July 2011

This is super drummer Dave Raven’s first trip with the Hawks, and it’s been so great that we fear we’ve set the expectations bar a bit high for him. β€œIt’s not usually this cushy, bro.” Our third day extended and heightened the mellow dreamlike nature of our northern wandering.

We took the 5 South of course, back on what our friends Old Californio might call The Mother Road**

Then westward on Highway 20 and some beautiful hairpin mountain roadage that transformed the landscape from dry grass and oaks to lush vineyard — ringed by dry grass and oaks. Southward through mysterious valley to edge of bustling Napa prosperity. The streets are jammed with Ferraris and tour busses. It’s a cross between Park City in the winter and Yosemite Valley in the summer. The highway becomes Main Street, St. Helena, mysterious St. Helena. New and old wealth manifested in immaculately kept Victorian and Craftsman houses on huge redwood shaded lots.

We pull up to our host Joanne’s turn of the (last) century two story wood frame house, yard drenched in balmy afternoon Napa sunlight. This party is a mini-summit of local vintners and friends, and the tree shaded lawn is action packed, local wines and cheeses laid out on long tables as the guests filter in. Paul Marshall, whose lovely and cool wife and daughters are also here, is in oenophile heaven. The vintner’s wares are sampled, to much earnest discussion among the imbibers. This is indeed wine country. There’s a refreshing and earthy Viognier. An elephantine old vine Zin. A Pinot Egregious just coming into its own. A not overly-oaked or malolactic, lean, crisp Chardonnay. Paul Lacques seems to randomly favor the Chablis, which he pronounces “cha-bliss.”

We do two electric sets alternating with funky folk rock jazz combo Free Peoples, a quintessential northern California band, with a fat groove, great playing, a phenomenal young violinist (or is he a fiddler?) named Karl, who sat in with us, to most beautiful effect. A blast was had by all, perhaps us Hawks most of all. The dream state continues.

** note: Old Californio’s Mother Road is Route 66, they’re all Pasadena/Temple City locals. The only truly all-locals band in the Southland?

The Hawks have grown and thrived in the same time frame of the spread of capuccinos to rural American culture. We have witnessed the grand opening of a Starbucks in Provo, Utah, sampled sophisticated single source brews in blue highway towns, stood behind bearded mountain men as they enquire into croissants and scones, their trucks idling in the gravel parking lot. The nasty swill that was a pillar of rural Americana is being knocked over town by hamlet by town square. Change is as possible as it is unlikely. Yes we can.

Could left wing organizations win America back via coffee culture? Let’s not forget that this was a land of radicals, Wobblies, Communists, socialists, beats and bohemians, powerful labor unions that delivered the vote for representatives who feared and served the people and the common good. The collapse of this commonality has been breathtakingly fast. We live in its rubble now. The average working man now votes Republican, watches Fox News, and thinks teachers are overpaid. Will green shoots rise from these ruins? What if the funds donated to Moveon.org and their now tedious and salaried dance with the power structure went towards a chain of socialist free trade coffee houses staffed by sexy and brilliant eco aware youth handing customers a copy of Counterpunch with each impeccably pulled ristretto? Could Environmental Baristas For America (modeled after Teach For America) recruit the best and brightest to serve high end espresso to under-served middle America? Cafe begets outdoor farmer’s market begets local small farming vegetable swaps, bicycling, political discussion groups, local activism and cultural happenings. Rural America finds the balance of 1936, or 1926, or 1876. Facebook falters. Twitter withers.

We get ideas. On this post-wedding morning we walked across the street from our Town of Mt. Shasta modest motel, the Alpine Lodge, to an enticing stone storefront espresso establishment, Seven Suns. Jackpot! Excellent breakfast burritos, scones like big cookies, Americanos and soy capuccinos a cut above decent, reggae wafting through cool subdued lighting back rooms. Hence the above speculation on the rebirth of American culture. It’s not impossible.

We get more ideas: The death blow to wind and solar generated power in any eco debate is the lack of power storage. Winds often blow strongest at night, when electricity demand is down. Solar power declines in winter. Giant batteries aren’t practical. How to store electrical energy? Well–how about mechanical storage? The new 1776 foot high World Trade Center could be built on a hydraulic platform. Excess electricity from wind turbines and solar panels now covering every square foot of Manhattan rooftop can be routed to motors that raise the hydraulic platform and the World Trade Center 200 feet in the air, raising its peak height to 1976 feet, making it even more height prestigious and bolstering America’s deflated self esteem. When Manhattan’s electricity demand exceeds solar/wind output, the platform lowers, the Trade Center’s massive weight driving generators that light up the Great White Way.

The presidents of Mt. Rushmore could be similarly jacked up, the gigatonnage of a mountain top storing a whole region’s worth of electricity. The ruined coal mountaintops of West Virginia could be converted to energy storage platforms as they’re being cosmetically rehabilitated. Let’s jack up all of Las Vegas as its population flees for more rational places to live. Put our wastelands to good use. Phoenix. And West L.A.

