2001: Project Tour & more!
|12/15/01||Tacoma, WA||House Concert|
|12/8/01||Seattle, WA||Grateful Bread: Album Release|
|12/1/01||Seattle, WA||Seattle Folklore Society|
|11/28/01||Bellingham, WA||Boundary Bay Brewery|
|9/13/01||Tacoma, WA||Washington State History Museum|
|7/13-4/01||Yakima, WA||Yakima Folklife Festival|
|6/2/01||Seattle, WA||Seattle Folklore Society|
|5/19/01||Port Angeles, WA||Mermaid Cafe|
|5/11/01||Bellingham, WA||Stuart’s Coffee House|
|5/5/01||Seattle, WA||Seattle Folklore Society|
|4/28/01||Walla Walla, WA||Hot Poop|
|4/21/01||Moscow, ID||Bookpeople of Moscow|
|4/20/01||Pullman, WA||Daily Grind|
|4/13/01||Spokane, WA||The Shop|
|4/7/01||Yakima, WA||Inklings Bookshop|
Performance-day entries from the Project Journal follow:
Day 65: Seattle
From a phantom blown head gasket and heartless speeding ticket to this: the final day arrives. Most of my time is spent arranging myself for the evening’s show: preparing a set, trying to learn the last few songs (!), reminding myself to share last-minute story details... As showtime approaches, I chat with Seattle Folklore Society folk about studios and the upcoming CD. A very healthy crowd shows up, full of college students, registered folkies, old friends, advisers, and an Assistant Dean. The set progresses splendidly—the ultimate validation for a spring’s-worth of itinerant musing; nights like this, after all, are why I do it. As I look out among the smiling, attentive faces, I become all the more excited to record the songs and dispatch them back into the wonderful communities that were so generous to share them with me. This stage of traveling and composing may be finished, but The Project certainly is not. What a kick!—Idaho next?
Day 51: ‘Inn Eeee,’ Port Angeles, Olympic National Park
Looks like the lack of solid cloud cover might actually extend beyond my line of sight out the windows in Inn Eeee this morning, and I take a chance and get a bit excited. Arriving in Port Angeles, I visit Strait Music again to pick up my rented amplifier and once again chat with staff (who) promise to suggest the show to everyone who stops in. One of the customers in the shop is a music teacher, and our conversation continues once the others tail off. It’s set-up-and-go-as-usual at the Mermaid (with another fantastic sandwich thrown in), and I’m pleased to see a rather full (and gracefully aging) house greet me as I climb on my astonishingly comfortable stool to begin. I see many nodding heads and gentle smiles, but my risky decision to take a short break proves unfortunate, although many of those departing approach me to express regret at “having” to split. The second set proceeds on a far more intimate level, and Jay and Robyn, who are joining us for the weekend at the cabin, finally arrive a few songs into it (Jess and I learn later that they watched two ferries leave in Edmonds before finally making it onto one!).
After takedown and more handshakes, the four of us head into Olympic National Park for some hiking up at Hurricane Ridge. The view of the Olympic Mountains on this unusually clear and sunny day is absolutely astounding, and many of the trails are still snow-covered at 5,200 feet above sea level (downtown Port Angeles, for comparison, is probably around 25 feet above the strait...). Several deer and one frighteningly-large crow greet us as we descend from the mountain, and we head back to Discovery Bay after a quick stop to gawk at a boat named “Fat Bottom’d Girl.” Jess and I (mostly Jess) provide dinner, and subsequent beachcombings yield an expensive-looking bicycle lock and a half-dozen more vibrant golf balls.
Day 43: Bellingham, Seattle
Roche has limited work duties today, so I’m the first up and about this morning. My interview on KUGS (“The Morning Show with Nathan”) goes quite nicely, and I am pleased to hear an impressed caller respond immediately after we go off the air. Heading back, I find that I’m temporarily locked out until the two other sleeping beauties rise (we’re all sharing Brian’s key, as Angela has his spare), so I wander back to campus to write a bit more.
