It is with a complicated mix of bittersweet emotions to announce that Todd Spitzer, our drummer for the last 3 years, is moving on. The split is more than amicable; we are excited to support Todd as he continues his life on the East coast. Todd has been the drummer for the entirety of the making, release, and touring of Summer Darling, our self-titled record we released in July on Origami Vinyl and will be sorely missed.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
It is with a complicated mix of bittersweet emotions to announce that Todd Spitzer, our drummer for the last 3 years, is moving on. The split is more than amicable; we are excited to support Todd as he continues his life on the East coast. Todd has been the drummer for the entirety of the making, release, and touring of Summer Darling, our self-titled record we released in July on Origami Vinyl and will be sorely missed.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Listed below are also our remaining dates for 2010 all around California. A couple more shows are in the works, so please check back for the latest updates.
11/19/10 - Atwater Village, CA Heard Of Elephants Presents w/ Woolen + Writer + Random Patterns + Starving Daughters + Semiconscious Gloria Location TBA
11/27/10 - Los Angeles, CA @ Club Nokia w/ Ok Go + A Fine Frenzy
12/10/10 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar w/ New Mexico + Manuok + TBA
12/11/10 - Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse Silver Lake in Pomona Festival w/ Twilight Sleep + Nightmare Air + The Franks + Superhumanoids + Vanaprasta + Future Ghost + Light FM + Gliss + White Arrows + Holloys + Hands
12/12/10 - Fresno, CA @ Audie's Olympic w/ Fay Wrays
12/15/10 - San Jose, CA @ The Blank Club w/ Ugly Winner + Matsuri
12/16/10 - Visalia, CA @ Cellardoor
12/17/10 - San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern w/ Silian Rail + Honeycomb
Friday, October 22, 2010
Without getting too pretentious, because at some level it’s easy to call bullshit and pull the cord on this whole fucker we call being “in a band” and “making music,” the four of us in Summer Darling are wholly changed, irreparably other, for better and for worse. We’ve reached the beginning of an entirely new set of parameters, a place with different rules and anxieties, a place where we are reborn into a set of infinite problem sets where we know nothing, where we exist naked and alone awaiting the next light to come along to guide us to some sort of peace and growth. Simultaneously, from this frightening unknown place comes a certain acceptance of conquering everything that has come before. We are now at the precipice of everything known to us and for once I am excited to take that next step, whether it leads to falling or flying or, if this tour has taught me anything, most likely it will lead to a bittersweet combination of both.
Thank you for following us along our way.
And for all the grammatical errors, as our friendly neighbors to the north say (including 15 times in one minute at Tim Horton’s), “Sorry about that.”
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I sat in a tiny café across from Le National Concert Hall eating the best Brie and tomato baguette I’ve ever tasted, listening to the flowery fragments of French conversation surrounding me, and thinking, damn, in a blink of an eye, everything ends. Flashforward four days and I’m sitting in the passenger seat of our van looking at the vast emptiness of the Arizona high desert 100 miles east of Flagstaff. Two days ago I was in Columbus Ohio. Or was it three days ago? We’ve been driving for so long now it’s hard to tell what day it is, hard to ever uncrick your back, hard to have any thoughts at all other than GET ME OUT OF THIS VAN.
We spent our blink of an eye in Montreal visiting Todd’s friend’s bookshop in the west end of the city, just past the park on the hill overlooking downtown. The bookshop resided in a hipster feeling neighborhood; cafes and trinket shops lined the streets, above which sat small brick apartment buildings with interesting staircases, all of which suited us fine. Drawn and Quarterly was quaint and well stocked, combining the best elements of a cluttered mom and pop place and a savvy boutique. Todd’s friends were out of town, but it was entertaining to stop in for a moment. Sometimes the best thing on tour is having a purpose, something specific to do, other than sustain your body, drive, and play.
We were treated kindly and respectfully the whole tour, but this being our last night, we were especially spoiled by Ok Go, Company of Thieves, and their crews. The set was somewhat emotional for me; not only was this the end of a very surreal experience that I’d waiting my entire life to have-our first national tour—it ended in a beautiful venue. Le National looks like any other city building from the outside, but inside it has ornate woodcarvings, lush balconies, and a gigantic stage, with plush back stage amenity rooms for the bands and crews. How could I ever want to stop doing this?
Sure, there’s a certain fear akin to a heroin addict always trying to recreate the first high, and I’ve confronted the fact that no other tour will be like our first tour and I’m ok with that. What I’m not ok with is the fear that I’ll never go on another one. But I’m learning to discount that one, too. So when I took the stage for our final performance, I tried to tune my guitar slowly, and take a few moments to look at the crowd and ponder the significance of my presence in that moment.
Some time in January a friend of mine and I were arguing over whether life had any intrinsic meaning and he continually came upon the point that life has subjective meaning, the meaning that we give to our individual experiences. I countered again and again with the question But is that enough? Staring out at the faces of the crowd, expectantly waiting for the show to begin, I answered my own question.
Monday, October 18, 2010
The drive up the Greenbelt of Ontario from Toronto to Ottowa took us through wild, beautiful country interspersed with pockets of small towns and travel stops with sub par food. It was quite breathtaking at times as the steel gray skies dumped rain upon us and wind whipped in off the slate tinted Lake Ontario. In contrast, Ottowa seemed to be entirely under construction, surrounded by brick and concrete structures. The Parliament building was surrounded by canals and was architecturally stunning, but the rest of the city seemed to be bursting at the seems with broken roads, traffic, and dust.
