Two days into the new Hawks CD mix at Hyde Street Studios, and it’s going all too well. We’re ahead of schedule, six songs down, seven to go. On day three, Sunday, the Lord rests and Fate deals us a dreaded setback. Car trouble, kick and snare trouble, snaps and pops on a few tracks, and we’re four hours behind. Too early to freak out, but we do have to be out of Hyde Street Studios tomorrow night, never to return at the bargain price mixer Gabe is kindly throwing us.
Onward we soldier, blasting through tunes acoustic and psychedelic electric, even psychedelic acoustic. Late at night we video a look-at-us-in-the-studio sequence, starting with a guy peeing on a car in front of Hyde Street Studios, pan to Rob opening the door, peeing guy yelling, did you get me on camera?, walking pan through the hallowed Hyde hallways to bleary eyed Gabe pondering compression on acoustic guitars.Very late, we return to our temporary SF/Marin abodes weary and fatigued of ear. But still having fun, and only possibly fatally behind schedule.
Monday, Monday. Noon looms as Paul walks through teeming San Francisco streets from Union Square, where he’s staying with wife Victoria and her mom Barbara, who are on a girls’ weekend out excursion, at a snobby and overpriced hotel (The Hotel Palomar, if you must know, and be prepared for snobby looks straight out of a British comedy from the obsequious/snooty staff if you’re underdressed). San Francisco is filled with madness, but the dividing line between the rich and the impoverished is battered, by unavoidable proximity (the automobile has enabled a class structure in L.A. with vicious thoroughness), similar to Manhattan, and by a sense of ownership by the homeless. Just a bourgeois first impression by this author, mind you, but it’s a good feeling. A cappucino chugged at a sidewalk bistro, then fascinating 20 minute walk to Hyde Street in the tawdry tenderloin. Rob drives over from Marin.Gabe’s in high gear at the big Neve console. He’s going to get this done. We blast through a couple of mixes, then Rob splits for the BART, he’s flying back for Katie’s birthday and work the next day. Paul and Gabe switch to an all pizza and coffee diet, and it does the trick. At quarter to 3 (a.m.), fifteen minutes ahead of prediction, the CD is mixed and dumped back onto the hard drive. Gabe, you rock.
Next day Paul gets breakfast with Victoria and Barbara (amazing how inefficient, scattered, and mediocre this overpriced hotel persists in being), meets Brantley and watches him eat eggs and potatoes at his old Union Square steakhouse haunt (circa 1964), and the fiddler and guitar player hit the road.The Hawks get XM radio in their tour Suburban, and have a tour ritual called the Bluegrass Marathon. Whoever can listen to XM’s all bluegrass station the longest wins. Usually the contest ends after two songs as drummer Shawn starts weeping. This day it’s different, as the banjo aversive Hawks are missing. It’s all bluegrass from Oakland to Wasco, on an eerie black cloud September day, gusts of rain on all horizons, and wicked winds blowing Dust Bowl dust across I-5 in perfectly defined plumes. It looks and feels like the black and white prologue in the Wizard of Oz. Strange weather. And the bluegrass isn’t bluegrass any more, it’s 1940’s Bill Monroe, and 50’s Bill Monroe, and 60’s Osborne Brothers, and 90’s Fusiongrass, Jamgrass, retro-Grass, rural references suburban-grass. Is there any other kind of music? Finally, as we approach the 99 convergence, Brantley asks, say, how about that classic country station you were mentioning? The Marathon is over.
Spectacular clouds beckon us over the Grapevine. Sooner than we can believe, we’re home.