Upon emerging from the libraries after another round of covert computing, I run smack into another Pullmanite from the netherregions of my past, and, for a moment, I feel like I’m back at Wazzu. It’s now past noon, and I’m still locked out of what clearly appears now to be a vacant house, so I begin checking back under the scattered bricks (our agreed key-hiding place) for means to an entry. Again, no luck, so I check under a few more various objects by the doorway, striking out there too—Roche’s buddy and friend must have taken it with them. The remodeling crew next door looks curious with regard to my various efforts to penetrate the fortress, but the workers keep the probing questions to themselves. If they were concerned before, however, the scene of me slithering through the cat window must have really raised the eyebrows—thank goodness for my “lanky, bespectacled” frame, as the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin observed. Casualties to my extremities are kept to a minimum, and soon I’m back to full strength.
* * *
Deciding that I should stick around (since I have no way of locking the door...and I’m not particularly eager to adopt the window as my primary means of building entry), I begin work on the Bellingham-area song. One of my personal goals for The Project is to have a song completed in time to perform it in its ‘home region’—something I’ve yet to accomplish this spring—and thus I’m thrilled when, shortly after everyone arrives back nearly at once, an ode to the clock tower’s storied past entitled “Time Kept on Moving on Without Us” sits complete in my notebook. The high comes crashing down, however, when Brian’s buddies reveal that they’d left the key under a flower pot, not the specified bricks (and perhaps the one place I didn’t look!), therefore my strained shimmyings were of no apparent necessity! We all chuckle for a good deal of time. “These guys are high elevation mountaineers,”Roche tells me later: “Their brains function best at fourteen-, fifteen thousand feet.”
The winds out on the bay look like they could become fierce at any moment, so I respect Brian’s second thoughts about sailing (he did snap two masts in one week last summer) and we head off to roam around inside a local record store instead. Back in downtown Bellingham, I marvel in the familiar, home-like spectacle of trendy clothing stores across the street from Clark Feed and Seed. This, after all, is just the diversity I’m hoping to lend a voice to.
The evening’s show [Stuart’s Coffee House] proceeds splendidly, with a nice crowd on hand to bear witness. Among the audience members are Carl Allen, a gentleman who tours the region (and beyond) with an educational Woody Guthrie act, and Linda Allen (no relation), the exceptional woman whose project I am unintentionally emulating. Several Pullman expatriates are also on hand, as are others who’ve made the trip up from Seattle. Angela’s roommate, a camp-counseling ex-co-worker of Brian’s, sneaks a picture of me circa age thirteen into my line of sight early in the show. A photographer from the Herald snaps pictures throughout the whole first set and much of the second, throwing a few questions my way during the break. Other spectators offer the tremendous encouragement and support that has followed me everywhere I’ve been this spring, and another gentleman offers his poetry to me. After an encore of two songs, I pack up ready to split, but end up reacquainting myself with some of the ex-Pullman crew before setting off far too late into the night.
It’s scary to think that this first, total-immersion stage of the project is nearing its close—everything’s going far too nicely!
Day 37: Seattle
For the first time in my UW career, the weather is borderline seasonable for the opening day crew races on the Montlake Cut in the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Friends Jay, Jill, and I are willing to remain stationary to cheer on boats in the dozen or so races, but the ensuing boat parade isn’t really for us—we love boats, but aren’t really cut out for what we can make of the yachting lifestyle. I wonder how many folk musicians yacht...
At the Grateful Bread—where I’m still technically considered an employee—I meet Bob Fox, the English gentleman for whom I’m opening, and marvel at the amount of Seattle Folklore Society volunteers here to help set up. I refuse, however, to just sit by when there are chairs to be moved and wire to be run. Highlight of the evening comes when Bob, SFS president Mary Lytle, and I are chatting close to showtime. “Where’re you staying tonight, Bob?” Mary asks, to which he replies, in his majestically powerful Northeast-English accent: “Ah thawt ah was stayin’ wit’ you.” Bob finds a home without incident, and I am once again charmed by the friendly graces of the folk network.
