too soon.

AUSTIN CHRONICLE, CHICAGO DAILY HERALD reviews

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I See Hawks in L.A. is all about state pride. The quartet’s latest CD, California Country (Western Seeds), mixes the cosmic-cowboy sound of Sixties L.A. (former Flying Burrito Brother Chris Hillman guests on mandolin) with Americana, traversing the landscape of the Golden State like Didion on horseback. It’s a divine fusion of humor and twang that’s definitely high, but not that lonesome.

–- Audra Schroeder

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There is something very evocative about the name of this band and, thankfully, the music, too. I See Hawks in L.A. is a cosmic country band from the West Coast in league with the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers. The band’s three-part harmonies are winners, plus their lyrics about the burnt-out wasteland give their music a winsome psychedelic bent. They don’t get to the Midwest that often; this show is to showcase their most recent album, “California Country.”

— Mark Guarino, Chicago Daily Herald

A SHOUT OUT TO THE WIVES/PERD’NALES

Our wonderful wives read these diary entries, so we try to post them daily. We love you, wives. If you are not a wife, we love you too. We hope everyone enjoys this thin slice of life carved through the vast American Pie by our green Suburban. Here are some photos of the Pedernales River (pronounced “Perd’nales” down here) down the bluff from Geoff and Sally’s house near Dripping Springs adjacent:

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WALMART GAS, OUTER LUBBOCK

We’ll sleep anywhere. We sleep on couches, outdoors in hammocks, in Motel 6’s wedged between the tracks and the onramp. And there’s nothing like the occasional escape to the Hampton Suites, where an inside connection gets us a sweet deal on the corporate comfort zone. Yes, they’re a bit sterile. Yes, the AC will kill you if you fall asleep with it set on HIGH COOL. But they have workout rooms, and free breakfast, if you rise early enough.

Paul M always rises early enough. If you stagger out of bed and down the long, long hallways in time to snag buffet eggs and cereal as they’re being carted away (Paul L often does, Shawn and Rob often don’t), Paul M will look up from his USA Today with a smile that tells you that things are more than a little all right.new paul m.jpg

It’s mid-afternoon, we’ve been working hard driving, and it’s just about picnic time for the roving Hawks. We’re on Highway 84 near Abilene, Texas, that’s not TX, that’s Texas, brick and stone farmhouses, some abandoned, cows, oil derricks and lots of drilling rig trucks, probably drilling new water wells. We pass a big wind farm, giant turbines spinning madly on a distant ridge. windmills in texas low res.jpg

The Texas highways are dotted by picnic areas right at the roadside, in mowed grass bounded by barb wire holding back the prairie or scrub. Concrete and steel shaded picnic tables. We’ve got some cold cuts, Muenster cheese and salsa, and we’re going to pull this off.This morning there was a huge hawk circling the parking lot of the Homestead Suites (which is code for Home for Suits), a pink monolith containing overnight human storage units, carpeted, of which we occupied two for the hot and windy night of Sunday, June 4, 2006. The hawk was battling several crows and smaller birds, for several minutes, before he fled out of view.

The other Hawks, the ones in the Suites, revitalized by their overnight storage, grabbed the luggage cart and exited into 102F heat, packed and drove, patronized Best Buy (Dazed and Confused DVD) and the post office (mailed posters to distant clubs), jumped on Highway 84 and headed southeast. We filled the Yukon with $2.78 gas (ever think you’d be thrilled to see such a price?) at the Walmart gas station at the entrance to the vast parking lot, in Outer Lubbock. Under noon sun Walmart seemed like a sensible solution to lonely distances and brutal heat. The bathroom was spotless, and the previous occupant had turned out the light. Here was order and common sense. South and east under pale blue skies past plowed red earth, alfalfa,
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and big old silos.

silo.jpgNow, mid-afternoon, we choose a picnic spot about 60 miles southeast of Lubbock, a very nice picnic table under a concrete and steel awning, make sandwiches while the wind howls. Don’t sit downwind from Paul L dipping chips into salsa. Is it possible that Texas picnic roadsides are built in windy areas on purpose? 104 degree heat feels good when the wind blows, and you’re in the shade. Here’s to shade appreciation. Standing in the shade is a dying art in Los Angeles. The plums and oranges are delicious.

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Well, that was great. What a picnic. PM said it was the best picnic he’d ever attended.

picnic in texas.jpgWe continued south and east, zig zagged through Abilene, Paul Marshall sang a verse of the song. This is a big state, even chopped up into two days; more red earth, farms, solid limestone block old houses, wood frame houses, abandoned houses and crumbling stone fences.

Here’s a handy travel tip: Has your Snickers bar melted in the Texas heat? Tape it to the AC vent for about 45 minutes. Check frequently for desired hardness.snickers.jpg

We stole free wi fi from the closed café in Fredericksburg, where we all agreed would be a good place to settle down. Now we’re heading due east on 290, just passed Lyndon Johnson’s ranch, the sun’s casting very long shadows on the cows and round brown hay bales in the green pastures ringed by mighty oaks. We’re going to turn north on MacGregor and wander the narrow lane through Texas hill country scrub to our friends Geoff and Sally, who have a no doubt magnificent salad waiting for us in the House That Sally Built. The heat down here feels good. No smog. It’s good.
We arrive at Geoff and Sally’s in Dripping Springs adjacent hill country as darkness descends.
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Jeff lets us in the massive iron gate built by Sally, we re-bro with the barking dogs, and eat a salad, bread and cheese feast prepared by our too kind two friends. We fall asleep, Paul L sleeping outside under a mosquito net. It was hot all night, and the bugs buzzed.