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August 2008


It’s Labor Day Weekend 2008 and the Hawks are playing their first ever county fair gig. We’re excited and apprehensive. We believe in America. We love fairs. Corn Dogs, the Demolition Derby, Funnel Cakes and Ferris wheels. But will they love us? Will the fair goers embrace us as we long to embrace them?

August 30 is clear, dry, and hot as we hit the 5 north and roll onto the mysterious exit to 99. There’s a lot of corn growing, and grapevines and almond trees, newcomers to these parts, where cotton and alfalfa are the deposed kings. It’s 104 at the Fresno County line. Paul L texts his brother Anthony, lyricist of Hecker Pass: “its 104 at the Fresno county line.” Anthony texts back: “desolate there?” We hit a Fresno Starbucks, refresh ourselves in an artificial climate as reliable as a McDonalds shake, hit the highway, through Merced, and up to Mariposa via the Plainsburg cutoff. Into the foothills forested by native and 2nd growth evergreen, into Mariposa town. It is indeed Labor Day Weekend, the last blowout under summer sky. Lots of bikers prowl the short Mariposa main drag. RW almost hits one by accident right off the bat. That pisses the dude off of course and words are exchanged. But it’s cool. Most bikers live their lives to be annoying assholes. Why else jack the exhaust up to deafening levels? (note of dissension from Paul L: hey, man, I rode a Triumph 650 for a few years, and I’m here to say that there’s nothing like pulling out of town in a rumbling pack of big machines. You’re with your people, you’re living the life, and the civilians that have to show up to the computer on Monday morning can feel the noise a little. It’s not going to hurt them)

We follow the cars down the winding road to the Mariposa County Fair grounds, sneak past the line of pickups and SUVs into the lot. With a little help from the Rotary Club volunteers we find the Amigo Dance Slab, an indeed wide stretch of plain concrete at the edge of the dusty fair grounds, and start to unload. It’s pretty alienating to be here at first. There’s a big bald guy with a laptop playing aggressive techo drum beats and calling square dancing on top of it. What the hell is this? An elder cadre of square dancers decked out in colorful dresses and bolo ties dutifully march to this futuristic disembodied beat. There’s a real disconnection here. The music and the dancing make no sense together and yet there it is happening right in front of us. Next they’re square dancing to hip hop and urban grooves. And then the line dancers come out. They’ll all got black pants, white tops, and black hats. Uniformed uniform dancing. Wow.It all makes sense if you’re from these parts. Country life is pragmatic, not romantic, and not yearning for times past, unlike urban folkies like ourselves. When fiddles were state of the art, that’s what you danced to. If you can get a guy with a laptop to play kickass beats, who cares if the fiddles are banished to the folk clubs? If you have to plow 160 acres, are you going to pick the quaint old tractor or the air conditioned gleaming monster combine? A swamp cooler or full AC in your new suburban monster house? And satellite TV is sweet. Kill the old ways. Kill them dead.

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Media Guide review


by Danny McCloskey

Over the course of a little over eight years, I See Hawks in L.A have made an imprint on the Roots music landscape. Through their first three discs, their self-titled debut, ‘Grapevine’ and ‘California Country’, The Hawks bring a strong sense of self. The albums’ characters, narrators and bio related tales have helped to define the band, creating the story via road songs and relationships. On their stellar fourth disc, ‘Hallowed Ground, the band, comprised of Rob Waller (lead vocals, guitar), Paul Lacques (guitars, vocals), Paul Marshall (bass, vocals) and Shawn Nourse (drums), continue that theme. The autobiographical component of the earlier output is especially present on the barn burner ‘Yolo County Airport’. The track capably describes a day in the life on the road with I See Hawks. The road continues and finds another turn on “Getting Home Tonight”, which brings in real life decisions amid time worn experiences. While those tracks manage to keep true to the bands previous tales, many of the albums songs bring in beliefs that help flesh out what I See Hawks in L.A. stand for to complement their life experiences story line.

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MishMash Magazine Review


by Joe Cortez

I See Hawks in L.A. has been one of the most talked about bands in the Los Angeles indie scene for quite some time now. The band has garnered national attention and even a tour or two in the process, all the while amassing a loyal following in its southland stomping grounds becoming constant fixtures at LA.’s Grand Ole Echo and deservedly so.

Their fourth long player, “Hallowed Ground,” more or less finds the Hawks in a familiar setting: belting out roots and Americana tinged tunes in a consistently upbeat and joyous tone. It’s country in the best sense of the word: unpretentious, honest and direct.