Not all our ideas are good ones. A chain of Nevada brothel/medical marijuana clinic/gas station centers called Ass, Gas, and Grass (Kids Eat For Free) might create more problems than it solves. But noted in the interest of not spurning The Muse.

Saturday morning, hard clear blue skies, we do indeed rise at 7:30 a.m., load up, are treated to a hearty eggs and espresso based breakfast at Evangeline’s, more thanks upon thanks. The Yukon powers over hills and county lines to Nevada City, a picture postcard Gold Rush town gracefully tucked into wooded ridges, rows of beautifully preserved 19th century buildings. We pull off a pretty solid ungodly hour live show in the radio KVMR studio, with erudite host Larry. KVMR has played us generously since our first CD and are a big part of our Sacto adjacent family. Long may they enlighten the airwaves.

We power north on the 99 through Functional Country, earthen dams, water pumps, giant power line, dry olive orchards with metal square barns. This passes, and we find gentle rurality, sight Shasta towering white through haze in the distance. We are in the Land Of Interesting Topography, lava based. Is Shasta volcanic?

Yes it is. According to Wikimassbrain.com, it’s actually four separate volcanos merged together. We exit the 5 amidst tall trees and mountain ridges. We’re playing a wedding. About once a year we play a wedding if, and only if, the bride and groom and their families pass our stringent screening exam. The Shasterians excelled with honor and distinction. Not surprisingly, the groom is a geologist (another fated Hawks geology encounter). We like rocks, and rock gardens.

All signs point to a memorable evening. The wedding tables and home made huppa are bathed in the beautiful light of a meadow surrounded by tall trees, with Mt. Shasta’s snow packed whiteness beaming down in the near background. Tables are named after rock classifications and we’re seated at the igneous table. The centerpiece? You guessed it: rocks. The soundman is a mellow young dude mit ponytail in three piece flannel suit, the stage was built by the groom, kegs of beer and roasted carrots are waiting. Sound check, long restful hang in the meadow, and the coolest wedding party in our memory filters in. Cool as in mellow, unpretentious, totally relaxed, dare we say very very happy? The groom’s dad is a classic Louisiana man from deep in Cajun country, the bride Michelle’s family has lived a half mile from the meadow her entire life. This is a zone sheltered from the uprooted angst of our Too Young Republic. We eat, we play music, we mingle with the families as the bride and groom take the stage for their own family and friends bluegrass band, damn, they’re pretty good. We do a few more songs, depart into the night, partied out. Was that work?

Late July, 2011. The Hawks have taken once again to the summer road. Green oaks rise above the yellowing grasses. Mount Volcano Shasta peeks over the foot hills white and tall. Streams and rivers across the West are fat and full. We cross over deep green rivers crowded with Saturday boaters in cut off shorts with coolers of ice and beer, pink shoulders and fading tattoos squeezing out of tattered tank tops. It’s been a while since Californians have felt the calm that comes from an abundant snow pack and an end to the rationing. We can sprinkle at will for a while. Our glass is half full.

So, it is with loving nostalgia that we return to our blog. In the mid-2000s when we first took to the road, it seemed that the blog would last forever, the new literary form. But so quickly was it replaced by ever shorter status updates. 140 characters of attention span. So indulge us, dear reader, as we let our vocabulary run free on the open range of the page.

Last night we played at Evangeline’s in Colfax, east on the 80 in oak and evergreen foothills past the encroaching reach of Sacramento commuter traffic, a backwater only recently ravaged by a drive through Starbucks and still retaining its beyond the pale local culture. Such a place is great to find in this stiff corporate age — a genuine community that appreciates music, life, and dancing. Evangeline has created a sanctuary, a refuge, for the traveling musician. Oh, yes, Evangeline is real, not the imagined muse of a cafe seeking cred through colorful moniker. She knows cool music and books accordingly, pays the bands astonishingly well for the modest square footage of her espresso based den.

Dave Raven, drummer phenom and Renaissance Burning Man, is making his maiden voyage with the Hawks, and we introduce him to our ways by pulling the faithful Yukon up to Evangelines in the nick of time. The locals, firmly committed hippies with jobs and medicinal cards, greet us warmly as we hustle our gear through the cafe’s front door. Several custom rolled cigarettes are handed to us, and we haven’t even cracked a beer. Richard March and his tight acoustic combo open the show with the sun still above the horizon. We ease into an electric show in the tiny room as our smiling audience swims in and out of Evangelines, watching us through the front glass on the breeze gathering front porch, coming in for some AC and unfiltered sounds, dancing, singing along. We stand in the middle of it all, beguiled and then digging in as the set catches fire. Dave rocks our rockers as they are meant to be rocked. A good time is had by all.

A long hang with friend fans, farewell to our kind hosts, long philosophical discussion with Jamesons at the Colfax Motor Lodge, and to bed. We have an early rising.