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Super 8 Motel, Yucca Valley Gramfest 2004, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Oct. 4, 5, 6

We’ve come to celebrate the death of Gram Parsons in the great California desert. It’s a short trip but a trip nonetheless. The Hawks are back on the road. Not much has changed in the last few weeks. John Kerry and George Bush are still staring each other down meaninglessly. Gas prices are higher than ever. The war in Iraq continues to spiral downward into a bloody pit. America is busy trying to forget it but, folks, we’re knee deep in guts and it doesn’t look likely to end anytime soon or not soon. On a brighter note, it looks like Mount St. Helens is going to blow up again. Steam and ash are escaping that old crater. It’s like ’81 all over again. Gramfest night one was a mildly cursed series of near hits and misses that were actually okay. Paul L’s amp blew up again, there’s a deep electronic ghost in the Deluxe tube maze. Rob lost his ATM card and his garage door opener. So he couldn’t bring CDs, his sweet California Blonde acoustic guitar amp, or get cash at will. On top of that, it was a terrible food day.

We did an early set at the lovely and intimate Hi Desert Theater, right on the highway, with San Diego drummer John Kuhlken, who did a fine ESP job. Our set ended before Victoria could rock on “Humboldt,” but tonight might be a different story. The Burrito Brothers alumni band was similarly a disjointed experience, couldn’t hear Sneeky Pete despite crowd urgings to turn him up. But it was good to tread the sand and breathe the 2700 foot high air. The Gramfest poster is amazing.Yes, it’s Gramfest night two, Saturday, and we’re hanging at the Motel 8, about to head out for a hang with our band pals and our hopefully not later than 2 a.m. show. Victoria and Paul had a good little hike in Joshua tree, had a picnic and were visited by a huge white hawk which symbolized PLs untimely, Gram Parson’s-like death, bats flitting around their heads, a very fast and paranoid jackrabbit, and two big coyotes who wandered by, looked up solicitously to their rock perch for a meal and a cup of coffee, kept on walking when they didn’t receive. The signs say don’t feed them, and PL reluctantly agrees. We don’t need another species on the mass grid.
Like always, we’re watching the weather channel with the sound off. It’s 43 degrees in Cleveland.

Later that evening: ever try to get 50 bands onstage in one day? Seems almost impossible. Indeed. At 10 p.m., the 8 p.m. bands were playing. And when Mike Stinson was shooed offstage at 1 a.m. after doing 6 songs, and the last call for alcohol clarion sounded, we knew we were in trouble. The Hawks hit the stage at 1:45 a.m. for some diehard fans, as the Gramfest crew dismantled the stage around them, three songs before the house lights blazed on and Gramfest Day Two lurched to a halt.

Ah, but Sunday brought redemption to the now paranoid Hawks at Pappy and Harriet’s in nearby Pioneertown, stout timbers and mounted elk heads, good vibes, and stunning boulder and Joshua tree vistas ringing the ghost town site. Gramfest day three was a tribute to Byrds drummer Gene Clarke, again lots of cool bands. A fine set for longtime desert denizens and L.A. browsers, with guestette drummer Victoria rocking hard on Humboldt. And the Hawks and Hawkettes got in seven or eight frames at the classic 1940’s bowling alley where they remember how to make a milkshake, just a stroll down the dirt alley by the stuntmen shootout. All’s well that ends well, and made our way west on Highway 62 as twilight brought in the desert stars. They vanished as we hit Beaumont and Riverside. Footnote: whilst searching the web for reviews, we found this entry in a blogger’s diary:
“The next morning we headed to Joshua Tree for some peace and beauty AND GRAM PARSONS! I took tons of photos. It was a beautiful day. I locked my keys in my Jeep as we got out to check out Grams place! I was freaking out! We both left our cell phones in the Jeep and only had our cameras. I was ready to flag someone down to borrow their cell when I thought to check the back and it was unlocked! woo hoo!! We met a couple of guys from San Pedro at the Gram site, we spoke of different bands. One guy mentioned the local LA band called ‘I see Hawks in LA.’ I see that name all the time in the L.A. Weekly but haven’t seen them yet. They were there for rock climbing. They walked up with a can of bud in their hands and I’m thinking ‘these guys are rock climbing and drinking – wow!’ after we chatted a bit one guy asks us if we smoked weed. Actually I was waiting for this question to come out of their mouths. I declined the good smelling pot but Bruno didn’t pass it up. The guy took out a round altoids tin and had the pot pipe hidden away in that. Hmmm…. nothing like climbing on huge rocks with no ropes while drinking and smoking.

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