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Morning comes well into the afternoon for the Hawks at the Grand Hotel. Where are we? We’re in Norway. Halden. South of Oslo. On a fjord that empties out into the sea somewhere many miles away beyond the low forested hills. Shockingly, the only Hawk to make it down for breakfast (which ends at 10 am) is RW, the least likely Hawk to ever make it to free breakfast. But the breakfast is wonderful. Eggs, potatoes, and sausage, of course. But there’s fresh breads, yogurt, muesli, fruits, cheeses, coffee & tea, & juices, and the widest assortment of canned fish and fish products ever. What a spread. The day passes by quickly. Shawn assaults the hill looming over the town and visits the ancient fort. Paul and Victoria walk along the canal, watch an old house boat fire up its engine, the middle age couple gunning the boat towards the fjord entrance. Then it is time to get picked up and driven out to the festival. Our quiet, dutiful driver Andreas returns with the van outside the hotel just a little late. We have to wait a little longer for the equipment van. Some of the other bands are getting edgy. They want to get out to the fest to catch a friend’s set. Or are they just squeaking the wheel a little for some later advantage in festival negotiations? Perhaps there is something to be learned here.

The drive out to the location is beautiful. The road runs south along the fjord, overlooking majesty in the long long evening light. More pine trees and golden fields and big barns. We arrive finally at the Farm and all is revealed. There’s the Main Stage, the Barn, and a muddy walk through the woods to the Campfire stage, at the edge of a wide dry oat field, a soft white glow glows in the still stalks. But we want the Back Stage and we want to eat. The food turns out to be fantastic. More grilled local salmon cooked perfectly. We have our own tent stocked with all kinds of goodies. Angelic Heidi, a tall dark Nordic goddess, mothers us. We check out the other bands, hang out and chat. Pretty fun.

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Morning comes early to the Downshire Arms, our comfortable (Northern) Irish home. Do we really have to leave? It seems too soon. We’ll have to come back promptly. There is so much more to explore here. Andy shows up to drive us down to the Dublin airport. It’s a gentle drive south as we’ve given ourselves plenty of time. Andy tells us his own tales of the Troubles, moments with a pistol at his head, pistols both IRA and British military, his car stolen and used to transport a bomb, Andy’s stolen car abandoned at the blast site, a serious questioning by the authorities. And this in gently rolling hills and small towns. The Troubles hit everyone up here.We roll on the luxuriously wide M1 across the now invisible Border. Dublin Airport now kilometers away. Desperate cell calls to the luggage people finally break through. They have RW’s and SN’s bags. Will Rob be wearing his own fresh underwear later today? It seems too good to be true.

A magical summoning to the depths of Dublin Airport’s baggage region and indeed the bags are back in our possession. Oh, Lordy! Personal possessions! Just when we were getting used to the simple life that comes from traveling with nothing. This time all goes well at the airport. We get on a plane. Our inappropriately oversize and over limit luggage is mysteriously allowed into the cabin. The SAS bird takes off. We are not taking this for granted. And now we are imperious over the North Sea, where far below us on black seas many a brave Viking went down, or rode with dame fortune and a favoring wind to the Irish coasts, raiding monasteries, allying with Irish ri and ard ri and wedding their royal daughters, controlling Wexford and Cork to a day’s ride from the ports, founding Dublin.

We’re over forest, field, river, and it looks just like the Norway of our minds. Norway. Gleaming OSL, Ikea clean with bold steel and glass. Norway of the old simple wood frame house and old severe empty church, has led the world of design into gleaming simplicity. We land, we walk brand new cathedral-scale corridors, collect our bags, and all in reasonable time. We cautiously admit that Lady Luck is showing her elusive face at last. A young man approaches us with a small piece of paper with I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. written on it. “Are you?” Yes, we certainly are. And it’s off to the woods of Norway for the Down on the Farm Fest. Here we go. The drive through southern Norway farmland is gorgeous. Tall pines, oat fields, big red barns, lakes and ponds, and the big fjord that runs for miles and miles all the way to the sea. It reminds RW of a rockier Minnesota, or Wisconsin with an ocean. Magnificent puffy gray and white clouds dot the sky and the sun is warm. We pass through functional looking Oslo, modern and small, and we’re quickly rolling through fields and forest again.

