September in the Desert

Aside from a visit from my dad in Stockholm, we spent most of the summer out in the country, so I admit that while I tried to practice enough for tour in September, my fingertips weren’t sufficiently calloused. I was looking forward to a couple shows of burning fingertips to start off!

I flew out of Arlanda, the big airport around here, it’s about 25 miles north of the city. This flight was on Delta, which I hadn’t taken internationally before, so that was interesting. Certainly no better. Maybe a little worse than SAS or KLM, especially food-wise. But the real horror of this was trying to transfer at JFK. The flight from Arlanda was delayed, sitting there for a while before taking off, meaning that I had an hour to go through passport control and customs and get my bag to the transfer and then through security again, and then to the gate. I have been in the Global Entry program for several years, and without it, I never would have made it through here. If I had had to stand in the regular lines, I would never have made my connection. Even bypassing them, through the Global Entry passport kiosks, then waiting for my bag, then through the Global Entry customs line, I barely made it to the baggage transfer in time for them to agree to get it to the next flight. Stressful, especially that part where you wait for your luggage. Oh, and the part where you have to go through security yet again (why, I wonder?) to get to the next gate. Although the Global Entry program gives you the TSA-Pre status also, here at JFK that meant no special line, but you did get to keep your shoes on! Thanks, TSA.

Finally through that, the next flight was literally at the farthest gate in the terminal, so I ran with the violin and backpack all down the terminal. Made it to the plane with everybody else boarded already and 5 minutes before doors closed. I hate air travel.

Landed in San Francisco, waited for bag, which luckily arrived! I guess they did transfer it, excellent. So then, off to the SFO car rental area to rent the tour van. Budget had a 12 passenger van held for me, but demanded my credit card even though it was supposed to be on the band card, of course. I said, hey, we do this all the time at a lot of different airports, usually they can use the card that actually reserved it? The guy stepped back and said “hey, man, do you want the van or not!” Ok, man, geez. Whatever. So I paid for it, drove the thing off to Victor’s house, got there near midnight. After that, sleep. Nearly immediately.

Next morning, I had to get up early to move the van from where I parked it due to SF street cleaning. Oh, I don’t miss that, but it has happened that I have woken up in our apartment in Stockholm to some noise and thought, shit, did I move the car? But being up that early, and in the van, I decided to go to Tartine for a croissant and coffee. Hell, it was my birthday!

When I got back, Victor (Krummenacher, bassist) and Troy were up and despite Victor having recently injured his back, they helped me take out the two back seats and then load all the gear into the van. I got on the road by 10am, had to make it to Phoenix by the next night, which should be easy enough. Initially I was supposed to drive to Tucson, and get to stay in the Congress Hotel the night before our show as well, and be able to eat there (such good food!) but now everybody was flying into Phoenix, so I had to go there instead. That was sort of a drag, I’m not a big fan of Phoenix, sorry to say. I have an affinity with Tucson, having lived there in 1975-6, it held a special place in my heart for reason I think I wrote about here last year including lots of sixth grade awakenings to music and comic books. And head shops.

Also, when I picked up the van I learned that I had to return it on the Monday evening after the tour, which was the evening I had planned to visit my dad and my brother in Davis. So instead, I drove to Davis right away, and had my birthday lunch at my dad’s house, my brother took off from work and his wife wasn’t needed until 2pm, so that all worked out. We talked and generally had a nice lunch and cake, and I got all my mail that is delivered to my brother’s house. It’s convenient having a US address for internet shopping or ebay, that’s for sure. Provided you can wait until the next time you’re there to get it, of course. But the thing is, shipping to Sweden is not only expensive and many people just don’t do it, but also everything is stopped by customs and you have to pay tax on everything so things cost twice as much as they do if you buy and have delivered to the US. So even if it costs me $75 for an extra or overweight bag back to Sweden, it’s worth it. Though usually things that I buy are just clothes or guitar parts, they don’t weigh that much. This time it was two new pairs of Levi’s 501s, a time honored tradition with me: two pair, every several years, regular old 501s, shrink to fit. The old ones have holes now, not good for the upcoming Swedish winter. Also, a stuffed Marsupilami for Marlowe, who is obsessed with them. And some books, of course (new David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami!)

