carry Mountain Stage can be found here.
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Spokane, WA, Eagle, ID and Missoula, MT (July 23, 24 and 25)
We have never been through Spokane before. We’re not quite sure why we’ve missed it because it seems to be a happening little city. The cab driver that I had today said that the city has had a healthy growth spurt in the past few years, picking off some of the corporations from Portland and Seattle that are trying to reduce some costs. The city has a very mid-western vibe to it; clean wide streets, solid four story brick buildings, a citizenry very aware of pedestrian signals. I’ve never gotten more consistent flack for walking against signals, even with no cars in sight. Cars come to a complete stop if you step off the curb when it’s not your turn; some old man threatened to run me down with his pick-up truck if I ever tried to walk against a light again. It must be a reaction to the methamphetamine problem in these parts, control what you can, come down hard on any and all law breakers. In any case, it seems like a decent place.
Tonight was our first true theater gig of this run, a beautifully renovated Fox Theater no less. We had great sound on stage, great sound in the theater, and a very receptive audience. It’s always fun to play the outdoor venues in the summer but they really aren’t the best venues for the type of music we perform. We usually end up fighting the sound on stage and the dynamics and subtleties of the performance are often lost. It takes a theater gig like this to remember what we are all about.
We are somewhere outside of Boise today, if you are interested in finding us on the map, because I’m not sure you’ll be able to find Eagle, Idaho. The venue is the Wood River Winery: a tract of land in the middle of potato country, on the edge of a housing development, that’s been turned into a vineyard…this ain’t the Napa Valley. But the owners are trying hard and have gussied the place up with a fountain, some arbours, lots of vegetation and a few Botchie Ball courts (go figure) and apparently the wine is pretty good too (although I suspect that it has been shipped in from California and rebottled…just kidding). We were treated extremely well and if it weren’t for the 97 degree temperature it would have been a decent place to hang out for the day. Despite the heat, Jeff and Al had a raging game of Botchie Ball, with Jeff coming out on top.
If the gig in Spokane was an example of sculpting a set of music with a set of fine carving tools then tonight was the equivalent of sculpting with a chainsaw. It was a Friday night crowd in the middle of July and they wanted to whoop it up and who can blame them…so we whooped it up. Not exactly my favourite type of set to play. Usually one just needs to give in to it and go with the flow, but tonight was difficult because of how tired we all are. One more show, one more very long drive.
This country gets very big out here. The drives get longer, more scenic, but longer. At least we are in a bus, which is difficult enough; the Son Volt band and crew are in a van, which is real dedication and real work.
I don’t think we’ve been to Missoula Montana before. We weren’t anywhere near the center of town today so I never really got a feel for the place, but it’s surrounded by a whole lot of beautiful open space. I wouldn’t want to live here, but every time we come through this part of the country it makes me want to start planning an extended road trip with my family. It’s just such a beautiful part of the world and it would be nice to take some time rolling through it.
Tonight was a nice way to end the tour: a sold out show in a decent, functional theater on the University of Montana campus. It’s been a grind and we are all running on fumes but we dug deep into our reserves tonight and had a decent show. By the end of it we were sputtering but we made it thanks to a very good audience. It’s been a fun run of dates and although the promoters would argue that the co-bill wasn’t as successful at the box office as they would have hoped, from our point of view it has been a good experience. It’s been a pleasure to listen to Son Volt every night and it’s always a pleasure to be on the West coast in the summer. We head home tomorrow to spend the rest of the summer with our families and to continue to chip away at the new album. There will be some intriguing offers being made through our website in the next month so check back in every now and then, better yet, get on our mailing list so that we can let you know what is going on. Keep safe and enjoy the rest of your summer.
Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA (July 20 -22)
I don’t think that this has ever happened to us before. Our Vancouver show was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales. I am not completely surprised. We played a pretty big gig in Vancouver last summer in the same venue, we had a decent turnout for that show, but there wasn’t the type of demand that warrants a return just twelve months later, especially without a new album. It’s tough enough playing indoor gigs in the summer in Vancouver without overplaying the market. I guess the promoter felt that with the addition of Son Volt on the bill we could do the business, again. No such luck. We didn’t find out that the gig was cancelled until we had checked in to our Vancouver hotel; the promoter was desperately trying to make this work right up until the last minute. So what was to be one day off in Vancouver turned in to two. Fortunately we were booked in to the Wedgewood Hotel the nicest, plushest, most comfortable hotel of the tour and all for a decent price. The Wedgewood is also located right in the heart of all that is happening in downtown Vancouver; it has a great bar from which to watch all the street action, and, man, there is a lot of street action. We had perfect weather for our little sabbatical, we spent way too much money, went to way too many bad movies, paid way too much for too much bad food and drank way too much overprice booze. It was time well spent.
I’ve never really been able to get a handle on Vancouver, the seedy side of the place has always overshadowed everything else, but these couple of days spent in the city with nothing to do but wander around has given me a new appreciation. There is no doubting the beauty of the location; the BC coast is about as stunning as it gets. Over the past couple of decades the city planners have worked hard at opening up the city to the large natural harbor that it sits on and they have done a remarkable job, despite the ongoing battle against private developers and the condo mania. It’s a beautiful city and absolutely dripping with money….a few too many homeless people, drug addicts and sex workers on its streets, but that seems to be the norm for all of the coastal cities out here.
What a difference a couple of hundred miles and an international border makes. Tonight’s show was jammed packed, a 4000 people sell out. Oh well…these are the vicissitudes of touring.
Todays gig was at the Seattle Zoo. A day at the zoo is always a good way to spend some time no matter how old you are. What’s not to like when you can wander backstage and visit with the Sloth Bear, Snow Leopard and Humbolt Penguins. The downside to this type of gig is the limited amount of playing time. The animals need their sleep so curfews at these venues are very strict. Tonight we had an 8:30 curfew which meant each band only got an hour on stage. It was our turn to go on first tonight so we loaded in at 3:30, sound-checked at 4:30, hit the stage at 6 and were done by 7. A very focused day. We had a decent show, not the greatest sound on stage, but a very good audience especially for this type of venue, where a large chunk of the crowd is there because it’s an easy and inexpensive night out with the family and a fun way to check out some music that one might not be too familiar with.
After the show we were taken on a behind the scenes tour of the new penguin exhibit. The last time here we were treated to dinner with the Grizzly Bears, so the penguins were a bit of a letdown, but still pretty cool and very much appreciated...it’s just hard to beat six inch long claws and a head the size of a bean bag chair.
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