Although my set is particularly short, the good-sized crowd is very receptive and tolerant during the public debuts of “Carpe Diem, Carpie” and “The Ballad of the Whitman Greeks” (which may not be ready for public consumption quite yet). Just as I walk off stage, a fellow who had seen the Seattle Times piece arrives with a personally-revised take on Woody’s “Roll on Columbia” (“Roll on Columbia 2001,” he calls it) that he has come to share with me. Bob’s set is marvelous, and the evening ends just as delightfully as it began.
Day 30: Walla Walla
As I begin my strummings at Hot Poop, I’m pleased to see a near-respectable amount of people who look intent on finding someplace to settle in among the racks of CDs. The first set—which includes the public debut of “Lakeside Summer Home”—progresses quite nicely, and I close it with Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” advice that I urge the audience take to heart in order to avoid a repeat of my Yakima ‘break.’ During the interval, I chat with several audience members who confirm my suspicions that they’ve been enjoying themselves. Although not everyone obeys my musical plea to stick around, I do return this time, coercing several Aerosmith ticket buyers into lingering for a few songs. Afterwards, Jim and I shoot more breeze, and I leave with a take $4 greater than in Yakima and a slick-looking Hot Poop T-shirt (“It’ll brand you for life,” Jim says). Once again, a thoroughly enjoyable experience that yields an open invitation to return.
Chris happens to be the only member of the Whitman rugby team who lives off-campus, and thus the traditional post-game ‘Drink-Up’ must always occur at his house. I swing by for a quick (yet resilient) burger, and head to the library for a little more work. Upon returning, I find myself the focus of several intriguing conversations. On a campus of only 1300 students, it’s clear to most that I’m an outsider, and I jokingly inquire whether purchasing a Whitman T-shirt from the bookstore and wearing it would help. The consensus is no: everyone’d just think I was a high-schooler visiting the campus... Then, after explaining a bit of what I’ve been up to over the course of the past few days, I find myself confronted by a defiant sorority member who stands by the suburban legend in question. I encourage her to help me verify it, but she too finds it difficult to disprove the resolute opinions of the city attorney and the housing office. Later, the plot thickens as a few of us leave the hearty singing in the basement to visit a party at house occupied by five girls who affectionately refer to it as “The Brothel.” Most everyone there wonders who I am.
Day 23: Moscow (ID), Genesee, ID, Pullman
Jessica, bless her heart, has scheduled a massage for me this morning, and I submit to the therapeutic whims of Greg, a Moscow School of Massage student, for an hour as he reassembles my gawky frame. We head out to Genesee, ID, for some small-town lunchings (we both agree that something on the Washington side would make more ‘academic’ sense, but time and hunger constraints prevail). Saturday dining options in Genesee—whose 750 residents represent a population 50% larger than that of Mossyrock!—appear rather limited, however, and we end up gorging ourselves back in Moscow. I toy with “The Genesee Waltz” and “The Genesee Stud” for a bit, deciding that such thoughts deserve more attention...but later.
The crowd at Bookpeople in Moscow is smaller, older, and mellower, and we spend a nice intimate evening singing and interacting together. To add a bit of Idaho focus to my exclusively-Washington project, I play the songs from Carlos’ radio show last Sunday, which bear heavy contributions from Idaho callers. More old friends and a few new fans offer a wonderfully relaxing and constructive contrast to last night’s show at the Daily Grind. John Elwood, a close friend, exceptional luthier, and fellow “Grapes of Wrath” veteran, tells me to be wary of ‘modern-day Woody Guthrie’ comparisons: “I think you make a better modern-day Wes Weddell,” he says. Thanks, John.
Day 22: Pullman, Moscow
I’m becoming quite comfortable in KUOI’s ‘Master Control,’ I realize, as I settle in for another pick-’n’-chat session, this time with DJ Battleship Galactica. Noticing my guitar on the way in, the station manager (I presume) suggests that I become a part of the KUOI live compilation CD. I express no aversion, and he laughs and explains that such a recording has been a KUOI pipe dream “for about twenty years now.”