Then driving. Down interstate 5, all the way to the 210, across to meet the 10 in San Bernardino. I didn’t feel quite like my stomach could handle more coffee after lunch so sometime in the afternoon I went for one of those 5-hour energy drinks, which seemed to work against jet lag. By the time I got to Redlands, it was five hours later and I was starving. Unfortunately that meant Del Taco, at this hour. (DeltaCo?) Then onwards, made it to Indio before getting a hotel. This made the next day’s drive super easy, though I woke up the next day with a little cold, probably from the skirmishes through JFK or airplanes or simply the stress of the whole travel scenario. Anyway, I got to Phoenix mid-afternoon, stopped by Bizarre Guitars first, just to look—last time I was there, they had a guitar exactly like Johnny Hickman’s Les Paul, it was maybe a year or two younger (I think his is a 1978, this may have been an 1980) but came with a factory installed Kahler tremolo system, like he has on his. Apparently somebody bought it, played it for a year and then stuffed it under the bed. His guitar has been broken several times and is held together by dowels and glue and, to be frank, is starting to sound it. Not that he will ever give it up—it has its own Facebook page! But just in case, I wanted to see if they still had the twin there, but alas, some Phoenix rocker now owns it, too bad. Off to the hotel, waiting until everybody else came in. It was 107ºF/42ºC out, so I was absolutely not interested in walking around outdoors. Coming from a turbulent Swedish summer, sun, rain, hail, sun, thunderstorms, etc, where it actually got REALLY HOT for a week… well, that REALLY HOT meant maybe 90ºF/32ºC, so I wasn’t used to this over 100ºF/38ºC quite yet. I tried to cool off in the pool, but it was pretty warm itself.

Greg (Lisher, guitarist) was the first to get there, which was good, because I needed to change the strings on my guitar and didn’t have a string winder, so I got to borrow one from him. While changing strings, before everybody else arrived, an old friend of mine called me and wanted to know if I would go out with him to some open-mics. Ron is somebody I know from bar tending in San Francisco 20 years ago, he ended up in Phoenix for the usual reasons: ex-wife lives there and has custody of the kids. He has twin girls who are about 11 or so. So he lives there, at least until they grow up. He has fun by singing and playing harmonica at various blues jams or what-have-you, of which there are apparently many on any given night in Phoenix. And like LA, people are just ok with having to drive a half hour on freeways to get wherever you may want to go, the city is so sprawling.

The wind came up, it even rained for a bit. Ron came to pick me up, we went out to an Irish bar, had beer and played a little with some guy singing some songs. Then that wound down and we left to a country bar, but they had an actual band, no sit-ins. So after a beer there, we went to what Ron termed “the Zeitgeist of Phoenix,” (referring to our old haunt in SF, not like this bar was the spirit of the current city,) which, like the others, was in a strip mall. Everything was in strip malls here. This bar was the local bar with tattooed hot chicks bartending and maybe a motorcycle or two parked out front. I had some local strong IPA and was pretty wrecked by this point, being jet-lagged and unable to tell what time it was anyway. Ron drove me back to the hotel, I stumbled out and went to sleep.

Woke up an hour later, Ron calling to say, “hey, your instruments are in my house, they were still in the car!” Luckily for me, he was able to drop them by on his way to work the next day. I blame jet lag… So I was awake, went to Denny’s next door. Ron had said, La Quinta is Spanish for “next to Denny’s.” Victor came in and dined with me, telling me about his airport experiences landing in Phoenix in the weird weather, I told him that David (Lowery, singer) had texted me about landing the previous evening as well, that his plane had done a touch-and-go and then went around again. I had texted David that I was at an open mic, but he didn’t believe me.

