Riding the Flow — Tacoma, Not Seattle — Bobo and the Real World Peace Clowns — Enchanted Marijuana Forest — L.A. Bound
The drive westward and north from Richland, WA to Seattle is forlorn and lovely. Two lane asphalt knifes through sage and subtly rolling hills, sculpted black and gray clouds providing muted moistness above. Wet vs. dry. Big lava ridges loom in the distance, and our path coincides ahead, bringing us to the majestic Columbia River, following lava shoulder on its journey from the north before taking a hard turn west.
Four lane I-90 west into Seattle is an ideal of 1960’s highway design, parallel ribbons dipping to the river and pulling away, through deciduous trees in the shadow of evergreened ridges, up and over still snow coated Snoqualmie Pass. We descend into greater Seattle.
We’re doing a brief nesting at the Days Inn by SeaTac airport, which we need not describe to you if you have journeyed. Back in the Yukon at dusk, north to the Triple Door in the densest of Seattlessence, a stone’s throw from the famous Pike Street Market and the original Starbucks. Triple Door is a refurbished 1920’s movie theater, tastefully reborn as a deluxe supper club with cool non-stratospheric acts like Sandra Bernhardt and Leon Russell, and newer bands we’ve never heard of (live in our own musical bubble) but who are clearly doing well. Black walls and shiny surfaces, kind of like the ill fated Knitting Factory Hollywood. We’re playing in the front room, the less than ideal site is redeemed by the graciousness of the supercool staff, and the excellent food and whiskey and generous band tab.
The acoustic trio is rocking, the audience, which includes two of Rob’s Minnesota high school classmates and friends and what must be our most dedicated fans–Howard and Doreen, who have driven out from Colorado to attend our show. A few months ago they drove from Colorado to Ventura to see a show, and turned around and drove straight back to Colorado. If occasionally our belief in ourselves and our music flags, as must happen to all who strive, such radically expressed affirmation can get us a long way down the road and through some dark moments. Y’all are crazy, H&D, and we love you for it.
The bartender is a cool guy, pours us farewell whiskeys and gives us a tour of the joint. We return through rain to the Days Inn night.
It’s the third to final morning of our northward tour, and we’re faced south. We drive, 5, Paul L trying to locate espresso and breakfast on Rob’s iPhone, with a techno clueless charm. Rob resists several waves of urge to snatch the iPhone from Paul’s fumbling fingers, and PL eventually manages to find what look like promising prospects in Tacoma.
Tacoma lives in the shadow of Seattle, and seems very aware of this. Please note, wider world, that Tacoma does indeed have its own brand of hipster culture, with subtle shadings that surely must distinguish it from Seattle, Silverlake, and the bonsai bohemian groves that live lichen like in every global city. But we can’t tell you what those shadings are. We aren’t that invested. We do country rock.
iPhone guides us off the 5 and northward to the inner groove of Tacoma. We pass vintage vinyl, an Irish pub, and a coffee roaster in glass and deco stone austere building emanating all the proper memes. Paul L takes note of this in case our chosen iPhoneYelped diner lets us down in the coffee department. We haven’t had the full on ristretto obsessive Pacific Northwest Coffee Mecca Experience yet, and Paul L in particular is feeling cheated.
We have chosen, or rather the silky Siri who lives trapped in an iPhone has chosen, ShakaBrah, an old diner that’s been innardly eviscerated and hipsterized into Tacoma au courantism. A feedback laden two note guitar solo mp3 pierces the room. Posters of all that’s radical and new in Tacoma, not Seattle, line the wooden wall. The young waitress is quite likely stoned, which we applaud with a twinge of nostalgia. The food is filling and good. The espressos are weak and uninspired.
The day is saved by the above mentioned Bluebeard Coffee Roasters in deco stone and glass. Inside the memes are indeed pumping. Austerity, sorority, egalite, beards and alt magazines, concrete floor, glass. The most minimal espresso based menu we’ve ever seen. No frappucino mocha blast. Like a sushi chef who lives or dies with a cube of raw fish. They’ve challenged themselves, and us. And they deliver. Rich, robust. Pacific Northwest, be proud.