Two hours southbound, and we arrive in the small port town of Halden, its rail line ending at the small harbor, where our Grand Hotel sits gazing down on the canal. A lovely town of 27,000 souls located at the very end of a long fjord pointing long to distant sea. There’s a huge ancient fortress on the hill above town. From this vantage point the Norwegians defended themselves against the unruly Swedes, and a mad Swedish King was felled by a single bullet. Our hotel was built around the turn of the last century. There’s a nice wooden pub downstairs and a huge, twelve foot tall ornate porcelain Koken Oven used to heat the dinning room. The train station is right next door and trains come by ever few minutes. The place has a charming 19th century quaintness to it. We settle into our comfortable rooms, shower and get acclimated to the Norwegian sensibility. .

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We woke up in our little cozy digs behind the Downshire Arms at Hilltown’s only crossroads, lined by 4 pubs, a SPAR store, and a few other small town shops. Ah. The smell of breakfast being prepared downstairs. Eggs, scones, hearty brown bread, tea and cheese and milk. Our hotel was much more like a little house, two stories with the bedrooms and bath up stairs and kitchen and living room below. Quite a nice little arrangement. Paul and Vicky were at work in the kitchen. A day ahead and comfortable in Ireland from their many trips over, they warmly cared for the other travel-bedeviled hawks. It felt as if we were visiting their home in Ireland rather that hanging in a hotel. Breakfast was crucial for a busy day lie ahead.

And then something shocking happened. A knock at the door and what do you know: guitars and one bag. PM was the lucky bag winner–both his bass and bag arrived. RW and SN will still be washing their drawers in the sink or squeezing uncomfortably into the donated undies of a luggaged band mate. Quick showers follow the reunion ceremony and we’re off in the van to Belfast with our very own gear.

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We modern beneficiaries of the unique historical accident of godlike powers of travel and comfort don’t travel by wagon at 2 miles per hour. We don’t worry about starving on a long journey halfway around the world. It’s not like it used to be. And we take things for granted. Still. Modern air travel ain’t fun any more.

Rob, Paul M, and Shawn left L.A. on Sunday, almost. Monday, actually. How many hours, days and fractions of days have passed in this sleep deprived haze of customs, transfers, LAX and Heathrow, grilling by British officials, more lines and searches and metal detectors, stale jet fuel and more, much more stale travelers? Arrived at rainy Dublin Airport on Tuesday morning, at last, to the welcome sight of Paul and Vicky waiting outside the green velvet rope of DUB Customs. We made it. We’re here. But where are our bags, and RW’s guitar and PM’s bass? According the very kind gentleman at the Lufthansa baggage counter (well-trained in conflict resolution “thank you sir for that information”) one bag is in London and the other four might still be in L.A. Oh, goodness. No time to worry about that now. We’ve got to rush to our gig at the Bronte Music Club in the North. PL guides the lumbering 16 passenger van bravely out into traffic running the wrong way, on country lanes designed for horse drawn carts. We trust him. He’s good at this. He comes to Ireland every year, he seems well-rested, and he’s brave. Back we are, like ’06, racing through the Isles late for a gig.

Our faithful and trusty tour manager/promoter/MC/driver Andy Peters meets us at the hotel. Andy does it all. He gets us fed and makes sure we have our first proper pint of Guinness. His lovely girlfriend Jenny helps us get sorted as well. He’s managed to round up a Music Man bass for PM and a Taylor acoustic for RW. Drums are all together. A real Fender tube amp for PL is ready to go. As long as we don’t pass out from sheer exhaustion, we’re going to be able to do the show after all.
Banbridge, County Down is one of the homelands for Paul’s mom Teresa–the O’hares are many in this region. The day before the airline-gobsmacked Hawks arrived, Andy Peters drove Paul and Vicky through the rolling hills from hilltop town to hilltop town, stopping for a cosmic Pint at a great old pub (license applied for 1787), where the barmaid/owner listed the O’hares in her family tree, and the locals told of the local lore and legends in a lyirical and difficult to understand accent. Heavy black clouds and bursts of rain made for a dramatic drive to the edge of the Mourne Mountains, heights of mystery and damp repository of tales for thousands of years.

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Dear reader, not all suffered on this Hawks journey to the Old Country. Paul L and Victoria flew in great comfort on the always reliable and genteel Aer Lingus, direct to Dublin. We were stretching the limits of baggage civility, and managed to carry a guitar bag, hard guitar case, two backpacks and a bag stuffed with Hawks Cds and t-shirts onto the plane, where we endured the mild scorn of fellow passengers as we commandeered a number of overhead bins. But air travel is a vicious jungle, and we are willing to be predators and usurpers, to milk the collapsing system for all it’s worth.