Next day was a short drive to Tucson, but it turned out that Chris Pedersen (drummer) and Johnny Hickman (Cracker guitarist) had flown to Tucson, and David was going to drive with a photographer, Bradford Jones, who was working on shots for the upcoming Cracker album. So we had room to spare in the van, and got there early enough to go get some good coffee and such in downtown Tucson near the Hotel Congress. Chris P went to the Chicago Store to get new cymbal stands. I used to love the Chicago Music Store, back when it was a mess. Now it’s all cleaned up like a normal music store, it’s not as fun. Last year I looked at some lap steels that they had there, but they were overpriced and wouldn’t budge on the price, so I didn’t even bother to look this year.

Tucson was only slightly over 100º, so with a little kombucha from the market by the train station, loading was a relative breeze! In setting up we talked about the show and that we needed to rehearse a bit, but we had most of the afternoon. And the show idea was to do it “Apothecary Revue” style, like the shows we had done 15 years ago when Camper had first started up again, and with the addition of sections of acoustic duos and trios, it made for a varied texture. David and Johnny had been touring in the summer as an acoustic Cracker duo, then Greg had come out with them for a while making it into an acoustic CVB, so with sections of these in the mix, punctuated by 4 to 6 songs of Cracker or CVB, it made for a very entertaining set of songs. This meant, of course, that Chris P and Victor had to be the rhythm section for Cracker, so they had to practice a few of those songs, though Victor has played bass in Cracker before and knew most of them, Chris had only recently learned a few Cracker songs and hadn’t actually performed them.

So after some rehearsing we all went to eat at the Congress’ restaurant, which is really good, and they seated us outdoors on the patio (still very warm out) where there was a person playing blues on the little outdoor stage. They were pretty good, finger style blues, left handed on an old guitar, with a weird pinched sort of high voice. We could not tell if it was a 12 year old boy or a 20 year old boyish girl, actually, and were speculating all through dinner. They played many traditional blues songs and a few seemingly original. Whoever this kid was, they had studied their shit. When they were done, though, it turned out to be indeed a 12-year old boy names Roman Barton-Sherman, who came over to give us his CD, Interstellar Blues. Pretty intense stuff for a kid, doing “Hellhound on my Trail” and “See that my Grave is Kept Clean”, as well as his own Apocalyptic and Interstellar Blues. What is going on there in Tucson?

After dinner I had an hour to chill out, but I just stayed in my room overlooking Broadway and listened to a Beethoven symphony on the 1933 antique radio in my hotel room, followed by a John Adams violin concerto.


Antique radio at Hotel Congress

The show itself went very smoothly, and since it was essentially a sequence of several short sets, it was easy for me who only had to play in the CVB parts. Easy warm up! It was cool to see Chris P drumming on the Cracker songs, really different groove than usual. In fact, it was sort of funny to see Cracker with the whole CVB rhythm section, but it worked in a new way. By the end of the show, the entire Hotel Congress and bars were flooded with all sorts of people, apparently the new street car lines just take everybody from the university area and dumps them downtown right on this corner, so the place was filled with a ton of really dumb looking kids dressed all cool or slutty and ready to get drunk. Victor, Chris and I sat with Brad and Miss K, yet more ex-San Franciscans (and ex-bartenders) who lived there and laughed at this new wave of clientele. When I went upstairs, I discovered that there were several people out in the courtyard, so I went to see what was going on and have a hit of pot. It turned out to be some kids who were there for some sort of Forest Service thing, they worked in King’s Canyon in California most of the time, and then another couple who either were or were not with them, and then another silent person typing on an iPad. I think they were on mushrooms, one of them was doing yoga in his underwear, others were lying around grooming one another. It was very warm, of course, outdoors here. I talked with them for a while about King’s Canyon and the forest service, and one guy who looked sort of like Tobias Fünke explained how he cooked pork shoulder for them when they were back at their back country cabin. The nearly naked guy sat next to me and I noticed he had words tattooed on him and asked about them, and they turned out to be literary quotes, including Richard Brautigan. Kids these days, I tell ya.

The idea for the next day was to rent a second car, but Bradford wanted to photograph David and Johnny more out in the desert along the way, so he drove them, and the rest of us fit in the van. Only a two hour drive, anyway, to the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix. Another place with good food, by the way. Though it was back to being super hot, so loading wasn’t quite as nice as it could have been. Luckily, like most places in the desert in the US, it was overly-air-conditioned inside.