The Capital Music Hall was tucked away just down from the capital rotunda. Although it was the smallest venue we played on the tour, the room was alive with a contagious kinetic energy. It was also one of the few stages that had a press area down front populated with a few photographers who snapped pictures during each bands' set. Dan suggested that Summer Darling take over this area during Ok Go's last song of their set and sing a long and basically go nuts for them right in their faces. Which we did. The stunt ended up with me getting pulled on stage by Damien, who handed me his guitar and said, "Play." I responded with "I don't know the song." Damien just brushed this off and told me Andy would tell me what to do and then he returned to the mic and started singing. Andy yelled "Solo in B minor" and before I knew it I was soloing for Ok Go. God knows how it turned out; it was over in a matter of seconds, but it still was an exhilarating experience!
After the show we descended into Ottowa nightlife. Holy shit, these people get FUCKED UP. Puking, public urination, brawling, Ottowa, you have it all!!! We all got separated and it was nearly 2 in the morning before we reconvened. Stories were shared while we drove the three hours to Montreal and our hotel. Exhausted, we found the one thing we needed: a pillow and five hours of sleep before we did it all again.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
We awoke Thursday morning three hours after going to sleep to grab Dan’s girlfriend from the Cleveland Airport and to get a head start on the border crossing that was to take place at the Peace Bridge outside Niagra. Ever since we found out we were traveling into Canada, we had been amassing various band stories about Canadian Immigration ranging anywhere from mild harassment to serious extortion to outright denial of entry. Because bands carry so much equipment and merchandise they are like giant red flags to Canadian Immigration officers. To complicate matters, one of us has a DUI, which technically makes this person inadmissible to Canada. We left Cleveland not knowing if we were even going to able to play the Canadian shows.
Sure enough at our crossing we were asked to pull over for further inspection. Even though I knew we had a legitimate right to be in Canada, the paperwork to prove it, and no illegal substances in the car, my heart raced and my hands shook as I handed the investigating officers our yellow Immigration paper. The Canadian officers searched our car rather half heartedly then sent us inside for questioning. The inquiring officer was actually quite pleasant in a no nonsense sort of way. It was obvious to us from the beginning that we’d been flagged due to the DUI and once that was out in the open we felt a bit better, especially when we were informed that we could enter the country after paying a fee to obtain a temporary residence permit, or TRP. Once the offending party purchased the TRP (which took all of five minutes—take a lesson in efficiency from our friendly neighbors to the north, US government agencies) we were free to go.
Certainly elated, we decided to celebrate our successful border crossing by taking a short detour to check out Niagra Falls. We took Niagra Blvd which hugged the coast line for 27km of some of the most beautiful landscape and houses I’ve ever come across, culminating in a breathtaking view of the massive twin falls. There’s no proper way to express the rush one feels as you witness the mighty power of Niagra Falls. It’s simply incredible.
The Phoenix Theatre in Toronto was large, but kind of a dump. Random pieces of furniture were stacked haphazardly in the merch area, the dressing room we shared with Company of Thieves was the size of a coat closet, and the whole building seemed like a converted Cold War era schoolhouse or office building that could collapse at anytime. The city surrounding it looked awesome but we didn’t get to spend much time exploring it, apart from a quick bite at local mom and pop diner, Chew Chews.
The set went well, there were a ton of people, Tim came out and played on “Ride” as he’d been doing for a couple of shows now; overall a cool show. I was personally just a bit disappointed in the venue. I assumed incorrectly that Toronto would have some bad ass theatre or something. Most likely, we can chalk this feeling up to being spoiled by House of Blues and some of the other pretty cool rooms we’d played.
One last note on Toronto: you have the biggest raccoons I’ve ever seen. One the size of a pit bull scared the shit out of me when it leapt into the dumpster I was standing near while loading our stuff out at the end of our set.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Waking up in Louisville I got to do something I hadn’t done since leaving on the tour. I went down to the fitness room of the hotel and ran. My body had ben feeling like shit, but running a few miles really put me on the level. Throughout my run I watched news coverage of the Chilean miners being freed. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what a nightmare it would be to be trapped so far beneath the surface of the earth with just a tiny link to the people above. I don’t think I would have survived. The capacity for hope these men had!! Unbelievable.
Dan scored us free bacon maple donuts from a local bakery and the coffee shop guy gave me a savory scone on the house, which left a good taste in our mouths concerning Louisville.
We took a self imposed detour from our Googlemap inspired route out of Kentucky in order to avoid a freeway closure we came upon which probably saved us 1 hour of drive time, which, ironically I lost for us when got stuck on the Ohio turnpike five hours later.
Cleveland was a special show as we had lots of friends there. The venue looked like an old VFW hall with a massive PA in it and the common green room underneath the venue had a secret door that one could open and walk into this little underground vintage shop. The venue cooked some good food for us, which was much appreciated after a rather difficult soundcheck.
Our set felt vibrant and bombastic, easily one of the best of the tour and the energy carried over all night to the other bands. Lots of drunk people at this show, some of whom drunkenly bought our merch, thankfully. We ended the night with a campfire like sing-a-long of some of the best worst pop songs of all time with our buddies in Company of Thieves, clinking High-Life beer bottles, graciously supplied by our sound engineer, Zack. Though they didn’t know it, we were celebrating for a more somber reason. Tomorrow we would cross into Canada and we didn’t know how many of us were going to make it in.. . .
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Day Eight: Louisville, KY
The show was outdoors in Kentucky. Usually this may have presented some sort of weather issue, and when we rolled into Kentucky the skies were dark and the air moist with humidity. When I asked a local if they thought it would rain, she just laughed and replied, “We haven’t had a drop of rain in over a month, honey!” Still, the weather felt ripe for a good ol southern shower.
