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It’s two a.m. The epic Auburn show is a fading memory. The mountain tribes are returned to their lairs. A light rain falls. The aging Hawks Yukon is packed up in the wet cold lonely parking lot of the Auburn Liquor Outlet Community Center. Old Californio’s shiny new Yukon Eco Forest is in a similar state. A strange and weighty silence.

Inside, Rob Waller and Levi Nunez are sobbing in an embrace on the green room couch. They’ve taken the verbal jousting a big too far, a bit too personal, and things spiraled. At one point Paul Marshall drew his .38 special and aimed it at the ceiling. “You two can start acting like men, or you’ll see what real men face.” Evangeline screamed, threw herself on the weapon, which discharged into a box of wine. Everyone is drenched in a frisky but complex pinot.

But it’s cathartic. The War Of the Hosers is over. Both bands pile on in a tannin soaked tantric love hug. Even Rich Dembowski, the half Polish, half Mexican, half Polish wordsmith wunderkind, wipes away a tear. We chalk it up to a sibling spat. There’s peace in the Valley-adjacent.

The Hawks drive west and down, Sacto adjacent bound. Bryan Thomas gave us a copy of Christina Ortega’s high school punk band, Kay Lastima and the Muertones, and we’re digging it. She could belt it out even back then.

Next day we trek back up the hill for Wesley Robertson’s very groovy afternoon radio show in lovely Nevada City. We’d like to interrupt this program to send a huge shoutout to KVMR. They have given us far more than our share of support over the years, and this year is no exception. We’ve always fantasized moving up here, growing medicinal marijuana in a sprawling unkempt steep sloped back yard with wood shingled cottage with wood burning stove, except that we might get on people’s nerves after a while. But absence makes our Hawks hearts very fond of these hills and airwaves.

The radio show goes great. Old Californio with Pete Grant sitting in on exotic 8 string dobro get a sweet sound going huddled around mics in the little room. We fuel up on local barista juice and take over the show, doing an all Wesley request set with Pete and Richie adding their licks. We steam up the room and saturate the mics.

Back down the hill in ramshackle fashion for Winters, CA, orchard railroad spur turned post 60s cultural refuge and game reserve. A mellow town with a hint of neomercantilism. Dave of the Palms, Dave who is the Palms, greets us. We unload gear and trudge up the long and familiar steps into the hall. Onstage the mics are set and ready to rock. We sound check, acoustic through real mics. Sounds great. Soundman Jeremy has got this room dialed in. Old Californio sound check and we check out Fortify restaurant, a hop skip and no jump at all up the street. We feel Fortify is worth a:


Fortify, in a gentrified old shop building, promises an intelligence that will be informing the cuisine. We Hawks take seriously the visual cues that a dining establishment will display. This room has a soothing color scheme, an open feel with tables made from old bowling alley lanes. The chef/owner admits she’s brand new to the mechanics of restauranting but says with great confidence that the food will be great.

She’s spot on in her description of the mechanics–orders are mixed up, portions gotten backwards, with much shuffling back and forth. But in context, charming, because: the food is delicious and indeed enlightened. We had chicken tortilla soup that was complex and an energy boost; chicken tacos and white bean soup prepared with a deep regard for properties of the legume. A subtly flavored green salad. Two tone tapioca and austere carrot cake. We are feeling good. A bearded mountain man plays old mountain tunes on mandola, fiddle, and mandolin. We hope this place flourishes. Check it out. Fortify. Worth the detour north from I-80.

Old Californio sound and look great in the hallowed hall of The Palms. Woody and Pete Grant, sitting in again on exotic 8 string dobro, engage in fierce musical battles, Jason’s got his Phil Lesh thing going tonight, and Rich and the boys’ crystalline vocals crystallize.

Our set feels like a warm glow from start to finish. Flanked by Pete’s dobro and Richie’s accordion, this is the acoustic version of the Hawks orchestra launched the night before. Lush. Kevin lays down a subtle brushes on snare groove that gently rocks the room. The crowd is our family and tribe, just like the night before, we get the big standing O and play some more. Big thanks to Dave and Kate, long may they divine.