Chris and Greg, mesmerized by Flamenco!

After sound check, we ventured out to the restaurant in front, and ate some great Mexican food while watching an incredible Flamenco act, one guitar, two dancers, one singer, lots of hocket clapping, really amazing. When they finished their set, everybody’s phones started beeping a weather alert, everybody went outside, so we went to look, and a huge haboob dust storm was approaching. The sky got very dark very fast, and then the air became very gritty so we retreated and went backstage.

By the time the show started, the place was packed, we did a similar Apothecary Revue style of show, it rocked in all the right places, high or low, the audience loved it, a very successful show. Brad and K had come up from Tucson, Victor and I talked with them and Ron for a while after the show, then we left to our hotel. Next day’s drive was to Las Vegas, which was several hours.

You could tell the weather was going to get weird when we left, though it was mostly behind us. We drove through the desert and it continued to look like ominous clouds were chasing us, though they never really caught up with us. We made it to Las Vegas and drove to the Backstage Billiards Bar on Fremont St, but nobody was there yet, so we all walked down into the covered area of Fremont St to find some food. Fremont St was the original downtown of Las Vegas, with the big waving cowboy neon signs and the gold panner, but now that whole section is all covered and there are zip lines to ride on and it’s a big walking mall with clowns and street performers. It’s very bizarre. The first thing we passed was the Heart Attack Grill, with its adverts for double and triple bypass burgers and highest fat content milk shakes. Finding nothing within a few blocks, we turned around and went back to some place we passed early on, which was advertising the “World’s Largest Pint,” as if a unit of measurement could expand or contract within the physical universe. On the way, I was taken in by a generalized crap store, seeing little boob-shaped cups that said “I ♥ Boobs” on them, and they even had little ones, perfect for Marlowe who had stopped breast feeding 9 months earlier but still was entirely hands-on with the boob whenever she could be. I figured she would love a boob cup, and indeed I think her reaction was “why aren’t all cups like this!?”

boob cup

boob cup

Back to the Backstage Billiards Bar after an espresso at a cool cafe/record store across the street, we loaded in and discovered that the giant backstage lounge behind the stage was a backlight psychedelic experience. Probably fun to party in, I guess, but not exactly what we oldsters want from a backstage: not enough light to read! They said, most of the younger bands like it… It made for a great studio environment for Bradford to shoot photos, though, we even did a cool new Camper Van Beethoven promo shot with backlight posters behind us. We want to make the photo itself into a backlight poster.

The black light hallway

The black light hallway

The show itself, however, was fairly awful. Not because we were bad, but because there were only about 30 people there, which was a real letdown after the sold-out Phoenix show. We should have played Flagstaff, maybe. Oh well. We played, we packed up and left, but not before the very happy promoter came with pizza for us and a bottle of Clos Du Bois Pinot. Strange, There was some drama involving the hotels which were supposedly booked to be near the airport, but in fact were near the north Las vegas airport (?), too far from the “real” airport, so had to book a new hotel. Which was fine, if seedy, so Bobby (tour manager) had to stay in the handicap-accessible room right next to the lobby in front and park the van right in front of his door. And I’m sure he woke up with every noise that walked by.

Apparently that day, Phoenix got pounded by rain and flooded, the streets flowing with water that could not soak into the dry ground. When we left the next day, we headed into the same storm. The storm had flooded Interstate 15 and stopped traffic entirely near Baker. David warned us, he had rented a car to go to somewhere else (Palm Springs or visiting family, I don’t know) so he drove a different route through the Mojave. We got stuck in dead traffic for hours in the rain. It took about 8 hours to get into Los Angeles. Victor and Chris P avoided this by flying out of Las Vegas to the Bay Area to work on mixing Monks of Doom music for an upcoming album.

I stayed that evening at the Beachwood Canyon home of Marc and Valenta, friends from the Bay Area who had moved down to LA because Marc runs Amoeba Records, and while the original stores are in Berkeley and then SF, the Berkeley students are just not interested in music anymore, and the LA store is thriving. Marc was unfortunately not there, he was up in Washington buying a record collection, but Valenta was there with her teenager, so we watched Dr Who and ate a light dinner. They went to bed, and I explored the record collection.