My fears ended up being unfounded as the weather held and the sun went down, but the temperature remained pleasant. We played on a stage in a big field of grass inside the University of Louisville. The goal of the festival according to the director, who kindly let us use their nice indoor facilities before our set, was “to show people how nice the University of Louisville really is. Most people think it’s a concrete jungle, a downtown commuter school, unsafe and uncultured.”
If anything, the Discover Louisville festival did convince the 2000 or so attendees that U of L, KY does have grass, does have outdoor functions with food vendors, and, once every 10 years, puts on a concert for its students and surrounding community. It should be noted that I met very few people at the show who actually went to the college. Most attendees that I encountered were local high school kids or Louisville stoner burnouts who read on the flyer that the show was free.
All this being said, our set went ok. We had a nice guest appearance that we will post video of soon. The audience response felt a bit tepid from stage, but many, many people came and talked to us after the show, so it felt like it turned out all right.
I've become a bit listless as I write this, knowing full well this entry is lacking some of the bravado of earlier entries, and it can be noted that tour entropy has definitely started to take effect. I'm sitting in our shared green room in Cleveland, OH after just finishing soundcheck. I'm drinking a tall boy and am certainly content. That will have to be enough.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Day Six and Seven: Chicago, IL
The last two days were incredible. I hesitate to recount them because I know I will fail at adequately expressing the extent of my happiness. The days’ events seem jumbled together in my mind like the contents of my now-all-dirty-clothes bag. Instead of a play by play retelling, I feel I can only provide snapshots of some of the highlights from our time in Chicago.
Snapshot One: We scurried from the gigantic stage of the House Of Blues after completing a stressful soundcheck (our bass head is not working at the moment and we had to borrow Company of Thieves last minute). The room was empty when we left it at 6pm. When we returned at 6:15 to play, the 1300 capacity club was nearly full. It was a surreal experience, as well as logistically stupefying. We didn’t complain.
Snapshot Two: Looking out into the crowd mid song and seeing my friends from Madison in the audience. I felt so proud that they got to witness this epic show. It made the whole tour finally feel real to me.
Snapshot Three: Watching Ok Go from the third floor balcony as the confetti rained down on the screaming crowd.
Snapshot Four: Meeting Lars. Lars is a young boy with blonde hair and two adult teeth. He was as energetic as any fan I’ve ever met. He gave us this advice about being on the road: “Have a good tour but don’t take it over the top but still have fun.” Priceless advice, Lars.
Snapshot Five: Dancing with our friends at Beauty Bar until 2:30 am then taking a cab back to Ok Go’s hotel. Dan left his iPhone in the cab, and the cab driver actually came back 30 minutes later and handed it back to Dan, for a small recovery fee. Somewhere during this debacle I wandered off and got lost beneath the hotel where the service entrance to House of Blues is. Heather received a phone call from me. Apparently I didn’t know why I was down there and had to be reminded that I was there to walk Peno.
Snapshot Six: Eating at Manny’s, an old school, cafeteria style diner in south Chicago. They just put things on the glass counter and if you wanted it, you grabbed it. I grabbed the biggest Pastrami sandwich I’ve ever seen, a potato pancake, a piece of boysenberry pie, and a Coors Light.
Snapshot Seven: Hanging out with the band and Tim from Ok Go in Wicker Park area, or as it looked like to me, a combination of Brooklyn, Echo Park and Melrose Ave. We met a ton of Tim’s friends from Chicago (Dan actually went with Tim to see Tim speak at his collegiate alma mater) and went to a couple of bars and a tasty pizzeria.
Snapshot Eight: Bowling with Ok Go. Damien was kind enough to treat us all to a big giant bowling match at the bowling alley adjacent to their hotel. No one bowls in this bunch, but it was schoolyard fun, chalked full of trash talking and laughter and not a few cocktails.
Snapshot Nine: Cruising through downtown on the Elevated Train. What a way to see the city!
Honorable mentions: Chicago, your people are the nicest city people I’ve ever come across. Both our lovely hosts, Ally and Chris, and the whole Ok Go crew made us feel very welcomed and at home.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Day Five: Madison. WI
Ben :: Brand New The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
Dan :: Sigur Ros ágætis byrjun
Heather :: Cat Power The Greatest
Todd :: Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
Ben :: Modest Mouse Good News For People Who Love Bad News
The drive southeast from the Twin cities into Madison was another scenic masterpiece. Fall was in full swing with forested hills peopled by trees afire in orange, yellowgreen and the occasional cranberry burst. Rivers calmly cut beneath I-94 as we leisurely drove into Madison. I’m just bummed I didn’t stay awake for the whole drive. I awoke with a sore throat and a fever so I took the opportunity to get a little shut-eye during the drive after my turn at the wheel.
We came upon Madison just after their college football game had ended. The streets were flooded with men, women, and children adorned in red shirts, smiling, drinking openly on the sidewalks, and engaged in other benign forms of merrymaking. Festive as it was, it did make for difficult navigation through the throngs of supporters, so much so that Heather felt tempted to star running over the next drunk college co-ed that stumbled blindly into the intersections.
We were blessed in Madison with the home of our dear friends, Josh and Jessica, and we arrived to a house awaft with the sweet aroma of homemade pasta sauce and the hiss-sound of bottlecaps opening. We spent the remainder of our day relaxing and recharging, watching a little playoff baseball, strolling around the lake, drinking whiskey and playing Scrabble at the Glass Nickel. Unfortunately due to his illness, your faithful blogger crashed out early so there is no record of how the evening descended, but based on how the rest of the band minus Todd looked this morning, and the fact that our hosts were barely able to make it out of bed to say good-bye, the rest of the night must have ended in debauchery. Well done, Darlings!