(Dear State of Washington: you’ve done a fabulous job of integrating inherently toxic modern industrial infrastructure into your pristine northerness, and hiding your mini-population explosion amidst the Douglas firs. Can we make one suggestion? Your road sign emblem is a silhouette of George Washington’s head. Our First President has an unfortunately shaped head to begin with, topped by the worst hairdo of any historical figure. When you stretch the head to encephalitic proportions to accommodate highway numbers, you present the driver with an omnipresent disturbing image. How about a Douglas fir instead?)
Stuck in traffic in the beautiful Northwest? Yes, dear reader, it does happen. Though your friends who’ve moved to Portland will swear they can get across town during rush hour in minutes, L.A.-style traffic gnarls exist among the redwoods and the rains. We get stuck in two of them, one coming out of Seattle and another in the heart of Portland. We’re on our way to Cottage Grove, OR, the cute little town where Animal House was filmed. You can close your eyes and imagine the “Cut The Cake” death float coming down the street, John Belushi swinging from a banner dressed as pirate. It’s warm and humid as we pull into town with the windows down. A crepuscular light adds a welcoming glow. A man who looks like Santa Claus on his off day stands by the door of the old brick walled Axe And Fiddle, gazing into the sunset. This is Hippie Country, folks. In fact, we may be a Hippie County band. We’re feeling very regional these days. Inside the Axe, Seth the Soundman knows what he’s doing and eases us through a feedback-free soundcheck while the kind and familiar staff prepares the band meal. Some friends start arriving and we can tell this is going to be a good night. The Axe and Fiddle folks know how to put on a show. The lighting is sophisticated and pleasant and draws attention to the stage. Not a flat screen TV to be found in this enlightened mountain pub. It’s great to see Bryan and Sue, Howard and Doreen, Mike and friends, Lloyd and Melissa Zimmer, their daughter Randi and don’t forget Celia. And there’s some fans from our last time through as well as a pair of kind brother tapers in Wilco shirts who asked permission to record via email. All the memes are firing. Seth has even put the Handsome Family on the big system. The sets sound great.
We’re really locked in as a band right now, that’s the best part of being on the road and the hardest part to duplicate when you’re at home. This takes practice, folks. The crowd gets louder and dancier as the evening goes on. We gotta go folks. But they won’t let us. How far’s Humboldt? we ask. Half a mile! We finally wind things down with a lullaby version of our eponymous song. As we hang out by the stage door Santa reappears. He’s a retired clown, he says. Name of Bobo. He regales us with tales of Haight-Ashbury, big rock shows, the day Jerry died. Right on, man. But really, we gotta go. It’s 8 hours to Humboldt down narrow windy roads and we have a 3:30 pm downbeat. We need to drive a couple hours tonight. Bobo’s face turns serious. He looks like a different person for a moment. “Let’s enjoy all this, every moment,” says Bobo carefully. “Fukushima is melting down.”
Bryan and Sue’s grand estate just happens to be two hours down the 5, just beyond Grant’s Pass. It’s warming and comfortable. It’s free. And right on the way. We’re gutting it out at 1 a.m., RW at the wheel. The Gods are on our side and we get there safely, cheating death once again. Kind Morpheus descends swift and without comment. It feels good to be in our friends’ house surrounded by their loving vibe, away from the chakra scattering mojo of the roadside motel.
The last gig of the tour awaits across the border to the south. Our drive from Brian and Sue’s outpost is wooded and winding westward, through fir and then redwoods as fog embraces the two lane highway 199 to the 101 as we reach the coast. We’re back in California, through the always amusing and superfluous border check at the Agricultural Inspection Station. Are they looking for terrorists or just fruits and vegetables? We pass unchallenged. It’s always a little ego deflating to not be wicked enough to be waved over.
