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!