The following events took place during a tour which ran from June 24 through July 11, 2015.
In Sacramento, we woke up and got gas station coffee for the drive to Eugene. On the way, desolate yellow flatland transfigured before our eyes into the majestic forestry and mountain terrain that was the Pacific Northwest (the PNW). We watched an anime in the car that Kelsea had given us called Tekkonkinkreet. It was a touching narrative about two brothers and the importance of balance. It affected me at a visceral level.
In Oregon, you’re legally required to have someone pump your gas. However, they also had an excitable blue tank-topped bro at the Dutch Bros. stand who was happy to welcome us to the PNW. Some things are the same everywhere you go.
In Eugene, we arrived at The Boreal, a precious, communally operated DIY space–very much reminiscent of The Trunk Space back home.
They had a lot of alternative literature and a very decent sound system which primarily had adjustments made wirelessly through an iPad. An older, English football enthusiast named Saxon ran the place that night (though he made it very clear that it was a communally-owned, volunteer-run space).
We played with Chest Cavity and The Slumps of Trough Raid records. Everywhere we played, people were very eager to hear about or share recent developments in marijuana legislation–especially in Oregon, where it was legalized a day before our arrival. We played a fun show and dropped Dean’s Vietnamese friend, Vy (who had come to the show) back off at home before heading to Portland. She called Dean a nerd for having to wear ear plugs.
In Portland, we stayed with my friend Tyler, whom I had met a few years back. He had played roadie/tour manager for his friend’s band who toured through Phoenix. He offered us copious amounts of whiskey, which some of us obliged, despite a 10 hour day of driving. In a few minutes, Jeff and Dean were partying with their shirts off while Tyler and I lightly drank, and Elijah and Sam slumbered.
In the morning, we trekked a half mile to Isaac Brock’s house (through a cemetery) to drop off some cheesy fan-mail in the hopes of becoming best friends. Unfortunately, he was on tour, but the house-sitter appreciated my stopping by and ensured me he’d receive it. We spent the rest of the day messing around on slide guitar, watching some live footage of noise bands, figuring out Wolvves songs on guitar, and going to a four story book store before heading to the show.
We performed at a Dr. Who-themed / science fiction / fish and chips bar called The Tardis Room with a band called Jumb Dock. They were fun and partied with us for a bit before one of their parents said they needed to come home. We continued hanging out with Tyler, who told me he used to smuggle bibles into China when he was 12 (his family used to be evangelists). I gave Tyler our copy of Tekkonkinkreet, as I thought he might appreciate it. We watched Friends and fell asleep.
The next morning was July 4th. Despite being the PNW, the hot and sweaty temperatures were rivaling Phoenix. We first played in Olympia at a bar called Le Voyeur (when we originally searched it, Google Maps directed us to a place in France) through a day festival event Deadbeat Records had organized. Some of the band commented about how Olympia seemed similar to Eugene.
Despite a relatively light turnout, the audience was very engaged. A man named Vern greeted us out back and told us our set was the best he had seen in several years. He invited us to his place to BBQ and shoot fireworks for the fourth, but we had to get going to Seattle. We gave him a CD and got going. We later found his Wikipedia page and nearly screamed when we found that he had played bass on a Blonde Redhead album.
In Seattle, we played at a DIY space called Black Lodge, which was next to a bar called Victory Lounge. Both venues were part of a five band tour kickoff for a band called Killer Ghost. We met up with my mom, who had been vacationing in Washington and came to see our set. We also met my old roommate Pierce, and a few other friends.
The show was excellent and we played with some of the best bands we’d been lucky enough to share a bill with on tour. I particularly enjoyed this two-piece called Art Fad. During Killer Ghost’s set, the guitarist’s headstock split off–an unprecedented and anomalous event, the likes of which I had never witnessed before. Afterwards, he let me keep the broken headstock, which will be added to my “Wall of Noise” (right next to Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt’s broken ride cymbal) when I get home.
We stayed at Pierce’s apartment and drank a bit. Dean’s friend, Jess, came with us and spoke French with Jeff. She also was given a bottle of rainbow flag vodka by some drunk bros to celebrate the fourth. Most of us watched Friends before falling asleep.
Playing bar shows on tour is kind of a precarious position to be in. Comparably, they’re relatively easy to get, though difficult spaces to populate. They give you drink tokens, typically, and sometimes you can get food. However, the rules and regulations can sometimes get in the way of underaged bands.
This is not to say our bar shows have been bad, though they typically present some problems aside from being able to actually play. The weekday shows in general have been relatively sparser when compared to weekend shows, but bar shows will often alienate those who are, oftentimes, the most energized and active age group who attend live performances. Additionally, the above 21ers will have to consider whether or not a hangover and staying out late will be worth it when they clock into their full time jobs in the morning.
The sound systems are typically excellent, though plastering “live music” on a marquee won’t make very many people go out of their way to pay a $5 cover for some local band they’ve never heard to support a touring band from Phoenix.
Sometimes bar shows can be very easy to come by (and sometimes very worthwhile!) but it may also be worth your while to consider your audience and make sure that you do as much as you can to make your show one worth having. House shows, DIY Spaces, and bars that have a reputation for good live shows all have one thing in common: community. If you’re hacking your way through the wasteland with only a few companions by your side, it’s very nice to encounter a comparable communal oasis that feels just like home.