Nebraska: The Good Life, Home of Arbor Day
We spent the first part of our day off in search of a mechanic that would have the time to diagnose our van's problem. Luckily we were able to find such a place in a little shopping center that had a sandwich shop with free Wi-Fi. Dan and I played catch in the parking lot. I hit a Bud Light truck. Peno and Heather ate bagels and listened to new music with Dan. Todd worked on our merch spreadsheet.
The diagnosis was that the RSC function on our van was inoperable so to avoid confusing the van's computer we had the mechanic disable the function. We learned that were in no serious danger by driving without it, which put our minds at ease as we hopped onto the I-76 east towards Nebraska. Along the way we stopped at a pleasant rest stop and took picture of horses. Nebraska, you kind of smell like poo.
In Omaha, Dan scouted out a bar called the Nomad that had precisely two customers in it upon our arrival. The bartender was very nice, yet very green as a bartender--at one such moment he spent three or four minutes searching for a beer opener to open our Coors Lights. He more than made up for his slowness with huge pours and dirt cheap happy hour prices. Tour delirium had already set in as we estimated that we'd spent 31 of the last 64 hours in the van and had already logged 1900 miles by the end of our third day. I was ready for a hotel bed to stretch out on and the sensation of being stationary!
* * *
Dan returns to the hotel room Friday morning fresh from a trip to the local Walmart. He's sporting a denim long sleeve work shirt and a proud smile. He'd gotten himself a cup of coffee at the neighborhood Cracker Barrel and been eye-judged by the Rotary Club greeting staff at Walmart and was feeling properly Midwestern.
Because He "checked in" to the Cracker Barrel, our friends in We Barbarians contacted us with a surprised "you're in Iowa too?" message. They had just played in St Paul, MN the night before and were headed down to play Omaha as we were headed up to play in Northfield, a college town just outside of St Paul.
At the best rest stop in the United States, rolling green hills, trees to nap under, shaded park benches, air-conditioned bathrooms, free Wi-Fi--Iowa, you're doing something right, we met up with We Barbarians and traded stories from the road, stories that reaffirmed this transient life as something to be desired. We shared some PBRs and smokes and heard them recount the last time they toured with Ok Go and how Ok Go destroyed them in a van-to-van food fight. We already had a pretty good idea of our tour mates' mischievous nature--one only has to see their live show to know that--but the food fight story is really indicative of how Ok Go operates. They are ready to have fun at any moment. Case in point, later that evening when doing the bell performance section of their set, one of the bells was a half step flat, but instead of Ok Go letting this mishap affect the song, they used it to their advantage and turned the moment comedic and enjoyable for everyone. After the set was over, they invited us to their dressing room to have some drinks, and then on to their bus for some more drinks until it was time for them to take off. they are definitely a fun band to be on the road for the first time with.
Our set was also filled with some antics as we played to 400 or so St Olaf College students and a whole host of younger kids. Dan had an audience member play the tambo part on "This Would Be The Time" and I sang the quiet part of "My Reminder" off the mic to a small semi-circle of terrified 16 year old girls and boys. Tim from Ok Go Dj'd the night and played some great exit music for us, including that bad ass new Cee-Lo jam. We thanked Tim by playing his favorite song of ours, "Ride," during our set, although it was pretty rusty.
The night ended like most nights so far, the four of us deliriously exhausted, Todd at the wheel, hurtling through the dead of night trying to find our hotel and a pinch of rest before the sun could start the madness all over again.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Day Two: Albuquerque, NM to Boulder, CO
Top 20 Playlist Continues:
Dan :: #18 Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
Heather :: #18 Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream
Todd :: #18 The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Ben :: #18 Built To Spill Keep It Like a Secret
Road signs are often misleading, or confusing, but in some cases highly understated. On I-25 as you cross the border from New Mexico into Colorado there is a big blue sign that reads simply, “Scenic Views Next 2 Miles.” They’re not joking. The drive up the north corridor of 1-25 is filled with spectacular views, and we were given a picture perfect day weather-wise to enjoy them.
One side note: One of my favorite things to do on tour is to laugh at the slogans. For example, New Mexico is the “Land of Enchantment.” Colorado is “Welcome to Colorful Colorado.” Off hand I can’t recall Arizona’s…perhaps its “The Grand Canyon State.” California I’ll get on our way home. Tomorrow I’ll find out Nebraska’s slogan.
About 70 miles south of Denver, the RSC system on our tour van begins to engage unnecessarily causing me to have to constantly battle with the wheel in order to keep the van going straight. There was no danger, just the feeling that the van’s alignment was fucked up. RSC is a system that senses when too much pressure is applied to any one wheel on the van then counteracts that pressure by automatically applying the breaks to the other wheels. When it malfunctions it can causes this alignment effect. Upon reaching the Fox Theatre in Boulder, the odometer had disappeared in favor of a flashing warning sign indicating RSC failure. Needless to say it was a rather unsettling way to end the drive.
The Fox Theatre was a hubbub of activity as one would expect on the first day of a major tour. The venue may have been a 600 capacity room, but Ok Go always rolls like they’re playing a large arena. Crew was everywhere setting up any number of instruments or props for the highly technical performance. Tim and Andy from Ok Go said hello to us briefly, but they were concentrating mostly on their soundcheck, which seemed by everyone’s estimation, to not be going all that smoothly.
