No Depression Blog: Tension, Grit And Gravy

Kicks In Cool Hat City or I Was a 250lb Chunk Of Tension, Grit And Gravy
By Kevin Russell
October 29, 2011

I was a 250 lb chunk o' tension, grit and gravy on the way to airport to be sure. What upside I had was neutralized by the amount of gear I had in my dragging. To the airport I did arrive with 5 pieces on all sides; on back and under arms; in fingers and over shoulders they rode me til I was unceremoniously deposited by the shuttle at the mouth of the entrance to Alaska Airlines.

Gentleman In Socks and Sandles: (In sullen cadence with pompous tone) An airline whose lines at check in, by the way, were not unlike the Iditarod in terms of duration and endurance...hrumph !

McStash: But what they lost in timing they made up for by making us a great offer on the Alaska Airlines Visa card. For that they gave us the hard sell on accepting the brochure form to fill out and return, like a one question scantron test where the multiple choice answers are:

1) Your money
2) Your heart
3) Your soul
4) Your email address
5) Your permission to use your private information to share with our partners and your friends

Bumpalong: It was like flying with Radio Shack.

The Felice Brothers were playing at the Doug Fir the night we arrived. I get them confused with The Pernice Bros. Unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of partaking in their various musical offerings. This night the bar menu held more sway over my imagination than bearing witness to this fine unit out of Nuevo York. They sound cool, though. Today I wish I woulda. Self-preservation is a delicate dancer, a water strider stalking its prey on the face of the rancid pond, eh?

Next morning we woke early from the jet lagging and required tail wagging we were scheduled to provide at KINK FM in The City Of Roses. Live In The Bing Lounge, I think was the name of the show. Our host I was never formally introduced to. Though perhaps that is incumbent upon me to seek such an introduction? No worries, though, no worries. Until, lower back. Ouch mama, that is sharp drag on my skeletal system. Now I got worried. Back problems suck, especially as I am becoming more and more in demand as a dancer. I have three moves that I absolutely slay at. But, those are some good ones I learned from watching Dick and Don when I was just a wee lad. So, yeah the old back was an issue that I began fretting over. At least, until the sammiches came from HQ.

The little theater there has a very sort of Dutch/Euro aesthetic feel. We had lots of little live radio theater kinds of things we did in our days "Over-Jander."

I like the feel of this place in that way. There is a nice intimacy to these kinds of venues. We had a west coast promo woman from Vanguard Records on site to assist us and presumably chat up the program director as well. We appreciate Laurie and all her help, especially those well timed sandwiches.

We discussed which songs and how many songs we might perform for the show. Vanguard likes us to stick to I Want It So Bad and Drop What I'm Doin'. So those were decided on already. Some talk of Peppermint City came up. But we ended up going with Two Sparrows instead. Max always gets to play his song, Haunted to represent the three headed beast that we are. Jimmy was feeling like a Your Benefit as his other contribution. We all dig that tune so it was confirmed when a young man walked in with a clipboard pressed against his slight abdomen. He held it with his left arm underneath, his fingers softly curling over its top as if he might casually slice his torso in half leaving nothing but his bloody hips and skinny jean legs standing in the doorway of the green room.

The show was fun. Good interview from our host. I still can't find his name. I feel Iike if I am gonna get ahead in this business of music I am gonna have to get better at remembering people's names. I must try and make them think I remembered their names because they made an exceptional impression or because they are indeed, as they suspect, special. In all honesty though I am a fairly self absorbed person. Some days it is all I can do to feed myself and make it through sound check without crumpling into a fetal position and humming Carter Family songs. "Out in the cold world and far away from home, somebody's boy is wandering alone."

As soon as it started it was over. We had become a musical appetizer for the radio faithful. A meet and greet commenced immediately in the mezzanine. Some autographs were scribbled out, some photo's were taken. After everyone had trickled out into the rocktober afternoon I met a man with a chocolate lab service dog. He had enjoyed a career in music journalism in the 1970's. He mentioned once getting to interview David Gilmore for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Having been rather ambivalent about Gilmore and Floyd most of my life I didn't have much to say about that except, "cool," "nice," and my favorite, "wow, cool!" When he compared us to Poco I had momentary panic. For about three seconds I doubted my whole career. Until I realized that he really liked Poco. Then I thought he was just a sweet ol' guy. I still am having echo's of his voice though saying, "poco" in a warbled, mildly sardonic tone. "I was walking out this morning with rambling on my mind. I am going to catch this special. That train called Lonesome Pine."

Soundcheck was long and filled with sonic hassle. A great band from Seattle, Jackrabbit, had agreed to open the show and let us use their back line a/k/a drums and amps. Thanks to Tony, Mo, Aimee and Jason for all their help. Check'em out. They kinda remind me of Poco. Haha. JK!!

