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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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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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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FRIDAY AUGUST 15
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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