Echo Park is the true geographical and spiritual home to I See Hawks in L.A. RW and PL were both bachelors living in the Echo Park hills when they began writing songs together at the turn of the millennium. And we feel that connection as we walk down the hot sidewalks by the lake behind the Angelus Temple. The smell of tacos is in the air. In the distance banda music plays loudly through a brightly lit juke box. Two cops question a woman out in front of the 99 cent store. Yes, this is it, familiar, homey Echo Park.
The Echo is at 1822 Sunset, just east of the newly gentrified Bright Spot cafe, in case you’ve given up on finding it. In classic L.A. slacker style, the owners haven’t put up an Echo sign out front. Instead there’s a faded neon sign: Nayarit. But it’s the Echo.Inside, the Echo is dressed up in its country best. Girls in flowery dresses and guys in western shirts and trucker/cowboy hats gather by the bar. Some may say L.A.’s country scene is phony, a put on. Well, we can tell you there are many other cities and states that have a much more damaged and damaging relationship with the cowboy hat. We’ve been there. We’ve suffered that injury.
And it just feels damn great to be here. The Horsepainters rock out hard. The Dime Box Band sings and looks beautiful. Triple Chicken Foot plucks it up on the patio beneath the bare bulbs strung above the black picnic tables and barbecue pit. We see friends and comrades from Coles to Burbank, Santa Monica to Covina, Long Beach to La Canada. Rick Shea joins us on pedal steel and we let the country rock fly. We’re in musical heaven, playing a damn good show if we say so ourselves. Rick’s sweet steel lines are perfection, weaving through our road hardened arrangements. It’s tough on the road sometimes, introducing yourself and your music to strangers. Tonight we play songs people know and sing along to. It’s a fine homecoming. We drink beer and smoke cigarettes and talk with friends out on the patio until they kick us out so the dance club can start. The air feels wonderful. Los Angeles is our home.
But it is only a short stop and early next morning (well, 11 a.m.) we’re back on the road, Rob, Paul M, and Shawn back in the Yukon flying up the I-5 to San Francisco. Shawn has the seat reclined and he’s trying out the rings on his cell phone. He’s chosen Ring One. This is how you kill time in the car after you’ve driven from L.A. to Vermont and back. Paul L and Victoria have left at about the same time in their humble Honda CRV, and challenge the Yukon to a race to the Bay Bridge.It’s a beautiful day on the Grapevine and down into the San Joaquin valley, drying up nicely in the last few weeks of inferno like weather. The mysterious marshes are prevailing through the heat, with big white migratory birds winging low over the tule grass and glassy water. Quite beautiful.
The 5 is a long haul with terrain that changes incrementally, a rise out of the fields into brown hills, a dip down and along the surreally uniform California Aqueduct, past more cotton fields, tomato fields with giant sorting machines, splotches of spilled tomatoes on the road from a caravan of open bed big rig trucks rolling north. Spillage is part of the process. Tomatoes unpicked by machines rot in the field. Agricultural water is used about as sparingly as by swimming pool owners or people hosing down their driveways in L.A. This is the land of more than plenty. So far.But we digress. Which you do on the long five drive. Five hours later, it’s 580 west, past the windmills, abrupt cultural shift into Hayward’s new highrise condos by the Lawrence Livermore nukeland, then the mellow and moist Bay Area. This is the first cool weather we’ve felt since Vermont, and it feels almost chilly.
Over the bridge, and the two Hawks vehicles are within a half mile of each other heading into San Francisco. Paul L gets lost, winds up in what might be Daly City. We’ll never know. Paul L’s greatest phobia is getting lost in San Francisco. Despite a thousand family and band visits to this fair city by the bay, he couldn’t possibly find his way around without a map and a cell phone call. It’s a psychic block that will likely never dissolve. The San Francisco Bay Area contains more Hawks’ relatives per capita than another other U.S metropolitan region. And thank god for them. The Lacques Clan alone can nearly fill most a mid-size club. The only problem, of course, how to squeeze as many as possible onto the guest list.
The Independent is a great music room on Divisadero in the heart of SF. This classic SF venue has had many names over the years. When RW lived around the corner on Grove Street in the mid-nineties it was known as the Justice League and served up a mix of dance, hip-hop, and reggae most nights with the occasional kick ass rock show and from the looks of the calendar the new management is keeping up a similar mix. These folks know about how to do a show. They’ve saved two parking spaces for us, in front of the huge gleaming white Cross Canadian Ragweed Prevost tour bus. The CCR guys are traveling in big American rock style. Inside the club is an almost perfect cube, cool, dark, intimate but spacious. We quickly unload with our 7 weeks on the road brutal efficiency, load into the Independent. We stack our amps and drums up next to the stage. Next to CCR’s mountain of gear, our little pile looks modest, almost ecological in it’s limited scope. When you have a big tour bus, massive road cases, ten guitars on the rack, and a full on road crew, you take a very long time to do a sound check. Which CCR has and does.
So the Hawks and Victoria repair to a nearby excellent Thai restaurant, dining and answering many cell phone calls from our NorCal loved ones coming to the show. We walk back through chilly teeming city blocks, just in time, crowd our gear onto the Independent stage, a quick sound check, this is going to sound good, greet the family streaming in early to the room, retreat to the dressing room, goof around, make set list, blog, a headset wearing Independent guy gives us the call, exit dressing room.The club is packed with Cross Canadian Ragweed fanatics and hardened Hawks fans. Young girls hugging the stage clutch hand written valentine placards for the headliners. Us less famous Hawks are bemused, perhaps a little envious of CCR tour bus level success, as we plug in guitars and adjust drums. On stage right is pedal steeler Dave Zirbel, whose virtuosity graces our new CD “California Country,” and who has graciously driven down from Santa Rosa. Dave is unflappable and terminally affable, as far as we can tell. Hire this man. He’s a badass player and a virtuoso human being.
It’s great to play a big time stage. This place is bigger than its dimensions. The sound coming back at us off the back wall is thunderous. The lights are heroic, arena like, and we are country rock gods. The Hawks fans cheer, and best of all, the CCR fans are transformed before our eyes from tolerant to enthused. We close out with “Humboldt,” and the young valentine girls are flashing the heavy metal horns, and the crowd roars. Thank you, Independent.We change into our identically dressed twin brother roadie personalities and haul our gear offstage, dump it in the Yukon out front. Shawn has an 11 a.m. gig the next day, and Paul M has a Barndance show that night. The twin country rock heroes drive off into the night.
Rob and Paul L are immersed in family and friends, and new fans. There’s a love fest party out on Divisadero Street. This is great. Farewell, Dave Zirbel. We catch a bit of Cross Canadian Ragweed, earnest rock with some country thrown in, mysterious mainstream appeal that the Hawks will never be. We exit. Paul L and Victoria join their ultra cool 21 year old nephew Gabriel and his perhaps even cooler girlfriend at a nearby hookah parlor. Gabriel is a master of the rules of human relations, and has showed up unannounced at the Independent and scammed his way in. Now he reclines at a parlor table puffing on jasmine scented Turkish tobacco. Paul and Victoria join in the hookah toking, and are soon buzzed on potent nicotine. Ah, they grow up so fast.