We are in Newman. East from the 5 in the flatass Central Valley, about 40 miles west of Merced (Gateway to Manteca). Flat, flat, flat. You can see a long and lazy distance across hazy gray green to a horizon of palm trees. And we’re buzzing from hard working Valley energy. The theater we are playing tonight is a converted 1940’s movie palace on Main Street in this old/new/abandoned/reclaimed farming town. On the marquee out front in giant Hollywood Golden Era letters: “I SEE HAWKS IN L.A.– YOU’LL SEE THEM IN NEWMAN.” We feel warmly welcomed by the volunteer crew busy at work on many projects around the space in the pre-gig hours. There’s the sound guy of course, a lights (lighghts) dude, the booking agent, a Fixit guy working on door handles, a guy prepping the popcorn machine, some kids setting up chairs, a crew of ladies cooking a huge meal for everyone. It’s a great community project. We make it through sound check, eat a fusion Asian meal, and then they take us to the house they’ve got for us.
The house is great, if a little spooky. It was built in 1914 out on a farm, and moved to what was a booming Newman subdivision in the 1950’s. No one appears to have lived here since the late ’60s. Portraits of people who may be dead stare from the mantle and walls. That’s the great and the spooky part. It’s spring time in the Central Valley and they smell of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and a fresh cropdusting hangs in the air. It’s a little freaky. But the roof is good and we’re good. Our new friend John has signed on to be our Merch guy for the night. It’s an arrival for the Hawks, as John only merches to the big guys like Chris Hillman. How long we’ve needed John. We met on the Internet.
Thoughts from later that night:The show in at the Westside theater was dreamy. Standing on the stage in the art deco palace, looking out at the Newmanians, dreaming of the old days and imagining the future of this town. Will family farms return? Will the furniture shop and department store on Main Street once again be filled with shoppers and products? Will some new corporation move in and employ everyone? Will it become a bedroom community for Modesto when it reaches Mega-city status late in the century? Or will it just continue to exist in this unusual peaceful equilibrium it seems to have discovered all by itself?
We played two sets. Both band and audience got progressively rowdier as the night wore on. Howls, bird calls, and meows filled the air during “A Dog Can Break Your Heart Too.” These are animal loving people here among the crops, just like us Hawks. Two Hawks (you guess which two) engaged in after-show Jager shots with Farris, her one-of-a-kind little dog, and several other crew members. Show business. I love it. Yes, I RW did the Jager shots and I’m not ashamed. It’s herbal after all and good for the digestion. Good people of Newman, we hope to return soon! Be well.