Our drive took us through Eisenhower tunnel and into Summit County (home to Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and several other large ski resorts). We stopped at Mountain Lyon Cafe in Silverthorne, CO for some breakfast. Several of us opted for a Colorado staple… a breakfast burrito smothered in green chili.
After that, we were ready to hit the road! The trip took us about 8-9 hours… and no one seemed to mind. It was one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever been on! After checking into the hotel, most of us walked over to Wonderful Gourmet Chinese and Thai. You could definitely tell by the western decor that this place was not always an Asian restaurant. but the food was actually pretty good.
The next morning we hit the road early and drove to our (amazing) hotel in Scottsdale, AZ. As soon as we arrived, a few of us stopped by Stages Music to pick up some strings, ear plugs, reeds, and a drum key. The dude working there was one of the kindest people we’ve met on tour. After getting all stocked up, we headed over to Musical Instrument Museum for sound check.
After sound check, the museum’s Artistic Director, Lowell Pickett (who founded The Dakota back home in MPLS) , took me for a tour of the museum. That place exceeded every expectation I had… It was arranged by continent, and each continent was arranged by country. Lowell asked me to pick any country several times and they always had an exhibit for it. It’s amazing on so many levels. Aside from the massive collection of instruments, video, and audio, I was particularly impressed with how the museum came to be. It was founded by Robert Ulrich, the former CEO of Target. What an incredible way to retire?! He could easily do just about anything he wants, and this is what he does with his time and money.
The sound of that room was very cool. It was bright without being too loud. The show was received very well and afterwards we met a lot of incredibly nice people back at the merch table. After we packed up, the rest of the guys took a tour of the museum while Sonny and I took it easy. After their tour, we retired to our hotel.
While breaking down the stage, someone accidentally knocked over Cole’s bari. It was damaged badly and was not playable. The venue went to great lengths to help us out. The stage manager personally delivered the horn to Agave Music for repair in the morning. Grisha (tour manager) got us a late check out so the repair guy had enough time to fix the horn. We were sure to take full advantage of the late check out. A few of us hit the exercise room followed immediately by gin and tonics and a cut throat game of HOG using the basketball hoop mounted to the outdoor pool.
We found a torta joint called El Guero right next to the repair shop. They served up some incredible tacos, tortats, and burritos before we hit the road (with a fully functioning baritone sax).
Next stop: LA! We rolled into town right on schedule. As we loaded into The Mint we were greeted by the classic night club manager. His name was Curtis (Curt) and he doesn’t give a shit. He was super cool towards us, but it was very obvious that you wouldn’t want to be on his bad side, especially at his club (a quality shared by many of the best in the business).
Having never played in LA, we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out great. There was a good crowd for a Thursday night… and they came to party! It was a particularly special show as Sonny’s sister and some other family came out and got to see the show for the first time. It was a super late show followed immediately by a 1.5-2 hour drive north to Lebec, CA. Using the TV and DVD player that Blair and I installed a couple months ago, we watched The Shining on that drive. It was awesome.
We got to our rooms at about 3 am. We got a descent night’s sleep and continued north to The Monterey Jazz Festival. Grisha dropped the band off at the hotel in Salinas and brought Sonny up to the festival for a sound check. We didn’t perform until Saturday afternoon, but Sonny was a featured performer in the Jaco’s World tribute show, which headlined the main stage Friday night. This sound check was all the rehearsal they’d get. Sonny said they only ran his tune (Fannie Mae) one time. I suppose that’s more than enough when the band is comprised of the best musicians on the planet: Vince Mendoza (MD), Peter Erskine (Drums), Bob Mintzer (Sax), Will Lee (Bass), Christian McBride (Bass), and many more top players. After rehearsal Sonny got about 5 hours to relax before we went up to the festival for the Jaco’s World show.
When introducing Sonny to the stage, Christian McBride mentioned our set the following day and encouraged people to go. Then Sonny hit the stage in a pink suit. I shit you not, of all the people who performed that night, Sonny got the biggest and best crowd response. As he left the stage, they gave another shout out to our set the next day.
We played at 1pm on the Garden Stage on Saturday. The previous night’s success blessed us with a packed crowd. After the show a few of us went over to the Amoeba Records booth to sign CDs and LPs. It was a ton of fun. We met people from all over the world who traveled just to attend this festival.
After we got all packed up, we hung out for a while and watched Niki Hill perform. Her and her band kicked ass. If you ever get a chance, check them out! After that we got back on the bus and continued north to Aptos, CA. Never heard of it? No one that lives outside a 20 mile radius of that town has heard of it either. I wasn’t even sure if I should write about it for fear of letting the cat out of the bag.