Well, you can imagine that Marc would have a pretty decent record collection. In fact, the closet with the turntable in it wasn’t exorbitantly large, but every record on the shelf was somehow special. His collection there was all specialties. I found albums I had never seen, albums I hadn’t seen for years, albums that I wanted to listen to… so I basically drank the Clos Du Bois and listened to LPs for hours, probably until 4am or so. Incredible. Amongst them: Eugene Chadbourne’s first album from 1976, “Acoustic Guitar Vol. 1″, the proto-psychedelic British band July, a 1983 Henry Cow 45rpm 12” benefit for miners, the one Peter Laughner album, a 1972 John Abercrombie/Marc Cohen jazz album called “Friends”, several late 50s avant-garde albums with pieces by John Cage, Christian Wolff, Stockhausen, Feldman, Boulez, Earl Brown… just incredible to listen to. Worth the lack of sleep.

The Listening  Room

The Listening Room, and some album covers

Greg had been dropped off at a hotel on Franklin, and his girlfriend Kacey drove down the next day, starting way early, so she got there by noon when we were heading out for breakfast. We picked them up and went off to King’s Road Cafe, a place I used to love when I lived down here. And, in fact, it was still excellent and strangely not crowded at lunchtime on a Tuesday. The coffee is their own blend and roast, and they do long-pull espresso for a normal cup. Yum! Greg Allen from Omnivore Recordings, who had recently put out reissues of the two Camper Van Beethoven albums we had done for Virgin (Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie) came by, and we went to visit his office after lunch, and grab some promo copies of other interesting things that they had put out, including the first of the line of Game Theory albums, Blaze of Glory. The release of this album is monumental and should involve an entire blog entry on its own, which I hope to write sometime this fall… I’m very happy to say that I suggested to them to go with Omnivore for releasing Scott Miller’s catalog after his death, and that they did go with Omnivore. It’s going to be great to get all of the Game Theory albums out again over the next few years.

I had a free day in LA, but no real plans, though I was switching residences and going to stay with a friend, May, in Echo Park. So the next day, while my host was at work, Valenta and I took a walk around the lake in Echo Park, and admired the myriad water lilies that grow there. The lake had become stagnant a few years back, and they closed it off and redid the whole place to become a waste water effluent system, with flow through from the hills and down into the water basin of downtown. Fortunately for the city, some local citizen had saved water lily seeds from every kind that had ever grown there, and then provided them to the city when the new lake was built. At a cost, I hear. Regardless, there were purple, white, red and orange water lilies, and many waterfowl and fish, and turtles. When I lived in Los Angeles, I had a pet turtle given to me by an ex-girlfriend (to keep me company in her absence) that grew and grew until it was a raging menace. Then I started touring with Sparklehorse all the time and couldn’t get people to take care of the turtle, so I gave it to a fish shop… and I just bet it ended up in this lake. I think I saw him—F. M. Luder was his name, named after Fox Mulder’s pseudonym that he wrote for Omni magazine under.

Echo Park Lake

Echo Park Lake

May grew up in this house on the backside of Echo Park, and one by one all of her siblings and parents moved away, leaving her with the house. It’s pretty big and on a weird windy street, it was a nice place to hang out, though again it was incredibly hot everywhere this week, so a walk over the hill down Echo Park Blvd to Fix Coffee took all my energy. May knew of many and suggested her favorite Thai restaurants, so we met Greg and Kacey for dinner at Sanamluang that evening over on Hollywood Blvd.

Bobby had driven the van and gear out to his friend’s place in Ventura, so he drove in the next day to try to get two amps fixed that had broken in the loading and unloading, one with a broken tube and one with a punctured speaker. Unfortunately it couldn’t happen that quickly, and we all had to get to Pioneertown for the start of the 10th Annual Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven Camp-Out Festival that day. I ended up getting picked up by Greg and Kacey in Kacey’s car so Bobby could try to deal with amp stuff, and we drove directly out to Yucca Valley to our traditional hotel, now a Travelodge.