We occupied our time by getting the lay of the land, meeting the members of the direct support band, Company of Thieves, setting up our merch area in the lobby, drinking cold Bud Light—I was surprised it wasn’t Coors!—and making a few phone calls to investigate our ailing chariot. Our line check began at 7:40, nearly an hour behind schedule, but the crew of the Fox Theatre did an efficient job figuring out all the ins and outs of our sound in the remaining time before doors opened. All of it seemed pretty standard and I found myself completely relaxed until about 15 minutes to stage time, as three hundred or so kids began hugging the stage in anticipation of the first band.
All my life I’ve been going to shows at venues this size and saying to myself, someday, I’ll be playing on stages like these. After 31 years, I can now say that goal has been realized. So before I go any further with these stories, it must be noted so that I don’t forget, that we as Summer Darling set out to do something and we did it with the help of a litany of friends and a good share of luck. This realization was not lost on me in the moment we took the stage. I stared down at my tuning pedal, but had to look back up to see all the people waiting intently for what were about to do. I also remembered in that moment what it was like to be them, most of whom have never heard us, and in that curious place between wanting to be amazed but wanting it to be over quickly to speed up the arrival of the headlining act.
We did them that favor. We opened with “Son” and proceeded to burn through six songs in 25 minutes. Because our set kind of all runs together, many times the kids didn’t know when to clap, which added to the feeling that we were really catching them off guard with our jams. Before I had a chance to really think about it, the set was done and I was rapidly loading our gear off stage and into the rain.
* * *
Today on the drive out of Colorado, we can laugh about last night’s drive to our host house in Aroura, CO. But last night there was no laughter, only fatigue and frustration. Not only was I battling my own private anxiety concerning the safety of our van, the roads were slick with rainwash and the visibility marred by fog. Compounding the issues at hand were some fucked up google map directions that at one point had me pissing in a field where I could look in the four directions and see nothing but flat grasslands and distant lights like prairie mirages on the horizon. Where the hell were we? We’d gone up and down a toll road looking for a street that didn’t exist in a part of the country that the population had abandoned.
Exhausted we finally found our home for the night by studying a grid of this bizarre subdivision and lewis and clarking our way through. And no one was in any mood to laugh it off. Another lesson learned on tour: the highs and lows can come right next to each other, but always remember, what looked like a hopeless situation at night, in day often looks like an absurd joke. The trick is to figure out how to laugh this shit off in the moment.
The scale with fun on one side and danger on the other severely tipped in favor of the latter after we left Flagstaff. In the high mountain planes of Arizona, gusty winds and torrential rainfall slowed us to a crawl. We turned off the stereo to enjoy the tremendous thunderclaps. We put down our iPhones to watch the electrical storm turn the night sky a celestial pink with violent flashes of lightning. The whole world seemed awesome and terrible, beautiful and menacing, and I clung to the steering wheel to keep us on the road.
We crested the bluffs above Albuquerque late Tuesday evening. It has a similar feeling as when one travels I-15 into Vegas: you can see the lights of the city illuminating the night sky many, many miles before you see the city itself. Burt’s is tucked away on Gold Street in the downtown historic district, which seemed filled with more nightclubs and strip joints than it did historical landmarks. However, since we were running so late, we did not explore much past the venue, so in all fairness to you, Albuquerque, perhaps me didn’t drive down far enough into your historical heart. I did notice the hotel we stayed in last time Kissing Cousins played Albuquerque was condemned. Ominous?
Burt’s was hopping for a Tuesday with Evol Lived playing to a small yet energetic college crowd. Tucked away in the booths was the more rock and roll crowd, sipping their PBRs and shots of tequila. The staff was friendly, and the sound engineer, Ken, was downright warm-hearted and helpful. A brief aside: every person we met this night was gracious and kind. Thank you to Damien and Andy for pulling out your people!
One band canceled which meant we played quite a longer set than we will most likely play with Ok Go. We busted through the hits from the record as well as a handful of classic tracks from our formative years. We got a great response from our untitled new song; quite a few drunk dancers took to flailing around like June Bugs with one clipped wing. Definitely a fun set, which I must admit, I was not expecting, due to past Albuquerque experiences.
After the set Dan went to the bar and found himself drinking next to Britt Daniels of Spoon. Later Dan recounted the story. At first he seemed to Dan another dude drinking at Burt’s. Then Dan had that vague recognition feeling and within a second he was sure of who it was. He turned back towards the bar where the bartender gave a discrete head nod and said, “Did you see who you played for?” Dan smiled and said yes. A few moments later, Dan introduced himself with a standard, “Hey I’m Dan, just wanted to introduce myself and say it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Britt responded with a sincere, “Thanks man, you guys sounded great.” We later passed along a vinyl copy of our record to the Spoon frontman, but it already was an incredible honor to play for a man who’s written some amazing songs. Check out the jam “Out Go The Lights” on Spoon’s latest record Transference to hear for yourself.
The night ended with a late, late check in to the hotel, but we were satisfied that a show where we only expected to get a tour “warm-up” out of became something exciting and inspiring.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Day One: Los Angeles, CA to Albuquerque, NM
Drive Playlist :: Our Top 20 Records, of all time, or just what we wanted to hear on this tour.