The air grows ever moister as we descend towards the California coast, big old trees keeping us in shadow. Suddenly we’re cruising past the beach. A chilly, marshbound, redwood adjacent beach, but the beach nonetheless. We are closer to home. We power south the 101.
We’re on track for an on time arrival at the Humboldt Music And Arts Festival in the Garberville adjacent Benbow Recreation Area, when we are suddenly sidetracked in Arcata:
A beautiful dreadlocked tie dyed zen tattooed maiden in the parking lot outside the Walgreens, where we’re buying batteries for our recently deceased guitar tuners, asks us if we want to check out the Humboldt Marijuana Forest. We exchange intra-band glances, silently decide yes. Dread youth hops on her mountain bike and leads our Yukon on a quick wiry chase out of town, abruptly turning up a narrow lane canopied by big redwoods. We screech right, following, up and winding up, trailing dust through big trees. The dread youth on bicycle disappears around a bend.
Over a last rise we’ll never forget, the redwoods give way abruptly to giant stalks of marijuana plants, their broad branches snapping the sides of the Yukon. We park and get out in a clearing, absolutely dazzled by the sight of green and purple budded sativa and indica species, in great and chaotically dense varieties rising unbroken to the distant ringing ridgetops. Do we hear a haunted choir, or is that the wind vibrating through the stony buds? We’ve never seen buds like this: three or four feet long, a riot of silvered colors, and so sticky that your clothes are instantly caked in resin if you brush against them. Though we’ve yet to smoke anything, we feel a strange mood come over us as we wander through the thickets. We follow a stream upward and then get lost. We stumble into a small grass meadow loomed over by towering indica plants. We’re going to be late for the Humboldt fest, or perhaps this is the festival after all?
Suddenly, the lovely maiden appears, barefoot, carrying a hemp picnic basket. She spreads out a batiked tapestry on the clovered ground and prepares the feast. Big slices of tomato and onion on thick rustic bread, drizzled with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. There’s a bottle of wine and some chocolate chip cookies. The maiden lowers to crosslegged lotus by the basket and summons us to sit. We join her and get right to it. The food is delicious. No one speaks as the sun drifts below tree level, the light dappled and soft. Yes, we’ve certainly missed our festival show. And so be it. We’ve worked hard on this trip. Twelve shows in eleven days over 2800 miles. This is what we need to be doing. In short succession we doze off. First RW, then PL. PM and the maiden pass the time playing cribbage and talking about late 60s honky tonk music before they too fall into slumber under the stars, bathed in the thick pungent now bedewed odor of the magnificent weed. At dawn the maiden is gone. We gather ourselves slowly, then stumble downhill through the head high stalks. Whew, pure luck, we stumble out right where the Yukon is parked. Our clothes are now covered in inch thick dark cannabis resin. We carefully scrape it off and leave it in three bowling ball sized wads at the side of the lane, and drive back to the highway.
As we get closer to Garberville in the pleasing heat of early afternoon, the gathering of tribes is making roadside appearances exponentially with each mile. Throngs of hypercolorful beaded tatted bearded semi-clothed elevated heads and headesses and children and elder hippie patrimatriarchs wait for shuttles or walk the half mile down the road to the Humboldt Summer Music And Arts Festival, on a 500 yard dustygrass treeshaded stretch along the Eel River. We rumble past in the Yukon. What a scene. If being is doing, these be hippies. These are outdoor people, gathered for the 30th annual local bacchanalia, the gentle madness of which belies its prim name. Two hippie maidens, one from the 60s, the other from a decade just begun, check us in. Back on the lane leading to our stage, the parking crew is stoned. Stoned beyond the ability to execute their basic duties, their authority. They stand slack jawed while we maneuver past. One of them giggles, an open and cockeyed stare affixed to his face. We weave through orange cones, seize parking territory close to our Solar Stage. Those of higher crew castes have it together. The sound crew gets us onstage in a hurry after a rocking set from a post modern world beat band with about 20 people onstage, a solid electric band at their core. The new hippie rock.