From the studio it’s load-up-and-go, and I begin the endearingly-exhausting process of setting up the same sound system that I schlepped about several times a month back in high school. Someone asks if I have any roadies on this tour, and, looking down at my arms, I reply: “Yeah, two.” Once finished, I take a moment to assess the crowd gathering at Daily Grind as showtime approaches, and I’m touched to see old teachers, friends, acquaintances, and nearly everyone’s parents (Mom’s Weekend at WSU begins tonight...). Some friends from the Seattle Folklore Society even stop by, in town to bring their dog to WSU’s excellent veterinary facilities. Matt’s set is great, and I’m quite pleased with my own. The sea of attentive, familiar faces grows as the songs continue, and “Fat Bottomed Girls” steals the show at the end. Just as I’d hoped! After takedown, I linger with the Pullman Faithful, signing CDs (wow...), catching up, and even taking notes from some great local stories. The saga of Carpy, a two-foot-long carp caught in the Snake River in 1922 and kept in a horse trough from 1924 until his (her?) death in 1996, makes a great case for claiming my Palouse-region song.
Great turnout and response—what a flattering homecoming!
Day 15: Seattle, Spokane
Friday the 13th!! of April, 2001
The lyricist in me fears that I may be overusing the word ‘delightful’ in my descriptions of all of the fascinating and wonderful people that I am meeting on my adventures, but there is just no other word I can think of to capture the essence of my hosts here in Spokane. After a brief how-do-you-do with Carlos Alden—member of the Celtic Nots and local radio personality on NPR-affiliate KPBX—it’s off to meet Jessica (the girlfriend!!—who has lovingly reduced the frustrating-yet-soon-to-be-admonished distance that often separates us by making the pilgrimage up to Spokane from Moscow, Idaho) for a brief reunion before soundcheck. While waiting for Jess at the cafe in Auntie’s Bookstore, I read about “Wes Weddell Wandering a la Woody” in The Spokesman-Review.
The folks at The Shop, a converted auto shop featuring several wonderfully-welded creations fashioned by my sound-tech for the evening, welcome me warmly and prove a joy to work with, continuing a trend that I’m really starting to enjoy. The crowd, however, kicks Yakima’s butt (thankfully!!), augmented by a significant number of ex-camp staff from my summer days spent entertaining youngsters on nearby Lake Coeur d’Alene. My folks (two parents, one sister) also come up from Pullman, and my father exhibits surprisingly good behavior all show long. So nice to play to a good-sized, receptive crowd in a creative, competently-staffed little store! (I was, however, scared to take a break, fearing that the crowd would pull a ‘Yakima’ and disappear.)
After the set and some catchings-up with old friends, I return to the Alden house, where Carlos’ and wife Janine’s stories of their house and its past engage my attention and curiosity as the night progresses. Just as I’m heading down to ‘my’ basement, Carlos produces a journal dating from 1906-1910 that “came with the house,” and my slumbers are delayed further as I skim through this candid snapshot of a life lived nearly a century ago.
Day 9: Yakima
Now this is interesting: I’m colder waking up in the motel than I was in the tent yesterday morning. I suppose that’s why I’m paying what I’m paying...
I can think of one occasion where I’ve had a smaller crowd—if you can call it that—than shows up at Inklings, and I shudder to think what might have happened had the newspaper not devoted so much space to me yesterday. Those who stick around, however, seem to really enjoy it, and several approach me afterward (I’d meant only to take a break, but the whole group disbanded!) to chat (one gentleman talked with me for nearly an hour, suggesting in jest that I write about the ‘Palm Springs of Washington’ sign) and wish well. “Mossyrock, Lewis County” finds a particularly warm reception: “They’ll love it!” one older gentleman exclaims. Considering the size of the gathering, I collect a respectable amount of folk-funding from the afternoon, and I spend some of it downstairs taking in a local musical act over dinner (at the place that would have booked me first had I been more openly ‘loungey’). At this time last year, I’m told, Glenwood Square (the collection of shops I’m enjoying) was an apple warehouse.
After dinner, I drive out along Tieton Drive just to explore, and the view of the hazy near-full moon hovering above the city warrants a few moments of still enjoyment by the roadside. Although it would be easy to get down about such a relatively-poor showing this afternoon, I’m not—it was, after all, a ‘folk blind date’ in an area where I have few close contacts, and the staff at Inklings were downright pleasant to work with. This should serve as a nice warm-up for upcoming shows back homeward.