For the next 5 nights we’d use a funky beach house in Aptos as our home bass. We came up from Monterey and would also play San Francisco and Felton (Santa Cruz) during our stay. It worked out to be a great move financially and an even better one in terms of overall tour management. The house had 4 bedrooms, including one with 2 sets of bunk beds. There was a hot tub up stairs, a beautiful kitchen, and two charcoal grills. It was a minute long walk to the beach as well as to the Seabreeze bar.
We’re pretty sure that The Seabreeze is world’s first bar/medical marijuana dispensary. The dispensary was closed when we were there Saturday night, but that didn’t stop them from projecting Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke on the side of the building for its patrons. Though we’re in the land of quality microbrews, once we found out they had Hamm’s, we pretty much all made the switch. The bar tender had no idea where Hamm’s was from or why we were so excited to drink it. By the end of the night, we officially drank ’em out of Hamm’s.
The following day (Sunday) we drove 1.5 hours to San Francisco to perform at The Independent. What a cool room! It may very well be the best sounding rock club we’ve ever played in. Top 5 for sure. After sound check a bunch of us walked across the street to 4505 BBQ and enjoyed some of the best BBQ we’ve ever had the pleasure of indulging in. The physical space was super cool, the staff was awesome, the beer selection was top notch, and the food was 10/10. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check it out!
After dinner we each killed some time in our own way… mine included retreating to the bus and watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia DVDs. A local band called Gene Washington and The Ironsides opened up the night. They were bar none the best band that has ever opened for us on the road (back home it’s gotta be the Cactus Blossoms). They were tight and had a very cool laid back groove. They also played a Dyke And The Blazers song as well as a Howard Tate song! By the time we hit the stage Gene and the boys had the room good and warmed up. It was a tons of fun. After the show, we packed up and went back down to the beach house in Aptos.
The following day was an off-day… meaning we didn’t have any gigs or traveling to do. We found some boogie boards in the garage and a few of us took to the beach to ride some waves. A little later on, a group of us walked into town (maybe 5 minutes) and went to a bar called The Mediteranian for some $3 happy hour gin and tonics. After a little night on the town we headed back to the house for some spaghetti with home made sauce, courtesy of Mr. Knight. That man can cook his ass off!
The next day we played in Felton, CA. It was only about 20 minutes from the beach house. The club was called Don Quixote’s International House of Music. Aside from being a genuinly awesome live music venue, it is also a great Mexican restaurant. Just as gin and IPAs have been the drink of choice on this trip, burritos have been the food of choice, and Quixote’s burritos can stand toe to toe with any burrito we’ve encountered.
Our show at Quixote’s consisted of two 45 minute sets… something that frankly we are not typically very fond of. We like to start and just power all the way through. Sometimes it feels that just when you’ve won ’em over, you take a break and have to win ’em over again in set 2. However, in this case, the two 45 minute sets went over VERY well. In fact, I think our set break went a little longer than it was supposed to because we were all just hanging out with everyone in the audience. At one point, someone said to Sonny, “Hey man, we’ve got your car outside, why don’t you come take a look?” Parked right in front of the club was a wicked 1970s convertible Cadillac. Everyone started taking pictures of Sonny sitting in and on this beautiful car.
Eventually we got back on stage and within moments the entire room was dancing. I think just hanging out with everyone created such a good vibe that it was clear that the party was on! We finished our show and the large crowd hollered and screamed for more. The problem is, we didn’t have anything else to give ’em! Sure, we had more songs in our book, but we hadn’t touched them in many months. Then Sonny said, “Hey man, let’s just do Fannie Mae (the song he performed for the Jaco tribute in Monterey) .” It’s just a simple 12 bar blues, so we got up there and followed Sonny. It may have been the coolest encore I’ve ever been a part of. People loved it! Afterwards a couple of the guys said, “we need to add that to the set.” Ultimately, we decided it’s better to just keep it in our back pocket for whenever we really need it. Also, personally, I’d hate to see it get too polished. I think a big part of why it was so cool, is because of how it was thrown together. It took us a while to get out of that room after we finished, but eventually we packed up and went back to the beach house.
Wednesday was another off day. We swam, boogie boarded, grilled, watched Roadhouse, and just relaxed. Today is Thursday and I am writing this from the back of the Knight Train. We are on our way up to Bend, Organ to stay for a couple more off days. We play in Eugene on Sunday at WOW Hall. We’ve been hearing great things about Eugene and even better things about WOW Hall! Then on Monday we open for Thievery Corporation at the Roseland Theater in Portland. It probably goes without saying that we’re very excited for that show. Lastly, we’ll be at Jazz Alley in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday, then we head home.