Our buddy Pete Schreiner (Thousand Arrows, The Coke Dares, Magnolia Electric Company, Sam Lowry & The Circumstance) is adding a new gig to his resume as he plays sideman to Scout Niblett on her current tour. Pete is keeping us in the loop of the ups and downs of the road with this tour diary.
All of the band tours I’ve done in the last seven years have been in the same van. You spend that much time in one thing and it feels like home; it’s familiar as part of a routine but to all of the senses too. Your hands know the cracks in the steering wheel & the right way to jimmy the side door; there’s that insidious windy howl at the driver’s left ear where the rubber seal is loose. Actually maybe taste isn’t involved but smell is—the van stinks like BO, old BBQ, and just generally like a dumpster. But it’s partly your stench so it’s best not to think about it. Everything has it’s place, as Henry Miller might say, the atlas has it’s spot, the tape adaptor has it’s spot, and there’s a special safe nook for tour-purchased LP’s. You know where most of the stickers and other inane detritus attached to the walls came from—and if you’re gonna sit in the back seat in January, you should leave your coat and hat on.
Well, this is my first tour in a long time—with a band—in a different vehicle. I did a solo one in my old Corolla, which still gets rubber in two gears and hauls ass at 35 mpg. But ever since Jason G. spearheaded the purchase of a new (many years ago) Chevy Express to enable a sizable percentage of Bloomington bands to tour without fear of dropping a drive shaft, it has been my “rolling-jail” home on the road. The tour vehicle cannot be classified as just a vehicle. It is the tour headquarters, gear storage unit, dressing room, sleeping berth, safe-place, library, entertainment complex, church, tech center, sick room…and transportation for the whole band, for however long you’re out for.
For this tour we are traveling in Scout Niblett’s Honda Odyssey for about ten days. Easy trip down the coast. It’s a nice mini van that she’s had for a while and has proven roadworthy, so I’m in. Lots of room in the back for our three-piece needs. I don’t think the SVT cab would’ve fit, but we’re pretty good with 3-D space, so maybe. I’ve done one or two tours in a mini van before. Better gas mileage, easier parking, and inconspicuousness are the trade-offs for less room. Less space for stuff and less for persons. It’s hard for a grown-ass man or woman to stretch out in the mini van, but three people can hang pretty well. Did four in a Ford Escort wagon once: not recommended.
We loaded up the Honda with the guitars, drums, amps, merchandise, sleeping bags, duffels, backpacks, and ourselves. Stopped for coffee and headed north to Olympia. Couple hours up Interstate 5 from Portland. Dan Wilson is in the back seat; he’s on drums and guitar. He’s played with Scout for several tours and is an excellent musician. I took shotgun and I’m playing bass. Peaceful drive to downtown Olympia. I only remember having been here once before, to play a house show; although MECo might’ve come—memory’s as foggy as Olympia’s microcosmic climate. The show was backstage at the Capitol Theater & it’s a unique set-up: bands set up stage-front, but facing the back of the stage and that’s where the audience stands. So there is an empty theater (that smells like rodent-excrement) behind the band! Pretty cool situation really if you can dodge the histoplasmosis. The place is haggard but keeping the old-school, one-screen theater tradition going, so I have to respect what they’re doing against the crushing digital onslaught mandated by the corporate movie barons. I was told they even have an all-tube-amplified Altec sound system still in-house that may someday be fired up again.
Speaking of audio, sound check started way late but was OK. This is our first show of the tour and as this line up. Generally Scout plays with a drummer only so it was a new stage plot but no problems there. The monitors were not great but at least there were monitors. Similarly, door guy told me about Old-School Pizza down the street—said it was “awesome.” I’d call it “acceptable,” but at least it was pizza.
Chris Brokaw was first up. I’m a fan of his music and he played some old, some new, in a set lush with his rich guitar tones. He makes it look easy. Then another band i like called The Curious Mystery was up. Cool set of dark psych. Good songs set to layered chiming sounds and they can really nail a slow pulsing beat which is tough. During Brokaw’s set the PA somehow shit the bed, so the capable sound folks had switched over to a new set of loudspeakers. But the whole mix was new so the monitors were screwed up and we had some trouble hearing but it didn’t affect the show too much. We played well, Scout calling out the tunes as we went—a little harrowing for the new guy but like I said, it went well.
After the show Dan had to bail back to Portland to work in the morning, then take the train up to Seattle to meet us for the next show. Scout and I loaded up and at about 1am pulled away to follow our host for the night, Calvin Johnson, to the house.
Then something occurred which would be nearly impossible to replicate on purpose. I guess one could choose to see the Infinite in this occurrence but it felt more like a dead end. As we drove slowly through the narrow alley, the front right tire rubbed against the tall curb at just the wrong spot, in just the wrong way. A 3/4 inch diameter hole was ripped open and the precious air escaped! A return to equilibrium for the air, but for us, the pressure of a late-night challenge. “I don’t know if we have a spare.” That’s what I heard but did not want to hear. This situation hadn’t come up before and neither of us knew where the spare tire on a Honda Odyssey is kept. In similar vehicles, it’s under the floor in the back, ie. beneath the gear. We unloaded half the gear—no spare. Unloaded all the gear—no spare. Then Scout located it in a totally logical spot designed by Honda—brand new donut, but no tools. The folks from the theater tried their respective vehicles’ lug wrenches but to no avail. We called AAA. They build advertising into the goddamn assistance-call but it’s a decent service. Basically pays for itself with one call. So forty-five minutes later a space-ship looking truck showed up in the cold foggy morning and the tired surly dude zapped our spare on for us. Quick ride to the house and bedded down feeling good about besting a good first-day-of-tour challenge, or at least thwarting it until tomorrow.
The Scout Niblett tour continues on, and you can catch her and Pete and Dan at one of the following shows.
12/2/2011, Eugene , OR, Sam Bonds
12/3/2011, Seaside, CA, The Alternative Cafe
12/4/2011, Santa Monica, CA, Sanctuary
12/5/2011, San Diego, CA, Soda Bar
12/6/2011, Los Angeles, CA, handbag factory
12/7/2011, Oakland, CA, Vitus
12/8/2011, San Francisco, CA, Hemlock Tavern
12/10/2011, Portland, OR, Mississippi Studios