The First evening was all acoustic, all indoors, and involved the Cracker duo of David and Johnny and the addition of Greg for Camper songs. I had really enjoyed seeing them play acoustic last year, so was looking forward to it, and the sound system was beefed up with subs indoors, so it all sounded better this year. It was great seeing the Crumbs, the fans who come to this festival every year, everybody was happy to be there and happy to hear the music. Plus Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is just such a great place out there in the weird Pioneertown desert. Good food, good beer, good people.

Our festival has ended up having themed costume nights. This first evening was dedicated to Frank Funaro, our drummer, who had had a tendon reattached on his snare hand in May and couldn’t play. Last year, he had done a solo set wherein he played bass with a fuzz box and sang the entire Ramones first album. Alone. So this year, on this first night, everybody wore Funaro shirts, that looked like the Ramones logo with Funaro across the top and every name being Frank. It was a little creepy to see groups of people with these shirts wandering around, they do look a bit governmental… At one point after the show everybody gathered for a photo and Frank addressed them to tell them that they were crazy.

"You're all nuts!"

“You’re all nuts!”

So went the first night. The next day was Friday, day two of the festival. It was something like 112ºF/45ºC when we left the hotel, I had only spent a few minutes in the pool and was only mildly cooled off and not at all ready to load gear in the afternoon sun. Luckily, it did cool down a bit in the late afternoon, but the poor guys building the outdoor sound system were suffering. We soundchecked and then set up for my own set, which was going to start the outdoor show at 7:30. The Paul Chesne band was between my set and the Camper set, but they were just going to line check before playing.

I was thrilled to be playing with Chris Pedersen on drums and Victor Krummenacher on bass. I really learned how to play in a band with these guys, years and years ago. So tonight we would just be improvising. Chris asked if we would be starting somewhere, but instead I said, how about if we end up somewhere? I had been thinking a lot about Kate Bush’s recent return to the stage in London and how she played the entire second side of The Hounds of Love, entitled The Ninth Wave, which was one of my favorite pieces of music, so I suggested that we end up with The Morning Fog, the last song in that piece. We got on stage to check sounds, but they put up the sound system, so we started playing right off. We played for a half an hour, and indeed did end up moving from E Minor to E Major and playing The Morning Fog. I don’t know exactly what happened in between, but somehow it did happen.


We’re just making this shit up on the spot.

After us, Paul Chesne’s band played, ranging from country-ish to psychedelic and back again, a good opening for Camper. Camper played last outdoors, and the stage sound was better than it had been in any previous year, as was, I am told, the front of house sound. This night was Punk vs New Wave themed, and people were dressed in all sorts of interesting ways. Camper decided to dress up in our Funaro shirts, like a real punk band. Camper was both punk and new wave to begin with, so we could really dress however we wanted. After the show, after packing, Victor and Troy kidnapped me out to a house that they were staying in in Wonder Valley, near 29 Palms. It was in the middle of nowhere, a nice little place with lots of mosaic tiling. Really beautiful. And complete with internet! So when we got there at 1AM, I got to video chat with Sanna and Marlowe back in Sweden. I tried to show them the house, but it was too dark to really show them the desert around it.

We got a few texts from Greg and others wondering where we were and why weren’t we drinking beer in the courtyard of the hotel? But instead of partying, we went to bed in hot rooms and I read a bit of a book there called “Social Media is Bullshit!” before falling asleep. When we got up the next day, I could see just how desolate this house was, even though on the map it was on some sort of city-type of grid, there were simply no other structures around for a ways.