The great thing about the Doug Fir is its one stop shopping set up. A restaurant/ bar, music venue and hotel all in one place. The challenge of the music venue is that is converted from half of the old parking garage underground. Sound treatment was done, but it still has some acoustic issues. Other than that, we are just getting louder and louder. At this rate we will be making Motörhead records in the next five years. I am looking forward to being old and loud.

Just before the show, as I was on stage tuning and preparing, I discovered some very old friends from my Shreveport days standing together. They were married recently. I knew them separately and never knew they had been connected. The woman was a best friend of my little sister who I treated like another little sister. The man was a young, talented drummer that I knew through his big brother. Had either of them been there alone it would have been a joyful surprise to see them. But together, married there before me in Portland? Well that was sublime, mind blowing stuff. To have that happen just before a show just tickled me and put me in a bit of an odd feeling of the present, past and future all at once. Unified Kev Theory it was.

That show started out strong and loose, like most do these nights. And we stayed on course for most of it. The always great Portland fans were there with us too. But, the jet lagged and early tail wag crept up on us. We should have stopped with All The Labor, as we often do. But instead we had an odd song to end with, Hi Hi & Lo Lo. I like playing this song, but a closer I would have never thought it would be. And, it wasn't. It got to the end and we were all so tired, we lost focus. It was dying a rather sluggish death. Jimmy made an attempt to spark a segue way by singing a bar of Boil My Strings. He passed it to me and I tried to conjure it. We fizzled and went out like a damp punk. Show was over. We always like to end on an rising feeling. At this point though our bodies felt like it was 2am. There was nothing left in the tank. Crowd though had their demands. We came out and played a decent Jorge. The film crew had a request in for the old version of Lower 48. We gave it a good try. And we hit everything but the end right. There are certain cues at the ends of songs that signal us. It has been so long since we played this arrangement I missed the vocal cue the band needed to know when to end. Keith had to guess where the end might be. And it got cut short a little. In my state it ended up making me feel like Tony Romo throwing the game away on the last play. Of course this was an overreaction. Some of us huffed and ugh'd after the show a bit. It didn't take long to discuss what happened and dispel any conflict. I accepted my responsibility for the mistake and moved on, knowing we just had to communicate at the end next time. This is what we all do when we feel like we had a sub-par show. We remember our mistakes and correct them the next night. Luckily the mistakes were not so many. So this is a rare occurrence of all's well that doesn't end well.

A sausage party in rm 137 ensued with a discussion of Occupy Oakland. (this sentence sounds more pathetic than it actually was) Specifically we talked of the disturbing video of the war veteran rescue being disrupted by a teargas can thrown by a cop from behind his barricade. Or her barricade? Are their female riot police? I tried to get the host to turn on CSPAN. My requests were disregarded by the circle of men gathered around the plastic cooler of beers. I don't drink much really. But a bud from Missoula had come to the show and brought us some Kettle House Double Haul IPA. I do love the hops. Then a table Four Loko was put into play. This is the drink that has been the subject of much legal and ethical debate in recent years for its combo of high alcohol content mixed with stimulants like caffeine, taurine and guarana. The State of Washington and The State Of Oregon have banned its sale because of a group of Central Washington University kids were hospitalized after consuming it at a party. One student it was reported had blood alcohol level of .30 and nearly died. It's no wonder. Originally marketed as an "energy drink," this stuff is like a 24oz can of Sprite with 12% alcohol and packed with stimulants. One could easily drink a bunch of these and get completely blotto real quick. Dangerous stuff. I would say it is a hundered times more dangerous than beer. I agree with the ban on it. Our host had found some at a liquor store somewhere. Apparently lots of the stuff was bought up before the ban went into effect. And it can still be found here and there. It is going for a premium on Craig's List and EBay, too. Once it was opened I could smell it. I didn't want to spoil my enjoyment of the fine Missoula IPA, so I eschewed the Loko when passed my way.

As I fell asleep that night I heard a cacophonous tussle going in the room above me. I could not figure out what they must be doing up there: the cha cha, the bony macaroni, cuttin the short dog, milking the cow, the hyena, the milkman, the fox trot? I have become expert at tuning out hotel noises of all kinds though. I drifted off to bird land with a little help from my old dream weaver, George Noory.

Next morning I heard over breakfast, from Keith, that there had been a fight in the room up above. A guy got his head cracked and the police came. I slept through it all.

Coffee and commodities with Dave Goodwin was a joy of the new day. He might be one of the only farmers I know. I like the farmers. And I love Pendleton, OR.

We hit an Italian Beef joint down the block for lunch that Max discovered last time through. I placed my order under the name, Eddie Voci as a tribute to the Gourdfather Of Chicago who took us to Johnny's for these wonderful, soggy sandwiches. The back is still tight and painful. But, the trip is in full flow.

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