Dan :: #20 Kings of Leon Come Around Sundown
Heather :: #20 Timbre Timbre s/t
Todd :: #20 Radiohead Kid A
Ben :: #20 Broken Social Scene You Forgot It In People
Dan :: #19 Deerhunter Halcyon Digest
Heather :: #19 Massive Attack Mezzanine
Ben :: #19 Pinback Blue Screen Life
Awake at 6am after taking a red eye yesterday from Hawai’I makes it feel like three in the morning. Eyes sting, mouths crease in perpetual yawning motions. Nothing sounds appealing but returning to bed with shades drawn. Outside, Silver Lake slowly comes to life amidst the overcast dawn. My dog, Peno, and I walk down the sidewalk passing the occasional clump of high schoolers, hoodied and crusty-eyed, and I try to remember how to pray. 7000 miles in 15 days. It’s a daunting task even if it wasn’t our first tour outside the west coast, even if we weren’t traveling in a rented van, even if we had any idea what we were getting into.
I confess to shouldering more than my fair share of anxiety concerning this tour—giant 15 passenger vans rolling over after one of us falls asleep at the wheel comes to mind immediately, stress dreams of drowning or being unable to complete a task while the world waits on, mini panic attacks throughout the day. I suppose one could rightly ask, “Ben, what the hell are you doing to yourself?” and they’d have a doozey of a question.
My answer is pretty simple; I know it, it’s right here on my fingertips, but then, if you all knew the answer what would be the point of reading? So my answer to the question of all questions—what are we doing here and why the hell are we doing it?—will have to wait 15 days. For now sit back and relax like the four darlings are right now as we cruise along on I-40 corridor through the bushel-ed high desert, hurtling into the unknown.
* * *
We’ve just finished lunch at El Placidio in Kingman, Arizona after taking a tour of the Mojave Museum where Dan’s father, Shannon, is the museum director. Shannon told us an anecdote for each piece of art in his office, including a rather sordid tale on how he ousted the assistant director, who used to share the office, down to the basement with the other “relics.”
As we traverse winded shrubbery clinging to flattopped mountains beneath massive boomer clouds promising lightning and a few fall drops, Dan tells us how Shannon bought one such mountain and built a house in the deepest crevasse he could find. Shannon has a reclusive side that has become more pronounced with age. Physically the man is in good shape, with strikingly similarities in mouth and teeth structure to his son, our guitarist. His story telling is quick-witted and unrelenting. Dan is no anomaly, he is his father’s son.
Here comes the rain!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
There are some photos posted from our set yesterday at Waved Out Festival courtesy of Carl Pocket Johnson. Some highlights from the day included a stirring set by Sharon Van Etten and Paz Lenchantin, the bass player from Entrance Band, somehow getting herself on top of her Ampeg fridge cabinet to play the last song of their set. Later I saw her get kicked out by security for walking around drinking a bottle of red wine. Kudos, Paz.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Here are the Dates:
10/5 - Albuquerque, NM TBC
10/6 - Boulder, CO - Fox Theater ^
10/10 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues ^
10/12 - Louisville, KY - Discover Louisville Festival ^
10/13 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom ^
10/14 - Toronto, ON - Phoenix Theater ^
10/15 - Ottawa, ON - Capital City Music Hall ^
10/16 - Montreal, QC - Le National ^
^ with OK GO and Company of Thieves
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Watch the video HERE
Download our entire album for FREE here
Here are some stills from the video:
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Day 5: Chords, Strings, We Brings... Melodies—Until We Don’t.
Seattle to Chico—that’s a long drive by anyone’s standards. So once again we were up early, cloudy eyed and dry mouthed and greeted with some major attitude by the hotel receptionist. She’s been surly to me the other afternoon, but I was chalking that up to her having a bad day. Yet when she gave me lip when I asked her where the water was, I started to think that maybe she was just an awful person. But then Dan had a very pleasant interaction with her, which lead me to the only logical conclusion: she hates me for no other reason than perhaps my face or my smell, some deep and primal reaction of her chemistry causing her to revolt in utter annilhilation of my very being. Or as Dan pointed out, maybe she was an awful person but she had a chemical reaction with Dan’s face and smell that tamed the beast. Either way, that’s some heavy shit for seven in the morning.
We stopped in Portland on the way through Oregon to pick up Todd, who had kept Neil company on his drive back from Seattle the previous evening. It was comforting to get one last good look at Portland, her streets and bridges once drenched in sunshine now shrouded charcoal skies, and as we climbed into the mountains South of the city, the atmosphere swallowed the roadway and we were transported to a mystical hill country where mists glower likes ghosts in and out of the wooded glens and towns appear and disappear from view like mountain mirages.
Once we arrived in California, the sun broke through the cloud cover and it went from being pleasantly cool to downright hot in a matter of miles. We took a pit stop in the lovely town of Yreka. Here’s somethings we realized about Yreka:
1. Heather was dressed very fashionably for the town in her sweat pants, t shirt, and sandals—we saw a number of women dressed this way out and about.
2. Dan was able to become an honorary HR consultant at the local McDonalds by taking an interest in an application handed in to the ‘”fry manager” who then commented, “she’s cute, we should hire her.” Dan went on to discuss the merits of the applicants’ job skills and concluded she would make a solid hire, in fact he would even recommend that they hire her. They seemed convinced.
3. The old town included an H and R Block in it’s original 1984 building, recently renovated.
4. Dudes do meth here. And cruise around toothless and bare chested.
Todd took over the driving duties and we sailed through the mountains of Mount Shasta and down into the high planes of Redding and into the heart of agriculture surrounding the Chico area, little towns named Dairyville and tiny general stores and nicknamed bars spotting the 99 byway.