We start our set in a storm of monitor mix, which we get toned down after the first song. After a few songs we adjust our sound to the bigger scene unfolded on the grass. As we play Rob spots a bald eagle, a hawk, and a raven, racing in tight formation down the riverbed at festival’s edge. The crowd gathers from distant places and we do a rocking show. Our perspective gets a bit tweaked by being here, stepping back into the realm of the outdoor festival after a few days off. We’re known to some as a hippie band, but here amongst those living the hippie lifestyle, tanned with leathery bare feet and road instincts, we feel conventional. Jericho, Jut the Rainbow Slut, a crew of mimes, acrobats, and weight lifters known as he Real World Peace Clowns. We hawks have all vagabonded in our youths. Now our vagabonding is in short but deeply felt bursts. Our madness has a schedule. But our hearts are with our wandering brethren and sistren.
Albino Skunkfest, French Broad River Fest, Carter Ranch, Strawberry Fest, and the Humboldt fest are rich food for thought. Just as we’ve reined in our experimental nature a bit for New Kind Of Lonely, a retreat to simple song structure stripped down, we’re sharing the stage with young and new bands heading in the opposite direction: long jams, tight and complex instrumental arrangements, with crafted lyrics, melody, and conventional song structure an afterthought if at all. We’re feeling a little anachronistic, but also unique. Twelve years have cast some dies. Dies we will no doubt crack and emerge from with our next song and recording, but that’s for another day. For the moment we are pleased to meet you.
Some of our local boosters who introduced us to the festival people are artisans deep in the local growing and hemp craft scene. We hang out with them for a while, have a good talk with festival organizer Justin, a young man of unusual gravitas and calm, do an interview and talk with DJs from aptly acronymed KMUD and KHUM. We feast on fest food at a bench over the river bank as the sun hits the ridge and cool commences. The pagans of all description are glowing in golden light, infinite cormac mcdust motes diffusing the bounds of shadow and line.
It’s time to go. Farewells to all and more. Up to the highway and down and out. We drive southward into evening and night, Willits and Ukiah. It’s sinking in — end of tour. Last deadline, last getting psyched up, last load-in, last last song, all passed. Is today June 2 or 1? We debate, decide it’s June 2. Just ten days out, but we’ve passed the threshold of linear time, and time flows, filling all possibilities. A long short time. Thoughts and notions fill the black night ahead and unseen highway.
Haiku Ukiah haiku
PL: What’s that called when the Zen master smacks you on the forehead?
PM: Wakeup call.
We explore local radio options. We officially endorse Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me as the worst program ever on the air. Or as Anthony Lacques calls it, Wait Wait Let Me Grab My Revolver And Blow My Brains Out. Puzzle Meister Will Short comes in a close second.
Our idle free associative conversation leads us almost without effort into the making of the Hawks Original Joke #6:
A famous Irish Catholic playwright, known for his scathing anti-religious wit and scalding atheist tracts as much as for his spiritous barroom exploits, is stricken suddenly and lies upon his deathbed. In his last moments he summons a priest. All Dublin is afire with the news. “My son,” says the old priest in a voice quavering with emotion. “Your return to the Lord is made all the more precious by your long absence. Are you prepared to make a good act of contrition in preparation for Extreme Unction?” “Ah, no, father,” says the dying bard. “I just need you to fondle me balls one last time.”
We come up with an ad campaign slogan for snuff, which we offer as an open source idea with the hope of eventual financial remuneration:
“Tired? Depressed? Unemployed? Hit the snuff and Get off your duff!”
Rob is craving a Scottish beer. It’s mysterious what woos the human heart. In the meantime we tug on the Jamesons bottle as the 101 wends us Marinward. We stay the night at chez Waller, rise next day, play a few tunes in the living room, make eggs, make scarce. We’re L.A. bound, and moving fast.