Saturday was themed “I want out of the circus.” Victor and Troy and I made a loop through Joshua Tree National Park on our way back, stopping for a couple short hikes in the blazing sun. It is so beautiful there, the rocks are really other-worldly. We stopped by the hotel briefly before heading up to Pappy & Harriet’s for an afternoon signing extravaganza, where the Crumbs all get their posters and albums signed. An endless series of autographs! Michael Wertz had outdone himself yet again on the posters, but he had had to leave early after he and Andy were there the previous evening, as their dog, Olive, was sick and in fact ended up passing away. A super sad event to happen that particular weekend. After the signing, and more eating of the barbecued food, we went back to the hotel in Yucca Valley to rest for a bit. The main stage had Los Rios Rock School on first, who were 11-13 year olds playing Cracker songs, so we had to catch a bit of that before going! After them, Brant Bjork and the Bros played, but sadly I missed them while napping to prepare to play with Victor who was on at 1am that night. We got back to Pioneertown in time to catch the latter half of Cracker’s set, which sounded incredible with the updated sound system, so I bet the previous night had sounded good too! Ben Mize was drumming with them, and he sounded definitely a year stronger, I think the last time I saw him play with Cracker was the previous year, when he subbed for Frank.

After the outdoor set, Johnny Hickman played indoors a bit with the Hickmen and then with the Dangers, and then Victor’s band played. Victor had scared Chris P and I earlier by saying that if John Hanes and Paul Olguin didn’t make it in time, we were going to have to be the rhythm section! I was mentally preparing to play bass, but they did arrive and Bruce Kaphan was there to play pedal steel. An all star band, with Victor in a top hat leading this flying circus. Greg played lead guitar. I came in for the last few songs on violin, ending the whole festival with “I’ll Meet You In Paradise.”

Victor Krummenacher’s Flying Circus

The following day, we headed back into Los Angeles to play at the Echoplex, a benefit for Musack, an organization that provides instruments for music education. It was a funny show, literally: they had comedians between Cracker and Camper, and a band called Elvis Prestello that did Elvis Costello songs like Elvis Presley. We ate Vietnamese food across the street, as we had done when playing there before, and waited around in the tiny dressing rooms until playing. Both Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven sets were powerful, again, by the last shows, we had really warmed up. And then it was over. We drove to an airport near LAX, I tried to stay up to get paid when Bobby counted out merch money, but was just too tired. I slept a full 8 hours and got up the next day with everybody else already gone off to their flights, went to get the van and located a Peet’s Coffee nearby, drove over for coffee and a bagel, and began the drive up to SF.

As I mentioned, I had intended to drive to Davis on this Monday, but had to get the van back to SFO by 9pm, so I just drove straight to Victor’s house, got there about 7pm, unloaded, we managed to fit the removed seats back in and then went off to SFO to return the van. I took the little air train to the SFO BART station, whereupon the Bart train closed its doors in my face and I had to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. Finally back to Glen Park, Victor picked me up and brought me back to his house where he had cooked locally caught salmon and made buttermilk mashed potatoes and asparagus. That made it all good.

I didn’t have to fly home until Wednesday morning, so I had Tuesday to take care of a few errands like getting a new guitar case for my touring Stratocaster, whose case had lost its remaining latches on this run. Ten years, that one lasted. That evening Victor and I ate at La Nebbia with a friend I used to work with at Red Hill Books (now gone) and we had some amazing food right there in Victor’s neighborhood. Next morning, Super Shuttle to SFO.

The flights home were much better than the flights there. The ticket agent warned me that he would have to charge for my 58lb bag, albs overweight. I looked in it a bit, but said, yeah, I can’t move anything, just charge me. He scribbled on a note to show me, “I am not charging you, don’t thank me out loud.”

The plane landed at JFK on time, and my next flight was from a gate right next to the one we landed at! Super. Had time to eat a salad so I wouldn’t have to survive on Delta Airlines terrible food. Landed back at Arlanda at about noon the next day, and got picked up by my father in law, came home and showered, had a cup of coffee and went to pick up Marlowe at Preschool! Now I’m back to being house husband for a while, I guess!

musician. real person. that's my real name, go ahead, look me up.

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Posted in Camper Van Beethoven, Music, Touring
One comment on “September in the Desert
  1. gejarrett says:

    I only made it to the Echoplex show this year, not Camp Out, but I agree that both bands’ sets at the Echoplex were really good. The highlight of my month. The interplay between you and Greg on the new songs was a lot more vivid live than on the album, which made it especially fun for me. Thanks for making the long trip.

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