The Chico Courtyard Marriott was quite lovely and staffed with a couple of guys who were overly eager to tell us what bars to go drink at and how we could buy beer from them 24 hours a day. We unpacked, iced a couple of left over beers and watched bad television for an hour or so before heading to the club. We were met at Normal St Bar by Paul Harper of Soft Crest, who gave us the skinny on band order and drinks for the evening. I got to sit and enjoy free ice cold Coors Light while watching Hiroki Kuroda lose his no-hitter bid in the 8th evening to arch-nemesis Shane Victorino (fuck Victorino!) and await our turn to play.
Soft Crest performed a loud and energetic set of wave-gaze inspired tunes to a mostly college-aged crowd. They were gracious enough to lend us a bass amp for our set so we took the slot immediately following them. We set up our shit, plugged in, and let it rip, opening with a bone crushing version of “Son.” No sooner had we hit the second verse, then Chico’s finest came rolling through shutting down the show due to a noise complaint. We were obviously in shock at first—if you can’t play loud music in a bar in a college town, where can you?—but the news was true. The bar was cited and the show was shut down.
I freely admit it to being a demoralizing feeling to have driven 750 miles on 4 hours of sleep, set up all your gear, and then get shut down before we can even finish one song. That totally sucks. But it also tests what you’re made of—after such an experience, can you bounce back? The answer for us is a resounding YES. We stuck around drinking with the Soft Crest kids and turned the evening into a huge party.
I thought upon leaving the bar for the hotel that our night was over, but I was wrong; the fun was just beginning. Dan had smuggled out his cocktail still slushing around in its plastic cocktail tumbler and was in the mood to listen to some jams. Our sober driver, Todd, happily obliged, so we cruised in circles around the neighborhood of the hotel listening to Nate Dogg and Warren G and Ice Cube and a host of other 90s gansta rap classics, laughing and singing along. We brought the party back to the hotel, and to avoid incrimination, I am going to have to say the details of this story must be relayed in person as to avoid possible prosecution, but needless to say, we ended the night in true high school fashion.
This morning was rough, two days, two hangovers. As I write this the relentless central valley sun is beating down on me and the landscape surrounding me looks as if it has just plain given up. Yet I am filled with hope for the future and the confidence that we can do this and do this well.
Writing from the road,
Ben, Chain Letter Author, and one small part of what makes Summer Darling the best band in the world to be in!
Day 4: We Are Band Name From Location
We had a small caravan headed up to Seattle, so we said our goodbyes to our Portland friends and family and went north, crossing the Columbia river via a bohemoth steel drawbridge, and winding our way through swales strewn with evergreens and switchback streams with Indian names. Our car stopped by the hotel to unload some gear while the other car took first time Seattle goers to Pike Place for some delicious mac and cheese.
We confirmed an in-store rather last minute at Sonic Boom Records’ Ballard location, so we had to track down a bass amp for the show. Luckily our friends in By Sunlight had already arrived home from their leg of the tour the previous night, so we were able to cruise by their house. With Scott from Manuok and Robert from By Sunlight in toe, we made the scene at Sonic Boom.
In contrast to previous in store performances, the Ballard location of Sonic Boom was staffed by kind, gracious people who were genuinely happy to have us. Even the owner, Jason, hung out and ran sound for us! We played on a butterfly stage that transformed back into a wall between sections when we were through. We played a quieter set, opening with a blessed out lounge version of “Son” and followed with alternate versions of a number of our jams.
The afternoon hours we spent at King’s Hardware drinking happy hour beer and eating fancy hamburgers. The group once again split up, with Heather and I taking the van back to the By Sunlight house. Their house was another three story Craftsman affair, with a rehearsal space in the basement and an large open back yard with a work shed. One by one the members of By Sunlight rolled in to meet up with Heather, Robert, Scott, John and I. We drank cold Rainers and sipped Ten High whiskey from a plastic jug. Mike and John rifled through some records and played some classics like ELO and Hiroshima at alternate speeds—the 45s at 33 and the 33s at 45.
We commented on how necessary it is to hang with other people in bands from other cities. It reminds us that while we may be crazy, we are not alone. I spent a drunk’s minute contemplating this pacifying effect. While it shouldn’t matter whether anyone else can relate, somehow it does make me feel better to know that the By Sunlight kids are doing what they do all the way in Seattle and Scott does what he does down in San Diego. Ultimately the pre-party felt like a solidification of a friendship that’s been three years in the making.
The show at Sunset Tavern was the most fun of the tour. Perhaps we played better in Portland, but we definitely connected more with the crowd in Seattle. Manuok and By Sunlight followed with appropriately spirited sets—we were all a bit soused by this point—and the mood was celebratory and festive. We left for our hotel with our hearts and heads drunk on new lasting friendships and the feeling we’ll be back to conquer Seattle in the near future.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Day Two and Three
The City That Works
Portland works. It was tough to leave this morning, I won’t lie. We cruised into Portland early Friday evening, cresting the bluff that overlooks the Willamette and down over the Ross Island Bridge into Southeast Portland. We had many faces to see, a BBQ to attend to, and a girlfriend to pick up at the Ace Hotel. Our friend Jeremy had offered up his house for us to stay at so we made our first stop there. He lives in a blue cottage off 39th with a large kitchen and cozy basement where we set up camp.
We spent our evening with old Portland friends drinking beer, eating carne asada tacos, and playing a dice game called “Farkel.” For the life of me I can’t remember the rules to this game, other than it was highly amusing to play after a few cold ones. The house that hosted this party was an old 1906 Craftsman, with vaulted roofs and a dungeon basement, filled with a century of memories, warm, welcoming.