We buckled in, pleased at our misdemeanor. Into the air, Aer Lingus, the dry smog and smoke streaked air. East over America 7.8 miles high, less horrible food than United, bowdlerized version of Iron Man on the small TV screens, 1.5 Ambiens–may we muse on Ambien, for a moment, dear indulgent reader?, in James Joycean style as is appropriate to our destination, for Joyce touched all things ancient and modern, and Ambien is the essence of our modern decline, a startling item in the age of shock fatigue, a product pushed on the public through endless TV ads, wherein a sleepless lady pops the pill and is visited by blue butterflies that guide her to the land of nod, from which the naive viewer might conclude that these Ambien pills are a mild comfort aid like Tylenol, but no, dear reader, these are in fact a powerful narcotic in the same league as morphine or dilaudid, perfectly legal with a nod and a wink from your friendly physician, while faithful harmless marijuana can still and does still land you in jail by American law and capricious fate and circumstances, thank you, kind reader–and fitful slumber, and we were suddenly over the green fields of Ireland. Touchdown, no fatalities. Dublin Airport has cool cafes, nice bookstores, a mellow vibe, and cheap and fast internet. Let’s join our Hawks brothers stranded at an LAX adjacent hotel, and rag for a moment. LAX–what a miserable excuse for an international airport. The people of Southern California take it deep with a sheeplike docility, like they put up with all other aspects of their slow motion melt down. Our mayor is a shiny toothed weatherman, all lies and rotted optimism: “It’s another beautiful day in the Southland, a high of 105 in Woodland Hills.”

But I digress again, and again, dear reader. Ireland, north bound. We caught the gleaming new bus out of Dublin airport to the MI north, through green fields, into County Meath, lots of new commuter/second home action on the hillsides. Ireland’s housing boom, while not as apocalyptic as the Southern California explosion that filled Orange County and Riverside fields with beige McMansions to the farthest horizons, has mitigated the lonely Irish landscape of old. Paul L wishes it would all stop. There is history, and there are historical moments. It’s time to stop the paving.Paul L also wishes for rain, black clouds, mist and chilling winds. This puts him at cross purposes with the native population, who have endured the most intense rain in memory. As the Far West endures months of no rain. The first signs are upon us.


We’re off to a troubled start. Or no start at all, really. Three out of four Hawks have been grounded. PL and his wife Victoria made it. They are at our hotel in the Irish hillside north of Dublin. They say it’s great. Beautiful countryside, good food, a helpful and well-organized host. But we remaining Hawks are still here at LAX. We’ve been here almost 24 hours.

LAX is a terrible place. Everyone knows that and it seems tiresome to repeat it but I just can’t help it. It’s simply terrible. As we pulled up yesterday afternoon and saw the lines of ragged and exhausted passengers, I felt that we were approaching a refugee camp. But I was an outsider, a newsman of sorts there to capture pictures and gather quotes from the troubled suffering many. But I was not of them. I was not one of the stranded and lost. My trip would be go just fine. Right?At first all was looking good. I got an upgrade to business class! A well-dressed television personality was seated next to me. She covered motor-cross, super-cross, and the x-games for ESPN. I am with my people! Up here in business class we’re all successful, world -traveling entertainment types. We work hard and we deserve to be treated right. We chat about the pain of traveling coach while sipping on complimentary champagne and orange juice. “Do you always fly Business Class?” “Oh yes, I try to.”

Extreme TV-host revealed that she was newly pregnant as she nervously snacked on Craisens and bananas, waiting for the flight to depart. It seemed any moment we would be airborne, she would be diligently eating and sleeping, protecting the new life growing within her and I would be stretched out in my big roomy seat, drifting in and out of light narcotic slumbers. Ah, it was never to be. Trouble in the toilets. No water. Flushing issues. Back to the gate. Wait an hour. They throw off two young troublemakers. What did they do? I don’t know, but they look like trouble to me. Glad they’re gone. We need to wait while they pull their bags. More time ticks past. They say the water is fixed! They got the troublemakers bags! We’re back on our way. Back out on the runway. We’ll be up in the air in seconds. Business class food will arrive so soon. I can smell the grilled Mahi Mahi rewarming in the ovens. What wine should I choose? But what’s that stewardess doing flushing the toilet over and over with the Lavatory door open? Who’s she gesturing to? No! It’s not fixed. The toilets are still jammed. Flight canceled.

Now the trouble really starts. I won’t bore you, dear reader, with the details. You’ve all been there before. No flights to get you where you need to be in time. Bags locked on a plane to nowhere. Meal voucher. 1 AM dinner at the last remaining sport’s bar. Airport Hotel purgatory sleep in the stiff cold sheets. And now we are back again at the gates. Waiting some more. This latest flight delayed two more hours. Pray for us dear friends. May our troubled luck change.