And then… we left Tucson. The show was not as spectacular as it could have been, maybe the rest of the potential audience were across the street at the Rialto Theater seeing Rancid, who knows. Or, our audience’s kids were there and our audience had to go when it let out to drive the kids home. One cool thing was seeing some old San Francisco friends at the show, people I hadn’t seen in years. People that I bartended with in SF in the 1990s. Hey, also another co-worker from the same bar was at the show in Phoenix… is there something going on in Arizona that these folks are there now? Anyway, we had one more night at the Hotel Congress and then set off toward New Mexico. The next gig was in Pinos Altos, which is in the mountains above Silver City. We had tried to get a show in Las Cruces and ended up at the Pinos Altos Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House.
What an amazing place! I guess they don’t get a ton of acts up here, but it was a beautiful old “opera house” with a saloon and restaurant attached. Silver City had a bus that shuttled people up and back so they didn’t have to drive, which was probably a very good idea. The stage was small, but sounded fine, tiny little PA. It was funny to play that close to one another. I noticed David stepping on his pedals at different times changing up sounds for his guitar much more than I had previously! The only problem with this gig was that we had to drive afterwards all the way to Deming, and the monsoon came. That was one hell of a drive. Very tough and late and we were all tired. I was starting to feel very out of it, by this point in the tour, tired in a way that wasn’t just lack of sleep. Maybe altitude, heat, fatigue.. I started getting a sore throat. The next day’s drive was another long hot one, all the way to Marfa.
I’ve never gone below Balmorhea into the Big Bend area, this was really the excursion that gave this tour the name “No Tour for Old Men”. I just couldn’t seem to wake up all day that day, and then we were sort of stuck at the bar when we finally got there. We were actually going to be staying in Alpine, 30 miles away.
This was part of the Viva Big Bend festival, which happened at many cities (Alpine, Marfa, Marathon and another…) simultaneously. I think it might have been better for us to play in Alpine, as most of the audience that came to see us came from there, actually (and were teachers at the college there… we’re still a college band!) After waiting around for a while for sound check (with the very cool sound man playing Jobriath!) I split and went into town for food. I met up with David walking around also, and we found a place called Food Shark or something like that? But the food was great, vegetarian bowl of beans and quinoa with avocado. But when we made it back we had sort of missed soundcheck. I saw many of the Judd Foundation galleries, but none were open. What a weird town: ranchers and art galleries. One rancher had made a fake Prada store next to the desolate highway into town, as a jab at the folks that come to Marfa for the art scene. We played with an Austin band called “Quiet Company” who were good, if somewhat generic. They had many songs that sounded *almost like* other cool songs, like Neutral Milk Hotel or things like that, but done way more slickly. The festival had all sorts of sponsors who were mostly weird alcohol purveyors, and we got a burlap sack with bottles of “Cinnamon whiskey” and “Cognac infused Vodka” and “Triple Leche Cream Liqueur”… which we all left in the back room.
One other thing to note is that this is where the character in the New Roman Times story comes from, as he says “Living in a town in Big Rio Bend”, and playing that song itself there gave me chills…
Then we drove to Alpine, passing a still-very-happening venue right next to our hotel. The next day we attempted to find coffee and failed, drove back up to Interstate 10, then cut off through central Texas toward Austin. This is a very interesting area, there are German towns here with streets still named “zentrum strasse” and such. I wonder how they pronounce it there? Also Lyndon Johnson’s ranch is along that route, and Johnson City. It’s pretty, nice hill country. I took the wheel after Victor, but I guess I was still sort of out of it, as when we entered Austin, I cut off somebody in a very dangerous lane changing maneuver and everybody in the car thought I was going to kill us all. We were heading into town to play an instore at Waterloo Records, so it was David, Victor, Greg and I. We made it in time to set up and head over the the flagship Whole Foods store across the intersection for food. It’s quite a store, if you’re into Whole Foods. I’m not, really, due to the owner’s weird libertarianism, but I will shop there once and a while. Most of the food is good, I think?
We played a nice little instore show, Waterloo has been around for 30 years and so have we, we’ve played there since 1985! Our compensation for playing was a tshirt (yes, it’s a tshirt based economy!) and 25% off. I actually only got one CD, (Mind Spiders) I never remember what I want when I’m in the store. We signed things for people, they sold the new CVB CD for $9.99 (some sort of beer sponsorship going on here for the store to get reimbursed…) Then we drove over to the Mohawk Theatre, and outdoor venue on Red River. I’d actually seen things here before during SxSW a couple years back (I think I saw First Aid Kit here, strangely; strange as they are from Sweden.) The stage sound was excellent, I assume the mains were too. The sound guys were very top notch. I felt like shit when we got there, though and lay down on the couch in the “back stage” (an upper bar area) for a while. We played fairly early, 8:30 or 9, and the Camper show was a good one, I thought, with an enthusiastic crowd all around us, and on balconies beside and in front of us. Cracker’s set started well, but the clouds came and a storm was brewing! By the time they were about toward the end of the set list, lightning was starting, so they stopped and then the rain started for real. That was a very interesting breakdown and load out, a lot of waiting involved. When we finally got everything loaded, we were wet and drove over to the “Extended Stay America” over on 6th. I had actually stayed here before once with the Theatre of Yugen when we were workshopping some Noh plays that we eventually did as a cycle on 7/7/07 in San Francisco, so I thought it would be an OK place… but! They gave us rooms on the 4th floor, which was a smoking floor. In fact, it reeked. Not only did the hallway reek as soon as the elevator opened, but the room I was in (405, by the way) reeked in a way that I have never experienced a hotel room smell before. I went to see if I could change it, but no, we had purchased them via price line, so we were shit outta luck. When I say this roomed smelled bad, it was almost indescribable, like some weird mix of cigars and rotting vegetable. Such a reek, that although one’s nose can get used to many smells over time, mine never accustomed to it. Every time I would take a breath I was disgusted. I covered my head with a pillow and when it would fall off, I would be disgusted. I barely opened my luggage for fear of having things acquire the smell. Yuck!
Well, the next day, to make up for this, we went to an amazing cafe recommended by the sound guys from the previous night. Really good (vegetarian) food, I had sweet potato/pecan tamales and eggs, and their coffee was a mood enhancing drug. So off we happily went to Dallas, despite never having had a good experience in Dallas before.
This next show, however, changed all that. We played the Granada Theater, and these guys knew how to run a venue. A crew of older dudes met us outside in back and were nice and helpful from the get-go. I know how you maintain a nice venue: you are nice to the bands. Then you have mutate respect. So this place was incredible, great sound, great crew, great lights. And one of the guys took pictures and sent them to us. They also provided us with BBQ chicken for dinner!
All in all an excellent end to the tour, the best show we’ve ever played in Dallas! Then Victor and I drove off toward DFW airport, where he got on a plane the next morning and I started driving his car all the way back to San Francisco.