Saturday we spent a glorious day of brilliant sunshine and soft breezes cruising around PDX consigning records and bar hopping. We started at Music Millennium then went to Hawthorne Street and hit Jackpot and Exiled Records. We had a microbrew at the Bagdad, a refurbished old theatre. From there we hit Green Noise records and then the downtown location of Jackpot, at which I found a record I’d been hunting for five years. We ended our tour at Mississippi Studios and Prost, a German biergarten in the heart of the historical Mississippi district.
When the weather is pleasant, Portland is about as idyllic a town as one is ever to find. People are out and about, shopping, dining, drinking. Bikes fly by, dogs and strollers connected to weird hybrids of yuppie-hippies populate the streets. Water fountains by the clover bubble the cleanest, freshest water in the world. The steel drawbridges gleam in the soft afternoon glaze and crisscross the blue green river water as joggers follow the trails that grace its banks. Everyone seems happy, even the homeless punks holding signs like “Your Add Here/Hobosigns.com” or “Will Rap 4 food.”
Our show was at a downtown club called the Knife Shop that sits adjacent to a revamped Biker bar called Kelly’s Olympian. The clientele of the bar is akin to a fraternity rush meeting, which at first is a bit unsettling, but then our crew starts to roll in and we overtake the scene with flannel, tattoos, beards, and long feathered asymmetrical haircuts. We played rather late, but people stuck around and we blazed through an electrifying set of jams from the album.
We capped the night with a visit to Portland’s famous Cartopia. Cartopia is a parking lot occupied by a half a dozen of the best food trucks one is ever to find arranged in a circle. Inside the circle are picnic benches strewn about for the Cartopia-goer to sit and enjoy their late night bounty. Between the four of us we had two fried pies, one savory one sweet, French fries with cheese curd and vegan chili sauce, and a fresh mint and Oreo milk shake. So, so delicious—and open until three in the morning to accommodate late night shenanigans.
A gang of is went back to Jeremy’s and drank Coors light and whiskey into the wee hours of the morning in an effort to pretend that perfect days don’t have to end, that if you just stay up it can go on forever.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Day One: City Of Trees
As we cross the placid waters of the American river on our way out of Sacramento, the self-proclaimed City of Trees, it dawns on us. Sacramento is the “city of trees” not because of the sheer amount of trees in the city, but because of the severe scarcity of trees once you leave the city limits. It’s a barren wasteland north of the capitol, filled with dusty fields and beige strip malls, the occasional pea green agricultural swath.
Our first day of tour felt pretty seven-and-a-half. Everything was okay, not bad, not great, just okay. Todd took the morning driving shift getting us to Kettleman City and I drove us to Sacramento. The afternoon drive shift is always the most difficult for me, eyelids sagging in the brilliant sunglare of the California summer, bandmates napping or listening to iPods, nothing but the straightness of the road and the slaughterhouse smell.
We stayed at a Fairfield Inn just east of downtown Sacramento by the Exposition Center. After check in Dan, Heather and I went on an adventure to wrangle some dinner and a happy hour beer. Our first stop was Kico’s Mexican Cantina. The place had all the promise in the world, from its brick façade and failing neon Corona sign, to it’s shantytown charmed clientele. Upon sitting down, receiving chips and what seemed to be water and tomatoes blended together, and looking at the menu, with it’s 14 dollar entrees and 8 dollar margaritas, we knew we were in the wrong place for us. With time running out on happy hour we bee-lined it for the Chilis across the street. We’re not proud of it, but at least we got a cold cheap beer and some buffalo wings before having to rush back and grab Todd to head over to the club.
Old Ironsides has a nice corner bar feel to it, with a colorful neon sign jutting into the intersection of 10th and S. The bar itself was old wood and red stools, with a couple of booths and an adjacent live room with a small semi circle stage and another bright green neon sign reading “Old Ironsides” behind it. Larry, the sound guy, had some pretty quotable moments throughout sound check. To wit: “As a black man, I like a big bottom as much as the next guy, but that bass is just too loud” and “Don’t try to fill the room with sound, that’s my job.” He was also very concerned with the possibility of “plain-clothes fire marshals” entering the bar and seeing a guitar case accidently strewn dangerously near the emergency exit—“I don’t know what they look like, no one does, and trust me, we don’t want that kind of trouble.” He also applied a stadium echo to my vocals that nearly caused the entire band to burst into laughter during the vocal break of our opening song. I sound like I’m harping on the guy, but Larry was actually really kind and definitely cared about what he was doing, which is more than I can say for 90 percent of sound guys we’ve come across.
Our set was a good, solid seven and a half, nothing too flashy. I discovered after the show that the kick drum pedal Todd had borrowed from John, By Sunlight’s drummer, had broken during our second jam, and being so concerned by this development Todd didn’t notice the replacement that John had left next to the drum monitor. To play with broken equipment is tough on the concentration, so it was an understandably difficult set for Todd. Being the pro that he is though, I didn’t notice that he was playing a man down.
We played with our friends in Manuok and By Sunlight, which are essentially the same band with re-arranged line ups for each. By Sunlight we’ve known for some time now. They are a band from Seattle who regularly tours down the coast to Los Angeles. Their music is bright, chimey, mathy, and morose, a sort of Minus the Bear hybrid with better songs. They are about the tightest band I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.
Manuok is Scott with By Sunlight backing him up. His set is filled with solid songs that mix sadness with humor and tons of dynamic shifts that keep the listener excited. As I write this we are listening to Manuok’s new record The Old Horse, as we twist and curl into the mountains above Redding, the stark desolate landscape falling away into the lake and mountain country that this state shares with the next.