We hit the late night road for Davis and our buddy Z’s roomy house. Next morning Kevin and Paul L, who share the inability to sleep in, leave their slumbering bandmates and prowl the streets of Davis, find the perfect balance of walking and caffeinating: a one mile walk to Davis’s hipicenter at the edge of the UC campus. Kevin observes that life’s great moments are such as this–a walk in the sun on a leisurely morning, no cares or plans, basking in the glow of last night’s show. And caffeine. Caffeine. Just knowing it’s on the way.

If one must be an addict, is not coffee the noblest of addictions? Other than the anxiety that a poorly timed collision of circumstances and triple macchiato can induce, there’s little downside to this proof of Intelligent Design. In Kevin Jarvis, Paul L has met his caffeiphilian match. This man loves coffee. He does indeed order a triple macchiato on a regular basis, and a few hours later, he’ll do it again. If it’s seven p.m. before a show, Kevin will suggest a coffee, if a hip cafe has caught his eye. Paul is very grateful for this unabashed enthusiasm. Any ambivalence about these benevolent chains of mental slavery are banished at the barista’s door. Accordionist Richie and his wife Katie are at that same rarefied level of coffee love, and often guide the Hawks on prowls of Sacramento’s ever expanding espresso empire.

Today Mishka’s cafe wins the Yelp competition. Walk, imbibe, walk back, Paul M and Rob are up and ready to rock, breakfast at the alarmingly fecund Black Bear Diner, pack up and roll westward to Marin. Rob finds a gorgeous back road through lush green fat oak dotted hills and deep into redwoods filtering golden afternoon light, out into the open again and there it is, at the end of a dogleg on rural road, hill framed as if by an overly sentimental painter, Rancho Nicasio. This roadhouse has been here for a long time, the stuff of Californio legends, and is a hangout for 60s and 70s rockers to this day. Elvin Bishop was in the night before to jam, Nicasio tech guy Mike Duke tells us (Mike is a songwriter himself, wrote hits for Huey Lewis and the News).

We set up on an afternoon where we should really be out climbing the hills, are well fed and watered by the kind Nicasio folks, and at 5 p.m. sharp or a bit later we launch into our first set. It’s mellow, as the sun blazes behind us and the audience dines on rural road fare. At the break Angela Strehli and Bob Brown, the Nicasio owners and brain trust, greet us, and we hang with friends, friend fans, family, and fan friends. The second set builds from dinner to full on extended jam version of Wonder Valley. It did get loud. We hang, we pack, we hit the road. We’ve decided to pull an all nighter.

Sugar can be your friend when you hit the road at 11 p.m. I-5 gas emporia offer a variety of tempting treats, and we sampled them all, took turns driving and yakking, humped over a now bone dry Grapevine, big trucks and speeding lunatics our only road companions, hit L.A. at 5 a.m., decamped at casa Waller, and scattered to the four winds, well, three. An action packed weekend that passed as in a dream.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • David Love April 18, 2012, 11:14 am

    Hey from SC to the Hawks. You may remember me from the Palms (I saw every one of your shows there) before we moved from Davis to SC in 2008. Saw you at your first ever SkinkFest (Rob, you were surprised to see anyone there wearing the official Hawks T Shirt) and looking forward to May 4th. I will also be at the Evening Muse on the 3rd, even tho a 10:30 set is usually way past my bedtime . . . nothing comes between me and my Hawks. Save me a front row, center seat. See y’all there. I’ll be the guy wearing either my Hawks or a SkunkFest T Shirt and a SF Giants ball cap.
    the Hawks Biggest Fan (maybe 2nd biggest after Zig)

  • Stonecutter April 18, 2012, 3:38 pm


  • David Love April 20, 2012, 5:36 am

    Of course I meant SkunkFest, not Skinkfest.